Friday, August 27, 2010

Slayer Flashback II, South of Heaven Chicago 1988

Slayer week continues, huh? When I spoke to Kerry King last week I asked him about the time Trouble opened for Slayer on the 'South of Heaven' tour in 1988 at the Aragon Ballroom [Danzig was also on the bill]. Kerry immortalizes the night when he tells the story to Rick Ernst's documentary 'Get Thrashed.'

I knew the show date was in August, I also remember it was the first Friday night of my senior year of high school. So  todayI was going through some stuff and found some ticket stubs.

Fucking weird.

The Trouble story comes in at 4:07

On and on South of Heaven...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The American Carnage Tour August 20, 2010 - Chicago

After months of setbacks and delays the traveling Metal killing machine dubbed ‘The American Carnage Tour’ finally rolled through Chicago on a humid August Friday night. A nod to the 1990/91 ‘Clash of the Titans’ tours of Europe and North America featuring the biggest Thrash Metal bands of the golden era. The first leg of the American Carnage run features Slayer, Megadeth and openers Testament, all participants in the original Euro version.

The current trend and yes that’s what it is these days, to perform full albums either sinks or swims a show. I mean there’s a reason some of those songs were never played live, right? So this bill would feature the two headliners performing their 1990 released albums in their entirety. For some this is a selling point to get their ass in the building and for others it might be something that seals the deal on other plans for the night.

Openers Testament hit the stage promptly at 6:55 and kicked the evening off with “More Than Meets the Eye” from their latest album, ‘The Formation of Damnation .’ Sporting a nifty backdrop/riser deal Chuck Billy and Co. played 30+ minutes of heads down Thrashing Metal with little talk or time wasting. I wish I had photos of the band but was delayed in shooting due to some will call snafu’s. However I was able to check out a good portion of their set and definitely felt they were up to par as far as performances go. 

Testament was once a natural on the arena stages across the globe. Back in the hey day of the ‘Clash of the Titans’ era, the band was blowing up and album by album, tour by tour they were nipping at the heels of the big dogs. Arena support slots with Judas Priest and Iron Maiden as well as underground swelling tours with Slayer had set them up for a metallic ascent. The band seemingly self-imploded when after years of solid releases and forward momentum, it all fell apart amiss member changes  and business climate in the mid 1990’s. Their climb back has been a slow but steady one and once again things are definitely looking up for the band. With a catalog of classic cuts as deep as the ocean Testament definitely contributed to the Chicago Carnage tonight.

Megadeth have been on a surge like never before. Seriously has there been a time in recent memory that all the fucking cards are falling Dave’s way? His autobiography is a New York Times Bestseller. His partner and closest thing to a brother he has ever known, David Ellefson is back in the band. His “baby” Megadeth has the finest guitarist it’s ever known in Chris Broderick and most important? The world wide reaction and adulation for their most recent album, 2009’s ‘Endgame .’ For many a Mega-Head a truer return to form you won’t find and the ensuing tours were also more than well received. 

The 2010, year long celebration of their watermark album ‘Rust In Peace ’s’ 20th anniversary has been just that, a celebration. A soon to be released DVD of the album’s performance before a sold-out Los Angeles theater is just another way of cementing the ongoing party. 

Nothing about Dave Mustaine is subtle so when the band launches in to “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” as their opening number, it’s so typical Mustaine. No subtlety necessary as Megadeth are off and running. The sound is good upfront, hard to tell if it’s mostly monitor mix, but so far so good. Vocally it was way better than the ‘Big 4’ Bulgaria broadcast, almost too good?

The added presence of Dave Ellefson shouldn’t be underestimated. I commented on his return in my review of the Bulgaria show and that was on screen! Live there he was, back at home and I will admit between the classic ‘Rust In Peace’ backdrop and seeing “Junior” back in his rightful home gave this graying rattle-head a smile. His return has been about as natural as they come and not for one second do you look over and get the heebie-jeebies because the guy from White Lion was playing bass in Mega-Fucking-Deth! “Hangar 18,” “Take No Prisoners,” and “Five Magics” twist, turn and thrash with the best of them. 

What can be said about Chris Broderick?  IMO best guitarist the band has ever had.  A player bred for Metal doing what comes naturally.  I think both Chris Poland and Marty Friedman had to be almost coerced into playing Megadeth music. Broderick just rocks it.

Once the album had concluded, Dave and crew returned to the stage for a few more songs. “Trust” probably my favorite “radio era” Megadeth song sounded excellent, those vocals were like magic! “A Tout Le Monde,” “Headcrusher,” “Symphony of Destruction” and closed the show with “Peace Sells.” A killer set, executed with precision and delivered with the intensity it deserved, Megadeth took the Carnage in Chicago up a few notches for sure.

Before Slayer took the stage I was in awe. Here we were in the 8,000+ capacity UIC Pavilion and looking out at the crowd I think it’s safe to say there were at least 7,000+ maniacs gathered. It was impressive and just another notch in the Metal belt of Chicago. Not only was it a near full house but the intensity level kept climbing and climbing until it peaked.

Slayer playing along with the theme of the tour also joined in on the full album action. No stranger to doing such a thing, it was only a few years ago they rolled through their own landmark release, ‘Reign In Blood ,’ to ravenous audiences around the globe. Matching Megadeth with the ‘Clash of the Titans’ vibe, Slayer are featuring their 1990 release ‘Seasons in the Abyss.’

Life’s a bit strange and like music everything revolves around time and the timing of certain events. On one hand, 20th anniversary of ‘Seasons…’ definitely deserves some recognition but then again the ‘World Painted Blood ’ campaign has stuttered and stopped since it’s launch in November of 2009. In speaking with Kerry King before the show he definitely feels the same way, like all systems go for the new album and here they are performing a 20 year old album while playing only two brand new cuts.

That being said, once the lights went out and the curtain dropped, Slayer were back and it was about time. Back in my review of the ‘Big 4’ broadcast I made mention of the anti-climactic vibe of a Slayer show starting with a brand new song. Where the build up and anticipation during the intro music rises and falls sharp when the show begins. This may or may not have been true on Friday night; actually it was hard to tell. I was positioning myself for some camera work during the first few songs so it was tough to judge the audience’s reaction. I do know for a fact after “World Painted Blood” and “Hate Worldwide” started things off the band launched into the ‘Seasons…’ part of the set with “War Ensemble” and seemingly all hell broke loose.

That’s when the chaos seemed to start and the bodies started flying over the barriers forcing the UIC security to earn every cent promised. The middle section of ‘Seasons…’ is one of my least favorite clumps in the Slayer catalog. Trumping even the middle of ‘Diabolus In Musica ,’ I waited patiently for those songs to pass. Not that they’re bad songs, but I don’t even listen to those tracks at home. The band was in excellent form, seriously tight and loose at the same time; their ability to ride a groove was definitely apparent as well as necessary when revisiting this album. Tom Araya sounded as pumped as he did on the film broadcast and his inability to headbang hasn’t diminished his attack whatsoever. He’s still able to command the attention of the crowd and does so with ease.

Guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman were money. I hate that term, but what else applies to one of the most consistent Heavy Metal guitar duo’s ever? Each riff, each lead and each chug was as demonic as the last and when all players locked in together there was nothing heavier. Trading leads and rhythms for close to thirty years has almost made King and Hanneman perform like a single player. So in tune with one another their fretboard furies almost seem effortless.

Dave Lombardo was Dave Lombardo. A true artist who is a pleasure to watch as well as listen to. I won’t go into the same adjectives I used in my ‘Big 4’ review, but live Lombardo continues to find new ways to interject new blood into his recorded work with amazing results. On the ‘Seasons..’ album the middle of the record up until the end is some of Lombardo’s best moments and delivering it live was no problem. “Dead Skin Mask,” “Hallowed Point,” and the stone groove of “Skeletons of Society” gave way to the song I would’ve gladly paid to hear live, “Temptation.”

One of my favorite cuts off the album and one the band had rarely ever played  in the two decades since the record was released. The album concluded on the high note known as “Seasons In the Abyss.”  The anchor of the album as well as a very popular standout track, it's staying power 20 years proves  it.  Slayer always knew the song was key.

A short break was stopped dead in its tracks with the pre-recorded “South of Heaven” intro. A brutal version of “Raining Blood” followed and it was just intense, the deepest cut you can possibly imagine Slayer to play was played. “Aggressive Perfector,” the song that started it all on the Metal Massacre III release way back when, was a treat and a half to hear live. The evening and the show was ushered out by the one and only “Angel of Death.” The Chicago Carnage was rampant and in full effect on Friday August 20th and now had come to a close.

Slaytanic Wehrmacht thanks to Marc Paschke for doing the devil's work!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Slayer Flashback

SLAYER! This Friday, Aug 20th sees the American Carnage Tour hitting Chicago.  After multiple setbacks, the show of shows is off and running and the response, so far has been excellent.   I decided to run an old interview that appeared in Midwest Metal #19 which was released back in 1998.  Really looking forward to seeing the show and sharing the experience with good friends.  Words and Photos to follow.   

(Click images to enlarge)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Book Review: Mustaine, A Heavy Metal Memoir

No matter what you may or may not think of Dave Mustaine, one thing’s for sure he’s one highly unique and viciously talented individual with a (tortured) mind all his own. You don’t have to get very far into the recently released and highly anticipated ‘Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir’ to realize he’s always marched to the beat of a different drum. Sure that drum has done little to drown out the multiple voices and personalities, but it’s made for some incredible music and experiences over the last thirty years.

From day one, nothing was ever going to be easy for David Scott Mustaine. We’re talking from day-fucking-one. Is he alone? No, not at all. There are hundreds of thousands of adolescents with less than stellar upbringings that don’t even come close to achieving what Mustaine has in his lifetime and you have to wonder, is that always such a bad thing?

Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir’ begins in La Mesa, California in 1961 and takes you on a journey of what it was like for Dave as a child and how his initial upbringing as well as those who played roles both in, as well as out of his life shaped his future. Most of it is (nowadays) somewhat typical, single parent and relatives assisting and bonds formed and subsequently broken as time goes on. This is worth noting as one of the reoccurring themes throughout the book is “so and so once was important to me at this juncture, however we’ve since drifted apart.” But the birth to early teen years for Mustaine were exercises in physical, mental as well spiritual stability that didn’t always work out to his advantage. But as we all know and didn’t need a book to tell us, he’s a survivor, he obviously made it through. 

Mid to late teens Dave Mustaine is all about the “big four,” smoking weed, listening to music, getting laid, and playing guitar. Woven in between these passions was trying to get a band together and more importantly, his idea of what a band should be. A key thing for him in every band or even jam session was the chemistry between members. He makes mention of it countless times and it’s a glimpse of his later headspace. These are some very interesting times chronicled as his developing attitude and ideals starting to flower at this time will later be responsible for his biggest dream as well as his worst nightmare combining into one huge reality. 

Obviously Dave hooking up with Lars Ulrich via an ad in the Recycler is the beginning of a few (of several) really epic chapters. Mustaine takes us through his initial phone call as well as meet up with Lars in the latter’s parent’s Newport Beach, CA. condo. Things move quickly from there but things also start to (very slowly) disintegrate as well. Once in Metallica there are the infamous James Hetfield/Dave Mustaine brawls, the Ron McGovney-ism’s, and just the basic human differences between the guys told from Mustaine’s POV. The pursuit and landing of Cliff Burton and the bond him and Dave shared, really revealing stuff and things I don’t think I’ve ever really read before. Where I mentioned Dave’s ideals, well Lars Ulrich also had his opinions of things like what a band should look like, what a band should sound like etc. So early clashes were bound to happen and they did but one thing’s for sure, and history has proven it, it definitely wasn’t musical differences that landed Dave Mustaine in the Greyhound Station in 1983.

So to back it up a bit, the chapters dealing with the embryonic stages of Metallica up until the fateful New York/New Jersey trip are extremely insightful and very cool to read a different viewpoint. Dave comes across as both extremely honest as well as extremely bitter when it comes to this era in his life, but like I said hearing another side of the oft-told story is definitely an eye opener. Dave fully admits he no idea of what was happening with Metallica when it came to the business of the band. In fact he said one day he woke up to the sound of a U-Haul being backed up to the Metallica Mansion, the same U-Haul that was going to get the band to NY to record ‘Kill Em All,’ yet he had no idea. He also comes clean in saying that is why he became such a control freak when it came to his own band just a few short years later. When he does end up at the bus terminal the images he paints with his words are just grim.

The chapters focusing on the formation of Megadeth are just brilliant! Dave had specific mental blue prints to what a Heavy Metal, no make that, HIS Heavy Metal band should sound like, look like and act like and it was his way or the highway. Reading about the union of Mustaine and David Ellefson at such a critical time in his life reaffirms Mustaine’s quest for the proper band chemistry and what he was looking for since his pre-Metallica days in Panic. He talks a bit about the Kerry King period of Megadeth and how members Chris Poland and Gar Samuelson complete this early vision but in “Junior” he found his partner-in-crime, his co-conspirator, his musical foundation and it was all up from there. 

Well, sort of. The trials and tribulations of Dave Mustaine and his main vehicle of inspiration, Megadeth saw more highs and lows (emphasis on the highs) than just about any other band in history. The lifestyle the band led in its early days definitely made some for some good reading, but the constant struggles, fights, turnover’s, mis-communication and eventual fall-outs seemed to be never ending. What’s amazing is the music created during these tumultuous times still sounds fresh and as current as anything being released today. 

Unbelievably as the years and albums progress, so does the band’s abuse of alcohol and drugs. Mustaine admits to some seventeen stints in rehab and not for a minute does it seem like he’s bullshitting. In fact, as mentioned earlier, he comes across as pretty honest. Some of the honesty actually shocked me as it seems to come from a very sincere place. His handling of the many changes in Mega-personnel as well as the many managers and managerial candidates is definitely enlightening to read here. Gaining access to Dave’s descriptions of the many people who have walked the Megadeth path? These are hilarious, honest, and at times absurd. The fine line he walks between bitterness and fact can sometimes blur quite a bit. He can be harsh as all hell and then turn on a dime to be complimentary. 

As the book evolves throughout the years, it’s interesting to read the way Dave revisits these times and the music created in them. The Howard Stern appearance is just a bizarre moment as are a lot of outside pressures taking some of the blame for lackluster albums and the story behind some of the individual tracks can be give and take affairs. As more time progresses the changes in Dave the person also come through loud and clear. For all the writing he does as Dave the CEO/CFO of Megadeth, Inc. I find the best writing here is from Dave Mustaine the Father. Now Mustaine has probably made 100,000 mistakes in his lifetime, but his words concerning his children and the struggles that face every parent are pretty potent. It’s during these pages you do almost feel for the guy but he’s made it very hard to be sympathetic towards him. 

The story of Dave and Megadeth is definitely one of interest. Exactly how much of it is 100% true? That’s hard to say. The bitterness of the Metallica situation has haunted the guy for so long it’s almost impossible to think it will ever subside. Dave’s spiritual awakening seems to have done wonders for certain things in his life yet does not appear to be strong enough to cure them all. The chip on his shoulder, the one he’s been hauling around for some twenty-seven + years never appears to get lighter, either. It’s a shame the book didn’t get a chance to cover both the return of “Junior” as well as the biggest event of his life. No, the book covered the birth of his children and his marriage, what I’m talking about the moment he’d been waiting for since April of 1983. That was hopefully the closure of the past that will guide him chip free into the future? Or will it? 

In closing, I enjoyed this book. I think it’s a historic piece of Metal history that needed and deserved to be told. There’s some great, and I mean GREAT photography in here that perfectly compliments the story being told. I also think the book should come packaged with more than a grain of salt as some of the stuff is just too out there to be true. I’m not talking about the drug abuse or certain numbers here and there. I’m talking about the way Dave takes multiple pot shots at people who either cannot defend themselves because they’re no longer with us or those who need not bother with it. Some times it’s just eye rolling material, others it’s pointless drivel. That withstanding Dave has accomplished quite a bit here, go forth and read!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Dillinger Escape Plan, Vans Warped Tour- 7.31.10 First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre

They smell like death
So hold your breath
It's time to get down
You can spot them from a distance
Cause they're not from your town
-Death Angel-Road Mutants 1988

The first thing I noticed as I approached the stage was the smell.  There’s nothing quite like the smell of a touring band, make that the smell of an underground touring band.  Especially in the summer.  It was overwhelming and almost seemed to suck the oxygen out of the entire stage front/photo pit area.  No small feat as this was an outdoor show, but it was unmistakable and this is one of the things rock and roll is all about.  Bands sweat when they play; most wear the same stage clothes night after night (or day) out of pure necessity.  These clothes, once past the point of no return as far as scents go, are usually items that can stand on their own after the show and most should also be burnt.  I’m not saying this in any derogatory way; after all, I know what it’s like to fucking stink on the road.  It’s part of the experience. 
I’ve seen The Dillinger Escape Plan before.  I’m not ashamed to say this, but they scared the shit out of me.  It was 2005 and they’d already been in and around for several years but I didn’t care for them.  More on that later, but in 2005 I caught their set on the inaugural Gigantour and I knew nothing of them other than their name.  When they started to play, it was like all hell had truly broken loose. 

Now I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of gigs, from clubs to arenas and I’ve seen a lot of action at shows.  We’ve all seen insane shit.  We’ve seen “walls of death,” “old-school circle pits,” “kung-fu shit,” just brutal participation that seems to get crazier and crazier as the years pass.  However I’ve never seen a band do that kind of stuff on stage. 

Sure back in the day there were bands that were extremely entertaining on stage, be it the Anthrax of old, D.R.I., Vio-Lence, M.O.D., Cro-Mags not to mention the mid 90’s Hardcore stuff like Integrity, Snapcase, Madball so on and so forth, they all delivered the goods while keeping in constant motion.  This was an important part of the concert experience for me and one that may or may not be the norm these days.  So my first experience with Dillinger was that of shock and awe.  Standing in the photo pit, I could’ve sworn the band was not only trying to kill the audience, but themselves as well. I had never seen such reckless abandon at a show especially on stage, it was insane and the uncomfortable feeling I left with was probably Dillinger’s goal. 

So back to the present, last Saturday was the day the Vans Warped Tour was hitting the Chicago area and Dillinger were a part of the traveling circus and I couldn’t wait to see them again.  It had been a lot of years and my whole opinion of the band changed with the release of their latest album, ‘Option Paralysis.’  After listening to the new album for months and months I wanted to experience them live again and days later I’m still thankful I did. 

Little has changed with DEP in the multiple years since I saw them last.  They were just as intense and destructive as the last time; in fact they were probably crazier.  Musically I don’t know how they do it but it almost seems as if their sets are musical exorcisms. Where it’s as if the members, Guitarists Ben Weinman and Jeff Tuttle in particular, trade every ounce of energy for the heart felt satisfaction of giving 100% on stage.  If that doesn’t make sense, simply You Tube some of their stuff and see for yourself. 

On stage they were a unit, a supercharged dissonant wrecking machine and for 40 minutes they kicked all sorts of ass.  Vocalist Greg Puciato just blew me away and his command of the stage and crowd seemed as natural as anything I could think of.  Set-wise they covered a good amount of ground, from old (“43% Burnt”) to recent (“Lurch,” “Milk Lizard”) to current (“Chinese Whispers,” “Good Neighbor”) including set closer “Farewell, Mona Lisa” which is, so far my song of 2010.

To say this was a memorable set is like saying game seven of a World Series is just a game.  I took Max with me to see Dillinger and while he knew very little of their music, I knew he’d be just as entertained by watching the show.  This was his first festival experience and even though we didn’t stay long, it was very cool to have my son with me seeing a band such as this.  Many, many thanks to Brian Umlaut and his man Kurt Soto for gracious help and a set we will never forget.