Jerry Cantrell – Brighten

It’d been nineteen years since Jerry Cantrell, the fucking Riff God himself, release a solo record, 2002’s Degradation Trip. And a lot has happened since that time, in particular the completely unexpected REBIRTH of Alice In Chains with their 2009 comeback MASTERPIECE, Black Gives Way To Blue. From that point on, minus a song that was recorded for the John Wick: Chapter 2 soundtrack, it was largely assumed that Cantrell would never release a full-fledged solo record again. In fact, when asked about a future solo record by Guitar World in 2018, he told them that the only reason he even recorded two solo records was because he didn’t have a band, and now he does again, thus Alice being his ultimate priority.

He wasn’t wrong ladies, there was a shit ton of unfinished business with Alice In Chains.

So, if you weren’t surprised when it was announced that he was performing a few solo shows just months before the greatest year and a half of my life took place, you were a dumb motherfucker. I was even more stunned when, not too long after those shows took place, it was announced that he WAS, in fact, going to record a new solo album. I sure didn’t know what to expect. You didn’t either, especially once the video for “Atone” was released on Rolling Stone’s website a few months ago.

I knew what NOT to expect. But I certainly didn’t imagine that “Atone” would come out sounding like something out of any Western style movie with a soundtrack composed by Ennio Morricone. As fate would have it, it’s what Jerry was looking for. As fate would also have it, holy fuck does it sound fucking great! It may sound like a modernized “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, but it also has Jerry’s signature songwriting style all over it, along with the Open D Major tuning he’s used on and off since Alice’s 1995 self-titled album. And, for as much as I will never forgive Duff McKagan for being the bassist for Guns ‘N’ Roses, I really does like some of the fills he plays here.

The next single to drop, as well as the second track on the record is “Brighten”, the title track. Very different sounding from “Atone”. I can’t begin to tell you how pleasantly surprised I was to see Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums for this video and song. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, Abe, who I’d first read about in Modern Drummer Magazine in the late 90’s, is a very talented drummer who’s been in Paul McCartney’s touring band since 2001. This is more of a Rock tune in every way.

The next track is “Prism of Doubt”. A mid-tempo track of sorts, it sounds unusually happy, or at least introspective. The pedal steel guitars, fit right in. The aura created by the track makes me think of driving aimlessly on a desert road while your girl has her head out the window, or if your friends in the backseat have their hands out.

Spoiler alert: there’s more pedal steel guitars where those came from.

“Black Hearts and Evil Done” is a largely acoustic guitar-only track…with more Pedal Steel Guitars. If I thought that the previous track was lyrically introspective, I hear more of that on this number. The opening lines, “Too many heads broke too many times/Tired of the same joke, tired of the grind/Coming down’s a bit low, harder to stay/Same punk in the mirror, different the day” hits a little too close to home as I’m trying desperately to change my own life around. I feel the aches of living a mundane life oozing out of this track, as I work two jobs daily with no true break, all so I can transition smoothly out of one of them.

I’m just curious about the second verse. I’m not the biggest fan of musicians getting political. While Jerry never named names here, or particular events, I wonder what he’s referring to when he sings “Tired of the lies spun in the land of the free/Sеlling out’s a mission, kneel, settle, assume/Samе crook in the White House prospecting me and you”.

“Siren Song” can almost be “Breaks My Back” Pt. 2. If you’ve never heard “Breaks My Back”, here’s your chance now. It just has that aura about it. It’s actually one of my favorite tracks on the record because it sounds so sensual at points. Jerry ALWAYS knows what to play and when to play it.

“Had To Know” is just fun. And no pedal steel guitars here! Holy shit! But it does contain an organ. I really love the organ solo followed by Jerry’s solo. It’s on this track that backing vocalist Greg Puciato can actually be heard outside of the title track. He’s not mixed too loud on most of this album, which is a relief because I hate him thanks to his previous band.

Dillinger Escape Plan sucks. Fuck them and him.

“Nobody Breaks You” is a lyrically powerful song. If “Black Hearts” tackles life as an existential nightmare, this targets the idea of at least trying to “get out”. “Nobody breaks you like you in your heart”, Jerry sings. Almost sounds like life advice, no? It’s as if he’s telling us all to believe in ourselves…or at least to not take on a victim mentality and take action to change our lives for the better, as only we can do so in the end.

I fucking loved “Dismembered”. Don’t let the Alice sounding title fool you; “Dismembered” is nothing like that and a hell of a lot more of an idea of the type of song the late Glenn Frey and Keith Richards would’ve written if they ever collaborated together in 1972. It’s the perfect mix of the Country Rock style that put the Eagles on the map pre-Hotel California and the Boogie Woogie style the Stones would’ve performed during that time. It’s another song that conjures up images of driving on an open road or getting hammered even in a nasty ass roadhouse somewhere in the mid-west.

Jerry chose to close this incredible record with a cover of Elton John’s “Goodbye” off his landmark 1971 album Madman Across the Water. It’s a cover so faithful to the original that it even received approval from the old Queen himself! This isn’t to say that Cantrell can suddenly sing like Elton John in his prime because Elton hasn’t sounded like Elton since the 70’s came to a close. However, for those of you not in the know regarding Jerry’s relationship with Elton: Jerry asked him to play piano on the closing title track to Black Gives Way to Blue. Elton was so moved by the lyrical content that he immediately agreed to do so. Jerry grew up listening to Elton John long before he was introduced to Black Sabbath, thus making a song like “Goodbye” childhood verse, more or less.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Brighten is not what you expected, or perhaps even hoped for from Jerry Cantrell. After nineteen long years, what were you really expecting again? He’s no longer in the headspace needed to record Boggy Depot or Degradation Trip. He’s actually happy and he’s only out solo because for once, he just wants to, not through necessity. That being said, it’s rather fitting that the songs sound happier in a musical context, more outgoing in lyrical stature. Brighten, when compared to its predecessors, is very much a 70’s era Country Rock album with multiple guest musicians, incredible song writing and something for every fan of Jerry’s to latch on to and enjoy.

Brighten gets 4 out of five middle fingers!

Black Label Society Live At The Wellmont Theater…Or Why Zakk Wylde Is An Icon, November 10th, 2021

I’ll make no bones about it: I idolize the shit out of Zakk Wylde. I’ve done so probably since I first got my hands on Ozzy’s 1995 album Ozzmosis. His guitar was LOUD. His speed picking style added muscularity to his playing. His vibrato was wide and unusually vocal. Those fucking pinch harmonics. Then there’s his songwriting. Zakk will never deny that he’s a disciple of Black Sabbath, and he’ll let it shine, but with his own, explosive twist.

Upon learning that Black Label Society were arriving in my neck of the woods I knew I’d be there. I hadn’t seen Zakk since I went to see Zakk Sabbath, his Black Sabbath tribute band at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ. But this time he’d be not even twenty minutes away from me, AND he’s promoting Doom Crew, Inc., Black Label’s first album in over three years.

Considering he’s been calling his band and his LOYAL followers the Doom Crew, Inc. for YEARS, I’m very surprised he never gave that title to an earlier album. Either way, here’s my take on last night’s show, with featured openers Prong and Death Metal legends Obituary.

Prong

Before I continue I want to make clear that I didn’t take countless photos of every band. I took a necessary few and then I’d enjoy the show like a normal person pre-smart phones.

Having said that, I’d suspected Prong would be the first band. Therefore, I absolutely took my time getting to the show, making sure to eat while on the way. Upon my arrival to the Wellmont Theater, Prong were most likely halfway through with their set. That made me happy because ladies, Prong sucks. That “New York style” of playing nonchalant, almost Hardcore sounding music never appealed to me. I honestly found it annoying and self-righteous, and still do. The single most annoying thing about the band last night?

Any time Tommy Victor opened his mouth.

The irony of my being a native of New York City who hates that fucking accent. Any time he talked, any time he sang, the irritation grew stronger. And I could tell that a good chunk of last night’s audience had to have come from any of the five boroughs (mostly Staten Island and Brooklyn if I were to guess). I really got annoyed when he was introducing “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck”, Prong’s signature song.

“Come on ev’rybody! SNAP YA FINGIZZZ!”, he yelled out while attempting to open up a pit in the general admission section. I had a really good view from my balcony seat and I really wish I was able to shoot him in the face. His accent was that fucking obnoxious!

Obituary

I have to admit, while I am clearly familiar with Obituary, I never really delved too much into their catalog. I do remember my college radio station receiving their 2005 comeback album, Frozen In Time, in which they managed to get Randy Burns out of retirement to produce it. I guess it matches the album title, huh? I did hear upon buying tickets to this show that the band were really kicking ass every night. Now I was actually looking forward to seeing this for myself and, thankfully, I was not disappointed.

I’d made two videos because I’d accidentally stop filming during their instrumental opener in which vocalist John Tardy has yet to come out. I then noticed that the bassist looked awful familiar to me. As I’d previously mentioned, I don’t follow them. Therefore, I’d zero clue that Terry Butler had apparently been the band’s bassist since 2010. For those of you who don’t know, Terry also played bass for Massacre and, subsequently, Death’s second and third albums, 1989’s Leprosy and 1990’s Spiritual Healing. He’d later backstab Chuck Schuldiner when he and the rest of Death toured Europe without Chuck’s permission or knowledge.

Obituary were filled with endless energy. John Tardy’s screech vocals were just as badass as they ever were. Their version of Death Metal is decidedly more on the Thrash side, not as technical as Death were. I wonder if that’s why I didn’t care too much for them. I never hated them.

They did surprise the shit out of me when the pulled out an absolutely badass cover of Celtic Frost’s classic “Circle Of Tyrants”. Overall I was very impressed.

Black Label Society

As Obituary were finishing, BLS’s crew raised a big curtain adorning the band’s logo…as in before Obituary even walked off stage. That was weird. Either way you knew that once the band got on stage the curtain would drop, blah blah, blah.

After a decent wait time, the lights finally dimmed, followed by an audio mashup of Ozzy’s “War Pigs” vocals over the music to Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. At the end the band hit a quick staccato ending that’d segue into the beginning pulses of “Bleed For Me”. It was once the song kicked into full gear that the big curtain finally dropped to show Zakk and his co-guitarist, Dario Lorina performing Zakk’s signature sideways headbang in unison.

The Setlist

  • Bleed For Me (1919 Eternal)
  • Demise Of Sanity (1919 Eternal)
  • Overlord (Order Of The Black)
  • Heart Of Darkness (Catacombs Of The Black Vatican)
  • A Love Unreal (Grimmest Hits)
  • The Blessed Hellride (The Blessed Hellride)
  • Spoke In The Wheel (Sonic Brew) *
  • In This River (Mafia) *
  • Trampled Down Below (Grimmest Hits)
  • Destruction Overdrive (The Blessed Hellride)
  • Set You Free (Doom Crew, Inc.)
  • Fire It Up (Mafia)
  • Suicide Messiah (Mafia)
  • Stillborn (The Blessed Hellride)

* For these tracks Zakk sat behind his electric piano while Dario handled the leads.

This was my seventh time seeing Black Label since Ozzfest 2004 and my eighth time seeing Zakk overall. And he never appears to lose energy, ESPECIALLY now that he’s been sober for twelve years. I first noticed his playing style change a lot upon seeing him in 2011, my first time seeing him in his sober state. He was also very willing to give Dario multiple chances throughout the night to show off his own abilities, something I noticed the first time I saw Dario with the band at the Rock Carnival in 2015. On the track “Set You Free” off the new record, Zakk actually TRADES SOLOS WITH DARIO. Zakk NEVER let Nick Catanese do that. In fact, Nick is NOWHERE to be found on any Black Label albums from their debut through the time he left in 2014.

He’s now a registered sex offender.

The biggest surprise to me came during “Fire It Up”. Before they ended the song, Zakk, in place of his usual solo spot (where he makes every guitarist in the audience want to quit), he traded solos with Dario for ten, maybe fifteen minutes. I’m not just talking lick after lick. The two even HARMONIZED together, while Zakk stood on top of his piano. They’d even harmonize during their signature live intro to “Stillborn”, the band’s show closer for the longest time.

At the end of the show, he stood up on the gig box in the middle of the stage, took off his Black Label vest, and held it up nice and high before walking off…because Zakk never plays encores.

Ever.

I genuinely don’t know of many musicians who can say with legitimacy or integrity that they’re able to get even better as live performers with age. Regardless of how long it had been since I last saw Zakk in any capacity, he’s ALWAYS stepping up his game. Black Label Society were absolutely flawless last night. Zakk himself was absolutely FLAWLESS and he, once again, demonstrated why he’s not only an excellent, yet criminally underrated, showman, but a fucking guitar GOD who will NEVER be matched.

He’s an entity unto himself. I’ve heard idiots bitch about his playing style or smirk and say that there are guitarists that are far better than him, that “he’s not that good”. I can’t help but laugh every time because being a great guitarist will always be more than just having technical skill. Being an expert in playing gay ass sweep arpeggios won’t ever make you a standout player in any genre, let alone Heavy Metal. It’s about finding the style that suits you and practicing that style so much that it becomes second nature.

Flawlessness.

It’s about finding a style that helps you to STAND THE FUCK OUT. That’s what Zakk did. When Ozzy bitched during the 1987 auditions that found Zakk replacing Jake E. Lee that “If I want Yngwie Malmsteen, I’ll just call him!”, Zakk got the hint real quick and found the one thing no one else was doing. Those other guys may be technically DAZLING. But do they stand out? Are they known to more than just the underground? Is their playing as memorable as it is heavy or technically brilliant?

Probably not.

That’s why Zakk Wylde literally is an icon.

My Take On Metallica’s Being A Band.

https://open.spotify.com/show/4Adxscmvu0LeAWt2xA734l

They’ve got to be kidding…right?

Upon hearing a week ago that Metallica were hosting their own Masterclass series titled Being A Band, I quickly saw just as many eyebrows raised throughout the internet. Nice to know I wasn’t the only one with a brain. Let’s be real: the idea of Metallica teaching ANYONE how to be a band is absolutely laughable. I could give two shits about their legacy, it’s absolutely moot to the purpose of this article.

I just wonder if anyone reading this has actually paid to watch that shit. I can only imagine they’d have no choice but to dwell on their dark past (OTHER than Cliff Burton’s gruesome death in 1986 and James Hetfield entering rehab in 2001) that NO ONE really brings up. So that begs the question: how much of their “advice” is based on the truth? How much more of it is based on a fabricated history? Fuck, Jason Newsted had recently alluded to the fact that there are a “lot of secrets” within Metallica.

That aside, I know better than to watch this shitshow. But I’m here today to bring you my own, homespun, brutally honest interpretation of Being A Band, all for free and all for your displeasure. Let’s go with number 1, shall we??

Saxondebut.jpg
  1. Labor For Far Longer Than Necessary Over Song Arrangements

That’s right. Go find a band that’s a major influence on you the way Saxon influenced Lars, watch them beat a song arrangement to death when it probably sounded good after just a few tries, assume that it’s the only way to write songs and prepare for a career chock full of infighting within your band. Do you happen to have a musician in your band that’s a songwriting genius that can just shit out song after song on his own while keeping shit basic? Does your band have the ability to make a QUALITY album in a relatively short amount of time?

Fuck that! Make sure that you ALWAYS have to have a say in EVERYTHING the band does. Make sure you oversee every minute detail of the simplest, four minute single. Makes sure your band practices that song over and over again to the point that, once you finally hit that record button, your deadline for the album is just around the corner. How the fuck could first take magic possibly mean shit when you can take years to write all of ten songs and totally piss of your loyal fan base, as they wait possibly close to a decade before you release that next album? Duh!

Image result for bob rock

2. Make Sure Your Producer Doubles As A Yoko

You’re inching closer and closer to success with each passing album. You’ve finally hit Platinum status in sales AND you’re even a home owner now. Imagine you and your band jamming away on a fast, probably badass new track as the big name producer your label brought in arrives and hears what you’re playing. His hello to the band is to tell you to stop and play it slower.

Absolutely listen to him and let him know right away that he has control over you and that your balls are safe…in his grip! It won’t seem like that at first, especially since your initial record under his supervision becomes your biggest selling album of ALL TIME, even if it unquestionably divides fans, and leaving some questioning your integrity. Keep that producer for the next several years, as he influences you to explore sonic territory that not only is unnecessary, but alienates whatever ever “back in the day” fans you have left.

Go ahead and let him be considered by the public to be your band’s fifth member (or sixth if your band’s a five piece already). Take him everywhere you go like the little lapdog he is, and he’ll know he doesn’t need to worry about the source of his next pay check. If you lose a band member, let him PLAY on your next album, thus giving him hope that he might even join your band that he helped to completely alter the course of. Let him dominate you like you’re his BDSM dungeon bitch so bad that the stench is strong for decades to…cum.

Image result for kirk hammett wah meme

3. Overuse Your Wah Wah Pedal To The Point Of Sexual Abuse

Are you the lead guitarist in your band? Did you idolize guitarists that made decent use of their wah pedals the way Kirk Hammett says Michael Schenker is one of the reasons he himself started relying on the wah pedal? Well what the fuck are you waiting for? Stomp that pedal and rock it back and forth uncontrollably and far more often than your idols ever did!

You can’t stand out if your wah pedal use has control and intentional limitations. You need to use your wah pedal on practically EVERY SINGLE SOLO YOU EVER PLAY. Your tone with the wah MUST be insufferable, and you have to sound like you have absolutely no right hand at all.

At all.

Ever.

Not even to jerk off.

4. Grant A Film Crew Unlimited Access To All Of Your Band’s Drama

Did you decide to have a little fun and let the whole world see your band in the middle of recording an album? Did shit not go as planned? Did a band member quit? Did someone go to rehab after years of unchecked abuse that’s still nothing compared to another ex member, whose trips to rehabs surpassed double digits long before your first go at sobriety? Is this person you?

Pay that film crew for the rights to that footage and continue to film away!

Expose your personal business to the entire world. Hire a “performance enhancement” coach known for working with NFL teams, because it doesn’t matter how many business deals you’ve gone through as a band – you can’t handle someone quitting. This coach CANNOT be a licensed psychologist or even a licensed psychotherapist. Treat him like your own, personal security blanket and keep him on your payroll for far longer than any other band in history. Much like your producer (see #2), make HIM so comfortable that he starts trying to write lyrics for your band in the middle of a recording session. The more leeches in your life the better, of course!

Speaking of band members leaving, I saved the most important bit of advice for last.

5. Drive Your Most Loyal Bandmate To Quit

This is the last thing I’ve ever wish on any band. But imagine you lost a band member in a horrific accident ala Cliff Burton. Instead of taking time off to grieve the loss of your comrade in arms, throw yourselves immediately into replacing him before you head overseas to tour. Find yourself your band’s biggest fan.

  • He worships the very bandmember he’s replacing
  • He knows your entire catalog inside and out
  • He’s willing to do anything you want because he doesn’t want to take this chance for granted
  • He’ll sign autographs backstage while your lazy ass is already back at the hotel getting shitfaced

Haze the shit out of him. You want to remind him that he didn’t just waltz into a happy situation; but because neither you or your band ever gave yourselves the time needed to grieve, you can just take out all of your anger on that loyal, new replacement. Prank him backstage, embarrass him onstage. Dictate what and how he plays when recording an album.

Completely shatter his spirit by being the one guy to still haze him even years after everybody else grows up and accepts reality. Condemn him during an interview with a national publication for daring to express his desires to record an album with a decidedly different sounding side band because you’re afraid to lose him, even if you’re still treating him the new kid years after his arrival into your life. And when he requests to hold a meeting with the band to further express his desires for a break because he physically ran himself to the ground for you and your band, show up drunk at 10 in the morning and tell him no, ultimately strengthening his resolve to tell you to he’s gone.

Follow these five easy steps and YOU just might be on your way to a highly successful career in music!

The Songwriting Genius Of A Guitar God: In Memory Of Eddie Van Halen

I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said about Eddie Van Halen since the word got out that we lost him just a little over two months ago. I refuse to discuss his popularizing the two handed tapping technique that everyone and their mother learns eventually. I won’t discuss his invention of the super strat via his Frankenstein guitar, or his “brown” sound. So what can I discuss that most people probably won’t discuss?

Let’s talk about Ed’s creativity as a songwriter. Why? Listen to his riffs alone on those first six records. He’s not just banging out power chords like most guitarists do. He never relied on a co-guitarist. In fact he was never formally trained on his instrument. Yet he was still an even better songwriter than he was a guitarist.

Read that last line again.

Ed said in the past that if he ever took lessons he didn’t think he’d be able to play like he did. I can relate to that. I did take lessons for four years. But both of my teachers, the first teacher being the uncomfortably talented Ron Thal and the next teacher being Christian Corrao, one of the most incredible jazz guitarists I’ve ever heard, taught me both directly and indirectly to think outside the box. Nothing has to be played the way you’re told to play it. Just play what you hear in your head and how you feel and you’ll be surprised with what comes out. I attribute that to why some of my future bandmates either couldn’t understand what I was playing or they just didn’t have the mental capacity to try and learn what I was doing.

There’s no doubt that Ed wasn’t the music world’s first ever self taught guitarist. But as with every other aspect of his career, there was something different about the way he played. Thanks largely to his musical upbringing and his later experiences in cover bands, there’s no question that there was plenty of music in his head. But how the fuck do you convey such concepts when you’re self taught?

That’s why he used all six strings on the guitar, as opposed to just hitting three note power chords, as mentioned before. He needed a way to sound as big as he could without relying on a second guitarist. That’s why he wasn’t afraid to use alternate tunings. He was inventive enough that he even incorporated his popularized tapping technique into his songs. I’m not just referring to his solos, I’m referring to the way he’d TAP OUT the fucking harmonics of chords, which took an already pretty chord pattern and made it breath taking. Speaking of tapping for effect, according to Ed himself, the harmonic tapping section of “Dance The Night Away” was designed to emulate a horn section in a pop song, the inspiration being his days playing Top 40 covers.

Fair Warning, my undisputed favorite of the first six Van Halen records, is considered their darkest album. Ed himself had stated that some of his angriest playing is on that record – which is probably why I love it! Tracks like “Unchained” and especially “Mean Street” are probably the most Metal sounding songs the band ever records. Then there were tracks such as “Push Comes To Shove”. The track itself wasn’t angry, but Ed’s solo certainly was. Close your eyes and you could actually FEEL the emotion.

There can be a lot of benefits of being self taught depending on the musician in question. Some people are geniuses and others should just cave in and take lessons. Or give up. For Ed, it allowed for a creativity not seen in Rock guitarists before. Why? Because he didn’t uphold to any written barriers. He didn’t follow structures that were repeated over and over again. He made his own. “Hot For Teacher” is the best example of this. The whole band changes time signatures midway through Ed’s solo for 4/4 to 5/4 and then back again. Not only was it an ingenius way for Ed to have the song fit his solo as opposed to having the solo fit the song, but that little nuance alone displayed his incredible sense of dynamics.

There was no way I wasn’t going have you watch the video!

This to me is the true legacy of Eddie Van Halen. His legacy to me is more than just “Eruption”, or a homemade freakshow guitar and bastardized backline or the showmanship of David Lee Roth. His legacy is that he didn’t follow musical constructs. He bent them to his will and made them his own. He’s probably one of the most copied guitarist ever to the point that I don’t blame him for turning his back to the crowd while he was soloing during the band’s early days. He didn’t want anyone to copy his technique – imagine that!

There was no one like Eddie Van Halen before he came along and there will never be anyone like him again. Let’s not misunderstand, there are so amazing guitarists out there right now, but they’ll NEVER have the appeal that Ed or his band had to the public at large. Primarily in that unlike Ed, none of his worshippers ever got girls because they were too busy jerking off to guitar lessons.

Read that again.

Let the article and Ed’s songwriting be a lesson to all you bedroom guitarists out there. I’m glad you know every mode and scale there is to know. But if any of you ever want to be remembered for anything, learn how to write a song.

Rest In Peace To The Undisputed KING Of Guitar

Eddie Van Halen

January 26th, 1955 – October 6th, 2020

My First Metal Gig – Vanguard live at Dock Street Bar And Grill, Staten Island, NY February 4th 2005

As I might’ve alluded to in a previous article or two, I joined my first Metal band as a guitarist in 2004.  Previously I’d been a drummer.  But it wasn’t until close to year’s end that we rounded up our line up with a rhythm section, having auditioned these two buffoons in Phrygian Studios in Staten Island.  As far as I know it’s still around…although that might change depending on when this pandemic ends.  THAT was an audition!  A completely inexperienced drummer with no technique, a bassist that knew literally nothing about the bass and WREAKED OF SHIT ALL THE FUCKING TIME, and Chad, my co-guitarist who seemingly forgot how to play anything that day or just didn’t have a care in the world.  More on the that later!

Fast forward to early 2005.  Joe Ryder, our original bassist, while a really nice, quiet guy, was replaced with John Vaynburg, a far more talented bassist – one of only two bassists I ever played with that could nail “The Trooper”, my all time favorite Maiden tune, to the T!  Unfortunately he turned out to be a bit of a princess.  But hey at least he didn’t WREAK OF SHIT ALL THE FUCKING TIME!  Chris, our drummer, slowly began to hold quite an influence on Chad and Idrees’s decision making, thanks to his far more arrogant personality.  And I’d every once and a while be lectured – even by the very drummer who I taught to FINALLY develop independent control of his hands and feet! – in regards to my guitar playing being nowhere near as fluid or as glorious as Chad’s.  Oh sure, Chad certainly did have technique.  But I had tons more feel and attitude.  More on that later.

Around this time, we had a few originals, written mainly by Chad.  I’d brought some stuff to the table but I’d leave the band almost right after they’d started using my shit.  But it was evident that Chad’s music was more in favor because it was more in the Power Metal vein that Chad and Chris were very much into.  Power Metal: GAY.  Idrees’s gay ass cheesy lyrics didn’t help either!  It was hilarious that this is what seemed to be agreed upon when you consider that we were five guys between the ages of 17 and 20 (I was the oldest and the only one in college) that all had individual subgenre favorites.

Idrees, who my own father referred to as “that black kid who thinks he’s white”, was stuck somewhere between 1983 and 1990, and Slayer was his religion, like to the point that it was pathetic.  His “singing”, if you can call it that, was more akin to if Luther Vandross joined Judas Preist.  I still roast him to this day over it.  Chad, while a major Iron Maiden fanatic, also was enamored in all things Steve Vai.  Chris essentially followed Chad’s path, only he became a Power Metal fanatic (although he’d see the light months later).  John’s tastes were closer to mine.  He was very much a Death Metal fan, like I.  He also was a Black Metal fan.  Then there was me, and if you’ve been reading this blog for the last five years then you already know I only listen to the good shit.  And it reflected in my playing, especially my lead playing, sloppy as it might’ve been at the time.  I wanted to be the bastard child of Mustaine in his prime and Zakk Wylde.  While Chad played prissy lead fills, I was the guy that just ripped on his Body Art Series B.C. Rich Bich.

The Ballad Of Dock St Bar And Grill

As the title of this rant should suggest, this gig was on Staten Island.  I might as well admit that I’m actually from Staten Island.  Trust me, I’m not proud of it.  Where to begin?  Well, for the sake of this article anyway, the music scene, at least at this time, could only be described in one word: LAME.  Due to the Island’s isolation from the other four boroughs in New York City, along with some fucking morons blindly wearing that isolation with pride, there was nothing really exciting to talk about.  There’s a reason why Chris would eventually look outside the island for people to play with.

The local Metal scene had very few decent bands.  Dethroned, Enthralled and especially Into The Dementia come to mind (not the biggest Prog Metal fan but fuck me could Anthony sing!).  Whiny Pop Punk was very popular.  Rap was and will forever be a big deal on Staten Island, primarily because Wu Tang are from there.  And by the way, if you’re reading this, are a grown adult around my age living in Staten Island, and still refer to it as “Shaolin”, you should probably be shot in the throat.  Five times.  But the tried and true money maker, as I’d later discover?  Cover bands.  So in a nutshell, Staten Island was, and probably still is boring.

By the way, just so we’re clear: Fuck the Wu Tang Clan and anybody that looks like them.

Dock St had been around for decades.  I’d actually played there numerous times during my senior year of high school in 2001 and 2002 with my previous band.  Aside from Cock St, there hadn’t been many venues for bands to play in that I knew of, especially in the case of bands where only one of us was BARELY under 21.  Fuck, Dock St alone had gone through countless management changes both before I ever even played there and especially long after I’d stopped going there.  I hated it.  It was small, I didn’t like that the booker, who I’d known for a few years, was a grown man befriending the kids, and it was just boring to me.  If you’re a grown man hanging out with teenagers, you’re creepy.

Gig Night

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Inside the shithole that was Dock St.  In the middle, starting from the left: Chris Dickinson (yeah, that Chris Dickinson), Chad Cresante, John Vaynburg.  Bottom: Idrees Williams

Unlike most of the bandmates I’ve played with over the years, I never got nervous or anxious before a gig.  This was no different.  But I was very tired, and very annoyed when Chris called me while I was home napping before the show, wanting to know where I was.  When I told him I was home resting before the gig because you know, I had work early in the morning and then class afterwards, he had the nerve to tell me to get down there as soon as possible as if it was his band.  Of course I ignored him and did my own thing.  I heard the anxiety in his voice.  This was his first band and hey, I was 16 when I did my first shows.  But a word of advice to you anxious musicians out there: there’s NO NEED TO PANIC BEFORE A FUCKING GIG.  JUST GET THE SAND OUT OF YOUR PUSSIES AND YOU’LL BE JUST FINE.

My mom, of all people, came to the gig.  I warned her not to, for she was going to see a side of me she’d wish she never saw.  The band were going to see a side of me they didn’t think they’d see either.  More on that later.  I do remember seeing some teenager with a water bottle.  He asked me if a wanted a swig before going onstage, revealing that the water was actually whiskey.  How could I say no?  I walked up on stage decked out in all black.  I had on a Death t-shirt that I actually still have, black jeans, black boots, a biker watch and a chain around my neck, ready to show these idiots who the real star was…after someone told me he wanted to have sex with my guitar.

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We opened up with a song called “Death Knell” (and here we go with the gay ass song titles!), after Idrees refused to introduce the band  because we needed “to sound like we’ve been around for five years”.  He actually said that.  To this day he claims he meant that as a joke; but he seemed way too serious for that to be a joke.  As soon as the tempo picked up I spread my legs as far apart as they would go and began banging my head as aggressively as I could without my glasses falling off.  I spat into the audience, my eyes popped out of my head as I was ripping through solos.

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Then I opened up my mouth.  There were a lot more people at the show then I imagined there would be.  Very few of them were there for me but the crowd were so into it that a former friend of mine decided to guard my mom, who according to him claimed she was going to beat up the first person who bumped into her.  Well, she didn’t stay around much longer.  After the second or third song, I took the mic from Idrees, looked toward Chad’s emo looking friends and yelled out “…and remember kids, emo is for pussies!”.

We went on to play a few more cheesy titled original tracks along with covers of “Aces High” (where I played the part of Adrian Smith) and “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying” (where I played the part of Dave, of course!).  Chad was probably the one guy who had no life to him during this show…or any of the shows we played together.  Looking at some of the pictures that were taken he appeared to just have some arrogant smirk on his face, as if he was already bored because even his own music wasn’t challenging enough for him.  It was the same smirk he had the afternoon we auditioned Chris and Joe Ryder just three months earlier.  Kids, when you don’t know how to just have fun at your FIRST GIG, you’ll never have fun.

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Doing my best Adrian Smith impression, playing his solo in “Aces High”.

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Final song of the night, “Fear Is Eternal”.  See what I mean about these gay song titles??

As I walked off the stage, the first thing I noticed was my mom was gone and I right away assumed it was because I singled out the emo kids the way I did.  I did stay for the last band, Whole In One.  They were a Pop Punk band, however I was friends with Ralph, their drummer.  I’m almost positive I left after them and joined the band for food afterwards at Mike’s Place in New Dorp Lane.

I arrived home late that night to a call on my cell phone as I was walking upstairs.  It was these two possibly drunk whores prank calling me.  Upon asking them how they got my number and who they were they were rambling a lot, prompting me to hang up.  They called back, asking me why I hung up, prompting me to threaten their lives.  They then left a hilarious voicemail claiming I never had sex, which was pretty funny since I lost my virginity at 18; and that I apparently suck because I like Iron Maiden.  That was a actually an amusing little chuckle to end my night.

The Day After

While eating oatmeal before I left for work early the next morning, mom slowly walked into the kitchen to finally give me a piece of her “mind”, as it were.  She was so pitiful, reflecting back in such dramatic fashion, on her view of me after seeing and hearing me in front of a live mic.  She confirmed, like the drama queen she always was and still is, that she did in fact walk right out the moment she heard me call out those kids.  “You were better in Fallout”, she angrily told me before walking back into her bedroom.  Fallout was my high school band, in which I played drums.  Therefore I’ve no doubt that her last remark to me was her way of telling me things were better when I couldn’t get to a mic so easily.  She’d never see me play live again.

Later that night, I picked up Idrees to go hang out at Chris’s house.  Chris’s attention, for the most part was aimed directly at me.  Why?  Remember when I said I was going to show a side of me the band never saw before?  Well, he sure as fuck didn’t know what to make of my performance even 24 hours later.  When I asked him what the big deal was he commented that he’d seen me with my feet planted together at virtually every band rehearsal leading up to the gig, seemingly having no life in me.  I tricked them all to the point where Chris got a tad giddy as he told Idrees and I “you both are like my fuckin’ Thrash Metal icons man!”.  Mission complete.

Inside the house was the guy that recorded our show to watch.  And apparently he was emo, because he immediately pleaded with me to not do what I did on the mic ever again because I sounded like an asshole.  I think he later on went home and cried as he fingered his pussy while blasting his favorite Bright Eyes album.  Mission accomplished!

The Return Of GOD: Megadeth – Live At Roseland Ballroom November 10th 2004

I realized that it’s been a long time since I wrote about my concert history, the last time I wrote anything was about my trip to Ozzfest ’04 featuring headliners Slayer, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath…with Rob Halford on vocals.  Click here if you never read it:

https://metalheadconfessions.com/2016/06/30/possibly-the-best-ozzfest-lineup-ever-ozzfest-2004-august-26th-2004/

But that left one more concert for that year and it was one I NEVER thought I’d see.  Seriously.  Never.

A year earlier, Thrash Metal pioneer Dave Mustaine, who had quit Megadeth – his own band – and retired from music over an arm injury, had announced he was coming out of retirement.  He’d even gotten himself a brand new endorsement deal with ESP Guitars…which I’d wonder from time to time after that if that was yet another blatant attempt to feel validated by his ex Metallica bandmates, as James Hetfield had been endorsed by them since 1988 and by the way still is.  He had announced plans to remix and remaster the entire Megadeth catalogue, which he had actually started in 2001 when he remixed and remastered the band’s 1985 debut Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good…which really did give the record a fresh pair of raw, drug addled BALLS.   Dave also mentioned the idea of recording a solo record that while he’d never tour for, he’d probably perform a small handful of club shows.  Or so he thought.

About a year later Mustaine started posting snippets of new recordings and to say the least, they did sound promising.  Very promising.  This was also following the news that he managed to get former Megadeth guitarist lead guitarist Chris Poland to play on this new record…which was now a Megadeth record by name only due to contractual obligations with his publishing company.  Let’s speed this up: he teased us with the release of three songs that sounded fucking great.  Later in the year he released The System Has Failed, featuring those three songs as the opening three tracks.  After that it’s such a fucking shitfest.  From a musician’s standpoint the guitar tones were so fucking WEAK due to Mustaine playing an old Marshall Plexi, which is NOT the appropriate amp to play his style of music to begin with.  Second of all, I understood that this was recorded as a solo record before Mustaine was forced to make it a Megadeth record, so I expected to hear a musical departure of sorts.  But this whole album minus the first three songs was just lame.  Oh, and if you’re reading this and you happen to be one of the jackasses that proclaimed that The System Has Failed was the “best album since Rust In Peace!”, you should jump in front of an 18 wheeler yesterday.  Thanks.

Around the time of the album’s release Dave appeared on Friday Night Rocks with Eddie Trunk to discuss everything that was happening from the album’s release to his MAJOR fallout with co-founder/bassist David Ellefson to Ellefson, Marty Freidman and Nick Menza – the classic Rust In Peace lineup – all refusing to join him on this comeback tour.  But when he gave Eddie the list of tour dates he said the New York City on November 10th was a possibility (he couldn’t remember for sure at the time) I knew to save the date.  Yeah the “comeback” record was weak but this allegedly was going to be the last time Dave Mustaine went on the road under the Megadeth banner so I didn’t give a shit.  I had worshiped this guy since high school and some of my own guitar technique were taken from him.  There was NO WAY I was missing this.

Tickets were pretty cheap at $36 each so I bought tickets for the guys in my band at the time: Idrees and Chad (who never paid me back).  Our newest addition to the band, our drummer Chris, met us there with his girlfriend Shari and her sister Marissa, who was actually the music director of my college radio station at the time, along with her boyfriend Vin.  Marissa claimed to be a big Megadeth fan but as she’d admit to later on, she was nothing more than a poser.  I loved her to death – and she also had a great pair of titties! – but don’t call yourself a big fan of ANY band if you only have two albums from that band.

We arrived at the now-defunct Roseland Ballroom, close to the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan, looking so 80’s it was hilarious, myself wearing a leather jacket with my denim vest over it and leather gloves with my dog chain that I still have.  I had already learned that I’d rather wear just a plain, black shirt instead of any band shirt in order to avoid random losers interrogating me on love of said band and telling me stories I could honestly give two shits about.  As we all walked in, the opening band, Exodus were playing.  This was weird to see only because they had JUST released a new album, Tempo Of The Damned, only for longtime vocalist Steve “Zetro” Sousa to quit shortly after.  So who was singing for him?  Steev from Skinlab…who was doing way too much to try to look like Phil Anselmo circa 1996, between the undershave haircut (Idrees called it the Vagina Haircut), the leather cuffs, the short sleeve flannel shirt, the green cargo shorts and his tendency to always bend down to scream…which by the way Phil stole from Henry Rollins.

In between bands, as Megadeth were next, Idrees was approached by this muscular, 16 year old kid with glasses, who apparently met him in a pit during an Overkill show at the also now-defunct B.B. King’s.  After they shared a few words the boy turned to me and said he knew me too.  I was very confused; between his physique and the glasses I was sure he had to have mistaken me for someone else, until he reminded me that he met me at my former music store were I was still taking lessons at the time, and that he had approached me when he heard me playing the Megadeth song “Sweating Bullets” on an acoustic guitar.  That was two years earlier and I had not seen him in that long a time so the fact that he remembered me was impressive.  Nonetheless we were both stoked to see each other.  We’d wind up hanging out together almost frequently for the next four years after this night but that almost didn’t happen and here’s why!

The lights went out, the crowds lost their shit as Ice T’s “Shut Up, Be Happy” began blaring through the speakers…

One by one, the current touring lineup Mustaine put together for this tour start to walk out on stage: drummer Shawn Drover, ex-Iced Earth bassist James MacDonough, guitarist Glen Drover.  There’s wall of sick looking Marshall cabinets on the stage with a drum kit that looks a LOT like something Nick Menza would’ve played.  After a minute of two…you could hear the sounds of another guitar playing the beginning of “Set The World Afire” from 1988’s So Far, So Good…So What!.  That’s when Dave Mustaine finally walked out on stage, chugging away on his guitar.  At that moment I felt a foot come out of nowhere, kicking me right in the fucking nose, making me bleed.  Then the entire crowd were to become one gigantic mosh pit, meaning Rob and I, as quickly as we were reunited, were being forcefully pushed apart.  We tried to grab on to each other but this crowd was understandably way too violent to try and overcome unless I really wanted broken bones to go with the bloody nose.

The band pulled out the classics on after another, starting with “Afire” and kicking right into “Skin ‘O’ My Teeth” into “Wake Up Dead”, which is when shit REALLY got out of hand.  Then again, if you know ANYTHING about Megadeth I shouldn’t have to tell you that “Wake Up Dead” is essentially that one song meant just for moshing once the band gets into that middle riff after Dave’s first solo.  And that was immediately followed by “In My Darkest Hour”.  The band were really able to hold there own, although I always thought Shawn Drover was the least dynamic drummer in Megadeth’s entire history.  Mustaine, however was surprising.  He’d retired because he couldn’t even move his arm thanks to this bizarre injury he acquired and more than two years later he’s absolutely ripping it up as if nothing happened to him!  It honestly made me and probably a few others rather suspicious as to the actual severity of his injury.  But that’s a story for another time.

Here’s the setlist:

Set The World Afire

Skin ‘O’ My Teeth

Wake Up Dead

In My Darkest Hour

Something That I’m Not

Angry Again

Of Mice And Men

Reckoning Day

A Tout Le Monde

Die Dead Enough

Tornado Of Souls

Kick The Chair

Hangar 18

Sweating Bullets

Symphony Of Destruction

Back In The Day (featuring Exodus near the end of the song)

Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?

Encore:

Holy Wars…The Punishment Due

At the end of the set, and after the band walked off the stage, Dave Mustaine walked back on for second.  “Thank you…for believing in me!”, he yelled out, before walking off for good.  As I said earlier, this was allegedly going to be the last time he toured not just under the Megadeth banner, but at all.  This would go on for another several months, and on to his first ever attempt at a festival gig, which I did go to.  But that’s for another article.

I no longer remember much about what happened after I left the building with my band, but I can only assume I bumped into Rob again and I’m sure we had to have finally exchanges numbers, either outside the building or on the ferry heading home.  He’d tag along with Idrees and I to see Megadeth in New Jersey two years later.  What I do remember, however, was driving not home, but to my Dad’s house after I was dropped off by ferry.  It was almost 2am; I knew that it’d be way easier to sleep there than home, where my jackass brother and mother were most likely fighting even that late at night.  I totally skipped my Astronomy class the following afternoon, having woken up around the time the class had just started, I think.  No regerts.  None.  But my radio show was that afternoon so I did have to head to campus whether I like it or not.  The show’s opener that afternoon?

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Album Of The Year 2018

I know what you’re thinking.  There are a few albums I could’ve easily picked to be my top pick for this year’s Album Of The Year pick.   Hate Eternal and High On Fire both came out with new albums.  Fuck, speaking of Matt Pike and High On Fire, his previous band, Sleep, released a comeback album that some of you are STILL fisting yourselves to!  And that’s fine…but I can give two shits because Alice In Chains came back with an amazingly, dark, depressing, desolate new album. I’m talking better than 2013’s The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here by fucking far!

Oh sure, I was already excited since I’ve worshiped this band and especially Jerry Cantrell for half my life now; but then I heard the opening single:

Well holy shit.  Just go straight to that chorus line and I can swear the music sounds like it could’ve fit beautifully on the band’s 1995 self titled album.  In fact, a major portion of Rainier Fog sounds very much like it would’ve fit right in on the aforementioned self titled album.  And as it turns out, the band decided to take trip back to the past to get the right aura for recording my Album Of The Year.

The band set up camp back in Seattle at Studio X, former Bad Animals Studios, which Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart owned between 1991 and 1997 and as actually named after their their 1987 album of the same name (this was when Heart were 80s sellouts playing shit arena rock).  Bad Animals is where the band recorded their self titled album, sadly their last with the late Layne Staley on vocals.  So needless to say, if you believe in ghosts, you just might here one of two on here.

The product of this return to their roots of sorts is such a fucking downer.  It’s so depressing it’s beautiful.  Gone are a lot of the Heavy Metal aspects of their previous album and especially their 2009 masterpiece of a comeback album, Black Gives Way To Blue; but there is still a shit ton of Doom all around, providing the proverbial atmosphere of a perennial rainy day.  Make no mistake though, Rainier Fog is still heavy as balls, still an exercise in Sabbath worship.

Tracks such as “The One You Know”, “Rainier Fog”, Cantrell’s tribute to the Seattle scene, “Red Giant”, “Drone” and “Never Fade”, the second single from the album, prove Alice are still the very definition of a modern day Black Sabbath…and that Cantrell is still a GOD.  These tracks in particular are the closest to being “grungy” as the band has sounded in 23 years, with slow, crushing riffs, drums that supply the groove yet still let the songs breath, and those vocal harmonies.  It can’t be made anymore obvious that whether William DuVall is singing or Jerry himself, Jerry is truly the mastermind behind some of these virtually morbid vocal arrangements.  Only Alice In Chains could ever make me want to kill myself through beautifully depressing harmonies!  In fact, I feel like “The One You Know” can be like the sequel to “Grind”!  And “Drone” is truly a Sabbath Worship song in just about every way.  The chorus line is especially depression as Cantrell sings “I’ll stay here and feed my pet black hole…”.

Speaking of Sabbath Worship, “Deaf Ears Blind Eyes”, is as doomy as it gets.  It’s main, single note guitar lines could’ve easily been used on Master Of Reality.  But what will really grab your attention is Cantrell’s haunting vocal arrangement.  Clearly a song about what happens when you let anxiety run your life, I had to do a double take and make sure I wasn’t listening to a 90’s recording with Layne on vocals because it sure sounded like it!  It’s probably one of to more lyrically profound tracks on here as Cantrell sings “feel like a fake thing/where did the time go?/Memories worth making/pass by the window…”.

On the other end of the Sabbath Worship is “So Far Under”, the one song solely penned by DuVall…who clearly has spent way too much time with Cantrell.  That bending note in the chorus is essentially the “seasick riff” Cantrell used on “Check My Brain”, hence why it can be easily to immediately think Cantrell wrote it.  Oh sure, the lyrics may be some of the most positive on Rainier Fog, but his solo (his not Jerry’s!) screams Tony Iommi and the chorus just happens to bring you r right back down…and seasick.

As for the lighter tracks on here, “Fly” is essentially the sequel to “Over Now”.  I don’t know how else to put it.  Here…just listen for yourself:

And “Maybe” is literally a tour de force of what Jerry and William are capable of as a vocal duo.  They’ve become so good at it in the last nine years that at times it can be hard to figure out who the fuck is singing what.  It’s yet another song about loneliness but their singing will make you want to embrace it in such a romantic way.  If you think I’m nuts after reading that line you’re not an Alice In Chains fan.

Oh, and speaking of loneliness, the most depressing, emotionally draining song on here clearly had to be saved for last.  “All I Am” is sad as fuck from the first atmospheric pulse as it cuts through the ending to “Never Fade”.  It’s hard to really say what the hell Jerry is talking about here.  But I can only assume it’s about someone who’s so damaged from drug use that he can’t even recognize himself anymore.  Would that be too much of a surprise?  Let’s not forget that drugs nearly decimated this band with Layne’s tragic death sixteen years ago to heroin and cocaine.  Everyone in this band were all guilty.  AS I mentioned in my review of Dirt, Jerry was drinking heavily and taking Xanax during the sessions for it.  I just know that when I heard it, I imagine someone on a raft, struggling to stay afloat as he’s being rushed through rapids, rain teaming down in him.  The final result?  Does he survive and rise above?  Does he drown?  It’s all up to you, the listener.  I just know that if you want an album that makes you feel every negative, suicidal emotion you can, Rainier Fog is your go to album.

 

The Official Demise Of A Musical Dynasty: In Memory Of Vinnie Paul

It was early this past Saturday morning, around 2am, when I got up to take a quick piss.  I looked on my phone for shits and giggles and saw that I friend of mine posted something, captioning “holy shit!” above it.  It was a the Billboard article announcing that former Pantera/Hell Yeah drummer Vinnie Paul was dead at 54.  I thought I was just tired; but after a few minutes I realized that this was in fact reality.  There were no facts at the times, all that mattered was that one of the greatest of all time was gone.

The facts, since then, have slowly started to become known.  We now know that he died in his sleep in his Las Vegas home (booze and strippers, duh!), and of a heart attack.  According to the Las Vegas police, there were no signs of foul play.  Then today came the news that, just like his late brother, he’ll be buried beside him and their mother…in a KISS coffin.  Of course it’ll take some time for the toxicology report to come out.  I don’t want this to focus too much on his well publicized lifestyle here.  But let’s face it: despite his machine like intensity on the drums, he never seemed to burn too many calories.  That’s most likely because he never slowed down the drinking.  I mean fuck me did this guy and his brother, the late Dimebag Darrell, know how to party or what??

As I said before, I’m not here to discuss what everyone else is bound to write about.  I’m going to talk about why this son of a bitch from Arlington, TX will forever have a spot as one of the greatest drummers of all time.

So what the fuck makes a musician one of the best?  That person is able to make himself recognizable in songwriting style, technique, skill and sound.  That guy has to be able to make himself stand out.  From non metal guys like Stewart Copeland and Phil Collins (yeah, Phil Collins was a drum god at one point!) to hard rock drummers such as John Bonham to Vinnie’s own idol, Alex Van Halen, each of the guys I mentioned had the ability to make themselves easily distinguishable because they possessed all the qualities I just mentioned.  Vinnie, along with his brother, clearly knew this early on.  And while it would take three independently recorded albums before they were signed to their first deal, the wait would be worth it, because they, along with Rex Brown and Phil Anselmo, created a new sub genre of Metal, making them the single most important Heavy Metal band of the nineties.  Pantera were to be the band that single handed SAVED Metal during the rise of the Grunge scene, and later Alternative music.

Starting with their fourth album, 1990’s Cowboys From Hell, Pantera burst out like a goddamn raging bull with tracks such as the title track, “Psycho Holiday”, “Heresy” and everyone’s excuse to mosh, “Domination”.  There are other classics on there that I could’ve named just now but I chose the ones I just mentioned because those tracks are filled with an extraordinarily seamless combination of interlocking with…groove??  Oh yeah, Vinnie never lost the groove no matter how mechanical or technical those tracks were.  He’d explain years later that, while he respected drummers with fast left hands (think blast beats), he was more concerned about making people move.

1992’s Vulgar Display Of Power saw Pantera develop a much edgier sound all around.  I mean they were already edgy, but starting here the band were starting to sound more like the soundtrack to a fist fight!  Between Phil’s rougher vocal delivery to Diamond Darrell…as he was unfortunately still calling himself at the time…downtuning his guitar and those drums.   Unlike most Thrash bands, Pantera were not JUST about precision and speed.  Vinnie Paul as a drummer was more than JUST an anchor.  He knew when to keep it tight and he also knew when to let loose and just go with the shuffle:

With tracks such as this one above, and “No Good (Attack The Radical)”, you started to hear Vinnie’s creativity.  There are syncopated rhythms in “No Good” that sounded so new.  They’d also be the basis for shitty nu metal bands later on but I’ll get to that soon.

1994’s Far Beyond Driven.  Without question it’s THE most important album in Pantera’s history.  Why?  Because it debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.  No Metal band before Pantera had EVER pulled that off before and now no one could EVER take that away from them.  It is also the HEAVIEST album to EVER debut at No. 1.  With the opening track, “Strength Beyond Strength”, your ass is kicked immediately.  It’s one big explosion and Vinnie’s much louder, much more POWERFUL drums are taking full charge.  Sounded like Vinnie had done some tinkering in the studio, both with his drum kit, as well as with the mixing board.   I mean goddamn – just listen to this fucking track!!!

I said earlier that to be the best you had to find your own sound among other things and Vinnie’s drums sounded so much deeper than on any other album up to this point.  Turns out he in fact was tuning his heads real low…like almost to the point of being loose.  And those bass drums!  They sound so triggered.  But as the story goes, while in the studio, Vinnie used wooden beaters in the studio and also taped quarters on his bass heads, right at the spot where the beaters would make contact.  The result was a clicky, yet stronger, clearer, more powerlful bass drum.  It’d also set the tone for the way many other, far more extreme Metal bands would record in the years to come.

If his brother, who was finally going by Dimebag at this point, was to be my generation’s Eddie Van Halen, then Vinnie was to be my generation’s Alex.  Both were brothers, both played together for so long that they could read each other’s minds with ease.  They both understood each other.  But on the downside, Alex, amazing as he was, was clearly destined to be overshadowed by his game changing brother.  Vinnie would be no different.  Dime’s playing and his SOUND were a MASSIVE game changer at this time, and rightfully so.  But every guitarist, bassist, or even singer are only as good as their drummer.  Eddie would’ve been just some asshole who taps had it not been for Alex.  Dime would’ve probably just been a guy with a scooped sound and a whammy bar had it not been for Vinnie.

Take for example “13 Steps To Nowhere” off 1996’s The Great Southern Trendkill.  This unmistakably is THE darkest, most intense album in Pantera’s entire discography – and my personal favorite!  It’s a headbanger for sure, very Sabbath inspired with just enough technicality to justify it as old school to the core.  It sounds like Vinnie here perfected the trigger sound on his bass drums, and found just the right EQ setting for his low tuned toms, as they cascade from high to low before Phil’s fucked up verses.  Right in the middle, the Sabbath moment takes over as the song breaks down beautifully, allowing Vinnie’s drums to breathe.  You hear every nuance, every reverberation, every BOOM.  It’s pure destruction.  It’s so sexy.

Then a problem arose in the music world.  In the four years between the release of ‘Trendkill and their final album, 2000’s Reinventing The Steel.  Starting with KoRn, actually going back to ’94, several “Nu” bands came along and tried to focus strictly on groove.  The guitarists all had a scooped sound, they all tuned down lower than even Dime thanks to the revival of seven string guitars; the drummers were playing nothing but snycopations, especially shit bands like Disturbed; and the singers all wore green shorts like Phil and were all just angry without a cause (well to be fair Jonathan Davis was apparently molested as a kid).  Unfortunately, Pantera were to get the blame for this, as most of these fuckers freely cited Vulgar as a major influence.

But the biggest problem with all those fuckfaces – and the biggest reason music SUCKED in the early 2000’s – was that they completely missed the point.  Pantera as a band, and as individual musicians, took close to a decade to perfect their sound.  Did any of them understand that Dime and Vinnie were insanely talented musicians since they were kids?  Did any of those retards know that Pantera started out in 1983 as a GLAM band??  Oh it’s true.  It took years for them to develop into a harder sounding band.  It also took the drive to always want every album to be better and better.  Thanks to their refusal to truly do their homework – and actually learn to play their instruments – these Nu/Rap Metal pieces of shit chose to just be followers…and ultimately forgettable.  Thankfully.

After the break up of Pantera in 2003, Vinnie and Dime went on to form Damageplan.  Their sole album, 2004’s New Found Power, was a major change in their sound.  The brothers wanted to try something new and while I surely wasn’t a fan of all the track on the record, I understood that this was an experiment and perhaps things would change.  I was however a fan of a the beyond sludgy “Moment Of Truth”.  It’s so slow, so heavy and it allowed Vinnie to sound like nothing short of a fucking jackhammer.

Unfortunately, as we all know, that second album would never happen, as Dime was gruesomely murdered before years end while on stage.

Vinnie stayed away from the public for a few years afterward.  His final band would be Hell Yeah.  I’ll be honestly.  I don’t mean to disrespect Vinnie, but he could’ve done so much better than joining a “supergroup” with the assholes from Nothing Face and Madvayne.  If he enjoyed himself, then hey good for him.  But I personally found Hell Yeah to be so beneath what he was capable of.

His unexpected death last Friday marked the end of en era, and a musical dynasty.  If you’re new to this blog you’re expecting me to say some shit like “he’s with Dime now”.  Not here.  I’m athiest.  I don’t believe that shit.  But with his death, gone are the one family that were as successful and ultimately as influential as they were playing this kind of music.  No one before the Abbott brothers could pull it off and no two brothers have repeated it just yet.  Vinnie Paul alone changed the game with his signature sound, and many drummers will say that they started playing because of Vinnie Paul.  In fact, while in the middle of writing this I stopped to write a new Spotify playlist, featuring my favorite Vinnie Paul moments in Pantera and even Damageplan.

To end this I’m going to leave you with the very first Pantera video I ever watched back in 1996 on an episode of Beavis and Butthead.

Rest In Peace Vincent Paul Abbott 1964 – 2018