• Dead Kennedys? Without Jello?

    23 Jul 2006, 2:25

    I just found out that Dead Kennedys reformed without Jello on vocals in 2001 and have been touring. It's no surprise there's no Jello, what with the whole Giger poster lawsuit, etc, but... Dead Kennedys? Can they seriously go by that name without Jello Biafra?

    Honestly, there are some bands that can go on without a member and then there are some that just couldn't be the same if one were missing. I think the Dead Kennedys simply can't be the Dead Kennedys without Jello. I haven't heard them now, but this is just my personal feeling. Perhaps if I heard how they sound now I might change my mind.

    It's just one of those things that seems unnatural.
  • Lusitanian Metal

    25 Jun 2006, 1:33

    Originally posted on January 12, 2005 in my old music review blog.

    Moonspell -
    Thragedium -
    The Temple -

    I was first introduced to Moonspell by Lonewolf, who owns a couple of their CDs including Wolfheart. He played it for me and I fell instantly in love with the heavy, gothic metal sounds that were blasting from his trucks speakers.

    The album starts out with a very somber and mellow intro with just a clean, chorused guitar and some synth strings. Then suddenly it kicks in with this full, hard-hitting sound of metal with some excellent haunting guitar licks and epic sounding synth chords. The double-kick drum is the fucking balls!

    Fernando Ribeiro's vocal work is incredible. It reminds me to some extent of Pete Steele of Type O Negative fame. He can do the deep melodic vocals with excellent precision and then get the growling death-metal-vocals going without sounding like a smoker on a bad day. His screams smack of an agony you can feel. As a suitable complement there is often a female backing vocalist that adds morbid vocalese melodies to the background texture.

    The dynamics of the songs on this album are incredible. About four and a half minutes into Wolfshade, the first track, listen for a mellow bass lead with some subtle synth work behind it. This is sandwiched between some hard-hitting metal but the transitions in and out are so smooth. You'll often hear breaks with synthesizer textures that send you floating on a melancholic mind trip. There are also moments that remind me a lot of the finer points that made Sisters of Mercy's album Floodland such a timeless treasure. For an example of this, check out the intro to Of Dream And Drama (Midnight Ride), track three on Wolfheart.

    The guitar work is so phenomenal! It harkens back to the days of bands like Iron Maiden who actually used melodies and guitar textures to drive a song instead of power chords or power chords with the fifth on the bottom. The use of two-note intervals to imply harmony and letting the whole band build a sonic canvas instead of placing all harmonic responsibilities on the guitar is masterful. That's not to say there isn't use of power chords or harmonically rich moments for the guitar, but all in its place and time. That's the key. This band has a strong compositional sense which places it high above most modern mainstream metal bands.

    If you like happy metal, don't listen to this album. It is very haunting. It is loaded with the occult. It has avery dramatic, theatrical, gothic sound. It is rife with anguish and torment and sadness and angst. At the very least it is somber and subtle, such as the short instrumental Lua D'inverno. This truly is a collection of dark metal durges. The closest you'll get to upbeat is Trebaruna.

    Listen for the main guitar riff in An Erotic Alchemy for what I believe is an homage to the late Randy Rhoads. It bears a striking resemblance (almost note for note) to the main riff of Ozzy Osbourne's classic Crazy Train.

    As a word of warning, you'll have trouble buying anything from their site. If you go to the Century Media Records site directly and search in their shop for Moonspell you'll find their albums. At $10 a piece for CDs or $11 a piece for vinyl you can't beat the price.

    I found out about Thragedium through Moonspell's site. You can visit Thragedium's site and download their entire album "The Isolationist" from their website. The links are halfway down the main index page after you click in from the splash page (click on "Lusitanian Essence").

    Much like Wolfheart, "The Isolationist" starts with a very beautiful and crisp acoustic guitar intro. It immediately hits hard with the metal sounds. The sound of the first track, Breeding Thought, has a sound that is close to a combination of Queensryche and Iced Earth. I was especially fond of the acoustic outro at the end of the first track.

    In fact, the use of acoustic guitar is really a signature sound for Thragedium. They even use the Portuguese fado guitar, which is an unconventional touch of tradition that makes the album so much more appealing. You'll find this acoustic touch throughout the album. It makes an excellent contrast to the cutting metal distortion it is placed against, around and between.

    In contrast to Moonspell, the harmonic focus of this album is placed on the guitar. There is only a touch of piano here and there for added texture. Even still there is a comparable level of sophistication that places it in a superior position to modern mainstream metal. The harmonies are complex and not limited to power chords. There's also a degree of orchestration on the guitar that has a very Iron Maiden-like soundscape to it.

    Another forte of this band is their tight rhythms. They make a good deal of synchopation and time changes that are tough for a unit to accomplish. Still they manage to pull them off in a seeminglessly effortless manner. This is espacially evident in Bloodline.

    Libra is comparable to Lua D'inverno in that it provides a small, instrumental break to the album that is somber and subtle.

    Perhaps you may find some moments that sound like Moonspell. You wouldn't be entirely wrong. Moonspell's Fernando Ribeiro makes a few appearances on this album, including backing vocals on Breeding Thought and lead vocals on Bloodline, to offer his impactful death growl vocals. It's great to see the level of comraderie that the Lusitanian metal bands share.

    Unfortunately I only had little tastes of The Temple from their website. They do have one full song from Diesel Dog Sound, Millionaire, available for download. There are also a handful of other songs available on the site for download.

    The Temple's sound is certainly more akin to the power chord driven likeness of modern mainstream metal. Much like Moonspell, the use of tight, rapid-fire double-kick is aggressive and appealing to the metal lover's ear.

    The music is good but certainly not as sophisticated and dark as Moonspell and Thragedium. It's more just angry. It's still worth a listen. I'm not sure if it's something I would like to purchase, but I didn't dislike it.
  • Youth of Britain - Welcome to Britain EP review

    25 Jun 2006, 1:19

    Originally posted on December 24, 2004 in my old music reviews blog.

    Artist: Youth of Britain
    Album: Welcome to Britain EP

    I wish I had an actual album to review, but alas I'm piss poor and have only three reduced-quality mp3s downloaded from their site. They don't have a full-length album out yet but you can purchase a nice little three-song EP of the songs available for download on their site which also includes the video for The Guvnor by Joel Veitch and Rob Manuel (of fame).

    Their sound can be summarized as a sort of British techno-industrial-punk. It's quality to be sure. If you dig groups like Sex Pistols, KMFDM, Dead Kennedys, Chemical Brothers, Lords of Acid, Prodigy or something along these lines (varied, I know) then I think you'll appreciate this EP.

    The Guvnor is a half spoken word, half sung track that's quite critical of the British government and how easy it is to take advantage of the system. Adn why not? The benefits are sweet!. You've gotta love lyrics like:

    "The government's a joke. It keeps mugs like me afloat. But as long as I can take a piss, they've got my vote. Come around for tea one day Mr. Tony Blair and see the Playstation that was paid for by the welfare."

    For that fact, "Welcome to Britain" is similar in it's critique of the British government. It paints a vivid satire of Britain. They have pidgeons, they have girls, but pay no mind to the vagrants and the gang wars. Ooh! Changing of the guard!

    Madman is just a great song about not crossing a madman.

    The thing I love most about this EP is that there's no homogenization of the music. They don't try to make things more palpable for the "international community" (read "what America believes the world should be like"). It's rife with Brit slang and culture and it's up to you to figure it all out or piss off. That's as it should be.

    Check out the website. You can buy the EP, download the songs to hold you over until you get the EP, keep up to date on YOB by virtue of their blog and download some videos of The Guvnor and other songs not on the EP all created by Veitch & Manuel.
  • Dark Minions - Self Titled review

    25 Jun 2006, 1:00

    Originally posted on December 24, 2004 in my old music review blog.

    Artist: Dark Minions
    Album: Self Titled

    Let me first state that it is kickass that there's finally a good local band producing some quality metal! Most bands around here or that come here to play local venues are either crappy bar bands or Phish/Grateful Dead/Dave Matthews Band wanna-be-bands. Not these guys. And they're so much better than Shades Of Grey/Black Eyed Susan ever were.

    These guys have some incredible potential. The first thing they have going for them is that they are tight. Damn tight. I heard no indication of rhythmic fumbling or being out of sync. They have their shit together, which is tough enough when you have four people trying to coordinate musical efforts. They have a very raw sound which is only just barely making a reappearance in the mainstream with bands like The White Stripes. An excellent sample of this raw sound would be the song Not For Me, which was short and sweet in a Dead Kennedys sort of way and likewise very politically charged.

    Not For Me also illustrates another strength of this album: great riff work on the guitarist's part. At times the riff work reminded me of the late Dimebag Darrell (R.I.P.) . Mind you his solo work isn't as refined as Dimebag's but that isn't necessarily a bad thing, just a difference. The one weakness displayed by the guitarist would be the song The Road. The guitar was painfully out of tune. Aside from that, it was a quality song. I would love to hear this one rerecorded or live with a tuned guitar because it would so rock my world.

    The vocalist was good overall but could use some fine tuning. In all his sound is a good compliment to the raw sound of the band, but occasionally he would go flat. The lyrics at moments were also a bit awkward. Inside of You is a good example of his strong lyrical work, complete with megaphone action. It's a high-energy song that reminded me a lot of Bush before they went all sucky. A couple songs demonstrating some less than stellar moments in the lyrics department are The End and You. You also had some rather flat moments that didn't pan out so well with the quality of the melodic craftsmanship behind the lyrics.

    That's right. Melodic craftsmanship. Don't interpret me as accusing the song You or the vocalist of being inadequate. You would be sadly mistaken. They just need some tweaking. Listen to You and you'll notice some neat things happening with the melody that leave me still quite impressed with the vocalist. The human brain loves everything to resolve to the root note of the key. Nothing in this song resolves this way. It's frigging awesome! Most of the phrasing in the verse ends on the leading tone which creates this incredible tension. Good. It builds up to the end of the verse where it resolves to an unlikely but enlightening third. Rocktastic! Listen to the last track, Termination 13, and you'll notice some quality use of chromatics. The verse bounces back and forth on a minor second interval. Phrases in the chorus build up chromatically, too.

    Termination 13 also demonstrates some interesting use of production. The left/right panning of the guitar at the beginning is a rare treat in recorded music these days. It used to be so prevalent in bands like Queen or The Beatles but hardly anyone makes good use of it today. In general the production quality on this disc is great. I've heard far worse from established bands, nevermind a band just getting started.

    These guys also had some good dynamics, especially transitions between slow and fast sections. The mix of tracks vary from hard-hitting, dark and deep metal of Twisted Dreams to the previously mentioned high-energy track Inside of You to slower, relaxed tracks like The Road.

    And what good metal album would be complete without the slow, sad acoustic ballad? Aside from the aforementioned need for lyrical attention, this track was refreshing. It reminded me of what made vintage Metallica, Pantera and other metal icons' albums so epic. The guitar was so beautiful.

    This band has displayed dynamics, craftsmanship, an ability to rock out hardcore, potential, intelligence and last but not least: humor. JD is a fun little song about beer and music. 1 Finger Salute is a great mockery of lengthy, masturbatory guitar solos complete with orgasmic sound clips. Twisted Dreams starts the album out with a reversed reading of a bible passage that sounds positively demonic.

    If you're ever in the area, make sure you look for these guys playing live. From what I understand they frequent the Pemi Youth Center so you might be able to catch them there. As soon as they get a web site or something I'll be sure to pass it on so you can all share the joy that is Dark Minions.
  • Brian Wilson - SMiLE review

    25 Jun 2006, 0:51

    Originally posted on October 13, 2004 in my old music review blog.

    Artist: Brian Wilson
    Album: SMiLE

    What a phenomenal album! I'm probably going to write a bunch of stuff you could easily read on Amazon but there are several points with which I have to agree.

    Back when Brian Wilson was first starting the SMiLE project, many people compared it with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in it's brilliance, innovation and spectacle. I can certainly hear the basis for that comparison in this release 37 years in the making. It is also a just comparison. Much like The Beatles at the time, The Beach Boys were pushing the envelope in capitalizing on multi-track recording, stereo production and other technological sound production advances. Brian Wilson, much like the John Lennon/Paul McCartney duo, was a songwriting/arranging genius. Pet Sounds was truly a breakthrough. If only the rest of The Beach Boys were open minded, we might have been talking to this day of the influence this album had on rock history. Unfortunately it was relegated to becoming the best album never made.

    The sound smacks of the sixties. I won't deny it. But if you place yourself in the right frame of mind by considering what was being released and aired at the time, this album is indeed revolutionary. I am so glad it can finally get the attention it so truly deserves.

    As it was from the start for The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson's vocal arrangements are incredible. His touring backup band performed on the album and it is quite uncanny how they capture the essence and very sound at times of The Beach Boys. As he demonstrated on Pet Sounds, Wilson also managed to organize lush landscapes and textures of layered musical instrument combinations that were and still are unheard of in rock. The chord progressions are masterful.

    I also adore his use of recurring themes. Parts of songs appear in others, such as the slight return Roll Plymouth Rock makes in On a Holiday, Heroes and Villians makes in Wind Chimes or the swapping of parts between the two songs Song for the children and Child Is the Father of the Man. I was also taken aback by the sudden really heavy section (including distorted guitars!) in Mrs. O'Leary's Cow.

    Wilson makes me proud to be a self taught musician. I could only aspire to be half as great and be fortunate enough if I achieved a quarter of the success he has enjoyed.

    Ironically, there were times when his sound reminded me of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, as well, such as the songs Song for the children and Child Is the Father of the Man. I find this fascinating because SMiLE would have been released at just about the same time as Pink Floyd's debut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. I wonder if Wilson had an opportunity to hear much of what Barrett and crew were doing.

    My suggestion if you are going to listen to this would be to get an early Beach Boys album and listen to it so you can establish the formula the rest of the band was trying to maintain when they shot down SMiLE. Then get yourself a copy of Pet Sounds so you can establish the progression Wilson was making toward this album with the Beach Boys. Then listen to SMiLE and truly appreciate it. I would further recommend watching the video "Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" before listening to SMiLE so you can get a better idea of the history behind this project that wasn't fully realized until 37 years later.
  • Reflections on Extreme

    25 Jun 2006, 0:37

    Originally posted on October 8, 2004 in my old music review blog.

    The past couple days I've been listening to Waiting For The Punchline, the last studio album released by Extreme before they disbanded. This is still my second favorite Extreme album. Listening to it had me reflecting on my thoughts and feelings regarding Extreme. Man was I ever surprised to find, after a Google search, that they released yet another new album six years ago that I had missed and will be reuniting for a one-time performance celebrating Greg Hill's 15th anniversary at WAAF! I'm thrilled! I've got to get my hands on a copy of "Running Gag!"

    Anyhow, back to my reflections. I really think that III Sides To Every Story is by far my favorite Extreme album. Let me explain.

    Extreme and Pornograffiti were excellent albums. Don't mistake me. They came out during the height of the hair band craze and, while still being chock full of hair band anthems and ballads, they still had an unmistakable level of technical prowess, pop sensibilities, masterful vocal arrangements and intellectualism that set them miles above just about any other hair band at the time. Nevertheless, the fact remains their sound smacked of that hair band essence. They had the potential but they really hadn't fully capitalized on it.

    III Sides To Every Story was the realization of this potential. It was truly when Extreme came into their own. While they held onto their hair band roots, they clearly kicked it up a few levels with the addition of classical stylings, orchestral arrangements, excellent piano and organ accompaniments and rock music composed to epic proportions with a binding theme. Extreme had transcended the realm of hair bands and developed what I consider to be a very progressive sound and styling. This album is certainly my favoite of any Extreme album, but also one of my all-time favorite rock albums to this day.

    Waiting For The Punchline was yet another departure not only from their early days, but also from "III Sides." The feeling of this album was more raw and cynical, exploring a heavier edge. It didn't seem to be received very well, and I also think the band probably lost some steam with the swapping of drummer mid-recording (enter Mike Mangini, exit Paul Geary who later went on to manage Godsmack). Mangini was a far better drummer (no surprise he later went on to drum for James LaBrie on a solo release) but didn't get to exposition his talents for more than a couple songs on this album, which is rather unfortunate.

    I never got a chance to listen to Nuno Bettencourt's subsequent band Schizophonic, but they apparently released their album to rave reviews. I certainly got to hear Gary Cherone in Van Halen and thought is was a terrible waste of his talent. Too bad.

    When next I have the cash to buy music, I intend to purchase "Running Gag" and post a review for you all. I am extremely excited about listening to new Extreme for the first time in almost a decade!
  • ViV - Live show at Plymouth State University review

    25 Jun 2006, 0:26

    Originally posted on October 1, 2004 in my old music review blog.

    Artist: VIV

    Last night I stayed after the PSU Homecoming events to watch the band ViV from San Francisco. What an incredible show! Their sound was this eclectic, atmospheric mixture of pop-rock, ambient, psychadelia and art-of-noise which was overall very pleasing to the ears without being sappy. The lead guitarist was not only a great emotinal guitarist but a very accomplished (we're talking near virtuoso) violinist. The electric violin leads through effects were very sweet. And oh the feeling! It was also refreshing to hear real talent at the keyboards. The drums were crisp and tight with grooves when appropriate and just the right measure of syncopation to spice up the sound.

    They apparently had a song appear on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and another in an independent film by the guys who did the "American Pie" series of films. They did an excellent cover of Low, as well. In addition to the great music there were some cool visuals and lighting. My only regret was that I didn't have enough cash with me to spare on purchasing a CD or two. Check these guys out!

    There was this really interesting dialogue between band and audience that really amused me. Here it is:

    (NOTE: The lead singer introduced the whole band but only called himself "the man with no name." So, he is No-name. Rando is borrowed from Broken Lizard and means "random person." Man-in-dress was a member of the Gaming Club who dressed in drag for the Homecoming lip sync.)

    No-name: Does anyone here know how much a moose weighs?
    Man-in-dress: Two thousand, two hundred seventeen pounds.
    No-name: Okaaaaay... Does anyone know how fast a cheetah runs?
    Half the audience: 65 miles per hour!
    No-name: Does anybody really care?
    Rando #1: This is college. What, do you think we came here to learn?!
    No-name: Fuck learning, man!
    Audience cheers emphatically.
    No-name: Rock and roll all night, every night!
    Audience cheers emphatically.
    No-name: Come on. You guys are coming on the road with us!
    Rando #2: Yeah, but what do we have to do?
    No-name: Nothing.
    Rando #2: Right. This is America. It doesn't work that way.
    No-name: Sell us your women.
    Man-in-dress rushes the stage.
    No-name: Your "non-bearded" women.
    Me: This is New Hampshire! We don't have any!
    Audience laughs and then the music resumes.
  • Quick Fix - The Push review

    25 Jun 2006, 0:22

    Originally posted on September 3, 2004 in my old music review blog.

    Artist: Quick Fix
    Album: The Push

    What an incredible album! It had the kind of raw energy for which punk used to be known. Their sound at times gave me thoughts of a polished Dead Kennedys. At times their sound was more refined, reminding me of the simpler side of Dream Theater (perhaps circa Falling Into Infinity). The vocal harmonies were lush and wonderful. The lyrics were top notch. Very deep and at times thinly veiled political jabs. Gotta love it! The only thing that stuck out as bad was a certain obvious production glitch on the first track, 21st Century Boy. The album was most likely recorded digitally and someone didn't do a good job of checking levels. There is a very noticable peak distortion in the vocal track. I won't hold it against them. After all, if recording quality was the be all end all then most of the music released before Sgt. Pepper's would have been crap. The song started out with a great mellow, acoustic intro and then, with only about a minute left, it hit hard. Real hard. Great play on dynamics.

    Rating: 5 out of 5
    Recommended tracks: 21st Century Boy, Sick, The Push, Last Chance For Action.

    I just can't stop listening to this CD. It's a great CD! I think I can give a better indication of what the sound reminds me. It has that same meticulously arranged raw energy and angst that made Pablo Honey such a great album. I will say it isn't nearly as ground-breaking and does have some moments where it sounds comparable to modern commercial rock. To me it seems to take some of what's great about stuff on the radio and some of what's great about stuff not on the radio and a little of it's own "sauce" and combines it into a very nice "goulash," to borrow some terminology from Tenacious D.
  • Chauncey - Chauncey review

    25 Jun 2006, 0:18

    Originally posted on September 3, 2004 in my old music review blog.

    Artist: Chauncey
    Album: Chauncey

    Another quality album. At times it was quite surreal. I don't quite know how to explain the sound, which is a good thing. I am rather fond of bands that defy categorization. Music is music, and Chauncey is good music. The album also made excellent use of dynamics. Airplane was a nice little acoustic number to end the album. It was very reminiscent of something that might have appeared on Let It Be.

    Rating: 5 out of 5
    Recommended Tracks: You, Airplane
  • Music and My Life

    25 Jun 2006, 0:12

    I was just looking through my journal and noticed that all my posts to date have been music memes of one sort or another. For this post I'd like to do something different. I want to write about some of the albums I feel really had a serious impact on my life. Some that I really identify with. Here goes:

    Dark Side of the Moon
    I remember this album when it was still recent. I can't say new because we were both born the same year. But when I was just a wee one my Dad used to crank this album. In fact we had a noisy upstairs neighbor when I was still a preschooler and my Dad's revenge was to crank Time very early in the morning. That shut them up! I later found the joys of my Dad's other Pink Floyd vinyl, such as The Wall.

    In grade school I found my Dad's album collection. I found his vinyl copy of Paranoid and fell in love with Ozzy Osbourne. I had heard plenty of Ozzy mind you. He had been a solo act for four years earlier and Randy Rhoads had only just died a couple years earlier. After getting hooked on this I ended up listening to a bunch of Ozzy. My parents bought Bark at the Moon and Diary of a Madman for Christmas later that year.

    Diver Down
    This was the first complete Van Halen album I had heard and it was still fairly new at the time. My parents had friends whose son was a HUGE Van Halen fan. He made a copy of this and Women and Children First and I was addicted. He and I used to have lengthy discussions about Van Halen. I remember the day I heard Van Halen announced Sammy Hagar would be replacing David Lee Roth. Even though I was only about 10 years old I remember being quite put out. How could anyone replace Dave?! I was later bummed when Extreme disbanded and Gary Cherone replaced Sammy.

    Led Zeppelin II
    This was the first Led Zeppelin album I ever owned. One of my parents' friends was into Led Zeppelin and had a spare cassette of this album. He gave it to me and I was hooked! When my parents saved up enough money to buy my first CD player for Christmas they got my grandmother and other family members to pitch in and buy me a bunch of Led Zeppelin CDs, among others, including a brand-shiny-new copy of this album. It was a very joyful and well-thought gift. I still own those CDs to this day!

    When I was again a young one I used to listen to Tommy a lot. I wore out my Dad's vinyl copy I listened to it so much. This was one of my biggest inspirations playing guitar, especially since my Uncle Mike played guitar and knew the whole album. I learned it, too. When I ended up in the hospital with appendicitis my Dad asked what CD I would like. CDs were still fairly new and I was on my first player at the time. The answer? Tommy, of course! The Who and Pete Townshend played a big part of my listening experience for many years.

    Thick As A Brick
    This was my first foray into art/prog rock. This album blew my mind! The fact that a band could release an epic song that took an entire album (45 minutes!) just really excited me. This is still one of my all-time favorite Jethro Tull releases. I also spent a lot of time listening to my Dad's vinyl copy of Living In The Past.

    News Of The World
    This was my first full album of Queen to which I listened. The melancholic bits just really touched me. Aside from the anthemic We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions, I really identified with songs like It's Late, All Dead, All Dead and Spread Your Wings. Brian May's guitar works, especially his orchestrations, just truly inspired me beyond words.

    III Sides To Every Story
    Nuno Bettencourt could have been God for all I was concerned when I first bought this album! This was a great concept album and I got A LOT of play time out of it. This was perhaps one of my biggest inspirations to seriously pursue learning guitar.

    I could go on and on but this is a good start.

    I think I'll also start doing music reviews in my journal. It's a far more fitting use of resources that they so graciously provide for free. I'll see if I can dig up some of my old reviews from another blog and post them.