Day 2G: Colorado Wasteland, Round Two
Another division of unrelenting brutality is upon us, starting with the East subdivision…
#16 Blue Öyster Cult, “Godzilla”
#9 Man Must Die, “All Shall Perish”
I’ve been noticing over the past few months—since I started listening to Deicide again—that there are a number of death metal bands who have taken the Deicide approach to vocals. I somehow never noticed this before. They alternate between the usual death-growl and the black-metal falsetto in a way that’s not really part of convention, and I have to say that despite my having never noticed it until recently, it really endears me to the bands that do it. The only band I’ve noticed doing it that I’ve been listening to for any length of time is Man Must Die. And you know, it’s pretty darn weird that I hadn’t noticed it previously, since all three of their albums have been in heavy rotation pretty much since they came out. It just makes me like “All Shall Perish” that much more…and thus it makes it that much more difficult for me to say “boys, you came up against Godzilla, and well, you kinda look like Bambi.” I took a week off from writing DID in order to concentrate on catching up on book and movie reviews (ironically, it ended up being the busiest week EVAR and so I’ll be doing it again in a couple of weeks—I think I only got something like seven and a half reviews written, and normally I can turn out five or six a day when I’m on my game), so I had ample time to hang out with this whole bracket. And I can’t really give you a reason for picking BÖC over MMD other than just plain liking the song more. Maybe it’s Buck Dharma’s groove-laden lead line, which is more accessible than Alan McFarland’s complex, and very impressive, hook for “All Shall Perish.” Maybe it’s the drums (MMD have a Spinal Tap-like relationship with their drummers…). Maybe it’s the vocals; it’s rare I can pick up a Joe McGlynn lyric without watching a Youtube video that’s got the lyrics superimposed over it, and I’ve never had that problem with BÖC. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above plus a few other factors I’m not considering (like “Godzilla” having been a staple in my collection for coming up on thirty-five years now and “All Shall Perish” being there less than ten?). One way or the other, the expected happens, and Godzilla rages through the buildings towards the center of the Sweet Sixteen.
#5 Einstürzende Neubatuen, “Krieg in den Städten”
#13 Burning Star Core, “Quiet at the Bottom”
It would be very hard to overstate the importance of “Krieg in den Städten”. For thirty years, the song has served as a wake-up call to industrial musicians. The noise portions of the piece are just plain phenomenal, especially that solo for power drill(!) in the first thirty seconds or so; this is genre-defining music that was already pushing the boundaries of the conventions that it was creating at the same time. But it is almost two different pieces, looked at from thirty years in the future. The noise piece sounds just as fresh as it did in the early eighties. The industrial piece—while still being a good deal of fun and as much a cri de coeur as it was back then—has not aged nearly as well. It’s like watching a mid-seventies movie set in the year 2000, with all the “futuristic” fonts and crazy ideas of what technology would be like a quarter-century in the future. “Quiet at the Bottom”, on the other hand, is all of a piece (and for that matter is all of a piece with the entire 10-cassette box it comes from, which is brilliant—but long out of print, you’ll have to find it on the Internet), and for that, it advances to the Sweet Sixteen.
Live in 1981.
#6 S. J. Tucker, “The Pixie Can’t Sleep”
#3 Marvelous 3, “Cold As Hell”
I was still smarting from having to put Butch Walker to bed back on Day 2E and was kind of distracted after loading up the tracks for this battle, so when “Cold As Hell” came on for the first time and I heard Walker’s voice, I was kind of overjoyed that I’d forgotten he still had a horse in this race…and then I saw what he was up against. “The Pixie Can’t Sleep” is one of those tracks that I really adored when I started this competition, but repeated listening with the concentration I’ve given these tracks over the past couple of months has really brought it up a great deal farther in my estimation; this is as solid as folk-rock gets, with a catchy acoustic guitar line and witty lyrics and Tucker’s phenomenal alto bringing the whole thing together, and I really can’t see M3 getting past it in any way; simply put, as much as I love the later days of M3 and Left of Self-Centered, Walker has gotten better as he’s gotten older. Haven’t we all? S. J. Tucker sleepwalks on to Round Three.
#7 John Carpenter, “Halloween II Main Title”
#15 Decomposed, “Ratas Humanas”
Decomposed were one of the faces of California death metal back when death metal was still trying to find its own conventions; it always seemed to me that the LA acts ended up getting short shrift in relation to the Florida guys in that light (Deicide, Morbid Angel, et al.). They were always a blast to listen to, and twenty years later, long after the band broke up, they still are…but they ran into John Carpenter’s iconic horror theme. This was a Davey vs. Goliath battle, though I have to say that where things like this are concerned, Decomposed put up a fiercer battle than most bands; this is truly an excellent piece of death metal, and I’m sorry to have to send it to the sidelines, but John Carpenter’s piece is one of the competition’s monsters, still as wildly popular now as it was in the eighties, and for very good reason. It bulls its way through once again.
In the Midwest subdivision, we have…
#16 Current93, “Hooves”
#8 Within Temptation, “Our Solemn Hour”
Another very tough call to be had here; Current 93 are having themselves a very hard trek here, first having to go up against Swans, and now against Within Temptation. The irony of the thing is that back in the day, “Hooves” was not one of my favorite C93 tracks; I was much fonder of the album-length-side swirly-dark-ambient things David Tibet did in the eighties and early nineties (the culmination of which was the first and third pieces of the Inmost Light trilogy, the CD singles “Where the Long Shadows Fall” and “The Starres Are Marching Sadly Home”). It’s only been recently that this song has grown in my estimation, the last, say, two or three years, but it’s rocketed up to the top of that particular food chain and refuses to let go. I actually covered this at a poetry reading earlier this month (June 2013)… that’s more of an endorsement, to me, than anything I could possibly write here. As hard as it is to jettison Within Temptation, C93 advance.
#12 Place of Skulls, “Willfully Blind”
#4 Rudy Adrian, “At the Edge of the Desert”
I misspoke when talking about Order of Melchizedek a couple of days ago; I had forgotten that Christian stoner-metal band (and how is that even a description?) Place of Skulls had also survived Round One. But hopefully I can be forgiven for forgetting that, as I didn’t know they were a Christian band until I looked up info on them when writing the Round One matchup. Wino singing for a Christian band, of course, sends my head right back to Ronnie James Dio guesting on two tracks on Kerry Livgren’s first Christian album; it don’t make sense, but at the same time, it fits so very, very well. It’s up against “At the Edge of the Desert”, a New Age-y ambient track which is about as far removed from the world of stoner metal as you can get. Finding commonality between these two things was not going well, so I stopped trying and just listened. And man, this battle turned out to be way, way harder than I expected. I initially figured Adrian had the edge here, but then Place of Skulls pulled neck and neck, and they’ve been flipping back and forth for a week. And in the end (they’ve had an extra week thanks to the break I mentioned above, even), I—completely arbitrarily, I will say—ended up giving this to Rudy Adrian. As I said back in Round One, I still can’t quite wrap my head around the whole Christian-doom-band idea, and I realize that’s my problem, not Place of Skulls’…but there you have it. Rudy Adrian, meet the Sweet Sixteen.
#6 Chaos As Shelter, “Rainbow Cross”
#3 Public Image Ltd., “The Order of Death”
Given how much music I listen to in the car, and especially how much of this particular competition has been decided in same, I’m kind of surprised that, if memory serves, I have only eliminated a single track for being what I would call “bad car listening”–music that is either too minimal to really be appreciated unless you’ve got one of those amazing luxury cars with complete noise cancellation in the cabin or that contributes heavily to road hypnosis (at least if you’re in one of those luxury cars, if you succumb to road hypnosis, you have less of a chance of dying in the accident that will likely result). “Rainbow Cross”, I was noticing this morning, has both qualities attached to it, and I’m pretty glad I was stuck in a traffic jam whilst listening. On the other hand, listening to “The Order of Death” yesterday on the way home, I realized that I actually like Virus23’s grunge-industrial cover of the track slightly better than I like the original—and so I find myself focusing on the negative qualities of each track rather than the positives. We’ll change that out. “The Order of Death” is driving, almost proto-industrial itself, hypnotic. (Which is kind of ironic considering what I just wrote about Chaos As Shelter.) The ability to create something simple, minimal, and yet catchy is highly underrated, and Lydon and co. did a fantastic job of it here. On the other hand, there’s Chaos As Shelter, who’s made an entire career out of that sort of thing; CaS treads the line between ambient and noise (this track is very much in the former camp), always looking for a calm surface and ways to keep everything actually happening in the piece working just under it. Both of these tracks may have their bad points vis-a-vis this competition, but both of them are stellar pieces of music when considered on their own. I’ve switched back and forth on this decision for about fifteen minutes now—writing these things up really does often change how I look at the songs in question—and where I was originally going to eliminate Chaos As Shelter for being bad car listening, I’m thinking that PiL are actually headed for the sidelines now, but also thinking that no matter which one of these advanced here, it would probably get knocked out in the next round. Chaos As Shelter advance.
#7 Clew of Theseus, “Visitation Part 1”
#2 Dog Lady, “Children of the Torn Snare”
I hated this battle as soon as I saw it come up. Which does nothing to change the fact that the outcome was a given, and listening to these two incredible pieces of music back to back did not give Clew of Theseus another chance at dethroning the mighty Dog Lady. Which is to take nothing away from Clew of Theseus, who does an exemplary job of setting the listener’s teeth on edge with the tension that gets ramped up throughout this track; this three-inch is called “Home/Visitation”, but might as well be “Home/Invasion”. This is damn-close-to-perfect noise…which ran into perfect noise. “Children of the Torn Snare”, both single track and entire album, is a constant on my mp3 player, and I mean a constant—it would be easier to count the number of weeks in the past three years it has not been in rotation. And thus it advances, continuing to leave a trail of destruction in its wake.
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