UG Articles Archive

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween's Coming: 5 Spooktacular (sorry) Metal Songs

Once again we have found ourselves at the end of October, one of the year's most metal months.  It's chilly, windy, cloudy, and generally miserable.  It includes a holiday devoted to the spirits of the dead, and the October airwaves are dominated by spiteful, misleading, and angry political ads.  Metal.

In the spirit of Halloween, here are 5 metal songs sure to scare the pants off of your Coldplay-loving, stuffed-animal-collecting friends.

5.  Five Finger Death Punch - "Meet the Monster"
Matt Snell's thumping baseline goes bump in the night to jumpstart this song, and Ivan Moody's angry-as-hell vocals kick in moments later to make you fear for the life of whoever this song was written to address.  It even has a bit of a Frankenstein vibe to it with the line "IT'S TIME YOU MET THE MONSTER YOU HAVE HELPED CREATE!"  Excellent song.

4.  Slayer - "Raining Blood"
This entire list could have been comprised of Slayer songs, but I decided it best that I limit it to one per artist.   Raining Blood is the quintessential Slayer track, and also a spooky classic.  The sound of rain in the night in the intro, leading into the classic, foreboding main riff, makes for a perfect Halloween song.
Raining blood
From a lacerated sky
Bleeding its horror
Creating my structure
Now I shall reign in blood!

3.  Rammstein - "Du Riechst So Gut"
Rammstein is creepy enough when you factor in lead singer Til Lindemann's vocals and the simple fact that they're Germans, but Du Riechst So Gut takes the creepy to another level.  Literally translated as "You Smell So Good," the song is reminiscent of a werewolf pursuing a woman through the Bavarian forests, while at the same time being an extremely catchy groove.  Add to that the spooky music video, and you have another Halloween classic.

2.  Lamb of God - "Walk With Me In Hell"
LoG's music is full of hellish themes and descending, sinister riffs.  This song is no exception, and is in my opinion the finest example of what Lamb of God is all about.  The intro riff is eerie and reminiscent of horror movie themes, and the lyrics deliver on the hellishness.  While the actual meaning is relatively uplifting ("take hold of my hand, for you are no longer alone, walk with me in hell") the overall tone is definitely one that will send shivers down your spine.

1.  Iron Maiden - "Fear of the Dark"
Do I really need to explain this one?  This song is fear and paranoia in musical form, and a fine form it is at that.  Listen for yourself, and enjoy your Halloween.

Honorable Mentions (thanks for the suggestions, readers, keep 'em comin):
-Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare
-Metallica - Enter Sandman

Monday, October 25, 2010

Slash's acoustic set with Myles Kennedy is mind-blowing

Back in August, legendary guitarist Slash and Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge (current touring vocalist for Slash's solo tour) got together to play an acoustic set for Australian TV at the University of Sydney, and the whole set has been posted online.  I've posted a few of my favorites from the show below, the rest are on youtube.  You know how to use youtube, right?

It's kind of odd seeing Slash on an acoustic, but he sounds really good.  "This is the first time we’ve ever done an acoustic set...ever” said Slash. “I just pick songs that translate on acoustic: certain songs won’t, no matter what you do to it, they just don’t sound right not played at mega decibels. 
"And certain songs, sometimes, were written on acoustic and translated later into a louder kind of thing, but they still feel good on acoustic.
"And then some are ballad-y and lend themselves to acoustic, anyways. You just sort of pick the ones that will work acoustically."

Kennedy sounds really good, too.  I think he does the GNR stuff better than Axl Rose could right now, and his range is better than Axl's ever was.  Here are the ones I enjoyed the most from the set:

Civil War:

Sweet Child Of Mine:

By the Sword (Myles' vocals destroy Andrew Stockdale's album version, this song should have stayed acoustic in my opinion):

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Matt's Ten Unofficial Rules and Guidelines of the Hard Rock/Metal Concert

Ever been to a rock/metal concert and saw a guy hold up his cell phone when the singer said "Show me your lighters" and wondered if it's legal? Wonder no more! Over the years, I've compiled my personal set of rules to which I strictly adhere and hope you will remember at your next face melting. Keep in mind that these are not official, and varying opinions exist for almost every rule:

1. The mosh pit is not a place to blow your emotional powder keg.
Seriously, it's just a place for a bunch of idiots to slam into each other for no apparent reason! No one cares if your boss treats you like shit or if you get picked on at school, leave your anger out of the mosh pit! The people who break this rule are always the ones who take it a step too far and forget that the people around him are, in fact, his brothers. Help someone up if they fall, but feel free to shove them when they get on their feet! The only exception to this rule is to knock the exceedingly drunk/douchebaggy guy on his ass who's ruining everyone else's time--feel free to deliver an elbow to his mouth.

2. Your cell phone =/= a lighter (unless approved by lead singer)
If you don't smoke, then you're going to be S.o.L. when the slow song comes, unfortunately; just sit there and enjoy the song. The exception to this rule is if the singer specifically adds cell phones to the "let's see your lighters" command. This is a rather minor rule, but it's more of a rule of principle--don't look like a jackass.

3. A foot is like a concealed weapon, use it to trip the shovers.
You're a decent length away from the stage, and you can't get any further due to the mass of humans in front of you, but does that stop the shovers? Hell no. These dicks will weasel their way through a thick chunk of people to get closer to the stage, thinking that they have more of a right than anyone else to be close. Luckily, due to the high densities on the floor at metal concerts, you can easily stick your foot out in front of their path and slightly impede their quest. This rarely trips them or does anything, to be honest, but on rare occasions it will trip them, and though it might not stop them, it will make their troubles even worse. Once again there is an exception to this rule. If someone is walking AWAY from the stage, it's probably because of a dire reason (injury, bodily fluids, insatiable desire for a beer, etc.) so it's generally considered best to give them passage.

4. You are allowed to yell "Freebird!" four times in your life. Use them wisely.
This practice of yelling the name of Skynyrd's immortal epic has been old probably even before I was born, but why should the old farts get all the fun? Because this practice has been old for a very long time, you are limited to yelling Freebird four times before you are awarded a punch on the shoulder for subsequent shouts.

5. TIP: Drink plenty of water before the show
Not so much a rule, I strongly advise being well hydrated before a metal concert, because it is an extremely physically draining experience (unless you are in assigned seating). This serves another purpose of you avoiding the forced purchase of a $3 bottled water at the venue. Of course, the catch is that you will have to piss at one or more points during the show, but that's why the metal gods gave us ~30 minutes in between sets!

6. Feel free to act like an idiot; shout, scream, sing along, play air guitar, profess your Man Crush for one of the members, just don't violate any of the other rules.
It is generally accepted that the guy who looks like the biggest fool is enjoying the show the most. Being reserved is for a folk-rock concert (nothing against folk-rock, of course :) ) so when your favorite song is played, scream your lungs out! Additionally, the band's energy is proportional to the crowd's energy, so it takes a group effort to get the most from the band on stage.

7. If you don't like one of the bands on the lineup, go get a drink, take a piss, or stand in the back.
Fairly self explanatory, no matter how much you hate a certain band on the lineup, there's almost always someone there that likes them. Generally, Rock lineups stick to genres, so you won't see Simple Plan touring with Cannibal Corpse, so there's no justification in booing an opening act. Give them a try, and if you don't want to, see one of the practices above for what to do if your ears are bleeding.

8. TIP: Guitar picks/drumsticks/sweaty towels/armbands are the most valuable things in the world, sacrifice life and limb to acquire them!
Despite old notions of value and monetary worth, the aforementioned items are priceless artifacts worthy of being show to grandchildren. If you're in the vicinity of one of these object, prepare to fight tooth and nail to get it, and if you do, prepare to become the envy of everyone within a ten foot radius!

9. The Hard Rock/Metal genres are vulgar by nature, parental discretion is advised.
I wish I didn't have to say this, but I have seen parents scolding other concert goes for using the dreaded F word and staring daggers at anyone who would dare jump or head bang near their young children. If you want to bring your kids, great! Spread the Metal plague for generations to come, but remember that the closer you get to the stage, the more vulgar and violent the crowd becomes. Enjoy the show with your kids near the back and remind them of how Metal never actually died in the 90s, it just went into hiding to avoid dying from exposure to pop culture

10. Do NOT extend your thumb when flashing the horns!
As stated by Maddox in his best-selling book The Alphabet of Manliness, the horns + extended thumb = gesture of peace, and the last thing you will find at a Metal concert is peace. Do not make Lord Ronnie James Dio spin in his grave; use your thumb to restrain your middle and ring fingers.

11. The most important rule: ignore the previous rules! It's Metal, bitch!
Why do you think Death Metal band Amon Amarth randomly breaks into a violin instrumental during one of their heaviest songs? Why do you think Metallica cut their hair and significantly toned down their intensity in the mid 90s? Why do you think Howard Jones, lead singer of Killswitch Engage, called a heckler on stage and punched him in the jaw? Because Metal has no rules and is completely unexpected! Nothing is official, except that you need to officially enjoy yourself if you are at a show!

What else annoys you at concerts? Are some of my takes on these violations to harsh or too wussy? What about those damn white trash guys who can't ever seem to keep their shirt on? Spill your guts!

Until next time,


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

3 songs that would make great metal songs (and who would perform them)

Have you ever listened to a pop song or classic oldie and thought "with a bit more distortion and some more ballsy vocals, this could make a pretty great metal song!"  I didn't think so, but this is the kind of stuff that I think about all the time.  How could this song be tweaked to make it more metal, and which modern band could actually pull something like that off?  Well today, I share with you three of my most promising ideas for nonmetal songs that could benefit from a heavy dose of brutality, in no particular order:

1.  Fleetwood Mac, "Go Your Own Way," hypothetically performed by Five Finger Death Punch

Though I'm sure the band would scoff at the mere mention of such a concept, I think Five Finger Death Punch could make a sick version of this song.  They are known for their rhythmic staccato guitar playing and Ivan Moody's intense, angry, yet pitch-perfect vocals, and I think all of those elements could find a home here.  Add some crunch to the main riff, increase the tempo a bit, extend the solo, throw in some double bass on the chorus and trade out Stevie Nicks' wails for Ivan's growls and you've got yourself a number one record.  Ivan adds to the angry sound of FFDP by punctuating their sounds with occasional roars, saying things like BUHHH!,  GAHH!, OHHH!, FUUCK! and ALRIIIIGHT?!  I can see him throwing some of these into the chorus, and it would be awesome.  "YOU CAN GO YOUR OWN WAYYYYYYY! ....BUHHH!"  "YOU CAN CALL IT ANOTHHHHEER LONELY DAY...ALRIGHT?!"

2.  The Verve, "Bittersweet Symphony," hypothetically performed by Blind Guardian

Blind Guardian is the obvious choice to perform Bittersweet Symphony, as they already work with orchestral pieces in most of their tracks, and know how to perfectly meld power metal and symphonic compositions.  The vocals on the original are definitely the song's weak point in my opinion, and who better to liven up a track and inject it with pure, epic, adrenaline-pumping power than the legendary Hansi Kursch?  "Bittersweet"'s violin hook is catchy as hell, and I can certainly see Blind Guardian harmonizing dual lead guitars to emulate the sound of the original.  They'd probably also add some kind of epic choir backing, much like they did on the song "Wheel of Time" on their most recent album.  Double bass makes any song more metal, and Guardian's Frederick Ehmke is one of the best at knowing when to throw down and when to lighten things up.  "Bittersweet Symphony" is a great tune that would make an even better metal song.

3.  The Zombies, "She's Not There," hypothetically performed by Amon Amarth

Masters of melodic death metal Amon Amarth could indubitably turn this song into a brutal monster of a tune.  Already written in a minor key, the song could easily be transposed into a death metal style.  Replace the electric piano with legato style downtuned riffing, and the pansy harmonized vocals with Johann Hegg's perfect growling, and you've once again got yourself a hit.  I can hear it now, the growls increasing in intensity with "her eyes were clear and bright, BUT (breaking into a full-on scream at this point) SHE'S NOT THEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!," followed by a sick guitar solo.  Seriously Amon Amarth, get on this. 

Will these songs ever get the metal makeover they so badly require?  Probably not.  Will I continue to listen for songs that have the makings of a brutal metal masterpiece?  Absolutely.  My imagination may run a bit wild from time to time with this kind of thing, but hey, it gives me fresh material for posts.

If you have song suggestions for me, let me know in the comments.  Just no Beach Boys - no amount of reworking could make their crap music sound good.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Anthrax, Slayer, and Megadeth impress in Milwaukee, 20 years after Clash of Titans (all photos by yours truly)

Three-fourths of thrash metal's Big Four converged on The Rave in Milwaukee on Saturday night, playing to a sellout crowd of the young, the old, and the slightly disturbed.  Mirroring the lineup from 1991's Clash of the Titans Tour, Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer were back in Wisconsin on the same bill for the first time in 20 years.  Entering the venue around 6pm, I was very excited, and a little apprehensive.  After all, most of these guys are nearing their 50s, and I wasn't sure they still had it in them to pull off a top-notch live show.  Five hours later as I walked down Wisconsin Avenue in a daze, I felt like an idiot for ever doubting them.
These cute little handouts were dispensed by ushers on our way into the venue, and were swiftly disregarded about 15 seconds into Anthrax's opening salvo, "Caught in a Mosh."  Singer Joey Belladonna is back with the band after a long absence, and he sounded like he was 25 (he's twice that).  My friend Sam and I were promptly, as the song says, caught in a mosh, and Anthrax kept the energy up during their entire punishing set, never allowing the audience to settle back down.  Scott Ian's beard may have a bit of gray in it, but his rhythm guitars and backing vocals showed no signs of age, as Anthrax powered through "Mosh," "Madhouse," "Thrashing Mad," "Indians," (complete with Belladonna running around the stage in a full indian headdress) and their closer, the Judge Dredd-themed "I Am the Law."  Ian noted that the first time they played the Eagles Ballroom in the Rave was in 1985, then shouted that the reason the Rave was sold out again, 25 years later, was that "THRASH METAL WILL NEVER DIE!"  By all accounts, Anthrax gave an impressive performance, and set the bar very high for the bands to follow.

Anthrax's Scott Ian

Megadeth was up next, and spent the first three quarters of their set performing their classic album "Rust in Peace" in its entirety.   Rust is a fantastic album, and with songs like "Hangar 18," "Take No Prisoners," "Tornado of Souls," and "Rust in Peace...Polaris," it is widely considered to be the best that Megadeth has ever released.  Bassist David Ellefson, who played with Megadeth back when they recorded "Rust in Peace," is back in the band, and brought tons of energy to the crowd, stepping up to encourage cheers for guitarists Dave Mustaine and Chris Broderick during solos and jamming along to the riffs.  Mustaine's vocals have never been Megadeth's selling point, and my relatively low expectations in that department were well placed.  At times fading in and out, at times sounding a bit flat, Mustaine's vocals weren't totally there, but that's not why you go to see Megadeth; you go for the guitars. 

Dave Mustaine
Mustaine and Broderick were spot-on the entire night, never failing to impress with speedy, precise solos and incredibly intricate riffs.  Still not sure how Dave can play such complicated riffs and still manage any kind of singing at all over them.  After "Rust" the band played a few songs off their newest album, as well as a few hits, including "Trust" and the crowd-pleasing "Symphony of Destruction."  At one point, Mustaine walked out onto the stage alone, to massive cheers.  He continued ambling about the stage, listening to the roar of the crowd, before suddenly lifting his arms towards the roof, which was met with another huge roar from the crowd.  Clearly basking in the adrenaline, he stepped to the mic and said "I really feel like breaking something right now" before launching into "Peace Sells" and closing out the set.  The band was clearly feeding off of the energy of the crowd, and it was great to be able to yell out "YEAHHHH MEGADAVE!" and know that he probably heard me.

Slayer was the night's closing act, and they delivered exactly what their many fans in attendance came for: pure, hellish, unrelenting thrash metal.  Slayer, whose lineup has remained fairly consistent over the years, was playing with the band's original four members: Jeff Hanneman, Kerry King on guitars, Tom Araya on bass guitar and vocals, and Dave Lombardo on drums.  Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their critically-acclaimed album "Seasons in the Abyss," they played the record from front to back, just as Megadeth did with "Rust in Peace" earlier in the show.   In addition, they played a few tunes from "Reign in Blood" including "Angel of Death" and "Raining Blood."  Aside from "Raining Blood," I wasn't terribly impressed with Slayer's performance.  Hanneman was downright robotic over on the left side of the stage, King simply did small headbanging motions as he played, and crowd interaction was minimal.  Tom Araya briefly addressed the audience after the first two songs, and really didn't say much in between songs from that point onward.

Slayer's Jeff Hanneman
I've always found Slayer's musicianship somewhat lacking, primarily in the dual soloing of King and Hanneman.  It's cool and all that they trade off playing lead every 10 seconds or so during their solos, but they both sound the same, and neither is capable of pulling off truly memorable solo melodies.  Hanneman mostly screwed around with his whammy bar, and King played a bunch of sweeps and pinch harmonics.  Technically, it was amazing playing, but not memorable at all.  Araya's vocals, consisting of yelling mostly at the same pitch and spitting out lyrics at machine-gun speeds, were initially impressive but quickly became a little monotonous.  Regardless of my criticism, Slayer still put on a good show, and gave their fans what they wanted to hear.  Plus, the mosh pit during "Raining Blood" was the biggest I've ever seen, stretching clear across the entire venue.  

I missed being able to watch the Badgers beat (former) #1 Ohio State in order to attend this show, and it was well worth it.  Anthrax, Megadeth, and yes, even Slayer put on one of the best shows I have ever attended.  I may not ever be able to stand 15 feet away from Dave Mustaine and Chris Broderick, 2 of my personal guitar heroes, ever again.  3 hours of driving? $25 in gas.  Tickets?  $50.  Being able to rock out with the godfathers of thrash less than 20 feet in front of you for four hours?  Priceless.

Closed Circuit to Lankey - the host of That Metal Show was the night's MC and made jokes about Brett Favre's dong in between acts.  He was not very funny.  That Metal Show better be really good.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Best flight ever? NZ Metallica fans fly to Auckland for $1NZ

In order to catch Metallica's 3rd-ever New Zealand show, about 100 Metallica fans took advantage of Air New Zealand's special "grabaseat" rate of $1NZ, which equates to about 50 USD. 

Andrea Grom, the fan who led a successful Facebook campaign to get the band to play a show in Christchurch, New Zealand, was on the flight, and was going to be meeting the band in Auckland.

"I've never ever flown before," she said. "I chose the best first flight ever. It was good, definitely a lot of fun."

"I can't wait," she said. "I thought I'd missed out [the first time METALLICA played Auckland], but then this happened ... and I'm actually going to get to meet them. I'm so happy right now."

A video documenting the event was made by New Zealand Herald TV, and you should probably watch it:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lars Ulrich auctions off 1-hour personal drum lesson for $35,000

The charity auction is over, and one lucky fan has won a one hour, one-on-one drum lesson with Lars Ulrich, (in)famous drummer for Metallica.  The winning bidder put forth $35,000 to be donated to Andre Agassi's Foundation for Education.

The lesson wasn't all they won, however.  The advertisement for the auction promises that: "You and your guest are headed to Metallica headquarters in San Francisco. Here you will meet the co-founder of one of the greatest rock bands of all time; Lars Ulrich.
"Lars will begin your unbelievable day with a tour of Metallica headquarters, which includes Metallica's recording studio, rehearsal space and home of their fan club. Once inside the studio, you will have the privilege of receiving a one-hour private drumming lesson from one of the greatest drummers of all time.
"After Lars shows you a thing or two, you and your guest will join him for a private lunch. Almost too extraordinary to believe!"

Not sure about the factual accuracy of that last line, but you get the gist of it.  The auction was a part of the Grand Slam for Children event in Las Vegas, which ended up collecting $8.5 million for childrens charities with assistance from global celebrities.

Wouldn't it be great if the winner was Sean Fanning, founder of Napster?  It would be the most awkward drum lesson and private lunch of all time!  That would make a great screenplay for a movie...

Be right back, selling the idea to Universal.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Disturbed pulls plug on remainder of US tour

Hard rock standouts Disturbed have officially called off the rest of the dates on their current North American tour due to singer David Draiman developing a serious throat condition. is reporting that tour promoter LiveNation said that the unspecified "condition" is not permanent, but Draiman must stop performing for at least four weeks in order for it to heal.  Draiman had throat issues in 2006, canceling several tour dates in order to undergo surgery for a deviated septum.

All of this should come as no surprise to fans in attendance on the last few Uproar Tour dates - particularly the Madison show that I attended a week ago - as it was clear that Draiman was laboring with his vocals all night. David's singing style is hard enough on his vocal chords without a throat condition, and it must have been very difficult for him to play that last show.  Disturbed left the stage that night without playing an encore for obvious reasons, but I give David credit for making it all the way through the set list despite the obvious pain he was enduring.

It looks like Disturbed's European tour is still on, kicking off in Finland on November 15th, so all of my European readers (ha ha!) can still enjoy the show.

In short, David Draiman is down with the sickness. (sorry)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10 Great Rock and Roll Bloopers

Mistakes. We’ve all made ’em. Some of us more than others. Rock stars are not immune to the embarrassment of a glorious clanger, and sometimes these little whoopsies, wonky notes and unwanted warbles can even make their way onto vinyl/tape/mp3 for all the world to hear.
Sometimes they make it through to the listener intentionally, and sometimes they sneak by purely by accident, but however they get to us they’re part of what makes rock and roll so much fun, and what keeps kids wedged between a set of headphones when they probably should be studying. So here are 10 of the greatest mistakes that made it to tape.

10. The Beatles – “Helter Skelter” (The Beatles, 1968)
“Helter Skelter” is one of The Beatles’ most frenzied songs – in fact, a case could very well be made that it has a lot in common with the prototypical heavy metal that would soon follow. One of the most fiery aspects of the tune is the intense drum performance by Ringo Starr. According to The Beatles: The Biography, Ringo recorded 18 takes of the drum part on September 9, 1968. The very last take was the one used for the master recording, and it’s also the one in which Ringo performed one of the greatest tantrums in rock and roll, screaming out “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!” at the end of the take. You can hear Ringo’s outburst at 4:24.

9. Joe Satriani – “Surfing with the Alien” (Surfing with the Alien, 1987)
Joe Satriani’s sci-fi tones and out-of-this-world phrasing aren’t just the result of inspiration and perspiration – sometimes a little bit of serendipity and a whole lot of electronic malfunction play a role, too. For the lead guitar tone on Surfing with the Alien’s title track, Satriani used a wah-wah pedal and a harmonizer. The former worked perfectly, while the latter was in its death throes. Satriani told Guitar World, “The sound that came out of the speakers blew us away so much that we recorded the melody and the solo in about a half-hour and sat back and went, ‘Whoa! This is a song, man!’” Then the harmonizer broke down and couldn’t be fixed. “We couldn’t do anything,” he said. “We lost our tone. When we finally got it working again, we weren’t able to recreate the original effect. It just sounded different. So rather than screw up a wonderful-sounding performance that may have had a couple of glitches, we decided to just leave it, because it was just swinging.”

8. Frank Zappa – “Muffin Man” (Bongo Fury, 1975)
Frank Zappa often said he saw lyrics as a necessity that he didn’t quite enjoy. In his autobiography The Real Frank Zappa Book he said he felt that if he had to write lyrics, he might as well make them something that appealed to his particular skewed worldview. Nowhere is this more evident than the monologue at the start of “Muffin Man,” where the text and the voice he reads it in so appeal to Frank’s worldview that he breaks character to laugh at himself (0:48), before saying “Let’s try that again” and giving the line another shot.

7. Megadeth – “Paranoid” (Nativity In Black, 1994)
Megadeth’s take on this Black Sabbath classic was recorded for an all-star tribute which also featured Type O Negative, Sepultura, Biohazard, White Zombie, Corrosion of Conformity, Ugly Kid Joe, Faith No More and others. Megadeth’s version of “Paranoid” was a little faster and a lot angrier than Sabbath’s 1970 original, and the anger was ratcheted up tenfold when drummer Nick Menza continued playing by himself after the song was supposed to have ended (2:23-2:30). Menza is cut off by Dave Mustaine shouting “Nick… Nick …NICK!” – and when he realizes his mistake Menza berates himself with some choice words of his own.

6. Metallica – “The Four Horsemen” (Kill ’Em All, 1983)
One of the most unique features of Metallica’s classic track “The Four Horsemen” is its distinctive simultaneous two-headed guitar solo, heard from 4:10 to 4:30. You can hear two Kirk Hammetts, one in each speaker, playing roughly similar but still quite different solos. In 1991 Hammett told Guitar World this cool effect was entirely a fluke. After recording two takes of the solo, Hammett and Co. were trying to decide which one to use. “I listened to both tracks at once, to see if one would stand out,” Hammett said. “But playing both tracks simultaneously sounded great, and we decided to keep it like that on the record. Some of the notes harmonized with each other, and I remember Cliff [Burton, bassist] going, ‘Wow, that’s stylin’ – it sounds like Tony Iommi!’”

5. Steve Vai – “Sex & Religion” (Sex & Religion, 1993)
These days Devin Townsend is known as a heavy metal auteur, solo and with Strapping Young Lad. But when he was 20, Townsend found fame as the singer in Steve Vai’s band, alongside T.M. Stevens on bass and Vai’s fellow Zappa alumni Terry Bozzio on drums. A vocal follow-up to Passion & Warfare was always going to be a bold move for Vai, but nobody was prepared for the hyperactive Townsend, who soared into gorgeous melodies before plummeting down to the lowest pits of hell with piercing screams, often in the space of a single bar. At the end of the album’s title track, Townsend really goes for it with a perfectly pitched but very intense melodic scream which lasts for a whole 18 seconds (from 4:05 to 4:23) – and he doesn’t quite make it back. Townsend passed out after the take, and Vai kept some of what he said after he came to. “Oh I hurt your brain? Oh. My fingers are numb… right now, they’re numb… can I deprive my brain of oxygen?”

4. The Police – “Roxanne” (Outlandos d’Amour, 1978)
“Roxanne” is a classic for its melody, its vocal performance, its orchestration and the instrumental timbres, but it’s also unique for a different reason. The mysterious piano chord heard at 0:04 is an unusual, atonal cluster that has nothing to do with the rest of the song. So what gives? Well it turns out Sting slinked back to relax on a nearby piano but didn’t realize the lid was up, so he unwittingly played that gloriously dissonant chord with his butt. This also explains his laugh at 0:06.

3. Led Zeppelin – “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (Led Zeppelin, 1969)
“Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” is an eerie, moody track to begin with, but if you listen very closely you’ll hear a ghostly voice at 1:43. What is it? A backwards-masked magic spell? Some kind of ghostly incantation? Nope. That’s actually the sound of Robert Plant singing along with drummer John Bonham during tracking, and there was no way to delete Plant’s singing from the drum tracks. Whether that’s his actual naked voice leaking through the drum mics, or perhaps being blasted through Bonzo’s headphones, perhaps we’ll never quite know, but it sure sounds cool, and adds yet another interesting layer to discover among Led Zep’s tapestry of orchestration.

2. Radiohead – “Creep” (Pablo Honey, 1993)
One of the most unique parts of Radiohead’s hit “Creep” was the salvo of chunky, deadened notes played by Jonny Greenwood right before the chorus at 0:58, and again at 2:00. Bandmate Ed O’Brien told Select magazine that Greenwood’s ear-catching decision was actually born of frustration. “That’s the sound of Jonny trying to [expletive] the song up,” O’Brien said. “He really didn’t like it the first time we played it, so he tried spoiling it. And it made the song.”

1. Van Halen – “Everybody Wants Some” (Women and Children First, 1980)
This Van Halen classic features oodles of the loose party vibe the band were known for in the early days – you can almost hear the clinking of beer bottles and the boogying of bikini babes. Almost. One thing you can most definitely hear though is the sound of David Lee Roth totally flubbing a lyric. According to his autobiography, Crazy From the Heat, the line was supposed to be something along the lines of “I’ve seen a lot of people just looking for a moonbeam.” But that’s not what came out. Instead, at 1:58, Dave sang something resembling “Ya take a moople-ah, wookie pah-a moopie.” The band decided that the vibe of the new line worked just as well, and the messed-up take was left in the song, an enduring legacy to just how hard Van Halen rocked it.

Thanks to Peter Hodgson at for the list and the backstories.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Top 5 Most Metal Moments in Metal

Have you ever been enjoying a song, listening along when a particular moment comes along in the music and just blows you away?  I have, many times.  But today's post is going to focus on the best examples of what I will call the "holy shit that's awesome" phenomenon as it applies to heavy music.

5.  The final chorus of "The Illusionist" by Scar Symmetry

Not only does Christian Älvestam have near-perfect growling vocals, but his clean singing is absolutely amazing.  Nowhere is this more obvious than during the final chorus of The Illusionist, (jump to 3:45 for the section I'm talking about, but it's a killer song so just listen to the whole thing) where his relatively free-form vocals are reminiscent of a pop music chorus, only with more balls.  You don't find breakaway vocal sections like that in most metal music, so this is a very unique and powerful moment, and it is one of my favorites.

4.  The breakdown on "I'll Cast a Shadow" by Pantera

Do I really need to elaborate here?  The section that begins at 2:05 is just ridiculously heavy and I can only imagine how many bones were broken in the pits when they used to perform this live.  We miss ya, Dime.

3.  Bruce Dickinson's scream at the 1:13 mark of "The Number of the Beast"

Clocking in at about 14 seconds long, Dickinson's scream at the end of the opening verse of this song is almost otherworldly in its pitch and intensity.  According to a story told to me by frequent(ish) Weaponized Wisdom contributor Matt Lankey, Bruce let this scream loose after finally getting the producer's go-ahead on the verse section that proceeded it.  The section supposedly took Bruce a ton of tries to get right, and when he finally nailed it, he let out this massive, near-celebratory wail. Great stuff.

2. The bridge section of Amon Amarth's "Live For the Kill" featuring Apocalyptica

This section, and the scream that comes in afterwards, never fails to get the adrenaline flowing.  Haunting cellos paint a picture of the serene winter woods described in the lyrics, and then Johann Hegg comes in with a crazy scream set to double bass drums and a sick legato riff.  It's an amazing song, and this moment is what really puts it above the rest.

1.  The final verse of Mastodon's "Blood and Thunder"

As if a song about hunting Moby Dick wasn't brutal enough already, Mastodon's Troy Sanders throws one of the most brutal verses in metal music at the listener with the force of a harpoon strike.  Speaking (growling) from the perspective of Captain Ahab himself, Sanders bellows:

Split your lungs with blood and thunder
When you see the white whale
Break your backs and crack your oars men
If you wish to prevail

This ivory leg is what propels me
Harpoons thrust in the sky
Aim directly for his crooked brow
And look him straight in the eye

Absurdly brutal and adrenaline-soaked stuff.  There is very little that could top this, my Most Metal Moment in Metal. 

Got any more suggestions?  Stuff that should have made the list but didn't?  Hate everything I picked and have a list of your own?  Let's see 'em in the comments.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jimmy Page is everywhere!

I recently bought the book "Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga" by Stephen Davis, which is the definitive text on everything Zeppelin and, so far, has been extremely eye-opening.

I've only read through the first two chapters, but I'm already learning all kinds of cool things about the band.  The early chapters dig into Jimmy Page's past, and how he got his start in guitar.  Turns out, prior to being in Zeppelin, and prior to his brief stint as a member of The Yardbirds (with Jeff Beck, no less), Page was one of London's top session guitarists.  From age 17 to 19, Jimmy would fill in on studio recordings when other guitarists couldn't cut it, or when a band wanted to make their guitars sound better than they really were.

For instance, did you know that Jimmy played rhythm guitar for the recording of The Who's first single, "Can't Explain?"  Davis explains that "in January 1965, The Who arrived in studio to cut their first single...(and) found Jimmy Page waiting in the hall in case guitarist Peter Townshend was unable to cope.  But Townshend proved capable, so Jimmy only added rhythm guitar.  On the single's B-side, however, Jimmy played lead guitar using one of the innovative effects for which he was famous - the fuzz box."  All this time, and I never knew that that was Page playing on that track:

It doesn't end there, though.  Page also played guitars on two iconic classic rock tracks by The Kinks: "All Day and All of the Night," and "You Really Got Me."  Usually, this kind of thing went unnoticed, as session players generally kept quiet about their involvement in other bands' recordings.  With the Kinks, however, the rumor got out in London that it was Page's trademark fuzz tone on those tracks, and the band was not pleased.  According to the book, "They felt that Page had broken the session player's tacit code of anonymity by talking to the presss and giving false impressions." 

Jimmy then went on to tour briefly with the Yardbirds, before creating Led Zeppelin, and the rest is history.  I just found it really fascinating that Page's playing can be found in these classic recordings way before Zeppelin played their first song.  Here's the other Kinks song, with Page recording the lead guitar:

And there's another slice of rock history for you.  Enjoy your weekends, readers.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Matt, Brian, and all the rest attend a Festival of Uproars!

It was a gamble, but the Uproar Festival was totally worth skipping a class, driving three hours, and feeling awful Tuesday morning. Showing no support for the small names, we only showed up to see the last 3.5 bands, and I will review each band's performance while pointing out some of the most memorable parts of the festival.

HaleStorm: N/A
I'm not going to give HaleStorm a grade because we arrived in the middle of some odd keg-drum solo and then heard "I Get Off On You" as their final song, but honestly, I'm not too sad I missed them. I do love certain rock bands with female vocalists, but this chick just did not have a good voice; I think she was going for the punk-rock image by having a rougher voice than most female vocalists, and it just doesn't work for me. I will say that the band's drummer was an energetic maniac for the brief period of time I watched him.

Stone Sour: 7/10
Stone Sour did a good job on giving it their all at the end of a long tour, and Mr. Taylor did not half-ass his vocals. There was a lot of talking with the audience--which I like very much-- and a decent setlist. The biggest problem I had with seeing Stone Sour this time was that their entire self-titled debut album was neglected from the setlist (even Bother didn't make the cut!). When you have only three albums to your band's name, this can become a problem for a fan who has only listened to that album in its entirety. However, the rest of the songs were performed masterfully, and Through Glass was performed in an interesting and awesome way. I didn't pay much attention to the rest of the band members, but they gave me very little reason to give them any, choosing to stay on their designated side of the stage the entire show. Overall, a good showing by Stone Sour, and I probably enjoyed their short setlist more than I would have enjoyed a full Slipknot setlist, so I can't complain.

Avenged Sevenfold: 10/10

 Having never seen A7x before, I did not know what to expect, and I certainly did NOT expect the stellar performance they gave us Monday Night. I can honestly say that they had the second best stage setup and performance I've ever seen (behind Alice Cooper), and you could tell that they had way more fun on stage than any of the other bands--not to mention you could tell the band members weren't just band members, but also close friends, which is not often seen in rock bands these days. There were three songs I wanted to hear from A7x (Beast and the Harlot, Afterlife and Almost Easy), and they played each one of them perfectly. A7x and Disturbed both played my personal "Top Three," a feat which some of my favorite bands could not accomplish! Maiden didn't do it, Metallica didn't do it, Priest didn't do it, Rush didn't do it, Megadeth didn't do it, Dethklok didn't do it, and this might be why I gave the guys a perfect score at the beginning of this review, but they truly are great live. I must admit that I was expecting some sort of fancy drum solo from Mr. Portnoy, but this never happened, and I think this is because they want him to feel like a part of the band and not the star of the show, and I was okay with this.

Disturbed: 9/10
As I said earlier, Disturbed played the three songs I demanded that they play, then went several steps further and played almost every song I like by them! Of all the bands, I think they had the best setlist, except for one glaring flaw--the reason I gave them a 9 instead of a 10. They opened with a new song, and it wasn't their latest single, so I was definitely not the only one who never heard it before. The opening song is probably the absolute most important song in the Rock and Roll setlist, because it adds to the pumping up of the crowd (they're already pumped because the concert is finally starting), so picking a song that maybe starts out slow to play when the lights are dark, then bursting into a fast/heavy part of the song (Battery, Aces High, and Nightmare [A7x] are prime examples of this). I think their latest single, Another Way to Die, would have made the best opener because of the fact that it's their newest song and because it has the slow intro leading to a straight up metal-riff. The highlight of their setlist was Indestructible, which caused a great electricity in the crowd's enthusiasm and ended with a patriotic chanting of "USA! USA! USA!"

Top 5 Funny Moments of the festival:
1. Woman flashing her boobs on camera for the entire arena, with David Draiman (sp?) commenting on them by saying "Your mother blessed you, sweetie."
2. Random skeleton man suspended in the air during the last A7x song, M. Shadows offering $100 to the person who could hit him with a shoe.
3. Corey Taylor losing his train of thought, commanding the crowd to say "Fuck you Corey!" and replying by saying "Yeah, fuck you too."
4. Random fat guy impersonating lead singer of A7x during Nightmare (first song).
5. Drummer of HaleStorm grabbing one cymbal and hitting another cymbal with said cymbal to create a double cymbal sound.

My 5 favorite songs (based on personal preference, energy of the band and enthusiasm of the crowd):
1. Indestructible
2. Beast and the Harlot
3. Almost Easy
4. Prayer
5. 30-30-150

Overall rating of the entire show: 8.5/10

As I said, I had to go through some shit to see this, and it set me back $45, but I definitely approved of the concert and do not regret for a second going to it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Who are planning something big for 2011

Despite Pete Townsend's apparent hearing problems, and the speculation they have brought about the future of the band, Roger Daltrey has recently said in an interview that the band is "planning on doing something...possibly related to a past work" in 2011.

In an interview on the band's website (full audio here) Daltrey said that The Who is "in the planning stages for next year," but he stated that he "can't really talk about specifics yet."  He goes on to speculate about the nature of the project, and potential new album, stating: "Pete is writing…you never know when that might turn up. So, between now and then, there might be a new album."  

Kind of wishy-washy, but hey, it's The Who.  Anything would be better than nothing.  At least I hope so...

When asked about a potential greatest hits tour, Daltrey shared that "We have thought about that. But what is a greatest hits show? All the hits and nothing else, and none of the obscure? That would bore me shitless…If we did a greatest hits tour, everybody would say, ‘We’re bored with that, give us something else.’ We can never please everybody."

It appears a Greatest Hits tour is out of the question, then.  What would they do instead?  "I would like to be on the road playing as many different kind of shows as we could", Daltrey says.  "Maybe doing Quadrophenia one night, do greatest hits the next night…this is what I would like to do. And Tommy…if I could still sing Tommy. That, to me, would be really good fun. And don’t keep going out with the same show every night – the audience would have to take a chance on what show they actually got."

Finally, Daltrey elaborated on the challenges of the modern music industry, and touring at The Who's age, saying: "The whole music business has been through a seismic shift, so we’re looking at new ways of doing it. At the age we are now, you can’t do the number of shows per week that we used to, and you need to do so many to maintain the kind of budget that will allow you to do it in the first place. So it’s kind of a catch-22 situation we’re in."

Can you imagine how fast a Who tour would sell out?  Assuming they hit all the big cities (or even come to the US at all) I bet a The Who tour would be one of the biggest of 2011, except perhaps Roger Waters' "The Wall" tour, beginning tonight in Madison Square Garden.  (Tour dates here.)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Concert Review: Valient Thorr rocks The Frequency: October 1st, 2010

I was told going into this show that The Frequency was a small venue.  What I was not told was that it would be smaller in square footage than my 3 bedroom apartment, which of course made for a very unique concert experience. 

For Valient Thorr, the Frequency was packed to a capacity of about 60-70 metalheads, in a relatively small room.  Things got intense.

The show was kicked off by Junius, a Boston progressive metal outfit that pumped out a few heavy jams to get the crowd going.  The beers were flowing all throughout the warmup acts - everyone knew there'd be no time for drinking when Valient took the stage.  Junius made a fan out of me, and I'll be picking up their new album, Martyrdom of a Catastrophist, soon.

Junius was followed by HOWL, who played an amazing set.  Even the most stoic of the standing-in-the-back-with-their-arms-crossed attendees were bobbing their heads to the sludgy, powerful grooves of HOWL.  Those of us in the front row were headbanging in unison throughout the set, to music most of us had never heard before.  They describe their music as "bong-rippin' labyrinth metal" and I suppose that's pretty accurate.  I guess you had to be there.
Valient Thorr takes the stage - photo by Dryad Media
By the time Valient Thorr took the stage the crowd had been worked into a frenzy, and upon the first bars of "Double Crossed," a sizeable mosh pit had formed, and the whole place was going nuts.  Valient Himself, our fearless leader, was sweating all over everyone as he jumped around on stage, howling lyrics and ranting in between songs about...I don't even remember what he was talking about, but everyone was shouting "YEAAAHHHHH" after everything he said.  The band's energy was contagious - you couldn't help but jump in that mosh pit and smash into some people.  At one point, Valient Himself hopped down off the stage into the crowd and led us all in a synchronized floor-rowing session, never missing a beat on his vocals.  It was about an hour and a half of pure metal power and energy in a small venue, something that really has to be experienced to be believed.  Afterwards, I met the singer from HOWL and Valient Thorr's guitarist when I sat down at the bar to rest for a bit and have one more for the road.  Both of them were great guys, and convinced me that these are bands that I will need to catch every time they come through town.

Here's "Double Crossed" for those of you looking to hear what these guys are all about:

I woke up the next morning (afternoon, actually) with a few bruises, a splitting headache, and a piercing ringing in my ears.  It was all worth it.  I'd love to go on describing this show for you, but really, you had to be there.