Recovering. . .

Short post tonight – I’m still recovering from this weekend. I attended the Rock N Resort music festival at Clay’s RV resort in N. Laurence, Ohio. Not going to do a full on review as the bands are not very typical for this site but let’s just say I sat through (and in some cases endured) REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick , George Thorogood (all decent enough shows for their respective genre’s) plus a bunch of regional acts. Most notable of these was Nashville’s Hip Kitty, who did a most excellent show (2 actually) playing metal covers plus originals. It’s not everyday that a hot blonde gal fronts a band brave enough to cover Rage Against the Machine – well worth catching live!

Anyhow, Clay’s is the most impressive campground venue I’ve ever had the pleasure of stumbling around. Their webpage doesn’t do them justice (the ampitheater is WAY bigger than the pictures make it seem) but check it out at ‘Http://www.claysparkrocks.com’.

Torman Maxt – The Problem of Pain Part I [Mars Hill]

The third album from Christian Progressive rockers Torman Maxt is the first of a two part concept piece entitled ‘The Problem of Pain Part I’. Part II is apparently already written and will be released sometime in 2008. Anyhow, despite their own admission as being progressive rock, this offering is not your run-of-the-mill ‘progressive’ cd. In fact – the term doesn’t truly bely the style or nature of the work at all. To me, their sound is more of an interesting mix of classic rock (such as admitted influences Rush, King’s X and possibly old Styx) with a dash of southern rock, some decent oldschool metal and even maybe a little electronic/ambient thrown in for good measure.

The disc is inspired by the book of the same name by C.S. Lewis and is a musical retelling of the story of Job from the Old Testament. Lewis is even quoted on the back of the cd case, in case there was any lingering doubt. However, the band’s approach is accessible whatever your religious orientation as they’re not preachy but instead focus on emotion and the well. . . spiritual. This is a thinking man’s band, make no mistake, and if you’re hoping to just ‘rock out’ – you’ll be missing their point entirely. Rather, you’d be better served to put on your headphones, relax in a chair and let the songs play.

Torman Maxt (and I can find nothing to explain what the name is about) consists of the brothers Massaro – Tony on guitar & vocals, Dominic on bass & keyboards and Vincent on drums. Musically, they’re a tight, incredibly talented trio owing much to Geddy Lee and co. while still striking out with a sound that’s really all their own, and somewhat difficult to describe.

Like the two earlier albums “Just Talking About the Universe. . .so far” & “The Foolishness of God”, “Problem of Pain part I” is broken down into segments that each tell a portion of the story. Chapter One (“Prologue”) starts off with the intriguing electronic/guitar jam instrumental “Overture”, which for all the world reminds me of ‘Come Sail Away’ by Styx – and I mean that as a good thing. Many layered guitar parts and a nice energy level make this one hard not to groove along with. Next is “Job’s Song” which also features some excellent riffs and has Tony channeling a nasally Geddy Lee. This one will haunt your mind after you’ve heard it a time or two, so be warned.
The next chapter (“Job’s First Test”) starts with “The Angel’s First Song”, a happy little ditty featuring a nice multi-vocal arrangement and some good acoustic work. Following that is my favorite song on the cd, “Satan’s First Song” (surprised?). Don’t let the slower intro fool you, this song gets to jamming and is probably the best showcase for how well the brothers play as a cohesive unit. There is also an unusual bridge in the middle with strange guitar echos and a sinister bassline.
Chapter 3 (“Job’s First Response”) starts off with “Job’s Initial Shock”, another one of my favorites – what can I say, I’m a sucker for the minor key stuff. Like ‘Satan’s First Song” before it, this has some really great fretwork as well as an infectious drum beat. Next, “Job’s Resolve” has a more 70’s classic rock sound and a pretty catchy chorus.
“Job’s Commitment” and the following chapter (“Job’s Second Test”), consisting of the songs “The Angel’s Second Song” & “Satan’s Second Song”, are intentionally remniscent of the earlier “Job’s Song”, “The Angel’s First Song” and “Satan’s First Song”. There are minor variations both musically and lyrically (different intros, or no creepy echoes as in “Satan’s Second Song”) but one does get a strong sense of deja vu’ that might be considered a drawback. It does, however underline the repetition of the second set of tests to which Job was subjected – a kind of “here we go again” in the story.
Chapter five (“Job’s Second Response”) begins with “Job’s Contemplation”, a nice albeit short, instrumental interlude. Then we have “Job’s Second Response”, wherein Job explains why he will not curse God’s name despite the challenges before him. This song starts out with a dual guitar intro but transitions midway into a softer acoustic piece which reminds me of early rock opera (and Tony’s voice reminds me of actor/songwriter Richard O’brien’s here, for some reason). “Job’s Wife” follows, a slower paced piece sung from the perspective of . . .you guessed it, Job’s wife as she questions her husband’s blind loyalty. Lastly is “A Great Silence”, a slow starting jammer that at first echoes influences by Jesus Christ Superstar and Alex Lifeson, then stops on a dime, morphing into a somber Vangelis-like electronic finale (excellently played by Dominic).

In fact, many of the songs seem to have two halves, and one can be misled by the tone in the first only to find something totally new in the second. This is so much the case that the entire disc bears repeat listenings to appreciate the subtle, complicated structure that has been crafted around well written and thoughtful lyrics.
I have to commend Torman Maxt for taking a different approach to a story where it would be easy to fall into cliche’. On the contrary, what is presented is a professionally produced journey into the testing of faith that defies easy categorization, or dismissal. Without wearing religion on their sleeves, the band takes their rock and roll message and makes it palatible for larger consumption. And they’re not hurting C.S. Lewis’ sales either – I just ordered the book off of Amazon!
I look forward to hearing part II. . .and you should too! But in the meantime, to hear a sample of Torman Maxt for yourself, I encourage you to go their homepage (www.tormanmaxt.com) or their myspace (myspace.com/tormanmaxt) and indulge.

Sounds of the Underground – Columbus, LC Pavilion 7/22/07

15 bands! 10 hours of music!! My God am I tired!!!

That’s right, kiddies, I’m talking about the 2007 edition of the Sounds of the Underground tour which rolled through last night. Lots to talk about so here we go’ [in order of appearance] –

2 Cents – First band up, singing drummer (bonus points) – Several decent songs including ‘Crowd Control’ and ‘Fucked in the Afterlife’. Covered the ‘Simpsons’ and ‘King of the Hill’ themes followed by Slayer’s ‘Reign in Blood’. Good, heavy first act – Punk/Metal hybrid. Would enjoy seeing them again.

GOATWHORE(!) – Brutal and punishing, the mighty Goatwhore were put in too early into the lineup, WAY before the crowd was awake. Still, Sammy and the boys played like they definitely were! Gave it their all including ‘Sky Inferno’, ‘Bloodletting on the Cloven Hoof’ and closed with ‘Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult’ which was great to hear. But no ‘The Serpent that Enslaves What is Worshipped’. Dammit.

Devil Wears Prada – Melodic Emo/Metal from my hometown of Dayton, Ohio. Good sound, full of energy. Self professed Christians – which takes BALLS after following Goatwhore. At least one of the other bands on this tour seemed to make fun of these guys – wonder if they’ll still be laughing when they have to open for them.

#12 Looks Like You – Complex Scream-core, interesting but not really my thing. They’re like listening to a jazz quartet on acid, rolled in barbed wire and baked in helium. Very choppy, full of sick rhythms and screetching vocals.

Heavy Heavy, Low Low – More screaming, more erratic rhythms and more aspirin. Very different, I’ll give them that. Stuff grows on you like a fungus, even the spoken word bits. I believe the word is Experimental.

The Acacia Strain – Oh look, more screaming. But by guys who KNOW how to do this sort of thing at least, and have been doing it longer. Great band for the crowd, very motivational. Not my favorites but definitely good heavy Hardcore.

Amon Amarth – Whoa doggies, the Vikings have arrived! Pulverizing death metal played by a band who knows how to kick ass. Songs included ‘Runes to my Memory’, ‘Cry of the Black Birds’ and ‘Death in Fire’. Very enjoyable change of pace. Definite crowd pleaser.

Darkest Hour – Melodic Punk/Metal with a healthy helping of dueling guitars and double peddled drums. Songs included ‘Deliver Us’ and ‘The Sadist Nation’. Good stuff!

Job for a Cowboy – Really, truly heavy Death metal. Thundering and powerful, this ain’t your momma’s metal band! Songs included ‘Embedded’, ‘Knee Deep’ & ‘Altered from Catechization’ (or at least that’s what I thought I heard!).

Necro – Death Rap. Polarizing hip-hop/death metal hybrid – you either loved them or hated them. Not my cup of tea but I didn’t boo them like many did. Hey, some people love these guys and I admire their attempt to fuse two VERY different types of music. Sadly, they weren’t appreciated much by the crowd.

Chimaira – The first of the bands from Cleveland on this tour was the blasting wall of sound known as Chimaira. Hardcore/Metal fused with nitro and lit with a short fuse. Definite crowd pleasers played, among others, ‘Fuck Your Powertrip’, ‘Pure Hatred’ and ‘Worthless’. Probably got the biggest mosh pit of the day . . . and rightfully so!

Everytime I Die – Hardcore/Metal again, but more melodic than many that you will hear. I’ve seen these guys before and they’re always a good time. My favorite is ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of battery’ which they blew through in whirling storm of chaos and fury. Big fun!

Shadow’s Fall – By now, the last bastion of good Thrash metal needs no introduction and the boys from Massachusetts brought a tired, worn crowd back onto their feet. Video hit ‘Redemption’ was note for note perfection but every song was a blackened treat for the masses. WHY aren’t more bands like this out there!?! Dueling guitars, great rhythms and the tentacle-haired Brian Fair at the helm – what more could you ask for?

Mushroomhead – Special guests for the night were Cleveland’s other prodigal sons, and probably the crowd favorite (other than headliner GWAR themselves). Like Cenobites out of a Clive Barker novel, Jeffrey Nothing, Waylon and the boys dominated the stage like Judgement Day had come for us all. “12 Hundred”, perhaps one of the most infectious opening riffs to be heard in years, was a killer live track and rang in my head long after I’d left the venue for the evening. Mushroomhead’s clever mix of Industrial & Metal, Horror and Sci-fi themes is an intricate aural web of tribal rhythms, crunchy guitars and sinister electronics that never fails to blow me away.

And finally, last but certainly not least, the mighty GWAR – Scumdogs of the Universe. They came out with Mr. Lordi’s head on a stake and things went . . .well, to Hell from there. Typical show for them, gallons of blood, a few decapitations and a final battle with Satan for control of Hell (guess who won!). Easily one of the most entertaining bands in metal, they take themselves as seriously as Paris Hilton does the traffic laws, but with a stronger work ethic. Bloody good fun.

And that’s my brief recap, kiddies. Don’t miss this tour when it comes to your dank part of the forest or you’ll never forgive yourselves. Your ears might. . .but the rest of you will hold a grudge.

Bluetooth. . . or Tourette’s? You decide. . .

So I’m using the restroom at work, and y’know. . .minding my own business as I’m want to do in public places where male genitalia could potentially be exposed. The Guy Code, that sort of thing. Anyhow, I go hurriedly into the restroom, started to do my business in front of the most out of the way, unobtrusive urinal . . .and this dude next to me is like “yeah, yeah. . .ah ha. Beautiful! Very cool!”.

My blood froze for a second as I thought I’d just picked up an admirer until I realized he was not talking to me. In fact, he wasn’t talking to anyone, at least not in the room.

Now, I have to be honest – I broke ‘code’ by looking over at him (NEVER DO THAT!) and saw that he himself was following protocol by looking straight ahead as he apparently discussed things with the voices in his head. Then it hit me. . .the jackass had a Bluetooth headset (earset?) on the far side of his bald pate, where I couldn’t see it. Asshole.

I had to fight off the urge to teach this man the meaning of ‘bitchslap’ as he’d scared the pajezzus out of me for one thing, and he broke ‘The Code’ by talking aloud in the Men’s room. Where other Men might have to talk to him with their. . .stuff out. Never do that.

Tramatized by these events, I finished up, washed my hands (ALWAYS DO THAT, you gross #@!*#&$) and got the hell out of Dodge City. I secretly hoped the damn thing fell off his baby smooth scalp and splashed into the fouled water in front of him. Would serve him right, Asshole.

Later that night, it dawned on me that although Bluetooth’s may be the Devil’s ear-bling, they do offer sufferers of Tourette’s a unique opportunity to resume some normalcy in their lives. No longer ostracized for their potential outbursts, now . . .with the outlay of a few bucks, they can look important and justly aggravated over last week’s sales figures. Not bat-shit crazy, as was the consensus before. . .

In fact, I’m such a fan of this idea, I think I’m going to buy a headset (earset. . .what the fuck ever!) and just wear it around. Oh, the hours I could spend walking the downtown city streets, cat calling the hot chicks and making fart noises at little old ladies! I mean, it could be literally years before someone actually figures out that I have no service plan for the thing!

Bluetooth, I call thee Carte Blanche`.

Amy babe, is that all you got!?

So, I’m reading, at 1:43am, “Amy Polumbo [Miss New Jersey] has gone public with pictures of herself in an “un-lady like manner”. puleeze.

Amy, babe – you done nothin’ wrong. Simple frisky fun that some F**KS have tried to exploit. Screw’em. There was nothing in those pictures that even rivals Vanessa Williams – and God knows I love THOSE pics! I only wish it was a category in the pageant, but I digress. . .

Anyhow, move forward. If anyone says you ain’t worthy of the Miss America crown (if you win it, and like I really give a shit about the whole proceedings), then use your middle finger, and point to the heavens. Maybe THEN they’ll get the hint.

Until that time, let’s hope that we collectively all learn not to be so damn uptight.

Marduk – Rom 5:12 [Regain]

Picked up a promo copy of this bad boy a few days ago, and I must say – it hasn’t much left my cd player since. Marduk has returned with traditional Black Metal that should satisfy all of you blasphemers out there.

The title comes, I’m assuming, from Romans 5:12 which in the King James version states “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”. mmmmmmk. What’cha sayin’, boys?

Now if you’re familiar with the previous works of Morgan HÃ¥kansson and company, you’ll not find too much new territory covered here albeit there are at least variable tempos to choose from. A few creepy intros here & there lead into brutal and heavy guitar parts, accompanied by machingun drumming and the sound of vocalist Mortuus vomiting up his soul onto a microphone. Still, it’s well produced, melodic in places and full of aggression. My favs so far include ‘Vanity of Vanities’, ‘Imago Mortis’, ‘Womb of Perishableness’ and the eerily atmospheric ‘Damnation 1651’. I by far prefer the medium tempo offerings over the blast beats, but that’s just me, and the disc seems about half and half of each.

‘Accuser/Opposer’ is probably the highpoint and possibly a new milestone for Black Metal as a whole. Yeah, it’s that good! It features clean guest vocals by Primordial’s Nemtheanga, whose vocal prowess definitely adds a new dimension wherein the dual vocal parts acentuate rather than eclipse each other. And plainly, the song just ROCKS! It has a strong, defined melody that dare I say, is catchy without smacking of attempted airplay.

All in all, this is a worthy effort by these battle-honed veterans of the unholy wars. I’m sure some will complain (as they always do) but the band has released a well produced and listenable slice of darkness to appease the hordes.