Archive for May, 2013

All About Friends Forever Volume 4

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 13, 2013 by Magadh

ImageI have been traveling a fair amount of late which accounts for my rather shoddy production for this blog. I was lucky enough to be welcomed home last night by Rich Hall and Carrie Whitney. They had my copy of the most recent volume in their All About Friends Forever series. Whitney released the original compilation in 1997. She’s now teamed up with Hall to create a new chapter; releasing remastered versions of the original tunes along with jams from the next generation.

All About Friends Forever Vol 4. is a powerhouse, featuring remastered tunes from Botch and Nineironspitfire along with new material from Children of God and Helms AleeBotch starts things off with their cover of The B52’s “Rock Lobster”. Always a crowd pleaser back in the day, their interpretation owes much to the chaotic glory of bands like Angel Hair or Swing Kids and remains a standout today. 

Children of God are up next with “Silent War”. The track conjures the brutality of early Converge and Rorschach. More straight forward than most of the excellent We Set Fire to the Sky, “Silent War” pummels the listener. A very solid offering.

Helms Alee premiered their cover of fellow North westerners Heart’s “Magic Man” via Revolver here.  They present a fairly faithful rendering of the classic which showcases the band’s substantial talent. A fitting tribute to my wife’s musical heros.

Nineironspitfire shut up shop with their 5 second blast “Dead”. Fast, brutal and vicious; just like the unfortunately short life of the band.

Hall and Whitney’s most recent release is well worth your time. Check out the tunes and download the tracks via their bandcamp here. Vinyl versions of this and all of the other volumes can be found here (I have it on good authority only 1 copy of the test pressings from Volume 4 remain). 

To learn more about the history of the project check out Eric Weiss’ (of Rumpshaker Zine) interview with Whitney at the All About Friends Tumblr.

– Captain of Games

Slayer and Me

Posted in Articles with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2013 by Magadh

slayer3In the fall of 1985 I had some cash on hand. I had been corresponding with a girl who I’d met over the summer and I had been planning to try to go out and see her again over Christmas break. I had saved up a wad of cash with which to do this by the time she told me around the end of November that I shouldn’t bother. That was a hard knock to take, but I salved my wounded pride by going out on a bit of a spending spree. I only remember two of the things that I bought: a brand new Roskopp skateboard (and a set of OJ II wheels to go with) and a copy of Slayer’s Hell Awaits.

I didn’t really know that much about Slayer at the time. All my information came from an article about speedmetal that I’d read in Maximum Rock n Roll. I was intrigued, but also kind of skeptical. I had been into the punk scene for a few years and in those days the punk/metal division was still taken quite seriously. I was serious about anarchism (or so I thought) and singing about Satan, or your dick, or whatever, seemed unacceptably decadent to me. Still, there was obviously something seriously transgressive about bands like Slayer and Celtic Frost. I lived in a small town with a lot of churches, where Christianity was jammed up my nose all the time. I wasn’t sure I approved of their aesthetic choices, but I sort of felt like we had something in common.

Although I lived the agricultural region of eastern Washington State, there was a pretty decent record store. It was run by a bunch of old ex-hippies and was also kind of a head shop. My mother warned me against going there, so of course that became the place where I spent a lot of my free time. It was a dark little place that shared a building with a beauty salon out in the neighborhoods away from downtown. There were banks of records and cassette cases in just about every inch of available space. They had a lot of interesting stuff, mostly from the 1960s and 70s, but for some reason they also got stocked some punk stuff in the early 1980s. I’d made some pretty awesome scores there already: the Bad Brains I and I Survive/Coptic Times 12”, the This is Boston not L.A. compilation, my first copy of Damaged, you get the idea.

So there I was on a dark day in early December with a pocket full of money, minutely examining every possible purchase. I was going through the “S” section, searching (as I recall) for a copy of the Sex Pistols Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle that a friend of mine claimed to have seen there. The records were separated alphabetically by artist, but within the individual letters there was no organization, so one had to spend a bit of time searching for any particular thing that one wanted to find. It was then that I stumbled upon Hell Awaits. The cover was striking, and the pictures on the back suggested real depravity. I bought it and took it home feeling like I was about to start chanting spells from the Necronomicon.

slayer1slayer2I went straight to my room without talking to my parents. They were pretty mellow people, but I still didn’t want to show them something like that. I opened the plastic, pulled out the vinyl, and set it on the player. Slowly the reverse recorded noise at the beginning came up and the hair rose on the back of my neck. Then the music kicked in and my jaw dropped. One minute and thirty-five seconds in, a new age dawned for me. Dave Lombardo’s thundering drums pushed forward one of the heavy passages of metal ever produced and it was January 1st in my apocalyptic Year Zero. I sat slack-jawed. I had simply never heard anything like this. Then they kicked it up into fourth gear and it seemed like the world dissolved. I was torn between utter astonishment at the music that I was hearing and sheer terror that one of my parents would walk in on the black mass that had suddenly broken out in my bedroom. I remember thinking, “If there really is a god, this kind of thing must really piss him off.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yew9L0Xjm_g

***

In the fall of 1986, I was living in Portland, Oregon when I heard that Slayer had a new record coming out. Once again, I had read about it first in Maximum Rock n Roll, and once again the source of my information came with a bit of skepticism. I was reading an interview with some hardcore band from Europe (I don’t remember who) and their comment on Reign in Blood centered on the fact that the first song dealt with Josef Mengele. For that reason (and I think justifiably) I was dubious. By this time I had heard the rest of Slayer’s back catalog, their first LP Show No Mercy and the Haunting the Chapel 12″.  I thought “Chemical Warfare” was pretty impressive, but in general I didn’t feel like that stuff measured up to Hell Awaits. I’d also spend months living in Nottingham in the U.K., hanging around in the punk scene with a lot of really seriously politically aware types. These were the early days of what would come to be called grindcore, and my of the arguments about the relative merits of punk and metal (and possible combinations of the two) were all around. I had made the acquaintance of bands like Concrete Sox and Heresy, who were at the forefront of such combinations, but who also retained a definite political consciousness that seemed to make singing about Satan seem absurd. [People familiar with this period in the U.K. punk scene may remember degree of loathing inspired by Onslaught, partly for their Satanistic stylings, partly for the their idiotic racist comments. For an illustration of this one has only to listen to opening to the Stupids Peruvian Vacation LP (linked below)]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJIiv1pbiG4

Around that time I renewed my acquaintance with a friend from high school who had moved to Estacada outside of Portland. He came into town to transact a little business with me. As it turned out, he was a couple of dollars short, but he happened to have a cassette of Reign in Blood, which I accepted in lieu of the full amount. My buddy and I went back to my dorm room (I was in college at the time), performed the appropriate spiritual ablutions, and slipped the cassette into my tape deck. This time things got going a bit more quickly. This time the blow fell more quickly: twenty seconds in Tom Araya unleashed a jet engine shriek, Lombardo’s double kick spun into action, and the whole band galloped off toward the black plains of Gehenna at hypersonic speed. Reign in Blood was a whole new level of brutality. By this time I’d heard everything Metallica had released up through Master of Puppets. I’d snaffled a copy of the demo version of Exodus Bonded by Blood, and even owned a Venom record or two. None of them came close to this. One after another, the cuts on Reign in Blood struck like bomb blasts in rapid succession, sucking the wind from one’s lungs. I think I managed to say something like, “Oh shit” before being pummeled into silence. I made it about through “Jesus Saves” before I had to hit stop. I couldn’t take it anymore. The sky had grown dark, and something cold brushed through the room on blackened wings. I thought I was going to have an attack of vertigo.

I know without having to look it up that the first time that I saw Slayer was 1 November 1986 at Pine Street Theater in Portland. I know this because it was the night after Holloween and I was still addled from an extremely ill-advised chemical cocktail that I had ingested the night before. Shows in Portland in those days could be really hairy. There was a big skinhead scene in town and even the ones who weren’t white power tended to be extremely aggressive. Pine Street was packed. I’d never seen it so full of people and it seemed like every skinhead in town was there, in addition to all the other lunatics in the area. I spent most of the night at the back of the pit trying to stand very still. I remember trying to find my way to the can and being in mortal fear that I was going to brush up against the wrong guy. I was kind of out of my head and I was pretty much convinced (not without justice) that practically everyone in the joint was itching for a fight. I spent a lot of nights in Portland in those days wondering when I was going to get my ass kicked, but that had to be just about the most paranoid I ever was at a show.

Overkill was opening for Slayer on that tour, which really seemed like a bad idea. Overkill weren’t bad, but pretty much every song they did sounded like the intro to a (much better) Anthrax song. The fact of the matter was that the crowd was simply not into what they had to offer. They soldiered on gamely through a torrent of abuse and death threats. When they left the stage we all sort of collectively noticed that there were gigantic banks of Marshall cabs on either side of the stage. The drums were on a riser that seemed to be about ten feet high. The air was electric with tension as we all waited for Slayer to come on. Smoke swirled on the stage. The lights when down. Four spectral figures moved into place in the dark. The kick drums thundered out, the lights came up, and without any further preamble a tidal wave of noise smashed into the audience. Chaos broke out; frantic moshing with no order or direction. Fights broke out, but the beefy and aggressive Pine Street bouncers seemed strangely (or wisely) reticent about wading into the pit to sort it out. I felt as if I had been transported to some different plane. This was, I am certain, the loudest noise that I had heard to that point in my life. I stood transfixed through their set, feeling like an interdimensional portal was about to open and swallow me up. I both wanted it never to end, and hoped that they would stop so I could make my escape. When their set was over, I headed out as quickly as possible, convinced that the darkness and aggression would leak outside and pursue me into the night.

***

Slayer was, for me, the quintessential band of the 1980s. I was fascinated by them. In the winter of 1989 I was in Scotland, up late, and watch whatever was on TV (which in those pre-cable days was not much). The last thing on at night turned out to be a show called Headbanger’s Heaven (or something like that), hosted by Elvira, Mistress of the Night. It featured performance footage of various metal bands, and after showing about half and hour of Ozzy Osbourne, they did a segment on Slayer. In between bits of concert highlights, they played an interview with Tom Araya. The presenter asked him about their new material, noting that it was slower than their older stuff, to which Araya responded, “When you’ve already put out the perfect thrash record which keep trying to recreate that?” It sounded slightly arrogant, but he really had a point. I’ve enjoyed everything that I’ve ever heard by Slayer, but nothing quite packs the punch for me of Hell Awaits and Reign in Blood. To a greater extent than any two other records I ever heard, they changed the way that I looked at music, at heaviness, at drumming, at aggression in art.

I am writing this two days after hearing of the death of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman from liver failure. I suspect that it had something to do with the collateral effects of the spider bite that he suffered a couple of years ago, but I’m guessing that he didn’t live a particularly healthful lifestyle otherwise. Slayer has had some rocky times over years, and particularly recently. Dave Lombardo, probably the single most influential drummer in extreme metal, had been in and out of the band, but had recently been kicked out (apparently at the insistence of Kerry King) over some sort of contractual issue. And then there are the occasional news items in which Tom Araya claims to actually be a practicing Christian. Who knows what to believe. For me the death of Jeff Hanneman is the end of an era. As the predominant songwriter in the band, he created a sonic onslaught that left me reeling and from which I have yet to fully recover. If it is true that it is better the reign in hell than it is to serve in heavan, I say, long may he reign!

Magadh