Once upon a time, there was Metallica

Posted by prla1983 on September 25, 2005 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

A few days ago I finally got around to see Metallica's "Some Kind of Monster" DVD. I must admit I always found it to be a real failure of mine never really digging much into Metallica, even if nothing in their sound ever put me at bay. Much to the contrary, in fact. But somehow, even if I pretty much ever knew all of their albums I never *really* got to know them by heart.

That said, after watching SKOM in its entirety, a lot of questions are left hanging out for me, perhaps the biggest one being about the degree of authenticity of the documentary itself. I do not however find the need to discuss much about that and I'm gonna give it to them that the thing is authentic, that the tensions existed like they were pictured and all that.

After seeing the DVD (I intend to write a proper review of it in the foresseable future) I felt the urge to go back and listen not only to "St. Anger" (which is the underlying matter of this documentary) but even more so, their old stuff up until what has come to be known as the Black Album. The conclusion I arrive at is nothing new to whomever has been paying attention: what a fucking great band Metallica once were and how low can they really sink?

The way I see it is that whatever propelled the band to write all those angst-ridden tracks, the rage, the attitude... well, it's gone. I'm led to believe that when someone grows up, has children and a wife to take care of, the priorities in one's life completely change, everything is put into perspective and the rage there once was is now long gone. Once that happens it's absolutely pointless to insist in faking it, fooling oneself that it's still there, that you can go back to that past while still holding tight to the present.

But hey, who am I to judge? I have no right whatsoever of passing judgement and I know that. But it is my belief that if you accept that things change (and this applies to many stages of life) and adapt to the new surface, it is all the better and you'll rediscover yourself, unearth talents in a different fashion, stuff you probably didn't even know existed inside you in the first place. If you instead prefer to fool yourself and adding to that you're part of one of the most successful bands ever to grace the planet, the result is disaster. The result, in fact, was "St. Anger".

While reading Roger Ebert's review of the documentary, I stumbled upon a paragraph that for me really sums it all up:

Why work with people you can't stand, doing work you're sick of, and that may be killing you? Lots of people have jobs like that, but Metallica has a choice.

The good thing about Metallica's demise is that no matter how many silly lawsuits they press, no matter how silly their next album comes to be, now matter how silly Lars Ulrich insists in acting most of the time... they'll still be remembered for their golden era. And for me that's the ultimate testament to how big this band really was and will forever be.

Book Review: "Hark!" ~ Ed McBain (2004)

Posted by prla1983 on September 22, 2005 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

A few weeks ago I went into a bookstore with a couple of friends and just felt like buying a book on impulse, not knowing anything about it and see where it would take me. Selecting the international fiction shelf for my picking, it was Ed McBain's "Hark!" that got my attention and so I didn't have to think much to bring it home with me. That was the whole point right?

From the back cover description, I thought was up to something much like the acclaimed "Da Vinci Code" but while it has a couple of similarities, this turns out to be a hard-boiled police procedural, something I'm not really used to reading but which turns out to be a refreshing change.

To make a long story short, "Hark!" is the continuation of a huge on-going saga of the 87th precinct which started back in 1956 (!) and has now over fifty titles. Ed McBain must have been one of the most prolifc writers I've ever come across (I can only remember maybe Asimov and Clarke with a bigger throughput) and I'm left wondering why I never heard of him before. I said "must have been" because I just learned McBain passed away a couple of months ago after fighting a tough battle with cancer. Even if this was only the first work of his I've read, I couldn't help feeling a little sad for this loss. I hate to see people going away like this, but it's happening all the time...

As for the book itself, picture this: you got a bunch of policemen in a precinct who go about their daily routine and into the picture comes this intelligent fella who goes by the name of the Deaf Man. In case you didn't know, like I didn't know, the Deaf Man is an old acquaintance of these cops from past novels of the 87th precinct and now he's back to haunt them. He's a smart thug and like every smart thug he doesn't do things conventionally, he has a twisted mind and so spends a lot of time delivering notes to Detective Carella at the precinct with hints about whatever he's planning to do next, basically trying to break their balls. These notes are actually under the form of palindromes, anagrams and Shakespeare quotations which gives them a certain charm.

What the Deaf Man does next I'm not going to tell you but it's not the end of the world as we know it either. I found we spend too much time trying to figure out the Deaf Man charades and then the payoff doesn't satisfy and is really open-ended. But then how else do you produce a 50-year saga if you don't leave the threads hanging?

The book is definitely a page-turner and despite never having heard of the 87th Precinct before, I soon felt like I knew all the cops. There's a lot of parallel threads going on, none of which really satisfied me in the end, but which were well developed. The characters actually have some depth, are well pictured and they definitely sound like regular people going on their daily routine. It just doesn't fully deliver what it promises but I'm not complaining too much either.

May Mr. McBain rest in peace after what seems to have been a well-accomplished writing career.

Up The Irons!

Posted by prla1983 on September 10, 2005 • 1 commentsEmail This Post

Thanks to a good friend of mine (who happens to be the silent partner on this blog), I was turned into Maiden only under a year ago. They easily got into my Top 5, for what it's worth. My only regret is that I didn't get to them way earlier on. But that's another story.

Sometimes a picture is worth more than a thousand words, so I'll be brief on this entry. If any proof was needed for me to deeply love and respect Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson, Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, Nicko McBrain, Janick Gers AND Clive Burr, such need evaporated the minute I laid my eyes on these two pictures:

[ If you're puzzled by these, please refer to this link for the story behind it ]


Album Review: "Unplugged in New York" ~ Nirvana (1994)

Posted by prla1983 on September 08, 2005 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

A Truly Timeless Record

I am in that group of people who got into Nirvana not during the zenith of their career but rather shortly after Kurt Cobain passed away. In fact, I'm sad I didn't get into the whole grunge scene when it was in its peak because, bashed it might be today, it was a very important time for music at large. Bands like Nirvana, and Kurt Cobain in particular, showed that you don't need to be a technical wizard to play good and most of all heartfelt songs. Three chords are enough if you are sincere. As with many other truly great things in life, some people prefer to misunderstand the whole thing. For them, Kurt Cobain was just a junkie and Nirvana were a piece of trash that helped kill the whole 80s hair metal scene. Your mileage may vary.

I remember walking around school a decade ago and someone had a radio playing this awesome riff out loud. It puzzled me for a while until I finally heard it again, months later, at a friend's place. It was Nirvana's cover of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World". To this day, it may well be my favourite cover ever (and yes, I'm a sucker for good covers). This was also the time I got the whole show on tape and was finally able to perceive how magical that gig turned out to be. What's more eerie is that given the stage dressing, with all the candles and stuff, it's almost unavoidable to say this was like the guy singing at his own funeral (I trust you know what happened months later, if you're reading this review).

From the beautiful renditions of Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World", The Vaselines' "Jesus Don't Want Me For a Sunbeam" and Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night", through Kurt's solo spot in "Pennyroyal Tea", the Meat Puppets appearance for "Oh Me", "Lake of Fire" and "Plateau" and all the other Nirvana songs that just fit so well to the mood, this is a record that simply has no flaws. The production is crystal clear, you can easily distinguish Krist's pounding bass, Kurt's strings and Dave's smooth drumming aswell as the funny banter in between songs.

In hindsight, I have a hard time imagining the real impact this record had at the time, back in 1994 (the show itself took place in 1993). How could this heavy, punkish, hard rocking, livin-on-the-edge band just sit down and play a whole acoustic set? Thing is, they totally pulled it off, everything was completely spontaneous and that's the ultimate testament to the real genious of this band.

Remar remar

Posted by prla1983 on September 07, 2005 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

[This entry is written in Portuguese]

Mares convulsos, ressacas estranhas
Cruzam-te a alma de verde escuro
As ondas que te empurram
Aa vagas que te esmagam
Contra tudo lutas
Contra tudo falhas

Todas as tuas explosões
Redundam em silêncio
Nada me diz

Berras às bestas
Que te sufocam
Em braços viscosos
Cheios de pavor
Esse frio surdo
O frio que te envolve
Nasce na fonte
Na fonte da dor

Remar remar
Forçar a corrente
Ao mar, ao mar
Que mata a gente

Guardians Awaken (again)

Posted by prla1983 on September 05, 2005 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

Out of the progressive metal birth back in the 80s, it seems to me that the band I dig the most may just be Fates Warning (maybe along with Queensrÿche). Fates' Ray Alder is perhaps one of my favourite vocalists out there and last year's "FWX" clearly one of my favourite albums ever, so intricate and elegant it is. It was actually my first contact with Fates but soon I decided to dig deeper and the obvious standout had to be "Awaken the Guardian", the last album with John Arch on vocals. While Arch's high pitched voice doesn't make me go head over heels like it does to so many people (I very much prefer Alder's vocals) I do respect him a lot and he doesn't put me at bay at all. I instantly enjoyed "Awaken the Guardian" and was only left to rue the poor sound quality of my dated recording.

That was until today, however. I am the fortunate owner of the brand new 2005 re-mastered edition which includes not only the original album but also demos and a live DVD from Arch era. This is really a good thing, with the resurgence of metal in more mainstream circles and all, giving the chance to young and new metal fans to experience this fantastic album which pretty much kickstarted the Progressive Metal movement (please correct me if I'm wrong).

I also picked up a reissue of Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue", one of my favourite jazz records ever. It's been a while since I kicked back listening to some jazzy tunes and this is the ideal pretext to do so.

Currently digging Pelican's latest, "The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw", which reminds me a lot of Isis, whom I've come to known and love in the past few months. If you dig progressive and atmospheric stuff with a strong metal inclination and you don't know these bands, be sure to give these a try.

Quick update on things past

Posted by prla1983 on September 02, 2005 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

Lately I've been pretty much listening to Opeth, Riverside and Symphony X.

I've already written much about Opeth here lately but I'd like to point out that their new opus, "Ghost Reveries", has oficially hit the stores, so be sure to grab your copy while it's hot. I haven't had the time to check out some reviews now that it finally got released but I'm sure they're very positive. This is a very good album from a very good band. Nothing to go wrong here.

Riverside haven't ceased to amaze me since I got to know them about a year ago, even if they haven't released anything beyond their first LP and one related EP. "Out of Myself" (of which I wrote a review you can read here) has got to be one of the strongest debut albums I've ever had the pleasure to listen to. The follow-up, "Second Life Syndrome", is scheduled for release on October 31st through Inside Out. If it lives up to its predecessor then it's the confirmation we have one huge progressive band coming out of Poland. If you haven't checked these guys out, I strongly encourage you to do so!

Finally, a quick note to Symphony X who have been on the road in America for the past month taking part on the Gigantour summer package. While it is awesome for them to get all this exposure, it's a pity at the same time that they only get second stage and about 25 minutes to perform each day. They must be one of the most underrated bands in metal today. Their new album is rumoured to be in the works and tentatively scheduled for release sometime early next year. I sure hope they tour Europe to support it and that they stop by close enough to me. It'd be a thrill to catch these guys live.