Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Iron Reagan - Spoiled Identity

I'm a slow writer

Obviously, this is gonna be a short one, I've only got so much to work with here.

But it's all so goddamned awesome.

Really, Spoiled Identity is the latest EP from the crossover supergroup and contenders for the Best Band Name Ever award, Iron Reagan.  Sporting thirteen tracks and clocking in at a whopping five whole minutes, this whole ordeal just never takes its foot off the gas.  And, in a testament to how blistering and straightfoward and to-the-point the whole album is.  I'm gonna do something a little different, something to give y'all some insight as to how I write reviews.  After this next sentence, I'm going to finish this review in the time it takes for this EP to finish.  In five minutes, the rest of it will be done.


Basically if you were a fan of Municipal Waste's first full length, Waste 'em All, you're gonna find more of the same here, with some added punkiness ala M.O.D. and the other assorted acronyms you all know so well.  Foresta's vocals are at their most vicious here, with the lyrics being as inconsequential as always, if steeped in politics and violence like always.  Really, this is just the logical continuation of Worse than Dead, so if you dug that album as much as I did, you're going to be more than satisfied with Spoiled Identity.  In fact, I'm blown away that what is essentially a collection of throwaway microsongs can still end up being so intense, memorable, and well executed.  I mean really, only three songs are longer than thirty seconds, with one of them (the best one, "Cops Don't Like Me") having a nine second sample to start it off.

There's a surprising amount of variety here, from the hyperblasting one-note insanity of "Your Kid's an Asshole", to the deep death metal vocal stylings of "I Spit on Your Face/Grave", and the punky melody of "Cops Don't Like Me".  It's a five minute burst of thrash/punk insanity and there's only so much that can logically be said about it.

Time's up, album's over, it's great, go get it, it's free.

RATING - 93%

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tuomas Holopainen - The Life and Times of Scrooge

Suck Tales! A-WOO-OO!

This can't be real...

No seriously, this is like, a Simpsons joke come to life, right?  This is shit you'd find in the Achewood Underground.  There exists, in this universe that you and I both occupy, an album, brought to you by the creepy dude from Nightwish who keeps whacking off to Disney movies and kicking pretty cougars out of his band when they won't blow him, an hour long symphonic album based off of motherfucking Scrooge McDuck.  Like... did the guyliner seep into Tuomas's bloodstream and poison him enough to make him completely shit-tits bonkers but not enough to mercifully kill him?  I mean, I just keep stuttering and using far too many commas and run on sentences here because my brain is just still struggling to process the colorful disaster in front of me and I just what.

But do you want to know what the worst part is?  The absolutely, indisputably, irreversably worst part about Music Inspired by the Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck; Written and Produced by This Really Fucking Unnecessarily Long Title?  This is going to sound crazy, but you know exactly the kind of over-the-top cornball nonsense you imagine when you hear that the MILF Hunter from Nightwish was making an album about the fucking grouchy old codger from Duck Tales?  Yeah, this album has none of that.  I mean come on, are you fucking serious?  With a premise so goddamn ridiculous as Scrooge McDuck and his epic adventures before Donald had to join the navy and leave those three shitty kids in the care of the neglectful dickhead and produce the defining ohrwurm of late 80s/early 90s children, this should be much more stupid.  I know, I can't believe BH is knocking an album for not being as dumb as he expected, but really, this album doesn't even have the balls to be as utterly fucknuts wrong as the premise leads you to believe.

Maybe I just had my mind so set on hating and berating this from the instant I heard about it that the fact that it's actually decent is just pissing me off and my brain is just twisting logic to fit my prejudice?  I wouldn't say so, considering it's bad in just an entirely different way.  Yeah, I fully expected this to be an overly bombastic chili con queso, but instead it's just a goddamn snoozefest.  This is essentially the sound of Nightwish with all of the traditional rock elements removed.  You expected this to sound like the poppy shipwreck of post-Wishmaster stuff?  Not today, homeboy.  You get none of those stupid singalong moments, nor any of the kitchen-sink ballyhoo that you'd expect when Tuomas would get full control of a project.  No, this is just relaxed, symphonic lullaby music through and through.  It's lame as fuck because the mood just never changes.  "Glasgow 1877" starts off with a dreamy, sweeping epicism that brings visions of a magic carpet ride over Agrabah, and then for the next hour you're treated to that exact same theme.  It's just so goddamn dull, who the hell thought an orchestral album with absolutely no progression would be a worthwhile endeavor?  It's why metal songs need bridges, hooks, solos, fucking anything to keep it from sticking to one riff throughout the entire album, otherwise you'll end up with Six Feet Under.

And yeah, pointing out specific tracks for anything is kinda pointless since this whole thing is just one uninteresting blur of calm strings and pleasant piano.  I'm not gonna knock this for not being particularly daring or adventurous in of itself (I mean you should have know that Tuomas wasn't going to break any barriers here), but when the theme, as retarded as it is, is based on the adventures of a specific character, I shouldn't feel like I'm taking a dull sightseeing tour instead of embarking on journeys to ancient lands with the guy.  I guess it's nice lullaby music, but the whole experience is so static and bland that it just ends up being a waste of time to listen to.

On one hand, I know I'm probably being unfair for expecting this album to be something it isn't, and Tuomas clearly put his heart into this, but on the other hand it's just so fucking aggravating and uneventful that I still feel justified in hating it.  Nothing ever seems to move anywhere, each track begins and ends on the same note and everything in between is completely inconsequential.  This is an album full of nothing, just bursting at the seams with dead air.  Nothing on it sounds bad, all the instruments sound just fine and are arranged in ways that aren't confusing or anything, the female vocals are gorgeous and soothing and the male vocals are... well kinda shitty, but that's really the only technical aspect I can say sucks.  Everything else is just... there.  It's ten ballads in a row with no sense of adventure or loss or excitement or sorrow or anything.  It's a completely emotionless hollow of nothing.  And believe me, even if you hate Nightwish, at least something happens with that band.  It might be terrible, but it elicits some sort of emotional response out of you.  I can't see anybody even vehemently hating this, and the only reason it's getting a really low score has more to do with the absence of anything good as opposed to the abundance of anything bad.

There's no real ending to this review.  I could say it's symbolic because there's no real end to the album, since it just kinda putters out as weakly as it starts, but really I can just chalk this one up to laziness and a lack of anything worthwhile to say.  I wrote this purely because I thought my title was funny, fuck you.

RATING - 15%

Saturday, April 5, 2014

An Evening with The Bastard: Jon Macak (ex-Diamond Plate)

Longtime readers of mine know that I shifted from a throne atop the mighty penis of Chicagoan thrashers, Diamond Plate, to a spot in the gutter, silently cursing them as they flew away.  What that basically means is that I was a gigantic fucking fan of the band before they just suddenly started to get worse and worse, with Generation Why? being a huge disappointment to me, and Pulse being so brain numbingly dull/stupid that I've only been able to listen through two or three times.  The apex of my frustration with the band was likely reached when founding member, Jon Macak, was suddenly and mysteriously replaced with the unknown Matt Ares, another young guy with a much worse voice and completely bland delivery.  Recently, it dawned on me that Macak likely didn't hightail it to Istanbul after his time in Diamond Plate finished, so I took it upon myself to track him down.  After a few years, he finally relented and agreed to sit down with me for a spell on the condition that I stop throwing rocks at his car.  What follows is the surprisingly unsexy encounter.

I used the old logo because fuck you that's why

BastardHead: Well I suppose the logical place to start would be: the metal fandom hasn't heard much from you since 2012. What have you been doing since your departure from Diamond Plate? Any new projects on the horizon we can look forward to?

Jon Macak: Well mostly I've been keeping my ear to the ground waiting for the right opportunity to present itself while continuing to get better at what I do. I did not want to jump into anything unless I knew it was worthwhile and unfortunately that took about a year and a half. So I do have something coming up but as of now that information is classified!

BH: You tease! Can you at least throw us a bone in the sense like... is it gonna be along the lines of what we know you for or is it gonna be a different direction than thrash? Or is the answer still "shut up and wait", haha.

JM: Well its a little early to pin it down into any subgenres, but it's heavy and I enjoy what's been done so far. I think that's about as far as I'll go, so shut up and wait! 

BH: I'm a patient man, thankfully. I suppose I should just get the elephant in the room out of the way early. Your departure from Diamond Plate really caught a lot of fans off guard, including myself. Was that a decision that you kind of knew was coming down the pipeline, or was it as much of a shock to you as it was to us? 

JM: Well I certainly do my best to avoid drama, but to me there's nothing wrong with being honest. It was the biggest shock of my life. I pride myself on being very self aware and mindful of what is happening around me and I had absolutely no idea that it was coming.

BH: Any particular reason as to why? The press release had a vague mention of "musical differences", so would it be safe to assume that since Pulse wound up being much more experimental and proggy that the other guys were pushing for that direction and you were aiming to keep it more straightforward and heavy?  

JM: That would be the most obvious thing that you could draw from such a broad statement. In reality I would say "musical differences" is pretty far off from what the problem actually was. I won't get too far into the details but if I had to summarize everything I would chalk it up to a disrespectful lack of communication and understanding on their end in combination with me being a bit too trusting and na├»ve. 

BH: I can feel ya there, it's never good to have that surprise launched on you. Well working backwards from there, I personally didn't like Generation Why? NEARLY as much as the preceding demo and EP. I felt like the youthful exuberance was traded in for a more calculated precision, and I felt like the music suffered for it. Now obviously you guys were all very proud of the record at the time, but now that a few years have gone by, is there anything you would have changed about the process or the end result if you could do it all again? Or do you still think it holds up to the vision you guys had at the time? 

JM: We worked extremely hard on it, and to me it was our best effort up to that time. Obviously there's no debating it because you (and others) undeniably got things from the EPs that you did not get from the full length. Looking back on it, however, It doesn't excite me the way it did when we were working on it. We absolutely put our all into it and did our best, but the songwriting for the most part just wasn't anything exceptional. Personally I was ok with that because I felt like that was the best we could do while being so young and inexperienced and that the knack for songwriting would be the next step in the progression of the band. In hindsight I always thought, "ok, the first album had some moments but the next one is really going to be on another level". 

And there's another aspect that makes writing music such a delicate process. A lot of people loved the EPs, and they will always have some charm in my opinion, but we were hell bent on what we considered "getting better" but some of the fans didn't perceive it the same way.

BH: I thought you guys already had quite a knack for songwriting myself. "Relativity" is a beast of a track. Was there any one member who was sort of "the leader" when it came to the songwriting process? Or were most of the songs written by committee? Simply jamming on some riffs and letting the songs go naturally or were they planned out ahead of time?

JM: We were always together when we wrote, everyone was free to make suggestions. Based on our history and personalities I usually conceded to Jim and Konrad for quite a few reasons. There were times when we were young that I tried to be more proactive in the creative process and did not get the type of warm responses that I'd hoped for. I think that caused me to be a bit more self conscious and tentative with presenting my ideas. And on top of that it seemed to me that the other guys cared more about being in control than I did so I was comfortable with the fact that my best role would be to let them do most of the talking and contribute with little tweaks here and there when I knew that I had a really good idea. That was with the instrumental side of things, lyrics were a more independent process. I wrote a good amount of them, Konrad wrote a good amount, and Jim wrote some too.   

BH: So I personally first saw you guys open for Destruction in Mokena back five years ago, and your stage presence and energy just blew me away. After that I caught every show I could, and as such I watched you guys grow and mature and move on to bigger shows and stages. Since you have experience with doing a real North American tour, would you say that was more exciting for you than trying to prove yourselves against legends like Overkill and Sanctuary? Or was it more fun for you guys to be the underdog with the hometown crowd on your side? And furthermore, were you guys as warmly received across the country when you traveled? 

JM: That to me is what was always the key to our potential. Even though the songs were never on the same level as some of the bands we toured with, our performance always seemed to get through to people. Whether people like the songs or not they can get into a band that they know is playing their asses off onstage. So my idea was that if we could just get the songs where we wanted them to be that there would be no stopping us because people always seemed to get into our live show. Pretty much every crowd we played for around the world responded positively to our live performances, we always wanted to be the best band on the bill. 

BH: One thing I'm always interested in is an artist's FAVORITE albums/bands/whatnot, as opposed to just their influences. Like, anybody with ears can hear the Megadeth and Overkill and whatnot in the music, but if you've got a quiet night and you're gonna plop down in your comfy chair and light up a cigar, what albums are you reaching for? 

JM: Well being brought up in such a die hard metal scene as Chicago's, heaviness was king growing up. As I've gotten older I've learned to appreciate the bands that were true to themselves but are so immensely talented that they managed to become huge still. It's a very delicate balancing act between trying to make music that will attract as many fans as possible while still writing music that you love to play. A few off the top of my head that might surprise you: Audioslave, Sublime, Alice in Chains, System of a Down, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Avenged Sevenfold. 

BH: Man I grew up on Sublime and still spin that self titled on occasion, no shame!

JM: It's golden.

BH: I've kind of re-gotten into Alice in Chains as well. Black Gives Way to Blue is much, much better than it logically should be.  

JM: That's absolutely true. It was a very pleasant surprise for me.

BH: Haha, well I know I just mentioned that influences are boring to talk about, but I think there's a bit of a difference when it comes to the initial spark. Was there any one record or bassist that kind of delivered a "eureka" moment to you and made you decided that this was what you wanted to do?

JM: Cliff Burton was the first one, and I'm sure that goes for just about any metal musician. After that I got really into Dream Theater so John Myung would be up there as well. But as far as a guy that opened my eyes at just the right time to help me become a better player, I'd say Billy Sheehan. I discovered him at the most perfect stage of my playing and his lessons that I found online gave a me a lot to practice at a time when I was in need of new things to learn.

BH: Cliff was my first one as well, so you got that right, haha. Well that's about all I got for today. Thanks a ton for playing along, any parting words?

JM: Anytime dude, I appreciate that you reached out to me about this. I've been in exile for about two years and it feels good to talk about music again. And for anyone else reading, especially musicians, keep it real. Don't let the music industry turn you into a politician.

Interesting shit there!  I've been speculating internally about what the whole deal with Jon's sudden departure was, and it was definitely great to hear his side of the story for a change.  Since leaving the band, Jon's definitely been quiet, so I'm very pleased with the fact that he was willing to sit down with a professional dick-joke-maker like myself and shed some light on his time with a band that was poised to become kings of the world, but somehow derailed with alarming speed around the time he was replaced.  Massive, MASSIVE thanks to Jon for playing along and answering some stupid questions for me and for y'all.  He genuinely would not let a single detail slip about any upcoming projects other than the fact that there was one, so I'm just as in the dark and excited as the rest of you are.  In the meantime, here's a throwback to when they were all a bunch of adorable little children with no real idea what a vagina looked like:

PS: I saw Diamond Plate open for Vektor and Exmortus three days before Christmas in 2009 at the Beat Kitchen in Chicago.  Before the show, I met Jon outside and attempted to make some small talk.  I asked "Hey, how old were you again?", to which he responded "How old was I?  Well I was four".  My friends still make fun of me for that. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Hades Archer - Penis Metal


There are some things in this world that deserve the utmost praise; the things that naturally gifted people can accomplish with enough hard work (like landing on the moon with less computing power than a TI-83 calculator), little marks of genius that only the insane would stumble upon (like finding out that if you sniff the gas right before whipped cream comes out, you'll get high for five seconds), and what the bottomfeeding scum of the universe dream up in a flash of fluke brilliance (like whoever invented r/tittydrop). Sometimes, all three will morass into one grody, sticky glob of god-knows-what, like whatever stoned Chilean savant wandered into band practice one day and said "Guys, we absolutely must name our next release Penis Metal." And with that, Hades Archer blundered into what is hands down the greatest release title of all time.

And does the music inside hold up? Ehh, kinda. All Hades Archer truly is is competent. No individual aspects of the band stand out, the songwriting is pretty generic (if energetic), and the vocals are of the more lazy croaking style of black metal, of which I'm not a fan. I can give props for the EP being so cohesive, with the entire thing melding together as one solid fifteen minute explosion of blasphemy and noise, but beyond the heinous cacophony there isn't much I can really hold high as exemplary. The riffing is certainly not flaccid, but it isn't particularly rigid either. The percussion pounds away in that constant battery of one dimensional blast beats that anybody who has heard South American black metal before is surely quite used to. I do like the hypnotic throbbing in "Gloria Rex Infernus", but it's one of the few moments where Penis Metal isn't just shooting ahead at full speed. It works as a nice, very brief reprieve in betwixt all the harsh walls of noise. The title track also stands out for one of the only acceptable one-phrase choruses in the history of metal. Man if you can't rock out to PE-NEES ME-TAL PE-PEES ME-TAL, then I don't ever want to be your friend.

Otherwise it's nothing special apart from the obvious aesthetic genius. Typical bestial black metal with almost zero outside influences (you aren't going to find any thrashy riffs here), but I do admit that it's pretty charming in its enthusiasm. It's fifteen solid minutes of Chilean black metal and there isn't much else to say about it apart from the stunningly brilliant title and art. It's just a lot of fun to rock out with your cock out all willy nilly. Dick cock wiener schlong schwanzstuckers tallywhacker KNOBEND MEMBER STAFF WILLY BOABY PEEN DINGALING KNEESLAPPER TURTLENECK TODGER TROUSERSNAKE.




Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Slipknot - Iowa

The most important avant-garde death metal album ever

You're gonna think I'm crazy, but hear me out when I say this: Slipknot's second album, Iowa, is a fucking masterpiece of avant-garde death metal.  We metal fans, as a fandom, owe the existence of bands like Portal, Ulcerate, Deathspell Omega, and pretty much any band who has decided to buck convention and take a path of twisted morbidity over the beaten path over the past decade or so to Slipknot.  Everything music was, Slipknot wasn't.  They dared to take the harsh tones of Morbid Angel and the groove of Bolt Thrower, blended with the harsh groove of Jungle Rot, slather it with a prominent and important aesthetic (not unlike so many pioneers of black metal like Mayhem and Dartkthrone), an outlook of sheer nihilism and a creative use of percussion, and just put it all together with a craftmanship yet unseen.

I mean really, think about it.  This gets pegged as yet another casualty of nu metal all the time, but how many nu metal bands sounded even remotely like Slipknot?  Even on their first album, the Stainds and Mudvaynes and Linkin Parks and Alien Ant Farms and Papa Roachs and yadda yakkity yoo of the world were sonically worlds apart from the ground Slipknot was treading.  They were heavier than anybody in the mainstream at the time, and they used that visibility to push the envelope straight over the edge of the cliff.  I mean really, how many platinum selling, grammy winning albums can you name that start off with a cacophony of blast beats and incomprehensible screaming like the beginning of "People = Shit"?  Everything about this just screams "We will not conform, we will not be consonant or pleasurable.  We are here to sonically decimate your eardrums and you will all buy it and enjoy it like good little maggots".  This is abrasive and confrontational to the point of utter genius, while at the same time retaining a powerful groove that entrenches every last note into your memory, burrowing into your consciousness like a cerebral bore, fragmenting everything you thought you understood about music into a morass of negativity and hatred.

All nine members of the band are fully utilized, with there being creative and well-placed turntable scratches and samples all over the place in tandem with the creative rhythm section.  The drum production is over the top and nothing short of genius.  The snare has a really sharp *pop* to it and it just stands as a metaphorical razor piercing the band's musical skin as often as possible, much like the mentality the band was surely going through at the time. Tensions between members were very high at the time, and it shows in how dark, abrasive, and nihilistic the entire ordeal is.  Listen to something like "Disasterpiece" or "Heretic Anthem" and try to tell me that that isn't pure, genuine hatred spewing out of Corey Taylor's mouth like a bile hydrant.  So much of the album's runtime is spent barreling through droves of nihilistic fervor, beating down every living being in your way, slitting throats and fucking wounds.  Not only is this far, far too antagonistic for logical mainstream radio play (even in 2001, arguably the height of nu metal's popularity), but it's just simply too heavy, too out there, and too bleak to be called anything other than "avant-garde death metal".  And I'm sticking to that claim.  Not only is Iowa precisely that, but it's also the best album the genre has ever seen.

I mean really, what other metal band at the time could so brazenly pummel listeners with clearly Sandoval-inspired drumming while at the same time maintaining scalpel-sharp hooks and then throwing in the occasional knee buckling curveball like "Gently", "Skin Ticket", and "Iowa".  Those three songs lend the most credence to my claim of avant-garde death metal.  Would a band that was allegedly so mainstream and kid-friendly really throw in not one, not two, but a whopping three extended, atmospheric tracks that focus on an oppressive, suffocating aura like that?  Those tracks, most especially the title track, are some of the least accessible things I've ever heard.  Rumor has it that while recording the vocals for that track, Corey was curled up on the floor of the studio, naked, cutting and vomiting on himself in order to get the proper amount of anguish for his part.  Really, that's fucking dedication, and the result is more than worth it.  You know how much I adore In Somniphobia by Sigh for being such a brilliant representation of insanity during a man's last moments?  "Iowa" is exactly that, but eleven years earlier.  I can't praise it enough, it's the band tearing down the walls of convention and taking a big smelly shit on people's expectations.  How can fans of metal, fans of spectacle, fans of anything not adore this?

I can point to any song to make my point.  Iowa has a little bit of everything. Catchy hooks in "Left Behind", blistering extremity in "People = Shit", powerful grooves in "New Abortion", skull squeezing heaviness and heart melting insanity in "Iowa".  Just... everything they do strikes bullseye, and Celtic Frost's resurgence owes everything to this album.  Take the best parts of War Master, Altars of Madness, Music for a Slaughtering Tribe, and pretty much everything else that fucked a boundary with an iron spike, and you'll end up with this, the album responsible for Monotheist, Hangman's Hymn, In a Flesh Aquarium, Eparistera Daimones, Miss Machine, and countless others.  It's hard to go on at length about why the popular opinion on this album and band within the metal scene is so unbelievably fucknuts wrong, so all I can really do is hope you take my word for it.  Listen again, listen for the subtleties, the variety, the bravery, hooks, aggression, nihilism, everything.  Throw your preconceived notions out the window and let Iowa sweep you away into the land of one of the most influential death metal albums of all time.

I'm not joking, don't be a fool.

RATING: 100%