Mark Lanegan – Ding Dong, 4 March 2013

My girlfriend and I went to see Mark Lanegan live at Ding Dong last week.

Here’s a grainy photo to prove it:

Image

Dude with guitar and Lanegan

The small venue was chockers, but I was amazed at how quiet and respectful the audience was. It was a stark contrast to the last time I went to a ‘quiet’ gig, when I went and saw Art of Fighting a few years ago and the wanker crowd chatted their way through the whole thing.

One bloke arked up a bit during one of the songs but was quickly and politely advised to shut the fuck up by a discerning audience member.

It was just Lanegan and some dude with an acoustic guitar on stage, and it really was a spellbinding performance. That voice live gives you shivers, and the imagery and emotion that guy conjures up could bring a grown man to the verge of tears at times. Not me of course, but a grown man not quite as strong and tough as me.

I’m not exactly sure of the set list but it looks pretty close to what he played in Sydney on the 9th (see here for the list).

The Cherry Tree Carol was my favourite for the night, and thankfully someone in the crowd filmed it and put it on Youtube, so here it is:

It was a great gig, certainly the best vocal performance I’ve ever seen live, so well done Melbourne for turning out to support the great man and showing him the respect such a talent deserves.

– Hazizi

Advertisements

Veil of Maya – Karova Lounge, Ballarat, 11 April 2012

Veil of Maya

It must be hard being a young metal band trying to make your way in the world today.

For starters, you need to fork out hundreds of dollars for tats that cover both of your arms, not to mention the requisite outlay on hair product. Then you have the added difficulty of trying to walk around the stage with your jeans hanging halfway between your arse and your knees.

Ha ha ha!  Aren’t I an old smug ex-hipster wanker.

Seriously, I think I may have become the thing I always hated.  “Things were better in my day”.  “These kids are just ripping off old bands”.  “We used to mosh much better than this when I was young”.  More like “Help me mummy, I’m a creepy old man and my hair is falling out and when I go to gigs girls run away from me.”

But seriously though, I do think it would be tough being a young metal band.  The biggest problem, I think, apart from the old hipsters looking down their noses at you, is that just about every boundary has been pushed as far as it can go.  In fact, that probably happened about twenty years ago.  Drums couldn’t get any faster, guitars couldn’t be tuned any lower, vocals couldn’t sound any more demonic, album covers couldn’t get any more grotesque and lyrics couldn’t get any more offensive.  Or, at the other extreme, doom metal songs couldn’t get any slower or any longer.

Every taboo has been broken.  Every combination of styles has been tried.  Every time you come up with something you think is new, you google it and realise it’s already been done.  It’s just so damned hard to be original these days.

So what options do you have as a young band wanting to carve your own path and create something new? Well, you can just say “Stuff it!”, and rip off other bands or songs shamelessly and mercilessly.  The really tempting thing about this is that these bands are often the most successful.  Think Jet, Wolfmother and The Sword (although I quite like Wolfmother, but that’s a story for another day).

Another option is to just take some of that really extreme metal stuff that you really dig and just, well, do it better than it’s been done before.  You know, write better riffs and scarier, darker lyrics, and just generally take the whole thing to a new level of awesomeness, like Pig Destroyer did a few years ago:

Another option is to ramp up the weirdness and difficulty levels by getting really proggy or mathy in your music.  You know, that stuff that’s hard to tap your feet to, like Meshuggah or Gojira (who I saw for the first time here).  Only you have to be careful that ‘mathy’ just doesn’t end up sounding ‘random’, because that’s not a whole lot of fun to listen to (or play, I imagine).

Or you can take the final option and grab any metal subgenre, chuck the word “-core” on the end of it, and substitute screaming for whatever the old vocal style was.

Oh, please, that was a joke.  I really don’t want this blog to degenerate into some ‘my old music is better than your -core’ debate.

Deathcore bands do seem to cop a lot of criticism, most from older metal fans who think music from their day will never be beaten.  If you’re interested in the debate you’ll find it played out across countless YouTube clips and blog articles.  This guy is my favourite:

This pic pretty much summarises the arguments of the critics:

The argument against deathcore

But here’s the thing about the whole debate: IT’S FUCKING STUPID.  Both ways.  Deathcore is not as bad as the haters claim.   But it doesn’t represent a huge evolution from death metal.  It’s really not that different.  The vocals are screamier, the lyrics are angsty rather than evil, the production is better and the haircuts and clothes are different.  The two genres are so similar that I can’t see how you could like one but not the other, and getting all worked up and emotional about which one is better is just stupid.  It’s like debating 7-Up vs Sprite.  Sure, one might prefer one or the other*, but c’mon guys…

OK, now, onto the review.

Firstly let me say that, as someone who has recently moved from Melbourne to the country town of Ballarat, it was great to see Veil of Maya come all the way from Chicago to visit our little town and play a gig for us here.  And well done to Karova Lounge for booking them – it’s such a great venue.

One of the great things about Melbourne was that so many good bands play there every week, but that means you end up ignoring most of them and only seeing the ones you know and love.  In a smaller city you don’t have that luxury, which means that when a decent band does come to town you’ll make the effort to go and see them, even if you might have otherwise ignored them.  I’m hoping that is a good thing.

So, Veil of Maya: how were they?  Well, I thought they were excellent.  Sure, the lead singer looked like Scott Pendlebury, and they all looked far too trendy and pretty to be playing metal, but they sounded great.

The songs rock, the breakdowns work, and the use of samples throughout the gig was effective.  I loved the contrast between the melodic parts and the chug-chug riffs.  They sometimes layered one over the other and it worked.  They are a tight five piece, and the drummer in particular stood out for his speed and precision.

If you want to hear a sample of their stuff, well, this song is pretty good:

They didn’t seem to play for very long, so I’m marking them down a few notches on the set list rating.  The songs are quite short and the only played eight to ten so I’m not sure we got our money’s worth, although with attention spans so short these days and the challenging and technical nature of the music it is understandable I suppose.

I’m not entirely sure what songs they played because I’d never heard them before, but a quick search on the internet suggests the setlist must have looked something like this:

  1. 20/200
  2. Crawl Back
  3. Dark Passenger
  4. Unbreakable
  5. Punisher
  6. Pillars
  7. We Bow in It’s Aura
  8. It’s Not Safe to Swim Today

My biggest complaint for the night (and yes, this is the old man coming out in me) was the way the kids at the gig were dancing.  ‘Back in my day’ we used to mosh.  That meant jumping together in a tight group, pushing off one another, with some stage diving thrown in for good measure.  As Tom Araya said in Decade of Aggression, “If you see somebody going down, help ’em out, alright.  That’s what we’re here to do – help each other out”.

That whole spirit of camaraderie seems to have gone out the window.  Now the goal seems to be to clear as much space around you as possible by whipping your arms around so violently that if anyone came with a metre of you they would be knocked out.  There was even some guy jumping around doing some high martial arts style kicks that could have seriously injured someone if they walked into the wrong spot.  This kind of stuff means there is no chance of the group of like-minded metal fans coalescing into an amorphous mass.  You end up with little islands of angst rather than one sweaty, seething mass.  It also means stage diving is not really an option, and I’m sure it wouldn’t look as impressive to the bands on stage.  So if anyone out there actually reads this blog, please stop doing this – it’s annoying.

Anyway, Veil of Maya, thanks for coming to our little town and adding some awesome metal to an otherwise drab Wednesday night.  And to all you cynical old metalheads who dismiss this stuff off the cuff, you’re missing out big time.

Category Rating
Sound: 9
Set List: 6
Crowd: 6
Overall: 8

– Hazizi

* – 7-Up kicks Sprite’s arse

Mastodon – Billboard, 27 Feb 2012

I went to the Mastodon gig in Melbourne last week and just wanted to give you a very quick rundown before I post Felix’s long awaited review of Skyrim.

First, a bit of background, your faithful scribe (me, you idiot!) has recently moved to the demographic centre of the Australian metal scene: Ballarat.  Well, it’s not really, but there are lots of bogans here, and it did spawn Australia’s greatest ever metal band, Damaged.

That meant I had quite a drive to the gig, and a nasty long drive home in the middle of the night through torrential rain.

While walking from my car to the gig I experienced something all Chuck Taylor wearers experience at least once every year: a sandshoe blowout.

Sandshoe blowout

That meant I spent quite a bit of the night trying to stuff the inner sole back into my shoe, and I was highly conscious of puddles walking to and from the gig, but apart from that didn’t impede my experience in any major way, so I’ll stop writing about it… now.

I missed the first band, Norwegian black metal-punksters Kvelertak, but heard all of Gojira’s set.  As Gojira were warming up I asked my friend Daniel what sort of music they played and he said “pretentious, French prog metal”, which I thought sounded pretty nice.  I was impressed by these guys.  Like a lot of this experimental proggy stuff, it was a bit disjointed at times, but the drumming was great, especially the double kick work. The heavier guitar parts sounded a little bit like Domination-era Morbid Angel, you know, like Where The Slime Live, and they put those little squeals at the end of the riffs which I always like.  So I guess you could call it death-prog.  There were parts that were so mathy my head was starting to spin.  I was trying to tap my foot to the drums.  I tried the Fibonacci Sequence, Lucas numbers and the digits of pi, all to no avail, so in the end I just gave up and enjoyed the show.

I’ll definitely be chasing up some of Gojira’s CDs – as Daniel said they’d be a great headphone band – and I hope to be able to tap my foot in time if I ever see them again.

Next up, of course, were Mastodon, and yeah they were good but they didn’t blow me away.  The best part for me was getting to see which guys sing which bits of each song.  They opened with Dry Bone Valley which gave me a satisfied inner glow, because I love that song even though Pitchfork called it “generic classic rock”.  I love seeing a drummer who sings too, and Brann Dailor did a great job with this song.

Just before I go on, here’s a blurry phone pic just to prove I was there…

Mastodon live bitches

Overall though I had a few gripes.  I thought the drums sounded muffled, and didn’t do the man I regard as “the best in modern metal” justice.  He needs to give Dave Lombardo’s tech man a call.  Or even borrow the guy from Gojira. And the song list was dominated by songs from The Hunter, which is understandable given these songs are generally shorter and catchier than their old stuff, but man I would have loved to have heard Sleeping Giant or Colony of Birchmen off Blood Mountain (the drummer could have sung the Homme bits), and Oblivion from Crack The Skye.  You can check the set list here.

The crowd were knowledgable and sang along with gusto.  I was surprised that most of the audience were as old as, well, me, but that’s OK I suppose.  It meant that there were some impressive beards about anyway.

So there you go, not quite the live tour de force I was anticipating.  Maybe, like Gojira, the true spirit of Mastodon is best divined the old fashioned way: sitting in a bean bag wearing a good quality set of headphones.

Category Rating
Sound: 7
Set List: 7
Crowd: 8
Overall: 8

– Hazizi

Deftones – Palace Theatre, 31 Jan 2011

Deftones: Live in Melbourne

I went and checked out the Deftones recently.  They were in Melbourne for the Big Day Out and decided to give us a side show while they were here.

My thoughts, just quickly, in dot point format:

  • Loved the setlist (available here).  It was quite innovative – they played a few songs off each of their albums in (almost) chronological order.  It was a guided tour through their entire catalogue, and made for a pleasant change from the standard ‘start with the biggest recent hit, finish with the old crowd pleaser’ formula that most bands stick to.
  • Liked the stage set up too.  There was a set of steps facing the crowd that gave vocalist Chino Moreno something to climb up and jump around and pose on as he was singing.
  • The Palace Theatre, or Metro as most people still call it, is a pretty impressive venue, and it would be very cool to play there.  The multiple levels bearing down on the stage remind me of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck video.

The happy punters (except for the one aggro bloke)

  • I thought the sound could have used a bit more oomph.  They needed some bigger stacks of Marshalls or something (whoops, I mean Oranges – whatever).  I suppose it’s difficult when you’re touring the world and playing all different sizes of venues to take a rig that suits every venue, and the Metro is a particularly high-ceilinged venue that makes the acoustics a challenge.
  • The crowd got into it and were generally in good spirits, although there were a couple of aggro dudes near me blocking people walking up and down the stairs that could have used a couple of cans of chill the fuck out.  I wish people would stop filming the whole thing on their frikking iPhones too – they get in the way.  Dude, you’re at the concert, enjoy it – the grainy, muffled recording on your phone isn’t going to be worth the effort of standing there like a knob when you could be enjoying the gig.  Buy a live DVD or find some decent quality live footage on Youtube if you want to relive it.
  • My favourite songs for the night were Kimdracula, Minerva and Sextape – one each off their last three albums.  All the new songs sounded great live.
  • Chino chugged a beer when the crowd yelled ‘skull, skull skull!’ – gotta love peer group pressure.
  • Scotch and coke tastes even better on a Monday night for some reason – give it a try!
Category Rating
Sound: 7
Set List: 9
Crowd: 8
Overall: 8

– Hazizi

The Three Paper Music Awards – 2010

2010 was a year. And like all years, some good shit happened and some bad shit happened.

Some of the bad shit that happened included the breakup of one of my favourite bands, and a favourite of intellectual metal heads worldwide (yes, there is such a thing) – Isis, who played their last ever gig in Montreal in June.

Australia’s Cog broke up too – a band that toured relentlessly and always gave their all whether live or in the studio. Their legacy includes some great albums, beautiful songs (Bitter Pills is my personal favourite) and lasting memories of their live performances.

Ronnie James Dio died in May, and a big chunk of metal died with him. He owned a mighty set of lungs that fella. Maybe they can put them in a display case somewhere (like Phar Lap’s heart) and metal heads can travel from far and wide to see them and marvel at them.

2010 also saw the demise of StonerRock.com – a web site that helped define and promote an entire genre. Thanks go out to all at the site and the contributors who kept it going for so long. There are so many great CDs in my collection that I would never have heard of without it.

January 2010 also saw the closure of the Tote Hotel – the cornerstone of Melbourne’s live music scene for decades. This led to some of the most passionate mass protests we’ve seen in Melbourne for some time as thousands of crusty punters took to the streets to voice their displeasure. It was heartening stuff, and led to a change in the government regulations that had shut the pub in the first place, and a glorious reopening, albeit with new carpet. It’s great to have it back.

But there were plenty of good things too, and to highlight just how good it got, and to clear the decks for what should be a pearler of a 2011, let me take you through my list of favourite musical releases for MMXAD:

5. High On Fire – Snakes For The Divine (E1 Music)

Review here.

Pike’s muscular riffage and Kensel’s tribal drumming assault are an astonishing combination. They bring a couple of new twists – a touch of Mastodon here, a touch of Slayer there – but High On Fire are essentially an old school metal band, and this album continues the tradition of the grandest old metal bands like Iron Maiden and Motorhead.

4. Torche – Songs For Singles (Hydra Head)

An eight track E.P. from these pop-doomsters from Florida. A further refinement of the innovative sounds we heard on Meanderthal, Torche served us a reminder of why they are one of the most exciting and listenable heavy music prospects on the planet. Hopefully we’ll get a full length from them soon, but this is a great little taster to keep us going until then. A slight muddiness in the production stops it sneaking up higher on the list, but the songwriting is first rate.  The droning final song Out Again is a cracker.

Category Rating
Production: 7
Songwriting: 9
Creativity: 9
Overall:

9

3. Entrails – Tales From The Morgue (FDA Rekotz)

It’s amazing that this release ever saw the light of day.  I own a magnificent 400+ page tome called ‘Swedish Death Metal’ (great gift, Withers!), and these guys were little more than a footnote to the scene.  “They did one demo and a few memorable gigs”.

And now, twenty years later, they’ve got together and re-recorded their old demo songs and a few new ones as well.  And hail Satan, it’s fantastic!

That old school Sunlight Studio sound has never sounded better.  It’s got that ‘planets crashing together’ guitar sound of Entombed’s Left Hand Path, a kick drum sound that could pound a hole in your chest, and some absolutely rocking riffs.  There’s some occasional nods to Metallica in the slower sections and lead breaks too, just in case you needed it.

This album is a testament to all – never let go of your dreams, you’re never too old, and SWEDISH DEATH METAL FUCKING RULES.  Good luck tracking it down, but if you liked Swedish death the first time around you owe it to yourself to try.

Category Rating
Production: 9
Songwriting: 9
Creativity: 6
Overall:

9

2. Solace – A.D. (Small Stone)

Reviewed here.

Look we all wish Black Sabbath stayed together and never stopped releasing great albums, but they didn’t, OK?  And while there have been countless imitators over the years (in fact every heavy band that has ever existed was influenced by them), I don’t think any band has gotten this close to recreating their greatness. The lumbering riffs, the soaring vocals, the groove and the outright heaviness are all here. Thank you Solace for keeping the fire alive.

1. Deftones – Diamond Eyes (Reprise)

Album of the Year 2010

Reviewed here.

Arguably the strongest album yet from this world class band.  Complexity and simplicity have somehow become two sides of the same coin for these guys, and there is a beauty and sadness at play in these songs – understandable given the tragic 2008 accident of their bass player Chi Cheng, who is still recovering today.  It is an outstanding work of art from a great band at their peak.

Gig of The Year – Isis @ The Corner

Reviewed here.

I’ve seen these guys twice before, but this was the first time I’ve been sober (hey, I was sick, OK?).  But this time I actually got to concentrate on what they were DOING, rather than just getting overwhelmed by their wall of noise.  The energy and emotion invested in every song left me feeling drained but uplifted.  I can understand why they broke up – playing this kind of music would be like performing a complex symphony every night – but they will be sorely missed all the same.

Shout Outs for 2010

And a couple of quick shouts out: Dozer’s stoner rock classics In the Tail of a Comet and Madre de Dios were finally re-released and sounded as good as ever, and the awesome songs on the soundtrack to Hazizi’s computer game of the year, NBA 2K11, rocked my world throughout the second half of 2010.

A shout out too to my favourite online record store AllThatIsHeavy.com.  Their service is quick and reliable, they have a great catalogue of new and old releases, and they often chuck in a cool sticker or demo CD with their orders. Chances are if you read about it here, you can get it from there.

I want to leave you with a film clip, and I think it’s only fitting that it’s from one of the bands that called it quits during 2010. So long, Cog, and congratulations on a great career!

– Hazizi

Quick Update: Melbourne Metal Showcase, 8th May 2010

Hear this Metal Warriors!

There’s a gig coming up this weekend in Melbourne that may interest to those who like their music loud, fast and heavy.

The headline act is a band called Humonic, featuring one of the greatest drummers the world has ever seen (no shit!) – Matt Skitz (ex-Damaged).

Here’s the gig poster with more details:

METAL

And if you think it’s been a bit quiet on this blog lately – you’re right!

But all that’s about to change – coming up we’ve got a record label showcase featuring Detroit’s Small Stone Recordings as they prepare to release the highly anticipated new Solace album, and I’ll be giving the latest Deftones CD a spin too.  Felix hasn’t been sitting around twiddling his thumbs either.  Well he has, but they’ve been attached to his Playstation controller – he’ll be taking you through all the explosive mayhem of Just Cause 2.

Check back soon, folks!

– Hazizi

Quick Update: Heavy Music Links

Hi there,

Just a quick note to let you know about a couple of music related things that might be of interest to YOU, our avid and erudite reader.

Free live Metallica

Firstly, there’s a heap of old Metallica gigs available as free downloads via their official website.  They’re mostly from the 80’s and 90’s so should satisfy even the most angry and outspoken ‘New Metallica’ haters out there, assuming you can get past the irony of Metallica offering something for free.  Click here for the list of gigs.  There’s some newer gigs on the site too if you click back to the home page.

Secondly, StonerRock.com have published their ‘Top 29 of 2009’ poll.  It’s always a great guide to the best new heavy stuff of the last year, and sometimes has a pointer to a band or two you might have missed.  What’s more, it’s been posted in a timely fashion this year for a change, so be sure to check it out here.

Check back soon for the new High On Fire review.  And Felix just finished Brutal Legend on the PS3 so you’ll probably hear his thoughts on that one soon too.

METAL RULES.

– Hazizi