Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The oral vices of Burnt Offering's vocalist and the Bob Sirott metal connection

Must have been an extremely uneventful week in Chicago news:
It's fun to see casual footage of the band, but I'm amused that any news station in 1999 would devote air time to this, let alone WFLD, the Chicago Fox affiliate.  Yes, CHICAGO--this wasn't aired by some rinky-dink Elgin or Berwyn affiliate.  As weird a piece as it is, I hope the band members take a certain pride in it; I doubt Sindrome ever made a morning news program.

Let's not stop there, though.  Did you notice the male news anchor at the very beginning?  Chicago's own Bob Sirott, and the man is no stranger to doing TV coverage on metal bands. Here's a piece he did for the old CBS television newsmagazine West 57th about Wrathchild (America):

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Commercial Metal, Vol. 5 - Let Them Eat Metal

In this installment we have an ad for Attic's 1984 Metal for Breakfast compilation:

The guy on the cover has a slight facial resemblance to Sean Penn--due to his facial expression, this dude may in fact be a hard rockin' Canadian version of Jeff Spicoli.

As was typical for the metal compilations of larger labels, there's some more commercially palatable/hard rock stuff added.  Still, quite a solid tracklist.  I should mention that the Blotto song is a complete parody tune done by a non-metal band, but is still heavier than some of the other tracks.

In 1986, Attic released a follow-up compilation, called--what else--Metal for Lunch:

Based on the rings, hair, and perfect dazed demeanor, this appears to be the same fellow from before, except portlier.  I guess a 2 year diet of ball bearings is quite fattening.

The tracklist largely follows the same pattern, although there's a farther reach for commercial viability with Aerosmith and Kim "I am a Wild Party" Mitchell's "Go for Soda," which are indefensible inclusions on a metal compilation.  As before, there's one song that's noticeably heavier and darker than the rest.
On Metal for Breakfast, it was Mercyful Fate; here, Razor lays in wait at the end of the album, ready to give any unsuspecting thrash-ignorant rockers a serious case of indigestion.

Sadly, there appears to be no Metal for Dinner, and thus, this particular saga of endearingly cheesy album art comes to an end.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Commercial Metal, Vol. 4

Initially I didn't watch until the end of the ad, and having never seen it before, I thought it was just some fan-made thing.  The skydiving footage reminds me of some decade-old sports drink commercial or those as-seen-on-TV '80s rock compilations (Monsters of Rock, Monster Ballads, etc.) that were incessant for a while.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Commercial Metal, Vol. 3

The PSA raises an issue that I'll probably cover in greater length in a future blog post.  I don't want to get overly analytical when I realize it's just an ad trying to encourage youth to get involved in the arts.  But note the statement at the end--IF YOU REALLY LOVE MUSIC, PLAY IT.  Well, does air-guitaring count?  But seriously, think about that in the context of the current metal scene, or for any music genre, really.  Most of the subgenres are bloated.  I'm sure in their deluded minds, a lot of musicians/"musicians" think they "really love" music--enough to play it, but not enough to produce something that rises above mediocrity. 

Let me be very clear.  If you think being in a band, working for a label, running a distro, doing a 'zine, or being a pseudo-journalist automatically make you a bigger metalhead or make your contributions valuable, YOU NEED TO BE FUCKING SMASHED.  Don't engaging all of these activities actually leave less time for metal listening, which is paramount for anyone who claims to be a metal fan?  Metal is filled with sub-par bands, companies, distributors, and literature, and in most cases, these morons want recognition for doing a crap job.  Their "contribution" is just about as important as all those overzealous traders in the '90s who would scribble "SUPPORT THE SCENE" or similar nonsense on packages.  It reeks of go-getter attitude but in reality, did nothing, except perhaps momentarily perplex a mailman.

The whole issue of the importance of musical creation vs. enjoyment is a much deeper topic deserving of its own dedicated post.  But the credo of "I participate, I'm special"* is ridiculous.  Imagine if this dumb sense of self-entitlement was transferred to anything else.  If you didn't have a hand in building a car or a plane, should you be able to drive or fly?  Furthermore, would that prevent someone from becoming a expertly skilled driver or pilot?  Presumably, you're reading this on an electronic device right now.  If you can't solder a circuit board, should you be allowed online at all?  Perhaps you should just plunge the soldering iron into your eye. 

No, seriously, most of you should.

*Special thanks to Ace Frehley-style makeup enthusiast Jeff Tandy of Averse Sefira for partially inspiring this post.  I remember him responding to someone's perceived metal sexism (not mine, unfortunately) on some forum, and he mentioned how, in his opinion, girls who worked the doors taking tickets at live gigs were showing metal dedication.**

**Obviously paraphrased, but I think the gist of the statement comes across.  Please note I am only attacking an extraordinarily dumb comment, nothing more.  Bands are obviously free to do as they please, and if that includes glow-in-the-dark shirts and performing Madonna covers, more power to them.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Commercial Metal, Vol. 2

Seasons in the Abyss being hawked by...DON LAFONTAINE!!!

I'm a tad surprised Camelot had metal-related commercials.  They were alright as a popular music retailer if you found yourself stuck at a mall, but they had almost nothing in the way of imports and independent releases.  Spencer's had more band tee-shirts, too.  But what they may have lacked in merchandise, Camelot made up for with in-store appearances:

Yes, with the strains of "Secret Loser" in the background, you could have met a future W.A.S.P. member, a future Lizzy Borden member, a future woman...And Carmen Appice.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Commercial Metal, Vol. 1

Let's take a look at some heavy metal TV commercials of yesteryear via the magic of YouTube! 
Despite the legendary title track, the classic video of said track, and the infamous cover artwork with all its implications, I personally think Balls to the Wall is the weakest of the Accept albums from their golden period--Breaker through Metal Heart.  Not that it's a dud, but that title track overshadows everything else, and though a consistent album, it seems to have less standout tracks than the others.  I never really got into it much beyond "Balls to the Wall" and "Head Over Heels."  I don't have any anecdotes about the album itself, so I'll just resort to rambling about Accept in general.

Accept were one of the earliest genre-significant heavy metal bands I was exposed to (probably the third one, actually, after Priest and Motörhead).  I (vaguely) remember the first time I heard "Fast as a Shark;" my reaction was typical, from what I've heard--amused bewilderment at the crackly "Ein Heller und ein Batzen" intro, then another kind of bewilderment entirely as the guitars kicked in, things went nuts, AND YOU WERE STEAMROLLED BY A SPEED METAL CLASSIC.  I recall playing the song for a guy I went to high school with who liked a couple of metal bands.  And by playing, I mean over the phone, by holding the receiver up to my Sanyo boombox.  He didn't seem very impressed, and thus I had one of my earliest lessons about the general futility of trying to socialize with music.

The band were also the basis for an improptu metal litmus test, which I still occasionally use.  It works as follows:  "Too High to Get It Right" is played so that the intended target/victim will hear it.  The majority of the time this will result in a comment about AC/DC, at which point a barrage of verbal and physical abuse ensues.

The Saxon side of the commercial is a bit depressing.  "Saxon's hard rock crusade destroys America."  SURE, SURE.  MORE LIKE DESTROYS THEIR CREDIBILITY, MR. ANNOUNCER.  Wheels.../Strong Arm.../Denim... is, to me, the greatest three-album stand in heavy music.  Exceedingly hard to pick a clear favorite among them.  Still lots of good stuff on Power & the Glory.  But Crusader just confirmed the descent into ham-fisted commerciality from which Saxon would not recover for about a decade.

I did not hear the album until long after it was released, so it wasn't as much of a letdown, but it was clearly a big step in the wrong direction.  Yeah, the title track has an epic quality, and it's possibly the first (only?) hard/heavy album to have a song about the pilgrims on it, but the song I've always enjoyed most was the "Set Me Free" cover.  Great cover, but very telling that it's not as heavy and mean as Sweet's original...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

High Intensity Discharge CD

Travelling into the realm of obscure heavy metal can be a real bargain at times.  Several years ago the local pawn shop decided to liquidate their entire audio CD collection.  AT 10 CDS FOR A DOLLAR.  I promptly bought every single hard rock and metal-related disc in the place, which resulted in quite an eclectic stack of stuff running the gamut from a cut-out of Torch's Fireraiser to a Skatenigs CD with water-damaged inserts.  While there, I picked up this little number--the High Intensity Discharge compilation on the Creative Sounds label:

I was already acquainted with Creative Sounds due to their ubiquitous cheapo CD versions of early Black Sabbath and pre-Gillan Deep Purple releases.  I had always assumed they were some weird little UK label who were exploiting licensing loopholes.
Speaking of cheap, no date information is given anywhere, but according to online sources the compilation was released in 1988.  It's a bit hard to tell from the cover scan, but the album title is actually hot foil stamped onto the insert.  They chose to emboss a metallic red logo on an insert that is not only one-sided, but uses an upside-down stock photo as a background.  What an odd way to splurge on a layout that looks terribly generic and cheap otherwise.  Maybe one of the label guys moonlighted at a print shop or something, even though I would have thought pressing Black Sabbath CDs intended for the budget-minded consumer would be enough by itself to keep the lights on.   
Okay, so we've got two Deep Purple tunes (both cover songs from the Mk. I lineup with Rod Evans), two Sabbath tunes, and two Alice Cooper tunes (since these are live and "No Longer Umpire" is mistitled as "Painting a Picture," I assume these are from the 1969 Toronto Rock and Roll Revival fest--recordings of which have been released as Alice Cooper live CDs in a slew of various unauthorized incarnations). 
Well, both were Albuquerque, New Mexico bands active in the mid-late '80s.  At first I was confused as to why they would be on such a compilation, but as it turns out, Creative Sounds were also located in New Mexico.  I'm not sure of the exact circumstances, but it seems they were given compilation slots by virtue of being relatively popular local acts at the time.  This also appears to be the only time Creative Sounds ever worked with local bands.  And remember that licensing loopholes comment I made earlier?  The most recent info I could find about Creative Sounds was that they were sued in the early '90s by MCA over music rights issues.
New Mexico has never really been known as a hotbed of heavy metal, '80s or otherwise.  As a state with a pretty healthy history of demo-level bands, I'm not going to mock them, but let's face it--their biggest claims to fame are a Christian thrash band and a 1984 Judas Priest concert.  On to the bands in question though:


Much like the logo on the cover, Leggesy are shiny and metallic (since they are in New Mexico, some of them may very well qualify as red too).  As is obvious from the band name and songtitles, they definitely sway towards the more commercial side of '80s metal.  "Custom Made Lover" is typical of the L.A. metal style--mid-paced stuff with a hard-driving guitar providing most of the heaviness.  Their second tune "Lace by Name" is a bit heavier and comes off better, despite the odd maracas-style percussion throughout most of the song.  Nothing on the level of "Be My Wench," mind you, but for songs about chicks these aren't bad.
Here's a video for "Custom Made Lover" shot on the roof of a Holiday Inn.  Yes, you read that correctly.


Tryax also have somewhat of a commercial sheen to their metal, although it manifests itself differently and their two songs are more varied.  "Lost Time" is a ballad that evokes somewhat of a Crimson Glory/Queensrÿche feel (though with a singer nowhere near that caliber).  Then "Bring It On" brings in some real muscle with a mean main riff that wouldn't appear out of place in a NWoBHM stomper (for the Spanish metal enthusiasts in the room, it's quite reminiscent of Obús' "Va a estallar el obús").  However, the bouncy, rocking nature of the song and some of the vocal crooning do detract from its bite. 
Just a final warning--I don't know if they're pressings that came earlier or later, but be aware that some versions of High Intensity Discharge substitute Spooky Tooth and Soft Machine tracks for the Leggesy and Tryax stuff, rendering the compilation completely worthless in my opinion.