Archive for December, 2011

Napalm Death @ Ivory Blacks, Glasgow, UK, 11 December 2011

Posted in Gigs with tags , , on December 17, 2011 by Noise Road

Popular opinion in the underground metal scene states that a band based on aggression, speed and enthusiasm will peak in their first handful of albums.  With all members in their forties, Napalm Death say bullish!t to that theory every night they board a stage.

Whilst Napalm Death have honed their technical abilities and musical craftsmanship since unleashing the crusty beast Scum on the world in 1987, energy is still the key to a Napalm set.  Vocalist Barney Greenway is unable to control his body spasms as his infamous roar is launched into the Glasgow night.

In his softest Birmingham accent, Barney announced tonight’s set as a “special f_cking Chrsitmas f_cking box”.  And while a local punter did request jingle bells, instead we received a best of Napalm’s laster quarter decade… from the crusty, almost sludgey, riffing of Scum to the debut of a new song Quarantined off Utilitarian to be released in February.

Adding to the usual Dead Kennedy’s cover, Napalm also indulged in covers of Cryptic Slaughter and especially enjoyable punky cover of a Siege track.

For a band based in aggression and rage at the system, Napalm Death is a band that leaves you feeling positive about the next day.  Underneath the Mitch Harris shrieks and Barney baritone blasts lays a family friendly chorus that could fit into any pop song “When all is said and done/heaven lies in my heart/This life is a gift/To be lived and loved“.  Sure it forms part of When All is Said and Done’s anti-religion rant, but its a nice ethos just the same.

As always rants form a part of a Napalm set.  While I don’t appreciate being preached out, its hard to not get onboard with Napalm’s themes – torture by anyone is wrong, organised religion is bullish!t and nazi punks, well they might as well go ahead and fuck off.

As Suffer the Children signalled a close to the night, stage divers rained from the Ivory Blacks stage.  Some big units bombed into the crowd with little regard for their’s or others’ bodies.  One particularly disastrous effort even brought a laugh for the overworked bouncer solely manning front of stage.

Smiles is all I saw as we entered the cold Glasgow night.

No Heroes

Posted in Admin on December 17, 2011 by Noise Road

Now the nausea’s in my guts

and I’m wrestling with doubt

the kind you get 

when your heroes sell you out

 – Pig Destroyer, Alexandria

The whiskey-soaked larynx of Down’s NOLA album is my favourite vocal performance.  In the years following, vocalist Phil Anselmo’s slurred rants rewrote history, betrayed friends and promoted white pride.

Layne Staley’s melancholic lines are etched into my soul…  But should you stain your consciousness with the wisdom of such a man?  Should you put weight into the words of one who so isolated himself that his body rotted for two weeks before it was discovered?

Max Cavalera’s blunt attack on Sepultura’s Arise announced my metal awakening.  Cavalera overcame third world poverty to record albums that still stand tall today.  Less than a decade later, Cavalera stood at the forefront of Nu-Metal.  His first post-Sepultura single features Fred Durst.

My metal heroes failed to practice the wisdom that they preached.  They failed to live up to the values that they sold me.  They betrayed my loyalty for Fred Durst.  My metal heroes are unreliable.

No more heroes

no more, no more

In my world of enemies

I walk alone

 – Converge, No Heroes

Many say that they do not have heroes.  They do not need heroes.  Heroes are for children or for the weak.  They are crutch for those seeking to fill the void of their nothing lives…  a crutch like religion or drugs or a football team or Oprah.

I don’t need no arms around me

and I don’t need no drugs to calm me

 – Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall pt III

I need heroes.  I need something to inspire and to guide me out of the muck.  Sometimes it is a paragraph from a book or a lyric from a song…  but sometimes it is more than the works of a man.  Sometimes it is the man.

My life has been full of compromise.  I get stuck in ruts and I allow things to slowly get worse.  In contrast my heroes never compromised.  My heroes were never reasonable.

Hunter S Thompson never compromised.  Hemingway and Orwell never compromised.  Thompson rode with the Hells Angels.  Hemingway and Orwell joined the Spanish Civil War.   The man behind the words increases the power of the words.  However, Thompson and Hemingway’s treatment of their families was poor.  Both painted the walls with their brains.  What kind of heroes are those?

My fictional heroes are no better.  I recall sitting in Perth airport returning from an unsuccessful job interview.  I was overweight, suffering from chronic headaches and unexplained blood noses.  In the departure lounge, blood poured from my nose onto a paperback copy of Fight ClubFight Club’s narrator demanded extreme action.  I required extreme change.

I believe that is the root of my interest in the men behind metal.  They are never reasonable.  Some of our metal heroes are so far up that river that their moral compass is as skewed as Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now’s Kurtz.

Phil Anselmo has been a staple of my life since my great mate, Osaka Bonez, started driving us to under-age, binge-drinking parties.  Phil’s roar sounded from his Mum’s Toyota mini-van throughout the sketchy northern suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia.

Those years saw Anselmo at his musical peak.  Anselmo’s voice on NOLA has a whiskey-soaked quality between a melody and an all out Pantera assault.  Lyrics from NOLA still resonate into my thirties.

Months away from overdosing in a stadium parking lot, Anselmo tracked Trendkill’s vocals alone in New Orleans after refusing to record alongside the band in Texas.  It does not sound like a recipe for success.  However, Anselmo’s lyrics contain a rare honesty.  Junk would ultimately warp that honesty, as well as his sense of reality and history.

Buy it from a store

from MTV to on the floor

you look just like a star

its proof you don’t know who you are

If I hit bottom and everything’s gone

the Great Mississippi please drown me and run

 – Pantera, The Great Southern Trendkill

Even at his lowest, Anselmo oozed charisma.  However Anselmo is the prime example of an unreliable hero.  For all his triumphs with Pantera and Down, there have been terrible musical lows.  Some lyrics are cringeworthy.  Anselmo has been prolific, but prolifically inconsistent in quality…  and then there is the man.

If I had known Anselmo personally over the last two decades, I would not have liked the man.  My experience is that junkies do not make good friends.  Worse than any drug-related failures was the pseudo-white-pride rhetoric.  I ain’t got room in my life for that shit, Phil.

As a young adult I would defend my heroes even when their actions seemed indefensible.  This was not a matter of separating the man from the music.  I had invested my inspiration in the man.

As greys appeared in my beard, I realised that my heroes had not failed me.  My heroes did not owe me a thing.

My heroes were heroes because they represented an extreme change that I was incapable of.  This extremity produced extreme music and extreme living.  Extreme living often lead to extreme drinking, extreme drug-taking and extremely questionable words and actions.  Their failures are a direct result of their lack of compromise that inspired me.

So, what is a hero?  A hero is someone who can inspire you – whether it be from a decade of achievement or just a single lyric or riff.  I do not need a role model.  I’m 31 years old.  I do not want to be my heroes.

Despite their musical inconsistencies, despite their personal failings, despite the reality TV shows, I could not do without my metal heroes.  My trust remains in whiskey and weed and Black Sabbath.

Your trust is in whiskey and weed and Black Sabbath

Its goddamn electric

 – Pantera, Goddamn Electric

Machine Head @ Glasgow, UK, 5 December 2011

Posted in Gigs with tags , on December 16, 2011 by Noise Road

With an apartment less than five minutes from tonight’s venue,  I have no excuse for missing the entirety of Darkest Hour and Devildriver’s sets.  No excuse except for being stranded on a bicycle near Glasgow airport after winter’s first snowstorm.  A couple of months ago, I hadn’t ridden a bike in nigh on two decades.  Hailing from the driest state in the driest continent, today marked the first day that I have ever ridden through snow.  At times I was snow-blind (and not in a Black Sabbath-less-than-subtle-cocaine-reference kind of way).  After finally making it to work covered in a blanket of ice, I didn’t know if I could brave another roll on the Glaswegian roads.

The snow and the 170mph winds that followed created a spectacular break in a mild but gloomy Autumn.  How does Glasgow deal with the gloom?  Glasgow drinks.

A week previous, I was at the work Xmas show in one of the city’s fancier hotels.  We were quarantined from 3pm until 10pm while we drank, ate turkey and drank some more…  At 10pm we were unleashed on the rest of unsuspecting punters in the hotel…  It wasn’t long before bouncers were rounding us up one by one and evicting apprentice and company director alike, like the mute humans in Planet of the Apes.  We weren’t mute but we weren’t talking much sense.  That’s a Glasgow work show.

It may be a Monday night, but the locals are hard at it.  Machine Head mailman, Robb Flynn, thanks the crowd for their own beery songs of praise between Machine Head tracks.  Flynn then attempts to transition into the acoustic intro of Darkness Within with a heartfelt speech about the personal importance of music, Sabbath and, well, weed… but the drunk chants continued.  Earlier, Flynn hit the right note with the punters with his patented drink-lobbing into the crowd.  No one is able to pitch a plastic cup across a room like Flynn.  I am alway surprised how often the drinks are caught and drunk.

Monday night beers are my second favourite kind of beer.  Monday morning beers being my favourite.  Unfortunately with the late arrival, I could only squeeze in two of the exhibition centre’s unnamed lager.  You know its good a beer when they aren’t even willing to tell you what it is.  It was probably Tennents, but lets be honest – Tennents, Carling, Carlsberg, Fosters – they all pretty much taste the same.

Nondescript beer in hand, I walked into the breakdowning Bring Me the Horizon.  They aren’t my cup of tea, but at least each song sounds distinct from each other.  There was even a bit of ambient guitar texture on one track before the inevitable breakdown.  Still I got no problem with the kids digging on this.  Today they’re bringing you the horizon, maybe in a few years they’ll be Pig Destroying.

As I look around the venue, my first arena show since… probably another Machine Head show back in Australia in 2009… I notice a lot of young attendees – real young, like 15 years young.  I don’t see these kids so much at bar shows.  Every now and then I wish I could be a kid again, but then I see these poor b@st@rds.  Most of them look as awkward as I did at 15.  No hair on my face, unsure….  At 19, the face was harrier but I wasn’t any less awkward.

I remember being 19 and wanting to belong at shows for Sepultura and Faith No More and Machine Head.  I’d be there with the Machine F_cking Head chant, sweaty in the mosh.  Only a few years ago I sought community at the Patton/Melvins curated ATP festival in the UK.  However community has been a rare thing for me at shows.  Roadburn was great this year, talking to stoners in line for the shower block about the awesomeness of the Year of No Light set.  Singing arm in arm with strangers at the Southampton Dillinger show restored my faith in southern England.  However, these moments of community have been the exception.

Glasgow itself is an odd town for community.  Glaswegians are happy to drink with a stranger in a bar.  Scottish people are either unusually friendly or batsh!t crazy.  Seriously Glasgow has got to have the highest density of genuinely crazy people.  For all the shared beers and laughs, Glasgow is not the easiest place to make genuine friends of any substantial depth.  When I think of my days lost to a sh!tty job in Southampton, I also think of the great friends that I made down there.  You never make friends like the friends that you make in the trenches of a lost-cause war.

Here in Glasgow, I found a vibrant city of bars and an endless stream of gigs.  My job is decent – they even send me to Sweden every few months. However, I found it harder to make anything more than superficial friendships for months.  Maybe in those initial months I may have sought community again, but walking into my first arena show in years I was not looking for friends.  To some degree, I was only looking to tolerate the crowd.  Once you group together more than a few hundred people, you can usually count on a significant percentage being d!cks.

Most of the shows of the last few years of Noise Road have been found in tiny rooms across the UK and Europe.  Even though I love Machine Head, I was unsure what a big metal show was in 2011.  Despite my reservations, Machine Head showed what big metal should be.

I only bought Machine Head’s latest, Unto the Locust, a few days prior.  The initial thought was that it didn’t quite match the previous Machine Head epic, the Blackening…  but man did those tracks come alive in Glasgow tonight.  I went home to Unto the Locust with fresh ears.  Its the album of a hardened live outfit.

Launching into opening two tracks of the album, I am Hell and Be Still and Know, the band played almost the entirety of the album.  The Locust, This is the End and Who We Are showed that Machine Head bring you an entire metal concert within each song – fist pumping, sing along choruses, wailing leads and chugging low ends all in the space of a single track.

Through the Ashes of Empires’ Imperium is everything that is good about being in a big room of people who enjoy genuinely great music.  That’s a rare joy my friends.  We pumped fist together.  We sang together and we shouted the anthem “Here me now/words I vow/No f_cking regrets/Fuck these chains/No g0d d@mn slave/I will be different/I stand here defiantly/my middle finger raised/f_ck your prejudice“…  Written on a page, these lyrics may seem a little ham-fisted, but in a room filled with chuggy guitars and bodies echoing Flynn’s protest, it is beyond cathartic….  The floor spread as a massive pit formed.  With all the alcohol on the floor those running struggled to keep their feet.

Beautiful Mourning and Aesthetics of Hate represented 2007’s classic the Blackening.  The latter throwing the crowd into a frantic sprint, only pausing occasionally to yell along with Flynn or to fly the horns for Flynn and Demmel’s duelling guitars.

The Blood, the Sweat, the Tears showcases the fan-dividing era.  1999’s The Burning Red started Machine Head’s dalliance with Nu Metal, which lead to the career low of Supercharger.  But I stand by the Burning Red.  If you are feeling all emo one day, best apply Burning Red for violent empowerment “I built these walls around me/and I can break them all away“.  Flynn’s difficult childhood gives him more excuse for emo moments than most of us.  This vulnerability is part of Machine Head’s unique mix.  Machine Head’s thick chugging, death roars and melodic passages are weaved together in an early Metallica-like proggy thrash.

Old and Ten Ton Hammer show that these elements of Machine Head blueprint were always there, but perhaps in a rawer, heavier form.

Davidian, with the greatest breakdown in music, was always going to close the night.  However I think that the other certainty in the encore, Halo from an album 15 years later, shows the magnitude of what Machine Head have achieved.  For a band based in aggression, they released their rawest and heaviest work early in the form of Davidian on their first record.  15 years later they were able to produce their best album, refining that rage and honing the other elements that featured throughout their career.

The night ended with Flynn channeling a version of Bruce Dickinson’s “Scream for me…”

Do you feel free, Glasgow?

Glasgow…  Do you feel FREEEEE!!!!

LET FREEDOM-RING WITH-A SHOT! GUN! BLAST!

Great music can be popular.  A big room can be a great night.  Why can’t more big bands be as awesome as Machine Head?