Thursday, February 25, 2010

Grand Halls 43

HELLTRAIN – “Rock ‘N’ Roll Devil” CD ’08 (Jimmy Franks, Swe) – What is it about some things? I knew a guy from New Orleans, ya know, it wasn’t Drew Brees or anything, but it was this dude and he seemed to have some kinda backwater, Cajun vibe. He told me “Ray, some things is just what they is. They’s got more than dem other things, yup?” That ain’t no double talk, honcho, that’s real and I know exactly what he meant. Some things almost take on a life of their own and this CD by Sweden’s HELLTRAIN is one of ‘em. Some of it involves Ray being a fucking idiot but then again, a lot of things involve that so pull up a chair, sit down and grab a brew. We’re gonna have us some fun tonight.

Sometime in the late spring of 2009, me, myself and a guy called I made one of our few pilgrimages to The Sound Garden in Fells Point, MD. Now don’t get me wrong. I love The Sound Garden but it’s not that close to where I live, the parking can be iffy if you can’t get on the lot and I have to set aside a good 2 or 3 hours when I go so I can look thru everything. Music-aholic here, you understand. I’m addicted to music-ahol. Ok, what-the-fuck-ever. Thing is, I’m in there, hunkering down over the “Metal” section. I can go fast, too, flipping CD’s like a demon and still seeing every one. But now I’m stopping and looking at this one: HELLTRAIN. Anything with “hell” in it is usually worth a 2nd look, right? Red & black, that’s their color scheme. And a picture of a goat! Goats are always cool, aren’t they? Just ask Cronos. So, I do the logical thing and…keep right on going and forget about HELLTRAIN. Next thing you know, I’m driving home and thinking to myself, “I read about that HELLTRAIN band somewhere…” So, the months roll on, the summer comes and goes, then there’s autumn with it’s chill in the air & swirling leaves…and another trip to The Sound Garden. Damn if I’m not brought up short by that same disc again and…damn if I don’t keep right on going again, this time picking up a few things from the “Psych” section, etc. “Gotta keep that HELLTRAIN in mind, though” I think. Now we flash forward to current times. I’m trolling around the net and suddenly find myself staring into the unblinking eye of a review of HELLTRAIN’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll Devil” on my buddy Racer’s Ripple Effect. THAT was where I’d seen that review and, dang but I must’ve had my thumb up my ass and all the way to my brain the first time I read it or I’d’ve had the sense to buy this sumbitch by now.

So, no problem, right? Now I know that daggone CD is good, I’ll just call Traders (about 10 miles closer to my house), see if they have a copy, put it on hold and grab it over the weekend. Um…one problem. I call over there and find out that “we don’t even think we can order that anymore.” Shit! All the sudden, it doesn’t seem to matter that I need to take a check to our tax people in Towson by 2:00 PM. All the sudden, it doesn’t matter that I have to pick up my son from school in Essex at 1:30. All the sudden, it doesn’t matter that the new High On Fire came out today and Best Buy has it for $ 7.99. Well, it does matter about the HOF, but that’ll be there…all 1,000 copies that BB Sales Associate Brittany just put up on the rack. Now, Ray is a man on a mission. I’ve been briefed! I’ve yet to even hear one note of HELLTRAIN’s repertoire but Racer has spoken. I’m convinced that the only copy of this fucking CD anywhere near my gnarled clutches is sitting on a shelf in Fells Point, MD and even as I speak, some clueless dolt is about to pick it up and buy it as a First Communion gift for his girlfriend’s nephew. I race back to the computer, desperate, and check Amazon. “Currently unavailable.” I look at my watch. I eye the door and my van in the driveway, teetering as it is without an exhaust system, ready to break down and riding on tires with the cords showing. “Why the hell not?!” I yell and race to the helm, armed with the knowledge that if I get every green light, watch for every cop, that I can make it down there, save this disc from a horrible fate of being bought by a non-deserving “layman” and still make my afternoon appointments by the skin of my pathetic ass.

Of course, you know the outcome, right? I made it. I FUCKING MADE IT!!! I got the CD, got home that night, threw it in the Realm-O-Matic and…fell fast asleep, exhausted from driving about 200 miles in an hour and a half in a minivan belching smoke and rubber. Now, it’s one night later and I’m awake…wide awake. I press “Play” and all is right with the world. HELLTRAIN don’t so much as come rawking out of the earbuds, they more so take a rusty dagger and plunge it into my ear canals, grinning like undertakers as they do. Pardon me while I digress, but have I ever told you about my dog? He’s a mixed breed, part Border Collie, part Shepherd, part…oh sod it, he’s just a dog and his name’s Kalle Metz. That is, he’s named after the original voice of one of Sweden’s greatest bands (and one of my all-time faves), Tenebre. My friends, the singer for HELLTRAIN sounds like Kalle Metz if he gargled rusty screws that fell out of the carburetor of an old Studebaker. The guitarists have all the subtlety of desperate men wielding chainsaws at a Baptist revival and the rhythm section play as though this is what keeps them from murdering on a regular basis. But you know what’s most amazing? From the title cut on, these 10 songs have all the melody and catchiness of the most engaging pop song you’ve ever heard. Taking a recipe of whiskey-soaked rawk, pouring a fifth of death metal all over it and then dousing it with a liberal dose of rock-a-billy hot sauce, HELLTRAIN have made THE best record of 2008 that I never even heard that year. From the very first knuckle-busting downstroke of that title song, through the gloriously-titled “Great Halls Of Fire,” coming down the homestretch with “I Am The Misfit” and finally slamming into the wall in a hail of broken glass, amps cranked to 11 and flames from a sonic meth lab explosion, this is pure genius. I guess I’ll pick up that High On Fire disc someday. A Real Rock & Roll Train, Angus
NOTE: Look at these guys’ myspace address below…Jesus, is that great or what?!

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