Auditory Assault

” To me there’s only two kinds of music, there’s good and there’s bad. You know it doesn’t matter what genre of music, you can tell when it’s coming from the soul and when it’s coming from a different agenda, when you can tell the difference between product and art.”
— Ministry’s Al Jourgenson talking to Metal Masters.

Intro …

This week’s most listened to CDs by yours truly were Black Label Society’s “Mafia” (review forthcoming), H.I.M.’s “Razorblade Romance” (still trying to figure that one out) and Trivium’s “Ascendancy” (review, also, forthcoming).

I’ve been thinking about music genres lately … not so much in the vein of classifying bands, more about the birth and death of the popular genre.

According to popular lore, hair bands ruled the late 80s, giving way in the early 90s to grunge. Grunge gave way to nu-metal (a term I refuse to acknowledge aside from trying to make my point here), then to a more hardcore/metal hybrid. Really, I have no desire to start picking apart genre labels — overall I hate the way the media attempts to hyper-categorize music, though, if you desire more knowledge on the topic, Gloomchen put together a nice piece on the topic late last year.

I’m more of a like it/hate it sort of guy … though I strongly dislike those who deem everything they don’t like as crap. Look, I’m a metal head — that actually affords me a wide base of music to listen to (from Warrant to Slayer to Hatebreed to Lamb of God); yes, I do listen to other music besides metal. I don’t really care for rap or R&B at all, though through the years I have heard songs that I’ve liked a little. And, just because I don’t like Snoop, doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you everything the guy does is terrible since I don’t like it (I know we all love our own things).

What I wonder is, what exactly creates these massive waves of genre recognition with twinges of disgust left in the wake? The pop-metal of the 80’s reached a crescendo towards the end of the decade, with Slaughter, Poison, Bon Jovi, Warrant, Winger and so on ruling the roost. Some point to a complete over-saturation of the market leading to the revolt. And many are quick to point out that for all the good bands, there was an equal amount of bad ones ruining the good name.

What I’m still listening to from this timeframe: Bon Jovi, Faster Pussycat, Guns N’ Roses, L.A. Guns, Queensryche, Poison, Skid Row, Warrant, Winger (and some I’m probably forgetting).

The grunge explosion took up the first half of the 90s, but instead of the full revolt seen with 80s metal, the entire scene seemed to just peter out in the end. Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain died so Nirvana was no more, Soundgarden disbanded, as did the Smashing Pumpkins. Alice in Chains’ front man Layne Staley fought personal demons that ultimately killed him, so new music from the band was soon few and far between.

What I’m still listening to from this timeframe: Alice in Chains, Nirvana (though not so much), Pearl Jam and bands not directly involved in the grunge movement – Candlebox, Sponge, Sunny Day Real Estate.

Rap-infused metal was nothing new (bands like Biohazard had been doing things similar for years), but that seemed to be what took hold of the late 90s. Korn’s third offering just exploded, along with the debut from Limp Bizkit. The genre shift was also connected to a more distorted, down-tuned metal movement, most notably in bands like The Deftones and Coal Chamber. The “sound” was quickly replicated by a multitude of bands until you couldn’t tell one band from the next on commercial radio.

Personally, I always felt that this “sound” was more an extension of metal … there wasn’t really anything “new” to the sound here. Coal Chamber was just a metal band to me, though the band somehow morphed into the godparents of nu-metal, a term I hate to this day as it essentially is only a label the “cool” people use to sift through the music they hate (“Oh, band X is just nu-metal, they suck!”).

Meanwhile, while these massive shifts in music took place on a popular level, there were bands like Iron Maiden, Slayer, Fear Factory, Sepultura and so on simply doing what they did and avoiding the “labels” that would lead to the demise of many bands. (For example, once grunge got popular, if you were a hair band, you were dead in the water.)

Which I guess leads me to the point I was trying to make: Why, once popular tastes shift, do so many turn their backs on the music they loved before? See, I know music trends have come and gone (and I’m not even touching the more pop-oriented or rap-related music movements of the past 15 or 20 years), but I still like what I liked. I still spin a couple of Warrant tracks between Children of Bodom and Killswitch Engage; I’ll take Pearl Jam on a long trip, along with Cradle of Filth and L.A. Guns; old Sunny Day Real Estate material sounds great next to Thursday and Hatebreed. I’m not ashamed of the older, popular material that still graces my collection.

Totally off topic but related: I once knew a girl who was a big fan of Hanson. She had the album (back when there was only one), posters, shirts, etc. But, even though she loved the band and loved her shirt, she refused to wear it out in public. If the topic was brought up among strangers, she claimed to not even know the band. I never understood the point; I understood she thought it was embarrassing, but if you really like a band so much, who cares what others think. In the end, all they can do is fault you for taste, but you can never be faulted for being a fan.

So that’s why I don’t take it too hard when people point out bands I am a fan of. I like a lot of stuff, and I think it’s all good (otherwise, why would I be a fan?). So, while I might predominately listen to Lamb of God, Hatebreed, Mastondon, Slipknot and the rest of the new metal movement, I’ll never forget where I come from … and I’ll keep flying the fan-flag of the bands I love that just aren’t “cool” anymore.

In brief …

..:..The last Ozzfest rumor..:.. Far be it for me to create my own rumor, but I haven’t heard anything about this anywhere else: while tooling around the Ozzfest Web site the other day, I noticed there is an empty slot on the Main Stage that has yet to be filled (actually, to set the rumor straight, I had reported Killswitch Engage would be in the spot, but the same page with the empty slot states the band will be on the second stage). Could this be the empty slot for the much-rumored return of Anthrax’s “Among the Living” line-up? Or is it someone else? Stay tuned and check here for the complete line-up to this year’s Ozzfest.

..:..Roadrunner turns 25..:.. In celebration of 25 years of business, Roadrunner Records is planning an all-star disc of original material, collaborations between past and present Roadrunner stars. Four central musicians were tapped to write and produce material (including Robert Flynn of Machine Head, Joey Jordison of Slipknot and Dino Cazares formerly of Fear Factory — a fourth is yet-to-be-named). Others involved in the project so far include Andreas Kisser (Sepultura), Paul Gray (Slipknot), Roy Mayorga (ex-Soulfly), Logan Mader (ex-Machine Head), Marcelo Dias (ex-Soulfly), Dave McClain (Machine Head), Nadja Peulen (ex-Coal Chamber) and Mike Sarkisyan (Spineshank). Then, of course, there’s a slew of not yet confirmed musicians including King Diamond and James Murphy. The album is tentatively scheduled for release in the Fall of 2005. For much more information on the project, go here.

..:..Zombie news..:.. John 5 (formerly of Marilyn Manson) will be performing with Rob Zombie during the Ozzfest tour. In a post over at Blabbermouth, Zombie was quoted as saying “I haven’t really officially said this yet but once again I will be hitting the road with Ozzfest. This time I’ve decided to headline the second stage. Main is a drag, man. It’s so uptight that it is almost a bore … This should be insane.” Zombie performed with John 5 at a recent benefit show and said that “Thunder Kiss 65” never sounded so good.

..:..Attention aspiring artists..:.. Machine Head has asked fans (via its official Web site) to design tour flyers for the band’s upcoming States Turn Blue to Gray tour (also featuring Devildriver, The Haunted and It Dies Today). The grand prize will feature the entire CD discography from each band (autographed by the band), assorted Machine Head knick-knacks (posters, stickers, T-shirts, etc.), a $50 gift certificate to Hot Topic, a one-year subscription to Decibel magazine and all-access admission to the States Turn Blue To Gray stop closest to your hometown. There are also solid second and third place prizes. For complete information on the contest, along with details on exactly what the band is looking for, go here.

..:..Planning stages..:.. Icepick (featuring Hatebreed front man Jamey Jasta and Skarhead singer Lord Ezec) has set “Violent Epiphany” as the title of their upcoming debut album, tentatively due later in the year via Stillborn Records. Audioslave have set “Out of Exile” as the title of its sophomore album, due on May 24 via Interscope. The very cool All That Remains will be taping its show at the Whiskey A Go Go (in West Hollywood) tonight for a potential DVD release. Fear Factory has started pre-production on 15 tracks for the band’s next album. Megadeth are tentatively planning on calling the group’s upcoming greatest hits collection “Back to the Start” (songs will be placed from newest to oldest on the disc). Hatebreed has made plans to enter the studio around May/June to begin working on their next album (a fall release is expected). A new At The Drive-In compilation of rarities, b-sides and more called “This Station Is Non-Operational” will see a May 24 release date through Fearless Records.

Mix of the moment…

Here’s a little mix I put together featuring the song’s I’ve been listening to a lot lately (or songs I wish I’d be listening to more). Check one, some or all of them out … who knows, you might discover something you like or remember something you used to …

Warrant: “D.R.F.S.R.” (off “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin’ Rich”)
Lamb of God: “As the Palaces Burn” (off “As the Palaces Burn”)
Black Label Society: “In This River” (off “Mafia”)
Alice in Chains: “And We Die Young” (off “Facelift”)
Faster Pussycat: “Nonstop to Nowhere” (off “Whipped”)
Slayer: “Raining Blood” (off “Reign in Blood”)
Fear Factory: “Edgecrusher” (off “Obsolete”)
Metallica: “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” (off “Master of Puppets”)
Trivium: “Dying in Your Arms” (off “Ascendancy”)
Poison: “Something to Believe In” (off “Flesh and Blood”)

In closing…

I took special care in crafting this week’s “Mix” to further illustrate what I was talking about at the beginning of the column. Also, keep an eye out for upcoming reviews from me (new ones from Black Label Society, Trivium and Norma Jean).

And you may have noticed there was no “album of the week” this week. I’m rolling over Warrant’s “Dog Eat Dog” from last week (for more information on said disc, I refer you to last week’s column).

In the meantime, check out these great columns:
Gloomchen lets late 80s bands battle it out to an outcome I don’t entirely agree with.

Meanwhile, Shawn thinks I don’t read his column, though I do…

Chadwick looks at the art of reviving a career.

And Mathan will have something new out tomorrow, but until then, enjoy last week’s column.

And that’s that. As always, drop me a line. Until next time, I’ll be here at Inside Pulse making sure no metal news falls through the cracks.

Take it easy…