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Music Reviews

Ancestors

Ancestors

Suspended in Reflections

Pelagic Records

This might be the most calming heavy metal album I’ve ever run across. While looking for some background on it, all the notices I found came from places like “Angry Metal Guy,” “Encyclopedia Mettalum” and “Heavy Blog is Heavy.” So, it’s clearly a metal album. And while there is a great deal of tortured guitar backing the singer, the tracks are all rather calm feeling. Anger and bombast are put up on a shelf, and while melody is stripped away, there’s a musical logic in this project that doesn’t take a dozen face-ripping listens to decode.

Opening track “Gone” features that ominous drone we associate with metal, but the lyrics proceed laconically, and I sense a quiet hangover and not an alcohol fueled invasion. “Through a Window” launches with simple guitar work, light on the feedback and conservative with the reverb. Lyrics croon in the background, what they say is hard to decode, but this emphasis here is a slow progression through a dark cavern. “Lying in the Grass” carries the thought forwards, its heavy metal with a relaxing twist. It’s not exactly easy listening, but for metal, it’s a more relaxed stress-free musical experience without all the head banging you might expect.

ancestorsla.bandcamp.com/album/suspended-in-reflections

Categories
Music Reviews

Ancestors

Ancestors

Suspended in Reflection

Pelagic Records

This might be the most calming heavy metal album I’ve ever run across. While looking for some background on it, all the notices on it came from places like “Angry Metal Guy,” “Encyclopedia Mettalum” and “Heavy Blog is Heavy.” So, it’s clearly a metal album. And while there is a great deal of tortured guitar backing the singer, the tracks are all rather calm feeling. Anger and bombast are put up on a shelf, and while melody is stripped away, there’s a musical logic in this project that doesn’t take a dozen face ripping listens to decode.

Opening track “Gone” features that ominous drone we associate with metal, but the lyrics proceed laconically, and I sense a quiet hangover and not an alcohol fueled invasion. “Through a Window” opens with simple guitar work, light on the feedback and conservative with the reverb. Lyrics croon in the background, what they say is hard to decode, but this emphasis here is a slow progression through a dark cavern. “Lying in the Grass” carries the thought forwards, its heavy metal with a relaxing twist. It’s not exactly easy listening, but for metal, it’s a more relaxed stress-free musical experience without all the head banging you might expect.

ancestorsla.bandcamp.com/album/suspended-in-reflections

Categories
Music Reviews

Blind Idiot God

Blind Idiot God

Undertow

Indivisible Music

It’s good to see another survivor from the SST label still putting out records and making people scratch their heads. In the late ’80s, SST was using their revenues from Black Flag and Husker Du to put out odd jazz and noise-influenced records. Blind Idiot God were, and still are, an instrumental trio using hardcore punk as a jumping off point for experiments in sound that included dub reggae and Avant Garde composition. After bouncing around to other labels, Blind Idiot God went on hiatus for a few years in the ’90s. They’ve been playing and recording again since 2001.

Undertow is actually a reissue of the band’s second album. Originally released on the Enemy label in 1988, the album still sounds fresh and innovative. Among the stand out tracks are the funk/metal of “Alice in My Fantasies”, a George Clinton composition and “Purged Specimen”, which was written for the band by John Zorn and features his sax work. “Rollercoaster” is a whipsaw guitar burner. The dub-infused “Clockwork” and “Dubbing in Sinai” are outstanding too.

Included on this reissue are two versions of the only vocal track Blind Idiot God ever recorded. The tune was the title track to a movie called Freaked and features lyrics and vocals by Henry Rollins. I like it better than end-period Black Flag or most of the Rollins Band material.

So, what comes next, Blind Idiot God?

www.indivisiblemusic.com

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Music Reviews

Tom Keifer

Tom Keifer

The Way Life Goes (Deluxe Edition)

Cleopatra Records

I was the perfect age when Cinderella hit the scene. Night Songs was quintessential hair metal, with rocking tracks and the requisite power ballads. The switched things up on their sophomore effort. Long Cold Winter introduced the blues to an audience eager for something new, or rather something old. However, their third album, Heartbreak Station veered too far into the blues for the mainstream audience. And then grunge came along.

All of that is to say, Tom Keifer has learned from his past. I missed The Way Life Goes when it was initially released in 2013. The solo debut from the former Cinderella frontman was a pleasing mixture of throwback glam metal, grungy blues, and twangy country. “Solid Ground” kicks the album off with heavy rock rhythms, fast guitars, and that unmistakable Keifer scream. A bluesy riff drives “Cold Day In Hell” with solid harmonica playing punctuating the message being sent to people who try to take advantage of you. The trip to the country is realized in “Ask Me Yesterday,” with its acoustic sound and story of moving from being young and knowing everything, to growing up and realizing you don’t know anything. “Thick and Thin” is a rock ballad with a beautiful piano base that harkens back to the music video era. Things even get a little psychedelic with “Welcome To My Mind,” with a nice mix of effects and tricks to keep you on your toes.

The deluxe edition release includes all of the original songs, plus two new tracks – a studio version of the popular live cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends” and a new version of the Cinderella classic “Nobody’s Fool” featuring Lzzy Hale from Halestorm. Both tracks are very well done and a fine addition to the re-release. There will also be a bonus DVD (that I did not get the opportunity to review) with music videos and a short documentary. Taken as a whole, this is a great package for those of us who missed the initial release. Is it a good deal for people who already own the original album? I can’t say, but they should probably look into it. The Way Life Goes was already a very good album filled with a diverse mix of music. If you missed it the first time, give the Deluxe Edition a shot.

www.tomkeifer.com

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Music Reviews

V1

V1

Armageddon: End of The Beginning

Frog Juice Production

Into every life a little hard rock / heavy metal must fall, and you could do much worse than having this crew drop in to rock your house. Lead singer Dennis Willcock fronted Iron Maiden for a few years but left to kick around with other projects. He cut a demo in 1977, and then disappeared until 2015. He’s been active, just not prominent. But he’s back now, and this high-quality project gives you a solid headbanging experience yet retains the melodic structure early heavy metal. Plus, you can hear the lyrics. Are they great lyrics? Hard to say, most of the metal that’s crossed my path emphasized the wall of noise over clever wordplay.

Opener “V1” (a reference to the early German cruise missiles that terrorized London) comes on strong with a galloping bass line, clean key changes, and lyrics that threaten to “Rock your house down”. Hide the cover and I’d swear its Michael Schenker and UFO up there. But this isn’t a cover band or a tribute act, each song has a melodic structure that is both distinct yet united by a common songwriting sensibility. “Lights” is a slower, more conceptual piece where spectacular fret work shows an artist side of metal that’s been lost over the years. “She’s So Easy” touches on another familiar metal theme: readily available lust and vehicles in which to satisfy it. The title track wraps up the album, and it’s a doozy. Filled with rock bombast, its spare chords, measured drum beats and fancy solo bridges present us with the lyric “We’re giving it away, we gotta save the earth…” It’s the perfect mix of social responsibility and head banging machismo. I think I hear an encore number here. Yeah, it’s a lot like Iron Maiden, but let’s never forget the first rule of rock and roll: don’t mess with a winning formula.

v1rocks.com

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Screen Reviews

Plasmatics – Live! Rod Swenson’s Lost Tapes 1978-81

Plasmatics – Live! Rod Swenson’s Lost Tapes 1978-81

starring the Plasmatics

MDV Entertainment

I’ve always been conflicted about the Plasmatics. I’m a fan of strong women in the music business. Plasmatics front woman Wendy O. Williams was definitely a strong personality. Before joining the Plasmatics, she performed in Times Square live sex shows and appeared in the film Prisoner of Desire. She stomped on the stereotype of what a woman in rock is supposed to be. She was brash, crude, unashamedly sexual and an all around badass. She performed with her breasts exposed and was famously arrested in Milwaukee, charged with masturbating with a sledgehammer. On the other hand, the Plasmatics were always as much a performance art project of manager Rod Swenson as they were a band. They had the trappings of being a pre-fab punk band. Their fans were seen the way Hot Topic Goths are today; folks who picked up on punk as a fashion, not a movement.

The performances preserved in this collection trace the band’s development from punk rock riffing at CBGB’s to a fairly polished, highly theatrical metal band. Rod Swenson made recorded these performances but didn’t do anything with them. The tapes were recently rediscovered when the Plasmatics archives were being moved. The footage varies in quality. Some of the performances are essentially audience tapes with the sound recorded directly to the videotape. The later recordings have a more professional look and sound. What is preserved is a record of Wendy O. Williams as an energetic stage presence and the development of the band as a chaotic shock machine. We get to see the spectacle progress from Wendy bouncing around the tiny CBGB stage, to smashing TVs and chain sawing guitars on stage, to ultimately blowing up cars on stage.

The Plasmatics fit into a lineage of shock rock that includes Kiss, Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson and even GG Allin. Williams was one of the first and only women to play hard and scary with their audience. The Genitortures and Rockbitch are among the few women-fronted bands to follow the Plasmatics lead.

Away from the stage, Wendy O. Williams, was a vegan and animal rights activist. She lived with her partner, Rod Swenson, until she committed suicide in 1998. This video collection serves as a testament to her passion and power as a performer and provocateur.

Categories
Screen Reviews

The Burningmoore Deaths

The Burningmoore Deaths

directed by Jonathan Williams

starring Geoff Tate

MVD Entertainment

There are two hooks that might get you to watch The Burningmoore Deaths. The first is that it stars former Queensryche lead singer Geoff Tate. The second is the way in which it is filmed — a combination of faux documentary and found footage. I don’t know if either hook alone justifies the curiosity, but combined it was enough to get me to press play.

The movie starts out with the faux documentary, detailing the horrific murders that happened in 2005, and the fact that the father who perpetrated them had escaped capture for years. After this retrospective, we are told there have been more murders. Instead of archival footage and interviews, we are suddenly part of the filming of a new home improvement show, where the goal is to renovate a house in a nearby town on an abandoned Army base. What could possibly go wrong?

The first twenty minutes are spent on the retrospective, while the next twenty minutes are spent getting to know the cast of Gettin’ Hammered, a delightfully quirky group of contractors and television production personnel. After that, the killings begin! The conceit allows for static cameras to be placed in every room of the house, resulting in murders being witnessed, but often in the shadows or just off screen, so folks who are not into gore should be ok watching it.

And what of the other hook? Well, Mr. Tate gets to serve triple duty, not only as the father-turned-murderer, but also as the narrator of the documentary, and performer of the song over the end titles. His main role as the antagonist is a silent one, which allowed him to also be the narrator. But his intense facial expressions in the footage from the various cameras, along with his menacing physicality, translate into an effective horror movie villain.

While there are a few plot holes, my main complaint revolves around a possible motive/reason for his actions early in the film that is never followed up on after his reappearance. Perhaps this was an oversight by screenwriters J. Andrew Colletti and Jonathan Williams, or the follow-up was lost during filming by Williams (who also directed and edited). Despite that quibble, The Burningmoore Deaths is an interesting take on several horror movie tropes and well worth your time. Note: Apparently this film was originally released in 2010 as The Burningmoore Incident, and while it is spelled Burningmoore on the DVD and the credits, the website and promotional materials spell it Burningmore with one ‘o’.

mvdshop.com/products/burningmore-deaths-the-dvd

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Music Reviews

Here Lies Man

Here Lies Man

Marcos Garcia is a busy man. He’s the guitarist for Antibalas and fronts the group Chico Mann. That’s not enough to keep him busy (or maybe being an indie musician means you have to stay busy all the time just to keep the rent paid). His latest project, Here Lies Man mashes up psych rock, Afrobeat and greasy exploitation movie soundtracks. You wouldn’t think that Fela rhythms and Tony Iommi guitar fuzz would go together, but it works.

Listening to Here Lies Man, I’m continually having flash backs to ’70s grindhouse films that used jazz and funk players to spin off cheap soundtracks for all sorts of dubious films. The distorted vocals might as well be in Amharic for all they add to the tunes. They’re just another sound in the swirl of keyboards and guitar. It’s the sniping keyboard jabs than really take me to the sticky floored, dubious downtown theaters of my youth. I hear those sounds and I’m transported to Kung Fu triple features and action porno flicks. I guess that means these guys really need to score a Quentin Tarantino film.

hereliesman.bandcamp.com/releases

Categories
Music Reviews

Dreamarcher

Dreamarcher

Indie Recordings

Scandinavian jazz metal? So it’s come to this. I’m torn by this band; it’s got the wall of noise metal sound that can jam Soviet radars, yet there are beautiful and thoughtful passages that sound more like the chill music that infuses the Reykjavik fjords. In the 6 song sampler that came through my window tied to a brick, I found such great titles as “Impending Doom” and “Burning the Remains”. Solid metal titles, each and every one, and inside the slowly advancing metal chords moved with the intent and intensity of a sticky lava flow on flat ground. And like flowing molten rock, towns were burnt, crops lost to smoke, and new real estate created in what was once ocean shore, all involving the bass chords and drum crashes and the ominous drone of Scandinavian synthesizers. Was this a dream? And so, what of? A losing war of the worlds? Rod Serling wakes up with an existential hang over? Bad drug experience held up as an example? All are reasonable explanations, and are things to think about as you analyze dissonance put to good use.

www.dreamarcher.net

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Music Reviews

The Damned

The Damned

Another Live Album from The Damned

Four Worlds Media

We’ll never agree on “The First Punk Band”; arguments take us from The Ramones to the New York Dolls to Legendary Stardust Cowboy to Sky Saxon. But most people will agree The Damned were pretty darn early, and they did release the first album of the genre. Considering the lo-fi ethos, DYI mentality, and general low technical quality of early punk an album was a huge accomplishment. Their music built on an E chord/ 4/4 time intensity, thrift shop drag, snotty lyrics and even snottier character names that made them the terror of parents and rednecks everywhere.

So is this a big deal? The Damned have far more live and compilation albums than albums of new material so it’s unlikely you’ll miss any real gems. I’ve not really heard that many of the other live albums but this one is a fun if not sweat-inducing collection. It opens with Dave Vanian announcing “We are the Damned, and we sound a bit like this!” The crowd is appreciative and they pound out the classics you love like “Waiting for the Black Out” and “I Just Can’t be Happy Today” and “Neat Neat Neat”. While you might think: “I can’t get enough of ‘Smash It Up’ ,” it IS a punk song and while punk is more fun than a room full of small puppies, it’s not Chet Baker or Ludwig Von Beethoven. But I’ll bet you don’t actually HAVE a Damned live collection, and this one is crisp and the band sounds wonderful. I’ll be spinning this for a few more days; I’ve discovered “Disco Man” and “Perfect Sunday” and I’ll never lose my taste for “New Rose.” This is a solid live album with top notch sound, a minimum of band patter, and a rocking enthusiasm that says “Punk will never die!” At least not any time soon.

www.officialdamned.com.