Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Children of Black Sabbath (and Sabbath’s Return)

Every self respecting and heavy sounding metal/rock/grunge band that has ever existed, from Soundgarden to Alice In Chains to The Melvins, owes their existence to the original Black Sabbath line up of Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward. Although Led Zeppelin definitely had a hand in the creation of heavy metal and grunge, along with Jimmy Hendrix, their sound would be paid homage to in the early Pearl Jam albums. Albums that are definitely not metal, as it is defined sonically, and in many aspects may not even be grunge in its purest form. The slow, grinding, and psychologically horror tinged dark music that would finally and honestly become mainstream, and define the sound of grunge most succinctly, with the success of the aforementioned Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, is completely owed to Black Sabbath’s early sound. In fact, a careful listen to Black Sabbath (1970) reveals that Ozzy and company are actually the true sonic “godfathers of grunge.” Going even further, Black Sabbath are the spiritual parents of even the even darker bands that slog around the death metal hollows such as Morbid Angel and Celtic Frost. The singers in these bands can’t really be called singers, though. Ozzy can definitely sing, and that’s why Black Sabbath is much more the godfather of grunge than death metal. Chris Cornell and the late Layne Staley can and could really wail. Yes, metal heads and grung-o-philes the world over definitely owe Sabbath a huge debt of gratitude for the trail they blazed musically with their first few albums…

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Disturbed: The Lost Children

“BWAHK!” This guttural utterance of David Draiman’s, that permeated Disturbed’s first rock chart breakthrough track, "Stupify" pretty much put me off the band for nearly a lifetime. Being a dyed in the flannel acolyte of the grunge movement, I pretty much swore off all nu-metal anyway, and make no mistake, Disturbed was definitely nu-metal. While Draiman’s staccato delivery verged on the rap-metal vocal stylings that defined the earliest progenitors of nu-metal (a la Limp Bizkit and the rap that nearly ruins Evanescence’s first break through hit “Bring Me to Life”), he could never quite be considered to be rapping. This worked in their favor, and ensured their longevity in the rock world. Of course, as I mellowed and began to listen to more types of music beyond just my beloved grunge (and U2) I began to very slowly take a mild interest in Disturbed. It seemed that Draiman was dropping his penchant for making noises the likes of which I made the morning after a drink and smoke filled night of partying while leaning over the sink (ah…college year memories). Also, their single, “Prayer” from their album Believe started to show the potential that was inherent in Disturbed. Yeah, Draiman still made a silly noise now and again, but it wasn’t “BWAHK!” so I was able to tolerate it. Since then Disturbed and my moderate interest in their music plugged along, and several albums later Disturbed had become one of the most reliable, and listenable, hard rock acts to transcend the nu-metal scene and actually remain interesting, even on a collection of b-sides and movie soundtrack contributions.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lou Reed and Metallica: Lulu

Okay…so, the collaboration immortalized above in digital video was, at its best, interesting. At its worst it was…quaint. Metallica undoubtedly cites Lou Reed as some kind of dark influence thematically, or whatever. That’s great. That doesn’t mean that they should make music together. Uniting to cover one of Reed’s classics is fine, especially since they were playing a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert. It was a hitherto overlooked possibility for a Hall concert performance pairing that had some promise. Not many Rock and Roll Hall of Fame collaborations even approach a listenable level after all, due to the often odd vocal parings that take one voice and sharply, often times tone deafly, collide it with another and ruin an otherwise great song. (Take the U2, Bruce Springsteen, and Patti Smith vocal harmonizing disaster that was their collaborative cover of “Because the Night:” great song, two distinct, and one incredible, voice(s), but put them together and…ugh.) The Metallica/Lou Reed performance was decent, but not magical or inspirational by any means. Apparently though, the Metallica camp and Lou Reed himself felt that there was enough musical magic created during their so-so collaboration that it warranted a full on writing and recording collaboration, and an 87 minute long, unintentionally funny, and unintentionally grating album titled Lulu is the result. In all honesty, the music world would have been better off if Metallica and Lou Reed, who individually are still capable of producing quality, if no longer artful or groundbreaking, music, had retired before this collaborative abomination of an album could have, not just been recorded, but conceived.