Ok. So after splurging my last paycheck on an absolute tonne of stuff, from concert tickets to Blu-Rays of concerts (with a crap load of albums and graphic novels in there somewhere too), I’ve instituted the second “Don’t buy anything” month here on the blog, so as not to run out of money and get evicted from my house and have to build a nest out of 2nd-hand CDs from Zoverstocks and start eating Batman comics for sustenance.
I say second, because if the title of the post didn’t already give it a way, this is an ongoing series. In the summer I became inspired by the awesome Heavy Metal Overload blog and decided that if I’m going to go easy on my spending, I should make it easier on myself by occupying the time I would normally spend shopping by blogging about my abstinence and what temptations almost cause me to break it. You can read how the first month turned out here. (…Or, if you don’t particularly care about how a 25 year old nerd doesn’t spend his money, and are just killing time online, you can read about prawns here.)
I’m ten days into the month and have so far managed to avoid buying anything. Its looking ok then. I’m not too shaky yet music-wise. I did get a bit tempted last night to get Savatage’s debut off iTunes as a result of listening to ‘City Beneath The Surface’ live as a bonus track for their 2nd album.
I’m in the mood for some more classic 80s Metal sounds, some more brilliant guitar solos and some more of Jon Oliva’s great vocal style. That’s a bit of a change from the last few albums I’ve picked up (a big load of Grunge albums), but a suitable contrast I feel.
I’ll tell you what definitely I’m going to buy at some stage. Batman Arkham Origins the video game. It’s probably not released during this challenge anyway though (I hope) but I feel like writing about it anyway. The last two Arkham games have been two of my favourite games of the last two generations. Even if they make it absolutely the same as the last one with the most lazy level of change, it will be amazing. I’m well up for that. Its almost a shame those games are so good really, because it cost me a lot of money in comic books being bat-cited by them. If they were rubbish I probably wouldn’t have trusted my friend Magnum so much when he tried to make me like comics. I remember when I was a teenager, for long stretches of time I looked down my nose at comics and Magnum was the only person reading them who’s opinion I could ever take seriously.
Speaking of which… What did make me almost make me fail my challenge was Batman Comics. I was browsing them on amazon just sort of in the background to occupy my hands while I was listening to a podcast. I don’t know, it seems counter intuitive but I find I can concentrate on audio podcasts better if I’m looking at things online rather than sat still with my eyes closed. For some reason that makes my mind wander more than actually wandering with my mind does. Odd. Anyway; I noticed Batman Full Circle for 50p and so almost bought that. Like really almost. Like I actually added it to my basket and went through a screen to the commit-to-purchase bit and had to ex out of the browser just at the last moment when I remembered that I’d fail the challenge.
I’m not just trying to save money, I’m trying to practice discipline too. Just because 50p is cheap for a comic doesn’t mean I can go buying it in the middle of the challenge.
So how have I been keeping myself out of trouble since that near-miss then?
Crack whores? Drinking human blood? Making a paper-Mache model of Mr. Aloysius Snuffleupagus (the wooly mammoth with massive eyelashes from Sesame Street) ?
None of those things obviously.
I’ve just been watching Protest The Hero’s live DVD Gallop Meets The Earth. To be honest I’m not that keen on it at all and I wouldn’t recommend it. First of all, the vast majority of the track-listing is taken from the Fortress album, which is my least favourite of all the band’s albums so far. (Not that I dislike it in and of itself, but compared to the other two absolutely amazing records its just not as strong).
That shouldn’t be a problem really, not everyone likes every track list. The second minor issue is that the singer seems like a bit of a jerk. When listening to his voice, I imagined an introverted arty teenager, with a Claudio Sanchez sort of personality. Instead he’s more like a boorish American stand-up comedian. You shouldn’t be mean to the audience, you just shouldn’t. I like the band less having seen this than if I hadn’t have.
The third, and biggest problem with the DVD is that the editing/directing is rather overdone and cheesy. There are big wipes that make it look like a film student was involved, there’s way too many visual effects and sometimes the editing is way to fast. I understand that your first instinct as a director would be to match the band’s rapid-fire music with super fast cuts, but actually, the best bet with such a virtuosic and musicians-as-a-fanbase band would long cuts of close ups of the instruments. Show me how the heck he plays that riff or fill. Don’t just show me the drummers head then the crowd then a mic stand. What’s the point of that?
That being said, its interesting to hear things like ‘Nautical’ and ‘Blindfolds Aside’ live, even without it looking like an instructional video. It just could’ve done with a better production, louder vocals and a more tasteful editor. Maybe the singer also shouldn’t get drunk on stage (although, a lot of the next album’s lyrics dealt with that very subject, so, fingers crossed for when I see them live next year, ey). As it stands This feels more like a free bonus disc with the deluxe edition of an album than a standalone release. I’m sure when they are ready to put out their next DVD and they are bigger than they were when this was filmed it will be a lot better. I’d love an as-good-as-modern-standards concert Blu Ray of them playing a career spanning set list with less hostile stage-banter and a tasteful editor. That would be an absolutely marvelous product.
I also had a listen through to all three The Stooges albums that I’d bought for a First Impressions earlier and never really payed much attention to since.
Its not massively up my street and I haven’t really discovered a new love or anything, but the songs “1969,” “1970,” “Real Cool Time,” “Little Doll,” “Loose,” and “I Need Somebody” are all ok. “Gimme Danger” is pretty brilliant, but I naturally prefer Monster Magnet’s version. Their longer songs are by and large pretty awful.
Still, its nice to break them out every time I listen to a punk band or a Grunge band, or a new Monster Magnet song, and extrapolate the impact that The Stooges had on music.
I’m now going to listen to Cacophony’s 1987 debut album Speed Metal Symphony. Cacophony were a Thrashy, 1980s Heavy Metal band featuring Marty Freidman before he joined Megadeth. On the band’s artwork, it always said the names of the two guitarists right on the front cover, even before Marty got huge in Japan. The other guitarist with his name on the cover, another equally virtuosic and talented shredder, was called Jason Becker. I looked him up wondering where he ended up afterwards? Playing for MSG or Steve Vai’s band or something? Unfortunately, he got Lou Gehrig’s Disease and couldn’t play anymore, which may explain why he didn’t end up as famous as Marty, because any time I’ve listened to this he seems like a totally underrated player with the kind of skill level you usually associate with perpetual guitar-magazine inclusion status, like your Randy Rhodes-s and your Eddie Van Halen-s.
Its time to listen to it again, because its one of those records I picked up to write a First Impressions about and never got around to writing the article for, so felt weird about listening to it, as if I was “cheating on” the Blog somehow and so, I didn’t listen to it as much as I would have if I’d never planned on Blogging about it.
The aim of this series was always to get my money’s worth out of albums I under-played and this is a perfect candidate.
“Savage” opens the album with a drum fill (odd for such a guitar-marketed record) and then kicks into a midpaced groove that sounds not too dissimilar to Savatage. The guitars kick off into some Neoclassical soloing. When the main verse comes in, it’s a bouncy, Testament style Thrash affair with just the slightest hint of Megadeth’s ‘Devil’s Island’ about it. The vocals sound like a mixture of Jon Olivia and Chuck Billy too, come to think of it.
The production sounds a bit more German than American for an 80s Metal album. It also sounds a lot better than Anvil (Canadian) did.
There’s a crap-load of flashy tails, lead breaks and full on solos. They range from Helloween sounds to Deep Purple sounds, but keep straying back into the Savatage realms so its not always just Neoclassical sounds.
Hmmm. I guess this album was a pretty good choice to sooth my lust for Savatage albums then, wasn’t it?
“Where My Fortune Lies” opens up like you’d expect a Dragonforce song to open, if Dragonforce listened to Beat by King Crimson before writing their albums. Then it kicks into some normal Thrash bits. They seem to be playing in an uncommon time signature, the bass is very interesting, it kind of throws you out of the rhythm that you are expecting at points. At about 1.40 it starts to sound like ‘Wicked Mystic’ by Annihilator. Its weird how much slower the chorus is compared to the verses.
Then the stream of solos begins. This is why I bought the record. I just love this sort of thing. A solid minute of different guitar solos, a mixture of quick shred, slower more trick based playing, dual harmonies and more.
There’s even a bizarre breakdown at the end where it sounds like they’re playing in a bizarre time sig, and dual-harmonizing in a really King Crimson-esque disharmony. Like the devil’s tritone thing. Y’know the one I mean. Like in “MARS” by Holst. That one. The bit itself sounds like how Machine Head would end a song, on one of those slow beefy grooves, only with that evil twin lead over the top instead of feedback and harmonics like Flynn loves so much.
“The Ninja” opens up with just saucy sounding guitars on their own. Its like a spanishy intro to a thrash album. Think ‘Crystal Anne.’ Then the music kicks into something like a Helloween ballad. Its got that mild Queen-influenced vibe, and the solos conjure up words like “grand” and “majestic” more so than the usual “blistering” or “blazing.”
After almost two minutes, the vocals and distorted rhythm guitars come in. Not a ballad then. They carry on in a midpaced groove that reminds me of both Savatage and also Forbidden’s less speedy moments, and have a vibe to them like when Metal bands write songs about Eygypt. I guess it’s a Japanese rather than Egyptian vibe they’re going for based on the name, but to my uneducated ears it sounds Egyptian.
Vibe vibe vibe. Say vibe summore why don’t cha?
When the solos kick off they’re even better than usual. They feel like they’re telling the story of a Mummy who rises from his tomb and climbs on a chariot, heading off to conduct his undead business a few miles away. The way the rhyhm guitar works it really sounds like travel. The solos are very entertaining indeed. This album is pretty much guitar porn, with some Testament touches in there. If you like the rare bits on the early Testament material when they aren’t actually playing fast and want more of that then this is the album for you.
For some reason every time he sings “Nin-jaaa” I think he’s going to say “tormentor” so I think there’s another Thrash tune with a similar chorus, but I don’t remember what it is off the top of my head.
The instrumental “Concerto” has a very Kai Hansen feel to its intro. It sounds a bit Gamma Ray. It speeds up into a nice little solo that also sounds like Gamma Ray. The rhythm section here actually reminds me a bit of W.A.S.P too. At about the two minute mark some very Queen style noises come out of the guitars. Hearing that amongst the bouncy trad metal reminds me even more of Gamma Ray. At about 3.40 it sounds even more like Queen and continues to until the song ends.
“Burn The Ground” opens up with some creative drumming and some nice thrashy chugs amongst all the guitar heroics. Then it turns into a fabulous chunky Annhilator riff for a while before going off into a mad time sig that makes it sound like what would happen if Anvil had have invented Djent back in the 80s. Surprisingly, they actually add vocals over that bit, but after a few goes round, throw in some Thrash stuff too to stop you getting motion sickness. The vocals here start to sound like Randy Rampage of Annihilator and Russ Anderson of Forbidden more so than Jon Olivia or Chuck Billy. Still, with a laundry list of sonic references such as those already listed, this is a pretty brilliant sounding 80s Metal record, isn’t it? Who could resist liking this if you are intro Thrash or Trad Metal?
The set of solos on this one are as entertaining as you would expect. Its one of the best songs on the record so far. The second set of solos after a brief return to the trashing (and a surprise drum solo) sounds like a car chase in a Megadrive game. The riff that they fade out on is brilliant. It sounds like the missing breakdown to ‘Creeping Death.’ They should’ve used that more, its really rather excellent.
As a song, this is one of the best on the record. It’s a lot better than the album opener was, and I liked the album opener. If I made this album I’d have opened it with this, followed by ‘Concerto.’ That would be a great one-two punch to get your guitar-humours rising.
“Desert Island” opens like a 00s era Megadeth song, then goes into some cool Thrash with a fun floortom “shlup” that you’d expect from a crossover band. The vocals are a lot more impressive here. There’s a bit more melody and a lot more flair and variety in there. The bit where he sings the phrase “desert island” itself is brilliant. Admittedly, it’s a bit cheesy, and I can see how you might compare it to Hair Metal in one way, but in another way, its that brilliant “purest spirit of heavy metal” type of thing that Judas Priest did. “de-serrrrt I-leeehnd.”
There’s a cool shimmering bit in the middle before the solos kick off fully that’s got a bit of a Belew King Crimson feel or sort of Animals As Leaders/Scale The Summit vibe that’s slightly ahead of its time, but it only lasts for a few seconds.
Then the solos do kick off, and are brilliant. Then the vocals sort of play a solo, where he sings “oh” a lot, but produced like the ghost solo by Cannibal Corpse. Its sort of like the Ghost House levels in Super Mario World in Metal vocal form. Hey, everybody gets a turn at soloing on this record. Fair play.
The title-track “Speed Metal Symphony” closes out the album. It’s the longest track on the record. It opens up with a lot of different types of showing off with guitars. Its got a bit of a proggy structure. A bit ELP on it. At the 1-minute mark it even gets a sort of jaunty pirate vibe for a few bars. The guitar solos get ridiculous at points. They later throw in stuff that sounds like intros to Helloween albums. You can see why it has its name. There is a definite classical music thing going on, and of course, the solos from an entire discography’s worth of Speed Metal tracks all crammed into one song. The amount of variety the drop in there is amazing. Just about everything you could think to do with two high pithed guitars is done.
They even stick in some of the grooves and the thrashy bits from earlier in the record after a while, just in case a frig load of solos without any beef wasn’t making your happy.
They end it with some very odd sounding prog stuff that sounds slightly like ‘Industry’ by King Crimson, at least in spirit if not in timbre. That sort of “the song just fell down the stairs” vibe.
Overall, this is a great album. I’m glad I bought it. I don’t know if I’d have loved it better back when I first decided I wanted it during my Thrash phase circa 2003-2005 when almost all I listened to was Thrash, or if I’m better suited to like it now, post-discovery of Priest and Helloween, but I sure do enjoy it. If you are into 80s Metal and haven’t heard it check it out, especially if you have an over-developed love of guitar solos.
When that album ends, I stick on the 2nd half of Irish Thrash Revival band Gama Bomb’s second full-length studio album Tales From The Grave In Space, since I’m mostly familiar with the 1st half but less knowledgeable about the later songs. I’ve never contributed to this band financially, because when I got their album, their record company was giving it away for free and when I saw them live, I got into the gig for free because their bassist is a Uni-friend of an ex-guitarist of mine, and somehow I ended up being graciously driven three cities away for a gig in a bonding experience and getting in gratis. Nice one. Great gig, great album. Great price for both. I did accidentally leave my Onslaught album in their car though… that’s a bit like paying. Sort of…)
Hmmm. This album is so good, it makes me wish I had thrown them some money. It makes me want to buy their new album The Terror Tapes as well. Damn you musical temptation, striking again!
‘Till next time, lovely readers.