Album Review – Judas Priest “Redeemer of Souls” 2014

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , , , , on July 21, 2014 by Lightning Slim

JudasPriestRedeemerSouls  When you’ve been in the business as long as Judas Priest, you have an opportunity to reflect upon and work with your longest-standing musical influence: yourselves. And so it is that Redeemer of Souls looks back and well as forward, ending up sounding Judas-Priesty as all hell, and all the more enjoyable for it. The overall feel is the same as what we’ve come to expect post-Painkiller, but there are also bluesy bar-rock riffs on the record that would be at home on Point of Entry, Killing Machine or even British Steel. It’s self-homage without resorting to self-plagiarism (one notable exception is the title track, which is essentially a reboot of “Hell Patrol”).

New guy Richie Faulkner admirably fills the K.K. Downing-shaped hole in the wall, matching Glenn Tipton’s dignified grace and power on the trade-off solos. He’s also heavily involved in the songwriting, which may turn out to be a secret weapon for the band. Having grown up outside the Priest bubble, he’s been listening to the competition. To wit, there are Maidenish touches here and there, especially on “Sword of Damocles”, which is a straight-up Brave New World-era Iron Maiden song that JP appropriate with aplomb.

One elephant in the room: the time of the Rob Halford shriek would appear to be over. We all knew this day would come. Halford does access his falsetto, but it’s during quieter moments, and when he does rage out it’s carefully and gently cradled by the mix and quickly spirited away as if to say “Nothing to see here; move on”. Considering he still has one of the most dynamic ranges around, and his midrange is passionate and full of power, it would be churlish to ask for more.

Be at ease, metalheads. It’s twenty-freaking-fourteen, Mark Wilkinson has yet to tire of painting messianic figures aflame under violet skies, and Judas Priest have gone back to the well to draw forth an album which will be the envy of bands half their age. 8.5 out of 10

Best Bands Worst Songs the Turd

Posted in Lists with tags , , , , , on June 12, 2014 by Lightning Slim

In which Fear Factory cover a pop song (OK) and then write a pop song (Definitely Not OK).

Fear_Factory_-_Transgression When a band puts out two albums in a year, you know that one of two things is happening: either they are filled to the brim with creativity or there’s some kind of record label shenanigans happening. So when Fear Factory followed up the April 2004 release of well-received return-to-form record Archetype with the August 2005 underwhelm of Transgression, a collection of lesser songs, experiments and covers united by a regrettable use of the much-maligned plinky snare drum sound from St. Anger, well, most fans quickly made up their minds what was happening there.

It’s not a completely hateable record, despite obviously being recorded without a single band member in the same room at the same time. One of the bright spots is a faithful cover of U2’s “I Will Follow”, which has some pep to it. The other cover (Killing Joke’s “Millennium”) is a bit too on the nose and leaves me cold. But things really go off the rails when the band decides to get their inner U2 on using their own material, and that’s where “Supernova” comes in.

The song jingles its way into your ears like the radio-ready single from a mid-90’s Rush album, which as I type it looks like a grave insult to Rush. Burton Bell’s vocal is something which would have been better kept on one of  his folk-ambient side projects. Dig those crazy whisper-echoes! And let’s be clear about something; this track wasn’t hidden in a corner. It is the official single of a heavy metal album.

 

 

Don’t that just make you want to slap some cat ears on it and call it Hello Shitty?

Happily, FF have gone on to bigger and better things, so their legacy is safe for now. Imagine this was the last thing they ever did?

Questions? Kudos? Hate something off Digimortal more (and who would blame you?) Hit the comments below!

Album Review – Lacuna Coil “Broken Crown Halo” 2014

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , on June 11, 2014 by Lightning Slim

broken_crown_halo  After the somewhat-misunderstood pop stylings of The Shallow Life and the near-perfect synthesis of that with their core competencies in Dark Adrenaline, Lacuna Coil wisely decide not to try to top themselves, and so take a trip down memory lane instead. Broken Crown Halo is a more direct descendant of earlier records like Comalies or Karmacode, containing all the elements for which the band is known; the duet vocals, the oddly-admirable tenacious loyalty to the nu-metal bass guitar sound, the lush instrumentation. They’ve been working hard to expand their core sound for years now, so I think a momentary retreat and regroup has no shame in it at all.

You pretty much know what you’re getting here. If you’re a fan of the band, rejoice. It’s not broken so it didn’t get fixed, and Cristina Scabbia’s Instagram account remains as fetching as ever. 7.5 out of 10

Best Bands Worst Songs Part Duh

Posted in Lists with tags , , , , , on June 6, 2014 by Lightning Slim

Last week I took on the project of Iron Maiden’s very worst, which got me some feedback about picking on poor Blaze Bayley, as if he were a defenseless child and not a grown-ass man of somewhat dubious singing ability. However, if we accept the premise that Blaze Maiden is a completely different animal from Bruce Dickinson’s version, that means I can take another kick at the can and give you some runner-ups. Here are two; one of Bruce’s worst vocal performances and the other a plain old stupid and unworthy song. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they’re both from Fear of the Dark, Maiden’s weakest Bruce effort unless you’re a South American fan who likes to gather in the thousands and sing along to the guitar parts.

First Runner-Up: Charlotte the Harlot must have been really good, because Steve Harris is writing songs about her 20 years later. Bad songs. I vacillated between this one and “Bring Your Daughter…To the Slaughter”, and then just flipped a coin.

 

Second Runner-Up: I’m surprised this is a Harris/Gers effort, as it sounds like it would fit comfortably on a Dickinson solo record like Balls to Picasso. I almost wish it was, because then it could be safely ignored with the rest of that crapstick.* Guys, I know you like football, and this is obliquely about football hooliganism, but guys, boring.

 

Note: I won’t be heckling anything from the Paul Di’anno records, for two reasons. A) I don’t consider juvenilia to be fair game. It’s way more fun to poke holes in folks who know better and B) Those two records are balls-out fun and full of life. Very little badness, if any.

Special Honourable Mention: The cover of Dance of Death. Go on, Google it. I’m not depicting it here because it gives me a feeling like I need to pee. Only instead of urine it’s hate.

 

 

*Balls To Picasso is essentially a 30-minute trailer for a movie you don’t want to see, before it finally and mercifully pays off in “Tears of the Dragon”, a great song by anyone’s standards. But what a wait!

Best Bands, Worst Songs

Posted in Lists with tags , , , , , on May 29, 2014 by Lightning Slim

Even titans of the genre write crappy songs sometimes. If a band is particularly prolific, they might write a bunch of them, which end up acting like a shit-cocoon around the beauties they hide. What I’d like to explore  here are some of the biggest, best and most well-regarded bands’ very worst efforts. Let’s start with my favourite band: Iron Maiden.

I bet you just started humming “Run to the Hills” or “The Trooper” in your head. You most certainly didn’t break into a rendition of impossibly-long shitpile “The Angel and the Gambler”.

Now I know you’re thinking this is low hanging fruit because it’s from the inter-Bruce period, with Blaze Bayley on vocals. But he’s not the worst thing about “The Angel and the Gambler”. Sure, his two albums were a low point in Maiden history, but I think he got some stuff right on occasion despite a certain amount of tone-deafness (a curious condition for someone hired to be the singer of the world’s biggest metal band, but hey whatever). Blaze does inject an epic, tragic feel to “Sign of the Cross”, some manic energy to “Man on the Edge” and even rocks out a bit on “Futureal”.

This is none of those songs.

Take a peek, but don’t hit play just yet:

Firstly, the time listed is not a mistake. And there is not an interview attached or a cinematic component. The song is ten minutes long. You think “Oh, OK, it’s a big epic song about a sci-fi novel or a famous battle. Maiden does that. No big deal”.

Nope. It’s about a gambler, and the angel who tries to save his soul by having an excruciatingly dull conversation with him. It’s kind of a bluesy, boogie-rock thing with super-obvious keyboards playing a single-note back rhythm (like “Die, Die My Darling” only not funny). And the chorus is one line repeated over and over again, which, in a song of this size, is a lot. I’d say Nicko was phoning in the drum performance, but with no fills whatsoever it’s hard to tell if it’s even him at all. Steve Harris played the keys on this; maybe he just played everything. The real tragedy of the Blaze albums isn’t Blaze, it’s that without the Smith-Dickinson songs to liven up the place, the Harris epics just give way to more Harris epics. It’s bloat.

And it’s not even metal bloat.

Now give the song a play, and feel free to post how long you made it through before switching it off in the comments below. Opinions? Brickbats? Hate “Dream of Mirrors” more? Put that down there too!

Lucky Beast Number 7

Posted in Roller Derby with tags , , , , on April 23, 2014 by Lightning Slim

This weekend, I travel to Montreal to attend the infamous Beast of the East Derby tournament. I’ve been to 5 of these things already, only missing the first one. It’s a fabulously fun time and a kind of unofficial kickoff to the roller derby season in central Canada.

My good friend (and newly published author)  The Derby Nerd has done some serious heavy lifting on previewing this thing should you wish to know more. Take a look here.

And for his Herculean distillation of the tournament’s entire history, try here.

Allons-y!

Deals & Steals: Call the Dealer

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2014 by Lightning Slim

snakes1

Now, the dealer in question might be to help with the pantload of stoner metal I just received. He might also deal in speed, sleaze, machinery or poisoned bibles by the looks of things. All prices $US.

High On Fire – Snakes For the Divine $5.59, Death Is This Communion $8.78, Blessed Black Wings $6.39, Surrounded By Thieves $6.39. I’m late to the party on these shirtless riffy wonders, so I pulled the trigger on the whole back catalogue. Awesome fun.

Destroy Destroy Destroy – Devour the Power $6.39. More side project silliness from the American core kids. I’m sure I’m meant to enjoy this Manowar parody stuff ironically, so, shhhhhhhh……

Lazarus A.D. – Onslaught $3.99. One of the finest young bands working in retrothrash today.

Scum of the Earth – Sleaze Freak $3.00. The Rob Zombie soundalikes actually made a second album. Not an original note on it, but kind of fun anyway.

KMFDM – XTORT $3.48. Because I’m a Chris Connelly fan. Also, this is a reissue that allows you to skip the stupid bonus track.

Anaal Nathrakh – Domine Non Es Dignus $6.99. Woah. Seriously nutty industrial black metal from the UK. Like Cradle mixed with old-school Earache Records.

Powerman 5000 – Transform $1.48. Can’t believe this radio-ready bit of nothing got released and Doomsday didn’t. Oh well, price was right.

And now for my new favourite thing:

index

Doomriders – Black Thunder $5.58 and Darkness Come Alive $6.39. This side project of Converge has a bit of everything good. At their best they sound like the entire back half of Iron Maiden’s Killers being performed by Danzig. If that description appeals to you, run don’t walk to see them.

doomriders-black_thunder

Announcer Adventures: Slim vs. The Hillbilly Hecklers

Posted in Roller Derby with tags , , , , on October 10, 2013 by Lightning Slim

A Cautionary Tale of the Deep South

This story actually has very little to do with roller derby, but did happen (as crazy bullshit often does) at a derby tournament. I recently had the pleasure and privilege of calling some games at the Asheville Division 1 Playoff Tournament for the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.

A word about Asheville: Asheville, North Carolina is one of the most beautiful and hospitable cities to which I have ever had the experience of traveling. It’s a small city of about 80,000 folks, nestled in green, rolling mountains. It’s an interesting cultural centre and a gathering place for hippies, dissidents and lefties in a massively conservative area. From what I understand, the rest of the Carolinas call Asheville “The Cesspool of Sin”.  And sin you can, in a way most pleasing to me, as organic coffees and a dizzying array of locally brewed beers were served to me by cheerful, dreadlocked young people with anti-fracking bumper stickers on their old Toyota Corollas as the local Democracy Radio affiliate played nouveau bluegrass.

Everyone in Asheville is extremely polite, accommodating and attentive. The host league, the Blue Ridge Rollergirls, were nothing if not lovely. After about a day I was starting to get used to this real-life manifestation of Southern Hospitality.

And then the weird thing happened.

I was downtown, walking to a Mexican restaurant when the light changed against me, forcing to scamper back onto the curb lest I be forced to deal with the hassle of a foreign jaywalking ticket. Next to me, pulled up at the light, was an incredibly hideous 1987 Ford Taurus made of bubbled paint and sour regret. I think some folks call that a hoopty…feel free to correct me on that. From the passenger window lanced a searing voice that was exactly what I had expected to hear in the South before I had arrived.

“Son, you ain’t from round here, are you?”

I turned to look at the speaker, who, like the driver, was lanky, dentally challenged, and basically resembled the entire cast of Winter’s Bone. He continued:

“You cain’t be crossing against a light in Carolina. You best be getting back on the curb. And you know what else you need to do? You need to take a razor and take care of all this, ’cause let me tell you boy, it ain’t working for you.”

His motions indicated that all this meant my sizable mutton-chop whiskers. Most folks like ’em. I get called Lemmy, Elvis and Wolverine. Nobody besides my mother had ever straight up dissed them before.

“Tell me something. Don’t lie to me now. Don’t lie to me. You ain’t got no woman at home, do you? You got no woman ’cause your look’s all wrong!”

Time slowed down. I thought many things, mainly involving some kind of retort: I have a degree in English. I am one of the Unflappable Canadians. I am an Agent of A.F.T.D.A., trained in the art of witty repartee. I can handle these freaks; nobody in Duck DynastyLand should be making fun of another man’s beard! Let’s do this.

And then I opened my mouth and it all went to shit. I was utterly unmanned, sputtering like a wet toaster: “I…have…women…” I trailed off, my head full of thoughts of all the high-tech armaments that not putting a dime into your car forever could buy. There were also some images:

winter's bone is this gonna be our time

“Is this gonna be our time?”

17_95_paddle_faster_i_hear_banjos_poster-rde64e0068faa4e94a1f209b360ad047b_a5cc_8byvr_512

NCI_Visuals_Food_Taco

This last one was because I was still hungry.

I took a deep breath and prepared to try again.

The light turned green and they drove off with a cackle, rear bumper scraping the crown of the road as the car’s nonexistent suspension fought the steep incline. I stood there, thinking about what Elvis or Lemmy or Wolverine would have done and concluding it was not that.

I did get my Mexican lunch, and afterwards returned to the arena. I saw Sweet Willy, the tournament’s head announcer, sitting with some Atlanta skaters, so I decided to get a southern opinion on what had transpired. After I had told my tale, Willy was no good to me, as he could barely breathe from laughter. The skater beside him, Sissy Splaysek, turned out to be an Atlanta resident transplanted from Texas. Since Willy is secretly Canadian anyway, she was the closest thing I had to an expert. “So”, I said, “Is this how things go down normally? Drive-by mockings?”

Sissy, who despite wearing derby gear managed to present a picture of southern belle refinement, gave a subtle pearl-clutching gesture near her throat and breathed “Heavens no. No southern gentleman would ever speak such words to a stranger on the street. Those folks must have been mountain.”

So there you have it. My deep-fried southern shame. Don’t get me wrong, I would return to friendly Asheville in a heartbeat. Heck, if I could keep my healthcare I’d move there. But never again will I tangle with the Mountain Men. They have counted coup upon me, and own my soul.

Deals & Steals: More Cowbell Edition

Posted in Deals & Steals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2013 by Lightning Slim

jesu_lifeline  Lots of awesome junk in the pipeline these days..this order came from Second Spin, and the prices are in $US.

First off, it’s a bit of a before/after shot featuring Justin Broadrick:

Fall of Because – Life Is Easy $5.97. Ugly, messy and extremely vibrant pre-Godflesh (even earlier than Head of David) recordings from many of the guilty parties. This was a re-release, not that it matters because the recordings are so raw.

Jesu – Lifeline $4.49. Now in the post-Godflesh stage of life, Broadrick creates dream-pop, light ambient soundscapes. This EP features Jarboe on vocals.

Metalocalypse – Season 4 $15.99. Hard to find up in the Great White North, it’s always good to spend a little time with Dethklok.

Portal 2 – Songs to Test By $6.50. This four disc (!) set contains every piece of instrumental music in both Portal video games. I mainly bought it for the GLADOS-voiced theme songs, and I still wish they had made some room for a bit of in-game dialogue.

Psyclon Nine – We the Fallen $2.98 and INRI $3.48. Blasphemous electro-industrial with a hint of dark ambient.

Cubanate – Cyberia $4.47 and Antimatter $2.00. Coming at you from the soundtrack to every driving game from the 90’s. Guilty pleasure.

Finally, we have a massive back catalogue slab from stoner rock legends:

 

Fu-Manchu-California-Crossing-300x300  Fu Manchu – California Crossing $2.99, King of the Road $7.99, In Search Of… $5.49. Start the Machine $9.99. So much cowbell it’s like I’m building a dude ranch.

 

Album Review – Mares of Thrace “The Pilgrimage” 2012

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , on October 3, 2013 by Lightning Slim

335141  Any fans of Death From Above 1979, Rush or even Danko Jones know that we Canadians have so much angst in our souls that it only takes a couple of us to create a full-sized rock band. Mares of Thrace bear out this theory on The Pilgrimage, with only two young ladies on drums and baritone guitar making a hellish and compelling amount of noise.

Sonically, the album bears a good deal of resemblance to other prog/sludge acts like Baroness, with abrupt time changes, whisper-to-scream vocals and lyrical paeans to the uglier side of human nature (in the case of The Pilgrimage, the narrative framework is the story of David and Bathsheba).

Mares of Thrace will be ones to watch in the years ahead. Any band that can tour in a minivan and still have their own driver has the opportunity to cultivate a fanbase nationwide and beyond. 8 out of 10

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