Sunday, July 31, 2011

Worth the Effort: Live 85-86 - Samhain - 2001

Originally exclusive to the Samhain box set, Live 85-86 was released as a single-disc standalone in 2001 and, to date, remains to sole legitimate representation on CD of Samhain live. It's a fine, generous disc, with 28 tracks from two separate shows, New York's Danceteria from February 19, 1985 and The Cabaret Metro in Chicago from April 13, 1986. While I do not know if the 1986 set represents a full show, Live 85-86 edits out duplicate tracks from the Danceteria date ("Black Dream," "Halloween II" and "Archangel) to present 18 tracks with zero duplication between the dates and essentially constitutes a live "Best Of" for the band (sadly, it also drops "Die, Die My Darling," "Macabre" and "Moribund" from the '85 half).

Live 85-86 sounds like a pretty good bootleg. The drums dominate everything else (and we do get Steve Zing in '85 and London May in '86) and the band live makes the studio versions sound like polished masterpieces. Each set also provides a neat Misfits cover in the form of "Horror Biz" and "London Dungeon." The band is ferocious live and the tempo is exhausting. While the record adds nothing new nor dynamic in terms of interpretation of the material, it does nicely cap off Samhain's rather limited discography.

A write-up of Samhain would be incomplete without my requisite bashing of E-Magine, who released this record. The package itself looks a lot like a bootleg and my copy is colored orange instead of red, with the "86" partially cut off due to off-center printing.  I have always wondered about some very small typography on the spine - anyone know what the tiny characters/numbers below the "85-86" in the title represent?

Used copies of Live 85-86 run $20-25 and are worth the money. This release is complemented by the live DVD (which is still in print), Live 1984 at the Stardust Ballroom, just to take in the band's visual appeal which, when combined with their music, was really extremely powerful.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

One Great Song: "Be My Lover" - Alice Cooper - 1971

alice cooper 1971
photograph by Pete Turner
I'm pretty biased when it comes to Alice Cooper. If a record comes out, I buy it, I play it over and over and I generally love it all.  I've seen Alice Cooper live repeatedly and will continue to do so until he finally shuffles off this mortal coil. Still, I have to admit, Alice Cooper the man is bested by Alice Cooper the band. And 1971's Killer is probably the finest record they ever released. And the best number on Killer: "Be My Lover."

Written by rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce, "Be My Lover" is a great story song, a snippet of what could have been any day in any member of the band's life. Heralded with a riff more than a little reminiscent of "Sweet Jane," the immaculately phrased lyric is introduced across thirty seconds before the rest of the band kicks in:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Beginning of Times - Amorphis - 2011

The Beginning of TimesJust Friday evening I decided to go back to Amorphis and give the new The Beginning of Times a try. The gentle, progressive touch of Tuonela had gone too far afield for me and I hadn't followed the band's work across the last decade but decided to sample their latest based on recent reviews as well as my own renewed interest.

The Beginning of Times is a lush album and an accomplished piece of work but it is not melodic death metal. It is not heavy metal. It is not hard rock. It is nice, harmless, safe and unthreatening progressive rock. Yes, there are occasional death metal growls but that doesn't make it metal any more than a few bars of banjo would make it bluegrass.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

From AC/DC to Zombie: How the CDs Stack Up

Mulling over which CDs to play today - and not quite ready to review Amorphis' The Beginning of Times, I was struck by some nice juxtapositions on the shelf. I arrange my stuff alphabetical by artist and generally go no further from there.

Sometimes stuff nicely goes from badass to badass to badass:

Monday, July 25, 2011

(If and) When will we hear any more original material from Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg?

One of the great drawn-out teases of all times has to be Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg. A collaboration with the incredible Michale Graves, they've released only two tracks in the last two years, one a re-worked version of a Graves classic, "When We Were Angels," from his Illusions album and the latest, "If and When," a killer original. I know they gig live with a Ramones cover show but would love to hear a new, full record - or even be able to find out what's happening with recording plans for the group. Graves' website, as of March 17th, says only " More Blitzkrieg plans and material are in the works; we’ll post news as we can!"

Until then, two incredible numbers:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

CD Casualty - Buying My Music by the Pound

Ever since I blew two entire (high school) paychecks on David Bowie's Sound + Vision, I have been in love with the box set. The Bowie set was a great introduction to the concept as it provided a music fan with a very limited income a road map with which to plan the purchases of the then-unprecedented massive CD reissue of an artist's backcatalogue. I have purchased many more sets since then, some great and ten times as many mediocre - and a few downright terrible.  For me, successful sets can come in three different varieties: a one-stop shop for an artist's entire catalogue, a massive collection of otherwise-unavailable rarities or, like Sound + Vision, a mix of the two that successfully serves both the new listener and the veteran fan looking to cap off the collection. Favorites from each of these categories include:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Worth the Effort: Initium - Samhain - 1984

InitiumComing close to wrapping up my adulations of all things Samhain, I'm going back to the beginning, the debut record, Initium. For latter-day Danzig fans, this was really the dark genesis of what would become the namesake powerhouse. From the Crystar skull to the Giant Gila Monster poster font, many of the iconic elements all started here. While Samhain is largely viewed as a transitional project, Initium really makes no dramatic leaps from the final Misfits record, Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood, but does manage to incorporate some brand new sounds into Danzig's arsenal. The subject matter stays as dark and the tempo, while not as frenetic as the Misfits, hasn't yet drastically slowed, either. Coming in at under 30 minutes, it's a brief, yet intense, statement and a really exciting record, even over 25 years after its release.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vulgar Necrolatry: A Basic Amorphis/Entombed Shopping List

Entombed circa 1989
photo by Micke Lundstrom
Ever since Tuesday's post I have been immersed in Entombed and Amorphis. Immersed as in "pulling every album off the shelf and working through them ad nauseum in the car, at work and again at home." Both bands have in common origins on the Scandinavian peninsula, starts on legendary labels (Earache and Relapse) and Death Metal foundations. From there, though, aside from extensive discographies, they take fairly different trajectories. If, for any reason, you haven't checked out either band, the first two releases by both are must-haves. If you like what you hear, be prepared to grab some more.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Worth the Effort: Final Descent - Samhain - 1990

Samhain's last gasp, an odds and sods collection, Final Descent pulls together five tracks originally planned for the aborted '88 Samhain Grim as the band evolved into Danzig proper. John Christ had joined Samhain following the departure of November Coming Fire guitarist Pete "Damien" Marshall and the core of classic-era American Records Danzig was in place. As with all of Samhain's releases, Final Descent's contents vary widely depending upon which pressing you find and even the history of the original recordings is uncertain.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New & Upcoming Releases and Reissues - July 19-August 9, 2011

Looking like a pretty slow few weeks ahead. But, hey, there is Powerwolf.

Kill All Control - George Lynch - July 19, 2011
Kill All ControlNot quite sure how this differs from The Lynch Mob but from what I hear, the sound is similar.

Robin Trower Live - Robin Trower - July 26, 2011
Robin Trower LiveRemastered reissue from '76, circa For Earth Below.

Cerebral Ballzy - Cerebral Ballzy - July 26, 2011
Cerebral BallzyThis is one of those I will buy solely based upon their name and the album sleeve.

Blood of the Saints - Powerwolf - August 2, 2011
Blood of the SaintsEasily the release I am most anticipating over the next month. Powerwolf sounds exactly like the cover art makes you think they would.

Icky Mettle - Archers of Loaf - August 2, 2011
Icky MettleSome of the best rock to hit the campus in 1993, this raging double-guitar debut reissue is remastered by Bob Weston with liner notes by Robert Christgau. A second disc includes the entire Archers of Loaf vs. The Greatest of All Time EP as well as singles and B-sides. 

Doctrine - Pestilence - August 2, 2011
DoctrineGhost called. They want their aesthetic back.

In Waves - Trivium - August 9, 2011
In Waves (Special Edition)I know it's trendy for "real metal fans" to naysay Trivium but, to be honest, I still really like everything they've done to date. I will definitely give this one a go as well.

Baldur - Skalmöld - August 9, 2011
BaldurI know nothing about this except: 1) there's a man with an axe, 2) there's an umlaut and 3) they're on Napalm records, home of Alestorm. Sold.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

To (Give a Dude a) Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth

that's right: seven bucks
and signed by one Lars Göran Petrov
My obsession with Entombed is the story of my love of heavy metal. The real heavy metal. Up until September 28, 1994, I was as mainstream a fan as you could find. I was long into all things Danzig but death metal?  Aside from the more doom-oriented Soul Sacrifice EP I had stumbled upon, it was entirely foreign to me. Happily, it was Danzig that started me on the rest of the journey. Thanks to an open door and a loud stereo. A neighbor I had never met was walking past when some early Danzig was blaring and, as neighbors and strangers do in college when beer, drunk women and/or killer music is involved, walked right in. We struck up a conversation and, eventually, a friendship. He stopped by again a few weeks later and made an offer I couldn't refuse. "I want to go into town to see a metal show and need a ride. If you'll drive I'll buy you a ticket." Hell, a ticket? In my 1994 mind a ticket could be worth up to $20-30 (I had paid a whopping $24 to see U2 two years prior, a fortune at the time). A couple hours later I ended up at Bogart's in Cincinnati, at the time still a premiere local venue for a wide, wide range of acts across every imaginable genre. A search of the Cincinnati Post's "Metro" section from September 22, 1994 lists the following at Bogart's:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Черно - KYPCK - 2008

KYPCK. It's pronounced "Kursk," for one. And the title translates to "Cherno." They're Finns but sing in Russian. All of this is more than I knew when I blindly grabbed this from the Half Price Books shelf yesterday based solely on the Century Media label. It's an odd, doomy record that I cannot quite figure out yet, just over 24 hours and a half-dozen listens in. I either hate it or it will grow to be an oddball favorite. I don't think there's really any middle ground here. I just haven't chosen my side yet. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Laundry Day

Wife: Don't you think it would be nice to wear a t-shirt that wasn't black?
Me: That AC/DC one is dark gray.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Festivals of the Wicked - Iced Earth - 2011

Iced Earth: Festival of the WickedIced Earth treated fans to a massive collection of live material this week with the simultaneous CD and DVD releases of Festivals of Wicked, collecting live performances from 2007 and 2008 featuring both Tim "Ripper" Owens and Matt Barlow. The double-DVD set includes three full European performances from Wacken Open Air 2007, Rock Hard Festival 2008 and Metal Camp Slovenia 2008. The CD, a single disc, collects highlights and bookends four Owens tracks from '07 between four Barlow tracks each at the beginning and close of the album. For fans previously only blessed with Alive in Athens, Festivals of the Wicked serves as an inverse to that set (a single DVD and three-CD album) and, for the DVD portion, rivals in both quality and volume of material Amon Amarth's Wrath of the Norsemen, the current benchmark for heavy metal DVD releases.