Some Thoughts On Fear Factory’s Soul Of A New Machine

I don’t often do requests on this blog, since nobody is asking, but here for your reading pleasure is my first blog by request.

Fear Factory are an interesting band. Beloved by many, but overlooked by a great many more. They are the kind of band who in 2020, more people seem to respect than actually listen to. Their influence on Metal has been huge, both in the underground for their popularisation of clean vocals and samples in extreme metal and also in mainstream metal for their popularisation of rhythmically interlocking kick-drum/guitar chugs in catchy staccato patterns. When you look at a retrospective of best albums from the ‘90s, if the list doesn’t feature at least one Fear Factory album, the list is sorely lacking.

I got into Fear Factory on the Digimortal cycle, when I was either 12 or 13 years old, and music channels like MTV2 and later KerrangTV (and later still, Scuzz) played songs like ‘Linchpin,’ ‘Cars’ and ‘Replica’ every so often. It was the good old days of Nu Metal and the band’s toned down Digimortal album fit in well beside the flavour of the month bands that were grabbing my young attention at the time. I have many fond memories of listening to Digimortal and playing Pro Skater videogames.

I remember the day I got my first Fear Factory cds, it was my birthday, and my dad had taken me to a music store in the big city, and I got to pick out my own presents. I chose Digimortal and Demanufacture by Fear Factory, and three others I can no-longer remember for a certainty (I think Ill Nino’s debut and Biohazard’s Urban Discipline were in there, but my memory gets fuzzy). The store had a deal on, where if you bought 5 albums on Roadrunner Records, you got a free VHS of music videos called ‘Drilling The Vein.’ I took my treasure to the counter, and asked about the free tape, only to be turned down by the clerk as he stated that Demanufacture didn’t count as it wasn’t on Roadrunner. It was, but it had an old-fashioned long thing colourless Roadrunner logo, rather than the modern red and white square logo. I remember very clearly my dad squaring off against the clerk and demanding ‘Just give him the tape!’ in an intimidating way that brokered success, and thus an additional birthday gift. A very fond memory, him standing up for me, when I would’ve totally just given up. Its my version of the Lorelai Gilmore mustard pretzel story from A Year In The Life.

So I had the then newest Fear Factory album, and the big classic that everyone should own, and later I rounded off the collection with the intermediate release, the sci-fi concept album Obsolete. What feels like much later though, I found out they had another record. Their debut. Soul Of A New Machine. Time has passed and I don’t quite remember where or when or at what age I bought this, other than I was still in high school.

I was young at the time. I hadn’t read much rock press, seen any rock documentaries or thought about rock much outside of ‘I want to listen to this.’ I had no idea about recording, budgets, any of it. I assumed every album was as successful as Appetite For Destruction and all bands just started out with infinite money and the best studio possible. (If I even knew what a studio was yet). I just assumed every rock star was a millionaire. I thought the bassist from P.O.D or Black Flag would be just as rich and just as famous as Axl Rose or Gene Simmons. It was still early enough in my musical life that I barely owned any bad albums. You start buying albums, you generally end up buying all classics for a while, as the things that get recommended to you aren’t the bad ones, and you have limited money and options, and you end up getting the best albums.

So, I was kind of shocked when I finally got a chance to buy Soul Of A New Machine. It looked cheap. The album artwork kind of fit with the band’s robotic aesthetic, but somehow…wrong. The actual CD case and booklet looked thin and budget in a way I didn’t know existed yet. Then the music played. Ummm. This sounds wrong. Crystal clear this is not. I think I learned about production values there on the spot. Compared to the cutting edge (at the time) sound of Digimortal or the futuristic sounds of Demanufacture, this sounded so basic. Demo quality, if I knew what a demo was at the time. Maybe I would have understood what demos were based on bonus tracks from Slipknot’s digipak, or having gotten a pirate version of Mate Feed Kill Repeat.

Stylistically, this was very different than I was expected. The ‘machine gun’ patterns that make up 75% of verses on most Fear Factory albums hereafter are almost absent, or where they are present, they are slower and more organic, less mechanical. There’s also a lot more samples and a lack of the Rhys Fulber electronics. It’s a lot less melodic. This is a million miles away from Digimortal. The vocals, while still distinctively Burton C. Bell, are really different. Less accomplished. He doesn’t project the same way. Its more primitive. It doesn’t even sound more youthful, like how Hetfield’s vocals sound more youthful on Kill ‘Em All, just like he hasn’t had enough practice yet, or like he isn’t being as loud in the actual studio. Also, he sounds a bit like Barney Greenway at times, especially towards the back of the album.

Now, I had some limited understanding of Death Metal at the time, as my friend and brother were into Cannibal Corpse and this was probably around the same year I got into some Deicide and Napalm Death, but I has a surface level knowledge at best. In later years, the more I knew about music, the more I would come to realise what a Death Metal influence this album had. (Also the short songs, aforementioned hoarse throaty Greenway-esque vocals and even a few blast beats, are reminiscent of Napalm Death’s Harmony Corruption – the album when the Grindcore band went Death Metal). There’s also a touch of Deicide and moreso, Morbid Angel in some of the riffs. [Not a lot, but some. I remember reading a mean-spirited review that complained when people claimed the band had a Death Metal past. I disagree with that. They totally do. Its there in the guitars, especially towards the back of the record].

It also has the utterly confusing track ‘Natividad’ which to someone who hadn’t heard any prog or industrial at the time, just sounded like the sound of a junkyard for no reason. What the hell?

For a long time I’ve thought of this album as the weird Death Metal demo, before they became a real band with their next album. My friend and I, for many years, had a saying that no band has ever had a bigger shift in quality between one album to the next. The difference between how good Demanufcature is, and what is on offer here, is the gold standard in my mind. I spent almost my entire first year of university walking around in a Demanufcature t—shirt. By contrast, I have only listened to this album about 20 times in my whole life and have resented it basically every time I listened to it.

I developed something of a mental block around this album for a long time. I could only really listen to 2 or 3 songs from it all the way through. I developed an affection for a few tracks, like ‘Martyr’ and ‘Crash Test’ over the years, but even then, ever since the band re-recorded those songs on the Mechanise bonus tracks, I would rather listen to the updated versions. If I try listen to the actual album, as I would intermittently out of a sense of duty and trying to get my money’s worth, then my eyes would glaze over and my mind would fog and I wouldn’t really hear the songs. Often I would try and skip through songs to see if there were good parts I’d forgotten, but then not really hear the songs properly and the whole thing would jumble up in my mind. If you asked me which one was ‘Leech Master’ and which one was ‘W.O.E’ I would have absolutely no idea which was which. If you asked me to name you more than six songs on this, I would really struggle. There’s seventeen tracks on here! That’s too many. Why didn’t someone edit this down?

I vaguely remember that the band used to be a Death Metal band called Ulceration, and then started listening to industrial and punk and changed their name to Fear The Factory before settling on the better name, Fear Factory. (Kind of like how Ratt used to be called Mickey Ratt, which is much worse). I wonder if some of these tracks, the heavier blastier ones, were Ulceration tracks and the more melodic and ones closer to the sound of the later albums were the newest tracks. I wonder if the ones that are halfway between are from the short-lived Fear The Factory days? Or maybe my memory of this timeline is wrong and they had the same songs the whole time and just changed their name three times between three live gigs in sweaty LA clubs, who knows? Other bands have gone through numerous name changes in the early days.

Maybe if some of the tracks were old Ulceration tracks that are very different, then they could have trimmed those tracks off… 17! Seventeen! Seven-bastard-teen!

Since I got the request to review the album though, I decided to really concentrate and open my mind to it. I’ve tried listening to it in full in the dark, on shuffle in the background while driving, in between other Fear Factory albums for contrast. I have it on in the background while I wrote most of this blog. I went online and I read dozens and dozens of reviews of it, positive, negative and neutral. I really wanted to understand the album. I wanted to focus and lose the mind fog.

I came in wanting to write the story of how I found out this was actually an amazing album and I had been mistaken the whole time. Or at least wanting to write that this was the worst musical turd in my collection and getting my readers to laugh at it. Well, sorry. I don’t have a great revelation about this album. I did ‘get it’ a lot more than I ever had. I’ve been listening to lots of Death, Morbid Angel, Deicide and Obituary recently, so the few bits of Death Metal that are on here are coming to the light more, but also I am learning just how much Death Metal is not on here. I could never understand how Fear Factory said Korn ripped them off before. Now I kind of get it. I can also hear how this could have influenced System Of A Down. Another big thing I can pick out is Chimaira. People always point to Demanufacture in the influencing of modern metalcore and bands like Chimaira and Killswitch Engage. Soul Of A New Machine not so much. However, listening now, with today’s ears I can really pick out multiple points that are clear Chimaira influences. There’s even a riff or two that Chimaira almost lifted note for note.

Having gotten it more, its not like I love it now, but I do like bits of it and understand it. Its gone from a 1/10 album next to a 9/10 classic, to more like a 6/10. What does that do to me and my friend’s gold-standard of improvement argument? I’m not sure. New American Gospel, From Ember To Inferno, Sombre Eyes To The Sky, This Present Darkness, Don’t Close Your Eyes, Killswitch Engage’s self titled… There are lots of early, raw, primitive albums from bands that aren’t great or terrible, next to classic breakthrough albums. Even Tool’s Opiate to Undertow is a big step up. Does this mean Soul’-Demanfacture has lost its status? I guess only time will tell. I do hold it in higher regard than when I started off. That being said I’m already struggling to remember which is which. I can remember some of the movie samples more than the songs they are in. I can remember the 2nd half of the album is heavier than the 1st half.  What does ‘Escape Confusion’ sound like? Does it sound different to ‘Fleshhold’ ‘Scapegoat’? I don’t honestly remember.  I’ll have to keep listening to it now. See if it goes back to being total mind fog, or if I get a bit more out of it from now on.


I went to Download Festival 2018.

Intro – The road to download.

I went to Download Festival 2018; this was my first ever over-night music festival. When I was a teenager I went to the Irish Ozzfest (more on that later) and a few summers ago I went to the Dutch one-day event Festival Zand because my wife’s friends were all going and simply ‘why not?’ but for years and years, I’ve been reading about Downloads and Sonispheres and have been lusting after them, with the podcasts I listen to constantly talking about them and making them seem very important to my culture. Over the years I’ve got more and more determined to go to one. I’ve always been too busy with work or school or university, or been too broke to afford it. Most of all though, I was too afraid to go.

This year I felt more confidence to go and finally took the plunge (well, actually I bought the tickets in a moment of madness related to bereavement that I don’t want to go into right now, but I didn’t cancel as I finally had the confidence to go).

The drive there was pleasant. I made a few mix cds of the best Thrash Metal songs, the sun was out, the excitement was in the air. Traffic was good. I got there in about two hours, singing along to Annihilator and Overkill and Kreator all the way. I stopped in a motorway services to fuel up the car for the drive home and it was full of Metalheads. It was a good vibe. It finally hit me I was actually going to download. I mean, when the tickets arrived it was one thing. When I was buying my first ever tent, it was one thing. But seeing a mob of Metalheads en mass far from home really made it click.

After finally arriving at Donnington ‘the spiritual home of rock‘ Park, getting out of the car, and lumping all my supplies about 15,000 steps to the available space left to camp (I arrived on Friday at about 10.00am, rather than Wednesday like some people so there was now limited space), I then had the task of putting up a tent. Not a big deal, I mean, I’ve worked in hospitals, I had to figure out how to set up morphine pumps and blood warmers for atypical transfusions before without killing anyone, how hard could it be to set up a tent, right?

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…Close enough.

After setting up a tent and praying it wouldn’t be stolen or fall over, I made my way up the hill, crossing the race track, got my wrist band and finally stepped foot in ‘the arena’ which is the area where the concerts actually take place (another 5,000-10,000 steps away again.)

There were four stages, and a ridiculous number of bands. There were tonnes of familiar bands to see, or new bands to discover. It was like a religious experience. Almost overwhelming. Some people are casual about music. Some people learn instruments, play in bands, read everything they can about it and buy hundreds and hundreds of records. I am in the latter category as if you can’t tell by me being arrogant enough to write a blog about music as if I have any qualification to write about it beyond sheer, blinding love for it. I don’t know what I’m talking about or have any professional or educational authority on it but I love it and it is my biggest thing in life, more like a religion or culture than a mere hobby.

DAY 1 – The Arena.

Stepping foot in the arena was one of the most magical and exciting moments of my whole life. Better than any graduation, better than any birthday party or first drink or first kiss or so many other milestones. (Not better than meeting my wife or my wedding or things like that though, sorry music, but my wife is more awesome than you – but apart from that, this was pretty high up the damn list of best moments in my life).

There was so much options to choose, it was a bit of option paralysis. I mean, on top of concerts on four stages they had fairground attractions, a cinema, medieval fighting, NXT wrestling, and all sorts. Some kind of lightning tricks. Pubs, clubs, all kinds of food. I didn’t come here for any of that here. I came here to, …excuse me, but I came here to rock. Yes, yes I said it. All my waking day was to be spent on music for that is what I care about, not ferris wheels and knights hitting each other with clubs. (Cool as hell they have all that stuff though, for the option. If you drag someone with you who doesn’t like music as much there is still shitloads for them to do).

I made a plan in advance; rather than get overwhelmed trying to dart off between sets to go from one stage to the next and back and miss things, I was going to make a simple plan. Main stage Friday all day. Second stage all day Saturday, except of course running down the hill when the second stage closes in time to see Guns N Roses take to the main stage. Sunday my plan was Main stage all day, with the exception of running to the second stage to catch Kreator before returning back to the main stage for some bands I don’t like but giving me the option to slowly worm my way up closer to the front over time for the ones I do like after them.

DAY 1 – The Bands.

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So on Friday, after a walk down to the stage that took a fair-old-while, the first band I got to see was some band called Avatar. I didn’t get there to catch the opening act Boston Manor due to how long it look me to figure out how to set up a tent, but I did manage to catch the whole of Avatar’s set. I had never hear a second of their music before, but I had previously heard people who I respect’s opinion saying they were a bit crap so wasn’t expecting much. The took the stage, dressed as some kind of Jester-dandies, looking like a cross between when The Libertines wear those red jackets with Jim from Slipknot‘s second mask, only in face paint. Their music was hard to describe. It wasn’t Power Metal, it wasn’t Nu Metal but it sort of sounded like a more commercial version of Marilyn Manson‘s debut album’s deep cuts like ‘Dope Hat’ and ‘Organ Grinder’ being played by Sabaton while trying to get a song on WWE so toning down the Power. No, I don’t know either.

There were a lot of young kids there who absolutely lapped it up though, so I held no ill will towards them. A bit gimmicky, but when I was a kid I got my fix from that Limp Bizkit mix, so I am just happy there are entry points like this keeping the genre alive. They ended their bewildering but inoffensive set with a track called something along the lines of ‘Freakshow‘ which started with a semi-amusing stage speech the gist of which was “they may tell you that you look like a freakshow” and then something about looking and “they might tell you that you sound like a freakshow” and then something about hearing and lastly “ they might tell you that you smell like a freakshow, but I tell them, STEP CLOSER, YOU’RE MISSING THE BEST PART” which did make me crack a smile. The singer reminded me a bit of Wednesday 13 (of Murderdolls fame, among other things). Yeah, not my cup of tea, but a fine warm up. At a real concert you don’t always like all the support bands beforehand either, but they get you warmed up and its good to experience new things.

The kids in the crowd thinned out and I got to walk right up to the front, next but one from the barrier. Then to the stage came Dragonforce. I am not the world’s largest or most knowledgeable Dragonforce fan. I have their first four albums and I hold them in warm regard. I have never heard them since ZP Theart left the band, live or on record. I don’t know why but I felt like maybe I had all the Dragonforce I needed. They appeared to play a lot of material from the post-ZP albums though, which was actually the best material of the set. Marc Hudson is a cracking singer and has fully won my respect. If, like me, you sort of fell away from the band, maybe reevaluate that!

The band were plagued with technical problems and I feel like maybe they would have played more, but Herman’s guitar kept dropping off and he spent a lot of time off stage. The band fully stopped at one time and awkwardly jammed ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ to stop the crowd getting bored while they tried to iron out the technical problems. Shame. Apparently they were filming this gig. Probably won’t be coming out now. Either way, they were pretty on fire this day and if you ignore the afore mentioned issues it was a damn good show and I would’ve been totally satisfied with it if they were the support band to a concert I’d individually paid for.

 

Next came Marmozets. Marmozets are a terrific band and I was really obsessed with their debut album for a few months there. They released a new album recently but I haven’t got it yet due to holding back on music purchases recently to buy a new drum kit, and then to recover from buying it. I really enjoyed the new material they played but felt a bit of a lemon not singing along. When they played material I knew however, like ‘Particle,’ ‘Why Do You Hate Me?’ and especially ‘Captivate You’ I had just, the best time. Their drummer, who I have never seen in real life, is such a fucking rock star. Real Tommy Lee shit. The energy and charisma of the guy was remarkable. I have rarely seen anyone love being on a stage or on a drumkit so much before. It was dripping of him. Absolute raw enthusiasm. He was captivating. I barely looked at the rest of the band. Becca’s voice held up live too which is amazing. She has such a diverse range of growls, screams, screeches and cleans that I would be damn difficult to replicate it live, but boy did she. Overall, an utterly triumphant set from the band. I only wish I’d have known the new material in advance.

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The next band were utterly new to me as well, but I’d heard about them for years and years and was excited to try them out. Volbeat have a reputation as being some bizarre hybrid of The Misfits, Elvis, Johnny Cash and Load-era Metallica. I couldn’t even imagine. For years I’ve been hearing podcast hosts bigging them up, jokingly calling them ‘whoah-l beat’ and generally making them sound like an interesting proposition. Oh, and Rob Caggiano, from Anthrax is in them! Yes, I was gonna check that out, you better believe it.

A late-50s woman behind me had been talking to her friend about how they were her favourite band ever and when I turned round she was about half my height so I asked her if she wanted to swap as it wasn’t fair loving them that much and only seeing my butt instead of the band, so she swapped places and I still had the same view as I could see right over her head. I hope all of you do the same thing some day. Karma or whatever. Just like if you catch a drumstick but don’t like the band, give it to a die-hard.

Anyway, the band seriously impressed me. It was very good fun. I didn’t hear much of the Metallica influence, but they played some gorgeous melodic hard rock with seriously fun catchy choruses and superb guitar solos. They played up to the Cash and Elvis influences talking about them in the stage banter and doing impressions. Some of their songs were irresistible, one track, which is presumably a big hit was introduced as ‘About a shady lady called Lola’ really grabbed me. I think I’m going to buy that when I am back to buying music again. Another song was ‘Burn It To The Ground’ by Nickleback; oh wait, no it wasn’t… but do me a favour and go listen to ‘The Devil’s Bleeding Crown’ and tell me that aint influenced by ‘Burn It To The Ground.’

They got the acoustics out at one stage and they had a lot of ‘wey-oh’ sing alongs gong on. Their singer Michael is very endearing, I don’t know if its the accent or the look or what, but he just has a very lovable vibe like Kai Hansen of Gamma Ray has.

Now there was a downside to my ‘not too much movement between stages’ plan. I fucking love Tesseract and Napalm Death were such a big thing in my teenage years, but my plan would see me miss both. They clashed with Avenged, and we all know who’s going to put on the better show. Napalm Death are always punk in ethos and last time I saw them they just showed up and played like they were your cousin Jeff’s band rehearsing in your living room unannounced. No inflatable skeletons in sight. And Tesseract I’ve seen three times before, while I’d only seen Avenged once. The maths made it seem the best sense to stick to the minimal movement plan. Luckily, Barney Greenway showed up on stage with Volbeat to sing a song with them, and I got a little bit of Napalm Death after all! Nice.

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Next up was BFMV. You can see my review of Bullet For My Valentine‘s last Concert DVD or the time I saw them live to see my thoughts on that band. They were just as good here, although like Marmozets their was a fair bit of new material I didn’t know. When they played the trashier stuff like ‘Waking The Demon’ and ‘Scream Aim Fire’ though, it came across really powerfully live. The band may have a wimpy reputation but you can’t fuck with a live version of ‘Four Words To Choke Upon.’ The amount of crowd surfers the generated was pretty impressive. Marmozets had asked for it. Volbeat had encouraged it, but for Bullet, it was like a magnet to a set of iron filings. I got kicked in the face a lot.

It always surprises me how good Matt Tuck’s voice is live. I always envision him as some Pro Tools processed pretty boy, but the guy is so good live there is not questioning his talent whatsoever. I feel like an idiot for how many years I wrote this band off as kiddy music. They are champions of their scene and deservedly so. I feel like Matt’s new short hair & sunglasses vibe and how much he’s been hitting the gym might be an attempt to become Matt Shadows visually, but that’s just an aside. Musically that was a terrific concert. I heard a few fans comment afterwards that they’d seen the band numerous times and that this was the best one yet. The download website review agrees (although that might be for marketing purposes, so pinch of salt and all that). Apart from maybe not having enough time due to festival time slots, I pretty much agree that it was hard to fault this performance at all. I’d gotten my money’s worth already and the first day wasn’t even over yet.

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The Volbeat fan was gone and I was right up front, one or two from the barrier again, and Friday’s Headliners, Avenged Sevenfold arrived on stage, opening up funnily enough with their recent single ‘The Stage’ and blew the fucking roof off the place, except there was no roof as it was a festival, but I’m running out of hyperbole here so work with me.

Like Bullet, I’d also seen Avenged live at a headliner show in Manchester before. Like Bullet, this was also just as good. Last time I saw Avenged’ however I was up in the rafters in a seat very far from the action. This time I saw close enough to spit on them, if I’d wanted to. Which I don’t. This isn’t the late 70s punk scene. Anyway; I was close. So close I could feel the heat on my face when the pyro went off.

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Boy did Avenged put on a show. As well as all the video-screens and visualisations, there were bombs, fireworks and pyroblasts. There was a giant inflatable king for ‘Hail To The King’ and a giant inflatable astronaut for the new album like they’re Iron bloody Maiden or something. There was sooooo much fire for ‘Sheppard Of Fire.’

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The setlist was much the same as I’d seen the last time with a few omissions for Festival timing (no ‘Planets’ for example) and a few additions from their recent Stage add-on content, like their cover of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here which they dedicated to all the people they’d been bereaved of, including amongst others their previous drummer Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan. They also dedicated their popular ballad ‘So Far Away’ to him and had a whole Rev Video on the screens like Lynyrd Skynyrd do with ‘Travlin Man.’ Sullivan’s death was in a roundabout way what got me into the band. Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater replaced him for their album Nightmare, and one of my friends from Uni who also played the drums gave me a copy of Nightmare after we had been discussing Mike Portnoy. Nightmare remains my favourite Avenged album to this day, and it was great to hear tracks from it live tonight like The Title Track, ‘Burried Alive’ and ‘Welcome To The Family.’ You can’t beat hearing 7,000 people scream ‘It’s Your Fucking Nightmare’ in unison! And that bit on ‘Burried Alive’ when it stops sounding like a ballad and starts sounding like Black Album-era Metallica with that chunky-as-fuck riff comes in is spine-tingling live.

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The band played an utter corker of a show and it was a real brilliant end to the evening. If I had just got a day ticket, I’d have been satisfied. Marmozets, Bullet and Avenged are all worthy of me going to see them on their own, so together it was fantastic, and I really enjoyed Dragonforce and was very happy to discover Volbeat. (As I’ve been writing this I’ve been streaming ‘Lola Montez’ on repeat a few times after fondly remembering it in the above section).

 

NIGHT ONE – Would the tent stay up?

I got back to the camp after a confusing walk past a horizon full of more amusement park stuff and music despite that being in the opposite direction of the arena. What the hell was that? Oh well, too tired to worry about it. Time to get some sleep. Finding the correct tent was a bit of a mission in the dark, but I got it done eventually then memorized it for future reference.

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Luckily, the thing was still in situ and looking vaguely habitable, so I climbed in. I opened my sleeping mat, got in my sleeping bag and closed my eyes for some much needed rest.

‘Alan!’

Huh?

‘ALAAAAAAAAN!’

What?!

‘AAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLAN’ ‘Alan,’ ‘ALAN’ ‘Alaaaan.’

It seems the good folks at Yellow campsite had taken to screaming the word ‘Alan’ as loud and often as they could and not to be outdone, dozens of the fine people down the hill responded in kind. One person would scream ‘Alan’ ‘Steve’ or ‘Pickle Rick’ as hard as they could and then you’d hear it echo around the park. It was sort of funny once.

Smash cut to three hours later, not a wink of sleep, and ‘Alan’ is still an ongoing regular sound. Oh well, can’t begrudge these people their fun. CUNTS CUNTS CUNTS. I mean they paid the same as me to have some fun. THE UTTER BASTARDS. And after all, we’re all here to have a good time. MUTHAFUCKERS. And who needs sleep anyway, its rock n roll. I HATE EVERY ONE OF THEM. If Lemmy was here, I’m sure he’d shout ‘alan’ too.

Ok; that one did it. I did in the end get about three hours sleep, and all jokes aside, did accept the alan noise and not too seriously begrudge it. Sort of. I don’t want to be that guy who rains on other people’s parade.

I woke up to piss and found a snail in my tent above my head. I named him Alan.

I went back to sleep for about another twenty minutes and my alarm went off, it was time to get up and get ready for day two.

DAY 2 – The bands.

Remember the guy who got me into Avenged about a decade ago. Guess who came up to me in the que for the breakfast truck? Only him! Nice one. It was great catching up. Didn’t expect this. We had a good conversation about how the festival had obviously blown all the money on Guns N’ Roses and how the rest of Saturday was a bit of a dud compared to Friday and Sunday. I didn’t recognize a single band on the main stage except Blackstone Cherry who aren’t my cup of tea and Monster Truck who’s first EP I have, but nothing else.

My plan was to hang out on the second stage on Saturday, ostensibly to see Parkway Drive who the podcasts I listen to always call the best live band of our generation, and who’s most recent two albums have both been in constant rotation in my listening schedule since release, as was their masterpiece Deep Blue when I first discovered them. I had almost got to see them twice before but missed the first one when an old girlfriend was sick and couldn’t go the the second one because of work.

Opening were a band I hadn’t heard of before called Powerflo. I walked to the near the front after a song or two and hey, those are some familiar faces. Billy from Biohazard was there. Hey, wasn’t that guy in Downset?. Holy shit, that’s Christian from Fear Factory! Some kind of supergroup then. Also their singer was in Cypress Hill. It was like a heavier version of Prophets Of Rage I guess. Their material was very clearly Biohazard influenced which was just what I needed to get me energized in the morning. They did an introduction bit where they teased music from Downset, Fear Factor, Cypress Hill and Biohazard, such as playing about 10 seconds of ‘Replica’ for example. There was frig all people in the crowd as they were presumably resting up from staying up too late shouting ‘alan’ (not bitter!) and hadn’t gotten into the arena yet. Shame, the band were very good and deserved more eyes on them.

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Then came a band I hadn’t heard of before. I asked a guy in the crowd who was next and he enthusiastically announced it was Von Hertzen Brothers and I asked him what type of music it was and he said melodic Swedish Rock. That had me imagining Europe. What it actually was, was more like Riverside. More driving and more cheerful, but they had proggy vibes and it was key-heavy. They had no show to speak of, like Powerflo they were just sat in front of a banner playing songs like it was a club, but they had great music and they were damn charming. They inspired a heck of a lot of clap-alongs. I was very impressed. One more added to my to-look-into list.

The Von Hertzen’ fan left and a lady took his place and really excitedly told everyone who would listen that they would really love the next act, and oh my god there they were look up there! and oh my god there was the lawnmower!

You heard that right. Lawnmower. It was ’80s Comedy Thrash band Lawnmower Deth suspiciously high up the bill on a suspiciously large stage. Not the fourth stage, the second. Not opening, but third from the start. How did they swing this?

…and then they played. Now; if you have any chance of seeing them live I almost don’t want you to read this, so skip down to the next photo to avoid spoilers if you are going to see them any time soon.

Go on skip if you are going to see em.

No? Ok; So they took the stage, playing Hardcore sounding Thrash with a sort of DRI vibe but way more British. They had about five or six back up characters running around the stage dressed as the devil or a sheep or an old lady with dodgy stag-party-esque costumes from a cheap costume shop. They had home made cardboard trains and had them running around the stage like a fancy dress party. They also had a quite professionally built giant smoking killer comedy lawnmower with a shark like mouth that opened and closed. A helper chased the old woman character around the stage with it until ‘she’ (a fifty year old bloke with a full stubbly beard) fell down and actually got run over by it and crawled inside like a magic trick, only done slowly and obviously on purpose for comedic effect. They also tossed dozens of inflatables into the crowd for us to play beach ball with and they lured the sheep character into their ‘Deth Shed’ which was made to look like an (again though, on a Halloween party budget) execution chamber and they pulled it and it sprayed blood all over the sheep and he acted dead. It was very amusing. It was like a very elaborate prom-posal or something. The band were very humble and grateful and got festival organiser Andy Copping on stage to thank him. I really enjoyed the show. Not something I would have ever sought out, but a very nice surprise and combined with the first two surprises of Powerflo and Von Hertzen Brothers, made Saturday not seem such a wash-out after all.

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Now one of my favourite bands, ever, period, is Corrosion Of Conformity. Their reunion gig was utterly superb for me and I had been looking forward all month to catching them. They got up there and I sang every word. They did their intro which was part of Bottom Feeder, then they had new song ‘The Luddite,’ and they did ‘Broken Man’ and they did the hits ‘Albatross’ and an extended version of ‘Clean My Wounds’ and then…nothing.

I know there are limited times, but man, I would have loved more C.O.C. I was screaming my heart out along with them while surrounded by bemused Baby Metal fans who didn’t get the love they were inspiring. There was just so much more they could have played. Big hits, fan favourites, new singles. I’d been chomping at the bit all week to hear ‘Wolf Named Crow’ and ‘ Cast The First Stone’ live. Shame they didn’t get more time. Festival-high banter, strongbow cider reference, and then they were gone. One of my utter favourite bands. Oh well, they announced they’d be playing the UK soon headlining and I can hopefully catch them then for more.

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Bury Tomorrow came next. I don’t know them but the podcasts always spoke highly of them. Their dynamic front man really whipped the crowd into shape and if you knew the material it must have been one hell of a concert. I was pretty spellbound as a newcomer. The crowd surfers where out in full force. The singer gave a good speech about supporting music and keeping it alive in a non-cheesy way. They pretty much destroyed the place and I wish I knew them in advance as it seemed to be a superb show. Another one on the to-look-into list. This download shenanigan is a good way to find new music as well as see lots of bands in one go, even if some of them COUGH, C.O.C, COUGH don’t get enough time.

L7 got a surprisingly high slot next. Does anyone care about L7 in 2018? I know I am too young, but all I know them as are a one hit wonder who once got in trouble for showing their bush on TV. They had a bit of an underdog factor as their drummer had broken her arm and they had a drummer in with only one day’s practice so that was endearing, but I wasn’t much interested nor impressed by them. It was serviceable Bleach-era Nirvana style grunge, only a bit more repetitive and with not much going on musically. Nothing wrong with it, but not for me. It passed the time. Me personally, I would have given that time to C.O.C, but I don’t know or understand all the complexities of festival organisation and there is presumably a good reasons for L7 being that high. Maybe they’re quite big or maybe its a reunion year or something. The crowd wasn’t as into it as they had been for Bury Tomorrow. A bit of a non-event for me. Not in a mean way, just, the first miss of the day.

Asking Alexandria, a less offensive version of Bring Me The Horizon with more ballads and less aggression followed them and all the girls in the crowd went utterly mental. I saw crowd surfers in skirts and dresses with their legs wide open flashing the band. Hey, maybe its because L7 had just been on!? Dated reference. The 15-year olds around me all fought eachother to get closer to the stage. (I was anchored their for Parkway after having enjoyed it so much with C.O.C and didn’t feel as charitable with giving it up as yesterday due to the selfish competitive way they were behaving amongst each other). They got some of the biggest sing-alongs of the weekend so far and seemed to inspire utter devotion in their fan-base. One girl near me was nearly in tears. It wasn’t for me but I thought they put on a very good show and they were a damn sight less dull than L7. I remember their singer tried to hop onto a raised part of the stage and stumbled, then made a joke about feeling foolish. I don’t remember their songs anymore, but to their fans it was seemingly breathtaking so they were entertaining enough.

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Now, I have never checked out Baby Metal. I chalked them up to a Youtube sensation gimmick like Gangham-style for Metal fans and never much thought about them again. I might have listened to half of ‘Gimmie Chocolate’ once and thought yeah, I can see how it would appeal to the weeaboos and sailor moon fans but I’ve got limited time and money and I’ll spend it listening to something else. I also thought it was a bit creepy how they leaned into the schoolgirl thing a bit too hard.

Now they are older and on a new album cycle however, they had some kind of space aged Egyptian mythology theme and were dressed like sort of sci-fi bondage pharaohs. Apparently one of the main singers is mysteriously absent so they replaced here with two back-up dancers. I knew they had some choreography from previous reviews, and I knew they were more popular than I’d expect, but I wasn’t prepared for the utter hysteria that followed. My ears were battered by 19 year old video-game programming students that love hentai going utterly apeshit in every direction from me, bouncing along and screaming every word like I had for C.O.C. only 10 times harder and while doing the dance moves! I really came to respect them. That is impressive. The same thing Anthrax might inspire in a comic book fan when they do ‘I Am The Law,’ the parallels are clear and it was cool to see how they were appealing to this new demographic. These people fucking loved it. I got talking to one guy who’d seen them 10 times. I heard another 60 year old Japanese man who had flown all the way here to England and bought the whole festival ticket just for this one show. Man, I really respect this band now. And as much as I find the choreography distasteful and Britney Spears-esque in principal, there is no denying either what a good show it makes for or how much effort and training it must have required. It isn’t just show up and tease some gullible virgins with our slutty outfits, music be damned, like the cynic in me initially thought. No, it is some very impressive and difficult work, with really talented guitarists and drummers augmenting the spectacle. And hey, I like Powerman 5,000. I can sort of relate to the whole Sci Fi introductions and outros thing. The voice talking about the fox god reminded me of the intro track to Tonight The Stars Revolt. And when I was a kid and PM5K were new, cynics probably said they were gimmiky shite too while they waited for Y&T or UFO.

Now; I would never have dreamed of seeing Baby Metal of my own volition, but the cool thing about Download is you get to sample a whole bunch of different stuff between the bands you wanted, for less money than a ticket to each of the bands you wanted in the first place would be combined, and if there is nothing at all you want to see then you can skip the bands for half an hour and get food or do any one of the dozens of other things they have, like get a tattoo or watch a magician, or drive a motorbike around a ‘wall of death.’

When I was a teenager I would sometimes look at festival line-ups and think they weren’t worth going to because I didn’t like every single band, but now I see there’s a bigger plan afoot.

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Oh well, not such a boring wait for Parkway Drive and Guns N’ Roses after all.

END OF PART ONE.
To be continued in part two. (…as if ‘end of part one’ wasn’t a clue. Now I know how Rush felt after the end of Cygnus)

Fear Factory – Genexus Review

2015’s Genexus is the Los Angeles Metal band Fear Factory’s ninth officially recognized full-length studio album proper (discounting compilations, rereleases, remix projects etc). It is the third album since guitarist Dino Cazares rejoined the band when Christian Olde Wolbers and Raymond Herrera left. It is also the first album with Mike Heller on drums (although Deen Castronovo plays on single ‘Soul Hacker’) who the band made a point of getting to play live following an online controversy with the use of no human drummers on their previous record, The Industrialist.

For me, it doesn’t matter who played on it, what’s a real instrument and what isn’t; all that matters is if it is enjoyable and memorable. An album could be soullessly generated by a computer algorithm for all I care if it made me genuinely enjoy myself. This is definitely the most memorable and enjoyable album the band have released since 2004’s Archetype in my opinion. It sticks to the same futuristic lyrical well and imagery that the band are best known for, it contains plenty of the same staccato riffs synched-up with the kickdrum patterns that are the band’s trademark, and its got the same Burton C Bell clean/heavy splits… it all sounds very Fear Factory, but crucially the songs are fun, they stick out more, there’s no filler and there’s more bounce and groove than the last three records. It’s a Fear Factory album, and it’s a damn good one. Its not boring, its not repetitive and its not a failed experiment.

Imagine the verses from the band’s heavier album Mechanize, with the choruses from the band’s clean and commercial Transgression, topped with the balance, character and personality of Archetype. That’s the sort of ballpark the band are working in – its not a throwback album trying to recapture Demanufacture or Obsolete, its not a sell-out, its not an attempt to write their most brutal album ever… the band have kind of mixed different aspects from different eras together (Heck; there’s even one or two moments where the Rhys Fulber additions feel a bit like they did on Digimortal for a few seconds).

For me, that mix achieved here is an absolute winner. Having had time to live with the album and let it all really sink in, I feel that Genexus is one of the band’s very best albums, easily in the top half of their discography, and I’d be more than happy to see lots of these songs in live setlists and compilations from now on. Its not a throw-away album by any stretch of the imagination.

Highlights include the ridiculously bouncy single ‘Soul Hacker’ (the most outright fun Fear Factory song this side of ‘Edge Crusher’ or ‘Cyberwaste’), the brief and perfect ‘Church Of Execution’ as well as the crushing ‘Protomech’ and the quieter, more dreamy ‘Expiration Date,’ which almost reminds me of modern-day Anathema at times. Anything on the record is good though, there’s legitimately nothing I would delete or skip at all.

Fear Factory are such an underrated band who never really got their due. Compared to how historically important and influential they are (basically informing much of the music for the next decade), and considereing how any time Roadrunner Records does anything special there’s a Fear Factory connection in some way (boxset series, compilation series, 25th anniversary series, Drilling The Vein, Roadrunner United etc), or indeed just how many people have something positive to say about them… when they come play my city its never to an audience big or passionate enough to reflect this, and that’s kind of sad. I can’t see this album winning over a legion of new fans, I can’t see it thrusting the band to superstar status, but what it definitely can do is satisfy existing fans, cement the different eras of the band’s discography into a more sensible cohesive whole, and raise the band’s stock and hit-to-miss ratio in the right direction. Its one more top quality album to add to the list of good Fear Factory albums. It makes me excited about this band again and makes me feel validated and vindicated after sticking with them through different line-ups and stylistic shake ups of varying quality. It makes me want to talk about Fear Factory all the time again like I used to a decade ago. It makes me want to convert new fans. Most importantly of all, it makes me want to listen to it over and over.

In summary; it’s a mixture of Fear Factory’s heavier and lighter sides, done right, with memorable catchy songs full of character. Its one of the band’s better records to date and I highly recommend it to any existing or potential future fan without hesitation or qualification.

Greatest Hits Vol. 2 – Fear Factory

Inspired by the entertaining blogs of the excellent wordpress blogger Nick’s Album Reviews, I’ve decided to join in the fun, and copy his Greatest Hits blog formula and match the bands chosen with my own personal taste (select my personal favourite 10 tracks by the band that would feel like a good greatest hits cd).

This time around is all about Fear Factory. Here we go:

10.


09.

08.

07.

06.

05.

04.

03.

02.

01.

Mostly the hits and the title tracks, but there’s only 10 tracks room/space to play with.

Fear Factory – Archetype Review

Fear Factory - Archetype

Fear Factory – Archetype

This is my favourite Fear Factory album. I know music is subjective and deeply personal, and that everyone gets something different from hearing the same original stimuli, but it really surprised me to find out that this wasn’t a fan favourite album.

I remember when it first came out reviews were saying “best album since Demanufacture” (my next favourite Fear Factory album), my peer group was saying “best album since Demanufacture” and I was saying “even better than Demanufacture.” I lost touch with music magazines, moved away from my peer group across country borders and stopped following Metal news and reviews for a few years. I never stopped liking this album though. It came as a big surprise that when I started paying attention to the band’s reviews and interviews and fan’s opinions again that this had fallen from favour. I thought everyone loved this (and justifiably so).

2004’s Archetype is the Los Angeles Metal band’s fifth official full length studio album (if you discount compilations, remix albums, and the 1991 Concrete album). It featured long time bassist Christian Olde Wolbers moving from bass to guitar, replacing long time guitarist Dino Cazerez, and introduced Byron Stroud to the band as the new bassist (even if Christian actually did the bass too in the studio). It was self-produced by the band and longtime contributor Rhys Fulber.

The album contains the ferociously catchy singles “Cyber Waste” and “Archetype” as well as the famous “Bite The Hand That Bleeds” which many people of a certain age will remember from its SAW soundtrack inclusion and SAW themed music video.

I really, really enjoy this album. The first six tracks alone are all individually one of my favourite ever Fear Factory songs. “Slave Labour” and “Corporate Cloning” really summed up the mood of the time, both musically and lyrically. The album is heavy and aggressive like the band’s fan favourite material, but all songs are easily-digestible, memorable, and catchy. They all have a distinct identity, and it is much less samey than the albums that would be released when Dino was back in the band and Christian was thrown out.

It’s a Fear Factory record, so naturally highlights include Raymond Herrera’s incredible drumming and Burton C Bell’s distinctive vocal talents. Its worth listening to for those alone, never mind the fact that its chocked full of fun patterns, excellent choruses, great riffs, and generally red hot song writing. The material here still stands up today, over a decade since its release, as do the performances.

I urge anyone who has ignored this album just because Dino is not on it, or who hasn’t heard it yet to give it a try. Don’t miss out on it just because the fickle court public have swept it under the carpet nowadays. This is some seriously good Metal music. Equal to if not better than the best of rest of their discography in my own opinion. If you are a fan who hasn’t listened to it in a while, I’d just like to remind you about it and about how good it is.

Get (Into) What You Paid For – Round 4: Episode 4 Day 18

Hello and welcome to my “Get (Into) What You Paid For” challenge, in which I attempt to not buy anything for a month, and reevaluate my opinion of records I bought previously but never really became a true fan of, taking this purchase-abstinence as a chance to finally “get my money’s worth” out’ve the more undervalued albums in my collection. That; and present thoughts and musings that don’t fit elsewhere on the blog.

Ok. Its now Day 18. Apart from the mistake with the excitement of the Machine Head tickets, there have been no purchases. I damn near bought the comic book Crisis On Infinite Earths but fought it off at the last minute. I also nearly bought a few Megadeth b-sides as single mp3s but shook that off too.

Other than that, I’m pretty temptation free. I’ve spent most of my time watching documentaries on Netflix about health and food and vegetarianism (I’m not a vegetarian myself, but it was still good entertainment), lifting weights and eating more fruit and veg than I did in the entire last two months, maybe three months (I let my healthy eating slide about a year ago and am getting back to normal again now). If you watch the documentaries it really reminds you to get your vitamins and minerals. If I was in charge, I’d make kids watch them once every year to just remind them. At least they’d probably eat veg for a month every year. Even that small thing would add years to their lives and oodles to their quality of life later on.

But enough health propaganda. What about music?

I am also happy that my copy of Accept’s Blind Rage has dispatched. I should hopefully receive it tomorrow. Just in time for my free holiday to mainland Europe. It would be nice to have Blind Rage for the bus ride to the airport.

What else? I finally finished Dave Mustaine’s autobiography. It was really interesting, it goes from his childhood right up until the writing of Endgame, and although the period from United Abominations to Endgame is really, really short compared to everything else (every other album and tour cycle gets a detailed story), this is a remarkably consistent, honest, interesting and deep book.

He discusses his flaws, his embarrassments and his mistakes in a way that makes you understand how he thinks and how much of this can be attributed to drugs, and how much is just his personality. You can see where the different parts of his problems come from. You can see why the Metallica-firing hurt so much and really understand him. You can also see what a jerk he was to people. He points out his hypocrisies and bad decisions. On a human level, its just a really interesting and brutally honest book. (A warning though, it is a tad too homophobic at times.)

In addition to finishing that book I’ve also finished the DC Comic Book Crossover story Final Crisis. This is a story in which the stories from a bunch of different superheroes (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern etc.) all crash into one larger story. It’s an apocalypse sort of story. Mind control, dark gods, the end of the universe. Big name characters die or are injured. The consequences of this story affected things for a while afterwards. Apparently it was a huge deal at the time.

It’s a remarkably intelligent work that works on several levels as a commentary on comic books, stories, authors, and the responsibilities and rights associated with those things. The first time I read it, roughly one year ago, I was beyond baffled. Impenetrable would be a fair description. This time around, armed with documentaries about its author, Wikipedia breakdowns of the plot and characters, a years worth of Batman experience, a detailed series of fan analysis online and more patience than last time… I went in prepared and was rewarded. I enjoyed it a lot. I was entertained, I was impressed, I was educated. Good job. I’d happily read it again now that I’ve “got it.” I’d recommend it too, so long as you already like Grant Morison’s style.

I’ve also been watching The Metal Voice. I had watched things like this before at times such as Dom’s Iron Sandwhich and Cover Killer Nation. Youtube shows that are basically a podcast about heavy metal, often in the form of a man looking at a webcam and reviewing a Metal album. The Metal Voice is slightly better than most others in that they put some effort into it and its more like a public access TV show sometimes. Plus its Canadian. I thought they were really unfair with Slipknot… but oh well, can’t have everything.

So… time to appreciate some albums I bought but never felt like I got my money’s worth out of:

Serj

I’m going to re-listen to Serj Tankian’s debut studio album, 2007’s Elect The Dead. This solo record, recorded shortly after the dissolution of the at-the-time absolute superstar band System Of A Down (an acrimonious demise that left you unsympathetic to the guys in the band), this album kind of passed me by as a bit throwaway.

Sure, here’s a new album, but who really cares?

It opens up with “Empty Walls” which is pretty much System Of A Down. Its also surprisingly awesome. I remember not liking it at the time because a) I had kind of got bored of SOAD and b) It seemed repetitive. Furthermore, it was 2007, so I was probably listening to nothing but Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, Camel, Rush, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull and ELP… Serj doesn’t really fit in with that sort of palate.

Listening back now, this song is a real “hit single” or “classic song.” Regardless of its actual financial success, artistically, this is as good as any SOAD hit. Its as good to me as “Sugar” or “Chop Suey” or “B.Y.O.B.”

The next song, “Unthinking Majority” is pretty much the same… a brilliant catchy single that is as good as any SOAD banger. It has a bit more of an Eastern-tinge, and an awkward time-change dynamic with keyboards that is similar to stuff on his next album Imperfect Harmonies. This song is pretty great too.

Next comes “Money.” It starts off as a soulful, piano-led sort of ballad. Then there is an explosive BYOB-style racket of energetic metal/punk noise. Then it goes back to the keyboard stuff. This is also a pretty great song, and the softer side provides contrast to the previous tracks, but the chorus keeps it from feeling like a slowing-down. The pre-chorus is excellent. Nice song.

This is followed by “Feed Us.” Oh, what’s the point? You know what? This WHOLE ALBUM can be summed up by my feelings for “Empty Walls.” I wasn’t in the mood when the album came out, but this is way better than it is given credit for. A forgotten gem.

Every song is a short 2-4 banger that could be a lead single on any other album. Well, except the somber album closer… but apart from that moody number, every song could be a bouncy first-single.

Apart from the lack of Daron’s backing vocals you can barely tell it isn’t a SOAD album. The highlights for me are “Lie Lie Lie,” “Saving Us” and “Sky Is Over.” Even the track “Baby” which I used to hate for being a bit too wacky (in a cheesy way, rather than in a Protest The Hero tasteful-but-hectic way) with its silly pronunciation of the word “Baby” is actually a fabulous song. This is a rock solid album. Way, way better than it is given credit for. More consistent than most SOAD records. Better than the majority of solo albums from anyone in the Alternative Metal/Nu Metal spectrum.

Serj 2

Wow. This is good. Its lead me to listen to Imperfect Harmonies too. Its good. Not just as good (and if you are in the mood for a Rock Band playing Rock Songs its not right for you because its more like a Nine Inch Nails album, in that one artist with a laptop and a keyboard has written an electronics and vocals based record.) If it wasn’t for the big style-shift, this would be a lot better received. If you’re in the mood for it, this is a real strong album. In and of itself, for what it is, this is really strong.

Following that, I’ve just given his most recent effort, Harakiri, again. Its good. It sounds trite, but it is the halfway point between both of those records and his discography would make more sense if this was released between the first and second albums. I liked it at the time, I like it now. Its highlights, including “Figure It Out,” “Occupied Tears,” “Uneducated Democracy” and “Weave On” are all strong and worth your time. It mightn’t be the most strong and consistent record ever, but its highlights are all pretty sweet.

MSG

What else is it time to get my money’s worth? How about my boxset of Michael Schenker Group albums? I listened to all four studio albums in preparation for this article. They are a pretty decent band. They are sort of like a mixture between Thin Lizzy without the Thin-Lizzy unique touch, with 70s Judas Priest without their heaviness, with Coverdale era Deep Purple without their funk. Also some real pop radio choruses that can feel out of place. Awesome guitar solos as you would expect. Its really a guitar album (or albums). Its such a weird point between Rock and Metal that I can’t compare it to anything else I know (apart from UFO, obviously). I would love to hear Children Of Bodom or someone like that cover their songs. “Attack Of The Mad Axeman” is the prize find of the collection, an absolutely wonderful rock song. Such a fun riff! – The rest of it is a mixed bag of mostly good but rarely memorable. Every time I’ve ever listened to them, I’ve liked them more, but I’ve never gotten to the boy-oh-boy-I-love-this-band stage. Still, I don’t regret buying the nice cheap boxset of five albums (there’s a live album in it too), but I think it’ll take a few more listens before I feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

FF

On the subject of getting your money’s worth. I also spent last night listening to Burn My Eyes and Demanufacture. What can I say, I liked these two albums a lot anyway, and I already feel I got my money’s worth out of them, but I had some sort of real revelation last night and I really, really “got them” in a new way.

Its like, every other time I listened to them, there was a cloud of static in my brain. Like when you see a difficult math equation and you can’t even try to solve it because there is a cloud of static in your brain. Its that same exact feeling, and it has just cleared. I heard what a truly wonderful album Demanufactue is last night in a way I never knew before, in the entire decade (and more) since I bought it.

Sometimes its hearing another album, or seeing a documentary, or using new speakers, or a new EQ setting, or simply aging, but sometimes my brain just totally changes shape and new things come in. On first listen, Dream Theater’s Scenes From A Memory was a cheesy mess of stolen ELP parts and no Metal, and now it is a masterpiece and surprisingly heavy.

Now, Burn My Eyes and Demanufacture just got some “golden ticket” invitation to the awesome centre of my brain. Interesting how this stuff happens. I’d like to see some neurological data about it, but…. Failing that, I’ll just blog about it here and see what you guys think is going on?

What is the cloud of static in my brain, and why has it shifted away from these two records?

Pissing Razors – Live In The Devil’s Triangle Review

Pissing Razors – Live In The Devil’s Triangle

You can tell from the very first seconds of Pissing Razors’ first and only official Live Album, Live In The Devil’s Triangle, that the band mean business. It kicks off instantly into a noisy powerful fury, and from that point onwards scarcely lets up in intensity at all for its sixteen-tack, hour-long duration.

With the enthusiastic crowd riled up, tracks like ‘Burning Bridges,’ ‘Dodging Bullets,’ ‘Mass Corruption’ and ‘Cursed’ are blasted through with a fiery and sincere performance that is at once razor sharp, but still utterly teeming with energy and passion.

Do you know those rare brilliant live albums where the songs are just even better than in the studio? Live albums that make you feel like you are at the actual gig and aren’t overproduced but still sound fantastic? Albums like Pantera’s 101 Proof? This is such a live album. If you were only to get one Pissing Razors album, you could happily chose this and get a stellar, no-filler collection of their brightest moments, all put together in a great performance.

The album features the then-new singer Andrew Acosta on vocals on his first recorded appearance with the band, as well as Cesar Sota on guitar filling out the line-up alongside long time member Rick Valles on bass and absolute virtuoso drummer Eddy Garcia. The 2002 record features a career spanning setlist that, more than any other release, really shows what this underrated Texan Groove Metal band were capable of. The band have a superb formula, and here that formula is made manifest, and elevated beyond its station to become greater than the sum of its parts for once, and it is really worth your time checking it out.

Do you like bands like Pantera, Machine Head, Fear Factory, Prong and Soulfly? You may love Pissing Razors too if you give this album a try.