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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rest In Peace Vincent Paul Abbott 1964 – 2018

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Pain In Recorded Form: Alice In Chains – Dirt

September 29th, 1992.  By the time this day rolled around the Grunge scene was at the top of the music heap.  Just a year earlier Soundgarden released the album that got them attention, Badmotorfinger; Pearl Jam, having risen from the ashes of Mother Love Bone, released their uber-boring debut, Ten; and of course, Shitvana released their craptastic shitsterpiece, Nevermind.  But on this day, Alice In Chains, on the heels of their 1990 debut, Facelift, and their 1991 EP, Sap, released their second album, equal parts Sabbath worship in music and lyrical documentation of the heroin addiction that would eventually claims the lives of two of the band’s members, Dirt.  Upon it’s release was probably THE darkest album to be released in the mainstream at that point in time, with most songs blatantly about frontman Layne Staley’s radiply growing heroin addiction.  But lets make one thing clear before I go any further, none of the guys in the band were squeaky clean.  This wouldn’t be a Seattle band if any of them were, right?  Hell, Jerry Cantrell admitted to taking Xanax during the recording of Dirt for severe clinical depression and was also drinking heavily.

Of course, heroin wasn’t the only subject matter tackled on the album, thanks to the handful of tracks written entirely by guitarist Jerry Cantrell.  In fact, one of those songs, “Them Bones” is the album’s heavier-than-fuck opener.  Written in a very Soundgarden-like 7/8 time, not even Kim or Chris on their best days could come up with a riff as crunchy as this.  Besides, it’d mean playing more than just single notes!  Add to that morbid lyrics about fearing death and a badass solo but Cantrell and you pretty much have a taste for what was to come.  This would definitely sound NOTHING like Facelift.  “Dam The River” kicks the door down immediately after “Them Bones” with even more drop-D Sabbath-style Metal.  It’s amusing when Cantrell explains that the song was written in retaliation for drummer Sean Kinney breaking a coffee table over his head and knocking him out because he wouldn’t shut the fuck up.  Musicians take note – this could be you.

Image result for alice in chains 1992                            Image result for alice in chains 1992

Alright, here’s the first set of Layne Staley lyrics, “Rain When I Die”.  There are a lot of things happening in the lyrics that’ve led to many interpretations from Layne predicting he’ll before he can even get help to him letting someone take the fall for something he did (a drug deal maybe?) to him claiming that even junkies have feelings.  That last one will forever be debatable as far as I’m concerned.  The music?  Pure Sabbath worship.  So many slow, snaky whammy bar dips, crying out throughout many layered guitar tracks.  It’s almost like the song’s an “Iron Man” tribute to Iommi himself, backed up by an absolutely solid bass vamp by Mike Starr.

“Sickman” is such a HUGE track, switching from a frantic riff that just makes you panic to a slow waltz tempo at multiple points.  Fuck, it sure makes me anxious while thinking about it.  But the real high point to this track is Layne’s layered vocal harmonies at the midpoint.  To most fans, the centerpiece to any classic Chains track is hearing Layne’s stacked harmonies.  They were always surprisingly well thought out and added almost a morbid sense of finally to such a doomy backdrop.  But this is also why Jerry Cantrell was and still is a GOD.  Taking a break from themes of morbidity “Rooster” is the most epic track on the record.  Written entirely by Cantrell, the song was a tribute to his father, a Vietnam veteran.  He was estranged from his father for years and this was his way beginning to mend fences.  It clearly worked: his father is interviewed on camera for the intro to the music video.  And Jerry plays the part of his father in the video.  It’s actually very powerful:

Following up the band’s big “Kumbaya” moment we’re thrown right back into heroin hell with “Junkhead”.  I don’t think I need to explain what’s going on here: “What’s my drug of choice?/What’ve you got?/I don’t go broke/And I do it a lot”.  But it almost sounds like Layne was letting everyone know that he’d become one with the fact that he was junkie and didn’t care, especially when he sings that “You cant understand a users mind/But try with your books and degrees/If you let yourself go and open your mind/I’ll bet you could do it like me and it ain’t so bad”.  It’s almost as if we was writing his own eulogy.

Following that is the snaky title track.  It’s yet another Cantrell-style exercise in Sabbath worship, but with an atmospheric tone that is almost unpredictable, even if it also sounds like the end of something is coming.  It’s pure depression.  Of all the tracks on here, especially “Angry Chair”, this to me is the track that just oozes pure emotional pain.  When first heard Layne sing the lines “I want you to kill me and dig me under/I want to live no more” I totally believed it.  Just remember, heroin isn’t necessarily the type of drug that makes you energetic like cocaine.  It’s supposed to provide a supposed euphoric effect but as far as I’m concerned it just makes people more depressed and makes them more withdrawn, or more of an asshole.  Used for pain my ass!  The final moments, in which the tempo gradually slows down, reminds me of someone going to sleep…or fading away.  Was that was Layne was thinking when he heard what Jerry came up with?

Now, long before some piece of shit New England band took their name from an Alice song and even stole their logo, “God Smack” was another track about heroin.  It’s admittedly not one of the best tracks on here but I definitely love the main riff.  Remember me mentioning an “Iron Man” tribute in “Rain When I Die”?  It happens again in the short interlude track “Iron Gland”, featuring vocals by Tom Araya.  “Hate To Feel” is the first of two tracks written entirely by Layne Staley, music and everything.  The riff is very bluesy, yet very Sabbath inspired, based on it’s single note main riff, the backdrop to lyrics in which Layne blames his father for his addiction.  In later years he claimed that he’d try to get sober and his father would come by asking him for drugs, so it’s possible.

The next, and last track written completely by Staley is one of THE most memorable and breath taking tracks, “Angry Chair”.  I did say “Dirt” was the track with the most pain, but “Angry Chair” was the track where Layne not only describes in detail the horrible withdrawal symptoms of heroin, but also gives to clear of a picture of his own mental state.  It’s such a jaw dropping lyric, even if he is seemingly predicting his own end as he sings “Loneliness is not a phase/Field of pain is where I graze/Serenity is far away…”.  Considering it’s one of the first songs Layne ever wrote entirely it’s a masterpiece.

“Down In A Hole” is one of the darkest love songs Cantrell or anyone for that matter has ever written.  His harmonizing with Layne is spot on before Layne takes off on his own.  Unsurprisingly, he was apparently high as fuck while recording his vocals for this one.  What is kind of surprising is how he was clearly able to keep himself together while recording his masterful triple harmony lines near the end.  I’d show you the video but it honestly is lame so here’s the song.

Originally written for the Singles soundtrack and therefore recorded before the band even went into the studio for Dirt, “Would?” is the albums closing track.  Also written by Jerry, the song was written about Andrew Wood, the lead singer of Mother Love Bone who died of a heroin overdose on the eve of the band’s debut album release.  This is actually very significant to not just Dirt‘s roots but to the Grunge scene’s future.  Many people will say that before Wood’s overdose the music that came out of Seattle was for the most part nowhere near as sad and angry as it would become.  In fact, it was said the he was full of life and energy nd everyone loved the guy.  So therefore his death took a toll on a lot of people.  One of the reasons Cantrell was on Xanax was apparently to help him cope with this.

As far as his lyrics were concerned, it was pointed at those who pass judgement on others for their mistakes, as bought up in the final chorus line “So I made a big mistake/Try to see it once my way”.  I guess I can see his view but I also can’t.  Maybe that was the point, being I’ve never touched a single drug in my life.  The music, and incredible display of soft and loud dynamics while never losing it’s aggression before Layne closes out the song, and this drug fueled shitstorm of an album by asking us “If I would could you?”.

The events following the release of Dirt could be comparable to see a legitimate prophecy live out.  In early 1993 bassist Mike Starr was fired from the band for his own drug problems and replaced by Ozzy bassist Mike Inez.  After a while the band stopped touring regularly after dropping off an opening spot with Metallica and rumors of Layne’s drug use ran rampant.  After the release of their 1995 self titled album and their 1996 MTV Unplugged appearance, where Layne looked like a fucking pink haired corpse, he went into hiding.  Aside from the band’s Music Bank boxset, no one really heard from Layne again, until he was found dead of his apartment in Seattle in 2002.  The autopsy report determined that he died two weeks before he was even discovered, making his death date April 5th, the exact day Cobain offed himself eight years earlier.  Mike Starr was found dead in 2011.

Dirt was Alice In Chains’ masterpiece.  It was as dark and heavy as any Heavy Metal album could be.  And Layne Staley’s lyrics were honest.  He didn’t play with words and guessing games with you, like that jackass Cobain did.  He told it like it was…and most likely as it was happening.  it was mentioned after he died but with Dirt, Layne seemed to really be prophesizing his own death, while Jerry Cantrell was his doomy, sludgy, pallbearer.

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Chris Cornell And The REAL Death Of Grunge

As I write this today, it’s probably been a few hours now since the funeral for Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, who literally shocked the shit out of everyone by hanging himself with a resistance band in his Detroit hotel just hours after he got off stage with the band.  How the fuck could Chris Cornell do this to himself, and why??  To everyone he seemed like the LAST person to be tempted to do such a thing.  A lot of things have been coming to light since the news passed, such as the fact that he’d apparently been taking the anti-anxiety drug Ativan.  One of the things that triggered Chris’s wife to called security on him in the first place was that, according to her, Chris sounded very slurred on the phone.  One side effect of a benzo such as Ativan is a drowsiness that happens to last for a long time.

But there clearly was no fucking way that Ativan alone could cause anyone to just say “fuck it” and hang themselves.  As I discovered the aspects of his horrid childhood in preparation for writing this post, including becoming a full blown junkie at just 13, having full access to heroin and prescription pills, we all discovered yesterday that there were visible signs of fresh track marks on his arms.  If he just relapsed recently it had to be while on the road, and therefore there could be no way his wife would’ve known.  Even creepier, in a way, is that during their set closer, “Slaves and Bulldozers”, Chris slickly slipped in lines from Led Zeppelin’s classic “In My Time Of Dying”.  No shit.  Here’s the proof:

Yeah, I’m sure him requesting to the band to actually play the actual song would’ve clearly raised a few eyebrows.  Lets face it, he probably knew what he was going to do.  But I’m not writing about this to discuss the details of his death, or his apparent life long struggle with drugs and depression.  You can clearly find that anywhere else.  I’m here to write about Chris Cornell the ICON.  Because like it or not, depending on who you ask he was probably more of an icon in music than that little bitch Cobain EVER was.  Why?  Because he literally was one of the originals.

There sadly is a lot of historical significance to his death, that can easily be compared to the day Soundgarden originally broke up a little more than twenty years ago.  Again, depending on whose opinion you ask for, especially the mainstream media shitheads, Grunge died when Cobain offed himself in 1994, causing record labels everywhere to find as many copycats as they could, or face the unnecessary fear of losing money quicker than Wall Street on Black Monday.  But ask anyone else, and they’ll most likely say that Grunge died the day Soundgarden called it quits because they were one of just two bands remaining from the original six band from Seattle to not just manage to stay together, but actually find success.

Long before Shitvana was even a thought Soundgarden was formed by Cornell, Kim Thayil and Hiro Yamamoto in Seattle in 1984.  In 1986 the band were featured on a compilation called Deep Six.  The first release by C/Z Records, it showcase the burgeoning Seattle sound featuring multiple songs from them, The Melvins, Skin Yard, Green River, Malfunkshun, and The U-Men.  While Chris’ immense vocal talents were not yet fully developed, you can clearly hear signs of things to come on this original version of “All Your Lies”, which was later re-recorded for their SST Records debut album, Ultramega OK.

Before I go any further I need to make something clear.  I truly feel now, as an older man of 33, that the term Grunge itself was blown out of proportion too much.  I understand the according to musical standards Grunge is supposed to be the combination of Punk and Metal, with each band leaning toward either genre over the other.  But I honestly feel like Grunge was just a scene, not a musical style.  Hell, just listen to any of the Big Four: Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice In Chains and Perl Jam.  Fuck the visions of flannel and stories of rampant heroin use among all of them – did ANY of them truly SOUND alike??  If you’re smart then you don’t need me to tell you that the answer is hell fuck no!  Especially in the case of Soundgarden and Alice!

But in the history books, it was Soundgarden who was the first Seattle band from that scene to be signed​ to a major label before any of them.  And while most people clearly weren’t ready for them just yet, it was clear that Cornell was a GOD on the mic, lending to a sound that was easily comparable to Robert Plant fronting Black Sabbath.

For example!

Did you hear that beginning scream blending in beautifully with Kim Thayil’s guitar feedback??  Just tell me that wasn’t EPIC as fuck!!  There are many Soundgarden/Grunge purists who favor Louder Than Love over the later albums, and it’s easy to see why.  But…they clearly didn’t listen to him, as Henry Rollins said in 2000, “peel the paint off walls!” during the song “Jesus Christ Pose” off their 1991 breakthrough album, Badmotorfinger.  Go straight to the 5:13 mark to here the wail of a GOD.

That’s the other most important quality of Soundgarden and especially Chris.  Dave Navarro just yesterday stated that the band were one of the rare few bands of the late 80’s to come out that had both talent AND substance.  The substance?  Chris’s lyrics.  The song “Jesus Christ Pose” is clearly a song about religious hypocrisy, as he sang:

And you stare at me
In your Jesus Christ pose
Arms held out
Like you’ve been carrying a load
And you swear to me
You don’t want to be my slave

But you’re staring at me
Like I, like I need to be saved
Saved, like I need to be saved
Saved

It was lyrics like these that made Soundgarden the thinking man’s metal band in the early 90’s.  But it didn’t end there.  Take this little sample from the song “4th of July” off their 1994 masterpiece, Superunknown:

Pale in the flare light
The scared light cracks and disappears
And leads the scorched ones here
And everywhere no one cares
The fire is spreading
And no one wants to speak about it
Down in the hole
Jesus tries to crack a smile
Beneath another shovel load

I know even Layne Staley or Jerry Cantrell couldn’t even think of lyrics like that.  Add the sludgy riffs and it sounds like a song not even a band like Crowbar could come up with!

This right here is pure Sabbath worship!

That’s what made someone like Chris Cornell a true icon of the Seattle scene, the so-called Grunge scene.  He was THE total package.  He had the talent, the substance, the deep thoughts.  His vocal talents alone were a legitimate RARITY in rock music, with a powerful wail that rivaled ANYONE’s singing during the 90’s.  His lyrics were thoughtful, his riffs could absolutely crush you, they could be so dreamy, and he could even weld them together seamlessly and it’d all make total sense.  Here’s one of my favorite tracks off Superunknown, called “Limowreck”, as an example.

It’s a shame that it took this album and the single “Blackhole Sun”(which I’m blatantly staying away from here) for Soundgarden to finally get the recognition they deserved, ten years after they formed and long after everybody that came along AFTER them got recognition.  This is actually important because Superunknown was released just a month before Cobain died, signaling the beginning of the slow death of what had become a trend so big that flannel was even being worn at fashion shows and sold at even Macy’s.  If you’re old enough to remember seeing the “Gen X” section in Macy’s then congratulations – you’re old!

As said earlier, a sizeable number will tell you Grunge died the day Soundgarden broke up in the spring of 1997.  They were one of the two original surviving bands from the Deep Six era, the other being The Melvins (Thank King Buzzo for introducing Chris and Kim to Drop D tuning).  So while it was a major shock when Soundgarden got back together in 2010, after Chris did several albums with Audioslave (Chris with the jerkoffs from Rage Against The Machine) and an abortion of a solo album with Timbaland, his sudden death is now of even more historical significance than ever.  Yeah, this is beyond tragic and my thoughts go out to Chris’s family.  But from a musical standpoint, we all can sadly say now that if you were to give Grunge a real death date it would be May 18th, 2017, as this so far is the ultimate Heavy Metal tragedy of the year unless something far worse happens.

Rest In Peace Chris Cornell

July 20th, 1964 – May 18th, 2017

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Hail Satan!

I recently restarted a facebook account after being off it for a good two years, strictly for the sake of promoting this blog.  Of course, though, I got curious and looked up some old friends I may have not spoken to in a while, which led me to look up and ex-guitarist of mine, Matt Holbowitch.  I immediately was blindsided when the page read “Remembering Matt Holbowitch”; underneath it was a status written by a friend of his about memorial service arrangements and he left his phone number.

I called him after being in a state of shock for a few minutes and, while I won’t get into the details, it was a pretty shitty situation, causing Matt to take his own life.  While I’m sure I’ll get into how we met in another post, I couldn’t help but remember what turned out to be our last phone conversation two years ago.  He was living in Missouri, where he was a diesel mechanic, and he called me after I threw the horns up in response to a video he posted on facebook of him playing “Flight Of Icarus”.  He asked me what it would take for me to go down there to hang for a week and I told him not much, but I never followed up.

I wish he reached out to me if he was having problems.  Fuck, I wish I kept in touch with him.  Suicide was not the way out, especially when you’re the father to a two year old and a one year old.  If you are reading this and you want to take your own life, do yourself a favor and go find someone to talk to because burying that shit will do you no good in the long run.

In memory of him I decided to cover “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” for my first true electric guitar video.  Why that one?  Because this guy was so fucking metal that his first words were “Black Sabbath”.  Not momma, not dadda.  Black.  Sabbath.  I doubt you can just make that up.  Because of that alone I salute him and say hail Satan!

 

Matt Holbowitch 1977 – 2016

 

“What’s Our Fuckin’ Name?!?!” Anaka Live At Black Bear Bar 7/16/16

Since I’ve moved to New Jersey nearly a year ago I truly don’t have many reasons to go back to New York City…for anything.  Dead serious.  So when I got an invite from Anaka frontman Jimmy Pallis to see them this past Saturday in Brooklyn, I couldn’t say no.  It’d been close to two years since I last saw them at Gramercy Theater so I was a little overdue.  Brief history for those of you who don’t know them:  The band was started by Jimmy and his guitarist brother Peter in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in 2000.  Since then Anaka has realeased five albums between then and last year, when they released The Unwavering, they’ve had their videos played on MTV (particularly “Rust And Jade” in 2004) and they even wrote a new theme song for The Ultimate Warrior when he made his brief return to wrestling in 2008.

But more important than any of that shit, they’re extremely loyal to their fans and you can tell that they love what they do.  If Jimmy and Peter were both willing to drive to my neck of the woods a year ago just to sell little ol’ me a ticket that should tell you something.  Jimmy also has  a great memory, when he texted me he told me he remembered I was out of state now and offered to mail me my ticket.  I forgot I even told him I was gone!  Now that I think about it…maybe I told him when he was at my house last time.

Anyway, I’ve also wanted to check out the Black Bear Bar for a while now, just too bad that it had to be in the heart of hipsterland, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  It’s times like this that I wish Williamsburg went back to being a hellhole – it’d probably be a hell of a lot more affordable than it is now.  There’s literally real estate there that pricier than even Manhattan nowadays!  So here’s how I’m going to do this: there were five bands on the bill and I don’t want to bore the shit out of you with one to two paragraphs on each band so I’m categorizing everybody in the groups, The Great, The Good and The Shitty.  Let’s start from the bottom since that’s how the show seemed to progress anyway!

The Shitty

So the first band on was The Crimson Syndicate.  The were loud, which did get me interested at first.  The singer could growl like a motherfucker.  The problems?  First off, what is it with bands that have two singers both practically doing the same fucking thing??  It’s one thing to have two singers with completely different roles, like 3 Inches Of Blood did until 2008.  Fuck, what’s the point at all?  I used to like Scar Symmetry a lot and even played them on my radio show frequently.  But when they decided to replace their departing lead singer with two guys I couldn’t help but place my head in my hands.  Next, they turned out to be Deathcore.  Enough said.  Worse?  They’re from Staten Island, home to guidos, guinea trash and lots of herion.  There’s not a lot of great music in Staten Island – but there are lots of drugs!

The Last Alliance from Queens was next.  I won’t be so brutal with them, at least they were tight and on point.  But I have no patience for the power/progressive metal shit.  Their guitarist did play some badass stuff at times and the singer has a hell of a set of pipes;  I will not deny him his due credit.  But the lyrical themes were so power metal that at times you could just taste the cheesiness.  Another no no for me?  Keyboards.

The Good

End All was the first band whose singer had a command over the audience.  He had a lot of energy and his voice fit the music perfectly.  The band’s music are a little more radio friendly than I’d normally go for but it still was heavy and it didn’t sound phony either.  The rhythm section were great.  The one thing holding them back from greatness?  The guitarist.  No, he didn’t suck at all – but his sound sure did.  This guy has a Dean Razorback going through a Peavey and I’d love to understand how he can get such a weak sound out of that!  It’s a shame because he could’ve easily cut through the band during his solos when the time came and, not that he was inaudible, but he just couldn’t cut through the mix.  If you’re THE guitarist in a one guitar band there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to be heard.  He was great but he should either work on the sound he’s getting out of that Peavey head or get an overdrive pedal to use just for solos, like an Ibanez Tubescreamer or a Boss Super Overdrive (I actually own both of these and love them!).

The Great

Proxima Control impressed me very much.  It’s hard to describe their sound.  It’s really heavy yet really melodic.  At first I really didn’t understand the point of one guitar playing a standard six string and another playing a seven string until they played this one riff were the seven string player was cleverly using the low seven – tuned down to G – to make whatever his co-guitarist was playing sound even beefier.  Just like that it all made sense because they weren’t doing that in every single song.  That’s what you call a great ear for dynamics, knowing the right place and the right time for everything.  It always makes all the difference.

The bassist probably impressed me more than anyone else in the band.  Not only could he keep up with those fast tempos with his fingers, sometimes hitting multiple notes at once, he can even tap out the licks and cleanly go back to plucking without skipping a beat.

Anaka were the headliners here.  No sooner do they get on stage did Jimmy yell out to the crowd “Brooklyn, New York!  What’s our fuckin’ name?!?!” to the roar of the crowd.  I was expect a full on moshpit like the one that got me pinned against the bar at Killarney’s, where I first saw Anaka back in 2012.  My left quad hurt for two weeks after that night!  At the end of this you’ll get a link to a playlist featuring a clip of their set as well as Proxima Control’s and End All’s sets.

The band were firing on all cylinders here.  Jimmy looked real hyper up there.  I don’t know if I gave him some of my C4 pre-workout and I just don’t remember or he was just amped up but he was wild up there.  And the screaming was probably the most intense I’ve ever heard it.  It’s not easy to keep up with after sixteen years so he had my respect there.  What really caught my eye more than anything was Peter’s guitar.  I was standing on his side of the stage and saw he had this gorgeous ESP guitar that resembled a cream Gibson Flying V, similar to Scott Ian’s new Jackson Signature V, but with EMG pickups instead of Duncans.

I had to know what the deal was.  So I went up to him and he let me know that he’s officially signed to ESP’s roster and he bought that guitar directly from them.  He even let me cop a feel, that neck feels nice.  Too bad he’s lefty because I really wanted to try it.  He also revealed to me that he’s now also endorsed by KHDK Electronics, you know, the pedal company co-founded/co-owned by Kirk Hammett.  He had the Ghoul Screamer on his pedalboard as a booster for his Dual Rectifier.  I have to admit, it had to be the thickest Pete’s tone has ever been.

Check out Anaka’s website from their music, facebook and upcoming shows, including North Music Venue in Long Island on July 29th.

http://anaka.net

You can also find me on facebook by clicking here:

https://www.facebook.com/Confessions-Of-An-Angry-Metalhead-1237695776242081/?ref=settings&qsefr=1

My next blog should be a review of Helix Nebula so stay tuned.

 

Possibly the best Ozzfest lineup ever? Ozzfest live at the Tweeter Center August 26th 2004

So just over a year since my last concert I was invited by my then-bandmates, Chad and Idrees, to go with them to see Ozzfest at the Tweeter Center in Camden, NJ on August 26th, 2004.  And if you looked at the main stage line up for this tour alone it’s easy to see why.  Dimmu Borgir (fake, pretentious, symphonic black metal), Superjoint Ritual (Phil Anselmo acting even dumber than the last time I saw him), Black Label Society, Slayer, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath.  Yeah, Judas Priest was THE big deal at the time, with the band announcing the return of Rob Halford on vocals just ten months earlier and following the release of the band’s box set.  The three of us definitely had our musical differences – making me wonder how I didn’t quit them earlier – with me liking a little bit of everything yet leaning towards heavier stuff more and more, Idrees listening to Thrash and ONLY Thrash, and Chad being the Power Metal guy who was practically jerking off every night to all things Iron Maiden and Steve Vai; but who the fuck doesn’t even remotely like Judas Preist??  I’m waiting….

The morning of the show they were supposed to come to my house with Idrees’s dad driving to pick me up.  They were very late and whenever I called either of their cellphones no one picked up and it really irritated me.  When they finally did show up I do remember letting them both have it, although I don’t remember their lame excuse.  Idrees’s dad reminds me of a cross between Nile Rodgers and Isaac Hayes, Niles in the voice department and Isaac in looks, it was pretty funny just hearing him talk.  We arrived in Camden around 1pm due to shitty traffic once we got off the NJ Turnpike; ever been to Camden before?  No?  Ok, ever hear Chris Rock talk about why you should never anywhere that has a Martin Luther King Blvd?  Well, we were on it and we saw why.  Here’s an example of what we drove through to get to this place:

  Image result for camden poverty 

Isn’t this just sexy?  I’d totally live here!

After maybe twenty minutes of my suddenly wishing we took Chris Rock’s advice and ran we finally got to the Tweeter Center, the huge outdoor arena placed in the location of the Armageddon we all apparently missed and right across the water from Philadelphia.  Idress’s really cool dad was going to spend his day at the New Jersey State Aquarium not to far down the road from us and right by the ferry that was bringing in drunken Philly trash for Ozzfest.  But I’ll get back to that later!

The three of us walked in to the horrible sounds of Otep on the second stage, having just missed God Forbid, who I really wanted to see.  They sadly broke up in 2013 but if you’ve never heard of them check out their 2004 album Gone Forever.  So we walked around for a bit, bought beads to throw at girls to have them show us their titties, etc.  We went back to the second stage because I wanted to see Lamb Of God.  They were literally five days away from release of their major label debut on Epic Records, Ashes Of The Wake, following the success of their last album, As The Palaces Burn, and it looked like they totally did a major gear upgrade with there being to big walls of speaker cabinets like only Slayer would do.

Chad and Idrees left me there because they weren’t fans of the band.  I think it was literally just too modern for either of them.  Lesson #1: if you’re only 19 years old – like these two knuckleheads were (I was a year older) – nothing is too modern for you.  Life’s too short to be THAT pretentious over music.  I may have just turned 32 but I still have an open mind!  Lamb Of God were absolutely awesome, playing a good chunk of their material from the last record as well as the first single off the new album, called “Laid To Rest”.  What I didn’t understand was Randy Blythe’s need to curse literally every other word – that’s not an exaggeration – as well as constantly saying he was in “Killadelphia” when we were actually across the water.  Dumbass.

My two dopey friends came back just in time to rescue me from Shitknot (I was a fan of them for a few years but 2004 was the year they broke my heart Godfather Part 2 style) and Hatebreed.  In fact, after LOG there were no others bands I wanted to see on the second stage at all!  So we had lots of time to kill.  While there I bought a BLS shirt that I still have today and the classic Slayer eagle shirt, which mysteriously disappeared on me a few years back.  I’m still pissed about that one, by the way.  While walking we came across a lot of that drunken Philly trash I mentioned before.  I’m talking a bunch of ridiculously sunburnt dudes in Eagles jerseys (the football season had just started) yelling out in unison “E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!!!!”….over….and over….and over again.  We also found a good spot at the guard rail on the lawn, where we could throw beads at bitches AND have a pretty good few of all the bands.

After while it was finally time for the main stage acts to go on.  First? Black Label Society.  This was to be my first of seven times seeing them, in fact I can’t make fun of Chad’s fixation on Maiden without stressing that between 2002 and 2008 I wanted to play like Zakk Wylde so bad.  I had other influences, of course, but at that time Zakk was the ONLY one who was that popular while playing that kind of music.  Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul had already risen from the ashes of Pantera, but their current band, Damageplan, was not getting over on the old fans easily.

Right out the gate he was ripping it up on a custom made Jackson Randy Rhoads guitar.  He’s shredded for maybe two minutes before breaking into “Funeral Bell”.  Idrees and I loved it.  Chad?  “Zakk Wylde’s not that great”, he said with this arrogant smirk on his face.  Chances are he was already jaded from listening to technical shred nerds who never left their mother’s basement.  Lesson #2:  It really doesn’t matter how much better one guitar player is than the next.  Zakk himself will even acknowledge that there are players that will bury him.  But what’s more important than having all the technique there is to have is being able to have your playing reach out to more than one niche crowd.  That’s why Zakk passed the audition to play with Ozzy in the first place.  Even Ozzy knew Zakk had already developed a sound that would one day make him recognizable!

Superjoint Ritual were next.  Where Phil Anselmo pretty much told us last year in Brooklyn where he stood in music (as in not with Pantera) he pretty much took that and acted like a dumbass this time around.  First off, their latest album, A Lethal Does Of American Hatred, sucked balls in plain English.  Also, it’s one thing to command your audience to mosh; but when you tell them that they’re pussies if they don’t you’re just a jackass.  The band were still great…so long as the played the music off the first album…but it was weird when Phil ended the band’s set by saying “keep sucking dick!” on the mic before doing his classic shitty rendition of the last words to “Stairway To Heaven” that he’d been doing since the Pantera days.  Drugs are bad, m’kay?

Dimmu Borgir were TRASH.  Bad enough I already don’t like Symphonic Black Metal but Dimmu were and are just awful.  Next? Slayer.  How funny that, as Idrees left us to mosh in the makeshift pit area right behind us, Chad and I both realized that the guardrail was pretty wobbly – yeah, we were fucked and we knew it.  Because as soon as Slayer got on stage all Hell broke loose and we were almost instantly pinned to the guardrail.  That shit hurts!  Of course, once they kicked into “Raining Blood”, the pit had become it’s most violent.  But who really fucking cares?  This is Slayer – and with the classic lineup back together!  Whenever I was able to get a glimpse of the band without getting pummeled I look straight at Jeff Hanneman.  He tore that guitar up better than Kerry King that night….and all the time.

After surviving the moshpit from hell we made sure Idrees came to us so we wouldn’t lose our spots before Priest came on.  At this point on it was more like an arena style concert, because who moshes to Priest or Sabbath anyway?  This was the one band to have a really elaborate stage setup.  Here, look for yourself:

 

I was able to notice on my own that Halford was relying HEAVILY on a teleprompter because he’d go to one place on stage and just stay there for two of three songs before going somewhere else.  Didn’t matter though because he was on fire, proving why he’s the Metal God.  When they played “Breaking The Law” I called up my college radio station’s programming director to bust his balls and left him a voicemail of the band playing the chorus line.  Why was I busting chops?  Well…let’s just say he did just that over a month earlier.

Up last?  Sabbath.  But of course there was a catch.  Before the band were to go on stage Bill Ward came out to announce to everyone that Ozzy was sick and could not play.  BUT, apparently Rob Fucking Halford volunteered to sing so the band wouldn’t have to cancel their performance.  There’s a bootleg floating around of Halford doing the favor for them back in 1992 but I was actually going to hear it??  Needless to say I wasn’t bummed out much longer after hearing that!

Being that someone else was singing, regardless of the fact that it’s a guy that’s STILL amazing at his age, they kept the setlist floating around the just the first three albums.  I’d bet that was just to make it easier on Rob, who surely didn’t have enough time to practice.  But it still was pretty awesome to hear.

 

Idrees’s dad was waiting for us right outside the arena, having stolen banana daiquiri mix from some vendor stand during what I think he said was some kind of police situation…or something.  The show was awesome as a whole.  If I only knew then that I’d NEVER see the classic Sabbath lineup.  But was this THE best Ozzfest lineup ever?  I think the following year’s beat it; but I’ll get to that in the future.

Quick Reminder

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Random Thoughts

New Album Upload

Last week I uploaded two albums on to my YouTube account, Morbid Angel’s Covenant, and Mercyful Fate’s Don’t Break The Oath.  Just last night I added my all time favorite Iron Maiden album in it’s entirety, Piece Of Mind.  Here’s the link:

First time I ever heard “The Trooper” on WSOU in 2001 it kicked my ass so hard.  This is even MORE of what I needed in my search for ONLY the best shit because if I heard anymore shitty emo-punk or nu-metal depending on who I hung out with on that day I was going to throw myself against a barbed wire fence.  I’m pretty sure I was the ONLY one in my school that had REAL taste in music.  I don’t miss high school at all.  As for Piece Of Mind goes, this to me is the album that, once and for all, established the blueprint to the Maiden sound.  Yeah sure, they already had the epic songs before this but I feel like the great abundance of guitar harmonies on this album set the stage for nearly every band that came after them.  I always felt like The Number Of The Beast is so fucking overrated.  It’s really not that fantastic to me.

Powerlifting Progress

Today began my final week of training before my first meet on May 21st at the Ramada Inn in Newark, NJ.  On the heavy week of 5/3/1 I hit my final PR of 320lbs.  Since you’re only supposed to just hit the prescribed number of reps as you get closer to the meet I “just” hit one rep but I know I could’ve done more.  This shit was TOO easy!  But hey judge for yourself:

Too easy.  Thanks to having nothing but C4 in my system at the time of this set I got a bit carried away and cursed at and even screamed at the bar when I was done, making my girlfriend think I was pissed.  Hardly the case, but here’s some dialogue between me and her from after I finished:

Me: That was too easy!

Girlfriend: That screaming stuff is why you’d get kicked out of that other gym.

Me: Planet Fitness?

Girlfriend: Yep.

Me: Yeah?  Well fuck Planet Fitness!

But seriously though, fuck Planet Fitness.  Any gym that kicks a guy out of a gym for grunting while squatting 500lbs is NOT a real gym – and that’s a true story, by the way.  I’ll never train in Planet Fag.  I lift things up and put them down.

Here’s my entire routine for today:

Deadlift

125 x 5

155 x 5

185 x 5

255 x 5

285 x 3

320 x 1

Stationary Bike

10 minutes

50 calories burned

1.78 miles

Average HR: 115

The Ballad Of Ozzy and $haron

So I woke up this morning to the news Ozzy and Sharon are splitting, not because of drugs or alcohol.  That alone is fascinating just because he drunkenly tried to kill her back in 1989.  Too bad he didn’t get the job done!  This time it’s because she apparently went through his cellphone and discovered numerous texts and calls to celebrity hair stylist Michelle Pugh, a woman more than two decades younger than Ozz.

I can’t say I’m too shocked.  First off, if we all know anything about Ozzy we all should know he probably doesn’t even know how to operate his own phone just because he’s a dumb motherfucker.  So how could he know how to delete his own history?  Right?  It’s one thing to just look at the phone bill when it comes in but THIS was just too easy because it’s Ozzy and he’s stupid as shit.

But more important than that, could anyone blame the guy?  Look at pictures of $haron even in her youth and then look at Michelle Pugh.  Hell, I’ll help you:

Pugh

Look at that and tell me she’s not a cute woman.  I dare you to tell me that’s NOT a major upgrade from $haron in the looks department alone.  Hey, just maybe she’s even nicer than that witch.  Sure, $haron  may have saved Ozzy from drinking himself to oblivion after being booted out of Black Sabbath back in 1979, but it’s pretty much been documented for years that she’s a cunt.  Maybe Ozzy wanted a break from $haron’s overbearing attitude.  As of this writing he’s in a hotel in Beverly Hills.

But the truth is, in the end, they’ll get back together.  He’s still a puppy that needs his master and she needs a source of REAL income.  $haron herself recently admitted on The Talk that she caught him in bed with one of their kids’ nannies.  So why didn’t she ditch him then?  She said because she knew he was high as fuck at the time.  So there you have it.  She excused him them, she excused him when he nearly KILLED her and she’ll eventually excuse him for this, crawling back to each other in pure desperation, since neither of them know anything else at this point in their lives.  So…no need to make a big thing about this.