Alexa Statistics for this blog

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Book Review: 'To Live is to Die: The Life and Death of Cliff Burton' by Joel McIver

Before anyone else points it out, yes, this is the same Joel McIver who wrote the highly controversial book '100 Greatest Metal Guitarists', my views on which have been made very clear a few posts before this one.

This book, however, is a different beast altogether.

For many years, deceased musicians have been influences to millions, inspiring whole assembly lines of literature paying glowing tributes to them. Metal, on the other hand, has faced an unfair lack of reverence towards its own departed souls from the rest of the world. Talented greats who probably added a whole new style to mastering their respective crafts have just died deaths ranging from unfortunate to horrifying, without anyone outside of the genre ever looking back on them. Metallica's departed bass player Cliff Burton has been dead since 1986 and it was only in 2009 that Joel McIver released this account of his life, the first of its kind. But in some morbid way, it was definitely worth the wait.

What most metal fans associate Cliff Burton with is the golden age of Metallica. His tenure was the time when Metallica reigned supreme as the gods of thrash metal, always reinventing and enhancing their own craft with each successive release. But the major percentage of fans cannot really figure out why, and this is where this book becomes important. After many months of evidently painstaking research that involved travelling to his home town, speaking with his family, friends and generally the who's-who of metal at that time, Joel McIver's book remodels the metal scene of LA and the San Francisco Bay Area. This was a time when British metal bands were the only word in metal, when there was no internet and hence tape-trading was the way music was heard. The book brings all this to light and then relates how Cliff Burton grew up with the situation back then.

The book is full of useful interviews with people closest to Cliff, including his family, his bass instructor John Doherty, music promoters like Harald Omoein and all those musicians associated with the various bands he played for; including, of course, everyone associated with Metallica. It also makes for a very interesting read with interviews from people with more awkward dispositions like Metallica's first bass player Ron McGovney, members of Trauma (the band that Cliff played for before joining Metallica) and Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine. The book opens Cliff's brilliant mind to its readers, making it clear why Metallica's song-writing was at its peak with his presence in the band. Here was someone extremely level-headed, logical and most importantly, versatile. Cliff's musical influences encompassed almost the entire spectrum of Western music itself, ranging from Western classical to country rock to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

As a bass player himself, Joel McIver never leaves out accounts of Metallica's music. His explanations of Burton's mastery on each song from each album is worthy of applause. The reason is that he has translated a lot of bass terminology into layman's language and has dissected each song as clearly as possible, making it a nostalgic read for both layman and bass player alike. His description of Cliff's growth as a musician and how it bled onto the rest of Metallica as well is important too. Important because it becomes very apparent why Metallica's reputation as metal musicians started taking a nosedive after Burton's death.

His death, in fact, has been a topic of great controversy and another commendable fact about this book is how the author has retold the events in a very investigative format. He has been extremely objective about what happened and who was involved, never accusing anyone. In fact, that has been a hallmark throughout the book. He has presented the facts and left its interpretation to the reader, making sure the reader feels the way he/she wants to and not how McIver want him/her to.

In a nutshell, this is an essential book for a lot of people. Everyone who is a fan of Cliff Burton, a fan of Metallica, a fan of thrash metal (or just metal in general) and most importantly, a fan of greatness that was snuffed out unfairly early, should buy this book. If you're close enough to Burton's music, who knows, you might just shed a silent tear as well. I know I did.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Blood-curdling Decadence: My top 10 metal screams of the decade list

Yes, I am back. I thought I would not return but I have. Those who have still visited this blog, I am eternally grateful to you.

So 2010 is over. 2011 begins. The closing of a decade means a lot of 'top 10' lists everywhere. I have decided to make one of my own. Yes of course, it has everything to do with metal but its not a regular albums or songs or even covers list. Presenting, the top 10 metal screams of the decade, 2000-2010. This was a huge decade for metal and if people who hate it think the vocals are noise, they aren't all noise. But when they are harsh, THEY FUCKING DESTROY!!!!!

Please see attached video for a sound clip montage:

#10. Kalmah- Time Takes Us All: A nicely held mid-tone rasp that gets progressively more shrill, Pekka Kokko starts this revolutionary epic in one of the most epic ways possible. From their 2004 album 'The Black Waltz'.

#9. Lamb of God- Ruin: Being one of the first Lamb of God songs I heard, the scream left me sleepless for a few nights. Still holds its charm and a rightful place at #9. Well done, David Randall Blythe. From their 2003 album, 'As the Palaces Burn'.

#8. Children of Bodom- Mask of Sanity: The screams here has a lot of nice reverb and is brilliant mood-swinger in the song. A well-executed shriek from Alexi Laiho. From their 2000 album 'Follow the Reaper'.

#7. Destruction- Devolution: Ja, ja mein Fueh...I mean Schmeier, I know it is illegal for a Destruction album to begin without your wondrous scream. But you have outdone yourself here with a high-pitched, almost operatic wail that then trails of as a raspy shriek. From their 2008 album 'D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N'.

#6. The Axis of Perdition- A Ruined Nation Awakens: One of the most terrifying music producers of the century, this particular song has a series of shrieks and growls with a lot of digitization, made for the post-apocalypse fetish person in you. From their 2003 album 'The Ichneumon Method (And Less Welcome Techniques)'.

#5. Opeth- The Grand Conjuration: What a performance of terror! After a lovely ping-pong round with audio levels of the song, this set of overlayed screams from Mikael Akerfeldt throws you straight in as the subject of the conjuration. From their 2005 album 'Ghost Reveries'.

#4. Mercenary- ReDestructDead: One of the most HONEST screams ever recorded, this one has high pitch all through and is a really well-sustained scream. Makes you feel as angry as the song's protagonist. Too bad Henrik 'Kral' Anderson left the band after this album. From their 2004 album '11 Dreams'.

#3. Bloodbath- Soul Evisceration: Peter Tagtgren sets of at a high pitch without needing to get there. A nearly 10-second long sustain makes your soul nearly leave you as well. From their 2004 album 'Nightmares Made Flesh'.

#2. Annihilator- Warbird: The most spine-chilling factor of this 16-second long, constantly escalating high rasp is the fact that it starts right at the absolute end of the song when you are just sitting and waiting for the next one. Frighteningly satisfying work, Dave Padden. From their 2005 album 'Schizo Deluxe'.

#1. Quo Vadis- Silence Calls the Storm: A growl maintained for nearly 17 seconds deserves at least #1 on a list, if not a national award. Stephan Pare still mesmerizes me EVERY TIME I hear this song. From their 2004 album 'Defiant Imagination'

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Joel McIver's 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists list

Another blatant example of saying what people want to hear.He's ranked Dimebag at 5,ABOVE Schuldiner and Becker.Seriously????

1 Dave Mustaine- Megadeth
2 John Petrucci- Dream Theater
3 Jeff Waters- Annihilator
4 Zakk Wylde- Black Label Society, Ozzy Osbourne
5 Dimebag- Pantera, Damage plan
6 Tony Iomi- Black Sabbath
7 Trey Azagthoth- Morbid Angel
8 James Hetfield- Metallica
9 Mikeal Akerfeldt- Opeth, Bloodbath
10 Chuck Schukdiner- Death, Control Denied
11 Fredrik Thordendal- Meshuggah
12 Pat Obrien- Cannibal Corpse
13 Alex Skolnick- Testament
14 Ralph Santolla- Deicide, Obituary, Iced Earth
15 Kirk Hammett- Metallica
16 Tom Morello- Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave
17 Ihsahn ( Vegard Sverre Tveitan)- Emperor
18 Kerry King- Slayer
19 Mick Thomson- Slipknot
20 Herman Li- Dragonforce
21 Alex Laiho- Children Of Bodom
22 Jeff Hanneman- Slayer
23 Phil Demmel- Machine Head
24 Samoth (Tomas Haugen)- Emperor, Zyklon
25 Glen Tipton- Judas Priest
26 Marty Friedman- Megadeth, Cacophony
27 James Murphy- Death, Testament
28 Michael Amott- Arch Enemy, Carcass
29 K.K Downing- Judas Priest
30 Marten Hagstrom- Meshuggah
31 Alex Auburn- Cryptopsy
32 Ron Jarzombek- Watchtower, Blotted Science
33 Christopher Amott- Arch Enemy
34 Bjorn Gelotte- In Flames
35 Erik Rutan- Hate Eternal, Morbid Angel
36 Eric Peterson- Testament
37 Rudolf Schenker- Scorpions
38 Jeff Loomis- Nevermore
39 Fredrik Akesson- Opeth
40 Andres Bjoler- The Haunted, At The Gates
41 Adrian Smith- Iron Maiden
42 Michael Schenker- Michael Schenker Group, Scorpions, UFO
43 Dino Cazares- Divine Heresy, Fear Factory
44 Waclaw 'Vogg' Kieltyka- Decapitated
45 Jensen (Patrik Jensen)- The Haunted
46 Rob Barrett- Cannibal Corpse, Malevolent Creation
47 Dave Murray- Iron Maiden
48 Kai Hansen- Gamma Ray. Helloween
49 Andreas Kisser- Sepultura
50 Devin Townsend- Strapping Young Lad
51 James Root- Slipknot, Stone Sour
52 Karl Sanders- Nile
53 Corey Beaulieu- Trivium
54 Matt Bachand- Shadows Fall
55 Gary Holt- Exodus
56 Rand Burkey- Atheist
57 Mille Petrozza- Kreator
58 Scott Ian- Anthrax
59 Timo Tolkki- Stratovarius
60 Andy La Rocque- King Diamond, Death
61 Martin Larsson- At The Gates
62 Chris Degarmo- Queensryche
63 Niklas Sundin- Dark Tranquility
64 Andre Olbrich- Blind Guardian
65 Jon Schaffer- Iced Earth
66 Synyster Gates ( Brian Haner JR.)- Avenged Sevenfold
67 Matt Heafy- Trivium
68 Piotr Wiwczarek- Vader
69 Dallas Toler-Wade- Nile
70 Jason Mendonca- Akercocke
71 Jesse Pintado- Terrorizer, Napalm Death
72 Marc Rizzo- Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy
73 Zacky Vengeance (Zachary Baker)- Avenged Sevenfold
74 Jack Owen- Decide, Cannibal Corpse
75 Sam Totman- Dragonforce
76 Matt Tuck- Bullet For My Valentine
77 Matthias Jabs- Scorpions
78 Kirk Windstein- Down, Crowbar
79 Thomas Fischer- Celtic Frost, Hellhammer
80 Janick Gers- Iron Maiden
81 Dan Spitz- Anthrax
82 Chris Poland- Megadeth, Ohm
83 Dave Suzuki- Vital Remains
84 Michael Weikath- Helloween
85 Max Cavalera- Soulfly, Sepultura, Cavalera Conspiracy
86 'Fast' Eddie Clarke- Motorhead, Fastway
87 Michael Denner- Mercyful Fate, Force Of Evil
88 Stefan Elmgren- Hammerfall
89 Galder (Thomas Rune Andersen)- Dimmu Borgir, Old Man's Child
90 Paul Allender- Cradle Of Filth
91 Paul Masvidal- Cynic
92 Mantas (Jeff Dunn)- Venom
93 Robb Flyn- Machinehead
94 Dan Swano- Edge Of Sanity, Bloodbath
95 Joe Duplanter- Gojira, Cavalera Conspiracy
96 Michael Romeo- Symphony X
97 Jim Martin- Faith No More
98 Matt Wilcock- Akercocke, The Berzerker
99 Peter Lindren- Opeth
100 Euronymous (Oystein Aarseth)- Mayhem

Monday, 25 January 2010

Where Talent and Conviction Unite

The year is 2010. Mankind is under threat. A dark power that reared its head in the scorching summer of 2005 AD is now preparing for its final attack on the world. Only the chosen warrior can save mankind.

Who is this chosen warrior? Well, that is not important. What is important is that 2010 AD is definitely the year that Demonic Resurrection, one of India's longest-lasting and most indefatigable metal bands conquers the world. 4 years after they released their 2nd full-length album 'A Darkness Descends', comes the 3rd part of the Darkness trilogy, 'The Return to Darkness' (the 2nd was their EP 'Beyond the Darkness'). Released (as usual) by vocalist/guitarist Sahil Makhija's own Demonstealer Records, this album has 'breakthrough' permanently tattoed all over it.

The band has gone through an art makeover courtesy of Polish designer/animator Machael 'Xaay' Loranc (of Nile, Behemoth, Necrophagist and Vader fame) who has delivered a very European look for the band's new logo. The front cover art is a craftily designed fisheye of a cityscape under siege from a group of very skeletal yet plasmic entities released by a celestial vortex. The CD itself was released as a box set containing a well-designed t-shirt, a pair of guitar plectra (one of which I've already lost), a sticker and a band poster; the last 3 items being snugly packaged within a solid cardboard 'jewel case'. The band has gone through a few lineup changes as well with new drummer Virendra Kaith and a solid lead guitarist in the form of Daniel Rego as the latest acquisitions.

The biggest difference though, is the sound of the band's music itself. The album opens with the a digitized, muffled wail loop that is soon joined by a violin chorus à la keyboard player Mephisto, who then proceeds to add a percussive bass beat. This now full-blown orchestral crescendo is called 'Between Infinity and Oblivion'. A truly epic herald of more musical greatness. The next track now cracks open- 'Where Dream and Darkness Unite'. The band's wondrous ESP strings and Mapex drum kit literally blast into a tune that reminds one of Dimmu Borgir's 'Blessings Upon the Throne of Tyranny', except the presence of orchestral keys and very well-polished death growl strike a different epic nerve in the listener's body.

This album, like this song, is a highlight of the evolution that the band has gone through musically. In essence, nothing has changed in terms of how they define their music; a mix of black, death and power metal. But while previous releases saw a more-or-less disjointed exhibition of the 3 genres, this album sees the band dissecting each genre and bringing out exactly what they do to the brain of the listener. And it doesn't stop there. They combine the mood of one genre with the exterior playing style of another. This has resulted in the band taking an overall symphonic path which only seems natural as symphonies cater to both the dark and light side of human emotion.

The whole album is a highly dynamic one. There are a lot more changes in time signature, beat patterns, vocal style and the intent behind the emotion ins a song section. Unlike on its predecessor, the band has not really aimed solely at creating an extreme sound. In fact, the great thing about this album for me is how emotionally driven it is. The dynamic nature of it has been achieved solely due to to this very fact. This has led to a lot of innovation in the sound of the band. 'A Tragedy Befallen' has a very power metal sound throughout, even though its brought out through harsh vocals for the most part. In fact, some sections seem to strike the same emotional chord as later Kamelot albums. 'Bound by Blood,Fire and Stone' sees a brilliantly executed section where a blast beat battery fuses eclectically with a digitized whisper which in turn is synchronized with a crafty channel interpolation of a series of triple-picked duets on the strings. To top it all is a beat-synchronized ambient flourish from the keys.

Every great album has a landmark track. Without a doubt its 'Lord of Pestilence' on this one. The intro is a look back at one of their signature tracks of yesteryears 'Frozen Portrait'. It features a similar flanger-drenched clean guitar intro expect this one is not just a happy tune. It goes on for about 3 minutes of an emotional roller coaster ride before blasting into a blast beat driven section. The rest of the 8 and a half minutes of this track makes the listener feel like he is sitting through a sci-fi fantasy movie. There is conflict, there is resolution, there are twists and there are emotional beats.

The album ends with 'Omega,I', a perfect closing tune for a brilliant epic. The continuity throughout the album is quite fulfilling. So is its overall duration. Every song seems related to every other both on a musical and lyrical scale (of which the latter I find secondary compared to the former in importance). Despite the huge length of most of the songs, there is never a dull moment in the album. In fact, if any of the songs were shorter I believe it would have been a cause for concern. The musicians have all grown to huge levels on this album and the new inclusions should not go away to soon, especially drummer Virendra Kaith.

And so, the Darkness trilogy comes to an end. The warrior has emerged victorious over the dark power. But the real world metal scene will now witness an inevitable rise of a new power: prepare your legions for India's own Demonic Resurrection.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Return to Singapore

I fly out tonight.

I wonder what she will say to me...

I hope its a yes.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Singapore data recovery

Hello those few and far between who make the wrong turn to my blog.I am back.After precisely 4 months and 12 days,I decided to make a return to this hallowed URL.If you haven't been able to tell from the title of this post yet (and in which case schizophrenia would be an accurate diagnosis),I am now based in Singapore.I'm here to study animation and I am loving everything about my education.Yes,contrary to the content on this blog on education,this course is easily the best treatment I have had till date.I'm at the Tisch School of the Arts Asia (yes,a branch of Tisch NYU).

To start with,it takes a complete shit on the ridiculous education system I had been subject to for the past 15 years (for more on that,please read previous posts).The assignments here are proper creations of digital art made by us,the students.The time crunch is similar to that in a real studio.The resources are fucking cool.We have Wacom tablets on every computer,3 of them with Cintiq screens.Half the computers have Digidesign Protools.The professors here really know what they're teaching.The point of education in this field here is not to teach the software,but how to use what in the software (if and when necessary) to create a certain piece of art.We are taught the origins of art,the reason behind creating certain pieces of art.3 of the professors here are/have been metal fans.One has seen Metallica live thrice and other bands like Iron Maiden,Sepultura,Sodom,Kreator,Death,Carcass etc.

The campus itself destroys.Even though its a film school,there is a lot of vegetation around in the lawns outside.Till now,I have seen cockatoos,grey parrots,a vine snake and a monitor lizard on campus.My colleagues destroy as well.There is no worry about being 'politically correct' here.They understand that it is a tool for the weak.

Singapore itself is pretty cool.So far,I have purchased 7 metal t-shirts here:Metallica,Amon Amarth,Lamb of God,HammerFall,Iced Earth,Dark Tranquillity and Arch Enemy.I have purchased a computer with crazily awesome specs.So awesome that it runs Crysis:Warhead like butter even at 'Gamer' graphic levels and 1280 x 1024 screen resolution.The residents are friendly,the place is slightly on the expensive side and there is no fucking difference between summer and winter.In short,I'm loving it here.

As far as metal goes,I have been hearing more of the old guns:Judas Priest,Queensryche etc.I've also been introduced to Singapore's very own Rudra.These guys play blackened death metal but their tunes are highly influenced by Indian classical and their lyrics are exclusively about the Vedas.Another great band I've been hearing is a Doom Gothic Metal band from Sweden called Draconian.These guys are the ultimate name (for me) in beautiful music.They combine male death growls with female serenades,on a batter of crunchy,slow,deliberate rhythms drenched in atmospheric,ambient keys.

I return to New Delhi on the 20th of December for the winter,for those interested.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Half-baked Adaptation:Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You

Hello,its been a long time since I made an original metal-unrelated post like this...oh,wait.No.OK,then its a long time since I made a post on cinema.And thanks to this current slurry of movies that are adapted from popular literature or recreation,my topic is quite relevant.

I recently saw Transformers 2:Revenge of the Fallen.I loved it.Yes,Megan Fox was in the movie and there were times I felt helpless about not being able to do anything to her...but,the special effects and animation work created magic with the Autobots v/s Decepticons battles themselves.From my wandering on the net,I have not yet come across very serious backlash against the accuracy of the story to this movie franchise (as I know nothing about it myself).Yet,a movie that recently (and after much delay) released in India before this one was the eagerly-awaited X-Men Origins:Wolverine.I was waiting for the day this movie would release and had extremely high hopes from it.Especially when I learned that among others,Deadpool is a featured character.I was raring to see the red uniformed sword master with a big mouth at his best,killing mutants for money:

What I got instead was a semi-mummified,naked-chested freak that was indestructible and was basically William Stryker's new toy.Far from the real Deadpool story (a mercenary who gets cancer and after ending up as a failed Weapon X program,gains healing abilities beyond Wolverine's).And this is just a small part of the bigger lamentation:the story itself.Wolverine is NOT Sabertooth's brother (rather,Sabertooth is Wolverine's gardener's son),he works at a lumberjack outpost immediately after escaping his home as opposed to the movie portrayal,he ALMOST kills his 1st Weapon X captor (which happens right after World War II) and many other such grievances.

Which brings me to my point:cinematic adaptations are almost completely exclusive of the real story.Directors these days just bank on a star actor portraying a character to gather the cash.Cases in point:Hugh Jackman as Wolverine,Sienna Miller as Baroness (for the upcoming G.I.Joe),Tom Hanks as Professor Robert Langdon etc.Yes,they all have a certain level of excitement in them,but when will they start doing justice to the real story?

And what about TOTAL bastardization of a franchise like Eragon?Where the hell do I begin with this complete waste of 70 mm reel?The fact that a DRAGON was given feathers?Or Arya's sexy brunette imagined image was urinated upon?Or the Urgals looking like fired sumo wrestlers and NOTHING like a sleeker version of the Minotaur?Or the fact that the WHOLE story was so badly mangled (removal of the Hadarac desert scene,no breaking of the Isidar Mithrim,no Solembum and not even the mention of Murtagh's Zar'roc wound) that by the time one reached the end,the only thing he can do is lament.

Other popular movie adaptations like the Harry Potter,The Lord of the Rings and Spiderman series are less infuriating with the inaccuracy (though I hate Sam Raimi for killing Venom off).But on a whole,I have learned that if I should watch an adaptation,I should just unlearn anything I know about the original story.