3/9/13

Alternative albums



This photo is not recent. It’s actually from last year, not long after I’d acquired another stash of alternative album CDsfrom JB Hi Fi. This lot is from the greatest record store on earth (that I’ve been to anyway), HeartlandRecords, and was purchased entirely with record store vouchers that given to me by my family.

Underground albums. Well, most of them. Since taking this shot I think I've almost
figured out how to take pics without excessive flash reflection.

 Despite being several months old, I still haven’t managed to properly listen to the lot. I’m yet to open one item from this list while with the others I’m still “familiarising” myself — as one does with new music — before I can genuinely decide if it’s good, bad, ok, a grower, an instant hit, or “where has it been all my life”.
Funnily enough, the process of getting to know new music is literally something that can be quantified — in my case, I do this by checking the stats on my Last.fm account (feel free to say g’day and add me). That’s because when buying a CD, the first thing I normally do is copy it to my media library. Not only does it satisfy my inner obsessive-compulsive, it has also resulted in me becoming really “consistent” if not downright uptight about my music listening. For example, I can’t bear having a song not play through in its entirety and thereby not registering as a full scrobble on my listening stats. This probably explains the funny looks I get from my fiancée whenever I get home from work, pull into the garage, and then take forever to get out of the car as I wait for the last minute of the song to play through its last 40 seconds.
Anyway, when I got these CDs, my plan was to compile reasonably detailed impressions and thoughts on every one of them. Naturally, so far I’ve managed to do that for all of one of these releases. So here’s the CliffNotes version.

Nattefrost: Blood & Vomit
Dirty, filthy, somewhat juvenile and silly but nonetheless still-nasty black metal. Contains “that” infamous recording of Roger Nattefrost throwing up. And another one of him taking a leak. The track is subtly titled Nattefrost Takes a Piss.
True story.

Dead Kennedys: Give Me Convenience OR Give Me Death
Best of compilation for this revered and highly influential punk outfit. Like so many people I love Holiday In Cambodia and California Über Alles. However, I’m still getting my head around the rest of it. Would a better understanding of the socio-political context of the time help?

Iron Maiden: The Wicker Man
Iron Maiden is the greatest band there ever was. No don’t argue the point. Brave New World, the album from which this single is taken, isn’t quite my favourite Maiden release, but meh, I dig the b-sides, especially Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson singing the Blaze Bayley-era track Man On The Edge (Iron Maiden vocalist who lasted two albums). Like a true Iron Maiden nerd, I trainspotted how in the live version he changes the line “A briefcase, a lunch and a man on the edge / Each step gets closer to losing his head” to “Each step gets closer to losing his hair”. Yeah, no one else noticed either.

32Crash: Y2112Y
A quirky, covering-all-bases kind of electronic project that tries to sound like a bit of everything. Front 242 vocalist Jean-Luc De Meyer and members of Implant (EBM industrial kind of guys) are behind this project which has a lyrical theme based entirely on science-fiction. I loved the previous album in the 32Crash discography, Weird News From An Uncertain Future but this one doesn’t seem to have the same creative spark and richness. Shame really. Maybe it’ll grow on me with more listens?

Iron Maiden: The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
I told you I was a Maiden fan. Why else would I buy an out-of-print single from my least favourite (you mean least awesome) Maiden album?

Wumpscut: Dried Blood Of Gomorrha (technically it should be “:Wumpscut:” with two very industrial colons, but then that would mean it would be expressed as “:Wumpscut::” which looks totally wrong)
Classic German ’90s electro industrial. This was a case of an artist doing more with less, in that this release had a lot going for it despite what sounds like a limited amount of gear and technology to work with. Hard to believe that Mr. Wumpscut, Rudy Ratzinger, transmogrified into a slick merchandise and album factory, releasing a new and generally mediocre full-length studio album every year since 2004, while perpetually repackaging special limited ultra hero imprint deluxe hand farted re-re-re-presses with one super extra special bonus track from a broken demo tape he found under his pillow.

Fear Factory: Resurrection
I totally managed to actually blog about this one. Click on Fear Factory right here.

Hocico: Dog Eat Dog
Stompin’ Mexican electro industrial mayhem, this was the lead single off Hocico’s 2010 album, Tiempos DeFuria. This song embodies everything that Hocio does best: mediocre production; unimaginable darkness and vitriol; unintentionally funny lyrics; and general all-round pounding ass kicking. The title track and b-side are good but the remaining remixes were all a bit too similar to the original. Hey, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Gothic Compilation Part 56
These budget compilations from Germany embody value for money. You usually get two discs, with one side tending to be more gothic and guitar-based, while the other is electronic and industrial. They’re a great snapshot of what happens to be “in” at the time in the alternative music mothership that is Germany. Heartland Records had half a dozen or so of these to choose from so I ended up picking one with a music video bonus disc (there’s a Shiv-R music video on there, so I thought I’d give it a crack…). Turns out there’s also a prolonged gothic fashion shoot video on the same disc, which I have absolutely no interest in.

Soulfly: 3
Ex-Sepultura vocalist Max Cavalera’s Soulfly project got played an awful lot on heavy metal radio stations I listened to so much when I was younger, but I never really followed through. I recognise some of the tunes off this one but it seems like a mixed bag. Interesting fact: Soulfly were only accepted onto MetalArchives in 2012… because their eighth album was finally deemed to be metal enough. Talk about picky…

Hocico: Wrack And Ruin
Like the previously mentioned Dog Eat Dog lyrics, so too does this Hocico album’s title make zero sense. But that’s ok because it’s a killer album. It always amazes me how these two butt-ugly angry Mexicans can create sounds that, well, sound so evil and sinister. Maybe living in Mexico does that to you? This album also contains one of my favourite EBM-electro-industrial tunes of all time: Born To Be Hated (Original Odium). Well, the first half of this song anyway.

Venom: At War With Satan
I’m getting towards the end of this list and my fingers are getting tired from typing. So I’m going to quote a relevant Facebook post instead: “I got At War With Satan and bonus tracks, mostly because of all the hype and “special” mentions it gets. I can appreciate its historical significance but geez, it certainly hasn’t aged well. And that’s me being diplomatic about it.
A friend who also happens to be a big Venom fan offered this insight: “I've always thought the problem with At War with Stan was that they wanted so badly to make an epic album — a legacy (it was too soon after Black Metal for them to realise they actually already had). So they put so many good ideas and riffs into one song that didn't quite come off as well as it deserved [the main track going for just under 20 minutes]. Consequently, they had nothing left for the second side of the album and were rushed to write filler. They were on the road all the time at that point. Had it come out a year later, it may have blended well with some of the more atmospheric and energetic tracks of Possessed which came just the following year — and again had so much filler.”
This didn’t stop the album from influencing thousands of skinny Norwegians. Like Nattefrost and pals.

Lacuna Coil: Our Truth
Two-track single for a band I’ve heard so much about but never really checked out properly. I suspect this release is not indicative of their sound.

The Baroness And Love Lies Bleeding: Dark Beauty
This was the first “true” electronic gothy industrially album I ever bought (well, except for one of those countless suspect Cleopatra Records “A tribute to” compilations). The Baroness was (is she still going?) a Melbourne-based performer and (I think) was also involved in promoting the infamous and now defunct Abyss nightclub. While this album does contains some fantastically cheesy darkwave, this was the album that got me into the whole darker side of electronic music. Specifically, the track, Dark Beauty (actually not a bad track if you like electro gothish darkwave) , which got played on a late-night community radio show.
I used to own my own copy of Dark Beauty but a former girlfriend never returned it (along with a whole bunch of other stuff). So I finally shelled out $10 to relive the whole thing all over again.

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