Heavy Metal

Revisiting Slipknot’s ‘All Hope is Gone’

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Release Year: 2008

Rating: 7.5/10

Ten years ago, Slipknot changed gears and experimented with their sound on their fourth album, All Hope is Gone. Though the record was generally well received and even was their first to debut at number one, it’s not a fan favorite. The record has been dismissed by fans and the band themselves for its standard heavy metal sound an album that divided fans and has been dismissed by the band themselves. Even the band doesn’t remember it too fondly. The shift towards a standard heavy metal sound is jarring, but it’s still an intense record. Yet, something is missing that made their previous efforts brutal, memorable, and exciting. While it’s not a terrible record, it is among their weakest.

Gematria (Killing Name) is an absolute beast and kicks the LP off on a great note. It has a rush of aggression right from the dizzying guitar riff that opens the song. Things get more intense as Corey Taylor sings “What if God doesn’t care?!” as if he’s preparing listeners for a battle. Though it has an awesome energy and drive behind it, at over six minutes long it doesn’t hold your attention. After a while, everything melds together and you’re ready to move on to the next track. It’s not a song that stays with you very long and it’s an issue that permeates the album.

Very few of the songs are terrible, except for “Vendetta,” which seems better suited for Stone Sour. Tracks like “Butcher’s Hook,” “This Cold Black,” and “Sulfur” aren’t bad songs at all. They’re standard Slipknot fair with tons of aggression, violence, and anger dripping throughout every bar. But that’s really all you can say about them save for a killer guitar riff or two. Some of the lyrics are interesting, but something about them doesn’t hit you the same way the band’s other songs do. Many of the tracks found here are some of their most forgettable.

Luckily, there are some great moments. Though “Psychosocial” wasn’t well received on initial release, it’s actually the most memorable song from the album. The spiraling guitar riff, the pounding pulse that opens the song, and the harsh tone gets your adrenaline pumping for what’s about to come. The part with the bridge where the music drops and everyone screams “The limits of the dead!” is so intense it gives you goosebumps. The song also shows what Slipknot have mastered over the years. It’s a great example of the melodic and brutal melding together. It’s still a stellar track ten years later.

“Dead Memories” is another stand out track. There’s a bit of sonic shift where the guys go more for a standard rock sound. The lighter music and cleaner tones make it one of their more accessible singles. Not to mention the hook is memorable with Corey gently singing “Dead memories in my heart.” It’s a great song, but one that can definitely split fans in two.

Slipknot gets a bit experimental on the excellent “Gehenna.” Similar to songs “Purity” and “Prosthetics,” it has an unsettling nature. The distorted music crawls along while eerie sounds and wailing Theremins put you on edge. Taylor sounds broken and on the verge of snapping as he sings “The blood and the body /control the cut so it’s seamless/show me your heart/show me the way to complete this.” Even when he croons “Free my severed heart/give me you” he manages to sound creepy, not mention the maniacal laugh he throws in. It’s a haunting experience and one of the best tracks on the record.

Slipknot has experimented with ballads in the past, but none are as naked and heartbreaking as “Snuff.” Another album highlight, the song is the band’s softest moment with Taylor singing about the pains of betrayal with an acoustic guitar accompanying him. From the downtrodden music to Taylor’s fragile state, the track leaves you saddened and emotionally exhausted. Everything keeps building to a climactic, yet quiet conclusion. Though music gets more intense near the end, it still doesn’t reach the same volume as the previous tracks. It’s a haunting, yet beautiful track that shows Slipknot aren’t just about crushing guitars and screaming their heads off.

Is All Hope is Gone a bad album? No, it’s actually solid. Is it a lackluster Slipknot album? Yes. In some spots, it sounds like Slipknot doing the same ‘ol same ‘ol: being loud, aggressive, and in your face. In other parts, it’s just there. Very few of the songs are bad, but most of them don’t hold your attention for long. Most of them aren’t even memorable. There are some stellar songs, but most of the album is decent at best. It doesn’t leave you bloodied and searing like past releases. It’s not their finest, but it was an album that had to be made in order for Slipknot back on their game.

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Playlist: Michael Jackson Goes Heavy Metal

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Though the world lost Michael Jackson nearly a decade ago, his music is still widely celebrated all over the world. Jackson’s music had a wide impact all across music, including the most unlikely genre, metal. For a pop star, Jackson has a lot of heavy metal fans to his name, which makes sense considering how often he incorporated rock into his music. But most metal covers do nothing more than add in some loud guitars and screaming vocals. Fortunately, there are a good amount of covers that make the song into something else entirely. To celebrate what would’ve been Jackson’s 60th birthday, let’s take a look at these kick ass Michael Jackson metal covers that’ll get your fists pumping in the air.

“Beat It” – John 5

John 5 is a madman on the guitar, whose laid down intricate riffs for Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. Considering his riffs are ferocious, you know his Michael Jackson cover is going to be good. The guitarist included his version of “Beat It” on his 2012 album God Told Me To as a tribute to the late pop star. The instrumental track features John 5 playing everything from the main riff to the core melody on guitar. He even replicates some of Jackson’s vocal flourishes on the guitar. He keeps the badass nature of the song intact while showing off his impressive guitar skills.

“Give In to Me” – Soto

Soto released their version of Jackson’s 1991 hit in 2016. The song was already rock infused with Slash on guitar, but Soto takes the song in a darker direction. The intro sounds more somber than the original; you get an overwhelming sense of sadness hearing it. Jeff Soto’s vocal delivery is powerful and haunting, whereas Jackson’s is more anguished and angry. Even the music more intense; the crunching guitars and pounding drums give the song a heavier, morose vibe. It’s a great metal interpretation of the track, especially since it’s not a one to cover.

“Dirty Diana” – Evanescence

Featuring Steve Stevens on guitar, this song already had roots in rock, which is why it’s a popular choice for rock and metal acts. Yet, none of the covers are as chilling or beautiful as this version. The song begins with gentle keys that gives off this haunting tone. You don’t realize what they’re performing until Amy Lee starts singing. She builds up momentum with thing steadily getting gritty until the explosive chorus when the dirty guitars and pummeling drums kick in. But the highlight of the cover is Lee’s performance. She sings with so much power and ferocity it’s like she’s stabbing every line with a knife. Listening to her sing, it’s enough to give you chills.

“Smooth Criminal” – Leo Moracchioli

Alien Ant Farm blew people’s minds when they showed how well Michael Jackson translated to rock music. Their version is still considered one of the best Jackson covers, but this rendition by Youtuber Leo Moracchioli blows it out of the water. This one-man band cranks everything up and gives us a brutal version of this Bad single. The guttural vocals, crunching guitars, pounding drums turns this pop song into a gritty metal anthem. He even puts his own stamp on it with his own searing guitar solo making it stand out from other covers. Whereas the Alien Ant Farm cover makes you jump around, this version makes you want to mosh. Moracchioli is an absolute powerhouse, who regularly puts a metal spin on pop songs. If you want to hear more, check out his version of “Bad.”

“Speed Demon” – Xerath

This song kicks ass, plain and simple. It’s another Jackson single most people don’t cover. Most Jackson covers are already rock based, so it’s easy to down tune the guitars, throw in a solo, and add some screaming vocals. But Xerath turns this song into an aggressive, in your face anthem. They transform the main melody into a searing riff, yet it still has this undeniable groove to it. As soon as that opening riff kicks in, you can’t help but headbang. The screaming vocals are extreme; it sounds like Richard Thomson is ripping his throat to shreds. You never thought a Michael Jackson song could be this intense. A cover like this makes you realize how versatile Jackson’s music was.

“Thriller” – Koritni

No matter what you think about Michael Jackson it’s hard to dislike “Thriller.” It’s a favorite among metal bands to cover, but most renditions are boring doing nothing more than adding beefed-up guitars and screaming vocals. While Australian rock band Koritni’s version isn’t the greatest; their version “Thriller” is at least exciting. There’s something exhilarating about hearing the iconic opening on an electric guitar. The vocals are a bit exaggerated and hammy, but they give the song a rousing makeover. It’s sure to please metal and Jackson fans alike.

“They Don’t Care About Us” – Saliva

Rock band Saliva covered Jackson’s 1995 single for their tenth album, Loves, Lies, & Therapy. The music is the best part here. The song was already intense, but the added guitars and the fiery solo adds a new heaviness to the track. As for the vocals, they aren’t as powerful as Jackson’s. When Jackson sang it he was tired, angry, and fed up with the way people and the media treated him due to the allegations lobbied against him. Bobby Amaru sounds fine, but there’s no fire in his voice. This version doesn’t have the same feeling coming from Saliva, but in terms of music and performance, they at least do a good job.

“Scream” – Annisokay

In 2016, post-hardcore band Annisokay released an EP of Michael Jackson covers titled Annie Are You Okay? And it’s actually pretty good. Their versions of “Beat It” and “Thriller” are intense, but it’s their cover of “Scream” that stands out. Not only is it a song that’s rarely covered, they take the song’s main riff and turns it on its head. The grinding guitars and pummeling drums give it an abrasive sound while the growling vocals add a new ferocity. With how in your face it is, it pulls you into the song. The vocals are kind of weak, but Christoph Wieczorek and Kiarely Castillo don’t sound terrible. Their vocals just don’t demand the same prowess and command as Michael and Janet. They did leave in Michael’s scream from the original, which is a nice touch.

“Beat It” – Raintime

Imagine if Dream Theater covered Michael Jackson. That’s what this cover is like. Raintime released this cover on their second album, Flies & Lies in 2007. This version sets itself apart from the countless others with its prog-metal influence. While the iconic guitar riff and the spiraling solo are still there, they make sure to incorporate dancing keys throughout. They even put in a keyboard solo before the main solo. Whereas the John 5 version translates the entire song, melody and all, on guitar, this version turns it into a full-blown metal affair. It’s loud, filled with dirty crunchy riffs, and snarling vocals to give it a new flavor.

There are lots of metal Micheal Jackson covers out there, so which ones did I miss? What are you favorite Jackson covers? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: Vampires, and Monsters, and Ghosts, Oh My!

It’s my favorite time of year, Halloween! Keep the lights on and don’t look behind you, things are about to get spooky. This is the time that belongs to the creatures of the night that stalk their prey. Or maybe they just want some free candy, you never know. To get you in the mood for All Hallows Eve, here are some songs about our favorite hideous monsters.

“I Was a Teenage Werewolf” – The Cramps

Not all monsters are inherently bad. Some are just misunderstood. This Cramps song, based on the 1957 horror movie of the same name, talks about a young werewolf with his own problems. Like all good monsters, he doesn’t want to kill people, but he can’t help it. Throughout the song, he begs for someone to stop him and even pleads to “stop this pain” by the end of the song. It’s a slow-burning, rockabilly romp that reminds us no matter if you’re human or not, being a teenager sucks.

“Return of the Phantom Stranger” – Rob Zombie

A Halloween playlist isn’t complete without a Rob Zombie song. On this track from Hellbilly Deluxe, Zombie describes the goings-on of a mysterious creature only known as the Phantom Stranger. With Zombie’s low growl delivering the vocals and the lyrics mentioning a “shape-shifting” creature with a “wretched heart” that stalks throughout the night, it perfectly sets up a creepy tone. By the song’s end, you still don’t know what the Phantom Stranger is, but you know you don’t want to run into it. For more spooky times with Rob Zombie, check out “How To Make a Monster.”

“Would You Love a Monster Man?” – Lordi

This track by Finnish rock band Lordi doesn’t deny the horribleness of the monster in question. Instead, they ask is it possible for him to find love? Showing us another side of monsters, this creature just wants someone by his side as he terrorizes those around him. The track rages ahead assuring us that loving said monster isn’t a crime even though he readily admits he’ll kill just for the thrill of it.

“We Bite” – The Misfits

Seminal punk band The Misfits are unapologetic on this violent track. In under two minutes, the band screams about rampaging through the streets looking to rip out throats of the innocent. It’s unknown whether these are starving vampires or horrific creatures out for blood. Even though the song constantly repeats “I rip your throat/I drink your blood” it manages to be gruesome with the ferocity and brutal nature of the track. Then again it’s The Misfits; we wouldn’t expect anything less from them.

“Here Comes the Bride (The Bride of Frankenstein)” – Elvira

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, has been a staple in all things horror since the creation of the character back in 1981. She’s done movies, comics, and even music. And her songs are wonderfully weird and cheesy. On this track from the 1994 collection, Elvira Presents Monster Hits, the Mistress of the Dark “sings” about the Bride of Frankenstein in all her horrible glory. The lyrics are corny with mention of her green pallor, stitched together body parts, and ghoulish nature while a gang cheerfully sings “Here comes the bride!” To make things cringy the song ends with a lame Shaft reference: “The Bride of Frankenstein! DUUUH!!/He’s one bad muther f-/(Shut your mouth)/Well I’m just talkin’ about Frankenstein.” It’s by no means a good song, but it’s hilariously entertaining.

“Bark At the Moon” – Ozzy Osbourne

This classic Ozzy track follows a creature, most likely a werewolf, as it terrorizes through town. The song tells the story of a creature the townspeople thought they got rid of when they buried him. He returns for vengeance and sets about causing chaos. It’s the perfect Halloween track that has a hilariously cheesy video to go with it. The clip depicts Ozzy as Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde drinking a mysterious potion and transforming into a werewolf. Looking at it now it seems silly that anyone would think it’s scary or that Ozzy is actually evil. It looks like a cheap b-horror movie you watch for laughs.

“We Suck Young Blood” – Radiohead

A truly haunting song, it’s not actually about vampires. Apparently, it’s about the exploitation of Hollywood and how they suck the life out of young talent. Still, with the macabre lyrics, chilling music, and shivering vocals it could easily be applied to the creatures of the night. Yorke sounds vulnerable yet creepy as he sings “Are you sweet?/Are you fresh?/Are you strung up by the wrists?/We want the young blood.” And the moody piano melody is ripped from a Gothic film. The song never has to get violent or gruesome to depict the horror of what’s going on.

“Release the Bats” – The Birthday Party

Serving as an influence on the then-emerging Goth scene, this track makes vampires seem cool and sexy. With a rockabilly swing, Nick Cave sings about a lady who doesn’t mind being bitten. She even hopes “those bats would bite.” Cave sounds delirious, yet thrilled as he screams “Release the bats! Release the bats” hoping vampires will come party with him. Cave and co thought vampires were cool long before Stephanie Meyers clumsily cashed in on the trend.

“Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon

This classic rock track is surprisingly upbeat for a song about a werewolf on the loose. The lyrics follow a werewolf through the streets of London where he mutilates an old woman. But he also seems pretty mundane drinking Pina Coladas and searching for some good Chinese food. The song acts more of a warning saying when you hear him howling, you better stay away. And, as you would expect, the chorus features a bunch of howling. It’s one of Warren Zevon”s most well-known hits that started out as a joke.

“Night of the Vampire” – Roky Erickson

With a gloomy demeanor and a slow-burning guitar riff, this song was made for Halloween. There’s nothing creepy or gruesome about the track, but it gives off this sinister vibe. As Erickson sings about slipping in blood and painful vampire bites, you picture dead spooky forests covered in fog and a hooded figure in the distance. In 1997, Swedish death metal band Entombed covered the track for their self-titled EP. They put their gritty, hard edge spin on it, but the original reigns supreme.

“The Thing that Should Not Be” – Metallica

Leave it to Metallica to tackle one of horror’s most terrifying creatures: Cthulhu. In a mass of crunching guitars and intense percussion, James Hetfield describes the beast as lurking beneath the ocean waiting to cause destruction. Just staring at the creature will drive you insane as they point out in the song. The band references H.P. Lovecraft’s story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” specifically. This wouldn’t be the only time Metallica has written about the great beast. They also spoke of the beast in Ride the Lightning‘s “Call of Ktulu.” Clearly, they’re big fans of the monster.

“Black Sabbath” – Black Sabbath

This song has already been featured on other Halloween playlists, but it fits right in. Its tolling church bells, Ozzy’s wailing, and the overall sense of doom make it an eerie song. While it may not be about one ghost, in particular, it’s based on an experience Geezer Butler had during the early days of the band. He woke up in the middle of the night and saw a spirit at the end of his bed. Whether it was real or just drugs, the image makes you shudder just thinking about it.

Which of these songs is your favorite? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Music From the Motion Picture Wayne’s World

Release Year: 1992

Rating: 7/10

Wayne’s World is one of the best and most beloved comedies from the 90s. The characters are iconic, the catchphrases are memorable, and everything about the films are hilarious. Since Wayne and Garth are obsessed with music you can expect it to have a killer soundtrack, right? Sort of. Where the Wayne’s World OST shines in representing the movie and the era it comes from, it’s lackluster in other places.

The music for the soundtrack is a mix of classic rock tunes with what was current at the time. Opening the album is the Queen classic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” What can you say about this song that hasn’t already been said? It’s amazing. It’s probably the best song in Queen’s catalog. Thanks to the movie, the track became more iconic with the scene of Wayne and Garth miming the entire thing in the car. It was this clip that pushed the song back into the charts 17 years after its initial release. Also included is the sensuous Jimi Hendrix track “Foxey Lady.” Just try not to think of Garth’s dance when you hear that roaring riff.

From there, most of the music falls into glam metal. “Hot and Bothered” by Cinderella is typical glam metal with sleazy guitars and screeching vocals. It can be fun if you’re in the mood to rock out to 80s cheese, but to really appreciate it you have to be a glam metal fan. “Rock Candy” by Bulletboys has the same vibe: sleaziness. Oddly enough, this a cover; the original is by Sammy Hagar’s band Montrose. And if glam metal isn’t your thing then Rhino Bucket’s “Ride With Yourself” isn’t going to be appealing. It’s more of the same typical glam metal sound. It makes sense why this music is all over the album; it perfectly represents Wayne and Garth. This is the type of music they like, so in those terms, the music does a great job. Also, glam metal was still around, but waning in popularity thanks to the grunge uprising.

Aside from a few classic tracks, there aren’t many notable songs on the soundtrack. There’s an extended “Wayne’s World Theme” that goes on too long. It’s the same jokes and random noises going on for five minutes. You get tired of it after two minutes. The Tia Carrere tracks are interesting. It makes sense why they’re included; she’s not only a musician but a star of the movie. Her cover of Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” isn’t terrible. It stays pretty close to the original making it kind of bland. Her closing track “Why You Wanna Break my Heart?” is a standard 90s ballad; sappy music, corny lyrics. It’s not horrible, just very vanilla.

Aside from Queen and Hendrix, the best track is the Red Hot Chili Peppers b-side “Sikamikanico.” It’s the Chili Peppers at their peak: hyper vocals, boundless energy, and a fast pace that makes you dizzy. You can barely make out what’s happening, but you’ll be moshing too much to care. Midway through the song shifts gears slowing things down as if giving listeners a break. It doesn’t last too long; they’re back to the chaotic and destructive vibe in no time. It’s a great reminder of how crazy, wild, and unpredictable the Chili Peppers were before they mellowed out and focused more on grooving.

The rest of the songs aren’t bad but are great at representing the movie. Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver” is kind of weird with the spacey, creepy noises at the start and end. It makes it sound like a spooky song rather than a cheesy love song. “Loving Your Loving” is an underwhelming blues tune by Eric Clapton. Guess you have to be a fan of his to appreciate it. “Feed My Frankenstein” is cheesy, but fun. Lyrics like “I’m a hungry man/but I don’t want pizza” make you cringe, but it’s tolerable. It’s Alice Cooper, you expect some schlock from him. It’s not the best Cooper song, but it’s passable.

So is the soundtrack good? It depends on how you look at it. On its own, it hasn’t aged very well. But in the context of the movie, it’s stellar. It does a great job at representing what the movie is about and who Wayne and Garth are. It’s a mix of what these two guys listen to along with songs featured in the movie. It’s very much a product of its era with the glam metal and even with an extended Wayne’s World theme song, but it can be a lot of fun. If you’re in the mood for some cheesy rock or looking for a nostalgia trip, I recommend this soundtrack. Otherwise, it doesn’t make for many repeated listens.

Facts and Pictures: Ladybaby

It’s been a while since I’ve dished out some facts on my favorite bands. This time, I’m looking at Japan’s Ladybaby. The video for their debut single, “Nippon Manju,” captivated and confused people around the world. While some wrote them off as Babymetal copy-cats, others saw the appeal and became loyal followers. The video now has over 16 million views on Youtube. Since then, they have released three more singles: “Renge Chance” (about ramen), “Age Age Money” (about money), and “C’est si bon Kibun” (about ???). Hopefully, the trio will release their full-length album soon. For now, let’s learn a little more about Ladybaby.

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Ladybaby’s mission is to “transcend nationality, age, and gender”

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Ladybaby was formed by the CEO of costume company Clearstone, who saw Ladybeard on the cover of Metropolis magazine to form a new band. He said “It’ll be like Babymetal except you’ll be in it. And it’ll be awesome!”

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Ladybeard describes his character as a five-year-old Japanese girl who looks like an Australian man

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Ladybeard began his career as a cross-dressing Australian wrestler

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He eventually teamed up with Naoko Tachibana, Japan’s foremost photographers of cross-dressing men

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Naoko Tachibana and Ladybeard worked together on Ladybeard’s pin-up book, which sold around 1,500 copies. 1,600 were printed.

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Rei Kuromiya is an aspiring model

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Rie Kaneko (left) is the vocalist in her rock band BRATS

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Both Rie and Rei were winners of the 2015 MissID contest

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Ladybeard first wore his sister’s school uniform at 14 and loved the attention he got

And here’s their debut video just in case you can’t remember how the song went