3/22/18

I played Cards Against Humanity in my first ever VIP meet and greet


An acquaintance recently paid 2531$ — that’s $3278AUD — for the privilege of meeting Metallica and scoring a front-row seat. I can’t say I’d pay that much to meet my idol, but to each their own I guess.
The concept of the pre-show VIP meet and greet is, when you think about it, an odd one. A disparate group of fans who have never met each other pay a premium to spend a short time with an artist who in all likelihood is hideously sleep-deprived and who almost certainly doesn’t know the first thing about any of the people who paid money for the intimate time together.
What usually occurs in these situations is this: most of the fans are either overwhelmingly polite, shy, or in some way in awe of the person they’ve come to see. While in a few rare cases you do get a boisterous douche mouth fan, it’s a fact that in most scenarios all eyes are on the artist. As a fan you don’t want to inadvertently be a dick by drawing the wrong kind of attention onto yourself by uttering something embarrassing or inappropriate. So you bite your tongue. The result is an almost enforced air of silence inside the room.
The onus, therefore, is on the artist to entice their fans out of their comfort zone.
Given the appalling state of music industry revenue for artists, VIP meet and greets are practically an integral part of touring. Indeed, a good touring artist knows how to talk to giddy or nervous (and quite often, very drunk) fans while maintaining a down-to-earth and fun persona. The artist is essentially a ‘host’ to a group of strangers doing something very far out of their comfort zone.
I imagine it’s hard work. Certainly, it’s something I would struggle to do, if somehow I became an even moderately successful touring act.

VIP meeting Joe Letz from Combichrist

VIP encounter with Combichrist drummer Joe Letz in a meet and greet.

Thus it was that a mate and I paid for a pre-show VIP package to meet and greet Combichrist drummer Joe Letz prior to his Incursion DJ gig in Melbourne.
As it turned out, initially all the observations above about the intricacies and awkwardness of a meet and greet turned out to be true. While I had the security blanket of attending with a familiar buddy, I had never seen Joe perform, so I was curious as to how this close and intimate experience would pan out.
Turns out, part of the ‘experience’ was a stroke of genius. In fact, it’s something I would recommend to anyone considering a meet and greet — a game of Cards Against Humanity.
I’m a huge fan of board games at social occasions for the simple reason that they work wonders in bringing people together. Now apply that to a group of strangers meeting someone ‘famous’ and you’ve given them a genuinely non-awkward reason to interact. And with Cards Against Humanity you get the added bonus that the interaction is replete with unspeakable revelations about people’s true character.
Basically, it’s the ideal ice breaker.
The look of concentration could kill a small rodent.
Pic: Kierra Thorn.

Our game went for an hour, and when our time came to an end and concluded with the mandatory poster signing and photo op, I came away with enough tour stories to write my own EBM industrial draft equivalent to This Is Spinal Tap.
There were glimpses of the tour shenanigans with Rammstein. There was fascinating insight into the causes and consequences of falling asleep in the tour bus toilet cubicle — or at an international airport. And best of all, we learnt about the vital importance of always having your own toilet paper on tour.
Towards the end of the night I realised I’d been telling people about how I’d gotten to VIP meet and greet Joe. Allegedly, he was operating on less than two hours of sleep after he’d flown in the night before from Brisbane (1300km away), he didn’t drink, and he was quite lovely to be around as he hosted a bunch of nervous strangers to a game of Cards Against Humanity.
I waited a decade to finally hear the Scooter remix of Rammstein’s Pussy in a club. Life mission accomplished.
Pic: Kierra Thorn.

And his set was great too. I’ve waited almost a decade to hear the Scooter remix of Rammstein’s Pussy in a club. So that life mission accomplished. The epic cheese glory of that track defies description. You need it in your life.
But yeah.
We also found out that it's vital to keep an eye out on your toilet paper when you're on tour.
“Someone stole my toilet paper!” exclaimed Joe.
I wasn't there. But I know happened...
True story.
True story.
Pic: Kierra Thorn.

9/30/17

Siculicidium - Land Beyond The Forest | Romanian black metal

I have a deep affection for hand-drown, black and white, low-fi black metal album illustrations.
I suspect it stems from growing up with very early Dungeons & Dragons manuals (as in, the very first editions, before it became Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition) and their wonderfully cheap-looking and somewhat out of proportion monster and warrior illustrations.
Incidentally, if that doesn’t sound very metal to you, keep in mind the unsung influence of D&D on metal and black metal in particular (not that I condone Varg Vikernes’ atrocious behaviour, but the cover of Det Som Engang Var is a knock off of The Temple Of Elemental Evil).
But that aside, for this reason I like the artwork on last year’s Land Beyond The Forest EP by Romania’s Siculicidium.

Land Beyond The Forest

Siculicidium - Land Beyond The Forest 

Notwithstanding the fact that the cover illustration is courtesy of Witchfinder from none other than Reverend Bizarre, Land Beyond The Forest is a mixed bag. Siculicidium’s previous full-length, Hosszú Út Az Örökkévalóságba (yeah, I had trouble saying it too) was in 2013, and this follow-up consists of an intro and three new tracks, plus three covers, including a Swans track.
It’s fairly crude black metal, not massively fast or blast-beaty or violent. I feel it’s kind of unimaginative and is dominated by the same growly and inhuman albeit monotonous vocals.
In fact, main-man Béla Lugosi told Zero Tolerance magazine after its release: “Sadly, we couldn’t catch the perfect atmosphere when we recorded. I’m not so happy with the final result, only the drums by Khrul are great!”
Those drums, incidentally, are pretty basic. There is little in the way of fills, texture, or much of anything else, and they could easily be replicated by a machine.
But whatever. People obviously dig Siculicidium. That’s why they’ve got two full-lengths and four EPs. Plus, the world needs more Eastern European black metal bands.
The subjective question of whether the Land Beyond The Forest EP is ‘good’ is secondary to the fact that their music just happens to work for those who appreciate black metal that is minimalist but not overly atmospheric (in itself a black metal paradox — and a discussion for a different time). That, I feel, is something that comes through in the album artwork.
Entire volumes could be written — which makes it yet another discussion for another time — on the paradox of associating and separating any visual aesthetic with black metal music itself.
As far as I’m concerned, if you go to the effort of selecting suitable album artwork, let alone commission something specific, then the element of your art that happens to be visual is a direct reflection of the remainder of that same work of art, which happens to be sonic.
Which means that, like the sound of the Land Beyond The Forest EP, so too is the picture on the cover — created and commissioned  with the intent of bringing to life the recording — a reflection and an expression of that minimalist aesthetic.
With this album cover, I love the hand-drawn qualities to the trees, the winding path, the wacky over-sized mushrooms, and the portal to another world. It embodies the weirdness, the absolute niche nature of this music, and brilliantly captures the folky, dark fantasy lore nature of what this band is about, even if it’s something that doesn't necessarily come out merely by listening to it, but has to be learned by way of explanation.
The only thing that’s not so cool? The hard-to-miss and juvenile erotic stylisation of female genitals into that gate.
For all its dark grimness, Siculicidium - Land Beyond The Forest clearly has an element of tongue in cheek going for 





9/27/17

Awesome club moment #3 | I discover magical summoning powers at the Aesthetic Perfection gig

I’m going to call this post “I discover magical summoning powers at the Aesthetic Perfection gig”. Alternatively, “a funny thing happened to me on the way to the Aesthetic Perfection concert” will do. Or even “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not at the Aesthetic Perfection gig anymore.”
In 2010, which is a date that feels like it was far more recent than it actually was, I got to see EBM-industrial-pop outfit Aesthetic Perfection on their Australian tour. The show was organised by Rivetting Promotions (sic) and Fiend, and since it was the Melbourne leg, it was attended by a bunch of people, including Gerry (aka Lobotomy) from Fiend. Try to remember that bit because it relates to the rest of the story.
Aesthetic Perfection front-man Daniel Graves demonstrates the correct procedure for initiating the summoning ritual. Pic: Ruth.

To be clear: this post isn’t strictly about the gig. Just take my word that it was a fantastic show and Daniel Graves is a top front-man. This was despite a couple things not being quite in favour of the band. For one, the stage was very small, so much so that I vaguely recall that the drum kit may even have been positioned somewhat less frontal for everything to fit. Also, the sound wasn’t the best, though through no fault of Aesthetic Perfection or the promoters — the room in which they played simply wasn’t intended for thumping industrial music.
The gig wasn’t sold out but when Aesthetic Perfection did their thing it felt massive. This was an industrial music outfit beaming with energy and I genuinely believe that for a not inconsiderable amount of time the whole room was up and at it.
And, of course, Aesthetic Perfection make great music. Plus, Daniel Graves seemed like a lovely chap who was nice enough to hang out with the fans afterwards. I even have a selfie with the lads buried somewhere in my archives.
But as I said, this isn't about the band, as good as they were.

What really makes a great gig?

Great gigs are often memorable because of something unusual or unexpected. Ozzy Osbourne and Dream Theater have played thousands of concerts but the individual shows that are still talked about are when Ozzy bit the head off a bat (and incidentally got tons of publicity from the rabies shots) or when Dream Theater unexpectedly played the entirety of Master Of Puppets or The Number Of The Beast before actually doing a full-length‘proper’ set.
So too was it with this occasion. That’s because the Aesthetic Perfection show will for me always be the time I discovered I had magical summoning powers.
And just in case you were wondering, yes, a higher than average volume of alcohol was involved.
2010? Was it really so long ago?

This peculiar discovery occurred during the last break between bands — Sirus had finished and Aesthetic Perfection were up next. I’d gone outside to grab some fresh air, which of course meant hanging out with the smokers who stampeded to the exit the moment Sirus had finished.
I’d struck up a conversation with an old mate. You may know the type — a gig acquaintance who you don’t see outside of shows but you always get along with fine at shows. We were talking about music (of course) and people and ‘the scene’ (because I was significantly younger then) when one of us just happened to refer to someone by name.
At that precise moment, the person we had just mentioned by name casually emerged from the venue entrance.
“Well,” old mate and I conveyed to each other, as we metaphorically slapped each other on the back.
As I said, we’d had a few drinks.
We continued our banter, dropping more names and bands and more bands, when the same thing occurred. Again, someone we’d referred to by name mysteriously exited the venue and was standing in the door way.
“Good Lord!” we both thought, which is quite probably a polite interpretation of the words we actually uttered.
Again, we’d had a little more than usual to drink. So, naturally, we drew attention to this occurrence by making a noisy and obnoxiously big deal of it.
Obviously, we then thought it’d be pretty funny if we channelled our collective consciousness and attempted to make somebody else materialise in the doorway.
It went something like this.
Old Mate: “Gerry!” (referring to Gerry the promoter)
Me: “Great idea, let’s summon Gerry!”
Old Mate: “Ok. Bring me Gerry. Gerry, Gerry, Gerry. Gerry Gerry. Bring me Gerry!”
Now, most likely it was coincidence. Or maybe there was some other influence.
Either way, sure enough, standing right there in the doorway, was Gerry.
By now you can probably imagine how we responded. And when Old Mate and I finally calmed down we explained what had just occurred.
And Gerry, with brilliant wit and perfect timing, responded.
“Yeah, I was just standing in the venue when I had this sudden urge to step outside,” he said.
"Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu Gerry Gerry Gerry R’lyeh wgah’ngl fhtagn!" Pic: Ruth

Did I mention it was a great gig? Aesthetic Perfection put on a killer performance despite being challenged for space on stage. No one left disappointed that night.
Plus, you never know when you'll discover that you have magical summoning powers.



  • Next awesome club moment

8/11/17

Awesome club moment #2 | I discover what hardcore is about with the DJ Producer and friends

Here’s one about a DJ who toured Australia. The occasion was the DJ Producer (read the comments behind that link to get an idea of what many hardcore techno gabber types think of him) and while musical instrument-playing purists may argue one particular old chestnut — that to play pre-recorded music is not a ‘proper’ gig — this was a monster occasion in every sense other than the fact that there weren’t a bunch of people on a stage playing stringed instruments. On the other hand, it was a club venue (Inflation), so I’m counting it as a Memorable Club Moment.

The DJ Producer smashes Melbourne

The DJ Producer. Not actually in Melbourne in this photo. Pic: Discogs.com

There are a couple of reasons why this night remains memorable, despite the grandiose volume of alcohol consumed and the fact that it occurred almost10 years ago.
In 2007 (yes, it was that long ago) I had kind of started to get into hardcore techno, gabber and breakcore. I had genuine dreams of DJing this kind of music at actual club nights and (perhaps somewhat naively) I made a point of purchasing a whole bunch of this music on vinyl. I was determined to somehow be the real deal, whatever that was, and, as this still the pre-streaming-everything or even pre-everything-is-on-YouTube era (remember, YouTube only started in 2005), I refused to torrent download any music. I would build up my Totally Awesome DJ Collection one record at a time, learning Mad DJ Skillz with each new acquisition. Because vinyl records.
As a direct consequence, my general knowledge and understanding of gabber and hardcore techno remained extremely limited. Specifically, what I knew of gabber and hardcore was mostly on the relatively few vinyl records in my collection, which usually got listened to while actually DJing in my bedroom — in other words, only two thirds of each record would actually be heard, since the rest of them had to be cued up. On the other hand, I had an unsurpassed knowledge of all the first 32 bars of some bangin’ electronic tunes.
As a mid-20-something on my first full-time income, any lack of common sense was made up for with boundless belief and enthusiasm. And since I actually owned releases by at least three of the people on the bill, I felt I had totally found my calling.

Why was it so great and memorable?

It’s a terribly clichéd pursuit in post-show accounts to rattle off DJ names and smother each one with slightly different but otherwise indistinguishable dollops of saccharine adulation. Instead, I’ll list the acts I had looked forward to seeing and explain what was truly great about each one.

PaulBlackout

Yes, PaulBlackout is apparently the correct spelling (as compared to Paul Blackout).
He plays heavy and dark drum n’ bass — and at this gig it was like nothing I’d ever heard before. I’d never been to a drum n’ bass night, let alone a hardcore techno gabber night, and here was a guy who played the former while not shying away from the latter.
It was on this occasion that I discovered that drum n’ bass — when it’s good — is wonderful owing to the fact that it’s bizarrely accessible. If you want to dance, anyone can move at whatever speed works for them — and if you add an entire new level of crashing heaviness on top of it is becomes music that anyone can headbang and mosh to, at whatever speed works for them. I’m a metal head at heart (and so is Paul apparently) and this was unequivocally an immensely heavy set.
Incidentally, I love the Desolate Ways EP, especially the monster first track.

Mark N (i.e. Mark Newlands)

Mark happened to be the person that sold me most of my vinyl and I can genuinely say that, if asked, I never got a bad recommendation. I’d seen him play two or three times prior and came to realise that no two sets were ever the same.
What got played was what someone else at a later and unrelated show once described (are you following me?) as “the definition of breakcore”. No doubt Mark would cringe at such an epithet (and possibly say something acerbic), so allow me to clarify first.
The conversation I’m referring to occurred on another occasion with someone I met, at another venue, after a breakcore gig at which Mark happened it play. At one time, after talking about music we liked, this person mentioned how breakcore at its best was when everything got thrown into one ugly mix — techno, drum n’ bass, hip hop, pop mashups, ‘humorous’ samples, turntablism, and everything else.
And that is what got played. Savage, dark and heavy drum n’ bass one moment, rave-speed hip hop the next, dropped on top of something filthy and nasty and terrible doing near 190bpm if not more, and many other things in between.

The DJ Producer

Up until I attended this gig, most of the industrial music I’d seen played out relied heavily on the audience knowing how and when everything went together. These 4 on the floor dance tunes generally had a start, a middle bit, and something at the end to tell you what to do next. Not so with the DJ Producer.
It was hard. It was fast. It was intense, crazy, and it took heavy music to a whole new depth I never realised could be reached. There were breaks, there were thunderous passages of fist-bashing techno, there were moments where it was toned down just long enough to let you catch your breath, before it resumed once more at full attack speed.
This was electronic music and it was heavy like I’d never known. And when it was over I clapped and cheered with the rest of the audience, breathless and sweating from such a roaring set. I was overjoyed that I’d found something that spoke to me so darkly, yet I was also saddened, for “heavy” for me would never quite be the same.
So this is what this music is really about, I thought.
Then some time afterwards, I was told, on good authority, that the DJ Producer’s set was comparatively tame.

Wow.



8/6/17

Awesome club moment #1 | That time the entire club danced to Skinny Puppy

If you love EBM and industrial music then chances are that at some time you either have or even continue to frequent clubs.
Clubbing — paying cash to enter a licensed venue where people dance, party, drink and sometimes even talk — is pure indulgence at its glorious best. Your eyes get a sensual treat. If you’re into the music, so do your ears. It’s hedonism, adventure, debauchery and gratification all in one. And, you know, you’re young and cool.
On the other hand, it’s not like your health improves. Your finances take a battering. Staying up late and waking up tired doesn’t help your weekend (no wait, you’re still young and cool). And then for some there’s the whole finding oneself and searching for an identity, a phenomenon so prevalent in fringe counter-cultures — but that’s a discussion for another time.
There is of course nothing wrong with the gratifying pursuit of pleasure. It’s just that, as time goes on, all those late nights in dark rooms begin to blur. One can drink and dance and party but it’s the memories that matter. As Lemmy Kilmister once said: “All men are equal when their memory fades”. And as time progresses, they grow just that little more distant.
And yet, sometimes something from the club-days occurs that’s brilliant and memorable enough to stick with you. Like…

#1: That time the entire club danced to Skinny Puppy.

Not the actual club described here. The Das Bunker crowd was presumably more likely to dance to Skinny Puppy.

Call me jaded, but depending on the night there was a time when playing industrial music in small, dark, sweaty venues meant getting accustomed to seeing a great many of people — usually sitting down and standing by the side of the room and not dancing.
One could dedicate an entire study to the gothic paradox, whereby dressing up makes one feel fundamentally confident and dark and foreboding and shockingly anti-conformist on the crowded 11:55pm train into the city — yet somehow one feels uncomfortable about stepping out onto an empty dancefloor in front of one’s peers.
Whatever the cause (apathy? shyness? not wanting to be the first? the impracticality of an impossibly complex outfit?) the greatest dilemma for DJs at certain times once involved what to do with all that fantastic and new-but-as-yet-unheard music.
It was the age-old dilemma: play it safe and familiar, and risk condemnation for nauseating repetition or try something new and unprecedented, and risk emptying the dancefloor like draining bathwater (I personally witnessed this to spectacular effect when I thought I was being all progressive-like when I was the first to drop the Apoptygma Berserk version of Cambodia… they practically ran off the dancefloor).
It was the well-known spectre of keeping all the people happy some of the time, and some of the people happy all the time, but never all the people all the time.
Yet one evening the truly fantastical happened when an entire club got up to dance — to one track. It was Skinny Puppy (or rather, a Skinny Puppy cover) and for one fleeting, glorious moment, the whole damn club became everything that people who don’t go to clubs imagined it to be.
I might add that this was at a venue that was, in every sense of the word, underground. This was the Bunker Lounge, a windowless, single-room, shoebox-shaped subterranean cavity on Swanston Street. Entering first necessitated descending down stairs, whereupon one emerged into the secret space below. Seriously, industrial AF!
While a well-known track traditionally incites a portion of the room to stop what they’re doing and hopefully get up and move, at this precise moment there was something about the crowd, the vibe, the timing and whatever else that, quite simply, balanced out for there to something in it for everyone in the room.
Worth getting for the Skinny Puppy cover of Assimilated.

The track that made it happen was a Skinny Puppy cover — Assimilate by Malaise. In the chronological sense it was not new, being several years old at the time. It was, however, new in that it was uncommon to hear it get played.
Within moments of it kicking off, not one person remained seated as the whole room was up and jumping. In popular vanilla culture, when those CSI and NCIS agents investigate a crime from the seedy underground and they enter one of those dangerous alternative places, the mandatory scene that greets them is something out of Dante’s fetish party. Of course everyone is dancing, gyrating, leering viciously. And to totally emphasise just how sinister the whole shindig is, the music is usually some vanilla interpretation of whatever the TV producer felt would be a good match for non-conformist music (sometimes it’s even Marilyn Manson, assuming the studio could afford the licencing).
Industrial EBM goth-type club-goers know that the above scene is rarely a thing. But for one glorious moment, it was. Nor was a Triple J ‘alternative’ selection or cheesy ’80s pop track. It was Skinny Puppy (sort of).
And the rivet heads shed a silent tear.
                 

7/22/17

Winter Solstice Damnation III | Gigs I should have said something about at the time

There’s this thing that I do when I’m at gigs. I’m getting into it, enjoying the show, and then a few songs into a set I take a photo on my phone. I don’t take many photos, mind you, just a couple of quick shots in succession (because I’m not a homicide-inducing wanker who repeatedly blocks your view with a phone when I’m at a gig). A few seconds later, and with the shots finished, I approvingly assure myself that I’m totally going to blog about this night in the near future.
Except, life and all its tiredness and distractions and mundanity get in the way. Before I know it, I’m at another gig, taking more shots, telling myself the same thing. Then life gets in the way yet again. Eventually, I end up with a phone full of gig photos. And as everyone knows, if it’s not on the internet, it didn’t happen, right?
I do this so often that I finally decided to do something about it, so I started a series of posts very imaginatively called Gigs I should have said something about at the time. Mostly it’s me posting photos from a year or six ago or even more. So this time I’m going to post about a very recent gig — in fact, it took place just last Saturday. Hahaha, who am I kidding? That was when I wrote the draft. This was totally a month ago now.
That makes it one of those Gigs I should have said something about at the time — and totally did this time. Well, kind of. That gig was…

Winter Solstice Damnation III at The Tote, June 24, 2017


As the name implies Winter Solstice Damnation is an annual celebration of bands across the spectrum of black, death, blackened thrash, and other assortments of extreme heavy metal sounds lovingly described in terms like dark and putrid and frostbitten.
Held once a year near the Winter Solstice (like, just in case that part wasn’t clear), it draws in a marvellous assortment of local and interstate bands play this style of music.
Before I progress further, I must concede that I did not make it to the venue until quite late in the evening. Remember what I said about life and all its tiredness and distractions and mundanity getting in the way? So, regrettably, I only caught the last three performances.

Dead River Runs Dry


The first of these (the sixth on the bill) was Dead River Runs Dry, out of NSW. My first exposure to Dead River Runs Dry was a year or so earlier, via a rather good track, Skull Of The Wind, on a Terrorizer magazine CD compilation. It’s an excellent starting point from an outfit that plays what (for lack of a better description) might best be referred as something akin to orthodox black metal, with some soaring hooks and epic melodies thrown in.
Kudos also to their vocalist who played the whole set both shirtless and shoeless. As the “Winter Solstice” part of the festival’s name makes clear, this event occurs on the longest and darkest night of the year. This is Melbourne folks — to put things in perspective, I had to don my thick winter gloves just to actually be able to hold my pint in the beer garden. On the other hand, perhaps this was counteracted by the fact that all members of Dead River Runs Dry were blessed with beards? A good volume of facial hair no doubt helps contribute to maintaining core body temperature — and as a bonus, did you know it acts as a passive sun block?


AK-11


Melbourne’s AK-11 were next up — and they must surely get the award for best outfits. Words are likely inadequate to convey the effort that went into the attire and its stark effect, so the grainy still below (original video via CoveOfQueenSalma - check out some nice footage of the event).
Here was fast, nasty, vitriolic black metal that felt like it was played with a dose of snarly punk attitude, except that the name of the game was hatred and misanthropy.
But… those outfits… if I am not mistaken, that was an Austrian pattern, minus sleeves, matched with DIY corpse paint. Incredibly, the cammo pattern and corpse paint, not to mention front-man Valak’s impressive tattoo sleeves, blended in uncannily well.

 Ignivomous


Finally it was the headliner’s turn: Ignivomous.
How to describe the bleak death metal darkness that is this band? What is the sound of a group that doesn’t even pretend to venture close to this thing that vanilla folks term “accessible”? If extreme music is meant to be unrelenting and merciless and uncompromisingly bleak and overwhelming in every way then Ignivomous tick every box.
Yet in that beer garden, before they got on stage, I witnessed one chap express his sincere joy and appreciation at finally being able to see Ignivomous live.
“I’ve been waiting 10 years to see you guys,” he said. It turns out he was a long-time fan who lived in the sticks so he’d never gotten around to seeing a live Ignivomous show.
From listening in to this conversation I was once more reminded that one should not judge someone’s character based purely on appearances. This chap wasn’t even wearing a black t-shirt — it was white! — yet here was quite possibly the most devout Ignivomous fan in the room.
A few tracks into the band’s barrage — yes, barrage is a term that gets thrown in far too often, but “set” underrated the aural blindness down the front, as I was — it was revealed that this gig would mark 10 years since Ignivomous formed — and that it would also be guitarist Matt’s last official show with the band. To mark the occasion they even dug into the very early demo days.
After, when it was all done, I was reminded that “ignivomous” is a no-longer-used term to describe the act of vomiting fire. If one had to pick a soundtrack to accompany such an indescribably extreme phenomenon, that would likely be it.
  • Ignivomous Bandcamp on Nuclear War Now (note, the download and merch page links seem to be temporarily down).


A final word
No, the Tote was not packed to capacity that night, yet the turnout was Aussie-decent, given the prevailing winter conditions. Plus, it was reassuring to see the beer garden less than full during actual performances.
I will never cease to consider myself fortunate — and neither should you — for as long as this phenomenon we call the ‘scene’ continues to exist in Melbourne.
Every other week there is an event that involves usually (but not always) black-clad, usually (but not always) long-haired people getting up on stages and (yes, always) making one hell of a racket as they play dark, nasty, messed up noise.

Whatever the merits of individual bands, it is a privilege to know that the forces of darkness are not going away any time soon.

7/4/17

Ultimate guide to fitting a man's suit

[H1]The (easy) guide to a perfectly fitted suit[H1]


So you’ve decided to buy a new suit. Perhaps you’re stepping up in your career? Maybe you’re determined to make the right impression at a special occasion? Or could it simply be time to upgrade that much-loved but tired outfit?
Whatever the occasion, you’ll have a spectacular variety of colours, styles, designs and pattern to choose from. Yet despite the incredible choice (check out this detailed guide on how to pick a suit), all good men’s suits share one thing in common: they won’t look right if they’re not fitted properly.
So how do you get the perfect suit fit?
Fear not. You’re about to find out everything you need to know about perfect suit fitting.


Measuring yourself for a men’s suit

Do you know your suit jacket size? You’re not alone if you don’t. In fact, you’ll be surprised to know that most men don’t actually know their suit size, even as they’re stepping out the door for their new suit.
Fortunately, measuring yourself for a men’s suit is easy once you know what you’re doing.
Start by establishing your chest size. Run a tape measure under your arms and across your chest (a spouse or friend is always handy here) and where the ends meet will be your chest size. So, if the measurement is 34 inches across your chest that means you’re a 34 suit jacket.
Simple, right? Next, find a mirror and stand straight. You’re about to do the most important part.

How can you tell if a suit jacket looks right?

Regardless of the pattern, colour, material and style, conventional men’s suits share common characteristics. So if you want to know how should a man’s suit fit, just look out for these easy signs. It’s a fact that anyone who spends their day professionally fitting new suits instinctively looks for these.



Front of jacket

The first and most obvious thing to look for when fitting a new suit jacket is the form. A perfectly fitted new suit jacket will form a silhouette, with the curvature ‘tapering’ in slightly from the shoulders and then back out over the pockets.
If you look at yourself square in the mirror and find that the front of the jacket forms a rumpled X shape below your shoulder line then your new suit jacket is probably fitted too tightly, whereas one that’s too large will appear box-like and square.
Another way to check that the suit jacket sits right is to hook your fingers, just over where the top button joins. If there’s a half inch (1.2cm) of space to accommodate your fingers, it’s sitting right.
If the suit jacket pulls against the top button then it’s fitted too tightly, while more than half an inch of space means it’s probably too large.



Collar and lapels

Jacket lapels should sit flat and compliment the fitted suit jacket’s curvature. If fitted right, they sit flat and seamlessly with the rest of the jacket. Visible ‘bowing’ of the lapels, however, means it’s probably too large.
The same holds true for the collar. A properly fitted suit jacket collar sits smoothly around your neck, forming a continuous contour around the shirt collar.
Too tight, and the suit collar will pinch outward behind your neck, revealing a gap behind the shirt collar. Too big, and the material just below the collar on your back will start to crumple up into a lumpy form.


Shoulder pads

Suit jacket shoulder pads should extend no more than a quarter inch (0.7cm) out from where the shoulders end. The arm will drops down in a straight, smooth form. Correctly fitted, the shoulder seam sits straight and true on your shoulder.
If the suit jacket is fitted too tight, the shoulder collapses inward, just below the shoulder pad. If the suit jacket is fitted too big, the shoulders look rumpled and blown out.



Suit jacket sleeve length

Everything good so far? Good. Now look at your cuffs. On a correctly fitted suit jacket they should sit at the point where your hands join your wrists.
The best way to accurately check that the suit jacket sleeve length is correct is to use the “rule of thumb” (yes, really). Still standing in front of the mirror, simply drop your arm and extend your thumb downward. If the tip of your thumb sits where the bottom of the jacket ends, the suit jacket is fitted correctly. If jacket line is too high or too low it likely means the suit jacket is the wrong size.
Having said that, not two men are built quite the same. If you’re still unsure about the suit jacket length, turn to your side and, still looking in the mirror, see where the back of the jacket ends.
The perfectly fitted suit jacket finishes where your bum ends and your leg (i.e. the back of your thigh) starts.



Measuring suit pants

Now that you’re looking at a properly fitted suit jacket it’s time to get matching trousers. Don’t neglect this part — properly fitted trousers will make a good suit look awesome.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true when fitting suit trousers. If they’re too small or too large they will look rumpled or stretched — and in a pretty obvious way, too.
As with fitting a suit jacket, you can follow some simple steps to ensure you end up with perfectly fitted suit trousers.


The six-inch drop

The best fitted suit jacket will, quite simply, not look right if the suit pants are not fitted right. The obvious place to start then is with your measurements, which in this case is your waist.
Professional suit fitters commonly use what is known as the “six-inch drop” when establishing your waist size. It’s a simple and accurate rule that works for most men: take off six inches from your suit jacket size to get your suit trouser waist size. For example, a 34 jacket means with a six-inch drop means a 28 waist size.

How to work out your suit pant waist size

Having established your trouser waist size, there are several things you can do to check that everything is sitting right when you try on a new pair of fitted suit trousers.
Ideally, there will be a half inch (1.2cm) of ‘excess’ space in your waist. A quick way to check is to hook three fingers inside the waist line. You’ll notice that correctly fitted suit pants sit steady even with three fingers in place.
If you can’t move your fingers then that means your suit pants are too tight, while suit pants that are too big start to fall down of their own accord — hopefully not while you’re in public!
If possible, put on a belt and, still standing straight and in front of a mirror, adjust the height of the beltline so that it sits comfortably on your hips. If for some reason the waist measure is too small, the seat of your pants can start pinch in from behind. Too large, and the back of your trousers feels (and look) loose.

What is the proper suit trouser length?

Once you’re happy with the waist size, check that you also have the right suit trouser length. Again, as with every aspect to suit fitting, there are some simple tricks to ensure your suit trousers are fitted to the ideal height.
To get the correct suit trouser height, allow for a single break in the fabric just as the material sits on the bridge of your shoes. On the back of the trousers, the fabric should sit just on the top of the heel.
Suit trousers that are too short will prominently reveal your socks — and no one wants that — while trousers that are too long will crumple onto your shoes and probably drag on the floor.
Suit trousers that are too long can almost certainly be taken up. Maybe that spouse or friend with a tape measure is also handy with a sewing machine?
Suit trousers that are too short, however, cannot be lengthened. If that’s the case, you probably need to get a new pair of fitted suit trousers.




And that’s it. You now know how to choose a perfectly fitted suit.

Easy, right?



Of course, picking the perfectly fitted suit is merely one of many tricks in the superbly well-dressed gentleman’s repertoire. Other things you should give serious consideration consider to might include…

  • How to pick the best shirt for a new suit.

  • How to perfectly match a tie with a shirt.

  • Picking the right shoes for a new suit.

2/4/17

Korn: Issues - the whine of a generation

You know when you come across a release or a track that you think isn’t quite as bad as everyone had led you to believe — if only it weren’t for that one jarring, inescapable, overpowering element that’s disproportionately responsible for spoiling the whole damn thing?
That’s what Korn is.
Contrary to popular belief, the much-maligned, commercially successful, despised ikons of nu metal, would actually rate as moderately listenable — if only it weren’t for that one overwhelmingly crap quality that persisted in achieving the very opposite. What could it be?

The cover says $2 but I only paid 1$. Winning!


My first encounter with Korn was somewhere in early 1997 (Christ, has it been that long…!) through a mate’s dubbed copy of Korn album #2, Life Is Peachy. From the opening salvo of the intro, it was immediately noticeable. There was that unmistakeable Korn-trademark animalistic / acapella / growling intro that was track 1, Twist. The rest of the album was heavy metal, but not as we know it. It was edgy, atonal, big on the bottom end (or at least as much as you could be on a second or third-generation dub), yet many of the tracks merged into an indistinguishable brown soup of one-ness (although the cover of Ice Cube’s Wicked was kind of memorable).
Life Is Peachy didn’t blow me away and Korn, with few exceptions, did not feature much in my life. Sure, I heard a disproportionately high volume of Korn hits at alt and goth clubs (for which I even purchased a subsequently barely-used Greatest Hits Vol. 1 copy, since I assumed I’d DJ the pants off it); and on at least two occasions I even heard a momentarily smattering of a Korn performance from a great distance at major music festivals while passing between stages. But other than that, I barely paid any attention to Korn for the next 20 years.
Then, not too long ago, I came across a copy of Korn: Issues for the bargainous sum of 1$ at an op shop. Was it worth another try, I wondered?
My preferred method for determining whether something has provided me with sufficient value for money is the “dollar per wear” method. An adage from an older generation that says you successfully justified your consumer spend if you shelled out $20 on something worn 20 times, by this logic my copy of Korn: Issues would be a successful investment even if it failed to elicit any interest after just one full listen.
Issues was Korn’s fourth album, released late 1999. It appeared right after Korn had gotten really big off the back of album #3, Follow The Leader, along with tremendous exposure through the Family Values Tour where they performed with Ice Cube, Orgy, Limp Bizkit and… Rammstein
Hugely anticipated at the time — unless you despised nu metal — Korn: Issues actually contains some decent riffs and quality passages. The problem, unfortunately, is that they're near impossible to appreciate.

Important liner notes.

With Issues, the Korn sound had mellowed, or softened (or sold out), depending on who you ask. They’d focussed more on the song-writing rather than being all atonal and in your face, and had substantial record label support propelling them in this chosen new direction.
Here was a heavy metal group (just accept it) that had started life with a unique and heavy blend of noise rock-inspired heavy metal, with guitar solos substituted by a mixed bag of borrowed hip hop and other genres. By the fourth album, and with commercial success on their heels, the jaggedness had been smoothed out, and the Korn sound had evolved into something closer to a hard rock album rather than the disjointed noise affair of the early days. And all that refinement on Issues would have resulted in a not-entirely-deplorable album if it weren’t for one quality that makes this recording so diabolically difficult to return to: vocalist Johnathan Davis’ incessant whining!

More profound liner notes.

If there’s one rally point that nu metal detractors scorn above all others, it’s the whining, moaning, woe-is-me, vocal style of nu metal singers. Be it Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Mushroomhead, Orgy, or whoever, nothing characterises what is most disliked about nu metal more than the whining. But you just wouldn’t understand, right?
On Issues, no amount of production and song-crafting can hide or compensate for the annoyance induced by that vocals whinge — a shame, because it totally detracts from two otherwise decent album qualities.

The four alternative covers were an interesting idea.
Maybe they should have done four alternative mixes too?

Firstly, it obscures quite a few interestingly-produced and relatively ‘minimal’ passages. Like a hip-hop album, where less can be better, Issues has some diverse moments that rely on effects, sound and subtle mood over chugging riffs. While we get small touches of this on the openings to tracks like 4 U and Falling Away From Me, it seems the album is ultimately most concerned with plugging any possible vocal-free leaks with maximum whinging.
Secondly, it does the same for when the opposite occurs — that is, we get the same moaning right just when we’re hoping to get a good riff going.
In other words, Issues is an album that could have been an interesting if not outstanding composite of harsh and light, merging hard moments of head banging mosh power with lighter, thinking person’s CTFD passages, ultimately offering a respectable and matured if inevitably more mellowed and lighter alternative to all that chugga-chugga.
Alas, on this album Korn are obsessed with filling every available moment with Davis’ whining.
I tried with Issues, I really did, but it reminded me of why I never got into Korn. If you still don’t believe me, check out the track It’s Gonna Go Away. With a mere 1:30 duration it’s barely an interlude. When first conceived it may have had the trappings of a good, minimal contemplative type of track, the kind of thing to get you to pause before resuming with the next monster riff — instead, it's literally one and a half minutes of whining. Listen to it for yourself.

At a dollar a play, I got my money’s worth, seven or eight times over.


So that’s why I never got that much into Korn. 

1/11/17

Nightwish at the Forum Theatre | Awesome gigs I should have said something about at the time

The best movies, the best social catch-ups, and commonly the best gigs are often the ones we attend with zero expectations — “zero expectations” here meaning exactly that: no expectations of any sort, as compared to expectations that are low or high.
So it was with precisely zero expectations that I found myself seeing Nightwish at extremely short notice, at Melbourne’s Forum Theatre. This was on January 11, 2016 — exactly one year ago — and in the tradition of unexpected things, I rate it as one of the best ‘unplanned’ (sort of) gigs I’ve ever been to, especially since at the time I didn’t own a single item from the Nightwish discography.
The backstory to this awesome-gig-I-should-have-said-something-about-at-the-time involved lots of uhming and ahing on my part. I had given serious consideration to seeing them with a friend but unfortunately I put off getting a ticket until after discovering it had sold out. Said friend — to whom I cannot emphasise strongly enough how eternally grateful I will forever be — ended up not being able to go at the last moment and kindly provided me with her ticket. The result is best described as that bitter sweet phenomenon where you check out a band whose music you don’t actively follow but you still know who they are, and then you discover how brilliant they are live but it’s bitter sweet because you wished you’d gotten into them sooner.
The classic style of the Forum Theatre in Melbourne was so very appropriate.

I recommend you check out Nightwish live if, like me, you happen to know who Nightwish are but either don’t know their music well or only know their top 40. It will all make sense on the stage, how all that flamboyance and grandiose symphonic style transformed a heavy metal group from a small town in Finland into the country’s biggest music export.
However, almost as epic as the degree of commercial success of Nightwish is the level of drama and controversy. Founded in 1996, Nightwish (very publicly) fired their first two vocalists under very acrimonious (and again, very public) circumstances. But that didn’t detract from the superbness of this show.
From the moment they opened with Shudder Before The Beautiful from then-still-most-recent-Nightwish-album Endless Forms Most Beautiful it was clear that this show would be quite something. Nightwish singer 3.0 Floor Jansen’s soaring voice is out of this world-grade brilliant, and the general sound quality — something you value highly when you’ve been to enough gigs with terrible sound — was excellent.
There were further surprises for a first-timer like me. I discovered that bassist Marco Hietala has an incredible voice, as heard in his backup vocals and one or two tracks on which he sang lead. Marco is obviously not the primary singer but he is, to quote a friend, “a proper power metal vocalist with his own other band”.
Floor Jansen's voice is just killer.

The most pleasing discovery would have to be Uilleann pipes man Troy Donockley, now a permanent member. The stand-out was the epically magnificent pipe solo on the track I Want My Tears Back, because there's something diabolically catchy about pipes, let alone Uilleann pipes, played by one of the very best.
Less impressive was the fact that Floor Jansen seemed to disappear through the back of the stage every five minutes. Whether this was because she was required to fix her makeup, wipe off the sweat, or ensure that main-man Tuomas Holopainen wasn’t getting upstaged by her presence, I will never know.
Indeed, Nightwish detractors like to point out that Nightwish — or rather Tuomas Holopainen, being the primary composer — disappeared up Nightwish’s ass some years ago. To paraphrase the same friend from before, Nightwish used to be a ‘proper’ metal band with distinct riffs and solos, but are now more concerned with drowning everything except for vocals in layers of studio production.
I don’t full agree with this notion but I can tell you that this gig led directly to me buying my first Nightwish album, Imaginaerum — which I found very disappointing.
Yes, I get that it’s an indulgent concept album, but save for three chorus-soaring epic singalongs — Storytime, the previously mentioned I Want My Tears Back, and giant concert closer Last Ride Of The Day — I found Imaginaerum didn’t stand up to long-term listening. But for those three brilliant corkers, I found Imaginaerum sooo dull, none more so than on the 13:38-long Song For Myself.


Guess which ones are the best.

However, none of this came through during the gig. Yeah, there were a few moments that the hard-and-fast heavy metal lover in me found a bit snoozey, but otherwise it was a superb live show, and anyone who wasn’t smiling their arses off by the end was either comatose or deceased.
Nightwish are a first-rate live act and this came through as clearly as possible at this sold out Australian show.
The sound at the Forum was excellent too.

As I said, this gig was approached with zero expectations, and it turned out to be great. I will definitely try to catch them live again, although the degree of expectation this time will obviously be different. Knowing what I experienced, those high expectations will hopefully be well-founded. Just as long as Tuomas and the rest of Nightwish keep their egos in check (or aren’t allegedly taken out of context when purportedly dissing other bands). Then there those comments about Floor Jansen being “the last” Nightwish vocalist.

Seeing as their track record with retaining vocalists ain’t that great, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

12/22/16

You haven’t lived until you see a Manowar tribute band at a dodgy venue with a cockroach problem

A Manowar cover band – yes, that got your attention – playing through a malfunctioning sound system at a small dive bar with an alleged cockroach problem.
It wasn’t quite the strangest gig I’d ever been to, but it certainly was peculiar ones. For one thing, did someone say Manowar cover band?
The Triumph Of Steel, Melbourne, November 5, 2016 @ Whole Lotta Love.

Yes. They’re called The Triumph Of Steel and you should definitely see them live.
Consider how much Manowar are the gigantic anti-hipster hipsters of heavy metal. More metal than any metal that ever metalled in Metalville on plant Metal, Manowar are so densely absorbed into everything Manowar — with everything they do being so jaw-droppingly, cringe-inducingly, they-can’t-be serious-grade uncool — that to be serious about liking Manowar seriously is inherently cool.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Manowar, particularly the first half a dozen or so albums in the Manowar discography. It’s just that, if Manowar managed to convey even the tiniest sliver of tongue-in-cheek irony, people would probably be less inclined to believe that Manowar had long, long, long since disappeared up their own arses. Alas, non-seriousness with Manowar there just ain’t. Disregarding the unbelievably homo-erotic band promo shots from their earlier era, the true silliness of what Manowar became is evident in, for example, in printing all lyrics for an entire album in genuinely illegible faux-runes, thereby defeating the purpose of providing lyrics in the first place. Or maybe it started with the line of Manowar Warrior Shield condoms?
From their sixth or so album onwards, Manowar didn’t just jump the shark – they swam some laps together, hung out at the bar afterwards and became best of friends. Consequently, as far as the Manowar of today goes, the Manowar vision of what constitutes heavy metal is single-mindedly inflexible.
Which of course means that The Triumph Of Steel aren’t just any old cover band. They’re a Manowar cover band – and faithfully mimicking a band that morphed into a parody of itself takes a very special kind of wheel on fire.
Thankfully, the Triumph Of Steel were wonderful when I saw them on November 5, 2016 at a little bar called Whole Lotta Love. They put on a good show and did not lack dedication, a feat that is even more notable considering their technical and pest-related (more on this shortly) challenges.
Vocalist Igor’s melodic voice was outstanding. Indeed, merely being a good power-melodic vocalist isn’t easy, but only the leatheriest chaps can properly pay direct homage to Manowar vocalist Eric Adams takes. Filtered through his rich accent, it would have made for a captivating show — were it not for the poor old malfunctioning PA.
"Faaahiiighting, faaahiiighting, fighting the world!"

Through absolutely no fault of their own (I was informed by what I was assured was a reliable source) the house PA was just not playing ball. While the guitar came through ok, the vocals jumped between excessive quietness or cut in and out, possibly because of a loose connection. It wasn’t too bad from the bar and beyond, but it was excruciating at the front of the small stage where I wanted to stand. My gig compadre pointed out that the band were in all likelihood oblivious to what was going out the front. This was probably a good thing as it would have been a shame to see them thrown by somethign that wasn't their doing.
Towards the end of the set, enough beer had been consumed, or perhaps the track selection struck the right power chord (or perhaps a combination of both) that the men at the front (and they were all men) of the stage really got into it. Fighting The World material, it seems, holds a special place for Melbourne heavy metal lovers.
And so The Triumph Of Steel finished their set, to an audience that was small but sincerely appreciative, for the power and the glory and the singalong choruses. When it comes to heavy metal, Manowar are one-of-a-kind, and this Manowar cover band played their role faithfully.
Gig compadre and I stayed back for a drink or two where we had a bit of a chat to guitarist David, who seemed like a nice chap. Last drinks were called and then… cockroaches.
Or to be perfectly honest – one big cockroach, casually making its way across the dance floor. I pointed this out to the reliable source mentioned at the start of this story, who responded by saying that the venue had, apparently, quite recently enlisted the service of a pest controller — but then the joke was that said professional must have missed a spot.

A week or so after the gig I found myself hanging out with a friend, where I casually mentioned this peculiar evening. She mentioned how she’d once ended up there with the intention of enjoying a quiet drink. It was an uneventful night, said the friend (who — and this will become relevant in a moment — is what you’d call small-statured), until she went to the bar and noticed how she rather stood out from the other patrons. She was dwarfed by the great many enormous people all throughout the room who, it turns out, were there to enjoy the dedicated BBW night that was regularly held at the venue.

What a strange thing it is. But actually, it’s just another great night out in Melbourne. I love live music and events in this city and I wouldn’t swap it for anything.