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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Heaviest Metallist 10 - Slomatics III

(in which a lapsed metalhead seeks the heaviest metal song ever - recommendations are welcome)

Slomatics
Under Canopy


Here's an experiment you can try at home. Take one of them electrical guitars that are all the rage these days. Connect it up to a jet engine. Connect the jet engine to a wall of amplifiers. Turn everything on full tilt. I haven't actually tried it but I'm pretty sure the result would sound something like Under Canopy.

They're doing the Lord's work, those Slomatics boys. I've included them three times in the first ten installments of this feature but there's a good reason for that. They're really, really heavy.

I might have said this before but it bears repeating. Slomatics seemed to abide by the essential truth that heavy metal stripped to its most basic essence is the riff. Yes, there are lyrics, but damned if I can understand a word of them with the vocals being buried so deeply in the mix. I'm fine with that, just as I'm fine with a relative dearth of guitar solos and noodling, synthesizers, acoustic guitars, zithers, tubas and whatever. While it seems that the group has incorporated a few more so-called progressive elements as time goes on, those killer riffs just keep on coming, with everything else merely serving as ornamentation.



Will Sergeant - Themes for Grind II

Scary atmospheric stuff from the guitarist for Echo and the Bunnymen.

Horslips - Sword of Light

Celtic rock at it's finest.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Don Grady (My Three Sons) on American Bandstand

Robbie Douglas, of My Three Sons, in a July 10, 1965 appearance on American Bandstand, in which he "sings" and sits for an interview with Dick Clark.

Heaviest Metallist 9 - Cavernlord

(in which a lapsed metalhead seeks the heaviest metal song ever - recommendations are welcome)

Cavernlord
Hypothalamus


Not every song covered here in Heaviest Metallist is a serious contender for the title of heaviest metal song ever. Some are just interesting, heavy songs that I ran across in my quest. Such is the case with Hypothalamus, by Cavernlord.

Which is a mighty fine name for a band, if you ask me, although it appears that Cavernlord is one of those one-man "band" affairs where the chap parades down the street with a cymbal hanging from his ear, a bass drum strapped to his ankle and a flugelhorn in each hand. The one-man band in this case is Nathaniel Leveck, a Wyoming-based musician who appears to have turned out a few EPs and an album as Cavernlord. Hypothalamus is from the three-song Hypothalamus EP.

So what's it all about? I wish I knew. The Bandcamp page for the EP would have us believe that Cavernlord is a purveyor of "heavy psychedelic sludge" and I guess I can buy that, for lack of being able to come up with a better summary that will fit on a match pack. The song is built around a curiously heavy and grimy (for lack of a better word) sounding riff, complemented by Leveck's odd vocals. Which range from unintelligibly distorted to something like John Lydon in his early PiL days, if he were having some sort of a psychotic episode.



Pete Townshend & Lou Reed - Pale Blue Eyes

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Heaviest Metallist 8 - Triptykon

(in which a lapsed metalhead seeks the heaviest metal song ever - recommendations are welcome)

Triptykon
Black Snow/Altar of Deceit
Melana Chasmata

Do this. Grab your list of bands that have been around for three decades and are still making new music you might listen to more than one time. If it's anything like mine, it's probably pretty sparse. Of course, Triptykon is technically not the same band as Celtic Frost, but given that the driving force in each incarnation is Tom Fischer I'd say that's close enough for government work. In 2014, thirty years after Celtic Frost made the scene with Morbid Tales, Triptykon released their second album, Melana Chasmata. If you allow that there's such a creature as extreme progressive metal or perhaps progressive extreme metal (or whatever...) this is arguably a good example of the form.

Melana Chasmata is heavy, but it's not breakneck, unmitigated heaviness all the way through. There are bits that border on subtle and there's even a track I'd nominate as the best Sisters of Mercy song the Sisters of Mercy never wrote. But none of that has a place here, where we are striving to locate the heaviest metal song of all time. Fortunately, there's some seriously heavy stuff on this album. Since two songs were especially noteworthy, it's two for the price of one this time around.

Black Snow
Epic is a word that gets tossed around a lot these days, often with no good reason, except that it's a popular buzzword. But it's a word that could be applied quite accurately to Black Snow, a tune that clocks in at over 12 minutes and doesn't waste one second of its running time. Celtic Frost did some pretty decent fast songs but for my money some of their most memorable ones proceeded at a leisurely pace. Melana Chasmata has one good thrasher (Breathing) and Black Snow kicks it into high gear for a short stretch but for the most part it lumbers along at a trudging pace and an atmosphere that drips with menace and foreboding. Combine this with the excellent production quality - nothing lo-fi or murky here - and the result is twelve minutes of music that hits like a ton of bricks.

Altar of Deceit
Black Snow would easily have been the best song on the album if it weren’t for Altar of Deceit. Things get rolling here with a plinking guitar that's soon joined by drums and before long a massive riff comes barreling down the tracks. It gives way another even more massive riff, with a chugging trudging rhythm of the sort that Celtic Frost might not have invented but that they certainly made good use of. And on it goes until the break, which gives way to noodly, trippy guitar stuff that works quite well in the context of things. Then come the final section of the song, which takes a seriously heavy turn and which features riffs that sound like they're shattering slabs of concrete. Then it's all over. If you're like me you start it again.



Celtic Frost Documentary

Celtic Frost - A Dying God, a Swiss documentary with English subtitles.

Underrated Rock Guitarists - Bruce Anderson

One of the more obscure underrated rock guitarists, Anderson played with MX-80 Sound, once described as "either the most Heavy Metal Art Band or the most Arty Heavy Metal Band". Out of the Tunnel, their 1980 release on Ralph Records, is enough to justify Anderson's inclusion in the annals of the underrated.

The group's second full length album, it delights throughout with Anderson wielding a guitar that sounds like a fistful of barbed wire being raked over the strings. Highlights include the bouncy, loopy Gary and Priscilla, which is catchy and annoying at the same time and which finds Anderson almost at his finest. He peaks on Someday You'll Be King, a mix of avant-weird-power-punk-bubble-gum-whatever, complete with an honest to goodness hook and angular punkish guitar freakouts that still stick in my head decades later.

Scritchy, man.

Underrated Rock Guitarists - Snakefinger

An obscure "rock" guitarist, Snakefinger, aka Philip Charles Lithman, was probably best known for his work with The Residents, who have provided the world with a seemingly inexhaustible fount of sonic weirdness for about four decades. He was so closely associated with the eyeball head guys until his untimely death in 1987 that the two entities almost seemed to blend together. While his Residential work, not surprisingly, was decidedly quirky, Snakefinger was arguably less offbeat than his pals and his 1984 live album was devoted solely to blues covers. For an introduction to his work, try the Residents albums on which he appeared or the quartet of solo albums he released on Ralph Records from 1979 to 1983.

The Other Half on The Mod Squad

The Other Half, a real-life Sixties band who released one album.



Sunday, October 29, 2017

Heaviest Metallist 7 - Sleep II

(in which a lapsed metalhead seeks the heaviest metal song ever - recommendations are welcome)

Sleep
Dopesmoker
Dopesmoker


The story of Dopesmoker is one that's been told much better than I can. So I'll recommend that you look elsewhere and commence to give the super-condensed version. It goes like this - mainstreamish record label freaks out when their new act delivers a 64-minute song/LP devoted to the joys of recreational drug use.

As someone who's never really developed a taste for that sort of thing, I'll note that Dopesmoker stands on its own merits very well, thank you. You don’t need to be a dopesmoker to appreciate the music. That is, as long as you're a fan of heavy, heavy music that takes a riff or two and hammers away at them for more than an hour.

I'm sure these types of antics could go very much astray in the wrong hands. But I'd go so far as to say that Dopesmoker is just plain brilliant. Rather than being monotonous, all of that repetition with very little variation becomes hypnotic at some point.

My only quibble is that when the band does change things up, with noodly-doodly guitar breaks and whatnot, it actually detracts from the hypnotic effect. Release a remixed version without all of this nonsense and I'll be at the head of the line.



Saturday, October 21, 2017

Heaviest Metallist 6 - Slomatics II

(in which a lapsed metalhead seeks the heaviest metal song ever - recommendations are welcome)

Slomatics
Superlab
Spit 7"


All hail the riff. Because it's all about the almighty riff. Strip heavy metal down to its essence and that's really all there is. The more I listen to Slomatics the more I realize that they have learned this essential truth about the nature of the universe, existence, reality and whatnot. They specialize in creating riffs Tony Iommi might have come up with if he was 400-feet tall - gargantuan, bottom-heavy riffs that have the power to destroy mountains and turn the citizenry into shrieking, fleeing masses. And I mean that in a good way.



Friday, October 20, 2017

Heaviest Metallist 5 - Sleep

(in which a lapsed metalhead seeks the heaviest metal song ever - recommendations are welcome)

Sleep
Holy Mountain
Sleep's Holy Mountain (1992)


The first (only?) Black Sabbath album I ever bought was Technical Ecstasy. I was young and the price was right and it seemed okay in an era when you didn't have access to the whole of recorded music.

The only song I can remember now is a lame one called Rock and Roll Doctor, which sounded nothing like the Black Sabbath of their heyday. But if you want heyday-era Black Sabbath, you have maybe four albums to choose from (depending on who's counting) and even those contained some duds.

The point I'm working my way around to is that there wasn't enough 'good' Black Sabbath to go around and so I'm quite keen to discover, after being away from metal for a while, that there are now twelve zillion bands who have taken their music as a jumping off point. Sleep was one of the earlier examples of these and Holy Mountain and the album it appeared on are rightly renowned. If you gotta steal, steal from the best.



Sunday, October 15, 2017

Heaviest Metallist 4 – Slomatics

(in which a lapsed metalhead seeks the heaviest metal song ever - recommendations are welcome)

Slomatics
Tunnel Dragger
Estron (2014)


They seem to gravitate toward the lowest of the low registers, these Slomatics guys. Who hail from Ireland and who have turned out five full-length albums so far - but you knew that.

Tunnel Dragger appears on the fourth of these, Estron (2014), and as your grandpa might put it, it's a real humdinger. How much more bottom heavy can you get? It's not for me to say but you can borrow my seismograph, if you need to do some research.

Anyway, the song rumbles and thuds and is dragged through tunnels for a while and suddenly there's a pleasant break that's all melodic and puppies romping in fields of daisies. Which only serves to emphasize the heaviness of the whole contraption once the thudding and rumbling start up again. Color me delighted.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Heaviest Metallist 3 - Middian

(in which a lapsed metalhead seeks the heaviest metal song ever - recommendations are welcome)

Middian
Sink to the Center
Age Eternal (2007)


An intense wave of sonic abuse designed to vaporize the listener? A heavy plodding tempo and one chord repeated over and over again (with a second one tossed in for good measure now and then)? Vocals that sound like a legion of fingernails dragged over a blackboard? That's gotta be early Swans, right?

Not so fast, Gira-breath. It's actually Middian, who released Age Eternal in 2007 and soon were driven out of business by a similarly named combo with a litigious streak. Sink to the Center is very old Swans-like indeed, if you ask me, but with more of metallic edge and screechier vocals.

It's heavy beyond heavy and of course it's way too soon to award it the Heaviest crown. But it will be a strong contender.




Monday, October 9, 2017

Heaviest Metallist 2 - Sourvein

(in which a lapsed metalhead seeks the heaviest metal song ever - recommendations are welcome)

Sourvein
Holy Transfusion
Black Fangs (2011)


What's the optimum BPM required to achieve the optimum level of heavy? Ain't got a clue, but I tend to favor something between downright plodding and pleasingly mid-tempo. A super-low bass bottom that sounds like its rising up from the bowels of the earth helps the proceedings along and of course a simple yet effective riff.

All of which are present in Holy Transfusion, from Sourvein's Black Fangs (2011) album, their third full-length release over the course of about twenty years. I hadn't heard of them before but that's no surprise since I've been out of the metal loop for a while.


(Jump to 17:33 on the video)


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Heaviest Metallist 1 - Black Pyramid

(in which a lapsed metalhead seeks the heaviest metal song ever - recommendations are welcome)

Black Pyramid
Visions of Gehenna
Black Pyramid (2009)

A half century into heavy metal and you might assume it's all been done - and it probably has. But even at this late date you might run across a band who breathes life back into the moldering old corpse of the great beast.

for example, there's Visions of Gehenna, from Black Pyramid's self-titled first album (2009), a song I've had in heavy rotation lately. It opens with a catchy little bass bit and then gives way to a martial beat and a first-class riff delivered with an intensity that suggests a 30-piece ensemble rather than just a trio. Throw in some sword and sorcery inspired lyrics that actually aren't goofy and it makes for a very fine number. Wunnerful, wunnerful...