This Week in Badass: …In Which We Get Loaded
So with my other metal series – False Metal, Dead!– ending this week, it felt right to formalize another series to slide into that Friday morning slot. I’ve been wanting to incorporate rock into my metal reviews for Popdose but it just hasn’t felt quite right, until now.
So This Week in Badass is going to take a look at all the killer music that has reached my ears in current week, whether it be music that was just released or items coming out next week. You might even get some vintage badass to get you through your weekend as well. Music will be ranked on the badass’ness scale — which of course goes to 11, the only true way to measure if something kicks ass. So throw your horns up and get ready to headbang along.
It’s fitting that I could start this series today because I wanted to talk about the latest album from Duff McKagan’s Loaded (badass’ness: 7/11) and it didn’t quite fit into the metal mold. The Taking was released this past Tuesday on Eagle Rock Entertainment but it’s been sitting in my queue for weeks now. I’m a Guns fans all the way and loved Velvet Revolver plus the classic GnR members will always warrant a listen in my book no matter what they decide to put out. However, the last Loaded record – Sick (badass’ness: 4/11) – just wasn’t very good. I’m not a fan of Duff’s voice at all and with the Loaded material leaning towards punk, the music did nothing to help out the poor vocals. So while I was going to get to it sooner or later, I just wasn’t all that excited. But The Taking is different. It’s more of a rock record – hell, it might even actually be more of a metal record than you’d expect. And the rock hooks are more suited to his voice than anything he’s sung on before. There’s some poppier numbers like “We Win” which is naturally being used in sports commercials and some tracks where I still can’t stand listening to him. However, “Lords of Abbadon” is firey and “Your Name” is the best track from Loaded yet. I hope he continues with this direction in the future as I’m excited to listen again.
All the excitement and air guitar that I played while listening to Loaded gets put to the side when I listen to the two cover records released for record store day this past Saturday. The Deftones creatively titled Covers (badass’ness 5/11) and the Foo Fighters’ Medium Rare (badass’ness 5/11) both pretty much have the same vibe. Cool idea for a neat day but with shoddy execution. If I’m not mistaken, all the Deftones covers were previously released recordings except for Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk” which closes the record. All the other tunes were released either on electronic copies of Diamond Eyes (badass’ness 7/11) or B-Sides and Rarities (badass’ness 5/11) so it’s not like fans are getting anything they haven’t heard before. The positive thing you can say about these tunes though is that the Deftones tend to cover things you wouldn’t expect, like the Cars “Drive” or Sade’s “No Ordinary Love.” Less often do you see things like “Savory” originally done by Jawbox which is right in their wheelhouse. Now the Foo Fighters record has two new songs – Thin Lizzy’s “Bad Reputation” and The Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year” but otherwise everything else was previously released as well. The record itself is pretty dull but at least with Medium Rare, the tracks included were a little more scattered over singles and rare discs than the Deftones which were all in like two places. The Foos’ cover of “Darling Nikki” has always been a highlight as is Gary Numan’s “Down in the Park” which is one of the easier tracks to locate – coming from the X-Files Songs in the Key of X disc. Again, nice gesture on an awesome day, so no harm no foul – but these are for the completionist or that person that just loves cover tunes.
If you do love those cover tunes, might I suggest picking up a silly but cool record from the awesomely named Necrocomiccon? Hot Dog Cart Hunger (badass’ness 8/11) isn’t a serious record but it turns out to be damn good. Hasn’t everyone always wondered if ’80s sensation Rockwell sold his soul to the devil to keep “Somebody’s Watching Me” in the spotlight for three decades? Well, here’s where you find out how true it is. Necrocomiccon is a two piece black metal band from dirty Jersey that’s just given the world 12 ’80s tunes redone with a evil feel. They cover things like “Careless Whisper,” “Everybody Wants To Rule the World,” “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and the aforementioned Rockwell tune. There’s virtually no way that you could expect this tongue-in-cheek record to be so fucking good though. Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” sounds like it was made to be turned into metal and “Eye of the Tiger” ends up being my favorite on the disc as when the chorus comes in, the singing is so frantic that it’s hilariously more like a jumble of syllables than actual words. The kicker to this record too is the “Bonus Track” at the end of the disc. It just so happens to be “Never Gonna Give You Up” which means after listening to this album in full, I got black metal Rickrolled. Motherfuckers.
I can certainly understand if black metal covers of the Ghostbusters theme aren’t your cup of tea but them maybe some of the new metal that came out this past Tuesday will be. Southern Lord released an ehem…interesting album from Mark Deutrom called The Value of Decay (badass’ness 6/11). I think I’m more bothered by the direction the label is taking lately than I am the album. When I think Southern Lord, it’s about doom and stoner metal but lately they’ve been branching out – like really branching out to a lot of other genres and it’s bothering me. But that’s my problem, not yours. It took me a while to piece it together but Deutrom is the guy that started Clown Alley in the ’80s but also was in the Melvins for a while and produced some of their stuff. The Value of Decay is a multi-listen piece for sure and I think it almost surely has to be played in sequence from start to finish to grasp the concept. There are some really awesome metal tracks like “Making a Killing” – which is eight minutes of dirty sludge mixed with atmosphere – or the creepy “Buried in the Jewel” but there also are a lot of off-kilter passages, songs in themselves but short enough to be interludes and in fact, the first four tracks on the record all feel like intros. I wasn’t even going to mention it upon first listen but the second and third ones helped me get a better grasp on where the weirdness of this was taking me as a listener. I still don’t feel like I understand the choppy nature and the experimentation in full but I have a feeling that may come in time.
Another album released on Tuesday that’s worth a listen is Arkan’s new one, Salem (badass’ness 8/11). The Season of Mist label has a winner here as Arkan is a mighty fresh and unique sound in the world of extreme metal. They take a combo of Arabic percussion, mix it with oriental sounds and death metal to create a sound that’s texturally different than most records these days. Alternating clean female vocals and male growls both draw the sound together and gives the band two quite different sounds. “Blind Devotion” is a track in which you can hear all the aspects of the group work incredibly well together. If you have to have everything totally brutal than you might have some issues but otherwise, the slower moments provide a welcome break from the bashing.
This week I’ve also been listening to an album coming out on the 26th on Translation Loss from Graviton, called Massless (badass’ness 7/11). Metal for nerds as I like to refer to it, the press release on them says they are ambient electronic fusion, post-metal and shoegaze – three things that rarely excite me. I don’t know about the ambient electronic fusion part (someone would have to give me another album in that genre to help me understand what I should be hearing) but I get the post-metal and shoegaze. There’s also a rock element with moments that sound a hell of a lot like Alice in Chains. Massless is actually very heavy, despite many melancholy phases, introspective piano noodlings and otherwise non-rock elements. The album features Sacha Dunable from Intronaut, so if you know their sound you’ll get a feel for what you’re going to get here. The track titles are based on particle physics, hence my nerd reference above as I certianly had to look up what “Mu Lepton,” “Baryon” and “Fermion” meant. And maybe I do get electronic fusion after all, as “Anti-Mesons” has almost a minimal drum and bass feel to it. The end result is a pretty spacey record and a pretty “out-there” recording but one definitely worthy of your time.
The other thing I’ve been listening to this week is a Metal Blade release for next Tuesday – the eighth fucker from Vomitory, Opus Mortis VIII (badass’ness 9/11). Ain’t no shoegaze on this one as once again Vomitory create a brutal attack of Swedish deathmetal. Everything you love about the group is on this record. It’s got the very typical Swedish guitar sound but with these little sonic touches to some of the riffs that make them sound just a little different from the norm. It’s got well crafted songs like “They Will Burn” with quality hooks and a blistering solos but it also has an accessibility factor that stands out more than on any other Vomitory record that I can remember. It’s melodic enough to be catchy even but don’t think that takes away from the fact that Opus Mortis VIII is a brutal fucking death fest.
Next week, we’re looking at new shit from Samael and one of the most anticipated grindcore records of the year – the new Wormrot album. Horns up.