Monthly Archives: January 2014

Earth to Hetfield, Come In Please … Over?

Every now and again someone says something so incredibly stupid that I just can’t help but take a longer look at it.   Granted, those stories usually have a Washington, DC dateline but today it seems to have emerged from Houston, Texas.

It’s not Houston’s fault, that just happens to be where Metallica frontman James Hetfield uttered this jewel to a local radio station:

“Right now, it seems like metal is struggling a little bit in the States”.  

By itself, that’s not an unreasonable statement.   Across the spectrum of the various sub-genres of metal music things are not exactly at a fever pitch, that’s not a secret.  Only when you see more of the discussion does that comment become jaw-droppingly stupid.

Hetfield lamented the financial disaster that their two-year Orion Music + More festival turned into, saying that meant it wouldn’t be happening again.  But how in the world does that have much to do with how metal is struggling?
The 2012 debut lineup featured a few noteworthy bands (Avenged Sevenfold, Volbeat, Kyng) that might have some relationship to metal but also prominently included: a country singer, a blues guitarist, some stoner rock, thrash/punk icons, comedians, unintentional comedy, and quite a bit of post-punk/pop-punk.   The 2013 lineup made that seem sparkling by comparison, as it was virtually devoid of anyone worth seeing at all, much less at the $90/day ticket price.  But hey, at least fans could enjoy a car show, a horror memorabilia exhibit, and a museum featuring old Metallica guitars.  Oh yeah, that’ll pack ’em in I’m sure.
Yet somehow this is supposed to be an indication of how “metal is struggling”?  Where was the metal?  This was more like a tribute to ego, a “hey kids, let’s put on a show” and pull in all this stuff that WE enjoy, apparently giving little to no thought about whether FANS would give a damn.
The coverage of Hetfield’s comments also mentioned the band’s recent box office bomb, the 3-D film Metallica Through The Never.   A budget of $18 million, managed less than $4 million in box office receipts.
Hello?  What possible business model allowed this to happen in the first place?  Did I miss the steady drumbeat of metal fans insisting that what they really wanted was “a confusing, questionably acted movie … in 3-D”?  Or better yet, that sort of movie from a band that has done little of note in at least five years?
That’s really the part of this that chaps my ass.   Of all people to talk about how “metal is struggling” Hetfield may be low on the list of those who have room to cast any stones … because they’re very much part of the problem.
3 albums in 11 years, only 4 in the last 16 years.   Sure, I’ll cut some slack for the time spent on the Big Four project.   That was a special situation, it was worth the time invested in my opinion.  But when you’ve done so little to put life into the genre for the better part of two decades, you’re not helping matters.
In fact, when your most recent studio effort is one of the most absurdly worthless albums in decades, you’re making things WORSE.   If your ego or creative spirit or whatever wanted to make an album with Lou Reed, by all means, knock yourself out.  You’ve made the money, you’ve got the juice to make it happen, you’ve earned it, I’ve got no problem with that.  But if that vanity project got a response considerably worse than Pat Boone’s foray into metal, you have to own that too.  For the love of God, listening to William Shatner “sing” was more entertaining than that steaming pile of dogcrap.  That’s not “metal is struggling”, that’s “you did something that really really REALLY sucked”.
Yes, it’s true.  There’s a fair argument to be made that “metal is struggling” … but if you’ve spent most of your time and energy doing stuff that did absolutely nothing to improve the situation then your leeway to whine about that fact seems pretty limited to me.

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Ready To Rock (weekly playlists)

Three in, three out, now four songs that should be included currently missing from Spotify.


Missing songs this week:
False Alarm – Smile Empty Soul, One Pill – Flash Lightnin, Break Down The Walls – Asking Alexandria, Into My Arms – Embers In Ashes

New to the Spotify list this week
Dead But Rising – Volbeat, Sick Charade – The Letter Black, So Far Away – Red

Dropping off the Spotify list this week
We Don’t Belong – Black Veil Brides, Remember Me – Emphatic, Knockdown – Sammy Hagar

For the larger (nearly 200 songs) YouTube version there’s  more than a half dozen new songs added this week including the latest single from Pop Evil, new Black Label Society, the always entertaining Steel Panther,  the debut of supergroup Altitudes & Attitudes (featuring Dave Ellefson of Megadeth and Frankie Bello of Anthrax) and several more.  You can find it at this link

Also, if you’re wondering exactly how all of this gets put together – the hows & whys of it – this recent blog entry probably explains more than you ever wanted to know.

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Concert Review 1/24/14 – Bridge To Grace/Brother Grey

Bridge To Grace / Brother Grey / Fusebox Poet
120 Tavern & Music Hall – Marietta, GA
January 24, 2014

Sometimes you just can’t let an opportunity go by.  That’s roughly how my son & I ended up making a hurried trip from Athens to see local breakout band Bridge To Grace.  Nearly everything about the evening ran counter to my usual “rules” for seeing a show.

I pretty much never hit a show late … but because of other obligations we missed the first band, Fusebox Poet, entirely.  That’s 100 percent on me, not remotely a reflection on the Charlotte, NC three-piece that some sampling online leads me to believe I’d enjoy.  I owe myself a chance to see them at some point.

Running even later than expected (isn’t that always the way?) we caught maybe a little more than half the set (5-6 songs, not sure how long they played) from Atlanta’s own Brother Grey.  While they describe themselves as an “alternative/hard rock band”, at least the portion of the set we saw was squarely in the heart of what I usually label as “active rock”, certainly more emphasis on the hard than on the alternative (thank God).   In fact, my biggest takeaway from their set was some philosophical musing about how narrow the line can be between “local/ regional band” and “national band” because I felt like everything I heard would fit seamlessly on SiriusXM Octane, every bit the equal of dozens of other bands that have enjoyed more exposure to date.  The music business is a fickle mistress, seeing this band really brought that point home to me.   Definitely someone worth seeing, hope to get another opportunity sooner rather than later.

Another of my standard “rules” is that I don’t see too many bands that I don’t have a pretty good understanding of.  I prefer to know what to expect, I dig up whatever is out there, I do my research.   Given that I’m usually feeling every bit of my age (and then some), I’m not a fan of disappointments and I’m skeptical of surprises, I like to be relatively sure what I’m going to see.  With that in mind, it says something about how strong an impression that the debut single from Bridge To Grace had made on me.  “The Fold” made an immediate impact from the first time I heard it on Octane, that in turn led to some searching & no small amount of surprise to discover that they were an Atlanta band.  As it happened in this case though I was largely content to enjoy the single and didn’t do a lot of digging beyond that, satisfied to give them a little bit of social media love and see if I could help in some small way to keep the momentum going.

Still, the prospects of a CD release party, at extremely reasonable price, for a most welcome All Ages show … I kept wondering whether I could really pass that up.  After finally checking out some more material via their ReverbNation page (and with encouragement from my teen) I decided to pull the trigger and go.

Okay, so maybe once in a while surprises work out well.

Thanks to both “The Fold” and tracks like “Bitch” (which Octane ought to add at some point, single or not) I knew there wasn’t going to be an issue with the band keeping things moving.  What I didn’t expect was just how smoothly they’d manage that.  It’s almost shocking to discover that this foursome has only been together as a unit for a couple of years.   Clearly a lot of work has gone into developing such a coherent, yet diverse, overall product.

Drummer Justin Little is relentless while Christian Lowenstein seems to get in a zone on bass immediately and they combine to give the band a solid foundation to build everything upon.  On guitar Alex Cabrera is one of the most deceptive performers I’ve seen in a while, young man plays a LOT nastier than he looks, with moments that are almost jaw-dropping.  On the mic David Garcia has everything you need and then some but the secret weapon his brings might be his charisma.  Finally figured out who his stage presence reminded me of … Leigh Kakaty of Pop Evil.  Considering the experience gap between BTG and the performance that had me raving about PE back in 2011, that’s both a compliment and a very promising sign.

The REAL surprise though was in my overall impression of the band.  Watching them work their way through the set I kept hearing influences (whether real or imagined) that were more diverse than I anticipated.  Bits of Nonpoint, Sevendust, Three Days Grace, Hinder, a veritable who’s who of the active rock canon.  Nothing that even approached the level of a knock-off or anything, just moments where the influences seemed apparent.  And that’s when my overall conclusion hit me:  this is next-gen active rock, or Active Rock 2.0

Bridge To Grace is a relatively young band that’s had most of their lives to listen, absorb, learn, be inspired by pretty much the entire active rock branch of the family tree.   I believe that’s given them more breadth and depth than is often associated with the genre and if they’re an indication of what the next generation of bands will be then not only do I see a bright future ahead for them but I’m encouraged about the future of the entire niche.

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Ready To Rock (weekly playlists)

Three songs shuffle in & out, all the additions are actually re-entries that have previously appeared, as the trend toward songs lingering before dying off continues.   Still three songs that should be included currently missing from Spotify.


Missing songs this week:
False Alarm – Smile Empty Soul, One Pill – Flash Lightnin, Break Down The Walls – Asking Alexandria

New to the Spotify list this week
Price I Pay – Lovehammers (re-entry), Spore – Queensryche (re-entry), We Don’t Belong – Black Veil Brides

Dropping off the Spotify list this week
Deal With The Devil – Pop Evil, Pain Killer – The Letter Black, No More Hell To Pay – Stryper

For the larger (nearly 200 songs) YouTube version there’s  more than a half dozen new songs added this week including the next single from Volbeat, the debut of Illinois band Emperors & Elephants, Nashville’s Darling Parade and several more.  You can find it at this link

Also, if you’re wondering exactly how all of this gets put together – the hows & whys of it – this recent blog entry probably explains more than you ever wanted to know.

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Concert Review 1/18/14 – Saving Abel/BlD/3YH/Wayland/Ethos

Saving Abel / Blacklite District / Three Years Hollow / Wayland / Ethos
Brewhouse Music and Grill – Rome, GA
January 18, 2014

While it’s a bit of a trek from my neck of the woods in Athens, once I found out about this show in late December I knew I had to be there.  After one thing or another prevented me from seeing Wayland on trips through Georgia at least three times in 2013, I knew it was time to check out the reigning “Band I Gotta See”  recipient in this year’s Golden Penny Awards.

First things first though, as the show opened with local band Ethos.  They describe themselves as a “progressive rock band” which left a lot of room to ponder beforehand what they might be like live, given my experience that prog bands tend to range from “very good” to “please make it stop”.  While their strong progressive influences  are obvious, my takeaway was that they are more than that simple description implies.  The entire band shows their technical ability throughout the set but it’s the sudden gut punch of vocalist Austen Earp unleashing a scream seemingly out of nowhere during “Out Of The Darkness” that provided the “Oh DAMN !” moment of the night and makes it clear that there’s more here than meets the eye. The song felt radio/Octane ready right now, as-is.  When (or even whether) the band takes that step remains to be seen but they definitely established themselves with me as “one to watch” in the year to come.

Next up, those “Always On Tour” guys from Michigan, the mighty Wayland.  To be honest it’s actually a little hard for me to review their set objectively, after all, this was what got me off my ass and out the door to the show.  I really don’t turn into a fanboy all that often, they’ve become an exception to that rule.  I’ve seen every video clip (official and “unofficial”), I’ve OCD listened to every single, I’ve added my tiny contribution to their social media with a steady stream of hashtags, and most of all I felt like I knew what to expect.   When they unleashed a high-energy performance on a capacity crowd I felt … well “justified” is probably a good word.  I already knew that a lot of unsuspecting people were about to get their asses kicked and from the blistering open of Bob Seger’s “Fire Down Below” to the final notes of a time-limited set, they delivered a performance that had the feel of a much bigger setting.   Despite my familiarity, I did get a surprise though, something I hadn’t really appreciated until seeing them in person.   I’d probably always thought about Wayland as “a band”, considering them as a unit rather than individually.   What really stood out to me on Saturday night was the parts that make up the whole.  Mitch, Dean and Tyler all have their moments but I’ll go on record as saying Phil especially stood out as Saturday, has to be one of the more underrated guitarists out there.   Skill, an obvious work ethic, stage presence … I really don’t know what more you could want out of a rock band than Wayland.  (Okay, okay, I’ll stop already)

There wasn’t really a lot of time to recover before Three Years Hollow hit the stage.  Again here, I had a pretty good notion of what was about to happen:  a band well deserving of being several rungs higher on the rock ladder was going to blow the roof off a venue.  I do enjoy being right 🙂
Where Wayland had deftly weaved a couple of covers into their set to help draw in the crowd, 3YH came out and hammered an audience that was now primed & ready with a string of driving songs that grab the throat and refuse to let go.  Somewhere amidst the onslaught of past singles like “Lost”, “Remember”, “Chemical Ride” and “Run Away” I had my second big realization of the night.  I apparently previously thought of the band out of Quad-Cities IA/IL on the basis of individual songs from the past several years without ever consciously considering just how strong their overall body of work has been during that time.   Somewhere during the set it dawned on me how familiar each song was, not all necessarily “hits” in the chart/numerical sense but a rock-solid catalog with no filler where every song stands up well against the ones before and after.  Closing strong with two new tracks from their album — produced by Clint Lowery of Sevendust — that’s due to release next month, the band delivered a relentless set that managed to leave people wanting even more.

Then from Orlando, Florida (by way of both Los Angeles and their native South Dakota) came Blacklite District, a band currently riding the wave of their hot single “With Me Now”.  BlD brought a lot of good things into their performance, I’d have a hard time finding any particular complaint with it to be honest.  “Take Me To The Grave” is a very strong opener, they’re energetic and put forth a lot of effort on stage, front man Roman James has an inviting “have a good time with us” vibe about him, guitarist Kyle Pfeiffer provides a second personality for the crowd to connect with, the rhythm section is solid, there’s really not a bad song in the set, and yet …  their “electro based hard rock” style was a change of pace from everything that preceded it and I think that might have played some role in their reception but not to a large extent.   The crowd didn’t hate on them or anything, indeed those who were attentive were happy & having fun but there was an impossible-to-miss drop off in the engagement level which made things feel just a little bit off to me, a kind of plateau that occurred that not even stronger songs like “Worldwide Controversy” (which feels like a future successful single to me) entirely overcame.   Pfeiffer made a notable remark just before the end of the set, which I’ll paraphrase as best I can here (with apologies for any inaccuracy), describing the anthemic “With Me Now” as being “the song that’s reason you know us and the reason you’re GOING to know us”.  There’s truth in that observation right now, another year & a couple more hits down the line I believe the response to the band will be stronger than it was on this night.

And then it was time for the headliner of the evening.  Throughout the night multiple shout-outs from stage made it clear that this was a pretty heavily stacked Saving Abel crowd.   A debut album that went gold, over a half-dozen top 20 singles, a run of over five years as a reliable national act lends itself to that kind of reaction 😉  The appearance was not without some challenges, given the very recent departure of the singer that was a founding member and key component of that success (as well as the lower profile departure of drummer at the same time).   While bits of live video I’d seen from the first performances since the lineup change had relieved most of my concerns, the final proof would be in the proverbial pudding.  It didn’t take long at all for even those lingering doubts to disappear.   While it’s probably fair of me to note that I never saw SA live with now-former singer Jared Weeks — who, just for the record, I mean absolutely not one bit of disrespect to in the slightest when I say this —  there was never really a point in the evening where I found myself thinking “gosh, I’d love to have heard this song with the old lineup”.  Newly arrived vocalist Scotty Austin is plenty capable and while referencing the recent change more than once during the hit-filled set, his stage presence is more than strong enough to push aside too many thoughts about other possibilities.  Those who know the band primarily from hit singles like “Addicted”, “The Sex Is Good”, “Stupid Girl (Only In Hollywood)” may actually be surprised to see how strongly the band — from Mississippi — remains connected to their Southern roots.  If anything, those ties may be even stronger now with the addition of the “swamp rock” leanings of both Austin and drummer Steven Pulley (who came over together from the band Trash The Brand).   What also becomes clear as the show progressed is that Saving Abel’s heart & soul did not depart with singer Weeks but instead remains firmly intact with founding member (and primary songwriter) Jason Null on one guitar, the steady & sizable (literally & figuratively) Eric Taylor on bass, and the even larger (again literally & figuratively) presence of Scott Bartlett manning the other guitar slot.  Change is never easy … but it isn’t always a bad thing.   Saving Abel remains what they’ve been for a while now: a solid band that clearly enjoys being on stage and is dedicated to making their music, happily bringing fans along for the ride.

As I’ve done in the past, let’s wrap up this review with a look at a bit of GBU aka The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good — there’s a LOT that belongs in this section, starting with the happy sight of a literally turnaway crowd at a rock show.   That’s a far too uncommon thing lately, major tip of the cap to promoter Brian Hill for making it happen … also a nod to the folks in/around Rome for turning out to support high quality live original music … kudos for The Brewhouse for being such a solid venue.  Not every unfamiliar place comes across as inviting but all my interactions with their staff were positive, just a very smooth experience all evening.  I could easily see them becoming a significant and regular destination for similar shows, if they choose to be … even the peripheral things were a plus.  Easy to find, easy to get to, plenty of convenient parking in the deck around the corner, security had just the right tone & balance …

The Bad — not a lot falls into this section really, nothing really “bad” per se comes to mind.  I think a slightly earlier start time (830p perhaps) might ultimately prove to be a sweeter spot for the market, seemed like a fair number of patrons ran out of steam a little earlier than I’d have expected … I didn’t get to hear my (arguably) favorite Wayland song (“Nobody’s Perfect”) which was a downer for me personally but isn’t too stressful since it just means I’ll have something else to look forward to next time I see ’em.

The Ugly — this unfortunate category really only has one resident, Population: Me …   I swear by all I hold dear that I am NOT usually such a stammering star struck fanboy.  Wayland suffered through that at least twice Saturday night but I promised:  I’ll do better next time 🙂

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Ready To Rock (weekly playlists)

Another week, two more songs in & two more songs out with still three songs that should be included currently missing from Spotify.  Consistent, if nothing else.

Missing songs this week:
False Alarm – Smile Empty Soul, One Pill – Flash Lightnin, Break Down The Walls – Asking Alexandria

New to the Spotify list this week
Nothing Left To Lose – Heaven’s Basement, Go Home – Bleeker Ridge

Dropping off the Spotify list this week
Price I Pay – Lovehammers, Spore – Queensryche

For the larger (nearly 200 songs) YouTube version there’s  more than a half dozen new songs added this week including the aforementioned new single from Heaven’s Basement, the next single from The Letter Black (which is actually an old single but that’s another story), underrated U.K. band Skarlett Riot, new music from Jorn, the second single from the new Lynam album and several more.  You can find it at this link

Also, if you’re wondering exactly how all of this gets put together – the hows & whys of it – this recent blog entry probably explains more than you ever wanted to know.

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Ready To Rock (weekly playlists)

The first playlist of 2014  sees two songs enter & two songs leave, still three songs that should be included currently missing from Spotify.

Missing songs this week:
False Alarm – Smile Empty Soul, One Pill – Flash Lightnin, Break Down The Walls – Asking Alexandria

New to the Spotify list this week
With Me Now – Blacklite District, Price I Pay – Lovehammers

Dropping off the Spotify list this week
Wait For You – 7seventh Time Down, Redneck Freakshow – Saliva

For the larger (nearly 200 songs) YouTube version there’s  nearly a dozen new songs added this week including the final installment of the video trilogy from Pop Evil, another in an on-going series of videos from Fall Out Boy (featuring Tommy Lee as Satan), something new from Framing Hanley, one from We Came As Romans, promising newcomers Statik Silence and several more.  You can find it at this link

Also, if you’re wondering exactly how all of this gets put together – the hows & whys of it – this recent blog entry probably explains more than you ever wanted to know.

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