Аркона—Лики бессмертных Богов

This week’s 195 metal CDs offering is by a Russian folk-metal band from Moscow called Arkona (Аркона).

While searching for information about them I discovered this video released in 2010, from their 2009 album Goi, Rode, Goi! (Гой, Роде, Гой!).

It’s a song called ‘Liki Bessmertnykh Bogov’ (‘Лики бессмертных Богов’) which means ‘Faces of immortal gods’. I rather like it.

The song describes a human who has lost his reason for being. With his spirit in vexation, he stands on a crossroad, fearing death and having a wish to flee from the reality. Only the Faith can give him the will to live on.

“With life praying to your native shrines
You are looking into nowhere, in the mist of your dreams
And in this oblivion of the soul, in grey vain life
Will revive in your memory the faces of immortal gods.”

Perhaps one day I’ll finish learning Russian.

Jeff Hanneman (1964-2013) RIP

Jeff Hanneman in rehearsals (Source: Slayer website)
Jeff Hanneman in rehearsals (Photo: Slayer website)

Yesterday was a particularly sad day for me. Not only did I attend a memorial event for our friend and former neighbour Ian McKie (I’ll write more about that at a later date, once I’ve processed the news a bit more), but I also learned of the death of Slayer guitarist and songwriter Jeff Hanneman.

The first time I heard Slayer was in a church basement in Whitley Bay. The album was Reign In Blood, which is still regarded by many as the definitive thrash metal album. The album was released in October 1986 and as I was on a Borders Scripture Union summer camp I guess it must have been 1987.

Slayer was the first metal band I saw in concert, at the Edinburgh Playhouse in 1988, promoting their South of Heaven album; Nuclear Assault were the support act.

Jeff Hanneman suffered a spider bite in 2011, which resulted in a condition called necrotizing fasciitis, a rare and horrible flesh-eating disease which almost immediately put his life at risk. As was reported on the Slayer website recently,

for a couple of days after he went to the ER, things were touch-and-go. There was talk that he might have to have his arm amputated, and we didn’t know if he was going to pull through at all. He was in a medically-induced coma for a few days and had several operations to remove the dead and dying tissue from his arm. So, understand, he was in really, really bad shape. It’s been about a year since he got out of the hospital, and since then, he had to learn to walk again, he’s had several painful skin grafts, he’s been in rehab doing exercises to regain the strength in his arm. (Source)

Despite his rehab reportedly going well, and making an appearance at The Big Four show at Coachella in 2011, Hanneman never rejoined Slayer in a full time capacity. His place in the band was filled on tour by Exodus guitarist Gary Holt.

Sadly, the news broke yesterday that he had died from liver failure, although it was made clear on some reports that as yet there is no clear indication whether this was directly related to the spider bite.

This is the news currently on the Slayer website:

Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away at about 11AM this morning [Thursday, May 2] near his Southern California home. Hanneman was in an area hospital when he suffered liver failure. He is survived by his wife Kathy, his sister Kathy and his brothers Michael and Larry, and will be sorely missed. (Source)

He will indeed be sorely missed by many.

Storm Corrosion

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZhP9Mtxo5c]

Video for Storm Corrosion’s song Drag Ropes.

An album that I’ve been anticipating for quite some time is Storm Corrosion: a collaborative project between Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth and Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree. It was released in the UK on Monday 7 May.

I loved the last Porcupine Tree album, The Incident; the last Opeth album, Heritage, has been a grower; I enjoyed Steven Wilson’s second solo album Grace for Drowning. I knew that this album wouldn’t sound like any of these.

In an interview with Steven Wilson about the record he said

“If anything, it’s even more orchestral, more stripped down, even more dark, twisted and melancholy… but it certainly feels like it comes from the same place as Heritage and Grace For Drowning, which indeed it does because it was written during the same period. We were, in a way, egging each other on to do those particular records but also at the same time coming up with the music that’s now going to be on Storm Corrosion. So it’s a very orchestral record, as you’d expect, the songs are quite long and develop in unusual ways. I’m realistic about it, that half the people are going to hate it and half the people are going to fall in love with it. I’d be happy with that anyway.”

Metal Underground

I fell in love with it.

The album is dark and atmospheric and beautiful and odd and unexpected and it has the feel of a 1960s soundtrack (which is perhaps why I like the video to Drag Ropes so much). In many ways it reminds me of Richard Thompson‘s 1997 collaboration Industry with bassist Danny Thompson (no relation).

It is very much worth checking out.

I give it a rating of 5/5

Metallica celebrates 30 years

Last month Metallica celebrated their 30th anniversary with a series of four shows at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Monday 05, Wednesday 07, Friday 09 and Saturday 10 December. (These links are to the official ‘recap’ videos on Metallica’s YouTube channel—over two and a quarter hours of Metallica and friends.)

Metallica took up a residency at The Fillmore and essentially became the house band for the week, to which they invited friends and former Metallica band mates to come join them and play both their own music and covers.

It was really great to see Dave Mustaine (Megadeth/ex-Metallica) on stage playing with them, and Jason Newsted too. Wonderful to hear John Bush (Armored Saint/ex-Anthrax) singing with the band, whom apparently Metallica wanted to join them as their vocalist in the early days. As well as all their other guests, including King Diamond (Mercyful Fate), Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Sean Harris and Tatler (Diamond Head), Animal (The Anti-Nowhere League), Lou Reed, Glenn Danzig (Misfits and Danzig), Marianne Faithfull, John Marshall (Metal Church), Biff Byford,  Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains), Bob Rock and more and more.

I’ve been listening to Metallica since 1986, when their third album Master of Puppets came out (I first listened to it at a Scripture Union camp!), and I don’t think I’ve ever heard Metallica play so well live as they did during those four shows. James Hetfield’s voice especially. Wow! And how heartening to see James Hetfield so well, and confident in himself.

I’d love there to be a DVD released of these shows.

You can buy digital versions of the four concerts on the Live Metallica website for US$9.95 (MP3) or US$12.95 (FLAC and Apple Lossless formats). Having listened to them all, they are well worth it: full of great music, great chat, and great humour.

There’s also a great review of the gigs on the Metallica news page, and of course following the 30th anniversay shows they released the Beyond Magnetic EP which contains the four ‘new’ songs (recorded during the Death Magnetic sessions) they played during the four nights in San Francisco: one each night.

Beyond Magnetic EP will be released on CD worldwide on 30 January, and in North America (who apparently aren’t part of the world!) on 31 January.