Book Review: MY LIFE WITH DETH

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my life with 'dethDavid Ellefson / Joel McIver
Howard Books
2013

I really shouldn’t need to point this out, but in the interest of this blog post’s subject matter, I am a big Megadeth fan. Ever since getting my face sand-blasted off after purchasing Rust In Peace at the tender age of 17 — my first proper taste of the band, and it was a doozy — they’ve been very consistent with continually doing so, even during their low periods, more so than the Venom that spawned Megadeth’s Carnage, Metallica, ever did.

I think I popped something reaching for that mixed metaphor. Yeah, I’ll be feeling that for a few days.

Anyway, of the two Daves associated with the band, I’ve already read the biography for main man Dave Mustaine, and reviewed it quite a few years ago on my previous blog (it’s been moved here on this one, in case you were morbidly curious). A few months ago, while perusing the ebook selection on my Google Plus account, I came across the autobiography of the other Dave in the group, bassist and co-founder David Ellefson. I was rather jazzed to read this one; finally, we get the viewpoint of someone who had been with Megadeth and all the wackiness involved since the very beginning, save for a stretch where he wasn’t part of the band for…reasons.

Right at the start, Dave Ellefson writes in My Life With Deth that this was a book he really didn’t want to write. As he points out early on, these kind of biographies are a dime a dozen, and all contain the same tragic story. You read one, you’ve read them all. It’s the same kind of pattern you get with the VH1 Behind The Music series, really. Fine, understood. But, this book itself is only 256 pages long; 188 if you discount the final pages being a discography, an index (?) and the obligatory thanks section. That’s not a lot of pages to go into detail on a career that spanned three decades not only founding and playing in one of the legendary Big Four of thrash metal bands, inspiring generations to pick up the bass, but also the in-between times where he was broke and had to get a 9-5 type job just to get by. Mind you, this was with Peavey, so he didn’t exactly go back to slinging fries at a burger joint after he was first booted out of Megadeth. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, here…

In My Life With Deth, Ellefson takes us through his upbringing in rural Minnesota, first getting interested in music, and working up to playing gigs in and around the surrounding Midwest area; moving to LA and befriending some guy named Dave Mustaine, forming Megadeth, getting into drugs and the struggle to break free from his addictions, his career with Megadeth to his leaving the band, his post-Megadeth ventures and careers, his resulting fued with Mustaine and eventual patching up of the relationship. Oh, he also touches on his Christian faith.

Oh, yeah. Dave Ellefson’s a professing Christian. As such, not only does he talk about this, but each chapter ends with a brief “what I’ve learned from all this” takeaway. It’s definitely not something yo see in your standard rock n’ roll biography, here.

Overall, My Life With ‘Deth is rather brief, and quite frankly seems to be missing a bit of meat. This may be Ellefson’s design, as he tells his tale less as an excuse to dish dirt and cause controversy, and as more of a “these were the mistakes I’ve made, let’s learn from this” kind of story. If you’re looking for something like Motley Crue’s biography The Dirt, you’re going to be sorely disappointed, I’m afraid. If you’re looking for a rather detailed, point-by-point analysis of one of the greatest metal bands to ever have existed…well, again, you may be less than satisfied with this. But, if you’re looking for some light reading and have some time to kill, My Life With ‘Deth is a good way to fill the time.

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This Is My Shocked And Appalled Face…

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NecRoSarX Chronicles Header
Hey, everyone! Stryper is set to release a new album this April! Here’s the album title and artwork!

stryper - god damn evil

It’s the follow-up to 2015’s excellent Fallen, and is the first to feature their new bass player, former Firehouse member Perry Richardson (that hair, man).

Yeah…nobody cares about that part. What seems to have everyone talking is that title they went with. Lots and lots of people within the various Christian rock and metal pages on Facebook are up in arms, loosing their minds over this album title. They’ve gone too far! seems to be the rallying cry.

Seriously, you are all acting like Stryper’s never courted controversy before.

Now, let’s just say, for sake of argument, all of these people flipping out over the album title (that’s some rather awesome artwork, I want to point out) have just came into being Stryper fans in the last decade or so, and aren’t familiar with their work from the first decade of Stryper’s existence. You know, pulling the ol’ “It was from before I was born” excuse. So, let’s review, shall we? History lesson time, kiddos…

Let’s start with their very first release, The Yellow And Black Attack

yellow and black attack 86

No no no, not that one. That’s the 1986 re-released version Enigma put out after realizing Stryper could make them money. No, I’m talking about the original 1984 release…

yellow and black attack

You see that? A mysterious, glowing blue hand guiding a bunch of ballistic missiles toward a shiny blue, yellow and black Earth. Presumably, that’s the hand of God, pointing thataway, with the warheads bearing the band members’ initials. As controversy goes, this isn’t really that big, but I’m sure it raised its share of eyebrows once it hit the record shops.

But, that’s merely peanuts compared to the big controversy surrounding this album…

to hell with the devil 2

That’s actually the censored version of the album, as the original artwork caused conservative Christians everywhere to loose their collective heads and demand the cover be changed to a black finish with just the band logo and title. Do you know what that original artwork was? Brace yourself, for the offensive original cover art was this…

to hell with the devil

Yep. Four ripped and swole angels, presumably modeled after the band members, tossing the Devil into the abyss of Hell. Yeah, I don’t get what the problem was, either. And frankly, even as I wasn’t a Christian when this came out, I was a bit more dubious about an alleged Christian band using that kind of album title to begin with.

But, then again, nothing could prepare anyone for what was to come a few years later…

against the law

Hoo, boy, was this the one that kicked the proverbial hornet nest. Where to begin? Well, there’s the title, Against The Law, which made everyone assume they were in rebellion now; then there was the modified band logo, which did away with the Bible reference, that seemed to reinforce the assumption that the band was now GOING SECULAR and TURNING AWAY FROM THE FAITH! As if that wasn’t enough, the band photos showed them wearing more black and — *gasp* — growing facial hair and toning down the big hair! They were just one step away from joining the Church of Satan by now.

In the end, these were all merely knee-jerk reactions to superficial surface-level judgments. Personally, my only question to Stryper about their new release is this:

Will it come with a vinyl edition?

::END TRANSMISSION::

Music Review: RACKETS & DRAPES – Candyland

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rackets and drapes - candylandRACKETS & DRAPES
Candyland
Independent
1998

It’s amazing how, all these years now, and I have yet to publish my official review of one of the albums that was kind of a paradigm shift for me back in the day. You would think that would have been one of my first reviews of Rackets & Drapes’ discography. But, for whatever reason that eludes all logic in me, I have held off, put off, and subsequently never gotten around to doing a proper review of their very first full-length release, Candyland.Well, since this year–2018–marks the 20th anniversary since the release of Candyland, I figure better late than never.

Released independently at first, but then re-released through MCM Music after being signed to that label, Candyland was a rather ambitious and curious release at the time. The entire pop culture world was still reeling from the sudden rise of darker, scarier music from the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and the new wave of Goth children. While the Christian music scenes did feature a thriving industrial and Goth rock underground of sorts, there had yet to be a genuine shock rock band to shake things up. Well, outside of Alice Cooper, who just had come out of the confessional closet as a Christian a few years earlier. Enter Colorado band Rackets & Drapes, and the release of Candyland.

While the band described themselves as “shock rock”, the music on Candyland is a dark and thick blend of industrial, punk, death rock and Gothic theatrics, with songs that tackle taboo and controversial topics with unblinking glee that makes normal Shiny Happy Christians (TM) a bit squeamish: abortion, child and domestic abuse, homelessness, child abducitons…yeah, these guys made it clear that they were scary for a purpose. And for me, this was a God-send, as I was exploring the darker expressions of my faith, through the Goth / industrial / black metal subcultures. I embraced Candyland with gusto, and it quickly became one of my soundtracks to my faith.

20 years later, and I still revisit Candyland frequently. It’s still has a raw punk aestetic, and the songs still pack a punch. One thing I never understood was why Rackets & Drapes were immediately slagged with the “Marilyn Manson rip-off” tag; even now I still come across it, which clearly indicates that no one really bothered to listen to the album. Regardless, I still hold the band and Candyland in general in high regard. If you can find a copy, pick it up and give it a listen, or twelve.

Music Review: DARKNESS BEFORE DAWN – Kings To You

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darkness before dawn - kings to youDARKNESS BEFORE DAWN
Kings To You
Bombworks Records
2009

Darkness Before Dawn was a death metal band that existed between 2004 and apparently only split up in 2017. Which is interesting, as I seem to recall them being listed as “split-up” on the Metal Archives site years previous. Maybe I’m remembering wrong. Either way, they only managed to release an EP and this full-length, Kings To You. Obviously, I’ll be reviewing the full-length release. They don’t call me Captain Obvious for nothing. Actually, no one calls me that. *sigh* Anyway…

Kings To You was released in 2009 on the Bombworks Records label. If you would grasp for a good catch-all subgenre label for the band’s sound, you could go with your standard Death metal, but it’s not quite adept a descriptor. I would say that the music on Kings To You leans more toward melodic death metal with some roots in the deathcore style, utilizing both atmospheric keyboards while throwing in a heavy breakdown here and there. The songs vary between mid-paced and furiously heavy, showcasing some very heavy riffs and technical rhythms that will churn your insides while chilling your soul with the keyboards darkening the textures up, with something of a Folk Metal style on “Material Existence”.

Overall, Kings To You is a good, solid collection of melodic death metal hybrid that, for some reason I can’t really put my finger on, comes close to pushing over the edge, but not quite. It is, however, a satisfying bit of death metal brutality that does the trick in a pinch.

Music Review: TRUE STRENGTH – The Cross Will Always Prevail

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true strength the cross will always prevailTRUE STRENGTH
The Cross Will Always Prevail
Independent
2014

When I first came across the band True Strength, I didn’t know much about them. I just noticed this debut release of theirs — The Cross Will Always Prevail — mentioned on one of the sites I check out sometimes to keep up with current releases. I presumed by the style of the album artwork and the classic metal sound of the sample clips I previewed that this was one of those long-lost obscure classic metal nuggets from the 1970s that finally got some re-release digital love. That’s why I bought The Cross Will Always Prevail.

Doing a bit more research on True Strength, I’ve come to find that, contrary to my assumptions, they’re a project that isn’t an old 70s outfit, but was formed in 2012 as a ministry-focused metal band that, among other things, dedicates all of their music sales to charities.

You could, however, forgive me for my original assumptions, because the kind of metal True Strength plays is a retro style throwback to the NWOBHM from the 70s and early 80s. After the brief, 38-second intro “Exorcism”, we get the title track “The Cross Will Always Prevail”, which features a classic metal riff and hook, melodic with a good guitar solo. “Christian Battle Cry” shows a bit more on the technical side, anchored with a nice galloping riff and another rather good solo; “Under The Scimitar” is more mid-paced with another good classic metal riff and hook; “Stave The Fires Of Moloch” is a 10-plus minute epic-length song that ventures into doom territory at times; “Michael The Archangel” is probably the heaviest song on this album, with an almost speed metal riff going on; “When We Meet At Armageddon” is a more straight-forward metal song, but seems to have a weaker chorus; and finally, “Key To The Abyss” ends the album with a good metal riff and hook to send you on your way. Whatever that means, it just popped in my head just now.

Unlike your standard high-pitched METAAAAAAAAL! vocals you would expect with metal like this, the vocals actually sound like Dennis DeYoung from Styx in the delivery, which is different but actually works in the music’s favor. There are some points, though, where the vocals get a bit sloppy, especially on “Stave The Fires Of Moloch”, which I notated while listening to this, that they sound more like the guy from Light Force back in the day. The production is a bit on the thin side, but for an independent released project, it’s pretty good, really. You get the sense that The Cross Will Always Prevail would sound fantastic on vinyl.

This was originally released as a digital only release, but has been picked up for distribution through Roxx Productions, so it’s in good hands. I picked my copy up on Amazon (naturally); overall, The Cross Will Always Prevail is very much worth a look for you old Righteous Rockers out there.

Music Review: GALACTIC COWBOYS – Long Way Back To The Moon

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galactic cowboys - long way back to the moonGALACTIC COWBOYS
Long Way Back To The Moon
Music Theory Recordings
2017

Seventeen years. That’s how long it’s been since we were graced with a Galactic Cowboys album. And really, the understanding was that the band broke up after their last studio release, Let It Go, and thus no further album was to b expected. But, here we are, and not only do we have a brand spanking new Galactic Cowboys album, but it’s also from the original lineup that recorded Galactic Cowboys and Space In Your Face. So, after all of these years, how does Long Way Back To The Moon hold up?

Short answer to that: pretty darn fantastic.

Oh, man, I got to tell you, when the opening chords of the lead-in song “In The Clouds” started, that unique tingly feeling you get whenever you’re listening to a genuine Galactic Cowboys album hit me, and I could stop grinning until the final song ended an hour later. You know what I mean. At least, I hope you do. Because it’s rather hard to describe using words and such. Ironic, no?

Anyway, the music on Long Way Back To The Moon finds the band not even skipping a beat, like it hasn’t even been that long between the last release. Meaning, we get the quality signature style of crunchy heavy metal and rock riffs and hooks paired with the mesmerizing Beatles-esque harmony and tongue-in-cheek sense of humor in the lyrics that the band is known for. I would say that Long Way Back To The Moon has much in common with Machine Fish, as the songs are quite heavy in the execution throughout the album, including the ones that my be considered their slower cuts. Songs like “Internal Masquerade”, “Next Joke”, “Zombies”, “Hate Me”, “Losing Ourselves” and “Agenda” have some heavy, driving riffs and hooks going, and the more mid-paced songs like “In the Clouds”, “Drama”, and the title track “Long Way Back To The Moon” don’t loose that heavy edge, giving things a darker tone. “Blood In My Eyes” kind of veers into Nu Metal territory with the riff, but it’s still a good, heavy cut. After the album proper, though, there are two bonus tracks that came with my purchase, “Believing The Hype” and “Say Goodbye To Utopia”, both being rather heavy, the former also leaning towards a Nu Metal riff, while the later a bit more upbeat yet still heavy with a slower mid-point.

Though I wasn’t expecting another release from the band, I’m not complaining. As a matter of fact, overall, I found Long Way Back To The Moon a rather enjoyable and satisfying release, seeing the band in top form. The only real strike against it is the production seems a bit…I don’t know, a scosh on the muddled side? Minor quibble, though. Go out and purchase this thing post-haste.

Movie Review: X-SINNER – Fire It Up

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x-sinner - fire it upX-SINNER
Fire It Up
Retroactive
2006

Fire it Up, the 4th release from gritty hard rockers X-Sinner, isn’t so much a studio release, as it was a complete re-recording of their second release, Peace Treaty. If you’re wondering what the purpose of that was, it boiled down to the band wanting to re-release their first two releases with a better remastering than what the originals had. Unfortunately, the rights to both the releases were tied up in so much red tape, the band decided to just re-record the songs from Peace Treaty, leaving out the ballad “Hold On” and replacing it with the newly recorded “Fire It Up”, and releasing it with that particular title.

As the lead off of the album, new song “Fire It Up” is what you would come to expect from X-Sinner: A crunchy, mid-paced three-chord hard rocker with a catchy groove hook. The vocals do seem a bit strained here, though not unexpected. I bring this up because, though the rest of the songs are toted as new recordings, the vocals don’t match the new song vocals. It’s like comparing James Earl Jones’ Darth Vader voice from 1977’s Star Wars with his voice from Rogue One. Which leads me to believe the note on the Firestream Music Vault entry that mentions that the vocals themselves were not re-recorded. Which is fine, really. Because the entirety of Fire It Up sound fantastic.

The re-recording of the music itself on the songs have seemed to breathed a bit of new life into them. The production is heavier, the sound thicker than on the original release. And really, the decision to keep the original vocals in (if that were the case) was a good one. Fire It Up is a solid, back-to-front release with some nice, heavy and crunchy hard rock stuffed to the gills. The riffs and hooks on the songs beg to be cranked loudly while driving with the window down, presuming the weather is permissible for that kind of thing. There is the more bluesy “Getch’ Ya”, and the power ballad “Don’t Go” that is pretty good for what it is. But, overall, Fire It Up is a great collection of hard rock goodness that needs to be in your collection.

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