There is a good chance you found us accidentally by using the word “taint” in your search (If you found us on purpose, you deserve our accolades). Of course we don’t know what you were looking for, but you stumbled on a damn cool project. Look around; let us help send you on a musical journey. Here you will find a number of album reviews from the strange and extreme to the tame and mainstream. Our reviewers are a bunch of obsessive miscreants. Most of us are avid music collectors and have been involved in the music world for decades. A couple of us have been in or are still in bands.
There are no rules on Tickle Your Taint Blog. Our reviewers might make you laugh, or piss you off; both results are legitimate. One reviewer might write a glowing review of an album another might tear it apart. We may end up adopting a single review system, such as five stars, or each reviewer may use his own or none at all. We may have a new review every week or we could end up with one every six months. This blog exists as a social experiment to build community among a diverse group of music maniacs – our reviewers and hopefully you. Pull down your knickers, lube up and join us in tickling yours and our taints.
If you are in a band, have released a physical (rather than an MP3) CD or record, and would like us to review your efforts, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Reviewed by Dave
The Dillinger Escape Plan (DEP) is the most intense band I have ever heard anywhere period. They are an inaccessible, yet incredibly engaging force, melding the desperate fury of bands such as the Bad Brains and Minor Threat with the chaotic time signatures and chord voicings of progressive musicians such as King Crimson, Voivod and the jazz pianist Cecil Taylor.
I'm going to try to put into words the sonic attack which is the latest release from the originators of the math metal genre and will probably fail. The standard elements of DEP's style are all laid out in heavy strokes. The drumming is incredibly explosive and to the uninitiated chaotic and frenzied, yet to the more dedicated listener carefully calculated and full of creative nuance. The guitars frantically zig and zag across the stereo field relentlessly tearing through odd chord voicings and lightning fast lead fills at a level of speed and precision that seems nearly inhuman. The vocals have a nice range moving from larynx shredding screams to sarcastic snarls and actually, some very nice melodic harmonies. Some how the bass holds everything together very tastefully.
The thing that really impressed about Option Paralysis is the way DEP has been able to reign in some of the fury and actually write some really catchy music interspersed between blasts of mind bending thrash/jazz brutality. Songs such as “Widower” and “Chinese Whispers” really draw me in as a listener with memorable riffs and catchy hooks and then build up the intensity to a nearly unbearable level. I think these lyrics from Chinese Whispers lay things out pretty well: “Every second is passing by so fast /Everything that you cling to will not last/There's your chemical weapon made from all your broken dreams”.
Despite the overall chaotic nature of the Dillinger Escape Plan's style I'd say this is one of the more focused efforts I've heard from them. Really the album has two faces to it that it seems to jump back and forth between in a very sporadic manner. They go from solid catchy classic hard rock and modern ambiance to manic progressive blast beat fury at the drop of a hat. For a lot of people this would probably be a pretty disconcerting listen. I think most DEP fans are into something a bit more uncompromising and challenging. If you aren't acquainted with this band I'd recommend at least downloading the song Chinese Whispers as a more accessible introduction to one of the most creative
metal bands to come out in a long time.
Using Jimmy's time honored scale of 1 to 10 minutes in reference to the auto erotic pleasure produced by this album I'll give 8.0 minutes.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Reviewed by SoDak
I love disfiguring facial hair, especially unruly beards that take on a life of their own. The last several times that I saw Sam Quinn in concert, his bread was scraggly and seemed to be consuming him. If his bangs were long enough to cover his face, Sam could enter a Cousin It contest. Behind the tray on his debut “solo” record, there is a wonderful picture of Sam and his beard—such a beard deserves to be recognized as a separate entity, especially when its mass might be more than the skinny body to which it is attached. Needless to say, Sam’s willingness to let the beard do whatever the fuck it wants for so long impresses me. In the same spirit, Sam creates music that is fiercely honest and independent.
For over five years, Sam played in the Everybodyfields with Jill Andrews. I was fortunate enough to see them six times in Oregon and once in North Carolina. I loved the dynamic between them, as they traded lead vocals on songs and as they passed the bass and acoustic guitar back and forth. On Valentine’s Day, at a show at the Axe and Fiddle in Cottage Grove, OR, they broke our hearts with songs of sorrow, while making us laugh between songs with their light-hearted banter. On Halloween, at a show at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC, the whole band was in costume, adding to the humor between songs. All three of their records are wonderful. I was eagerly anticipating a new record from them, as they had become one of favorite artists, on a seemingly endless list. But Jill and Sam decided to go separate ways. Fortunately both of them have recently put out top-notch recordings. The way that I see it, the more music I have by them the better.
On Sam’s myspace page, several videos were posted, sharing new songs, building excitement of a new release. On days that I felt more mellow than usual, I would go to his site and just play the video for the song “Hello” over and over again. Like most of his songs, there is a persistent sorrow and loneliness. But there is also comfort. Something in his voice soothes the heart. “Hello” is the first song on The Fake that Sunk a Thousand Ships. For me, this was a perfect choice. My only complaint is that the version on the record is a minute shorter than the video online and over a minute shorter than the early demo on myspace (in the jukebox). I had become accustomed to the longer versions of this song, as I love the space that the song creates. But this is a minor issue. “Fanboy” (the second song) is a haunting song infused with pain: “I never needed anyone except myself.” The sadness swirls throughout the song, “of the things I didn’t do.” Relationships and time are lost along the way. A fiddle touches the heart at the right moments. “I would give anything just to be there.” In the end, Sam states, “I’m the one waiting.”
Different versions of the songs “Suite Motown” (song four) and “Strange Wave” (song five) were previously available online, at the Daytrotter website, as a new Everybodyfields songs. I was pleased that both songs appear on this collection. “Suite Motown” is a catchy song and bounces along, with some wonderful pedal steel playing on it. Damn, I just got lost in the music. It is two in the morning, I keep turning the volume up, as Sam’s voice whispers, occasionally cracks, from the speakers “I’m your gun and I’m loaded baby. I could kill you tonight. I never thought I would hurt you like I hurt you. I can’t get you out of my sight.” The song “Gun” concludes, “I kill myself a little every night.” The following song, “Help Me,” features great backup vocals from Josh Oliver and Megan Gregory, who also play piano and fiddle on this song. Sam sings, “Will you help me?” Josh and Megan answer, “I can’t this time.” Down on the ground, Sam sings, “And I’m tryin to give up the hope for a ghost that can save me?” Disappointment and failure pervade these songs. There is something so fuckin’ real about these feelings, I hit the button to play the song one more time. Once I am inside these songs, I feel myself letting go to explore memories and feelings too often ignored.
Recently, I saw a new video of Jill and Sam playing together, covering Lucinda Williams’s “Something Happens When We Talk.” Sam’s beard was gone, but big, bushy sideburns remained, along with a moustache. It was good to see and hear them singing together again. Several years ago, when I was hiking at Crater Lake, I had a nice conversation with a Harley biker, who had a beard that was at least a foot past his waist. He said that he hadn’t trimmed his beard in thirty-five years. While Sam’s disfiguring beard is no more, at least for the time being, I hope that he continues to release such outstanding music for at least four more decades.
The Fake that Sunk a Thousand Ships is a great album. But it might be one that you listen to alone or on a long drive on an open road that gives you time to immerse yourself in introspection.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Review by Class Warrior
I’m a big sucker for male vocalists with a multi-octave range, especially when they can really hit those high notes. Rob Halford is the prototypical metal frontman with a wide range. If you haven’t done so before, listen to Judas Priest’s early albums. Both Sad Wings of Destiny and Sin After Sin feature some outstanding vocal work. When Rob screams “Victim of Changes” at the end of that song, like someone’s squeezing his nuts with a pair of pliers, tingles run up and down my spine. Similarly, when Bruce Dickinson lets loose his howl from Hell about a minute into “The Number of the Beast,” I stop whatever I’m doing and put two fists in the air.
I get the same feeling when I hear the vocals of Grim Reaper’s singer Steve Grimmett when he sings “See You in Hell”. Yes, I’m comparing him to Halford and Dickinson. You’ll get no apology from me! What has led me to make this apocryphal announcement? For one thing, Grimmett screams like a medieval warrior storming a castle who has had boiling oil poured on him from above. In other words, his high range is excellent.
Whenever I play this album, I have to sing along to the song “See You in Hell.” If anyone were listening, they would be treated to my feeble attempts to hit the high notes along with Grimmett. The song is perfect: great chorus, hooks as catchy as norovirus on a cruise ship, fucking awesome lyrics about…well…taking someone down to hell, and the aforementioned excellent vocal work by Grimmett. There’s not much of a solo, but I don’t worship at the feet of the guitar gods, so that doesn’t bother me. Something becomes very clear to me as I listen to this song: Satan was looking over Grim Reaper’s shoulders and nodding in approval when they wrote this tune. Fuck, this is a great song!
The rest of the See You in Hell album is solid (with the exception of “The Show Must Go On,” a long, tedious ballad). It’s filled up with high-quality metal tunes. Nothing, however, is on the level of the title track. “Wrath of the Ripper,” “All Hell Let Loose,” “Run for Your Life,” and “Now or Never” are the songs that stand out, with “Ripper” being a minor classic in the Warrior household. However, the title track is so awesome that I want to be perfectly clear on one point: if the rest of the album were as good as “See You in Hell,” we would be talking about this album in the same breath as British Steel, The Number of the Beast, and Paranoid. It’s that fucking good. One of the five best metal songs ever, in my opinion. It may just be my favorite. Alas, Grim Reaper’s first album is a bit of a letdown after the almost impossibly high level set by the first song.
I wish that Grimmett would use his voice to greater effect on this album. If you have the ability to sing in a high octave, you should do so more often. I’m not saying that he should have sung every song under threat of castration, but in more of a Rob Halford style. Rob, at least in early and mid period Judas Priest, sang low, medium, and high in the same song. Listen to the aforementioned “Victim of Changes” for an example. It sounds great. Most of the Grim Reaper songs have only mid-range vocals. The ones that are more varied, such as the title song and “Run For Your Life,” are the strongest tracks.
Fear No Evil isn’t quite at the level of See You in Hell. As with the first album, Grim Reaper placed their strongest song (the title track) at the beginning, then put a collection of lesser songs behind it. Same formula, but the quality is down a notch this time. The tunes aren’t quite as catchy and riffs don’t grab the listener as easily. Make no mistake, though, it’s still a good record, aside from the embarrassing spoken word intro to “Final Scream.” Not sure what they were thinking there, but it didn’t work!
One last thing about this album: the video for “Fear No Evil” is truly great. It, more than anything else I have encountered, captures perfectly how I have always envisioned heavy metal. It is the definition of heavy metal’s aural and visual aesthetic. It’s hard to describe – you should just watch it. Usually I don’t like music videos, but this one is brilliant. Search for this video on Youtube – you will be rewarded with a metallic feast for ears and eyes.
Speaking of a feast for the eyes, Grim Reaper isn’t it. The members constitute one of the ugliest bands to have ever existed. Grim Reaper could not exist today because of their lack of looks. They could not have been mainstream successes in the 1980s because they came nowhere close to looking glam. They are, in fact, the anti-glam. In an earlier review, Jimmy brought up SoDak’s theory of ugly bands rocking the hardest; Grim Reaper provides strong proof of this theory’s validity. Watch the “Fear No Evil” video and you’ll see what I mean.
These two albums are available on one CD from a company named Collectables (sic). See You in Hell receives eight and a half gore-encrusted swords, while Fear No Evil earns seven bloody blades. If you like solid traditional heavy metal, you will enjoy these albums. The song “See You in Hell” and the video for “Fear No Evil” receive the absolute highest marks I can bestow upon a metal performance: TEN bloody swords raised in TRIUMPH! Hail Satan!
See you in Hell, my friend.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Reviewed by Jimmy "Explosive Diarrhea" B
This review and the Paranaut Review that follow were originally posted at a now mostly defunct music review website Dave, the FJWM, set up.
- Where Beauty and Terror Dance
- The Emerald Snow of Sleep
- A High or a Low
- Spinning Temple Shifting
- Down From a Cloud, Up From The Ground
- One Mind Gone Separate Ways
The Fucking Jedi Webmaster (hereafter known as the FJWM) in his finite wisdom asked me to review the mighty Danava’s sophomore effort. But the FJWM forgot to give me a rating format. I kicked around numerous rating schemes, from such classics as thumbs up/down or number of horns in the air. I decided to go with something more traditional; my rating system will consist of a one to ten scale. It’s boring - but wait - don’t judge this humble reviewer as a bandwagon jumper. For my reviews, and I hope all reviews on the FJWM’s website, the numbers represent minutes I touched myself while listening to the album under review. It seems that a rating of one would be the best, since a more exciting album means that I conclude my review and tossing off double quick. But my friends, I believe that a good record, like rubbing one off, should be prolonged and enjoyed. Therefore a ten is the best any album can get, since I can’t possibly prolong things any longer than that.
While poking around on the Internet trying to find out a little bit of background information on Danava I found their record label, Kemado, who has signed some very impressive bands, such as The Sword, Priestbird, and Dungen, bands that should be know to any fans of stoner rock. Danava I predict will surpass their label mates in short order.
The inevitable questions that everyone wants to know from a review are who do they sound like, and what style of music do they play. Unfortunately, neither of these questions have obvious answers. When I listen to Unonou I hear Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Hawkwind, Thin Lizzy and many of the NWOBHM bands from the eighties. Danava’s vocalist, Dusty Sparkles, sounds a lot like Witch’s Kyle Thomas and Steve Henessey of Sheavy. But none of these comparisons really mean anything. Danava’s sound, I believe, can be best described as retro psychedelic stoner rock with a progressive twist. But who the fuck cares, all we really need to know is that these guys kick ass!
Every song on Unonou has a guitar hook that immediately grabs you by the balls and tickles your taint. Danava manages to keep the music at a slow tempo without falling into a depressing doom style – not that there is anything wrong with gloriously depressing suicide doom. There isn’t a bad track on Unonou; they are all exceptional. However, my personal favorites are the title track, Unonou, and the long epic track, One Mind Gone Separate Ways, which contains multiple style changes, and to my untrained ears could be compared to some of Hawkwind’s early tunes. But enough of my blathering, run out and pick up this album.
The FJWM and I touched ourselves for 8.5 minutes.
Reviewed by Dave
Alright so to kick things off properly I'm going to review the debut release of one of the most underrated bands in Portland, OR these days. I'm talking about The Hills Fell Silent by Paranaut. These guys lay out the fundamentals of a proper doom metal album in incredibly relentless, thick, dark, sludgy slabs of stereophonic power.
The album is really all about heavy dark depressing atmosphere and they pull this off quite admirably. After listening to their album I usually feel like taking a nap or a couple shots of whiskey. If you are looking for something melodic and full of hooks or high flying guitar solos or otherwise have ADD issues, this not the record for you. If you are into hypnotic huge fuzzy dark riffs propelled by thunderous dynamic drumming and intensely scorched vocals leaning towards Max Cavelera or Barney Greenway you might want to check it out.
So you are probably wondering, "ok that's great but what makes this really much different than your normal stoner metal release?" The main elements that really stand out are the general dynamics and grooves that this band explore. Instead of building things from the ground up with the drums laying out the groove things are reversed with an interesting kind of jazzy effect. The guitar riffs really set the tempo and the pacing while the drumming is continuously changing, accenting and augmenting the chord structures in interesting innovative ways I haven't really heard in this genre before. The drums are also played with a pretty light touch overall creating an underlying urgency that I find very interesting and unique to Paranaut.
Some people might be turned off by the raw harsh tones of the bass and guitar, but it's really more about creating interesting unique sounds and textures than playing the “our guitar player has the biggest dick in the room” game that a lot of metal bands get caught up in.
There are only a couple things that I could really say negatively about The Hills Fell Silent. Sometimes riffs get a bit repetitive and the build-ups sometimes in my opinion take a bit too long to develop. I also really liked the guitar solos on this record I just wish they were more up front in the mix. Although the vocals are pretty sparsely included on the record I also would have liked to see them placed a bit more prominently in the overall mix, again really to add more overall dynamics.
This is a big, dark, brooding, hulk of a debut album. In my humble opinion this record really lays out what a good doom record is all about. It's the type of cd 17 year olds should be listening to while skipping class cruising the hills behind Vernonia in their old rusty camaro, high as a kite.
Using Jimmy's time honored scale of 1 to 10 minutes in reference to the auto erotic pleasure produced by this album I'll give 7.5 minutes.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Reviewed by Kloghole
I have a number of truisms that should be followed when it comes to purchasing albums or listening to music. One of the most important is that you should always resist buying an album after someone gets off the junk and “finds” Jesus. I didn’t know the son-of-a-bitch was lost in the first fuckin’ place, but that is another conversation best held on your front porch with some hapless god-monkeys who come by to share the “word.”
Unfortunately, I have two favored artists who fit this category. One, Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, has gone off the rails of his own “Train of Consequences,” and the other is the uber-Jesus freak, Charlie Daniels. While I will leave the wreckage of Dave’s musical legacy to sit crumpled on the runway as he trades one mindless addiction for another, I want to highlight a bright spot in the career of The Charlie Daniels Band.
As a child, I can remember the long car rides to my grandparents’ house where we would listen to a few select 8-tracks in a very small rotation. While I never really developed a taste for the Kendalls, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, or George Jones and Tammy Wynette, I have a few others deliciously seared in my brain, Waylon’s Greatest Hits, Waylon and Willie, Waylon Live, and the subject of today’s review, The Charlie Daniels Band’s Nightrider.
Nightrider is lost between the hit record Fire on the Mountain and the smash hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” It, like many other good albums, tends to fall victim to capricious radio exec’s and a fickle audience. If they don’t hear some stupid shit that every fucking thumbsucker sings along to at a party, they just move on to the next chocolate covered turd. While this album sold respectably on the heels of Fire, I just don’t get the sense it is the album Charlie is known for, despite the fact that it is an infectious country-fried kick in the ass.
With the exception of my aversion to “Funky Junky” (a reworking of an earlier version on Honey in the Rock), every song is solid in its own way. You got just about everything you could want in a country album: an escaped convict, a washed up rodeo star, a blues lament about bad love, and a song about Texas. The album wouldn’t be complete without a nice drinking song. The song, “Everything is Kinda Alright” doesn’t fuck around and gets right to the point. It starts out with the line, “The early mornin’ sun shines through the bubbles in my beer” and goes on to ponder, “I think today is Sunday, but I am just too drunk to say.” It just brings back those lazy fuckin’ days that I spent drunk for weeks on end. I would wake up, finish my beer, and keep on trucking. The next day, I would drink a bottle of Jack or Jim Beam Black Label, and coast into unconsciousness. But, the song is not as much about being drunk as it is about not allowing your life to be enslaved to some employer or mortgage.
Another song, “Tomorow’s Gonna Be Another Day” (again a reworked version, but from Te John, Grease and Wolfman album) picks up the theme of escaping wage slavery and enjoying the finer things in life. The working class blues is firmly entrenched in the take-this-job-and-shove-it attitude of “so tell that man that I won’t be back to lay no more of his railroad track. I got little green weeds growin’ ‘round my shack.” A sort of quit work in the morning, go fishing in the afternoon, and smoke dope in the evening manifesto.
The album also has bite to it with the song, “Evil” (now less funkified than the Te John, Grease and Wolfman version). This one is a real ass-kicker. As a kid, I was pretty fuckin’ sick and tired of being kicked around and treated like dirt. Your heart starts to blacken, and you resonate with lyrics like “I’ve been handlin’ snakes since I was three, and I ain’t gonna take it no more, because I’m evil, keeps pourin’ out of me. All my life, I’ve been evil as I can be.” Fuck ya. If I weighed more than a buck and a quarter (soaking wet), I would fuck your shit up. Even so, don’t fuck with me. I have to say, I never lost a fight. Most fuckers just ran away or somebody pulled me out of the ring. This song makes my teeth grind just thinking about the lyrics.
Yeah, Charlie had it goin’ on back then. Fuckin’ great leads, lyrics you can relate to, and a not-so-veiled allusion to smoking pot. But, sadly, after High Lonesome and Saddle Tramp, you have to pick through the horseshit to find the kernels of corn in his music. To get a sense of how Charlie has gone completely fuckin’ bug nuts, compare the lyrics of his first “Easy Rider” song with his newer version, “Easy Rider ‘88.” In the first, he plays the role of a closet hippie, country dude with the unfortunate mission of trying to survive a redneck bar until his tow-truck arrives. After the careful placement of a boot and some fancy talkin’, he high-tails it out to his car with the “peace sign” on it. Once in his car, he “couldn’t resist the fun of chasin’ them all just once around the parkin’ lot.” I saved some of the best lyrics for your own enjoyment. It is fuckin’ funny as hell. You got to get a hold of this one (you can find it on the original Honey in the Rock, or the later retitled release, Uneasy Rider, or if you are really lazy, you can get the very inconsistent A Decade of Hits).
Now, fast forward to 1988, and Charlie changes from a fun lovin’ country-fried hippie to a homophobic dumbshit. “This funny looking feller kept coming on, and he was making me mad at some of the things he said, and then he put his hand on my knee.” I’d say it goes downhill from there, but the whole song would have to reach up to scratch an earthworm’s ass. I never did understand how a punk band got into a tranny bar. Charlie must not spend much time with transgendered folks.
This brings up the broader issue of the politics of music. Do we continue to listen to folks that are such obvious dumbshits? Alice Cooper made the comment that music should not be political, but “Eighteen” is a pretty political song about teen angst, not to mention the fact that songs about partying, degrading women or just tuning out are political statements. Cooper and Dee Snider are both right-wing lackeys. Ted Nugent is an absolute nut and makes some asinine eugenicist argument about how killing animals makes the species stronger. It really doesn’t matter how many ways the Nuge tries to spin this, he just don’t make no fuckin’ sense. I couldn’t give two shits about hunting, but don’t try to justify it by saying you are doing them a favor by selecting out the best of the breed. You do not make a species stronger by killing the biggest and strongest of the lot, but I guess evolutionary principles do not apply in the fantasy world of the right wing nut-job.
Stupidity is not limited to contemporary artists, though they seem to excel at it. Blind Willie McTell and others sing a traditional song called the “A to Z Blues” documenting how he will cut the alphabet into his cheating girlfriend. So what do you do? Boycott crazy? Fuck, I don’t know. The Last Session album by Blind Willie is phenomenal, but I cringe every time that fuckin’ A to Z song comes on.
For me, I tend not to draw hard and fast lines (hard to believe, ain’t it?). Others may look at these issues differently, but I refrain from buying albums that are simply too much for me to handle. I can live without Ted Nugent, Charlie Daniels’ gospel albums, and stupid crap about a girl slapping my ass. But, some albums were written by folks before they lost their mother-lovin’ minds. This is why I give Nightrider 3 out of 3 Sweet Sticky Balls. Put on your best cowpie hat, pull up your boots, and sink right into this country groove, just keep your eyes peeled so you don’t step in cow ploppie when pokin’ around for newer Charlie Daniels albums.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Review by Class Warrior
I am a relative newcomer to heavy metal, but I have heard Judas Priest at times during the past twenty years. My first college roommate owned the Painkiller album, which had just been released. I hated it because it sounded nothing like punk rock. I can still see my roommate's mushroom-shaped curly blond mullet headbanging away to the constant stream of metal flowing from his (i.e., my) stereo speakers. That god damn mullet. I haven't seen him or it since my early college years (mushroom mullet flunked out), but I saw plenty of Judas Priest in the years to come.
A year later, I heard "Breaking the Law" while watching Beavis and Butthead. I thought that the song rocked like Hell unleashed, but would not let myself like it. Not punk rock, after all. After that brief experience, it took ten years before I realized that I wanted to hear more Priest. I bought a cheap greatest hits collection at the music store. It featured a rocking live version of "Breaking the Law" and a collection of other all-time metal classics such as "Living After Midnight" and "You've Got Another Thing Coming". I was hooked! I proceeded to get my hands on as much of their music as I could find.
All in all, I consider myself to be a huge fan of Priest. I love the early, mid-period, and late 80s incarnations. I even love fuckin' Turbo. (Aside: Turbo is a great album. A collection of top-notch butt rock tunes. Criminally unappreciated because it has keyboards. As a bonus, the photos of the band included in the album art are sheer hilarity! End of aside.) Last year I completed my collection of the twelve remastered CDs, from Sin after Sin to Painkiller. Each is great. Even their reunion album from 2005 has some great headbanging anthems. Needless to say, I now consider Painkiller, my introduction to Judas Priest, to be a fine listening experience. Thank you, Mushroom Mullet, for exposing me to the fine arts. I wish you had started me off with Hell Bent for Leather or Screaming for Vengeance, but you did what you could.
Two years ago Priest released Nostradamus, a concept album about the prophecies of some French religious mystic dickhead. I bought it when it came out. I have to admit that, even though it was Judas Fucking Priest, I wasn't that excited to listen to the album. Two CDs worth of concept albumage isn't typical listening fodder for a lifetime punk rocker. But hey, it's Priest, so I felt honor-bound to give it a try.
First impression: there are way more keyboards on this album than on Turbo! I wonder if they make the synthesizer player hide offstage during concerts. I listened to the first CD, then put away the album for two years. I have not heard it again until tonight.
Tonight's impression: there are some good rockin' numbers here - "Pestilence & Plague", "Persecution", and "Nostradamus" are standout tracks - but one has to wade through all the instrumentals and weak tracks to get to them. There are very few breaks between songs on the album; it ends up almost being two long songs, sort of like a metal symphony. It's definitely Judas Priest behind these songs - they have the signature dual guitar leads and Rob's voice is uniquely awesome (even if his range isn't as robust as it once was) - but it feels stretched, bloated, and overdone. They could have cut out the filler and made a pretty good 45 minute record.
My main complaint about the album is the subject Priest decided to explore. Who gives a fuck about Nostradamus? There are nearly endless topics of concern for a metal band to explore: illegal wars, torture, the Apartheid regime in Israel, the ongoing threat that capitalist accumulation poses to the environment...the list goes on. Instead Priest feels the ramblings of a centuries-dead nutcase need further explication? Come on. You're not making music for hippies, but headbangers! To be fair to Priest, they've never sung about politics. Most of their lyrics deal with rocking out, being into metal and leather, super- or extra-human strangeness, defiance, teenage alienation, despair, death, etc. There's nothing wrong with those themes, but I would love to hear Rob singing about how hard it is to be a gay metalhead or something like that.
When reviewing metal albums, I use the bloody sword system. Zero bloody swords is horrible garbage, while ten bloody swords would be a mix CD of the best metal songs ever recorded. Nostradamus earns four gore-drenched claymores raised in salute. (If you're curious, all other Priest records [minus the ones with Ripper, which I have not heard] score higher than this.) Four for the music, negative one for the lyrical focus, and positive one because Rob, K.K., Glenn, and Ian have earned it as a lifetime achievement. Just don't make any more fucking albums about bullshit, guys! If not left politics, then let's have some more songs about rocking the fuck out!
Kloghole’s review of Metallica’s Black Album got me thinking about what makes a band break through to the mainstream. SoDak once presented to me his theory of good bands versus bad bands based upon beauty. Good bands/musicians, according to this theory, tend to be ugly, while terrible bands were pretty, think about Bob Dylan versus Lionel Ritchie, or Jimmie Dale Gilmore versus Billy Ray Cyrus. The talent is on the side of the unpretty. But let’s add another element to this theory, I suspect one reason bands don’t achieve popularity is because they aren’t sexually stimulating. Fleetwood Mac had little success until they added Stevie Nicks; the same was true of Journey until they added Steve Perry. The record labels see potential sales by promoting sexual desire. There are always exceptions, Rush are some ugly bastards who made it, and Riot are some good looking and talented fellas who did not. The beauty argument falls apart when we look at metal bands. I argue that there are two reasons why a metal band remains forever obscure. First, they have technical skills and a need to experiment that can only be satisfied by making inaccessible noise (see Null’s Cannibal Corpse review). Second, they are metal nerds hooked on aggression, in other words they are true to metal and true to their small angst ridden, working-class group of fans.
In my high school there were only two lads who were metal heads in the sense that I described above; we liked aggression. We were into Exciter, Slayer, Anthrax, Exodus, Agent Steel, DRI, etc. We were fortunate that we were into metal when metal as a genre was still learning to crawl. It brought excitement to our otherwise unhappy lives. I bought underground magazines like Kick Ass and Metal Forces, and ordered band demos from the back pages. I am embarrassed to admit that I once owned a demo from the LA glam band Black and Blue.
There are a lot of gems from metal’s formative years that are either unknown or ignored as something archaic by youngsters today. I see it as my duty to bring some of these unheralded records to your attention. My intention is to write a series of reviews detailing the merits of these forgotten metal classics.
In 1985 I ordered a free copy of Metal Blade Record’s catalog. I wasn’t familiar with any of the bands, so I bought records based either on the album cover or the picture of the band itself. One of the strangest and coolest album covers in the catalog belonged to Omen’s Battle Cry record; it’s a gatefold with a very colorful demonic battle scene on the front and a hanged warrior on the back. I must have thought to myself, “holy shit! That can only be pure heavy f’ing metal” I ordered it along with another album by a band called Witchkiller (another lost gem, that sadly I don’t have anymore).
The first thing the listener will notice about Battle Cry is the silly fantasy warrior theme running throughout the album. Silly as it is, it is one of the reasons I find this album so endearing. I love the lyrics about a warrior’s fear while hunting dragons, and the fear of a defeated battle weary soldier who awaits the end at the hands of the executioner. Hell, I even enjoy the rather macho lyrics about a guy who seduces a fair maiden and “makes her his wench.”
The lyrics are belted out by one of metal’s best set of pipes. J.D. Kimball has fantastic vocals, probably closer to Udo from Accept than Ronnie James Dio. But, unlike Udo, J.D. can sing. Kimball alternates between a throaty growl, and passable attempts at singing, sometimes on the same word or phrase. Kimball along with the unique guitar playing of Kenny Powell defines Omen’s sound. Omen songs are basically one long guitar solo overlaid with powerful vocals.
The music on Battle Cry is technically proficient metal. At times they remind me of Iron Maiden, and at other times they make me think of Running Wild (another band who had a couple of forgotten classics) and Grave Digger, bands who were trying to find their niches in the mid-80s and adopted the fraternity unfriendly sound of gruff vocals, angry music and pure metal nerdiness. Omen, in the early years, created a special sound that has never been recreated by anyone. The Omen sound is muscular and aggressive but not super fast or brutal. There are enough tempo changes to keep the listener interested and engaged.
Battle Cry is one of those rare albums that doesn’t possess any bad songs. But they are not all golden, some are mere silver. Two of the songs on Battle Cry, “The Axeman,” and “Battle Cry,” rank among my favorites from the 80s. My friends, you have done me the honor of taking time out of your day to read my rantings, now do yourself and your taint a favor by running out and purchasing this classic album.
I tickled my taint for 9 minutes.