All Hail Riff God: Jerry Cantrell Live At The Music Box at Borgata, Atlantic City, NJ April 2nd, 2022

It had been nearly twelve years since I last saw Jerry Cantrell alongside Alice In Chains in Madison Square Garden. Before that I’d seen Alice months earlier at Terminal 5. THAT show was an absolute religious experience, as well as a dream come true. NO ONE ever imagined that Alice would ever get back together following the death of lead singer Layne Staley. It’s hard, even now, to describe how surreal their return was and still is.

But then there’s Jerry’s solo career. See, there’s a reason his solo career holds a major significance in my life: because if it weren’t for hearing “Cut You In” I would’ve never bought Boggy Depot. If I never bought Boggy Depot I would’ve never been floored by not just the intensity of his rhythm and lead guitar style, but especially his songwriting. And if it wasn’t for any of that, I would’ve never given Alice In Chains a chance.

In my formative years, while my friends in high school were busy sucking Cobain’s dick long after he blew his brains out, I was enamored in everything involving the one Seattle guitarist that was overshadowed by, yet far more talented than that bitch. You’re reading that correctly for anyone who’s new this blog:

Fuck Kurt Cobain and anybody that looks like him. Read that again so it sinks in.

Jerry, along with Zakk, Dimebag, Mustaine and Iommi, had a MAJOR impact on my guitar playing and he still does today. With Boggy Depot, I worshipped Jerry when people either were unaware of him or simply didn’t give a shit. To this day that’s a crime.

That’s why I was looking more forward to this than I was when I saw him twice with Alice. I was FAR more excited for this than I was to see Zakk a few months ago! This was bound to be special because we all knew he’d break out songs that we, his TRUE fans, never thought we’d hear again. And he sure didn’t fail to deliver, although there was something about this that had me wondering, which I’ll eventually get around to discussing.

The Music Box, the Borgata Casino venue in which Jerry played was significantly smaller than what I imagined. It was far more intimate, which meant I’d be able to go to the front of the stage, which I did. That’s when I found this:

Tell me that isn’t sexy.

You bet your ass I was tempted to at least touch that wah pedal, but I chose not to.

The opener was Lola Collette, who’s sound is decidedly…different…from what you’d expect from someone opening for someone like Jerry Cantrell. She’s very talented, don’t get me wrong. But she does sound like she would’ve fared better in the mid 90’s. I can only imagine that she got the gig thanks to her history with Tyler Bates, Jerry co-guitarist for this tour. She’s a multi-instrumentalist, playing bass, guitar and one hell of a piano. But let’s just say that, even with that big nose of hers she received equal parts applause for her music and cat calls.

Then he came on…

The Setlist:

Your Decision (Alice In Chains/Black Gives Way To Blue)

Between (Boggy Depot)

Brighten (Brighten)

Them Bones (Alice In Chains/Dirt)

Psychotic Break (Degradation Trip)

Cut You In (Boggy Depot)

My Song (Boggy Depot)

Siren Song (Brighten)

No Excuses (Alice In Chains/Jar Of Flies)

Black Gives Way To Blue (Alice In Chains/Black Gives Way To Blue)

Had To Know (Brighten)

Heaven Beside You (Alice In Chains/Alice In Chains)

Prism Of Doubt (Brighten)

Angel Eyes (Degradation Trip)

Would? (Alice In Chains/Dirt)

Encore

Atone (Brighten)

Man In The Box (Alice In Chains/Facelift)

Rooster (Alice In Chains/Dirt)

Goodbye (Elton John/Madman Across The Water)

The Pros

I was never a fan of The Dillinger Escape Plan; but being in Jerry’s band has certainly provided Greg Puciato a chance to show what he’s capable of doing outside of his former band. No diving off of balconies or off stages into the ocean here! He was a tad pitchy at times, but you could FEEL his passion and energy and I now understand why Dillinger drummer Gil Sharrone urged Jerry to reach out to Greg. Greg was given the lead for “Them Bones”, “Man In The Box” and “Rooster” and he did things that not even current Alice singer William DuVall can do.

Jerry took advantage of his expanded band, which included a lap steel guitarist and a piano player to not only perform several tracks off Brighten, but to also pull out rarely heard Alice tracks. I never thought I’d EVER hear “Heaven Beside You” live! I certainly didn’t expect Alice to ever perform “Black Gives Way To Blue” live, and I honestly wish he didn’t pull it out last week. As of 2019, “Black…” is one of two tracks that trigger memories of my now deceased brother, so it was the last thing I needed to hear in a crowd that big.

As you can see in the video, he sure had a funny way of singling out everyone who wasn’t standing. I imagine everyone just wanted to absorb this ULTRA RARE moment of seeing Jerry in a solo capacity again, but he just was not having it. Jerry himself was in top form. His voice was incredibly strong and his guitar playing was fucking God-like. Everything he did looked absolutely effortless. Everything. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: YOU DON’T NEED TO BE A STEVE VAI LEVEL GUITARIST (No disrespect to Steve Vai!) TO CONNECT WITH YOUR AUDIENCE!!!!!!!!

The Cons

Notice how many Alice songs are on this setlist. This is an actual complaint a lot of people are making. I loved this show. I get that Jerry had a golden opportunity to pull out certain Alice songs and he took full advantage. But on the flipside, he had a HUGE opportunity to perform a deep dive of his solo albums – one of which is a double album (Degradation Trip)!!! – and he didn’t. I loved hearing “Psychotic Break” and “Angel Eyes” live. But it would’ve been a real treat to have heard “Hellbound”, “Spiderbite” or even “Pig”.

That’s just a minor complaint from me though. What matters more than anything else is that this was a very rare privilege. So, if you’re one of those YouTubers bitching that he allegedly didn’t sound good or he didn’t play enough of his own solo shit, just go get a fucking sex change already, you fucking cunts.

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!

Giving The Devil His Good Name Back – The Metal Mike Show, September 9th 2004

In my very first post here I briefly mentioned that I used to DJ for my college radio station.  Hell, that show, without question is the precursor to this blog because it gradually became my first platform to just talk shit AND not get in trouble for it.  But that’s a story for another time because how I got this fucking show so easily requires a bit of a back story anyway.  Oh, by the way, I won’t be mentioning which station it is because I don’t feel like giving anyone any undeserved attention.

So, I decided to give my station a shot in April, 2004, thinking I wanted to be a DJ.  I liked the idea of being able to play music and not be seen.  To this day it’s amazing how UGLY some of the top DJ’s in the country really are.  But since they sound great who the fuck cares?  I went through two meetings, one with the personnel director and the second with the station’s chief engineer…part super genius…part angry, bitter, and an all around asshole.  If Gregory House was a real person he’d be this guy! What made me laugh inside was in despite only being in his mid-30’s, the combination of his skullet and his awful 70’s looking moustache made this fucker look like an ex-member of the Doobie Brothers.

If I’m not mistaken I took the test a good week later and passed with just two wrong answers.  I originally chose to join the Music Department because that meant I could review records for play as well as maybe even dictate what got played at all, the first CD I ever reviewed being Black Label Society’s low key masterpiece, Hangover Music, Vol.6, which I was also able to burn and leave at the station while I took the original copy home.   But long story short the director at the time let no one do anything with her, frustrating me, so I joined the Engineering Department.  I had wanted to join Production but, at the time, it was mandated that you couldn’t do shit in production unless you knew how to run the board properly.

Some time goes by, the middle of summer arrives, and I was approached by the newly appointed engineering director about being his assistant.  Why?  Neither he or anyone else wanted the only other person around to be involved because that’s how lowly they all thought of him.  We’re talking a really nice guy too.  And there you have it, proof that even college radio isn’t clean of slimy politics!  So, from then on until I left for good in early 2007 I was the Assistant Engineering Director of my station.  But of course there was something else I wanted, and part of the process I didn’t even have to go through.

While I had applied for a show to start in the fall semester, I didn’t have to make an audition tape, and all because I was an engineer.  In other words, I already knew how to operate the board.  Before I was told that was even getting my first show I was approached by another DJ from the Production Department about covering him because he wasn’t able to get out of work.  It was easy enough, his show had a specific format which he wrote down for me – all I had to do was follow the bullet points.  So there I was, fresh from sitting in with the two BEST DJs in the whole station at that time – both actually being alumni volunteers at that point – and DJing my first show.

It was a little nerve wracking, I was already engineering and cohosting someone else’s public service show on Mondays for a month at this point, but this was the first time I was on my own.  After reading off the most important bullet point of this guy’s show he surprised me by calling me up.  I didn’t think he was listening but here was telling me I rock and even complimenting my voice.  And after I finished up, that angry chief engineer – who can still go suck a dick and die – even told me he liked my voice.

Thursday, September 9th, 2004.  This day would see the launch of the Metal Mike Show at 4pm.  My then guitarist, Chad, jokingly suggested I call myself Metal Mike.  A manager of mine at work suggested Iron Mike, but some at the station just didn’t like it.  For a few weeks prior to this I had hand drawn ads and plastered them all over the walls of every single building on campus, as well as on the walls of music stores where I lived and even in places in Manhattan, especially the now defunct Manny’s Music on w 47th St.  The guy whose show I covered for read the script for my station promo and immediately asked if he could read it on mic.  It was hysterical hearing him read “It’s time to give the devil his good name back…Hell never sounded so good!”, with as much bass as he could get out of his voice.

With two hours to go I began writing down my playlist for the next three hours, trying to find a balance between the music I wanted to play and the music I’d be required to play.  There were two other metal DJ’s who happily pigeonholed themselves to two extremes, one to Black Metal so underground the bands themselves don’t even know if their demo tape is even circulating, and another guy that loved to cater to his drunk following in England, playing nothing but Swedish Melodic Metal and Power Metal.  Power Metal…GAY.  I wanted to be the balance between those two guys, being a fan of almost all types of Metal…expect Power Metal or anything related to it.  I’d like to think I did a good job with that over the next two plus years.

Ten minutes to go.  I walked in to the On-Air room where another DJ was getting ready to wrap things up, this was on of the two people I sat in with.  Now this woman had an incredible radio voice.  She’ll be oh so shy talking to you but when she’s on air she gets so sensual to the point that you’d think it was a different person.  Looking on the instant messenger on the computer screen I already had to messages.  One was from my dad, who had tuned in on his office computer to hear me, the other being some jackass in the station busting my balls “I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY ACTUALLY GAVE YOU A SHOW!”  I think I know who it was.   She left, I played a few PSA’s to get settled in, my show’s promo, followed by my favorite station ID track…and off we go!

I had Ozzy open up my show with “Miracle Man” off his classic 1988 album, No Rest For The Wicked.  This was Zakk Wylde’s recording debut with him and I was such a Zakk fanboy at the time.  Also, that opening riff is just huge!  Nerves hitting me so hard, I couldn’t help but practically scream right into the mic once the song ended.  I knew I needed to calm down but I was so nervous I just couldn’t stop myself!  After screaming out the station’s phone number for requests I immediately but on Death’s “Bite The Pain”, a request for one of those two metal DJ’s I mentioned before.  I tried to do everything I could to calm myself down.  It took awhile but as time went on I got a bit more comfortable…until someone came to check on me.

It was 6pm, two hours down, one to go.  Someone asked me how I was doing and as soon as I said ok it went downhill.  I put on Black Sabbath’s “Fairies Wear Boots”, only for it to start skipping.  So I quickly put “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” on the second CD player…and THAT started skipping.  So I pulled out Metallica’s …And Justice For All CD, put on “To Live Is To Die”…and THAT began skipping.  FUCK!  I had no choice but I go back on air and try to save myself.  Luckily for me, the rest of the show went off without a hitch before the next DJ came to relieve me.  All in all I had fun; I clearly had a lot of work to do as far as calming my nerves so I don’t scream into the mic, but this was the beginning of a time that would consume the next two years of my life.

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In Memory Of Nick Menza

“TELL ME THIS ISN’T TRUE! I woke at 4 AM to hear Nick Menza passed away on 5/21 playing his drums w/Ohm at the Baked Potato.”

Well Dave, it’s true, sadly – not to mention extremely random!  Guess this serves you right for trying to low ball the guy just last year, eh?

I woke up very late today, having slept in after a very long powerlifting meet, which I’ll write about another time.  My girlfriend woke up after I did when I realized we slept the entire morning and she went to her phone.  “Holy shit!”, she said with the look of sheer shock on her face, and that when she showed me the Blabbermouth article:

“Former MEGADETH Drummer NICK MENZA Dies AT 51”

“WHAT?!”  I proceeded to read that he had passed out on stage in Studio City, Ca last night, three songs into a set with Jazz Fusion band OHM and was pronounced dead on arrival, most likely of a heart attack.  How ironic.  Because a heart attack is exactly how OHM’s last drummer, David Eagle, died just a year ago.  To further add to the irony for those of you who are completely unaware, OHM is fronted by ex-Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland.

A lot of musicians have been dropping like flies all year, most of them I truly could give two shits about but THIS is just a tad too random for me.  And it bothers me because this guy was seriously such a great drummer.  Everything he did, whether it was complicated or simple, sounded amazing because his feel was perfect.  Every time.

It definitely showed on those four albums he did with Megadeth, even on Cryptic Writings, the beginning of the band’s downfall as far as I’m concerned.  Listen to anything off his first two albums with them alone, Rust In Peace and Countdown To Extinction, and you’ll probably have no choice but to agree that he was probably the most athletic drummer Megadeth ever had.  Gar Samuelson was jazzy, Chuck Behler was damn good too, but neither Gar or Chuck had Nick’s energy.  Oh, it also helped that he had an incredible physique to go with that ability!

I wrote an article about Nick just over a year ago, not too long after I began this blog.  At the time it had been revealed that both Nick and Marty Friedman were in talks with Dave Mustaine regarding rejoining the band, prompting a full-on Rust In Peace-era reunion.  Problem?  Mustaine wanted to pretty much low ball Nick to the point that he’d be getting pennies in plain English.  Not too long before that he approached Mustaine during NAMM and Mustaine completely brushed him off – very immature for a guy that said he fired Nick from the band back in 1998 because of his immaturity.  Hey Dave, so…who’s the immature one now, Mr. Born-Again Bitch?

On top of that I’ve been seeing some recent pictures of Nick in the last few hours, he was looking really good and clearly looked like he was having a lot of fun on stage too.  My condolences go out to his family.  Here are a few tracks to demonstrate the sheer talent of Nick Menza without resorting to “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due”.

Rest In Peace Nick Menza 1964 – 2016

“Hey, I hear you don’t like beatdowns?!” Shadows Fall live at L’Amour: August 10th, 2003

I first read up on Shadows Fall in a brief one page Guitar World article in 2000, discussing the release of their newest album, Of One Blood, which featured the debut of vocalist Brian Fair.  I’m pretty sure I still have that magazine in my attic somewhere in a big ass bin of old GW back issues….along with a shit load of Muscle And Fitness mags that I stole from my ex-job…several times.  Those security guards were and probably STILL are dumb as SHIT.    All these years later I can’t remember why it didn’t get my attention much in a time when Pantera was just a month away from releasing Reinventing The Steel, and shit rap-metal and pussy pop punk was king; but it was most likely because I read that they mixed thrash and death metal with rhythm guitar Matt Bachand’s love of new-age music.  At that time I most likely too young or ignorant to understand the idea or even give it a listen to see how the band melded such styles together.

That changed two and a half years later, by which point I was a few weeks into my college career.  They once again were featured in Guitar World, this time discussing their newest album, The Art Of Balance.  This time around, the article focused on the fact that lead guitar Jon Donais actually shreds his ass off on the record.  Both he and Matt discuss their love of all kinds of metal, as well as the fact that at that point in time the ONLY other guitarists known for TRULY shredding it up were Dimebag Darrell and Zakk Wylde.  True story.  So I was interested.  Then, I started seeing ads for the album in magazines featuring quotes from these rave…and I mean RAVE…reviews, calling Shadows Fall “The Next Metallica”, on the heels of the fact that this CD was supposed to have such a purist, old school thrash feel.  Ok…I was sold.  So I went to Sam Goody, maybe around Christmas time, bought the CD, and my ass was instantly KICKED so hard.  The riffage was very thrash.  Jason Bittner’s drums were so precise and so freaking fast on his debut recording with the band, Brian Fair really did sound like Ride The Lightning – era James Hetfield.  Then, there was those guitar solos.  Jon Donais is an AMAZING lead guitar player.  There are guys who shred to blow their load by showing off their knowledge of every scale known to man and there are guys like Jon who shred with aggression, technique…and feel.  GASP!!!  Not too long after this I finally heard Of One Blood and realized what I was missing out on because that record is even MORE brutal than The Art Of Balance!

Sometime in the summer of 2003 I was in a Hot Topic – the second to last time I ever went into one – and I found myself talking to the guy behind the counter, whose name I no longer remember.  The discussion turned to musical styles.  Around this time, the nu-metal/rap metal train was close to FINALLY crashing, but so-called hardcore with breakdowns that the kiddies would breakdance too was starting to become the new trend.  This guy played in a band called Resin and they liked to do those breakdowns.  Too bad.  But he told me that his band would be opening for Chimaira and Shadows Fall within a month and he had to sell tickets (gee, I wonder where I heard that shit before) and of course I told him I’d go.  They were practically THE only modern metal band I was giving the time of day.

So a month later my mom insisted on driving me to L’Amour on 63rd St, most likely because she was a sissy who couldn’t bare the thought of my taking car service there even though I had done it just three months earlier, when I was last there to see Superjoint Ritual.  No sooner did I close the door to her car did I hear a voice yell out to me “Hey!  I hear you don’t like beatdowns??”.  I turned around there was all of Resin.  In the middle was their gruff looking singer, who yelled out to me.  To the left was the guy from Hot Topic…who clearly had a great memory!  So we spoke for a few minutes and they gave me my ticket.

Going into the show, which was an Ozzfest ’03 off-date, the bill was once again HEAVILY booked by the idiot guineas that ran the place.  I think the first band I remember seeing was this band of kids who did a cover of Sepultura’s “Roots Bloody Roots” that was played waaaaaayyy too fast.  Even when I was that age I never understood why younger bands just need to speed up even those songs that need to be played a little slower.  Is it nervousness?  Is it lack of understanding of dynamics?  The original tempo for the song was just right because it allowed Igor to put the right kind of groove in there and, more importantly, it allowed the heavy ass riffs to breathe.  Most times, fast never equates to heavy.  Heavy is not about tempo, or even volume for that matter.  It’s about attitude.  If you’re a young musician and you’re reading this, don’t ever forget this.  Dynamics, more important than ANYTHING else in terms of songwriting.

While seeing this one band one the main stage, whose guitarist was clearly trying so hard to be Dimebag Darrell, I recognized Jon Donais standing literally feet away from me.  I went over to him to discuss the band on stage because the guitar player was in fact really good and he put on the biggest smile and even gave me his full attention.  That solidified to me once for all the humility of the underground guys.  They were playing their first huge festival tour as The Art Of Balance was selling 100,000 copies, the first album in Century Media Record’s history to do so and they were still down to earth guys.  I went up to Brian Fair after seeing Jon and he too was a cool guy.  I saw a few more local bands including Full Blown Chaos yet again (and they sounded like shit yet again!) and Chimaira came out.  Long story short: they sucked.

Shadows Fall went on around 10pm and, long story short: they blew Chimaira out of the fucking water within the first minute of being up there.  Although that part wasn’t hard.  They were so good, playing songs from the two most recent CDs.

The Setlist:

Idle Hands

Crushing Belial

The Idiot Box

A Fire In Babylon

Stepping Outside The Circle

Thoughts Without Words

Of One Blood

Destroyer Of Senses

Serenity

The show was fucking incredible…and I totally forgive Brian Fair for wearing a Clash t-shirt that night!  At some point in the middle of the set, he asked us if we BOUGHT the new album and I’m pretty sure most of the crowd responded pretty positively…by which I mean horns in the air and loud chanting.  You could tell it meant a lot; let’s face it, bands in his position NEVER sell 100,000 copies of a record or even make that in combined album sales.  And that was a minor miracle compared to the success the band would see a year later!  What I did NOT know about that night was that it would be my last time going to the original L’Amour for anything.  They’d close down just over five months later in early February 2004.

Final Thoughts

Here’ a brief video of me squatting 235lbs for 6 reps without a belt last Thursday night.

I managed to pull this off without a belt and it was surprisingly easy.  Starting this week I began final preparations for my first meet happening on May 21st in Newark, NJ.  As of this past Sunday I’m focusing only on the big three lifts and light cardio, making my training sessions considerably shorter.

Discovering True Anger In Metal; My First Powerlifting Meet

Discovering True Anger In Metal

I bought my first Megadeth CD, Cryptic Writings, in 1998 when I was fourteen, almost a year after it was originally released.  I tried so hard to like it, I really did.  Fuck, I was anticipating a lot more from the guy who fired from Metallica AND named his band MEGADETH.  Come on! But I couldn’t.  It was way too fucking tame, even songs like “She-Wolf”, “The Disintegrators”, and even “FFF” were watered down compared to what I was expecting.  So I wrote ’em off like I did Metallica…especially after Risk!  That’ll just put you to fucking sleep!  At that time THE bands everybody my age listened to were the bands of the day like most kids do anyway, the bands in this case being Marilyn Manson (when he actually had balls), Korn (this was months before they became dead to me), OLD Metallica, Shit-vana (because it was some unspoken requirement to put that dead, talentless sack of shit on a pedestal), maybe one or two more that I can’t remember right now.

But over time I eventually discovered FAR BETTER songs from Megadeth thanks to WSOU like “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?” and “Sweating Bullets”.  Amazing.  It was near the end of my junior year in high school in 2001 when VH1 premiered their Behind The Music on the band.  Upon watching it my interest in the band was renewed before I even got to the fucking ten minute mark.  The intensity of everything from the way Mustaine alone grew up to the music being more badass than any riff Hetfield EVER came up with for Metallica to their beyond fucked up life style.  Then came the news that their next album, The World Needs A Hero, was to be heavier and a lot less radio friendly than the last two piles of shit.  And it was.  So over time I found myself buying most of the classics from their glory days.

Then near the end of 2001 I heard the news that Mustaine had remixed and remastered the band’s 1985 debut album, Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good!, including a forward written by Scott Ian (because he’s only THE biggest metal fan on earth), as well as brand new artwork.  Remember this?

killing original

So badass.  Not!  So, the weekend it was released I went over to Sam Goody (remember that place?) and bought it.  After a funny ride home from a cab driver telling me about all the girls he’s fucked I wasted no time and popped that shit right in my radio.  The piano intro to “Last Rites/Loved To Deth” was crystal clear thanks to this new mix.  I loved how it seemed to tell a story before the main riff kicked in.  Holy shit this is intense!  Listen to those double bass drums!!  The morbidity of the song as he says “If I can’t have you then no one will!”.  That crazy, frenzied solo – is he using his Bill Lawrence pickups as frets to hit higher notes???  Someone call 911 – he just RAPED his B.C. Rich Bich…and it was good!

So this set the tone!  The entire album from here on in was pure balls to the wall, heavy as FUCK, ridiculously technical, jazzy time changes thanks to Chris Poland, whose solos run circles around most metal guitarists.  Kirk who?!  This was pure drug-feuled ANGER!!  Dave Mustaine was fired from what was to be THE biggest band in the world and he desperately had something to prove.  He was out for BLOOD.  The peak of the album?  “Looking Down The Cross”.  This song completely summarizes the album as a whole.  It’s well arranged, twists and turns at the right spots, Mustaine’s shockingly intelligent lyrics, the second of his two solos on the song is so panic stricken that it perfectly painted the mood of the entire song!  The final track was “Mechanix”.  For those of you who are new to this shit or live under a rock this is basically “The Four Horsemen” with a faster tempo, no slow interlude, and alternate lyrics about a horny gas attendant.  Mustaine wrote the song before he joined Metallica and gave it to them along with “Jump In The Fire”, but when they fired him James and Lar$ changed the lyrics and added the two slower parts and made it the song you know on Kill ‘Em All.  It was fun hearing this version of it, way more straight forward, way more badass.

I don’t know if I should thank Dave Mustaine’s thirst for revenge, drummer Gar Samuelson for introducing Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson to speedballs or both.  But I’ll tell you what…Killing Is My Business… was absolutely BRUTAL in the year predating Slayer’s Reign In Blood.  And with Mustaine’s amazing remix technique the newfound clarity amplifies that brutality times ten.  THIS was what I needed so bad in a time when everyone around me was listening to THE lamest, shittiest music you could find on radio in early 2002.  I was truly alone in this aspect but I didn’t care.  When my friends were listening to either Mudvayne or shitty emo bands like Weezer I was deafening my ears with Killing… for a long time.

My First Powerlifting Meet

REvPS

So after lots of thinking I finally decided to sign up for my first ever powerlifting meet, figuring that if I don’t do it now I might not ever.  So as of earlier this afternoon I will be competing in Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate’s Jersey Rumble at the Ramada Inn in Newark, NJ on Saturday, May 21st.  I’ll be part of the Amateur Open in the 198lb weight class in the Raw Modern Division.  The Open begins between 2:30 – 3:00 but I have to be there at noon to be given the rules, warm up, etc.  I’m going to see how I like it, regardless of how I do – which won’t be great.  If I like it I’ll do it again.  I imagine that if so I’d do one more meet later in the year, either in New Jersey again or somewhere in New York, most likely upstate somewhere.  If things go well maybe I’ll join USAPL, which is an affiliate of the International Powerlifting Federation.  If you’re reading this and plan on going to this feel free to drop me a line.