Live Review: Mighty High, Black Thai, Infernal Overdrive and Tarpit Boogie in Brooklyn, 05.31.13

Posted in Reviews on June 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It was going to start early and I knew that, so I split out of the office a couple minutes after 5:30PM to get to The Grand Victory in time to catch openers Tarpit Boogie kick off the evening’s lineup, which also featured Infernal Overdrive, Black Thai and Mighty High. Even so, I was late. I rolled in around 8:15 for an 8PM start and managed to catch most of the NJ-based instrumental trio’s set for what I later confirmed was their first show.

Their tones and general ethic was pretty familiar to me, seeing as how bassist John Eager and guitarist George Pierro and I used to be in a band together, and though I thought it might be strange to watch them on stage playing different songs as Tarpit Boogie, actually, it was a reminder of what a fan I always was of their playing in the first place. Rounded out by drummer Chris Hawkins and reportedly in the process of hammering out material with a new vocalist, Tarpit Boogie set right to skirting the line between funkified stoner riffing and sludged-out slowdowns.

Of course, it being their first show, they were obviously getting a feel for their approach, but songs like “AmanaplanacanalpanamA” and “Hackman Caine Theory” showed the two sides at work in their sound, and the unpretentious heavy riffing went over well with those early assembled at The Grand Victory, myself included. All the bands on this bill were acts I’m pretty friendly with on a personal level, but getting to see the first Tarpit Boogie gig made the night even more special, and I was glad I made it in time to catch them. To hear them tell it later, it was a close call on their making it for the start of their set as well.

The whole night was slated to end early — I think The Grand Victory had a DJ coming in or something like that (which I don’t begrudge a club that puts on good shows; gotta make your money) — but as I had a drive to Massachusetts to make the next day, that was only a convenience from my angle. Infernal Overdrive, who’d also trekked in from Jersey, or Black Thai, come down from Boston, might have felt otherwise, but if they did, they didn’t show it. The two bands with very different takes on heavy rock were doing a weekender together, playing in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, the next night with Wasted Theory, and they both featured new material from forthcoming releases.

In the case of Infernal Overdrive, most of what they played was new, and while I recognized “Viking” for the several times I’ve seen it live now and “Duel” from their Last Rays of the Dying Sun debut (review here), a lot of the set was unfamiliar and moodier, taking some of the brazenness of the first record and making it more melodically complex and pulling back on some of the tempo. A four-piece on a small stage, they were tight in more than just how solid they sounded, but still made good use of their time in belting out tunes that they’ve obviously been busting their collective ass writing, and even though their set seemed short, they showed that the time since their first batch of songs made their way to the public hasn’t been misspent. Before they were through two songs, I was reminded of how much I’m looking forward to their next album.

Like their touring partners, Black Thai have only grown more stylistically diverse. The double-guitar foursome made their debut in 2010 with the Blood from on High EP (review here), a potential-loaded five-songer from which only two of the total five songs played came, and while elsewhere the band — guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey (known for both his solo work and formerly of We’re all Gonna Die), guitarist Scott O’Dowd (also of Cortez), bassist Cory Cocomazzi and drummer Jeremy Hemond (also of Cortez and Roadsaw) — dug deep into riffy grooves and bluesy solos, it was the ultra-dark centerpiece of their setlist that stood out. Centered around what might easily have been a black metal progression if not for Healey‘s delivery, which, even at his shoutiest, retains a sense of melody, it was an immediate shift from everything I’ve heard to date from Black Thai and a genuine surprise.

The good news? It worked. They not only were able to execute the more extreme feel crisply and emphatically, but they tied it together with the rest of their material as well, which might have been even more impressive. Returning to the EP, they finished with “333,” which also closed Blood from on High, and went from a brooding tension to maddening swirl with an efficiency that betrayed the song’s actual tempo. For the unexpected elements at work, Black Thai were a thrill, but what made it even more enjoyable was to see how well they’ve come to work together in the last few years. Save for Hemond — who brought his Vistalites for the occasion, where both Tarpit Boogie and Infernal Overdrive had used the house kit — their stage persona is pretty subdued, nobody thrashing around not that there’s much room for it at The Grand Victory anyway, but they’ve only gotten tighter in the now handful of times I’ve seen them and this was no exception.

It was left to Brooklyn’s own Mighty High to round out the evening, and the stonerly punkers did not at all disappoint. Fronted by Chris “Woody” MacDermott, who contributes the Spine of Overkill column to this site, Mighty High released their Legalize Tre Bags (review here) full-length through Ripple Music last year, and they continue to blaze out short, speedy blasts of Motörhead riffs in a public service reminder to the world that it takes itself way too seriously and should probably just get over it. “Chemical Warpigs” showed up early in the set, shouted out to the recently departed Jeff Hanneman of Slayer, and familiar cuts like “Breakin’ Shit,” “Cable TV Eye” and “High on the Cross” were delivered on time and in style, guitarist Kevin Overdose taking the lead vocal for the beginning of the latter, which Woody shouted out to “any Blackfoot fans out there.”

By then, people had started to make their way into The Grand Victory, but Woody, Overdose, bassist Labatts Santoro and drummer Jesse D’Stills didn’t come on quietly and they wouldn’t go that way either. “I Don’t Wanna Listen to Yes” continues to be high on my list of favorites, and the brand new “Two-Hour Lunchbreak” hit pretty close to home, in overall attitude if not chemical consumption. “Kick out the Jams” ended the set, as ever for Mighty High, and with their painted leather jackets hung up behind them, they treated the MC5 classic like the manifesto it has become, throwing it in the face of, well, everything and everyone there. I didn’t see it to be sure, but it’s almost certain that, whoever the DJ was coming in, he promptly went home to rethink his life and meditate on Stooges albums. One would have to expect, anyway.

Between a new band, two acts working the kinks out of new songs ahead of recording and Mighty frickin’ High topping it off with some recent creations of their own — not to mention the chance to see good friends kicking ass — I left The Grand Victory feeling refreshed and reminded of just why it is I continue to go to shows in the first place. It wasn’t about being seen, or about some buzz act who’ll disappear in six months or a year, it was about unbridled, unfettered enjoyment of the process and about four different takes on the single idea of “heavy.” Even after four bands one into the next into the next into the next, I got in my car and put on a CD for the ride home.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on May 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

In his first Spine of Overkill column since the passing of Jeff Hanneman, Chris “Woody High” MacDermott pays homage to the late Slayer guitarist and recalls the glory days of Haunting the Chapel and Hell Awaits. It’s as fitting a tribute as I could imagine.

Should you happen to be in the area, Woody‘s band, Mighty High, have a gig this Friday in Brooklyn. The show is at The Grand Victory and Black Thai, Infernal Overdrive and Tarpit Boogie share the bill. More info on Thee Facebooks.

Enjoy:

The death of Jeff Hanneman hit every metal fan hard. Fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR are one of the few bands that all metal heads agree on. When it was announced earlier this month that Jeff had passed away from liver failure everyone was reaching for their favorite fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR album to blast at maximum volume. For most, it’s the 1986 classic Reign in Blood, one of the greatest metal albums of all time for sure. But when old dudes like me want to get nostalgic, we reach for the ones that came before the Reign.

My last Spine of Overkill column was all about picking sides in 1983. Great bands were beginning to get stale and a new breed were emphasizing everything faster, louder and more intense. Fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR‘s debut Show No Mercy came out in December 1983 and there was no turning back for me. Show No Mercy was a great album of Venom-fueled Satanic panic but there was a lot of competition out there. Every month there was at least one new demo tape of blasphemous speed arriving in my mailbox, not to mention the deluge hitting the racks at the record stores. How was fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR going to keep my attention and avoid getting confused with another band called Slayer from San Antonio? The answer arrived in June 1984, when Metal Blade issued the three-song Haunting the Chapel 12″ single. EPs (extended plays) were kind of unusual for metal, even more so in America. British bands like Motörhead, Iron Maiden, Saxon, etc., had a tradition of releasing singles in both 7″ and 12″ formats with great artwork and killer jams on the B-side, usually one unreleased song or exclusive live versions. Diehards would buy both versions but if you could only afford one, it was always the 12″. In early ’84, Metallica put out a 12″ of “Jump in the Fire” with supposedly live versions of “Seek and Destroy” and “Phantom Lord” on the flip side. The cover art was cool even if it was kind of an unexciting release. Later in ’84, Metallica would put out a 12″ of “Creeping Death” from their forthcoming Ride the Lightning album with great covers of Diamond Head‘s “Am I Evil?” and Blitzkrieg‘s “Blitzkrieg” on the back. Still one of the best things they ever put out and my blue vinyl version is one of my prize possessions.

But fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR‘s Haunting the Chapel was a totally different story. This was three brand new songs and no mention anywhere on the sleeve of “from the forthcoming album…” It was also in a legit cardboard album cover, not one of those flimsy, top loading sleeves that 12″ import singles came in. As usual, I waited to read what Bob Muldowney had to say about it in his essential zine Kick*Ass. He gave it a rave review and I picked it up immediately. As great as Show No Mercy was, fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR made a huge leap forward on this release. The six minute “Chemical Warfare” was the only song on side A. The first thing I thought of was of the Dead Kennedy‘s song with the same title. As soon as I dropped the needle down, I instantly forgot it. With “Chemical Warfare” fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR also made me forget about most bands. Holy shit. I knew right away that any band bragging about being the fastest and heaviest was now full of shit. After playing “Chemical Warfare” a few times in a row I decided to give the other side a try, figuring it probably wouldn’t be as good. Turns out I was wrong. “Captor of Sin” starts off with a drumstick count off and someone yelling in the background before launching into a frenzied Mercyful Fate-inspired romp. The pounding chorus is still one of my favorites to yell along with – “Hot! Wings of hell! Burns! In my wake! Death! Is what you pray! BEHOLD! Captor of Sin!” The Venom-inspired title-track wraps up the blasphemy. Apparently, recording engineer Bill Metoyer was a religious sort and the opening lyrics of “the holy cross, symbol of lies” made him question his career path. Another fun fact is that while recording this EP, Dave Lombardo‘s drums were sliding around on the floor. I guess no cinder blocks were around so Dark Angel drummer and fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR roadie Gene Hoglan held the kit together while Dave bashed the skins.

The Haunting the Chapel EP only made impatient headbangers like me want more fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR. Luckily there were new albums from Venom, Exciter, Celtic Frost and VoiVod to keep me happy when I wasn’t blasting Motörhead’s No Remorse for the rest of 1984. Fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR threw us a bone later in the year with another EP, this one a picture disc called Live Undead. Side one had three songs from Show No Mercy recorded live in a New York studio — “Black Magic,” “Die by the Sword” and “Show No Mercy.” The performances were definitely live but the people screaming in the background sounded like they were added later. The other side had the same studio versions of “Captor of Sin” and “Haunting the Chapel” from the EP as well as “The Final Command” from Show No Mercy. I had heard it was going to include a cover of Judas Priest‘s “Dissident Aggressor” but that didn’t get recorded until 1988′s South of Heaven. Live Undead was cool to have for the artwork but only made me want new fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR as soon as possible.

Thankfully, the wait wasn’t too long and in the spring I got my hands on Hell Awaits. I had trouble finding it at first but a dude I was tape trading with on Long Island grabbed a copy for me at Slipped Disc in Valley Stream and mailed it to me. Can’t remember the dude’s name but whoever you are, wherever you are, thanks again. Hell Awaits is still my favorite fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR album. The front cover is low budget but scary. The back cover is even cooler with all the live photos of the band. No more raccoon eye makeup for fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR. Kerry’s armband full of nails immediately made me think of the one Richie Stotts wears on the cover of Coup D’Etat by the Plasmatics. Someone should ask Kerry if that’s where he got his inspiration. The full band shot is awesome. They’re all headbanging, there are upside down crosses on the amps and a huge cloud of smoke so you can’t see the drummer just like on Priest‘s Unleashed in the East. I interviewed Reed Mullin of Corrosion of Conformity for my high school newspaper right around this time and we were both really psyched that Jeff was wearing a C.O.C. shirt on the back cover.

The first spin of Hell Awaits is something I’ll never forget. The long intro with the chanting seemed to go on forever. It sounded like they were saying “synot” over and over but I knew this was a backwards message just like at the start of Venom‘s “In League with Satan.” When I stopped the turntable and began spinning it back I was thrilled to discover they were saying “join us!” Hell yeah, I knew this was gonna be good. Once the music kicked in, it was exactly what I had hoped for. Seven long songs that were totally heavy, totally fast, totally Satanic, drowning in reverb. It sounded like they had snuck into a cathedral and recorded it there under a full moon. I loved every song but side one with “Hell Awaits,” “Kill Again” and “At Dawn They Sleep” remains my favorite SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR side to this day. The photo collage on the lyric sheet is still fun to look at. There’s a shot of all four members of VoiVod wearing Show No Mercy shirts. There’s another cool photo of them partying with Mercyful Fate. Every tiny photo is jam packed with stuff that I wanted to do back then — snort giant rails off the bar, harass a life size Michael Jackson cutout, hold a can of beer and scream, etc. A fun fact about Hell Awaits is that it was mixed by Ron Fair, who would later go on to be a big pop music producer for the Black Eyed Peas, Pussycat Dolls, etc. Only in Hollywood!

Farewell, Jeff. Thank you for helping to accelerate my bad habits and antisocial behavior the last 30 years. Kill again!

Slayer, “Chemical Warfare” live 1985

Slayer, “Hell Awaits” live 1985

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on March 13th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Before we get to the latest installment of Chris “Woody High” MacDermott‘s ongoing Spine of Overkill series, you should know that Woody‘s band, the most stoned Mighty High, are taking part in a charity auction of a test pressing for their Legalize Tre Bags album in cooperation with their label, Ripple Music.

Whatever money is raised goes to NYC’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. A good cause worthy of your attention and your cash. There’s more info on the forum, and the auction is on eBay here.

Now then, on to the metal. This time around, Woody takes on 1980 double-whammy of righteousness from Saxon. Enjoy:

1980 was a big year for metal — Back in Black, Ace of Spades, Blizzard of Ozz and British Steel all came out that year. There were also debuts from Iron Maiden, Girlschool, Diamond Head and the Michael Schenker Group alongside solid albums from Thin Lizzy, UFO, Scorpions, Ted Nugent, Blackfoot and Van Halen. Somehow with all of this going on, Saxon managed to release TWO albums in 1980. And not just any two albums, but two of their best — Wheels of Steel and Strong Arm of the Law.

Saxon‘s self-titled debut came out in May 1979, just as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was beginning to pick up steam. It’s a good album but kind of a mix of Deep Purple with Status Quo, more hard rock than full on metal. The band hit the road supporting Slade, then Nazareth and then Motörhead on the Bomber tour. They originally were trying to get on a European tour with UFO but it turns out that going out with Motörhead was the best thing to happen to Saxon. They had to work hard to win over Motörhead’s rabid fans and helped spread metal fever throughout the UK. Being force fed speed and vodka by Lemmy on that tour must have had something to do with the second Saxon album Wheels of Steel turning out so great. Check out the great Saxon documentary, Heavy Metal Thunder, for all the gory details of that tour.

Recorded in The Who‘s Ramport Studio and released in May 1980, Wheels of Steel was the right album at the right time. Kicking off with “Motorcycle Man” Saxon really lets it fly. This has everything a metal biker anthem needs — speedy riffs, killer guitar solos, frantic double bass drumming and belligerent lyrics. This is metal at its finest. Plus, any metal song that starts off with the sounds of a motorcycle (Manowar‘s “Death Tone,” the On Parole version of “Motörhead,” etc.) is a good thing. “Stand up and be Counted” slows the pace down a bit with a riff similar to Nugent‘s “Yank Me Crank Me” off Double Live Gonzo mixed with some nice Thin Lizzy guitar harmonies. “747 (Strangers in the Night)” is another all-time classic with memorable guitar fills and impassioned vocals from Biff. Side one wraps up with another road warrior anthem, “Wheels of Steel.” They still play it at every gig. This song was designed to be played loud in a car cruising down the highway. It has a groove I like to describe as “speed limit rock” that puts it up there with “Slow Ride” and “Highway Star.” If you play the opening chord of the song on a loop it sounds just like SunnO))). The rhythm section of bassist Steve “Dobby” Dawson and drummer Pete Gill really lay it down on this one while the underrated guitar duo of Paul Quinn and Graham Oliver pull out some great solos. Biff tells everyone about his killer machine and when he says he “don’t take no bull-SHIT” it’s a true fist-clenching metal moment.

Side two opens up with a killer flanged out drum solo before erupting into yet another powerful driving song, “Freeway Mad.” “See The Light Shining” is dedicated to Fast Eddie for some reason. It doesn’t sound anything like Motörhead but is a good fist pumping headbanger. “Street Fighting Gang” has a definite Motörhead “Over the Top” influence and has some awesome solos from every band member including Biff‘s whistling. “Suzie Hold On” was probably their attempt at getting on the radio and bears a resemblance to Nazareth at times. The album wraps up with the all out blitzkrieg of “Machine Gun,” one of their fastest songs. Pete Gill‘s double bass drumming totally smokes and the guitars doing some intense Hendrix/Blackmore whammy bar destruction. This album was hard for me to track down when it first came out. Luckily, I had a friend in high school who would visit relatives in Germany once or twice a year. I’d give him cash and a long list of records to search for at the World of Music store in Munich. The sticker on the front cover confirms he got it for me there in December of 1982. Thank you, Bruce Adler, wherever you are!

Somehow after touring the UK and Europe, Saxon had time to record another album at Ramport and get it released by September of 1980. Saxon were always more into drinking tea than booze or taking speed. Maybe there’s something to be said for reasonably healthy living. It’s hard to argue with the results of Strong Arm of the Law. This album wasn’t released in the US until 1982 and that’s when I picked it up. Imagine my dismay when a few months later I see an import copy with a gatefold sleeve and totally reshuffled track listing. I didn’t bother buying the import and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. I rarely see it anymore. The music’s the most important thing but one of these days I’ll own both.

Side one of the US version starts off with the truly epic jam “Dallas 1PM.” Not only does this six-and-a-half-minute song groove like hell, it’s also a history lesson. This song came in handy when we were learning about the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 10th grade social studies. I actually paid attention to see if what they were trying to teach me matched up with the lyrics of the song. Too bad the rest of the class didn’t kick as much as this album. The title-track is up next and is a real metal thumper. Dobby and Pete Gill set up a heavy groove and the guitars come in with a simple but killer riff. Oliver and Quinn worked so well together, sort of like the middle ground between Downing/Tipton and the Young brothers. More great lyrics from Biff about getting hassled by the cops for being longhaired metal muthas. “Sixth Form Girls” is a very catch ditty about molesting young girls. Most bands approach this topic with a sleazy attitude but Saxon makes it almost charming. Side one wraps up with the mid-tempo heavy rockin’ “Hungry Years.”

“Heavy Metal Thunder” was track one of side one in the UK but starts off side two in the US. Doesn’t matter where you put it, this is one of the most ferocious metal anthems of all time. Fast and totally kickass with great lyrics praising those who decorate their denim jackets –

“If your backs are embroidered, come down to the front
Don’t sit there and do as they say
We’re an army of thousands surrounded by lights
Nobody stands in our way!”

What can you say after that except “fill your heads with heavy metal thunder!!!” AMEN!!!

“Taking Your Chances” and “To Hell and Back Again” are both good songs but have the misfortune of being in between “Heavy Metal Thunder” and the outstanding “20,000 Ft.” Despite having a speedy locomotive rhythm “20,000 Ft.” is about air travel and lifetime membership in the mile high club. Goddamn, that song rocks.

Saxon occupies a unique place in the world of metal. Musically and lyrically they cover a lot of ground. A band like Iron Maiden was based more in fantasy or history, while Motörhead was down on the streets. Saxon has always had a little bit of both. They also have a lot more straight forward hard rock in their music than a lot of metal bands. It was such a bummer when they tried going commercial later in the ‘80s. Holy shit, they looked ridiculous in glam metal attire and the songs they were writing were the pits. But no matter how bad it got I never stopped playing their five or six records and eventually they stopped trying to be commercial and returned to being a kickass metal band. Despite lineup changes and legal problems with ex members, Biff and Quinn have never quit. Saxon‘s never gone more than a few years without releasing an album and they’re always on tour. Denim & leather forever!

Saxon, “Dallas 1PM” live

Saxon, “Machine Gun” live

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on January 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Every time Chris “Woody High” MacDermott sends in one of these Spine of Overkill columns, I just want to spend the whole day listening to classic thrash. So it goes with this month’s, in which — after hearing Ben Smith of The Brought Low talk a bit of smack — he rallies to the defense of Exodus‘ 1985 ripper, Bonded by Blood. Could a Brought Low/Mighty High feud be in the works? Only time will tell.

Enjoy:

Recently Ben from The Brought Low said on the internets that Exodus is whack and that he’s OK going on record with it. Chances are he’s thinking of the stupid videos for “Toxic Waltz” and “Low Rider” that he watched on channel U68 in Queens as a kid. Somehow I doubt in 1984 he was trying to track down a copy of their Whipping Queen demo or live tapes through the pages of low budget fanzines. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions but I’m here to set the record straight. Bonded by Blood is absolutely their greatest album and it fuckin’ kicks major ass!!

Formed in 1980 as a traditional Judas Priest/Iron Maiden-style metal band, the core Exodus members were drummer Tom Hunting along with the guitar tag team of Kirk Hammett and Gary Holt. It wasn’t until they discovered belligerent heavy metal maniac Paul Baloff and made him their singer that the Exodus attack was under way. A demo in 1982 unleashed the songs “Whipping Queen,” “Death & Domination” and “Warlords.” A live demo the following year contained a killer song called “Die by His Hand.” An important part of this song would later wind up in Metallica‘s “Creeping Death” and cause a lot of arguments in parking lots, basements and woods for years to come. It wasn’t until Kirk quit that the Exodus sound would really take shape. Under the direction of Gary, the band starting cranking out the ultra-violence jams that we all know and love as Bonded by Blood.

Opening with a bomber sound effect, the song “Bonded by Blood” explodes out of the speakers and causes immediate psychotic reaction. The first time you hear Baloff screaming lyrics like “Metal and blood come together as one/Onlookers they gasp in dismay,” there’s no going back to “Hot Rockin’” by Judas Priest. “Onlookers they gasp in dismay” is a key line for the time period. If you put this tape on at a party and started raging you might actually get to hear the entire song due the stunned nature of the non-metal brethren, especially when you scream “INTENSE METAL IS ALL THAT YOU NEED!” in the face of a cheerleader. And as you’re getting muscled out the door at least you get deliver the gospel of “Metal takes its price – BONDED BY BLOOD!!”

Now that you’ve been kicked out of the party, it’s time to rage to the rest of it in the safety of an empty field or, if you’re really lucky, in a moving car. Start to finish, this album is the definition of drunken, anti-social pugnaciousness. Their theme song “Exodus” has a pummeling riff that will give you that extra bit of adrenaline you need to pull stop signs out of the ground. “And Then There Were None” is a little slower but is just the right tempo for when you’re rocking a parked car back and forth trying to flip it over. “A Lesson in Violence” is great thing to threaten the old man at the liquor store with who wants to see your ID. All of this means you’re under the “Metal Command” of Exodus, “A wall of sonic sound with amps turned up to 10!” And that’s just side one!

Flip it over and Tom Hunting‘s drums set you up for an attack of “Piranha.” One of their fastest songs, it’s also a great warning not to try and do battle with this “deadly school.” Almost a full minute of solo acoustic guitar starts off “No Love.” That would be totally unacceptable if it wasn’t such a heavy song about human sacrifice. “Deliver Us to Evil” is what Mercyful Fate might have sounded like with John Brannon of Negative Approach singing instead of the caterwauling of Queen Rhinestone. The bloody mess of side two wraps up with the absolutely vicious “Strike of the Beast,” one of Gary‘s best riffs.

Recorded in 1984, Bonded by Blood was actively being passed around by tape traders long before its official release in the spring of ‘85. Exodus were huge in their native San Francisco but had not yet done a lot of touring. By that time Metallica was touring their second album Ride the Lightning and Slayer had put out their debut album and two EPs. But when Exodus finally did go on tour, it was with Slayer as they took turns blowing Venom off the stage. It’s well documented on the incredible VHS tape called The Ultimate Revenge, filmed at Studio 54 in New York City (later to become the “new” Ritz). You get to witness Baloff‘s giant afro, hilarious stage banter and the band’s methed up metal attack. Slayer‘s portion is unbelievably heavy. Poor Venom never stood a chance. Touring on the weak Possessed album and without original guitarist Mantas, they refused to let the live footage shot be used in the video. Instead there’s an interview with Cronos and Abaddon while promo videos take the place of their performance. It is to my eternal regret that I was not at this show.

Paul Baloff got the boot from Exodus not long after and things were never the same. Exodus went on to have some successful albums but they always seemed to be competing with Anthrax as to who could be silliest with the shorts and moshing business. They’ve been cranking out some brutally heavy albums for the past 10 years but a big portion of their set remains the Bonded by Blood album. This album was also a good bridge to the Master of Puppets fans who initially found stuff like Hell Awaits, War & Pain, Heavy Metal Maniac and Morbid Tales way too raw. As Baloff would say “metal rules & if you don’t like it, die!” Rage in peace, Paul. YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Exodus, “Die by His Hand”

Exodus, “The Ultimate Revenge”

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Mighty High, Live at the Grand Victory, Brooklyn, 2012

Posted in Radio on December 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

With the holidays there hasn’t been much time for throwing records up on the Obelisk Radio streaming server, but one thing that came along this week that I wanted to make sure got included was a complete 51-minute set from Brooklyn-based delinquents Mighty High, recorded Dec. 1, 2012, at The Grand Victory in their native borough. This was the first gig the four-piece played after losing a ton of equipment in Hurricane Sandy, and in the tradition of the finest soundboard bootlegs, the audio is raw, but clear and crisp. “Chemical Warpigs” sounds amazing, as you’d have to expect.

Here’s the full setlist:

Shooting Spree
Speedcreep
Not Tonight
Breakin’ Shit
Tokin ‘n’ Strokin
Cheep Beer Dirt Weeed
Mooche
Chemical Warpigs
Loaded Loaded
Hands Up (If You Wanna Get High)
I Don’t Wanna Listen to Yes
High on the Cross
Drug War
Cable TV Eye

Mighty High‘s 2012 Ripple Music debut LP, Legalize Tre Bags (review here), continues to reign among the year’s most charm-driven releases, and tracks like “Breakin’ Shit,” “I Don’t Wanna Listen to Yes,” “Drug War” and “Mooche” are even better live. Plus, it’s a chance to get to know Chris “Woody” MacDermott better than you might just by reading his Spine of Overkill column as he delights in asking from the stage, “Is the huge crowd coming in for the DJ gonna fuck us up?” There’s no way to lose with the dude’s banter, even if it is a little sad when he goes member by member and details the gear everyone lost, including his own Foghat speaker cabinet.

It’s in there now as part of the regular rotation, so at some point, a solid 51 minutes of Mighty High will pop up to kick your ass and smoke you out. Hope you enjoy it. In the meantime, hands up if you wanna download the show for free. It’s right here on Soundcloud:

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on November 13th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Chris “Woody High” MacDermott‘s Spine of Overkill column just keeps getting better. This month, the Mighty High guitarist/vocalist takes a look at the roots of speed metal, focusing in on Canadian trio Exciter‘s 1983 debut album, Heavy Metal Maniac.

Please enjoy:

EXCITER – HEAVY METAL MANIAC

Just about every day I wish I wasn’t so fascinated by music history, but every single day I’m grateful to be a heavy metal maniac. What do these two things have in common? An awful lot when it comes to Ottawa’s heaviest export, Exciter. They’re often lumped in as “also rans” alongside Metallica, Slayer, etc., but the fact is that they predate just about everyone in the North American speed metal sweepstakes. They recorded a demo in 1980 that contained a song called “World War III” that eventually wound up on Shrapnel Records 1982 compilation US Metal Volume II. The first Metal Massacre compilation with Metallica on it also came out in 1982 but I’m not sure which one came first. Throughout 1982 Metallica was writing their first batch of originals and releasing them on demos alongside covers of obscure New Wave Of British Heavy Metal covers. Exodus, Slayer, Overkill and Anthrax were all doing mainly covers and Megadeth didn’t exist yet. Meanwhile, in the summer of ’82, Exciter were recording demos that would eventually be released as their debut album by Shrapnel in January 1983. Also in the summer of 1982 they got the chance to open for Black Sabbath in their hometown. Kill ‘Em All is often mentioned as the album the really kicked off the speed/thrash/whatever you want to call it movement of the ‘80s but for my money, the prize should go to Exciter. Distribution for this kind of metal was hard to come by, the general metal audience wasn’t ready for it and the label didn’t have enough resources to put the band on the road so most people discovered Exciter about a year later as the market started to get crowded.

Now that the history lesson’s over, Heavy Metal Maniac stands up as one of the heaviest, most belligerent documents of its time. A gust of spooky wind opens the album as a prelude to the brief instrumental “The Holocaust.” At least I think it’s wind. It’s hard to tell from all the tape hiss on top of the hiss coming out of John Ricci‘s guitar amps. An explosion ends the song and piledrives you straight into the metal anthem “Stand up and Fight.” Fast, furious and completely balls to the wall. John Ricci‘s guitar sounds like a swarm of distorted bees rounded out by Allan Johnson‘s thudding bass work. Dan Beehler‘s double bass drumming takes your head off but it’s his frantic screaming that really seals the deal. Any band with a singing drummer gets extra points, but the tally is ridiculously high when you’re hammering out beats like this. When it comes to frenzied metal preaching, Beehler‘s work here is up there with Paul Baloff on the classic Bonded by Blood album. The song “Heavy Metal Maniac” is even more inspired. The opening lyrics “Hey little honey come along with me/Won’t you take a free ride,” not only references Edgar Winter but gets you revved up for the chorus of “I’M A HEAVY! METAL! MANIAC!! STAND BACK!!!” I remember clearly listening to this song in my bedroom and being inspired to do more than just headbang. The music compelled me to jump around like an idiot and it felt good running straight into the walls. This was long before I ever saw “moshing” at metal shows. How do they follow up those two speed metal classics? By reminding everyone that only playing fast isn’t heavy at all. “Iron Dogs” starts off with one of the most crushing metal riffs of all time. I’m convinced that a lot of the New York hardcore bands studied this song for use in their “mosh” parts. For a bunch of dudes from Canada they capture a bleak urban feel as they unfold the horror story of “IRON DOGS EAT THE CITY!!!” When John Ricci switches gears to a faster riff you can hear him almost stumble but there’s no way he was going to stop the take and punch it in. This is raw meat metal at its finest. “Mistress of Evil” wraps up Side Heavy in fine molten style.

Flipping it over to Side Metal, you are under attack. Literally. Dan Beehler unloads a killer double bass fill before the band erupts on the pummeling thrasher “Under Attack.” They try to restrain themselves a bit on the intro of “Rising of the Dead” but quickly things get fast ‘n’ furious. About halfway through a nice “Children of the Grave”-style speed boogie emerges. The seven-minute “metal ballad” of “Black Witch” is interesting. A year later on Ride the Lightning, Metallica would include a seven-minute “metal ballad” called “Fade to Black” that bears some similarities to “Black Witch.” I’m sure Lars was keeping close tabs on the competition. I doubt Metallica intentionally ripped off Exciter but both songs share a lot of common roots. “Cry of the Banshee” gets things back to full on thrashing. Starting off with another classic Beehler drum intro, John Ricci‘s tortured Strat screams out another killer riff. They must have been proud of the lyrics to this one because they blew up one of the lines to print on the back cover – “When twilight burns across the sky you’d better run and hide/The beast will roar from deep inside.” 

As great as the music is, encountering Heavy Metal Maniac in a record store back then was even better. If you were looking for full-on metal, you knew this one wasn’t false advertising. You couldn’t hear this stuff anywhere so you had to go by gut instinct. Sometimes you’d see a killer album cover, take a chance and it would be kinda weak. There’d be keyboards, too many ballads or some horrible Geoff Tate-like vocalist. Not with Exciter. The front cover is an arm with studded leather wristbands and a tattoo of a heart with the word “METAL.” The hand is holding a switchblade and stabbing a Marshall speaker cabinet. The Exciter logo and words Heavy Metal Maniac are in blood red and in a font easy enough for anyone to scribble on a desk, wall or book cover. Flip it over and you see three metal maniacs covered in denim, leather and hair. Their friends and roadies thanked on the back cover have cool nicknames like T.N.T., Clint, Headbanger and Crank It Up. The guys in Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear don’t hang out with anyone named Crank It Up. I’ve never actually looked at one of their records. Maybe their sound guy is named Turn It Down for all I know. I also can’t say how much I appreciated them labeling the sides Heavy and Metal – something that inspired me to do the same on all my homemade metal mix tapes. In 2012, it seems unbelievable that a 1984 UK tour of The Rods, Metallica and Exciter was cancelled due to lack of ticket sales but it’s true. It wasn’t until December of 1984 that I actually got to see Exciter‘s brand of pounding metal live in concert with Motörhead and Mercyful Fate. Details of that adventure next time.

Exciter – Heavy Metal Maniac full album:

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on October 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

In his latest Spine of Overkill column, Chris “Woody High” MacDermott takes a look back at TT Quick and time spent at the Rising Son in Yonkers. As ever, he’s fucking brilliant. Please enjoy:

Hello to the Yo – a personal history of TT Quick and the Rising Sun

It’s going to be hard to top the reaction I got to last month’s column about the Big 4 Before The Big 4 (Anvil, Riot, The Rods and Twisted Sister). People from near and far went out of their way to lemmy know how much they enjoyed it and shared their own stories of growing up with those bands. I was just a hair too young to catch the class of 1982 in their club daze prime but a band I did get to see many, many times in a bar was the pride of Ozzy Osbornville, NJ – TT Quick. And not just any bar, the legendary, super scuzzy Rising Sun in Yonkers, NY. Truly a match made in metal heaven.

According to Yonkers.gov, “The City of Yonkers, located on the majestic Hudson River, is the fourth largest city in the State of New York and is the largest city in beautiful Westchester County.” There’s no mention of the fact that it was home to a large population of dusted out metal maniacs in the 1980s who made their counterparts in White Plains and New Rochelle (my hometown) seem positively tame. Yonkers Raceway has been rebranded as the Empire Casino, but back in my day it was just a landmark off of the New York State Thruway on the way to the Rising Sun. L’Amours in Brooklyn and L’Amours East in Queens were the metal capitols but the Rising Sun hosted some great shows. It was a regular stop for Twisted Sister on their never-ending club tours of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. The Raven/Metallica “Kill ‘Em All For One” tour also made a pit stop there. Cover bands thrived there. There was still a large crowd of blue collar dudes that just wanted to relax and jam out to some Zep covers after a long day of smoking weeed at BOCES. It was also a total dump, but easy to get into if you were underage during the last days of the 18 (then later 19) year old drinking age. When the drinking age finally went to 21 in New York places like the Rising Sun disappeared and bands like TT Quick were left homeless.

During my last two years of high school 1984-‘85 TT Quick would play the Rising Sun every other Friday. I have no idea how many times I actually saw them play. It feels like dozens but maybe it’s because they used to play two sets a night. Maybe because I was drunk every single time and really don’t remember. Either way, they always kicked ass and put on a great show. Slowly but surely more and more of my friends started coming to the shows and bringing more people with them. 914 area code metal crowds were really strong back then. I have to give special credit to my friend Dave for driving me to every single one of these shows. I still owe you a tank of gas!

TT Quick was a great live band. Heavy enough for the dudes getting into all the new speed metal bands, but not too heavy to scare away the guys more into Zep/Aerosmith. A few girls even liked them. Every show was basically a big party. TT Quick specialized in doing kick ass covers. Without fail you’d get “Back in the Saddle” by Aerosmith, “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead and “Into the Void” by Black Sabbath. “Into the Void” was always killer because they’d line up at the front of the stage and do some cool synchronized moves on the ending riff. They’d get the Led out with “Ramble On” and/or “Out on the Tiles,” give the drummer some on “The Wizard” and get me really pumped up with “Son of a Bitch” by Accept. When singer Mark Tornillo became the new singer in Accept a few years ago I knew he’d be a great replacement for Udo. Hell, he did such a great job on Dio‘s “Last in Line” and “We Rock” he should work with Tony and Geezer, too. The rest of the band could really play. Guitarist David Dipietro was especially good. When all the other metal guitarists were switching to pointy Jacksons and Charvels, he stuck with a Les Paul and played the hell out of it. He gave guitar lessons back then and one of his students was none other than Zakk Wylde. Bassist Walt Fortune was very solid and looked pretty decent in leopard print pants. Drummer Glenn Evans was a monster behind the kit. He’d blow us all away by making it sound like he had a double bass kit by using a second floor tom like Bonham. He later joined Nuclear Assault but my memory isn’t strong enough to recall if he used two bass drums for them.

In addition to their killer covers, they’d throw in originals from their self titled EP released in 1984 by Avalanche Records. Avalanche was a short-lived subdivision of Megaforce and used the slogan “Heavy Metal at its Peak.” The best song on the record by far is “Child of Sin.” It’s got a killer stop/start chugga-chugga riff perfect for headbanging with built in pauses to yell “HEY!” Two years later an almost identical riff appeared as the instrumental “Intro” to I Against I by Bad Brains. I doubt Dr. Know pinched it, since it’s not the world’s most original riff, but it is a weird coincidence. I remember Vernon Reid of Living Colour reviewed I Against I for the Village Voice and described “Intro” as “Mahavishnu-esque.” I doubt he’d say the same thing about TT Quick. “Go for the Throat,” “Metal Man” and “Victims” are great US metal songs that rocked hard live. Oddly enough for a band that specialized in heavy rock covers live, they included “Fortunate Son” by CCR on the EP. It’s not a bad version but who wants Creedence in their metal? I don’t ever remember them playing this one live. Chances are if they did I would probably use it as a chance to hit the can and get another bottle of Bud. TT Quick should have been sponsored by Budweiser with all the empties they’d have piled on the stage by the end of the night. Mark Tornillo had a cool shirt that said something like “Olympic Beer Drinking Team.”

In the fall of 1985 I went upstate for college and that put an end to spending every other Friday night in Yonkers with a great band. I only went to the Rising Sun a few more times after that on breaks from school. One of the most insane shows I ever witnessed took place there in October 1985 when Overkill (listed as “Overhill” on the club’s flyer) with S.O.D. opening up. That was right at the start of “moshing” at metal shows and there was a lot of fights between the guys that just wanted to headbang and the new breed of metal slam dancers. Billy Milano wore my Suicidal hat on stage when they covered “War Inside My Head” that night. Every now and then photos from that night show up on the internet. My hat is prominent but luckily I am not visible. TT Quick went on to release Metal of Honor on Megaforce in 1986. It’s a shame that they didn’t achieve more success earlier in their career. By ‘86 metal was either thrash or poser crap and TT Quick didn’t fit into either category. The Rising Sun is now a strip club, so at least there’s still some seedy activity going on at that address. It’s probably for the best that it closed down because I’d probably be living above the place strung out on coke and waiting for the next TT Quick show. New Jersey bangers are well aware that Mark will be fronting Accept on tour now. Be sure to heckle him by yelling out for “Child of Sin” all night long.

“Child of Sin” live at L’Amours 1986

“Supernaut” live at L’Amours 1987

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Spine of Overkill, by Chris “Woody High” MacDermott

Posted in Spine of Overkill on August 29th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Epic! No other word will do to describe the latest Spine of Overkill column by Woody High. Dude has outdone himself, speaking from both personal experience and critical expertise about the Big 4 before the Big 4. All metal, no marketing. Cheers to Woody and dig this if you dare:

The Big 4 (Before The Big 4)

The past few years there’s been all this hoopla about “the Big Four of Thrash Metal” and who’s in it, who’s not, who should be, etc. Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth are certainly the biggest four bands to have emerged out of the 1980s thrash heap and all of ‘em put out big albums in 1986-‘87. Exodus and Overkill predate some of those bands and paid the price for being a little too early to the party, doing too many whippets and passing out before everyone showed up. Exciter never gets mentioned in the discussion even though their landmark debut Heavy Metal Maniac was recorded in 1982 and released in January ‘83.

But the road all these bands traveled on were paved by what I like to call “The Big 4 Before The Big 4″ – Anvil, The Rods, Riot and Twisted Sister. These bands were all on the wrong continent to be part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal but helped inspire the first wave of thrash and rabid metal mongers in search of faster and louder. If 1986 is looked at as the pinnacle of thrash, then 1982 can be seen as the peak of the underground street metal era.

Anvil

By now everyone’s seen the Anvil movie and there’s even been a bit of a backlash against them because they’re sort of popular. Whatever. The fact remains that their second album, Metal on Metal, came out in April 1982 and kicked major ass. I read about Anvil in the pages of my favorite zine, Kick*Ass, and knew right away I had to check this band out. Anvil took their Ted Nugent, Deep Purple and Motörhead influences and mixed them with potent Canadian beer to form a speedy new hybrid. Metal on Metal contains many classics like the anthemic title-track, “Mothra,” “666″ and the killer instrumental “March of the Crabs.” I was thrilled by the dirty lyrics of “Jackhammer,” “Tease Me, Please Me,” “Tag Team,” “Heatsink,” and “Scenery.” The only song that I was not that into was “Stop Me,” sung by pretty boy rhythm guitarist Dave Allison. Back in 1982, you usually had to put up with one kinda wimpy song that you know the record company made them do to try and get on the radio. Lips‘ lead guitar playing is killer on the entire album. He combined a fancy Michael Schenker/Ritchie Blackmore Euro style with a full on gonzo Nugent malicious intent that’s quite impressive. Robb Reiner‘s drumming took inspiration from Carmine Appice and Tommy Aldridge but he was also smart enough to get hip to the swinging approach from Louis Bellson, an early double bass drummer in the jazz world. (Check out Bellson‘s classic drum solo piece “Skin Deep” if you don’t believe me.)

I never got to see Anvil at their peak in ‘82 or ‘83 when they were deafening everyone at L’Amours and in New Jersey clubs but I caught them a few years later in Rochester, NY. It was either 1987 or ‘88 when they played a club called Backstreets (the radio ads said, “Backstreets is HUUUUUUUUUGE!”) on a frigid, rainy, snowy night in the middle of the week. There was hardly anyone in the place. The guy who I had convinced to drive wanted to leave before they even played when he saw all the gear on stage. Back then, Lips would have three Fender Twin amps sitting on top of three extension cabinets. Bassist Ian Dickson had a pair of Ampeg SVT stacks and Dave had double Marshall stacks. Robb‘s drum kit was enormous with a giant anvil in between the bass drums. There was no way I was going to split so I had to promise I’d buy him a garbage plate from Nick Tahou‘s after the show to get him to stick around. I’d seen bands play to small crowds and it was obvious they weren’t into it. Anvil came out blasting at full volume and went completely nuts on stage like they were headlining a stadium. They really pulled out all the stops. When Lips busted out the vibrator for the solo on “Bondage” he stuck it in some girl’s drink to stir it up for her. I’m sure it must have improved the flavor greatly. Before playing the song “Mad Dog,” Lips pulled his bulldog onstage and showed the crowd the dog’s balls. Classy and classic.

Anvil – “March of the Crabs” and “666″ Live in Japan 1983

The Rods

The Rods traveled a similar path to Anvil. Hailing from upstate NY but making a name for themselves in the clubs of outer borough NYC and New Jersey, The Rods were another deafening live act. The Rods took inspiration from late ‘60s loud power trios like Cream, Hedrix, James Gang, Blue Cheer and sped it up. Playing Led Zep covers in Jersey dumps to underage drinkers requires desperate measures to get their attention. Their independently released debut Rock Hard came out in 1980 but was picked up and repackaged as The Rods in 1981 by Arista. The Rods were getting a lot of attention in the UK newspaper Sounds and toured over there with Iron Maiden. It didn’t hurt that guitarist David “Rock” Feinstein was the cousin of Ronnie James Dio and played with him in his pre-Rainbow band Elf.

By the time they got around to recording their second album Wild Dogs in 1982 it looked like they were going to be a really big band. Wild Dogs is a bombastic, belligerent collection of songs that belonged in the tape deck of every Trans Am in the Tri-State and beyond. Still does as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t matter where I am but as long as it’s warm enough to have all the windows of my car rolled down I’m cranking “Too Hot to Stop” and I don’t give a fuck who doesn’t like it. The opening riff is one of the best that AC/DC didn’t write and the lyrics “I’m low down and dirty/I’m a nasty man” are great to yell at some uptight broad in the car next to you at the red light. And when you’re burning rubber and she’s choking on your smoke everyone knows that you are indeed “Too Hot to Stop.” Unless you’re pulling up to the liquor store, of course. Then it’s okay to stop. But when you get back in there are plenty more kickass jams to blast. There are so many great lyrics on Wild Dogs. “Rockin’ ‘n’ Rollin’ Again” has some of the best like, “Red hot women, snortin’ cocaine/Line ‘em up I wanna hit ‘em again!” The Rods love rock ‘n’ roll and love writing songs about rock ‘n’ roll like, “The Night Lives to Rock” and sleazy road-life-inspired, gonorrhea-drenched love songs like “Violation” (“I didn’t know she was only 17!”) and “No Sweet Talk, Honey.” Their attempt at getting on the radio was with a cover of a cover. Vanilla Fudge had a hit in the ‘60s with a slowed down version of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes. The Rods’ version is shorter and a bit faster but didn’t give them a hit.

It is to my eternal regret that I have never once seen The Rods, one of my all-time favorite bands. They’re back in action again and put out a new album last year called Vengeance that was pretty good. I’m hoping they play New York someday and bring down those custom speaker cabinets that Rock and bassist Gary Bordonaro used to play through. The back cover of their Live album shows TWELVE cabinets on either side of Carl Canedy‘s giant, shiny double bass drum kit. Back in the pre-Dave Lombardo days, Carl was the only guy to rival Robb Reiner in the double bass wars. Phil Taylor was too Keith Moon-ish to compete with the accuracy of Carl and Robb. For those who don’t know, Carl plays drums on the first Manowar demo and produced a lot of bands for Combat Records including Overkill, Anthrax, Exciter and Possessed.

The Rods – “Power Lover” live in NY 1983

Riot

If ever a band deserved the two-hour Behind The Music treatment, it’s Brooklyn’s own Riot. Founding member Mark Reale started the band in 1975 and sadly passed away earlier this year. There’s a box set titled A Study in Frustration of swing-era band leader Fletcher Henderson. That same title could be used if they ever decide to make a movie about Riot. The new issue of Classic Rock Magazine has a great article about Riot‘s formation and career struggles through the 1980s that will tell you everything you need to know. If ever a band deserved more success it was them. Bands like Anvil and The Rods were ultimately too heavy and wild for an AC/DC mainstream hard rock crowd in 1982, but Riot could have gone the distance. 1981′s Fire Down Under is an undeniable classic. Heavy enough for a metal crowd, melodic enough for normal people and great playing for the musicianly types. Plus, singer Guy Speranza had a killer afro to rival Handsome Dick Manitoba or Don Brewer.

When Guy decided to cut his ‘fro and quit the band, they came up with a winner in his replacement Rhett Forrester. Rhett had poofy blonde hair, a lot of charisma and a great bluesy voice. The album Restless Breed is another classic. Some purists say Fire Down Under is better but I’ve always put them on equal footing. The only drawback Riot really had was their goofy half-man/half-seal mascot and some people never took them seriously because of the album covers. Their loss. Restless Breed has some of the heaviest songs they ever did like “Hard Lovin’ Man” (not the Deep Purple song), “CIA,” “Violent Crimes,” and “Loanshark.” Backing up Rhett was the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Kip Lemming and drummer Sandy Slavin and the excellent guitar team of Mark Reale and Rick Ventura. The title-track is a moody slow burn that should have become an afternoon drive time anthem alongside Blackfoot‘s “Highway Song.” If you ever need a song to go riding off into the sunset with, this is it. “Loved by You” could have easily won over Van Halen fans but David Lee Roth always maintained a “no blonde singer” policy for his opening acts. If you had a girlfriend in 1982, she probably would have liked “Over to You” (not the Black Sabbath song), “Showdown” and “Dream Away.” Riot‘s attempt at getting on the radio with a cover of “When I was Young” by The Animals could have worked in getting some older classic rock fans to check them out. Both Guy and Rhett died way too young and under tragic circumstances. It’s sad that Mark‘s passing has made more people aware of Riot‘s classic albums but it would be even sadder if they were totally ignored.

Riot – “Restless Breed” live

Twisted Sister

Rounding out this class of 1982 is Long Island’s own Twisted Fuckin’ Sister. Everybody’s aware of their huge MTV video hits but hardcore metal freaks like me still cling to their early singles, EPs and live tapes. By 1982, Twisted Sister had created a huge following in the NY/NJ/CT area by blasting out a couple sets a night four or five times a week. The drinking age was 18 and fake IDs were very easy to get. When underage girls are at a show that guarantees a ton of guys are going to be there trying to get in their pants. Twisted Sister were loved by blue collar suburban metalheads but looked at as a joke by the industry and hipsters in NYC. They couldn’t get a record deal and rarely ever played in Manhattan. They’d rent out the Palladium and sell it out but would get no media attention. Other bar bands like The Good Rats or Zebra had big followings but Twisted Sister crowds were the rowdiest. They’d rile everyone up with smokin’ versions of “Draw the Line” by Aerosmith, “Sin City” by AC/DC and “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Rainbow before pulling out their originals. As a kid I heard their name all the time on the local rock radio stations concert listings and seen some of the older burnouts in school wearing their shirts. In early 1982 I saw them play live on a tv show and they totally blew my mind. I stayed up late to watch a show hosted by Flo & Eddie from The Turtles but I was a big fan of their work with Frank Zappa. They introduced this bunch of freaks that all looked like Alice Cooper (who I’ve always been a huge fan of) and then they blasted into “Under the Blade.” You can bet when they finally released their debut album, also called Under the Blade, I picked it up the day it came out.

In recent years, Twisted Sister has been acknowledging their early days more often and have answered some demands from fans. One of them was to finally re-release Under the Blade as it originally came out (they remixed it at some point in the ‘80s and Atlantic reissued it) alongside the Ruff Kuts EP. Last year they did just that and packaged it with an unbelievable DVD from their set at the Reading Festival right after they recorded the album. They also put out an incredible DVD of a full show from earlier that summer right before they took off for England to go into the studio with Pete Way of UFO as producer. “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” is one of the best opening fuck-you songs of all time. Very Alice Cooper influenced, it tells lays it down that if you’re not into this then you’re lame and get the fuck out. Twisted Sister often get compared to KISS and there are a lot of similarities, but they always had more in common with Alice‘s blend of anthemic hard rock and theatrics. “Shoot ‘em Down” and “Bad Boys (of Rock ‘n’ Roll)” are classic Bon Scott-era influenced AC/DC songs and “Sin After Sin” is a great Judas Priest song mixed with “1969″ by The Stooges.” “Tear It Loose” is pure Motörhead and “Day of the Rocker” is a great Rose Tattoo tribute. “Run For Your Life” and “Destroyer” are so fuckin heavy but the title track is the real highlight of the album. So creepy and heavy at the same time. If you can’t headbang to this song then you must have been born without a neck. I was lucky enough to catch Twisted Sister a few times in their pre-fame club daze and they remain one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. If you don’t believe me, there’s plenty of evidence out there to confirm it. A friend of mine’s been hooking me up with some vintage live tapes the past few years. Anyone who wants to check ‘em out, get in touch and I’ll be glad to hook you up.

Twisted Sister – “Under The Blade” live 1982

I recently turned 45 years old, which means I’ve been listening to these records for 30 years. Jesus, that’s a long fucking time. Each year some new aches and pains seem to come out of nowhere but I can accurately pinpoint the beginning of my hearing loss.

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Spine of Overkill, by Chris “Woody High” MacDermott

Posted in Spine of Overkill on July 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Continuing to astound in his fifth column for The Obelisk, Chris “Woody High” MacDermott of Mighty High pays homage to The Ramones‘ 1984 album, Too Tough to Die and shares a few NYC memories along the way. Awesome. Please enjoy:

Dude is a fucking genius.

My first “Spine of Overkill” column about Venom‘s Welcome to Hell was inspired by a frigid night waiting for the subway. This month’s column was inspired by the intense heat wave we just had on the East Coast. Waiting for the F train at the Broadway-Lafayette station in hot weather is literally hell. I tend to listen to The Ramones a lot in the summer but when it gets downright hot ‘n’ nasty, their 1984 album Too Tough to Die is my soundtrack to sweating. It was released in Rocktober, 1984, which means it has been pumping into my ears via Sony Walkman, iPod and now fancy new iPhone for 28 consecutive summers in New York City. I used to have a cassette with Too Tough to Die on one side and Live at Max’s Kansas City by The Heartbreakers on the other side that I would blast constantly. Listening to these lowlifes somehow made the fact that my sneakers were melting into the pavement a little more tolerable.

Too Tough to Die was a major improvement over their previous album Subterranean Jungle, which found The Ramones working with people who had hit records for Joan Jett. Not long after that in 1983, Johnny Ramone got his head beat in during an argument with some creep and was hospitalized. While he was recuperating, Dee Dee wrote a bunch of great songs and then wrote more with Johnny once he recovered. The result was a hard-hitting kick ass rock ‘n’ roll album in step with their classic first four. Marky Ramone got the boot for being too drunk and was replaced by the excellent Richie Ramone, also a songwriter. Joey Ramone contributed some great songs to the album but it’s really a Dee Dee and Johnny record. Another reason why this album is so good is because it reunited The Ramones with the winning production team of T. Erdelyi (aka original drummer Tommy Ramone) and Ed Stasium.

Side one kicks off with the kick ass “Mama’s Boy.” Johnny‘s guitar blasts a chord and Dee Dee counts the band in. A slower than usual grinding riff announced to everyone that The Ramones were back in full force. Joey‘s voice sounds huge and Elvis-like. Maybe even a little like Jim Morrison without all the annoying poetry crap. Jim could never write great lyrics like “I don’t wanna work in a hot dog stand, be a busboy, messenger or a door man/It’s an abstract world, you’re an abstract man/Abstract city don’t give a damn.” The song speeds up for the chorus, which will forever be altered in my universe because a friend thought they were yelling “Mama mama mama mama mama’s bald!” Following up that song with the slow, moody “I’m Not Afraid of Life” and the fast title-track is a killer one-two-three combo that’s hard to beat. Joey takes a breather while the band kicks out their only instrumental song “Durango 95.”  Wikipedia says that “Durango 95″ is the name of the car driven by Alex in A Clockwork Orange, but there also used to be a restaurant named Durango next to Joey‘s apartment in the East Village. It was #95. Drinking beer on the sidewalk across from Joey‘s place was a favorite summertime activity of mine. I’d always have my friends meet me there and we often get to say hi to the great man and, occasionally, get a glimpse of his OCD in full effect as he’d try to kick gum off the sidewalk or go in and out of his lobby repeatedly.

Getting back to the album, Dee Dee takes over the mic on the short and fast “Wart Hog.” The original album’s lyric sheet just put a big question mark under the song title. I guess they felt his lyrics about “junkies,” “fags” and “commies” were a little too over the top. Didn’t matter. Everyone knew the words and loved screaming along at the live shows. “Danger Zone” starts off with some hilarious in-studio dialogue with Joey asking “What song are we doing? ‘Danger Zone.’ OK, ready?” before another two-minute blast of real New York punk takes off. Side one wraps up with Joey‘s “Chasing the Night,” featuring a possible James Gang lyrical reference of being up all night and asleep all day.

“Howling at the Moon” starts off side two and sounds like a Joey song but was in fact written by Dee Dee. It’s the most commercial song on the album and was produced by Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics. The record label was looking for a hit and the band said they’d do a radio friendly song if they left them alone on the rest of the album. I’ve always liked the song and they keyboards don’t bother me too much. I don’t think it ever got too much radio play for them. “Daytime Dilemma” is another more pop-oriented song written by Joey with guitarist Daniel Rey, who probably plays on it, too. Things get faster and louder on Dee Dee‘s “Planet Earth 1988″ which features overtly political lyrics. Johnny Ramone probably hated this song. Richie‘s song “Humankind” is a good Ramones song and his writing debut for the band. Dee Dee gets another lead vocal on “Endless Vacation,” a great song that alternates between slow and heavy and fast and hard. Side two ends with the great rockabilly influenced song “No Go.”

There were also some cool B-sides that went along with the album. The import 12″ for “Howling at the Moon” had a good version of the Rolling Stones song “Street Fighting Man” and a great original called “Smash You.” In 1985 another 12″ single came out for a song called “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” that was later retitled “My Brain is Hanging Upside Down” to appease Ronald Reagan lover Johnny Ramone. The B-side of that single contained a song called “Go Home Ann.” The credits for that song read “produced by Ed Stasium, mix by Lemmy.” I pretty much pissed, jizzed and crapped my pants the first time I saw that. Motörhead and The Ramones have always been two of my favorite bands, but back then I was convinced they WERE the same band. I would tell everyone that some day they would announce a Motörhead/Ramones tour and then the world would self-destruct. I got to ask Joey several times about touring with Motörhead and he always loved the idea. I got to ask Johnny about it, too. Businessman that he is, Johnny said that it wouldn’t make sense since they shared such a common audience. His eyes did light up and had a big smile when I told him to think about how loud it would be.

Speaking of loud, I had the great pleasure of seeing The Ramones many times during the Richie Ramone era starting with Too Tough to Die through Marky‘s return in 1987. They were always great and always really fucking loud. When hardcore punk had its inevitable collision with metal, a lot of punk bands started using bigger amps but The Ramones always had triple stacks on stage. I can verify that most of them were turned on and not just for show. But when they would play L’Amours in Brooklyn things would get even louder than usual. I have no idea if this is true or not but I was told that The Ramones used to bring in some of their touring P.A. to supplement the already deafening house sound system at the club. It wouldn’t surprise me if they did. I was at a few shows at L’Amours and there were definitely some metal regulars who were skeptical about The Ramones. By the end of the night they were converted by sheer volume alone. The loudest concerts I’ve ever seen were at L’AmoursMotörhead, Twisted Sister, Overkill — but I think The Ramones might have beat them all by a few db’s. Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny are all sadly deceased but they live on in my tinnitus.

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Friends Reviews Week Pt. 1: Mighty High, Legalize Tre Bags

Posted in Reviews on May 29th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Sure, you might know Mighty High guitarist/vocalist Chris “Woody High” MacDermott from the periodic “Spine of Overkill” columns he writes for this site, or maybe from his posts on the forum (he’s Woody, duh), but here’s something you probably didn’t know about him. He is a man with a very specific ability. Where some are engineers and others painters and still others painting engineers, our friend Woody has a unique gift. He can turn anything you say – literally anything – into a pun about weed. Now, that might not sound that impressive, but imagine how far away some of the shit you say on a daily basis is from being about weed. Phrases like, “I have to get my oil changed,” and, “Have you seen that shipping invoice?” are just as subject to his individual skillset as something like, “Do you have any cookie dough because I’m bombed off my ass?” might be. Not only is he a master of the weedy pun, but he’s actually clever about it. Aside from being funny because they’re about weed and because he makes them so quickly and so constantly, they’re good puns. And I like puns whether they’re good or bad, so good ones are like a bonus.

Mighty High’s Legalize Tre Bags plays out like the wholesale embodiment of this ethic: Take your life, make it about weed. Joining Woody in his mission are drummer Jesse D’Stills, bassist Matt “Labatts” Santoro and guitarist Kevin Overdose, the latter two having come aboard following the release of the band’s last full-length, …In Drug City (review here). The album is a joint issue (get it?) between Ripple Music and the band’s own Mint Deluxe Tapes (“tapes” being another sort of running gag Woody has going), and basically what you’re getting when you pop it on either in download, CD or gorgeous deluxe gatefold vinyl form is 33 minutes of stoner punk charm. The band offers no quarter for their influences – Motörhead, The Stooges, Black Flag, Black Sabbath, Slayer, etc. – and right from the start of the 1:16 opener “I Don’t Wanna Listen to Yes,” they are a striking reminder of just how far the rest of the world has its head up its own ass and how everyone else who claims to not take themselves too seriously still does. If they didn’t, they’d be Mighty High, ripping through the 11 tracks of Legalize Tre Bags (think a dime bag, but smaller) like the salve to soothe an infection of self-indulgent hipster Brooklones.

They show their native borough some love in “Come on! I’m Holdin’,” and cuts like “Mooche,” “Cheap Beer, Dirt Weed,” “Tokin’ and Strokin’” and “Loaded Loaded” all deal with the various sides of drug culture – mostly the side that likes to get fucked up. “Drug War” manipulates samples of Ronald Reagan à la Ministry to make it seem like the former president is calling out George Bush for smoking pot, and album highlight “Chemical Warpigs” is not only the best pun on the record, but the kind of innate genius that has you wondering why no one before was able to put those two ideas together – the references seem obvious, but I’ll say anyway it’s Slayer’s “Chemical Warfare” and Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” and the song takes musical parts from both like an organic mashup that, unlike every mashup I’ve ever heard, doesn’t suck. At a ranging 4:16, “Chemical Warpigs” is the longest song on Legalize Tre Bags, but Mighty High offer no letup on charm, which is pretty much what lets them get away with this level of musical shenanigans without completely falling on their face.

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Spine of Overkill, by Chris “Woody High” MacDermott

Posted in Spine of Overkill on May 9th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

In his third “Spine of Overkill” column, Chris MacDermott of Mighty High recalls forgotten Long Island metallers Frigid Bich and nights spent throwing garbage on rich people’s lawns. What could go better with classic metal than that?

If you haven’t heard it yet, Mighty High‘s new album, Legalize Tre Bags is available now on Ripple Music. More info at the band’s Thee Facebooks page.

Please enjoy:

Much respect.

Long Island had some really obscure bands with offensive names back in the 1980s. There was Mangled Clit, who at one time included superstar drummer Mike Portnoy, or the legendary Satan’s Penis, an early death metal band that went undocumented. But my favorite of all remains Frigid Bich. I have no idea why they spelled it “bich” and not “bitch,” but in most of the photos that remain of their reign, at least one band member is playing a BC Rich guitar. Or maybe they thought they’d have problems getting their records stocked in chain stores. Who knows? This is a band that I’ve been really into ever since hearing their incredible song “We Rule the Night” on the NY Metal ‘84 compilation, but have always had trouble finding out more about them.

Not much has changed since then. There’s very little info on Frigid Bich on the internet right now, but the equally obscure label Stormbringer Records released a compilation, Tyrants of a Generation, in Zeptember 2011 that I have not been able to find anywhere. Formed in 1980, Frigid Bich were intent on playing fast, loud and being as obnoxious as possible. Early song titles “Savage Lust,” “Reign of Steel” and “Teenage Rebels” need no explanation. By 1984, the lineup had changed and the band became even more over the top. “We Rule the Night” was by far the crudest sounding song on NY Metal ‘84 and I was hooked. What’s not to like about a song that rips off the intro to Metallica‘s “Hit the Lights” before blasting into a rewrite of Venom‘s “Raise the Dead?”

My favorite fanzine, KICK*ASS, was a big supporter of Frigid Bich, and just about anything they liked, I wound up liking, too. At some point I got a dub of a dub of a demo recorded in 1984 that included “We Rule the Night” and four other killer songs. That tape is long gone, but it looks like all of it is on side one of Tyrants of a Generation, plus a song called “Louder than Loud” I’d never heard before. Thankfully someone has posted most of these songs to YouTube and it’s great to be reacquainted with the incredible “Metal on Denim on Leather.” Taking Saxon‘s “Denim and Leather” to the extreme, this song borrows heavily from Metallica‘s “Metal Militia.” Their No Life til Leather demo was pretty crude but Frigid‘s tape makes it sound like it was produced by Bob Ezrin. I have fuzzy memories of blasting “Metal on Denim on Leather” and “We Rule the Night” in a friend’s car at the end of the night. We’d save up our empty Bud tall cans and McDonald’s wrappers to throw on rich people’s lawns in Pelham, NY. Always a good idea. “The Kids are Gonna Fight” and “Tyrants of s Generation” are basically about terrorizing old people that try to get in the way of rampaging metal youth. Never a good idea.

Side two of this album looks incredible, with live covers of Motörhead’s “Overkill” and “The Hammer,” Anvil‘s “Metal on Metal,” “Crank it Up” by The Rods and “Wild in the Streets” by Circle Jerks (yes, I know Garland Jeffreys wrote it, but I doubt Frigid Bich did at the time). It must have been inspiring to have seen these guys in action blasting out these jams at some Long Island dump. I imagine about 30 demented youths banging their heads frantically while the onlookers gasp in dismay. In 1984, the really heavy shit was just starting to catch on and it was important to show the new people how it’s done.

Hopefully I’ll be able to track down a copy of this album. It comes with a 20-page booklet with killer photos and a full band history. I had completely forgotten that Frigid vocalist Joe Leonard went on to be a bigwig at Combat Records. Too bad Combat never released an album from them, it would be considered a thrash classic now. There’s a new tribute page on Facebook and a fanzine called Chips & Beer has done an interview with Joe that will be coming out next month. Maybe the time is right for a Frigid Bich to rule the night again.


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Live Review: Cortez and Mighty High in Brooklyn, 12.09.11

Posted in Reviews on December 12th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Friday night, man. Traditionally you’re supposed to go out after work, get fucked up, party your ass off and all the rest of it. All I want to do on a Friday night is sleep. And usually, that’s how it goes. But when Cortez is making the trip down from Boston and hooking up with Mighty High for a show in Brooklyn that’s not even in the middle of hang-yourself Williamsburg, well, showing up is the thing to do. So it’s the thing I did.

Last time I was at Hank’s Saloon was just over a year ago, to see Black Thai (which boasts two members of Cortez in its ranks) hit up a gig with Thinning the Herd, and as low key as that was, I knew that with Mighty High on the bill, good times were bound to be had. When I rolled in, there was what had previously been described to me as an “alt country” act on the stage. It was a little white girl, soul-singing like little white girls do, accompanied by some dude who seems to have found Les Claypool‘s tailor on guitar. Striped pants, silly hat, and — inevitably, predictably, excruciatingly — a kazoo. Hell, it was bound to happen, but they were about half done when I got there, so it could’ve been worse. They covered Spinal Tap‘s “Gimme Some Money,” and that was a fun reference.

They’d been put on the bill by the venue, which as I understand it, is for sale. Bar-ownership being something of a long-term fantasy of mine, as Cortez set up their gear on the small stage, I looked up at the ceiling beams, down at the dirty floor, over at the walls full of pictures and stickers and post-its with cabbie phone numbers. I inhaled the smell of mold and thought to myself, “Yeah, I could do this.” The Patient Mrs., joining me for the night on the town, seemed less thrilled at the notion.

Cortez frontman Matt Harrington would soon blow out the Hank’s P.A., but as soon as they got going, they were on the ball. They hit up a few songs from their forthcoming self-titled (vinyl master is on the way, reportedly), including highlights “Monolith,” “Johnny” and the catchy “Until We Die,” with bassist Jay Furlo adding backups to Harrington‘s melodies while Scott O’Dowd, aka Scotty Fuse, let fly carefully constructed riffs and drummer Jeremy Hemond (also of Roadsaw and Black Thai) managed to do some equipment damage of his own. I can’t remember ever seeing him play that he didn’t require a new snare at some point in the set, and Hank’s was no exception.

They rocked in spite of any and all technical difficulties, and much as I’d hoped, the night played out as sans-bullshit as possible. All I wanted was a rock show with some good bands, good people, decently-priced beer and no Friday night fashion show, and that’s basically what I got. Mighty High‘s boogiethrash blend of Slayer, Black Flag, Motörhead, Sabbath and any number of ’70s obscurities I’m not qualified to name was the perfect finale. Decked out in a Foghat Live t-shirt, guitarist/vocalist Chris “Woody High” MacDermott introduced the native Brooklynite act by saying, “We’re The James Gang from Ohio,” and it only got better from there.

The thing about Mighty High, though, is that as much as songs like “Chemical Warpigs” (a highlight) “I Don’t Wanna Listen to Yes” (another highlight) and “Breakin’ Shit” (always a highlight) are about getting high and having fun, they’re also maddeningly good. Mighty High hit like a megaphone yelling at stoner rock to get its head out of its ass, but they have the chops musically to back it up. I’m not going to say they were perfect up there, but even where they stumbled, they did it right, guitarist Kevin Overdose, drummer Jesse D’Stills and bassist Labatts Santoro seeming to take the instruction to heart as Woody led the way through the opening cover of “Kick out the Jams.”

When they were done, I walked out with the “Hands Up!” chorus still in my head, where it stayed for much of the weekend, and — now that I’m thinking about it again — remains. The Patient Mrs. had already filled her rock quota for the evening and retired to the car, so I said some quick goodnights and we headed back to Jersey, where I happily checked off the first of three shows in a row and fulfilled my Friday destiny by crashing out as quickly as possible. Good fun.

Extra pics after the jump.

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Ripple Music Issues Free Anniversary Compilation

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 28th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Congratulations to Ripple Music on their one-year anniversary. The label is home to the likes of Mighty High, Poobah and Stone Axe, and in celebration of their solar revolution (hopefully the first of many), they’ve made an exclusive digital compilation available for free download from their Bandcamp page. That’s cool enough, but the compilation also features new music from Iron Claw and Grifter, who’ll both have new albums out before the end of the year.

Here’s the news from the label, followed by the audio stream of the comp:

Now, as Ripple Music moves into its second year, founders John Rancik and Todd Severin want to celebrate the enthusiasm of their music lovers with some anniversary specials. As a thank you to their fans and supporters who’ve allowed Ripple to strike out and bring independent music to the world, Ripple is releasing it’s first ever free digital compilation album.

Featuring every band that has made the first year of Ripple Music such a success, Ripple‘s anniversary album kicks off with Stone Axe, before heading down the Ripple highway of Poobah, JPT Scare Band, Fen, and more. And as a special bonus, The anniversary album features the world’s first sneak peeks at two new Ripple releases; Grifter‘s self-titled debut album, and the eagerly anticipated A Different Game, from underground legends, Scotland’s Iron Claw. But the free compilation album may be available for only a limited time, so get over there quickly to get yours!

But wait, there’s more. Over at the Ripple Store, everything is still 15% off until July 4, and every waverider who places an order will get their name placed into a drawing for a very special, last-one-of-a-kind surprise test pressing!

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Ripples for a Good Cause

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 1st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

This isn’t the first charity auction that Ripple Music founders John Rancik and Todd Severin have put together. In the past, they’ve auctioned off test pressings for Stone Axe and The JPT Scare Band for the BP oil spill and the Japanese earthquake/tsunami disasters, and as the planet continues to show us just how badly it wants us off of it, Ripple Music is once again stepping forward to help out the tornado victims of Joplin, Missouri.

The PR wire has the details. Help out if you can:

Continuing with the company tradition of giving back to the community, Ripple Music will auction an extremely rare original test pressing of Heavy Ripples: Vol. 1, featuring Stone Axe, Sun Gods in Exile, Grifter and Mighty High, with proceeds going to benefit Joplin tornado victims.  The auction will take place on eBay at the Ripple store, starting Tuesday, May 31, and run for seven days only.

Only five of these test pressings exist, and this is the only one made available to the public.  You can jump into the auction, win a cool heavy rock collectible and benefit disaster relief at the Ripple Music Ebay Store.

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Heavy Ripples Vol. 1: Double Vinyl That Rings Out From the Center

Posted in Reviews on April 25th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Hard to know where a split ends and a compilation begins, but in the case of Heavy Ripples Vol. 1 (Ripple Music), I’m inclined towards the former, if only because the release’s format makes you pay specific attention to each of the bands involved, rather than bludgeoning you with track after track from disparate acts. Everyone here is pretty like-minded, and there’s only four of them, so it’s not too much to handle, and the double-7” release ensures that you’re going to be really working to listen – the longest side is just about seven minutes – so Heavy Ripples isn’t something you can put on and forget about. Not that you’d want to with the likes of Stone Axe, Sun Gods in Exile, Grifter and Mighty High around anyway, but at just under 20 minutes total runtime, Heavy Ripples is an efficiently drawn beeline to the rock. Each of the bands contributes something unique to the whole, and for something you could feasibly listen to three times in an hour, Ripple’s latest split packs more memorable songs than most full-length albums. Like I say, efficient.

Stone Axe open with “Nightwolf.” The track finds the Port Orchard, Washington, revivalists in their core duo form of vocalist Dru Brinkerhoff and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/producer T. Dallas Reed, but as usual with them, nothing in personality is lost for the lack of personnel. Brinkerhoff has enough swagger in his delivery for three bands, and I can’t think of any more appropriate way to kickoff Heavy Ripples than a non-ironic song with “night” in the title. If you know Stone Axe, you know what they’re about, and “Nightwolf” is right in line both in terms of style and quality with the bulk of their work. And excellently complemented on side B by Maine upstarts Sun Gods in Exile, whose “Over My Broken Bones” is set to appear (re-recorded) on their second Small Stone full-length later this year. Sun Gods in Exile’s Black Light White Lines was a solo-enthusiast’s wet dream, and “Over My Broken Bones” follows suit, but as was the case with that record, the guitar histrionics is backed by solid songwriting and isn’t showy just for showiness’ sake. Two strong modern classic rockers with a little over nine minutes between them, kicking out righteous jams that, even had Ripple chosen to release this as a one-disc affair, would still be worth investigating.

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