This week's Rock-A-Ramas were written by Fred Pessaro, Zachary Lipez, Grace Scott, Maria Sherman, and Dave Carnie.
Megadeth, The Sick, The Dying, And The Dead
Remember Rust in Peace? Peace Sells? Those records slapppppp. This sounds like a man "who's not an alcoholic because he only drinks red wine" making an album to dupe fans into paying his back taxes. I bet he hates that Metallica gets mentioned in every Megadeth article ever. Like this one.—F.P.
Maxim Mental, Maxim Mental in Maximalism
Maxim Mental’s Maxim Mental in Maximalism is the solo project of Max Bemis (of Say Anything, a band whose legacy depends solely on whether or not you were old enough to recognize that their most popular hit, “Alive With the Glory of Love” is a tone-deaf little ditty on the holocaust. I am “I love that song” years young.) The album has a “tendency to examine mental health through an almost fun, weirdly sexy lens,” says Bemis, but it is also about a guy who loves the sound of his own name. As the old maxim goes: maxim bo-axim, mental maximum maxi pad in maximalism. To the Max!—M.S.
Vomit Forth, Seething Malevolence
Most death metal sounds like it was written by some fucking dork that is more interested in Zappa than Dismember. If I wanted a guitar lesson I'd go to literally anyone else, maybe even my old teacher who forced me to use a Spanish style acoustic. This shit goes, though.—F.P.
Ornament, Rock Solid
My favorite Nashville rockers have released a new, full-length LP that snaps, crackles, and pops! These songs are fun and sweet, like the perfect summertime crush. “I’ll sleep all day, to see her all night,” sings Will Mann on a love song to—who else—the moon! Hooks are cleverly crafted by this duo, rounded out by Ryan Donoho. Cars meets Harry Nilsson meets solo Faces and McCartney sweetness. How come these guys weren’t opening for Steely Dan at Jones Beach last week? That would have been a good time.—G.S.
.Ͻ.ᗡ—.ʇno ʇᴉ ǝɹnƃᴉⅎ ɯǝɥʇ ʇǝ⅂
.dn ƃuɐɥ ʇsnɾ ʻƃuᴉɥʇʎuɐ op oʇ ǝʌɐɥ ʇ’uop noʎ ǝsnɐɔǝq ɹǝʇʇǝq uǝʌǝ ﮼ʻdՈ﮼ ʻsɹǝʍsuɐ ɹǝpuodsǝɹ ǝɥʇ ⅎI
.ǝuoɥd ǝɥʇ dn ƃuɐɥ noʎ uǝɥʇ pu∀
﮼.ԀՈ ƃuɐɥ ʎǝɥꓕ .ǝdoN﮼ ʻʎʅdǝɹ noʎ ﮼¿uʍoᗡ﮼ ʻsɹǝʍsuɐ ɹǝpuodsǝɹ ǝɥʇ ⅎI
﮼¿ƃuɐɥ sʇnu sᴉɥ op ʎɐʍ ɥɔᴉɥʍ ʻǝǝɹʇ ɐ uᴉ uʍop ǝpᴉsdn sƃuɐɥ ʎǝʞuoɯ ɐ uǝɥʍ :uoᴉʇsǝnb ɐ noʎ ʞsɐ ǝɯɯǝʅ ʻʎǝH﮼ :puǝ ɹǝɥʇo ǝɥʇ uo uosɹǝd ǝɥʇ ʞsɐ ʻdn ƃuɐɥ oʇ ʎpɐǝɹ puɐ ƃuᴉʞʅɐʇ ǝuop ǝɹɐ noʎ uǝɥϺ
.ǝⅎᴉʅ ɹnoʎ ƃuᴉuᴉnɹ ǝɹɐ oɥʍ sɹǝʅʅɐɔ ʎʞsǝd ɹǝɥʇo puɐ ʻsɹoʇɔǝʅʅoɔ ʅʅᴉq ʻsɹǝʇǝʞɹɐɯǝʅǝʇ ɹoⅎ ʞɔᴉɹʇ ʅnⅎʇɥƃᴉʅǝp ɐ s’ʇᴉ ʇnq—ʎɹɔ ǝʌǝʇS ǝʇɐɔᴉʅǝᗡ ǝʞɐɯ oʇ ʇuɐʍ ɹǝʌǝu pʅnoʍ I—ƃuᴉʎɹɔ ʇɹɐʇs puɐ ʻʇǝsdn ɹo ʻpǝpuǝⅎⅎo ʇǝƃ ʎɐɯ oɥʍ ʻǝɔuɐʇsuᴉ ɹoⅎ ʻǝʌǝʇS ǝʇɐɔᴉʅǝᗡ ʻǝʞᴉʅ ʻǝʌᴉʇᴉsuǝs ɹo ʻǝʇɐɔᴉʅǝp ǝuoʎuɐ oʇ ʇᴉ ƃuᴉop puǝɯɯoɔǝɹ ʇ’upʅnoʍ I .ǝɹoɯʎuɐ ɥʇᴉʍ ǝuoɥd ǝɥʇ uo ʞʅɐʇ oʇ ʇuɐʍ ʇ’uop noʎ ǝuoʎuɐ uo ʎɐʅd uɐɔ noʎ ǝʞoɾ ɐ s’ǝɹǝH
sɹnoH ɹǝʇⅎ∀ ʻǝʌǝʇS ǝʇɐɔᴉʅǝᗡ
This is the band from that goat meme. Wormrot plays so fast that even literal farm animals have to stop to catch the freakshow. In Singapore, where they're from, their music is so extreme that they have to play at half speed to stay under the radar. This is a place where queer themes in media are scrutinized, porn sites are blocked, and drug use in film is not permitted.
Anyway, on their first full U.S. tour, instead of doing all the drugs and watching all the porn, the only thing that they made sure to do in every single city was eat Church's Fried Chicken. Not even Popeye's. Maybe they put meth in the chicken at Church's, that would explain how they play so motherfucking fast.—F.P.
Tumi Mogorosi, Group Theory: Black Music
Unity is at the center of South African drummer and jazz composer Tumi Mogorosi’s Group Theory: Black Music. While the album’s core group of musicians round out the usual jazz roles, the forefront of the album’s sound is a nine-person choir singing in the tradition of South African choral music. Actually, is it really at the forefront? Halfway through, the choir feels uniquely blended into the sonic texture of the group. It’s actually Mogorosi’s drumming that continually perks my ear, stepping out subtly here and there, coaxing everything else along. The references to Max Roach hit home.
“Where Are The Keys,” the last song on the album, includes spoken lyrics by the poet Lesego Rampolokeng. Lyrically ruminating on creative power and oppression, the accompanying music is a dual sense of frantic immediacy and resistance. The words come fast, but easily caught is the phrase, “Revelation, revolution in Black movement.” Always keeping your attention, this is a very enjoyable LP.—G.S.
Dio, Holy Diver: Super Deluxe Edition
"Only thing I know is as a musician I don’t have a lot of peers. That may sound like a pat on my own back, but you know what, it’s true. I don’t have a lot of peers.” —Dio
I was originally looking for another quote from Dio where he essentially claims that HE is Black Sabbath and that Black Sabbath would be nothing without him. A curious notion considering he joined the band ten years after Sabbath formed and released a half dozen legendary albums. But the above says pretty much the same thing: Ronnie James Dio was a humorless, arrogant twat.
I don’t bear the man (or his legacy, RIP) any ill will. I’m not a fan, but I don’t dislike him. But from what I’ve gathered about him over the years, this is my assessment of the man. One of the strongest pieces of evidence I can present to support this view is from a video of an interview Big Brother/Jackass conducted with him in the early 2000s at the House Of Blues on Sunset. It was actually intended to be part of the original Jackass pilot—“interview” isn’t quite the right term because it was over almost as soon as it began thanks to Chris Nieratko, the interviewer, who arrived at this Dio interview very, very, very drunk.
“The funniest part, for me,” Nieratko recalled, “is that I had planned on asking him other questions, but as I was waiting in the lobby with these two other journalists—from Metal Blade, or some fucking metal magazine—they began to give me advice on what NOT to ask Dio since they had interviewed him a few times. They warned me he could be moody.”
So Chris, who does not use notes when he does interviews, took notes as the metal journalists began listing all the topics he should avoid. The two most important, they stressed, were Ozzy and Dio’s height. Armed with a new set of questions, Chris entered Dio’s lair and got to work.
“You began disrespecting him with the first words that came out of your mouth, right?” I asked. “Didn’t you call him by the wrong name, or something?”
“I was quite drunk,” Chris said. “So it’s a bit hard to recall which jab cut deepest, but I do remember right off the bat him correcting me when I called him Rodney or Robbie after I asked him what it was like to work with Ozzy?”
It’s at that point that Dio offered to kick Chris’ ass.
Chris politely declined, apologized, distributed some warm fuzzies, and managed to get Rodney James Dio to settle down. “Then I really leaned into the short man jokes and that was ultimately what made him snap,” Chris said.
If memory serves, what Chris said was, “You’re a lot shorter in person than I thought you would be.”
A fight never ensues, but there is a bit of a scuffle and everyone scatters. End of video. And then the video disappeared. It was lost for nearly two decades. We, of course, blamed it on the amateur filmer we had hired for the interview.
“Feel free to use the video if you find it for whatever you want,” Chris said. “Just please credit the up-and-coming young man who filmed the footage. I know he could use the plug. His name is Spike Jonze. I’m not sure what happened to that guy?”
My other Dio experience was—oh, hold on, the end of this review is coming up so I’ll continue in the next one.—D.C.
My other Dio experience occurred in Berlin on the night he died, May 16, 2010. I remember sitting at a bar on Wiener Strasse (yep, Wiener Street) mesmerized by the hum of the Jägermeister machine and wondering if Jägermeister tasted better in Germany—sorta like how Guinness is supposed to taste better in Ireland—when in walked a very drunk, very topless man with an acoustic guitar who demanded everyone’s attention.
In English, but with a very thick (read: drunk) German accent, he slurred, “Hallo effybody… my fay-fayferit singer, Donnie Rames Jio, just—HIC!—died tonight. I’ve fwould like to pray a tibboyute schlong f’you…”
The Drunken Deutsch Dio Devotee (4XD) then tried to settle into a nearby stool, but the stool wouldn’t cooperate and everything went crashing to the floor including 4XD. At this point, I thought this was the most brilliant impromptu comedy act I’d ever seen. And then it got even funnier when we all realized that it wasn’t an act and 4XD really was completely wasted and really was trying to pay tribute to his hero, Jonnie Dames Rio.
He somehow managed to mount the stool and began trying to play something, but he was incapable of getting through the opening refrain. After a half dozen attempts at beginning something resembling music, he gave up and just started singing/slurring the song a cappella.
“Who?” my wife, Tania, asked turning to me on her barstool.
“Dio,” I said. When she gave me a quizzical look, I said, “Dio? You don’t know who Dio is?” She did not. “He did the song ‘Holy Diver,’” and I nodded at 4XD because that was the song he was attempting, and failing, to play.
“Never heard of it,” she said.
The Deslonds, Ways & Means
“You’ve never heard ‘Holy Diver’?” I said aghast. “No way. You’ve heard it before. It came out in the early ’80s. I think it sucks, but it’s a classic metal song. This, by the way, is not what it sounds like,” I said again nodding at 4XD who had begun listing to the left.
“What the hell is a holy diver?” Tania asked.
I started to answer, but paused when I realized I didn’t know. Yeah, what the hell is a holy diver? And that’s when I read the lyrics to “Holy Diver” for the first time.
Let us consider the opening stanza:
You've been down too long in the midnight sea
Oh, what's becoming of me?
Ride the tiger
You can see his stripes, but you know he's clean
Oh, don't you see what I mean?
Gotta get away
Holy Diver, yeah
I’m of the opinion that lyrics don’t need to make any sense—they’re often best when they don’t—but the more I’ve studied the words to this song (I studied this?), the more confused I am by it. Dio, himself, has described what the song is about (here) and he says it’s about a Christ figure on another planet “with innuendos of tigers and stripes and hearts and being eaten.”
As Tania and I were shaking our heads at the lyrics (“Ride the tiger”?), 4XD lost control of his acoustic guitar and dropped it on the floor with a resounding BONG!—“Verzeihung,” he apologized—and I thought, “This is the most fitting tribute to Dio: a drunk, topless German man trying to play ‘Holy Diver’ in a bar on Wiener Street.” I’d like to think that even Rodney Dale Jio would have found it amusing. Rest in peace, little man, rest in peace.—D.C.
Wu-Lu (Miles Romans-Hopcraft) has a guitar called “Babylon Machine.” Credit is due for both succinctly updating Woody Guthrie’s “This machine kills fascists” and for having a named guitar that isn’t embarrassing. Hard to say how Loggerhead would sound if Romans-Hopcraft was inclined to name his instrument after an ex-girlfriend. (Though, if he did have an ex-girlfriend named “Babylon Machine,” that would be pretty impressive.) More worrisome is Wu-Lu’s stated affection for both Slipknot and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I know, the kids remember the music of the late ’90s as something other than uniformly terrible. The kids are wrong as hell.
Generational misremembering aside, the twelve Brixton bullets that make up Loggerhead could really fuck up a Proud Babylonian’s day. While some of Wu-Lu’s peers prefer to lay their nu metal riffs on thick over skittering beats (with results that range from “yeah, ok, this works” to “goddamn it, this shit was dumb as hell the first time”), Romans-Hopcraft prefers sly texture and lithsome bass over sledgehammer; with a resultant attack that’s as massive as any nu revivalism. Loggerhead’s rattlebag of post-everything influences harkens back less to hard rock’s suckiest subgenre, than to heavy alchemists, like Dr. Israel covering “The Wizard,” or Tricky imploding “Black Steel In the Hour of Chaos,” both of whom wouldn’t be caught dead at Woodstock ’99.—Z.L.
Katy J Pearson, Sound of the Morning
Katy J Pearson’s bio mentions how Sound of the Morning was made with the dude from that haphazardly sourced Sexwitch album from a few years back, and another dude from one of the more successful Parklife post-punk bands that you can’t take two steps without tripping over. Not exactly a coterie I’d brag about, but freedom of association is one of the cooler human rights, so good on Pearson for exercising it.
Otherwise, Pearson shows exceptional taste. The new songs are abundant with inventive, considered melodies, which bring to mind the Stiff Records subversives who had the sense to realize that punk without at least a lil’ pop wasn’t worth a damn. While it’s true that the Bristolian singer’s commanding range/lilt makes her more Dolly Parton than Dolly Mixture, Pearson has taken pains to illustrate her affection for “indie” and to distance herself from the idea of her being a “country” singer. Which is fair. Received wisdom is an overflowing, rancid buffet and critics do love a trough. That said, even amongst some perfectly lovely synth ‘n’ soul, it’s the quality of Pearson’s voice; a resonant brightness, with hints of both Susanna Hoffs and Rosanne Cash, that shines out.—Z.L.