Music Review: Deadsea – Deadsea [Chrome Leaf]

Hailing from my hometown of Columbus, Ohio is the enigmatic and talented threesome known as Deadsea.  Difficult to pigeon-hole in a single genre, I settled on the word ‘Progressive’ although I could’ve just as easily gone with ‘Avantgarde’ or ‘Experimental’.  The self-titled disc has elements of Doom, Death, Thrash, Classical, Punk and even Jazz mixed into it’s multifarious tracklisting with songs ranging from ‘Assault’, which clocks in under two minutes, to the symphonic ‘Frozen Rivers’ which is well over 16! 

The band was founded by veteran musician/composer Adam Smith, who handles vocals & guitar while accompanied on bass by longtime associate J. Alex Conley and percussionist Jeremy Spears.  Their songs fuse together the band members varied influences and interests into cerebral mutations of impressive musicianship and emotional capriciousness, reminiscent of legendary forerunners Opeth, a sludgier Anathema or perhaps a more cleanly vocaled variant of Chuck Schuldiner’s pioneering Death.  

Upon reviewing the disc, my first thoughts concerned the difficulty in anticipating how the melodies would unfold.   The time changes are many and each song seems to consist of multiple hooks and/or movements such that a lesser band would’ve tried to churn them into individual (and more tedious) pieces.  Interestingly, Deadsea chooses to ignore status quo and produce more erratic yet technically sophisticated entries that weave an aural web that is both intriguing and complicated.  Smitty’s guitar work is admirable, at times crunchy and fast, other times more careful and emotive.  Vocally, he tends to follow the more difficult path of actually SINGING and proving his range rather than relying on throaty growls and indiscernable gibbering - not that there isn’t a little bit of that as well.  Lyrically he sings of common themes – mysticism, vengeance and death, but chooses his phrasing effectively and avoids unnecessary wordiness.  His colleagues in crime Conley & Spears play tightly and like Smith avoid repetition and cliche by challenging themselves with parts made intentionally more ambitious.

My favorite pieces are the aforementioned opus ‘Frozen Rivers’, which despite it’s length offers a wide range of rhythmic variation and textured instrumentation, as well as the thrashy ‘Coming Home’, the powerful ‘Killing Faith (Crying Death) and the haunting instrumental ‘The Morning Frost’.

For a ‘local’ act, this is first rate material presented professionally and as adeptly as anything out there.  After repeat plays, I still find something new to standout with each listen and myself more and more impressed by the effort.

You can hear them yourself on their myspace page or purchase the CD at the band’s official homepage www.deadsearising.com.

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Merry Christmas!

Yeah, that’s right.  Christmas.  Not ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Seasons Greetings’.  No sissy-fied attempt at being PC.  Just a simple ‘Merry Christmas’.  In that spirit, check out the long, sexy Santa gloves from www.buycostumes.com. That’ll make you set out more than just milk and cookies, eh?

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If you don’t celebrate Christmas, enjoy the peace and quiet.  It’ll be back to same ole’ crazy again tomorrow.

Sorry to have been out of pocket so long – real life intervened for a bit.  Big stuff happening around here in the new year. . .like a cool t-shirt design.  We’ll see.

Until then, I wish you and yours the best over the holiday.  Peace.

Christmas at the Spear’s Family

Yes indeedy, I’m thinking it will be a lively ole’ Christmas for the Spear’s family this year.  So much talk of baby showers and rehab haven’t been mixed together since Kurt Cobain died.    You’d have to be very careful how you reference ‘Christmas snow’, know what I mean?

And just WHO thought it would be a good idea to publish momma Lynne Spear’s book on parenting in the first place?!?  I mean, after Britney’s meltdown you would’ve thought that bad boy had been put on permanent ‘hold’ due to credibility issues.  If they do decide to move forward and publish child rearing’s answer to the ‘Necronomicon’, what will it be called?  “Oops, I did it again!?”. 

I love how on The View, co-host Joy Behar referenced Lynne Spears writing a parenting book as “the equivalent of Jeffrey Dahmer writing a cookbook”.  Nice one Joy.

Wonder if they’ll have to update Jaime Lynn’s figure on Stardoll now? Might leave a lot of explaining to do to the little girls (and paedophiles) that play dress up there.

Since I’ve not followed my own good sense to stay out of this media feeding frenzy, I’d like to close with this one point.  While this teenage tragedy is playing out on primetime, Spears has the money and support of her family that most pregnant teens could only dream of – she and the baby will end up fine.  Harassed maybe, and with a big dent to the ‘wholesome’ reputation thing, but ultimately everybody will be ok.

Meanwhile, half a world away men and women are fighting an unpopular war, in a dangerous & hostile environment, away from family and friends during the biggest Christian holiday of the year.   Shouldn’t THEY be occupying our thoughts more than a fallen Zoey 101 starlet?

Kinda helps keep your perspective, doesn’t it?

Manowar release cover of “Silent Night” on their website. No, really – they did.

Under the heading of “You ain’t gonna believe this shit”, American loincloth metallers Manowar have released their first ever Christmas song, a cover of “Silent Night” in both english and german versions.  You can download either of them for free off the band’s website at Http://www.manowar.com.

I’ve always loved Manowar’s music – it’s a bit cheesy but fun.  True, it’s hard to take 4 guys serious who look like extras from a Conan movie, but they undeniably rock.  ‘Guyana – Cult of the Damned’ or ‘Black Wind, Fire & Steel’.  Great stuff!

But as for this cover, well – it takes balls, I’ll give’em that!  Their rendition is fairly straight forward, and doesn’t even add the band into the mix until roughly 2 minutes into the song.  And when I say ‘add the band’, it’s not in the way you normally think of the barbarians of metal.  It’s more symphonic, along the lines of if Trans-Siberian Orchestra was covering the song.

I’m sure the loyal fans will defend them, & the usual antagonists will use this as additional fodder to berate them.  Me, I respect them for giving the song away for free, and for trying something new. 

I do, however, reserve the right to jump ship if they EVER release a cover of ‘Feliz Navidad’.

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They don’t LOOK like elves, do they?

“New” Old Singer for Iced Earth

KNAC.com is reporting that Matthew Barlow is returning to singing duties for power metalists Iced Earth, so soon in fact that he will be recording the vocals for the upcoming Something Wicked Part II concept CD.  The way KNAC reports it, band founder Jon Schaffer reached out to Barlow when he heard that the once and future singer was again working in the music industry.  Not sure if this was instigated due to a dis-satisfaction with previous singer (& former Judas Priest frontman) Tim “Ripper” Owens, or just a desire to reunite with Barlow and bring back what many fans consider to be the glory days of Iced Earth.

Reading between the lines here, I’ve read interviews where Schaffer seemed less than enthusiastic about his relationship with Owens, and Barlow returning to the music industry might have been just the catalyst that was needed to force a move.  I’ve witnessed both incarnations of the band live on tour, and while I think Owens is an extremely talented singer, Barlow has a unique vocal quality that is capable of everything from bloodboiling screams all the way to soft spoken whispers.  Coupled with his intimidating stage presence, I think this signals a positive transition for the band and look forward to again seeing the dynamic Barlow and his long flowing locks thrashing about stage.  Hopefully his stint with Homeland Security didn’t remove said locks, but if so, I doubt Barlow has any Samsonian weakness tied in with his vocal chords.

In the press release, Schaffer wishes Owens well – inferring there are no hard feelings.  However, this would be the second time Owens has been ousted from a band – Judas Priest left him to establish a re-united tour with the legendary Rob Halford.   If I were Owens, I would continue on with the side project Beyond Fear and establish a name with them, since no one seems to want him for more than a couple of albums anyways.

If you’d like to read KNAC’s article, you can see it HERE

Let that be a Lesson to us all.

So, while checking out Zap2it.com, I see this blurb mentioning tonight’s new episode of “Supernatural”;

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I SOO thought of this idea year’s ago.  I have a list of creative thoughts I intend to incorporate into short stories, and this is on it.  Not very high up, mind you ’cause I kinda thought it was a dorky idea.  But still, I feel so violated now. And all I can say is I WAS gonna write it.  Make it like a morbid bedtime tale or something.  I even thought that instead of leaving presents, the Anti-claus would either kidnap bad kiddies and eat them - or chop off limbs, remove teeth while they slept. [Sigh]  Well I guess I’m not gonna write it anymore.  I’ll just see what the team for “Supernatural” came up with.

Like Mom always said, “This is what happens when you procrastinate”.  More talented people come along, get inspired by the same muse, and ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING about it. 

Just like when I thought of that internet thingy.  All over again.

Review: I Am Legend [2007]

Just came back from a sneak preview of the much anticipated Will Smith film ‘I Am Legend’ and can sum it up in one word.  Whoa!  I don’t throw this kind of thing around lightly, but Smith deserves an Academy award for his performance. . . not that’ll he even get nominated, seeing as how it’s a ‘genre’ film.

The story surrounds Dr. Robert Neville, a somehow immune survivor of a man-made virus that has wiped out 90% of the earth’s population in the year 2009.  Of those that remain, 9/10’s have evolved into flesh-eating vampires who of course quickly finished off almost everyone else.  Except Neville, who’s held up for 3 years in Manhattan with his dog Sam, scavaging the city by day and hiding for dear life by night.

The story is based on a novel written by master storyteller Richard Matheson, which has been adapted to the screen twice before;  Once with Vincent Price in ‘Last Man on Earth’ (1964) and again with Charlton Heston in ‘The Omega Man’ (1971).  This version offers excellent pacing, fine character performances, some wonderful James Newton Howard scoring (as always) & magnificent shots of the ruined and desolate NYC streets. It successfully avoids pitfalls of it’s ancestors, the cliche’s in Price’s version, and the rather disappointing second halfs of each of the earlier films.   Smith makes the character at once an agile survivalist, yet sentimental & lonely; half-crazy yet sly as a fox.  And all the while tormented by guilt over what has happened in the past but using it as fuel to work for a better future.

Director Francis Lawrence, whose previous experience consists mainly of music videos and the film ‘Constantine’ (2005), does an excellent job of avoiding the ‘tried & true’ Hollywood method of horror movies, creating characters we care about in a setting full of dread and deep foreboding.   There’s no slo-mo Matrix-y shots, no comedic one-liners, no gallons of blood thrown about via comicbook pugilistics.  

And like Omega Man before it, Lawrence’s version shares some of the religious and philosophical overtones of it’s predecessor, but doesn’t wallow in them.  The presence of sound struck me as being put to effective use, not so much to intrude on the story but to actually enhance it.  When you first ‘hear’ the creatures, for example. 

Which brings me to tension – of which there is plenty.  I watched this with a sold-out crowd - heard minimal audience murmurings,  saw scant souls running out for a bathroom break.  In fact, after a few heartstopping moments, a collective sigh could be heard all across the room - when the end credits rolled, gracious applause.  It reminded me of the ‘old’ days of horror – when John Carpenter’s Halloween could elicit screams out of the audience and send weaker hearts running for the exits.  I did find the creatures themselves to be somewhat of a let down – The CGI lacking in realism and any geniune creepiness, but with such a well orchestrated storyline and capable cast, this is a small complaint.

I’m sure others will disagree but it’s satisfying for me to see mainstream cinema produce something reasonably original, based on quality content and utilizing artisans who take their craft more seriously than their paychecks.  Or at least equal to them.

I do recommend this film, it’s PG-13 rating well deserved for scare tactics, but not blood or sexuality of any sort.  

Rating: 5/5 Skulls

Being a Bad Influence on my Kids . . .Again

Last week sometime, while driving my daughters to and from their Tae Kwon Do lessons, I happened to tell them a story from when I was a youth (No, Jesus was NOT in my graduating class).  Anyhow, we were talking about lousy teachers we’ve each had over the years, and my tale was of an english teacher with a habit of using the word ‘basically’ like most people inhale oxygen.  One class, bored to tears, I counted her using this pet expression 35 times.  In a single class.   I don’t think I’ve used that word since the millennium changed.

To this day, I cannot imagine what kind of hell the teacher’s lounge must’ve been like.  “Basically, my class was awful today.  I mean, basically – that young metalhead kid just kept asking questions and I. . .well, basically wanted to slam his head into the blackboard. Basically”.  Brrrr. Her voice haunts me still.

So, today my youngest informs me that she has a history teacher who talks like Mr. Mackey off of South Park i.e. uses the phrase ‘mmmmk?’ every other sentence.  Remembering my story, she decided to count how often the phrase came up in class, and lost count at 30.  She then extrapolated that this meant the man used that same phrase some 240 times on any given day, or 1680 times a week.  She was going to calculate this further once she got her homework finished.

I think that constitutes abuse of the math system, if I’m not mistaken.  But I kinda dig the fact that if she wasn’t gonna listen in class, and she WAS gonna make fun of the teacher, she at least did her research.

I just know somehow this is all going to end with my wife’s pet phrase being thrown at me in a principal’s office.  “This is ALL YOUR FAULT!”. 

The Misfits – Alrosa Villa, Columbus Ohio 12/7/07

It’s been a long time since I’d witnessed the Misfits in concert, and their 30th anniversary show was definitely a site for sore eyes.  Jerry Only (the ONLY remaining founding member) plus Dez and Robo, both formerly of Black Flag, assaulted the stage like undead commandos, and relentlessly blasted through their set with enthusiastic professionalism, while offering some respect for a fallen comrade.  More on that in a bit.

The night started out poorly; I was very late to the show, missing all of the first band (Seditious Libel) and only heard half of the last song by the next band, Overated.  They were heavy and I think I heard a girl singer.  That’s about all I can tell you.

Next up were The Get-Ups, out of North Lewisburg Ohio.  This small town trio, playing the biggest show they’ve ever done to date, mixed decent old school punk with SKA, and in one instance even did a short rap between songs.  While I really liked their traditional sound, I could do without the SKA and the rap – both of which I think hurt the overall momentum of their set.  Still, for their first big gig, they did respectably well and I hope this leads to larger things for the guys. 

After an extended break during which Jerry ran out briefly to throw guitar picks to the crowd and we were treated to musak versions of classic Misfit’s staples such as Last Caress, the morbid threesome took the stage, opening with the legendary ‘Halloween’.  Upon finishing it, Jerry announced ‘This is for Darrell’ (a reference to Darrell ‘Dimebag’ Abbott) and they stormed ahead to roughly an hour’s worth of songs, from old classics to some of their newer hits, although nothing off of the much rumored upcoming CD. 

My knowledge of the Misfit back catalog is rusty, but I did recognize the following as part of their set; Halloween, Attitude, Some Kinda Hate, Astro Zombies, Skulls, Horror Hotel, Angelfuck, Hollywood Babylon, Vampira, London Dungeon, American Psycho, Dig Up Her Bones, Forbidden Zone, Crawling Eye, But You Love Me Anyway, Last Caress, American Nightmare, We Are 138, Green Hell, and they closed with Die Die My Darling.  There are probably 6-7 more that I don’t have listed (Hey, YOU try writing them all down as they’re fired at you every other minute!).

The guys were tight and seemed to enjoy playing the show.   The stage theatrics were still there, what with 2 giant skulls on either side, a glowing red skeleton in a coffin standing beside Jerry’s amps, and ROBO’s headhunter drumset – it felt like a ‘typical’ Misfits show, if there is such a thing.  Near the end of the set, Jerry offered a toast to the memory of Dimebag, saying he’d promised to “make him proud of us”.  He then asked the crowd “Do you think Dime would be proud?”, wherein the obligatory cheer went up from the Hot Topic kiddies in the pit.

Here’s a camera phone shot of Jerry and a young fan who they let up on stage for a few brief moments of glory.

Jerry and young fan on stage at the Alrosa Villa on Dec. 12 
Many folks don’t consider this line-up the ‘real’ Misfits, citing that the Glenn Danzig era line-up was the only true Misfits, or possibly the Famous Monsters era line-up which included vocalist Michale Graves, guitarist Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein and drummer Dr. Chud.  Whatever that case may be, the band does seem to be growing it’s fanbase with the younger set, aided no doubt by the intense level of product marketing they produce (heck, you can get most ANYTHING with a Misfits skull on it these days).

Oh, and to prove it was a least a REAL punk show, below is a picture of the mosh pit floor afterwards.  Yes, that’s really blood – and not the stage variety. 

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When the show was over, both Jerry and Dez were greeted by hundreds of adoring autograph seekers, which they graciously endured with grins and what seemed like sincere appreciation.   While on one hand it’s almost funny to see so many kids who are woefully ignorant of the band’s history, and the fact that this current version is virtually unrecognizable from the Danzig-led original, it’s also encouraging to see so much support for the arguable founders of Horror Rock.  Even though they’re not the creative innovators of days past, the band still puts on an entertaining and energetic show worthy of carrying on the name.

And happily, the legacy of brutality continues.