Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Full Length Review: Drift Into Black "Voices beneath the Rubble" (Black Lion Records) by Dave Wolff

Location: New Jersey
Country: USA
Genre: Gothic doom metal
Full length: Voices beneath the Rubble
Format: Digital album, jewel case CD
Release date: June 28, 2024
As a project that released five full-length albums and an EP since 2017, Drift Into Black not only shows resourceful receptivity, but demonstrates a growing talent for presenting musical narratives. By describing their gothic doom metal approach as being negative and jaundiced, you would miss the point being made, that disconsolation masks a desire for something more out of life.
From the raw, mournful debut EP "Shadow People" to the streamlined, finespun full length "Voices beneath the Rubble", Drift Into Black’s refinement hinges on an underemphasized capacity to subtly build established moods. Creating soundscapes for the EP solo, Craig Rossi who founded the project borrowed from The Doors, Black Sabbath, and David Bowie while writing the songs. Their pervading sense of downheartedness was underlined by a sense of renascence and hints of a chance to begin again after massive, all-consuming sorrow.
Hiring musicians along the way, Rossi continued to experiment, with different sounds and atmospheres, articulate lyrics with different verse and vocal patterns, coordinate influences and polish production, finally evolving into "Voices". This was a gradual transformation, indicating the time and effort Rossi invested in finding the direction he was seeking. After the amount of soul searching undertaken to reach this point, the impact of "Voices" is multiplied greatly due to its creepy, unearthly quality.
I didn't find the lyrics at Bandcamp, but if this album is meant to be a continuation of the tale told on their previous release “Earthtorn”, it seems its title implies humanity surviving a global catastrophe, slowly rising from the ashes of a devastated Earth in order to eventually rebuild civilization. The mosaic effectuated by Rossi and the musicians he’s working with is a patchwork of gothic metal (Lacuna Coil), grunge metal (Alice in Chains), symphonic metal, melodic death metal and ambient metal with opera and classical moderately subsumed.
After recording "Voices" for six months in 2023, Drift Into Black spent another two months mixing and mastering in 2024, refining the desired sound and climate for the dual vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, piano, strings, and mechanized effects. In its impressions of the fragments of civilization spread across the globe, the sound they wanted carries considerable weight. Feelings of indecision are accentuated by the uncertainty of how the last survivors will be able to repair and rebuild what's left.
When Drift Into Black works on their next recording, will they attempt to explore this concept? If so, how would they convey this search to the listeners? One of the most profound qualities of "Voices" is its sensibility of unanswered questions. –Dave Wolff

Craig Rossi: Vocals, guitars, keyboards
Paul LaPlaca: Bass, guitars, keyboards
Klemen Markelj: Drums

Guest musicians:
Ben Karas: Strings
Alyxx: Vocals

Track list:
1. The Horns of Despair
2. In Turmoil
3. The Great Machine
4. Voices Beneath the Rubble
5. Last Hope
6. Forever King
7. Blood Storm
8. What’s Left in the Fire
9. Turning of the Tide
10. December

Monday, July 22, 2024

Full Length Review: Flotsam and Jetsam "No Place for Disgrace: (Elektra) by Devin J. Meaney

Band: Flotsam and Jetsam
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Country: USA
Genre: Metal, spoed metal, thrash metal
Full length: No Place for Disgrace
Format: Vinyl, cassette, CD
Label: Elektra
Release date: May 20, 1988
I had a hankering for some Flotsam and Jetsam. As I listened to “Doomsday for the Deceiver” a few weeks back I figured I would spice things up and throw on “No Place For Disgrace”. Anyone that knows of this band understands that they are a very hard hitting thrash unit, with that said—I do think they are deserving of a few words to enlighten those that are unaware of their existence.
No Place for Disgrace is an amazing album—featuring Flotsam’s iconic vocals. The musicianship is entirely shredding and immaculate and overall I cannot tell if I prefer “Doomsday” or “No Place”. As I am currently speaking of No Place For Disgrace I will just say that each track is blisteringly awesome. I feel as if “Escape from Within” is the most powerful song message wise. I do acknowledge though that the song “Hard On You” is almost equally as vicious—and as I love the riffage I will coin this as my favorite track!
There is not much else to say except for the fact that all fans of thrash new and old should be able to enjoy the complete discography of Flotsam and Jetsam. They never did stop being amazing throughout their career—and each time I listen to their music I enjoy it just as much as my first listen way back when I was a wee teen. Fucking amazing band! -Devin J. Meaney

Eric A.K.: Vocals
Edward Carlson: Guitars
Michael Gilbert: Guitars
Troy Gregory: Bass
Kelly David-Smith: Drums

Track list:
1. No Place for Disgrace
2. Dreams of Death
3. N.E. Terror
4. Escape from Within
5. Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting (Elton John cover)
6. Hard on You
7. I Live You Die
8. Misguided Fortune
9. P.A.A.B.
10. The Jones

Friday, July 19, 2024

Full Length Review: Twisted Sister "Stay Hungry" (Atlantic) by Devin J. Meaney

Band: Twisted Sister
Location: Long Island, New York
Country: USA
Genre: Shock rock, metal
Full length: Stay Hungry
Format: Vinyl. cassette, CD
Label: Atlantic
Release date: May 10, 1984
After a walk between 4 and 5 k at the track I decided to come home and write a review. As the last album I was listening to (and am listening to again while writing this) was Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry”—I think it is obvious that this is the album I should choose to speak about!
Featuring nine classically blasting tracks this is a great record for fans of both rock and classic metal alike. Furthermore, this is an excellent album to listen to for those that are just learning to play the guitar! The rhythm guitar, although notoriously catchy is exceedingly simplistic and I’d put it up there with some of the early albums from Green Day for “easy learning”.
Although “We’re Not Gonna Take it” and “I Wanna Rock” are clearly vibrant winners, every song on this record is well worth giving a listen or three. Some of the songs like Burn in Hell and Horror-Teria (Captain Howdy/Street Justice) have a darker vibe and would be good to blare through your speakers when you are looking to indulge in a “mild” spookfest!
To close out my rambling I will just say give this album a listen. Twisted Sister has other records, but this one always stood out to me as a solid listen. As I was inspired to purchase a physical copy I think that says it all. And if you don’t wish to do the same—I’m sure you can rock it on YouTube or Spotify or places similar! -Devin J. Meaney

Dee Snider: Vocals
Jay Jay French: Guitars, backing vocals
Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda: Guitars, backing vocals
Mark "The Animal" Mendoza: Bass, backing vocals
A. J. Pero: Drums, backing vocals

Track list:
1. Stay Hungry
2. We're Not Gonna Take It
3. Burn in Hell
4. Horror-Teria (The Beginning) a) Captain Howdy b) Street Justice
5. I Wanna Rock
6. The Price
7. Don't Let Me Down
8. The Beast
9. S.M.F.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Full Length Review: Metallica "Ride the Lightning" (Megaforce, Elektra) by Devin J. Meaney

Band: Metallica
Location: San Francisco, California
Country: USA
Genre: Thrash metal, metal, rock
Full length: Ride the Lightning
Format: Vinyl, cassette, CD
Label: Megaforce Records, Elektra Records
Release date: July 27, 1984
A few days before writing this text I reviewed Metallica’s “Kill ‘em All”. Once again while listening to thrash metal in the sweltering heat I have decided to review an album. While listening to “Ride the Lightning” I do question if anyone really needs me to talk about Metallica. Still, this is what I have been listening to so I’m sure the zinesters “might” thank me for my waste of words.
Overall this is a great album and it makes use of much more melodics and acoustics than Kill ‘em All did. It can be nice to listen to, though as I said in an earlier writing when I get in “thrash mode” I tend to prefer Kill ‘em All. With that said, there really isn’t a bad song on this album and it is obvious why this was (and still is) a very popular record.
To not ramble too much I will just state that earlier Metallica (and some of the “newer” stuff) is still well worth a listen in 2024 and it can be enjoyed by both new and old fans of metal worldwide. Again, you probably don’t need me to talk about Metallica, and besides—I still think St. Anger is a great album (I love that trash can ping snare). So why are you concerned about my opinion anyway? Just listen to some thrash metal yo! -Devin J. Meaney

James Hetfield: Vocals, rhythm guitar
Kirk Hammett: Lead guitar
Cliff Burton: Bass
Lars Ulrich: Drums

Track list:
1. Fight Fire with Fire
2. Ride the Lightning
3. For Whom the Bell Tolls
4. Fade to Black
5. Trapped Under Ice
6. Escape
7. Creeping Death
8. The Call of Ktulu

Monday, July 15, 2024

Full Length Review: Chopping Mall "Mauled By A Magical Bear..." (Dripfeed Records) by Dave Wolff

Project: Chopping Mall
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Country: USA
Genre: Deathgrind
Format: Vinyl, digital
Release date: May 3, 2024
According to one listener checking Chopping Mall out at Bandcamp, it’s the kind of album that should have been released on Razorback Records in the early 2000s. Besides that it’s a heavy, brutal slab of grindcore and deathgrind, I can also see the listener’s point because of the attitude that went into the songwriting, the wry humor behind the lyrics, the semi 80s’s-slasher-film vibe surrounding the musicianship and most importantly the professionalism that went into it.
Comprised of their 2020 debut “Mauled by a Magical Bear with Scalding Hot Liquid Cheese Spraying from Its Eyesockets” and a new collection of songs titled “Torn Apart By Raccoons While Being Eaten By A Gargantuan Cane Toad”, this double album is as notable for its lyrics, which are more integral to grindcore and deathgrind than usual, as its crushing music, which is delivered in a way that shuts down naysayers who judge extreme music as unstructured cacophony.
Founding member Koth Dolgomoru (also of Panda Kingdom and a few other bands) describes the lyrics as being “educational” while claiming each lyric was penned in less than five minutes. Naturally I took this as a joke, but he also claims to be a park ranger, naturalist and nature guide so who knows? Adding somewhat to the comedy, the project’s bio says the lyrics could save your life by educating you about food, occupational hazards, and forest animal fatalities (and yes, the lyrics are included track by track at Bandcamp, so reading along with them shouldn't be a problem).
Songs like "Gored by a Dinosaur Skeleton at the Museum", "Gurgling Vomit from the Mouth of an Engorged Walrus", "Gored by a Mammoth" and "Mangled by a Snowy Owl Who Is Magical Friends with a Snowshoe Hare," clearly display whimsical jest and an inventive, imaginative writing style. You normally wouldn't expect events as outlandish to occur on a camping trip, so the subject matter keeps reminding you it’s all meant to put a smile on your face. Something like a slasher comedy.
Regarding the quote above, the delivery is as precise and meticulous as it is primal and noncivilized. There’s a classic grind vibe recalling when grind first began inspiring death metal between the 80s and the 90s. There are also many hints of early/old school death metal giving weight to the savage nature of the lyrics. The remastering of the older songs and skilled production overall further validates the efforts of Terrorizer, Brujeria, Brutal Truth and Pig Destroyer to be taken seriously as instrumentalists.
I should mention the country/western parody of “Barbecue” is particularly worth checking out. –Dave Wolff

Koth Dolgomoru: Vocals, all instruments

Track list:
1. Mashed Into An Unrecognizeable Pulp
2. Forced To Eat Moldy Granola
3. Rapid Formation Of Mold
4. Burned By Hot Popcorn Steam
5. Gored By A Dinosaur Skeleton That Came To Life At The Museum
6. Impaled By Elephant Tusks
7. Shitting In Joel Oalsteens Mouth
8. Choking On Unchewed Food
9. Pushed Down An Elevator Shaft
10. Rotten Curdled Milk Spraying From The Mouth Of A Wizard
11. Bubbling Liquefied Innards Simmering In A Cast Iron Cauldron
12. Plastered In Unicorn Feces
13. Ruined Food
14. Mauled By A Magical Bear With Scalding Hot Liquid Cheese Spraying From Its Eyesockets
15. Shut Your Kid Up
16. Gurgling Vomit From The Mouth Of An Engorged Walrus
17. Dismembered By Mossy Elk Antlers
18. Shove Christmas Up Your Ass
19. Torn To Shreds By Eagle Talons
20. Formed Into Meatloaf
21. Barbecue
22. Gored By A Mammoth
23. Torn Apart By Raccoons While Being Eaten By A Gargantuan Cane Toad
24. Mangled By A Snowy Owl That Is Magical Friends With A Snowshoe Hare
25. Beaten Up By Al Capone
26. Falling Down The Stairs With A Tray Of Food
27. Trampled By Bison
28. Pushed Into A Wood Chipper By A Big Gangly Moose
29. Ripped To Shreds By River Otters
30. Smoking The Dust Of Ancient Mummies
31. Slowly Turning Into Mush

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Interview with KByro of Itaca by Dave Wolff

Interview with KByro of Itaca by Dave Wolff

Itaca is in the process of developing their sound, which is a mix of alternative metal, progressive rock and a hardcore attitude. How far has this development progressed, and what steps are you taking to make this sound unique in the Italian music industry?
Right now we are developing some track pre-productions, trying different directions, especially for guitar gear. Our guitar sound was totally lacking personality in our first EP, and that we are trying to fix. Our next work will probably consist of just one track - a single then - and we very much hope to and want it to sound not too metal. See, the overdriven guitar always tends to be too boxy, we need something more rooty, garage and rusty.

Describe the debut EP you recorded, and the factors that led to the guitars lacking the personality you would have wanted for them.
When we recorded our EP, “Ep-tagramma”, the band was six months old. Despite having a lot of ready material, we didn't manage to prepare it the right way. We didn't have a straight, clear idea about our sound, so we chose what others (so-called engineers) suggested (more like forced us to do). After the recording, that took a while, we needed to close the project as soon as possible to concentrate on gigs, so we searched for a compromise. Of course our guitars are not as aggressive as we would like them to be, but it was a good start and what the EP turned out to be has an alchemy no one has, for sure.

There are compromises because some engineers believe they know what is best for a band. How many ways did you find this a limitation? What was it that convinced you to work independently after the EP's release and gave you a clearer picture of what you wanted to accomplish?
This is a limitation mostly because many people think they can override your work with their ego. What a band like ours needs is a producer, but no one is gonna pop up and help us, will they. We still don't have a clear picture; music (as art in general) is a living thing that evolves and changes with just the tiniest adjustment. So we just thought to change paths and see what happens.

This may prove that engineers and producers are not always correct when it comes to bands that have a vision that is unique from that of their predecessors. In spite of what has worked for other bands, will the direction in which you wish to take your music work for you?
Sadly only time can tell. We'll discuss this later this year I hope. And no, engineers and producers are not always right, mostly because you have to pay them good money for their time. Of course for bands like ours, time and cash are too important to waste, so it's often quite a Moloch to deal with. And we're not kids anymore, we all have our jobs. Try thinking about teenagers.

In the long run, how beneficial will it be for you if the band works alone now? Is it likely to take longer than working with an engineer?
Working with no help is exhausting and needs a lot of energy, time and motivation. You cannot do it for long, especially a band with quite an amount of material as we are. We need to record the more tracks we can, because listening to our current stuff is not quite enough to understand who we are.

Does “Ep-tagramma” contain all of the compositions written by the band or are there others written that were not included?
At the moment we have fifteen tracks ready to be played (two of them being covers) and one more pretty close to the end. “Ep-tagramma” contained what at the time was our “elite”. Today our tracks moved to a more complex style, yet we kept our rage and fire alive.

Is there a particular reason why the songs you chose were selected?
The song we chose, “Danza Macabra”, sums up our style, being it social criticism, song construction and arrangement (classical method in a prog way with aggressive hardcore), in a reduced length. Also it is sort of an heir of Tempo Scaduto.

Name the songs you recorded for “Ep-tagramma” and discuss how closely the lyrics reflect the songwriting in terms of growth.
“Disegno” is about the very process of writing/creating, being it a statement about who you are. And every consequence this “choosing sides” thing triggers in others. “Dolcevita” takes its inspiration on a book by Stefano Benni, talking about oppressive society and the role of capitalism and control in ruining your life. “Eptagramma” is a hymn for anger as an engine helping you accomplish things. “Tempo Scaduto” follows the Topoi of Dolcevita, being less literary and more of a provocation.

Which songs are the band covering and why have you chosen those particular songs?
At the moment we are covering “Via con me” by Paolo Conte and “Poetica” by Cesare Cremonini. They are both quite popular in our country but good musicians. Especially Conte, who's a jazz pianist. We chose those songs because we like them and are pretty well known in our country. To arrange them in our style was challenging but fun.

How do you hope your listeners will respond to the covers of Paolo Conte and Cesare Cremonini? What about their work do you find appealing?
People like our covers, I think it's because they're respectful of the original, yet powerful and inspired. Conte is a wonderful composer, the kind of artist you would want to play in a smoky place in the basement (in a noir movie, maybe). His music I compare with Dino Buzzati's paintings or Vilella's comics. Also his piano reminds me of Erik Satie's. Cremonini is in a way similar, being a story teller, and in many ways totally different. His music is more similar to Coldplay, though less euphoric and more introspective.

Among the fifteen songs you have completed, as well as the covers, how many do you intend to work on and possibly improve in the near future? Discuss the new direction you mentioned.
We'd like to record everything. Everything. We don't know if it will be single by single or on a full length album (today it doesn't make sense anymore), but we must do it. Listening to us on Spotify you would think we are something we are not; there's so much more under our flag. Mostly our issue is the balance between the band and our personal lives: growing old means to have responsibilities and we are often busy doing something else than playing. That said, I think the next two months will show us how to do.

What makes you think that recording full length albums no longer makes sense? In your statement that there is more to the band than what is heard on Spotify, what did you mean?
Full length albums became a thing when vinyl was long enough to actually be an album. The idea of a full length being a must-to-do- thing for a band/artist had become more and more important until the early 00s, when internet download, then streaming, you know this. Today more than one single in a year is certainly a better strategy than investing all your energy in a ten track LP - meaning two or three months of hard work just for recording it. Don't get me wrong, there's no good or bad strategy here, and I love concept albums. But here's the thing: if it's not an actual concept, I don't see the meaning in putting songs together. I mean we have so much more audio material, some definitive, some in progress, that it is a shame not to record it.

How difficult has it been to maintain a balance between your professional and personal lives? What additional effort must you put forth when you have the opportunities to work in Itaca?
Sadly it is quite difficult. You have to synchronize everyone in the band and sometimes that's not enough. Work takes away most of our time, working on the Italian east coast means one of us has a total time job during summer and another is more busy now. So summer means practically no playing. Writing, arranging and rehearsing with the band means to force yourself go against stress and tiredness. Sometimes you ask yourself if it's worth the effort. And today is 40 C degrees, haha!

In what way does the song “Tempo Scaduto” draw inspiration from the Topoi of Dolcevita?
The themes from Tempo Scaduto are Universal in a capitalistic society. You can elaborate them in many possible ways. As I just said above, “Danza Macabra” also goes through a parallel direction about that. Not exactly the same stuff, but it's like pieces of the same puzzle. Literature is always a good start for our lyrics and the choice of writing in Italian is willingly a way to be more understandable for our main audience. We could (and we will) write in English sooner or later, but for now we feel the need for our listeners to be connected to us with more than just music. Our message needs to be internalized for our music to be complete. That's why there's not too much growl, that's why voice is comes always first, despite composition being so complex.

What aspects of “Ep-tagramma” do you consider a good starting point for the band in order to continue developing their sound?
We like it not sounding conventional. Despite guitars not being as present as they should, the alchemy between clean Italian singing, the technical and fast drumming and the bass sounding like a lawnmower is something that works for our ears. Also when playing live all of this works A LOT better with good guitars.

Where has the band been traveling to promote the EP? What's been the reception so far?
We didn't travel at all! Hahaha Since the start I think we had like a dozen gigs all in the nearby. Last December an opportunity to tour in the Balkans was offered to us, but it was too early and expensive. Sadly, there are not many options for bands like ours here. Although a lot of people show appreciation for our music and come see us playing.

What songs on the EP do you think could have been improved upon if you had better equipment, more time to experiment, etc?
“Tempo Scaduto”. The song was too vast to be left like that, but then again we needed to move forward. Despite all of that we chose to make a video clip of this track, which will be out July 15.

How much experimenting with different directions have you done with the new single you’re working on? In what ways has the songwriting improved since your EP?
We rehearsed a lot more and home recorded it again and again. Our equipment is improved: we now use Fractal axe FX and Neural Quadcortex, as well as more of our drummer’s determination (and a new snare, haha).

Who worked with you on “Tempo Scaduto” and what was the outcome of making the video? How does the video represent the concept and lyrics of the song?
In the “Tempo Scaduto” video clip we remained the more simple as possible (due to budget and time issues). Despite that we managed to do a good job, thanks to Acme Superproductions who filmed and directed us and our dancer, Selena. We hired her to be sort of an incarnation to Death, who's referred in the lyrics. She just dances on a rooftop, dressed in red with a seven pointed star on her back (as in Eptagramma concept). And here we close the circle with our new single to be: the dance of death is “La Danse Macabre” (French) or “Danza Macabra” in Italian.

Can you relate how much dancing and video experience Selena has? To date, how long has she been working with the band?
Selena is a long time dancer, being both modern and hip hop oriented. We hired her through our drummer, who has known her since music academy. This is the first time she collaborated with us, but we're thinking about something new.

How much time did you spend studying “La Danse Macabre” before incorporating it into your video? How closely related is it to “Tempo Scaduto”? How did Selena's adapt it for the video?
“La Danse Macabre” is a medieval concept, mostly visual. I can sum it up as a memento mori (you can find a really nice example of it in Disney's silly Symphony skeleton dance, btw). In “Tempo Scaduto” death is a presence haunting the main character and as fast and far he could run, death will eventually find him. This is a dance, where the puppet keeps pretending not to see his strings, but he's still condemned. Selena did a very good job turning words into gesture, every movement of her hands follows the lyrics.

For future video projects, do you have any other allegorical pieces from the Middle Ages in mind? As you produce more videos, will this genre play a greater role visually? Which of your songs are you working on next?
Next video will definitely be “Danza Macabra”. I'm thinking about setting it in a graveyard. Middle ages are not our topic nor our style, although I've been a sword man for an evocation company. We'll just go with the flow.

Can you describe in more detail how you hope your approach to music will have a direct impact on music as a whole, if any? Is it your goal to inspire other musicians or are you just striving to achieve your own goals?
To inspire someone else is something that happens if you're lucky enough. Our goals are just to play the more we can in front of people who enjoy our music. We do not hope to have an impact on music, our ideas have no purpose, and they just come out. We look for our path without considering a goal. Obviously we'd like to make some cash, so stopping spending money to play and reverse this trend. So that we could spend more time doing what we like. But at the step we are in we're just happy to whatever comes next. Like this interview.

-Dave Wolff

Friday, July 12, 2024

Full Length Review: Metallica "Kill ‘Em All" (Megaforce, Elektra) by Devin J. Meaney

Band: Metallica
Location: San Francisco, California
Country: USA
Genre: Thrash metal, metal, rock
Full length: Kill ‘Em All
Format: Vinyl, cassette, CD
Label: Megaforce Records, Elektra Records
Release date: July 25, 1983
For many years I steered away from Metallica. Not that they are a bad band, I have just listened to so damn much Metallica since my youth that their music became somewhat tired and overplayed in my ears. With that said, later in life I spent some time with my daughter’s boyfriend, and as a Metallica fan, he inspired me to revisit some of their earlier work. As if by chance, I walked into Walmart one day and both “Kill ‘Em All” and “Ride the Lightning” were available on CD for ten bucks each. Thinking of my daughter’s boyfriend I picked them up and took them home. The rest of this writing will be about “Kill ‘Em All”.
I have always liked this album, but after not listening to Metallica for so long it was as if this piece of work was newly implanted in my brain. It was almost as if I found this record for the first time all over again—and I had forgotten that it was just so damn good! James’s voice is punchy and youthful and filled with drive, the guitars are a thrashy blur of fret masturbation, the bass (even more so on the solo track) is well played and Lars’s drum work is exceptional. It is sometimes easy to forget that these songs are so old, but without question it is plain to see that there is a reason why Metallica is (or at least was) the most popular thrash band on the globe.
It is hard to pick a favorite track as each individual song is pure gold—and while listening it inspires head-banging and a mildly blackened eye. It helps you reminisce of your teen years—filled with fire and chock full of dreams. I never did learn how to play guitar like Kirk, and I probably never will. Still, it makes you want to pick up the axe and thrash yourself into a coma until your fingers are bleeding and blistered.
Lastly, as I spoke earlier of “Ride the Lightning”—that is a great album too, and arguably one of the most popular and inspiring metal records ever written. With that said, for me personally, “Kill ‘Em All” trumps this album hands down, and if you haven’t already listened to it—I do suggest you give it a solid spin. -Devin J. Meaney

James Hetfield: Vocals, rhythm guitar
Kirk Hammett: Lead guitar
Cliff Burton: Bass
Lars Ulrich: Drums

Track list:
1. Hit the Lights
2. The Four Horsemen
3. Motorbreath
4. Jump in the Fire
5. (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth
6. Whiplash
7. Phantom Lord
8. No Remorse
9. Seek & Destroy
10. Metal Militia

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Full Length Review: John Lennon and the Plastic U.F. Ono Band "Mind Games – The Ultimate Collection" (UMe) by Tony Sokol

Band: John Lennon and the Plastic U.F. Ono Band
Location: New York
Country: United States
Genre: Rock
Full length: Mind Games – The Ultimate Collection
Format: Remixed and Expanded Collection
Label: UMe
Release date: July 12, 2024
“Mind Games” (1973), John Lennon’s fourth solo album after the breakup of The Beatles, celebrated unity. The latest remixed expansion, “Mind Games – The Ultimate Collection” due to come out on July 12, is marvel of separation. This is especially true when heard in the immersive surround sound of New York City’s Dolby Screening Room, where an electric rhythm guitar on “Tight A$” seems to meander around the seats under their Dolby Atmos aural presentation. No visuals are needed. Only the album cover is projected. Lennon recorded the album in five days, sitting in on guitar and guide vocals with Record Plant’s top studio musicians. Dubbing the lineup The Plastic U.F.Ono Band, the basic tracks were laid down by Lennon, guitarist David Spinozza, pianist Ken Ascher, drummer Rick Marotta, and bassist Gordon Edwards, all of whom were in attendance for the Q&A. Jim Keltner discussed his fills via satellite.
Besides instruments which had been previously buried in the mix, the first sonic shock is the fullness of the bottom. Edwards commands every fret, lovingly and playfully cushioning the groove, and propelling the motion. After hearing the playback, Spinozza was reminded of the endless diversity of the chord changes. This rendered any blues riff borrowings impossible for the solo on “Aisumasen (I'm Sorry),” which the guitarist still considers his best.
Marotta told the audience the playback reminded him how Lennon’s lavish time signature changes often left him grasping “to find the one.” In the documentary, “John Lennon Mind Games (The Evolution Documentary),” Lennon shows he does this “for no reason other than my insanity.”
“Mind Games’” original engineer, Daniel Barbiero, came to work straight after setting the dials on the album “Innervisions.” Lennon introduced himself, saying “’I’m no Stevie Wonder, just a dammed good rhythm guitar player.” Lennon’s opening to “Out the Blue” is among his best acoustic guitar work, but he can still fuzz and funk out with the best on songs like “Bring On the Lucie (Freda People)” and “Meat City.” Barbiero confirmed that Lennon drenched his vocals in effects while he was singing, but said they were unnecessary. Lennon’s vocals are up front and unencumbered by the original production’s excessive echo, reverb, and flange. Powerful even on the softest of songs, they are just as effective naked.
The new mixes were produced by Sean Ono Lennon, off the original tapes. His father might have considered scolding him for stripping the veneer from the vocals, but it is a joy to hear the voice so clean. Sean pares the songs down to highlight each instrument chosen from the original players. Bass and drums are high in the mix. We hear a lot of individual parts which were buried, but we lose much of the saxophone Michael Brecker supplied the original album. Paul Hicks also produced and engineered along with Sam Gannon.
Of the deep cuts selected for previews, one of the greatest revelations is the pedal-steel work of “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow on “You Are Here.” A very good case could be made, after hearing the isolated performance, that the song could have gone out with no other instrumentation. It fulfills the promise Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” made so many years ago. Another surprise is the work of backing vocalists Jocelyn Brown, Christine Wiltshire, Angel Coakely and Kathy Mull, which is crystal clear in the new mix.
The cover photographer, Bob Gruen, put the album in historical context. The 1973 recording sessions at the Record Plant corresponded with Lennon’s fight to stay in the United States, specifically in New York City. He’d been getting heavy heat from the American government after his public opposition to the Vietnam War, and his “Some Time in New York City” album didn’t win him any points with President Richard Nixon. Fighting to keep his green card and followed by the FBI, the pressure caused the separation with Yoko Ono. After recording Mind Games, Lennon would move to California to form the Hollywood Vampires for his Lost Weekend period. He also made music.
There are many iterations of the Ultimate Collection, but this is the full list of purchasable tracks. -Tony Sokol

CD1 • The Ultimate Mixes
1. Mind Games
2. Tight A$
3. Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)
4. One Day (At A Time)
5. Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple)
6. Nutopian International Anthem
7. Intuition
8. Out The Blue
9. Only People
10. I Know (I Know)
11. You Are Here
12. Meat City

CD2 • The Elemental Mixes
1. Mind Games (Elemental Mix)
2. Tight A$ (Elemental Mix)
3. Aisumasen (I’m Sorry) (Elemental Mix)
4. One Day (At A Time) (Elemental Mix)
5. Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple) (Elemental Mix)
6. Nutopian International Anthem (Elemental Mix)
7. Intuition (Elemental Mix)
8. Out The Blue (Elemental Mix)
9. Only People (Elemental Mix)
10. I Know (I Know) (Elemental Mix)
11. You Are Here (Elemental Mix)
12. Meat City (Elemental Mix)

CD3 • The Elements Mixes
1. Mind Games (Elements Mixes)
2. Tight A$ (Elements Mixes)
3. Aisumasen (I’m Sorry) (Elements Mixes)
4. One Day (At A Time) (Elements Mixes)
5. Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple) (Elements Mixes)
6. Nutopian International Anthem (Elements Mixes)
7. Intuition (Elements Mixes)
8. Out The Blue (Elements Mixes)
9. Only People (Elements Mixes)
10. I Know (I Know) (Elements Mixes)
11. You Are Here (Elements Mixes)
12. Meat City (Elements Mixes)

CD4 • The Evolution Documentary
1. Mind Games (Evolution Documentary)
2. Tight A$ (Evolution Documentary)
3. Aisumasen (I’m Sorry) (Evolution Documentary)
4. One Day (At A Time) (Evolution Documentary)
5. Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple) (Evolution Documentary)
6. Nutopian International Anthem (Evolution Documentary)
7. Intuition (Evolution Documentary)
8. Out The Blue (Evolution Documentary)
9. Only People (Evolution Documentary)
10. I Know (I Know) (Evolution Documentary)
11. You Are Here (Evolution Documentary)
12. Meat City (Evolution Documentary)

CD5 • The Raw Studio Mixes
1. Mind Games (Raw Studio Mix)
2. Tight A$ (Raw Studio Mix)
3. Aisumasen (I’m Sorry) (Raw Studio Mix)
4. One Day (At A Time) (Raw Studio Mix)
5. Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple) (Raw Studio Mix)
6. Nutopian International Anthem (Raw Studio Mix)
7. Intuition (Raw Studio Mix)
8. Out The Blue (Raw Studio Mix)
9. Only People (Raw Studio Mix)
10. I Know (I Know) (Raw Studio Mix)
11. You Are Here (Raw Studio Mix)
12. Meat City (Raw Studio Mix)

CD6 • The Out-takes
1. Mind Games (Out-take, Take 7)
2. Tight A$ (Out-take, Take 6)
3. Aisumasen (I’m Sorry) (Out-take, Take 2)
4. One Day (At A Time) (Out-take, Take 18)
5. Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple) (Out-take, Take 15)
6. Declaration Of Nutopia (Out-take, Take 1)
7. Intuition (Out-take, Take 12)
8. Out The Blue (Out-take, Take 15)
9. Only People (Out-take, Take 12)
10. I Know (I Know) (Out-take, Take 22)
11. You Are Here (Out-take, Take 5)
12. Meat City (Out-take, Take 16)

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Article: "July 2024 Dark Moon" by HEOP Liath Sahjaza

July 2024 Dark Moon
Article by HEOP Liath Sahjaza

Welcome to July’s Dark Moon ritual. Cut cords, cleanse yourself, and get ready for the new beginnings’ energies of New Moon.
This moon finds us in Cancer, so it is a good time to commit to personal goals that express the positive energies of the sign of the Crab. These include honoring our deepest, most irrational and intimate feelings. Recognize the sense of security and safety we get from whatever it is we call home, at least, I hope we all have a secure place to call home. Allow yourself to accept support, while also offering support to others. Starting a project aimed at improving our domestic lives is a good idea for the energies in the air at this time. Concentrate on new ways to enhance family life and domestic situations, and to build up your feelings of security and safety.
With this potent Cancer energy, we have the chance to make important changes in our lives that will benefit us well beyond this Moon cycle. What do you need to talk to yourself about as you take your meditative inner journey that can help you fulfill these tasks? How is your home and domestic situation? Family does not necessarily mean biological relatives, but sometimes we have chosen family. Even if you are estranged from anyone or your loved ones have passed on, enjoy the family you have.
It is time to set your intentions for the coming month. This Dark Moon energy helps reset any doubts and insecurities you might have. With this maternal energy of Cancer on your side, the spiritual meaning is about nurturing your hopes and honoring your feelings as you open the door to the second half of the year. Submerge yourself in the emotional waves of this Dark Moon.
The energy is especially comforting and protective, creating a safe and cozy bubble within so you can safely explore your emotional desires and set intentions that are aligned with your heart. Connecting with the things that make you feel nurtured is a big part of the spiritual meaning, so allow yourself to gently roll with the ebb and flow of your true feelings. Be loving and gentle to yourself, but also honest as you dig deep into your heart and start drawing in whatever energy you need to feel safe and secure.
Know that you deserve the very best. Much love to you all.

HEOP Liath Sahjaza

Friday, July 5, 2024

Full Length Review: Arhat "Secrets of Ancient Gods" (Independent) by Dave Wolff

Band: Arhat
Location: Kyiv
Country: Ukraine
Genre: Groove metal
Full length: Secrets of Ancient Gods
Format: Digital album
Label: Independent
Release date: May 31, 2024
Arhat is not the first band to incorporate metal with oriental and mideastern influences, but their spiritual and mythological allegories push them to new levels of awareness of the distant past. Regardless of how long ago the distant past was, it played a substantial role in shaping the world we know today.
First and foremost a groove metal band, Arhat add weight to their songwriting with elements of power metal, thrash metal, and death metal. Remember classic metal’s impact on bands like Iced Earth, Nevermore and Morgana Lafey? Not just in terms of sound, but also in terms of the mosaic conveyed through the lyrics, songwriting, and feeling? In a similar way, Arhat combines each part of their work into a cohesive whole that transcends their influences and becomes something much more immense.
Arhat began in 2017 and released an EP, a few singles, and another full-length in 2020. Even at its rawest, their material revealed indications of something aberrant from any subgenre it was drawn from. “Secrets of Ancient Gods” advances the band's autochthonous exoticism and their ability to redefine groove metal's capacity for progress.
To accompany ancient civilizations, ancient gods, ancient rituals, and ancient wisdom they celebrate, a great deal of emphasis is placed on ethnic themes. "Secrets Of Ancient Gods" incorporates symphonics and cinematic overtones, as well as anachronistic instruments such as sitar, Turkish ney, and percussion that bring those civilizations to life like a vibrant pagan ritual. It brings all that forgotten sageness into the 21st century, not only piercing the veil but opening it wide, releasing all that forgotten wisdom.
With this album, Arhat has tightened up the aggressive and avant garde, with thrash and death metal elements emerging organically from their groove. As the album opens with sounds from a distant place in space and time, traditional instruments merge with lead guitars, bringing metal into the mix without losing any of its flow with the first song. Despite the risk of introducing more comparisons, the material has a sophisticated vibe somewhat reminiscent of Iron Maiden and Amorphis with Arhat's complexity.
The sharp production enhances the fusion between metal subgenres, as well as the spiritual/ethnic/tribal journeys that are taken in the songs. The latter grows out of the former in a similar manner, and the atmosphere underlying the guitar solos and keyboard sections adds a further layer to the sound Arhat has achieved with this album. As “The Great Unknown” is near the end of the album, it makes sense that this track should be one of the most progressive as it suggests where Arhat is heading next. –Dave Wolff

Alex Sitkoff: Vocals
Anton Skrebov: Guitar
Anton Inov: Bass
Ivan Semenchuk: Drums

Track list:
1. Intro
2. Abyss Of Flame
3. Karnak
4. Arcana XVI
5. Nasha Khoda Nevpynna
6. Symbols (feat Oleksii Syrota of Voracity)
7. Path Eternal
8. Wheel Of Fate
9. The Great Unknown (feat Dmytro Moskalenko of Violateress)
10. Shlyakh Do Prozrinnya