Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Guest Reviewer!! Isis/ Jesu/ Zozobra Show!!

As you may have gathered, although I live in SoCal, I grew up in the Chicago area. My best friend for about 25 years now (where has the time gone, brother?), Mike "Skull" Sullivan, still lives in the Chicago area and is as big a metalhead as I, for as long as I (he figures prominently in the ongoing details of my own metal history). Recently, on March 22, he attended the Isis/ Jesu/ Zozobra show at The Cabaret Metro in Chicago. He sent me the following review of the show as an email, which I am now happy to post...

"I just got back from The Metro where I saw Isis, Jesu, and Zozobra. The Metro is the same lovable dump it always was, only it seemed smaller than I remember. There wasn't anywhere to fucking sit (due to the fact that there were no chairs or seats at all), and I'm having a problem with my right foot so it was a long 4 hours.

The crowd seemed to be the college age Q101 (editor: a Chicago-area, non-metal oriented rock station) crowd with a few metalheads like myself strewn about. I felt old. I staked out a spot directly in front of the soundboard and did not move until it was all over.

Zozobra, a band I am unfamiliar with, started late with the singer coming out looking like a roadie, hooking up a Gibson, and cranking the amps way up. He played a short, loud, heavily distorted piece (reminiscent of Sunn O))) or Earth) with some vocals. It was pretty heavy. Then the band joined him and they played a short set of high energy, moderately heavy distortion with shouted vocals. The crowd enjoyed it, as did I. It was one of the loudest sets I had ever seen any band play.

After a quick change, in which Justin Broadrick spent most of the time messing with his laptop, Jesu (pronounced Yea-zu, I found out today) started their set. Justin told the crowd he was very sick before the set started. Jesu is a strange band. Not much finesse. The music is mostly slow to mid tempo without changes. JB's vocals suffered due to his illness and, at times, were inaudible. I don’t think Jesu is about lyrics or vocals anyway. Jesu focuses on pure sound. Layers of sound programmed into Justin’s laptop played over his incredibly heavy guitar. The bass lines are so simple that even Nikki Sixx could play them. Dave Cochrane, the touring bassist, looked plain bored with them. The drums were well done and complex due to the synching to the programmed sounds. That said, they KICKED FUCKING ASS! I loved the set even though it was only four songs long. Their songs are sort of lengthy. I wanted more! I will keep the set list to myself because there are a few more shows on the tour and I don’t want to blow anything for the West coast.

After Jesu finished, and another quick change over, Isis took the stage. Dude! They were FUCKING AWESOME!!!!!! They are so complex, eclectic, energetic, and fucking talented that I was blown away. They can be very Rush-like and even Yes-like, at times just picking away and building up. Then, they hit their mark, fucking crank it up, and get seriously heavy. Their drummer was excellent and kept everyone glued together. Once again, I won’t divulge a set list, but they leaned on “In The Absence Of Truth” as expected. They did an encore that was so hypnotizing and awesome that I was stunned. They just blew me away! I really liked them going into the show, but I have a whole new appreciation for them after seeing them pull off what they pulled off live.

If you live on the West coast where this tour is finishing up, DO NOT PASS THIS SHOW UP!!"

So there you have it. Mike had also mentioned that band members were wearing Leviathan T-shirts (had to throw that in). Thanks, Skull!!!

Lastly, I have three new reviews (Diagnose: Lebensgefahr, Nagelfar, and Obscurus Advocam) posted here at L4M.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mid 80s...

Naturally, my friends and I paid very close attention to what was going on in Germany, Switzerland, and so forth. We were all heavily into Sodom ("Check out Angelripper's bowl haircut!" as one of my friends enthusiastically pointed out), Destruction, Kreator, Hellhammer/ Celtic Frost, and even looked into some more obscure stuff.

I gave at least a listen to Living Death, Iron Angel, Grave Digger, and others. Most of them didn't last...

After my first few shows in 1984, I missed Metallica's "Ride The Lightning" tour (with W.A.S.P., whom we didn't like and derisively referred to as We Are Stupid Posers) in February, 1985, at the Aragon Ballroom due to a bad flu, but did catch Raven and Tank, of all bands, in April (maybe Raven's only U.S. tour? Anyone know?). That was a strange show, featuring a wrestling match between bands. This was before wrestling gained some popularity and still tried to pass itself off as "real". The match was pretty cheesy, as I recall, with the crowd mostly chanting "Bullshit!" in unison. Over 1985 and early 1986 just prior to high school graduation, I did see Megadeth/ King Diamond, Celtic Frost/ Voivod, Voivod/ Kreator, D.R.I., Venom/ Cro Mags (not bad for a bunch of skinheads), Anthrax, and Motorhead. I was at this show, by the way, at the Cabaret Metro near Wrigley Field. I'm not certain, but I think that's my foot on the right...

Incidentally, I should mention Chicago's metal scene in the mid 80s, which mostly consisted of Zoetrope and Trouble. I saw both in concert numerous times in various opening slots. Also, Shaun Glass and Troy Dixler (later from Broken Hope and, respectively, Sindrome, the legendary thrash band that blew their chances at a record deal numerous times) were acquaintances of mine from other area high schools.

I finally did see Metallica in Spring, 1986, I believe. I saw them open for Ozzy on the "Ultimate Sin" tour just as "Master Of Puppets" was released. They were decent, but I've never been a big fan of Ozzy's solo stuff. A few weeks later, I think it was, Metallica did a one-off show at the Aragon Ballroom while they were drunk, ultimately resulting in a lousy show. I did, however, see Cliff Burton before his untimely death.

Lastly, for now, my friends and I wore out our only copy of "The Ultimate Revenge" (anyone seen it?) with repeated viewings (mostly at other people's parties). The tape finally died an untimely death when one of my friends accidentally ran over it in someone's driveway. To this day, I'm not sure how that happened...

Just last month at the Unleashed/ Krisiun/ Belphegor show at the Key Club, the between band entertainment was "The Ultimate Revenge"! I hadn't seen it in over 20 years...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Beginnings...Part II

As I started to move away from the lighter versions of metal around at the time (early to mid '80s), I started to investigate the newly emerging thrash metal movement by picking up "Fistful Of Metal" (worst album cover, by far) by Anthrax, "Show No Mercy" by Slayer, "Black Metal" (also, subsequently, "Welcome To Hell") by Venom, and "Ace Of Spades" by Motorhead.

At the time, I was still listening to the heavier NWOBHM bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon, and so forth, but I was rapidly finding myself increasingly drawn to the faster, heavier material that was beginning to gather strength. I also was heavily into (and still am) Black Sabbath up until Dio's departure, as well as Dio's first two solo albums. However, although I think that "Born Again" is a great, underrated album, I gave up on Black Sabbath with "Seventh Star" and haven't bothered with any of the original material released afterward.

In December of 1984, I attended my first two concerts. I saw Motorhead, Mercyful Fate, and Exciter at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago on December 4th. I remember this show pretty clearly, particularly some asshole throwing something at King Diamond during the middle of their set. Later that month, on December 21st, I saw Iron Maiden's "Powerslave" (still one of the best album covers of all time) tour with Twisted Sister opening at the Rosemont Horizon. I also remember that as a great show with Twisted Sister's (whom I never liked, although Dee Snider is an invaluable member of the metal community) set enlivened with Snider calling some fan a pussy.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Beginnings... Part I

Ray Van Horn, Jr. recently posted an entry on his blog regarding his entry into metal when he was younger and I've been inspired to do the same. Rather than fill up space posting a comment, I'll summarize my own initial forays into metal here (to the best of my recollection, we're now going back to about 1980 or so when I was 12).

When I was a kid, I spent most of my non-school hours playing sports and hadn't yet really "discovered" music. I had heard some AC/ DC and KISS (I had a KISS card collection and one of my friends was in the KISS Army) and was vaguely aware of something called "acid rock", but nothing had really clicked yet.

One day, I was in 7th grade (Fall of '80) in an art class when the teacher let another student play a cassette tape while the class was working on a project. The tape was "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath.

Five seconds of "War Pigs" was all it took and I've been hooked ever since. I spent the rest of the class period listening to the tape (I'm not sure if I finished my assignment). That afternoon, I went to K Mart and blew my allowance on the only Black Sabbath album that I could find, which was the compilation "We Sold Our Soul For Rock 'N Roll". Being naive, I didn't know initially that the album is a compilation, and I basically listened to it non-stop until my next album, which happened to be the newly released "Mob Rules". As I progressed into 8th grade and then 9th grade (1982), my first few albums were "Paranoid", "Live Evil", "Piece Of Mind" by Iron Maiden, "Pyromania" by Def Leppard, and "Screaming For Vengeance" by Judas Priest. I also wore out my original vinyl copy of Motley Crue's "Shout At The Devil". When you were 14 or so in 1982/ 83, Motley Crue was totally badass. I also picked up my first T- shirt which happened to be...

While playing pool one day (Spring '83, I think) and doing some homework at a friend's house, we threw a compilation on the turntable called "Metal Massacre" from, yep, Metal Blade Records. Some of those bands became sort of legendary, but you know which band immediately stood out. Yeah, soon after, I picked up a copy of "Kill 'Em All" (I think I taped it off of a friend initially before soon after getting it on vinyl) and gave up bands like Motley Crue and other newly emerging hair/ glam bands like Ratt and so forth for good.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I used Slide to create a slideshow for my photos. I'm not sure what the Hell is the matter with my video Widget. I emailed Widgetbox's tech support about it.

I have a ticket for the L.A. Forum stop of the Heaven And Hell tour, but I've yet to purchase a Dimmu Borgir ticket. I'll get around to that soon...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Swallow The Sun "Hope"

The following review of "Hope", the new full-length from Swallow The Sun, won't be published at L4M since the album was already reviewed some time ago by Steve Green. I hadn't realized that until after I had written the review, so I'll post the review here. Some recent reviews of mine, namely the latest releases from The Ruins Of Beverast, Furze, and The Hidden Hand, are published here.

Swallow The Sun- Hope

(Candlelight Records USA)

Once again, for a country of only about six million people, Finland has shown itself to be a remarkable pool of musical talent from across the various genres of metal. Recently, I was greatly impressed by Insomnium’s latest release (also on Candlelight), and following almost immediately is the release of “Hope”, the third full-length from fellow doom/ death masters Swallow The Sun. Doom/ death, particularly the melodic version, is not my favorite genre, but I certainly do enjoy and appreciate the top talent that the genre has to offer. Falling into this category are bands such as the aforementioned Insomnium, Opeth, and, now solidly in place, Swallow The Sun.

Swallow The Sun’s style of doom/ death is similar to Insomnium, but with a slower tempo and, perhaps, a bit more prominence in the keyboards. However, unlike more progressive bands such as Opeth, the guitars tend to focus more on traditional, heavy riffs backed with rough vocals (clean vocals do make an occasional appearance). Melody is brought to the forefront through the use of the prominent keyboards and some acoustical touches. Like Insomnium, Swallow The Sun has been able to master the art of evoking melancholy through the use of guitars and keyboards. In addition, as you would expect from these comparisons, Swallow The Sun’s level of songwriting and musicianship is exceptional, as are the production values. The result is an excellent album in the doom/ death genre that will, undoubtedly, make appearances on various Top Ten lists at the end of the year.

On Swallow The Sun’s previous releases, I was most impressed by the memorable riffs of Swallow The Sun’s debut, “The Morning Never Came”, but felt that the follow-up, “Ghosts Of Loss”, was a bit uninspired. However, certainly the folks at Candlelight Records USA were impressed by Swallow The Sun’s efforts for the band to make the move from Finnish label Spinefarm. Obviously, the move to Candlelight will enable Swallow The Sun to reach an American domestic audience that much more easily than in the past. In addition, the band has confirmed dates across Europe with Finnish giants Moonsorrow and major festival appearances are also imminent. Can a U.S tour (with Moonsorrow) be far behind? Time will only tell, but Swallow The Sun is deservedly getting a great deal of attention with the release of “Hope”. Highly recommended.

Candlelight Records USA

Swallow The Sun

Monday, March 12, 2007

Decisions, Decisions...

Frankly, I have to choose my concert wanderings wisely. Once again, the slate of great upcoming shows in the L.A area is growing by leaps and bounds, thereby making my choices more difficult. Undoubtedly, you know about the upcoming Heaven And Hell tour, which is a must see. The tour hits the L.A. Forum (only about 10 miles or so from my house) on April 25th. This is coming right on the heels of the BM shows I described in my previous post (in addition to the Murderfest, and the California Metalfest, which I haven't mentioned), as well as Dimmu Borgir following on May 17th, Emperor on June 3rd, and Immortal (!) on July 15th. Oh, man, what am I to do!? Yeah, I know, go to every one of 'em!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Fliers... (or "flyers")

So, one of the local booking agencies for shows in SoCal is Church Of The 8th Day and, periodically, they publish some fliers for upcoming shows. Here are a couple of their fliers for the L.A Murderfest (check out the band roster, some intriguing acts) as well as some upcoming stuff at the Knitting Factory and Zen Sushi in Hollywood. Take a look at the black flier carefully (click on it for a larger image), and you'll see not only the upcoming 1349/ Nachtmystium/ Goatwhore/ Averse Sefira show, but another huge BM show with Demoncy (!), Nokturne, Ibex Throne, and more. Needless to say, I may have to add this one to my upcoming schedule (Ibex Throne's last album, Total Inversion, was awesome). I've also discovered another site devoted entirely to metal shows in SoCal called Moshking that I'll be checking regularly. In the past, I was getting my concert information from various webzines and the L.A Weekly, a strange freewheeling paper in L.A with all sorts of quirky stuff.

Lastly, there's a couple of new reviews up at L4M. Check them out.