Album Of The Year 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Lift With Hatred

Powerlifting is an external view of how pissed off at the world I really am.  – Kirk Karwoski

The title of this article…if you follow me on Instagram you see this hashtag attached to all my training related videos.  But let it be known now: I didn’t come up with it just for the sake of having a hashtag or to have several thousand followers.  I have nowhere near that.  It’s a literal way of life for me.   I’m not Kirk Karwoski; but much like him, Powerlifting is definitely an extension of how pissed off I really am.

Image result for kirk karwoski

This guy was just a psycho.  In his prime, if he came to the gym and someone was at his squat rack, he’d give them a five minute warning.  If the unlucky fuck wasn’t done yet, Kirk would take their shit and throw it to the side and force them out!

At 34 years old, at a time where most people begin to soften with age, I’ve just become colder.  Friends?  I have so few of them, especially now.  Honestly, fuck ’em, don’t need ’em.  Playing in bands?  More like sixteen years of my life I can never get back.  Family?  Oh, lets not go there.  Work?  Let’s REALLY not go there!  The ONLY thing I want to do is lift heavy shit.  That’s my only relief from the day.

Deadlift with Hatred

Fuck Your Commercial Gym

The Deadlift.  THE single most macho lift anyone can do in their gym…if their gym doesn’t give them shit for it.  In fifteen years I’ve trained in just six gyms.  One was my college weight room, three of them were commercial and the other two including my current gym are badass gyms with the type of vibe you can only get in a smaller,  more intimate setting.  Up until last year, no commercial gym ever gave me shit for the way I trained – or even for the clothes I wore to the gym!

Then came this boy scout manager, who claimed he understood me since he himself was a pretty big guy and even complimented my Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym t-shirt.  While being given the tour of the place, the much nicer manager who was showing him around asked me to be “kinder” to her floors.  Little did she understand that the plates were rubber coated so they’d never break her floors.  And before anyone asks: no, I wasn’t slamming the weights.

Regardless, that clearly left an impression on him.  He came up to me a week later, looking like he was dry humping his imaginary girlfriend while I was deadlifting before belittling me, lecturing me on proper form like I was some fucking idiot.  We almost went to blows right away.  I realize instantaneously that he planned on using me to make a name for himself and I wasn’t going to let that shit happen.  It was his first official day on the job.  A week later, I decided to train wearing jeans and boots, something I’ve done from time to time ever since I’ve been training.  This dumb son of a bitch asked me if I had any other clothes and, when I said I didn’t, told me hesitantly that I then had to leave.  Why?  Because the rivets – the ones I didn’t have on these jeans – would rip up the pleather on the already shitty Hammer Strength benches.  I asked him to just let me go with a warning and I’d never do it again, as I had just gotten into my warmup.

Two minutes later, I found myself angrily sitting in my car, knowing for sure that my days at this “gym” were numbered.  No one had EVER kicked me out for wearing jeans and boots before, or even given me a warning.  Luckily for me, I already knew exactly where I wanted to hang my hat next.  The problem was I was low on cash, meaning I’d have to wait a while.  I endured two more months of walking on eggshells and even coming close to a confrontation with a trainer there, who I really liked and still do, over my “slamming the weights”.

So what the fuck am I driving at?  If you’re like me the gym has to feel like a home, not some fucking social club.  It’s okay to make friends.  Fuck, I’ve met amazing people in EVERY gym I’ve ever trained in.  But if you’re like me, you’re dedicated to acheiving shit that most peole could never dream of.  That means you put on those earbuds if you really have to, and you tune out the rest of the world.  That means all your focus is going to be on that set, your rep goal, whatever.  You’re going to make sure you give it all you got, with all the intensity you can.  Is it so heavy you might scream a bit?  Go ahead, fucking do it!  If anyone is dumb enough to say shit, it’s most likely because they’re too chicken shit to try it.

Make sure your gym is not only welcoming of all kinds of lifters, but TOLERANT.  That usually means get the fuck out of your commercial chain gym that can have all the equipment you can ever need, but mostly relies on cardio bunnies for their revenue.  Does that one guy that can pull four plates do the robot in between his sets?  You need to get the fuck out of there now!  That means being in a gym with all lifters – male and female – who know that THE way to get in shape is to not just eat right, but to focus on the three greatest lifts you can do: the squat, the bench and the deadlift.  I’ve gotten more muscle mass doing those than I ever did doing just shrugs or leg presses (even though leg presses are part of my current routine).

To me, the gym is the one place where I can express myself.  Where I am now, I can lift the way I want, how I want, when I want, with as much intensity as I want and I’ll never be given a hard time for it.  Lifting is the one time in my day where I can get out all of that negative energy – and believe me, there’s so much of it! – without anyone else getting hurt.  I lift with hatred because that’s my one source of strength.  I lift with hatred because that’s all I know.  This is not a game.  I don’t do this for “fun”; I do it because I need to.

I’m leaving you with my one of my spotify Gym playlists:

Maybe one of these tracks will give YOUR workout a swift kick in the ass.

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