Sunday, February 28, 2010

Heavy Band 003: Megadeth

The only problem that I'm having selecting bands for the heavy band of the week is determining which of the band that I want to feature each week.

In April of 1983, Dave Mustaine was kicked out of Metallica, he was then determined to create a band even greater than them. Though he hasn't had the commercial success that they have, I believe that he accomplished his goal. Megadeth has had more complex music, more intelligent lyrics, and has a much more sinister sound... but first perhaps we should go back to the beginning. The only other constant member of the band is David Ellefson, though from 2003-9 he wasn't in the band. Ellefson has played some of the most influential bass riffs in metal. Dave Mustaine met David Ellefson in 1983 just a few months after Metallica had left him stranded in New York. The story goes that Ellefson heard Mustaine playing upstairs in their apartment building, he went up to Mustaine's apartment and asked if he could bum a smoke. Mustaine closed the door in his face, and Ellefson returned a few minutes later with some money, asking if Mustaine could buy them some liquor. Mustaine replied something like, "Now you're talking." They bought some booze, he revealed that he could kind of play bass, they got drunk and jammed.
The first album that they released was Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good. This album sounds a lot like Metallica's Kill 'Em All album, due to the fact that Dave developed a lot of the songs for Kill 'Em All and he recycled several of the riffs for Killing Is My Business, but in addition to this he added several other riffs that he had been working on since. The album was speedy and thick with truly sick riffs. There were so many riffs in this album that it could have been expanded into 5 separate albums, each of which would have sounded pretty awesome. Killing Is My Business foreshadows the greatness to come. In addition to the kickass title track, the songs Skull Beneath The Skin introduces the band's mascot Vic Rattlehead, who is featured on the front cover, a skull with a visor nailed to his eyes with meathooks holding shut his mouth. The song Rattlehead is perhaps the heaviest song from 1985. It has a speedy feel of the fastest Judas Priest song.
1986 brought Megadeth's second release Peace Sells...But Who's Buying? The title track was a very cynical take on our society. The intro bass riff to the song is one of the most awesome of all time. The bass riff was used as an intro for MTV News for over a decade. Megadeth's cynicism that began on this album was refreshing in the 1980s when no one was questioning societal norms, everyone was just happy to be sheep. Songs like The Conjuring and Good Mourning/Black Friday showed some of the most metal heavy guitar licks, with lyrics about occult topics.
Megadeth's third album So Far, So Good... So What! featured an occult heavy song by the name of Mary Jane that would be worthy of old school Black Sabbath. Mustaine wrote the song In My Darkest Hour after finding out about the death of his former band mate Metallica's Cliff Burton.
Rust in Peace is an amazing work. Every song is a masterpiece. Holy Wars...The Punishment Due is the first song on it. It is the tale of a man who has lost everything that he has, due to the fact that he worships in the wrong church. "They killed my wife and my baby...tried to enslave me." Hanger 18 delves into US conspiracies, specifically Hanger 18 in Roswell NM. The drum intro to Rust in Peace...Polaris leading into the sick guitar riffing makes it one of the hardest songs of all time. Never to be heard on the radio, in part due to its message about nuclear arms. This album is my all time favorite Megadeth album.
In the early 1990s Megadeth continued with their hard rocking with Countdown to Extinction. Countdown to Extinction is the most commercially successful album released by Megadeth. This is in contrast to it being the most political album to be released in 1992. The songs Symphony of Destruction and Architecture of Aggression are about dictatorships and the buildup of the military industrial complex. Foreclosure of a Dream is about the loss of the family farm, as farms were being gobbled up by ConAgra. This was the first album not to feature Vic Rattlehead on the album cover, and he wouldn't be on another Megadeth album for the 1990s.
The last Megadeth album that I am going to write about is 1994's Youthanasia. Featuring the kickass songs Reckoning Day, Train of Consequences, and A Tout le Monde. Train of Consequences opens with the best opening lines of all time, "I'm doing you a favor, As I'm taking all your money, I guess I should feel sorry, But I don't even trust me."

Om SHAnti SHAnti SHAnti

Friday, February 26, 2010

Yoga Skeleton 15

(bow pose)
previous yoga skeletons

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Heavy Band 002: OT3P

This is my second installment in my series of examinations of hard rocking bands.

Formed in 2000, Otep has been one of the heaviest bands of the past decade. Otep takes its name from its female lead singer Otep Shamaya, who I will hence call "Shamaya" in order to avoid confusion. Most metal bands with a female lead singer tend to play melodic metal. This is not the case with Otep. Shamaya's singing ranges from subtle to overpowering, from vulnerable to vicious, from weak and whimpering to an empowered guttural growl. Her lyrics are at times ironic and comical, at other times horrific and personal.
The only other constant member of the group is "Evil" J. McGuire, whose bass playing can sometimes sound bouncy like Les Claypool's and other times driving and distorted like Geezer Butler's. He occasionally sings on songs, and the combination of his and Shamaya's growls creates an illusion of being swallowed into the bowels of Hell.
Otep's first release, the EP Jihad was released the summer of 2001. It featured five tracks, four of which that would be reworked for their first full length album Sevas Tra (the phrase Art Saves backwards). The song The Lord Is My Weapon features elements of hip hop and death metal with lyrics that call for an end to religious hypocrisies. The songs Possession and Germ sound like incantations to summon spirits.
Otep's second full length album House of Secrets opens with the song Requiem which puts you in the right mindset to listen to the album. Requiem features the sounds of Tibetan style gongs over sounds of horrific torture culminating in the voice of the victim saying an incantation to a dark goddess calling for vengeance. Requiem leads into Warhead, an indictment of the USA's leaders and lifestyle for getting us into a war in Iraq over oil. Warhead ends with a call to "Break Free!" The third song on House of Secrets is Buried Alive, which begins calmly with the lyrics: "I speak in verses, prophecies, and curses." From there the song slowly grows into a testament of rage. The title track of House of Secrets is haunting and bluesy, anchoring the whole album to a liberation for the victims of abuse.
Otep's third full length album The Ascension is somewhat softer and it has more humor in it that the prior two albums. Though the first song Eet the Children evokes the imagery of the victim, it also contains the lyrics: "Operators are standing by, Some restrictions may apply, Side effects could include, We'll steal the life right out of you." The song Crooked Spoons contains the line: "Take me down... Where the baptized drown." The song Perfectly Flawed is almost a ballad. The song Confrontation brings back the pious rage against the wealthy in their high towers sending impoverished pawns to battle. Though The Ascension contains some softer songs, there is still plenty of heavy songs to get your blood pumping.
Otep's latest album Smash the Control Machine opens with the driving Rise, Rebel, Resist. Smash the Control Machine is Otep's most political album. The album's title track is an outright indictment of capitalism and complacent consumerism. It questions why the quality of life divide between wealthy and poor is becoming so great, and it urges us to wake up and rise up against they who would exploit us. The song Kisses and Kerosene again evokes the images of the victim of abuse's wishes to have vengeance upon her abuser.
Otep is definitely one of the heaviest bands in rock today, which is due to the thrash of their instruments, the dark subject matter that they choose to cover, and their charismatic frontwoman who is equally at home singing a ballad as she is shrieking, growling, whimpering, or reciting ominous passages. Long may they continue to rock in the way that I've come to love them, ever changing and uncompromising.

Om SHAnti SHAnti SHAnti

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Yoga Skeleton 14

Here's my 14th Yoga Skeleton. Finally I drew a new one after several months.

(scorpion pose)

Granted, it's a pose that I can't do anymore, but hopefully someday. For more skeleton yoga asanas see here.

Om SHAnti SHAnti SHAnti

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sequels and Remakes: '80s TV Edition

I am finally doing another post on sequels and remakes, for the first post on Disney cartoons, see here. There are countless movies in recent years that are remakes of TV series from the past. When I came up with the idea for this post last year, I wanted to do one on The A-Team, unfortunately there is a movie in production that is a remake of the series. This is my take on some remakes that could be made.

10- Night Court This movie is different from the TV series in that it is no longer a straight forward comedy, but a gritty ironic comedy that follows the lives of the people that work in the court, as well as people arraigned in the court. There are many gritty scenes that make you feel sorry for the people involved.

9- Cheers Modern movie producers have decided that an ex alcoholic who owns a bar was too depressing, as was the location of Boston. They decided to move the scenery bar to LA. The patrons are far from the working class schlubs in the TV series, now the clientele consist of music producers, people in the movie industry and models. Sam's favorite come on is that he is a casting director who can help actresses with their career. Sam readily drinks, but never appears drunk. The bar maids are no longer surly like Carla, but are extremely attractive. There are many gross out jokes and sexual humor.

8- Perfect Strangers The foreigner Balki Bartokamous is portrayed in a much more offensive manner (picture Borat). His cousin is portrayed as an equally offensive flamboyant gay man. Do not watch this film unless you appreciate truly tasteless movies.

7- Alf
This movie turns the sci-fi/comedy into a sci-fi/horror/comedy. Initially the furry protagonist doesn't harm the family that takes him in, but neighborhood cats keep being found mutilated. Talks of the chupacabra abound. The family doesn't suspect a thing until their nosy neighbors start being found disemboweled. Alf finally attacks the family who took him in. And only the young boy of the family is able to survive. He does so by destroying the beast, who will only regenerate and come back for countless sequels. Look for tons of ironic pop cultural references.

6- The Facts of Life A musical adaptation of the sitcom. Produced by Disney with the attempt to ride on the coattails of High School Musical. All of the students at the all girls school are attractive. There is no overweight Natalie, or a tomboyish Jo, Tootie doesn't have braces, and even Mrs. Garrett is pretty attractive. The same jokes are made, though they no longer make sense. No lessons are learned, except through song. Everyone is happy and enjoys each others' company.

5- WKRP in Cincinnati Attempting for an accurate portrayal of the goings on at a modern radio station. Unfortunately many things have changed. There are only three DJs, a news director, a station manager, and a receptionist. Most of the sexual innuendos toward the receptionist have been done away with, so that no one will have sexual harassment charges filed against them, and the DJs are only in for a few hours a piece on Monday to record their filler which is added to computer generated playlists. The one on air personality who is in daily is the news director, who is in for one hour per day to record news snippets.

4- Magnum PI The remake of this classic show is played for ironic humor and has Will Ferrell cast in the leading role. Many jokes are made pertaining to Magnum's hairy chest, with Will wearing a gorilla suit in several scenes. It's the traditional slapstick fare that will only appeal to those with an IQ below 70, with most jokes made just on the differences in style between the 1980s and today.

3- Small Wonder
The movie adaptation of this 1980's gem has a scientist creating a little girl robot not to have a daughter for his family, but creating a vicious man killing robot to entrap and kill internet predators. He implants a number of weapons in her including: heat vision, electric touch, and incredible robot strength. The movie is a combination of Bionic Woman and Hard Candy. She is destroyed at the end, but is restored in countless sequels.

2- Bosom Buddies In the film adaptation Kip and Henry decide to move into a women's only apartment building, by dressing and posing as women in order to live there. The similarities to the TV show end there, as they've turned it into a gross out comedy in order to make bank at the box office. Look for Kip and Henry to be trapped in areas with women who are doing the most disgusting stuff: big women who have explosive diarrhea, bodily fluids abound, and maybe even some menstrual humor.

1-Dallas: Who Really Shot JR? Dallas was the quintessential 1980s Prime Time Soap Opera, and Who Shot JR? was the ultimate cliffhanger for the series. In the remake of the series for the big screen a new plot is thrown in. In the movie, JR is given the chance to either be killed or for his brother to be killed. This option is given to him by Frank from Donnie Darko, who we now discover is a time lord and incarnation of the elder god Yog Sothoth. The movie runs like an ironic It's A Wonderful Life with JR deciding that it's no big choice for Bobby to die in his place. It then comes out that the Yog Sothoth will allow Bobby to live, and that it will only appear to be a dream. No lessons are learned in this big screen adaptation.

Om SHAnti SHAnti SHAnti

Friday, February 12, 2010

Heavy Band 001: Guns 'N' Roses

I'm going to start trying to post a blog on every Saturday about a Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Band.

The first band that I've chosen to feature is Guns N Roses. Once I started listening to GNR I realized that I could never listen to Bon Jovi again. I saw the commercial for 1988's Dirty Hairy: Dead Pool. It featured GNR's Welcome to the Jungle, one of the heaviest songs of all time. I purchased the album Appetite for Destruction soon after. It's So Easy has perhaps the hardest rocking intro of any songs on the album. The intro is reminiscent of Judas Priest's intro to Rapid Fire with it's driving guitar section. Mister Brownstone is just an awesome track with the raunch of Nazareth (aside from Love Hurts). Far from Nirvana being the end of Hair/Butt Metal, this album made savage wounds that allowed Nevermind to make the killing shot.
Though GNR constantly changed lineups, even in the old days, I cannot bring myself to listen to Axl's new incarnations of what was an awesome band. I like GNR best when Slash, Izzy, and Duff were in the line up.

GNR followed up the huge success that was with Appetite for Destruction with GN'R Lies. The first half of GN'R Lies consisted of a live EP that was released prior to Appetite for Destruction. The album opens with the speedy, driven Reckless Life. Reckless Life is the seminal song for early GNR, showing influences of Aerosmith. This influence is also seen in their cover of Mama Kin on the end of the first side. The second side of the album begins with the acoustic ballad Patience, and ended with perhaps GNR's most controversial song of all time. One in a Million offends so many people with it's xenophobic, racist, and homophobic lyrics. Axl Rose insisted that the song was to be taken ironically, and that he wrote it because of anger that he felt towards specific individuals.
GNR followed Lies with the ambitious double album Use Your Illusion parts 1&2. These albums showed much more blues influence, as is seen in the tracks Dust N' Bones, Shotgun Blues, 14 Years, and Bad Obsession. The album also shows folk music influences on the songs You Ain't the First and Civil War. These albums have the most eclectic sound of any of GNR's, with songs that could be played in a smoky bar, and others that you could only see being played in a packed stadium.
The final GNR album with the classic lineup was The Spaghetti Incident, an album of all cover songs that shows many of their influences. The genres covered on the album include punk, raunchy hard rock, hardcore, glam rock, and even a tune by Charles Manson.
After The Spaghetti Incident, the classic lineup fell apart. Axl Rose took 15 years to write Chinese Democracy, with an indistinguishable band. Most of the other band members united with Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots to form Velvet Revolver. Though all parts make decent music, they have yet to make music that captures the same kind of energy that they were able to capture in the late '80s and early '90s.

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Heavy Metal Yogi by Nick Matthaes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.