I bloody love Black Sabbath

Yeah, I’d like to be able to say something profound or mind altering, something that would help heal the sick, help the poor and win the war on terror, but sometimes all you can do is express your love for a band. (Actually, that’s something I do frequently, but that’s beside the point) I recently re-purchased their first album and listening to it again reminded of just how damn good this band is. (Yes, I consider it the first metal album – Purple and Zeppelin come close, but none are more black than Sabbath) It’s hard for me to imagine how much of an impact that thing must have made when it first appeared all those years ago. I first heard it many years back (On vinyl no less!) and it scared the heck out of me. I thought myself familiar with all things metallic (Being young and ignorant), but that thing genuinely unnerved me, in a way I’d not felt since I saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit.*

I could talk for hours about the guitar work of Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler (Bass) and Bill Ward (Drums) are one of the greatest rhythm sections ever to take the stage and there’s Ozzy. By all rights, a voice like that should work, especially not not compared to the metal singers to follow him. For someone who helped birth a genre, he sure doesn’t sound like those who came after. It’s a voice like no other, thin and kinda whiny, nothing like the leather lunged screamers like Rob Halford or Bruce Dickinson or the more guttural technique of Tom Araya or Chuck Billy.

I’m not a musician, so I can’t discuss musical technique or theory. Yeah, Iommi strings his guitars differently after his accident (That cost him several fingertips on his fret hand) but I’m stuffed if I can work out how it makes his playing different. I don’t know how to explain what they do, but what I do know is this: IT’S FUCKING AWESOME. I’m sure you’ve heard Iron Man thanks to it’s inclusion in the MCU,but there’s more, far more to them. There’s the rumble of bass that opens Children of the Grave, the 7 minutes of DOOM that is War Pigs, the solo in Wheels of Confusion or the opening of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, a guitar riff that can LEVEL CITIES. Don’t believe me? Listen and BE PROVED WRONG. Just reinforce your house first.

I didn’t see them when they toured on the 13 album a couple of years back, lack of funds and the public slanging match between Osbourne and Ward put me off. I did however get to see the lineup led by Ronnie James Dio (Who joined after Osbourne was fired) in 2007 and it was one of the greatest nights of my life, even with the idiot a few rows over who spent the whole show screaming for Paranoid. You’re up in the nose bleeds of the Entertainment Center – do you really think the band are going to hear you? The best part was when someone finally explained the band would only play Dio era material and he started yelling for Holy Diver. *sigh*

I guess my final words (For know) are this. Ignore the mud slinging and public wars of words, the reality TV show and every word that Sharon Osbourne ever says. Just listen to the music. It’s more than worth your time and the damage to your hearing.

*It’s been at least 25 years and I still refuse to watch that film again. I am unashamed of that fact.

Advertisements

MAXIMUM ROCK AND SOUL

The BellRays / Dallas Frasca / Band from Texas

Sunday August 9, 2015, Newtown Social Club

There’s more than a few ways you could describe the BellRays. The first that comes to mind is Tina Turner fronting the MC5, but kids these days have no idea who I’m talking about. Hmmm. Beyonce fronting… what’s a cool garage rock band the kids enjoy? Do they still exist?

A more appropriate term would be criminally under-recognised. They’ve been wowing audiences with their blend of rock and soul for over 20 years and really deserve more. It’s paradoxical – this is a band that clearly should be playing to larger audiences, but that would rob them of the intimacy of smaller venues. As wonderful as it can be to see stadium gigs, there’s nothing to match being 3 feet away from the band. Some of the greatest musical experiences of my life have been in beer soaked hovels – the Datsun’s epic 15 minute blast through Freeze Sucker at the Metro or Radio Birdman blowing the roof off the Gaelic Club by opening with Do the Pop come to mind. But I digress…

The BellRays are rock and roll, in the most elemental sense. They’re the sort of band that should be huge, that make me want to stand on street corners handing out albums like a deranged preacher. Obviously, they aren’t going to be to everyone’s tastes and I accept that, but I’m not going to call those people tone deaf idiots. No, I will not be insulting them at all, mainly because I’m sure my parents are on that list. (I was raised on Slim Dusty and Johnny Cash, which may be why Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast made such an impact on my life)

It’s a revival meeting feel to the show, with the tiny venue only amplifying things. True, sound issues plague the set (Though some of those could be down to the earplugs I was wearing), along with the occasional blackout of the stage lights, but they push past it. Drummer Stefan Litrownik has a magnificent knack for glam rock stick twirling, while Bob Vennum (Guitar) and Justin Andres (Bass) do their thing with magnificent skill, albeit leaving the front rows having to dodge guitar headstocks being swung out near them.

And then there’s the singer. Lisa Kekaula is a massively afroed FORCE OF NATURE, whether marching into the crowd 3 songs to ask, nay DEMAND whether the audience are ready for the show, laying down on stage when we aren’t loud enough, exhorting us to believe that this is our second Saturday night or telling us they’re about to play a quieter number so the front rows shouldn’t use this as an opportunity to start talking, as she can FUCKING HEAR YOU. That sort of thing may sound corny now, but when you’re 3 feet away from it, you OBEY. Besides, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the audience match the band’s levels of energy?

We got most of the Black Lightning album and a smattering of older songs, the highlights being the title track and Everybody Get Up, and a storming mid set cover of Whole Lotta Love, which if you didn’t get caught up in, well, you might be dead. (Have you checked your pulse recently?) We ended with an encore of Revolution Get Down and a thundering Blues for Godzilla, with some thank you’s and a warning that if the merch stand closes early as it did last show, there’ll be blood. All that followed was the trip home, which featured an interesting conversation with a guy who’d had to leave halfway through (Owing to his mate getting fucked up and needing help). Normally I only meet those people on trains…

The BellRays. They have the songs. They have the talent. Now can the rest of the world please discover them?

PS: Many apologies to the support bands who I missed. In my defense, I was ill enough I probably shouldn’t have gone to the show in the first place. Based on the merch sales, they seemed to go over quite well.

GABBA GABBA HEY!

Some have asked after reading my recent piece on the Ramones for more on just why this band means so much to me. Well, be careful what you wish for.

Firstly, I stand by my original recommendation, which is go out, buy the first 4 albums (Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket to Russia, Road to Ruin) and It’s Alive, then take them home and listen to them, preferably at a police attracting volume. But, since you require more than that before committing your hard earned monies (Sensible in this day and age), then HEY! HO! LET’S GO!

To begin, consider the opening lyrics to Rockaway Beach, from the album Rocket to Russia:

Chewing out a rhythm on my bubblegum.

The sun is out and I want some.

It’s not hard, not far to reach,

We can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach.

What, you mean you aren’t already sold? Tough crowd you are…

ramones-leave-home4

Let’s look at the music then. It’s simple 3 chord rock, with little more than guitars, bass, drums and vocals, played at a speed that may sound tame today, in an era that contains Slayer, but in the mid 70’s was faster than light. Why is this so special? Consider the state of ‘popular’ music. Pro Tools, Auto Tune, an ocean of manufactured pop acts and bands that only exist in the studio (You want to call yourself a musician, you play live) and all those goddamned TV talent shows, stuffed full of people singing the same shitty pop songs and deluded into the belief that they’ll be ‘stars’ for longer than 5 seconds. Yeah, I’m sure they’re lovely people, but I don’t care. It’s that instant stardom mentality that’s destroying music as far as I’m concerned. Anyhow, back to my point. There’s something refreshing about a song that’s nothing more than 3 chords and verse, chorus, verse. Solo’s? Fuck that. Extended instrumental passages? Go away. Virtuosic playing? You must be joking. It’s liberating, inspiring and all those other bullshit motivational words. You didn’t have to sit in your bedroom for fifteen years practising, all you needed was 3 chords and the guts to get onstage and that’s something that’s needed, badly.

punkchords1

It’s no bullshit music, all killer, no filler and even if there’s a song you don’t like, at the speed they play it’s over before you know it. It’s wasn’t any one person, but a mix of all four of them that made the band what it was. Combine Johnny’s ferocious down strumming (Which was basically all he knew how to do on the guitar), Tommy’s rudimentary drumming (He was set to manage the band, until their lack of suitable drummers put him behind the kit), Dee Dee’s autobiographical song writing (53rd and 3rd wasn’t just a song…) and Joey’s amazing voice (It should be the dictionary definition of teen angst) and everything just worked, like a musical Frankenstein’s monster, or Voltron.

ramones-leave-home3

And they wrote about everything. There were songs about teenage boredom, cretins, loneliness, axe murderers, bizarre family, shock treatment, drugs, violence and other subjects that make for great pop songs. And love. Oh, were there ever love songs… From ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ (Fun Fact: that played at my wedding) to ‘She’s a Sensation’, ‘She’s the One’, ‘Oh Oh, I Love Her So’ and ‘I Just Want to Have Something to Do’, which contains possibly the most perfect opening lines in anything*:

Hanging out on Second Avenue,

Eating Chicken Vindaloo.

I just want to be with you,

I just want to have something to do.

But if you really want to know just why I love this band so much, go and listen to Blitzkrieg Bop. That’ll explain it better in 2 minutes than I could given a million years.

*Yes, even Neuromancer.

I sold my soul for rock and roll

“Rock and roll ain’t no riddle man, to me it makes good, good sense”

Truer words have rarely been spoken.

I am, and probably always will be, more than a bit intense about things.

I don’t do casual very well. I was raised in an Anglican household, but left in my early teens. My only memory of church is the look on the face of a clown that was trying to involve me in the day’s games, a look I’d like to say was fear, but was more like “That little prat’s not going to want to do anything.” Religion never did much for me – if more people followed the basic message of ‘Don’t be a dick’ the world would be a much better place, but the higher aspects never interested me. What replaced that in my life was music.

I started slow – I was, and still am to a certain extent, a Dire Straits fan, though I’ve no recollection of how I first heard them. You may laugh (And you’d be entitled to), but I still regard Mark Knopfler’s guitar on Tunnel of Love as a thing of beauty. It was AC/DC that started the path I walk today, when I first heard Who Made Who, then got their Live album as a present later that year, an album that was something of a revelation for me. I stuck with that for a few years before branching out, with detours into Guns and Roses and Nirvana fandom, but there are three bands that stand above all: Iron Maiden (Who I’ve spoke of previously), Radio Birdman and the Ramones. You see, in case you missed the news, Tommy Ramone died recently, which means all 4 of the original line-up are no longer with us. Lymphatic cancer took Joey in 2001, a heroin overdose took Dee Dee, prostate cancer took Johnny in 2004 and now bile duct cancer has taken Tommy. Yes, we still have Marky, CJ and Richie (And Clem, though few talk about him), but all the originals have left us. Numerous end of an era clichés have been banded about, but as much as I hate them, they’re true.

ramones

Johnny,  Tommy, Joey and Dee Dee

To say the Ramones mean a lot to me is an understatement, like calling invading Russia in a winter a bit of a cockup. I remember an interview with Pete Porker where he said he recalled something from a fanzine, that said “True love is when she means as much to you as the Ramones”, and I’ve basically felt that way since I heard them. From the first seconds of It’s Alive, I knew this was for me. 4 guys, 3 chords, 2 minutes and 1 surname. How can you possibly improve on that?

That band spoke to me in a way that nothing else has – when things were horrible, as they are for all teenagers, the Ramones were there. It was a great purging of emotions, taking all that I felt was shitty in my life and venting that in a blast of audio rage. I can’t claim to have had a shitty childhood (If I could I’d nominate my mother for a well-deserved sainthood), but what teenager doesn’t feel like that at one point or another? You have to have an outlet, and since I wasn’t interested in booze, drugs or God (As almost everyone else I went to high school was), music fitted that quite nicely.

I never got to see them live, the closest I came to that was seeing Marky Ramone in spoken word mode, followed by him drumming with the Spazzys, which was a great show (The story of having to watch Rock and Roll High School to remember making it was a highlight, followed by the random outburst of swearing at a chunk of the audience) It’s not much, but I can say I was in the same room as a Ramone and that’s enough. Hell, during a farewell at my last job I damn near wept when the staff band played Blitzkrieg Bop. Couldn’t help it. Same as when the Dictators played it when they toured in 2003. Couldn’t help it then either.

Ramones-at-CBGB1

Live at CBGB’s

I’m too wrapped up in them to try and explain the appeal without you listening to them. I could try, but it’ll be a lot easier if you just go out and buy the first four albums (Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket to Russia, Road to Ruin) and It’s Alive and put them on. It won’t cost you much and will take you less than half a day to listen to, but your life will be all the better for it.

I could (and probably will at some point) go on about some of the other artists who’s work I adore: Radio Birdman’s Radios Appear (Which I listened to for a fortnight straight when I first got it) Sonic’s Rendezvous Band’s City Slang, a song as glorious as the lyrics are changeable or Warren Zevon’s tales of addiction, perfectly coiffed werewolves and headless Thompson gunners. There’s Dub War (and later Skindred’s) ability to take almost every musical genre there is, chuck them in a blender and have music emerge, the about to collapse drug fuelled clatter of the New York Dolls, the effortless brilliance of the Sunnyboys (Who’s Alone With You is up there with Alice Cooper’s I’m Eighteen for best teen angst song ever recorded) or everything about Motorhead, but I’ll spare you. This time…

I guess what I struggle to understand the most is how people aren’t as moved by music as I am. Yeah, I accept that everyone has different taste (the fools), but how you can you not be moved by it? Can you listen to Creeping Death and not want to scream DIE MOTHERFUCKER DIE at the top of your lungs? Does Battle Hymn not want to make you act like Conan the Barbarian (or join a gym)? Can you listen to Tony Iommi’s guitar on Heaven and Hell and not want to weep with joy? Cause if music doesn’t affect you like that, well, you have both my everlasting sympathy and pity. That’s what it does for me and I can’t imagine my life without it.

I  suppose I should finish this up, so I’ll leave you with this message: LEMMY IS GOD.

dp521cea49

END OF STORY

Musing on a life changing event, aka IRON MAIDEN *air guitars*

Everyone has that sort of event – you meet someone, read something or hear something that utterly changes your worldview from that moment on. I’ve had more than a few of them in my time. My list includes such things as It’s Alive by the Ramones, Return of the Jedi, and even The Da Vinci Code. (My wife and I were set up by mutual friends at a showing, I didn’t go see it of my own free will. I’m mad, but I’m not crazy) I won’t be talking about those though. This one was sparked by a book, but not any old book mind you. The Book of Revelations, chapter and verse 13:18 to be precise…

Woe to you, O Earth and Sea

For the Devil sends the Beast with wrath

Because he knows the time is short

Let him who hath understanding reckon the Number of the Beast

For it is a human number

It’s number is Six Hundred and Sixty Six…

If I close my eyes I can still see it – I was in my early teens, though I don’t remember what year exactly. A family holiday is taking place, but this is all I remember, outside of the horrors of the walk to the outside toilet. It’s near midnight, an almost perfect time for metal, my headphones are plugged into my Walkman and Three Hours of Power (Triple J’s heavy metal show) is on. All that’s lacking is a thunderstorm, lightning strike or Viking invasion to make it more metal and even then, I’m not sure I would have noticed. I don’t remember what played before or after, just the song that would change my life forever more.

The intro had my curiosity, all doom and devils and a Vincent Price soundalike, then Bruce Dickinson whispering of horrific dreams and evil faces and then it hit my ears. THAT BIG SCREAM. It was the sort of scream that echoes down the ages, a primal scream of rage and frustration, said to have been borne of several hours in the studio repeating the first four lines of the song. The sort of scream that doesn’t just put hair on your chest, it puts hair EVERYWHERE. Pure audio testosterone. Within those few brief seconds I knew, with all certainty in my barely formed teenage mind that I was hooked and I have been ever since.

It’s not just Dickinson’s scream though – Clive Burr’s jazzy drumming, the interplay between Dave Murray and Adrian Smith on guitar and Steve Harris’s bass work (That man’s right hand has to be a machine – it’s the only thing that can explain his bass work) just meld together into something magical. Seeing them live in 2008 was one of the most amazing nights of my life – seeing grizzled mullet wearing men as excited as teen girls outside a Beiber gig is not something you forget in a hurry, let alone a women dressed for an elegant garden party descending into the pit and emerging post show drenched in sweat and beaming.  I can’t properly explain the appeal – I could talk for hours about the quality of the song writing, the at times inhumanly skilled musicianship (Watch Steve Harris’s right hand during Run to the Hills), or the sheer joy that the band have for what they’re playing and that they continue to do so. It’s a glorious and magnificent noise that I love with all my heart and I thank the universe daily that I was exposed to it.

So yeah, Costa Zoulio, you have my lifelong thanks. Without that moment my life would be a lot less metal and all the poorer for it. *throws horns*

Stuff happened. People are stupid.

Welcome readers!

This week, we’re angry. ‘So what else is new?’ I hear you say. Well, we have good reason to be this time! It’s rare I touch on politics, but the axing this week of the Australian Interactive Games Fund has me fuming. I’m even angrier about the fact that this is the first I’ve heard of it, as this is the sort of thing that should be on my radar. Furthering that anger was the news that Community has been cancelled. #DarkestTimeline, as I believe the hip kids are saying. I also had my long held belief that people are fucking idiots reinforced with the release of the list of 2013 baby names from the US. There’s 8 Briennes, which is nice. 1135 Arya’s. (I admit, I like the name, but I plan to give my children geek middle names) 10 Bellatrix’s. 15 Theon’s. (What?) And 241 children named Khaleesi. IT’S A TITLE, NOT A NAME YOU FOOLS. And let’s not even start on names like Rydder, Kaptain, Rebelle and Xzaiden – do people who do this hate their children or did I miss a memo?

daenerys-meets-my-little-pony

As crossovers go, it’s still better than Alien vs Predator.

The US army has released it’s ‘In case of Zombies read this’ plan and LARP takes another step towards the mainstream, with the surge in popularity in the US of Archery Tag, a version of Dodgeball with foam arrows. I WAS DOING THAT BEFORE IT WAS COOL! Fucking bandwagon jumpers… In property news, Bran Castle (Said to be the inspiration for Castle Dracula) is for sale, for the eye watering cost of $135 million dollars. I can’t say I’m too enthused, as the upkeep on that would be murderous. Castle Duckula on the other hand…

The world lost a legend this week with the death of artist HR Giger, whose work produced wonder and nightmare fuel in roughly equal amounts. He is perhaps best known for his design work on Ridley Scott’s Alien, which alone would be enough to cement his place in history. We may never see his like again, or at the very least, never see anyone that freakin’ wierd. Scott has paid tribute to him, while in related news Michael Fassbender has confirmed Prometheus 2 is a go, which will have to wait as Scott’s next film is set to be The Martian, starring Matt Damon.

Zack Snyder’s been busy this week, after giving a first tease of the new Batmobile, he’s revealed the first look at Ben Affleck as Batman. Hard to comment given the nature of the shot, but there doesn’t appear to be any Bat-Nipples, so that’s a good start. There’s a short featurette about Gotham, along with some new photos of the cast looking all broody and intense. A campaign has also sprung up to get Batman co-creator Bill Finger credit on the show, in addition to Bob Kane. Why you ask? Well, there’s a whole lot of he said/she said over the years as to who exactly created Bats, with a lot of people arguing that Finger deserves co-credit.  Anyhow, in news no-one should be able to complain about, a group of fans shot a live action version of the intro to Batman: The Animated Series.  

We’ve had our first looks at the upcoming Arrow spin off The Flash this week, with the first brief look after the promo for Arrow’s season finale. There followed swiftly by a first teaser and finally a 5 minute long extended trailer, that while it may show a little too much, is all the better for it. We also have the first synopsis and promo logo for Agent Carter, which has me far more excited than I should be.

BnKzd9OCUAA_yIi

About as excited as Haley Atwell is I’m guessing.

There’s talk of a Namor movie being made, with Zac Efron to star. For those of you who have no idea who I’m talking about, think Aquaman, but angrier. Lauren Shuler Donner keeps talking about wanting to make Deadpool and in news we’ve been dreading, Channing Tatum has been confirmed as playing Gambit in an upcoming X-Men film.  Despite what I’ve said previously, he might not be all bad – at least it’s not like it’s the Jack Black Green Lantern that was talked about. In other film news, Harrison Ford has been invited to appear in the planned Blade Runner sequel and Roberto Orci will be directing the third Star Trek film, which will be his debut as a director. Hopefully he’ll cut down on the lens flare. I’m still not putting money on it though.

The following piece of news should really be read to the sound of the 20th Century Fox fanfare – shooting has begun on Star Wars: Episode 7. Expect plenty of leaked photos, wild speculation and fanboy frothing at the mouth. (We rage because we love) Some interesting rumours about the film has also come to light, which seem to revolve around ignoring the prequel films as much as possible and finally releasing the original versions of the classic trilogy. Interesting…  Turning back to Episode 7, there’s talk about Adam Driver’s character and confirmation that we won’t be seeing Wedge Antilles, with actor Dennis Lawson saying he’d been approached but wasn’t interested. Shame that, but I can’t blame him – how many of you would want to revisit something you did over 30 years ago? We also have a trailer for a documentary seeking funding called Elstree 1976, looking at the bit players of the original trilogy.

We’ve a fan-made trailer for the next Dresden Files book, Skin Game, that’s been endorsed by author Jim Butcher. It’s been sufficiently long and my memory is sufficiently poor that I’ve no real idea what’s going on, but for a fan effort it’s mighty impressive. Now, if you only know the character through the TV series (Which I’ll admit I didn’t mind), I can’t urge you enough to read the books. They’re witty, packed with awesome characters and aren’t the size of house bricks like other series we love that we could mention. *cough*A Song of Ice and Fire*cough*.

1248964599329

 POLKA WILL NEVER DIE!

There’s a new poster and trailer for Transformers: Age of Extinction and as terrible as I think it’ll be, the sight of Optimus Prime riding Grimlock into battle still makes me as excited as a 6 year old on a  sugar rush. There’s also a look at the action figure versions of Slog and Snarl (I guess you can’t have a character in this day and age called Slag) which look… well… ugly. We also have the first looks at Deliver us from Evil and Monsters: Dark Continent (A sequel to the Gareth Edwards film) and a new trailer for Edge of Tomorrow. TV wise, there’s looks at new shows Wayward Pines and Hieroglyph, one is which is an M Night Shyamalan production and The Librarians, a spin-off of the made for TV movie series, that stars Rebecca Romijn and Christian Kane.  It looks as fun as it is silly, which means I’ll be mining it for ideas for any upcoming roleplaying games I run.

The first trailer for Constantine has been released and blimey, it looks good. DISCLAIMER: I’ve not read much Hellblazer (Basically, just Dangerous Habits) so I’m not well versed in it, but it looks like this version has actually paid attention to it. We also have the first clip from the show – is it wrong I hope the business card bit becomes a running gag? And yes, in case you were wondering, there are people on the Internet yelling about wanting Keanu Reeves to play the role again. In that film’s defence, everything up to the magic shotgun is pretty good, with Tilda Swinton and Peter Stormare being bloody amazing. It’s a combination of the magic gun, the appearance of Shia LeBouf and Constantine not being British that sink it. If you’d made it about another part time exorcist, it might have made a far better film.

The first film in the Harry Potter spin off series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be released in late 2016, Sigourney Weaver will be returning for the Avatar sequels and we were somewhat stunned to discover that Blumhouse Productions (Makers of such fine films as Paranormal Activity and The Purge) turned down a pitch from John Carpenter. Now, while I grant you his recent work may not be up to standards (I don’t know, I haven’t seen it), this is the man who made Big Trouble in Little China, one of the most perfect films ever made.  You let the man make his movie and DAMN THE CONSEQUENCES!

Jack-burton And the cheque is in the mail!

Actors Hermione Norris and Frank Skinner will be appearing in the next season of Doctor Who, which is currently shooting in Lanzarote. (A reference that only Classic Who fans will understand) Furthermore, director Rachel Talalaly (Whose directed such films as Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare and Tank Girl) will be directing two episodes of this season. Now all we need is some female writers and we might be getting somewhere! There’s plans for a remake of Alien Nation and TNT is preparing several new sci-fi series, with a sequel to the Stephen King story Firestarter and the time travel drama Fix-It Men, about a group travelling back in time to avert a global catastrophe. Hannibal has been renewed, we have a synopsis for Heroes Reborn and the episode titles for the rest of this season of Game of Thrones, which will be taking a 1 week break after the next episode. Boooo!

We end this week with the origins of the term ‘Red Herring’ and footage of a man who built himself a set of retractable Wolverine claws, and as a result of this, is having THE BEST DAY EVER.

Quote of the Week:

“I lunged, low and quick, and drove about a foot of cold steel into his danglies. Hey, I don’t care what kind of fearie or mortal or hideous creature you are. If you’ve got danglies, and can lose them, that’s the kind of sight that makes you reconsider the possible genitalia-related ramifications of your actions real damned quick.” Jim Butcher – Proven Guilty

Cheers,

Gavin

SOUNDWAVE 2014 – AN UNBIASED LOOK BACK

And so it was that I journeyed to Perth for the final Soundwave festival of 2014 and possibly the final Soundwave in Perth ever. Here follows a review of sorts of the day.

First off, heavy metal fans are lovely. Seriously, they may not look it, but I’ve not met a friendlier bunch. Happy to spend time in food queues chatting, several were very complimentary towards my kilt and I wasn’t the only one wearing one! Sadly I didn’t think to get a photo with him, nor of the woman with the Game of Thrones/Ramones mash-up shirt.  One bone to pick though, many attendees seemed to think that taking rubbish to bins was as exhausting as climbing Everest, given the vast amounts of garbage strewn about the venue. Whoever was set up to clean the venue afterwards, you have my sympathies and respect. You deserved to be paid far more than whatever you got.

Secondly, as comfortable as a kilt is, a sporran isn’t exactly made for moshing. It holds a wallet and keys securely, but it’s about crotch height and bounces about a bit, so yeah… Not painful, but definitely noticeable. That and the tassels on mine sounded like a bad horse trotting sound effect. It was like doing a radio play, but instead of a pair of coconut halves all they had was a Scotsman. Moving on…

IMAG0486

The writer post show.

There was also one mother of a line to get in, which stretched for at least a kilometre around the venue. So, while it took almost half an hour to get in, I did get to hear snippets of Amon Amarth and the Porkers’ sets while slowly winding my way around the block. After an amusing moment when security started to ask to check my pockets and discovered I didn’t have any, I headed straight for the Porkers. Sadly (or thankfully) they were minus their infamous mascot the Porkman, best known for drenching himself in VB and going crowd surfing. Still, for first cab off the rank (A bloody horrible position for any band to be in), they did well.

Fun Fact: I touched the Porkman once during a crowd surf many years ago. I washed my hand.

They were just as I remember them, playing songs about beer, psychotic girlfriends, beer, going out and drinking and beer. There may also have been a song about beer… Full points for keeping the crowd going, given though, as singer Pete Porker mock complained, most of them were waiting for the following band. They ended with an announcement that as their festival was over, they’d be sidestage if anyone wanted to sell them drugs. C’mon guys, it wasn’t even noon.

Then it was time for more water before Nancy Vandal, who were as gloriously stupid as I remember. Highlights included the debut of the bonerphone, a combination dildo and musical instrument and singer Fox Trotsky’s observation that “Every time I yell thankyou the audience feels it needs to clap, good work.” The set featured such NV ‘classics’ as There’s no I in Rock, Piss on my Weetbix (Introduced as ‘another of their food songs’), Frenzal Rhomb were better when Ben was in the band, Death Metal Song (aka SATAN IS TOPS!) and When I Squeeze my Nose I sound like Axl Rose, which prompted Trotsky to bring out some ”stadium rock pyrotechnics straight from Paul Stanley’s collection”, which turned out to be 3 sparklers duct taped to his guitar and which proved almost impossible to light. They ended with ‘Move Over Satan’ and brought a much needed sense of humour to the day.

IMAG0439

Stadium rock silliness at it’s finest

After a bit of wandering through the merch stands (Which had not a single Skindred shirt to be found, a point I’ll come to), it was time for Testament, who didn’t disappoint at all. Chuck Billy’s roaring announced their arrival and the band was in fine form. It doesn’t get much better than seeing Into the Pit live, does it? Their set culminated with Billy urging the crowd into a Wall of Death, which is basically splitting the audience down the middle and having them smash into at each other full speed, like two very hairy phalanxes. I have this little thing called ‘low tolerance for pain’, so I was happy to escape it. Even more so, when waiting in the food queue afterwards I was told a guy had fallen out of it and immediately vomited. Charming.

IMAG0456

Alex Skolnick and Chuck Billy trading riffs

The break between the bands was spent in the food queue, then it was time for GWAR, whose set was interrupted by the arrival of PM Tony Abbott demanding it be shut down. I don’t know how many in the crowd got singer Oderus Unrungus’ roar of ‘You’re nothing without Costello’ before Abbott was decapitated, but I did. Sadly I was well up the back and really, without being able to see them there’s not much point of seeing them live, which also meant I missed them mutilate Queen Elizabeth. They hadn’t run out of stage blood though, drenching the first several rows, which made it very obvious those who’d been in the crowd and I’m sure caused a lot of confusion for the first aid crew.

More wandering resulted in catching the last chunk of Filter’s set and I was lucky enough to hear all 3 of their songs that I know (Trip like I Do, Take a Picture and Hey Man, Nice Shot). So, yay me! I also hadn’t planned on catching the last chunk of Pennywise, but what I did get was a few songs and a meandering discussion of some cops the band they been drinking with (And who apparently do cocaine, though that was quickly denied).The older I get the funnier I find ‘society is trying to bring us down’ songs, but I can’t deny the emotion behind Bro Hymn, dedicated to several late friends of the band.

I was feeling kind of rubbish at this point, which could be been the heat, or the thing I’d eaten that sort of resembled a hot dog. Skindred fixed all that, with an explosive and downright awesome set. Hitting the stage to a funked up Imperial March, they proceeded be the band of the day. Singer Benji Webbe, of the ever changing sunglasses, was in fine form encouraging, nay DEMANDING, that the crowd get up and dance. Yes, at times it was more abusive than encouraging (He really didn’t like the left section of the audience), but it got a response, so who am I to argue? We also got a plea to support live music and buy a t-shirt, which I would have done had any been available. Their set ended with the now traditional ‘Newport Helicopter’, which had everyone in the crowd removing a piece of clothing and swinging it about like loons. Oh, and there was a cheeky burst of Carly Simon’s Nobody Does it Better as they left the stage. Gotta love a healthy ego.

IMAG0471

Benji says jump, YOU JUMP.

Rocket from the Crypt were next door and while I hadn’t planned on watching them, I’m a sucker for a band in matching stage gear. They did their thing with class, their singer remarking that “It’s an honour to play so close to the toilets” and that he didn’t know any of the other guys names, as they’d answered his Craiglist ad. Good fun.

The it was time for the mass exodus to see Rob Zombie, who’s stage was decorated with massive posters of vintage horror films, a huge King Kong looming over it. A hint Rob: don’t start bitching that your hotel room was bigger than the stage space after your first song. A couple more songs of his and that was it for me, as I wanted to beat the crowds leaving. Yes, I’m old and have a low tolerance for crowds of drunks.

In round up, I present the following:

Was it a good day? Hell yes.

Should I get a better camera? Most certainly.

Do I still prefer smaller gigs? Very much so.

Would I recommend it?  Yep, it was a great experience. I’m not in a rush to go back, but I still had a lot of fun.

INTO. THE PIT.

Testament/Metraya

Oxford Art Factory 26/02/14

A small crowd of mostly men outside a venue in Oxford Street isn’t surprising, even more so as it’s coming up to Mardi Gras night. A small crowd of mostly men clad in band t-shirts, with a few fantastic 80’s era denim cut-off jackets covered in patches, that’s different. Well, as far as I know – if anyone wants to prove me wrong, please do so.

The mighty Testament, veterans of the Bay Area thrash scene have returned to Australia on the Soundwave tour, and are playing several sideshows. I’m flying to Perth to see them at Soundwave, but the chance to see them in a tiny club? There was no way in hell I was missing this.

The support was a welcome surprise, with Wollongong band Metraya replacing Newsted at the last minute (According to one of their guitarists, who’s also a former co-worker of mine, at 2:30 that afternoon…) and got the crowd going with an energetic set. My list of funny stage banter* also has a new entry, with “We are Metraya, and this is a song called METRAYA!” (I love bands who write songs about themselves – see also Hammerfall and Manowar) Despite having a fairly thankless job (Several people in the crowd were wondering why they didn’t just let Testament play longer), they got a good reaction with 40 minutes of early Slayer esque thrashing and left the stage to cheers. Check em’ out.

IMAG0409

Metraya doing their thing

40 minutes later, (Which featured a section of audience near me having a sing-along to Master of Puppets) and the strains of Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner and Testament hit the stage, storming through Rise Up to applause and roars in equal measure.

Guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson and new/returning bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Mjolnir pendant round his neck) were in fine form, frequently stepping up on the monitors to shred (Ala Steve Harris) and nearly hitting the ceiling in the process. Drummer Gene Hoglan smacked seven shades of shit out of his kit and singer Chuck Billy’s habit of air guitaring using a half-length microphone stand never get’s old. We got a good mix of old and new, with the highlights mostly the sing along songs, such as More than Meets the Eye (Which isn’t, as far as I know, about the Transformers), Dark Roots of Earth and an utterly storming Into the Pit, while Native Blood was dedicated to the local indigenous population. What was most evident though, was the sense of how much fun the band were having – there were smiles all round, with Skolnick’s goofy grin as he unleashed another brutal riff a sight to behold. I could grumble about the set only being an hour and 20, but it was worth it for the atmosphere. You can take your stadium gigs and shove them – give me a tiny room and the ability to make eye contact with the stage any time. Oh, and Gene Hoglan brushed past me on his way outside pre-gig. *swoons*

IMAG0417

Alex Skolnick (Left) and Eric Peterson (Right) duelling axes

Heads were banged. Horns were thrown. Beer was drunk. It was a metal show. What more is there to say?

*The top of the list is Down singer Phil Anselmo introducing a song about marijuana legalisation with “This one goes out to… Where the fuck are we?”