Monday, July 21, 2008

This just in...

John McCain can't use the Internet by himself.

In related news, John McCain is an incontinent, doddering old fool who is quite possibly either in the middle stages of clinical dementia or is, in fact, from Mars.

In fact, I suppose I can say anything I want about John McCain on this blog, and he won't know. So I think I'm going to start attaching a wild, baseless McCain claim to the end of every blog post until he loses the election (fingers crossed) in November.

I suppose, though, unlike the current president, if an aide printed off a copy of this, McCain would PROBABLY know all the words I use, AND how to pronounce them. Maybe even SPEL some.


DUBIOUS MCCAIN FACTOID OF THE DAY: Like Michael Vick, John McCain breeds pit bulls for dog fighting. Unlike Michael Vick, however, McCain breeds them for fighting fluffy baby bunnies.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Slow Down, Captain Insano

Listen, I know that two blog posts in like a half-hour is probably overkill, but two things need to be brought to public attention.

A: This man is crazy and wonderful. If you don't like Mike Patton, you really have no place being on my blog. Get off my e-lawn, you damn kids.

B: Nachtmystium is now the band that I will recommend to people when they ask me "So, if I wanted to start listening to metal, what should I listen to first?" Now, if only someone would ASK that question, I'd be set.

Seriously, Nachtmystium is the weirdest, coolest metal band I have heard in ages. There's saxophones, and weird electronic blips and blorps, and classic black metal blastbeats, and sweet orchestral stuff that borders on George Crumb string works, and then occasionally there will be like a screamo chorus in the middle of things. I can't explain what's going on, other than to say that it's so awesome it hurts. Who would have thought that the most conventionally accessible metal record I've heard this year would be some underground Black Metal?

Ok. That's all for now.


you convinced me, more or less. Inasmuch as I convinced myself, b/c I can't stand being left out (the scars of my childhood, scraped across my body hither and dither, yadda yadda yadda, nobody wanted me to play 4-square that's why I like shopping instead of MEN'SFOOTBALLWITHMENYEAHMENWHOOARGHMEN)

There. Happy now?

Cuz I am.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Metal and Ritual

...Ritual sacrifice, actually. It's a Nachtmystium song. You should check them out. They rock.

All joking aside, I got a couple of new Zombi albums today, which I am TOTALLY stoked about. Zombi aren't REALLY metal; they're weird, spacey synth-rock that has more in common, musically speaking, with Jean Michel-Jarre or Vangelis than with Agoraphobic Nosebleed or any of their Relapse Records labelmates and contemporaries. Nevertheless, you have to respect a band who are dedicated to reviving the sound of early 80's Giallo horror soundtracks their due as being totally metal, just because they love a genre of horror that is SO weird, you KNOW that they have to be metalhead geekbots.

Anywas, like I was saying, rarely am as excited about new music as I am when I get new vinyl. There's something about purchasing vinyl, especially the way I do it, that is more exciting to me than buying albums on iTunes or even going to Best Buy to pick up a new CD. I think that the experience of vinyl, for me, is about the specific ritual involved with its purchase.

My typical vinyl order starts with a mail-order catalog. Vinyl still exists; it just hides in funny places. Some of these catalogs don't even have an online store, meaning you either have to fill out an old-fashioned catalog mail-order slip (something I haven't done since I was a kid and ordered things out of comic books), or you have to call and speak to a (GASP) actual person, who is inevitably a huge vinyl geek and is as excited, if not more, than you are about your impending vinyl purchase. A representative conversation between me and a mail-order guy follows:

"Hi, I'm calling to order a couple of LPs. I'm looking for Pig Destroyer's 'Prowler In The Yard' and the gatefold Glow-in-the-Dark version of Zombi's 'Cosmos'."

"Oh, really? BITCHIN! Dude, you are going to love this Zombi record. I saw them in Pittsburgh right after 'Surface to Air' came out and the were AWESOME."

"Great man! I also am looking for the red and black spatter pressing of..."

"...'Painter of Dead Girls?'"


"I knew that when you said Pig Destroyer, you'd be looking for that. Everyone is."

"Great! Do you have it?"

"Nope! But I have this sweet purple vinyl pressing of..."

And so on and so forth, until both parties collapse under the crushing pain of nerd aneurysms brought on by too much excited bloodflow to the brain.

Anyways, following this there ensues a period of intensely excited waiting. This is sort of like when you are a kid and you send away for a toy on the side of a cereal box. When that box finally gets there, you rip it open eagerly, discarding packaging materials willy-nilly to get to the precious cargo contained within.

Seriously, I go nuts over new vinyl. It's immediately removed from its shrinkwrap sleeve (which, over time, will shrink and warp the vinyl), and placed lovingly in an upright position next to my vinyl player.

A word about my turntable: The turntable and amplifier that I have are fixtures of my youth. Both belonged to my father and have been around my house in positions of honor since before I was born. As a child, because I was three and basically broke everything I came in contact with, I was absolutely FORBIDDEN to touch the turntable, following an incident wherein I broke the needle while attempting to emulate my father, who regularly played albums by Dire Straits or Bob Seger in the days before CDs were the norm. I was not allowed to touch this piece of equipment again until I was 12, and no longer broke things regularly, and was looking for music that hadn't yet been re-issued on CD. These were years where my father and I would scour record shops looking for first-pressing Frank Zappa LPs or mid-period Rush discs. Hence, the amp and turntable, then relegated to the basement, replaced by newer digital equipment, became a fascination during the awkward throes of my early adolescence.

So now these happy remnants of my youth are in my home, where they are treated with the utmost respect and care, given that they're burgeoning antiques by now (I also have a sweet pair of Koss headphones that have been around since roughly 1975, but those are literally falling apart as the foam surrounds disintegrate with age). Cueing up a new record is always a thrill: carefully placing the disc on the turntable, gently putting the needle down, watching expectantly as it catches and then softly backing away to avoid skips.

And then, the glorious sound of it all! Crackles and bumpss, giving way to a brilliant and vibrant spectrum of sound, the likes of which digital can only emulate, at best. The little imperfections are endearing, like a three-year-old who can't pronounce their "R"s correctly.

I could easily jump on iTunes right now and grab the entire Zombi discography in minutes, but the feeling just isn't the same. There's nothing to hold, no ritual involved, just the click of a mouse and the clatter of keys as I enter a password. The thrill of vinyl is in the ritual: the hunting, the feeling of finding something only a select few know and love, the practiced motions of cueing a record, are all things that I have seen done by my parents and emulated myself for years. This is ritual in the classic sense, handed down from generation to generation.

I've been thinking, though, that maybe why I love metal so much is because of the set of rituals involved with it; that the acts of going to a concert, of buying a new album from a mail-order distro, etc. are all intensely ritualized actions. In the next couple of blogs, I'm going to write about some of these other rituals and attempt to dissect the nature of ritual in metal*. Right now, though, I'm going to go listen to my new Zombi albums.

*Anthro people, feel free to help me out on this one; I'm sorta in the dark here, but I'll do my best. Don't fault me if I'm completely off-base in my observations; I went to music school. I barely know how to spell.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My Metal Testimony

One of the things I said in my last post that I was going to write about was heavy metal, and, dammit, I meant what I said. This will be the first of many posts about heavy metal, but I want everyone to know where I've been (musically speaking), where I am, and where I'm going.

I used to gig at a Methodist church in Lexington, where I experienced something that, being raised Catholic, was wholly unfamiliar to me: the "testimony". For the uninitiated, this is, in essence, a speech given by a member of the congregation that discusses their life, the challenges they have faced, and their realization/affirmation of their faith. Well, my faith is metal, and this is my testimony.

I've experienced this curious teleological regression of musical taste over the past few years. I started college with the tastes of a fairly typical college-age intellectual. Actually, this is probably inaccurate. I started college listening to equal parts emo and neo-soul (a cursory glance at now-defunct Xanga from 2004 lists Erykah Badu, Van Hunt, and Brand New carrying equal weight), and, had it not been for a single momentous album purchase, would have probably continued to dig into aimless genre-dabbling well into my early twenties until I found myself buried underneath the indignant weight of a social networking profile laden with disparate and uninteresting albums, or, even worse, terrible pop-punk schlock like The Early November (who I actually saw live, embarrassingly enough).

Anyway, the point of the previous (seemingly interminable) sentence was to introduce the album that changed my life. Now, usually, when people talk about watershed albums in their lives, they talk about an album that saved them from a life of despair or opened up a whole new realm of spiritual beauty or really, REALLY sounded cool when they dropped acid (Pink Floyd fans, I'm looking at YOU, you unwashed and tasteless sons of bitches). This was not the case with me. The album in question was Mastodon's Leviathan, and the reason it changed my life was because it simply kicked more ass than any album I had ever heard. I bought the album based on the fact that pretty much every online music publication said something to the effect of "metal is for losers but not this album go buy it". However, my interest in Mastodon had less to do with Pitchfork's hyper-intellectual tastemakers and more to do with the fact that I am, at my core, a huge geek, and I thought that a concept album about Moby Dick, replete with a thrashing whale on the cover, was about the most kickass thing ever.

And guess what? I was right. I bought The Mars Volta's Frances The Mute and Leviathan on the same day, and took them home to my dorm room, where I immediately cued up the former. Now, let's not make any mistake here: Frances The Mute is a hard-rocking sonofabitch, and it's a great album, but, like everything else the Mars Volta does, when it hits song number four or so, it gets pretty esoteric and you have to be either extremely patient or extremely stoned to catch the rest of the kickass moments on the album. So, being neither, I decided to give Mastodon a try.

I will tell you this, loyal readers: if you have never heard "Blood And Thunder" before, and you have spent most of your last four years listening to Dashboard Confessional and his ilk, and then you hear Brann Dailor's opening fill and the line "I THINK THAT SOMEONE IS TRYING TO KILL ME" screamed at the top of Troy Sanders' lungs, it is like being revived with a hospital crash cart. Leviathan is the first album that I can remember buying and listening to all the way through on the first listen, absolutely transfixed. Leviathan made my world make sense. It was like I was alive for the first time, and my world was absolutely electric.

And then, I forgot about it. Well, that's not exactly true. "Blood And Thunder" made a regular appearance on my iPod that summer as preshow "Hype Music", but it was sandwiched between "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails (unbelievably, this got me hyped up), a couple of DKM songs, and "Helena" by My Chemical Romance (hey, we all make mistakes. And "The Black Parade" is the best album Queen never wrote, and if you think you're too cool for Queen, then FUCK YOU). Other than this, and an occasional hankering to suss out one or two of the absolutely soul-destroying riffs on Leviathan, I mostly shelved the album. It was a dark and trying time.

Fast forward to the beginning of my sophomore year of college: bored with the same old music I had been listening to for a couple of years, I asked my friend Brian to burn me a couple of albums. The albums I got were "All's Well That Ends Well" by scenecore favorites Chiodos (OK, their fans are lame, and Craig Owens is a huge tool, but this album remains a guilty pleasure of mine) and "Gutter Phenomenon" by Every Time I Die. Every Time I Die were the second band to change my life.

There's not much to Every Time I Die: Basically, it's five guys from Buffalo trying to make the music a bar fight would make. Every song, every riff, every note, is stripped lean and turned up as loud as it will go. There aren't soft, tender moments on "Gutter Phenomenon". There's no ambient sonic exploration or acoustic meanderings. You know why? Because no one gets drunk and starts a fight while listening to Explosions in The Sky, that's why.

I stress the import of Every Time I Die because they played in Louisville soon after I got "Gutter Phenomenon", and, uninitiated and unaware, I went to my first metal show (partly because hometown favorites Haste The Day were opening). The thrilling experience of live metal cannot be truly done justice in writing, and, at the least, merits its own post (probably its own book, but who has the time?), but suffice it to say that it was enough to hook me into dragging two similarly minded friends to go see Mastodon that next month.

Remember when I said that I experienced a regression in musical taste? I wasn't always an ignorant third-wave emo twat. When I was in middle school, I LOVED thrash metal. Sure, I listened to nu-metal; we all did, and it was embarrassing, and we'd all love to forget that it happened, but that wasn't really my scene. What I loved, in those savage days before the Internet made instant gratification reality, was seeking out late-80's American Thrash: Megadeth, Metallica, Armored Saint, Anthrax, Lizzie Borden, et al. I was young, and had no idea that mail-order existed, and so, for me, every album that I longed after and then found was a gold nugget, an exciting treasure that I didn't have to share with anyone because, honestly, who gave a shit about OLD metal when a) NU metal was exploding, and b) puberty was making a savagely exaggerated mockery of our most embarrassing physical characteristics?

So, instead of bothering to learn appropriate social interaction, I turned into the world's youngest vinyl prick. And, when I finally got a girlfriend in high school (and was subsequently dumped), who was there to pick me up and cry with me but Chris Carraba and his ilk? I shelved my copy of "Rust In Peace" and didn't look back.

That is, until I saw Mastodon live. On the way home, sitting in near-catatonic amazement at what I had just seen, I put on my copy of Danzig II, and I realized that it rocked too. I found my copies of Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets, and, guess what? They rocked. Rust In Peace? Duh. Rocked.

I realized that all the time where I had been lost in a sea of shifting musical sands, I was really just trying to come to grips with who I had been all along: a geeky metalhead. I was tired of liking bands for status, or for credibility, or because I felt I was supposed to. I liked Mastodon, and I didn't care who else liked them.

So this takes me to where I am today. After months of scouring the Internet, I finally found a CD copy of Pig Destroyer's first release; I have no less than three copies of this month's Relapse Records Mail-Order catalog (the one that ships with every vinyl order you make), and I'm listening to Electric Wizard while I type this. I'm very much still the same dork I was in the sixth grade: I get the same thrill from finding an out-of-print Agoraphobic Nosebleed split as I did from the Armored Saint album I found at a used record store when I was twelve.

But it's not about the collecting; I mean, that's a blast, but what it's still about is the music. Ultimately, metal makes something inside me come alive; like a sixth sense that only feels when I'm listening to metal. Why do I love metal? I love it because it can be so many things, but, no matter what, from Doom to Death to Grind to Sludge to Thrash to PowerViolence to whatever the hell genre you can think of, you can still bang your head to it. Let's face it; a whole hell of a lot of indie rock doesn't rock anymore, and the entire movement (if you can categorize the various fragments of indie rock as a singular movement) seems to be headed towards this over-orchestrated, lo-fi, chamber/twee/cutesy-pop bullshit that is so far away from rock and roll that the only people who could possibly love it are boring hipster pricks.

The most ludicrous argument against metal that I have ever heard is the argument that it is bloated and pretentious. This argument is usually leveled by the same hipster trash that stand, arms crossed, in front of you at every show you have ever gone to that is not a metal show. I don't know how this argument got started, but it is, for my money, the most hypocritical argument I have ever heard. What's pretentious about strapping on a gauntlet made of nails and singing about killer robots and broadswords? The very thing that I love about metal is that the pass-the-mic enthusiasm of hardcore has filtered down to the underground metal community; the unabashed, exuberant energy of playing and enjoying music is still alive and well in metal. After all, what's so fun about standing stock still and watching some prickly third-rate Nick Drake play a shitty sounding student glockenspiel while fifty other people make snarky comments about the jeans he's wearing? The whole point of rock and roll is to make you dance. If you think at the same time, that's great! If you can listen and think and analyze and dance? Even better! But, the bottom line for me is this: I love metal because it reflects the same headstrong enthusiasm that I find myself exhibiting for everything I love, from zombie movies to White Castle to kayaking. Metal is the TRUE geek rock, because it's not afraid to be excited about itself. What more is geekery than being excited about the things you love? I'm excited about metal, and I don't care who knows it.

Also, just so we're clear, this Pig Destroyer album is AWESOME.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Blog Abandonment

So, spurred on byMaddy's new blog (and the pursuant charges of my supposed "Blog Abandoment" that accompanied it), I'm going to try to keep this guy afloat. I don't have a a whole lot to write on here right now, but I will soon. I just need to get some sleep. And some White Castle.

And then?


That's not even a slant rhyme. Dammit.

Anyways, I'm probably going to keep writing about electro. And contemporary composition. And, I'll probably write about heavy metal here too; who's gonna stop me? You? You don't stand a chance! You're trapped in the Internet!

In fact, I think from now on, I'm going to refrain from making this blog focused on a single topic and, instead, just write, and see if people read it. Who knows.

I think I'll also make some lists, because, y'know...lists.

Also, just because I know you're all jealous (well, maybe not YOU, mom, but maybe other people read this, and THEY might be), my 25th anniversary edition of ZOMBI 2 came in today. It's going to be a zombie splatter-fest at my house tonight.

And maybe a White Castle-fest too.