Monday, October 31, 2011

A live Alice Cooper video from 1971

How appropriate that our friends at Kill That Cat Video decide to post their Alice Cooper video on Halloween. I watched this at Dan's house a month or two ago. Although the footage is a bit on the grainy side, it is still great to see the original Alice Cooper Band playing "Second Coming" and "The Ballad of Dwight Fry" from Love it to Death, which is probably my favorite album of theirs.

My parents used to tell me a story about seeing Alice Cooper at a small club in Pittsburgh back in the early '70s. I could be wrong, but to hear them tell the tale, I believed the venue was about the same size as Gilman Street. To me, that club is the perfect size for large-scale underground punk and metal shows, so that means my folks got to see Alice Cooper in a venue that was most conducive to a great rock 'n' roll experience.

As the story goes, neither of my parents were all that familiar with Alice Cooper, but they became fans after this particular show. The band was in fine form that evening, delivering the goods with badass proto-heavy metal and winning over the crowd. Midway through their set, they decided to take things to another level. One by one, every member of the band (except the drummer) climbed up to a rafter hanging above the stage. They took it upon themselves to hang upside down from said rafter for a portion of their set while swinging back and forth. Did they miss a beat? Hell no. This is Alice motherfucking Cooper we are talking about here!

If you were up front during this show, you probably got a good kick out of the fact that the band members' collective manes were so long that they were brushing the stage and leaving trails in the dust. Of course, this was one of those low-ceiling venues, but that's a rad visual if you ask me. Anyone at the show who wasn't already a fan was certainly converted by now.

As much as I would like to cross Alice Cooper off of my list of bands I need to see live before I (or they) die, I just don't think my experience could ever top a story like that.

Roll a dirt weed doober, enjoy the video, and have an awesome Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Let the Day Begin

Samhain has occupied a special place in my heart for nearly twenty years. That all began when I bought a cassette compiling Initium and Unholy Passion for myself as a Christmas present. I got drunk in my room on Christmas Eve and proceeded to fall in love with this murky-sounding punk/death rock/metal hybrid. Metal didn’t exactly register with me then, but Samhain was different. Special, if you will. Maybe it was just the Misfits fan in me; I don’t know. When I stupidly sold most of my old punk tapes for reasons I cannot explain now, the Samhain tape was one of a few that stayed with me. There were times when I liked them more than I actually liked the Misfits. Bold statement, I know.

As much as I loved that Samhain tape, my favorite album of theirs is actually Samhain III: November-Coming-Fire. Apparently I am not alone in this sentiment, and rightfully so. Bridging the gap between the Misfits and Danzig perfectly, this record is Samhain’s most realized effort. The journey begins with the “Diablos ’88” intro going into “In My Grip,” which informed this first-time listener that things were going to be different this time. No more “ex-members of…” session musicians whose vision did not exactly jibe with that of the diminutive bandleader. The recording was bigger and louder. The songwriting had progressed far beyond the capabilities of either of Samhain’s previous records. No longer simply “Glenn Danzig from the Misfits’ new band,” Samhain had come into their own.

To me, this album’s centerpiece is “Let the Day Begin.” What a perfect title to such a wonderful song. Probably this record’s closest thing to a punk song overall, it starts with a slower tempo that actually evokes images of the sun rising. Then it kicks in to a very danceable beat that almost seems designed to inspire you to jump out of bed and kick ass on the world. You might as well cease to exist if you’re not ready to do exactly that after blasting this song about five times in a row. The lyrics appear to be along those same lines, asking pagans everywhere to rise up against the crusaders who desecrated their ancestors’ graves thousands of years before. These days, such sentiments are as much of a fashionable black metal pose as wearing a Thor’s Hammer necklace. Eh, whatever.

Don’t relegate Samhain to middle child status. They deserve better than that. November-Coming-Fire stands on its own as a great album and should be appreciated for being something different than the standard fare at the time it was released.


Friday, October 21, 2011

A Fine Day to Die

By now, I’m sure that anyone who cares is well aware that Bathory managed to lay down the blueprint for modern black metal in just four albums. To us here at The Evil Eye, Blood Fire Death is Quorthon’s finest hour. I don’t pretend to know what the general reaction was when this album was released in the late ‘80s, but it was quite a shock to my system if nothing else. “The Golden Walls of Heaven” was the only song from Blood Fire Death that I was previously familiar with, having heard it on Jubileum Volume II. As much of a great song as it is, it actually did little to prepare me for the monstrosity that is the rest of the album. “Odens Ride Over Nordland” hit the stereo speakers, transitioned into “A Fine Day to Die,” and I was scooped up by the Valkyries to take part in their Wild Hunt. By the time the breakdown kicked in on “Dies Irae,” I was more than sold on the idea that Bathory (and black metal in general) couldn’t get much better than this. Maybe it’s true that Blood Fire Death is the most accessible of Bathory’s crucial first four albums. However, that’s not to discount the brutality or the fact that this is Bathory at their peak. After this, Bathory changed their approach considerably. Lyrically, Quorthon left Satanism behind to explore Norse mythological themes. This also came through in the music, in which the vocals were cleaned up while the songs themselves became longer and less metal-influenced. I do enjoy those records from time to time, but ultimately I come back to Blood Fire Death when I need my Bathory fix. R.I.P. Tomas Forsberg.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Demo Alert: Swamp Witch

As I begin this post, I should probably mention two things. One, I am not nearly high enough to properly do Swamp Witch the justice they deserve. Two, modern doom metal bores the ever-loving shit out of me most of the time. I could go into further detail regarding my negative opinion of the music and its fans, but that would take away from the fact that Swamp Witch is one of the few doom bands that has managed to register with me. That is not to say that it didn’t take me a while to actually finish listening to this demo (goddamn nine-minute songs…), but an afternoon of resin hits and video games called for a necessary soundtrack that Swamp Witch was able to provide. With that out of the way, this demo has become something I listen to on a regular basis. The doom metal die-hards will eat this up regardless of what I have to say about it, which is all fine and good. However, there is also a little something for self-respecting crusty punks who may still have a ripped-up Damad shirt in their closets. Some of their guitar tones make me think that Swamp Witch would not have been out of place on the Prank Records roster ten to fifteen years ago. Perhaps Ken Sanderson should consider that before somebody like Southern Lord snaps them up, which would probably just reduce Swamp Witch to being another face in the crowd. 

That said, the B-side of this demo makes it obvious that Swamp Witch intends to avoid being easily dismissed. Having stopped paying any attention to hip-hop ten years ago, I am certainly not one to offer an educated opinion on the recent “chopped and screwed” phenomenon that has spread throughout areas below the Mason-Dixon Line. Apparently, this new sub-genre is a product of DJs drinking copious amounts of cough syrup while cutting up random records. I believe the cough syrup inspires them to play their records at slower speeds, so it makes sense that Swamp Witch would send their recording to one of the top DJs of this variety (Houston’s DJ Dreemz) to put through the ringer. Dreemz does exactly that, providing quite the bizarre, psychedelic journey of sound. If you have been searching for something different from doom, you may have found it here. Take a bunch of bong hits and give it a chance. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sons of Evil

When I finally started checking out real metal bands after immersing myself in punk for a good five years, one of the bands I was always curious about was Kreator. I could never remember which side of the good metal/bad metal fence they resided on. It wasn’t like record stores made that distinction for you. Don’t know why it took so long; but eventually, a couple people set the record straight. First was a sketchy homeless metalhead named Shane. If you hung out in downtown Berkeley during the mid to late ‘90s, you would definitely remember the guy with the pentagram tattooed on his forehead. That was Shane, and he at least got it in my head that Kreator was not a shitty ‘80s glam band. Future Instant Asshole drummer Bill Jackson was the one who not only told me that Kreator was actually a BADASS ‘80s thrash metal band, but he also told me which albums to check out. Crucial info. Didn’t want to pick up a shitty record and get a bad impression of the band, after all. The irony of a skinhead schooling me on old school thrash metal has never been lost on me.

At some point, I was combing used metal tapes at one of the Telegraph Avenue record stores and came across a used copy of Kreator’s very first album. If memory serves me correctly, I may have even left the store and found Bill on the street to ask him if Endless Pain was a good record. Just to be sure, you know? Whether or not it happened the way I (think I) remember it isn’t important. I got the damn tape and that’s what matters. And like so many others before it, my new find was almost instantly deposited into my trusty Walkman. Can’t do that with vinyl, can you?

You don’t need retrospective liner notes to know that Kreator were excited to be recording their very first album, and for the same label that released both Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. The ferocity of the music tells that story all by itself. Clearly, the band felt like they needed to make an impression quickly, so there was no time to waste on something like a drawn-out intro to start things off like Slayer did on Show No Mercy. Instead, Kreator just got right down to business with the title track and continued their rampage through nine more songs. Their approach was so much more savage in nature than that of Tom Araya and company. Slayer would just slit your throat and leave you to bleed to death. Kreator would go the extra mile by cutting your head off completely.

Although I cannot conceivably place any of Kreator’s albums above a crushing monstrosity like Reign in Blood, I do rate the Germans above Slayer for one reason—longevity. After three years and four awesome records, Slayer began writing individual songs that I liked, but the albums themselves were lacking overall. Kreator managed to keep kicking ass for five years and SIX records. I realize that’s not the same as writing and releasing the last word on thrash metal, but I think there’s something to be said for having enough ideas to keep going for a few years longer.

It was inevitable that the renewed interest in ‘80s hardcore that started more than ten years ago would eventually give way to metal from the same era. For a while there, lots of younger kids started their own bands that were inspired by the likes of Municipal Waste and Toxic Holocaust. While I don’t actually care for any of the new thrash bands that I’ve seen, it is true that some of the kids playing in these bands are really talented musicians at an early age. That should not be surprising, but I think people forget that the members of Kreator and other bands like Possessed weren’t even eighteen years old when they first started releasing records. Evil rock ‘n’ roll music like thrash metal, punk rock, and other similar noise isn’t for kids…which is exactly why they love playing it so much. It is the depraved teenage fury that makes albums like Endless Pain great, not the technical prowess.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Goat Metal

Black Goat is (probably) a reference to Shub-Niggurath, a deity in the Cthulu Mythos that may or may not have been Lovecraft’s take on the Greek god Pan. These horny bastards were part of San Francisco’s nascent black metal scene in the late ‘90s, sharing the stage with bands like Weakling, Ludicra, Sangre Amado, and Unholy Cadaver. Honestly, the first two bands mentioned cast quite a shadow for the others to reside in. Do not interpret that as saying Black Goat weren’t good jolly fun the few times I saw them live though. One of those occasions actually took place at Gilman Street in the winter of 1998. Legit metal shows were infrequent at the club then, so it was a special occasion when Black Goat took the stage with Exhumed and Weakling to try raising money to help out Epicenter in their dying days. It was strange to see metal bands playing a benefit show for the MRR-operated record store, but I later gathered that they were actually rather open-minded about stocking choice black metal vinyl. The one thing I remember about Black Goat that evening was being quite impressed with their drummer. He went for it so hard that he duct-taped his drumsticks to his hands so he could finish the set. His dedication to evil rock ‘n’ roll was admirable. Unfortunately, Black Goat seemed to fade away a year or two later.

This was recorded live on UC Davis’ KDVS station in 1997. Not a bad recording for what it is. Sure, you could say that putting in actual studio time would have made for a fuller sound. Personally, I usually judge bands based on their live sets and this is pretty much how I vaguely remember them sounding. With that in mind, I’m not complaining. Nor should you. Black Goat was raw and ugly and so is this CD. They are a piece of the Bay Area black metal puzzle. How necessary of a piece they are remains to be seen.