I prefer my reviews to be serious and informative. ‘First Impressions’ allow for a more director’s commentary approach. I can be silly and talk bollox, or make points that only a handful of people will understand. Usually I will deliver insights into my history with similar music as well as into how my mind works and how both of these things change over time. You will have to either possess a fairly detailed understanding of Rock and Metal history and Subgenre conventions or have a second tab open at Wikipedia to fully follow every single point that I make, but don’t let that put you off…I’m not honestly expecting you to know every single riff or tone I’ll point out off by heart.
If you want your own First Impressions article done, just suggest it in the comments. I’ll give anything a shot.
The most famous thing about this album to a music fan from my generation, entry point and similar path of musical progression, is that it features ‘Alan’s On Fire’ and ‘The Badge’ as covered by Machine Head and Pantera respectively. All you need is for Fear Factory to have covered a track off of it and possibly a Sepultura cover as a bonus track on Chaos AD and it would be the ultimate “My-Brain’s definition of Groove Metal” progenitor album.
Still if you have a tracks that both Machine Head and Pantera saw fit to cover at the height of their initial credibility, then there’s probably something going on there.
It’s a hardcore album. I started off this series describing my experience with the subgenre an album comes from before getting into it. I’ve covered hardcore a lot already. It kind if feels like I don’t need to talk about it anymore. I’ll just do a little recap and update. Recently I’ve become more and more tempted to get Dead Kennedy’s, Minor Threat, Bad Brains and DOA records, I listen to a lot of preview clips on iTunes, or videos on youtube, looking lustily at the seminal albums of 1980s Hardcore. But I’m putting it off. I don’t actually want to buy them. I don’t want to go down that road just yet. Maybe in a few years when I have a professional wage, and have already digested all the stuff I’ve bought. I’ve been making odd mistakes lately. Like accidentally bidding on a Rush vinyl I already own. This blog is starting to read like the first few “downfall” chapters of a man who becomes a shopping addict and then embezzles millions of dollars from charity to buy a warehouse full of Metallica alarm clocks.
I don’t really care for much hardcore anyway. I’ve always been much more into crisp, tight, focused music. I remember Green Day were my entry point into music, but aside from them, and flirting with a few other pop punk bands I could never really get into, and being half tempted by the Sex Pistols before growing to hate everything about them a little bit, Punks not been my thing. Yeah, for at least 9/10ths of my time as a serious music fan/collector/nerd I really haven’t enjoyed things with a sloppy, raw, punky aesthetic.
I mean, Biohazard, Hatebreed and Madball are all the Hardcore I need. Hardcore that’s well produced and full of Metal. I mean, I’ve had an Earth Crisis album in my music library for years and years and never got into it. I think my capacity for groovey metallic Hardcore is pretty limited anyway. Even with this plan of not buying any more music labeled hardcore though, I admit if I saw Scratch The Surface by Sick Of It All for cheap I’d buy it though, but that’s because I’ve wanted that since about 2002. That aside, I’m saying my brain doesn’t seem to need anymore of the Hardcore I’d actually like, let alone the stuff I could do without.
Speaking of Hardcore, from a different end of the spectrum, Gallows’ ‘Grey Britain’ has become one of my absolute favourite albums. I listen to it all the time, or tracks from it, it’s a bloody masterpiece, which grows on me more every single time. Unfortunately, I tried out their debut album afterwards, and cannot get into it much at all.
And there’s still all the early C.O.C style, noisy, badly produced side of things. Nope. Just not my style. Not my cup of tea at all. I don’t like things that are played poorly, produced poorly or sang poorly. I know its ‘punk’ but guess I just like punk when its not being very ‘punk.’ I mean, Motorhead I like a lot. Its raw, but its not sloppy and half baked. The Libertines, they have a sort of shambling ‘Punk’ aesthetic at times, but its only one part of their multi-dimensional sound, and probably the aspect of it I like the least anyway come to think of it. If I want to listen to C.O.C it’s the Pepper era stuff that I go for.
But anyway. Poison Idea. They are a hardcore band. But this album is supposed to be a brilliant, classic album affair. It has a reputation of being enjoyed by Metal fans.
So. Is it going to beefy Metallic NYHC with Groove? Flappy, tin-can sounding d-beats and 1-minute songs? Angular, Dillinger Escape Plan influencing stuff? A mixture of all? None of the above? Lets find out…
The album opens with ‘Plastic Bomb.’ The track opens with some triumphant, Muse sounding keyboards, then a kind of Gamma Ray/Helloween style Queen-influenced Judas Priesty/Maideny dual guitar harmony vibe. What the hell? Just what is going on here? Have I stuck on a Power Metal album?
Ok. Then a rumbly floor tom build up. A riff that sounds like the background music to a compilation of video clips of skateboarding accidents in Southern California, then boom, a D-beat kicks in. The production is a million miles away from the worst Hardcore productions. The vocals come in and are kind of disappointing, its more like talking with intent than either singing or shouting. A brief ‘woooo-oh-ah-ooooh-ah-oh’ bit that sounds like surfboards comes in, then that’s instantly followed by a guitar solo that also sounds like surfboards, but then goes into tapping and changes its feel. This song has been in a real mix of territories so far. That ‘woah’ chorus and guitar solo come back. I like this song a lot. Ha ha. Cool. It cuts to a big snare roll-through-the-whole-verse buildup that reminds me of Ballroom Blitz meets WipeOut. This song is like Anthrax covering Pennywise, with a roadie on vocals.
Next up ‘Deep Sleep.’ It opens with a noisy shout vibe, it’s a bit like the Gallows Debut in parts actually. But its got more of a fun summertime thing going on in the tails of the riffs. Then a weird out of place Van Halen sounding guitar solo, then an appropriate sounding summertime pop punk solo. Then a mix of the two. This band could’ve been so big with a clean singer.
Next up, ‘The Badge.’ I already know its good. Hmmm. The Pantera cover was massively faithful, Phil Anselmo’s vocals were better. For me anyway. Hmm, there’s a part that I’d call surf-noir, its come up on the Gallows debut. That’s a part of Hardcore that exists that I hadn’t identified yet.
‘Just To Get Away’ follows. Fun floor tom based intro that’s really reminiscent of early Green Day. Actually, parts of it remind me of the more modern ‘Rock n Roll Girlfriend’ too. Also parts of it have a bit of a Rancid sound too. Its over quickly.
‘Gone For Good’ is a minute long, tin-can d-beat session, that takes a left turn at surf territory for a brief middle eight (like Mastodon said about ‘Divinations.’)
‘Death Of An Idiot Blues’ starts off promising, but the vocals are deliberately slurred and sloppy. There are some cool little touches to the music, but the overall theme is fast, noisy, sloppy. Ah. Talking over the top. Its not really my cup of tea at all. Until the outro, where they throw in a blues breakdown like Nuclear Assault did on ‘Butt Fuck.’
Next comes ‘Taken By Surprise.’ Its just kind of a fun summer time pop punk song but with this slightly black tone. Its fun. You could play this over a montage of bar brawls for a youtube video. When the guitar solo comes in it makes everything great. They have talent, a surprisingly good production and can make really good hooks. It seems like they might’ve been better served selling out. They could’ve made a killing in the nineties doing this but just more commercial.
[Side note: is it just me or is Alice Cooper about to be shot in the face in that album artwork?]
Next up comes ‘Alan’s On Fire’ which opens up with a rip off of Megadeth’s ‘Devil’s Island’ intro riff, before the bass lead build up and then the song proper starts. Its got this even darker, even blacker feel. Almost frosty. Its kind of like an evil version of the Dilbert theme tune. Some of the parts don’t click together perfectly, like you are storing tubs full of DVDs, but the tubs aren’t perfectly smooth, they’re slightly contoured so as you can store them inside one another to save space, but that means when you put the DVDs in them, you get about 9/10s of as many as you can in straight, then you just jam the rest in any old road, because, its not a perfectly smooth tub-wall. There’s a great breakdown bit with a guitar solo. Its really energetic and fun. They dwell on it a bit then fade out.
‘Welcome To Krell’ is next. Its that noisy 1-miute d-beat stuff I don’t care for. In fact, so are the next three tracks: ‘Nation Of Finks’ ‘Back Stab Gospel’ and ‘Painkiller.’ The common theme between them, is there is one out of place bit and the guitar solo is always way happier and more fun than the song.
‘Finks is very Thrashy. Its got these chugging riffs that feel a bit Exodus. ‘Gospel is a bit more Tony Hawks. The song feels like it may be there to fill a Hardcore quota. In the same way that the Title Track of All Hope Is Gone sometimes feels like it is only there to fill a extreme Metal credibility quota (but fails).‘Painkiller’ opens up very Green Day but the vocals stop it sounding as catchy as it could be. I wonder if Poison Idea intentionally put some basic raw stuff down for the hardcore elitist trolls of their time, to balance out good songs like ‘The Badge.’
After all that “credibility” they launch out the longest track on the whole record. An almost six-minute track that starts up with some skiffle-beat drums, and a sort of psychedelic part when the heaviness comes in. Describing the song in words makes it sound like it should be awful, but its actually really cool. Its like Green Day’s ‘Brain Stew’ meets The Libertines ‘Road To Ruin’ and Operation Ivy’s ‘Knowledge’ through a sort of Tom Waitts filter, only played by a Hardcore band who mix surfs-up guitar solos with a-rape-happened-on-screen dark style riffs. The vocals remind me a little of Iggy Pop at points, but not much.
Then to counteract, the album ends with the furious, slapping, thrashing ‘Title Unknown’ which is like the dictionary definition of Crossover Thrash, it sounds like a Nuclear Assault song, like, to the point where I’d genuinely mistake it for one if it weren’t for the drunken gorilla style vocals. There’s a fun breakdown, with a slow, moody, neoclassical feeling guitar lead.
Ok. That was the album. Umm. I dunno. Mixed feelings. It didn’t have any of that Hardcore thing that the Melvins are influenced by, the part that Sludge bands (and also Prong) were influenced by. The bit I don’t like. So. That’s a point in its favour.
It did however have a few minute long, d-beat filled songs with little character. That’s a point against it.
But it wasn’t awfully produced. Point Towards.
But the vocals were awful. Point Against.
However it had those two songs I mentioned at the start. Point towards.
The songs didn’t flow in a genius way and there wasn’t a unifying theme or ‘greater than the sum of its parts’ bonus. No additional points.
And Pascal Canavan sinks one into the net, three points to Tyrone.
It had wonderful lead guitar. Point towards.
Ok. It was one more point for it than against it. So I guess I’m in favour of it. Still. Not an instantly loveable classic. It didn’t shake me and scream ‘this is important’ at me like the first time I heard Aqualung. Perhaps with more spins it could grow on me.
Side note… I’ve started listening to Prong’s ‘Prove You Wrong’ album, while finishing up this article. I’ve had that album for what seems like ages now and never gotten around to listening to it. Man. I’ve got to stop buying so much stuff that I can’t get through it. Especially now that work and the travel there to has me with only two free hours a day. I mean, I listen to music on the way home, but I prefer shuffle when on buses, so its not like I sit down and get to grips with the multi-album-sets by Saxon, ZZ Top, Faith No More, Prong, Anathema or Thin Lizzy in that travel time.
Its more enjoyable for me to go home from work exhausted and hear ‘Johnny The Fox’ be followed by ‘Cowboys From Hell’ and then something like ‘Princess Of The Night’ followed up with ‘Revolution Calling’ or ‘Eyeless.’
Also, I’ll write this here, for no related reason. I’m reading Motley Crue’s The Dirt (at a rate of about 1 Chapter a week on my one day off) and I just hate how casually or even proudly they all talk about stealing things. It also happened on the Saxon documentary. Everybody goes around stealing beer and cigarettes. Its not even like digital downloads where you are copying the beer. Once that beer is stolen, the shopkeeper can no longer sell it. These people are literally robbing the slim profits away from local businessmen, screwing those people’s families out of the money their provider earns just to get lung cancer and liver disease for free.
I get that you want the things, but could you not just y’know…pay for em and not screw over working people, or else grow/make your own if you want it for super-cheap? Brewing your own homebeer is the digital download equivalent on the physical world.
I don’t know where I’m going with this. I just dislike it when I read these people glorifying theft, assault and whatever else.
I suppose they dislike being criticized by goody-two-shoes internet nerds. So… whatever.
I mean, if they robbed a drug dealer, or a million dollar corporate chain, it might be a little easier to swallow, but screwing independent publicans, and small town shop owners is just really grating.
And this Prong record is a mix of really cool and really dull. Inconsistent in tone. And HMV didn’t even close down. I stockpiled all those albums because HMV was closing down and there’d be no more walking into a record store after Uni or work, but now, its staying open, and so that stockpiling attitude has proved to be wasteful.
Have you ever noticed that when you get things all in one big go there’s always one that looses out?
I remember a birthday when I got Kreator’s Hordes Of Chaos and Arctic Monekeys’ Humbug and Iron Maiden’s The Final Frontier and I’ve not listened to that Maiden record nearly enough. I mean, I have really. I listened to it a lot in reality, but… I dunno. Doesn’t feel like it. When I’ve been listening to these Saxon albums I always skip out their debut. And dozens of other example I can’t be bothered writing. But it’s a very common theme. I feel like there’s only so much you can take in at once, and at least one thing always looses out. And more often than not, even if you end up listening to it a lot over the years to make up for it loosing out, it always feels ‘lost’ and you never get it equal or legitimized.
I mean, some things just aren’t as good as others, and you can’t be expected to like every single thing you try in life. But. I dunno. It makes me feel a bit ungrateful to always have one birthday or Christmas gift that appears overlooked. Boo hoo. 1st world problems etc. Just an observation. Of course I’m writing from my own perspective. I don’t have a duty to balance it out by saying “don’t you hate it when you are starving to death and riddled with Malaria, and then a warlord has your village ethnically cleansed?”
I mean, it’s a nerdy Heavy Metal fan’s blog, not a testament to the overall state of all humanity. Just like I don’t have to discuss the value-for-money of different tampons, or how difficult it is to operate heavy machinery as a quadriplegic. These are things. They should be discussed and read. But it doesn’t have to be here.
Hmmm. Got a bit side tracked. Like Stephen Fry being harassed by “the voice of old England” I’m being harassed by “the ghost of Christmas Liberal.”
Y’know what’s a decent Prong song? “Get A Grip On Yourself.”
Why wasn’t ‘Sepulnation’ a bigger hit?
When I first got Slo Burn’s ‘Amusing The Amasing EP’ I din’t think much of it on firstt impressions, but listenening to it again now in the post-Prong aftermath, it seems pretty damn good. John Garcia’s voice is great, give me hope for Vista Chino (Kyuss Lives remnamed)’s debut album. But I heard a song off of it on Blabbermouth yesterday and it wasn’t any good. So…
HOLD ON. I’ve spent so much money and mental effort on buying albums just to write First Impressions articles about (and y’know, possibly enjoy too) that I forgot to get the new Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Queens Of The Stone Age albums. Weird. I usaully would have reviews for them posted the first second the option is available to on Amazon. Hmm. First Impressions has sort of taken over normal review writing at this stage.
Ahh well, a hobby is a hobby. Spose the specifics don’t matter.
Oh yeah. And Feel The Darkness exists. I almost forgot I listened to it.
Ok. I’m going to go and read some overpriced Batman comics for some cultural exchange reasons. Try not to have me sectioned in the mean time. Either for the hoarding or the hippy voices in my head.