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A Stupid Top Ten List

May 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Not much this week. I don’t really feel like making any in-depth analyses, and I don’t particularly have anything percolating in my brain, so you’re getting a nice, generic Top Ten list. To accompany it, I’ve created a mix of the song at 8tracks.com.

The Ten Heaviest Songs I Have on My Computer at This Moment
a totally arbitrary list with no definition of ‘heavy’
(in no particular order)

1. “Finger Paintings of the Insane” – Acid Bath: This, actually, could be part of a quadriptych with the songs that follow it on When the Kite String Pops: “Jezebel”, “Scream of the Butterfly”, and “Dr. Seuss is Dead”. Acid Bath is, to me, the quintessential sludge metal band, with Dax Riggs’ vocals and their use of 3/4 and 6/8 time. But in “Finger Paintings…” the band creates a shifting atmosphere of horror that few bands will ever top.

2. “New Millenium Cyanaide Christ” – Meshuggah: I have no clue what time signature this song is in for the most part, but you can, in fact, headbang to it if you’re listening to the hi-hat/snare. Following the guitars or kick drums will give you a weird sort of jaunty-lope that seems natural but is still tough to reconcile with the 4/4 on the hats/snare.

3. “March of the Fire Ants” – Mastodon: This song has the best intro riff of the decade. It’s the song that got me into Mastodon back in the day, before they were all over the indie mags, before they were nominated for Grammys, before they were on Guitar Hero. It was tough to pin down one particular Mastodon song, so I just went with the first one I heard, which is still their signature song. Close runner-ups were “Blood and Thunder”, and pretty much the whole of their albums Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye, which is on my short list of Best of 2009.

4. “We Ride” – Strapping Young Lad: I am sad this band is no more. At least I have the knowledge that Devin Townsend is doing more solo work, and Byron Stroud and Gene Hoglan have gone on to help re-form Fear Factory. On each Strapping album, there’s at least two songs, if not more, that are in contention for Heaviest Song Ever. This happens to be one of the ones off of Alien.

5. “Ticks & Leeches” – Tool: Trying to find a good song by Tool is easy. Trying to find one I’d call “heavy” is a little tougher. This one won out over “Aenema” and “Jambi”. While you could argue the first two albums (well, the first EP and album) are more traditionally “heavy”, “Ticks & Leeches” has a lot more weight to it than those albums could ever hope to have. When Danny Carey’s drums come thundering in after the calm middle break, it sounds like hell on Earth. Playing a drum kit made out of stainless steel will do that, I suppose.

6. “Dead Bodies Everywhere” – Korn: It was a toss-up between this and “Freak on a Leash”, but the um… “harmony” vocals in the chorus of this one seals it. I acknowledge the breakdown in “Freak” gets ridonkulously heavy, but that’s just that one part of the song. I also have noticed that, over the years, as bad as Korn has gotten, they still have the “snare hit: HEAVY” formula down pat. Even their song “Here to Stay” has that moment, and it’s pretty alright.

7. “Harvester of Sorrow” – Metallica: Yep. Still their best song, in my opinion. Lots of people hate it, hate the record, and, thanks to a freak bus accident twenty years ago, hate the band. But this is proof that a band doesn’t have to tune down, play fast, or employ a terrible, impossible-to-understand singer to be “heavy”. Plus the solo makes exactly zero sense. This album paved the way for Meshuggah, and the 90s/early 2000s Slayer sound, whether anyone acknowledges it or not.

8. “Disciple” – Slayer: Speak of the devil. I’d probably have a different song up here, but I lost a bunch of my Slayer CDs to being poor. I plan on buying them up again eventually, and when I do, I’ll probably put “Raining Blood” in this spot.

9. “Mein Teil” – Rammstein: This is the heaviest riff ever written. It’s in drop-C, it’s mid-tempo, and it’s brutal beyond belief. Throw the ugly German on top of it, and it’s so over-the-top that it has to go on the list.

10. “Violence from Within” – Darkane: It’s, at its core, a pretty straightforward thrash metal song. It gets bonus points for drummer Peter Wildoer’s insane single-stroke hi-hat roll at the beginning.

Songs that almost made the list: Every song off Dethklok’s The Dethalbum. “Bastard Chain” by Soilwork. “Drag the Waters” and “Fucking Hostile” by Pantera. Probably lots of others.

There you go. Rick’s metal list. Maybe I’ll do Top Ten Pop Songs one day. Or most depressing songs. The possibilities are endless. But I’m not Spin here, am I?

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Tool’s 10,000 Days: The Proper Review

May 2, 2006 Leave a comment

The short and sweet:

A Perfect Circle + the best and worst of Tool’s 1st four albums = 10,000 Days.

Before I get to the details, I want to get one thing out of the way right now: Tool are trying their damnedest to win another “Best Pacakaging” Grammy. The lenticular case of 1996’s Aenima won them one, and I thought that Lateralus deserved one, too. But this… this is just too much. The coolness of the 3D imaging is completely overridden by the freakish ugliness of the package itself. Also, I’m lead to wonder how many people would have figured out the gimmick if it weren’t for the notes in the packaging. I did. But many more Tool fans are complete morons. (Ironic, I think.)

But anyway, on to the music.

“Vicarious” is still pretty ho-hum to me. “Jambi” is a fantastic song minus one thing: the damn TalkBox effect. I hate the TalkBox. Everything it’s used on automatically sounds like Bon Jovi. Especially when it’s pushed out front in the mix. It’s a good thing the bassline during that solo is a million times better than the guitar line. Both halves of “Wings for Marie” are very good, possibly some of the best work Tool has ever done. It’s a bit like “Parabol/a” from Lateralus, or perhaps a more thoughtful version of “Third Eye”. But it’s very good. The effects on “The Pot” are quite unusual, although the lyric is very much akin to “Hooker with a Penis”. “Rosetta Stoned” and “Right in Two” are both good ol’ Tool songs.

The thing that irritates me about this album (aside from the production, which I’ll get to) is that the motion that Tool usually has is almost nonexistant in some places. They are masters of dynamics, yet most of it seems either slow and open or tight and rockin’. The only place where they’re really at the top of their form, artistically, is “Wings”. The segue tracks, like those on Aenima, are ultimately filler. One last word on the actual tracks: “Viginti Tres” is unusual. The vocal sounds like a dream I had once. A very disturbing one. But that’s a personal aside.

Production-wise, this album sounds like A Perfect Circle made a Tool album. Where Lateralus was open and atmospheric, 10,000 Days is claustrophobic and… pristine. The mix itself sounds similar to Undertow, but with more clarity. Justin Chancellor’s bass tone is ridiculously good. The biggest thing that annoys me, overall, is the compression of the record. The dynamics are crushed too much to give them any real impact. You’re not going to get the volume swell from “Parabol/a” here, nor the crushing heaviness after the bridge of “Ticks and Leeches”.

I’ve always been a fan of Tool’s arty-er persuits, but it seems to me that they’re making Tool’s Greatest Hits now. There’s some good moments on this album–great even. But it’s so bogged down with its own pretention that it’s a little irritating. I’ve listened to it probably half a dozen (or more) times, and I will say this: it takes some getting used to. It’s not because it’s dense, a la Lateralus, or because it’s overtly emotional, like Undertow, no, there’s a quality to this album that I can’t describe, and I think it’s just because I’ve never encountered an album like this before… but I’ve heard a few that are similar.

Very similar.

Why Maynard Maybe SHOULDN’T Do Side Projects

April 16, 2006 Leave a comment

inre: New Tool single, “Vicarious”

Vedict: alright. Not the best song they’ve done, very “typical” Tool. Maynard’s lyrics are kinda trite, and the vocal style is more like A Perfect Circle than Tool. I’ve heard that they were going to bury the vocals under the instrumentation in the mix, and to a point that’s true. I think with every album, the drums get further and further out front, burying everything else. Mind you, Danny Carey kicks 110% ass, but I really wish I was getting more guitar. The whole thing seems like it’s missing that. Even the more “solo” moments seem buried under the super-out-front drums and bass.

Also, since this is the first single, I’m thinking they went with the same formula as “Schism”, because that’s what it sounds the most like. In fact, it sounds like what I would think APC would play if they wrote “Schism”.

Having said that, though, it seems that they’ve managed to combine the more “metal” moments of Undertow–and, to a lesser extent, Opiate–with the dynamic and more “crushing” sound of Lateralus. But I think everything sounds too tight, too dry. Whereas with Lateralus there was an atmosphere, a feel to the record, this just sounds like A Perfect Circle 3.0. While the there’s some neat syncopation at the end, and Adam whips out some pretty killer arpeggioes at the end, I don’t know how much I really like this song. It doesn’t have the dynamic range that I think it really should, but that may be due to internet compression. I can’t make a final judgement until the album release, but if it sounds like this, I hope the rest of the album is a hell of a lot better, because this is just average. Granted, average for Tool is amazing for most bands, but I’m just not terribly impressed.

Incidentally, that weird thing that sorta sounds like a shaker in the intro and breakdown is actually a Mandala drum pad, made by the guy at Synesthesia and developed with Danny Carey. I suggest checking out the videos of that thing in action. Technology = go.