Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Virgin Whore In A Dirty Wedding Dress

Lamb of God: Sacrament


Smart enough to be interesting and relevant, rock 'n roll enough to satisfy an urge for a good hard munt, Lamb of God are a solitary example of decent American metalcore in a sea of shite. Sacrament, their newest album, is somewhat of an attempt to break into the mainstream (based on its more catchy nature when compared to their earlier singles that I've heard). Even though it doesn't have the more aggressively 'mathy' (there's another term I hate) aspect of their older stuff, there's still enough of it to make things interesting, in a way they're kind of like a poppy Meshuggah. But aside from that twist it's pretty much just straight up, catchy metal.


It's brilliant for the most part, the highlights are 'Redneck' (with its must watch video) and 'Blacken the Cursed Sun' (which I mentioned when writing about their live show), but there's unfortunately some filler to be found on this album and the mood is pretty much monotonic, so it's best to listen to it in small doses rather than all at once.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fables: Legends in Exile

by Bill Willingham


The Fables graphic novel series has been produced for a few years on the Vertigo label, also home to the Sandman and Lucifer series'. Fables has a similar sort of premise to those other titles, only instead of mythological figures the protagonists are the inhabitants of European fairy tales, Snow White, Bluebeard, The Big Bad Wolf and so on. These characters have been exiled from their traditional fictitious homelands by a malevolent evil force (left fairly mysterious in this volume), and now reside incognito in New York City.


In this first collection Snow White (with the help of The Big Bad Wolf) investigate the disappearance and suspected murder of her sister Rose Red. The story is a clever enough murder mystery, and there are plenty of cute uses of the fairy tale setting. However while the mythological inhabitants of 'Sandman' or 'Lucifer' invite plenty of allegorical resonance, it's hard to do the same with fairy tale characters, as they're fundamentally shallower. Unless of course you do something like the Alan Moore 'Lost Girls' route and explicitly modernise them, but that's a post for another time...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Saturday Lesson

Gay dudes don't like it when you move in on their fag hags.

Friday, October 27, 2006

This Is The Place We Have To Go... To DIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!

Mayhem: De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas


What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Black Metal? Brutal grimy blast beats? Stupid facepaint? Or a bunch of maniacs running around Norway burning down churches? For most people with a partial knowledge of the genre it's the latter. Now meet Mayhem; the band more or less singlehandedly responsible for establishing this reputation. I recommend their wikipedia page for a run down on their general shenanigans. It's a good read, I laughed all night.


This particular album marks the last release of their 'classic' lineup. The only member remaining in the band after the release of the album was the drummer, Hellhammer, the others being respectively dead by suicide, murdered with a knife and in jail for murdering his fellow band member with a knife.


Although their music is broadly similar to death metal, when compared to the likes of Cryptopsy this album is much slower and less technically impressive and also very low-fi. The vocals too are completely different, rather than a death metal scream stand in singer Attila Csihar's voice (original singer Dead being, uh, dead) is more of a gurgle. For these reasons I wouldn't have expected to like it a lot but for some reason I can't get enough of this shit. Maybe it's just because I get a kick out of knowing that my music is being played by genuine honest to god homicidal maniacs, or maybe it's just because playing with balls to the wall insanity counts for as much as technical wizardry or amazing songwriting.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Gigantic Queue For A Gigantic Tour

Gigantour: Sydney 22 October 2006


This Sunday past I was counted among a fearsome throng of bogans, munters and generally feral metal heads that descended on the quiet Hordern Pavilion for a night of vigorous moshing, guttural screaming and wanky guitar solos. Young and old alike were united in their desire to drink too much beer and get covered in one another's sweat. It was time for Megadeth's Gigantour, not quite as big as the U.S. version (I would have wet myself if Opeth had stayed on for the Australian bill as well), but it was still one of the most metal-mungus nights out I've ever had.


The lineup was Caliban, Arch-Enemy, Soulfly and Megadeth. Due to a long wait in the line to get inside, I only caught the last two songs of Caliban's set. The parts of their performance that I caught were good, although their last song contained some ill-advised misadventures into balladry.

Caliban

They were followed by Arch-Enemy, who started seriously rocking out immediately with some catchy 80s style thrash but even though it sounded great I wasn't paying any real attention until a song or two into the set, when I finished my important business in the drinks queue. “Ha! Their singer looks just like a chick!” I laughed when I first got a look at the stage. I then performed several consecutive mental double takes as I realised that the brutal death metal grunts were being produced by the little blonde chick on the stage. I don't know if I'd enjoy Arch-Enemy so much recorded, as thrash isn't really my thing, but live these guys rock out something awesome, best set of the night.

Arch-Enemy

Featuring Small But Loud Blonde Chick

Next up, Soulfly! The band I was there to see. Unfortunately I don't have many photos of them as I spent almost the entire set deep in the moshpit excising some existential rage. I have to say that even though they were good, the band seemed to be kind of tired. I suspect that (considering that Prophecy and Dark Ages came out quickly in succession) the Sydney show was the second to last date in a very very long touring schedule. Even though their musicianship was stellar, they didn't quite bring the fire that I was hoping for. Of course they were still great, Marc Rizzo in particular was totally amazing. His flamenco guitar solo during 'Mars' was easily the highlight of the night. It was just a pity that my enjoyment of it kept getting interrupted by a bunch of munters trying to open a circle pit that they didn't even use properly. Some day I'll have to get around to writing a post on moshpit etiquette. Having said that, any lack of energy on the bands part was more than compensated by a what was for the most part a fun, enthusiastic moshpit.

Max Cavalera does this cool thing where he goes all blurry

The setlist was very much a greatest hits kind of deal (Disclaimer: this list is pulled mostly out of my mosh addled arse and is probably highly inaccurate):


Dark Ages
Babylon
Prophecy
Roots Bloody Roots
Seek and Strike
Jumpdafuckup
Mars
Chaos A.D.
Execution Style
Porrada
Arise Again
Back to the Primitive
An Eye For An Eye

Marc Rizzo: Hey, it's hard to take photos in a moshpit

Finally, Megadeth. To be honest, I couldn't have bought to mind a single bar of this bands music before the show began, but within a few songs it was apparent that a passing knowledge of generic 80s thrash is more than enough to make one familiar with Megadeth's music. They were decent performers, handled a competent wank solo or two and Dave Mustaine's intersong banter was at least somewhat witty and went a long way towards improving my opinion of him (at least after putting up with those idiots from Killswitch Engage last week). They also really rocked out while playing 'Holy War'. It's interesting to see how some bands manage to turn their most popular songs into a chore to be gone through at every show and others (such as Mustaine and Cavalera) can still do them justice even though they've had to play them every other night of their lives for ten years. It must be hard to tour for months and months and still bring passion to your music when performing every other night is your 9 to 5 job, so I guess it's understandable when not every set is a scorcher, and when a smaller band like Arch-Enemy outrocks a bigger (and better, at least on record) band like Soulfly.

Somehow it figures that the only decent picture I took all night was of Megadeth

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Wildebeest Asylum Special: Fashion DOs and DON'Ts

Based on my observations at the industrial club thing I went to last night:

  • 40 years of age + somewhat chubby ass + incredibly tight leather pants = Fashion DON'T

  • Pot belly + saggy man tits + tight see through mesh top = Fashion DON'T

  • Incredibly hot chicks + dreadlocks + kinky PVC outfits = Fashion DO

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Concert Clashes

January 24th:
Tool
Muse

January 25:
Big Day Out
Roger Waters

Does anyone have a cloning machine I can borrow?

Can You Smell The Fear?

Cryptopsy: Once Was Not


I've had this album for a couple of months now and I'm still not sure if it's brilliant or merely good. Earlier (in the context of writing about Rob Zombie's movies) I suggested that Cryptopsy were inferior to Opeth because their music, while impressive in some respects, was shallow and one-dimensional. I'm now prepared to take that statement back; while one-dimensional (they do only do more or less one style of music), it's completely unfair to call them shallow.


The sheer insane assault of their music is enough to confuse even the most open minded of listeners. As well as having the standard death metal full speed thrashing, their spastic, 'technical' (I hate that term) riffs and rhythms take things to a truly astounding level of controlled chaos. The drummer, Flo Mounier, deserves special mention, his combinations of Fantomas-like fills and freaky time signatures, done at typically absurd death metal tempos is frankly face-meltingly amazing. The vocalist, who goes by the title Lord Worm, makes up for having an uninspiring death metal voice by being an excellent lyricist. The subject matter may be standard death metal cheese, but it's very eloquently phrased:

One last
perfect night of Life on Earth,
I saw
a pestilence descend on wings
plague black,
as it rode the ancient Star Wind:
there are
things more horrible than death

Nice.


Given that I've been on a solid diet of Opeth and Tool for most of the year it's not surprising that Cryptopsy didn't grab me when I first heard them, as they completely lack those bands melody based musicianship. However if you approach them as a band out to make the most completely fucking insane noise imaginable, they can't be surpassed. I expect to grow more fond of these guys, as I'm getting more into the album with each listen, but for now, crazy fucking noise alone doesn't make for more than an enjoyable diversion.


Friday, October 20, 2006

It's Big It's Heavy It's Wood

In a random fit of restlessness I flipped out and paid a scalper far too much money for an Unearth/Lamb of God/Killswitch Engage ticket. The band I was interested in seeing, Lamb of God, were pretty good but overall the show wasn't worth what I paid for it.


Impressions and shaky digital camera photos follow:

Based on the two songs of theirs that I caught, Unearth sound pretty much the same as Lamb of God. I hadn't heard them before and was interested but not as interested as I was in the drinks queue.



Lamb of God rocked out quite satisfactorily. A good mix of old and new stuff (their older stuff sounds a lot more fucked up than their new album, I may have to pick some of it up). They performed with ferocity and got the moshpit fairly intense towards the end of their set. I was stoked to hear them play 'Blacken the Cursed Sun', which is pretty much the reason I decided to go, just for the awesome call and response at the end:

Can we still be saved? (Hell No!)

Does your God hold a place for us? (Hell No!)

Is there time to repent? (Hell No!)

Will we rise from the dead? (Hell No!)

Can these sins even be forgiven? (Hell No!)

I was into it but the response from the audience could have been better.

Then it was time for Killswitch Engage. I honestly couldn't have named a single one of their songs before the start of their set, but thirty seconds in I picked them as the author of numerous shitty second rate nu-metal anthems that I am tormented with weekly in the local metal clubs.

I would just leave it at those few words of disdain if it weren't for their atrociously retarded between song banter. “Dude this stuff you're throwing up on stage isn't like, made of loads of money!” apparently plays well to the brainless 'just graduated from emo to nu-metal' crowd, but to anyone not giggly on account of their being at their first ever concert with actual beer in little plastic cups and sweaty fat old guys with mullets and West Coast Chopper t-shirts it makes you embarrassed to be listening. And I guess that goes double for Killswitch's music as well.

Scary Animal Photo Of The Day

Sorry Bob, couldn't find any truly gory photos.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Saturday, October 14, 2006

There Is A Day That Is Dawning

Opeth: Deliverance


Some bands are constantly changing and progressing their style. Others just do one thing and do it very well. Opeth are definitely one of the latter. In terms of style there is little to differentiate Deliverance from Ghost Reveries or Blackwater Park, it's still the same crunchy heavy metal outside with a delicious prog rock centre. Deliverance lacks the slick production of its successor Ghost Reveries (the first to be released on a major label, the munt-tastic Roadrunner Records) but that's easily ignored because the quality of the writing and musicianship is as stellar as ever.


The acoustic guitars make fewer appearances on this album than on others, due to it being released as part of a two disc set with Damnation, which is in turn almost entirely distortionless. Deliverance still contains one short acoustic song 'For Absent Friends', and 'A Fair Judgement' alternates slow, heavy parts with pretty, mournful ones to relate a sad tale of loss. The opening track, 'Wreath', isn't their best work, but the album ends with 'Master's Apprentices', a perfect example of heavy done heavy, and 'By The Pain I See In Others', in which they exercise their more trippy, moody side (while still remaining loud and growly).


Deliverance is not their best album. It's still fantastic but Ghost Reveries, Blackwater Park and maybe even Damnation are better. Still absolutely everyone must have this album for one very good reason. You may have heard that the end of 'Deliverance' (the song) is something special but it simply cannot be overstated just how awesome it is. The last five minutes of the song, the outro and it's leadup is an example of Mikael Akerfeldt's songwriting at its finest. At about the ten minute mark the song suddenly drops into a monotonously chugging, menacing riff, flies off into a glorious guitar solo and then descends into a peaceful acoustic part, over which Mikael sings “Deliverance, thrown back at me. Deliverance, laughing at me.” It will give you chills when you know what's coming next. The solo guitar riff that introduces the outro is fairly innocuous when you consider just how much it will stay in your head once you've heard the song a few times, but when the whole band kicks in to join it, anyone who's paying attention can do nothing but stand with their jaws hanging open and their underwear growing moister with each bar of glorious syncopated goodness.


In honour of this truly worthy contribution to art, culture and civilisation I am presenting Opeth with the very first Wildebeest Asylum Award for Excellence:



Well done boys. You've earned it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

1001 Albums – Number 2

Elvis Presley: Elvis Presley


Well it's only taken me six months but I finally got round to listening to some more of the stuff in this book. The delay is of course a natural consequence of my extreme and visceral dislike of the first album on the list; Frank Sinatra's In The Wee Small Hours.


Fortunately Elvis has impressed me a hell of a lot more than old Frank. Listening to this record (probably one the of the first real rock and or roll albums) in contrast to Sinatra gives an insight into just what made rock music so popular and revolutionary in comparison to the pop music that preceded it. While Elvis is pretty tame stuff by today's standards, you can still hear in the lyrics many of the techniques used by songwriters in any rock genre from indie to black metal, such as smutty innuendo and threats of violence.


Yes I must admit that I enjoyed this album. It will probably never be a regular feature on my playlist but I do appreciate its upbeat energy as a contrast to my normal musical diet and I was also very surprised by just how more impassioned Elvis is when compared to Sinatra or even to today's kings of the middle-of-the-road snooze-a-thon such as The Killers or Jet. Elvis had more balls in his little finger than either of those bands do in their collective testicles. Even if he does seem twee in some respects by modern standards, he at least sang like he meant it and not like an actor reciting melodramatic bullshit while knowingly winking at the audience the whole time.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What To Do With A Problem Like Korea?

Cross your fingers and hope the Chinese sort something out. (via No Right Turn)

Down The Stairs On To The Street And Into Traffic

Einsturzende Neubauten: Unglaublicher Laern


It's a little hard to keep up with Neubauten releases now that they're using a fan subscription based distribution model, based around two separate websites, which is why it's taken me over a year to get around to this particular album.


I've also somehow managed to miss getting the full story behind the recording of this album, but I do know that it involved an 'installation' in a small room and extraordinarily loud volumes. The album is an hour long continuous ambient noise piece and is almost completely amusical; no rhythm, no structure and only the occasional nod to tonality. But as long as you're prepared to handle that it's another excellent release from these guys. The music is a kind of found sound collage, which ranges in tone from noise done noisy to more gentle interludes. I found it captivating listening, but to someone not interested in industrial it would almost certainly be just another 'washing machine falling down the stairs' album.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Five Things I Hate About Sydney

5. The heat.

4. The poodles with painted toenails.

3. The indie rock.

2. The pink shirts on straight guys

1. The fact that everyone here, whether they are the most dedicated drum and bass nut or the trve-ist black metal psycho loves Kylie Minogue.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Worse Than John Howard

The second thing I've read to cause me to grind my teeth today.

I mean, Tool. There had better be something good on another stage when Tool are playing. Rarely has a band been better named than Tool. Lumbering, po-faced boys' music that lets squares kid themselves they're being edgy, that's what Tool is.

Okay, the Killers will be good, but Muse? Does anybody really like Muse? I seem to recall offering them some advice from the stands when they played in 2004: give up you pretentious bastards, or something of that order.

My Chemical Romance? Undeniably hot. The Violent Femmes? If it's to be rock reunions, I'll take the Lemonheads, thanks: that eponymous new album really is a beaut.

People who listen to My Chemical Romance deserve to be shot. End of story.

This Shit Really Fucks Me Off

By which I'm referring to this shit here.

John Howard is attempting to deflect attention from the fact that committing Australia to the war in Iraq was a stupid and ignorant blunder by attempting to stir up fear amongst conservative country folk about the evil cabal of liberal city dwellers who are going to surrender to Osama Bin Laden, turn your daughter into a lesbian and make you marry a dude.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What Do You Think?

Incredibly cool or incredibly stupid?


Can you even tell what it is without prompting?

That Man's Voice Is Scary

Riders On The Storm

by John Densmore


In a sensible, rational world Jim Morrison would not be nearly as cool as he his. A junkie who was obsessed with death, and dead by twenty seven, and by most accounts a total asshole to boot, he's nevertheless remembered as one of the twentieth century's greatest musicians simply because he was able to skilfully channel his darkness into song. His voice on songs like 'The End' gives chills every time because he evokes the universally human fear and fascination with death, rendered more poignant because now it is coming from beyond the veil. No one seems to be able to explain just why he headed on such a morbid, self-destructive path, but judging from the two autobiographies written by the other members of The Doors he was one of those rare larger than life figures who sucked everyone in with their charismatic aura. Both Ray Manzarek and John Densmore's books are ostensibly autobiographies, but are more about Jim than their authors. It gives the impression that they've lived in his shadow their entire adult lives.


It's interesting to compare the two books. They both tell more or less the same story, with many of the same anecdotes (and no contradictions as far as I could tell, not like those clowns Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and broadly agreeing on their assessments of Jim's character. The books differ superficially in the style of writing, while Manzarek is flowery and pretentious Densmore is sober and succinct, a contrast that matches predictably with their instruments of choice. More interestingly they differ greatly when sermonising on what the philosophy behind The Doors really was. Manzarek offers a predictably hippy interpretation, about hope for the future and 'Breaking On Through'. Densmore's moral is far darker, claiming that The Doors were about death, darkness and the blues, in counterpoint to the prevailing life affirming hippydom of the time. In this context Jim Morrison's decline and demise is the logical conclusion to such a philosophy; the confluence of sex, drugs, general hedonism and death. A warning both to the pollyanna flower children, reminding them of the myopic nature of their beliefs, and to those of a darker disposition, reminding them of the sad futility of a life of nihilism.


Perhaps it's my own myopic nihilism speaking but I greatly preferred Densmore's book. Not only is his message more grounded and balanced but his style of writing is far more personally affecting. Manzarek often seems to be putting a glossy sheen on the story, as if he is more concerned about preserving the legend of Jim Morrison and The Doors than in truly describing what it was like. Densmore's writing may be blunt and workman like but it is also touchingly honest, and although it ends on an incredibly grim note, pairing Jim Morrison's death with Densmore's brother's suicide, the final message is a very positive one, in which he learns from the mistakes of the dead and puts their shades behind him. It's far more genuine and worthwhile conclusion than Manzarek's flower power clich├ęs.

First Big Day Out 2007 Announcement

Well after last years shit fest it looks like I shall be attending the ball this year, on account of must-see headliners Tool and Muse. The rest of the lineup is another train wreck in progress however. Peaches is cool but as for the rest... The Killers, My Chemical Romance, Jet, Violent Femmes, Scribe... could they have picked worse bands? Personally I'm still holding out for Paris Hilton...

What I Did On My Long Weekend Part 2

A pleasant trip to the countryside...

Unexpectedly turns into a life or death confrontation between man and nature!

The result:
Bird: 1

Humans: 0
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What I Did On My Long Weekend Part 1

A day at the races

Lots of wind + lots of beer = bad hair day

Lots of wind + lots of boofy dresses = lots of drunken photos that won't be published here
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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's All About Rolling Things Up

We [Heart] Katamari


I never played the original Katamari Damacy game. It's rave reviews made me very interested in doing so, but alas as far as I could tell not a single copy ever made it to the South Island. Fortunately more recently I finally got my hands on a copy of the sequel, and as it was the only PS2 game I had with me for several weeks I gave it a serious amount of play time.


The first thing that grabs the player about this game is the goofy Japanese style. The art is incredibly brightly coloured and cartoony, the music is infectiously upbeat and the story is goofy and fun, belied only slightly by a few macabre overtones. In the first game the story was that the King of the Universe accidentally removed all the stars from the sky and you had to replace them by collecting items from Earth and rolling them up into a big ball; the titular Katamari. In the sequel the King (a vain and obnoxious monarch) is enjoying all the attention he's been getting since the first game came out (it's all very meta) and sends you out on various Katamari related missions in order to please his fans.


The game is very charming and is made more so by the twisted nature of Katamari creation. To start with you pick up small objects (household waste and insects) and you gradually get bigger and bigger, uprooting animals, people and buildings, until you get so huge that you can pick up entire cities in one go. The seeming disinterest of the King and the fans in the fact that creating a Katamari usually involves the wholesale destruction of entire civilisations is part of the game's perverse charm.


The gameplay itself is incredibly addictive in that way that only very simple games are. The Katamari is controlled entirely by the two analog sticks on the gamepad and this makes for a very fluid, intuitive game. The combination of relaxing, simple gameplay and the sheer glee you get from driving an almighty vehicle of destruction through city streets absorbing everything in your path means that it's easy to spend a lot of time on this game. Still everything wears out it's welcome after a while and I've more or less stopped playing it by now as once you've gotten as big as you can a few times there isn't much more to see. However it's a good 'pick up and play' game so I expect I'll pull it out every now and again in the future.