Thursday, December 22, 2011

An ill advised pairing...

The pairing of metal and chistmas makes no sense whatsoever, never mind the religious fiasco involved. If there ever was a form of music that has nothing to do with traditional holidays (with the possible exception of pre-christian celebrations) metal is it.

Any attempt to inject metal into christmas (or vice versa) is an exercise in banality at best, or, at worst, a cash grab aimed at the most gullible of the metal listening audience. Surprisingly, metal’s most visible forays into christmas have occurred amongst the early black metal genre’s most revered artists, Venom and King Diamond.

After the release of At War With Satan early in 1984, the veneer of seriousness surrounding Venom began to slip away. During a time of endless assaults, Venom flirted with unintentional self parody with photo spreads in publications such as Kerrang! that were, shall we say, more than a little ridiculous. Leather shorts, examples of Abaddon sans glasses decked out in garland, ornaments and with a pensive look on his face (anyone have that shot? It’s from an old issue of Kerrang!), and you have all of the ingredients for a disaster.

Sure enough, disaster did, indeed occur with…

I suppose that none of this was all that shocking to British late night TV audiences, but to impressionable 16 to 17 year old youths living in the wilds of the Chicago suburbs (not to mention Bergen) that thought that Black Metal was the “be all, end all” of pure evil, this sort of self parody ruined whatever degree of credibility Venom still maintained. Confirmation of post- Possessed Venom’s descent into mediocrity occurred with…

Not to be outdone, rival King Diamond (always one to toe the line with silliness in his self titled, post- Mercyful Fate days) released his famous (or infamous) single No Presents For Christmas, a semi-serious song given some credit and weight, and, dutifully rolled out (guilty as charged) this time of year…

OK, the purpose of all of this exposition in a roundabout way is the recent appearance of not one, but two, christmas themed promos in my inbox. The first is essentially a parody within a parody within a parody, a new, three-song EP from Austrian Death Machine hilariously titled Jingle All The Way. Sporting perhaps the funniest album cover ever, you can’t help but laugh along at song titles such as “I Am Not A Pervert;” songs that hit the cultural bullseye with all of the subtlety of Arnold’s evocative performance in Commando. Not one, but two movies appear in a collision on the cover of this gem, T2 font and all, each used to maximum effectiveness.

No one should take any of the music belched out by Austrian Death Machine, a side project of As I Lay Dying, with any degree of seriousness, but Strawb takes one for the team and gives it his best shot. Me personally, I think that Austrian Death Machine should not consist of anything but big, stupid breakdowns, jock-fist pumping, samples, and Arnold impersonations. Anything else, such as real vocals (and this EP has plenty of that), and actual, full-length albums of original songs is a total waste of time.

Strawb says…

Austrian Death Machine Jingle All The Way

(Metal Blade Records)

Reviewed By: Strawb

“A certain ex-governor of California used to make movies. Some of them were absolute classics, and to this day, T2 is up there for consideration if I ever have to choose my “Desert Island Flicks.” Conan The Barbarian (editor: not Conan The Destroyer!) would be a rival though. But, for each of the classics we have the other extreme, say Raw Deal (editor: it’s not all that bad) and Red Sonja. Arnold even descended into a lower pit of Hell for his increasingly viewed upon with scorn and contempt audience with his rather futile attempts at comedy (editor: as a teacher, Kindergarten Cop resonates in a certain way, I must admit). But, towards the end of his film career, it did seem to be a case of ‘take the cash, sod the product.’

So, to summarize, the later the film, the less the action, and, with any move towards comedy, the worse the film. Therefore, it would only be logical to state that Jingle All The Way (the movie; that is) would be Arnie’s equivalent of wire brushed haemorrhoids covered in Jalapeno sauce. And so it proved.

I discovered Austrian Death Machine when reviewing a previous release by their nemesis in the field of Arnold-set-to-music, Arnocorps. Personal preference may pick one band over the other, but my conclusion was that an album by either was way too much to sit through, the poor vocal impersonations and Arnold themed songs becoming boring way before the end.

This release has addressed that point, as it is a three-track EP. Would this be brief enough to prevent musical narcolepsy? The opener, “I’m Not A Pervert” thrashes along full of sound and fury but signifying nothing but bombast. “It’s Turbo Time” is a much improved and more accomplished output; faster, much more intense and the best track here with the only aberration being the poor impression asking for the guitar solo.

Track three opens with the line, in full Arnold regalia, natch, “If you’re going to sound like Cookie Monster, then we may as well write a song about cookies!” As I recall, on the American side of the pond, Cookie Monster is a character on a children’s show (editor: yep). So, some sort of culture clash here, then? Arnie-thrash for infants would be a good recruitment idea for the army of metal, I suppose. Or, as copyright infringing crap for thirtysomethings who never grew up, not such a good idea. My rating of the track puts it firmly in the second category. Bah, Humbug, you might say.

If you fancy seasonal thrash/ metalcore based upon Schwarzenegger’s worst ever film, then this can be the only EP for you. I would be obliged if the rest of the world give it the wide berth it deserves and spend their money more wisely…”

Austrian Death Machine MySpace

I must say that I agree, as Jingle All The Way rapidly loses its luster after you finish laughing at the cover art.

Speaking of King Diamond, traditional metallers Holy Grail, a well regarded act from SoCal, have taken it upon themselves to cover “No Presents For Christmas” on their recently released Season's Bleedings (groan). Another holiday themed release, this time from Prosthetic Records, Season's Bleedings is a two-song EP. Done competently enough, Holy Grail cement their traditional chops with their rendition of Rainbow’s “Kill The King.” Not nearly as silly as Austrian Death Machine, Holy Grail wisely resist the temptation to indulge in self parody by maintaining a certain serious approach; albeit, with rather silly cover art.

Strawb also takes a look at this one in more detail…

Holy Grail Season's Bleedings

(Prosthetic Records)

Reviewed By: Strawb

"I am unaware of the beliefs of the other reviewers on this site, but I, for one, do not do christmas. I am not religious and once my daughter had grown up the commercial demand aspect seemed like something I could live without and so it proved. It may therefore seem strange that I have chosen to review a seasonal platter, but this came about when I internetted Holy Grail and listened to some of their output on line. “My Last Attack” particularly hit me; I played it three times. So, once I’d found a copy of Crisis In Utopia to buy, I thought I’d give this EP a try.

I purchased Rainbow Rising [on vinyl] when it was first released. Yes, I’m that old. I have played it ever since. I saw Rainbow live back in the day, and saw Dio for the last time with Heaven And Hell. Not my ultimate album, but always in my top ten.

Any long term reader of my reviews will know that I am not a fan of plagiaristic ‘cover’ albums.

It would seem then that Holy Grail are heading full speed towards a blind bend on a cliff road by opening this EP with “Kill The King.” But no, a handbrake turn combined with a Scandinavian flick ensures miraculous control to allow continuance of the journey. Holy Grail achieve this by paying necessary homage to a classic, but also by impregnating it with their own seed to damn near improve upon the original. From their own unique intro, to return to that which is familiar, but with speed variations and a new mix, this hits like a taser to the forehead. I look upon Dio, Blackmore, and Powell as the Metal Gods that they were, so I would submit that the Holy Grail players are somewhat inferior, but the combination of youth, drive, and modern technology gives them the edge in a number of areas. A masterpiece reborn.

“No Presents For Christmas” is a generous slab of traditional metal served with a seasonal sauce. Another cheeky opening, this time a basic track of “Pictures At An Exhibition” giving me a WTF moment, but also setting me up for an explosion of sound and yet another WTF moment. Guitars, drums, speed, repeat, and then let loose the hounds of Vocals. Even the slow cheesy part has merit. Again, the original King Diamond version is a classic for fans of that band, but the 25 year difference in production values gives Holy Grail the edge when this neutral is judging the contest.

And here I am, quite proud of the fact that I managed a review of a band called Holy Grail without a single Monty Python reference (except this one). Merde."

Holy Grail MySpace

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Holy Grail is better than King Diamond ? I am DISGUSTED, Mr S!!! - Chris