WORLD WENT MAD. JAZ WENT BLACK AND RED

JULY & AUGUST REWIND: JAZ COLEMAN, CLIPPING AND DUMA BRING THE URGENCY

What’s the big metal news of the last month? Metallica’s S&M2, of course – unless you hate Metallica, in which case the simultaneous ending of their Metallica Mondays gigs will be the bigger treat.

The S&M2 release won’t be exactly the same as last October’s cinema version, though I’m not sure what’s changed (haven’t played the DVD yet) but let’s hope it’s nothing too major. The original cut was musical cine-manna to me and damned near untoppable.

Right then, now for some scattered new tunes, including Nairobi noisecore from Kenya’s most extreme musical export. Probably. And you’ve GOT to stick around for that … haven’t you?

FRAN LOBO – Monster

Danceable industrial beats infused with liquid, near-gospel vocals …Fran Lobo’s Monster feeds our musical need for connection, shared experience and movement, somehow blending hard-edged rhythm and soul in a very heavy duty hip shifter. Welcome to a new church.

SHACKLETON/ZIMPEL – Primal Forms

Got 17 minutes to fill? Try this hypnotic body-soul stretch of hum, thrum, clarinet, electronics and shiteloads more. Always moving, always shifting focus, Primal Forms feels like an unfolding voyage through jazz-minded primal trance. To where? Wherever your headspace dictates. And if that happens to be an imagined mountain ensemble with urban tech trappings, fair enough.

CLIPPING – Say the Name

Candlesticks in the dark, visions of bodies being burned. So goes the chorus. No punches pulled, it looks and feels like social comment even though it continues the horror themes of There Existed an Addiction to Blood last year. But you’d expect nothing less from Clipping, and whatever concept drives their next album Visions of Bodies Being Burned (due in October), it will be timely and it will say something. Check the lyric video for Say the Name.

DUMA – Lionsblood

Duma’s album is reviewed in this month’s Metal Hammer. They’re a two-piece from Nairobi. And once you’ve heard this track, you’ll be giving massive credits to Mary Anne Hobbs for playing it on the radio at 2.50pm on a Thursday afternoon on BBC 6 Music. It’s like being trapped under a pneumatic drill with black-metal screams. Total overload and a mind-clearingly hostile assault …. burn your ears through Bandcamp then open your eyes to the lo-fi creepster vid.

BLACK AND RED – On the Day the Earth Went Mad

Jaz Coleman hooks up with didgeridoo ace (yes) Ondrej Smeykal under the Black and Red banner to give us exactly the kind of thing we want and need from His Jaz-ness – social comment with a bruising backdrop. Unlike his Killing Joke voice, there is no roar from JC here. Instead, On the Day…. sees him singing with restraint over crunching electro menace, intermittent shards of distortion and church-like symphonic swells, forging elegance and class from destruction and collapse. It’s the sort of thing Ministry should have grown into but never did. Looks like Coleman stepped up instead. Good job.

If that wasn’t enough of a Coleman hit for the month, he and Youth put out their Occular record – not a Killing Joke wannabe but an ice cool flow of instrumentals. Get a sample.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

METALLICA: S&M2 (film)

AUDIO-VISUAL S&M SPECTACULAR – AND A LITTLE BIT OF THE UNEXPECTED

20 years after their S&M excursion with Michael Kamen and The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Metallica return to the city for a two-date symphonic return: S&M2. For those who couldn’t make it – every Metallica fan in the world, statistically speaking – there’s been a chance to see the concert film in cinemas on October 9. Does it add anything to the Metallica canon?

Let’s warm up a little. You’ve got the biggest metal band of all time putting another extra out there for the fans (has any other band given as much footage as this lot?). They’re on imperious form. And they’ve somehow found time to prep for an orchestra gig and turn it into an international cinema screening so it’s pretty special, a proper event. These are all Good Omens, and with the band at a golden late age in their career, the idea of Symphony Days Re-revisited feels celebratory and critic-proof, which wasn’t necessarily the case with S&M 1999.

Bollocks to critical speculation though, this just feels RIGHT. An unexpected gift from one of the most important bands in your life.

The Ecstasy of Gold sets us off, as ever – always a hair tingler, it is many times more so when pumped with millions of orchestral vibrations and Metallica’s immersive in-the-round camera angles. Then The Call of Ktulu reminds us how infallible a composition it is, unwittingly built for a symphonic set-up.

But just when you think S&M2 might be a straight run though of the original, we get a change. The Memory Remains pops up early to showcase massive audience participation and The Day That Never Comes jolts us into a post-Reload reality – looks like non-S&M tracks will be in the set after all, so now it feels like a gig and we don’t really know what’s coming. GAME ON. Confusion, Moth into the Flame and Halo on Fire make Hardwired the joint most represented album tonight (with Metallica), and other huge cuts include For Whom the Bell Tolls, Wherever I May Roam, No Leaf Clover, One and Load’s titanic closer The Outlaw Torn.

Special mention goes to Master of Puppets, not just because you’re reminded (again) of how structurally fucking awesome it is, but because it’s where the show hits peak charge – the point where collapse into chaos looks most likely. It’s Master of Puppets … things get a little pumped but it doesn’t fall apart. Metallica and friends somehow stick with the score..

What really lifts this gig though are the touches (spoiler alert) that shift it from ‘Can we actually do this orchestral thing?’, which must have a been a concern with S&M 1999, to ‘We know we can do this. How can we make it better?’

Here’s how. Let musical director Michael Tilson Thomas lead us into classical tasters on primitivism and futurism during the interval. Put James on stage with no band, not even a guitar (looks weird), to sing Unforgiven III with army-sized orchestral back-up. Pull the plug literally and give St Anger epic All Within My Hands an oversized Alice in Chains/Jar of Flies acoustica outing. Pretty damned cool.

But best of all …

You remember Cliff Burton, don’t you? We do. So does Scott Pingel … and he’s here to pay tribute.”

(Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth. OMfG. Cry? You might, you just bloody well might, because watching this virtuoso carve Burton’s solo out of his upright bass in San Francisco is a right-on tribute. Metallica have never been short of generosity, especially for their fans, and this moment captures that: honour paid to their lost past, gifted to someone outside the inner circle, within the show. A precious moment.

Nothing Else Matters and Enter Sandman finish the set – no surprise – but, as with everything else, the symphonic novelty pumps new blood. Metallica have conquered again with an ambitious project that might just put more adventurous fire up ’em. Will they ride a slower Reload swagger or two next time they get in the studio, instead of the slightly by-numbers thrash metal tack of Hardwired? Wouldn’t be surprised. Definitely wouldn’t be disappointed, either.

And Hetfield … you watch him knowing that in a few days from doing this, he checked back into rehab. Let’s hope he does what he has to do and gets well, but he’s in the voice of his life here, as is everyone on and around that stage. There are no minus points, not after a one-off large-screen viewing where symphonic heft surrounds you. It feels too good.

Metallica 2019, S&M2. Still the metal kings.

Hairy Halloween

Last year we took in a few soundtracks and noir-funk jazz scores to make a break from any metallicus extremicus noise stuff. This year, we’re going for the retro metal sound: mostly classic bands from the late ’80s or thereabouts, a bit of a slasher vibe, a bit of ‘remember that?’ in 11 (yes) tracks. WARNING: hair metal is on this list, no apologies.
DOKKEN: Mr Scary
Big hair kick-off? Too right. George Lynch had one of THE guitar tones of the 80s, a tone that would sit on any commercial horror of the day (maybe that’s why they did Dream Warriors for Nightmare on Elm Street 3) but this heavy instrumental from Back for the Attack is a shock for anyone who missed it, thinking that Dokken were nowt but hair and teeth. Well, they ARE hair and teeth, but Mr Lynch’s Mr Scary is a scorching exception and a horror-themed must.
OZZY OSBOURNE: Suicide Solution (live version from Tribute)
Can there be a rock voice more suited to Halloween than Ozzy’s doleful projections? Doubtful. But this live version (can’t find it on youtube) does more than showcase Ozzy – as the album title says, it’s a Randy Rhoads gig and the Suicide Solution solo has enough stuttermoanandscreech to commune with the undead any time of the year.
MEGADETH: Go to Hell
Snarling sneering wavy Davy, so Mustainey. Lost on a Bill and Ted OST, Go to Hell makes the list because it’s not overplayed, it’s literally hellish and it’s got one of those thrash-sinister vids that captures the right atmos – low sophistication and max impact, just like the flicks we’ve already mentioned. Bit weird. Decent tune. Exhume.
JANE’S ADDICTION: Ted, Just Admit It
Right, we’ve had George Lynch and Dave Mustaine, but what connects them? Dave Navarro (yep) – they both appeared on Navarro’s guitar tutor videos online (well worth a look, ‘specially to see Dave N fail to master Dave M’s admittedly awesome spider-chord) – and so we might as well have a bit of Jane’s … might as well have Ted, Just Admit It. Detached and creepy and wrapped in Ted Bundy, it erupts as violently as the lyrics: art shocker. What a band.
CARCASS: Incarnated Solvent Abuse
Video. Black rubber. That’s all I’m saying, scared the shite outta ma younger self. Weirdly disturbing and low-budget effective, it’s a grindsome tempo shift with a guitar tone to die for. Or be suffocated by.
CELTIC FROST: Rex Irae (Requiem)
Haunting theatrics abound on 1987’s cold bold foray Into the Pandemonium, and none more than Rex Irae (Requiem) here as a half-dead sounding Tom G trades lines with afterlife siren Claudia-Maria Mokri over heavyweight orchestration.
DANZIG: Soul on Fire
Evil Elvis, Fonzig, whatever he’s been called he’s definitely a singer with a fine bag of halloween pipes, and there’s enough demon, possession and Samhain refs for some proper rocking out on All Hallows’ Eve. Not spooky, but it’s Danzig, right? It just fits. Got the attitude. In fact, you might as well just play the whole album from Twist of Cain right through to Evil Thing.
MOTORHEAD: Nightmare/The Dreamtime
The least-Motorhead track Motorhead ever did, except for the one that named the album that this track came from (1916). Semi-ambient, drumless, bassy, keyboardy and loaded with Lem-menace thanks to a fistfulla backwards masking. Golgotha, ace of spades, damn right.
METALLICA: The Small Hours
Check that opening. Tension? Ominosity? Double yes, that’s the soundtrack to Stalkerville Central and it’s backed by a predatory proto-grunge riff lurching outta the shadows of 1987. Still haven’t heard the original, mind.
MELVINS WITH JELLO BIAFRA: In Every Dream Home a Heartache
Hunter S Thompson said that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. Melvins have been pro all their lives, but on Everybody Loves Sausages they went for Roxy Music at their creepiest and outcreeped it by letting Jello Biafra do the vocals. Not only does he sound uncannily like Bryan Ferry – true, hear it here – but, being Biafra, he ups the sinisterism without even trying. Oh, and it’s heavy as a bastard as well.
WHITESNAKE: Still of the Night
Go on, HAVE IT. Light relief with ace riffs. He hears the wolf howl (honey), sniffing around your door. Here’s the tune, but if you want the video for an old-time’s laff….
Not cool enough? Seriously? Then here’s a lawless screamer to bang a final nail in a hairsome Halloween playlist before you load up a classic late-night film… Prince of Darkness, anyone?

Rockaway Oxford

REWIND AUGUST: FIRST-CLASS FAIR, HARD-WIRED METALLICA

Bored with browsing worn old classics at record fairs? OK, we know that’s never true, but if you want a record fair with new-new vinyl (Aphex Twin Cheetah) as well as the old old, DO NOT MISS the next Rockaway record fair when it comes to Oxford. I went on July 30, thinking it was the usual fair in a different location, and left the place wishing it wasn’t so long ’til the next one. Mint, new and recent rock, metal and punk selections like Ty Segall, Carcass, Fu Manchu, Monster Magnet, Candlemass and Napalm Death made for a browse that dug deeper than yer average, and all genres looked well served. The next Rockaway fair in Oxford is November 26th, check their facebook thing for updates.

New old-sounds from way out

Did you catch Julian Cope’s 6 Music psyche-out? What a stellar double-hour – nothing current, all late 60s distortion and garage savagery. Most disturbing? Kim Fowley. Most welcome reminder of lost genius? The Misunderstood. Most flat-out mesmerising? Savage Rose’s A Trial in Our Native Town… recorded in 1968??? NO WAAAAAY. Doom-psyche witchafunkadelica via The United States of America, it sounds like it was recorded tomorrow. Don’t know how the rest of their stuff stacks up but have a go at A Trial… and see what you feel.

For new sounds with ancient resonance, check Hypnopazuzu, the new Tibet ‘n Youth movement between the Current 93 and Killing Joke luminaries. Freakzone played The Crow at Play and it’s a hypnotic, sweeping summoning from somewhere beyond. F-zone interview with David Tibet and Youth this weekend.

The last word

Metallica, Hardwired, new album soon, new track now. Hearing the news from out of nowhere put a buzz into breakfast that Friday morn, as did Hardwired itself. Very much in the Death Magnetic slipstream (My Apocalypse chopped with a Metal Militia fragment, right?) but slashed to less than four minutes, it’s gonna be a gig anthem for sure – in your face, no reinvention, no depth, pure pace and fury, a 2016 headliner of a headbanger. Don’t analyse it, just HAVE IT. 

’til next time!

Glastonbury Saturday: Metallica

Still got doubts?

Sure. Lee. Not.

Metallica headlined Glastonbury and did exactly what they had to do – pulled it off with a festival-friendly yet thrash-infected set drawing heavily on the Ride/Black albums, and at least one cut from every record bar Load (surprisingly) and St Anger (not at all surprisingly).

So we got Fade, Nothing, One, Sad But True, Roam, Cyanide, Master, Nothing Else Mutters, Unforgotten and tonnes more biggies. Highlights included Memory Remains, its croaking Marianne steamrollered by mass na-na-nana, and Whisky in the Jar … ‘COZ IT’S WHISKY IN THE JAR-O, innit? Those tunes don’t get as much of a look-in these days, now that Metallica have plumped for the Metal more than the Rock in their live outings, and this was the place to revive a couple of those looser jams. Even the too-familiar Enter Sandbags sounded fresh again – every fecker in the field knows it so when that choked intro finally frees the monster hook that broke the band and sold a million (or 30) black albums, the release was huge.

Seek and Destroy brings the show to an end and it’s a show which, for all of its faux controversial (but undeniably fun) talking points, entertained. Striding that stage with total confidence, Metallica grabbed the moment, worked it hard and got a win-win out of it, or so it seemed from the TV. And while there won’t be a metal slot every time – maybe a hard-rock flourish for a year or two? – the time was right and Metallica were definitely the right band to do it. AC/DC next year?

Robert Plant

Ahead of the night’s novelty-value shake-up, however, the man who brought the class and the Glastonbury spirit to Saturday’s Pyramid stage was – as ever – the peerless Robert Plant.

Mining a seam of west African swirl ‘n trance mixed with those deep-set rock and roll sensibilities, Plant and his Sensational Space Shifters put on a show beyond reproach. Dreamland and Mighty Rearranger tracks get aired, as do a couple of newies (check the Perry Farrell-meets-Afro Celt Sound System air of Little Maggie), as do Zep classics – reworked, of course. Black Dog, now in its third incarnation following Plant-Krauss’s spooky two-step swing, is a beguiling prospect as its dusty psychedelia morphs into desert rave. Fresh as the first time you heard it. So is Funny in My Mind, its street-tough rockabilly makeover far removed from Dreamland’s take on it. Superlative stuff.

And this is what sets Plant and his band(s) apart. The explorer, the music fan as music maker, it’s these reworkings that keep the songs not just alive but LIVING – they’re timeless and increasingly formless, shapeshifting their way into whichever space and spirit is called for. Jimmy Page might be the curator of Zeppelin’s material, but Plant’s the one giving it new life in a global sense. In his hands, Zeppelin music becomes the trad arr of the modern day, ready for reinterpretation by whomever.

Which I guess is where Zep and Plant started anyway. Bring on the new Space Shifters record, it’s surely gonna be a bit special.

Metallica v Glastonbury

We’re 48 hours from Metallica’s Glastonbury headliner slot. CANNOT WAIT. It’s like those good old bad old days when you’d scrabble around for hard rock morsels on TOTP or the Chart Show and feel joyously stuffed by even the tiniest scrap of six-string riff action. Glastonbury has a big-time metal headliner for the first time and that has thrust a playful, us-versus-them underdog thing into the festival hype.

How are they gonna play it, though? I reckon they should cast off the speedier stuff they’ve been playing the past few years and show some Glasto-sized balls by turning out a kick-arse crowd-pleasing setlist. Be a festival band. Play the hits, pull a few groovers out of the Load/Reload bag, nail some Battery-like blitz to the masts and do a couple of classic home-crowd covers.

Yep, covers. How could that not work on Saturday night? Play the heritage card and win / kill ‘em all – Sabbath, Motorhead, Queen, Thin Lizzy, they’ve all made it onto Metallica records and any one of them would go down like cold scrumpy in a hundred-degree hell-hole.

As would Free Speech for the Dumb, come to think of it. What an opener THAT would be (thanks to Garage Inc., on the stereo right now, for the reminder). And for a wildcard cover idea, how about a sneaky quid on Smoke on the Water? Not only has it got mass singalong potential for any number of drunks and wasteds in Worthy Farm, but it’s a well-placed nod to Deep Purple’s influence on Metallica’s earliest roots too. Just a thought. What’s your wildcard bet?

Anyway, it’s nearly show time and, whatever happens, Metallica’s appointment has brought a bit of extra fizz to the top-slot debate (though if you want to read a less enthusiastic view, from a metalhead no less, check Dom Lawson’s bummer-mood piece ‘Another half-baked vanity project’ from the Guardian the other week – an astonishingly churlish, self-regarding glob of journalism. Have a look here).

I hope Metallica storm it on Saturday. And if they don’t … well, so fckn WHAT.