Monday, September 13, 2010

Chris Poland - Return To Metalopolis Live '07 (Album Review)

Chris Poland's 1990 guitar album "Return To Metalopolis" is, without a doubt, one of my favorite albums of all time. Its sound continues to be the much-needed blast of refreshment to the ears of the guitar world today as much as it had been upon its release. Basically, I could sit here and talk for about seventy fucking years about how awesome this album is, and I'd still have plenty to say in its favor.

The reason I'm telling you how much I love this album is so you can understand just how much I've been dying for a live recording of the songs from RTM. It's been on my why-the-fuck-doesn't-this-exist list for years. The problem was the Chris Poland didn't seem to give much of a fuck about the material, and as such no live recordings worth a damn ever surfaced.

Fast forward to 2007. HOLY SHIT. A live version of Metalopolis!!! My brain had about a million guitar-orgasms as soon as the news of its release hit. The problem, though, is that Poland still doesn't seem to give much of a fuck about the material. Some of the most important melodies are gone, with him playing the riff that served as a backing track to the melody. Now seriously... why in the hell. The riffs are totally just regular riffs. The incredible, original-as-all-fuck melodies are part of what made RTM the album it was. So why, why, WHY play those backing riffs instead of the melodies? It makes no sense to me.

Then there's the part that there are only three songs from the album on the live recording. THREE! When you see something like "Return To Metalopolis Live", you assume you're gonna get the album in all of its splendor, except it's gonna be a live recording. Nope. You get the tracks "Return To Metalopolis", "Khazad Dum", and "Theatre Of The Damned". You also get a bunch of stuff that isn't as good as the material on the album, and a completely uninspired rendition of Megadeth's "Wake Up Dead", one of the songs from Poland's tenure in the Mustaine camp. It sounds like some guys going "I don't wanna play this at all, but the crowd will dig it so here we go".

There are plenty of other problems with the live album. His tone is weak. It sounded like he used his OHM setup for the gig; that set-up sounds great for OHM, but it doesn't do this material justice. The thrash tone gave a needed edge to the dreamy quality of the guitar lines, and without it they fall a little flat. His (usually infinite) sustain isn't there, leaving notes fading long before you know they were intended to. These aren't the only sticking points with me, but they are the most glaring.

One positive thing I can say for this album is that his solos are on fire. Even if the rest of any given track is lackluster, the leads sound as if he's really having some fun. Perhaps this is because he feels like he should stay true to the riffs and melodies, but lets himself free to ad-lib a bit with the solos. I obviously don't know if this is the case, but it sounds very probable given what's coming out of the speakers.

So there you have it. It came, it shredded, and it kinda disappointed. Now, maybe my strong desire all these years for a live recording of this stuff had my standards set too high. I've seen other reviews saying that the recording is great. That may be. There's no accounting for taste. My tastes, however, are for things better than this. I'm glad Chris has OHM going, because that's clearly where his heart is at. They sound great, were great live, and you can tell he's really enjoying himself with it. Here's to hoping he sticks to that rather than lazily reliving what should remain the glory days of yesteryear.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

William Peter Blatty - The Exorcist III (movie review)

We all know about The Exorcist. Pea soup gets launched, a girl says 'fuck' a bunch, etc. It's a great movie. We love it.

Unfortunately, we also know about The Exorcist II. Take that movie, and shoot it in the ass. Just forget all about it. Yes, kids, it's that bad.

The problem with the lingering stench of said second installment is that, in its wake, most people never bothered to check out the totally radical Exorcist III.

George C. Scott as Lt. Kinderman is as good as on-screen performances come. He sounds like he means every word he says, and his face speaks almost as much as his voice. And though the movie is definitely heavy on the dark tones, it's not without its humor. While the scene in which Kinderman is speaking to Father Dyers (Ed Flanders) about the carp in the bathtub is played off with an intense dead-seriousness, I can't help but die laughing every time I see it (and that's a lot of times).

What is serious, however, is every moment of the movie containing exchanges between Kinderman and Brad Dourif's excellent rendering of the Gemini Killer (Dourif later played an all-too-similar character in the X-Files episode "Out To Sea"; the character works just as well in that setting). The dialogue is very real, and the pace at which the lines are delivered is pretty much perfect. Another noteworthy detail of these scenes is the great lighting. The light pouring through the two windows in the Gemini Killer's cell gives the scene much of its haunt and power.

I won't spoil the final scene for you; suffice to say, the shit is evil. A priest gets taken out in a most wicked manner, and George C. Scott is laying shit down exactly as he sees it. It's a finale that does not disappoint.

So do yourself a favor. Turn off all the lights, turn the volume up way loud, and watch this shit A.S.A.FuckingP.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Basil Poledouris - Conan The Barbarian OST (album review)

Conan The Barbarian. What could be cooler? I'll tell you what, and I'll tell you that it's the original motion picture soundtrack to the movie of the same name.

Basil Poledouris (Greek much?) creates a sonic realm so complete, one is drawn into it simply because they have no choice. Every measure of music found here makes one feel like they are on a mountain, hoisting a sword into the air as a show of great triumph over pretty much, well, everything in the world.

Take the track "Riddles Of Steel, Riders Of Doom": It builds so slowly, PAINFULLY slowly, but you don't want it to stop. Basil has given you a riddle and you want the damn answer. Halfway through the track, it perfectly transitions into exactly what being a Rider Of Doom would, and should, sound like. The pace quickens, and the choir sings as if they were telling a tale of great men, riding into great adventure, for great reasons. Which of course they are.

Another gem is "Wheel Of Pain". If you're ever forced to push a huge fucking wheel around for years and years until you become insanely muscle-bound and full of hate, this track will surely be playing while you do so. Again, Poledouris' use of tempo in both melody and percussion is perfect. The feel is beyond grueling and forlorn; when the end comes it leaves you feeling satisfied even though there is a great task at hand.

Then there are the samples of dialogue found scattered throughout. I'm not going to sit here and quote them all to you. I'll simply tell you that if you listen to them and don't find them to be awesome that you should and probably will die of pure weakness.

With 35 tracks on this thing, I could sit here and write stuff about this non-stop jam all day. But I won't. I'll just say that if you enjoy the sound of adventure combined with the rhythms of toil, the sound of longing, and a feeling of wonder, find this album and let it take you to its distant land of primal majesty.

Knut Hamsun - "Growth Of The Soil" (book review)

Let me tell you about a book which is a monument to not giving a fuck about bullshit. This book is "Growth Of The Soil", and it was written by Knut Hamsun. In this book, a man named Isak goes through life not giving a fuck about anyone else past a certain degree of fuck-giving. The result of this is that his life is awesome.

At first, Isak is alone. Not a word is mentioned as to where he came from, or why he came. He has simply wandered into the woods. Once there, he discovers a plot of land and settles in, working it over to make it his own. He eventually takes a wife, Ingrid, and they have two sons. She is a good wife, but alas, she gets caught up in trivial matters soon enough. Isak lets it happen and does not get involved. Eventually the matters concerning his wife get very serious, even involving jail time. The incarceration is the result of her own actions, and as such, Isak does not give too much of a fuck. Of course he's sad to see his wife get locked up for some time, but there was nothing he could do about it, so why get bent on it? He simply waits for her return and gives her the same unconditional Isak as before.

Before you think "why do I want to read a book about an asshole", let me tell you that for all of his simplicity and non-fuck-giving for the matters of others, I have never read a book so rife with love and heart of the least nauseating kind. Isak's lack of bother with the troubles of others allows him take great care of his land, his home, his wife, and his children. He works to the bone all year round, deals only with good people, and makes basically zero rash decisions in the process. He is able to say to his family "Do what you will, and deal with it. But know that before, during, and after any hardships, my love and your home will always be here for you in perfect condition." This may not seem to be the manliest of sentiments, but reading the book will prove that said sentiment is delivered in as masculine a fashion as is found in any big-tough-guy story.

At 435 pages, it is not the quickest of reads. Luckily, Hamsun's style of writing has a quick yet pastoral pace about it, making the pages fly by in what seems to be no time. The beauty in the writing is not of that obvious kind which has the tendency to make one gag to death, and yet somehow it cannot be missed by the reader in any way. To quote a line from H.G. Wells' review on the back cover, 'It is wholly beautiful; it is saturated with wisdom and humor and tenderness'.

Well said, H. baby.