(Another recycled post. I wrote this one a year ago, and I tried to clean it up and fix the grammar a bit so it makes more sense. I’m not sure how successful I was at that.)
Today’s CD is Hank Williams III punk metal project’s one and only record, so far, Assjack. A record in my opinion that is more interesting in theory than in practice. Though I will say that you should really check out the band live, it comes off much better than the CD.
Since this is my first Hank III related record in this series, I suppose I could tell my Hank III story. Back in 2001, I was working as a freelance stagehand and I was asked to work the Hank III show at Rosebud. At the time, I wasn’t sure what he was all about. I think I saw a little clip of him on MTV that summer but didn’t really pay attention to what his thing was. So, I think when the show was booked, I was expecting it to be a country show. It seemed to make sense, his name was Hank Williams and the show was sponsored by a country radio station seemed like a good bet that it would be a country show.
But during load in I was noticing a lot of road cases that had Slayer, Black Flag and Misfits stickers all over them. Plus, the backline seemed to be more of a rock or metal backline than a what you see with a country artist. The backline for country bands tends to be more Fender Twin Reverbs and smaller combo amps. Hanks bands were all Marshall half stacks and SVT bass cabinets, which is usually what you would see with rock or metal bands. So anyway, we get everything in and on stage and the band is setting everything up. At this point, they didn’t really need my help so I’m was sitting on a road case in front of the stage in case they need a hand. In comes in this guy about my age, with long hair, wearing gas station attendant shirt with The Misfits logo on it. He walks up to me and introduces himself as Hank and shakes my hand thanking me for helping load everything in. From there we talked about the Misfits and The Ramones for a little bit. I had just worked a Misfits show where they were doing The Ramones and Black Flag songs along with Misfits material, so I was telling him about that show. Anyway, we only talked for a few minutes and he came off to me as a cool guy who was nice and down to earth. From there he and one of his bands mates start talking about how they couldn’t sleep the night before and the various methods they used to get to sleep, but we won’t go into that
So after a while, the band is sound checking and I finally get an idea what the band was about. I must say it really made an impression on me, even though it would be 11 years before I finally got around to checking out any of his records, I distinctly remember him doing the song ‘Hang On’ during sound check and really liking it.
A couple of hours later and doors are open and the crowd starts coming in and I can’t help but notice that there were a several country type folks with cowboy hats on. At one point, I found myself in a conversation with this one guy who was a straight up country guy. He wasn’t some mall country suburban douche with a cowboy hat, he was the real deal. We get to talking and he was asking me what Hank III was about. It seems this guy had no idea what kind of music Hank was playing, but he was a huge country music fan, and a big Hank Williams Sr. and Jr. fan and was there just because of his name. Now, this may sound stupid, but at this point, I had never met anyone that was as much into country music like I was into rock or metal. My experience has always been that country music fans just have it on as background noise and aren’t really into music like I was. But this guy was all into the history of the music and came to this show out of curiosity and his love of the music.
At one point this guy asks what does he look like, he had heard that he’s a spittin’ image of his grandfather, which he is, and was wondering if that was true. It just so happened that Hank and the band were walking through the bar, and I said to him, “See that guy with the ponytail? That’s him”. The fact that Hank had long hair seemed to blow him away.
During this same time, I worked at an after-hours club that was around the corner from the venue I was working at, so I left for a little bit to clean it up and get it ready to open at 2 am, so I ended up missing a little bit of the first half of Hanks set. When I came in, it was during the country set, which reminded me of his grandfather’s classic sound, except with a lot more profanity and drug references. Hank has his hair tied back and had a cowboy hat on and is doing the whole classic country thing.
Also by this time, the room was full, and it was a mix of country people with cowboy hats and the Gooskie’s and Dee’s Cafe crowd. For those of you outside of Pittsburgh, that’s basically the rockabilly, punk, and tattoo shop crowd. Despite the vast differences in the crowd, everyone was hanging out and having a great time.
Eventually, the country set ends and Hank announces that the rock set will start set soon. But before he leaves the stage he warns the crowd “now this ain’t no 38 Special or Lynyrd Skynard type of rock, if you don’t like punk rock and heavy metal, you might as well leave now”. Despite this warning, no one leaves just yet. About 15 minutes later the band comes back out and Hanks has a black t-shirt on and has let his hair down and looks totally different. The band launches into ‘Tennessee Driver’ and all the cowboy hats take a step back. Hank steps up to the mic and does a few death metal growls and with that the all the cowboy hats in the building start B-lining it to the door. In less than 30 seconds he managed to clear out half the room. To this day that is one of my favorite moments in my career in working live music. It was awesome.
Now as far as this CD goes, it’s an interesting listen, but like I said in the intro, I think it comes off better live than it does on record. I think that is because Hank plays all the instruments himself and it lacks the energy that you get from the live show with the full band. That is something that I have noticed with Hanks career, once he finally broke with the record company and started doing exactly what he wanted, and usually by himself, the music suffers. Though he’s extremely talented and a brilliant visionary, I think he really needs other musicians to come to and to bring his vision to its fullest potential. This point is proven when you see him live. Stuff that sounds weak and thin on record totally kicks ass live.
So instead of trying to point you toward and song or two on this record, I strongly suggest going to see him live if you ever get the chance. He puts on such an amazing and varied show; you are bound to like part of it. From what I understand at this point he breaks it down into four different parts, country, psychobilly, punk/metal, and some crazy 3 bar cattle calling thing, which is some like cattle calling mixed with grindcore metal. It fucking crazy and you should really check it out if you get the chance.
So, I woke up at 4:30 am this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. I ended getting up around 7:30, taking a shower and going out and getting coffee. I figured I’d bang out a quick review early and move with my day. The problem was, though, I still felt catatonic and had no mental energy to do anything. What did I end up doing? You guessed it, I fell back asleep and ended up sleeping until about noon. But thanks to that nap, I now feel much more into doing a review.
But the next issue I face is, what record do I review? Now I do have a spread sheet I’m working from that had at least the first 150 records and CD’s I plan on covering. On that list, I have two more Arch Enemy DVD’s I planned on talking about. But as we learned over the last week, ends up I have very little to talk about with that band. Yesterday I tried to write a review for the first DVD and even though I managed to write over 900 words, I still didn’t feel I said anything of interest. So, I think I’m just going to scrap it and skip the other DVD and move onto the next title on my list. That title being As They Burn’s 2013’s ‘Will, Love, Life’.
Who is As They Burn you ask? Well, to be honest, I have no fucking clue. The CD made its way into my collection a few years ago when my buddy Steve K, who hosts a radio show in Buffalo, threw a New Year’s Eve party at this bar and was giving away a ton of CD’s and other items throughout the night. At the end of the night, Steve handed me a stack of CD’s and said, here “you go man, take em all.” This CD was in that stack.
Around that time, I listened to every CD he gave me, and I liked a few, others no so much. I seemed to remember liking this CD a little bit more than some of the other ones, but even then I only listened to it a few times, and it’s been nearly 4 years since I last listened to it. So, because of that, I really don’t have much to say about the disc.
Before I took my nap, I did a quick internet search to see if I could learn a little bit about the band to share with you. What I found out was that there is no English Wikipedia page for them, though I did find one in French, and since I can’t read or speak French, it doesn’t help me much. In fact, very little of what I found on the band was not in French. Which leads me to suspect that the band is from France. Aside from that, I got nothing.
So that leaves me with the torturous task of trying to describe the band’s music, without much of a reference to work with. As I’ve mentioned in earlier post’s, I have a hard time nailing down the various contemporary sub-genres of heavy metal and hardcore anymore. Stuff that would have been considered metal in 1992 is now labeled with a string of words that have the word “core” at the end of each of them. I have no idea what makes something hardcore, metalcore, slamcore, scream-o, or whatever meaningless label you want to add to it.
So, because of that, I don’t know what subgenre of hardcore or heavy metal As They Burn fall under. In fact, I’m not sure if I’m doing them justice by suggesting that hardcore is part of their sound. To me, it sounds like the label fits. Heavy down-tuned guitars with lots of breakdowns, but the same time there’s a lot of elements that remind me of metal bands like Lamb of God and Slipknot. So, I guessing that they’re metal with some form of the word ‘Core” tossed in at some point.
What I can tell you, the record is pretty damn heavy throughout the entire thing. Though I wouldn’t say it’s terribly unique in any way. To be honest it sounds like a dozen of other bands I don’t listen to. Which is probably why I never bothered with it after the first or second listen. It just doesn’t move me that much. But that’s my own personal taste. As I’ve to think I’ve established by now, when it comes to heavy metal, I’m an old school 80’s thrash metal head all the way. Most of the contemporary metal I like is either created by the thrash bands I grew up with or reminds of those bands. Most of the bands and subgenres that emerged out of the mid to late 90’s and early 2000’s don’t do much for me. It’s not to say all those bands suck, they’re just not for me.
Which sort of sums up my opinion of As They Burn. It was by no means painful to listen to this CD this afternoon. It never annoyed me the whole time it was on. But at the same time, even though it just ended less than two minutes ago, it left no impression on me and I couldn’t tell you what a single song sounded like.
(Phoning it in today. I wrote a review for this CD last year sometime, and I’m just copying and pasting it here, even though I know it contains information that I’ve already mentioned in early Arch Enemy post’s. But this is my project and I reserve the right to recycle whenever I want.)
Well, here I am sitting in Highland Park on a rotting old bench seeing if I can bang out another one of these things. I was hoping for a picnic table and some shade, or maybe a tree to lean against, but it appears that this park doesn’t have tables in this area, and all the trees have sod surrounding them, so if I chose to sit against one, my ass would get dirty as fuck. Oh well, chalk it up to as a learning experience. Next time I do this, I’ll remember to drive to the park, and bring my chair…though now that I’m sitting here, I’m thinking about moving to a different spot, mainly so I can see my screen better and not be in direct sunlight. Maybe after I finish this. (Edit: almost immediately after I wrote that I ended up moving to some shade under a tree, risking a dirty butt. It was worthwhile decision.)
Today’s random album is Arch Enemy’s ‘Root of All Evil’ CD, a collection of songs from the band’s first two records before Angela Gossow joined the bands, re-recorded with Angela vocals. A decision though not necessarily a bad one, but unnecessary, but I get it. I’m assuming the thought process went something like this; many people only started listening to the band after Angela joined the band, and don’t bother with the albums before her joining. But there are a lot of good tunes from that era of the band that they still like to play live, so why not re-record them with the benefits of better production and with a voice that many more fans find more familiar. At least that is what I suspect someone in the organization thought when they decided to do this record. Either way, that is the direction the band decided to go on that particular album cycle. And I have to say it works, at least for me, because I would never have bothered with the earlier stuff, if it wasn’t for this CD, in fact even though I own one of the earlier records, I couldn’t tell you a song from it. And to be honest, todays listen is the first I’ve listened to this CD in probably 6 or 7 years. I bought this CD right after I moved back to NY in 2009, and it was right on the edge of me caring about this band, so I never really spent that much time with it.
I first came across Arch Enemy back in 2002 when I saw the video for ‘Ravenous’ on MTV 2, and immediately I was hooked. I remember it clearly; I was up visiting my parents for my cousin Jennifer’s wedding, and I was staying up late watching TV when the video came on. Though I was already a couple of years into my metal revival phase at this time, I still wasn’t too impressed with a lot of the new of the new metal that was coming out. But I remember being immediately taken by the thrashy guitar intro to ‘Ravenous’, and when the vocals kicked in, and I saw that it was this adorable woman doing some of the best death metal growls I had ever heard, I was sold immediately. The melodic guitar solos were only the icing on the cake.
Unfortunately, I forgot what the name of the band was rather quickly, so it was a while before I owned anything by them. About a year later I was handed a Century Media compilation record that had ‘Ravenous’ and ‘Heart of Darkness’ on it. I think I was less impressed with ‘Heart of Darkness,’ so it took me a while before I was willing to spend the money any of their CD’s, especially at full price.
In fact, I don’t think it was until around 2005 when I was trying to be a death metal vocalist in my band that I bothered to buy one of their records, ‘Anthems of Rebellion’ and I wasn’t that impressed with it. Don’t get me wrong; I thought it was a good record; I just wasn’t that enthralled by it. It wasn’t until a couple of years later when I was working at DISH Network that I decided to spend more time with them, and I bought ‘Dooms Day Machine’ that I got into the band.
By this time Angela was my celebrity crush and I think I loved the band more for the fact that she was their singer than it was about the music. Now, of course, that’s not quite true, because without the skill level of the musicians of this band, no singer, no matter how cute she is will result in me buying everything they put out.
What I loved about this band was their focus on killer death metal riffs contrasted with their melodic guitar solos and harmonies with Angela’s aggressive death metal vocals on top, creates a dynamic I find compelling. And for a couple of years there, I ate up everything I could get my hands on by this band. They were everything I wanted in a metal band.
But for whatever reason, I eventually started to care less and less about them, and a lot of other metal bands too. I suspect that a huge part of it was when I moved back to NY in 2009, I started hanging out with my friends from high school, who weren’t as into metal as maybe my friends in Pittsburgh were. Hanging out them rekindled my love and appreciation of classic rock and progressive rock. Another contributing factor is after a while a lot of these bands records all started to sound the same to me. Unless they do like what Opeth did and take a complete left turn 20 yrs into their career, after a while, it seems you’re listening to the same record over and over again. And my interest in them wanes, and I just end up sticking with the one or two albums that got me into them in the first place. That is what happened with this band. Though I have listened to their last two studio albums in their entirety a couple of times, I never went out and bought them, and have no interest in listening to them Spotify either. They’re just not where I’m at right now when it comes to music.
But who knows, there may come a time in the future where I am all of a sudden obsessed with a new wave of metal bands that sing to my thrash sensibilities and I’ll find myself revisiting all these old Arch Enemy albums and loving them even more. I honestly find it less likely to happen, but you never know.