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

Make sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram:

https://www.facebook.com/Confessions-Of-An-Angry-Metalhead-1237695776242081/

https://www.instagram.com/confessionsofanangrymetalhead/

Advertisements

The End: Black Sabbath live and SOLD OUT at Madison Square Garden February 25th, 2016

I tried to see Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals on two different occasions.  Now, I intended on writing about this in other blogs as I went through all the concerts I went to, but I feel that would take forever and it would make sense to write about it now since I’m about to discuss the show I just went to.  When I went to see them at Ozzfest 2004 in Camden, NJ,  drummer Bill Ward came out before the band was to play and announced that Ozzy was too sick to play and Rob Halford of Judas Priest was going to sing in his place.  You couldn’t be there and complain much after that!  The next year, before we even got in inside the PNC Bank Arts Center, the girl checking our tickets told my ex-guitarist Chad and I “No Black Sabbath tonight”.  Why this time?  “Because Ozzy’s sick.”  Sure, Iron Maiden played an extended set that night but I was convinced that night that I’d never see Sabbath with Ozzy…and that Ozzy’s voice is just toast.

So when I got wind, a few weeks ago, that Sabbath had to cancel gigs in Canada because Ozzy lost his voice, the only thing I could assume was that my friend Frank was going to have to get a refund.  Little did I know how wrong I would be…and some more.  But I’ll get to that in a bit.

I arrived last night at Madison Square Garden with high expectations for the band and incredibly low expectations for Ozzy. Fuck, I really just wanted to see Tony Iommi anyway.  But I was also looking very much forward to reuniting with my buddy Frank, who got us the tickets, as well as seeing the opening bands, Rival Sons.  Rival Sons got on stage and goddamn they sound even more like Led Zeppelin live than on record!  The most obvious sign of it on their albums is the John Bonham-like drum sound.  But live, Jay Buchanan did some loud ass wailing while barefoot – that he at least had me convinced that Robert Plant found a way to defy age and join Rival Sons.  At one point Frank and I were jokingly singing Zep song titles into two of their songs because they sounds THAT MUCH like Zep songs.  I think the last time I heard anyone sound like Zep to the T was Billy Squier when he recorded “Lonely Is The Night”.

 

To our surprise we didn’t have to wait long for Sabbath to come on.  The lights in the Garden went out at 8:45pm, definitely earlier than expected.  As the sold out crowd was ROARING in excitement  a video came up on the screen.  We saw burning buildings that represented the artwork from their most recent album, 13.  Then it got really weird, like something out of a fucking Final Fantasy game.  But you can see part of it here:

So, as you can see and hear, they opened up with the title track to their self-titled debut.  And from their the broke into the classic “Fairies Wear Boots”.  Say what you want about Ozzy’s solo drummer, Tommy Clufetos, taking Bill Ward’s place for the last few years as well as the fact that his style is not as jazzy or loose as Bill’s.  But he did a really good job emulating Bill’s parts and making him his own.  Do I wish Bill was there?  Hell fuck yeah I do!  But I have to give Tommy respect for making it clear that he was paying his respects.  His DW drum kit even looks like Bill’s Tama set to the T!

Geezer Butler, as usual, was on FIRE last night!  He bass tone, even from where I was sitting in the nosebleed section, was so strong and crystal clear.  HIs fingers were moving so fast on those strings.  His playing, both wild with abandon yet perfectly arranged.  There really is no one like him.  No one.

Which brings me to Lita Ford’s favorite Superhero…as well as the main reason I even wanted to go: Tony Iommi.  This is it for him.  He’s sick, tired, stressed.  No matter what the other guys want to do after this all ends I wouldn’t expect to see him out on the road again.  The lymphoma treatments are clearly taking their toll on him.  But he still put on probably the most amazing show I’ve ever seen from him and this was the fourth time I’ve seen Tony live overall.  His playing was so fluid, so smooth yet so BRUTAL.  His riffs – so horrifying, so scary, so BRUTAL.  This motherfucker CREATED the style of music I love so much as is the primary reason I play guitar.  There will NEVER be anyone like Tony Iommi ever again.  Ever.

Then there was that big shocker of the night that I eluded to earlier.  Ozzy Osbourne, not known to have had a great singing voice since the mid 9o’s…actually sounded good!  I shit you not!  I’m pretty sure the key was that the band played songs that Ozzy could handle, which meant not straying far from their first three albums much if at all.  If you knew anything about how the guy destroyed his voice over the years you knew there was no way he was pulling out “Sabbath Blood Sabbath” or even “Megalomania” for that matter.  Although I was surprised to hear them play “Snowblind” and even more surprised to hear Ozzy hit the high notes without struggle!  He was shockingly on point last night…I guess the third time was the charm after all, eh?

THE SETLIST:

Intro video/Black Sabbath

Jack The Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots

After Forever

Into The Void (\m/\m/\m/\m/!!!!!!)

Snowblind

Wars Pigs

Behind The Wall Of Sleep/Bass Solo/NIB

Hand Of Doom

Rat Salad/Drum Solo

Iron Man

Dirty Women

Children Of The Grave

Encore: Paranoid (well, duh!)

Like I said, the band pretty much hovered around the first three albums which the exceptions of “Snowblind” and especially “Dirty Women”.  Not that Ozzy sang high in that song; but I doubt anyone expected them to pull out something off Technical Ecstacy, which was not their best album during the Ozzy years.  Either way, it was incredibly effective.  My head hurt so much from headbanging yet I refused to stop.  After the show ended we witnessed some guy who was so drunk he nearly fell down the stairs and that would have been a fucking long way down.  He instead fell on his ass and as he when to get his cigarette, which was already lit up, he mistakenly put the lit side in his mouth!

The show was in-fucking-credible, what a fitting way to say goodbye to the band that started it all.  In fact, they are playing another show at the Garden tomorrow night and will be touring through September.  Without them, and especially without Tony Iommi, there would be no heavy metal as we know it now.  For that I’ll always be thankful.