Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Guns N Roses- Chinese Democracy Part 2

8. Scraped- This song has a weird a capella beginning. Strange. Other than that, it is a pretty straight forward rocker. Not bad. OK.

9. Rian N' the Bedouins- This one here is another rocker that is straight forward. The verses actually sound like something off Appetite From Destruction. The chorus is cool, but I'm not sure it fits with the verses. Axel is really going for something with this tune, but I'm not sure if it works.

10. Sorry- This is a slow moody jam with guitar straight outta a western movie. It sounds a ton like Alice in Chains. When it gets to the chorus, it gets louder and even more AIC-ish. Now I love AIC, so I can deal, but Axel usually doesn't mimic others to this degree.

11. IRS- Here we go. This is another simple rock song, but much better than the last two. This song and Better are the most radio friendly. I like this song. This and Better are better than anything off of the 2 Use Your Illusions.

12. Madagascar- This is the first song on the record that sounds exactly how I expected this record to sound. It is a semi-symphonic, quasi-epic that doesn't really catch me. It reminds me more of the Estranged and November Rain type songs from the last albums. It is full of audio samples from movies and MLK Jr. speeches. I think Axel is trying to sound deep. This is the most boring song on the album.

13. This I Love- This is a piano and symphonic ballad. Fragile and pretty, it has a great vocal performance. I don't like this kind of song, but this is not bad for what it is.

14. Prostitute- This is another big, multi-layered, inspirational rock song like There Was a Time and Catcher in the Rye. This is where Axel needs to stay. This is his new place. Axel is no longer the rocker that he was when he was in his 20s. He has grown into a pretty excellent composer/arranger. He coulld put out albums of songs in this style treading water somewhere between Elton John, Queen, and Steely Dan, and I would buy them all. It's time for Axel to drop the GNR moniker and do this style of music under the name William Rose.


Overall, I still can hardly believe that I own Chinese Democracy and that I have listened to it about 5 times in the last 2 days. Forget the 15 year build up for this record. No record could ever fulfill that kind of grand expectation. To be honest, I had pretty low expectations for this record, and I am suprised to say that it is a lot better than I thought it was going to be. There are some definite missteps, but there are a number of great songs, and some moments of true musical brilliance. And you get your money's worth. The ambition and "packed to the gills" feeling of some of the production sounds like the over grandiose piece of musical theater that it is. I would recommend that every rock fan check this out. You will find something on it to love and there are very few boring moments. I tip my hat to Axel. Mr. Rose, you are much more talented than I gave you credit for.

This album is my second favorite GNR album (obviously behind Appetite.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Guns and Roses- Chinese Democracy, Pt. 1

If you like rock or metal music and you do not live in a cave, then you know that Guns and Roses (or shall I just say Axel Rose) finally released Chinese Democracy. This is probably the most highly anticipated release for me in my 33 years. First, because it took 15 years to make, second, because it's fuckin' GNR! Well, I bought it yesterday on its release date because that's how I roll.

I am going to review the disc song by song. This is usually a long-winded, self-important, douchey move. But this is Chinese Democracy, an album I've been dying to hear for 15 years and never thought I would actually hear. So how is it? Let's start.

1. Chinese Democracy- This is the first song, the title track and the first single. What strikes me the most is how after 15 years of build-up and about 45 seconds of ambient noise that gets the listener totally ready, the first riff comes on and it's..........pretty lame. The riff is pretty weak. Between riffs there is the sound of wind blowing. WTF? Once the song kicks in it is not too bad. It is a pretty agressive rocker that is decent. I notice two things immediately. 1) Slash is clearly not playing the guitar. This is a whole nother style of playing that Slash couldn't and wouldn't do. It is done by techies named BucketHead and Bumblefoot and a bunch of others. This isn't a bad thing, just different. 2) Axel is singing in a lower register, but layers a second layer of his trademark screech on top to make two voices. I'm am worried that his pipes haven't held up.

Overall, this song is a bit of a let down, but pretty rockin'. Solid, nothing more.

2. Shackler's Revenge- Starts with a terrible, uber modern guitar tone which sucks. Add to this a funk vibe and wah-wah guitar. Then the double voice layering again. Then guitar squiggles, and craziness is just jammed in everywhere. This is a train wreck.

Then comes a catchy chorus and amazing guitar solo. Then the song is just so full of parts that don't fit and all kinds of production noises and layered effects that it is just mind-blowing. Then against all music fan criticism, it just works and it is awesome. This song is weird, but listen to it 3 or 4 times and tell me it's no good.

3. Better- Song starts with Falsetto Axel and then the vocals kick in and any fears that Axel's voice is gone are laid to rest. His voice sounds amazing and I realize just how much I missed hearing that voice. The world of rock needs that voice. Seriously.

This song will be a hit. This joins the pantheon of amazing GNR songs. Awesome. This record is looking up.

There is a killer breakdown in the middle. If you can listen to this breakdown part with Axel screeching holy hell over the top and not want to crash a car, then you are a better person than me.

4. Street of Dreams- Uh-ooo. Starts with a piano. I hated the piano songs on the two Use Your Illusion albums. Song starts and it is a grand sounding, ballady, uplifting song that sounds like he wrote it after a break-up. It has strings and another amazing vocal performance. I normally don't like GNR songs like this, but this song is very listenable and suprisingly effective.

5. If the World- This song has a Moroccan sound that is accentuated with Spanish guitar (for real), dreamy keys, and a weird funky wah guitar. This song sounds like it should be in a movie. This is the first swing and miss of the record. I'll will probably skip this song usually when I listen to this record.

6. There Was a Time- This song starts low key with some singing over shitty sounding fake drums. It sounds like rap production. Ughh. I'm not gonna like this one. The song kicks in about 55 seconds, and the next 5 minutes blow me away!

For the first time ever, I finally get a glimpse of this beast that Axel kept hearing in his head. This is jaw-dropping, grand, epic, sweeping majestic rock. It has so much density and thought put into it. This transcends rock, this is amazing art. Axel was not crazy; he has the talent to do the kind of music that no one except himself thought he could pull off to this point. Wow.

Now I understand why he ditched the rest of the band. This is not music from the same bunch that wrote Appetite for Destruction. This kind of song is not created by a 5 member group of drunk misfits. This kind of song comes from the mind of an amazing writer, composer, and arranger.

I am getting real excited about the rest of this record.

7. Catcher in the Rye- This is a mid-tempo guitar and piano rock song, cut from the same cloth as the last song. Once again, it is very grand, and very well written. The song is warm and uplifting. Axel is on to something here. This is special music.

So far, I have been baffled, turned off, let down, rocked, uplifted, and amazed over the last 7 songs. This baby is worth the price of admission whether you end up loving it or not. There have been some misteps, as well as some perfect musical moments.

I will get to the second half later, when I've had more time to digest it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sunn O)))- The Black One

So I finally broke down and picked up my first Sunn O))) record (pronounced Sun, if you don't know). I have known about Sunn O))) for years and heard parts of a bunch of their songs. I just hadn't made the leap until now.

Sunn O))) are two guys who were in cool bands before, who have come together to play drone music/metal. The are doomy and heavy, but not like the Melvins, Earth, or Harvey Milk. They have taken the lessons those masters had to teach and have transformed them into something different. This music does not rock, in fact, it is more like sounscapes than music. These guys took the idea of drone/doom metal and approached in a more sonic, ambient way. If you don't like music that falls under the experimental label, they are not for you.

So what do they sound like? Well apparently different albums of theirs have different takes on the same theme. What can be described as the Sunn O))) theme? Big, rumbly, slow guitar riffs that repeat. No percussion. Musical themes that stretch into oblivion. At times the sounds are so big that the listener can't keep sight of the song as a whole. When I say big, I don't necessarily mean loud. I mean big. The songs are like planets. You can fly over the expansive landscape, but you can't see it all at once. It is too massive. And above all it is glacial. It is the sound of ice slowly overtaking everything. Now start with this Sunn O))) theme and run it through a black metal filter and you get the appropriately named Black One.

Does it sound like black metal? Not at all. Does it feel like black metal? Oh, yeah. To add to its bm vibe it contains guest spots by Wrest and Malefic. And the first song is named Sin Nanna. If you don't know who these people are, get to Googling and brush up on your modern bm.

I just tried to open a new Window while listening to this through my computer and it totally locked up my machine. How intense is that? Whoa.

Anyway, this album is a great piece of sound. I don't know what else to call it. Open your mind and give it a shot, if you want something beautiful and bizarre. You can buy it here:

"Hi, we're Sunn O))). We are taking these guitars back to our big rolling home. Follow us and we will sell you some droids."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Get a Hold of Yerselves!

Check out these quotes:

"Wetnurse evince an almost spooky breadth of musical knowledge, with John Zorn-like smash cuts between blistering hardcore (in a Brutal Truth/Today Is The Day mode), Swedish death metal, Napalm Death grind and Gallhammer-dipped ablutions to the passion of the crust."-Metal Maniacs

"Wetnurse take the best elements of noise, punk, metal, hardcore, and grindcore, blend them together and add a Lower East Side art house aesthetic"

"9/10. Relentless, unpredictable, and impossible to pin down... This is hardcore with a higher purpose."-Decibel

"Some strong psychedelia, lots of angular noise, a few blast beats, a handful of great acoustic passages and plenty of good old goddamn rock and roll... Now is the time and Invisible City is the record."-Guitar World's

"With energy barely contained by the plastic on which it's pressed, Invisible City is your manic worst nightmare come to razor-sharp fruition. The self-titled was cool but I don't think anything could have prepared my ears for this kind of multi-front onslaught."-The Aquarian

These quotes are about the new album Invisible City from the NYC based band Wetnurse. I read these passages and I almost made a mess in my pants. These quotes had me expecting something totally life changing. Wetnurse clearly sound like no one in the history of recorded music, right? Now check out these tunes:

Whattya think? Pretty fuckin' awesome, huh? But I'm confused. Are they great? Yeah, pretty amazing. But are they some sort of unparalled bastion of originality? I'm not so sure. They sound alot like three things: 1) At the Drive In, 2) Drowningman, 3) Late 90s arty hardcore ala Gravity Records, Ebulittion, and Vermiform(in particular I heard Clikitat Ikatowi and Torches to Rome). Now these three things are three of my favorite things in the world, so Wetnurse pretty much rules my world. This is my kind of rock. But the media seems a little out of control.

It reminds of the English music press. Every six months, they annoint a new band as the greatest band ever and immediately place them in the pantheon of legends. Slow down, buddy. I know you are excited and I am too. Wetnurse is amazing, but they haven't re-invented the wheel. But they have built an awesome wheel out of parts discarded from others' old wheels.

But I must confess, I haven't heard the entirity of Invisible City, just the two tracks from Myspace. Maybe the rest of the album will change my opinion, but for now they are just an excellent hardcore band that has an original spin and well written songs. I dig 'em, but they haven't shown me anything I haven't heard before.

With that said, I will buy the album, will go see them live, and will jump around like a rabid chimp. Wetnurse rocks and the media needs to get a hold of themselves.

Oh yeah, go here and buy this album:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Enslaved- Vertebrae

So what a perfect way to get back in the swing of things, but with a review of the new Enslaved album. First a little disclaimer, Enslaved is probably my favorite all-time metal band, so I am pretty biased. But then again, they pretty much made me biased, so perhaps "convinced" or "sold on" is a better term.

Anyhow, if you don't know, Enslaved are from Norway. They started in the '90s playing black metal with a Viking theme. I think their first release was a split with Darkthrone. You can't really get more kvlt than that. Since that time they have released 10 albums. This is their tenth. 10 albums in the world of black metal pretty much makes them like the Rolling Stones of bm. The greatest thing about them is that they have grown on every single release they have put out. Some bands put out the same record every time. This can be OK, but real artists take chances and grow. By this definition, Enslaved truly are artists.

They started out sounding like traditional bm. Soon all kinds of new sounds started popping up in their music. Clean vocal passages, slower parts, keyboards, pretty melodies, and god forbid, song parts in major keys. Fast forward to now and here is what you have. A band that sounds like Tool and Pink Floyd and black metal all at the same time. The songs are catchy, there are riffs everywhere. The guitar interplay is amazing, the keyboards perfectly fit, and the drumming is superb. Vocals are now mostly clean singing, but every song still has the more traditional bm screeching style vocal. They sound still grim like bm, but also insanely uplifting. Like a Viking horde that has an earth ritual in the frosty tundra all night, then suddenly the sun starts to rise and they are all blown away by the beauty and majesty of it all. And behind their frost covered beards, hidden to their breathern, small smiles erupt.

In other words, Vertebrae is amazing. Enslaved is amazing, as always. At this point in their career, I would not only argue that they are the best bm band in the world, I might venture that they may be the best rock band, period.

Check out some tunes:

Bonus content: Here's a picture I snapped of them at a show of theirs this Spring.

Don't Call It A Comeback.......

I haven't posted shit to this blog since February. I suck. As if there has been nothing blog worthy in the world of metal/punk/rock since then. Oh well, never said I was reliable.

A big shout out to my boy Brother Love. He gave me the motivation to get back on the horse. If you want to read a blog that covers hiphop, social matters, science, and entertainment all at the same time, you can't do much better than his.

A fresh interesting voice, awesome videos, funny cartoons, and a shit ton of unique sound clips, what more do you want? Go. Read. Now. You are welcome.