Municipal Waste – Slime And Punishment

I really wasn’t sure if Municipal Waste were ever going to pull it off; but what they released just over month ago, Slime And Punishment, is truly the album we’ve been waiting for.  It’s been five years since they released their Nuclear Blast Records debut, The Fatal Feast, a bit of a musical departure from the usual Thrash/Party Metal they’re legendary for at this point, to more of a Crossover type sound.  I wasn’t bad but neither that or the album before it, 2009’s Massive Aggressive, could EVER amount to their 2007 masterpiece, The Art Of Partying.  Hell, upon listen to Massive again while getting ready for this review I remembered why I stopped listening to it after three spins tops (maybe even just one!) – they were trying to hard to top The Art Of Partying.  You could barely hear the drums, and it felt like Tony Foresta struggled horribly with keeping up with the tempos.  Same unfortunately goes with Ryan Waste.  He couldn’t speed pick fast enough to keep up with the rhythm section for shit.

So what a huge shock it was when they dropped their first single of the new album, “Amateur Sketch”, back in April.  It was faster than a lot of The Fatal Feast.  But not only that, but the intensity was back and everything, guitars especially, was so much louder and so much sharper.  When mixing an album it’s so important that everything can be heard no matter what.  But one track doesn’t mean shit after a five year absence.  So I waited then I heard the title track, released a month later.  I wasn’t fast but it hit just as hard.  It was more old school Metal than Thrash but it was quick, catchy and did the trick.  I was sold and bought the record a week after it was released.

“Breath Grease” kicks this one off with a real BANG!  No slow, prodding intros, no instrumentals, just straight into a fast tempo song, which leads into “Enjoy The Night”, which sees the pace kicked up even faster…as if to say “good luck banging your head to this without snapping it!”. Upon hearing most of this album two things come to mind: the addition of Nick Poulos as a second guitarist was the smartest decision the band made last year, and the band as a whole clearly realized that it’s better to let the music come naturally, as opposed to forcing themselves to play a specific style.  The results are that of a band that sounds absolutely refreshed; just all of the things they’re good at and nothing they can’t do.

The one thing I’m really impressed with on Slime And Punishment is the incredibly high pitch in Tony Foresta’s vocal approach.  If you’ve paid attention to him outside of Waste then you know that this is the exact approach he’d been using with his other band, Iron Reagan.  But for this collection of songs he without a doubt NEEDED to go this high.  Especially on tracks likes the balls to the wall “Bourbon Discipline” and “Parole Violators” (featuring Vinnie Stigma of Agnostic Front), where he screams out “fuck you man!”, it’s as if he’s legitimately living out the audio party as it’s happening!

As mentioned earlier, hiring a second guitarist had to literally be THE smartest decision the band made recently.  Sure, even with one guitarist you can track as many guitars on a recording as you can.  But with two guitarists comes an extra set of ideas.  It’s readily apparent on “Poison The Preacher”, one of the way more serious tracks here, where some of the riffs just don’t sound like they were just written my Ryan.  There’s so much more of an old school Hetfield-like crunch to them (I’m talking …And Justice For All era Hetfield, when he still had balls along with two years worth of emotional rage).  Extra props for that chorus hook – one of THE heaviest moments on the entire record!

Another big surprise here is the instrumental track, “Under The Waste Command”.  Oh yeah, it starts off like classic Waste, breaks into a very Maiden-like harmony, then breaks into a solo section with a rhythm that sounds like something right out of…a Megadeth album??  With a solo that sounds like it was played by Mustaine himself??  As of this writing I’m still not sure of whether or not Nick or Ryan played it.  But one of those two clearly did their homework.  It kind of reminded me of “Dialectic Chaos”, probably one of the ONLY tracks I liked on Endgame.  Fuck, even some of the riffs on the album closer, “Think Fast” sounded like latter day Megadeth at a certain point.

Slime And Punishment, to me, is everything we all love about Municipal Waste with a few great add-ons.  The album just shits frantic riffs played in a way only Ryan Waste can play them – but now with more of a crunch.   There are plenty of songs about humor, drinking, tons of debauchery, but now with even more energy than ever before!  The songs are all under three minutes and that’s actually fucking perfect.  Songs that sound like this would totally risk becoming stale if it went over that mark for sure.  Then again I’m personally a little biased for shorter songs more and more these days.  I blame it on my growing taste for Grindcore and Powerviolence bands.  But more so than that, the album can also be seen as a glimpse into the future for Municipal Waste.  If they stick to what they did here their next few records can proof without a shadow of a doubt that they still have yet to reach their full potential after all.  So was Slime And Punishment worth the five year wait?  You fuckin’ bet it was!

Key tracks: Breathe Grease, Enjoy The Night, Shrednecks, Parole Violators, Poison The Preacher, Under The Waste Command, Think Fast

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“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.