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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Setlist:

Idle Hands

Crushing Belial

The Idiot Box

A Fire In Babylon

Stepping Outside The Circle

Thoughts Without Words

Of One Blood

Destroyer Of Senses

Serenity

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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Discovering True Anger In Metal; My First Powerlifting Meet

Discovering True Anger In Metal

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

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

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

killing original

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

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

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

My First Powerlifting Meet

REvPS

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