Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

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(Capitol)

Well, we’re all being spoilt rotten right now, eh? Black Sabbath, Queens of the Stone Age and now Alice in Chains, all crawling out of their musty old attics, all at the same time, all to flog us addenda to their creaking legacies. We should be bloody grateful, right? All we need now is for Soundgarden to drag the festering corpse of their ruined career over to our shores to plug a cretinous return and my childhood will be utterly destro–oh.  But fair is fair, perhaps one of these sets of washed up old has-beens can do something besides piss into the face of their arthritic, balding and middle-aged spreading fanbases. Right?

I’ve been here before. If you look back on the early days of these hallowed halls, you’ll find somewhere a gibbering paean to Alice in Chains’ previous effort, Black Gives Way To Blue, which now reads like I wanted something to be true so badly I’d sacrifice my own cognitive powers to make it so. Black wasn’t a bad album, per se, but then neither was it worthy to stand with the staggering potency of the band’s previous output. If you are a fan, be honest with yourself. When was the last time you listened to it? When you reach for Alice now, do you go for Black, or do you get Dirt, or Jar of Flies, or the self-titled album?

Don’t you lie to me now.

There was something just a bit off about Black, once the initial enthusiasm waned, like the chemistry just wasn’t quite correct. Perhaps it was too much to expect something revolutionary from a band staggering to find their feet after the loss of a talismanic frontman, but you’d expect better than average. Disappointment was probably to be expected, which is hardly the band’s fault. None of that makes the record any better, though.

And now we have this, the bewilderingly-titled follow up.

Right off the bat it has a rubbish cover, a rubbish title, and Layne Staley is no more alive than he was four years ago, so the omens aren’t great. But while still nowhere near as enticing as the band’s historical output, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is at least seven per cent more interesting than its predecessor. And that’s a money-back guarantee, if not exactly a glowing endorsement.

Tragic Alice in Chains frontman Long Stanley, pictured in happier times.

Tragic Alice in Chains frontman Long Stanley, pictured in happier times.

The song writing is marginally stronger for one thing, and the ‘new boy’ Billy DuVall now feels like an integral part of the set-up, rather than the bloke they brought in to replace Layne. His vocal work here is much more entwined with that of silken haired riff-peddler Jerry Cantrell, and there’s some nice vocal hooks scattered moodily about the place. So that’s the good stuff. But that’s as much good stuff as there is to be found, because while a slight improvement on its predecessor, this album is sadly nowhere near interesting enough.

Try as they might, Alice just can’t recapture that old magic. The spectre of just how good they once were is always lurking around, stinking up the place like a poopy baby in a crack house, ruining everyone’s buzz. Part of it is the production, all flattened and compressed and pro-tooled into submission until there is nothing even remotely resembling a rough edge—forgetting of course it was the rough, hangnail edges of Alice that caught our attention in the first place. Remember the first time you hit play on Dirt and you thought that you’d just been punched in the ear by the first jagged, sawing notes of Them Bones? Well, you won’t find any of that here. The riffs aren’t bad, but they lack anything resembling a punch, and at no point do the vocals feel like they are actively scooping all of the joy out of your brain with a twisted, burnt, heroin-stained spoon like Layne’s used to.

Without that raw, anguished urgency, that dull-edged vitality, what is there to distinguish this modern incarnation of Alice from all those dreadful imitators we had to listen to when the major labels started shovelling up endless AiC wannabes from the accumulated garages and dive bars of America? Who is this album supposed to be for? What is its target demographic, aside from the band’s own well-established and rapidly-ageing fanbase?

As sad as it may be to admit it, The Devil suffers the exact same problem Black did. It’s boring. Dull. Insipid. Not bad particularly, but not good enough. If this is the best you can muster on your second go round, then you might as well just pack it in, because you can only wring so much money out of your fanbase’s nostalgia and good will, before you find you’ve cashed in too far, and the good memories are gone.

Just ask Soundgarden.

www.aliceinchains.com

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Circle – Six Day Run

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(Ektro Records)

Runners are surely the worst advert for their own sport ever. Tell me honestly, now—have you ever seen someone running and looking like they were enjoying themselves? As opposed to, say, gasping and spluttering for air, their flushed cheeks pumping like the bellows on a vintage crucible steel forge; sweat beading their foreheads and making a dark damp streak down the middle of their backs, one of those little water bottles with the built in handle jabbing in half-time counterpoint like the world’s least terrifying knuckleduster… and generally—at least in my experience—making no faster progress than I can manage with a brisk but otherwise highly agreeable walk?

Well, okay, maybe you have, but I haven’t—and every runner I ever see sends me right back to being quite literally hounded round the school athletics track in the pissing rain by a psychotic Welsh ex-Army PTI who wasn’t going to let any queers, weirdos or artfags get away without doing their statutory weekly dose of exercise and public humiliation. No sir, so get a move on you dirty little wanker. I don’t care if it’s hailing, snowing, or raining hot volcanic pumice YOU PICK YOUR BLOODY FEET UP BOY

Ahem. Yeah, so. Running. It’s never appealed, despite my gradual acquisition of friends (I have no idea how) who don’t just run but who enjoy running… and who sometimes even extol its allegedly ecstatic and healthful benefits.

Still, nothing has ever come close to changing my mind. Except maybe for Circle’s Six Day Run album.

Six Day Run is the psyche/krautrock soundtrack to a short film of the same title by one Mika Taanila, which was shot at the The Self-Transcendence Six Day Race in Flushing Meadows, New York in 2012. This is apparently a 140-year-old sporting event where the participants run non-stop (well, with ‘minimal sleep’, according to the press release) around a one-mile circular track for six days.

Six. Days. That’s nearly a week.

Now, one of the runners I know best has told me repeatedly that once you’ve run hard enough for long enough and broken through not just your second wind, but your fourth or fifth, there approaches a condition which might best be described as a transcendent all-body hallucinatory state, wherein pain recedes into an ecstatic glow of fire in your muscles, your heart pounds at the centre of your body like some fusion of the sun and a techno-club kick drum, and your mind starts looping round and round on itself, playing evolving thought-riffs against the burn and heave of your lungs, the slap of your feet on the tarmac, and the heart, the heart, the heart.

If my friend isn’t totally pulling my plonker, then Circle have really captured the inner experience of what that six day run must actually be like. Six tracks, one per day, all but one in weirdly asymmetrical time signatures (13/8, anyone? Or is it 13/4?), built up in the classic techno manner of layering seemingly disconnected patterns and loops on top of each other, but using the staccato riffs and tonal palette of acid-drenched krautrock: drums, bass, guitar, keys, all treated and effected in ways that give them a sheen of hyperreality; so you can never be quite sure whether it’s not all some elaborate experiment with synthesizers, ketamine and musically over-achieving monkeys who’ve been wired up by DARPA in an attempt to summon Terence McKenna out of the afterlife like some fungal Shiva, an endless trail of chattering hyperspace elves dancing behind him like a tiny anodised troupe of Pan’s People collectibles that even your lecherous father wouldn’t dream of smacking one off over.

Yeah, it’s a bit weird, this one, but in the best possible way; if you like weird loops and lumpy time signatures that gleam like a petrol puddle caught in a chrome hubcap, and which stick in the musical bit of your brain like roofing nails in a horse’s hoof, then you’ll wanna check these six instrumentals out sooner rather than later.

It’s not perfect, of course; not a single track clocks in above six minutes, which rather spoils the illusion of all-day balls-trippin’ running that longer and more mutagenically altered cuts might have produced. And the last track just… well, it just finishes. No crescendo, no ceremony, no sense of completion. Which—given the concept of the album, and what finishing a six-day run must feel like (I’m guessing rather like you are God, but God is also the track, and God is also the universe, and it has just somehow given birth to you and shat you out simultaneously?)—is a bigger anticlimax than finding out the long-cherished rumours of your vicious PE teacher’s nervous breakdown were untrue; that he hadn’t after all had to be dragged out of his local boozer by the police, after demonstrating his undying love for an Economy 7 storage heater located at the damp and musty end of the billiard room.

Nonetheless, there’s half an hour or thereabouts of good weird tunes on here. So ‘run’ and get yourself a copy, eh?

www.circlefinland.com

Queens of the Stone Age – Like Clockwork

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I’ve listened to this record three whole times now. Three.

Each time, I’ve tried really hard to have an opinion about it. My emotions have run the gamut from bored sighs to bemused tuts and frowns. Nothing about it has left much of an impression on me, besides how unimpressive it is. Even Josh Homme sounds bored of his music.

There certainly are some rock songs here, I’ll give them that. Ten of them. That doesn’t just happen by accident, fellows. These are very highly-polished and well-rounded songs too, as polished and as symmetrical and rounded as Dave Grohl’s adorable chipmunk-cheeked bum—and, lacking any identifiable edges, seams, or holes, just as difficult to get any purchase on.

In isolation, the songs all seem decent enough. One or two might even lodge in your head for a bit; that is, until something a bit more memorable, something packing a bit more ferocity comes along to knock it flying. Like this:

In summary, by the end of Like Clockwork I just felt disappointed and really sleepy, because despite hundreds of guest musician appearances, nobody thought to include any cats playing banjos.

Like a gleaming 20-foot tall solid bronze egg delivered to your front garden without explanation while you sleep, this record is irritating and perplexing both. Who asked for this? How do we get it to go away again? Can the postman even get through?

I guess that’s my problem, though, not QOTSA’s, and certainly not yours. Not everything has to be made for me. I can’t pretend I hate Like Clockwork, and it’s hard to imagine why anyone would give a shit about it, either. But if you do, that’s great. Let’s get KFC.

www.mygodisthesun.com

Interview – Church of Misery

com 2013

Church of Misery are more or less the sole breakthrough banner-bearers for Japanese psychedelic doom metal these days; besides them, you’ve got Eternal Elysium, of whom only we have heard, and you’ve got Merzbow’s mates Boris, who aren’t really the same thing at all. That seems to be about it.

One thing all these bands have in common is that their buzz seemed to hit a peak about a decade ago—and then vanished. All three were signed to important, influential labels like Southern LordMan’s Ruin, and MeteorCity, and together they appeared to anticipate a new, influential wave of rumbling Japanese sludge.

That didn’t really happen, obviously. Those three bands are still Japan’s biggest exports when it comes to downtuned drone and flare-trousered riffing. Nevertheless, as the sole remaining founder CoM member, Tatsu Mikami has spent the past ten years plying his low-slung, heavy-bass riffs all over the globe, garnering fans everywhere he goes, and now he has a lovely new album to show for it. If you’re really, really lucky, we might bring you a review of Thy Kingdom Scum soon, but in the meantime, here’s an accurate account of our lovely cosy chat with Tatsu.

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Demon Pigeon: Before we get started, can you tell us who is in the band now, since you’ve had more line-up changes than Spinal Tap have had drummers?

Tatsu Mikami: Well, Hideki (Fukusawa) on vocals, analogue synth. Ikuma (Kawabe) on guitar. He is the new member and the youngest guy at 26 years old. “JJ” (Junji Narita) has been our drummer since 1999, and me, Tatsu—founder of the band and primary song composer.

Yeah, I also don’t want to do line-up changes, it’s really tiring. But I’m really satisfied with this line-up – it’s perfect. Along with band activities, we are good friends. So I hope we can make another new album with this same line-up.

DP: What can you tell us about the new album?

TM: First of all, sorry for making everyone wait a long four years to put this out! We are really satisfied with this new album. New guitarist Ikuma did his best. This album has great riffs, improvisation, good voice and the best sound quality we’ve ever had. We can’t wait to play new songs at overseas shows!

Also, make sure to watch our new video for Brother Bishop on Youtube!

DP: It seems you’ve become a bit more laid-back in places, letting in more of the psych rock to sit alongside the balls-out doom groove you are so well-known for. Was that a conscious effort?

TM: As you know well, I wrote all the songs and lyrics, and it was not conscious at all.

Maybe because our new guitarist Ikuma is from the underground psychedelic scene, and his playing style is far from metal. So maybe that lends a more laid-back feel on the new album. As for song writing, the one thing I focus on is to write cool DOOM songs.

DP: The whole album feels very natural, very groove-laden, and very ‘you.’ Is it a struggle to achieve that level of consistency when you’ve had to deal with so many changes in personnel?

TM: Yeah, I understand what you’re saying. Every band changes their music style by member replacement. But we never do that, I have a strong will to keep Church of Misery’s style the same—great guitar riffs, brutal heavy sound and, of course, the ‘serial killer’ concept.

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DP: The new album picks up where the others have left off with the serial killer theme, do you ever worry that you’ll run out of mad bastards to sing about?

TM: I don’t worry about that. There are so many mad men and mass murderers and serial killers everywhere! So don’t worry.

But there is a story about that with Rise Above Records. First, we had a plan to use photos of Myra Hindley or Ian Brady. And we already finished the artwork for that. But then they refused it and said: “It’s very dangerous. This murder case is still sensitive for England’s people. We will get in trouble”. So we changed the artwork to Peter Kürten, the ‘Vampire of Düsseldorf’ instead.

DP: They were probably right. In the event that you did run out of crazed killers and you had to sing about something else, what would be your number one topic?

TM: Uh… it’s a really difficult question. Always, serial killers are number one interest to me. Oh! My second interest is spaghetti western movies! Yeah, next topic is this.

DP: You remain one of the few big players on the doom scene from Japan, is there a big doom scene out there that we should be paying more attention to?

TM: First of all, I would like to say this: There is NO doom scene in Japan. Except for us, there’s virtually no doom bands. So we always organise our own shows, but every time, our fans always come out. With little to no doom scene in Japan, that’s a big reason why we keep on continuing to tour worldwide.

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DP: Does it annoy you that every interview you ever do asks about coming from Japan like I just did?

TM: No. We are from Japan. But our activities are worldwide. It’s the same playing in Tokyo or playing at Berlin, London, Helsinki, New York, Los Angeles… I don’t feel the distance.

DP: I saw you play at Desertfest last year, and even though you only got a truncated set you absolutely flattened the place. I presume you’ll be bringing Thy Kingdom Scum to a sweaty room near us soon?

TM: Desertfest! We really enjoyed playing there but we wanted more time. We had only 30 minutes playing, maybe. Yeah, I remember, we just arrived at the venue 15 minutes before we played! No soundcheck and no time to drink beer!

Well, we tour Europe every year and yes, we have a plan to tour Europe again. Maybe later this year or early next. We just released the new album and so we will play new songs at our show. Give me two hours this time, haha!

DP: Are you excited about the new Black Sabbath album? It’s the first time I can remember when an upcoming landmark album had everyone more worried than excited.

TM: Uh… it’s difficult to say something. Not so excited, and I’m also worried, haha! I think that already they don’t have the “chemistry” or “magic” like their 70s sound now. So I really don’t expect to listen to the new album.

DP: I first came across you when I got the split EP you did with the legendary Iron Monkey, and you’ve done more split releases with other bands than pretty much anyone else I can think of. Any of them stick in the mind as a band you’re really happy to have been alongside?

TM: I’m really satisfied with every split release. As for our split release with Iron Monkey, they were already split up but still remain a legendary act. And going back to 1996, our split with Sheavy! It was the first release of ours put out worldwide. They still continue to release good material. And we released two split EPs with Sourvein! We toured Europe with them in 2006. I remember that tour was really crazy. Every day was chaos!

DP: Finally, what is your favourite cereal?

TM: My favourite serial killer??? Richard Ramirez—he rocks!

www.churchofmisery.net

Thy Kingdom Scum is out now on Metal Blade.

Black Sabbath – 13

they have been around for years they have had Ozzy Osborne as their lead singer. he bite off bats as a only to make the concerts they performed here in the states more of a show to be seen.like other performers only doing his act to make him look like his beliefs.the song they sing for years have lead to way of the devil talked about death and suicide i had a very young friend that listen to that music like others took the wrong message they heard made it out to be what they wanted to be.he ended his life that made him stop but as for wondering if you should stop listening to their music that depends on who rules your world and heart God or the devil Ozzy Osborne is a old foolish man that has even changed has four children in England and a wife Sharron that don't follow the devil but they only know what's in their hearts .they do use some words that are not pleasing to the ear, Ozzy regrets taking those drugs and biting the heads off those bats that gave rabies just to please the fans at his concerts.........................

they have been around for years they have had Ozzy Osborne as their lead singer. he bite off bats as a only to make the concerts they performed here in the states more of a show to be seen.like other performers only doing his act to make him look like his beliefs.the song they sing for years have lead to way of the devil talked about death and suicide i had a very young friend that listen to that music like others took the wrong message they heard made it out to be what they wanted to be.he ended his life that made him stop but as for wondering if you should stop listening to their music that depends on who rules your world and heart God or the devil Ozzy Osborne is a old foolish man that has even changed has four children in England and a wife Sharron that don’t follow the devil but they only know what’s in their hearts .they do use some words that are not pleasing to the ear, Ozzy regrets taking those drugs and biting the heads off those bats that gave rabies just to please the fans at his concerts…………………….

Well, we were always going to write SOMETHING about it—in this brave new world of hit-chasing and crowd-pleasing, a new Black Sabbath record is quite the boon. Especially if, as you may have noticed, the site in question is known for being something of a holy abattoir. Let’s examine the facts first, shall we?

Fact 1) Black Sabbath used to be pretty brilliant.

There, that’s the facts.

Nothing about 13 is going to change that ‘used to be’ into ‘are’. Not a thing. There are some decent bits, there are some absolutely terrible bits, there’s way too much of it and the artwork is pathetic. Ozzy is drenched in so many effects to mask his ailing pipes that it sounds like Stephen Hawking burst into the studio—obligatory heavy metal horns raised—skidded his wheelchair to a tyre-smoking halt in the vocal booth and refused to leave until he’d overdubbed the whole thing in his best ‘sad robot’ voice.

New drumming man Bradley Wilks has decided to stamp his personal brand on the record by playing so rigidly you could use the drum tracks to satisfy an entire army of porn starlets to their squealing, shuddering completion. Meanwhile, the famed bass of Geezer ‘Geezer’ Butler rumbles away in the background like a disinterested JCB.

There’s a couple of pretty sweet riffs in there though, thanks Tony.

6.66/10

www.blacksabbath.com

Guest Blog: Blood, Set & Fears Part One

zomblog profile

Editor’s Note:

If you are not familiar with Zomblogalypse, the web series set in a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested York, you really should go and rectify that, because not only is it chock-full of zombies, it’s also smashingly funny, heartwarming and it has explicit full-frontal tea-drinking.

Following the exploits of a bunch of housemates trying to navigate the apocalypse, Zomblog has—over three seasons and assorted extras—grown into a cult hit, and now the makers are putting together a film version for viewing in those talking movie houses you hear so much about these days.

They’ve recently been to Cannes, where they’ve managed to secure worldwide distribution rights, betraying a degree of focus and success that terrifies us. So sensing a bandwagon we could pretty hastily climb aboard, we asked one of the show’s creators, Miles Watts, to tell us about the journey from blog to backlot in a series of guest posts—and quite incredibly he didn’t just delete the email without reading it; nor ignore it, like we would have done.

Here is the first installment, sent just before the intrepid filmmakers jetted off to sunny Cannes.

Proudly

When you’re a film-maker, bumping into old friends and being asked what you’re ‘up to these days’ is a curious thing because ‘I’m making films’ is such an uncertain response (and indeed, way to earn a living). So being able to answer their follow-up enquiry of ‘and how’s that working out for you?’ (or words to that effect) is a lot easier when you can say, ‘oh, we’re off to Cannes next week.’

Cannes is one of those events that elicits a great deal of excitement from film and non-film folk. The non-film folk imagine the sun, sea, drinks, possibly naked ladies and red carpets but the film folk know that’s not really what it’s all about.

There is some glamour attached as it’s a kind of Busman’s Holiday for us film-makers, but Cannes is a huge opportunity as much as it is a glamorous location. You can go there and drink yourself half to death and crash a lot of parties, or you can take every opportunity to network, schmooze and talk your way to the next stage of your film career. If you’re very energetic I imagine you can do both.

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Me and my cohorts—co-creators of our zombie web series Zomblogalypse: Hannah Bungard and Tony Hipwell and our producer Steve Piper—are heading out to Cannes on the 15th of May to follow up on the work Steve did last year in gathering interest for a proposed movie version of Zomblogalypse.

We have been making the series for nearly five years, and four other features along the way. Our latest two, Amber and Whoops! will be out later this year after hopefully getting into some festivals. One’s about a bunch of friends getting drunk in a house, the other’s about an accidental serial killer. So, diversity. And then there’s Zomblogalypse, which is about friends getting drunk in a house and not-quite-so-accidentally killing lots of zombies.

We just raised £9,000 to get the film started on IndieGoGo and that’s also where Zomblog differs from our previous films: We made our first, second and third movies for about that amount combined. With Zomblogalypse, we decided it was worth gathering support, going out to Cannes and throwing everything at the wall to see what stuck.

So far, we have a lot of international interest from investors in various countries and a good stab at getting the money and distribution deals we need to make Zomblogalypse a bigger, wilder movie than anything we’ve made before. Plus, you know, French sunshine and sea. So it’ll be an intensely fun week.

Thanks for reading. See you when we return!

You can follow Zomblog’s exploits regularly at oneandother.com and via their Twitter and Facebook streams of social babble. You can also watch the whole series of Zomblog at Zomblogalypse.com and see what you’re missing.