all the bass players in the metal bands i grew up listening to sucked

 

when i was 14 and first became a musician, i came at it all wrong. first off, i let my friend nick (who played guitar) convince me to learn to play bass when i didn’t know or care about bass at all back then. i loved the sound of distorted electric guitar so i should have started there but nope, i listened to nick.

second, i didn’t have any bass heroes until i had been playing bass for many years. almost all the bass players in the metal bands i was listening to sucked. they either couldn’t play worth a shit, had terrible tone, were mixed way too low on the records, or some combination of those things. shall i list some of them? i shall.

  • cliff burton (metallica) – he’s actually awesome, of course, but the only time you can hear him on a record is when he has a solo — which is twice on three records.
  • jason newsted (metallica) – sucks, bad tone, mixed low.
  • dave ellefson (megadeth) – sucks, bad tone, mixed low.
  • frank bello (anthrax) – sucks, TERRIBLE tone.
  • rex (pantera) – stupid scooped mid tone that lacks any body, mixed low.
  • nikki six (motley crue) – sucks, bad tone.
  • billy gould (faith no more) – sucks, bland tone.
  • david vincent (morbid angel) – sucks, mixed low.
  • paulo jr (sepultura) – sucks super bad, bad tone, mixed low.
  • tom araya (slayer) – perhaps the worst bass player ever, mixed completely out.

i’m sure there are others i’m forgetting too. i suppose i didn’t mind greg christian from testament and DD verni from overkill but they also didn’t exactly get me hard, either. about the only bass player that stood out to me as really mattering to a band was type o negative’s peter steele. you could hear him, his bass sounded cool, and he played neat things.

600full-peter-steele

plus he looked fucking awesome.

as a full blown adult now, i’ve managed to find a few other bass players that really inspire me. jeroen paul thesseling (pestilence, obscura) is ridiculously talented and creates some frightening, unsettling sounds on his fretless. eric langlois (cryptopsy) always had super heavy tone, and mixed in some slap playing too. i think tony choy (pestilence, atheist) is probably the single biggest influence on my bass interests now though. he has a nice, well-rounded tone, plays a lot of slap (tastefully, mind you — it doesn’t sound out of place like a funk bassist in a metal band), and does great job of making the bass just as important and interesting as the other instruments. he’s fun to listen to, fun to play along with.

if only i knew about these guys when i was 14. because, i mean, i was a horrible bass player myself — shit in, shit out, right? i didn’t realize that bass could be cool, and that led to me mostly giving up on bass and focusing primarily on guitar up until the last few years. now that i love playing bass and realize how cool it can be, i wonder where i would be if i only had this knowledge 20-odd years ago.

whatever, i was a bonehead then anyway. i probably would have squandered my talents and written some stupid generic metal bass lines regardless. i’ll just be grateful i don’t suck at bass anymore and continue searching for an outlet for my bass love before i become a mouldering corpse.

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the blueprint for (heavy metal) success (and subsequent abject failure)

metallica1986

if you aren’t fascinated by metal, this post will bore you to death.

there is an interesting career arc in heavy metal that a lot of the biggest metal bands share. i think every metal head is already intuitively aware of this but it occurred to me while listening to sepultura’s arise album that they too followed the same arc, and i hadn’t noticed that before so it got me thinking about it a bit more.

the arc is this:

  • first album is raw and juvenile but still manages to garner respect
  • second album is still a little rough in areas but shows excellent overall improvement
  • third album is like, “whoah, these guys are serious. what a killer record.”
  • fourth album is possibly even better than the last, and boasts better production values.
  • fifth album shifts slightly away from metal and incorporates some mainstream rock influences. some old school fans decry this as the end of the band while the majority of listeners think this is their best shit yet.
  • everything after that sucks ass.

now, let’s apply this arc to some of the biggest metal bands to see how it fits. the most obvious example that fits into this story is metallica.

  • kill ’em all – check
  • ride the lightning – check
  • master of puppets – check
  • and justice for all – check
  • black album – check
  • garbage ever after – check

how about that! now, let’s see how the second biggest metal band — megadeth — compares.

  • killing is my business…and business is good! – check
  • peace sells…but who’s buying? – check
  • so far, so good…so what! – nope. i love this album but it’s far from a fan favourite.
  • rust in peace – check
  • countdown to extinction – check
  • nothing else worth bothering with – check

besides the misstep on their third album, megadeth follows the trajectory pretty well. what about slayer?

  • show no mercy – check
  • hell awaits – check
  • reign in blood – check
  • south of heaven – sort of? this one is tough because some people love it but i think most see it as inferior to its predecessor. either view is justifiable in my opinion.
  • seasons in the abyss – check
  • a bunch of albums that don’t stand out in any way – check. i actually think divine intervention is a solid album, and much better than seasons in the abyss, but i’ve only met one person who agrees with me.

so another close fit. how about sepultura?

  • morbid visions – check
  • schizophrenia – check
  • beneath the remains – check
  • arise – check
  • chaos AD – check
  • nu metal and super lame korn impressions abound – check

this is incredible. ok i don’t like anthrax much but let’s look at their albums.

  • fistful of metal – check
  • spreading the disease – check
  • among the living – check
  • state of euphoria – no way. this record stinks like shit. but if we disregard it and pretend it doesn’t exist, then…
  • persistence of time – check
  • sound of white noise – check
  • a bunch of albums no one remembers – check

one more. let’s try testament.

  • the legacy – check
  • the new order – check
  • practice what you preach – ehhhh…not quite, but almost. it’s respectable (as far as testament’s catalogue goes, i mean) but i don’t think anyone would say this was a big step up from the new order. half check.
  • souls of black – check
  • the ritual – check
  • now, i love the following album, low, but i know most people don’t care about it at all, so i’ll give this one a check too.

(edit: ben just pointed out to me that children of bodom also fit perfectly into this career arc, and he’s right. so that’s another one.)

i think this is uncanny. it basically tells me that every metal band should quit after their fifth album. go out on top, you know? leave an incredible legacy, don’t spoil it by experimenting with EDM and dub step. start another project if you want to do that stuff. i mean, it’s absurd for metallica to play country songs since metallica is a metal band. using the name metallica purely as a brand or label so your garbage experiments actually find an audience is bullshit. if your experiments are actually any good, they’ll do well on their own without a recognized brand name on it.

just quit while you’re ahead, for god’s sake. have some dignity.

glenn-danzig-kitty-litter

don’t let it come to this.

assorted recent thoughts on rock and metal

  • dave ellefson is a really nice, even-keeled, well-spoken guy but he’s a fucking awful bass player and no silly over-explanation of how complex the bassline to symphony of destruction is can change that. i’m sure he fools lots of people by talking a good game but as soon as you hear him play, anyone with any ear for music should realize “oh, this guy can’t play for shit.”
  • tommy lee is a fucking fantastic drummer. i love his fun, flashy techniques and rock solid yet surprisingly unpredictable fills. he clearly LOVES playing drums. his passion for drumming actually reminds me of stewart copeland even though they have totally different drumming styles. his playing spices up crue tunes in such a big way that i think it is integral to what makes most crue material so good.
  • john corabi is a monstrous singer. wow, does he have a fucking powerful range. i love some classic crue with vince neil but there is no comparison between the two: neil is not a natural singer; corabi is. again, you can hear the joy and passion (not to mention chops) in corabi’s voice when he sings. that man fucking belts it out.
  • motley crue’s self-titled album with corabi on vocals is way, way underappreciated. songs like smoke the sky and hooligan’s holiday are among my fave crue tunes. the music and vocals are heavier. it’s like crue finally got serious.
  • similar to crue’s self-titled album, i think skid row’s subhuman race is an example of the interesting shift that occurred in the 90’s where hard rock and metal bands began adopting grunge elements. maybe they did so to remain relevant, maybe it was to sell records, maybe they legitimately liked what was going on the grunge scene, but it was certainly tough for most of us old fans to swallow at the time. however, with hindsight now, i actually like a lot of the elements they adopted, like grittier productions. i’m not a fan of the intentionally out of tune guitar solos (as seen at the 2:00 mark of the video below), i think that’s a bridge too far and sounds silly and out of place compared to the rest of a hard rock or metal song, but in the case below it doesn’t ruin the whole thing for me.
  • i like b-sides, oddities, ‘deep cuts’ from albums. today in my car, slayer’s gemini and disorder came on back to back, and i loved them. fat chance ever hearing slayer play either one live though. i think songs like those were recorded and basically forgotten by the band, and to me, that’s a god damn shame. both those songs are so much more interesting than bloodline or whatever other shitty single the band plays at every fucking concert. i think about these songs all the time. i’d love to see enslaved live, but only if they played tracks like aege’s draum and enemy i. i don’t hate singles or anything, but i think that when it comes to metal — a genre where artists write all of their own stuff — there is more quality work throughout entire albums than in genres where myriad writers and producers are involved. and with more quality material, there is more material i might be pleasantly surprised by in concert settings…but only if those artists are willing to piss off the lame loser fans who just want to hear five minutes alone and cowboys from hell over and over. there are a lot more of those fans than me so i lose this one virtually every time. the cure is about the only band i can think of that consistently has surprising, interesting, varied setlists. i admire the hell out of them for it.

that is all.

everyone is dying

i just read that david bowie died today. that’s a shame. i liked him.

louis-vuitton-bowie

see ya, chap

it seems like we’re currently riding a wave of deaths that is beginning to crash down, like there have been more and more deaths of notable people lately, and the rate that those deaths are occurring is increasing. i’m sure that’s not true but it sure feels like it.

when i was a kid, i remember hearing that chris farley died. he was the first big star that died that actually had an impact on me. before him, sure, i heard that various old talk show hosts had died but what did they mean to me? nothing, i didn’t know them at all. chris farley, he was awesome and spoke to me and every other 13-yr old at the time so i really felt a sense of loss when he died.

it was quite a few more years before another important star to me died. i think the next one that i cared about was dimebag darrel from pantera. bill and i were at evolution when i learned about that one and i was incredulous. it seemed unreal. and since then, important stars die more and more frequently. lemmy just died two weeks ago. scott weiland not long before that. ‘the ultimate warrior’ died in 2014. joe cocker. jeff hanneman from slayer. lou reed. nelson mandela. peter steele from type o negative. on and on. when i was a kid, deaths seemed rare. now people are dropping like flies.

i wonder if this is what it’s like to get old and reach the point where you’re watching your friends drop, one by one. it’s not a terrible thing but it certainly is stark.

funeral

i should probably get a suit pretty soon.

i like the first two korn albums. there, i said it.

when korn first started blowing up in the mid-90’s, i fucking hated them.

look at them. how could anyone NOT hate them?

i hated their fashion. i hated the tone of the guitars, it was too muddy. i hated the click-y bass guitar tone. i hated all the ‘mommy/daddy/nursery rhyme’ bullshit in their lyrics, it seemed so silly and childish. i hated all the minimalist single word song titles that were so popular back then. i hated the lack of 16th note bass drums. i hated that they sounded like lousy musicians who could only play the most rudimentary shit. i hated that their riffs didn’t sound like metallica’s riffs.

in short, they weren’t enough like metallica or megadeth or morbid angel or entombed or type o negative or amorphis or any other band i was absolutely nuts over at the time.

this is what i thought every metal band should look like — no plaid, no track suits.

in the early 2000’s, an attractive acquaintance strongly recommended the second korn album to me, life is peachy. i had a crush on this girl so you bet your nuts i checked it out. and i was amazed that i actually liked a lot of the album. there was one track that was basically all rapping and it sucked but the rest was surprisingly heavy. i also appreciated some of the layered sounds and interesting drumming. here’s one that i liked right away.

then someone recommended korn’s first album. i liked the second so much, i thought maybe i had been wrong about the first one. maybe it was good. so i gave it a shot. nope, still hated it. still had all the same complaints.

that brings me to today. it was a nice sunny day and i had to drive to nanaimo to pick up a friend so i grabbed the two aforementioned korn albums to listen to on the drive. for reasons unknown, i threw on the first one. and you know what? finally, after almost 20 years, i really like it.

i now think the guitar and bass tones are innovative and heavy, although in an obviously different way from the typical metal production of the day. i love david silveria’s intricate yet effortlessly funky drumming. i love the space in the music created by the bass and two guitars all playing different parts simultaneously, as opposed to all three playing the exact same part together, which is common in metal. i think a lot of the yells are super raw and wicked. i really like the progressive elements that i never noticed before — the occasional added beat that allows for more emphasis on the lyrics and vocal delivery, the sudden shifts in tempos and feels. i still do not relate to the lyrics much but i like everything else so much that i can look past them, and at least appreciate that perhaps jonathan davis really was venting some deep-seated childhood issues. anyway.

another thing that occurred to me today was that korn were actually really brave — almost punk — to do what they did, when they did it. in ’94 when their first album came out, metal was still all leather jackets, long hair, and tattoos. then korn came out, playing loud, heavy music that had elements of metal in it but was definitely a far cry from metallica or megadeth or slayer, and they were dressed like weird inner city misfits. the group didn’t even have a cohesive look. head and fieldy looked like wannabe mexican gangsters, munky looked like a mean hippie, davis looked like white trash, and silveria looked suspiciously like a jock. i now LOVE that. i think it’s so neat that they had such a mixed up, inconsistent appearance, and didn’t care about it. that aspect makes me respect the blatant disregard for marketing they had back then. they were just a bunch of skids making a new style of music that they really dug. and i think that’s a core quality in a lot of good music.

as they got more popular, i think the quality of their shit decreased. probably due to record company pressure, drug use, internal strife, etc. whatever. i don’t care about those albums. i still think those first two albums are magical, and capture an excitement and enthusiasm that is captivating.

i tried to pick a song from the album to post but i actually think the album is best consumed as a whole, so here it is. as if the rest of the world isn’t already super familiar and done with it.

 

i’m so embarrassed that i used to like nightwish

nightwish is a super shitty finnish ‘metal’ (i use the term very, very loosely here) band. about 15 years ago, i heard their version of the gary moore song, ‘over the hills and far away,’ and really liked it. then i checked out their album, oceanborn, and liked it too. i mean, they always had an embarrassing “i’m a passionate poet” aspect to them, but there was lots of great music to make up for it. here is oceanborn.

it has tons of power metal, classic metal, and progressive metal elements to it, so the operatic vocals didn’t sound terrible to me. they were just a new twist on other tried and true metal styles.

then i checked out everything else by them, and it’s all sucked.

the album before oceanborn sounds immature, unprofessional, like the band was still obviously growing. and virtually everything nightwish has released after oceanborn is 100% disney metal. no joke, it’s usually about the beauty and the beast, angels coming to life, magical worlds, that sort of thing. christ, it’s like they’re making heavy metal aimed at a 3-8 yr old demographic, except it’s not aimed at a 3-8 yr old demographic. it’s just what they like to do, and that level of sulky goth-ness makes me sick.

also, all of their songs since oceanborn sound EXACTLY THE SAME. for any aspiring disney metal artists out there, i’ve broken down the formula for you. here it is:

  • pretty keyboard intro
  • guitar and bass and AC/DC drum beat come in, everyone acts like it’s super heavy
  • guitar and keyboards drop out — just bass, vocals, and AC/DC drums during the first verse
  • guitar and keyboards come back in for chorus
  • repeat verse, this time with some subtle keyboards or guitar for added tension
  • chorus
  • some crappy bridge (anything will suffice, really)
  • move the chorus up a whole tone

that’s it, the secret to nightwish’s success! now every overgrown disney goth can have it!

the main dude behind the band, tuomas holopainen, is unapologetic about his garbage creations. he thinks he’s a great artist, calling his songs “a labor of love, the fruit of dedicated hard work and of the highest quality.” here’s a pic that i think really illustrates the kind of pretentious goth horseshit artist he is.

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that makeup, the smirk, the down-turned face, the sparkly scarf, the poor man’s pirates of the caribbean hair and beard…good grief.

 

and now for the worst parts: i’ve seen nightwish live. and not once, but twice. i know, i’m sorry. the first time in seattle, i had the excuse that i wasn’t too familiar with their post-oceanborn material, and was expecting lots of power-prog metal. i actually don’t think they played ANYTHING from oceanborn at that show despite my screams for it, but they did put on a really good show. then they came to victoria so i went to see them again. this time though, i guess there was lots of turmoil brewing in disneyland and the band was not so enthusiastic. it was a lackluster performance, with none of the awesome songs i wanted, and get this: there was a part in one song where tuomas played by himself, and then at the end of his part, he broke down into tears on stage. as if this particular part of his song was so deeply personal, so intimately connected to his teen goth anguish, that he had to have a good cry, publicly, right there in front of everyone. i almost puked. then to make it worse, the rest of the band came over and hugged him as a show of support! i almost double puked.

and that was the end of me showing any support for nightwish. at this point, i want nothing more of them than tuomas to listen to some more judas priest or iron maiden and get back to making half decent power-prog metal, or else get kicked in the guts by his pet unicorn, rupture his liver, and die of internal hemorrhage. after 15 years of the same song, ceaseless drama with singers, and subsequent public airing of dirty laundry, it simply must end.

i want to close with a great recent quote from my good friend, riley:

“Every time i hear about Nightwish I just listen to South of Heaven again because life is too short.”

all my old shoegazer heroes suck now

there are a few shoegazer bands i have been pretty into for a long time. they are mazzy star, medicine, and my bloody valentine. i found that all three of them followed a similar career trajectory:

  • start out sucky while they find their legs;
  • develop their sound;
  • create a one or two phenomenal records that are heartbreakingly beautiful;
  • disappear off the face of the planet for many years;
  • quietly reappear in 2013 or 2014 with a new album that has most of the right elements but is somehow nowhere near as good as their old shit.

bilinda butcher is still hot but the new MBV doesn’t do anything for me.

so i wonder, what is wrong with their new stuff? is it them, or is it me? maybe i’m not hearing it from the same place i was 10 years ago. i don’t think that’s it though. i honestly think their new stuff is just slightly different, and each one just happens to lack one or two specific qualities that made it so fucking special in the first place.

the new my bloody valentine is probably the best of them but it lacks heaviness. loveless was the single most pure, most distilled shoegazer record ever made but it was also ridiculously heavy. like, banging my head while driving my station wagon as if i’m listening to slayer. that kind of heavy. and while the new record has all the dreamy vocals, slowed down/sped up record sounds, and lush production values of loveless, it’s just not heavy. it does not make me want to bang my head, and that’s a bummer.

i think medicine was the most consistent of my fave 3 ‘gazers. their early records all sounded like shit but contained a high percentage of incredibly touching, beautiful, jagged, almost industrial pop music. i really like ‘shot forth self living’ and ‘the buried life’ but i certainly breathed a sigh of relief when i realized ‘her highness’ actually boasted a production that didn’t sound like a 14-yr old messing around with a 4-track in a windstorm. it’s still beautiful and jagged but it doesn’t hurt my ears, which is great. so when i saw they released a new album in 2013, i was pumped. i figured they would continue the logical progression they had been on and make more industrial pop music with an even better production, but nope. any traces of accessibility and pop music have evaporated on ‘to the happy few.’ it has a good production in that i can tell it sounds exactly like they hoped it would, but the aesthetic they achieved is almost as unlistenable as their early records. hoo-ray.

i think mazzy star’s new album is the worst of the lot. it sounds like them, but a b-rate version of them, like hope sandoval sat there thinking “what random, cryptic, romantic words should i throw down?” while david roback played some more lousy blues-folk. what i like so much about their best record, ‘so tonight that i might see,’ is that while it is cryptic and bluesy as fuck, it feels like sandoval and roback were actually writing stuff they cared about. and there were tons of great hooks, too. now it seems like they’re just copying their old blueprint, and i don’t hear any hooks at all. it sounds forced, flaccid, uninspired.

i guess i will just have to be content with the half dozen records these artists made back in the 90’s that i still love so much, and give up on them the hope of them ever recapturing their former glories. geese can’t lay golden eggs forever.