Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Top 8 Records of 2016 & Then Some

Unlike the last few busy years, I really sought out new music in 2016. Maybe I was looking for respite from the shit year it’s been, or maybe I took an old co-worker’s comment to heart.

After posting that I didn’t like a particular Top 40 single, a now-benched music industry vet surmised that it was time to give up; that pop music was no longer being made for my demographic or sensibilities, so I should stop keeping up with all things new. That struck me as sad. Imagine going through life thinking that every good song had already been written? I can’t. Granted, they might be harder to come by these days.

Though I tried, I could only really think of eight records that perked up my ears in 2016, and my favorite should come as no surprise. Call me basic, but without fail, any new Deftones record will likely be my favorite release of the year.

Live shows were a weird thing for me in 2016. Usually they are my comfort zone, a pastime that has as much to do with culture as it does socializing. But because of my dad’s cancer battle, I often found myself too emotionally spent to attend some concerts I’d really been looking forward to.

But then, I couldn’t think of skipping Nails’ blistering set at Marlin Room on the day my dad died. Catharsis, I guess? I also randomly met actor Chris Bauer (True Blood's Andy Bellefleur) that night. Guess my life will never be boring.   

I’m the muthafuckin’ Starboy. ¯\_()_/¯

Top 8 Records of 2016
Deftones - Gore
Nick Cave and the Bad SeedsSkeleton Tree
NailsYou Will Never Be One of Us
Oathbreaker - Rheia
The KillsAshes & Ice
NeurosisFires Within Fires

Honorable Mentions:
The SwordLow Country
Death AngelThe Evil Divide
Lady GagaJoanne
Lord Satan strike me down, but I kind of like Metallica's Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Nah: Into Another Omens; PJ HarveyThe Hope Six Demolition Project

Band I’m Glad I Discovered this Year: Couch Slut

Bands I Marginally Care About That Released Albums I Only Found Out About While Researching This List:
Planes Mistaken for Stars; Ignite; Skunk Anansie; Tricky; Massive Attack; Voivod; Dustin Kensrue; Metal Church; Kvelertak; Band of Skulls; The Monkees; Taking Back Sunday, Miniature Tigers, and at least two Elvis Presley “unearthed” collections.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Help Support Mike IX of Eyehategod

To say that 2016 is one of the worst years of my lifetime is not hyperbole. 

This year, I've lost treasured icons like Prince and Lemmy, cried over dear friends like Darwyn Cooke and Steve Dillon who will never be able to create art again - and most precious of them all, I lost my dad to extremely ugly lung cancer just a few days before my birthday.

There's so much else to be upset about these days, but this overture isn't about the American empire crumbling around us. It's about a man who provided the soundtrack for this sort of madness, starting decades ago.

It's no secret I've been a longtime fan of Eyehategod. It's also no secret that their members, particularly vocalist Mike "IX" Williams, have had a long and storied history with various substance dependencies. And now it's caught up with him in the form of cirrhosis of the liver, which is why he couldn't make the last EHG tour.

He's currently receiving long-term hospitalization care while waiting for a liver transplant. You can read all about it on his donation page, where I also urge you help. Though a donation milestone of $50,000 has been surpassed, anyone stuck within the grips of the US medical industry knows that won't go far.

It's not about dismissing other topical issues like #NoDAPL; it's not about lifestyle choices and consequences. It's a matter of family and community. 

At this point towards the end of 2016, more and more people seem to be dropping like flies. Maybe that's why there's this feeling of urgency to ensure Mike IX survives and thrives.

Please donate to Eyehategod's Mike IX on his YouCaring page, because I, for one, can't lose him.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Halloween Hearkens: A Throwback Viewing Guide

Halloween viewing lists are the new end-of-year music lists — but far more fun and fluid (mostly, the shiny red kind).

It's validating to see that so many more of my cohorts celebrate this fall tradition than, say, fawning over the latest pumpkin-spiced food-stuff creations. Taking into consideration several genres of TV and film, plus decades of biting fodder to choose from, it's easy for even the most squeamish among us to find a Halloween niche to revel in. (Just look up #31DaysofHalloween on any social media platform for inspiration.)

My only really parameter in choosing viewing material was a loosely-established "throwback" theme, mostly nostalgic stuff from my youth or about that era - plus some recommendations. I also found myself with more free viewing time than usual this season, and no one to fight for the remote, which helped when calling it quits preemptively on a few options, while marathoning through some others. And since I've never been a fan of graphic horror, this collection is definitely on the milder side.

Ultimately, my list isn't meant to be a hard-and-fast guide - merely some ghoulish guidance from someone who sat through 'em. In no particular order:

Fright Night - Championed by my man as his favorite '80s vampire film, it's easy to understand why a then-young boy would have loved it (two pairs of free-range boobs within the first half hour). But there's also the perfect mix of campy humor, shape-shifting gore and '80s high style. Definitely check out this version before trying on the 2011 remake.

The first 10 minutes of Penny Dreadful, The Addams Family, Underworld - Too dry; too dated; too trite. In that order.

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth - There are very few movies I can quote by heart, and this is one of them. Delving into Pinhead's human back story while introducing a new female protagonist, this is by far the best installment of the Hellraiser film series. There's also so much '90s nostalgia to enjoy: the faux Limelight club, Terry Farrell's cheekbones, Armored Saint's performance—there's even a Cenobite made out of CDs! Then there are Pinhead's endless blasphemous one-liners, like the one below, and Motorhead's official theme song.

Nightbreed: The Director's Cut - Based on a classic Clive Barker novella, this newer extended edition of the 1990 film only serves to embellish the already exotic feeling and arty nature of the original. It's always been easy to perceive Nightbreed's underlying allegory about how outliers and "freaks" are misunderstood in greater society - in this case, one made up of Al Binewski's dream cast.

American Ghost Hunter - As a fan of A&E's Paranormal State, I was hoping for a bigger ending to this full-length documentary about frequent guest Chad Calek's return to his haunted hometown to seek personal closure. Throughout, I kept thinking, "Why is this jerk smoking cigarettes around Ryan Buell? Isn't Ryan sick?" Then I read THIS. Oops. 

American Horror Story: Hotel - Let's just get it out of the way - Lady Gaga is no Jessica Lange; and nothing will ever top the goth factor of Coven. Still, Hotel breaks away from past seasons of AHS if only by unfurling a seemingly linear (ie: not totally bat-shit) storyline. There are still plenty of traditional AHS staples, including loads of rich styling, copious flesh-filled grotesqueness and cheeky nods to real-life historical villains, including Lily Rabe's spectacular take on Aileen Wuornos. 


Sleepy Hollow - Having only seen it during its 1999 theatrical release, I'd truly forgotten how much I missed the Lisa Marie Smith era of Tim Burton's films... and young Johnny Depp. This lush, atmospheric film is rounded out by an even more extraordinary all-star cast, including a cherubic Christina Ricci and a sharp-toothed mostly-headless horseman aka The Hessian, played by Christopher Walken. And let's not forget how ahead of its time Sleepy Hollow was with the Steampunk aesthetic. Proof? Take one look inside Ichabod Crane's bag of homemade contraptions.

The X-Files, various episodes - How does one decide which episodes are spooky enough for the season? Find a list online, duh. Though "Home" and "The Host" can easily be singled out as the creepiest of them all, a few resources I relied on quickly pointed out dark gems like "Folie à Deux," "Die Hand Die Verletzt" and the Stephen King-penned "Chinga." But really, the only way to lose with The X-Files is by watching Season 9.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Halloween episodes – To be fair, BTVS is good all year round. ALL. Year. Round. But a few of the holiday-themed episodes throughout the series exist to tickle your fancy, like Season 4's "Fear, Itself" and Season 6's coming of age, "All the Way." But the quintessential episode to watch is Season 2's appropriately titled, "Halloween," in which the kids of Sunnydale take on the personas of their haunted costumes - and Buffy is stalled as a helpless 18th Century courtesan. Quoth Willow: "She couldn't have dressed up as Xena?"

Dead Like Me, Seasons 1 & 2 - To be fair, the long-gone cult Showtime series is more comedy than fright. But this chronicle of corporeal soul reapers, with a sassy Daria-like lead in Ellen Muth's Georgia features so many random, uncontrollable, sometimes Darwin Awards-worthy deaths that it had me scared to leave the house after a mini marathon. Know that "What If?" domino-effect speculation you feel after catching a Final Destination flick? Imagine that vibe after seeing 29 cleverly devised dances off the mortal coil in Dead Like Me.

Now, on to the new season of Black Mirror, Nightmare Before Christmas and Luke Cage (Mike Colter can stoke my November Coming Fire any time!).

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice

At least it's the shortest day of the year; 2015 can't come and wipe the slate clean soon enough.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Who Gives a S#!t?: My Music Picks for 2014

Too exhausted for pithy intros.

For most of the year I was still wrapped up in a pop wonderland, so I'm sure there are some gems that've been missed. But as someone who habitually shuffles through 24,000+ songs on an iPod Classic (what of it? they're worth money now), it's seldom that I become obsessed with hearing a record in its entirety. Over and over again.

That's pretty much the only criteria I used in choosing my Top 10 Albums of 2014. Enjoy.

UPDATE: How did I ever miss Eyehategod? Also, the Tokio Hotel record is garbage. What did they do to you, Bill?

Best of 2014 (in order, based on how many times I spun the record straight through):
1. Cold World - How the Gods Chill
2. The Afghan Whigs - Do To the Beast
3. Rancid - Honor Is All We Know
4. Mastodon - Once More 'Round the Sun 
5. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2 
6. Godflesh - A World Lit Only by Fire
7. BehemothThe Satanist
8. Ghostface Killah - Twelve Reasons to Die 
9. Eyehategod - s/t
10. Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden
Pretty Damn Good:
Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues
At the Gates - At War With Reality 
Exodus - Blood In, Blood Out
Youth Code - A Place to Stand EP
Finch - Back to Oblivion
Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence
Vance Joy - Dream Your Life Away

Have yet to listen to these artists' latest records: Swans, Tokio Hotel, Shellac, Ex Hex, TV on the Radio.

Postscript: I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever get into Taylor Swift. Basic pop music has never suited me.

Best Shows of 2014:
Motley Crue @ Madison Square Garden - Though the set list was better when I caught Crue's Las Vegas residency, there was nothing like sending off the geezers at the most befitting NYC venue of them all.
Godflesh @ Irving Plaza - This was an experience for all senses, including the vibrations it swept through my body. Loudest show of the year that left me physically spent.
King Diamond @ Best Buy Theater - The double-decker stage, replete with gates! The actors! The light-up upside down crosses and pentagram! King's live show was like everything all concerned parents assume metal shows are like. READ this take on it.
Infest @ the Well - Seeing the underground icons plow through their discography was eye-opening; and a good hang (thanks for the ticket, Richard!).
Gorilla Biscuits @ House of Vans - Every summer there's one magical show where you get to see all of your friends, meet some new ones and enjoy some old-school hardcore. This was it.
Bonus: Pussy Riot @ Vice 20, Brooklyn Navy Yard - It was an honor to be in the presence of these blunt, independent Russian women (who are willing to risk their lives for their expression) as they covered riot grrl darlings, Le Tigre.


Monday, December 8, 2014

A Decade Without Dimebag

Hard to believe it's been a full 10 years since "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott was shot to death as he performed onstage with his band, Damageplan, at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, OH. The result is my almost-exact recollection of what occurred that day—a rarity for me. Probably the only other date and time this could be said for is September 11, 2001 in New York City.

A decade ago on this day, I was finalizing up ankle surgery plans, then met up with some High Times staffers to catch Doug Benson and Tommy Chong perform The Marijuana-Logues off Broadway. For that reason, I clearly recall this joke from the show:

"They call marijuana a crutch..." 
"...Yeah, but crutches help people."

The lot of us went and had dinner with Tommy afterwards and it blew my mind that he actually spoke in THAT lackadaisical voice; somehow surprised by how chill he was, considering he'd just gotten out of jail for selling glass pipes online.

I can't remember if it was there, or on my way home when I got a text message alerting me to a shooting at the Damageplan show. Truth be told, I can't even remember if it was my old editor at Revolver, or mutual friends. I was shocked as much as any fan could be, but didn't want to spread false rumors. Then I started thinking about the vulnerability of my friends and idols in bands (especially as Superjoint Ritual was starting to resurface).

Like so many others, I spent the night reaching out to my network of friends, kept others informed, and hoped against logic that the news was false; that somehow this brother in metal was still with us. Sadly, national news confirmed the worst.

There were three other people murdered by gunman Nathan Gale that night, including a fan who was trying to give Dimebag CPR. Let's not forget them, either.

Rest in Power. Forever.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Heavy Hearts and Black Clouds

Seems like the news is true at this point, and the thought of losing another member of our metal family this year is too much to handle. Sympathy and love go out to the friends and family of Black Tusk's Jonathan Athon, who died today from injuries he sustained in a collision while on a motorcycle.

Black Tusk were always such a great band to see live, and he was their driving force. Athon will be missed.