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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mosh With Love

  Mosh pits are a cathartic descent into our primal nature. The best concerts are poorly lit, super crowded, painfully loud... They set off the evolutionary red flags which get us on high alert. That means a serious adrenaline rush. The nervous energy is crucial to a wicked show. Adult Contemporary sure as hell doesn't have my heart pounding and my palms sweaty. I never attend a concert to unwind. I go to tense up. Sometimes the only way to purge yourself of anxiety is to binge on it. That is the genius of the genre. The beauty of Metal, in all its grotesqueness, is the power to turn pain into art.

In addition to the thrill aquired from merely attending such a show, it gets even better when you are caught in a mosh and live to speak of it. Biologically speaking, animals are programmed to release endorphins after eating, sleeping, or getting laid, just like we get bitchy when deprived of any of these things. Similarly, we get the same high when we encounter danger and subsequently overcome it. After all, that's what each species evolved to do. Meanwhile, if you listen to some mellow clarinet tunes, you may feel chill (at best), but not fulfilled.

Let me draw an example from Hemmingway, specifically The Old Man and the Sea. Our daily lives are just like the profane sharks who pose a challenge, though the trial is far less dignified than that of the true catch. We hate our undignified, mundane problems. Homework, career troubles, family issues... Not the kind of thing you want engraved on your tombstone. A broken femur, on the other hand, is far more worthy of respect. As such, concerts are fleeting moments of such trials, when you can actually take yourself seriously. No one cares about your tenth facebook update expounding on the woes of teenage break-ups. But we all care about your potential hospitalization. Sometimes we care enough to tone down the violence in the pit.

In all seriousness, moshes are not mindless violence. They are a Dionysian indulgence. The action may seem random, but we are all aware of each blow we suffer and reciprocate. Every action you take has an equal and opposite reaction. You can take that as a collective, communal dishing out of Karma. Or you can say it's a first-hand experience of the cruel laws of physics. Either way, I have a final remark of advice:   Mosh with love, and prepare yourselves for some serious whiplash.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Scattered Hamlet: Hard Rock with a Southern Twist

Scattered Hamlet has filled the void since Four Locos were banned from virtually all sane establishments in America. The rowdy, intoxicating, energetic vibe that was illegalized to drink is now accessible from concerts, such as that which took place on November 19th at the El Rey. The show promised to crank it even louder than 11, and Scattered Hamlet fulfilled expectations. Not that I’ve ever read any cheesy romance novels, but you know the diamond-in-the-rough stable boy with whom the Southern Belle always has an affair? The rugged scoundrel who inexplicably becomes a babe magnet? That’s pretty  much each member of the band.

 Hillbilly high-jinks  combined with Metal mischief  makes for a rambunctious live show with wide appeal. Shotguns, mosh-pits, and deer-skull pentagrams are a great transition from the rut most Metal has fallen into, without straying too far from our Hard-Rock comfort zone. It’s how Hellyeah would be if the songs were catchier and the musicians were less ugly. 

(I shall now digress to an anecdote of awesomeness. When a mosh crossed the line from slam-dance to oh-shit-where-is-my-mace, the lead singer forsook the stage to give Security a hand. Meanwhile, the rest of the band kept playing like it was another day in the life. Given evidence for their sheer bad-assery, it probably was.)

Scattered Hamlet is a taste of good ol’ Metal injected with some rarely seen Southern intensity, a gimmick which sets them apart from the masses. Another deviation from the Metal norm is the fact that these dudes were totally hot, whereas, as the fictional Strongbad so eloquently stated, the gift of Death-Metal does not smile on the good-looking.

I may not have my beloved Four Locos, but at least I have Scattered Hamlet (who happens to be sponsored by Jagermeister, so alcohol still wins.) Four stars outta five.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Metal Day at the El Rey: A Concert Review

International Metal Day, that most (un)holy of days, fell on 11/11/11 this year. In recognition of this divinely commissioned coincidence, Albuqurque's own Historic El Rey Theater put together a badass gathering of epic proportions. These are the awesome results.

Night of Revenge is basically an ameteur Bullet For My Valentine. Their lack of experience is overshadowed by their potential. Quite talented for their age, they need only to improve their clean vocals and stage presence. Along the way, they can emerge as artists in their own right instead of an emulation of Mallcore. However, they deliver a spectacular show and proved a worthy choice to hit the ground running for the concert.

Have you ever wondered what Nu Metal would sound like if it didn't suck? Speculate no longer, comrades. Walls Within does not disappoint. Heavy as hell, they have a more Blues oriented sound than most metal artists. Thrashy strings complement the pounding drums and harsh vocals. It's a superb sound for the new generation. The ensuing mosh-pits are almost overwhelming at live shows, as are the plethora of  headbangers. Hope you're ready for some serious whip-lash.

Bear the Nightmare is a contemporary union of Metal with synthesizers. The result is something like Children of Bodom. The crowd-pleasing fusion of genres may not be radio-friendly, but it draws a great audience for live performances. Their musical style is funky and dance-able, yet intense. It's like psuedo-pop for moshers.

Ambryzette is Metal with a Post-Rock twist. The brooding melodic style is eroded by power-screams and snarls. They deliver an intense dichotomy of heaviness and ambience. Ever heard of Synesthesia, the phenomenon of senses overlapping? Having had more experience with psychedelics than I care to admit, I am all too familiar with this phenomenon. Now imagine you could hear a sunset. That's Ambryzette.

Hailing from Santa Fe, Savage Wizdom brings soaring Power Metal with a vengeance. Their nostalgiac vocal style echoes the likes of Halford and Geoff Tate, yet modernizes the early Dungeon-Metal sound to suit the tastes of modern Metalheads. Subject matter is beefy, ranging from grim reapers to dragon slayers, with nary a love ballad in sight. This is the kind of music that has the whole front row headbanging in unison. They were a great choice to lead into the headliner.

Remember how Walls Within sounded like the hypothetical non-sucky Nu Metal? Well, Blinddryve is what Nu Metal sounds like in its present state. Nonetheless, they do have a certain allure. The brutal lyrics and overwhelming sound-walls that are typical of Metal have been toned down to appeal to a larger audience. There's enough growls and distorted guitars to appease the average Metalhead, and the sweater-vest wearing masses can pretend to be rockers for a night. As such, the Metal-Day concert had ended, as T.S Eliot said, "not with a bang, but a whimper."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Band Review: Savage Wizdom

 Savage Wizdom rose to prominence in the local scene due to their adherence to Traditional-Metal styles, a refreshing break from the indistinguishable sounds of many local artists. The vocals are a combination of Halford operatics and the primal screams that peppered Pink Floyd's Wall. The guitars are gradient, transitioning from chugging rhythms to wailing powerchords in the vein of early Queensryche. The bass keeps up and never gets lost in the mix, as is the unfortunate case for the majority of Metal bands. The drummer is extaordinary, as he knows he is a musician and not a metronome. The 5 member band is like a perfect pentagram; all of the elements are in sync, with no one in particular dominating or upsetting the balance. This very chemistry (or alchemy) is the factor that most contributes to their phenomenal stage-presence. Although they rarely employ props or theatrics, they need little more than synchronised headbanging to bring all eyes on them.

The lyrics are the mercury icing on the Metal-cake. Subject matter is relatively niche, covering themes such as dudes with swords, dragon slayers, undead serial killers, and so on. In other words, another day in the life for a true Metalhead. We, as headbangers, would love to hear our collective biography performed onstage in front of all the other headbangers. Tragically, Savage Wizdom has spent more time in the studio than in the venues, so live shows are somewhat of a rarity. However, when they perform live, they attract a huge, enthusiastic crowd, often outstripping the fanbases of headliners. Brutal.

 A few line-up changes throughout the years have refined the dynamics of the band. Although their only released CD featured a line-up different from the current one, the sound quality and energy are excellent. Rumors abound about a new CD to be released in the near future. Details to come.

In a nutshell, Savage Wizdom is crowd-pleasing Power Metal with a modern twist. Four stars outta five.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reminder: Upcoming Concerts

As VH1 so eloquently put it, themselves alluding to Spinal Tap, this goes one louder. 11/11/11 is National Metal Day, which by divine providence, has been granted to us on a Friday. If your local scene is as awesome as mine, then a venue/radio station/studio near you has the good grace to organize the sickest line ups on this most (un)holy of days. Return the favor; go to as many concerts as humanly possible and show some support. This is what's scratching in my patch of dirt:

On the holy day, local legends Savage Wizdom and Walls Within play alongside rising stars such as Night of Revenge, Ambryzette, and Bear the Nightmare. The extremely talented melodic-metal band Blinddryve is headlining. The ruckus starts at 6:30 P.M, at Albuqurque's historic El Rey Theater. Sponsored by the best radio station in town, 94.1 ROCK, as well as Pyros, Music Go Round, Patron Silver and more. All ages event, $10 presales, $12 at the door. See you there.

Fast forward eight days. Yet another gem of a concert, organized by the exquisite promotion company known as Joe Angel Productions. This is even LOUDER than eleven. Local shred-gods Burn Alive, Numbers, Eve of an End, and Portrait of a Mastermind are featured. Up-and-coming artists include When Darkness Falls, Throw the Temple, and Butcher The Sheep. Since the touring band is Scattered Hamlet, odds are they will headline. This will take place at El Rey Theater. Doors open at 6:30 P.M, music starts at 7:00 P.M. This all-ages event is only $10. Did I mention all the kick-ass give-aways, including (but not limited to) skateboards, guitars, posters, CD packs, and even cash?! Holy mother of Metal, don't miss this.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Denim and Leather: Headbanger Style

   Metal was the unloved bastard-child of the hippie generation. We inherited the drugs and long-haired rebellion. Hell, we even kept the unhealthy obsession with music. It's the music itself we changed. Bands like Led Zeppelin bridged the abyss, hence the elements of Bohemia in the Metalhead wardrobe. The most obvious connection is the long hair, which was shocking, offensive, even freakish to society until the late 6o's. Other examples include the John Lennon glasses worn by Ozzie Osbourne, the peace signs and love beads of Enuff Z'nuff, and the psychedelic prints of virtually all Glam-Rock bands. The only constant, with few exceptions, was the outrageous hair. Like the mohawks and liberty-spikes of Punk Rock, the tresses of the Metal masses symbolize deliberate rebelllion. It asserts individuality in a world full of crewcuts and neckties. Songs like Quiet Riot's Metal Health even turned this feature into an asset. Now long hair was ideal for the new dance-style... Headbanging.

     Never try to bang your head in heels. The shoes of a Metalhead are generally more practical than fashionable. The platform monstrosities worn by KISS would be useless in a mosh pit. Hence the frequent use of combat boots and sneakers. Sebastian Bach, the lead singer of Skid Row, even has a pair of converse tattooed on his arm. Illegal situations were romanticised, further reinforcing the desire for functional footwar.Solid grip and tough material would make for a succesful getaway when evading cops.

     Another example of law-repellent fashion was the innovation of spikes. Metalheads attending riotous concerts wore spiked collars to  prevent chokeholds and headlocks. On the other hand, studs and spikes are of twofold origin. Bands like Judas Priest donned bondage gear as a testament to the sexuality of the genre. Therefore, the studs embody the paradox of violence and eroticism. In the case of S&M apparel, it is not a paradox so much as a blending of sex and violence. Then again, paradox defines the genre. Blues and classical, glamour and death, anger and hope. In the end, it doesn't matter what we wear. It will become bloodstained one way or another.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Modern Masterpieces: The Connexion Between Metal and the Compositions of Yesteryear

Terrorizor Magazine made a comparison between Arch Enemy’s Bloodstained Cross and the Seasons of Vivaldi. Revolver Magazine’s resident freelancer, Chris Krovatin, authored a superb article on the 6 most Metal classical compositions. Such is my textual evidence, yet my strongest proof is empirical. Listen to virtually any modern Metal, and it is clear that such music is inspired by the great classics. Contrary to the teachings of pop-culture, Metal is an extremely painstaking, technical, and complex genre. Unlike most modern music, contemporary artists of Metal are based less on Blues and more on Classical music. The intricate melodies, polyphonic sound-walls, and frequent use of syncopation differentiate Metal from most contemporary musical styles, yet link it inextricably to the genius compositions of yore.
Metal originated with the blues, taking the simple riffs to unknown, cathartic depths. As time went on, movements such as Thrash have brought speed and technicality back into the equation, giving us masterpieces to rival those of classic musicians. Take, for instance, the lessons imparted from Gradus Ad Parnassum, written by Johannes Fux. (Yes, that’s his real name.) In my brief yet torrid study of Counterpoint Compositions, I learned the difficulties of obeying the rigid structure of consonance, harmony, motion, and even the controlled use of dissonance. It was tedious to follow these rules and still manage to make the piece interesting and lively.

Yet, my favorite bands do just that, if not every day then at least often enough to get paid.

We are not the Hollywood stereotype of stoners living in our parents’ basements, mindlessly banging our heads to anything loud. We are artists. Even those of us who are neither musicians nor composers are just as cultured as the monocle-wearing crowd who pine over Baroque instrumentals. Hell, we probably listen to the exact same Purcell operas as Mr. Cunningsworth. The only difference is we crank it to 11, while Old Man.C crosses his index fingers and flings Holy Water at our supposedly satanic asses.
Modern Metal utilizes the same rigorous structure, artistic enterprise, and musical talent as the enduring works of Mozart or Beethoven. Now we have10 string guitars instead of harpsichords, and we have growls instead of choirs. Then again, the phenomenon of Symphonic Metal proves that these vocal styles don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Even radio-friendly bands such as Killswitch Engage are a testament to the possibility of operatic vocals juxtaposed with screams.  

Metal is so much more than mere fan-fodder to entertain and anger the unwashed masses. It is simultaneously malleable and durable… In a word, resilient… It has the same immortal virtue which sanctifies the gorgeous art that has endured for centuries.

Machine-Eye Photography: An Image Caught in Time

Unlike most photographers, Miguel Chavez captures movement, not moments. The  atmosphere of live music is reflected in his candid shots of mid-concert mayhem. He captures the definitive examples of mosh pits, of mass hysteria, the unison in entropy that epitomizes the art of concerts. Prolonged poses are rare in his art.  Even the standstills are obviously candid, a fleeting pause between motions. His photography has been featured at galleries such as Warehouse 21, a match made in heaven as W21 moonlights as a venue at which many such concerts take place. Artistic, punk-as-fuck, and all around awesome photographs.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Destroy To Recreate

Metal as a genre is as durable, and also as malleable, as the substance that shares its title. The heaviness remains constant, but the method by which it is expressed can change, often surpassing itself. This resilience is not only characteristic, but even exclusive to metal. The genre can be seen evolving in the limelight, manifested by well-known bands and publicized by their ever-vigilant fans. However, it is usually the underground scene that incubates the revolutions, and the pioneers who spearhead them. Of such catalysts, one is frequently overlooked, despite it's indisputable significance to the upward motion of music.

Enter Destroy to Recreate.

Destroy to Recreate is the aftershock of the theatrical dark humor which prevailed in the early years of Metal. But the tactics that were popularized by early rockers such as Alice Cooper have been brutalized by DTR, the theatrics are made less humorous and more abrasive to accommodate the modern state of Metal. They epitomize a contemporary style of Shock Rock, which exploits the melodic potential of the instruments without compromising the caustic nature that makes the genre what it is. The guitar riffs, although distorted, hint at some kind of catchy rhythm. The drums are fierce enough to satisfy without overpowering. The vocals are a flashback to 90's metal, gutteral yet discernable.
Immunized by the gore which has been injected by the media, DTR succesfully shocks and entertains a generation which is not yet indifferent to violence. "Sometimes you watch the news and see all the fucked up things that happen in the world, and it's so bad that  it kind of leaves a nasty taste in your mouth." Such is the sinister prelude to their shredding number, Bitter is the Taste, as delivered by vocalist Alex. True to their name, they use violence only on that which needs mending, and whose mending depends on extreme measures. Such things comprise a long list, but music is at the top.

Friday, November 4, 2011

National Metal Day

     As VH1 so eloquently put it, themselves alluding to Spinal Tap, this goes one louder. 11/11/11 is National Metal Day, which by divine providence, has been granted to us on a Friday. If your local scene is as awesome as mine, then a venue/radio station/studio near you has the good grace to organize the sickest line ups on this most (un)holy of days. Return the favor; go to as many concerts as humanly possible and show some support. This is what's scratching in my patch of dirt:

On the holy day, local legends Savage Wizdom and Walls Within play alongside rising stars such as Night of Revenge, Ambryzette, and The Nightmare. The extremely talented melodic-metal band Blinddryve is headlining. The ruckus starts at 6:30 P.M, at Albuqurque's historic El Rey Theater. Sponsored by the best radio station in town, 94.1 ROCK, as well as Pyros, Music Go Round, Patron Silver and more. All ages event, $10 presales, $12 at the door. See you there.

Fast forward eight days. Yet another gem of a concert, organized by the exquisite promotion company known as Joe Angel Productions. This is even LOUDER than eleven. Local shred-gods Burn Alive, Numbers, Eve of an End, and Portrait of a Mastermind are featured. Up-and-coming artists include When Darkness Falls, Throw Temple, and Butcher The Sheep. Since the touring band is Scattered Hamlet, odds are they will headline. This will take place at El Rey Theater. Doors open at 6:30 P.M, music starts at 7:00 P.M. This all-ages event is only ten bucks. Did I mention all the kick-ass give-aways, including (but not limited to) skateboards, guitars, posters, CD packs, and even cash?! Holy mother of Metal, don't miss this.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Obelisk: Further reflections on mosh pit spirituality

     The pain of a pit is practically sexual, combining karma and libido into a Tantric event, like iron evolving into gold. The moshers are sadomasochistic; some dominate the pit with a vengeance while others submit to their pain and love every minute of it. The only true gimps are the spectators who do nothing, but stand in the perimeter and behold the moshers with mild curiosity or feigned indifference. But the Tantric vibrations are alive and kicking in the moshers, throbbing and pulsing like a bed against the wall. We jump in unison, we pump our fists in perfect sync with each other, we bang our heads as individuals and then as an entirety. Headbanging in and of itself is provocative. Anatomically speaking, thrusting the torso downward puts you in the same position as thrusting the hips up. Headbanging is the coquettish hairflip of a tease amped on acid. Headbanging is distorted flirting, distorted passion, arms awkwardly slung around each others shoulders as we move our bodies in unison, sweating and screaming all the while. We lose ourselves, we get dizzy and fall, we stagger to each other when the blaring speakers and schizophrenic lights overwhelm us. Each metalhead is a source of support for the others, a solid obelisk to withstand the barren desert that the individual can not endure alone.

   The beauty of metal, in all of its grotesqueness, is unison in entropy. While we jump and push and lunge in a bedlam state, we know what we are doing. We are fully conscious, aware of every blow we suffer and reciprocate. Although the multicolored lights can dazzle us, we can differentiate them from the shadows. We are as sentient worms, writhing and struggling in the soil which imprisons us. The psychosexual violence of the pit aims to unite us in our solitude, our self-induced isolation. We delve so deep into negativity that we absolve ourselves of it.

   A good metal concert is like being unable to take a religious fast, so you just drink straight whiskey until you vomit. If that’s your way to cleanse yourself, then just indulge in the blood orgy, knowing that you need to take a little poison in order to heal yourself. A good concert is a glorified primal scream, it is the lead singers vocals solidified throughout the entire venue. We growl when we feel threatened, shout when we’re horny, yell when we’re hurting. There is always an eternal scream, one in which we wallow until it possesses us. Under the control of this demon, we twist our hands to resemble his horns and raise them high, reaching toward the heavens that we may taint them. Somehow our militant anger is neutralized, though I doubt this is the work of angels, lest they are of the fallen variety. If stage diving has taught me anything, it’s that gravity’s a bitch. But at the same time, my fallen comrades are waiting for me below, some with devil horns, some with fists, some with open hands, ready to catch me and bring me to their world.

High Octane Hell Ride: The spiritual side of moshing

     A mosh pit is a spiritual experience, the name itself implies descent, as if into hell or to Plato's cave. It's almost a Karmic endeavor, purging yourself of emotional pain by inflicting physical pain on another, and they do the same to you. Although everyone is pitted against each other, punching, kicking, and slamming indiscriminately, it is mutually consenting. Genuine hostility has no place among fellow metalheads. The reaction in a pit is alchemy, melding and mixing metal to create immortality. When a band member has suffered a loss, whether of his family or a friend, he may request a mosh pit to alleviate the death. This practice is a modernization of ancient Greek funeral games, which simultaneously celebrate the individual while mourning his departure. It is competetive, yet benevolent. In death, the blood congeals, so you want to see it spilled from the audience. Too many people die in their sleep, so wake the fuck up. Your pain is psychological, so it will be dispersed among the brave in its far more bearable physical manifestation. We voluntarily thrash for those who can no longer move. Our hair spins and falls, oscillates between gravity and the rebellion against such, pulses violently as if to fling the negativity out of our skulls. Over the heavy kickbeat and wicked guitar, we raise our heads upright for a nanosecond, lock eyes with a stranger, anyone from a cute punk girl with a lisp, to a muscular gangster whose face is obscured by scars. You make eye contact, smirk mischievously, and nod with grim acknowlegdement of your fate. You both sprint forward, teeth bared and arms crossed, bounce back on impact and crash into a bystander. He pushes you with his fists, out of pure instinct. He will pick you up when you fall just to shove you back in, then you'll feel the unmistakable strike of an elbow in your sternum, you trip over the stage, sight obscured by hair and blood, the lights are blinking and flashing to further disorient you. The sounds are distorted and echoing, you're dizzy and confused. This is the kind of high energy disoriented adrenaline rush that most people have to pop pills in order to achieve. You savor the sadomasochistic bliss on the filthy floor, when suddenly you are unceremoniously siezed by the armpits, yanked upright, and crammed back into the cesspool.

The Battle Of The Bands

      The Albuqurque Battle Of The Bands was promoted by Gorilla Music, hosted by the infamous Launchpad, and featured many promising musicians with the potential to go far in the industry. Gorilla, although a sleazy behemoth of a company, gives something back to the artists of whom it takes advantage. The contest featured no cash award, but instead boasted the “Opportunity” to do further collaborations with Gorilla. Despite this disappointing, self-proclaimed  prize, the Battle Of The Bands brought quality local music to a wide audience. Some audience members, such as myself, have the ability to give such bands better (and paid!) opportunities to perform. I would have never met these artists if a corporate scam didn’t organize the Battle. I owe them some begrudging, yet well-deserved, gratitude. Thanks, guys!

Glad that's over. The artists who performed at the Battle Of The Bands are as follows:

Skarva Av Glas opened up the night with some gnarly Black Metal from hell. The sexy female guitarist was the crown jewel in this otherwise mediocre band. This is a Black Metal group easily forgotten among the rest that try to offend rather than entertain. They have potential, but their performance was overall underwhelming.

Embelisk was a band bouncing with energy. Funky beats juxtaposed over a hard-rock backdrop created a cool atmosphere of chill, crowd pleasing music. Their stage presence was playful, the intent was mischievous. Embelisk was a measured, healthy dose of radio-friendly Rock.

The Elected Officials take righteous indignation, set it to the melody of playground ditties, and amplify it to high heaven. They embody hardcore, Punk-as-fuck, “Oi Oi Oi” music with a message. They hit the stage like a Molotov cocktail hits a skyscraper, conquering the venue with their wicked charisma. Rebels with a cause have never sounded so good.

Terror Race combines elements of modern music with inspiration from rock classics. The result is Metal that appeals even to people who don’t like the genre. On the other hand, true Metalheads may end up feeling slighted. They are certainly gifted with profound musical ability, yet they are trapped in a Local scene with a surplus of high-school Metal bands. With some practice, they will never again get lost in the mix.

Gnarly Slur is comprised of two musicians (A bassist and a guitarist/singer), and a synthesizer.  The style oscillates from clean vocals to death growls, always tastefully and usually seamlessly. However, as stage presence is an integral aspect of live music, the synthetic drum-beats are distracting and somewhat clumsy. Other than the lack of a proper musician on drums, Gnarly slur was an enjoyable taste of modern Metal in one of its many incarnations.

Night of Revenge is a band of high-schoolers writing about video-game zombies, hot girls, and mosh pits. They do so tactfully, with surprisingly phenomenal results. The instruments are distorted, heavy, and catchy. The vocals are usually screams or growls, with occasional clean singing. It’s great head-banging Metal in the vein of Bullet for my Valentine. The clean vocals could use some practice, but otherwise the band is extremely talented.

Parachute Picnic was fodder to please the unwashed masses. A large crowd of aforementioned unwashed masses gathered to flail to their Pop-Punk serenades, music far too sissy to warrant a proper, dignified pit. It was catchy and danceable, yet little more than formula music for mall-rats who admire cuteness instead of talent.

Severkill is a bunch of middle-aged men playing slow, bluesy, Heavy Metal their own way. The instruments sound very old school , Black Sabbath-esque, yet the vocals are modernized with growls and screams. Spooky stage presence and cool lyrics are the mercury icing on the Metal cake. It’s pretty cool to see guys their age rocking out with the best of them.

Cathartic Dissent was Hardcore Punk hailing from Santa Fe, bringing high-octane mosh music to the stage. This being their first show, they performed magnificently. They were raw enough to be Punk-as-fuck, refined enough to draw a significant audience. Cathartic Dissent is a refreshing bite of plain ol’ Punk Rock in a local scene that prides itself on gimmicks.

True Joint Featuring Relik One emulates the kind of Rap/Hip-Hop that dominates modern airwaves. They are enjoyable enough, despite the predictable “Fuck bitches/Smoke weed” type lyrics that were peppered throughout their set list. Many teenage girls expressed their high-pitched approval toward these artists, further obscuring what aesthetic value there was to be enjoyed. Not bad, they were worth seeing in live concert.

     Such was the experience of the Battle of the Bands. However, in the selfsame concert, two acts were featured who were not competing in the battle. They were “Headlining” (if it is proper to call it that, in the context of a Battle) because they have already been established as worthy artists. These bands have risen to prominence because they have proved their great talent and dedication to Metal, music, and artistic worth in general.

Defleshment is dirty, thrashy Death Metal to rival the best in the industry. Their music instigates only the rowdiest of mosh pits. Even those who don’t jump in the slam-dance have to headbang, and everyone raises their Devil-horns high. The music is contagious, and determined to bang its way into the heads of the audience. This is essentially old school rocker Metal tempered for modern taste. No-one escapes a Defleshment performance unscathed.

Rose Beneath is a streamlined, contemporary gem of Melodic Metal. Screams and growls mesh with the operatic clean vocals, echoing the likes of Killswitch Engage. The lyrics are intriguing, the breakdowns are pristine. Rose Beneath dominates the stage with style and charisma. They know how to be theatrical without being melodramatic. An immaculate conclusion to a concert such as this.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Space Trip

There are no re-entries at Launchpad. Just like a real rocket mission, once you’re in, that’s it. There is no escaping the celestial spectacle, unless you feel like being thrust into an endless vacuum of instant boredom or death, respectively. The interior is ornamented with dazzling graffiti and stickers juxtaposed on the grimy walls. The floors are sick with gum and spit, and even the ceiling looks like it’s been wounded by rowdy rockers. This is definitely a venue which is as scarred as its patrons. But once the lights fade, it’s all about the music, and even the sight of such beautiful gore takes a backseat to the audio assault.

This is the back-ground noise of stealing everything you hate and burning it alive. This is a forced catharsis, a necessary sedation. When the door closes, you are ensnared in the hot-box. Claustrophobia is a catalyst for mosh pits, some of the best I’ve ever been in. The sounds pulse on the floor and echo off the walls. The lights reflect the bloodstains on your shoes. Everything culminates and congeals into a high-octane hell-ride. The aim is to delve so deep into the darkness that you are absolved of it. A concert at Launchpad is like being unable to take a religious fast, so you just drink whiskey until you vomit. By the time the ritual is complete, the sky is dark with rare stars, and the desert night is cold. At this time, there is no cause for complaint. All that remains is panic upon realizing how far you are from home.

Loaded: A Blessing in Tragedy

Remember a few years ago, when there were those school-shootings in Virginia? The ink was still drying on the newsprint when my chemistry teacher brought up the story, which he had heard the night before on the local news. He called me out in front of the class, looked me in the eye, and said I was no better than the kids who shot everyone. A year or two later, I graduated from Capital High School. The principal had her eyes fixed on mine; her facial expression was something like a wife would give to her husband's mistress before a cat-fight. I don’t think she approved of the tutu and lingerie I wore beneath my unfastened graduation gown. Or of the accurate and unflattering description of herself I had provided a few months prior, inches from her face, my shouting voice echoing in the hall. I myself approved of very little during those years.

I’ve learned to become more tolerant of many things recently, including monogamy, drug free lifestyles, and community college. But just because I am accepting toward these things, doesn’t mean that they’re for me. Quite to the contrary, I am now at St. John’s College, where I have yet to be afflicted with any of the aforementioned symptoms. I only needed a G.E.D to get in here. Why the hell did I graduate instead? Honestly, I didn’t really want to at first. I just wanted to drop out and go straight to St. John’s. The only, or maybe just the main, reason I didn’t was for my family. Both of my sisters got pregnant at an early age, and both my brothers got criminal records before they were even old enough to buy their own porn. None of my siblings graduated high school. I, being the youngest, bore this burden. Admittedly, it was voluntary, but it’s always nice to have family as a scapegoat since it didn’t exactly go as planned. My parents went year after year to registration, where they smiled as I posed for a school I.D that felt more like a mugshot, where they good-naturedly murmured about the lab fees and activity expenses, where we all signed paperwork and bitched about the system. There was no way for them to know that it would lead to their kid falling into drugs, gang activity, attempted suicide, and all that other bullshit that after-school specials want to twist your panties over. It’s ok. I didn’t know that stuff would happen either.

Despite my shortcomings, my family constantly encouraged me, gave praise for things they call “talents” that I still don’t believe in, let alone understand. Somehow it got into my head, and I was under the mistaken impression that I’m smart, a notion that I disprove on a daily basis. In retrospect, I realize that being literate sets my I.Q above a large percentage of New Mexico’s population. But during high-school, I mistook the ability to read and write for unrecognized genius, and became a martyr. The fact that I’m a Metalhead didn’t really help matters. Being a headbanger and the proud owner of a cerebellum just might qualify me as an anatomical anomaly.  There are very few edumacated Metalheads in this proximity. Sometimes we meet in arroyos to get smashed, all three of us. And I’m not even as articulate as I pretend to be.  I don’t think I’d ever get an essay done without the built-in thesaurus thing on Microsoft word. I used it the other day to find a synonym for shenanigans. By far the most hilarious was monkeyshines. But in spite of all my stoopid monkeyshines, I have yet to bring a gun to school.  Take that, chemistry bitch. I’m in college, and that’s my priority. Not  money, not family, not relationships. The only thing rivaling my studies is Metal, which in all fairness, laid claim to my fate way before St. John’s did. There’s certain people who bitch about my music, say it’s noise pollution, immature, unintelligible. There’s other people who bitch about school, that mine in particular is too expensive and I should prioritize money over education. I’ve noticed that both groups of people tend to be overweight and have probably spent more money on nicotine than on their own education, so I could care less what they think or say. Or rather, I wish I didn’t care. I obviously gave it enough thought as to write it down. But don’t worry, folks. The ability to write is just a blessing in disguise.


Hammers are great. You can philosophize with them, like Nietzsche. You can make them march, like Pink Floyd. You can pull them back as you bite the barrel between your teeth, like I do. It’s no mistake that metal tastes like blood.