Last interview with Mike Portnoy before he left Dream Theater

I had mixed feelings this morning about the news that Mike Portnoy has left Dream Theater.

According to his website he wanted to take a breather as “the DT machine was starting to burn [him] out …and [he] really needed a break from the band in order to save [his] relationship with the other members and keep [his] DT spirit hungry and inspired.”  The rest of the band disagreed: they didn’t want to stop. So Portnoy decided to leave.

On the one hand, I felt sad.  Sad that he’s left the band that he has been so central to for 25 years. Sad that the rest of the band couldn’t put his needs above their own and give him the space that he needed.

While on the other hand I felt a great deal of respect for Mike Portnoy that he was able to be true to himself and just say, “Ok, this is what I really need so this is what I’m going to do.”  Inspiring stuff.

Terrorizer gives Death Magnetic 8/10

The latest edition of Terrorizer magazine dropped through my letterbox this morning.

I flicked through to the album reviews (Selected and Dissected) in search of their words of wisdom on the recent Metallica release Death Magnetic.  I wasn’t hopeful.

I found the review on page 77, and was pleasantly surprised.  It didn’t get the slating that I suspected that it might from a magazine that brims over month in, month out with fine examples of extreme music.  A few snippets from Stavros Pamballis’s review, in which he gave it a mighty 8/10:

… when it comes to Metallica, everyone has an opinion. You come to their work loaded with subjective expectations and a hack’s judgement can’t, and shouldn’t, change them.

Well said!

One of the great misconceptions about ‘Death Magnetic’ is that it constitutes a regression to the ‘Old Sound’, a capitulation to the wishes of the band’s hardcore fans. In fact, the album is a work of consolidation; a fusion of Metallica’s many faces; the speed brats, the thrash monsters, the radio megastars, even the groovy rockers of the ‘Load’ era. And that’s a good thing. To go back and remake ‘Kill ‘Em All’ at 45 would have been disingenuous.

I quite agree.  Enough of folks saying that this is the album that sits naturally between 1988’s ‘… And Justice For All’ and 1991’s ‘Metallica’ (aka ‘The Black Album’), this is definitely — to my ears, at least — an album that is post-Justice, post-Metallica, post-(Re)Load, post-St Anger.

Stavros ends his review with:

… bottom line, to anyone who refused to stop believing, ‘Death Magnetic’ will feel like having a beloved brother awaken from a twenty year coma — he’ll never be quite the same, but just hearing the sound of his voice fills your heart with pure joy.

Anthrax – Caught in a Mosh

Anthrax - Caught in a Mosh

Spotted on the HMV website: thrash metal giants Anthrax have  a new live album coming out next week (Monday 7 January 2008): Caught in a Mosh, subtitled “BBC Live in Concert”. Track-listing is as follows:

Disc 1

Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London, 15 February 1987

  1. A.I.R.
  2. Metal Thrashing Mad
  3. Panic
  4. Enemy
  5. I Am The Law
  6. Madhouse
  7. Howling Furies
  8. Medusa
  9. Armed And Dangerous
  10. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
  11. God Save The Queen
  12. Gung Ho

Disc 2

Live at Monsters of Rock (Castle Donington) Festival, England, 22 August 1987

  1. Among The Living
  2. Caught In A Mosh
  3. Madhouse
  4. I Am The Law
  5. Medusa
  6. Indians
  7. God Save The Queen
  8. A.I.R.
  9. I’m The Man

Other Anthrax news is that they’ve announced their new singer: Dan Nelson, a relatively unknown singer from New York. Read the press release.

Prepare for Metallurgy

If, like me, you’ve always wondered what a synthesis of METAL and LITURGY forged in the fires of time would sound like, well wonder no more.

The Martyrs (CA) are here to answer the until-now unanswerable. Listen to a couple of tracks at PureVolume or on iTunes.

Crafted in secret to do battle with the forces of evil and imbued with the holy light, METALLURGY is the death knell of the old order, a veritable new age of justice and life. Though the storm rages, though the darkness may threaten, the ancient light is passed on! Prepare for METALLURGY.

Does that actually mean anything? ‘Metallurgy’ is a made-up word, right?

Anyway, the music’s not bad. If you’re into short progressive songs, more-spoken-than-sung lyrics and bits of liturgy thrown in for good measure.

(Song ideas for Powerpoint, Neil?)

Celtic Frost v Kreator review

Celtic Frost live in Glasgow

Celtic Frost obviously brought balance to the force in concert last night. For a band, playing in Glasgow, with the word “Celtic” in their name their light show was mostly a “Rangers”-blue!

Kreator live in Glasgow

Kreator, on the other hand, was more of a “red” experience.

Watain

The evening kicked off with black metal band Watain, from Uppsala in Sweden. In saying that they were indeed ‘my cup of tea’ you have to bear in mind that I don’t drink tea. While I could appreciate their musicianship, unfortunately the music itself really did nothing for me. In the words of my Mum: “A lot of noise and shouting”!

Though to be honest, I was standing in the merchandising queue for most of their set. However, they did nothing to endear themselves to the crowd when they ended their set by thanking the crowd thus:

Englaaaand! You’ve been a wonderful crowd!”

Or words to that effect.

England?!

ENGLAND?!!

Cue crowd chant: “Scotland! Scotland! Scotland!” as Watain left the stage.

Legion of the Damned

Next on our bill of bands-with-cheery-names were Legion of the Damned, from The Netherlands. They were actually really good: a cross between British thrashers Bolt Thrower and Florida death-metal band Obituary.

Celtic Frost

I was disappointed to see that Celtic Frost were up next. Even though both Frost and Kreator were co-headlining I really expected Frost to play last (read: be the real headliners), but on reflection I think that the energy that Kreator brought to the stage after Celtic Frost’s bludgeoning sonic onslaught was a good balance. More on that in a moment.

I stood waiting for Celtic Frost to take the stage and found myself wondering what to expect. I’ve been listening to Celtic Frost since about 1985, and wanting to see them live for about as long. That’s 22 years of expectations. I decided to just let them be themselves (which, admittedly, was generous of me!).

I wasn’t disappointed.

Celtic Frost’s performance last night was an event. It felt like more than a simple concert. More than just four friends standing on a stage playing their tunes to a roomful of strangers. My Mum at this point might step in and ask “Tunes? They played ‘tunes’? If it’s not too rude, we’ll just ignore my Mum’s comments here and move on.

It was more than just listening to a band playing some of my favourite songs live. Their performance was an event. It was theatrical without being contrived or ham. They created for themselves a space, both physically and sonically, which they occupied and invited us into. I really don’t know how else to describe it. It is exactly the kind of space that Shakespearian director Peter Brook writes about in his book “The Empty Space”:

I am calling it the Holy Theatre for short, but it could be called The Theatre of the Invisible-Made-Visible: the notion that the stage is the place were the invisible can appear has a deep hold on our thoughts.

Guitarist/vocalist Thomas Gabriel Fischer (aka Tom G. Warrior) and bass player Martin Eric Ain (the two founders of Celtic Frost) commanded a presence on stage. Their personalities and confidence filled the stage, but in a way that wasn’t about their egos. There was a matter-of-factness about their being there but also, I felt, almost a humility, a willingness to be vulnerable and to take risks. (I could be wrong, but that’s how it came across to me.)

Before I left St Andrews that afternoon one of my colleagues asked me which song I’d really like them to play. I had a few (Circle of the Tyrants, Usurper, Jewel Throne) but my favourite song of theirs is from the latest album Monotheist, the third part of a their so-called triptych “Requiem”; the track is called Winter and is played entirely on strings (as in violin, viola, cello and double-bass). It’s the saddest — and most beautiful — piece of music that I’ve ever heard. (Think Inspector Morse soundtrack. But sadder.)

“But they’ll never play it,” I said.

They played it. It’s that risk thing, again. Right at the end as they left the stage, having played Requiem in its entirety. Celtic Frost were always avant garde, that’s something I’ve always admired about them. Requiem is not an easy listen, and I respected Frost all the more for playing this live.

Celtic Frost isn’t a shallow, has-been band touring their hits from the mid-80s. This is a living, growing band who take risks and thankfully seem to keep winning against the odds.

Kreator

Half an hour later Kreator took to the stage and ploughed into their set list was tempo. I probably have less to say about Kreator’s performance than Celtic Frost’s, which isn’t to diminish Kreator — they rocked — but I was still processing the Celtic Frost performance. Except to say that they used an overhead projector very effectively to project videos on a white screen behind the drummer while they played.

While Celtic Frost’s set had been largely slowed down (even from the recorded versions, which is unusual as bands tend to speed up when playing live) Kreator brought a new energy to the room. I’ve never before seen such as large, old school swirling mosh pit than last night during the Kreator set. In fact, at one point, I’m sure there was a double pit going on.

The two headliners had only 60 minutes each to play, as there was a curfew on at the Garage. Something to do with a club night going on afterwards, I think. The bands were as disappointed as the crowd, but critically didn’t disappoint the crowd.

An incredible night of extreme music, and another couple of bands ticked off on my list of “must see” bands. Next up, hmm … I’d like to see Candlemass, Danzig, Down, Exodus and Prong.