I hope everyone had a great Christmas! I got a shit-ton of cool stuff, especially lots of great books. Transformers-wise, Dollface got me a set of unopened vintage Transformers View-Master reels. Of course, this leaves me with the quandary of whether or not to de-virginize and enjoy this set or leave it in its pristine state. (Hint: toys are made to be opened, no matter how long the wait.) I also got this awesome Decepticon-loving shirt:
I've spoken before about my great love for BLACK SABBATH, how I discovered them, and why their sixth album, Sabotage, is my favorite album of all time. They are my bedrock, my musical foundation, and directly or indirectly continue to inform all the music I make.
Imagine, if you will, finding a band that you quickly realize is your favorite band of all time... and that they had made their last album 12 years earlier. Their body of work was finite. Yes, I could listen to these albums over and over my entire life... but they would never change. No more surprises. Like an ancient holy tome, you could try finding some previously unnoticed nuance or detail, but The End had already been written and there would be no sequel. As a 16-year-old Sabbath neophyte, I remember gradually acquiring the 8 albums of the original line-up and eagerly popping each one into the cassette player for that irreproducible first listen. Those sirens of "War Pigs" that begin Paranoid; the coughing that abruptly starts "Sweet Leaf" and Master of Reality; the rain, thunder and tolling bells of "Black Sabbath", their signature song that opens their first album... That was 20 years ago. I would never have that "first listen" feeling again.
Tonight was my first night in my new $83/month rehearsal studio with my new Schechter guitar and my new 350-watt Marshall Mode Four amp with 4x12" speaker cabinet. How was it? Let me tell you.
My original instrument is electric guitar [(distorted)]. I picked it up when I was 16 and played the shit out of it with my high school band ("Crayola Death") and my NYC band ("Brompton's Cocktail"). But after that band broke up, I played a lot more keyboards and piano than before. Upon moving to Portland four years ago, I decided to dump my two electric guitars. Seeking simplicity, I joined a band as a simple vocalist ("I Disagree"). Most all the music was written by the other guys, but I did write one heavy metal song for the band ("Two Arguments"). I composed it on my acoustic guitar, but that's probably when my appetite for playing sludgey, grungy, crunchy metal guitar began to resurface. Plus I've been listening to a lot more Sabbath-esque doom metal than ever before...
My band, I DISAGREE, recorded a double-EP: an album consisting of two half-hour discs respectively titled Vices & Virtues.
You can listen to the entire thing for free on my Music page...
... but you should purchase a copy of the album, because it's pretty unique.
I wanted to do something interesting with the packaging.
Something thematic. Something lo-fi. Something compelling, but just a little unsettling.
Let me show you...
THIS WAS ONE OF MY FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2009.
I'm listening to it now and it always kicks my ass. Makes me think of classic Black Sabbath and classic Slayer at the same time, but with vocals closer to the oceanic bellowing of post-metal and the gloomy drone of goth. This album simultaneously relaxes and invigorates me.
My favorite tune on this beautifully and creatively packaged 4-song disc is the opening title track:
Beneath The Solace
It's probably been years since I've enjoyed a new album as much as I've come to love Mastodon's Crack The Skye. Traditionally a progressive metal outfit, Mastodon has seemingly transcended themselves with this concept album centered around the Air element, with themes ranging from astral projection and meditative oblivion to Rasputin and czarist Russia. I've listened to this album straight through more than a dozen times in the last few weeks, which may not sound like much, but I own a lot of albums (in addition to subscribing to Rhapsody and being an avid fan of Pandora). I like variety and my tastes are eclectic; for me to listen to any one album over and over is unusual.
Of course, I have a good idea why the disc appeals to me so much. It actually took me a few listens and some comments from friends to realize it, but Crack The Skye is strongly reminiscent of the classic recordings of Black Sabbath, my all-time favorite albums. Mastodon is certainly more layered with its multiple guitars alternately arpeggiating and riffing, as well as the nice vocal variety that comes from having three singing band members. But even apart from some "sounds like Ozzy" comparisons, Crack The Skye has that special feel that evokes that early Sabbath gravity and drama.
It probably doesn't hurt that I've had sex to the album, too. Twice. To hear tunes and peruse a cool website, check out www.cracktheskye.com.
Everyone who knows me knows that my all-time favorite band is the original Black Sabbath. What I've never really discussed is the curious situation by which I discovered them. As an early teen, I was listening to everything my friends were, which mostly consisted of a lot of hard rock like Aerosmith and Guns 'n' Roses. At some point, however, someone recommended a joke rap song by Anthrax called "I'm The Man." So I picked up that cassette, on which was a cover song that completely kicked my ass and would lead me to my hallowed tune-smiths: "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath."
Now I'd heard of Ozzy Osbourne and seen "OZZY" carved into school desktops. I knew him as the guy who bit the heads of bats and doves, and was apparently satanic, and had a song that made kids kill themselves. But I had no idea that his solo career had emerged from an earlier band, a concept that greatly intrigued my novice music-listening self. And what a name his former band had! BLACK SABBATH. Why wasn't this carved onto desktops? My curiosity much aroused, I went to the local department store and picked up my first Black Sabbath cassette, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (of course). That first listen was magic. The title track opened the album and was graver, more artful, and more desperate-sounding than the cover I'd heard. Gorgeous.
Suffice it to say, I eventually picked up every Sabbath album. I realized that they were truly the godfathers and creators of heavy metal -- anyone who claims that Led Zeppelin or any other band created heavy metal is not a true metal fan and doesn't know what the fuck they're talking about. It eventually became apparent that many metal acts had done cover versions of Black Sabbath at one time or another. Sabbath was the bible of metal, a common ancestor of every thrash, doom, stoner, and death metal act around, and it's not surprising that a great many bands would pay tribute to them.
You can almost put together the entire Ozzy-era Sabbath catalog through covers alone. I haven't quite done that, but I have compiled a nearly two-hour collection of MY FAVORITE BLACK SABBATH COVERS!
There are actually quite a number of Sabbath tribute albums out there, usually produced by a record label to showcase their acts. I bought a stack of them to sift through and choose the best, but I ended up disliking a lot of what I heard on many of these albums. Some featured all black metal bands, which involved a lot of screeching and up-tempo interpretations. Others were simply bad. In the end, about half of these songs come from tribute albums and the other half from the individual albums of the various interpreting artists. Enjoy!
So what music do you listen to while you're jogging or working out? For me, it's thrash and peripherally similar sub-genres of heavy metal. Of course I love metal of all types across the spectrum, but there's something about thrash, the middle child between speed metal and death metal, that gets my heart pumping, my head banging and, well, it's great for lifting weights, too.
Here's my current favs...
Persistence of Time
The Sound of Perseverance
Cowboys From Hell
While I am guilty of listening to what I like to consider a broad spectrum of music genres, there is no question that in my heart of hearts and mind of minds, the music that resonates with me the strongest and most intimately is heavy metal. Fittingly, the foundation of my metal soul rests in the genre's godfathers and inventors, the immortal Black Sabbath. The first time I heard Black Sabbath, though I was only 15 or 16 years old, my immediate thought was Where have you been all my life? I have listened to the first eight Sabbath albums (the Osbourne era) perhaps hundreds of times. And at the centerpiece of these albums lies what is and might always be my favorite album of all time, their sixth effort: Sabotage.
Sabbath's earliest albums are certainly more raw and undistilled, and I love them for what they are. However, with Sabotage, guitarist and primary composer Tony Iommi spent an unprecedented year crafting a work chock full of not only killer riffs, but a great deal of stylistic variety and expanded song structures. "Symptom of the Universe" starts as a driving flat-five headbanger, but crescendos into a bluesy acoustic outro. The omnipresent keyboards of "Am I Going Insane (Radio)" feel just as at home on this disc as the relentless guitar and screaming vocals of the opener, "Hole In The Sky." Both "Megalomania" and the album's closer, "The Writ," come in around the nine-minute mark and are unpredictable but natural in their evolution. The album is truly a considered work from beginning to end.
They're very different, these two albums, but between the two of them, I think they give a good snapshot of my current musical mood.
The first album is Stevie Wonder's Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants. Perhaps you've never heard of it? Not surprising, considering it's out of print in America. This double album is the soundtrack to an obscure movie of the same name (minus Stevie's possessive prefix). This album was released in 1979 at the end of the most highly revered period of Wonder's career. It is a strange, moving, diverse, experimental and passionate collection of songs. Much of the album is instrumental, making full use of the 70's-era electronic innovations to craft eloquent and interesting sounds and effects. Other parts of the album are more traditional, tuneful departures, such as the only hit off this collection, "Send One Your Love." As exploratory as the two discs are, you never lose that special, soulful vibe that is unique to Stevie Wonder.