AND READ A LITTLE MORE… AND GIVE A DAMN!
METAL BLOG, Vol. 16 - by Steff Chirazi
I THINK it is safe to say that 2016 has descended into the sort of global farce that Monty Python could not have scripted. As if the British Brexit vote hadn’t been looney-lemming-like enough, the US proved that anything those stupid tea-bag loving bastards could do, the ol’ Yankee-doodle-dandies could do BIGGER AND BETTER by allowing Donald Drumph aka Trump to become the next President Of The United States with a theocratic Christian right-wing nutcase beside him in Mike Pence who believes in creationism. Look, whatever, if Pence genuinely believes there was a little God with a big oven, endless model making materials and a massive conveyer belt, faaaantastic, however could we then please explain the reason for duckbilled platypuses? Could the beaked-beaver be promoted to the US national symbol in place of the golden eagle? If not, why not? A nation demands, or at least this ex-pat Brit who’s been living there for a good long while.
Like pretty much everyone worldwide, I have been trying to make sense of this malevolent political and societal mayhem with a combination of factors, most of which revolve around music (and Charlie Brooker’s Black Book TV series which is both funny and frightening in its prescience - the man saw it all coming!). And whilst I toyed with the idea of offering you two types of aural escape, the second being a fun, free and frivolous collection involving Van Halen demos, the truth is that above my head currently is a dark, angry cloud, which means that I am instead just going to focus on what I like to call ‘therapeuticfuckyou’ music which has recently been (thankfully) released.
Let’s start by focussing on the best metal release of the year by a distance, Metallica’s Hardwired…To Self-Destruct (Blackened Records). If you are the hold-out, the one who for some obscure reason of ‘principle’ or ‘pride’ feels that you cannot ‘forgive’ them for ‘selling-out’ in the late ‘80s or whatever, then do yourself a favour, get your thumb out of your back-passage and acquiesce. Not for them, oh no, be clear, Metallica don’t need you. No, this is for your good. Because it is an assembly of riffs (and oh how many sweet riffs there are!), tempos and sentiments which perfectly amalgamate the glories of their heaviest moments with the swing, groove and big-balled swagger of The Black Album. And significantly, once you start playing it, once you’ve been shaken and stirred by “Hardwired” you are in for the ride; this is not an album to flip from track to track, this is not an album to break into pieces. No, this a journey you find yourself happily sucked into. Along the way, you will find all sorts of references, from Maiden to Diamond Head to Killing Joke to their own history (even the shape of the album is a return to classic Metallica album shape in terms of hard start and hard ending with hefty dynamic meat in between) and as for the production, well, not even the whiniest of whingers can dispute Greg Fidelman’s expert work. Lyrically, Hetfield juggles resurgent anger and frustration with the world around him and questions which remain frustratingly hard for him (and by proxy, us) to answer. At this point I will offer full disclosure and say that yes, I do work with the band, but ears don’t lie and if yours tell you any different, then you can call me a biased, sanctimonious twat. But yours won’t tell you any different, quite simply because HWTSD is everything you hoped the first Metallica studio album in over 8 years would be and then some. The biggest indie metal band in the world? Yes. They are.
If many have felt that Hardwired…To Self Destruct is a title pertaining to our times, then what must we make of every single song on the latest live offering from Killing Joke, The Great Gathering, recorded live at the London Brixton Academy on November 4th and released via Pledgemusic. Mixed by founder member, guitarist Geordie Walker, The Great Gathering projects like a statement, salve and proclamation of everything that is wrong with the world. Led by Jaz Coleman, possibly the most unique frontman/artist/writer and spokesperson in music today, Killing Joke provide the ampage to lacerate your frustrations to strands and slivers, attacking with gleefully harmonious discord and barely contained rage (there is version of “Exorcism” so utterly thick and filthy it deserves a government health warning). But it is the combination of incredible sounds (Youth’s bass at the start of “Turn To Red”) and the general content of the music delivered (“Wardance”, “The Wait” and “Unspeakable”) that will make this one of the most important releases you dig out all year. I don’t know if Joke and Coleman are prophets of rage, prophets of doom, prophets of both or prophets of none, but for me they capture the current state of the world like sages or wizards.
Maybe the biggest surprise in great new spleen-venters, is Superjoint’s first album since 2003, Caught Up In The Gears of Application (Housecore Records)… I have known Philip Anselmo for close to three decades, and whilst I know he can drop the odd horrible gaffe (his ill-advised ‘white power’ garbage being a fine example) I will stand up and say that for the most part Philip has always been a deep, somewhat sensitive and misunderstood figure, someone who searches for truths and answers he both knows he needs and knows have to be found (I will also state, as a man with an Iranian father who marched against fascists and continues to speak out against the bastards wherever I can, that for the record, Philip Anselmo is not a racist - good God, the man once insisted that his then-Indian girlfriend be on the front cover of Kerrang! with him). He doesn’t come without issues, and pretty big ones at that, but he always, ALWAYS appears to be trying damn hard to sort them out. Furthermore, he is one of the very few, true underground extreme metal artists left. And guess what? Behind the gruff and growl… he’s a good guy.
Now that the public service announcement is out of the way, Caught Up… is an absolute motherlode of apocalyptic, semi-sludge semi-speed dark doomy punk thrash, with layers of weight and hate piled high to the rafters, courtesy of guitarist Jimmy Bower and the new rhythm section of Stephen Taylor on bass and Joey Gonzalez on drums. It is unapologetically single-minded in both its relentlessly harsh production and hard-line mission to smash any set of teeth it can lay its boots into, an ugly bastard of a baby born of some deep frustrations which are ours to take on as we wish. In Loudwire, Anselmo said that the album deals with topics revolving around modern technology, and with this line -
“…when looking at the broader spectrum, computer-land has given everyday people a platform in which to bellow like carnival barkers about anything and everything, humdrum or political, whether qualified or not, some with good intentions, some with disingenuous intentions and some with ideas that lay somewhere in the middle, creating a mishmash of results”
it was impossible to deny that this release might well have aurally captured my disgust at how people have allowed twitter and various other social media platforms to misinform, manipulate, shape and dictate their currently dire political futures. Indeed, there’s enough in the sound and sentiments for me to draw inspiration from Caught Up… as an ‘aural anti-Drumph manifesto’. I would cite the explosive break-out violence in “A*****e”, “Mutts Bite Too”, “Burning The Blanket” and “Sociopathic Herd Delusion” (WHAT a title!) as positively therapeutic, with all Superjoint’s songs containing progressive, lurching tempo shifts into aforementioned areas of sludge.
I have seen some people try to go deep, over-analyzing what is essentially an angry canvas from which we can each quench our own anger. Maybe for Anselmo it is an over-response to repeated media scrutiny, maybe he’s shouting at his own occasional brain farts, I don’t know. What I do know is that if there is no room on earth for smelly, dirty, guttural feral roaring like this, if those of us who crave such aural comfort in the small hours as we contemplate the world’s mess are denied access to those who make it simply due to snobbery, then it will be a disgrace. I will also guarantee you that if this was a Mike Patton release, it would be hailed as ‘art’! That is neither a good or bad thing, it is (in my unproven, and therefore lightly arrogant opinion) a fact and one worth considering if you can’t find empathetic access to the album. I love it. It makes me think ‘fuck the right-wing fascists’ who seem hellbent on forcing through their agendas upon the rest of us, and it fortifies me to remember how important it is to fight them and fight them wherever, and however, we can, with our words, art, music or voice.
This is an addition I wanted to write but could find no way of shoe-horning into the main blog, thus it comes as a little accompanying buddy, a friendly conclusion to both a blog and year which has been riddled with hard stuff for many of us. In fairness, that hard-stuff started with the tragic passing of our dear friend (and leader) Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister back on December 28th 2015. And as Lemm himself would be delighted to report, nearly a year on there has been a supremely positive and engaging return to ‘vinyl’ of legendary Motörguitarist Phil Campbell, who recently unveiled the Philip Campbell and the Bastard Sons EP. Ignoring the ‘bastard’ for a moment, Campbell’s band is, indeed, comprised mostly of his own sons (Todd - guitar, Dane - drums, Tyla - bass and non-son vocalist Neil Starr) with the synergy and quality of the quintet’s fierce, often-anthemic Rock ’n’ Roll a refreshing turn. There are some good ol’ grebo hallmarks, not the least of which is the thunderous “No Turning Back”, the bluesy grind of “Spiders” and the large, expansive acoustic stomper “Life In Space” which strolls somewhere between Led Zeppelin and The Verve. It is a truly fine EP which augers well for a full Campbell Bastard Sons album in 2017.
With Mikkey Dee also bringing new life and energy to The Scorpions, I think this is a fitting way to remember the one year anniversary of Motörhead’s last ever appearance, and of Lemm’s passing… but he will always be with us, right? Oh what I wouldn’t give to hear him say a few words about President Trump! I think on that one, I will let my knowledge of the man, and a degree of imagination, weave a narrative…
Season’s greetings to you all!