This HeadCat record has been with me for months and I’m just getting to it now. Walk the Walk…Talk the Talk (badass’ness: 8/11) didn’t sit around because it sucks but rather I wanted to take it in fully since it’s very short. I felt I needed a good half dozen listens or more to get the proper feel for it. HeadCat is the side project of Lemmy with the Stray Cats’ Slim Jim Phantom on drums. It’s a straightforward rockabilly record, nothing groundbreaking at all but ultimately quite fun. I mean it has to be, right? I can’t stand rockabilly and I don’t like music from the 50’s and 60’s and yet this is a blast, so something had to be good. Excellent covers of Eddie Cochran’s “Something Else” and Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock” highlight a 12-song disc that includes two originals, something that didn’t happen on the only other HeadCat record, 11 years ago. It’s definitely worth getting for the Lemmy written “American Beat” which isn’t terribly far from something Motorhead would release. It’s a bit of a novelty recording but for those that like Motorhead or the Stray Cats it’s a must to get. I just wish after eleven years there would have been a few more songs on it.
If you want something badass and also to support the little guy at the same time, you should check out the new Vit album – (badass’ness: 9/11). It’s on this title Music Ruins Lives label that release albums in limited quantities (like a 100 at a time or 20 on cassette) and are simply interested in getting some different and cool music out to the masses, usually by streams or digital downloads. Vit is a blackened doom metal outfit that paint extremely bleak landscapes during it’s aural attack. There’s a lot going on in the six tunes here too, from doom, to sludge, to black metal all mixed will acoustic passages and atmosphere. Almost every song has some sort of slow, meandering build up so that when Vit brings the noise it becomes all that more powerful.
The song that really intrigues me the most is the 14+ minute “Ascension Ritual” which starts out with this sad acoustic noise that sounds more out of tune than anything else (which for some reason, really works here) which moves into this somber acoustic passage before busting out some melodic black metal about four minutes in. The change in pace is quite startling and also quite fantastic. Whether you like the mixture of sounds or not, the one thing you can say about Vit is that they aren’t throwing themselves smack dab in the middle of the still stale US black metal market right now. Instead, they incorporate the basic elements of the genre while vigorously stretching the boundaries of what’s deemed acceptable. That creates a fantastic listen and one of the more unique black metal records of 2011.
Right below the tiny little band Vit is the even smaller band Night Ranger. Well, okay this is the Night Ranger we all know celebrating 30 years of making music by putting out a new record. Somewhere in California (badass’ness: 6/11) comes out on June 21st on Frontiers records and includes 11 tracks of typical Night Ranger arena rock.
A couple weeks ago when I got my hands on the record, I asked three of my buddies at work to name me some Night Ranger tunes. All three said “Sister Christian” and two of them mentioned “The Secret of My Success” while the other couldn’t name another tune from them. And such is the legacy of Night Ranger. A decent band with a lot of hits in the ’80s but never a unique enough sound to truly break them out from the arena rock crowd.
But, the point is that without a doubt you do remember the name and for however many years they make records, if you remember any of their tunes from back in the day there should at least be some sort of curiosity factor that kicks in when a new Night Ranger record is released. Twenty years from now, you’re not going to remember any of these songs either, but it’s less of a product of the album itself and more simply because it won’t get enough exposure to make an impact.
The album itself is decent enough, though once again without knowing it before hand I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you it’s a Night Ranger record. Sure, after listening to the chorus of the opening track, “Growin’ Up In California” I was definitely thinking this was very reminiscent of “You Can Still Rock In America” but the rest of the album has no distinct moments that scream out – man, this is a Night Ranger record for sure. It’s still a pretty decent record though and actually not very dated at all, which is the key here. “Lay It On Me” sounds like something that Chickenfoot would have just put out and I didn’t find their rock sound dated either and the mid-tempo “Bye Bye Baby” is a pretty simple, catchy, hook filled rock song.
The end result some thirty years after they started recording is that Night Ranger still sounds relatively fresh and like they are having fun at least. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the record and it’s clearly made by guys getting up there in years, but every album from a group that’s been rockin’ since the ’80s could be a train-wreck at this point and that’s one thing that Somewhere in California is not. It’s certainly a good enough rock record to be worth a listen or two now and again.
From the straight forward rocker to the album that’s all over the map we move to L’Ordure à l’État Pur (badass’ness: 10/11) the new disc from crazy black metallers Peste Noire. The title roughly translates to Scum In Its Pure State, which is kind of a perfect title for the record. I feel like I’m listening to something from the bottom of the earth, trampled upon until it decided it was time to fight back. Since the whole album is sung in French, they could be singing about flowers and bunny rabbits and I wouldn’t know, but something just says they aren’t.
So since I don’t understand the lyrics at all, it has to be mostly about the music for me and that’s where L’Ordure à l’État Pur is fucking amazing. There’s nothing about this that’s simply straight black metal. With rock riffs, folk passages, horns, accordions, wolves, birds and gunshots used to create melodies, it’s almost like leader, Famine, just had a billion things he wanted to get on disc somewhere and sort of just randomly inserted them in places. And strangely enough, it works brilliantly.
The album is five gargantuan tracks long, though it could be 30. In most of these tracks there are enough twists and turns and points where the music stops before turning into something completely different that I was constantly looking at my display to see what track I was on. And that’s the strange beauty of this creepy and totally fucked up recording. There are a billion oddities on this record, like how “Cochon Carotte et les sœurs Crotte” turns into some kind of dance floor tune by the end or how fake bird noises can be used as an instrument, that it’s naturally to think this would be a jumbled mess. What it is instead is a brilliant piece of crazed, avant-garde black metal that sounds nothing like anything I’ve ever heard before. If it was in English, it would be right up there with my favorite releases of the year.
“Cochon Carotte et les sœurs Crotte”
My boys at AFM strike again with another great album from Lake of Tears, a group that has been under the radar for almost twenty years at this point. I’ve heard only a handful of their albums over the years but I do know that they are a group that likes to keep tweaking their sound and reinventing themselves. They are first and foremost a Gothic band, but they buck the trend of symphonics and generic female vocals that make the genre so watered down at this point. Instead, Illwill (badass’ness: 9/11) mix their goth roots with thrash, rock and doom to create a sound that is much more upbeat than you would expect from a group called Lake of Tears and completely opposite of the lyrical content which is mostly about pain and despair. Daniel Brennare’s vocals are absolutely perfect for this type of sound and that’s really what makes the record overall. It’s a great rock record, with superb vocals and a surprisingly effective mix of upbeat music and downtrodden vocals.
If Lake of Tears isn’t angry enough for you, then feast your ears on Elitist. Fear in a Handful of Dust (badass’ness: 8/11) is the debut LP from these Portland, Oregon screamers. They unleash an angry fury upon the world via an interesting concoction of black metal, early death metal and hardcore. Whether it’s the brutal chaos of the one-and-a-half minute “Bound and Bent” or the evil sludge of “Ivory Shavings of the Tools Unknown” there is no shortage of disgust and mayhem in the album’s 11 tunes and is way more diverse than their 2009 EP. I’ve always said I never met a “core” that I really liked, but if there are more bands out there playing what’s being called “sludgecore” like this, then I’m down.
Southern Lord is about to release a few interesting albums as part of their underground series, the first coming from Planks which will mark the material’s first time on CD. The Darkest of Grays (bad’assness: 8/11) was released on LP last year on the tiny Per Koro records. Now Southern Lord has picked it up and tacked on their Solicit To Fall EP at the end of it so that now the world can experience the hardcore force of Planks. Their music tends to have punk and hardcore tones but also enough sludge and doom to keep it from being music for meatheads.
“Sacred and Secret”
The other interesting Southern Lord release is from Xibalba. Madre Mia Gracias Por Los Dias (badass’ness: 8/11). Despite the name, the group is from Southern California and do sing in English, while playing a mix of death metal and hardcore, not unlike blending Disembodied with Obituary (there’s a song called “Obituary” too!). This also was released last year on A389 records but sees Southern Lord putting out a limited edition CD of it on June 21st. Madre Mia Gracias Por Los Dias contains the tracks from their self-titled debut and bonus tracks released on a compilation. This is a brutal CD, especially when you hear the singer scream, “pull the trigger / just do it!” on the aforementioned “Obituary.” It tends to get a little repetitive and is longer than it should be but definitely worth listening to.