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Against All Odds

25 Jan

Against Nature

Just a quick one tonight:

My favorite heavy rock blog, Ray’s Realm, recently pointed me toward a beautiful, mind-blowing 2007 heavyass release by Maryland’s AGAINST NATURE called Anxiety of Influence. Oh boy: 2 tracks, both 24+ minutes long. Contemplative, definitely. Hypnotic, perhaps – but this ain’t no drone-doom by a long shot. These are really well-paced, thoughtfully-constructed prog guitar suites, rockin’ dark and hard and smooth, from unique riff/gtr idea to unique riff/gtr idea, in a manner more akin to a 1/2 tempo CAPTAIN BEYOND than any OM. And when they start quoting Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” . . . well, doncha just know this be doom of a different color. Actually saw these guys play recently, opening for London’s mighty PAGAN ALTAR, and they didn’t leave much of an impression either way. BUT hey, they weren’t doing either of these monumental tracks! Definitely deserves to be shoe-horned into my Top Rockin’ Releases of 2007 list.

And how amazing is this: they’ve gone and made the whole shebang freely downloadable – ok, “donation optional” – on their website. Yes, all you luddites who retain some vain hope that the entire major label music industry isn’t going the fuck under (hurray!) in the wake of all this “illegal” information being passed easily through cyberspace . . . well, this eve, your downloads are GUILT-FREE! Though, if you’re like me, you’ll click and follow their $10 PayPal link.

Pagan Altar Takes Flight

21 Oct

Dig this: we caught PAGAN ALTAR live at ULU in London on Friday night. Their second gig (the first was a couple weeks back in Leeds) in a quarter century! Aaaaaah!

The sound was a bit rough, but nicely crunchy and way LOUD – just like how those early ’80s recordings on their definitive Volume 1 CD sound. Gtrist Alan Jones looked/played just like an aging Jeff Beck, while brother/singer Terry alternated from an easy-going, Essex-dad persona to POSSESSED WARLOCK CHANNELING THE UNDYING FLAMES OF HELLFIRE in the space of a single breath. Their mix of galloping NWOBHM rhythms with those slow, crushing tempos we now come to know and love as D-O-O-M spelt a little bit of Heaven & Hell to these ears. When I shut my eyes, I could almost imagine PAGAN ALTAR were burning a hole in the center of the coming apocalypse, large enough for all us rocker types to pass right on through, unscathed – so we, the chosen few, could keep rockin’ for all eternity.

My wife & I were swaying all night in sea of burners with waist-length hair, HM-patch covered denim, and stinky leather jackets – most of whom had travelled from places like Norway to witness it. Though you can’t see us in the ULU gig clip below, our extra-sore neck muscles from all that righteous head-banging prove WE WERE THERE!

Oh and compliments to the opening bands, especially WARNING, whose towering “funereal doom” sound impressed the heck outta me. But with Patrick Walker’s ernest, soaring vocals, they came across like RITES OF SPRING covering REVEREND BIZARRE. “emo-core doom”, anyone?

Homeland Security

28 May

Yeah it’s all, like, THE ARCTIC MONKEYS and LILY (fucking) ALLEN out here in fair England, probably forevermore. But that hasn’t stopped me from searching out a few old geezers who still do it right, in ways my aging ass can actually understand. Today I’ve come to honour 3 British artists/bands who’ve toiled longer and harder than most along the English homefront, with scant acknowledgement or recognition. And no – they ain’t winning the war for us – but they sure do make it sound mighty sweet as we all go under.

1. PAGAN ALTAR“The Cry of the Banshee” (from the Mythical & Magical, Oracle Records, 2006)

Pagan AltarYou ready for your early morning cup of NWOBHM? Me, I say fill er up mac. PAGAN ALTAR are an original New Wave of British ‘Eavy Metal group, class of ’78/’79. They recorded lots of unreleased demos at the time – see their Volume 1 and Time Lord releases for the goods. Like WITCHFINDER GENERAL, PAGAN ALTAR went for that canal-dredging, early BLACK SABBATH sound rather than the prog/punk attack typified by Di’Anno-era IRON MAIDEN. Which means they kept things slow-to-mid tempo, focusing attention on deeper rhythmic concerns, hence foreshadowing the doom rock revolution of the late 80’s/early ’90s. They also exhibited a stately, mannered decorum (think PROCOL HARUM) that for whatever cultural reason, seems to suit the Brits like a glove. And they could write, arrange, play, and ROCK better than a whole buttload of Brit bands swinging Flying V’s at the time. Sadly, the mulleted hordes didn’t really wanna know.

Sometime in the new millenium, they managed to drag themselves from their SE London grave with twin beliefs in heavy rock and pagan/witchcraft themes wholly intact. Their copious use of hammer-ons may make you smile (they did me) . . . but if you’re someone who laughs at the mere endeavour of playing DOOM-LADEN, EPIC METAL in total ernesty – as if punk had never, ever happened! – well, stranger, then you’re a bigger idiot than I gave you credit for. Their recent CDs (showcasing an “updated” DIO-era SAB sound) are full of great and inspired metal by guys who, in some small way, helped invent the damn stuff. I bow; you ought to, too.

2. THE GREEN RAY“All My Tears” (from Back From The Edge, Senza Tempo, 2006)

green rayHippie stalwarts from Walthamstow (BEVIS FROND country, doncha know) who are also a key offshoot of the MAN/HELP YOURSELF family tree. Which probably means bugger all to most of you, but ALOT to those who can recognize the subtle beauties of 70’s British acidrock. THE RAY continue in that flowing, US west-coast tradition, jammin’ their twin gtrs straight from the heart up into the cold, grey London skies, aiming to blow puny minds with a mere flick of a pick. It’s true HEAD music, unaffected by the fact these guys’ heads are now mostly gray and balding. And if you hipsterz need even more of a reason to check em out, do note that both Forced Exposure and Ptolemaic Terrascope mags sung their praises in the 90’s – with fucking good reason, too.

I just now see they play a monthly residency at The Plough Inn in W’stow – must make a mental note to scratch up some skunk and go ride their magic carpet some evening soon!

3. ALEX FERGUSSON“Dark Angel (Fireball Mix)” (from The Castle, Eis & Licht, 2006)

AlexALEX is both ex-ALTERNATIVE TV and ex-PSYCHIC TV, but he’s done so much more (before/during/after) it’s just silly. He’s been largely passed over in punk/postpunk history books since he seemed content to remain out of the limelight, hidden under the weight of much bigger egos (there are few bigger than that of ATV’s Mark Perry and PTV’s Genesis P-Orridge). But his songs/tunes/riffs always seem totally identifiable to me. He tends to moor an intimate, singer-songwritery pop sensibility (he says he’s a big fan of early Emitt Rhodes) with what’s known over in this part of the world as “neo-folk” (that would be his post-industrial PSYCHIC TV connections). Anybody bothering to look deeper will see that he’s been recording/writing in a uniquely ALEX-ian fashion at least since PSYCHIC TV released Pagan Day way back in ’84 – which, by all rights, oughta be seen as ALEX’s first solo LP.

I am a huge fan of this man’s uncanny ability to use stripped-down instrumentation to communicate often perverse subject matter via simple but delicate pop songcraft. ANYTHING with this man’s name on it is worth exploring before you die.