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All posts for the month August, 2013

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

newstedmetal

Artist: Newsted

Album: Heavy Metal Music

Release Date: 8/6/13

Rating: 4.8/5

When historians look back to rock and roll, they’ll probably refer to the Beatles as a defining act. Just as well, when they look back to heavy metal, the band they will probably look to would be Metallica. That’s quite a prestigious position, especially when confronted by former members of said acts. However, former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted has over and over again made a name for himself, crossing music boundaries far beyond his former band.

Newsted has now spent almost as much time away from Metallica as he did performing with the thrash icons. Following original bassist Cliff Burton’s death in 1988, he left his band, Flotsam and Jetsam, to come to the aide of the rising stars, forever going down as metal’s unsung hero. His tenure consisted of the band’s most successful period, as they entered multi-platinum worldwide acclaim. However, he left the band at their peak, never to return.

Since leaving Metallica, Newsted has performed with more alternative acts like Echobrain and Voivod and replaced current Metallica bassist Robert Trujilo in Ozzy Osbourne’s live band. Finally, as of earlier this year, Newsted has announced his return to straight-forward heavy metal with the formation of his new band, simply called Newsted.

Consisting of Newsted on lead vocals and bass, drummer Jesus Mendez Jr., guitarist Jessie Farnsworth and Staind guitarist Mike Mushok, Newsted have released their full-length debut, Heavy Metal Music, via Chophouse Records. The album is a gritty and smashing metal record from start to finish, with no light or filler tracks. From the get-go, the Motorhead-meets-Black Sabbath riffage reveals its twisted face with the opening track “Heroic Dose,” a heavy yet very melodic powerhouse. From there, it kicks into the banging single “Soldierhead” and continues right into the powerful and groovy “…As the Crow Flies.” A shredding guitar solo highlights the next track, “Ampossible,” while “Long Time Dead” “Above All” and “King of the Underdogs” throwback to classic heavy metal sprinkled with modern sounds as well.

The album then takes a quick detour into doom metal, the Crowbar-like “Nocturnus” and “Twisted Tale of the Comet” creep along with dark imagery and sludging riffs. “Kindevullsion” sounds like a riff Randy Rhodes would have written if he were taking a brief stint in Pantera, and finally, the closing track, “Futureality” leaves the listen with a final punch to the gut and kick to the teeth.

The musicianship on Heavy Metal Music is extremely impressive. It’s obviously Newsted has taken bass lessons from the book of Lemmy, but he takes it to over levels, especially in tracks like “Soldierhead” and “…As the Crow Flies.” The band allows Newsted to explore musical paths within the spectrum of metal that his former bands would not take. In all honestly, Newsted embodies the sound Metallica should have undertaken two decades ago, but do not have the balls to.

With hints of nearly all styles and sub-genres of metal strung throughout, Heavy Metal Music really makes for an appealing listen to nearly all of the picky metalheads out there. Key tracks include “…As the Crow Flies,” “King of the Underdogs,” “Twisted Tale of the Comet” and “Futureality.” It’s a good record for releasing aggression, and a reminder of metal’s importance although the genre as a whole often gets stale; Newsted and Heavy Metal Music are a breath of life.

MTV Live and Loud: Nirvana Performs Live - December 1993

Nirvana performing on “MTV Live and Loud” in 1993. Left to right, Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic. Photo courtesy of MTV.com.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in–Chief)

“Teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old,” cracked Kurt Cobain on “Serve the Servants,” the lead off track to In Utero, Nirvana’s third and final studio album. A glimpse of the disillusionment Cobain felt with his new found stardom, as he was beginning to feel the rug being swept out from beneath his feet, and began questioning his place in the music world.

In the short span of two years, Nirvana, as well as their subsequent Seattle contemporaries, exploded from underground darlings to all-out rock gods. Propelled by the success of singles like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Lithium” Nirvana’s sophomore effort Nevermind, became an over night success and game changer. Not since the Beatles had a group been so defining to an entire generation. The pressure took it’s toll on Cobain, and as he began to crack, a seminal masterpiece rose.

Rawer and grittier than Nevermind, In Utero brought Nirvana back to their noisy roots, with minimal production and Gen-X cynicism strung all throughout. As the band garnered a more pop-oriented audience, their goal was the dismiss their given status and return to what mattered most to them; raw unbridled conscious punk rock. Enter producer, former Big Black guitarist Steve Albini. His background in gritty and noisy post-punk was the perfect match for what In Utero was to be. It resulted with fan approval and record company dismay.

Albini stated of the label’s reaction to In Utero in a recent interview with Vish Khanna’s Kreative Kontrol:

“All of the people that were carping at the band from the outside about what a mistake they’d made with this record, that pretty accurately represented what they wanted to do with their music… all of those people are parasites. They weren’t involved in making the record. They want, somehow or another, to claim authorship of the creative output of these other people who are actually doing the heavy lifting for their career. I can’t have any respect for somebody like that, who’s not involved in the creative process but then decides that they wanna snipe at it from the outside and manipulate people into doing things to suit them. Fuck every one of those people.”

The album kicks off with “Serve the Servants,” a song dismissing just about everything that has come into Cobain’s life up to that point, including his newly found fame. From the, the smashing “Scentless Apprentice” finds the band at their noisiest since Bleach, with an incredibly pounding beat from drummer Dave Grohl. From there, the ironic hit single “Heart-Shaped Box” and the controversial “Rape Me” up the sardonic tone culminating in the fifth track, “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle,” hinting at the mainstream’s exploitation of the Seattle “grunge” scene.

Side two of In Utero begins on more somber notes. The calmer “Dumb” begins to shed light on Cobain’s vulnerability and difficulty coping with life at this point. “I think I’m dumb, maybe just happy,” he sings, noting his confusion. “Very Ape” and “Milk It” not only crank up the rage, but start to spiral into dark territory. Hints of his addition, depression and suicidal tendencies begin to surface. Despite this, Cobain had a knack for clever poetic communicating, turning even his darkest moments into thought-provoking highlights.

“Obituary birthday. Your scent is still here in my place of recovery,” finishes Cobain on “Milk It.”

More vulnerability continues with “Pennyroyal Tea” before cranking up the noise, angst and sarcasm again for “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” and “tourette’s.” Finally, In Utero concludes with “All Apologies,” the final sobering note that many of us share our last memories of Cobain with. Summed up in Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance just month’s before Cobain’s death, the song serves as the final encore for a brief but powerful fire that torched the landscape of modern music.

20 years since its release, In Utero has gone on to sell over 5 million copies worldwide and is often cited as one of the best albums of the 90’s. As the 20th anniversary of this masterpiece looms, a massive reissue containing three discs of music and one DVD is set for release on Sept. 24 through Universal Records. The reissue will consist of a rematered version of the album, rare demos and B-sides, rehearsal outtakes and a DVD and audio companion of their 1993 MTV Live & Loud performance. Full details can be seen here.

However, surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic have dismissed the reissue, claiming only to be a money grab for the record label and certain parties.

Nonetheless, In Utero has stood the test of time, remaining a favorite for fans of the era as well as past and future generation of alternative and rock fans. “Heart-Shaped Box” still dominates rock radio and, interestingly, is making its way onto classic rock formats as well. Nirvana’s last stand remains one of strength and integrity, serving its servants, as an unrelenting and uncompromising snub of everything it was supposed to be.

 

Marc Boland of T. Rex. Photo courtesy of www.last.fm.

Marc Boland of T. Rex. Photo courtesy of www.last.fm.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

Born out of explorative rock genres, (Space Rock, Psychedelic Rock and Art Rock of the late 60’s) Glam Rock offered a shiny new presentation of rock and roll in its most primal original form but with a more refined and developed sense of the aforementioned overall artistic interpretations.

It was not only limited to the fashion for which it is most commonly known but its presentation, performance, delivery and lyrical themes. (Not dissimilar to the first genre that first developed these, Opera which was the first art form that was a total multi medium “show.”) While the pioneer glam artists initially revisited the core of rock and roll music’s song structure, (writing simple, yet infectiously hooky tunes) the presentation was revamped with more powerful guitar tones, musical arrangements and of course, theatrics.

T. Rex singer and frontman, Marc Bolan, is said to be the first person to embody the Glam idea(l), however “Glam Rock” wasn’t fully realized or coined until 1972 because of notable chameleon Davie Bowie’s excursion with his Ziggy Stardust persona and agreed the term was befitting of “Ziggy.” Glam would soon spread throughout England in 1973 via contemporaries such as Slade, Sweet, Roxy Music and Gary Glitter. And with Marc Bolan’s TV show and his ideas for guest stars along with all their developments in their presentation, it was not long before America caught on.

American acts such as the quirky New York Dolls, the dark Alice Cooper and the combination of the two/whatever-he-wanted-to-be Lou Reed employed the typical hook driven influences with their own flavors of visual presentation. Anthem and Arena Rock bands like Queen and KISS also emerged from further explorations of these elements. Still, the “hook” was at the forefront of the musical genre. It is speculated that the musical and visual are equally used to gain the audience’s attention and provide the ultimate entertainment.

Both in England and in the US, the subgenres Punk, Metal and the beginnings of the Goth movement in the 80’s were heavily influenced by the “total presentation.” Music was made visual. In Japan, the Visual Kei movement which also was born in the 80’s and has never stopped but hasn’t gained too much attention in the US. It is a movement which defies genre.

Mana, fashion designer and musician fronted multi-genre project, Malice Mizer, in the early 90’s and metal project, Mois dix Mois, in the 00’s are current staples. Mana personifies his culture’s “Opera” or “total show,” Geisha. Moving art in all its forms.

Through the years, in various other root genres such as Pop and Electronic Glam has made its influence known not only in Japan but in the West.

In recent years some of the best new incarnations of Glam include Suede and Placebo from England and in the 90’s a feature film emerged from the US, Velvet Goldmine, which interwove elements of the various pioneers of Glam into various personalities in the story. (The first of which was a boy from another world with a knack for show who influences others for years to come. Not unlike Bolan.)

Freddie Mercury of Queen understood the concept of the total show. “The lavish presentation appeals to me, and I have to convince the others,” he once said.

Including my Picks of the Week which highlight the originators, Marc Bolan/T. Rex, Slade, Bowie and Sweet, I have included some of my favorite modern day Glam artists that stirred my attention as a young musician simply by LISTENING!

SUEDE: Employing the old vintage sound and discussing the some visual traits in music/stardom (Ironically in plain clothes.)

PLACEBO: With examples of various elements both vintage and new:

MOIS DIX MOIS: With Goth/Symphonic Metal elements and heavy fashion influence.

“The show must go on.” – Freddie Mercury

AFI, clockwise from left, bassist Hunter, guitarist Jade Pudget, drummer Adam Carson and singer Davey Havok. Photo courtesy of afireinside.net

AFI, clockwise from left, bassist Hunter, guitarist Jade Pudget, drummer Adam Carson and singer Davey Havok. Photo courtesy of afireinside.net

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

For two decades, California punks A Fire Inside, better known as AFI, have been making noise and earning a devout cult following that spans several scenes. Formed by frontman Davey Havok and drummer Adam Carson as teenagers, the band’s fascinating evolution began from bratty skateboard punk rock into hardcore, before championing and defining horror-punk as well as a neo-goth movement. Culminating with the band’s seminal masterpiece, 2003’s Sing the Sorrow, and the their mainstream breakthrough, 2006’s Decemberunderground, AFI were on the verge of super stardom, with their popularity reaching new and unimaginable heights.

However, that all came to a screeching halt in 2009.

Crash Love, the band’s eighth studio album, was both a critical and commercial failure, and was widely disapproved by longtime fans. With no shortage ready-for-radio singles filled with sing-along pop hooks, it led many to believe that the fire had gone out.

Flash back 13 years; AFI released a trio of groundbreaking releases, 1999’s Black Sails In the Sunset and All Hallows EP and 2000’s The Art of Drowning. These records caused an immediate resurgence of the Misfits-pioneered horror-punk and saw AFI bridging the gaps between punk, hardcore, goth, alternative and even metal. By 2003, the band began taking steps even further outside the realm of punk rock with Sing the Sorrow. Newly signed to Dreamworks Records, the album had the ability to reach audiences AFI had until then flown under the radar of. Embracing influences from The Cure, Bauhaus and Nine Inch Nails, and trading in up-tempo hardcore slammers for more structured and slowed down songs, it proved to be a hit, pleasing most longtime fans and gaining a wide array of new ones as well.

By the release of Decemberunderground, AFI had begun to drift even further away from their hardcore and horror-punk roots. Their flirtation with pop, evident on the singles “Miss Murder” and “Love Like Winter” left fans to question whether or not the band was trying to fit in with the rising emo/screamo scene that dominated modern rock at that time. Still, tracks like “Kill Caustic,” “Affliction” and “Kiss and Control” retrained the energy and hints of goth that the band had become known and loved for. But by the time Crash Love was unleashed in 2009, AFI had abandoned all previous connections to their underground roots and left fans in the dark. Following the disappointment of the album, the band went on hiatus and were long rumored to have broken up.

What seemed to have come out of no where, AFI updated their official website in May of this year with a very cryptic video, hinting that new (and darker) material would be on the way. In late July, they released the single “I Hope You Suffer” from their new album Burials, scheduled for release Oct. 22 via Universal Music. The single finds the band reenergized and back to their doom-and-gloom status. Musically, “I Hope You Suffer” sounds like it should have been released after Sing the Sorrow. It contains the high-energy and large anthem-like choruses of that record, dripping with the goth-inspired electronic textures the band was also beginning to explore at the time. A second single, “17 Crimes,” was released in August, also sounding in a similar vein yet more up-beat and punk-esque, harking back to Sing the Sorrow tracks “Dancing Through Sunday” and “Paper Airplanes (Makeshift Wings).”

Judging by the first two singles from the upcoming Burials, AFI seem to realigning with the path they originally were set steady on. “I Hope You Suffer” is, in many ways, AFI-by-the-numbers, and that’s what longtime fans who haven’t felt they’ve had a proper AFI release since Sing the Sorrow needed. Their flame may have flickered some, but Burials could prove that the fire is still alive for these icons of goth-punk.