Friday, January 31, 2014

Eternal Legacy. Seeking No Peace.

Eternal Legacy.  Seeking No Peace.                           
Auburn Records, 2013.  Eternal Legacy:

Long-time metal heads will certainly appreciate the effort put forth by local Cleveland thrash pioneers, Eternal Legacy, on their 3rd studio release. This well-produced record spins with many different faces, and at times may feel a little unfocused, but “Seeking No Peace” is an album with more than a couple tricks up its sleeve.

The opening track starts simply enough, with a 21-second rapid instrumental opening before leading into the title track. At this point I wasn't quite sure what to expect, I am only slightly familiar with Eternal Legacy's previous work, drawing a blank on the exact sub-genre they fall into.

The album cover depicts malnourished bodies laying slovenly on the ground in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and looks like the morning after one of H.R. Gieger's house parties, with a guy front and center screaming like he’s calling to a friend of his to drive him home, while a spiked chain stretches across the scenery assuring that none of them will have a nice day. This left me expecting Seeking No Peace to be a death metal album of the Cannibal Corpse variety. How pleasantly surprised I was when the Title track, “Cauterize,” started up and I was subjected to a lethal dose of old school thrash. The whole album plays like a love letter to classic thrash, with riffs that wouldn't sound out of place in an Anthrax record circa 1985 to 1990.

After years of listening to increasingly brutal thrash bands, like Kreator, Lich King, Blood Tsunami, etc. Eternal Legacy’s return to basic thrash form is a welcome change of aggressive pace, with songs that are extremely singable and riffs that are all kinds of catchy. I even found myself humming a few while making my way downtown, walking fast or whatever. And they are thrash, despite the fact that both LastFM and Wikipedia refer to them as “power metal.” Now my elitist side might be showing quite a bit, but I think most will agree that the super fast shredding and heavy shouting vocals don't belong in the same category as a band like Nightwish. Even though on their website, Eternal Legacy do not claim to fall into any direct category of metal, even though it is very clear their influences (Metallica, Megadeth, and Merciful Fate) helped to shape their sound.

The vocals are also great, again, paying a massive tribute to the thrash kings of old, namely Metallica and Megadeth. This is the sort of album you could show someone who is only a slight fan of metal and totally convince them its one of Metallica’s early works. Combined with a heap of grizzled Mustain-esque vocal injections, with a dash of Slayer, and a sprinkling of King Diamond shrills of all things.

The last track, “While You Bleed,” especially rocks the Tom Araya vocals with some heavy-to-high techniques. Coupled with some incredibly catchy lyrics. This, however, cannot be said for every track on this record. While most of the instrumental tracks are solid to great, the lyrics are a tad shaky. On their own the lyrics are fine, if a little uninspired, but compared to better known acts the lyrics hold up about as well as a lighthouse made of glow sticks. Don't get me wrong, the lyrics fit, they just are not that interesting. The delivery is spectacular, but reading the lyrics sheet, I felt as though I was flipping through a book of thrash clich├ęs.

For example, the song “Dielectric” is about a man on death row who is about to be executed in an electric chair. He is going to die-electric. GET IT!? While I can accept some clever wordplay, especially in my metal, this little pun made me roll my eyes. It would be fine if it was a little passing joke, but to center a song around it, makes me confused as to why they made it the second full length song on the record. Especially from a band whose other songs are of a tad more serious nature.

I dunno, maybe I’m to much of a metal snob, spoiled by years of thrash, to appreciate the efforts of lesser known acts. It wasn't even a bad song, it just didn't set my world on fire. And that pretty much sums up the entire album: luke-warm classic thrash throw backs, coupled with some stellar productions to make some quite excellent tunes. I was surprised by the overpowering use of bass, which one does not usually see used to great effect by bands like these. The bass tracks do a great job adding some much needed spice to some of the more straight forward tracks. While there are only nine tracks, the good definitely outweigh the mediocre. Tracks like “First Murder” and “Eyes Without A Soul” kicked ass. The whole album plays like a love letter to classic metal and I found it completely endearing.

According to Eternal Legacy’s website, their job is to provide the masses with heavy music, good catchy tunes, extremely energetic performances and something that lets a metalhead know what they are a part of. And Seeking No Peace fits that bill perfectly. Listen responsibly though, it may give thrash fans a heavy case of the nostalgias. Solid.

Personnel: Jason Vanek (vocals/ Rhythm guitar), Shaun Vanek (Lead guitsar/Backing guitar), Tim Frederick (Bass), Steve Dukuslow (Drums)
Tracks:  Intro, Cauterize, Dielectrick, Eyes without a Soul, Greed, Seeking no Peace, First Murder, Lie, While You Bleed.

Alistair “Crowly” Dickinson

Check out Eyes Without A Soul:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cheetah Chrome. Solo.

Cheetah Chrome.  Solo.
Plowboy Records, 2013.  Cheetah Chrome:

Cheetah Chrome is getting near 60, but that doesn’t matter.  He’s been on themusic scene in Cleveland, then New York, now Nashville, for decades, and was the guitarist for Rocket from the Tombs (originally, and now), and the Dead Boys.  That’s cool and I love those bands, but it doesn’t matter.  What matters is what he’s doing now, and that is an EP.  He’s also got a new movie about CBGB, the New York club, and this is supposed to tie into that.  The tracks on this EP are a combination of newly recorded stuff with some from the vault, recorded in 1996.  That’s why there are so many musicians for an album titled Solo.

Whatever decade he recorded the music in, the album is fantastic.  I cannot believe that stuff this good is still around in the age of, well, you can see the Grammy Awards and decide for yourself.  While you can tell which tracks were from the 90s, since they have a different sound, the songs all fit together in a nice package.  You can hear a little Cleveland in “Stare into the Night,” “No Credit,” and “Nuthin’,” a Midwest punk vibe that’s really sweet on the ears, even though they were recorded in Woodstock, New York, and produced by Genya Ravan (anybody remember Ten Wheel Drive?).  Everything else was recorded more recently in Nashville.  Chrome starts off with an almost solo instrumental (Coomer is on drums), “Sharky,” with a 60s surf music vibe combined with great guitar riffs, but dominated by the organ.  I love it.  On the other three songs Chrome shares guitar duties with Sylvain, and Sylvain plays lead on the last tune, “Love Song to Death.”  “East Side Story” sounds like a cross between Cleveland and Springsteen, not a bad combo.  “Rollin’ Voodoo is percussion heavy and bluesy, with distorted vocals and thrashing guitars.  The closer puts it all in perspective with lyrics that are simultaneously powerful but dejected, and an exquisite guitar solo.

I can’t think of a bad thing to say about this album, except that it’s too short.  Please make more, Mr. Chrome.  It’s good to hear you again.

Personnel:  Cheetah Chrome (guitars, vocals, organ), Ken Coomer (drums, percussion), Sylvain Sylvain (guitar), Sean Koos (bass, piano), Lez Warner (drums), Jimmy V. (guitar), Greg Walker (bass), Johnny Albamont (drums).
Tracks:  Sharky, East Side Story, Rollin’ Voodoo, Stare into the Night, No Credit, Nuthin’, Love Song to Death.

Ron Yoyek

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Kidney Brothers. Coal Tattoo.

The Kidney Brothers.  Coal Tattoo.
ReR Records, 2013.  Kidney Brothers, ℅ The Numbers Band:

In 1998, the Kidney Brothers, Robert and Jack, members of 15 60 75 (The Numbers Band) did a duo performance at the Disastrodome Festival in London, put on by Dave Thomas (of Pere Ubu fame).  Apparently, things went well (reports were that “grown men wept”), and later that year they put together this album, recorded at Suma Studios in Painesville.  Then it sat.  It has now been released by ReR, a boutique art music label, where you can buy it as a download or spend $20 or so for the CD with a full package of liner notes (or at the Numbers Band site).  It’s also available as a CD-R from Amazon for less, but it has no liner notes to speak of (when will you learn not to piss people off, Amazon?).  

Anyway, back to the band.  The Kidneys have been around a long time, with Robert a founding member of the Numbers Band back in 1969.  They have always created a fascinating mix of gutbucket blues, jazz frosting, and a bit of experimentation.  Some of their music reminds me of Creedence Clearwater Revival at their best, some is just great blues.  Here, the brothers do stripped down versions of some of their songs, combined with standard blues songs (“Who Do You Love,” “You Don’t Love Me”), and even a Dylan tune, “Outlaw Blues.”  The results are raw, a combination of talking blues, noir/art jazz, and Chicago-style electric blues that is simply riveting.  I didn’t quite weep, but I am exceedingly happy with the results.  

With a duo, there’s no place to hide, so you’d better be pretty good.  No problems here, since these guys have been performing for a long time, and even the flaws sound like they belong there.  The talking blues songs, including the title track and “Jimmy Bell” are slow and intense, and the guys sound like they’re reaching out of the speakers to grab you and tell you a story.  Others are full out, high speed chases, like “Outlaw Blues” and “Who Do You Love.”  Still others simmer in either blues or jazz sauce, like “That’s Alright” “Thief,” and “Somebody Shot Him.”   Sweet saxophone by Jack provides additional atmosphere.  “Wild River” sounds like it should be on the soundtrack of a western movie (there’s a bit of Willie Nelson here), and “Heavy Rain” is, well, heavy; a powerful mid-tempo rave where the lyrics are spit like bullets and the guitar takes off.

You might have figured out that I like this album.  No, actually I love this album.  It displays strength after strength, with visceral lyrics and expert musicianship.  I don’t suppose they’ll make another, but you can enjoy them in the Numbers Band, which has just put out a new vinyl release.  

Personnel:  Robert Kidney (vocals, guitar), Jack Kidney (vocals, keyboards, tenor sax, percussion).
Tracks:  Jimmy Bell, Outlaw Blues, Roughouse, You Don’t Love Me, Thief, Coal Tattoo, Somebody Shot Him, Heavy Rain, Wild River, Thats Alright, Who Do You Love.

The Grand Wazoo

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Devo. New Traditionalists: Live 1981 Seattle

Devo.  New Traditionalists: Live 1981 Seattle.
Booji Boy Records, 2013.  Devo:

This concert recording is as interesting for the fact that it exists as for its content.  In 1981/1982, Devo toured in support of their new album, New Traditionalists, a more politically explicit album than previous releases (it was their fourth).  It was more controversial to some than its predecessors, less interesting to others.  The tour, which was visually exciting (including giant props and the group wearing plastic Reagan hairpieces), was never captured on video, but a cassette from the Seattle leg of the tour survived, was re-mastered, ignored for a long time, and finally released this year.  It contains most of the New Traditionalist tracks along with a batch of songs from previous albums.  It was released on Record Store Day last year in vinyl. Added to the CD release are two tracks from the Boston concert of the same year, “Working in a Coalmine” and “Beautiful World.”  The sound is very good, so we shouldn’t complain about getting this really nice piece of history.

New Traditionalists has been described as less ironic and more explicit, less artsy and more pop, with darker lyrics than previous albums.  They’d been discovered by a wider audience, including folks in other countries, and were perhaps being more explicit in the process of communicating with folks who didn’t catch their earlier approach.  The music in the concert album is pumped up a bit, with more of a rock sound (a lot more guitar presence), and more electronics.  Some of the subtly of the original tracks are lost, but the punk elements come more to the fore, so whether you prefer this to the original album is a matter of taste.  In the the original NT, to me at least, they still have most of the quirky elements of the earlier releases, but these tend to be smoothed out in the concert performance.  One of the things I noticed is how good the guitar work is.  They could really rock out.  The presence of many of their earlier songs should please purists, while late-comers (ca. 1981) will be happy with what they hear here.  Younger listeners may not notice much of a difference at all and discover Devo for themselves as one of the coolest bands Akron has ever produced.

Personnel:  Mark Mothersbaugh (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Bob Mothersbaugh (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Gerald Casale (keyboards, vocals), Bob Casale (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Alan Myers (drums) [Studio recording personnel]
Tracks:  Opening Theme, Going Under, Through Being Cool, Jerkin’ Back n’ Forth, Soft Things, Pity U, Girl U Want, Planet Earth, Whip It, Race of Doom, Set Change Countdown, Super Thing, Uncontrollable Urge, Mongoloid, Jocko Homo, Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA, Gut Feeling, Gates of Steel.  (Bonus Tracks): Beautiful World, Working in a Coalmine.

Jeff Wanser

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Extra Medium Pony. 11868.

Extra Medium Pony.  11868.
Self-Produced, 2012.   Extra Medium Pony:  

This indie-pop band from Cleveland released this a while back, but since they haven’t released anything new (they are now with Exit Stencil Records, which has re-released it), it was handed to me to review.  The title seems to be an address, the string of five numbers so common in this area make it obvious, and a Google search places it in Lakewood.  Whether this is the address of one of the musicians or the object of the songs (the girl with whom Mr. Spitalsky broke up) is a private matter that need not concern us.  The 18 short songs on the album provide an interesting paradox of largely uptempo, rather happy sounding tunes about heartbreak.  It is almost as if the writer were enjoying the catharsis of writing and singing about his troubles.

The listening is pleasant.  I enjoyed most of the songs, although they are somewhat insubstantial from a musical perspective.  Consisting of simple, limited chord progressions, minimal instrumentation, and relatively unpolished production, one can move through the album without effort.  However, the guitar playing is quite good, and the gentlemen on bass and drums form a good rhythm section.  Mr. Spitalsky is suitable as a singer for the style (he moves out of key and misses notes, but for this music such actions are reasonable), and clearly emotes the lyrics in appropriate fashion.  The lyrics are the deepest part of the music here, and display the range of emotion the writer faced.  A few mid-tempo songs and several ballads, such as “Junk Yard” are placed in the mix to provide variety, and this proves successful.

Extra Medium Pony is a band with considerable musical potential.  Some of the songs are really quite good.  Many suffer from simply being too short (only six are over two minutes), and require greater development in order to take them to the next level.  This is their second release (their first was an EP), and so there is plenty of time and room to grow in any direction they choose.  They will be playing at the Happy Dog in Cleveland come February.

Personnel:  Richard Spitalsky (vocals, guitar), Jimmy Frysinger (drums), Ben Gmetro (bass).
Tracks:  Sea Glass, You and Me, Ewe, It Don’t Feel Right, Livin’ Alone, Settle Down, Sunflower, Lost, Cat and Split, You Sleep?, Junk Yard, I’m so Bored, Inside Out, Room to Grow, Lucky, Falling Apart, Waiting a Long Time, Crooked Fingers.

Gottfried Klaas

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Lisa & Heather Malyuk Roundup.

A Lisa & Heather Malyuk Roundup.
Summer’s End.  Self-produced, 2004.
Stella.  Self-produced, 2005.
13 Tunes.  Self-produced, 2007
Lisa & Heather Malyuk:

I decided that since we received all three of these CDs at the same time, I would just write up a collective review.  These albums represent three quarters of the Malyuk Sisters’ recorded output; the other CD is a Christmas album (2009).  These are not new, but Lisa and Heather Malyuk are a regular and important presence in the Northeast Ohio folk music landscape, and so they deserve some writeup.  They play art and music festivals, farmers’ markets, contra dances, weddings, and all sorts of relatively small venues where an acoustic folk duo can do some good.  Their repertoire includes Appalachian, Celtic, and world music, and they have written some of the tunes themselves.  The focus of this instrumental music is Lisa’s hammered dulcimer, with Heather accompanying on either guitar or fiddle.  Both are excellent musicians and a delight to hear either in person or on these recordings.  

Summer’s End was their first release, and is probably the most conservative of the three musically, since it includes only hammered dulcimer and guitar.  It’s a lovely group of 13 tunes (20 if you count the set tunes separately), including traditional favorites such as “Doctor Doctor,” as well a few with named composers, such as “O Mistress Mine,” by Thomas Morley (16th century).  Jigs, reels, and waltzes predominate.  

Stella is dedicated to their grandmother, Stella Yutzy, and has a wider array of instrumentation as well as several original tunes.  Lisa plays the doumbek on occasion, and Heather picks up the fiddle.  Bob Wood, a guitarist, guests on “Hangman’s Reel.”  The tunes display a greater diversity of styles than the earlier album, including a musette and a rag, and the notes explain their influences.  Right in the middle is “All Right at Home,” a poem read by Stella herself and recorded back in 1943.  “Cattle in the Cane/Henning’s Farewell” features Heather on fiddle with Lisa on doumbek (a goblet-shaped drum).

The Malyuks continue to display greater diversity on their third album, 13 Tunes, with several original tunes offered up as well as a mix of traditional music and songs by other composers.  This includes some slightly darker tunes, such as “-5-,” with an Eastern European flavor, and the melancholy “Lonesome Oak,” along with sprightly fare such as “Salt River/Robinson County,” which really moves.  “Waynesboro/Big Scioty” features Heather on fiddle and Lisa on the banjo uke, for a very different flavor.  

All three albums are a joy to hear, and can be used as music for listening, dancing, or background, as one prefers.  I’m not sure I have a favorite; 13 Tunes shows the greatest versatility, but Summer’s End has some old favorites of mine.  You can’t go wrong with any of them.  I’m glad that Lisa and Heather Malyuk continue to perform in the area, and urge you to turn out when they do.

Performers:  Lisa Malyuk (hammered dulcimer, doumbek, banjo uke), Heather Malyuk (guitar, fiddle).
Tracks:  Summer’s End:  Ships are Sailing/Poplar Bluff; Combination Rag/Control of Earth; Waltz of the Little Girls; Tug River/Meg Grey; La Partida; Temperance Reel/Shenandoah Falls/ Big John McNeil; O Mistress Mine; Return to Tchernobyl; Dusty Miller/Sadie at the Backdoor; Breakfast Waltz; Doctor, Doctor; New Waltz; Swallowtail Jig/Bellman’s Jig & Reel.
Stella:  Moran’s; Caliope House/The Bent Pin; Spotted Pony/Boatin’ up Sandy; Style Musette; Hangman’s Reel; All Right at Home (poem); Stella; Modal; Nail that Catfish to the Tree/Meg Grey; Cattle in the Cane/Henning’s Farewell; Beaumont Rag; La Llorona; Mis Grace Haye’s Delight/Swinging on a Gate; Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.
13 Tunes:  No Caboose Anymore/Jump in the Well My Pretty Little Miss; MacArthur Road/ Cascade Road; At Work on the Land/Let’s Motor/La Maison de Glaise; Valse de la Pluie/Les Enchant├ęs; -5-; Salt River/Robinson County; Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus; Touzle Your Kerchie/ Bus Stop Reel; Reuben’s Train/Cherokee Trail; Lonesome Oak; Waynesboro/Big Scioty; Swingin’ in a Leisure Suit/Flying Home to Shelley; Be Thou My Vision.

The Grand Wazoo