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Power Trip

You’ve heard it once and you’ll hear it again: Power Trip is metal for punk fans, hardcore for metalheads. Frontman Riley Gale’s brash vocal howlers channel a young Lemmy of Motorhead with the ferocity of early SSD Records bands. While their recordings are ace (try listening to “Manifest Decimation” without breaking into head-bangs, we dare ya) their true power is found in their live show. It gets violent; you have been warned. The Dallas genre-bending punks will be joined by Austin heavyweights Mammoth Grinder, New Brunswick’s Razorheads and Brooklyn hardcore staples AJAX. If you like it loud, you’ll get it loud.

Mon., July 28, 8 p.m., 2014

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Huntress

The lead single off straight-ahead heavy-metal group Huntress’ latest, Starbound Beast, is what frontwoman Jill Janus calls a love song, written by Motörhead’s resident snaggletooth Lemmy Kilmister, titled “I Want to Fuck You to Death.” Quaint, no? Tonight, the oft scantily clad Janus, a self-described witch, will cast a spell to make that a bit morsel a bit more palatable. With Battlecross and River of Nihil.

Mon., July 22, 8 p.m., 2013

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Fawning Rock Doc Lemmy Is No Ace of Spades

“Lemmy is the baddest motherfucker in the world,” exclaims Dave Grohl in Lemmy, whose tagline reads: “49% Motherf—er, 51% Son of a Bitch.” It’s a sentiment shared by almost everyone who appears on-camera (Dave Navarro, Ozzy, Metallica, Slash, Billy Bob Thornton) in this fawning documentary. Devotees of Motorhead frontman/certifiable rock icon Lemmy Kilmister will be in heaven watching this gushing love letter to the man who straddles rock subgenres, but anyone who’s not already a fan will cry for mercy long before the nearly-two-hour film ends. Co-directors Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski shot their film through a fanboy filter, sans any real critical (in the truest sense of the word) thought or evaluation. That carries Lemmy for a while as it meanders through his professional highs and lows, and his personal life (Dad was a prick who deserted the family when Lemmy was a boy; the death of a girlfriend when he was a teenager is presented as his “Rosebud,” explaining everything from his choice of drugs to his arms- length treatment of women). But Olliver and Orshoski are so enamored of their subject that they don’t whittle the fat from the meat. While there’s lots of humor and occasional insight, most scenes drag long after a point has been made (or not made, as when softball questions are tossed about Lemmy’s affinity for Nazi memorabilia) and the directing duo is too earnest to play with presentation when they stumble onto irony—such as when a surgically overhauled Joan Jett says of Lemmy, “He’s a renegade. Everybody else assimilates.”

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HAMMERED OUT

If you’re reading this, the powers-that-edit at the Voice have refused my first draft of this Motörhead story, which was simply an enormous, full-color close-up of Lemmy’s moles with the word “Yeaaaaaaah” scrawled judiciously around them. Bummer. You’ll just have to see them, and hear something that still approximates New Wave of British Heavy Metal speed thrash, when the rage patriarch and his not-so-founding band hit Roseland Ballroom; for a sound that formed in 1975, and halted briefly and consistently in the ’80s due to member turnover and pesky injunctions, the rip of their hard, gravelly energy is still a thing to behold. Has it really been three decades since Ace of Spades? Those anthems can drive now. With Reverend Horton Heat and Nashville Pussy.

Wed., Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m., 2009

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Fast, Brutal, and Out of Control

Sunday’s Thrashfest supposedly started at 4 p.m., but things didn’t get underway until well after six. Of the nine bands billed, two didn’t show, and the sequencing of those that did left something to be desired. No one seemed to mind, though, as the bar opened at five, giving the 100-strong crowd plenty of time to become sufficiently intoxicated. Furthermore, we had two good reasons to be there: first, the reunion of Virginia’s gun-toting speed-metal forefathers, At War; second, the first New York appearance by Canyon Country, California’s Merciless Death, who unleashed a complete onslaught, fast, brutal, and precise—in short, everything thrash metal should be. Following in a long line of California bands (including Exodus, Dark Angel, and, yes, Slayer), they make you wonder what the hell they’re drinking over there, and whether or not it’s legal.

After a pill-hazed and somewhat awkward set by Bludwulf, At War took the stage with all the subtlety of Ted Nugent singing the national anthem. Their speaker cabinets draped in red, white, and blue—plus a machine gun perched on Dave Stone’s drum kit—the band broke a 15-year-silence here, ripping into a romantic ballad called “Rapechase.” One of the originators of what has become an entire genre you could call “war metal,” the band shares little with the more technical leanings of the sound’s modern purveyors—At War remains locked in 1983, primitive and fast, equal parts Hellhammer and Motörhead. And while his band makes no secret of their allegiance to Lemmy, singer Paul Arnold had to gently remind the crowd that they were “not a cover band,” although two covers, “The Hammer” and “Ace of Spades,” were (weirdly) the highlights of the set.

And then came the headliner, Brooklyn’s Early Man, another band playing uninspired Sabbath rip-offs—an approach that’d be far less annoying if they actually possessed an ounce of Sab heaviness. Sadly, this Iommi-lite stuff is still a trend; these guys should’ve played first or, better yet, not at all.

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Glam Is the New Metal

The Spiders are a metalglam band as opposed to a glammetal band—the difference being that glammetal bands are hairmetal bands that dress in spandex and incorporate the vocal extravagances of the ’70s, while metalglam bands are glam bands that insert the dark chords of modern metal. The advantage of being metalglam is that you can take it as a given that you’re to be stagy, showy, and ridiculous. Another advantage: People don’t walk up to you and say, “You sound like an ’80s hair-metal band.” A third advantage is there’s only one of you—the Spiders—so you get to invent the genre. (Sure, once upon a time all glam bands were metal bands—my new roommate sophomore year saw me unloading my Mott and Dolls records and said, “So, you’re a heavy metal fan?”—but that was ’70s metal of boogie and clomp, which no longer counts.)

Glitzkrieg is a good title. Chords and riffs walk the northern night, when they want to, and the singing is glam all the way, doesn’t go near Lemmy’s death rasp or Ozzy’s baying. It’s got a swish in its hips, and ham and mockery in its tone. This is a nice contrast, the tuney singing balancing the gloomy playing. Gloom is only a piece of it, anyway, since the guitar will abandon ye olde metal chords for the psychedelic ward, will ape French police sirens, will gallop to the boogie and skip along with dance beats. The singer takes this pose and that, from Iggybilly to elfin. And there’s even a track called “Hollywood Hills” that sounds like ’80s hairmetal.

Now, had they chosen to be a full-time glammetal band, they still could have been stagy, showy, and ridiculous. The disadvantage is that they couldn’t exist, except as a throwback (“You sound like an ’80s hairmetal band”) or an old act revived (e.g., Great White). At the turn of the ’90s the metal audience, brainwashed no doubt by their hardcore-punk brethren, decided that hairmetal’s high-pitched quasi-gospel or quasi-opera show-off extravaganzas weren’t as good for you as Metallica-Motörhead retch and bellow, so exit hairmetal as a popular form. But after years of werewolf growls, the metal audience is in the mood for something more sensitive. So these days, growls are interspersed with nongrowls, the latter coming from dark metal’s previously unacknowledged Depeche Mode ancestry. And you know what? Now that metal singers as such are abandoning their throat-clearing, I miss it—in fact, tend to prefer them scratching their larynx to singing pretty.

The latest metal album on my pile, Alchemist’s Austral Alien, is hard-driving doom music. But when the singer stops growling and starts crooning, the result isn’t invigorating wimpiness but dull kitsch. The music is powerful nonetheless, if you don’t mind that the guy delivers his lyrics with such high clarity that there’s no way to ignore dystopian schlock like “The sky aghast with windy brown/The choking storms hurl dust around.” Fortunately, the singer’s heart is in his growl, and I welcome the sonorities when he returns to the guttural and hurls his phlegm around.

Then there’s Funeral for a Friend’s Seven Ways to Scream Your Name EP, which mixes deathmetal and emo. The lyrics are vague, self-absorbed, and lacking in humor—though I love the song title “Red Is the New Black.” (I see a red door and I want it painted black. Or not.) The singer will do his death rattle, then he’ll jump to a post-grunge high agony, like Bon Jovi imitating Cobain. It doesn’t quite work. Too bad it’s not really Bon Jovi doing the high mopery. But something interesting is fermenting. The interplay between snarl and whimper succeeds only when it remains interplay and doesn’t go full-scale into sensitivity. But the break from coffin to quaver lifts the music.

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Music


Odd Couples

On their new “Rhythm Bandits,” Danish garage-glam doofuses Junior Senior cast themselves as Robin Hoods who’ll give you the b-b-beat back. On their new “The Rhythm Thief,” Weimar-via-Mars pre-punk terrorists and proto-electro duo Sparks advance a cackling manifesto for groove removal (“Lights out, Ibiza!”)—and sure enough, the whole album deploys hysterical strings and badgering vocals as the rhythm section. Jr Sr are equally single-minded; in their half of last Sunday’s odd-couple double bill at SummerStage, there were at least five number-one songs in heaven, and they all had to do with moving feet or feeling heat or shaking coconuts (until milk comes out). “The sun’s coming up!” the pogoing Senior shouted, apropos of sunset. For a few joyously concussed moments, we had no reason to doubt him.

Darkness had fully descended by the time Ron and Russell Mael commenced their multimedia recital of Lil’ Beethoven, the funniest, avantest high-concept pop record since 69 Love Songs. Russell’s castrato has lost some psychotic edge, but there’s still a Californian sprightliness to the fiftysomething brothers’ theatrics. While Russell flailed, Ron enacted a lunatic pantomime that involved furious interactions with the rear-projections: He donned giant prosthetic arms for “How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall?” (“Practice, man, practice!”), demonstrated a Calamity Jane gallop for “Ride ‘Em Cowboy,” catwalked alongside a leggy blond for “Ugly Guys With Beautiful Girls,” and stripped down to wifebeater for the long-lost Gilbert and Sullivan libretto “Suburban Homeboy” (“She yo yo’s me and I yo yo her back”). The too-brief encore favored post-Moroder material: new romantic almost-hits “I Predict” and “Cool Places” and the autumnal Eurodisco splendor of 1994’s “When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’ ” In the end, their first New York show in 20 years was such a lovefest it prompted habitually mute and stone-faced Ron to deliver a sniffly speech. Who’d have thought it? This town may finally be big enough for the both of them. —Dennis Lim



Shiva Me Timbers

The Carnatic classical music tradition of southern India is distinguished from its more improvisational northern sibling, Hindustani music, by an emphasis on devotionalism. And so the creator-destroyer Shiva, elephant-headed Ganesh, and floor-stomping Tina Turner were just a few of the deities evoked by singer Susheela Raman during her early show at Joe’s Pub last Wednesday. The British-Asian daughter of Tamil parents blends Indian hymns with Western rock and soul and then takes it one continent further by sucking up Nigerian Afrobeat, Ethiopian r&b, and whatever you call the traditional music of Guinea-Bissau. Raman stalked the audience like a crouching tiger, combining bestial belting and divine raunch in her new Love Trap‘s lingam-meets-vulva title track, based on a melody by Ethiopian star Mahmoud Ahmed. Bollywood excess informed other numbers, especially the filmi tune “Ye Mera” and the python song “Trust in Me” from The Jungle Book, in which she paid slinky sibilating homage to Eartha Kitt.

But Raman the smokey cabaret crooner or South Indian Sade (hold the Armatrading covers, please) doesn’t hold a joss stick to her funkier Indipop incarnation; she taps into the over-the-top otherness of Hindi spirituality more than either the more ascetic Sheila Chandra or more romantic Najma. Raman stripped the classical melody “Nagumomo,” from her 2001 Mercury Prize-nominated debut Salt Rain, down to its devotional essentials. None of her Carnatic music was meant to sound particularly authentic, accompanied as she was by a London guitarist, British-Indian tabla player, Bosnian bassist, and Guinea-Bissauan percussionist, but you couldn’t miss the music’s sense of renewal. And although Love Trap drummer Tony Allen’s relentlessly rolling beats were missed in person, Raman’s set ended with “Ganapati,” a psychedelic meltdown dedicated to Ganesh—the god of promising beginnings. —Richard Gehr



Metal Aged

It’s been one Hades of a summer for old-school metalheads: Halford is back in Judas Priest, and Metallica and Ozzy are out there swapping bassists and playing the classics for the youth of the nation. But though those puppet-masters of yore never penetrated Manhattan, Iron Maiden filled Madison Square Garden last week in anticipation of their first new album since Y2K. With the recent announcement that starting next year, the seventh sons of seventh sons and their cackling ghoulbot mascot Eddie are limiting their live appearances to the international festival circuit, fans old and new gathered to pay respects.

Maiden’s set was a delirious death march. Not only did bassist Steve Harris and his three merry axmen unfurl from their fingertips some of the prettiest harmonies in metal; they also retained their title as the undisputed champions of foot-on-the monitor preening. As for Dickinson, he brought the howl in more ways than one by repeatedly joking about drummer Nicko McBrain’s run-in with the cops a few days earlier at Jones Beach.

Like Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio can still hit all the high notes. Guitarist Craig Goldy’s chops haven’t aged as well, but that didn’t stop anyone from flashing devil horns. Earlier, Lemmy made good on his show-opening promise to, um, be Motörhead and kick your ass. Ditching the fantasy world of the headliners, he dedicated the exuberant “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” to Joey and Dee Dee. Fellow Brits Maiden would later call NYC their second home, but it was Lemmy’s sincerity that lingered. —Sean Richardson