Thursday, April 22, 2010

Metal Soundtrack Fail Pt. I

When I was first getting excited about music, it was the early 90s. I mean EXCITED, like insatiable. Being raised in the northwest, this was around the grunge boom, so there was a lot of pride and enthusiasm about some of the great bands coming out at the time – Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Nirvana, etc. Having been raised on a steady diet of Kiss and other hard rock/metal bands up to that point (thanks to a couple of uncles and an older brother) it was a matter of time till I cranked out the tunes on my own shiny new stereo.

It was just before my 12th birthday when I had enough money saved that I could buy my first home stereo (not a cheap portable one, I mean a REAL DEAL stereo) – I was pumped. Fortunately, I had enough money saved that there was enough dough left over to buy a couple albums also. I bought Pearl Jam’s debut record and (deep breath/admission of guilt…) the ‘Wayne’s World’ soundtrack…

I know, I know… but come on. I was 12 at the time. I saw Black Sabbath, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Queen, Jimi Hendrix were on the soundtrack and that was enough for me at the time. Not very metal in hindsight, but we all gotta earn our wings along the way. What I realized looking back is that I have owned more than a few embarrassing metal soundtracks. Seriously, WHY are so many soundtracks that cater to metal-loving audiences missing the mark?! (Even more back in the day I would say) Sure some got close to being good, but often times the movie was so stupid it often tainted the songs it seemed to promote. In that vein, please take a stroll with me down memory lane:

About a year later I scored the ‘Last Action Hero’ soundtrack. The movie boarders on ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ level of laughability, but at the time it was your standard-issue Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick safe for younger viewers. However, the soundtrack gave me a shot in the arm of more metal (Megadeth, Anthrax, Alice In Chains and others), the Megadeth song in particular was the one to hook me. I also thought the Fishbone track was pretty heavy and I had never heard of them at the time so it was cool discovering new bands through soundtracks. In hindsight, I can appreciate how the movie actually played a good number of the songs on the soundtrack throughout the movie, but there’s always a “stain” of cheesiness thanks to the movie being less than cool to most self-respecting metalheads.

It was roughly a year afterwards when a movie came out called ‘Airheads’, I’m sure most of you have heard of. With a cast of Steve Buscemi, Brenden Fraiser, and Adam Sandler as a power trio metal band I expected a bit more from this flick. It wasn’t necessarily terrible, but it’s still considered a bit of a blemish on those actors track records. However, you put unreleased songs from Prong, White Zombie and Anthrax on the soundtrack and – you guessed it – I bought it. Unfortunately the rest of the soundtrack, with a couple exceptions, is pretty shitty. Bonus points though for band’s name in the movie: The Lone Rangers (makes me think of the band Two Lone Swordsmen) – pluralizing a singular object = thumbs up.

About six months later I picked up the 'Demon Knight' soundtrack. Of the four soundtracks listed here, I’d say this one is the clear winner. Featuring songs from Machine Head, Pantera, Ministry, Sepultura, Biohazard, and the Melvins you bet your ass I was blaring this thing like only a 14 year old would. I honestly can’t even really remember the movie’s plot, it was a ‘Tales From The Crypt’ movie so I’m sure it was pretty much ‘by the numbers’ but hey, I dug the shock and awe that came with the action and horror. The soundtrack also had an awesome song by Gravediggaz. For starters, they rap about horror themes – amazing! Secondly, with as little hip-hop/rap diet in my system at the time, this one song made me feel like I was instantly deep in the street (this street happened to be in the suburbs in Washington state) – again, 14 year old mentality here. So all in all, this soundtrack didn’t burnout like the others, in fact, I’d say it’s pretty rad. But, and this is a big “but” here, it also had the Filter song “Hey Man, Nice Shot”. The reason this offense is so grievous is purely contextual. You see, from this time onwards for many years, hell, I even STILL hear it used, this song has been the staple for any and damn near ALL action scenes for clich├ęd Hollywood action movie trailers. Seriously, stop and think about it for just a few seconds: how many movies have you seen where either in the movie itself or in the trailer you hear that bassline from the beginning of the song (rather ominous, eh?) and then the angry, loud chorus riding shotgun to explosions, gun shots and fight scenes. IT DRIVES ME FUCKING CRAZY. This song is sooooo over-used and greatly lowers the average of metal's influence to the world (you KNOW more random strangers would recognize this song over a typical Metallica or Pantera song through simple repetition alone) - point is: metal doesn't need Filter, arguably not even a proper metal band, to represent our stereotypes. I bet the band is getting royalty checks like you wouldn’t believe for how many times clips of this song get played (runner-up would be White Zombie’s ‘More Human Than Human’ – especially in the mid-late 90s). I’m pinning it’s prolificacy on this soundtrack because of two main reasons, A) It’s used blatantly and obviously in the intro credits, and B) It was the first place this song actually appeared. It preceded its official release by at least a few months on this soundtrack. That’s right, the first domino was tipped over HERE on the ‘Demon Knight’ soundtrack… “Thanks”, now we’re all sick of this song and instantly are left with a sour taste in our mouth for any movie daring to beat this dead horse.

Are there any good, older metal soundtracks out there that deliver the goods?

What early to mid 90s soundtracks am I forgetting here? Help me out… I’m going for just the cheesy ones, but hell, even if you can name good ones, it’s all about nostalgia. Part II is already in the pipline, and be warned, it dips its toe into the nu-metal pool.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Metal Mens' Members

The world of metal will never have a shortage of terrible album covers. It’s been written up on Metal Inquisition many times in the past, and it’s honestly an institution as precious as life itself to make fun of them.

Rather than just shotgun blast some of the downright hilarious covers out there, I wanted to address those particular pieces of album artwork that really added an extra “x-factor” of “WTF?!” via sexual innuendo, homo-erotic latency, and just plain bad “quality control” with regard to a band’s message.

For starters: Impaled Nazarene, despite having been around since the early 90s, have always been mediocre at best (let’s just be honest). While I can’t blame their artwork for their towing of the line for many years, I’m sure it hasn’t helped - I mean, take a look at 2003’s ‘All That You Fear’. From the first time I ever saw this album art I wondered, “Why would an extreme metal band disgrace the pentagram on the cover with a bunch of severed penises strewn about on it?” I honestly thought it was their attempt at going all “next level” with regard to blasphemy by having rotting penises on their album cover. I thought this for years. Until one day, I actually saw this record up close and took a real good look at it; turns out those are maggots/larvae on the front. Okay, so they’re not penises like I thought, but if the maggots on your album art look JUST like penises that I go literally years without a second thought, is it my bad eyesight at fault or your shitty album art at fault here? I know I can’t be the only one that at least did a double take.

Following right along in a similar example is Kaamos, good ‘ol Swedish death metal with some of that Sunlight Studios sound that I enjoy. However, with their album ‘Lucifer Rising’ I was perplexed to see an otherwise pretty bad-ass looking devil shoving some severed dicks in his mouth. I mean, I knew the devil didn’t give a fuck, but this was surprising. Truthfully, this one isn’t as bad as Impaled Nazarene’s, and I discovered shortly after that it was actually naked bodies he was shoving in his mouth, but for the first few times I saw this cover it made me think of the devil getting down with Saddam Hussein from the South Park movie.

This next one requires some imagination, but it’s great for two reasons: 1) It bags on a Christian band (which is like the consolation prize in my book), and 2) It’s based on a true story. So, take a look at this album art from the band Zao. This is a good example how quality control can save your ass and a load (pun to follow shortly) of embarrassment. The ORIGINAL cover for this album (here's where you use your imagination) had a lot more of the white drips from the top of the head and off the Zao logo (you can see a couple white drips around the ‘Z’ and the ‘A’). So increase the amount of white drips, but also make the tie this character is wearing about one-and-a-half to twice as big as you see here and you have… that’s right, a dick that just blew its load all over this person’s face (as a bonus: is this person on the cover male or female?). Naturally, with a lot of album art, this went through revisions till the official version you see here, but still, imagine what could have been…

Gorgoroth – ‘Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam’ I can’t be the first person to look at this cover retro-actively with a profound sense of homo-eroticism, can I? It’s like everyone’s reaction when Rob Halford came out, and there was that sense of “ah-ha!” due to all of the writing on the wall (leather/bondage outfits, lyrics, etc.). I love this record, and at the time (as with I think the majority of fans out there) didn’t know Gaahl was gay – I don’t care if he’s gay or straight and I’ll probably follow his other projects he’s in, but in my third grade style of humor when I see this album cover now, with the two men on the front, I think two things: 1) Foreshadowing (like with Halford), and 2) That looks like a monster hickey is being given.

Alright, let’s do a quick lightning round, since I don’t want to take up too much of your time:

Blood Bath – ‘The Fathomless Mastery’ I’m sure the album title plays into the explanation of the scenario on this album cover, but I don’t know what it’s referencing, and let’s just play with open cards here: your album art features 98% naked, old, emaciated men, wearing just loincloths and writhing around each other.

Darkane – ‘Layers of Lies’ You might see a sci-fi themed album cover juxtaposing the abstract relationship of man, the universe and multi-dimensionality. I see a man, wearing leopard print tights, bound with rope, having the universe take a piss in his mouth.

Belphegor – ‘Bondage Goat Zombie’ Here’s a good example of how “less is more” for metal album covers. There gets to be so many layers it’s distracting, you lose your focus/message and in addition to confusing your fans, it just doesn’t look good. Case in point: I shouldn’t have to try and reason with myself if this album art is gross because it’s a male or female goat wearing thigh-high stockings and a garter belt, it’s just gross either way.

In case I get a good helping of flack, let me just say, as I mentioned above, I enjoy these bands, and yes, I'm sure there's a "you see what you want to see" type of joke/comment to follow... But, in any event, can you think of any others to add to the above list?