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 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. But 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.
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 anyone copying his technique!
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 remember for anything, learn how to write a song.
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 and Enthralled come to mind. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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
Of Mice And Men
A Tout Le Monde
Die Dead Enough
Tornado Of Souls
Kick The Chair
Symphony Of Destruction
Back In The Day (featuring Exodus near the end of the song)
Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?
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?
I’m on social media these days more than I am on here writing articles because I’m super busy. Hopefully that’ll change soon. Here’s where to follow me:
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 DinosaursHere 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.
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.
I’ve been wondering for almost five years if they’d ever get a fucking clue and just call it a day. Then, this past Monday, Slayer made this bombshell announcement amid rumors of a huge summer tour lineup including Testament, Behemoth, Lamb Of God and fellow Big Four band Anthrax:
Well damn. There was just one thing for me to say….it’s about fucking time! In my opinion this should’ve been done nearly five years ago, as I said above. Why? Nothing against Paul Bostaph who’s currently in his second run with the band, but the band’s treatment and dismissal of Dave Lombardo – especially by Kerry King – was just fucking disgrace by all accounts. A few months later, guitarist Jeff Hanneman died of alcohol related cirrhosis of the liver. While they had already been touring with Exodus guitarist Gary Holt for a few years while Jeff was recovering from a near fatal spider bite, they should’ve stopped everything right there.
I’ve spoken about this in an article ripping Kerry for calling Jeff “worm food” back in 2015. Yeah, Kerry is a great rhythm player, he’s a really good guitarist, probably more technically sound than Jeff. But Jeff was the better songwriter, having written “Angel Of Death”, “Necrophiliac”. “Spill The Blood”, “Postmortem” and the perennial set closer, “Raining Blood”. Being that he was the one guy in the band that was more influenced by Punk than the others, his songwriting and playing style were far more reckless and chaotic than anything Kerry wrote. Same goes for his lead style, just pure balls to the wall ripping. It was never pretty and that’s why it was amazing. Here’s an example, go to the 1:42 mark for Jeff’s solo. By the way the music here is all his too.
I can spend this entire article kissing Jeff’s ass but here’s my point: like it or not Jeff was a KEY member of the band. With him gone, Slayer was officially nothing more than a tribute band. You know, that band that just goes out there for the money and play those signature songs they didn’t even write. Because every time they play “Angel Of Death”, their SIGNATURE song, it just does not look right seeing Gary on the left side of the stage – and by the way this is not to disrespect Gary.
But it’s like David Vincent and Tim Yeung going out on tour as I Am Morbid (I seriously cannot stop laughing at that name!). Yeah, David wrote almost all the lyrics to those classic Morbid Angel songs; but without Trey killing it on guitar it just sounds like a money grab before the tour even starts. From a non metal perspective it’s the equivalent of Aerosmith touring and recording without Joe Perry or Brad Whitford – BOTH of the band’s guitarists! – for five years. Who really gives a shit about Rock And A Hard Place? Certainly not I!
While it’s clear to me that both Kerry and Tom Araya are the two business partners of the band, Kerry most likely is the one that pushed and pushed to keep going. He’s much more shrewd of a business man. But there’s one problem. His songwriting style has changing DRASTICALLY since the earlier days, as he’s almost embraced shitty trends such as Nu Metal and it showed a little too much on 2001’s God Hates Us All. Wanna know why I’ll never give Repentless, a complete listen through? Because who in their RIGHT MIND wants to hear an entire Slayer record written by him? And if you say you do you’re just a fan boy and should go die – fucking slowly.
Tom, on the other hand, made it clear several times over the years that at his age he’s become homesick. He’s tired, and I think he’s kind of lonely without Jeff. Starting in the late eighties/early nineties, Tom and Jeff began a songwriting partnership that produced some of Slayer’s best tracks, including “War Ensemble”, “Season In The Abyss” and my favorite latter era track, “Eyes Of The Insane”. Jeff wrote the music but Tom wrote the lyrics. Here’s a statement Tom made to Loudwire in 2016:
“At 35 years, it’s time to collect my pension. [Laughs] This is a career move. I’m grateful that we’ve been around for 35 years; that’s a really long time. So, yeah, to me, it is. Because when we started off, everything was great, because you’re young and invincible. And then there came a time where I became a family man, and I had a tough time flying back and forth. And now, at this stage, at the level we’re at now, I can do that; I can fly home when I want to, on days off, and spend some time with my family, which is something I wasn’t able to do when [my kids] were growing up. Now they’re both older and mature. So now I take advantage of that.” Araya added: “Yeah, it just gets harder and harder to come back out on the road. 35 years is a long time.”
So I’m wondering if either certain business/contractual matters were finally resolved or Tom finally let Kerry know that he had enough. I personally think that at 56 years old he’s burnt out. It probably take it’s physical toll to scream like that every night at his age. Or just maybe he has enough common sense to understand that things can NEVER be the same with Jeff gone. Either way, the band has finally made the right call because at this point they’re more than beating a dead horse. I almost want to see this farewell tour. The lineup is fucking sick, and I can almost guarantee Anthrax is on there because they’ll probably have both bands on stage together at the end of every show to play a few songs together and it’ll be one big party as 2/4 of the Big Four. Hell, even Dave Mustaine said he’d like to put together one last Big Four show as his way of sending them off. Sounds actually really cool, considering the interband relationship between his own band and Kerry (Kerry was in Megadeth for five seconds before he got sick of Dave’s dictator-like approach). But will they agree to it? However, as I’ve hashtagged on Instagram posts for a while now, #nojeffnoslayer.
No Jeff, no Slayer. He’s not there and I’m not interested. Kerry and Tom, congratulations. You’ve had an amazing career, creating a legacy that’s UNDENIABLE. But please, after this is all over, make sure it stays that way. Don’t be like that pro wrestler that retires then almost as quickly comes back because they can’t stand to be away – or need the money. Here’s one of THE most fucked up songs the band ever released, written by Jeff:
Wen I began this blog in March of 2015, I clearly had no way of knowing that within months I’d begin paying tribute to the dying members of the classic Motorhead lineup as they slowly began dying. It started with drummer “Philthy Animal” Taylor, then a few weeks later we lost Lemmy himself, obviously signaling the end of the band. Then came the news earlier this month that we lost guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke on Jan 10, 2018 due to pneumonia. What a shitty way to start off the new year, because he was the last surviving member of the original lineup that brought us such filthy albums like Overkill, Bomber, and of course, Ace Of Spades.
Wanna know why those early albums were so influential? Yeah, Lemmy and “Philthy” brought the thunder, but Eddie brought the filth. Eddie’s guitar style is heavily rooted in blues, and rightfully so. But the way he incorporated it into the Motorhead sound was just…so…fucking…imperfect that it was perfect! His riffs, his speed, his ATTITUDE, the let it fly style in his solos. Add in that voice that sounds like Lemmy gargled fire and the result is pure, beautiful, disgusting filth and no one else can come close. When he left after 1982’s Iron Fist, shit was never the same. That’s not a knock, Motorhead continued to kick ass all the way until Lemmy died. But shit just seemed less filthy afterwards. Here are two examples from Overkill that show just how filthy Eddie’s playing was.
Rest In Peace “Fast” Eddie Clarke. October 5th, 1950 – January 10th, 2018.
There were lot of brutal albums that came out this year, from just about all forms of Extreme Metal. I knew by June that it’d be difficult to chose just one. It was so bad that I even put out an Instagram poll – in which just one person voted…which is why this year’s Album Of The Year…is actually a tie. One of these two is a record I had already reviewed over the summer, and the other one is a record that took me by surprise, not because I didn’t expect this one in particular to be any good – oh I did! – but the increase in songwriting quality and atmosphere absolutely blew me the fuck away. So let’s get started:
Municipal Waste – Slime And Punishment
I reviewed this record back in August, by which point it had been out for a few months. Here’s the link:
But in short, Municipal Waste are BACK. Five years away plus the addition of additional guitarist Nick Poulos to beef up their sound, did the band way more good that I ever expected. The album sounds fresh compared their previous albums, 2009’s Massive Aggressive and especially 2012’s The Fatal Feast, a seeming desperate attempt by the band to be more of a Crossover act.
The songs are all perfectly quick and to the point, with the longest one clocking in at just over three minutes. The guitars are way beefier, and singer Tony Foresta found the perfect vocal approach, using the same high pitched scream he’s used for the last few Iron Reagan albums. Bottom like: With Slime And Punishment, Municipal Waste found a formula that absolutely works for them, one that’s focused yet reckless at the same time. Let’s just hope they keep this for a bit, eh?
Key Tracks: Breathe Grease, Enjoy The Night, Shrednecks, Parole Violators, Poison The Preacher, Under The Waste Command, Think Fast
The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers
The other album that blew me away. I was dead set on making the Municipal Waste record my album of the year until this past October. The Black Dahlia Murder went through a possibly band shattering change two years ago when lead guitar Ryan Knight left the band just a month after the release of Abysmal and after four albums with the band. As far as I’m concerned, Ryan’s playing is what turned The Black Dahlia Murder into a full fledged Death Metal band. In his place they hired Brandon Ellis of Arsis, marking the second time the band has poached anyone from Arsis – which is fine because Arsis are absolutely fucking BORING. I never thought technical guitars with a black metal vocal could get so stale so fucking fast!
When I heard the band were releasing a new album I expected it to be good, until I heard this:
Oh fuck! I knew the band were Carcass disciples but I’ve never heard Trevor Strnad sound so much like Jeff Walker until this moment. Same with the music, it honestly sounds like the band’s best interpretation of Carcass during their early 90’s peak. A lot of the credit here goes to guitarist Brian Esbach, the only other remaining original member of the band, for seemingly NEVER forgetting where he came from and NEVER straying away from what has essentially become his signature songwriting style. You can hear any song from the band and know instantly who you’re listening too.
As mentioned earlier, BDM are essentially disciples of the old school and Nightbringers, at times, is without question equal parts Carcass and even Domination-era Morbid Angel – and if you’ve read this blog in the past you know I love that album! Tracks such as “Matriarch”, “Widowmaker”, “Of God And Serpent, Of Spectre And Snake”, “Catacomb Hecatomb”, “As Good As Dead”, are absolute balls to the wall musical masterpieces that, while calling on the band’s obvious musical influences, enhance the band’s own signature style, one that seems to easily convey every single negative emotion I could think of. I own every single BDM album going back to Unhallowed and that album was THE last time the band made me feel every negative emotion I knew of. That was fourteen years ago, by the way.
I love reading the lyrics sheets to these albums. Trevor Strnad’s lyrics at times are either straight out sadistic and very Poe-ish. Take for example these lines from “Kings Of The Nightworld”: Enshrouded in ebony mystery/Blacker than the darkest pitch/A bond of blood to death an drek/Seeking to defile everything which bears his name we will/Destroy you all the same sucking each vein we shall corrupt and dismantle/waging a war without end until/The head of the one fettered Christ doth sate/Our lust for revenge…”. Trevor never seems to run out of inspiration from the dark side.
So why was this a tie along with ‘Waste for Album Of The Year? Consistency. They never strayed to far from what works; they also have a unique signature sound that can reach out to more people than most modern Death Metal bands today. It’s the reason why Nightbringers was the biggest pre-ordered album in the history of Metal Blade Records. It’s the reason it’s a tie for my Album Of The Year.
Key Tracks: Of God And Serpant, Of Spectre And Snake; Matriarch; Jars; Kings Of The Nightworld; As Good As Dead; The Lonely Deceased
Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained
Speaking of Morbid Angel! I want to make it clear right now – if this came out earlier than it did it would’ve easily knocked off both ‘Waste and Black Dahlia for Album Of The Year without me hesitating. But I couldn’t write this post without mentioning Kingdoms Disdained. This is literally THE record no one saw coming regardless of how excited people were to hear Steve Tucker rejoined the band nearly three years ago.
I actually wrote an article on the situation at the time, debating whether David Vincent or Trey Azagthoth himself were to blame for that last pile of shit Morbid Angel released an it could’ve gone either way. Yeah, David is now a completely different person, but apparently Try is actually into techno. But with David’s departure, as well as the release of this track, it’s easy to see who wasn’t to blame after all:
Oh yeah. This right out the gate reminded me of something off Covenant…but with Steve on vocals instead of David. It’s absolutely brutal from beginning to end, chock full of polyrhythms, time signature changes, and the single most angry performance I’ve ever heard from Steve Tucker as a vocalist. Sounds to me like he felt the need to make a statement after being gone for twelve years!
Another great addition to the band is new drummer Scott Fuller. On tracks such as “For No Master”, “Paradigms Warped”, and “Architect And Iconoclast”, Scott shows that not only can he channel the legendary Pete Sandoval’s double bass expertise, but he also has his own feel and style. That’s important because…there’s only ONE Pete Sandoval. Back behind the controls for this one as former Morbid Angel and current Hate Eternal guitarist Erik Rutan. I wonder if he was intentionally trying to give Morbid as much of a bare bones sound as possible because this doesn’t sound like any of the other bands he’s produced over the years.
What I’m thrilled about most, as I’m sure most fans are, is hearing Trey rip it up in a way we haven’t heard in a long ass time. His solos remind me of the late Jeff Hanneman’s at times, always have. Oh yeah, there’s structure. But in that structure is so much dissonance and chaos, yet it all fits perfectly every single time. Not many guitarists can pull that one off. As one of my Instagram followers put it recently “thank fuck they are back!”. And more so than even ‘Waste, lets hope they keep this up!
Key tracks: Piles Of Little Arms, For No Master, Architect And Iconoclast, From The Hand Of Kings
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