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Thursday December 22, 2005

My friend and heavy metal co-conspirator Jim Raggi has posted the full text of his rambling manifesto, Scum at this location. While I don't agree with all of what Jim says, I do appreciate his efforts to stimulate a real dialogue on the artistic and cultural merits of the music that he and I (and many of you, I assume) love so much. I've been working on a full rebuttal of Scum, and I'll probably post it when I finally get around to launching Feast or Famine online, but in the meantime, give the original a read. It will take a while, but if you lay claim to a heavy metal passion, you can only benefit from reading it.

Posted by Matt at 01:56 PM

Various children

Monday December 12, 2005

Ever see an opening band and think, "I really wish they had the opportunity to headline!" Well, be careful what you wish for. I'd seen Children of Bodom at least four times, but they were always the opener, and not even the direct support most of the time. All of those tours were in support of the band's last album, the very enjoyable Hate Crew Deathroll, and they played those songs TO DEATH. Every set was the same, and I will admit that that was fairly lame, but they played with such an immense energy that I couldn't help but love them every time. This is a band that I hate to love. Lead guitarist/vocalist Alexi Laiho is clearly a coked out asswipe, but the guy can play, and his songs are catchy as hell despite themselves. When they release a new album anymore, I listen to it ready to hate it, and yet that never happens. They're just too fun. So, I was pretty excited (while nonetheless trepidacious) about their headlining show on Friday. Here was that headlining set I'd always wanted - how would the Children conduct themselves?

Pretty badly, as it turns out. Sure, the first 45 minutes were a frenzied good time, like the short sets of old but with more variety in the songs. Then, the drum solo. Why a fucking drum solo? This guy is fine, but he's no drum-king, and even the best drummers are usually unequipped to play a meaningful drum solo. It ended, as all drum solos eventually do, but it wasn't long before the episode was repeated in a keyboard and guitar solo extravaganza. Jesus fucking christ! I guess all the Hot Topic youth in the crowd had never seen Yngwie Malmsteen or Dream Theater, but to me, this sort of instrumental exposition is beyond stale and a complete waste of time. After those five or ten minutes of utterly meaningly noodling, the set lost all its fire. The band came back, of course, and more songs were played, but the energy was gone and my attention was lost. I couldn't get out of the Troc fast enough. The lesson I learned is that some bands, no matter how good, are best enjoyed in moderation. Children of Bodom might be popular enough to sell out the Troc, but they don't have the creative stamina to close the deal the way they should.

The other children I saw were at the movie theater, in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. There were kids on screen and kids in the theater, which shocked me somewhat as it was nearly 10:00 by the time the film started. While I thought it was a very good children's movie, most of the kids in my vicinity looked pretty bored and had a hard time concentrating on the film. But then, it was clearly well past their bedtimes. The movie is a very faithful interpretation of the book (at least as far as I can remember - I haven't read it for probably two decades. God, I feel old now.) The Christian allegory is not as obvious as I've built it up to be in my memory, and the plot, on closer inspection, is pretty damned scant, but the effects and pageantry are well done, and the child actors are surprisingly good. The Britishness of the kids probably masks some of their crappiness to American viewers, but I don't mind. If I was a parent with children in the 8-13 range, I would definitely consider this a great movie for them. For adults, it's quite good for reliving the nostalgia of a childhood favorite, but it's too thin and too light to be of much use beyond a momentary diversion.

Posted by Matt at 02:43 PM | Comments (7)

Hybrid Creations of Science

Monday December 5, 2005

Now that the Pharaoh album is done and my weekends are open, Saturday and Sunday feel like an almost endless oasis of free time. I had planned on seeing a concert on Friday night, but, as it turned out, that show was in fact scheduled for Saturday, so Nancy and I went to the movies instead and saw Aeon Flux. This movie is surprisingly good! The previews make it look like Charlie's Angels in the Future or something, and while I was not exactly a die-hard fan of the original cartoon, I always respected Peter Chung's animation and vision, and so I expected to leave the movie furious, as always, at Hollywood. But the movie was fine! Go figure! I was especially impressed with the costumes (and that's something I never thought I'd say in my life.) Whoever was in charge of the clothing did an exemplary job in translating the weird fashion of the cartoon to actual wearable clothing. The story was well crafted, the action was quick, and the special effects were subtle and effective. Who'd have thought?

On saturday, we went to see the aforementioned show, this time with Evan along for the evening. The band was Beatallica, a clever and amusing mash-up of Metallica and the Beatles. While their set was very entertaining, we made some tactical errors that somewhat dampened the fun of the evening. First, I made the rookie mistake of believing the show-time listed on the North Star's website. Second, I didn't adequately research the opening band, Omegalord. This is a band I've known to exist for quite a while, and I'm actually a little surprised that I never saw them before. I assumed (for some reason) that they were Sabbathy doom metal, but this is not exactly an accurate description of their sound. They're more like idiot ass-metal. I feel bad for this band. They're trying hard. They clearly rehearse a lot. They write songs, record albums, and play shows. But they still suck. Their songs are bland, their singer is boring, and their musicianship is nothing to speak of. While they plodded through their interminably long set, I tried to think of a single band that slogged it out for years and years in the underground before finally getting their shit together and turning into a good band on a good record label. I couldn't think of one. As it turns out, most good bands are usually good right away, or at least they show some promise. There's no good band that takes 8 years to find a label. Omegalord just don't have what it takes. They'll continue to labor in the underground, opening for cover bands, playing at dives in New Jersey that no self-respecting band would ever approach, and eventually the guys in the band will give up and Omegalord will simply cease being. I won't miss them.

As for Beatallica, they were even more fun than I was hoping, largely thanks to guitarist "Kirk Harrison." This guy was an insane ball of energy, and he always had a huge smile on his face, which never fails to impress me. I like it when the band on stage is having fun. If they're not having fun, how the hell could we in the audience possibly have fun? They played most of the songs I could remember from their couple of recordings (including such hits as "Hey Dude," "Sgt. Hetfield's Motorbreath Pub Band," and "Everybody's Got a Ticket to Ride Except for Me and My Lighting") and a few new songs, plus a silly and amusing bass solo. I especially liked that the bass player (Cliff McCartney, I assume) played one of those violin-shaped basses like Paul McCartney did. Funny! For a novelty act, their set was a little long - one hour would have sufficed, so we left before the encore, but overall I'm glad I saw them. It was a late night, and I had a bad case of concert-back when we left, but that's rock and roll, I suppose.

Posted by Matt at 10:22 AM | Comments (9)

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