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Fresh Cuts and Old Wounds, Issue 3
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Some people ask me why I listen to Heavy Metal. I can't really explain it. I just counter with that I can't listen to anything else. (Which is a lie, I mean, I have heaps of different stuff in my collection, it just so happens 80-90% is metal.) I turn on the radio to a commercial station and it bores me. The bulk of pop music is so bland and derivative it may as well be a puff of benign smoke that gently breezes past every time you listen to it. Most of the time, you don't even notice it's there. Metal, on the other hand is a gale force miasma that knocks you off your seat. It's loud, it's rambunctious and it's aggressive. You won't have to squint to see it happening. I say this because I was fortunate enough to experience Gigantour for the second time in as many years. Lacuna Coil, DevilDriver and Static-X all performed admirably, but the mass was undoubtedbly there to see Dave Mustaine of MEGADETH strut his stuff. And he never dissapoints. There is an unmistakable force of sound, muscle and fury that envelops you whenever you cautiously enter a moshpit. (in this case, a mammoth 50-meter wide one, started by DevilDriver!)

Although LC played a cracking cover of Depeche Mode's Enjoy the Silence while Cristina Scabbia wooed us (The males and possibly the lesbian couple in front of me at least) with her "Emily the Strange" inspired "naughty cute suit", DevilDriver and Static-X didn't hold up much for me.

It probably sucked more so for me due to being mostly alone for the entire duration (my friends got tickets to fenced off, unlicenced areas, for some ridiculous reason) until Dave came out, because he seemed like a friend to me. I have never met him, and it goes without saying he has never even heard of me. But the nature of metal being a (semi-)accessible, (almost) grassroots genre cultivates that rare bond between spectator and performer which appeals to me in a great way. Of course, some of the more "radio-friendly"/hardcore (Slipknot) metal bands these days are as stage managed as a night of WWE Monday Night RAW, however bands such as Dark Tranquillity, Blind Guardian or Katatonia as well as local acts are usually genuine, frank and down to earth. I remember Tom S. Englund and Evergrey hanging out with us after a gig, a mere five minutes after they performed. Another reason why I am so enamored with metal is because it is escapism. It is reflexive at times, renewing states of mind i might have felt and the state of the world and everyone in it. But usually, it transports me to a different place. Dimmu Borgir and Arcturus romanticist ponderings are a great relief from the drudgery of a routine of school and work and life in general, as are the triumphant flourishes of Blind Guardian or the refined yet party atmosphere Children of Bodom brings to their music. They don't know what it would be like to kill a man in battle with a sword (*cough* Manowar) and they've never seen Valhalla (Amon Amarth) but that sense that metal can give, to step outside yourself and become a warrior, a party animal or a traveller in time is inimitable. I can relate to that desire to become one of these characters in an epic play or journey. I couldn't care less about bands who sing about going out clubbing or how their girlfriend dumped them. Just because you sing about an everyday situation doesn't make it art. It's like putting a urinal in a museum and doing the same thing...well, you get the picture.

Also, New Releases have also come to a trickle in the holiday season. The only new release i've been able to grab a hold of in stores is Gambling with the Devil by Helloween, and i'm still waiting for Land of the Free Pt. II (Gamma Ray) , The Legend of ORwarrioR (Orphaned Land) and the already much delayed Time by the legendary Wintersun. Its Christmas time, people! Movies about how big business and capitalism is evil are supposed to will you into a spending frenzy! (Name me a movie that Christmas movie that hasn't!) I've also been filling up my collection since a windfall of record store gift vouchers with larger discs, namely vinyl. Vinyl is the way music is supposed to be played in my most humble opinion - there's a warmth and wider dynamic range that CDs can never hope to fill. DVD-A performs admirably, but still sounds flat compared to the immersive glow of 180g virgin vinyl. Now many labels are re-releasing classic albums on vinyl, as well as new material (although I don't see the point in buying overproduced power metal with a artificial digital sheen draped across it...) Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin IV and Paranoid weren't meant for CDs, in my opinion! Did you want some medication for your Fresh Cuts and Old Wounds? Well, here you go!

Old Cut
Katatonia - Viva Emptiness
Released: 2003

Ok so it isn't that old. Having that said, Katatonia remain at the periphery of the archetypical "metal" sound and hence are hailed as deviants - I like to call them innovators; the avant-garde; an island of originality in a sea of derivatives. While many believed they would devolve into depressive shoegaze twaddle, Viva Emptiness blew their detractors away with a seething, scalding and monstrous effort that saw them reclaim their position at the forefront of the doom metal movement. On this record, intricate and volatile riffs are the staple, all countered with gothic touches and pained lamentations from Mr. Renske on vocals. Lost in a miasma of grey and gloom, they craft a cryptic concept album about sacrifice, longing, melancholy and sadness with an endearing touch. Evidence rings out like an earnest rendering of a man's desperation for someone he loves (a woman, best friend or even a child) that was cruelly ripped away from him by forces unknown. Although it isn't an immediate or friendly, invite yourself into their dark world and have your headspace filled with Emptiness.

Fresh Wound
Wizard - Goochan

I am a great fan of power metal. But I have limits. For example, will never ever ever buy a Rhapsody or Hammerfall album, since my suspension of disbelief will never extend so far to take Fabio Leone's autowah pedal for a voice with even a semblance of dignity. Long story short, I would always hide a secret guilt for owning Crimson Thunder and have it take up space in my CD collection. Enter Wizard. A "true power metal" band from Germany - where all power metal was born and raised - they play power metal with a heavier, thrashier twist which according to the horribly mistranslated liner notes "bring power to your ears and brain." Taking cues from the aforementioned without making themselves too obvious at times, Goochan is a concept album about an evil witch named Goochan (pronounced Goo-khan) is doused in early Helloweenish speed metal riffs, flashy bluesy licks, nutcrunch galore and triumphant gang choruses that Blind Guardian would be proud to put their name to. Normally I'd be turned off by such wanton displays of cheese, but these guys don't seem to take themselves too seriously and just have great fun in doing what they do.

Playlist for 2008

Helloween - Gambling with the Devil
Carcass - Heartwork
Black Sabbath - Paranoid
The Beatles - Rubber Soul
The Haunted - rEVOLVEr
Soilwork - Sworn to a Great Divide
The Black Dahlia Murder - Nocturnal
Iron Maiden - Number of the Beast (Happy 25th Anniversary!)
The Ramones - The Ramones
Edge of Sanity - Purgatory Afterglow

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December 20, 2007
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