The Saturday Metal Review

RUSH

Counterparts

Anthem Entertainment

Released Oct 19, 1993

Written by Tim Duran

When someone asks you to name your favorite Rush album, most of us will say Moving Pictures or Signals. If you’re old school, you might even say 2112 or Caress of Steel. Those records are incredible and have no match, but in my years of listening, one record stands out above these. The record that has been swept under the rug by some is Counterparts. Bet you just slapped your forehead and thought, yeah, I’ve heard of that, but have you listened? Have you immersed yourself in one of the grungiest records the trio from Toronto has ever offered?  Humor me as I spin my take on this masterfully written record.

“Animate” is the song that kicks you square in gut from the time you hit play. The song explores the human soul. Whether we believe in mysticism or God, we all have pieces of us we need to keep in check.  All these fragments walk hand in hand with each other and together help us control our emotions.

“Stick It Out” is kind of part two to “Red Lenses” off the Grace under Pressure record.  “Red Lenses” is about how all the crap in world that is unfixable and out of our control makes us angry and feel helpless.  “Stick it Out” comes along and says that it’s alright to be angry and it’s OK to express frustration, but to do it constructively and not explode. The song encourages you to push forward and not be a coward.

“Cut to the Chase” is a type of an anthem encouraging us to be an unstoppable, self contained, well oiled machine. There are choices to make and mountains to conquer, and yes, we’re only one voice and we don’t know if we can make a difference, but you never know unless you try. These three opening numbers are some of the darkest toned songs; I’m used to their hard progressive sound, but these are just angry!

Calming things down, “Nobody’s Hero” is mellow and especially deep as it touches on a subject that Neil Peart has never written about. It involves two people very close to him who met untimely deaths from two different, but deadly, diseases. The first verse is about an openly gay male friend that he knew and hung out with, and eventually died after a long battle with AIDS. The second story is about a female who Neil did not know, but he knew her family.  The verse shares how he watched the sickness shatter the lives of the family.  The chorus tells us that a hero is not always glamorous and proud. A hero is the one who fights the battles when life gets tough.

The lyrics in “Between Sun and Moon” tell about the feeling of being content during those times of silence that are few and far between. Although this is one song that I still can’t grasp the real meaning of, the flow is perfect and it’s punchy as all get out!

“Alien Shore” brings home the fact that there are very few that discard the narrow attitudes of those that are chauvinistic and racist. This song has more the tone from Signals or Permanent Waves that most are used to hearing. It still has a dark atmosphere, but that follows the concept of this record.

“The Speed of Love” has a happy, hard rock beat and feel to it. It takes you on the roller coaster ride of a day in the life of a relationship. Neil rarely writes love songs, but when he does, they move and spin you ‘round dancing with the vibe of the music.

“Double Agent” is one hell of a chase. Running from shadows and phantoms, it’s a vision of the spiritual battle we all face within ourselves. It’s always our choice between what voice to hear or ignore, and which path to take.

“Leave that thing Alone” is a superb instrumental that when you lay back and listen, you can hear voices sing the lyrics – at least that’s what I feel. The funky bass lays down the foundation, the drums carry the rhythm, and the guitars revolve around everything else.

“Cold Fire” kicks things back into high gear with an almost punk attitude. It’s the story of a man in love with a woman who tells him she’ll be around as long as he doesn’t demand too much, or push her limits too far.  “This isn’t fantasyland,” she says as she walks out the door.

The anthem to end all anthems ends this epic travel through the inmost part of man. “Everyday Glory” reminds us that there is a bright side to every dark time and after each failure, each put down – no matter what people say – rise from the ashes into a blaze of everyday glory. This song helped me through the death of a good friend of mine. Drowning in Kamikazes, whiskey and depression, it was this song that pulled me out of a dark pit. The cut of his death is still fresh after over 20 years of his passing, but I play this and everything is alright.

 

The Saturday Metal Review

Exodus

Shovel Headed Kill Machine

Nuclear Blast Records

Released Oct 4th 2005

After releasing Tempo of the Damned in 2004, it was assumed the reformed Exodus line-up would stay together and record again; unfortunately that didn’t come to pass. In fact, Souza, Hunting and Hunolt left the band, leaving Holt and Gibson as the remaining two members. All seemed lost, until Gary Holt approached the band’s guitar tech Rob Dukes to fill the vacant vocal spot left by Zetro. Before you know it former Heathen guitarist Lee Altus and former Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph were quickly recruited into the fold as well. Suddenly Exodus was a full band again and in the fall of 2005 they unleashed Shovel Headed Kill Machine upon the world. No one expected this album to sound so vital; brimming with raw energy and power. Everything seemed to click with this line-up and surprisingly, Exodus was chomping at the bit to take back their coveted spot among the thrash band elite.

Many critics felt this album was more consistent than Tempo of the Damned, despite the wall of sound coming across as almost one dimensional at times. But there is no mistaking that take-no-prisoners attitude and that nasty spirit to back up the riffage when it counts the most. I think it is safe to say this release was the most punishing album of the band’s discography and arguably the most riveting set of thrashers recorded in the studio.

Best tracks on this release: “Deathamphetamine”, “Shudder to Think”, “Altered Boy”, “Going Going Gone” and “Shovel Headed Kill Machine”.

I am giving Shovel Headed Kill Machine a solid 7 out of 10

 

More on Caesar & Otto

P.J. Griffin is back with more insight on the Caesar & Otto series

It’s so ingrained in our psyche, but if you think about it, it’s weird that peanut butter goes so well with jelly… or chocolate, or marshmallow fluff. Goddamn, peanut butter goes well with a lot of things.  The point is, you wouldn’t think that certain things would mix together well, but sometimes they do.  The same goes for the horror genre.  Many would think that blood, guts and terror would only be mixable with certain emotions and concepts, but instead it blends well with all sorts of styles and situations.  One of the most famous examples is how well horror meshes with comedy.

Comedy and horror both tap into our most basic emotions.  Not just fear, but the desire for carnage and humor both play into our baseline drive for excitement.  We don’t go to haunted houses and the like to legitimately go home crying in fear.  Another example would be how vomiting in terror because we genuinely felt like we were going to die isn’t really the aim of roller coasters.  Often times patrons find themselves laughing and exhibiting the same reactions they would with lighter entertainment.  Comedy/horror has been evolving and making its mark for a while now, but just recently has it become commonplace in the mainstream consciousness to the degree that it has today.  One of the more recent examples of the comedy/horror world that I have become a fan of is Dave Campfield’s Caesar & Otto series.  With the newest film Caesar & Otto’s Paranormal Halloween having just been released fairly recently, I figured I might as well take a look at what makes them so good within the sub-genre of comedy/horror.

I’ve talked about the Caesar and Otto series before, as I really think these films are prime examples of comedy/horror done correctly.  A huge number of my favorite films are of the comedy/horror variety.  I fell in love with Peter Jackson’s early work as well as the comedy/horror films Troma studios released, and thus began my lifelong obsession with the genre. The Caesar & Otto series are part of this fine tradition and make their mark in shining form.  For those who haven’t seen any of the entries or read any of my previous pieces on the subject, the films follow brothers Caesar (Dave Campfield) and Otto (Paul Chomicki) as they battle all sorts of different horror concepts.  The series has gone into such popular territories as summer camp, the holiday season, and tackles the slasher genre in quite a unique way.  They even have a cluster of shorts going after the “monster attack” subgenre, unleashing a monster known as Piggyzilla.

Sharing a father, played to absolute perfection by Scott Aguilar the brothers often find their dear old dad in the mix as well as a sinister character of changing names and consistent evil played by Ken MacFarlane.  The series has the odd ability to tap into the classic dynamic set up by Abbot & Costello or Laurel & Hardy while simultaneously feeling fresh and new.  I wasn’t in the best place when I first came across Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas. The the fun nature and style of the film really helped me get through some of the less-than-stellar emotions I was dealing with at the time.  The series itself really made me examine what fills the spaces in our brains between laughing and being afraid.

Caesar and Otto encounter murder and mayhem at every turn; with bodies piling up all around them, there’s still a way to work in clever wordplay and hilarious character interaction.  I had the good fortune of crossing from fan to player when creator and star, Dave Campfield, was kind enough to let me visit the set of Caesar & Otto’s Paranormal Halloween; he even gave me a cameo!  As a fan, this new project which was recently unleashed on the world, was a treat enough in its existence alone, but having the opportunity to be involved was a true honor.  The atmosphere was just as I was hoping it would be.  Everyone took what they were doing seriously in terms of commitment and professionalism, but the underlying tone was one of playful energy and joyous spirit.  Even more so, my interest in the subject of comedy-horror intensified, and I don’t think it’s something that we’ve analyzed nearly enough.  The two colliding tones are so natural together we all just kind of go with it, which is fine, but I wanna examine the roots.

Even though it’s the most natural concept in the world and at times can be a blessing, death is one of the scariest realities of which our species is all too aware.  There are plenty of people who claim they’re not at all scared of death and I’m not here to call anyone a liar, but the vast majority of us get anxious about the universe’s greatest mystery.  My personality is such that I get worked up wondering what a normal day has in store, so the idea of immortality is overwhelming and terrifying.  But movies are among the best distractions there are, so it’s logical that they would try to deal with the subject head on.  Some works dealing with the subject of death and violence are utterly tragic and deadly (get it?) serious.  But others seek to take the edge off the big sleep and its surrounding factors.  They turn our greatest fears into something less paralyzing, almost as if saying, “I’ll work with you death, but maybe let some hi-jinks come into play.” That’s largely what comedy-horror films do, they present us with our greatest fears and laugh their asses off.  And soon, that’s what we’re doing as well; it’s an exposure that takes on the big fatal fear.

Caesar & Otto’s Paranormal Halloween follows the series’ traditions to lampoon famous horror situations, entering into the popular territory of Paranormal Activity and haunting-based movies.  It puts its own spin on the concept and has quite a few surprising twists and turns, but still stamps its brand of humor on one of the most primal fears: what goes bump in the night.  I especially appreciated this as my personality isn’t the way that most would view a horror fanatic.  My love of blood and guts, torture and blood is in direct contrast with my natural fear of my own shadow.  In the world of movies I can handle whatever is thrown at me.  In the real world, so much as the idea of upsetting someone sends me into the realm of terror; movies allow me to push myself and experience horror with a big ‘ol smile on my face. Horror has saved me and fills me with the same joy that comedy provides for others, so it makes perfect sense that the two genres would mix, forming something truly amazing.

The obvious comparison in regards to C+O would be when Abbott and Costello met Dracula and Frankenstein.  In fact, the series even has shorts between the features including one hilarious entry entitled Caesar & Otto Meet Dracula’s Lawyer.  However, the series takes it even further, updating the concept into the modern age where new horror scenarios reign supreme and the films seek to insert themselves and hold a comedic edge up to all sorts of different styles.  To me, horror couldn’t be any more fun than incorporating different elements of the horror world, while throwing in as many B-movie favorites as possible along with interactive features such as the “As Caesar & Otto Anything” series on Youtube.

I may be a worrier by nature, but I understand that the world of fantasy has such merit in helping us all get through those stressful, anxiety fueled times in our lives.  By tackling serious subjects such as death, murder, and violence and laughing at it, we let ourselves become stronger.  These types of films provide a service to those who are interested in such things, and although I can only speak for myself, that is a great thing.  I appreciate each and every filmmaker that sets out to make us laugh at the dangerous and horrific.  In the case of Caesar & Otto, there’s a lot of talent involved in making this notion of scary and funny becoming friends a reality.

It’s great to see a horror themed series have so much fun with itself.  Filling the screen with cult legends such as Felissa Rose, Brinke Stevens, Linnea Quigley, Debbie Rochon, as well as many others including Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman himself, it’s all a real treat for the eyes.  Even musicians like Deron Miller get involved with fantastic result as well as new faces to the series, but not to the screen such as Tiffany Shepis, Vernon Wells, Beverley Randolph and Sean Whalen.

With that in mind, thank you to all those involved; to everyone who helps make the darkness our friend as oppose to foe. Comedy-horror will always have a special place in my heart, as I feel a kinship with the concept of the macabre and humorous, and I think we could all use a little bit more of it.

CA Halloween

 

 

The Saturday Metal Review

Manmade God

Manmade God

American Recordings

Released in 2003

This week’s metal review was picked for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s a great story about a band’s rise in the ranks practically overnight; secondly the group’s guitarist is Forbidden’s Craig Locicero. So to start out, Forbidden went on hiatus during the late 90’s, allowing Locicero and drummer Steve Jacobs a chance to try their hand at something new. I don’t think most expected a stylistic change from the classic Bay area thrash sound at this point, but after answering an ad from singer Pann – the group was quickly forming into a new force of hard rock goodness. Surprisingly, the new sound consisted of a direction and emotion alerting the attention of Rick Rubin, which promoted a private showcasing at American Recordings. The rest is history as the debut album contained 11 tracks of thunderous flourishes, often being compared to bands like Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots. Their hit single “Safe Passage” reached No. 36 on the Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Charts, but the reactions from music critics were mixed.

Unfortunately, the number one consensus was their sound didn’t boast anything new, despite some fluid musical interplay and coupled with the soulful, gritty vocals of Pann. The band ultimately disbanded a few years later due to lack of exposure, but for a brief stint they made some incredible music as far as I am concerned.

Favorite tracks: “Safe Passage”, “Search For Greater Things”, “Meet My Maker” and “Million Dollar Gun”. I’m giving this an 8 out 10.

 

 

 

Saturday Metal Review

WASP

Helldorado

CMC International Records

Released May 18, 1999

Frontman Blackie Lawless decided to return to his roots with this release, getting back to those (classic) vocal hooks, and catchy 80’s inspired heavy metal. The production was a bit rough during the demo stage, but with the label’s involvement – the studio spawned a cleaner production and truly harmonized vocals for this one. Joining Blackie in the studio was long time guitarist Chris Holmes, Mike Duda (current bassist) and Stet Howland (Temple of Brutality) on drums. The majority of the songs clearly steers the band’s direction towards a nostalgic trip down memory lane, often relying on offensive lyrics in tracks like “Don’t Cry (Just Suck)” and “Dirty Balls” to fuel the fire for the album’s output.

The album also goes for the jugular on tracks like “Helldordo” and “Can’t Die Tonight”, but digs deep into that nihilistic vein for “Damnation Angels”. I think ardent fans of the band were expecting a solid return to the glory days, but ultimately the experiment here was a mixed bag; especially when you take in account Blackie’s more simplistic approach to the songwriting – akin to say something like AC DC inspired rock.

Favorite Tracks: “High on Flames” and “Hot Rods To Hell”.

I’m giving this a solid 7 out of 10.