Saturday, November 26, 2005

Slayer Rulz

In my eyes, not all metal bands are created equally.  There’s that rarefied atmosphere where the pantheon of metal gods resides, the place were Metallica thrashes it up with Anthrax and Pantera, where Black Sabbath tries to drink Led Zeppelin under the table.  Then there’s a sort of purgatory where the lesser bands grind it out, acclaimed by many but not really deserving of my own all-consuming attention.  This is where bands like Megadeth and Slayer live.  Megadeth, to their credit, have more than one tolerable song in their oeuvre but they also have many stinkers, and Slayer I tried very hard to like but in the end could only appreciate.  

With that said, here’s a little Slayer appreciation.  While I can’t say much for most of their albums, they did indeed make a pair of nearly brilliant records in South of Heaven and Seasons in the Abyss, a feat which more than qualifies them to be raised up into the higher pantheon of rock gods.  Witness.

On the title track from South of Heaven, it’s all palm-muted madness slashed out to the cacophonous drumming that defines Slayer’s sound.  The dual Hanneman-King lead attack is there too.  King’s solo is kind of flat and dissonant, but fast, while Hanneman’s closes out the song with blazing fingers and lots of flourishes, all show-off.  This is one of those songs that saves the chorus for the end, and when it finally comes, it’s powerful and raw.  But what the song means though, I have no idea.

Ghosts of War is pure thrash.  It’s not complicated; it’s just fast.  From the muffled opening to the end of the song, it seems they are trying to play as many beats per minute as possible.  Both solos are chromatic speed tests, first Hanneman, then King, then Hanneman again.  It’s not my favorite song, but I’m stealing the title for my Bosnian war story, so it does hold some place in my heart.  

So I know that Judas Priest wrote and first recorded Dissident Aggressor.  I’m not fan of Priest; in fact, I think that Rob Halford’s voice is annoying, so annoying that the band’s other merits can’t even come close to overcoming it.  But I have to say, I like Slayer’s rendition.  Slayer is meatier than Priest, thicker, and since they know Tom Araya has no chance of imitating Halford’s warble they leave that to the guitar, which actually sounds better than Halford anyway.  Kudos to Priest, though, for writing a great riff for Slayer to play.  

On their next record, they opened with a furious thrash metal assault in War Ensemble, which even though it came out in the early 90s, could be describing conditions today.  (Conditions, it seems, are quite similar….a Bush in the White House, a war in Iraq.)  Sport the war!  War support! You can seriously injure your neck thrashing to this one.  It might just be too much, actually, more metal than the average listener could handle.  Alright, I can admit.  You pretty much have to love metal intensely to like this song at all.

And if you are a metal fan, you know that every band, at one time or another, has to do a song about Ed Gein.  You know him.  The guy who made lampshades out of human skin, yadda yadda.  He inspired Psycho, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hannibal Lector, and a million metal songs, including Dead Skin Mask.  (In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Slayer isn’t exactly into subtlety.)  This song is creepy because there’s a woman’s voice near the end saying, “Hello, Mr. Gein?  Mr. Gein?”  Plus this part is pretty heavy.

And of course, you can’t discount Slayer’s “epic,” Seasons in the Abyss, which at one point sounds like it has a flute (yes, a flute!) in it.  It rambles for about two minutes, then gets serious with a crunchy palm muted riff before devolving into a sing-songy chorus.  It’s not their best, but maybe it’s their slowest?  Their least brutal?  Nah, that would be Hand of Doom, a Black Sabbath song they covered.  But I would say that Seasons is almost Slayer-lite, but eligible enough to be included here.

Another interesting little factoid.  Slayer did a cover version of Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida for the film version of Brett Easton Ellis’s novel Less Than Zero, starring Andrew McCarthy and Robert Downey Jr.  That’s funny, right?  It’s hilarious.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

There's No T.O. in Team

I hesitate to waste another word on Terrell Owens, but his suspension (and eventual waiver) from the Eagles was upheld today by an arbitrator for the player’s union.  This is good news.  Mike Celizic explains why.  

Note how Celizic uses the Jackass metaphor, albeit in a completely different context than I did yesterday.  Wonder if he’s been reading my blog or we’re just getting the same subliminal transmissions… know, the ones that say “Use Jackass as a metaphor.”  Hmmmm.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Moby Moore

Scotty M pulls out the right-wing’s favorite piƱata to take down Rep. John Murtha (D-PA).  Scotty says it’s “baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party.”  Of course, now the Bushies have toned down the anti-liberal rhetoric almost overnight, quite frankly because it wasn’t working.  Murtha says most Americans agree with him and the latest polls support that.

The Republican Mafia is digging themselves a deeper hole with every hyperbolic remark.  The thing that gets me though are the constant references to Michael Moore, a marginal (and he was marginal until he was deified by the right wing as the Son of Satan) filmmaker and merry political prankster.  Michael Moore is a straw man.  Michael Moore is nobody important.  Michael Moore is the Jackass of documentary filmmaking.

Like Johnny Knoxville, Bam, Pontius, Steve-O, and Wee Man, Michael Moore sets up ridiculous stunts to prove a point.  You’ve seen them.  Crashing Charlton Heston’s pad, staging a guerrilla Rage Against The Machine concert on Wall Street, taking lung cancer patients to hang out with Big Tobacco, taking the Columbine kids to K-Mart.  How is that different than dressing up as an old man and making an ass out of yourself for laughs?

I think the real issue is that these guys in power, the Bush people (I hesitate to call them an Administration anymore…), were so personally offended by Michael Moore that he’s become this big white whale in the sea of the collective consciousness that they relentlessly hunt to their own destruction, more symbol than reality.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I'm in the wrong line of work...

So my muffler falls off, right?  Yeah, the pipe broke and the damn thing just fell off.  Don’t know where it went.  So I buy a new muffler, the whole thing, assembled and ready to go.  All I need to do is wrench off what’s left of the old pipe and bolt on the new assembly.  Only I get down there and the socket won’t finish the job.  I don’t have the strength and I don’t have the tools.  So I stop by an auto repair shop to see how much it would cost.  They have those pneumatic drills and fancy gear, right.  It would take them five minutes.  Zing, zing.  Two bolts.  Slap a new gasket in there, zing-zing, it’s back on.  No biggy, right?  Wrong.

Seventy five bucks.


The Broncos win again.  It’s not too early to start talking about the playoffs, is it?


Alright, this story bugged me.  It’s a tragedy, for one, but is this really news?  Believe it or not, this is not the first time this has happened.  In fact, I’d say this happens more than the military would care to admit.  Err on the side of caution, they say.  I suspect that the reason this is on the wire services is because the anti-war movement is finally starting to gain traction, so in a sense, this story is more grist for the mill.

Comedian in Chief

I think GW missed his calling. He should have gone into comedy.