Monday, September 28, 2009

Metal Concerts: An exercise in mediocrity

Last Wednesday i went to see Kreator, a famous German thrash band. They were, to say the least, totally fucking awesome. After crowd surfing and moshing me wee heart out, i came home, bleeding slightly and totally exhilarated. It also got me thinking of, now that i am somewhat of a veteran of concerts now, the things I have learnt to do and not do. Some of these are general bits of information that any metal fan can take into account. Others are more personal and reflect the basic indignity of my lifestyle: a metal head that enjoys cycling.

1. Dress appropriately for said concert. Keys in pocket are a no no dude to potential stabbing if you should fall in the pit. People who say wear sturdy shoes are idiots. Combat boots are slight overkill. All that being said, wear sturdy shoes, you don't want your volley's disappearing. And wear ear plugs. So when your fifty and you go see an 80 year old Metallica, you can hear them. Cut off denim jacket or flannel is crucial. Band tee of band you are seeing is sure sign of a fool. I made this faux pas at Slayer in 2007. I only just got away with it. But make sure the shirt you do wear is of a band of a similar type. Do not, for example, go to see Opeth, wearing a Slipknot tee shirt. Not only are the latter not metal all, it's ridiculous to have a populist rap metal band tee shirt to a folk death metal concert.

2. Do NOT ride to the concert. Unless your palping a sweet Harley, which is the only 'bike' a metal crowd will respect. No one is gonna give a fuck if you rock up on your sweet Look, and god forbid that you should rock up on your 'sweet fixie'. Metal heads despise hipsters. With a vehement passion. They are far to genuine to put up with showmanship tomfoolery. (The fact they like Municipal Waste is a delicious irony)

3. The average metal fan looks like this:

For Gods sake, don't get him angry. We all know Blind Guardian are pompous, ridiculous German's who should have stopped before they named an album 'A Night At the Opera' featuring a fourteen minute song, but he's ignorant of this. Talk to him. Exchange views of all things metal. Discuss the nineties Iron Maiden line up, and just how much they SUCKED.

4. When the music actually begins (you can tell because the token Pantera fan, with cargo shorts and Vans, is breathing really loudly and soaking his face with beer) don't make a dick of yourself. There is a difference between moshing and fighting. Don't hit anyone in the face, unless they do first. If you crowd surf, be sure to return the favour to whoever lifted you up. And thank the bouncers! They are getting payed sure, but can you imagine how horrible it is to spend two hours lifting sweaty hairy metal heads, who haven't changed their Nike high tops since 1991?

5. DO yell things at the band. It makes them think they are still relevant and entertaining in a world that has forgotten metal and all it's pathetic fans such as myself.

6.If anyone falls over in the pit, rather than stomp on them as the Pantera fan is, help them up. It could be your face that is being crushed into the ground.

7. When you purchase beverages (you need these to overlook the place your spending time in, as well as to summon up courage to enter the pit) be nice to the people at the bar. While you are hearing sweet old school thrash from 'back in the day', they are hearing horrible distorted guitar with grating vocals, and smelling lots of smelly people. Some of them are actually quite attractive women. Don't fool yourself. They aren't impressed by your sweet Obituary back patch, but it can be pleasant looking at them regardless.

8. When the concert is over, DO fight tooth and nail for the generic pics the band will pass out. They will one day be worth slightly more than they are worth now.

9.When outside the venue, don't linger around with people you don't know or want to know talking about the 'sweet blast beats' and 'brutal vocals'. It was mediocre at best, admit it.

10. If your were stupid enough to ride your bike, DO NOT go collect it. There will almost certainly be a group gathered around it discussing 'faggot cyclists' and 'hipster cunts'. Join in the crowd and kick the bike a bit to cover your ass before you make for the train.

11. If you indulged in some sweet windmilling, your neck is gonna hurt like fuck for the next three days. No amount of pseudo massage will change this.

If you take these rules into account you might survive said gig, and even enjoy it. While metal is mostly totally ridiculous, it is certainly a passion of mine, and still never ceases to amaze me with its power to transcend the everyday. Be aware of its faults, but don't be elitist (unless they like Parkway Drive) or act superior because you see through some of metal's pitfalls. It is a great way to meet people you might not ordinarily meet (no braided hair at alley cats) and allows you to see some of the greatest bands the world has ever seen. All that said, Pantera suck. There i said it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dragon Lore: Why Power Metal will always be terrible

Power metal is terrible. It's truly awful. Nothing contrasts more than a good Grindcore band, and a shit power metal band.
Power metal is where the nerds of metal go. The one's who love Lord of the Rings, gaming, guitar hero and fucking horrible vocals. Power metal only plays harmonics and dual guitar harmonies. Not to mention the psuedo operatic vocals.
Power metal fans wear leather pants, huge shirt and Assics running shoes. They look like this:

That is ManoWar. One of the most succesful power metal bands there is. Go figure. Power metal is very popular in Europe. The word 'epic' is bandied around a lot when describing a band's performance.
My objection to power metal isn't it's sound, or it's total lack of fashion sense. It's the total lack of irony, sarcasm or humour. Every band, when they look you in the eye and say, "THIS NEXT SONG IS ABOUT A DRAGON IN MY DREAMS, THAT FELL UPON THE EARTH TO SMITE THE EVIL WIZARD!", they mean every word.
Thrash, death and grindcore can be ironic. This is why you see it being adopted by hipster's. This is, i'll admit, annoying (hipster metal is a band like Municipal Waste. We get it, your wide brimmed hats and denim jackets are so 80's and stupid, making them cool). However metal that is ironic, or at least has its tongue firmly in cheek is so much more enjoyable.

Napalm Death, for example, were a great grindcore band. They released an awesome album called Scum. In it is the song 'You Suffer'.

Not only is that awesome, it's hilarious. Now compare with a deadly serious, 'epic' power metal song:

Things to note: What the fuck is with the album cover? Terrible music. Awful, generic vocals. Fucking god awful chorus with power metal 'epic' operatic singing. When i heard 'cry for freedom' i thought i'd die laughing.

The point is, power metal just takes itself far too seriously, without ANY hint of irony. The beauty of is it, however, is that hipsters will NEVER latch on to this. Though they will swollow their pride, don denim jackets lathered in patches, grow their hair ironically, and start ironic bands that just rip off 80s metal; they will never don leather pants, wear assics or sing high Iron Miaden vocals. For this we can be glad.

In some ways, one can't help but admire these power metal fans. So loyal are they to this music, they are totally oblivious to just how bad, similar sounding, generic and boring it is.

To prove my point, i leave you with this song. One habit power metal has is to write half their songs about metal and how awesome it is. This is a case in point:

Times like these i need to detox and listen to Death. God help me, i hate metal sometimes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Indignity of the Mane

One of the major incompatabilities with metal and cycling is hair. As a fan of metal, I do follow the cleche' of having long hair. I haven't cut my hair for five years. I like it, plus it makes for mad windmilling at concerts.
When riding, however, problems begin. When i first started growing it, before I could tie it back into a pony tail, it went everywhere. In my eyes, my ears, the back of my neck. Me helmet didn't sit right, and i looked plain weird. Now it's fine. It's down to the middle of my back (when wet) and is easily tied back and outta my way.
On the fixed gear bike, it's fine. No one cares and leaves me alone. However, once the lycra is donned, and your sitting in a pack of hard men with a fucking pony tail, cracks begin to appear in my otherwise cool facade. Despite my general conformity to the roadie 'look', (read: shaved legs, campag cap, expensive helmet, particular branded lycra) the dirty great bunch of hair segregates me from the group.
This isn't to say i care. I don't. But it irritates me that despite my good cycling and gneral normal appearance, my hair somehow sets me off as some sort of bizzarre hippy in the highly conservative road scene.
To be fair, it is a rare sight. A quick google search comes up with nothing referring to male cyclists with long hair. No doubt this is indicative of the general good taste of male cyclists. However i do get abit sick of the men gaping and the women sniggering.
I love road riding, and I love Beach Rd. But god damn, why are they so damn judgemental? Guess I'll just have to show 'em on the road. Hell Phil Anderson did it in the 80's. He rocked a mad pony tail. Unfortunately a search for Anderson's said look came up with this:

Maybe it's still a fairly fringe idea...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Do a Skid!

Due to a popular Australian forum, coupled with the current popularity of fixed gear bikes, it has become increasingly popular to yell "DO A SKID!" to fellow fixed gear riders in the street. This is quite a nice phenomenon for two reasons: it gives a feeling of 'underground' to a group which is fast becoming mainstream, and it's a great way to show off your skillz. It also means that almost everytime you SEE another fixed gear rider, they are doing this:

To the uninitiated it just looks as if there are a bunch of guys and gals in tight jeans, forever re-adjusting themselves as it were. Then there is also the danger of the the group skid, people requesting skids simultaneously, as well as the n00b skid, which looks a bit like this:

But without the sountrack.

Now I'm all for this tradition. I think it keeps things interesting, funny, and a bit zany. I also love the rumour i heard that the cops yell it out so they can bust people for dangerous riding.

My one concern is that someone who hasn't ridden a bike since the heady days of their 1991 Huffy is going to get on a shitty ten speed equipped with suicide hub, no foot retention, their flimsy Campag cap flapping in the breeze, hear "DO A SKID", try and oblige, and...well...die.

And that will be the end of all the potential elephant trunk skids they could have busted out.

So this is a message to those who might not be 100% confident in skidding down busy intersections with ipod zombies, cars, trams, and cats. Just stay home and watch terrible Slayer videos. I promise you will feel better

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Aleters Of Madness: Why YOU should own this album

Alters of Madness is Morbid Angel's first album. It goes without saying that it is fucking awesome. I was going to talk about skids this post, but I have decided to save it for next time. Today, on the other hand, I am going to run through this album, song by song, and explain why it is so awesome.

Immortal Rites: If ever an album has started of better, I would very much like to hear it. From the opening twisted riff, to David Vincent's gutteral roar, this song is totally over powering. The uninitiated will run from this song, the blast beats mercilessly pounding them into submission. Suffice to say an excellent intro.

Suffocation: This particular song, despite some catchy riffing, has been assigned to the proverbial waste bin. This isn't to say it's a bad song. It simply doesn't compare to some of the great songs to come.

Visions From the Darkside: This is a song that starts generically, but once the weird guitar harmony starts, and Dave screams, "Speak my name!", you know you are, once again, in safe hands. This song runs along a simple chord, but is all the better for it. If there is one thing Morbid Angel never did it is fall into the technical death metal trap that countless, holier than thou bands did. Your album has 250 riffs? Really? Go jump off a cliff and make some simple, good music.

Maze of Torment: One of my favourite songs OF ALL TIME. The opeing riff to this song is beyond describing. It's simply brilliant. From said riff it leads into some of the most brutal blast beats to be heard, then continues on to a fast, furious, lyrically brilliant song. This is the song that deserves a video:

Forgive the dodgy sound quality. Just appriate Death Metal at it's finest.

Lord of all Fevers and Plague: The one song that I feel is meh worthy. It's fast and hard...but it made me feel nothing. Next please.

Chapel of Ghouls: Whatever cred the band had lost with the previous song is more than made up for in this one. When they played this live, i totally lost it. From memory I got punched in the face numerous times. I felt nothing. It was that good. The lyrics are brilliant too. "Ghouls attack the church/Crush the Holy priest/Turning the cross toward hell/Writhe in Satan's flames. Total bullshit, yes. Hella metal, absolutely.

Bleed for the Devil: This is a straight out pulveronic engulfment. No room for thought here. Bleed for the devil? I don't know what it means, but, hell, I'll do it!

Damnation: "Evil Minds grievious sins/Pagan lives have no place for law/Twisted worship exhume the dead/Minds unite for evil cause" FUCK YEH!

Blasphemy: The opening salvo of gun shots lead into a furious bombardment of drums, guitar, and vocals. Dave talks about the Holy Ghost a fair bit too. The guitar solo's in this song are particualry twisted.

Evil Spells: The last song. A slower number for those who wish a reprieve from the brutality (i hate the over use of that word in metal). Dave groans and seeths his way through the chorus. "Evvviilll speellllsss" indeed.

This album is not dynamic or progressive. It's forty odd minutes of total concentrated emotion. Though the next album would go on to mix the slow/fast dynamic, this album stands alone. Never has a band's first effort sounded so damn dangerous and outrightly confident. Lord only knows what it must have sounded like to those in the late eighties still listening to Metallica and a slower Slayer. A breath of fresh air to be sure. My only complaint is this: Why can't more bands do this?!?!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Apologies from the chef

It has come to my attention that the previous posts, whilst being highly humerous and witty, are badly edited. This is not due to my lack of grammar skills. When i write my posts it is generally in a fit of mad creativity. Imagine, if you will, a bearded philosopher frantically writing amongst mountains of paper, stopping only to dip his feather thing in his ink well. This is a good way to imagine me when i write. Obviously, mistakes creep in. Or in my case, break the proverbial door down and assault me within an inch of my life. So from here on i will endeavour to be a little more eloquent and will try and edit my stunning prose a little better. Unless i get really excited, in which case anything goes.
Next post i might address the phenomenon of "DO A SKID!", and how it has spiralled out of control in the Melbourne fixed gear scene, to the point where there are literally hundreds of young people on stupid bikes weaving dangerously across the road, in a desperate display of sweet skillz.
Post Scriptum: apologies for any typo's in this piece.

Black Metal: A love hate relationship

Black metal is, by and large, totally ridiculous. For those not in the know, Black Metal is a form of metal that emerged in the late 80's, early 90's following the extreme path that thrash had taken. Proto-black metal like early Sodom, Venom (in the theatrics) and the like, inspired seemingly hundreds of ugly, badly dressed European kids (mainly Norwegian) to wear a lot of face paint and produce terrible, terrible records. Bands like Mayhem, Burzum, Emperor laid some serious foundations. They then went on to kill each other and go to jail for crimes of extreme violence. One guy killed a gay guy. These people were not nice. They were, mainly, ignorant right wing kids who had sympathies in paganistic romanticism and some serious pride for their white skin. However, amongst the clutter of murky, badly produced albums, are some real gems. This is one of them:

Other than a stupid name, i cannot say enough good things about this song. In the Nightside Eclipse, the album from which this song comes from, is probably the best black metal album ever recorded. Listen to it. Really listen to it. Can you hear how many layers there are? It's incredible. It's more like an experimental noise album. One thing metal fans are guilty of, especially in Black metal, is branding a song as 'atmospheric'. Usually it's total bullshit. In this case it totally true. When i listen to this album, i can literally feel the snow of Norway falling on my head as the fir trees sway. Impressive.

Unfortunately, as with all metal, for one good thing, there are countless bad ones. The next clip comes from Immortal. I like this band, but this early song is truly awful. And the video clip is possibly the funniest thing i have ever seen. If they are being ironic, that's awesome. If they aren't, that's even better:

Where the hell did they get that wizards costume? And wouldn't it have been better to wait for the forest to be covered in snow to create the death like atmosphere? Rather than running through a forest, in corpse paint, that is literally bursting with spring life?

My main problem is the fact black metal has to be very under produced to be credible. Take this burzum song:

Metal elitists love burzum. Don't know why. To me he's (a one man band) a sad right winger who went to jail for murder and writes pseudo philosophy in regards to his pagan ancestors and his rights as a white man. It's elitist, flawed philosophically, and racism disguised as paganisitc pride. As well as that, his records sound like distorted noise. To the black metal elitist, this is a sign of its true character.

That is the world of black metal. Mainly bad, often objectionable, and always hilarious. Half the fun is finding those two or three brilliant records.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why tandems should be banned and Cervelo beaten to death with a lightweight carbon rod

Tandems should be banned. Along with recumbrants and any other kind of freak bike. I don't say this out of ignorance. I work at a bike shop that sells tandems. I assure you they are a pain, and attract the kind of person (or couple) that would normally make me run many kilometres in the opposite direction.
The shop i work in is small and poky. Tandems have a whel base only slightly shorter than a four wheel drive and the turning circle of a tank. And the people who comandeer them are twice as threatening.

Today at work i fixed a lot of bikes which was good. I also lost faith in Cervelo. Cable routing those inner routes is almost impossible. Especially when they don't fit brake cables and are forced to use gear cables for brakes. In what way is that clever or safe? What genius thought allowing a mere three hours to replace cables was a step forward?

My bike that i bought off Trackcvnt is comeing together nicely, and should look quite fetching when finished.

On a totally unrelated note...I had forgotten just how boring The Doors are. I went there, and there's only one way of taking it back...

yet another cyclist proving to all around him, that we are all violent, antisocial cunts. Well done to the camera man for intervening on this piece of outright assault.

I'll be back at some stage during the week with various musings in regards to black metal and its total retarded nature...but occasioanal epicness.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Metal and the unfortunate habit of most to honour the dead beyond what's necessary

Yesterday I went to Missing Link. For those not in the know (and why the hell not one is tempted to ask) Missing Link is one of the only independent record stores left in Melbourne. It's also damn good. As a metal fan, and a metal fan with silly preconceptions of old technology, my favourite section is the metal vinyl records. Some of the stuff I have found there is amazing. Yesterday i bought 'Human' by Death. Arguably their best album and, if it isnt, it's damn close to it. I'm yet to play it though, for fear of the wrath that will be brought down upon me by my parents. This was the closest thing resmebling a 'single' in the heady days of early 90's Florida death metal.

This is the song usually mentioned in the same breath as Death and legendary front man Chuck. That said, it's far from my favourite song. Compared to some of the stuff they had and would do, this song seems a little tame. But therein lies the fallacy of fanboyism (especially prevalent in Death fans becuase Chuck died of brain cancer in 2001)

I have always found it interesting how the death of an artist will instantly increase their reputation totally out of control. Legends like Hendrix, Cobain, Chuck, Dimebag, Cliff Burton, Lennon etc, etc are all amazing musicians. But one wonders if they would have remained as popular had they lived. Bob Dylan is remembered for nothing neyond the sixties and, had he died then, would have been a martyr for folk rock. Cobain, had he lived, would have almost certainly released a mediocre, horrible album, and watched his fame dwindle. Who knows what Hendrix would have done. And perhaps the most intriguing of all: Had all the members of Metallica died in that bus crash in '86 with Cliff, i don't think it would be unfair to say, they would have gone down as the greatest metal band of all time bar none. The only reason we all hate Metallica now is becuase of what happened after: namely the release of the good, but ultimate indicator of what was to come, ...And Justice For All, and the subsequent awful joke that was the Black Album. I won't even mention Load or Reload, and the person who utters the words St. Anger shall be swiftly executed. Though I have wandered slightly off topic, I'f like to draw your attention to the stark contrast of Metallica THEN, and Metallica NOW. Only becuase it's so amusing.

Things to note: hilarious pre-pubescant James Hetfield, fucking tiny crowd, Kirk's white shirt.

Things to note: more bouncers than fans, weak ass mosh pit, James' receding hairline...also the elephant in the room: THESE GUYS ARE WAY BEYOND IT! Jesus christ, Lars, please, just give up. I almost miss your snare sound from your previous album that shal go unnamed.

In contrast, this is Kreator in 2008: aged yes, slightly washed up yes (what the hell happened to Mille's voice?!?!), but still thrashy as hell

Ah, the indignity of metal...i love it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Jazz and its problems

Last night, along with some people who run a music website i write for occasionly, i went to see some live jazz.
I don't know anything about jazz other than the real basics. In that it started as black music, and slowly entered white culture, etc, etc.
The venue was the typical fare: dim, out of the way, a touch grimy and full to capacity (ten people). During the gig i got to thinking about the nature of musical preference. I could certainly admire the musicianship of the people on stage. I could occasionly see glimmerings of why people like it. But for the most part it left me totally numb. I felt nothing. Which worried me. Metal has always succedded in giving me that utterly subrational, convulsive shiver down the spine. This muisc did nothing. It just made me bored.
Looking at the people around me, everyone seemed totally engaged with the music (even the ones that said they were't enjoying after it had finished). It reminded me a bit of technical death metal. Heaps of impressive playing...but no emotive factor in the music. So what seperated me from the others? What causes certain notes, strung together in a certain way, to cause some people to be totally transfixed, and others totally bored.
My question is essentially this:
Why listen to this? (and im not denying that its totally admirable in itself)

When you can listen to this? (totally cleched, but a total classic)

Obviosuly this is from my perspective. There are many, many people who would rather listen to the former. But, for me, the latter seems so much more alive and involved. The crowd seems to be far more enagaged. Though that might have something to do with them being loser Seattle teenagers with nothing to live for.

Food for thought regardless.

On another note, i was amused when i regarded the fact that metal fans pride themselves on being underground. Yet even the most obscure of metal bands will pull a crowd of at least a few hundred. The jazz band last night, who were apparantly some of the best players in Australia, pulled twenty five people, at the most. It seems the real underground music of Melbourne is elsewhere. There is the genius of metal though. It makes you feel underground, when it has one of the largest fan bases in all music. Hilarious.

On a last note, MAD SKILLZ! Better with a death metal track? No, not at all.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Indignity of Blog Names

I just discovered the name of my blog is a movie from 2008

the Indiginity of bells

Today i rode to uni with slightly more caution than usual. I had heard that there would be some sort of ENORMOUS CYCLING CRACK DOWN by the fuzz, ensuring that cyclists, as the most vulnerable road users, were obeying the road rules. Outside the Arts Centre i was pulled over by three cops (why so many? i wasn't packing a weapon). They questioned why i didn't have a bell. I replied that it was silly becuase i had my voice. In the event of a taxi trying to run me down, I'm generally not tinkling away, I'm screaming away at the top of my lungs to make sure they know where i am.
The police offer replied with a question: "What if you have a cold?"
I wasn't even sure what she meant so i remained silent. She then explained that if i had a cold i wouldn't be able to yell. I felt like pointing out that if i was so ill i was unable to speak, i probably wouldn't be on my bike. But i didn't, out of what little respect for authority i had.
Next, the cop says she wasn't going to charge me, and pulled out an ENORMOUS chrome bell and gave it to me. She said she expected me to have it next time i passed. I assured her i would (it's chrome!) and rode off.
What is the point? My voice is so much more efficient than a bell. What's more, several cyclists without bells passed by as i was getting done, and the cops didn't bat an eyelid. One suspects that, rather than looking out for cyclists, they were looking out for YOUTH ON BIKES. In their eyes there is a distinct difference. The elderly man (who by the way ran the red a kilometre back) is most likley an experienced cyclist and doesn't need addressing. I, on the other hand, was riding with casual cloths and pretty fast (but perfectly safely) and so i am perceived as a threat. As i was given this warning by the cops, i was also given a Bike Victoria flyer from some volounteers from BV. It was this patronising statement about the importance of following road rules for the sake of all bike riders. I have never ran a red. I always wear a helmet. I follow these rules, not becuase some self important lobby goup tells me too, but becuase i feel it is the safe thing to do. By the same token, i think bells are fucking dumb.
But as i always say, when in doubt or frustrated, watch Morbid Angel videos and see that they were just as retarded in the last 80's as now.

I should probably point out...i fucking love Morbid Angel.