Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review: The Sword- Warp Riders

The concept album, from The Who’s Tommy to Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime has always divided the hearts and ears of the fans and repelled the critics. Back in the days of yore, when you decided to cut class and stay home while delving into some happy smoke and the warmth of a new vinyl double album, you had sleeves full of lyrics and artwork as your guide. The listening was an event, a commitment to the story or concept of songs that were connected together, and always came to some sort of moral resolution, as the stylus slid towards the record’s center.

But who has time for that today? We are now born to divide and conquer our hopes and dreams through a myriad of multitasking by the minute. Could an album like that catch on in this era of ear buds, invisible files and songs that are plucked from the digital ether for a dollar apiece?

The Sword, Austin's own purveyors of the current metal revival, have brought us their answer with Warp Riders. A ferocious ten-track tale of an archer named Ereth, who has been banished from his planet. The planet Atheron, in the throes of a “tidal lock”, is divided. One side remains engulfed in eternal darkness while the other is burned by the forever-ness of constant daylight.

Conceived by guitarist/singer JD Cronise, the album’s narrative is pleasantly pummeled into place by the lethal thud and throttle that Sword fans have come to know and worship.
Songs like “Arrows in the Dark” pack a mighty wallop, with Cronise and fellow guitarist Kyle Shutt slinging sturdy riffs back and forth as a fiercely savage soundtrack to this ethereal science friction. One can almost picture Ereth reaching back for his quill with aplomb while under attack on the dark side of his troubled world as blurry fingers blaze guitar necks from the horizon.

The hero’s journey continues in songs like "The Chronomancer", where his task to restore balance to Atheron takes shape in a savage and bestial showdown. During the title track he surges on a wave of purged thunder and crushing percussion doled out with power and precision by drummer Trivett Wingo. The fantasy seems unrelenting at times, but with massive production by Matt Bayles (Isis, Mastodon) the band’s sound and range have expanded effortlessly to enhance the heavy theme. The Sword is bigger and better for it.

And heavy it is. The narrative comes full circle with the caustically epic "(The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire". Battle lines are felt colliding amidst a wrath and perseverance of sculpted riffs, with the hearty bottom of Bryan Ritchie’s bass propelling through the rhythm like a blunted fist in the night.

The story melds quite perfectly with the sound, with additional help from the clarity and oomph of Cronise’s vocal work. His voice soars with a sense of purpose and cries out with vision via a hero’s quest convincingly here and he’s never sounded better.

And what of the lack of a pull- out double vinyl sleeve to critique the art and follow lyrically along with? You won’t miss it. Warp Riders moves the fantasy along with its enthralling track list and exquisitely metal maelstrom within the song/story parallels. Close your eyes, throw on some headphones and your heaviest gauge chainmail. As you turn the volume up to eleven, somewhere behind your eyes and between your ears you’ll be dashing towards the thrash of the front line as the arc of arrows lights the sky.

Article first published as Music Review: The Sword - Warp Riders on Blogcritics.

Warp Riders will be released on Aug. 24 on Kemado Records .

Tres Brujas is the only song you can hear right now, unless you're privileged like myself. Here it is.... quality is so so.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rik Ocasek Might Leave The House

See larger image
  I've never heard of but they posted this today:  Rock supergroup The Cars are teasing fans about a possible reunion by posting a photo of the bandmates working together in the studio on their Facebook fan page. The "My Best Friend's Girl" hitmakers split 22 years ago, three years after enjoying a massive global hit with Live Aid theme "Drive".

Bandmates Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes reteamed for a mini-Cars reunion in 2005, but failed to convince frontman Ric Ocasek and David Robinson to join them. Instead, they hit the road as The New Cars with Utopia stars Todd Rundgren, Prairie Prince and Kasim Sulton.

The new photo features Ocasek and Robinson and an accompanying caption reads: "Anyone in the mood for a reunion by The Cars?" The fifth member of the band, bassist/vocalist Benjamin Orr, died of pancreatic cancer in 2000. 

 You know, I have mixed feelings on this one. I was pissed when Elliott Easton joined Creedence Clearwater Revisited. I scratched my head for endless hours on that one. I was even more pissed when Todd Rundgren took the job in the New Cars. Todd didn't need the money and he ain't no Rik or even Ben Orr. but I guess Elliott and Greg Hawkes were a little low in the dough dept.You can only do so many of those Ringo Starr Alll Star tours.  This tells me that Rik owns all of the publishing and the Used Cars got nothin! But Rik was cool enough to throw them a bone and let them do the tour doing all of the songs he wrote.

Does Rik have a hankering to get back out there and stand completely still for an hour and a half every night and sing Let's Go with all of the energy of a Gallagher brother on Lithium? The Cars were never known for their stage show, you know. Madame Toussaud's sponsored the last tour. Rik Allen plays with more oomph than David Robinson. What's on Rik's mind? Has he run out of Weezer money? Has Paulina hit a wall? She's almost 50...I hear the young ladies have a thing for big giant protruding ears and Ichabod Crane necks these worked for Howard Stern and Jeff Goldblum.

Seriously. The Cars have more of a right to be out there than ...say Survivor, Night Ranger, Steve Miller, Styx, The Doobie Brothers, Tesla or Creedence Clearwater Revisited   All of those schlubs are still hitting the sheds and casinos, and they have no chance to be in any hall of fame like The Cars do.  Vroom, Vroom.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Jacka Does Macca

I love it when they let a long hair into the White House......the Jack White House.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

DVD Review: Classic Album Series:Black Sabbath-Paranoid

Eagle Rock Entertainment continues their impeccable track record for finding new ways for music fan boys to praise their idols with their latest release in the Classic Album DVD series, the making of Black Sabbath's Paranoid.

Despite the focus on the "Heaven and Hell" lineup of Black Sabbath (Ronnie, not Ozzy) who have been covered extensively in recent years, all four original members participated in this very well produced DVD, which includes in-depth interviews that go much further into the lore of the pioneering heavy band than the usual magazine fare.

Following a historical line to Sabbath's surprising rise in 1970-'71, their first, and self-titled album's resonance and importance is glossed over on the DVD. The told tales here focus of the solidity and formation of their sound with the making of Paranoid, their second full length release.

The nuggets are plentiful and at times revelatory, perhaps even for the band's devoted faithful. Ozzy Osbourne, from the sharp end of his familiar mumble, explains his super simple secret to coming up with such memorable vocal melodies: "If I couldn't come up with a melody to what Tony had, I'd sing the riff."

Guitarist Tony Iommi explains how after a depressing period following the on-the-job accident that cut off the tips of his two middle fingers, it was his boss who pestered him to keep playing by giving him a Django Reinhardt album for inspiration. Reinhardt was a famous jazz guitar virtuoso from the 1930s who rose to prominence despite having a mangled hand.

Discussing his lyrical exploration and influence, bassist Geezer Butler corrects critics and historians of the band who deemed the songs satanic by explaining, "I was into learning about the astral plane. It was all about the future of the world. I was really into pollution. There were a lot of things going wrong in the world and nobody was saying anything about it."

Yes, Black Sabbath wrote protest music. Despite its ominous tonal qualities and overall heaviness, Paranoid was basically a science fictionalized anti-war album. These songs, discussed and dissected in well produced fashion, may force a fan to listen with new ears to the lyrics to tracks like the classic "War Pigs," yes, but to also shine new light on the nearly 40-year-old deep cuts "Hand of Doom" and "Electric Funeral."

From the band's first manager Jim Simpson, we learn how through tedious early gigs contracted for an exhausting eight sets at 45 minutes each, songs for the second album were built from portions of long jams that the band had to stretch out to fill up the time. The album is discussed track by track, with a fantastic bonus of original studio engineer Tom Allom, who is once again in the studio and equipped with the original masters. He includes his candid input as well as bringing up highlighted portions of the song being examined while raising the faders of the mixing board.
Another stunning highlight from the DVD are the intimate performances from the musicians, playing along with their respective parts from the tracks, and discussing their architecture and origins. The viewer may get the feeling that Tony, Geezer or drummer Bill Ward are answering a one-on-one request to play a part from their favorite track while chatting together in a quiet, well-lit room.

These special requests and many more are granted with this DVD release, a must have for any Sabbath fan, or for anyone interested in learning how an album is born from ideas and grows to be an indelible classic.

Article first published as DVD Review: Black Sabbath – Paranoid (Classic Albums Series) on Blogcritics.

Seano's Top 22 Instrumentals

I'm at a crossroads. The combination of loss for words/writers block/bite my tongue in my life right now is staggering. My state of mind is mute..innocent bystander..middle of the road miscreant. I am the Cliff Notes version of my former self. I am an auctioneer with novocaine mouth selling silence to a sleeping pack of mimes. You get my drift.

To musically celebrate, the agonizing nothingness of nothing to say.. here are my Top 25 Instrumentals of all time, without any commentary whatsoever.

1) Ending( An Ascent)-Brian Eno
2) High Falls-The Alman Bros.
3) Kind of Blue-Miles Davis
4) Pick Up The Pieces-Average White Band
5) Bass Trap-U2
6) YYZ-Rush
7) Third Stone From the Sun-The Jimi Hendrix Experience
8) Cause We've Ended as Lovers- Jeff Beck
9) Quadrant- Billy Cobham
10) Fluff-Black Sabbath
11) Whitewash-Buckethead
12) Subcutaneous Phat- Desert sessions Vol. 9 & 10
13) Frankenstein- Edgar Winter Group
14) Hocus Pocus- Focus
15) Apostrophe- Frank Zappa
16) Continuum- Jaco Pastorius
17) Up the Beach- Janes Addiction
18) Bouree- Jethro Tull
19) White Summer/Black Mountain Side- Led Zeppelin
20) Birds of Fire- Mahavishnu Orchestra
21) Cathedral-Van Halen
22) Sound Chaser- Yes

Monday, July 12, 2010

PJ takes a break

This from NME:

Pearl Jam takes some time off, but not Matt Cameron....he's headed back to the throne of odd time signatures and Loud Love....Soundgarden is coming! Cross your fingers or stomp yer Docs together for a tour.!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Review: Stone Temple Pilots (self titled)

Stone Temple Pilots’ first album in nine years is a distinctive blend of peppy 90’s nostalgia and super melodic drug songs that succeed in picking up where the band left off, despite the addictions, divorces and alienation that followed their break up.
The first thing you should know is that no matter how they show up on your shuffle, these songs sound like Stone Temple Pilots. Brothers Dean and Robert DeLeo remain the foundation of the band, and initially approached ex- Velvet Revolver singer Scott Weiland with an offer to take a grab bag of cash to reunite as STP at a mediocre rock festival. However, this lead to a tour, which put the brothers and Weiland on enough of the same emotional plane to record this self titled album. The songs present STP as they were in their heyday, with strong songwriting and a hearty array of radio ready rock.
Between the Lines” is a barn-burning requiem from Weiland to his co-bi-polar ex where he snakes through a perfectly melodic chorus as a shout out to her, “You always were my favorite drug, even when we used to take drugs” This should be being printed on a sweat shop T-shirt somewhere by now. “Take a Load Off” drops a gritty midtempo groove is that is infectious with purpose. Weiland soars through the chorus as the extremely under-rated Robert Deleo hits all of the warm, deep bass tones that are a silent but deadly STP signature. The brothers are locked in tight with each other as usual. Solos glide in and out with just enough wank, albeit with perfect tonal character for each song.
Mr. Weiland, whom apparently did all of the vocals in a separate studio on Weiland time, simply defies expectations. His voice sounds warm, healthy and clean, and the melodies he comes up with spread his range around effortlessly. He brings out his best Bowie glitter-buggery on “Hickory Dichotomy,” an almost indie pop croon on “Cinnamon,” and a flowery, fab four-meets-70s AM soft rock glow on the piano ballad “Maver.”
After all he has been through, and put others through, Scott Weiland’s broad vocal/melodic performance on this album may finally take the focus off of his screw–ups and convince the masses of his talent and resilience. He just might be the only one left after the planet’s demise, singing songs of love and drugs in the atomic wind, tattered scarf blowing, swinging skinny hips and feet in tandem, dancing around the roaches, static and ash.