On August 9, 2012, the legendary Iron Maiden were playing in Irvine, and as a rock journalist, I sort of had to go. I mean, it was Iron Maiden and this wasn’t just any ordinary tour; the band were dusting off a handful of rare gems, scattering them across a setlist of classics that inspired metal fans across the US to hail this tour as their best yet. Moreover, they were playing at a sprawling outdoor amphitheater in the belly button of Southern California on a warm summer evening—an ineffably inviting backdrop for live music.

And yet, I didn’t go.  Agalloch, the mysterious psychedelic black metal outfit from Portland, Oregon, were playing The Casbah here in San Diego, and in the remote but statistically viable chance that I passed away on August 10, I wanted to ensure that my blink of an existence did not pass without experiencing this preponderant act in a rare and intimate live setting.

Drummer Vinny Appice first established a formidable reputation by playing with the likes of John Lennon and Rick Derringer, although he is best known for his hard-hitting contributions to Black Sabbath and Ronnie James Dio. Two years ago, when shoulder surgery sidelined him from playing, Vinny found himself in his home studio, idly playing with a series of drum tracks that he had recorded for downloads. He wondered if these tracks couldn’t form the backbones of fully-formed songs and so, as guys like Vinny Appice are wont to do, he put out a few calls.

Enter guitarist Mark Zavon.

Read Part I here.  Part II there.

JMB:  KISS and Mötley Crüe are touring together this year, when’s the last time you went to a show?

CK:  I’ve seen KISS tons of times, the Crüe maybe a handful.  They really vary in quality.  Some shows Vince doesn’t seem very interested to be there.  I saw one show where Tommy was clearly trying to illustrate how unhappy he was to be forced to tour.  KISS always play hard and they always deliver.  I’ve never seen a bad KISS show.

How is it that an artist can sell over fifty million records and yet creatively, have nothing to lose?

Guitarist and songwriter Mark Tremonti has achieved incontrovertible commercial success with his bands Creed and Alter Bridge, although for reasons far too complex and speculative for this piece, the former band remain perennially tied to the whipping post of the music industry despite towering album sales and multitudinous awards. Alter Bridge, formed in the wake of Creed’s success, have enjoyed a much warmer welcome from fans and critics, but their commercial performance is nowhere near that of Creed.

With his new self-titled solo project, Mark carries on his back both the suffocating expectations of current fans and the unwavering prejudice of Creed’s detractors. Capitulating to neither, Mark’s blistering solo debut is already one of the most buzzed-about albums of the summer. Sometimes having nothing to lose is right where you want to be.

Even if you don’t own any of their records, you have most certainly heard The Melvins because their sound rings clearly in the anthems of  bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Tool. Where those legends hammered the Melvins’ sonic textures into more traditional song structures, selling millions of records in the process, the original purveyors of that sound continue to record music as if each instrument were a stallion and the studio a wide open range—each instrument, each riff, runs freely across the tracks as the band charge forward with wild, reckless abandon. Call their sound experimental, avant garde, metal or punk—nothing will consistently fit, and this is perhaps the secret ingredient to a career that is now approaching their thirtieth year.

If Run DMC are The Beatles of the rap world, then Public Enemy are The Rolling Stones. Hell, they’re The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the Sex Pistols all rolled into one unstoppable rhythmic megaforce. Few bands  have left a cultural footprint as massive as Public Enemy, who began their recording career twenty-five years ago with a sound that paired the funk of James Brown with the snarl of punk rock. That these New York-based rappers have lasted a quarter century, selling millions of albums and touring over eighty countries speaks to the universal, gut-level appeal of their uncompromising lyrical attack.

You know why you don’t see any heavy metal acts on American Idol or X Factor? Because metal doesn’t sell shampoo. Fresh-faced, heroin-free go-getters who look good in J. Crew? They sell the shit out of shampoo, but metal…not so much. When Five Finger Death Punch’s third album, American Capitalist, entered the charts at number 3 last fall (behind the Midas-throated Adele and pop-goth idols Evanescence), the Vegas-based quintet slapped the music industry into the realization that the thirst for heavy music in this country is far more profound than anyone had understood.

In addition to getting people laid and enhancing training montages in boxing movies, music has long salved the festering emotional wounds of humanity. Who among us has never crawled into a weepy ballad when life laid a bag of flaming dog shit at our front door, rang the doorbell and ran away?

At the very least, music soothes our savage breast; in its greater moments, music has accomplished much more. Or have you forgotten the powers of the pre-Psychic Network Dionne Warwick?

Unless your name is Axl Rose, then ten years is a hell of a long time to get something done. In fact, most people can accomplish terrific feats of mind and body in well under a decade. Hell, with only eight years, US presidents have repainted the entire cultural landscape of the planet. But if you’re not in a hurry and you don’t mind waiting for the right moment to find you, then ten years is perfect.

In 2001, Ohio-born Scott Shriner stepped into the job as Weezer’s bass player—a position he has comfortably helmed for six of the band’s nine albums, through the present day. With followers whose fervor rivals that of Southern snake handling cults, this is officially a “high-profile gig” and with a steady diet of touring and albums over the past ten years, Shriner hasn’t spent a great deal of time surfing QVC. Until lately.

The latest round of TNB Music Staff Picks. Dig it, baby…

 

PHILM
Harmonic
(IPECAC)

Stunningly complex atmospherics from an unlikely legend

When Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo recently talked to TNB Music about his three-piece side project Philm (with guitarist/vocalist Gerry Nestler and bassist Pancho Tomaselli), he gamely addressed the various sounds the band have incorporated into their forthcoming debut: “heavy,” “bluesy” and “diverse.” Having finally sat down with that record, Harmonic, we realize that words cannot begin to approach the spectacular brew of genius, madness, terror and ecstasy that fuel one of the more fascinating releases of 2012. Harmonic is a relentless 15-song campaign that storms through the fields of Coltrane, Santana, Gilmour and Hanneman, and while attempting to identify a singular sound is a fool’s errand, punk vocals, jazzy dissonance and of course, masterful drumming appear in ample doses.

Interview magazine recently published a uniquely compelling interview featuring the unlikely duo of astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to ever walk on the moon, interviewing rocker Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, seven thousand other bands, side projects and one-offs). White, who never met a trend he didn’t buck, conceived the idea when the magazine solicited his thoughts on who might conduct his interview. Someone’s people called someone else’s people, an agreement was struck and thus flowed a thoroughly fascinating dialogue between these two disparate symbols of American culture.

 Flashing sign at the biker bar in the hills of Tennessee:

PARTY THIS FRIDAY WITH BLACK OAK ARKANSAS!!!

Black Oak Arkansas (“BOA”) was more southern than Skynyrd, raunchier than Blackfoot and raised more hell than Molly Hatchet.   BOA was backseat sex with white-haired witches; Jesus and the Devil and Arkansas shine; triple-axe attacks of hillbilly rock;  and the “scary basso profundo growls and testosterone-fueled antics of lead vocalist/showman James ‘Big Jim Dandy’ Mangrum.”

From All-Music Guide:

“The band toured extensively, building a reputation as a raw, incendiary live act that made up for occasional musical deficiencies with energy and the explicit sexuality of Mangrum, who flaunted his body at every opportunity and became known for such antics as miming sex with the washboard he used for musical accompaniment.”

For Brendon Small, cortex-squashing pressure sort of comes with the territory. Small is the creator of the breakaway hit TV show Metalocalypse, writing the scripts, voicing several characters, and because the show concerns a fictitious death metal band, Small composes all of the ferocious and unbelievably catchy music for each episode. The show is a bona fide cultural phenomenon, first attracting a rabid cult audience (are cult audiences any other way?), then finding seismic popularity in the mainstream.   Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, award-winning documentary producer Warner Herzog and Hall of Fame inductee Slash are a few of the legion of celebrities who have proclaimed their enduring love of Metalocalypse. The show, featured on the Adult Swim cable channel, begins its ravenously-anticipated fourth season on April 29 with more preposterous plots, scorching humor and the show’s most impressive lineup of celebrity voices yet. In fact, both Hamm and Herzog will be appearing in Season Four, along with an astonishingly diverse and talented cast of other actors, comedians and, of course, musicians.

“World domination”–two simple words that evoke visions of battles and conquest; of smoldering ruins and vanquished enemies; of being able to cut to the front of every line on the planet. Real power.

Whether seen as a goal or a lifestyle, “world domination” has been exhaustively explored in literature, yet never as boldly, crudely and hilariously as by guitar virtuoso Zakk Wylde, founder of rock outfit Black Label Society, church-going Catholic boy and all-around inducer of mayhem. Wylde’s new book, Bringing Metal to the Children: The Complete Berzerker’s Guide to World Tour Domination delivers explicit, often jaw-droppingly graphic instructions for transitioning from fat-fingered guitar novice to flaxen-haired rock god, exploring everything from choosing the music you play to how to avoid being tea-bagged on a tour bus. Yes, tea-bagged.

Guns N’ Roses mercurial frontman Axl Rose has pulled the ultimate deke on the music industry–he has decided to take a pass on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Specifically, he has declared that he will not be attending this weekend’s induction ceremony, and via a letter to the RRHOF, he is requesting that he not be inducted in absentia.

Unfortunately, this announcement will be confused as news. People will come at him from all sides, triumphantly pointing out the Orca-sized holes in his arguments and decrying his ongoing megalomaniacal delusions. This is simply pointing out the obvious with a sense of discovery. In fact, such attention will only buttress Axl’s view of himself as a tragically-misunderstood, well-meaning, regular guy, constantly fending off the unprovoked attacks of the media and his former bandmates (the ones who made the music that he sings).

There is no news here.