Sunday, December 15, 2013

5 Metal Albums Even Non Metal Heads MIGHT Love

I don't remember the last time I actually posted one of these, but some dipshit writer at Salon named Noah Berlatsky wrote a post called "10 Metal Tracks Even Non Metal Heads Will Love". And I simply have to respond.

I don't know who this Berlatsky guy is or who he thinks he is writing for. But really? You're going to take someone who doesn't like metal and send them to Autopsy's "Hole In The Head" or The Melvins' "Honey Bucket"? And you're actually going to include a track by Drudkh, a legitimately racist black metal band? What planet are you on?

Now, with the exception of the Drudkh track, Berlatsky's choices are all defensible on their own merits as works of some artistry. But I can't imagine your average non-metal fan finding anything in Necro Deathmort's "Origami Werewolf" that will bring him or her into the fold. This is just Berlatsky being a hipster and showing off how weird and outside-the-box his taste in music is.

So, over the last week or so, I've been compiling my list of metal albums (not tracks) that I think A) might have a chance of transcending the genre and appealing to discerning music connoisseurs outside the headbanging world, and B) aren't simply disposable pop wrapped up in chunky guitar swirls (I'm looking at you, Linkin Park). I'm not going to promise that you WILL love these albums. But you might find something here you didn't expect.

Also, I know these albums are all from the 1990s. Shut up. I know. I'm old.

Therapy? - "Infernal Love" (1995)

At the height of the grunge revolution, Belfast art metallers Therapy? basically had two really great albums, this and its more pop-punk influenced predecessor "Troublegum." I remember reading some review at the time that said (I'm paraphrasing) that "Troublegum" is the album by the teenager who can't get the girl, and "Infernal Love" is the album by the grown up who can't figure out how to keep her. Still one of my all time favorites.

Faith No More - "Angel Dust" (1992)

Everyone remembers Faith No More's rap/rock hit "Epic" from their 1989 album "The Real Thing." The always schizophrenic band's 1992 followup "Angel Dust" was much more adventurous, and proved for once and all that lead singer Mike Patton is the greatest metal vocalist since the dearly departed Freddy Mercury. Just listen to the operatic bellows at the end of "Land of Sunshine" and the tortured squeals that spike throughout "Caffeine" and remind yourself that that's the same guy.

KYUSS - "Blues For The Red Sun" (1992)

Josh Homme is now mostly known as the frontman for Queens of the Stone Age, but long before that he came blasting out of Palm Desert, CA with KYUSS, standard bearers of what would become known as "stoner metal." I've never liked that term, but I do love KYUSS. They were simply one of the greatest straight-ahead ball busting and gut bruising rock bands of the 90s. "Blues For The Red Sun" was their masterpiece, although "...And The Circus Leaves Town" has its partisans.

The Gathering - "Mandylion" (1995)

Before Evanescence set female-fronted symphonic metal back by about a decade, there were Dutch rockers The Gathering. "Mandylion" was a transitional album for them, and they became one of what I would imagine to be among the first metal bands to have as much possible appeal for the Lilith Fair set as they did to sweaty rocker dudes. I remember in college that some of my lady friends who were more into Ani DiFranco, Sarah McLachlan and The Indigo Girls responded pretty positively to The Gathering when I'd insist on playing the album during road trips.

Edge of Sanity - "Crimson" (1996)

This one is probably edging a little toward Berlatsky territory. A 40-minute single-track death metal concept album from Norway is probably not going to appeal to the masses. But Edge of Sanity frontman Dan Swano was always sort of the weirdo genius of European death metal (as his work with Pan Thy Monum proved), and "Crimson" definitely is a huge expansion upon what death metal as a genre could be. It's powerfully proggy in a way that might appeal to Rush, Floyd, or even old-school Genesis fans. Tool fans, in particular, should take note.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Top 10 Films of 2012 - Rust and Bone

I'm going to do something slightly different with my top 10 list this year.  I'm going to post my reviews as separate entries over a few days, in no particular order, rather than as one long blog.  This will give me a chance to say a little bit more about each film than I usually do.  It'll also let me catch up (or, I should say, force me to catch up) with a few of the movies that I haven't had a chance to see.

I'm still going to keep these relatively short.  Without further adieu:

Rust and Bone

Jacques Audiard

If I told you that a movie about a double-amputee killer whale trainer who falls in love with an unemployed bare knuckle boxer is not only the best movie I saw all year, it's also the most sensitive and nuanced, you'd probably think I was nuts.  But I'm not, and it is.

Jacques Audiard made a fairly remarkable (if flawed) French prison movie in 2010 called Un Prophete. One critic said it was "As epic as The Godfather," when in reality it was chilly, gritty, brutal, and relentlessly unsentimental about its subject matter.

When I read the above description of what was to be Audiard's follow-up, I was confused.  This sounded like the type of "quirky" nonsense we expect from someone like Diablo Cody.  I could not connect the filmmaker I knew with what the movie sounded like it would be.

Turns out, he was the exact person to tell this story.  Audiard approaches the romance between Alain (Matthias Schoenerts) and St├ęphanie (Marion Cotillard) with the same brutalist eye he took to French prison life in Un Prophete.  Rust and Bone is a love story remarkably free of the kind of emotional manipulation we've grown used to in films like this.  Instead, it probes lightly at us with a feather-soft touch, identifies our weaknesses, lulls us into complacency, and then digs its hooks in and rips.  Audiard's matter-of-fact direction is disarming, so when the big moments come he's made us completely unprepared for their effect.

He also delivers a few flashes of sheer visual poetry that literally took my breath away.  A whale swimming up out of the murk, a man desperately punching at an iced-over lake, even a shot of a van door opening and a prosthetic leg emerging — these are images that will stick with me for a long time.

For their parts, Schoenert and Cotillard craft two of the most remarkable, quiet performances I've seen in a long time. Like Audiard, they give us just enough and no more. At first I didn't really like either of them.  By the end, I had fallen in love with both, and I can't identify the moment where that happened.