When Legend’s Rise: Godsmack’s Pluto Transit

When Legends Rise

When Legends Rise

April 27, 2018

Spinefarm Records

Godsmack has always been the one artist that voiced the feelings that I locked away beneath a smiling façade. As the band grew, my appreciation for their work grew.

Until—1000 HP.

I called it “canned” Godsmack. I demanded something more, something better, than revisiting a past that no longer held relevance. I wanted the grrrr and the soul. I wanted the contained release of fury tempered by experience.

I admit, I avoided listening to the new album, When Legends Rise. Disappointment feels the same as heart break and I don’t have enough heart left to afford it.

But Godsmack delivered this time around.

Is it gritty? To a degree that it blends the old with the new and drops bombs of nostalgia (bitches). There’s still a few growls, riffs, and groovy rhythms left in the ol’ fellers.

Is it pop? Eh, for those snobs who act like Godsmack is the Yanni of the hard rock/heavy metal genre, maybe (may you rot in your self-importance along with your testosterone-poisoned idiocy).

Was it meant to appeal to a wider audience? Yes.

Was it manufactured or “canned?” I’ll give that a no.

“When Legends Rise,” is a perfect front-load song. It felt like a nod to power metal, rather than an attempt to be heavy. There is an epic quality to the lyrics and the cleanness of Erna’s vocals showcases the range and depth of his voice.

Of course, there’s “Bulletproof,” another pleasing front-load that was issued as the first single with an interesting video accompaniment. I’m still trying to figure out if Pasquale’s leisure suit was ashes of lime green or ashes of goldenrod in color, but I digress.

Once we get past the hit-makers, things get interesting. You can see the formula. Every good composer has a formula and it’s one that works. It gives a frame work, but it isn’t an excuse to stick to the tried and trope.

Frameworks give the freedom to experiment, and what I really enjoyed about the remainder of the songs were the sudden changes, unexpected changes, in the melodies, especially demonstrated by Rombola’s guitar.

I enjoyed the addition of hand drums without going overboard. I enjoyed how the children’s choir kicked off the song “Unforgettable.” A ballad in “Under Your Scars,” no less? (And I loved it??) These risks may be calculated but still frightening as hell if you wrestle with the continuity of a career.

I’m a lyrics person. I want to know every word that is sung. I want to know what it means, and while familiar themes of Erna’s past efforts are present, they are coupled with new imagery that is deeper and burns a hell of a lot more because no one shakes mortality or loneliness.

I think the only song that didn’t quite fit the album was “Eye of the Storm.” It felt like an add-on, and that always bothers me. Perhaps a few more listens will warm me up, but I am very pleased with the album overall and glad I spent my cash on a preorder.

Treading a path of authenticity is an evolution. Sometimes it devolves into mimicry and many times it opens a doorway into unexpected creativity and fulfillment. If you’re in a group and they’re on board, ready to deliver solid musicianship, then you’ve got a platform for artistic integrity.

Rating: 4.2

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Images may be subject to copyright.

Change (in the House of [Butter] Flies)

Change-Quotes

I keep hearing people who love metal music telling me that it bores them these days. It’s not the same. The market is oversaturated with Djent or Metalcore or [put overdone subgenre here]. Good news is, I’ve heard this complaint before in other genres and they’ve survived and thrived after the fact.

I have a way of approaching metal music that has nothing to do with tradition and “how things used to be.” I’m open minded because I don’t hold any preconceived notions of how a genre is supposed to sound. I understand that there are genres and subgenres, but it’s like saying this human is brown and that human is pink; therefore, they are fundamentally different species. They aren’t but that’s how humans tend to think.

I watched a change in you
It’s like you never had wings
Now you feel so alive
I watched you change
~”Change (in the House of Flies)” | Deftones | White Pony

I know that I can’t stand it when something I enjoy is discontinued or the formula is altered. Most of the times, it’s for the worst, but everything evolves. Try to remember that as something transition, we may find ourselves witnessing the chrysalis.

chrysalis

A chrysalis is neither the caterpillar nor the butterfly. It doesn’t look like it’s doing anything special on the outside, but inside magic is happening. Think of all the bands you’ve enjoyed and there is usually a “cocoon” of an album in there somewhere as they transition from the new band to watch into a long time player like Dream Theater or Tool.

Change is a condition of innovation. Music goes through slumps where even I despair of finding something fresh and engaging. Music also has mind-melting bursts of creativity.  I’ve learned to take the good with the bad. A slump is just a marker that something amazing is about to break free and take flight.

©2014 iokirkwood.com “Change (in the House of [Butter] Flies” All rights reserved.

savedpicture-33.jpgIn between bouts of writing for metaldescent.com, blogging, and banging her head, I.O. Kirkwood is the author of “Subatomic Revolt” in Mike Lynch’s No Revolution Is Too Big series and the short story “The White Carpet,” a finalist in the Scribes Valley Publishing Fiction Contest in 2013.

The Dark Side of Living La Vita Local

I love going to live metal shows, especially when there is a mix of local and national acts. I love it best when the venue is intimate and I could, if I was so inclined, reach out and touch whoever is onstage or bump into one of the musicians trying to get to the bar. There is nothing like turning as you’re ordering a drink to find Shannon Lucas waiting for a water and saying to him, “Hey, great show tonight.”

cory and lucas

Cory met his extreme drumming role model, Shannon Lucas. He is a very good example of graciousness.

What chaps my thighs is those bands who feel they are above their fans and the local musicians that made their headliner show possible. They hide out in their vans or cheap hotel rooms, avoiding the people who bought their records, who sold or outright bought the tickets because they couldn’t sell them, and who buy their merchandise so that the tour machinery can keep moving to the next city.

I’ve talked to a number of local bands in my area and the consensus is this: they feel taken advantage of by the national acts, specifically the ones who behave as if they are “too good to walk amongst the rabble.” Let me explain how I understand the tour machinery to work.

1. A promoter secures a headliner band that has a reasonably large and devoted following. A fee is negotiated that will be paid to the headliner.

2. The promoter then lines up a number of local bands, and dependent on the cost of the headliner’s fee and the number of local bands, divvies up a set amount of tickets that will cover the expenses of the show.

3. The local bands have to sell their number of tickets or buy them if they can’t sell them. Usual excuses from potential customers is “It’s too expensive,” or “Can’t you get me in for free?” or “I’m too tired.”

4. All tickets sales above and beyond the expense tickets are then divvied up between the local bands (in theory). Sometimes the local bands get paid but usually not.

Of course the cost of playing with the headliner can pinch a few purses, especially if the local band is still building a following or their fan base does not align with the headliner’s subgenre. I’ve been at proggy metal shows where I’ve spoken of thrash metal and my audience has looked at me like I pooped in my hand and threw it at someone.

This is how the system works. Everyone knows it. I’m not telling anyone something new. I’m not inciting a revolution here.

henry rollins

Rollins knows it’s just common courtesy. We’re all people on this big blue ball hurtling through space.

If you’re the headliner, don’t act like you’re above everyone else even though you have certainly earned your place at the top of the totem pole. Don’t hide away from the bands that are making your livelihood possible. They accepted the yoke of playing with you not just to showcase their talents in front of your fans but to meet you as well. Shake some hands. Let them buy you a drink, even if you prefer soda pop.

Graciousness wins you loyalty even though there may be nothing you can do to help the bands supporting you other than say “good show” or offering some technical advice. Face to face time is important, especially in heavy metal, because it is a minority genre in the music industry. You’re fighting for every single fan you have. Pissing people off with indifference earns you bad word-of-mouth. Even if it’s not true, bad mouthing has a ripple effect.

I offer words of warning to established and struggling metal bands. Don’t get above yourself. That entitled attitude, that superiority complex, is exactly what heavy metal and punk rock have raged against since their inception. Once you cross that line, you’ve gone to the Dark Side.

Do you have a differing point of view? Are you a national act that would like to shed light on your perspective? Hit me up in the comments.

©2014 iokirkwood.com “The Dark Side of Living LaVita Local”  All Rights Reserved.

In between bouts of writing for metaldescent.com, blogging, and banging her head, I.O. Kirkwood is the author of “Subatomic Revolt” in Mike Lynch’s No Revolution Is Too Big series and the short story “The White Carpet,” a finalist in the Scribes Valley Publishing Fiction Contest in 2013.

Tempting Fate’s Illusions: A Beastly Frolic

Tempting Fate’s new eight-song offering, Illusions, made my Beast frolic. Though there were two songs that caused the apple-headed, shark- toothed and besuited bad boy of my subconscious to pause in confusion, overall the album was a deathy Metalcore M&M with an Electronicore coating (or what the band has called Dub-Metal).

Tempting Fate demonstrates a solid compositional formula. They use tempo to great effect and their songs have that deep groove I so enjoy in my metal. Things I liked included modulation on the screamed vocals, clean vocal choruses, heavy double-bass and low-tuned guitar, moderately applied synth/sampling, and melodic cut times with harmonized guitar riffs. I enjoy giving my head a sonic pummeling on a regular and recurring basis and these guys delivered with a few surprises along the way.

My favorite song currently is “Mutilation Line,” while “Get Up” and “This Is A Warning” are running close behind. All three are heavy and the lyrics are eponymous to their respective compositions. They will take their places in my Extreme Metal playlist and “Filthy,” “Run,” and “State of Unrest” will follow.

“Questions,” the first song, was my Beast’s least favorite. The lyrics are polluted by the rallying cry of “Oh my god” which personifies the whining snarkiness of the poppier end of Metalcore. “Oh my god,” should never go into a song unless it’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” by Skrillex. ”Questions” is still solid, still heavy, but the chorus ruins the vibe for me.

“Get Weird” didn’t excite my Beast either. It was the least cohesive of the songs, though the guitar solo and catchy tempo changes in the middle might be redeeming factors for some. I recommend a few listens to make sure.

This is the first time I have heard Tempting Fate’s music. Illusions isn’t the groundbreaking album that the band may have hoped for, but they did generate a high-quality, professional production relying only on their collective talents. There are fresh elements that could evolve into something definitive as the 4-piece band matures.

With an official 2010 birth year and three self-produced albums under their belt, Tempting Fate may benefit from more time on the road (maybe come out to the East coast, hmmm?). Old-school my view may be, but nothing rounds out a band’s chops like touring the U.S.A. in a cramped, stinky van for months on end, loading into and loading out of B-list venues, and playing night after night to crowds who came to see the headliner only to steal the show.

I have not seen Tempting Fate live, and anyone who has should comment below on their energy and delivery. I believe that a band should be viewed as a whole in production and in live performance.  I’ve heard rumors that they are kick-ass and would definitely like to see for myself-in person.

If Metalcore is your cuppa, keep an eye on Tempting Fate. Having made six out of eight songs onto my Beast’s Extreme Metal playlist, I expect them to get that groundbreaking formula dead to rights next album.

\m/(^^)\m/

To buy the album:

Amazon or iTunes

 

To learn more about the band:

Website: http://temptingfatemusic.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WeAreTemptingFate
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TemptingFateBnd
ReverbNation: http://www.reverbnation.com/artist_897482/bio
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/TemptingFateBand
SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/TemptingFate

Copyright © 2014 iokirkwood.com. “Tempting Fate’s Illusions: A Beastly Frolic” by I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

My Sweet Shadow, To You I Look No More

I had talked about metal music and recalling unpleasant memories in an earlier post. Wouldn’t you know it, I had the most vivid, controlled recall of my life a few days ago. I was alone, almost as if the part of my mind that controlled access to those memories had read the post, and I was fully aware.

As the memories unfolded, I expected my soul to cringe. I expected to die of mortification or to turn into a psychopathic killer that police would shoot in the middle of the street if I didn’t off myself first. I expected to disintegrate into dust or burst into flames.

Guess what?

I think it’s obvious none of those things happened. I started to laugh, actually. I laughed at the things that had crippled me for so long. I started to sing. In the middle of the night. I banged my head. I raised the horns. I danced with joy.

I sang the song of my people:

 

…Tamed with confidence of a brighter future
I found a flame in the burnt out ashes… burn out, burn out!
Fueled, these new shores burn, dark past lies cold
Shadow, my sweet shadow, to you I look no more…

–“My Sweet Shadow,” In Flames, from Soundtrack To Your Escape

 

I’m free.

Every time I think about it, I start to cry. Happy tears.

I’m fucking free and I am on fire!

 

Copyright © 2014 iokirkwood.com. “My Sweet Shadow, To You I Look No More” by I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

Metal Grrrl: I Am A Subject Not An Object

I move in male-dominated circles. I’m a metal junkie and yes, I’m learning the ropes, but I’m not some vapid groupie who is only on the scene for the 5:1 male-female ratio that stacks the odds in my favor. I’m going to shows, buying albums, buying merchandise, and writing about metal. Of all the genres of music, it is the most diverse, fascinating, and intellectually challenging.

I am an attractive female, a rarity on the scene relatively speaking, but the way I look is an accident of birth. First and foremost, I am a mind and a heart and a set of unique predispositions that are infinitely complex and interesting. I have thoughts and feelings like any other person and I want to be treated as a person, a subject.

Too often, I find myself the object of other people’s projections, male and female, and it frustrates me. Few of the people who project their assumptions on me mean any harm. Those that do are dealt with quickly.

Metal is a divine gift...

Metal is a divine gift…

Here are the assumptions in the order of their irritation factor:

Assumption #1: I have to like the kind of metal you like because I don’t have the capacity to know what I like about metal.

Assumption #2: I pretend to like metal because the metal scene is the male-female ratio equivalent of Alaska.

Assumption #3: I can’t appreciate the raw energy of metal because I’m a helpless, passive female.

Those are my top three pet-peeves. I do understand that these assumptions are based on partial fact, but usually the model of choice is the girlfriends or wives of musicians in the genre. I’m not knocking these women either. Just because my ex-husband liked baseball and played in a league didn’t mean I had to do the same.

Assumptions are like spiders. I HATE spiders.

Assumptions are like spiders. I HATE spiders.

I will address each assumption, so if I’ve handed you my card at a metal show and you thought you knew what I’m about, you can read this post and get the skinny on what I’m REALLY about.

Assumption Buster #1: I studied music. I’m a vocalist. I was raised in a musical family and I’ve raised an extreme metal drummer. Thrash metal is one of my favorite subgenres, but I also like Djent, Groove, Melodic Death, Progressive, Power, and the list goes on. I think my least favorite genre is Black Metal though I do enjoy black metal elements in other subgenres.  WARNING: A band can’t tell me their music is Mathcore and then have none of the Mathcore elements in their compositions. I will call that and I will bust balls.

Assumption Buster #2: I don’t pretend anything. I won’t pretend to like a band that sucks. I won’t spend my money on a band that sucks. I won’t pretend to like you and I don’t care what band you’re in if you’re a douche-bag. I won’t deny that I prefer guys who prefer metal. I won’t deny that I like the odds. I don’t pretend.

Assumption Buster #3: I got knocked down at the last show I attended. I wasn’t even in the mosh pit. I was singled out and dragged from the sidelines against my will by a guy twice my size. Needless to say, when I got back up, my inner Beast was growling and I was about a hair’s breadth away from an old-fashioned Irish war spasm a la Cu Chulainn.  I busted chops as I waded back to the sidelines and my Beast approved. Don’t tell me I can’t appreciate raw energy because I’ve been familiar with metal and mosh pits longer than you’ve been out of diapers.

The lesson here is even though you’ve met me, assessed me, and dismissed me with one or all of the above assumptions doesn’t mean you know me. Any more than I would know you based on the metal head stereotypes that have cropped up over the years.

So check your assumptions at the door. I’m here to enjoy a metal show. Everything else is gravy as long as it’s based on the actuality of my being a subject: a thinking, feeling individual with an autonomous existence that transcends stereotypes and projections. I’ll return the favor. I promise.

Copyright © 2014 iokirkwood.com. “Metal Grrrl: I Am A Subject Not An Object” by I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

Rage With the Beast

I’ve been asking myself why metal music makes me shiver. Particular songs just make my skin prickle and bring such intense, all-over pleasure that it has caused me to question some fundamental understandings about myself.

I asked my son about this and he told me, “You’re getting in touch with your rage.” He should know. I think he inherited mine in utero.

angry

My son says his beast looks like a tall, roaring flame with a mouth full of teeth. Mine looks more like this. You can dress it up, but you can’t take it anywhere.

I agree that metal, especially extreme metal, can be comparable to shaving unhappy bears and setting them loose on an innocent population. But why do I love it so much? Before it had made me so uncomfortable that I ignored it.

All music is an expression of the human condition. Yes, even the vapid boy bands with their bubble gum pop riffs and saccharine lyrics express a human condition whether I agree with said condition or not. Based on this premise, I followed the threads backwards.

From an early age, I remember fear. I remember helplessness. I remember not having the power to say “no” though I screamed it in my mind. I remember pain. I remember rage. I remember crying so much that it seemed that all I tasted were tears.

I do not remember the actual events. My mind has suppressed them so successfully that only once in a blue moon will I have a complete recall. The recall is hellish.

dont pray for easy

See, I ran from my past like a tri-athlete There were years when I forgot what it was like to cry because I hated the taste and the sensation. I laughed at the most inappropriate times. Verbal arguments were fought with a desperation and viciousness that left my opponents stunned. I was ready to swing whenever I felt remotely threatened. Until I went to therapy. Until the first recall.

It’s never convenient to recall. The recall doesn’t happen while I’m sitting at home alone or with a trained therapist. The recall doesn’t care if I’m at work or if I’m at the grocery store. I am helpless in the face of it—frozen—as my awareness is transported to a  brutal moment of physical degradation in another place and time. Sometimes I am three years old. Sometimes I am in middle school. Always, I am young and I am helpless.

During a recall I receive a quantum packet of FML in about thirty seconds. No lube. No consideration for whether there are spectators or not. No “thank you” afterwards.

At first I thought it was because I was in therapy. But when I had reached a point where therapy had done what it could, including medication for an incapacitating anxiety disorder that rendered me agoraphobic for three months, I realized that I needed to take control of my past.

wired to suffer

I started by asking for tears. In 2009 I cried de Nile River. That was when my love for heavy metal truly blossomed. All the old standbys from my adolescence came into play: Sabbath, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Metallica and some newer, angrier hard rock/heavy metal acts like Godsmack, Alice in Chains, Black Label Society, Chevelle, Mastodon and QOTSA got their time. Anything that talked about the rage and the helplessness, the establishment and the insanity.

I realized that the music was a natural release valve for all the pent up rage that boiled inside of me. What I didn’t realize until five months ago was that the above mentioned music only scraped the surface.

I have October 8, 2013 marked as a turning point. I went to my first all extreme metal show. Screams and growls mostly. Blast beats a requirement.

At this show were a number of thrash metal bands, three of which stood out for me. The first was my son’s band Xstrophy and I go to almost every show now because they have opened up a whole new world for me. The second was Exemptus just because they have a sheer energy that engages me on a visceral level. The third was Battlecross.

If you’re friends with me on FaceBook, you know that this band is my all time favorite thrash metal band. It isn’t because the music is phenomenal. It isn’t that they are just all around great guys who know how to put on an amazing show. Though the aforementioned certainly contributed, what made them special is that their music helped me communicate with my Beast.

worst day

I wish I had started that young…

For the first time, I could get in touch with my rage and it didn’t scare the crap out of me. Together, my Beast and I could thrash and wrestle and scream and growl, and let me tell you, it feels freakin’ incredible. No one gets hurt, least of all me, and I come out grinning like a fiend.

The happy side effect is that instead of getting bludgeoned by total recall, my rage is feeding me the feelings in small doses. Instead of going catatonic, I get to step back and examine the pain, the helplessness, and the fear from a place of empowerment. I never expected something as extreme as, well, extreme metal to be so therapeutic. From In Flames to Meshuggah to After the Burial to All Shall Perish, I am discovering a whole new world inside of me where the things that go “grrr” in the night are my allies. \m/

Copyright © 2014 iokirkwood.com. “Rage With the Beast” by I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.