Friday, January 08, 2010

Top 10 Metal Happenings of 2009

Since there are no more pages left on our collective Adam Lambert wall calendars, let’s all look back and see what the Top 10 Metal Happenings of 2009 were. At least according to me.

10-The launch of www.takebackthehorns.com. This website made it’s entrance onto the information superhighway this past Summer and it bravely tackles an issue that many have ignored. The purpose of this site is to remind people where the \m/ symbol came from and what it stands for. There is nothing more upsetting to a troo metalhead than for them to be watching TV and see someone on American Idol or The Jonas Brothers or someone on the Country Music Awards throw up the hand signal that the honorable Ronnie James Dio had made into metal lore. None other than Dee Snider is behind the site and it was his stint, aka please pay attention to me, on Going Country that he saw John Rich throwing up the horns and knew that this scourge upon our metallic society must be rectified. That and he would appreciate you paying $20 for a t-shirt. Also check out the gallery of photos of troo metallers and poseurs. The pics are priceless as are the comments that follow. Hey, it is the least you could do plus I have yet to make a “we’re not going to take it” joke all throughout this.
No that does not count.

9-No touring Ozzfest this year-Ozzfest is the festival safe haven for metalheads that one could look forward too each year. However lately the wheels have come off. First, there was the spat between Sharon Osbourne and Iron Maiden, where she and her talent less fat daughter threw eggs at the band and had the sound messed with much to the dismay of the 18,00 ticket buyers. Then, they did a tour where the tickets were free since the bands weren’t paid and Sharon got a nice chunk of change from various product placements that turned the already ad heavy show into something out of Minority Report. The story for the cancelling of this years show was that Ozzy would not be touring until he finished his new album. Curious since he has played at least a half dozen times with new guitarist Gus G. The real reason, at least in my opinion, is that Sharon cancelled this years festivals in hopes that the ill-conceived and horribly executed Osbournes Variety Show would take off. Thankfully in never did but one thing we have learned over the years is that Sharon Osbourne is more interested in making herself and her talentless, in rehab before they were 18, kids famous. Since the show flopped as have everything else that have tried to milk from their father’s fame has, at least with no Ozzfest Sharon will not be getting any of the money from the metal community.

8-Clay Guida’s Silver Star UFC 107 shirt- This is the most metal piece of clothing that I have seen that does not involve something from the times of King Arthur. With it’s true throwback look of a red sleeved black jersey that features the likeness of UFC fighter Clay Guida if he was somehow cross pollinated with Iron Maiden icon Eddie. It evens features the fighters name in Maiden lettering. In an extra cool tough, his nickname of The Carpenter is written in same font as Killers. Now having a shirt that takes liberty of a more famous logo is nothing new, Hell every alternative band in the 90’s did it. Why this one is so good is that it treats the source material with respect and not simply as kitsch. Add in the fact that MMA is rapidly becoming one of the most popular sports and that the corresponding clothing lines themselves have become cultural landmarks. This would have been higher but Clay lost his fight and he does come out to “The Taste of Ink” by The Used. He should have used Maiden’s “Die With Your Boots On” it fits his fighting style perfectly.



7-Iron Maiden-Flight 666 the movie-This was the documentary of Iron Maiden’s 2008 Somewhere Back in Time tour. The tour was unique in that the band was flown on their own private plane by lead singer Bruce Dickinson, himself a licensed pilot.
Take that John Travolta.
The film was made by Sam Mendes the same guy that made the tremendous Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. On Flight he was not on camera but it maintained the same loose and non-intrusive style. While we are treated to nice profiles of the various band members and do get a glimpse of life of the road, what makes this film special is the highlighting of the power of music throughout the world. It is never more prevalent when the band is in South America and you see fans that have waited in line for days and were robbed and brutalized by police just for going to the show. At the end of one show we see a fan still standing in the arena as most of the audience had left. Still in reverence for what he saw and in a moment of pure gratitude, look up to the sky and thank God for what he just witnessed. That scene perfectly represented the unique and unbreakable bond between metal fans and the music.

6-Slayer-World Painted Blood-When legendary bands keep releasing new material it can bee almost disheartening to longtime fans. Usually the new stuff is not even remotely as good as the legendary stuff and fans start wondering is the band is now just going through the motions. Otherwise known as the Paul McCartney theory. With 2006’s Christ Illusion being a spotty record at best, the hopes were low for World Painted Blood. However Slayer showed that they still have the same intensity and power and twisted evilness that made them what they are. All 11 tracks are nutbusters and could easily fit in the timeline of their early hardcore influenced stuff. You can search the site and see my full write up on the album.

5-Megadeth releases a great album and no one cares-If you would have told me 10 years ago that Megadeth would release one of their best records in a decade and no one would buy it, I would have called shenanigans. However, in reality Endgame came out to rave reviews and all of those that did buy it fully agreed. Dave Mustaine created a riff laden album that harkened back to the glory days. His band is a great mixture of youth and experience with former BLS/White Lion bassist James Lomenzo and new guitar god Chris Broderick joining the lone veteran, drummer Shawn Drover. Endgame was one of the angriest and most pissed off records of Mustaine’s career and quickly made everyone forget about the last couple of suspect releases. That is if they heard it. The only reason for the disappointing sales is that fans are fed up with Mustaine’s antics. In the past he has gotten Rotting Christ kicked off a festival because they offended his newly founded Christian beliefs. When he guest hosted Headbangers Ball on the weekend of Dimebag's death he used to opportunity to get himself over. He has a knack for still whining about being kicked out of Metallica over 20 years ago and now writers have to agree not to bring it up. This fall Dave physically threatened a female reporter for bring Metallica up even though he was the one that brought it up. Add in the constant right-wing rhetoric that has filled his endless internet postings and fans have walked away. The last part is curious because Megadeth has always had a political slant to them but political anger from an up and coming band and political anger from a millionaire are two separate things. The tour with Slayer could help reach out to many disaffected fans but his feud with Slayer’s Kerry King may have turned them permanently.

4-Cobalt-Gin-The idea of listening to another two man metal band seems very unappealing. That band “ideal” seems best suited for The White Stripes or The Dresden Dolls. Quick aside , why do two-man bands all have a “the” at the beginning? Anywho, Colorado’s Cobalt have made a remarkable piece if art with its’ release Gin. They have combined the dark, heavy, frantic sounds of black metal with the jam band aspects of the better know dual person groups. What comes out is the mishmash of a very seductive and frightening nihilistic tome. With tracks averaging 7 minutes, Gin allows the listener to be seduced into its’ madness like a Fulci movie. The extreme vocals may be offsetting for some but it helps to emphasize the power in the music when they are used. When they are not used it underscores the change in mood and helps to pull you in. In a recent issue of Decibel, multi-instrumentalist described how Gin is a great driving record. He said that his unit would listen to while driving their Humvee while on duty in Iraq. A more perfect metaphor for this album could not be found than finding solace in a war zone.


3-Mastodon-Crack the Skye- It would have been easy for Mastodon to take the easy way out and release and album of rock radio friendly songs and cash in on the success of their last two albums. Add in the fact that guitarist Brent Hinds had a nearly debilitating accident and Crack The Skye had stinker written all over it. However, the Atlanta quartet turned in one of the most creative albums of the year and will be one of those releases that people will rediscover years from now. Containing only 7 tracks and only one of them clocked in under 5 minutes. The length allows the music to be the showcase along with the lyrical concept revolving around time travel and Russian monk Rasputin, Gone are the screaming vocals and replaced with Hinds near breathless style taking most of those duties. They interlace with instrumental passages that take twists and turns that keep the listener wanting more. Skye is the creative masterpiece that national music writers save their “pants down one handed prose” for Radiohead.

2-Lamb of God-Wrath-Unlike #3, Lamb of God was coming off a very disappointing release in 2006’s Sacrament and many were wondering if the band was all hype. With the release of Wrath the band showed that they were for real and will lay waste to al those that oppose them. From start to finish Wrath is a near masterpiece. It is brutal and fast and technical and catchy, creating a unique mix that normally does not work in concert with the others. Vocalist Randy Blythe spits anger and venom in every lyric and it is never more evident than on “Contractor”. The ode to Blackwater Security is such a pissed off homage that the security firm may want to hire more mercenaries. There is a section after the breakdown in the song that is arguably the heaviest thing ever recorded. If you put this in your CD player it will ensure that nothing else will ever get listened to for the next month. That and it will increase sales of Icy Hot and heating pads for all the ‘banging done to it.

1-Anvil-The Story of Anvil-When I first read that there was going to be a movie on 80’s metal pioneers Anvil I assumed that they were really popular in Canada and never broke through the US market. A music equivalent of Corner Gas if you will. However what we got was one of the most enduring and emotional tale, of two bandmates who have been best friends since high school and now in their 40’s are still trying to make it. On the movie poster there is a quote from some reviewer that referred to this as a “real-life Spinal Tap”. I think that phrase is more of an attempt to be dismissive of the band and their genre. While there are several unintentionally comedic elements, playing to a room of 5 people, the most memorable moments are incredibly emotional and very real. There is a scene in the recoding studio when things are not going well and after borrowing thousands of dollars from his sister, singer/guitarist Lips Kudlow almost buckled under the pressure and you can see his resolve to continue fight with the his desire to quit. The film is a testament to two things, the guys never ending friendship and the fact that even though there have been bumps in the road, sometimes really big bumps, they never gave up.
An unintended side effect of this movie is that there are many upset wives and girlfriends that had significant others ready to put down their instruments, are now reinvigorated and are now watching them full of vigor and desire thanks to Anvil. That fact alone is more metal than ‘87 Hetfield.

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