Tag Archives: Black Sabbath

Controversial Opinion: “St. Anger” is better than “Fuel”

With a new Metallica album nearly upon us, I’ve been spending the past few days revisiting the metal giant’s previous works. I write about metal every now and then, mostly because I’m a pretty casual metal fan. A real n00b if you will. I tend to like the classic metal acts like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, and Metallica. But that said, I really only played through Guitar Hero Metallica once and that was strictly for the achievements. My favorite Metallica album is their 1983 debut record KILL ‘EM ALL which is an economical, no-thrills thrash metal classic that stands as one the best examples of the genre. Love or hate Metallica today, there is no denying that in 1983 the band was simply amazing.

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Complex, insightful lyrics.

Anyway, as we all know, times change and bands develop. Metal fans are some of the worse when it comes to accepting the passage of time. And I don’t really blame them, after all when you begin your career with KILL ‘EM ALL why change things? Prior to 2003’s ST. ANGER, I think the band’s worst album is RELOAD from 1996. RELOAD is pretty pompous and finds the band doing sequel songs which I can’t believe is even a thing (“The Unforgiven II”). The album is also much longer than KILL ‘EM ALL…longer by a staggering 20 minutes. That’s a lot of fluff and filler to sit through. The worst song on the album, in my opinion, is the ridiculous first track/single “Fuel.” I remember when this song came out and I wasn’t even listening to metal at the time. The song was everywhere and from what I remember people liked it at the time. But boy does “Fuel” sound stupid today. Basically a Nike or Gatorade jingle, “Fuel” is a dunder-headed faux-tough guy anthem. It’s weightlifter music, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but the idea of “Fuel” and the reality are two separate things. On paper, the masculine word salad appears hyper-masculine and aggressive. Listening to the song just makes me giggle. And I’m not giggling with Metallic I’m giggling at Metallica.

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Remember that time Spider-Man punched Metallica? That was so cool.

Compare that to ST. ANGER’s title track “St. Anger.” The song deals with similar tough-guy themes and has a schizophrenic fast/slow thing going on but I don’t crack a smile listening to it. I pick “St. Anger” because I feel like it best encapsulates the album, which prior to 2011’s LULU, was considered to be the band’s weakest album.  I don’t even know what to think about that mess of an album and frankly can only fall asleep most nights by pretending that it never happened. ST. ANGER is all about well…anger and mental issues and stuff. I know this because the band had a documentary come out (Some Kind of Monster) that explained all this to me. I think the frantic yoyoing of “St. Anger” fits with that theme and even though it was recorded in the crappiest way possible (modern metal production usually sucks) I think “St. Anger” actually accomplishes what it sets out to do. I’m also not embarrassed to get caught listening to “St. Anger.” When “Fuel” is on and somebody enters the room, I turn that shit down and hang my head.

I still feel like many people hate ST. ANGER so much they’d do or say anything rather than admit that parts of it aren’t all that bad. I know that I will lose what little metal credibility I have by writing this but: I don’t actually mind ST. ANGER that much. It’s far from the heights of KILL ‘EM ALL, but then again I think most of the band’s output falls into that category. Regardless, neither “Fuel” nor “St. Anger” are the worst Metallica songs…that would be “I Disappear” from the Mission Impossible II soundtrack. Holy crap is that a bad song.

So how clickbait-y is my click-bait title? Have you any opinions about either song? Let me know down in the comments. And stay tuned for my shitty, uninformed review of the new Metallica album later this week!

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METAL MONDAY: Mac Sabbath Is The Fast-Food Themed Black Sabbath Cover Band You Never Knew You Needed

Have you ever gotten something and wondered how you lived your life without it? I know I existed prior to getting an iPhone, but it’s changed how I live so fundamentally that I honestly can’t imagine going to back to a life without it. Well buckle-up kids, because you’re about to have a life-altering experience. Seriously, you’ll never be the same once you see and hear Mac Sabbath.

Well buckle-up kids, because you’re about to have a life-altering experience. Seriously, you’ll never be the same once you see and hear Mac Sabbath. What is Mac Sabbath? It’s a fast-food themed Black Sabbath tribute band. Well, I guess they’re kinda/sorta a tribute band. See, they don’t just dress up like McDonald’s characters and sing Black Sabbath songs, they change the lyrics in order to attack and expose the evils of the fast-food industry. The band is equal parts metal band, post-modern art, and political satire. Mac Sabbath is definitely one of those things that’s too good to be true.

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Take for example “Frying Pan” which is the band’s take on the classic Sabbath song “Iron Man.” Mac Sabbath turns the song into a (humorous) indictment of the fast-food industry from the perspective of the poor wage-slave making our pink slime-infused meals.

“I once burned your meal
My old job was cooking veal
Now it’s a culinary crime
All our future is pink slime”

And of course they’re able to work in a gluten reference:

“Everybody wants it
On gluten bleached flour bread
Everybody needs it
Till they’re fat and dead”

I can’t image writing lyrics to songs, let alone writing lyrics all around a single theme and making them fit into the framework of an established song. A lot of people try their hand at this, and while there are a few standouts who really do a good job, I feel like most comedic attempts at parody songs are just that: attempts. Mac Sabbath really hit it out of the park on their songs. I listened to six of their songs and all six were well-done (pun intended).

While the members of Mac Sabbath are talented satirists, it’s worth noting that they could also pass as a pretty decent Black Sabbath cover band. The music sounds remarkably good for something so batshit crazy. You can tell that besides really hating the fast-food industry, the members of Mac Sabbath really love Black Sabbath.  Sure, the drummer is dressed just like the Hamburgler, but he’s also a damn good drummer.

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Drive-Thru Metal is Finger Lickin’ Good

These guys are based in L.A. but apparently tour just like any other rock band. And just like Kiss or Ghost (B.C.) they stay in character most of the time and always appear on stage in full regalia. The band even has hilarious metal/McDonald’s mash-up stage names like Ronald Osbourne, Slayer McCheeze, Grimalice, and Catburgler.

Considering such how detrimental to our bodies and the environment fast-food is, making them the fodder of a metal band makes 100% perfect sense. McDonald’s is far more nefarious and scarier than say, popular metal villain, Satan. I would love to know what the good folks at McDonald’s think about this band (though I can guess) and I’d also like to know what Black Sabbath thinks about them as well. Considering that band plays with the intellectual property of two mega-corporations (McDonald’s being a tad bigger than Black Sabbath) I’m kinda shocked these guys are able to exist.

I’m probably late to the Mac Sabbath party, but I had to write about this band because it’s one of the more creative things I’ve seen this year. And, hilariously enough, they’re the most balls-out metal thing I’ve encountered in years (thanks to Cartoon Network canceling Metalacolypse). 

 

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Amazing Soul Rendition of Black Sabbath’s “Changes”

Soul-singer Charles Bradley made a big splash a few years ago with his album NO TIME FOR DREAMING.  You might recall that album got a lot of attention due in part to two really interesting covers. One was a version of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” and the other was a fantastic rendition of Nirvana’s “Stay Away.”

Well Bradley is back and so are his oddball covers! This time he chose Black Sabbath’s “Changes.”  I’d love this guy for nothing else but his song choices were it not for the fact that every single time he does one of these covers he knocks it right out of the park.  His version of “Changes” is amazing.  I’m not even sure it’s fair to call his version a cover because he damn near makes the song his.  Charles Bradley’s latest album VICTIM OF LOVE came out and I sorely need hear it, even though this song isn’t on it.  Apparently his version of “Changes” was a Record Store Day exclusive single.  Either way, more attention needs to be given to this guy, he’s great.

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Highly-Unscientific Rock Poll: All-Time Greatest Front-Man

Sometimes there are questions too big for one man. Sometimes, in the search for ultimate truth, we must seek the guidance of others. And then there are times when one wants to increase traffic to one’s blog by actively seeking participation of one’s small readership by stoking the fires of eternal debate…

Yes friends, it’s time to review the lastest statistical disaster I like to call my HIGHLY-UNSCIENTIFIC ROCK POLL!  It’s been a while since this poll was conducted, sorry that it took so long for me to get my act together but I had some stuff come up and I wasn’t able to devote myself to DEFENDING AXL ROSE like I should have/like to. I knew that this poll would be controversial but I didn’t know just HOW near and dear Rock Frontmen were to people’s hearts. What makes a good font-man?  He (or she) has to be charismatic in addition to being a good singer/performer.  A good front-man is like an ambassador for his/her band.  Musicians can be pretty difficult to get along with and some of the best technical players are completely unable to connect with human beings–and that’s where a front-man comes in.  Unlike just about every other part of a band, a front-man is really hard to replace  (more on that later). Anyway, I opened Pandora’s box and asked DEFENDING AXL ROSE’s followers “Who is the All-Time Greatest Front-Man?”  Here are the results:

8, 7, and 6 (no votes) Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey, and Kurt Cobain:  Honestly, these were all solid choices and the fact that MICK JAGGER got ZERO votes should tell you how cut-throat this poll was.  Jagger pretty much came to define the classic rock front-man: the swagger, the bat-shit crazy dance moves, the delivery. Roger Daltrey is another excellent “classic” front-man in the same tradition as Mick Jagger.  The Who was an explosive band (literally, go ask Pete Townshend about how explosive they were–if he can hear you) and to front a band like The Who was no easy task.  More than just being a rocker, Daltrey paved the way for more theatrical front-men when The Who started doing rock operas. Kurt Cobain was the most modern front-man on the list and as such, Cobain’s role in Nirvana was much different than tossing his hair and strutting around like a rooster.  Cobain helped popularize the “tortured” front-man.  By making himself less accessible to fans, Cobain drew us all in closer.  That’s very different from Jagger’s chicken-dancing.  Still, as awesome and important as these front-men were (seriously, try to picture their respective bands without them) they got no love from my poll-takers.

3. (TIE one vote each) Axl Rose, Robert Plant, and Lemmy Kilmister: I bet you thought I voted for Axl Rose, didn’t you?  Well as much as I love and respect Axl, I didn’t vote for him.   And from the way this poll panned out, not very many of you voted for him either.  Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin’s self-proclaimed “Golden God” only got one vote as did Motorhead’s fugly metal-head Lemmy Kilmister.  Lemmy and Mick Jagger are the only two front-men on this list that I’ve actually seen in person and let me tell you–Lemmy was waaay cooler in person.  He’s ugly, loud, brash and he know it. Robert Plant’s mellowed significantly over the years, so I can understand why many people don’t hold him in as high regard, but in his hey-day he was considered a force of nature.  Guitarist Jimmy Page has spent the past 30 years trying to find someone as dynamic as Plant to front his music–and he’s come up dry.

Axl. Axl, Axl, Axl…what happened?  He’s a bit like Mick Jagger mixed with Cobain’s stand-offishness, mixed with a gallon of gasoline and asshole.  I think he’s a brillant front-man but I think he shot himself in the foot with his inability to work well with others, a trait that every good front-man needs.  A front-man fronts a band, he doesn’t just represent himself–which Axl is often guilty of doing.

2.  Ozzy Osbourne (2 votes):  The Oz Man Commeth! I recently took a long car trip and one of the things I listened to was Ozzy-era Black Sabbath, what a band that was!   Ozzy’s great because he has fantastic range both vocally and the kinds of songs he can do–scary ass Satan songs? Check.  Whistful ballads? Check.  Rockin’ anthem? Check.  The bitting the heads off stuff sure helps, too.   He’s a legend of hard rock and I was not surprised he came in second.  There’s a reason he’s got an entire FESTIVAL named after him (he married a pushy ball-buster, I kid! I kid!).  There’s a (mostly complete) Black Sabbath reunion hitting the road right now and I would love to check them out.

Before I talk about the #1 I feel that I should acknowledge that there were a few requests that I add a few font-men, specifically Thom Yorke of Radiohead fame and Bono from U2.  I didn’t add these two because frankly, I’m not a Radiohead person (nothing wrong with them) and Bono slipped my mind.  Initially I wasn’t going to do anything but ignore these requests…then I thought about it and decided that what I would do is have another poll and then have the winners of each poll battle it out.

But that was before Freddie Mercury swept this poll.

#1. Freddie Mercury (13 votes): This doesn’t really surprise me.  When the topic of font-men come up, Freddie’s name always comes up.  You want charisma? Mercury had more than enough, he was oozing charisma.  Queen’s a awesome rock band because they were so many different things: gay/straight, operatic/balls-to-the-walls rocking, playful/dead serious–but despite their duality, they were always amazing.  How badass was Freddie Mercury?  He was still writing and recording music right up to his death.  How committed to his art was Freddie Mercury? Doctors told him for years to fix his overbite and he refused, he was worried correcting his teeth would change the sound of his voice.  That’s commitment.  That’ s love.  And you know what? He did it all for you, the listener.   If I was on my deathbed, you better believe this blog would be the last thing on my mind.  Freddie just wanted to make music and he did.  He complimented his bandmates and helped make them superstars. A few years ago, Queen re-formed and tried to solider on with Paul Rodgers, a legendary front-man in his own right (he was in Free and Bad Company).  How did that go?  Not so well…it wasn’t that Rodgers was bad–he just wasn’t Freddie Mercury.  Freddie Mercury is the greatest rock front-man off all-time.

Poll Closed.

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METAL MONDAY: An Epic Review of “Dopesmoker” the Song the Label Didn’t Want You to Hear!

It’s been a long time since I did a METAL MONDAY post, and for that I am truly sorry.  In order to serve my penance for neglecting rock’s more aggressive-cousin, I embarked on an gargantuan journey that only the most die-hard music writers would even dream of undertaking**.  I was reading the latest issue of SPIN magazine (don’t judge, I bought a subscription from a woman at work who’s granddaughter was doing a magazine fundraiser) when I saw a small article about an obscure metal reissue that came out this month–DOPESMOKER by Northern California’s Sleep.  Sleep were active during the 1990’s and existed in that grey area between doom-metal and stoner-hard rock. I’d never heard of them, but what caught my eye was the fact that the album consisted of one single, hour-long track.  The album was recorded in 1996 but the band’s label, London Records, was appalled by the finished product.  And in a way, I don’t blame them–what the hell do you do with an hour-long song?  The band refused to let the song, “Dopesmoker” be cut-up into slightly smaller chunks and instead insisted it be released as one mega-track. This fight delayed the album’s release until 2003.

“Caravan migrates through deep sandscape
Lungsmen unearth the creed of Hasheeshian
Procession of the Weed-Priests to cross the sands”

Thanks to the Internet, and a hearty fan-base, DOPESMOKER was reissued as the band intended: uncut.  I read a few accounts of the album’s production, and apparently the song had to be broken up a few session due to the limitations of recording technology at the time (a reel of studio tape could only hold 22 minutes or so).  With nothing but guilt over neglecting METAL MONDAY and extreme curiosity, I sat down and listened to the whole thing (below are my impressions/blow-by-blow of the song).

Stoners are usually annoying, ineffectual, or somewhere in between.  I fully expected “Dopesmoker” to be pretty much a boring wank-session, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it actually pretty damn good. The song is built upon a foundation of droning guitar and lyrics revolving around an ancient, yet spacey, marijuana cult.  The lyrics, like the song, are dramatically elongated, like a stoner taking a loooong hit off a bong. Musically, Sleep seem to be like a super-wasted/super-slow Black Sabbath. In fact, the entire time I was listening to “Dopesmoker” I was reminded of “Sweet Leaf.”  I also couldn’t get the image of a stretched piece of taffy out of my mind–I think that’s a pretty good comparison for this record/song: Black Sabbath, if Sabbath was a piece of taffy, stretched to it’s near-breaking point.

Vigorous Sleep-ers.

The song has three guitar solos that aren’t overly-long or stupid, another thing that surprised me about DOPESMOKER.  Metal guitar solos have a history of being supremely over-the-top to the point of being ridiculous, and in a song that’s over an hour long it would make sense to have really drawn-out solos to pad time.  But Sleep seem to side-step every single cliche I thought of when I initially read about this album/song.  The lyrics are pretty stupid.  I mean, really stupid.  This isn’t stoner-philosophy, this is crazy weed-mysticism to the 1,000,000th power.  They’re pretty damn funny and frankly work for me.  Had this song been long AND full of bullshit seriousness I’d have to label Sleep as pretentious.

“Dopesmoker” begins and ends with the lyrics “Drop out of life with bong in hand/Follow the smoke toward the riff-filled land.”  That Sleep not only created this riff-filled land, but let all of us mere mortals visit it is a good thing.  I won’t lie and say that Sleep’s magnum opus is for everyone, but for those brave souls willing to enter their ancient caravan of cannabis…adventure awaits.

What follows is a timeline of my thoughts written as I listened to “Dopesmoker” for the first time:

00:01:  A few single notes begin.

01:30: And there was much droning.

02:41: Drums begin.

05:37: The droning has become an undulating current of a single riff, repeated.

07:30: Lotta cymbal action, the riff has changed

08:01: Drums vanish, then return.

08:27: Vocals appear, shout-y.

12:42: We return to a more complicated version of the main riff.

14:24-ish: Guitar SOLO!!! It’s pretty damn sweet.

16:31: Guitar Solo ends.

16:40: Vocals commence again with “Proceeds the Weedian – Nazareth.”  I don’t know what any of this means…

21:30-ish: Main riff and drums fall off, single note riff (different from the beginning) takes over.  I feel as if the first phase of the song might be over.

22:53: Smashing drum riff and vocals return. The phrase “Holy Mountain Zion” is sung…all three words are sung in an elongated-howl.

26:50-ish: Huston, we have “Weed-priests.”

31:15: The half-way point, nothing auspicious happens to celebrate this occasion, our “Stoner caravan” continues marching forward.

38:55: Second guitar solo begins.

40:00: This is a classy-ass solo, I’m digging it.

41:28: Solo ends.

41:45-ish: Whole mess fades out with the exception of a single guitar.

42:00-ish: drums appear distantly, in the background, like a distant heartbeat.

43:06: If I didn’t know any better, I’d think the song was winding down/about to end. There is still 20+ minutes to go.

43:27: The song rewakens! Riffage/thunder-fuck drums return.

48:00: “Marijuanaut escapes earth to cultivate.”  Right on.

50:33: Third guitar solo begins.

51:53: Guitar solo ends.

52:20: I am on the edge of my seat, I cannot wait to see how they end this song.  If this thing just fades out I am going to lose it…

54:30-ish: “Burnt offering redeems – completes smoked deliverance.”

60:00: Woah, we’ve reached the hour mark. T-minus three minutes and 36 seconds remaining.

62:21: Looks like we’re gonna drone-riff our way out.

63:15: Last notes are held and then allowed to fade. Not the bombastic ending I was hoping for, but it wasn’t a cop-out.

The End.

**Not really

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