Saturday, December 18, 2010

Reader's Poll 2010

Well folks, it's that time again! We're reaching the end of yet another year of music and with that in mind, it's time for us all to go on record & make fools of ourselves salivating over a handful of the better platters of '10. So, send in your Top Ten albums (CD's, albums, records, whatever you want to call 'em). The only requirement is that they were released in 2010 (I know there is sometimes a sticking point over the date on the back of disc... e.g., sometimes something is dated 2009 and actually isn't available until 2010. What we're looking for is things that became available during know what I mean.) Anyhoo, send in your Top 10 list to my email: The cut-off date is Jan 31, 2011 for the simple reason that we give you till the end of the year and then a little time to get your thoughts in order. Then, right after Jan 31, I'll publish the results of the poll, plus my own Top 10 for those of you who give a dern. BE SURE TO INCLUED YOUR POSTAL MAILING ADDRESS IN YOUR EMAIL! Anyone who sends in a Top 10 by Jan 31, 2011 will receive a kewl surprise from me in the mail shortly thereafter! So, list away! Again, send the Top 10 and your mailing address to:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Natural Born Killers

AGAINST NATURE – “Cross Street / Chasing Eagles” CD ’10(Blandhand, US) – You know what, peeps, there are certain things that just float my boat. Finding a crumpled up $ 20 in my pants pocket in the wash, that’s one. Waking up on “Friday” morning, starting to get up and realizing that it is in fact Saturday…yes! And finding a brown envelope in my mailbox from John Brenner. The first 2 are self-explanatory, so if any of you need clarification there, you need more help than this holder of a measly B.A. in Psych can give you. I’ll try to point you in the right direction on #3, though. See John Brenner is the guitarist/singer for Baltimore heavy music legends AGAINST NATURE & REVELATION and the fact of the matter is, anything either of these bands do is the freaking business. I’m serious, children of The Realm, everything this man has mailed me over the past several years has ruled and so have the ones he’s handed me in person. “Cross Street / Chasing Eagles” is no exception and I’m here to tell you why.

A little secret of the trade (which is actually no real secret at all) is that AGAINST NATURE and REVELATION are actually comprised of the same 3 guys: John Brenner – guitar, vocals; Bert Hall, Jr. – bass; Steve Branagan – drums. While the REVELATION face of this dual-sided monster plies the trade of melodic doom metal, AGAINST NATURE is a little more experimental…but don’t let that throw you! When I say experimental, I’m not talking about a bunch of nerds sitting in front of a couple banks of keys making noises, stroking their beards and saying “Perhaps….” Oh hell no. I mean experimental in the way that these guys will gladly explore all avenues of where a 3-piece rock band can travel, from Van Der Graaf style prog to Trower-style jamming. That’s part of the real fun in getting a new AN disc from John, seeing what these 3 cats have decided to get into this time…and knowing that whatever route they’ve taken, it’s gonna be a sweet ride. In truth, nothing could have gone down better on these ears than what happened when I put in this disc and hit “play.” In fact, so good is it that I think there’s only one way it could’ve come into being. Here’s my theory: One day John, Bert & Steve were hanging around in their practice place and after doing a 35 minute jam that would’ve made The Allman’s hang their heads in resignation, they decided to see what would happen if they flipped on the time machine John had made out of an old Orange Amp. Next thing they knew, they were standing in an undisclosed backwoods locale in Texas, circa. 1970. Immediately to their left stood a ramshackle lean-to and, whoooaaa, that lean-to looked nasty! In fact the whole scene was kinda scary so they began to amble back up the tire-track path toward what they thought was civilization when suddenly a voice rang out in the muggy air: “Hey, y’all, c’mon back now!” Standing outside the shack, battered Les Paul in his hand was a young fella named Billy Gibbons. “Y’all look like you’re in a band,” Billy called out in his Tejas drawl, “I got a few boys over for a beer & bar-b-cue! Wanna jam? This is Duane. Over there’s Snuffy…Snuff, you like that one I wrote about the Chevy, don’t ya? And that’s Jimi, he’s kinda shy but once he starts playin’, whoo boy! And there’s ol’ man Johnson’s kid, Eric…the 2 of them were fightin’ over that Strat before. Ha ha, let’s play some boogie, boys!” This went on for maybe a moment, maybe a day, maybe a year…until finally the time machine just seemed to kick into reverse on it’s own, depositing John, Bert and Steve back into their practice space in the Year Of Our Lord, 2010. Without another word and with a resolution only born of the most sacred inspiration, they knocked out this stuff you’re listening to now. The truth of the matter is that “Cross Street / Chasing Eagles” is classic bluesy hard rock on such a high level of massive fucking coolness that it could have only been conceived by guys who have both a complete understanding of the best from the past and the drive to bring it to the now. Love, care and craftsmanship in both songwriting and playing like this, and across so many great songs is something that has rarely been heard since the ‘70’s. This is music that is honest, real and above all a flippin’ blast to listen to…any time. The whipped cream and cherry on top of this slice of musical gorgeousity is John Brenner’s guitar work. I know I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. This guy is possibly the premier tone-master working today. Not only is he a riff-machine of nearly Iommian proportions, but the feel and quality of his soloing is staggering for a player working in today’s jaded environment. As with guys like Gibbons, Rory Gallaher, Leslie West & Andy Powell, he understands tone better than most could dream. A subtle move from one pick-up to another, the Gibson bite, the Fender creaminess…all those and everything in between live in these “grooves” (ok, I’m old-school, it’s not a record, I know!) and display the man as a brilliant player. Of course, it must be mentioned that Bert’s rolling, Geezer-inflected lead bass and Steve’s hard-yet-jazzy conversational drumming style do way more than just underpin Brenner’s six-string masterworks.

Is there music more enjoyable on the market than what happens when a new AGAINST NATURE disc tumbles out of that brown envelope? Not that I know of. My CD Can Beat Up Your Eagle Scout Ray Dorsey

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Put Me On Speakerphone

TAME IMPALA – “Innerspeaker” CD ’10 (Modular, Australia) – You know, it’s funny. I had been thinking it’s been a little while since I had a good yarn to spin on here. And so, with that in mind the Fates aligned to give Ray some fodder for a story. So here’s how it went…settle in with your favourite adult beverage, get comfortable and prepare yourself for the long haul. Ok, I’ll try not to make it that long but we’ll see how it goes….

It was a few weeks ago that I was piddling around on that Internet thang when I ran across a comment from Corsair’s Marie stating that if there was one band she wished she could be in it was TAME IMPALA. Now here’s the thing: Marie is one of the guitarists in a kick-ass band who’ve authored one of the year’s most surprising records so I take her commentary seriously and the information was duly noted and filed away in my head. Of course it promptly pushed aside things like when my car insurance was due, the dates of my kids’ field trips, etc. but damn if I would forget to check this band out. Hit fast-forward maybe a week and I’m down in The Soundgarden in Fells Point, thumbing through the psych section when I hit the “Misc T-Z” card and I’m staring at TAME IMPALA’s disc, “Innerspeaker.” I have 3 reactions, all in a particular order: 1) Damn, there it is! A CD by the band Marie was talking about! 2) I wonder if this is their newest one? 3) Fuck, the disc is an Australian import and is $ 27.99. With this all in mind, I meandered up to the counter to ask the guy when the album came out. I have this funny thing, when I’m checking into a new band, that I like to hear their current release first then work back. I like to see where they are and then, how they got there. In this case, the super-pricey-sticker was making me hope this was an older album, which would pour a little cool water on the curiosity fire that was rising in me. Of course upon delving into his PC, the dude at the counter replied “May 2010…and no indication of it being released over here.” Shit. I really didn’t have $ 28. Well, I had $ 28, but not to spend on a CD that day. So in a state of stately resolution, I deposited said disc back in the rack and headed out the door into a brisk fall day and ‘round back to the parking lot. I opened the car door and as I sank into the seat to nestle amongst the fast-food debris and empty water bottles that typically litter my vehicle, I thought a little more and the little angel & devil on either of my shoulders began to argue: Devil says, “This shit is going to bother you all day, go back and buy the damn thing.” Angel replies, “Uh…ok.” With all that haggling out of the way, I ambled back into The Soundgarden, pulled out the $ 28 I’d need the next day for gas and minutes later was up headed up Boston Street. I was feeling pretty friggin’ good…got every light green and the first time I had to stop was up at the travel plaza. Sitting there, I took the time to take a peek at my loot. Man, the cover looked cool…sweet digipak with artwork of a killer autumn scene. Light’s still red, so I slit the shrink wrap to check out the booklet and when I opened the cover, my heart sank. You see, there in the plastic part with the little circular thing in the middle where the CD should rest was…nothing. There was no CD. THERE WAS NO FUCKING CD!!! It was empty. My immediate reaction was to do the irrational thing and pull the booklet out of the other side, thinking the disc may be in between it. Of course, I knew it wasn’t going to be there. I was incredulous. I was also going to be late for the next job but instead, swung uncomfortably close in front of an oncoming 18 wheeler and made a mad dash back to Soundgarden. I just knew they’d have another copy. Flying into the store, I explained my plight to the counter guy. “I think we’ve got another one upstairs,” he said promisingly. Of course, you probably already know the drill. A few minutes later, he returned from whence he came, eyes slightly downcast. “Sorry man, that was the last one. We should have it back in again next week.” He returned my cash and I set back toward home again, bitter and defeated.

So here we are again at The Soundgarden the next week and…you guessed it…I find “Innerspeaker” in the Psych Section once more. This time in a bit of mild paranoia, I carry it to the counter. The guy start’s to ring it up and I say, “Sounds kinda dumb man, but could you open that up to make sure the disc is in it?” He obliges, indicating he’d heard the story about the missing one and slit it open to find that IT HAD NO GODDAMN DISC IN IT AGAIN!!!” I was trembling at this point, sort of like David Bowman at the end of “2001: A Space Odyssey” when he’s in the hotel room. “Brother, I’m really sorry,” the dude consoled, “This must be the same digipak that they re-sealed. We’ll definitely be re-ordering it, though.” At this point I figured that at least a few months of therapy would probably get me to the point where I could come out of the house and go back to work again. And so we flash forward again….

Now we’re to last week and I’m helping my good bud and new Raysrealm writer Andre’ pick up a TV he’d bought downtown. We get the sumbitch loaded in the van, stop to grab something to eat and he asks me, “Man, if you aren’t in a rush can we stop by Soundgarden, they have a psych book I ordered?” To be honest, I wasn’t completely interested in a trip to the CD Joint At The Point. I didn’t have a lot of buckage on me and, coincidentally, I’d called the day before asking about the very same TAME IMPALA disc. I’d been told it was re-ordered and should be in within the next week but probably not the next couple days. But I figured ok, the store’s not that far from Andre’s abode and the poor guy has been really wanting that book. It was in that frame of mind that I trundled on down to Fells Point yet again. While Andre was grabbing his reading material, I idly flipped thru the metal section, then the psych section and was about to join him on the way out the front door when something…probably that little devil…made my hand flick thru the “Various T’s” in regular “Rock." First thing, right in front was “Innerspeaker!” This time, I could swear the thing felt heavier, like it definitely had a CD in it…same $ 27.99 price tag, mind you. Long story short, they slit the digipak open again and there it was: THE ACTUAL CD WAS PRESENT! So, rushing back out to the car to will together enough change to equal the $ 28, I left this time with the actual entire package in my hands…and a few extra bux because the guy there was totally cool and sympathetic to my previous ordeal and cut me a break (just another reason I love this Soundgarden store!).

By now, I’m sure that you all are saying, “Ray this has been absolutely ridiculous! You’ve outdone even yourself in wordy intros and stories and haven’t even begun the review yet.” But please, dear reader, don’t fret. Unless of course, you’re a guitarist and then it’s your job to fret. (Drum roll, please! Take my wife…PLEASE, take my wife!) This has all been for a great cosmic purpose, the purpose that sometimes things are worth it. They are worth a great and perilous journey. In this case, the answer comes back to you in spades and I’m not going to waste a whole lot more of your time. The bottom line is that Marie Landragin was right and this CD, this first full-length disc by TAME IMPALA was worth all the bullshit I had to endure to finally obtain it. The reason is that this album, created by Kevin Parker, Dom Simper and Jay Watson is fucking phenomenal. I had heard nothing by this band before inserting this crazily-difficult-to-obtain (for me!) disc in the Realm-o-Matic and now have probably listened to it 10 times over the last weekend. Call it psych, call it rock, I dunno. I just know that the mid-paced, simultaneously dreamy & driving music, overlain with Parker’s cavern/echo voice has put me in a helluva good mood. This music at once relaxes every fiber of my being and yet kicks my ass all at the same time. Examples? Man, the whole damn album but what about “Lucidity,” like the Beatles on “Revolver” being driven along by a Hawkwind power surge? How about the funk-laden back beat of “Solitude Is Bliss,” at once soothing your soul and throwing your back out with it’s rhythm. “Bold Arrow Of Time” surprises and paralyzes with it’s fuzzy, bluesy lead guitar insistence and the 7+ minute “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds” begins like an approaching train, rising from a whisper to a roar before ending in long, ethereal guitar exploration that could be Wishbone Ash on acid. This is one of those records that just takes my breath away…and every time a little more. There’s not a whole heckuva lot more I can say except that you need to get yourself a copy of “Innerspeaker” today. It probably won’t take you as long to actually come up with the damn disc as I did but even if it does, it’s worth every second! Time In A Bottle Ray Dorsey

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?!

AUTOPSY – “The Tomb Within” CD EP’10 (Peaceville, US) – We all grow. I mean, we start as babies, then become children, evolve into teenagers (although some may blanch at teenagers being any sort of evolution!), arrive at adulthood, etc. I suppose this is a process that applies to musical genres as well as people. And, as with all of these styles and niches, death metal is something that grew over time. We saw the infant puke all over everybody when Chuck & Kam set their 2-man assault crew loose on unsuspecting dive bars in Florida during the ‘80’s. And somehow, time passed…the infant grew up and eventually ended up in a suit and tie, swishing a dry wine around in it’s mouth at a dinner party as Opeth became a prog rock band. Only an occasional hoarse vocal indicated this visitor had lineage on the other side of the tracks and…well, to be honest, it kinda made me sad. Oh, there have been some decent attempts to take out the family photo album and remember that unruly kid but today I’m a happy man because the prodigal has finally come home. One of the true originals, California’s AUTOPSY has crashed the party and my, oh my are the rich folk gonna have some cleanin’ up to do! Let me explain something to you: “The Tomb Within” is not gonna be confused with anything progressive. It’s not gonna be mistaken for anything polished and it ain’t gonna be invited back anywhere that polite company is expected. This is 5 songs of pure, unadulterated violently heavy death metal that absolutely crushes everything in it’s path. Guitarists Danny Coralles and Eric Cutler put on blood-splattered clinic here, unleashing meat hook riffs that leave bodies splayed and gutted in every direction and leads that speak of a serial-killer level of insanity. From hardcore-fast to doom-thud, every speed is accounted for as Chris Reifert (drums/vocals) and Joe Trevisano (bass) hammer out rhythms designed not to impress but to kill. See, these guys (as they did on “Severed Survival,” way back in 1989) don’t seek to impress the musos as much as they aim to make sure no one is left alive by the end to tell the tale. From the title cut straight through to “Mutant Village,” this is 20 minutes that says everything you need to know about music that is right to the edge of being nearly too heavy and vile, something Reifert’s agonized growls make perfect every time he opens his virulent pipes on this puppy. While nowhere near as long in duration as some of 2010’s other notable releases, this one may be it’s most lethal. Only Death Is Real Ray Dorsey

Rendezvous With Rama

PRINCE RAMA – “Shadow Temple” CD ’10 (Paw Tracks, Swe) – Funny thing happened on the way to the “Psych” section…nobody seems to know what the term really means! And now I hear the sound of people descending on my front porch, pitchforks and torches high in hand as they object: “Ray, you got tired of beating the ‘what is prog’ dead horse, now you’ve left the ‘what is psych’ one out of the stable!” Hey, c’mon, I’m not such an argumentative guy, now am I? Thing is, I’m a person and I have feelings…I try to be calm, I try to be nice and peaceful. And then I hear someone spin a disc of half-baked QOTSA pseudo-stoner quiche with some joker making “space” noises over the top with a Magnus Chord Organ and call it “psych.” I’m sorry, but that’s when I lose it. It’s kinda like the people who call The Deftones metal. Ok, well it’s not that bad but you get my point. It’s a point that’s honed to a surgical sharpness when I get ahold of a record like PRINCE RAMA’s 3rd outing, “Shadow Temple” and hear psych the way it is supposed to be fucking done. See, a lot of people may think I go about some precise, systematic outline for reviewing an album and deciding whether said record is “the business” or not. You know, so many points for production, so many for guitar, so many for…well, no, that’s not what I do. To be honest, I have some real UN-scientific ways of deciding it something’s good shit or not. There are certain strange criteria the ol’ Rayman has and one of them is this: not every record alive, in fact, not many are suited to enter the Realm-o-Matic at the tail end of the night, fit to accompany this scribe’s drift off to dreamland. When I throw a disc in, slide the phones in and hunker down under the covers to relax, it’s a scant % of the play-pile that’ll join me. Lately, “Shadow Temple” has entered that rarified air. This is music that doesn’t seem to be shackled by time or space. The song titles are like mile markers but not boundaries…the music drifts with, if this is possible, an elegant urgency buoyed on washes of synth, guitars that ebb and flow like a tide and drums that are at once tribally insistent and pharmacologically hypnotic. Stretching thru the ether are strands of vocal melody bringing the listener a timeless feel of ecstatic exploration. So, if it seems like ol’ Ray has hauled out the thesaurus for that last little bit of description, please excuse his sad old sagging ass because he needed a little help this time. I sure don’t need any help in hitting “repeat” when this sucker ends, though as it’s a more satisfying listen every night. Fresh Prince Of Sweden Ray Dorsey

Grand Halls 51

MERCY – “Mercy” 1984 (Fingerprint, Swe) – Hey, I like Candlemass as much as the doom guy but there’s only one problem with that…MERCY was the band for whom Messiah Marcolin crooned previously and they were better! Blasphemy! Heresy! You cry “foul, man, foul!” and run for the tar and feathers, ready to ride ol’ Ray out of town on a rail. But let me tell you one thing man, please, let me express myself before you kill me: you need to get this sumbitch out of some dusty bin and spin it one time. Then you’ll know. Then you’ll testify, just like I’m doing right now. In the meantime, there are a few very important things that you’ll need to know about this first self-titled album from MERCY that’ll prove it rules. They are: 1) Messiah was young as shit when he committed the vocals to this bad boy. When you listen to “Dirty Love” & “Tyrant,” you’ll be hearing a mammoth metal vox-man wise beyond his years. 2) Andree Witchking had a serious-ass honking guitar tone...I mean, damn, you can damn near measure this shinola in thickness, almost like hot liquid tar being poured on that neighbor’s new driveway across the street. 3) There are seven (7) songs on the album. This may not seem like a biggie, but it is friggin’ huge. I can’t remember if I’ve dwelt on this topic before on these pages but think about the old days of vinyl. There is something about taking some bad-assed hoss out of the sleeve, looking at one side of the record and seeing 4 tracks. Then you turn it over and on the other side, there are only 3…that feeling you get when you look to the seriously, that feeling…seeing those 3 tracks and knowing that there’s some multiple brain-bashing 5+ minute stuff going on here and knowing, rest-assured, it’s gonna be heavy as hell. You know what? I’m going off on a tangent and don’t care. I’m naming names: Buffalo – “Volcanic Rock,” Wishbone Ash – “Argus,” Budgie – “Never Turn Your Back On A Friend,” Stray Dog – “Stray Dog.” Ok, are you receiving me? Well, actually, that would be from Golden Earring’s “Moontan,” which only had 5 songs but you get my point. This is the power of SEVEN. That is what we are talking about. And if you aren’t immediately running out to your local MERCY AUDIO EMPORIUM SHOP-MART to obtain this truck, plus everything else Mr. Witchking and cohorts ever committed to any form of plastic, let me say one more thing to you: “Master Of Disaster” just may have one of the coolest and heaviest choruses ever. These guys also prove the same thing that Black Sabbath once did: You don’t always have to be slow as molasses to be kings of doom. That’s it, I’m out. I’ve run out of reasons, superlatives and praise. Either buy or die. Don’t Stop Heavy Guitar
Ray Dorsey
NOTE: The CD version of this put out by T.P.L. Records some years back also includes the “Swedish Metal” EP and 5 unreleased bonus trax. Not sure how easy it is to find, but do what you gotta.