Pain In Recorded Form: Alice In Chains – Dirt

September 29th, 1992.  By the time this day rolled around the Grunge scene was at the top of the music heap.  Just a year earlier Soundgarden released the album that got them attention, Badmotorfinger; Pearl Jam, having risen from the ashes of Mother Love Bone, released their uber-boring debut, Ten; and of course, Shitvana released their craptastic shitsterpiece, Nevermind.  But on this day, Alice In Chains, on the heels of their 1990 debut, Facelift, and their 1991 EP, Sap, released their second album, equal parts Sabbath worship in music and lyrical documentation of the heroin addiction that would eventually claims the lives of two of the band’s members, Dirt.  Upon it’s release was probably THE darkest album to be released in the mainstream at that point in time, with most songs blatantly about frontman Layne Staley’s radiply growing heroin addiction.  But lets make one thing clear before I go any further, none of the guys in the band were squeaky clean.  This wouldn’t be a Seattle band if any of them were, right?  Hell, Jerry Cantrell admitted to taking Xanax during the recording of Dirt for severe clinical depression and was also drinking heavily.

Of course, heroin wasn’t the only subject matter tackled on the album, thanks to the handful of tracks written entirely by guitarist Jerry Cantrell.  In fact, one of those songs, “Them Bones” is the album’s heavier-than-fuck opener.  Written in a very Soundgarden-like 7/8 time, not even Kim or Chris on their best days could come up with a riff as crunchy as this.  Besides, it’d mean playing more than just single notes!  Add to that morbid lyrics about fearing death and a badass solo but Cantrell and you pretty much have a taste for what was to come.  This would definitely sound NOTHING like Facelift.  “Dam The River” kicks the door down immediately after “Them Bones” with even more drop-D Sabbath-style Metal.  It’s amusing when Cantrell explains that the song was written in retaliation for drummer Sean Kinney breaking a coffee table over his head and knocking him out because he wouldn’t shut the fuck up.  Musicians take note – this could be you.

Image result for alice in chains 1992                            Image result for alice in chains 1992

Alright, here’s the first set of Layne Staley lyrics, “Rain When I Die”.  There are a lot of things happening in the lyrics that’ve led to many interpretations from Layne predicting he’ll before he can even get help to him letting someone take the fall for something he did (a drug deal maybe?) to him claiming that even junkies have feelings.  That last one will forever be debatable as far as I’m concerned.  The music?  Pure Sabbath worship.  So many slow, snaky whammy bar dips, crying out throughout many layered guitar tracks.  It’s almost like the song’s an “Iron Man” tribute to Iommi himself, backed up by an absolutely solid bass vamp by Mike Starr.

“Sickman” is such a HUGE track, switching from a frantic riff that just makes you panic to a slow waltz tempo at multiple points.  Fuck, it sure makes me anxious while thinking about it.  But the real high point to this track is Layne’s layered vocal harmonies at the midpoint.  To most fans, the centerpiece to any classic Chains track is hearing Layne’s stacked harmonies.  They were always surprisingly well thought out and added almost a morbid sense of finally to such a doomy backdrop.  But this is also why Jerry Cantrell was and still is a GOD.  Taking a break from themes of morbidity “Rooster” is the most epic track on the record.  Written entirely by Cantrell, the song was a tribute to his father, a Vietnam veteran.  He was estranged from his father for years and this was his way beginning to mend fences.  It clearly worked: his father is interviewed on camera for the intro to the music video.  And Jerry plays the part of his father in the video.  It’s actually very powerful:

Following up the band’s big “Kumbaya” moment we’re thrown right back into heroin hell with “Junkhead”.  I don’t think I need to explain what’s going on here: “What’s my drug of choice?/What’ve you got?/I don’t go broke/And I do it a lot”.  But it almost sounds like Layne was letting everyone know that he’d become one with the fact that he was junkie and didn’t care, especially when he sings that “You cant understand a users mind/But try with your books and degrees/If you let yourself go and open your mind/I’ll bet you could do it like me and it ain’t so bad”.  It’s almost as if we was writing his own eulogy.

Following that is the snaky title track.  It’s yet another Cantrell-style exercise in Sabbath worship, but with an atmospheric tone that is almost unpredictable, even if it also sounds like the end of something is coming.  It’s pure depression.  Of all the tracks on here, especially “Angry Chair”, this to me is the track that just oozes pure emotional pain.  When first heard Layne sing the lines “I want you to kill me and dig me under/I want to live no more” I totally believed it.  Just remember, heroin isn’t necessarily the type of drug that makes you energetic like cocaine.  It’s supposed to provide a supposed euphoric effect but as far as I’m concerned it just makes people more depressed and makes them more withdrawn, or more of an asshole.  Used for pain my ass!  The final moments, in which the tempo gradually slows down, reminds me of someone going to sleep…or fading away.  Was that was Layne was thinking when he heard what Jerry came up with?

Now, long before some piece of shit New England band took their name from an Alice song and even stole their logo, “God Smack” was another track about heroin.  It’s admittedly not one of the best tracks on here but I definitely love the main riff.  Remember me mentioning an “Iron Man” tribute in “Rain When I Die”?  It happens again in the short interlude track “Iron Gland”, featuring vocals by Tom Araya.  “Hate To Feel” is the first of two tracks written entirely by Layne Staley, music and everything.  The riff is very bluesy, yet very Sabbath inspired, based on it’s single note main riff, the backdrop to lyrics in which Layne blames his father for his addiction.  In later years he claimed that he’d try to get sober and his father would come by asking him for drugs, so it’s possible.

The next, and last track written completely by Staley is one of THE most memorable and breath taking tracks, “Angry Chair”.  I did say “Dirt” was the track with the most pain, but “Angry Chair” was the track where Layne not only describes in detail the horrible withdrawal symptoms of heroin, but also gives to clear of a picture of his own mental state.  It’s such a jaw dropping lyric, even if he is seemingly predicting his own end as he sings “Loneliness is not a phase/Field of pain is where I graze/Serenity is far away…”.  Considering it’s one of the first songs Layne ever wrote entirely it’s a masterpiece.

“Down In A Hole” is one of the darkest love songs Cantrell or anyone for that matter has ever written.  His harmonizing with Layne is spot on before Layne takes off on his own.  Unsurprisingly, he was apparently high as fuck while recording his vocals for this one.  What is kind of surprising is how he was clearly able to keep himself together while recording his masterful triple harmony lines near the end.  I’d show you the video but it honestly is lame so here’s the song.

Originally written for the Singles soundtrack and therefore recorded before the band even went into the studio for Dirt, “Would?” is the albums closing track.  Also written by Jerry, the song was written about Andrew Wood, the lead singer of Mother Love Bone who died of a heroin overdose on the eve of the band’s debut album release.  This is actually very significant to not just Dirt‘s roots but to the Grunge scene’s future.  Many people will say that before Wood’s overdose the music that came out of Seattle was for the most part nowhere near as sad and angry as it would become.  In fact, it was said the he was full of life and energy nd everyone loved the guy.  So therefore his death took a toll on a lot of people.  One of the reasons Cantrell was on Xanax was apparently to help him cope with this.

As far as his lyrics were concerned, it was pointed at those who pass judgement on others for their mistakes, as bought up in the final chorus line “So I made a big mistake/Try to see it once my way”.  I guess I can see his view but I also can’t.  Maybe that was the point, being I’ve never touched a single drug in my life.  The music, and incredible display of soft and loud dynamics while never losing it’s aggression before Layne closes out the song, and this drug fueled shitstorm of an album by asking us “If I would could you?”.

The events following the release of Dirt could be comparable to see a legitimate prophecy live out.  In early 1993 bassist Mike Starr was fired from the band for his own drug problems and replaced by Ozzy bassist Mike Inez.  After a while the band stopped touring regularly after dropping off an opening spot with Metallica and rumors of Layne’s drug use ran rampant.  After the release of their 1995 self titled album and their 1996 MTV Unplugged appearance, where Layne looked like a fucking pink haired corpse, he went into hiding.  Aside from the band’s Music Bank boxset, no one really heard from Layne again, until he was found dead of his apartment in Seattle in 2002.  The autopsy report determined that he died two weeks before he was even discovered, making his death date April 5th, the exact day Cobain offed himself eight years earlier.  Mike Starr was found dead in 2011.

Dirt was Alice In Chains’ masterpiece.  It was as dark and heavy as any Heavy Metal album could be.  And Layne Staley’s lyrics were honest.  He didn’t play with words and guessing games with you, like that jackass Cobain did.  He told it like it was…and most likely as it was happening.  it was mentioned after he died but with Dirt, Layne seemed to really be prophesizing his own death, while Jerry Cantrell was his doomy, sludgy, pallbearer.

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Hail Satan!

I recently restarted a facebook account after being off it for a good two years, strictly for the sake of promoting this blog.  Of course, though, I got curious and looked up some old friends I may have not spoken to in a while, which led me to look up and ex-guitarist of mine, Matt Holbowitch.  I immediately was blindsided when the page read “Remembering Matt Holbowitch”; underneath it was a status written by a friend of his about memorial service arrangements and he left his phone number.

I called him after being in a state of shock for a few minutes and, while I won’t get into the details, it was a pretty shitty situation, causing Matt to take his own life.  While I’m sure I’ll get into how we met in another post, I couldn’t help but remember what turned out to be our last phone conversation two years ago.  He was living in Missouri, where he was a diesel mechanic, and he called me after I threw the horns up in response to a video he posted on facebook of him playing “Flight Of Icarus”.  He asked me what it would take for me to go down there to hang for a week and I told him not much, but I never followed up.

I wish he reached out to me if he was having problems.  Fuck, I wish I kept in touch with him.  Suicide was not the way out, especially when you’re the father to a two year old and a one year old.  If you are reading this and you want to take your own life, do yourself a favor and go find someone to talk to because burying that shit will do you no good in the long run.

In memory of him I decided to cover “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” for my first true electric guitar video.  Why that one?  Because this guy was so fucking metal that his first words were “Black Sabbath”.  Not momma, not dadda.  Black.  Sabbath.  I doubt you can just make that up.  Because of that alone I salute him and say hail Satan!

 

Matt Holbowitch 1977 – 2016

 

Possibly the best Ozzfest lineup ever? Ozzfest live at the Tweeter Center August 26th 2004

So just over a year since my last concert I was invited by my then-bandmates, Chad and Idrees, to go with them to see Ozzfest at the Tweeter Center in Camden, NJ on August 26th, 2004.  And if you looked at the main stage line up for this tour alone it’s easy to see why.  Dimmu Borgir (fake, pretentious, symphonic black metal), Superjoint Ritual (Phil Anselmo acting even dumber than the last time I saw him), Black Label Society, Slayer, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath.  Yeah, Judas Priest was THE big deal at the time, with the band announcing the return of Rob Halford on vocals just ten months earlier and following the release of the band’s box set.  The three of us definitely had our musical differences – making me wonder how I didn’t quit them earlier – with me liking a little bit of everything yet leaning towards heavier stuff more and more, Idrees listening to Thrash and ONLY Thrash, and Chad being the Power Metal guy who was practically jerking off every night to all things Iron Maiden and Steve Vai; but who the fuck doesn’t even remotely like Judas Preist??  I’m waiting….

The morning of the show they were supposed to come to my house with Idrees’s dad driving to pick me up.  They were very late and whenever I called either of their cellphones no one picked up and it really irritated me.  When they finally did show up I do remember letting them both have it, although I don’t remember their lame excuse.  Idrees’s dad reminds me of a cross between Nile Rodgers and Isaac Hayes, Niles in the voice department and Isaac in looks, it was pretty funny just hearing him talk.  We arrived in Camden around 1pm due to shitty traffic once we got off the NJ Turnpike; ever been to Camden before?  No?  Ok, ever hear Chris Rock talk about why you should never anywhere that has a Martin Luther King Blvd?  Well, we were on it and we saw why.  Here’s an example of what we drove through to get to this place:

  Image result for camden poverty 

Isn’t this just sexy?  I’d totally live here!

After maybe twenty minutes of my suddenly wishing we took Chris Rock’s advice and ran we finally got to the Tweeter Center, the huge outdoor arena placed in the location of the Armageddon we all apparently missed and right across the water from Philadelphia.  Idress’s really cool dad was going to spend his day at the New Jersey State Aquarium not to far down the road from us and right by the ferry that was bringing in drunken Philly trash for Ozzfest.  But I’ll get back to that later!

The three of us walked in to the horrible sounds of Otep on the second stage, having just missed God Forbid, who I really wanted to see.  They sadly broke up in 2013 but if you’ve never heard of them check out their 2004 album Gone Forever.  So we walked around for a bit, bought beads to throw at girls to have them show us their titties, etc.  We went back to the second stage because I wanted to see Lamb Of God.  They were literally five days away from release of their major label debut on Epic Records, Ashes Of The Wake, following the success of their last album, As The Palaces Burn, and it looked like they totally did a major gear upgrade with there being to big walls of speaker cabinets like only Slayer would do.

Chad and Idrees left me there because they weren’t fans of the band.  I think it was literally just too modern for either of them.  Lesson #1: if you’re only 19 years old – like these two knuckleheads were (I was a year older) – nothing is too modern for you.  Life’s too short to be THAT pretentious over music.  I may have just turned 32 but I still have an open mind!  Lamb Of God were absolutely awesome, playing a good chunk of their material from the last record as well as the first single off the new album, called “Laid To Rest”.  What I didn’t understand was Randy Blythe’s need to curse literally every other word – that’s not an exaggeration – as well as constantly saying he was in “Killadelphia” when we were actually across the water.  Dumbass.

My two dopey friends came back just in time to rescue me from Shitknot (I was a fan of them for a few years but 2004 was the year they broke my heart Godfather Part 2 style) and Hatebreed.  In fact, after LOG there were no others bands I wanted to see on the second stage at all!  So we had lots of time to kill.  While there I bought a BLS shirt that I still have today and the classic Slayer eagle shirt, which mysteriously disappeared on me a few years back.  I’m still pissed about that one, by the way.  While walking we came across a lot of that drunken Philly trash I mentioned before.  I’m talking a bunch of ridiculously sunburnt dudes in Eagles jerseys (the football season had just started) yelling out in unison “E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!!!!”….over….and over….and over again.  We also found a good spot at the guard rail on the lawn, where we could throw beads at bitches AND have a pretty good few of all the bands.

After while it was finally time for the main stage acts to go on.  First? Black Label Society.  This was to be my first of seven times seeing them, in fact I can’t make fun of Chad’s fixation on Maiden without stressing that between 2002 and 2008 I wanted to play like Zakk Wylde so bad.  I had other influences, of course, but at that time Zakk was the ONLY one who was that popular while playing that kind of music.  Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul had already risen from the ashes of Pantera, but their current band, Damageplan, was not getting over on the old fans easily.

Right out the gate he was ripping it up on a custom made Jackson Randy Rhoads guitar.  He’s shredded for maybe two minutes before breaking into “Funeral Bell”.  Idrees and I loved it.  Chad?  “Zakk Wylde’s not that great”, he said with this arrogant smirk on his face.  Chances are he was already jaded from listening to technical shred nerds who never left their mother’s basement.  Lesson #2:  It really doesn’t matter how much better one guitar player is than the next.  Zakk himself will even acknowledge that there are players that will bury him.  But what’s more important than having all the technique there is to have is being able to have your playing reach out to more than one niche crowd.  That’s why Zakk passed the audition to play with Ozzy in the first place.  Even Ozzy knew Zakk had already developed a sound that would one day make him recognizable!

Superjoint Ritual were next.  Where Phil Anselmo pretty much told us last year in Brooklyn where he stood in music (as in not with Pantera) he pretty much took that and acted like a dumbass this time around.  First off, their latest album, A Lethal Does Of American Hatred, sucked balls in plain English.  Also, it’s one thing to command your audience to mosh; but when you tell them that they’re pussies if they don’t you’re just a jackass.  The band were still great…so long as the played the music off the first album…but it was weird when Phil ended the band’s set by saying “keep sucking dick!” on the mic before doing his classic shitty rendition of the last words to “Stairway To Heaven” that he’d been doing since the Pantera days.  Drugs are bad, m’kay?

Dimmu Borgir were TRASH.  Bad enough I already don’t like Symphonic Black Metal but Dimmu were and are just awful.  Next? Slayer.  How funny that, as Idrees left us to mosh in the makeshift pit area right behind us, Chad and I both realized that the guardrail was pretty wobbly – yeah, we were fucked and we knew it.  Because as soon as Slayer got on stage all Hell broke loose and we were almost instantly pinned to the guardrail.  That shit hurts!  Of course, once they kicked into “Raining Blood”, the pit had become it’s most violent.  But who really fucking cares?  This is Slayer – and with the classic lineup back together!  Whenever I was able to get a glimpse of the band without getting pummeled I look straight at Jeff Hanneman.  He tore that guitar up better than Kerry King that night….and all the time.

After surviving the moshpit from hell we made sure Idrees came to us so we wouldn’t lose our spots before Priest came on.  At this point on it was more like an arena style concert, because who moshes to Priest or Sabbath anyway?  This was the one band to have a really elaborate stage setup.  Here, look for yourself:

 

I was able to notice on my own that Halford was relying HEAVILY on a teleprompter because he’d go to one place on stage and just stay there for two of three songs before going somewhere else.  Didn’t matter though because he was on fire, proving why he’s the Metal God.  When they played “Breaking The Law” I called up my college radio station’s programming director to bust his balls and left him a voicemail of the band playing the chorus line.  Why was I busting chops?  Well…let’s just say he did just that over a month earlier.

Up last?  Sabbath.  But of course there was a catch.  Before the band were to go on stage Bill Ward came out to announce to everyone that Ozzy was sick and could not play.  BUT, apparently Rob Fucking Halford volunteered to sing so the band wouldn’t have to cancel their performance.  There’s a bootleg floating around of Halford doing the favor for them back in 1992 but I was actually going to hear it??  Needless to say I wasn’t bummed out much longer after hearing that!

Being that someone else was singing, regardless of the fact that it’s a guy that’s STILL amazing at his age, they kept the setlist floating around the just the first three albums.  I’d bet that was just to make it easier on Rob, who surely didn’t have enough time to practice.  But it still was pretty awesome to hear.

 

Idrees’s dad was waiting for us right outside the arena, having stolen banana daiquiri mix from some vendor stand during what I think he said was some kind of police situation…or something.  The show was awesome as a whole.  If I only knew then that I’d NEVER see the classic Sabbath lineup.  But was this THE best Ozzfest lineup ever?  I think the following year’s beat it; but I’ll get to that in the future.

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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.

Corrosion of Conformity live at Gramercy Theatre 12/4/15

This was a last minute thing for me.  I totally wasn’t expecting to go to this because I had somewhere to be the next day but all I can tell you was it was so fucking worth it.  I was amazed I was even able to get tickets because according to my girlfriend the show was very close to selling out, which did surprise me just a bit.  I mean, Pepper Keenan hasn’t done shit with Corrosion of Conformity in a decade and the band went on without him for a few years as a three piece hardcore band for the first time since their 1985 album Animosity.

When I think of Corrosion as a band I can’t help but think of that swinger couple that lets it get out hand for far longer than usual.  Mike Dean left the band after 1987’s Technocracy EP and didn’t come back until the year before the band made 1994’s Deliverance.  Reed Mullin left after 2000’s America’s Volume Dealer, only to come back in 2010, just in time for him, Woody Weatherman and Mike to go back out as a three piece.  And then there’s Pepper.  Oh, Pepper…this guy is without a doubt THE biggest WHORE in this relationship.  After the band’s last studio album with him, 2005’s In The Arms of God, he basically ditched his jilted lovers for Down along with ex-Pantera singer and childhood friend Phil Anselmo so he could jerk off to slugde metal on record.  Together they made one GREAT comeback album, followed by two not so great EPs.

But in this swinging relationship, man do things swing in both directions because this year Pepper finally returned, seemingly getting it all out of his system and here we are.  They recently signed a new deal with Nuclear Blast Records and they plan to make a new record next year.  And judging by the assault on my ears a few nights ago I’m convinced the wait will be worth it.

After I bought my tickets I went out for a bit, but upon going back to the building I found Mike Dean outside the building having a cigarette.  Drugs are bad, mmmkay?  Because this motherfucker, as amazing a bassist as he is, looks like Doc Brown on meth.  I went up to him to introduce myself.  He shook my hand and even said hi but, with his looking around at everything but me, I figured he just wanted to be left alone so I let him be.

I sat on the ground for a few minutes when Pepper came out for a cigarette.  He had cowboy boots on with his worn leather jacket.  His face?  Aged like a motherfucker, but then again, if I was childhood friends with someone like Phil Anselmo I’d age badly myself!  I said “what’s up bro?” to him and he was about to shake my hand before we were rudely interrupted by these two tramps who bragged to Pepper that “we came ALL the way from New Jersey just to see you!”.  Oooh wow, you came from across the fucking Hudson River??!!?!?!  WOW!!!!  Did you swim across the river?  Because THAT would’ve been impressive!

While these two fuckheads where doing their thing Pepper quickly turned to shake my hand before something else happened.  We shared some small talk, nothing major, nothing long.  I asked him if bitches annoy you like that often, “Sometimes…”, he said in his Louisiana drawl.  I then asked him if he was enjoying playing out with the guys again. “Yeah man, I’m having a blast.”, he said before being warned by this drunken Brooklyn buffoon waiting on line to hide his beer in his jacket because the NYPD are hardasses with nothing better to do.  As much as I thought the buffoon was annoying with his drunken bellowing about seeing Savatage while high I couldn’t help but echo back his warning to Pepper.

After my girlfriend arrived we went on line and were able to grab a seat to the right of the mixing board.  On tonight’s bill alongside Corrosion were Mothership, Saviours and Brent Bjork and The Low Desert Punk Band.  I also declared this night the Orange Amplifiers Apocalypse.  What’s with stoner bands and their fixation on Orange Amps?  Did they not get the memo that the only reason Tony Iommi used an Orange Amp in that televised German performance on Beat-Club was because it belonged to the TV studio?  Not too long after I noticed Jimmy and Peter Pallis of Anaka up front we were taken by surprise by this sudden fucking screeching amp feedback.  As my ears were getting fucked up the projection screen on stage went up and there was Mothership.

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Now…I’m still not sure a week later how I feel about this band.  There is no doubt in mind of their musical direction: not too heavy, aggressive enough.  There’s no question in my mind that Kelley Juett played his fucking ass off throughout Mothership’s entire set.  Very good guitar player with a very good amp tone as well.  I wasn’t too surprised to hear them play Led Zeppelin’s “heartbreaker”.  I felt like something was missing though.  What exactly?  Not sure…maybe it’s sounded to early 70’s hard rockfish for my tastes.  I don’t hate Mothership…just not sure what to think.

Next up was Saviours.

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Geez…Austin Barber and Kelley Juett sure do look alike!  The guy sitting next me and I were sure that it was the same guy in two bands.  Aside for that this band to me are what Mothership maybe should’ve been.  They were definitely edgier, heavier, more badass solos, more badass riffing, more badass everything while keeping it in a sludge/stoner context.  Imagine a mix of High on Fire if Matt Pike hired a second guitarist and they played Iron Maiden style harmonies.

Brent Bjork and The Low Desert Punk Band should go into a room with the surviving members of The Grateful Dead, suck each other off and then go kill themselves in a suicide pact with all of them shooting themselves in the fucking mouth.

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This is exactly why I HATE jam bands so fucking much.  Stupid name: check.  Unnecessarily long jams: check.  Shitty songs to be jamming out to: check.  But forget all that for a second.  What the fuck are they doing on a bill with bands they sound nothing like??

They finally showed us mercy but getting the fuck off the stage around 10pm.  The real fun began a half an hour later:

The last time I saw Corrosion of Conformity over ten years ago opening up for Motorhead they sounded damn good; but on this night they sounded absolutely fucking brutal.  They all came off as completely re-energized – especially Pepper.  His voice was real strong here, full of energy, as if he really was happy to be back with the guys.  I was so pumped!  After “Broken Man” they went right into “Paranoid Opioid” and I dare say this time around it sounded better than the album version.  They broke into a lot of tracks spanning their entire Pepper-era run between 1991 and 2005, including “Vote With A Bullet”, my girlfriend’s personal favorite, as well as “Albatross”, which Pepper personally dedicated to Mothership.  Why?  “Because they owe me a lot of money.”, he declared on the mic.

Before the show ended for good Pepper said he was dedicating the last song to the Eagles of Death Metal as a result of the Paris attacks where a few of their own crew members were killed in the Bataclan while the band was on stage.  Scary shit.  The song?  “Clean My Wounds”.  Gee Pepper, thanks for showing me that I’ve been playing the riff wrong all these years.  Fucker.  After the guitar solo the band broke it down into a reggae groove that lasted nearly ten minutes and showed off how great a bassist Mike Dean really is.  Reed Mullin?  Absolutely underrated as a drummer, he truly has come such a long way in thirty years.  After nearly ten minutes the band jumped right back into the song’s original groove before calling it a night.

This was an absolutely brutal, incredible show and I’m happy to say that it did in fact sell out half way into the night.  I’ll be first in line to buy their new CD when it comes out.  This is my last concert for the year until Black Sabbath in February unless I get tickets to see Lamb of God in January with support from Power Trip and Anthrax.

My First Taste of Pure Evil on Music

20130104_black_sabbath_paranoid_91 So, in the spirit of my recent rant on Black Sabbath’s final concert announcement, I couldn’t help recently but begin reminiscing about my first true taste of them…and that would obviously be their second album, Paranoid, released originally in 1970.  What an eye opener that was – and not just because the picture of the colorful looking, sword welding soldier on the cover made me think I was buying the soundtrack to some early 70’s low budget sci-fi movie!

I first heard of Ozzy Osbourne when he released Ozzmosis in 1995.  I was 11 at the time and MTV News did a story on him and then a week later  I saw his video for “Perry Mason”.  But it was two years later, when I somehow joined the “rocker clique” in my school, that my friend Elan Bochbot educated me on Ozzy’s beginnings.  What was ironic was this now was the year that Black Sabbath were to reunite (I think without Bill Ward) to headline Ozzfest.  But it wasn’t until a year later that I finally bought my first Sabbath CD – and this was AFTER I bought Blizzard of Ozz so I think you can imagine how thrown off I was bound to be when comparing Randy Rhoads’s playing to Tony Iommi’s!

Oh, I also had an obstacle or two when listening to Paranoid.  I was living with my dad when I got it back in the summer of 1998 and I didn’t have a radio in that bedroom so all I had was some shit CD walkman.  Yeah, about that shit walkman; it was so shitty that for whatever reason it would not read the CD.  And if it did read the CD I had to make sure not to skip tracks because it wouldn’t read and the fucking CD would just spin around aimlessly.  You can’t make this shit up!

Now for the music!  The first time my shitty CD player was able to read the CD I was smacked in the back of the head by the first low E strum and slow as fuck groove of “War Pigs”.  That groove, the unusual way Tony Iommi played his guitar – a far cry from Randy Rhoads and “I Don’t Know” for sure! – Geezer Butler’s walking bassline, Bill Ward’s loose drumming.  Those sirens!!  I already couldn’t help but anticipate what was to happen next because I knew it’d be a while before my CD player would be able to do this again!

Then it got quiet, all you could hear was Bill’s hi-hat.  Then it came.  “Generals gathered in their masseeeeeess!”  Whoa!  Is that really Ozzy?  Is that the same guy that I just heard a month earlier singing “Crazy Train”?  Oh yeah it was.  But this was a much rawer Ozzy.  At that moment I understood that this was going to be nothing like those other two Ozzy CD’s I had.  This shit was going to be fucking RAW.  This would be the first time I wouldn’t hear a rhythm guitar track during any solos, this would be the first time I’d hear the guitar and bass intertwining together as one, swinging drums in a much more aggressive environment.  I was listening to the origins of Heavy Metal – and it sounded pretty jazzy.

After being blown away by “War Pigs” “Paranoid” came next.  This is one of the simpler songs on the CD.  It’s perfect.  Short, fast paced, the lyrics fit perfectly and that gnarly, dissonant solo totally fucked with my head.  I can listen to it now and I can’t help but imagine the face of a crazy person.  “Planet Caravan”, the lone mellow track here.  This one threw me off for sure, especially with Ozzy’s voice going through a rotating speaker, which I wasn’t aware of at the time.  I didn’t even think it was him!  As he creepily spoke about sailing “through endless skies” as “stars shine like eyes”, I felt like I was watching a cartoon, and in it all four guys in the band when on some boat riding through space, then as Tony played the ending solo the four of them faded away in to the darkness.  As it turns out my interpretation of the song wasn’t too far off from what Geezer had in mind after all.  What makes me laugh is my rap loving brother heard this song the one time my dad let me play it in his truck and decided “You’re a poser and I’m gonna tell all ya friends!”.  Yeah…good luck there buddy.

Then came that bass drum, then came the bending E string…”I am Iron Man!”.  This was just fun as hell because while this wasn’t based on the comic book I read comics so this is another song where I couldn’t help but see a cartoon going on in my head, regardless that it turned out to be the ultimate rejection song and the same goes for “Electric Funeral ” too!  But Tony’s use of the wah pedal on “Electric Funeral” made the riff that much more fucked up sounding and I loved it.

“Hand of Doom”, that is just pure groove.  I wasn’t ready for that yet but I totally appreciate it now, especially when I gets faster in the middle before slowing down again.  It’s an exercise in jazz improv, but of course as evil as they could get.  Same thing goes for “Jack the Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots”.  Upon my first several listens the lyrics made absolutely no sense at all.  I didn’t think they were supposed to because I knew everybody and their mother did drugs like there was no tomorrow back then but later on I discovered the meaning behind it.  But Geezer, I’m sure that not all skinheads are afraid to fight bud – you just got lucky that night!

The album, or at least my version of it, ends with “Rat Salad”, or as I like to call it, the Bill Ward Special!  He is such an underrated drummer.  He was to Black Sabbath what Ringo was to the Beatles.  He had rhythm but he could swing to and it added such flavor to the groove.  But unlike Ringo he could do drum solos.  Was this John Bonham?  No.  But it fit perfectly with the tune.

And just like that not only was it over but I’d probably have to wait a while before the stupid CD player could read the CD again.  This was nothing like what I was listening to at the time.  Ozzy’s voice was raw and nasal as hell throughout the whole thing.  Tony’s guitar playing was primitive but he undeniably had such a huge sound and I could finally see where so many guys stole their tricks from – myself included.  It was filed with anger, it was dark, gloomy, nothing flashy or shrederrific about him.  What you heard was what you got but it was real and you FELT IT.  Geezer turned out to be such a player on that bass and Bill was more than an anchor.  He was the perfect jazz drummer – he knew when to keep it tight but he also knew when to let it fly.

In the end it was the perfect historical piece for metal historians, not just because of the music.  The artwork, the lyrical imagery, the themes of war, rejection, mental illness and again, how raw it all is.  Paranoid will always be the perfect introduction to the band that started it all.  I knew I was hooked and I wanted more.  Now.  Yesterday.  Then I found Master of Reality, which I consider to be THE heaviest album of all time.  But that’s another story.

$haron ruins everything…again.

blacksabbath2013smaller_638Over this past week Sharon Osbourne proved once again why she’s an out of touch, clueless, money hungry piece of shit.  Five days ago she released a short promotional video announcing that Black Sabbath will be playing their final show when Ozzfest goes to Japan in November.  There’s a lot wrong with this picture already.

Now before I go into that I’d like to quickly acknowledge that just maybe this was a decision made by Tony.  The poor guy’s been fighting Lymphoma for three years now and I’m sure that it’s got to be taking it’s toll on him lately, especially when you factor in the touring schedule, how often he has to fly back home for treatments, and of course, the man is 67 years old.  Therefore, I have no choice to respect that, that is if this was his decision.  He’s the godfather of Heavy Metal – no one else can say that, I don’t care what anyone thinks.  Without the sound HE created there is no Heavy Metal and he deserves all the respect in the world.  I’ll forever be grateful to Tony Iommi.  He was one of my biggest inspirations as a guitar player because he was and is as real as it gets.

Now for what I hate about this!  It all boils down to the fact that their final show is to be at the very festival bearing their burnt out lead singer’s name.  If that alone isn’t an ego play on Sharon’s behalf then I don’t know what is.  There’ve been many times where I felt Sharon did certain things to Sabbath just to spite them for firing her future husband back in 1979.  She helped Ozzy’s solo career take off and many of his solo albums in the 80’s surely outsold Sabbath’s post-Dio output without question.  So therefore she must feel she has the upper hand against Tony and Geezer and she’ll do anything to rub it in their faces every chance she gets.  And of course, Ozzy’s so burnt that he’ll do anything his puppeteer wife tells him!

Next….Japan??  Really?  Really?!  Some of you might think “hey good for Japan.  They get to see Sabbath’s final show ever!”  Me?  Fuck that!  I say a band like them, with a legacy as incredible as theirs, should be playing a home coming show in Birmingham, England, where the band was born.  It’s only fitting.  It started there?  They should end it there.  This is where they came from, that tough as nails steel town where four kids with no hope got the fuck out of there and accomplished things far beyond what they could’ve ever imagined!  Yeah, they did a few Birmingham shows in 2012 while Tony was beginning his Lymphoma treatments but so fucking what?  This is supposed to be the end this time, right?  This is the good thing about Motley Crue – and no I’m not a fan of them.  They all chose to end their tour – and career – at the Whiskey A Go-Go, where it all began for them back in 1981.

Now let’s talk about this Ozzfest lineup, since this last show is already set.  In the video announcement for Ozzfest Japan, moneyb – oops, I meant Sharon – also mentions that Korn are also on the bill.  I’m not against diversity in music or festivals;  but Korn are the originators of the entire shitty nu-metal movement that DESTROYED real heavy metal for a long time.  As if it wasn’t bad enough that those assholes are still breathing – why would anyone put them on a bill with BLACK FUCKING SABBATH, a band who’s one guitarist with two missing fingertips can wipe the floor with Korn’s two seven string guitarists, who bend down so low when on stage that they look like they’re sucking their own dicks?!  And most importantly it just doesn’t fit musically.  Sharon and her son Jack are notorious for pushing really bad, trendy, sound – alike bands on Ozzfest in the past. I think they only time they got it RIGHT was in 2004 when the co-headliners with Sabbath were Judas Priest featuring a newly returned Rob Halford and the next year when they took Iron Maiden with them.  That was fucking awesome!

What really made me laugh was when Ozzy said recently that after Sabbath splits he plans to go back to his solo career.  Ozz…please…let it go.  You used to have an incredible voice; but that was a long time ago and it’s gone now.  Oh wait – you can’t do that because $haron won’t let you.  I’m guessing this is all revenge for that time you got drunk and tried to kill her.  Whoops!  That bitch is gonna work you until you die and then STILL make money off you when you go.  If I were you – and if you still had a mind of your own! – I’d call it quits after the last Sabbath show.  Buddy I’ve seen clips of the band playing “Children of The Grave” at the Barclay’s Center and you alone were AWFUL.

It’s a shame, really.  It’s a fucked up way for Black Sabbath, the band that invented the music I love so much, to go out.  I feel like it’s a royal slap in the face to their entire legacy.  No, this is not their first Ozzfest, not by a long shot.  But this is their FAREWELL.  Sure, they’ve said this before; but I feel like this really can be the end for real because of Tony’s health problems.  They say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree…that’s the fucking truth when it comes to Sharon Osbourne.  She’s just like the one guy she hated the most in her life – her father!