This is one of those passings that many of us, not just me, could say did not see coming. I’d received a text on Friday, November 11th from my ex, simply reading “Kevin Conroy”. I asked why she brought him up and you don’t want to know my reaction to her response. Celebrity deaths mean shit to me. But this was not the usual celebrity death.
Kevin Conroy wasn’t an ordinary celebrity with longevity. No one voice actor in history since Casey Kasem as Shaggy in the Scooby Doo cartoons has EVER had the distinction of being a generational representation of a nationally recognized character the way Kevin was in regard to his affiliation with Batman, and the way he should sound. It’s rare for anyone to have that uniqueness, that natural ability, but Kevin was IT, in the same way that Mark Hamill, who before 1992 was just known as Luke Skywalker from those gay ass Star Wars movies, would be considered to be the single greatest Joker of ALL TIME.
It was 1992 when, on the heels of the release of Batman Returns, FOX premiered Batman: The Animated Series. It was infinitely darker in tone, making this supposed kid’s show appear to have more in common with Batman Returns than the campy Adam West show I just watched two years earlier, or even the old Batman cartoon from the late 60’s featuring Olan Soule as Batman and Casey Kasem as Robin. The show premiered on a Saturday. The episode was titled The Cat and The Claw, Pt. 1. Click here and skip to the 1:51 mark to see and hear for yourself why you’d be absolutely deaf if you didn’t shit yourself the moment you heard Kevin Conroy say “So… our new cat burglar’s a woman.”
With that one simplistic line, it was made clear that this Batman would be far more serious than what my eight-year-old self was accustomed to. It was darker, it was huskier, as Kevin himself said several times, and it was drenched in all things intimidating. The strangest part is that, even in 1992, I just knew that I was going to read every Batman related comic I’d go on to buy in Kevin’s voice. I also expected to hear his voice in any other Batman cartoon that would be released after Batman: The Animated Series. I don’t need to be told that I wasn’t that only one, and we were all right.
Over the next three decades, we’d be fortunate enough to hear Kevin resume his role as Batman in several incarnations of Batman: The Animated Series, including two absolutely stellar Justice League based shows, multiple straight to DVD releases, and subsequently, the CLASSIC Arkham video game trilogy. Neither of those three games, Batman: Arkham City in particular, would be the same without Kevin’s dark, brooding Batman. Only Kevin could properly articulate the process of Batman slowly losing his mind within three increasingly intense stories.
Anyone else could have tried to put their own spin on it. At this point Kevin’s voice was considered THE gold standard in which all other Batman voices were supposed to amount to. But it’s never the same and, for the purpose of this trilogy, authenticity WOULD have been examined and NO ONE could NATURALLY make Batman feel authentic the way Kevin Conroy could. This is something that’s been going in and out of my fucking brain as I’ve been watching playthroughs of all three Arkham games ever since the news of his passing was released.
But that’s why there will always be one Batman. That’s no one’s fault. Of anyone who’s portrayed him in live action movies and those who portrayed him in animated films, there’s only one man who had this natural ability draw from the memories of his rather shitty childhood, which I will not discuss here, and combine that with his Julliard training to relate to the tortured soul that is Batman. It’s Kevin after all, who came up with the idea the Bruce Wayne is the disguise and Batman is the real person, not the other way around. I caught that immediately in ’92 when I’d see a scene in which Bruce would talk to his colleagues in a rather high voice, but when he was alone again with Alfred, that voice would just DROP a whole two octaves because he no longer had to pretend.
It’s the total opposite of Clark Kent and Superman, or any other Superhero. It’s probably an accurate representation, as well, of how most people feel on a day-to-day basis. That’s why it worked. Some will say Michael Keaton started it in his first Batman movie. But what he was doing was mixing a standard talking voice as Bruce Wayne with a whisper when he was Batman, probably to conceal his true voice so no one could ever identify him. But it’s not the same as Kevin’s groundbreaking approach. Kevin’s approach evoked far more emotion regardless of the tone of any episode of any show or movie he appeared in over thirty years.
I’m going to end this by thanking Kevin. This isn’t just another piece of my childhood being taken away from me; this man defined a major portion of my fucking life as a whole. That’s not an everyday occurrence.
So, I’m guessing that, minus the band’s 2019 EP, The Last Rager, Municipal Waste have come to the conclusion that the best way to continue to make quality music for the long term is to release new albums every five years. It’s been five years since the release of their second masterpiece, 2017’s Slime And Punishment, and before that it’d been five years since the release of 2012’s Nuclear Blast debut, The Fatal Feast. And with each release there’s some sort of subtle shift in the band’s sound.
The Fatal Feast sounded to me like a traditional Crossover record, which is probably why I wasn’t a fan of it. I’d actually kind of written the band off with that one. Slime… came off as a major breath of fresh air. The songs were short, fast, intense and even introduced a new member – along with guitar solos – for a different dimension. That brings us to Electrified Brain. I just read that, according to guitarist Ryan Waste, his goal this time around was to write a dynamics-based record. I wasn’t sure what he meant by that because you CAN have MORE than enough dynamics in any song regardless of style, length, etc. But now I get it. However, I found Electrified Brain to be more of an album of musical diversity than anything else.
If Electrified Brain really is produced by the band, then they sure did a hell of a job making the record sound unusually slick. I’m talking the head room and reverb found on 95% of everything you’ve ever heard in the 80’s. You hear it in the punch of Dave Witte’s drums right away on the opening title track which comes out the gate like a rampaging fucking bull! It’s fast and HOT until the two-minute mark, where it turns into a traditional Metal headbanger that rides on for the next 45 seconds until the song’s end. It’s immediately followed by the Maiden-like harmonies of “Demoralizer”. It’s a great mid-tempo track that quickly segues into faster territory with a blazing, Mustaine-like solo by Nick Poulos.
Everything sounds….so much bigger. I don’t mean in the same way that everything sounder bigger on the previous album. The guitars AND Tony Forresta’s voice sound like they can truly BREATHE. I’m wondering if that has to do with the way the amps were miked this time around. When Jimmy Page recorded the guitar tracks for Zeppelin’s first album, he remembered that distance equals depth. That’s why he placed the mics relatively far away from the combo amp he used to make the record and wouldn’t you know it, a small sounding amp suddenly sounded far more monolithic in tone. Could that be the approach here?
“Last Crawl” and Grave Dive” seem to fall into a similar formula, the former being faster paced than the latter. And there’s nothing wrong with this because each song has its own character. I’m grateful that a lot of Tony’s lyrics have not changed that much since Waste ‘Em All. “Grave Dive” alone is purely about the allegiance of the band’s longtime fans as he screams “We dig up our fan base/The real ones that count/We’ll bring up their corpses/And toss them all out”. “The Bite” has a little more of my favorite lyrics, as Tony screams “A symphony/Of blended heads/Forced gore/Rotting legs/Skull shards/Springing forth/Bludgeoned with/A spinal chord”.
That song, along with “High Speed Steel” sounds a lot like songs Metallica could’ve written had they recorded Ride the Lighting today. They’re a lot more Thrash in that vein along with some harmonies blended in with the chord changes, something I’d never hear in a Municipal Waste song. Then something happens not to long before this track ends; it transitions from being a Thrash song into sounding a lot like the best Mercyful Fate song they never wrote for Don’t Break the Oath. The gang “whoa” vocals could EASILY be replaced by King Diamond doing the same thing, and Nick’s short solo spot is something Michael Denner probably would’ve played himself! That diversity I spoke about? Here it is.
“Thermonuclear Protection” kicks the album back into a much-needed high gear with its immediate breakneck speed. The more I hear Electrified Brain, the more I wonder how much of an influence Nick Poulos was this time around, especially since he’s been in the band for a while now. Is HE a bigger traditional Metal fan than the others in the band? I fucking LOVE “Blood Vessel-Boat Jail”. It’s a no bullshit, mid-tempo instrumental palm muter until the second half kicks in. It seamlessly transitions between a normal tempo and Dave ripping out blast beats. I fucking shat myself because I had a feeling I wasn’t going to hear that again. Sadly, I was right. The rest of the song had me envisioning the time an old friend of mine jumped off the faux balcony of this loft the band played at in Brooklyn in 2006, forcing Tony to warn people to not jump off it because you can die. This actually happened.
I swear that “Restless and Wicked” is a King Diamond tribute. The first half of the song sounds like a less technical “Welcome Home” from Them before transitioning to break down that comes off as a slightly faster “Curse of The Pharaohs”, the overplayed, yet classic track off Melissa, Mercyful Fate’s debut album. “Ten Cent Beer Night” was NEEDED. It’s CLASSIC Municipal Waste, from its bar fight lyrics to the non-stop speed. No breakdowns into tradition Metal territory here. Minus a few slight nuances, it’s the ‘Waste we all loved in the mid 2000’s. “Putting On Errors”, the penultimate track on Electrified Brain is the most BRUTAL track on the album. Hear that fucking furnace of a voice making Tony sound like a chihuahua? That’s Barney Greenway of Napalm Death. This was more a of a grinder at the end, and Tony couldn’t EVER do that last part justice. Ever.
So how do I feel about Electrified Brain?
After a few listens, both caffeinated while heading to and from the gym and with no caffeine in my system, I’m impressed. I can easily see why one reviewer felt that most tracks blended into each other, as they do follow a similar pattern. But, as I said, I do feel the songs all have their own character. I’m convinced that Nick is the catalyst for the increase in the 80’s Metal influences outside of the Thrash subgenre. I found it to be a treat to hear Municipal Waste step out of that zone and managed to sound good because this experiment could’ve QUICKLY gone South. The only thing I’d hope for, when they release their next album five years from now, as that Ryan and Nick find a good balance between the two styles.
I give Electrified Brain 4 out of 5 middle fingers.
Recommended Tracks: Electrified Brain, Demoralizer, High Speed Steel, Blood Vessel-Boat Jail, Putting On Errors (w/ Barney Greenway)
It had to be sometime in early 2003. I was on a bus heading home, and, while I still had probably fifteen more minutes before I reached my destination, I pulled out the latest issue of Revolver Magazine from my backpack. If memory serves me correctly, the magazine included a one-page section highlighting recommended up-and-coming bands. There were three bands, one definitely was Himsa (fucking absolute vomit!), and the only other band I remembered was some band called The Black Dahlia Murder, whose music the magazine categorized as “Megadeth Metal”.
That’s not a joke.
Time would go on and a whole year and a half would pass before I finally came across Unhallowed, The Black Dahlia Murder’s 2003 debut album, probably in Sam Goody. I remember that this was also the same day that I bought the very denim jacket that I’d cut the sleeves off of to make a vest out of.
Unrelated note: Don’t ever use the term “Battle Jacket” to describe your denim vest with patches and buttons and spikes on it. Or go ahead and do so and be as retarded as everyone else that uses the fucking stupid term.
Anyway, my dad drove me home, as I still didn’t have a car yet. I opened up Unhallowed and looked at the cover. What’s in a name? What’s in a cover image? In the early days of mp3 downloading and, with a whole decade to go before Spotify existed, I still bought CDs, and still do so to this day. Therefore, the only way to find out what any band sounded like, was to either download a track or two, or to simply BUY the album. I popped the album into my five-disc changer and the following two tracks fucked me up.
The music in this video is actually the opening instrumental title track to the record and it breaks right into “Funeral Thirst”, so it made sense to just post the video instead of two separate links of any kind.
Either way, upon hearing those two tracks now I remember EXACTLY what stood out to me those most. The music alone was not just balls-out heavy, but those minor chord harmonies happened to make me feel every single negative emotion I ever knew or felt in my entire life. I wanted to cry, I wanted to die, I wanted to choke anyone I could get my hands on. It was hopeless. It was beautiful.
Then I heard that fucking voice. It was like nothing I had heard at the time. It was a hell of a lot more screetchy than most Death Metal bands I’d heard, with the sole exception of Chuck’s vocals on The Sound of Perseverance, Death’s last record. He hit the traditional guttural style as well and I realized that he was using the two styles for the sake of a dynamic that was not there at the time. It changed things up in all the songs and it fucking made things far more exciting.
Clearly whoever described this band as “Megadeth Metal” in Revolver Magazine a year earlier must’ve been either high or just absolutely clueless. The Black Dahlia Murder, especially as made evident in their latter-day releases were more like the greatest Carcass disciples you’ve ever heard!
This was just the beginning of a long ride for the band for the better part of two decades, two decades that would especially see Trevor Strnad standout among the traditional Death Metal frontman stereotype. As serious as he was in the video posted above, his sense of fun and humor would become FAR more prevalent not just in the videos the band would make in the coming years, but in his persona onstage. The best thing about it all was Trevor manage to balance this act out to the point that his goofiness NEVER took away from the band’s or his onstage intensity. He never took himself seriously and that connected with all of us because we knew it was genuine.
But to be clear, his lyrics were as Death Metal, and as brutal as it got. He’s a line or two from “Christ Deformed”, one of my ALL TIME favorite TBDM tracks:
Diabolic ritual open the portal to damnation Dark legions gathering for virtuous insemination Molest and sodomize deride the seed of god’s creation Impale the Nazarene succumb to a spiritual inversion
In our unholy father’s disgusting house of shame We revel in endless hatred burning so absolute Corrupting all who’d enter here surrender to darkness We kneel to those no more who’d burden and beguilt
Within these wretched walls a summoning proceeds What form will manifest of this abysmal devilry The children now are bleeding, we eunuchate his sons To evil blood and fire this earth will soon succumb With hell reborn Your Christ be scorned Dead faith now torn His love deformed
That’s why I intentionally waited before I wrote this piece. It was hard to let sink in, that not only is Trevor gone, but to think about how it just might’ve happened. But much like with my tribute to Chris Cornell, I will NOT discuss what happened. Enough people have written about that, and we still haven’t a clue as to the whole story. But I, like most fans of The Black Dahlia Murder, have memories of meeting Trevor and even talking with him at length. Things like this, along with his ability to ACTUALLY HAVE FUN are truly why he’s the single most important Death Metal frontman in DECADES. While my memories aren’t as amazing as others, they meant something to me then, and they without question mean something to me now. So, I’ll share them.
It was the summer of 2006, and I traveled with two friends (one of which eventually got what was coming to him via a heart attack) to the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ for the Sounds of The Underground Tour, which included The Black Dahlia Murder, GWAR, Behemoth (and you bet your ass I met Nergal on this day!) and several others. I walked by TBDM’s merch table when I noticed a tall, flabby looking guy with a tattoo that read “HEARTBURN” across his belly. It was Trevor. I walked up to him and introduced myself when he replied, “talk a walk with me for a second”.
“Do me a favor, will ya?”, he asked me, as we walked. “We’re shooting a video for “Statutory Ape” today, and I need you and everybody else in that crowd to go fuckin’ crazy. Can you do that for me?” “Fuck yeah!” I immediately said. Hours later, the band walked on stage and Trevor immediately called out the entire crowd “C’MON YOU PUSSIES!!!!”, as they grinded out “I’m Charming” off Miasma, the same record that includes “Statutory Ape”. Sorry to say that no, I wasn’t crazy enough to be a part of that pit, but once Trevor called them out all bets were off.
My last memory didn’t involve a request to sacrifice myself in the pit, no. I traveled to the now defunct B.B. King’s in Times Square, New York Shitty (I said what I said), to see TBDM along with Hate Eternal and 3 inches Of Blood in January 2008. There might have been one other band on the bill, but I forgot who it was. Anyway, my friends and I arrived at B.B.’s and almost immediately I spotted Trevor at the bar. He looked a lot like he did two years prior, funny looking shorts, topless, hair all disheveled. I walked up to him again and he laughed as we reminisced over our previous meeting.
We parted ways after that, and he eventually found his way backstage. But what I always remembered about both those times was that he made himself accessible. It’s a story we’d ALL go on to hear about him over the years. He always hung out with the fans. Upon moving to Brooklyn (and I’ve to this day no idea why he’d do that to himself!), he apparently hung out at St. Vitus on the regular and would support the local bands and talk with everybody there. He even wrote a column for Metal Injection where he’d recommend underground Extreme Metal bands.
I don’t know many other frontmen of legend status like Trevor’s who’d do all those things. We might not ever completely know what happened to the charismatic (that word doesn’t even do it justice!) frontman of THE single most important Death Metal band of this century so far. But he left an UNDENIABLE mark that can never be removed. There will never be another frontman as genuine as Trevor Strnad.
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:
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…
Your Decision (Alice In Chains/Black Gives Way To Blue)
Between (Boggy Depot)
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)
Man In The Box (Alice In Chains/Facelift)
Rooster (Alice In Chains/Dirt)
Goodbye (Elton John/Madman Across The Water)
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!!!!!!!!
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.
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.
I’ll make no bones about it: I idolize the shit out of Zakk Wylde. I’ve done so probably since I first got my hands on Ozzy’s 1995 album Ozzmosis. His guitar was LOUD. His speed picking style added muscularity to his playing. His vibrato was wide and unusually vocal. Those fucking pinch harmonics. Then there’s his songwriting. Zakk will never deny that he’s a disciple of Black Sabbath, and he’ll let it shine, but with his own, explosive twist.
Upon learning that Black Label Society were arriving in my neck of the woods I knew I’d be there. I hadn’t seen Zakk since I went to see Zakk Sabbath, his Black Sabbath tribute band at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ. But this time he’d be not even twenty minutes away from me, AND he’s promoting Doom Crew, Inc., Black Label’s first album in over three years.
Considering he’s been calling his band and his LOYAL followers the Doom Crew, Inc. for YEARS, I’m very surprised he never gave that title to an earlier album. Either way, here’s my take on last night’s show, with featured openers Prong and Death Metal legends Obituary.
Before I continue I want to make clear that I didn’t take countless photos of every band. I took a necessary few and then I’d enjoy the show like a normal person pre-smart phones.
Having said that, I’d suspected Prong would be the first band. Therefore, I absolutely took my time getting to the show, making sure to eat while on the way. Upon my arrival to the Wellmont Theater, Prong were most likely halfway through with their set. That made me happy because ladies, Prong sucks. That “New York style” of playing nonchalant, almost Hardcore sounding music never appealed to me. I honestly found it annoying and self-righteous, and still do. The single most annoying thing about the band last night?
Any time Tommy Victor opened his mouth.
The irony of my being a native of New York City who hates that fucking accent. Any time he talked, any time he sang, the irritation grew stronger. And I could tell that a good chunk of last night’s audience had to have come from any of the five boroughs (mostly Staten Island and Brooklyn if I were to guess). I really got annoyed when he was introducing “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck”, Prong’s signature song.
“Come on ev’rybody! SNAP YA FINGIZZZ!”, he yelled out while attempting to open up a pit in the general admission section. I had a really good view from my balcony seat and I really wish I was able to shoot him in the face. His accent was that fucking obnoxious!
I have to admit, while I am clearly familiar with Obituary, I never really delved too much into their catalog. I do remember my college radio station receiving their 2005 comeback album, Frozen In Time, in which they managed to get Randy Burns out of retirement to produce it. I guess it matches the album title, huh? I did hear upon buying tickets to this show that the band were really kicking ass every night. Now I was actually looking forward to seeing this for myself and, thankfully, I was not disappointed.
I’d made two videos because I’d accidentally stop filming during their instrumental opener in which vocalist John Tardy has yet to come out. I then noticed that the bassist looked awful familiar to me. As I’d previously mentioned, I don’t follow them. Therefore, I’d zero clue that Terry Butler had apparently been the band’s bassist since 2010. For those of you who don’t know, Terry also played bass for Massacre and, subsequently, Death’s second and third albums, 1989’s Leprosy and 1990’s Spiritual Healing. He’d later backstab Chuck Schuldiner when he and the rest of Death toured Europe without Chuck’s permission or knowledge.
Obituary were filled with endless energy. John Tardy’s screech vocals were just as badass as they ever were. Their version of Death Metal is decidedly more on the Thrash side, not as technical as Death were. I wonder if that’s why I didn’t care too much for them. I never hated them.
They did surprise the shit out of me when the pulled out an absolutely badass cover of Celtic Frost’s classic “Circle Of Tyrants”. Overall I was very impressed.
Black Label Society
As Obituary were finishing, BLS’s crew raised a big curtain adorning the band’s logo…as in before Obituary even walked off stage. That was weird. Either way you knew that once the band got on stage the curtain would drop, blah blah, blah.
After a decent wait time, the lights finally dimmed, followed by an audio mashup of Ozzy’s “War Pigs” vocals over the music to Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. At the end the band hit a quick staccato ending that’d segue into the beginning pulses of “Bleed For Me”. It was once the song kicked into full gear that the big curtain finally dropped to show Zakk and his co-guitarist, Dario Lorina performing Zakk’s signature sideways headbang in unison.
Bleed For Me (1919 Eternal)
Demise Of Sanity (1919 Eternal)
Overlord (Order Of The Black)
Heart Of Darkness (Catacombs Of The Black Vatican)
A Love Unreal (Grimmest Hits)
The Blessed Hellride (The Blessed Hellride)
Spoke In The Wheel (Sonic Brew) *
In This River (Mafia) *
Trampled Down Below (Grimmest Hits)
Destruction Overdrive (The Blessed Hellride)
Set You Free (Doom Crew, Inc.)
Fire It Up (Mafia)
Suicide Messiah (Mafia)
Stillborn (The Blessed Hellride)
* For these tracks Zakk sat behind his electric piano while Dario handled the leads.
This was my seventh time seeing Black Label since Ozzfest 2004 and my eighth time seeing Zakk overall. And he never appears to lose energy, ESPECIALLY now that he’s been sober for twelve years. I first noticed his playing style change a lot upon seeing him in 2011, my first time seeing him in his sober state. He was also very willing to give Dario multiple chances throughout the night to show off his own abilities, something I noticed the first time I saw Dario with the band at the Rock Carnival in 2015. On the track “Set You Free” off the new record, Zakk actually TRADES SOLOS WITH DARIO. Zakk NEVER let Nick Catanese do that. In fact, Nick is NOWHERE to be found on any Black Label albums from their debut through the time he left in 2014.
He’s now a registered sex offender.
The biggest surprise to me came during “Fire It Up”. Before they ended the song, Zakk, in place of his usual solo spot (where he makes every guitarist in the audience want to quit), he traded solos with Dario for ten, maybe fifteen minutes. I’m not just talking lick after lick. The two even HARMONIZED together, while Zakk stood on top of his piano. They’d even harmonize during their signature live intro to “Stillborn”, the band’s show closer for the longest time.
At the end of the show, he stood up on the gig box in the middle of the stage, took off his Black Label vest, and held it up nice and high before walking off…because Zakk never plays encores.
I genuinely don’t know of many musicians who can say with legitimacy or integrity that they’re able to get even better as live performers with age. Regardless of how long it had been since I last saw Zakk in any capacity, he’s ALWAYS stepping up his game. Black Label Society were absolutely flawless last night. Zakk himself was absolutely FLAWLESS and he, once again, demonstrated why he’s not only an excellent, yet criminally underrated, showman, but a fucking guitar GOD who will NEVER be matched.
He’s an entity unto himself. I’ve heard idiots bitch about his playing style or smirk and say that there are guitarists that are far better than him, that “he’s not that good”. I can’t help but laugh every time because being a great guitarist will always be more than just having technical skill. Being an expert in playing gay ass sweep arpeggios won’t ever make you a standout player in any genre, let alone Heavy Metal. It’s about finding the style that suits you and practicing that style so much that it becomes second nature.
It’s about finding a style that helps you to STAND THE FUCK OUT. That’s what Zakk did. When Ozzy bitched during the 1987 auditions that found Zakk replacing Jake E. Lee that “If I want Yngwie Malmsteen, I’ll just call him!”, Zakk got the hint real quick and found the one thing no one else was doing. Those other guys may be technically DAZLING. But do they stand out? Are they known to more than just the underground? Is their playing as memorable as it is heavy or technically brilliant?
Upon hearing a week ago that Metallica were hosting their own Masterclass series titled BeingA Band, I quickly saw just as many eyebrows raised throughout the internet. Nice to know I wasn’t the only one with a brain. Let’s be real: the idea of Metallica teaching ANYONE how to be a band is absolutely laughable. I could give two shits about their legacy, it’s absolutely moot to the purpose of this article.
I just wonder if anyone reading this has actually paid to watch that shit. I can only imagine they’d have no choice but to dwell on their dark past (OTHER than Cliff Burton’s gruesome death in 1986 and James Hetfield entering rehab in 2001) that NO ONE really brings up. So that begs the question: how much of their “advice” is based on the truth? How much more of it is based on a fabricated history? Fuck, Jason Newsted had recently alluded to the fact that there are a “lot of secrets” within Metallica.
That aside, I know better than to watch this shitshow. But I’m here today to bring you my own, homespun, brutally honest interpretation of Being A Band, all for free and all for your displeasure. Let’s go with number 1, shall we??
Labor For Far Longer Than Necessary Over Song Arrangements
That’s right. Go find a band that’s a major influence on you the way Saxon influenced Lars, watch them beat a song arrangement to death when it probably sounded good after just a few tries, assume that it’s the only way to write songs and prepare for a career chock full of infighting within your band. Do you happen to have a musician in your band that’s a songwriting genius that can just shit out song after song on his own while keeping shit basic? Does your band have the ability to make a QUALITY album in a relatively short amount of time?
Fuck that! Make sure that you ALWAYS have to have a say in EVERYTHING the band does. Make sure you oversee every minute detail of the simplest, four minute single. Makes sure your band practices that song over and over again to the point that, once you finally hit that record button, your deadline for the album is just around the corner. How the fuck could first take magic possibly mean shit when you can take years to write all of ten songs and totally piss of your loyal fan base, as they wait possibly close to a decade before you release that next album? Duh!
2. Make Sure Your Producer Doubles As A Yoko
You’re inching closer and closer to success with each passing album. You’ve finally hit Platinum status in sales AND you’re even a home owner now. Imagine you and your band jamming away on a fast, probably badass new track as the big name producer your label brought in arrives and hears what you’re playing. His hello to the band is to tell you to stop and play it slower.
Absolutely listen to him and let him know right away that he has control over you and that your balls are safe…in his grip! It won’t seem like that at first, especially since your initial record under his supervision becomes your biggest selling album of ALL TIME, even if it unquestionably divides fans, and leaving some questioning your integrity. Keep that producer for the next several years, as he influences you to explore sonic territory that not only is unnecessary, but alienates whatever ever “back in the day” fans you have left.
Go ahead and let him be considered by the public to be your band’s fifth member (or sixth if your band’s a five piece already). Take him everywhere you go like the little lapdog he is, and he’ll know he doesn’t need to worry about the source of his next pay check. If you lose a band member, let him PLAY on your next album, thus giving him hope that he might even join your band that he helped to completely alter the course of. Let him dominate you like you’re his BDSM dungeon bitch so bad that the stench is strong for decades to…cum.
3. Overuse Your Wah Wah Pedal To The Point Of Sexual Abuse
Are you the lead guitarist in your band? Did you idolize guitarists that made decent use of their wah pedals the way Kirk Hammett says Michael Schenker is one of the reasons he himself started relying on the wah pedal? Well what the fuck are you waiting for? Stomp that pedal and rock it back and forth uncontrollably and far more often than your idols ever did!
You can’t stand out if your wah pedal use has control and intentional limitations. You need to use your wah pedal on practically EVERY SINGLE SOLO YOU EVER PLAY. Your tone with the wah MUST be insufferable, and you have to sound like you have absolutely no right hand at all.
Not even to jerk off.
4. Grant A Film Crew Unlimited Access To All Of Your Band’s Drama
Did you decide to have a little fun and let the whole world see your band in the middle of recording an album? Did shit not go as planned? Did a band member quit? Did someone go to rehab after years of unchecked abuse that’s still nothing compared to another ex member, whose trips to rehabs surpassed double digits long before your first go at sobriety? Is this person you?
Pay that film crew for the rights to that footage and continue to film away!
Expose your personal business to the entire world. Hire a “performance enhancement” coach known for working with NFL teams, because it doesn’t matter how many business deals you’ve gone through as a band – you can’t handle someone quitting. This coach CANNOT be a licensed psychologist or even a licensed psychotherapist. Treat him like your own, personal security blanket and keep him on your payroll for far longer than any other band in history. Much like your producer (see #2), make HIM so comfortable that he starts trying to write lyrics for your band in the middle of a recording session. The more leeches in your life the better, of course!
Speaking of band members leaving, I saved the most important bit of advice for last.
5. Drive Your Most Loyal Bandmate To Quit
This is the last thing I’ve ever wish on any band. But imagine you lost a band member in a horrific accident ala Cliff Burton. Instead of taking time off to grieve the loss of your comrade in arms, throw yourselves immediately into replacing him before you head overseas to tour. Find yourself your band’s biggest fan.
He worships the very bandmember he’s replacing
He knows your entire catalog inside and out
He’s willing to do anything you want because he doesn’t want to take this chance for granted
He’ll sign autographs backstage while your lazy ass is already back at the hotel getting shitfaced
Haze the shit out of him. You want to remind him that he didn’t just waltz into a happy situation; but because neither you or your band ever gave yourselves the time needed to grieve, you can just take out all of your anger on that loyal, new replacement. Prank him backstage, embarrass him onstage. Dictate what and how he plays when recording an album.
Completely shatter his spirit by being the one guy to still haze him even years after everybody else grows up and accepts reality. Condemn him during an interview with a national publication for daring to express his desires to record an album with a decidedly different sounding side band because you’re afraid to lose him, even if you’re still treating him the new kid years after his arrival into your life. And when he requests to hold a meeting with the band to further express his desires for a break because he physically ran himself to the ground for you and your band, show up drunk at 10 in the morning and tell him no, ultimately strengthening his resolve to tell you to he’s gone.
Follow these five easy steps and YOU just might be on your way to a highly successful career in music!
4/28/22 – look below to see the most hilarious fangirl comment I’ve ever seen. It’s dopes, like this who forget that I’m basically speaking opinion here, whose over the top reactions let me know I’m doing my job. Thanks bud!
Are you on the cesspool that is social media? Are you somewhere between your thirties and at least close to 50? If you answered “yes” to either of these, are you posting gay ass memes like this on your Instagram or Facebook?
Or maybe this?
Or perhaps even this dumb shit?
If this is you (and it probably is) then congratulations on doing the one thing you weren’t supposed to do: you became your parents! And in doing so you have officially failed at life. It’s funny that I, of all people, am talking about living. I hate living. But you fucks are just pathetic.
What happened? Settled down with someone who never knew how to live in the first place and you simply assimilated to please him or her? Never lived a healthy lifestyle (more than likely!)? Hanging around the wrong morons (also a high probability)?
You are supposed to be BETTER than your parents. You’re not better than them if you go around bragging that you’re bald, fat, achy, or that your favorite shitty high school jam was on the oldies station. It’s not funny, it sure isn’t cute. It never was. I’ve fucked women older than you who STILL have the energy and drive (especially the sex drive!) people your age are supposed to have. My psychotic, openly depressed, nearly 72 year old mother has more drive than you and she broke her ankle last year. My 66 year old dad, who has sustained MULTIPLE Powerlifting and labor related injuries is STILL strong as a bull and STILL tries to have a life when he’s not working long ass shifts at a job he’d rather not be in.
So if they can still go out there and LIVE, then I fail to see what the fuck your deal is. Is your lower back hurting? Get off your ass. Literally. Stop sitting down. Your glutes are weak and they’re pulling on your lower back. So exercise and strengthen those areas. Fuck I’ll even help you a bit and give you a few options!
Back Extensions (my go-to for a long time. Add a mini resistance band to increase force production.)
Glute Bridges (elevate your feet as much as possible)
Reverse Hyperextension (my current go-to before I do ANYTHING else)
In an unrelated note I highly recommend low back strengthening for you women with big titties. You’ve no idea how annoying you are when I hear you say “they’re hurting my back! I think I want to get a reduction!” Fuck that and you! Just get some muscle and let us enjoy those beautiful fun bags.
Does sleeping in a awkward position hurt you like in a meme I posted above? Simple solution: stop sleeping like that and learn how to properly sleep! What a concept! There is a right way and a wrong way to sleep. Referring again to the lower back: when you sleep on your back, for example, your lumbar spine is not resting on the mattress, especially if you have a big ass like I, because it’s being put into a state of involuntary flexion. Therefore, you’re spending up to eight hours adding stress to an already stressed out lower back. For the last several years I’ve been placing pillows underneath my knees when I sleep and now I feel no pain because the lumbar spine is able to relax.
Knees hurt? Unless you’ve sustained a major injury, that too can be fixed. The book Becoming A Supple Leopard offers COUNTLESS ways to fix painful knees, one of which I put to great use in late 2019. Getting fat? Developing the dad bod? Stop eating like shit and get off your ass! I have two cousins in law who were fat probably long before I ever knew them. Upon seeing them both for the first time in twelve years at my brother’s funeral in 2019 it was obvious that they were looking worse. Why? Because they don’t care. So when they go next I’m not even going to question what happened?
This may seem ignorant, one track minded and chauvinistic. It’s not. If this triggers you or pisses you off it simply tells me you’re the loser I’m targeting. All you need to do is eat right, learn how to exercise, learn how to get strong, and learn how to THINK FOR YOUR FUCKING SELVES. As negative as I usually am, guess what – there’s still hope. Guys, eat healthy, eat less, get rid of the gay ass dad bod and try to at least squat your bodyweight. Ladies and especially you moms, I’m sure getting rid of that pooch may be difficult. I’m not here for that. But you can also eat healthy, eat less, lift weights and for fucks sake get rid of that fucking retarded mom/Karen haircut and revive the sexiness I know is in you. Yes, long hair is not only youthful, it’s sexy as can be.
You still have time. Knock it off with the stupid age memes and learn how to be BETTER than your parents. Get into shape because they couldn’t or wouldn’t, and don’t just wait until you’re divorced and too scared to be alone either. It’s over for your parents (well, most of them anyway), it doesn’t have to be for you. Unless you want it to.
I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said about Eddie Van Halen since the word got out that we lost him just a little over two months ago. I refuse to discuss his popularizing the two handed tapping technique that everyone and their mother learns eventually. I won’t discuss his invention of the super strat via his Frankenstein guitar, or his “brown” sound. So what can I discuss that most people probably won’t discuss?
Let’s talk about Ed’s creativity as a songwriter. Why? Listen to his riffs alone on those first six records. He’s not just banging out power chords like most guitarists do. He never relied on a co-guitarist. In fact he was never formally trained on his instrument. Yet he was still an even better songwriter than he was a guitarist.
Read that last line again.
Ed said in the past that if he ever took lessons he didn’t think he’d be able to play like he did. I can relate to that. I did take lessons for four years. But both of my teachers, the first teacher being the uncomfortably talented Ron Thal and the next teacher being Christian Corrao, one of the most incredible jazz guitarists I’ve ever heard, taught me both directly and indirectly to think outside the box. Nothing has to be played the way you’re told to play it. Just play what you hear in your head and how you feel and you’ll be surprised with what comes out. I attribute that to why some of my future bandmates either couldn’t understand what I was playing or they just didn’t have the mental capacity to try and learn what I was doing.
There’s no doubt that Ed wasn’t the music world’s first ever self taught guitarist. But as with every other aspect of his career, there was something different about the way he played. Thanks largely to his musical upbringing and his later experiences in cover bands, there’s no question that there was plenty of music in his head. But how the fuck do you convey such concepts when you’re self taught?
That’s why he used all six strings on the guitar, as opposed to just hitting three note power chords, as mentioned before. He needed a way to sound as big as he could without relying on a second guitarist. That’s why he wasn’t afraid to use alternate tunings. He was inventive enough that he even incorporated his popularized tapping technique into his songs. I’m not just referring to his solos, I’m referring to the way he’d TAP OUT the fucking harmonics of chords, which took an already pretty chord pattern and made it breath taking. Speaking of tapping for effect, according to Ed himself, the harmonic tapping section of “Dance The Night Away” was designed to emulate a horn section in a pop song, the inspiration being his days playing Top 40 covers.
Fair Warning, my undisputed favorite of the first six Van Halen records, is considered their darkest album. Ed himself had stated that some of his angriest playing is on that record – which is probably why I love it! Tracks like “Unchained” and especially “Mean Street” are probably the most Metal sounding songs the band ever records. Then there were tracks such as “Push Comes To Shove”. The track itself wasn’t angry, but Ed’s solo certainly was. Close your eyes and you could actually FEEL the emotion.
There can be a lot of benefits of being self taught depending on the musician in question. Some people are geniuses and others should just cave in and take lessons. Or give up. For Ed, it allowed for a creativity not seen in Rock guitarists before. Why? Because he didn’t uphold to any written barriers. He didn’t follow structures that were repeated over and over again. He made his own. “Hot For Teacher” is the best example of this. The whole band changes time signatures midway through Ed’s solo for 4/4 to 5/4 and then back again. Not only was it an ingenius way for Ed to have the song fit his solo as opposed to having the solo fit the song, but that little nuance alone displayed his incredible sense of dynamics.
This to me is the true legacy of Eddie Van Halen. His legacy to me is more than just “Eruption”, or a homemade freakshow guitar and bastardized backline or the showmanship of David Lee Roth. His legacy is that he didn’t follow musical constructs. He bent them to his will and made them his own. He’s probably one of the most copied guitarist ever to the point that I don’t blame him for turning his back to the crowd while he was soloing during the band’s early days. He didn’t want anyone to copy his technique – imagine that!
There was no one like Eddie Van Halen before he came along and there will never be anyone like him again. Let’s not misunderstand, there are so amazing guitarists out there right now, but they’ll NEVER have the appeal that Ed or his band had to the public at large. Primarily in that unlike Ed, none of his worshippers ever got girls because they were too busy jerking off to guitar lessons.
Read that again.
Let the article and Ed’s songwriting be a lesson to all you bedroom guitarists out there. I’m glad you know every mode and scale there is to know. But if any of you ever want to be remembered for anything, learn how to write a song.
As I might’ve alluded to in a previous article or two, I joined my first Metal band as a guitarist in 2004. Previously I’d been a drummer. But it wasn’t until close to year’s end that we rounded up our line up with a rhythm section, having auditioned these two buffoons in Phrygian Studios in Staten Island. As far as I know it’s still around…although that might change depending on when this pandemic ends. THAT was an audition! A completely inexperienced drummer with no technique, a bassist that knew literally nothing about the bass and WREAKED OF SHIT ALL THE FUCKING TIME, and Chad, my co-guitarist who seemingly forgot how to play anything that day or just didn’t have a care in the world. More on the that later!
Fast forward to early 2005. Joe Ryder, our original bassist, while a really nice, quiet guy, was replaced with John Vaynburg, a far more talented bassist – one of only two bassists I ever played with that could nail “The Trooper”, my all time favorite Maiden tune, to the T! Unfortunately he turned out to be a bit of a princess. But hey at least he didn’t WREAK OF SHIT ALL THE FUCKING TIME! Chris, our drummer, slowly began to hold quite an influence on Chad and Idrees’s decision making, thanks to his far more arrogant personality. And I’d every once and a while be lectured – even by the very drummer who I taught to FINALLY develop independent control of his hands and feet! – in regards to my guitar playing being nowhere near as fluid or as glorious as Chad’s. Oh sure, Chad certainly did have technique. But I had tons more feel and attitude. More on that later.
Around this time, we had a few originals, written mainly by Chad. I’d brought some stuff to the table but I’d leave the band almost right after they’d started using my shit. But it was evident that Chad’s music was more in favor because it was more in the Power Metal vein that Chad and Chris were very much into. Power Metal: GAY. Idrees’s gay ass cheesy lyrics didn’t help either! It was hilarious that this is what seemed to be agreed upon when you consider that we were five guys between the ages of 17 and 20 (I was the oldest and the only one in college) that all had individual subgenre favorites.
Idrees, who my own father referred to as “that black kid who thinks he’s white”, was stuck somewhere between 1983 and 1990, and Slayer was his religion, like to the point that it was pathetic. His “singing”, if you can call it that, was more akin to if Luther Vandross joined Judas Preist. I still roast him to this day over it. Chad, while a major Iron Maiden fanatic, also was enamored in all things Steve Vai. Chris essentially followed Chad’s path, only he became a Power Metal fanatic (although he’d see the light months later). John’s tastes were closer to mine. He was very much a Death Metal fan, like I. He also was a Black Metal fan. Then there was me, and if you’ve been reading this blog for the last five years then you already know I only listen to the good shit. And it reflected in my playing, especially my lead playing, sloppy as it might’ve been at the time. I wanted to be the bastard child of Mustaine in his prime and Zakk Wylde. While Chad played prissy lead fills, I was the guy that just ripped on his Body Art Series B.C. Rich Bich.
The Ballad Of Dock St Bar And Grill
As the title of this rant should suggest, this gig was on Staten Island. I might as well admit that I’m actually from Staten Island. Trust me, I’m not proud of it. Where to begin? Well, for the sake of this article anyway, the music scene, at least at this time, could only be described in one word: LAME. Due to the Island’s isolation from the other four boroughs in New York City, along with some fucking morons blindly wearing that isolation with pride, there was nothing really exciting to talk about. There’s a reason why Chris would eventually look outside the island for people to play with.
The local Metal scene had very few decent bands. Dethroned, Enthralled and especially Into The Dementia come to mind (not the biggest Prog Metal fan but fuck me could Anthony sing!). Whiny Pop Punk was very popular. Rap was and will forever be a big deal on Staten Island, primarily because Wu Tang are from there. And by the way, if you’re reading this, are a grown adult around my age living in Staten Island, and still refer to it as “Shaolin”, you should probably be shot in the throat. Five times. But the tried and true money maker, as I’d later discover? Cover bands. So in a nutshell, Staten Island was, and probably still is boring.
By the way, just so we’re clear: Fuck the Wu Tang Clan and anybody that looks like them.
Dock St had been around for decades. I’d actually played there numerous times during my senior year of high school in 2001 and 2002 with my previous band. Aside from Cock St, there hadn’t been many venues for bands to play in that I knew of, especially in the case of bands where only one of us was BARELY under 21. Fuck, Dock St alone had gone through countless management changes both before I ever even played there and especially long after I’d stopped going there. I hated it. It was small, I didn’t like that the booker, who I’d known for a few years, was a grown man befriending the kids, and it was just boring to me. If you’re a grown man hanging out with teenagers, you’re creepy.
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!