Monday, February 3, 2014

Attention Fellow Metalheads: Stop Whining About the Grammys.

I know I'm a little late on this, but indulge me. It's 2014 and another Grammy ceremony has passed. The brightest stars of lowest common denominator, mass market product masquerading as sonic art donned their best overpriced clothing and crowded into a theater to engage in a night of mutual ego stroking. Of course, in the aftermath, we are once again treated to a round of pissing and moaning from people who presume to call themselves "metalheads." This year one heavy metal news site even went so far as to send an open letter to the Grammy organization to scold them for not televising the "best heavy metal performance" award. There was a time about 14 or so years ago, when the 14 year old metal fan that I was would have joined right along in this whine fest. The 28 year old metal fan that I am, however, sees things a bit differently. First of all, there are plenty of other genres whose awards do not make the telecast. When was the last time you saw the awards that they give for Classical, Jazz, or "world" music during the T.V. broadcast? To act like Heavy Metal is the only musical genre that gets snubbed by this overproduced dog show is ridiculous. What's more is have any of you who complain about this taken the time to ask yourselves this: does lacking recognition from the Grammy committee make any of your favourite bands any less good? My favourite bands are (in no particular order) Death, Rush, Dark Tranquility, Nevermore, and Exhorder. As far as I know, none of those guys have ever won a Grammy.... and four of them have never even been nominated. It doesn't make me like them any less. If things like that matter to you, you are a rather shallow individual and should probably be reevaluating your music choice as there is really no place for that in the metal community. Now, think about this. What would happen if the Grammys did show more love, respect, whatever to the metal community? Do you think you would suddenly see At The Gates, Testament, etc tearing up the stage at the ceremony every year? Well, yes and no. What you would be treated to is another hallmark of these vapid awards ceremonies: arranged by committee, awkward, on stage "collaborations." You know what I'm talking about. When you see random rock band A performing with random rapper B. They usually perform a slap dash version of a snippet of a song by each where rock band A's song has some rapping tacked on and rapper B's song has some out of place distorted guitars tacked on. They never serve to enhance either and are invariably terrible. Would you really want to suffer through say..... Annihilator featuring Nicki Minaj or Sodom featuring Drake? Something tells me the answer is no. Grow up, this is like high school politics taken to a new level. The guys with long hair and black clothes who pretend to be nonconformists and claim to like being "against the grain" and then complain when the popular kids don't invite them to their parties. Heavy Metal is a form of music that is, and always has been, pretty noncommercial. Yes, it has a following, but you have to face facts.... music that is so overtly dark in its lyrical approach, mathematical in its rhythmic approach, abrasive in tone, and often heavily chops based in its execution is never going to get recognition on the same level as the easy to listen to material that is paraded around on the Grammy telecast. I'm a big believer in the "if you don't like it, then don't watch it" philosophy. If Heavy Metal not being represented at the Grammy awards annoys you so much..... watch something else when it is on, or better yet.... throw on an album by one of the bands that you claim to love so much and turn the damn T.V. off.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Goatwhore in New Orleans, 12/31/2013

Ahhh, New Year's. A night on which I usually get guilt tripped into hanging around with assorted family members who drive me to the edge of insanity. This year, with the aid of my beautiful companion, I found an escape. What was it? Why a Death Metal show, of course. Arriving at Siberia early, we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of what could best be described as a full on hipster convention. The bar was awash in a sea of poorly knitted scarves, ratty beards, cheap glasses, and ironic tee shirts. The familiar scent of onion and radish concoctions that usually hangs over the place was choked off by the vile stink of patchouli. On the opposite side of the room, a group of bohemian weirdos were gathered in a hipster approximation of the last supper, presided over by a clown whose appearance had become so disheveled that he now more closely resembled Beetlejuice. The blood curdling shriek of indie rock blared over the P.A. We looked horrendously out of place. As the temperature outside dropped and the weather worsened, the demographics inside began to shift. The hip crowd thinned out and were replaced by one small enclave of metal fans after another. In the midst of the fray, the bands began to arrive. Jessi pointed out Zack and James from Goatwhore to me as they were pushing flight cases full of gear toward the back room. We watched and laughed as the two of them tried to hang the band's backdrop up above the stage while preventing their pants from falling down. I guess they're unaware of a little invention called a belt. Goatwhore's frontman, Ben, was working the bands swag table before the show and schmoozing with the fans a bit. The DJ who was on the bill, that I was fearing would spin some horrendous dubstep crap, turned out to just be some glammed up, punk rock wannabe who played some records before the show, and between the bands' sets. Despite looking like a gay Billy Idol, the music got much better once he got set up. As the set up phase drew to a close, I took the opportunity to buy Jessi a Goatwhore shirt, and left the band a five dollar tip. The show, which was slated to begin at 10 p.m. finally got underway a little after 10:30 p.m.

The first band of the night were a Hardcore band called Ossacrux. I've never seen a stranger assemblage of band members in all my life. You had a fat, long haired, bearded  mountain man type on bass/lead vocals, a fairly stereotypical punk rocker type on guitar, and a drummer who looked like he would be more at home at a New Found Glory show. I was pleasantly surprised by their show. They put on a hell of a show, despite being relegated to a tiny part of an already small stage. Their musical execution was tight as well. I had never heard of this band before this show, but I found their music surprisingly enjoyable and a welcome change from some of the weepy garbage that passes for Hardcore these days. Despite having a couple of songs that sounded similar, I actually found them to be the best of the opening bands. Abysmal Lord could learn a lot from them.

Speaking of Abysmal Lord, guess who played next. Abysmal Lord are still repetitive, still boring, still abysmal. New Orleans' resident "Black/War Metal band" (what the hell is War Metal) played the same set they did at the last show, although this time they were actually on time. There's just something so homoerotic about this band. The whole shirtless viking in tight leather trousers thing... it's so hyper-masculine, it's almost like they're trying to mask something. The fog machine is also incredibly stupid. Since their sound was piped into the house P.A. this time, the horrendous echo delay effect on the vocals was made even worse this time around. I will concede, though, that their tone was a little better this time. I think Abysmal Lord are just a bad band. They could get lessons on showmanship from Bruce Dickinson, Ihsahn could teach them how to write a Black Metal song that doesn't sound derivative and cliche, and they would still suck.

Gasmiasma are another band I was not familiar with at all before this night. They are an insult to the Hardcore genre fronted by a homeless looking douche with a Nazi eagle tattooed on his forehead. Their music was repetitive. It was so repetitive, in fact, that it sounded like they played the same song over and over again for most of their set. You can imagine how unenthusiastic we were when the singer loudly boasted "we've got twelve more songs for you guys." Thankfully, this was to be an S.O.D. type medley where they played twelve songs in 45 seconds. It's one thing to play dull and repetitive music, but you could at least attempt to have some sort of stage presence to make up for it. I get the strong sense that this is another Abysmal Lord in the making. Time will tell, I suppose.

As Gasmiasma left the stage, Jessi abandoned me so she could take some pictures and videos of Goatwhore's set. I, not desiring a repeat of the Watain incident, elected to observe the chaos from a little farther back. The crowd was somewhat subdued, though. There was plenty of headbanging, fist pumping, and that sort of thing, but I didn't really see much moshing. I did encounter a couple of insufferably douchey individuals who went around punching, pushing, and trash talking people to try and get something started, but they were largely ignored. Being ignored pissed one of them off so bad that he went in the bathroom and had a temper tantrum against the door. I did hear from Jessi, though, that some guy did rush the stage during the set. The band was quite entertaining. Ben is a pretty commanding frontman. The guy was all over the place, if there was an inch of stage, he found a way to cover it. His air guitar playing during Sammy's solos was a bit odd though. Made him look like the unwashed, death metal offspring of Joe Cocker. Sammy's guitar rhythm playing was tight and on beat, and his crowd banter was amusing and somewhat humorous. They kept the banter to a minimum though, which I kind of liked. Some bands have a tendency to go overboard with the talk. James' bass tone was great, and more than filled the space left open when Sammy went for guitar solos. As a performer, though, I found him to be somewhat boring. Typical bassist really.... gigantic, stationary oaf who does the occasional hair whip. I couldn't really see Zack from where I was standing, so I can't speak to his stage presence or anything, but his technique was impeccable. It may sound a bit corny, but the faint sound of police sirens coming from outside the venue, and the corona of the flashing blue lights of the cruisers only helped to enhance the atmosphere of the show.

After the show, we hung around a bit so Jessi could get her set list signed. Zack and James had disappeared, but she did manage to get Ben and Sammy's signatures. Those guys put on a hell of a show, and I would most definitely go see them again. After almost being derailed at the last minute by bullshit workplace politics and car troubles, the night turned out great. If you would like to see some photos from the performance, you can head over to Jessi's blog at: