heavy metal

Dead to the World – Marilyn Manson

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Release Year: 1996

Rating: 7.5/10

Marilyn Manson’s Dead to the World tour was infamous for its controversial stage antics, anti-Christian rhetoric, and the ire it drew from religious groups. On any given night, fans could expect to see destruction, trashing the Bible, and self-mutilation on stage. Rumors of sacrificing animals and abusing fans spread quickly and helped make Marilyn Manson the most hated band in America. The debauchery, chaos, destruction, sex, and violence was captured on their first video release, Dead to the World. It offers a glimpse into the brutal show, what goes on backstage, and trying to understand who Marilyn Manson is.

The video is a mix of live performances from the Dead to the World tour and weird backstage footage and interviews with the man himself. It opens with various religious groups protesting outside of shows talking about the evil Marilyn Manson will bring. It’s a fascinating spectacle to witness. To think music caused such a strong reaction. These groups thought Manson was so evil their fans clearly needed saving. It’s amazing to see them freak out over one guy in makeup. It’s something we don’t see in current music anymore unless it’s a bunch of people tweeting angry messages. It really shows the power of his music and the effect it can have on people both good and bad.

From there the rest of the exclusive footage is backstage antics and random bits filmed by the band’s cameraman. It ranges from fascinating to incoherent. The candid interviews with Manson offered (at the time) a rare glimpse at the man beneath the makeup. His horror stories about being teased in Catholic school and finding an aborted fetus in a coffee tin when he was young give a bit of insight to the way he is. It’s a way to try and understand his worldview. These stories are well known among fans now, but at a time when we really wondered if he had his ribs removed, it gave us a look at the mysterious artist.

Most of the footage is clearly meant to get a reaction. It’s a collage of random clips thrown together meant to depict tour life for the band. This includes copious amounts of drugs, lots of drinking, and sex. Shots go from women touching themselves to the band doing drugs to being destructive backstage. Sometimes we get shots of fans, like the infamous slashers, which Manson expresses his discomfort for, but a lot of it is weird stuff you can barely make out. Maybe it would’ve been shocking 10 years ago, but it doesn’t have the same effect now. It’s meant to be shocking, yet it’s trying too hard. Most of it makes you roll your eyes with exhaustion. Now, it seems incoherent and confusing made even worse by the poor video quality.

The best bits are the performances. The video includes highlights from the tour like “The Beautiful People,” “1996,” “Lunchbox,” and “Apple of Sodom,” which he rarely performs. This is peak Marilyn Manson. It’s easy to forget what a force he was on stage when you hear about him stumbling around drunk in concert now. The shows were like a chaotic, demented circus with Manson stomping around on stilts for “Kinderfeld,” ripping up the Bible during “Antichrist Superstar,” and cutting himself on stage not even acknowledging his chest covered in blood. It’s exhilarating to watch him unleash his fury. It’s nothing but pure chaos and anger as the band smashes things, shove each other, and, sometimes, simulate oral sex. No wonder parents were afraid of this band.

The video ends with backstage footage of a bloodied Manson fuming over a stage mishap and the band being destructive (and sick) in general. It’s the typical type of debauchery you expect when rock stars have too many drinks. The most disturbing bit comes in the final moments when the screen fades to black and we hear Manson screaming at a young girl to shut up and sit still followed by her blooding curdling screams. This is an excerpt from a short film Manson made called “Groupie.” A film so disturbing and vile, his manager told him it would destroy his career if he ever released it.

Dead to the World is still a fascinating look Marilyn Manson’s most controversial period. Parts of it are weird or try too hard to be shocking, but it gives viewers an inside peek at this chaotic tour. At a time when people thought he was killing animals at his concerts, it’s a way to depict what actually happened. Manson even alluded to this in the video saying he wished more parents would let kids see the show. The performances are top notch and the candid moments with Manson are intriguing. With his latest antics, you forget Marilyn Manson was once the most hated band in America. This video shows why and it’s one hell of a ride. It’s weird, confusing, thrilling, and a little disturbing much like early Marilyn Manson. Let’s just hope it gets an HD re-release soon.

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“Over It” – Bullet For My Valentine

Image result for Bullet for My Valentine

Release Year: 2018

Rating: 5.5/10

Bullet For My Valentine have been one of my favorite metal bands since The Poison. I love the way they mix intense, technical riffs with melodic moments yet keep the aggressive mood. So when they announced a new song, I was ecstatic. Venom was a great follow up to the disappointment that was Temper Temper. I couldn’t wait to hear the next blistering track the band had in store. Sadly, it’s one of their weakest songs.

“Over It” is such a disappointment. It’s not terrible, but it’s a forgettable track. All the excitement, anger, aggression, and thrills that make up a Bullet song are missing. The opening isn’t bad; the intro riff and slower pace is something a bit different for a lead single, but I kept waiting for the moment when the song kicked into high gear and came alive; it never happened.

The music is dull and bland. It sounds like it could by any rock band on the radio. There’s very little about it that commands your attention and pulls you in. After hearing it a few times I thought “Eh, it’s okay I guess.” The lack of screaming vocals makes it worse. I’m not saying they need to take over the whole song; you just want more of them.  The brief moment they appear, you realize how much they’re missing. The song also lacks their signature riffs and solos.

The thing that gets me excited for a Bullet song are the insane riffs and solos. Michael Paget is a beast on the guitar and always shows off his skill with fiery, dizzying solos. And the riffs themselves are memorable. Think back to songs like “Room 409” or “Waking the Demon.” Those riffs instantly grab you and suck you in. All of this is missing on this song. The guitar isn’t bad, but it sounds pretty average. It doesn’t have that Padge stamp and is lacking the excitement, fire, and aggression. It’s another generic riff we’ve heard on other rock songs.

Everything about the track is weak, especially the lyrics. Bullet aren’t amazing songwriters, but they’ve made more compelling tracks than this. The lyrics are cliché and sound more fitting coming from an angsty teen. And some of them are baffling, particularly the bridge: “Breathe in/breathe out/don’t wanna ride your carousel.” The song also follows this formula Bullet has fallen into over the years: intro riff, quiet music while Matt sings “angry lyrics,” exploding, distorted hook, return to verse, breakdown, repeat.

“Over It” is Bullet at their weakest. Even Temper Temper sounds better than this. It’s a bland, generic song that has none of their signature riffs, solos, or aggression. It’s tolerable on its own, but it doesn’t get you excited for their upcoming album. There’s nothing memorable about this song. You’ll struggle to remember the hook after hearing it a few times. Hopefully, this isn’t representative of the entire record. I’m still looking forward to hearing more from them, but for now, my expectations for Gravity are low.

Heaven Upside Down – Marilyn Manson

 

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 8.5/10

When Marilyn Manson announced his new album Say10 last year, I was pretty excited. His last albums were great and I was itching to hear new music from him. But when the album didn’t show up on Valentine’s Day I slowly grew disinterested. My expectations got lower after hearing the first two singles. But once I got my hands on Heaven Upside Down, I found myself faced with the old Manson that scared and fascinated me as a teen. While there are some definite nods to some of his greatest albums it doesn’t feel like a rehash of what he’s already done. Rather it’s biting, violent, brutal, and mean just how we like it.

The album opens with the banger “Revelation #12.” If you thought Manson was washed up this song makes you think differently. The music is hard-hitting and gritty while the guitar riff snarls and growls. Manson sounds brutal as he screams “We’ll paint the town red/with the blood of the tourists.” It sounds like the old angry Manson that grabbed us by our throats in the 90s. It’s a killer way to kick off the album and lays down the groundwork for what comes next.

“Tattooed in Reverse” has to be my favorite song from the album. The way it starts with a pounding march and how Manson comes out the gate swinging with “So fuck your bible and your babel” is so badass. It has this undeniable swagger to it as if Manson already knows the song is a hit. The music crushes you with its heavy sound and intense atmosphere. It’s a stellar track with Manson displaying his unapologetic nature and biting commentary.

Say10” caught me off guard with the muted opening beat – it sounds like something from a hip-hop song, but it works. Manson’s sinister growl and the music sets up this dangerous lurking vibe. Everything explodes during the hook with Manson screaming “You say God/I say Say10” with dirty riffs that are both brutal and sexy. Though the title isn’t as clever as Manson hopes it is, it’s a standout song. It has the same fire as his best work and holds you in its grasp.

In press interviews, Manson said one of the central pieces of the LP was “Saturnalia” and I can see why. It is a beast of a song. It starts with an eerie “This is Saturnalia” mumbled backwards followed by the thick grooving bass line. The music rumbles building up to a bigger sound in the first couple of minutes. It’s actually reminiscent of something like “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” with the dark music and slow build up. Even the riff during the verse is similar. The way everything creeps along, how the music hits you during the hook, and Manson’s singing makes it sound dangerous, yet alluring. Clocking in over seven minutes, the song never grows dull. There are so many elements and layers and different sounds happening it always keeps you on edge. It’s the highlight of the album and one of his strongest songs in years.

I didn’t really like lead single “We Know Where You Fucking Live” when I first heard it. While it’s brash and perfectly fits in with the aggressive, violent tone of the album, it feels like Manson trying too hard to be shocking. It grows on you after a while and there is the clever lyric “So what’s a nice place like this, doing round people like us,” but it’s far from the best song on the album. Same goes for “Kill4Me.” Taking a departure from the intense sound of the rest of the record, this one has an electropop beat that’s upbeat and kind of catchy. Again, not a terrible song, but it’s one of the weakest the album has to offer. These songs don’t have that same drive and punch of the others. They’re easy to gloss over when listening to the LP.

The songs that close out the album aren’t all that memorable either. “Blood Honey” plays out like an eerie Gothic ballad that still manages to be intense. Compared to the other tracks, it doesn’t grab your attention all that much. Some of the imagery is great like “dripping blood honey” and Manson sounds properly creepy when singing, but it doesn’t hit you the same way as the others. What does stand out is the dark tone matching the violent atmosphere of the album.

The title track switches up the mood with lighter, more rock-oriented. It’s not as heavy or brutal as the other songs. It’s not bad, but isn’t all that memorable and sounds pretty generic. Closing track “Threats of Romance” returns to the aggressive sound, yet has this downtrodden bluesy tone to it. He sounds like he’s bearing his soul in a dirty blues club as he sings “Things that are pretty/are always kept behind glass/someone like me can’t make it last.” As he talks about crumbling relationships it becomes clear this seems like an oddly personal song for the rocker. It ends with him shouting “I like you damaged” not holding anything back and lets out one last bloodcurdling scream before the album ends.

Heaven Upside Down is another great Marilyn Manson album that was well worth the wait. It really took me by surprise with just how good it is. While there are moments where it sounds like he’s being shocking for the sake of it, the rest of his commentary is as biting and damning as ever. There are a lot of moments that harken back to Antichrist Superstar or Mechanical Animals, but it doesn’t sound like he’s repeating himself. It’s classic Manson where he seethes at the world and ripples with anger. And even though not every song is notable, there isn’t one I would call bad. Personally, I enjoyed this more than The Pale Emperor. This album is more in your face, aggressive, and kick ass than the last record. And it shows Manson still has it in him.

 

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!

Condolences – Wednesday 13

 

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 7.5/10

When Wednesday 13 revealed his next album, I didn’t have high hopes. I knew I was going to give it a listen, but I didn’t expect to like it aside from maybe one song. His last record, Monsters of the Universe: Come Out and Plague, was forgettable and found him talking about the same things he has been years, but in a boring way. The album didn’t grip me like some of his others. After listening to Condolences, I was surprised at just how much I liked it. Yes, he’s still singing about dead girls and spooky things, but he takes on a dark theme that makes the music fresh and exciting.

Rather than singing about horror movies and spooky themes in general, this album is drenched in death. The brief intro, “Eulogy XIII” brings in the dark tones and more serious matter of the album. Things properly kick off with “What the Night Brings.” It’s typical 13 affair with music suited for a black and white horror film that’s hard hitting and exciting. “Blood Sick” is another rager with 13 playing the bad guy once again, something he’s good at. Not only do these songs stand out, they show off the heavier tone of the album.

Wednesday 13 takes things up a notch by gearing towards a heavy metal sound. Not that he hasn’t played with this in the past, but his songs usually fall somewhere between punk rock and hard rock. Here, everything is cranked up leaving you with memorable songs. The heavy music really draws you in and keeps your attention, whereas previous efforts lose you after a few songs.

“Cadaverous,” the strongest song the album, finds 13 returning to his favorite topic: necrophilia. It’s heavy and is brutal as hell. He sounds sinister as he sings “Full moon tonight alright/I’ve got some sick thoughts on my mind/On to your grave site/I’m digging in to see what I can find.” The trudging riffs and intense nature give the whole thing this vicious vibe as if 13 is in a rage with nothing safe in his path.

“You Breathe, I Kill” and “Prey for Me” are violent rampages written from the point of view of a serial killer. They have a similar aggressive, brutal vibe as the rest of the album, but still kicks major ass. “Good Riddance” is more personal being about the death of a relationship, while “Omen Amen” is a throwback to when the religious right feared heavy metal was the devil’s music. Death looms in all these songs making for a slightly more serious endeavor. They also scratch that heavy metal itch when you just want music that’s unapologetic and loud as hell.

Because of the coherent theme, it seems 13 held back on the campy aspect for this album. Normally, his records are filled with over-the-top songs that are fun but can cross the line into downright cheesy. There’s little of that here. While I wouldn’t call his lyrics deep, they are a bit more serious and focused here. It’s a nice change of pace from overt campiness that makes your eyes rolls. Normally, I can’t stand to listen to his albums in full. This time I gladly listened to the whole thing on repeat.

There are a few low points here with one being “Cruel to You.” This sounds like classic Wednesday 13 all the way right down to the music, but it’s so boring. Once again, he spouts about being the boogeyman and stalking a young woman, a topic he’s very familiar with. This song so tiring because it sounds exactly like what he’s done in the past. Everything from the music to the melody sounds like a better 13 song you’ve heard before. Plus, it really doesn’t fit the dark tone of the album.

As always, 13 shows off his sentimental side with a few ballads. “Condolences” has awesome music that sounds like a funeral march, which is very fitting for the gloomy vibe. But weaknesses start to show in the verses, which are half-whispered, half-sung. They’re just not that interesting. The hook is strong and makes the track bearable. Otherwise, it’s okay at best. The closing track “Death Infinity” suffers the same problems as his other ballads. He lays it on real thick and before we get to the second verse, you’re ready to move on. It’s over the top and dull like his other slow songs. Then again, I’ve never been a fan of these types of songs.

Condolences is a solid record. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I didn’t even plan on reviewing it. Wednesday 13 finds a good balance between moving towards a darker, heavier sound while keeping his classic vibe. Not every song is great, but the album is a lot of fun, even though it’s about death. Many of the songs are memorable, unlike his last effort. For once I found I could sit through the entire album, multiple times without getting sick of it. 13 steps up his game for this release proving the old ghoul still has some spooky tricks up his sleeve.