Friday, August 22, 2008

The Mea Culpa Attempt

I wasn't entirely fair when writing about Metallica's set list of their European tour back in May. Well, maybe except about digging a whole in the ground, I think I got that one right.

One cannot judge the quality of a band solely by looking at the set list of one of their live concerts; it is not completely honest even if in Metallica's case the songs they play live are a perfect proxy for their decrepit songwriting abilities in these modern times. But more explaining is needed for the shortcut I've made to be entirely comprehended. So let's look at another mythical band, Iron Maiden, and the set list of their "Somewhere back in time" 2008 world tour which ended somwhere in Poland after making a stop in the Metal Town of Wacken. To play for the cheerfull guests gathered there of course. The most recent song Maiden played is from the 1992 album "Fear of the Dark" and they enchanted the audience with 17 songs. They put up an excellent show both visually and musically and they rock stronger than ever. Since I never saw Metallica live I cannot make any comparison on these premises, but nevertheless you should all know that Maiden still kicks ass in their fifties. But where the comparison can be made is between the albums Metallica and Iron Maiden put out during the last 10 years. Both bands are uncontested Metal giants, but while the last 3 Metallica albums - Load, Reload and St. Anger - are barely listenable for an old school fan Iron Maiden has continued steadily on the road they paved back in the 80's with good albums - Brave New World, Dance of Death, A Matter of Life and Death - with 2 or 3 songs on each of them worthy successors of the 80's classics. Now it's easy to understand why Metallica playing Master of Puppets in 2008 after many years of crappy songwriting leaves a bad taste in your mouth while watching Bruce Dickinson wave the British flag during The Trooper (1983) makes me want to scream until my chest explodes. It's the difference between slowly sinking into oblivion while still trying to grasp at the last floating lifeboat and gloriously bringing the past into the present and making it sound better than ever. Iron Maiden is not the only example, Kreator is another one, although they play much more songs from their recent albums - Violent Revolution and Enemy of God - in their live shows while blasting the audience with classics on steroids like Extreme Agression, Flag of Hate and Tormetor. Thrash Metal has never sounded this good. To close the argument, all the difference between these two bands comes from the musicians which are the heart of the songwriting : Metallica's Clif Burton passed back away in 1986 while Iron Maiden's Steve Harris was always there and the band rebuilt itself during the late 90's with the return of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith; similarly Kreator's Mille Petrozza has been the core of the band since the beginning and the guy knows how to pick his fellow musicians. Just like Chuck.

Before ending here's a live recording of Metallica's Fade to Black with Cliff Burton handling the bass duties. That should put a smile back on your face.

This being said, I wish you all an excellent in-between time after the morning coffee and before the teeth brushing or vice versa. And watch Heaven and Hell. Because everything pales in front of such magnificence.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Faster Harder Louder. Metal links.

I'll do this with dots since concocting articulate phrases starts to be a long lost skill in my arsenal of expression.

  • The first and only ten points out of ten go to the Wacken Open Air festival. If I ever regain my writing skills I will enchant you with a few impressions at a later moment. But it really was faster, harder and louder. Good thing I didn't forget my ear plugs.
  • Decrepit Birth. Possibly the best sound in Technical/Progressive Death Metal ever to emerge from the American scene since Death and Cynic. Unfortunately for them... (but I'll leave this for the next two dots). "Diminishing Between Worlds" and "The Enigmatic Form" available on their Myspace page are highly recommended. The sound is an excellent blend of Death's Symbolic and Cynic's Focus, less fine tuned than the former and less jazzy than the latter but there is still space for improvement.
  • As I was saying, competition is tough because after 14 years of absence, Cynic is preparing a new album scheduled for this autumn (October 28th actually). I had the enormous pleasure and honor of listening to the guys playing live at this year's Wacken festival at the beginning of August and it's only growing bigger and bigger as the days pass by. As an appetizer to the upcoming album I have the pleasure of pointing you - Metal fans or not - to the superb Evolutionary Sleeper.
  • I could keep going on and on about Cynic but I cannot help quoting Lee Steadham's review of "Focus" on the "Satan Stole my Teddybear" zine : "To call this act 'technical' would be a cruel understatement; Focus sounds like three Dream Theater discs playing simultaneously, if John Petrucci had six arms and a four-neck guitar (okay that's not entirely fair - Cynic have TWO guitars). There are polyrhythms and time-changes shooting about everywhere, stabilized by a healthy jazz/fusion influence and an obvious understanding on how to blend these clashing styles into a coherent intellectual trip even the musical layman can appreciate". Economics morituri salute Michael Phelps, Metal morituri salute Cynic:)
  • If you ever wondered where the intro passage of Marduk's With Satan and Victorious Weapons" comes from, I now have the answer. You know it : "Because you were inspired by the Devil? Yes. That's it. I was inspired by the Devil! I am... inspired by the DEVVVVILLL! Lucifer! I summon you!". Well, it's a sequence from The Name of the Rose, part of the dialogue between Bernardo Gui and Remigion da Varagine during the latter's trial for heresy. A nice exchange and an even nicer Black Metal tune prefferably to be played between the two key moments of the day, brushing your teeth and preparing the first coffee.
  • And yes, I almost forgot. It looks like science confirmed it :"A little prayer does no good and may make things worse. Much prayer helps a lot". I don't know if this really proves that saints are listening - under certain circumstances of course, it's not like going to Walmart - instead there is factual proof that God listens... to SLAYER!
This being said, I wish you all an excellent in-between time after the morning coffee and before the teeth brushing or vice versa.