Sunday, June 26, 2011

Paradise Lost: A personal rotating existence

Paradise Lost is a band I have had a love hate relationship with. “Lost Paradise” and “Gothic” were great releases from this Halifax originated band. The gothic, death, doom crossover sound was fantastic, but that all changed with “Shades of God”. I was at the old Sound Plus record store (another old forgotten Houston dealer in heaviness) when I saw it was released. As I asked the store owner for a quick listen of the new disc, some random other patron pointed out that the new one “sucked”. He said it sounded more like punk than metal. Being a huge fan of punk, I thought that would be a plus. So I gave it a listen in the store. While previewing the first track, “Mortals Watch the Day”, I thought to myself that it in no way sounded like punk. However, it did sound decent. After the first song, I held off the rest until after the purchase. When I got home for a more detailed listen (back then not many cars had CD players in them), the disappointment was overwhelming. The feeling of being cheated was manipulating its way all through my mind. After the first song, each following one was worse than the previous. So that disc was hidden away and not played again for many years.

My next chance for Paradise fandom happened when they came through town (the old Backstage venue) with Kreator and Morbid Angel. That was a hell of a line up. Although the gothic Englishmen were touring for the album “Shades of God”, I assumed they would play a fair amount of material off their first two releases. Well I was in for a surprise; ninety percent of the set was from their current album. I cannot remember the details, but only one or two from “Gothic” were thrown in. My narrow minded opinion was also shared with the crowd. Playing with those other two speed demon bands, the crowd wanted something more aggressive. What I remember so vividly about the show was an exchange between Nick Holmes (vocalist) and someone in the crowd.
Someone yelled, “play something faster.”
Holmes’ response, “you want to hear something fast?”
“Well you got the wrong band.”
To the crowd’s discouragement, they broke into “As I Die” or something along those lines. Personally I thought that was the highlight of their set. Although I was really not into the music that was being played, their total fuck you attitude of “we play what we want and if you don’t like it, piss off” was grand. Respect was definitely had for them, but a fan I was no more.

Years went by and I completely stopped following them. Around 2004 I picked up the Nuclear Blast “Monsters of Metal” double compilation DVD. Paradise Lost was on it, so I was somewhat interested to hear their current sound. A live rendition of “Say Just Words” was played.

Completely gone were the raspy death-like grunts and replaced with a clean baritone singing voice. Was I listening to Bauhaus or Paradise Lost? Don’t get me wrong, I do like Bauhaus but not Paradise playing in that manner. The music did not even sound like metal, well at least the type of metal I was accustomed to. My thoughts were not positive. So once again I felt let down.

Flash forward to 2009, again they were on my mind. I was listening to “Lost Paradise” and that previous thought popped up as before of what direction their sound had taken. Their current release was “Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us”. So I searched the internet and found the official video for “The Rise of Denial”, the recently released single. To my surprise it was pretty damn good. Definitely was not a return to the original material, but moderately heavy. Holmes’ vocals finally exhibited of hint of his raspy past. I picked up the new album and thoroughly enjoyed it. This event motivated me to go and check out the back catalog, to see what creative direction all their other albums took. A much more mainstream sound for sure, but it latched on to my expanding music taste.

What I find so ironic is that 20 years ago there is no way this type of music would be listened to by me. During those times if it was not some mutilated underground music, I would have nothing to do with it. Now looking back on “Shades of God”, the album I bought at Sound Plus and hated, it is a pretty good release. It really is interesting how one’s musical tastes can change over the years. For that main reason I never get rid of any of the bought albums that are disliked. On numerous occasions I have journeyed back to bands I hated years ago, and then became a fan of years later. Paradise Lost is no different. Basically I went full circle with them, from fan, to hate and back to fan.

The motivation for the writing of this post came from watching the band’s “Evolve” DVD. I was online scanning through Netflix’s music section; consisting of a bunch of junk I would never watch. Surprisingly Paradise Lost’s name popped up on the screen. Quickly I added it to my queue and waited for the disc to come in the mail. Honestly I did not read the description thoroughly. I was under the impression it was the 2007 historical band documentary (in actuality that film is called “Over the Madness”). I figured the documentary would at least have some footage from their early death era.

A day later it arrived in the mail and to my dismay the documentary it was not. Basically it consisted of a compilation of footage from the band’s tenure with the Music For Nations label. Included were two previously released concerts, some home videos and nine promo videos. Nothing from the first two albums was attached, but I still gave it a watch. I do admit it was a pleasurable viewing experience. A bit of metal, gothic rock and melody amalgamated into one 3 hour DVD. I was so pleased that hesitation was blocking my judgment to return it to Netflix.

So there you have it, my rambling on about my journey into the Paradise Lost. In the extreme metal community the consensus is still in the favor that the band sold out. That is ok with me, I do not observe trends. I admire the band in all their different stages.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Face of Noise will Never be the Same: RIP Seth Putman

How ironic that recently I posted an entry about the anniversary of GG Allin’s death, and in the same month we lost another extreme music pioneer. To be quite honest, like GG, it really was not a surprise. Mr. Putnam’s self destructive lifestyle is well documented. After coming back to life from a 2004 coma, he continued his boisterous path in the true A.C. fashion. I suppose he would not have it any other way.

His demeanor and purposely offensive song titles have always been hilarious. Some have become highly irritated by his antics, as you know that is exactly what his goal was. To push the envelope and get a rise out of anyone who would listen. You really have to take all that stuff like a grain of salt and just laugh. Great entertainment if you ask me.

Going back in time, the first A.C. item I purchased was the The Master of Noise LP compilation. With the first rape my eardrums withstood, A.C.’s music completely blew me away. In my mind I did not envision a band, but more like some kind of monstrous creature. The blast beats and vocals were just feral filled insanity. This was back before they even had song titles. I played that record over and over. Combining with A.C.’s ferocity, the compilation also featured Agathocles, Meatshit, 7 Minutes of Nausea and End of Silence…intense!

Not to get off track, but A.C. was the best thing ever to blast in the car while carrying some virgin ears. The complaints of asking if it was even music delighted me. Basically those comments would push me to play it even louder.

All those early 7” EPs and comps were unadulterated mutilation. At that time I assumed A.C. would always be an underground EP mainstay. Around 1992 I heard they were signing to Earache Records. Due to their strictly raw sound, I was shocked the British label would even touch them. Before that however, Seth and company released the “Morbid Florist” mini CD on Relapse Records. That was their first material pressed on CD. Also the first songs that actually had a slight song structure and titles for that matter. Shortly thereafter, Earache released “Everyone Should Be Killed” and the rest is history.

Noise it may be called, but no one can deny the incredible heaviness of the band.

The day of his death I received numerous text messages about it. Probably the funniest one simply stated “Being dead is Gay”. I will close on that note.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Here are a few random reviews.

Return of the Living Dead “Soundtrack” CD (Restless Records) Nothing new here, but I felt that I needed to review this because I finally got a copy of this on CD format. I can honestly say this movie and sound track definitely changed my life. When I walked out of the theater in August of 1985 I saw the world in a different view. I was 11 years old and only knew of punk rock music but I did not own any records. This movie along with Class of 1984 is what really got the ball rolling for me. I am sure it did the same for thousands of people. My personal favorite tracks are by TSOL, 45 Grave, The Damned and The Flesh Eaters. This soundtrack reminds me of how fun being young was. It was all so new to me. A leather jacket with chains is forever cool in my book.

Hudud “Exist to Breathe 03-05” (Go Kill Yourself, Time Up, Prohibited Projects) This is a 3 way co-release of labels. This Singapore band plays some brutal grindcore in the vein of Agathocles and Rot. This release is one of those action packed multimedia CDs with tracks from demos, compilations and unreleased. It also has some great video footage. The video is 9 tracks of homemade footage. It is great! It has the band playing live in some small space with people crowded up close to the band. It gives an almost chaotic, claustrophobic feeling. The music is a two way vocal attack with grind mixed with metalcore elements. Just like ENT, the vocals range from high shrieks to gutter growls. The music is nothing groundbreaking, but who cares. They play intense heavy music with passion. I listen to my copy on a regular basis. There are no lyrics in the booklet, so I cannot comment on them.
Boltstein/Insect Warfare split 7” EP (Rescued From Life) Here we have a great split between Japan (B) and Texas (IW). The great sleeve artwork sports a Shogun/Samurai look. It is obvious that Boltstein pay homage to legends Bolt thrower, especially to their pre “Realm of Chaos” days. Even their logo is Bolt Thrower. Their tracks are a no nonsense grind approach, but do have an occasional death metal feel. Insect Warfare have stuck to the formula that they are known for…pure blistering Terrorizer influenced grind. What I like about this band their songs are structured like the classic bands. Riffs go from blasts to almost rock & roll head bangers.
Hypo Christians “S/T” 7” (NWS Records) When I heard that H.C. had members from the old band Slattereah, I had to get this. In true early 90s tradition the cover is a black & white drawing of a skull and an upside down cross. It sounded just as I expected: some rough, dirty, old death/grind. It almost sounds like a mix of Phlegm and early Xysma. The production is a little rough, but I like it that way. For some reason I have always had a soft spot for this sound. I would definitely recommend this if you are into early 90s grindcore. I sure hope this band releases a full length. As Splattereah, they only released a demo and a long out of print live 7”.
Terrorizer “S/T” 7” (Satanic Records/Japan) This is not a new release, but I am going to review it because I CAN. I bought this in 1992 and thought it was the best stuff I had ever heard. It was released in 1991 on green vinyl. Only 333 were pressed. Basically this is a demo rehearsal from 1987. It is rough as hell, but still sounds great. This is the line-up with Garvy on bass (before Dave Vincent took over for World Downfall). On the back of the record sleeve there is a brief history on the band and also a confession that this is a bootleg.

Cianide/Machetazo split 7” (Hells Headbangers) First off I must say that I have been following Cianide’s musical career every since I received their cassette demo in the mail around 91. Then when they released their debut “The Dying Truth” I was completely blown away. Throughout all their releases they have always had the ability to write some the catchiest riffs I have heard from a death band. This release is no different. They provide once track called “Black Earth”. It definitely keeps the tradition of an ultra heavy version of Celtic Frost. When hearing this song I imagine a denim/leather clad, long haired sasquatch dancing around wildly.
As for Machetazo, I like everything they have released…especially the stuff on Razorback.  Here these Spanish gore grinders crap out two classic tracks that were recorded in 2004. Their side begins with an intro taken from a Spanish horror movie, then explodes into a grinding blast beat then alternating in a galloping riff. For those of you who are familiar with this band, there are no surprises. If you are new to their material, expect classic horror/gore grind.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dread Lair Showcase Recap

This 10th of June the Dread Lair Showcase was on display. Originally the gig was proposed to be held at the “new” Walter’s location; where that is, I have no clue. In the end it still took place on the old Washington Avenue location, amidst the club going, trendy hell hole. I would not consider that a negative thing. The outside activity of drunks can provide some great between band entertainments. Late nights on Washington Avenue can become both absurd and funny in the same sentence.
The show itself I found to be a pleasant and entertaining experience. All bands on the bill did their part and brought their A-games. Everything seemed to be well organized and the overall vibe was great. No where present were any ridiculous attitudes or drunken, drama-filled fist fights. This night was all about the music.

Pariah Messiah opened with their blackened metal hybrid sound. This duo consisted of a vocalist and guitarist…oh and a laptop that unleashed computerized beats. Normally I am not a huge fan of drum machines, but honestly speaking they had an appealing sound.

The riffing was definitely black metalish with some death thrown in. On vocals was a possessed man who bared a resemblance to Martin Van Drunen of Asphyx /Pestilence fame. Wildly he prowled the stage spitting out some nice deep death metal style vocals behind a whirlwind of spinning hair. A studio recording by them would definitely conjure my interest.
Following was Bound in Flesh. This trio of Houston metal veterans shredded with a Suffocation/Brutal DM style and some grooving breakdowns.

Don’t misconstrue the term breakdowns. I am not referring to a crappy metal core type selection; I mean some memorable interludes that will make you want to move. A pleasant bit of charisma was displayed by the vocalist/guitarist.

He played with the crowd throwing out some jokes and random babbling, which I found comical. Just enough said between songs to keep things moving but not going into some long diatribe that bores the audience. Some cool song writing melded well in a great performance.
Moving on, the band Mhinotahn performed next. I really cannot give an unbiased opinion of this. Lots of positive feedback was given, so I assume the set was favorable.

Spectral Manifest then manifested the stage. A gloomy grim presence formed around the platform as they ripped into the heaviness. Although they lacked a bassist, their thick barbaric guitar sound more than made up for it. Guttural vocals meshed together with the alternation of mid-tempo brutal rockers to blast beat frenzies. The menacing front man roared with the voice of Satan as the drummer went berserk in an animated attack. The drummer was hitting so hard that I thought he had a grudge against his drum kit. Produced on their mantle was definitely a concentrated wall of sound. A great set rounded out with a solid rendition of a Darkthrone number. Under the moniker of self described Wraith Metal, they remind me of an Autopsy styled band I would hear on a 7” around 1990. That is definitely a compliment.

Austin’s Humut Tabal made their presence lastly. The city of Austin is known for its variety of live music, but unfortunately not so much for extreme metal. Humut Tabal fills in that shortage with their form of somber spirited black metal. This night at Walter’s was no exception.

Their stage confidence and demeanor was impressive. This type of attitude is what I like in a band. The 4 piece exuded a confident, not cocky, attitude that knows exactly what their goals are. Storming through the set, all four members held down their respected positions while vibrantly moving to the music. My opinion of their sound is a blending of traditional 2nd wave black metal and some thrash elements. The atmosphere was there along with aggression.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

GG Allin: 18 Years Later

This month, the 28th to be exact, marks the 18th anniversary of Mr. Allin’s death. I am baffled that 18 years went by so quickly. Hearing of his passing seemed so long ago, but in another sense it was just the other day. At the time it was not surprising, especially after years of proclaiming a suicide on stage. With a person living such a sick lifestyle, an early demise was inevitable.
I feel fortunate, or maybe unfortunate, to have had the opportunity to witness a GG fiasco live. The show was almost missed however. A day before he was to perform I went to Sound Exchange and by luck saw an updated show flyer. For some reason the gig was moved up a day early, meaning it was going on that night. So I rushed home to revise my whole schedule to ensure Mr. Allin’s performance was not missed.
Opening was some local punk band whose name escapes my mind. The only thing I remember about them is they played a Reagan Youth cover. “No Class” or “Degenerated”, or some song. I don’t recall, but it really does not matter.
As expected, the show itself was a riot. All those family favorite tracks of his were played. Throughout the performance Mr. Allin continuously jumped off the stage and slugged someone in the audience. He did that multiple times to the same guy. Why the guy stood there with no retaliation is a mystery to me. Maybe he was the ultimate fan and saw GG’s fist to jaw as a gift from the messiah. Those actions did no fly with other attendees. Each time he jumped off the stage, people in the crowd attacked him. At one point he brawled across the entire venue. Each time he would retreat backwards to the stage, fell on his back and kicked wildly with both feet.

GG Allin - Live Houston 1993

Luckily there was no fecal matter unleashed. As planned, if he started shitting about the place I was leaving. No bodily fluids, just a full set of violence. Maybe he forgot to take his laxatives before the show.
Anyway, Mr. Allin was a sickened degenerate but I have always found his music offensively funny, everything from the snotty punk of The Jabbers to the filth rock of the Murder Junkies. Those bottom of the barrel lyrics are pure comedy.
As with all controversial figures in entertainment, in death he is considered to be some sort of immortal. Well I don’t look at him in that sense, but do find him as a pioneer of self expression….a person who truly did not give a shit about anything.