Guilty Pleasures

The “guilty pleasure” is one of music listening’s most odd and sometimes interesting terms. People like something, but people don’t want anyone else to know. It’s embarassing for a 35 year old, burly man to like Britney Spears or whatever, or for some mild-mannered soccer mom to headbang to Suffocation.

Of course the concept of a guilty pleasure is pretty dumb. People should, in an ideal world, just like what they like and not have any expectations or judgments from society attached to it. And in the modern age a lot of people spend so much time ripping dissenting opinions apart that it’s almost a strength to just express one’s own tastes without giving a damn what anyone else thinks of it. Being affected by any negative thoughts others might have of my music taste is not a thing I can really afford to carry around.

I do have a handful of things that could be thought of as guilty pleasures. They aren’t all that deep or shocking, and only one gives me some hesitantcy to admit. And even that I’m past the point of caring about. Here’s a handful of my “guilty” pleasures, which being real, I don’t feel guilty about at all.

Bon Jovi

I’ve mentioned before that Slippery When Wet was the first album I really ever owned. I still very much enjoy Bon Jovi, especially the 80’s output and some of the stuff from the 2000’s. (No, I’m really not into what they did in the 90’s.)

The conflict of interest comes from metalheads who can’t fathom enjoying something as, well, not metal and as popular and mainstream as Bon Jovi. I’ve caught a fair bit of shit for expressing my interest in the band. I don’t know how I’m supposed to care – I did not disavow rock music when I got into heavy metal. I didn’t take a dark oath to only listen to self-released demos from black metal bands recorded on a Fischer-Price tape deck in the lead singer’s bathroom. I will listen to that, but I’ll also listen to You Give Love A Bad Name.

Hall and Oates

This one seems to throw people off a lot. I love Hall and Oates, I always have. Their big hits in the 80’s were in constant rotation as I was exploring music as a youth. They aren’t an act that I chase down every release or anything (there’s a lot and they’ve covered a lot of musical ground) but I still very much enjoy H&O and I feel very not guilty about it.

For some reason I don’t catch much shit from metalheads about this one. It’s because many of them also like Hall and Oates. It’s other people who do like them who wonder what this crusty dude in an Iron Maiden t-shirt is doing browsing through their records in the store. Sorry, I just wanted to see if there were any South American test pressings of Big Bam Boom.


I’ve already written extensively about Oasis and I will be again next month when the Knebworth live set is released. And I probably will beyond that too.

I got into them in the mid 90’s when they were one of the biggest bands on the planet and I was just listening to whatever sounded cool to me at the time. I sort of set them aside in the 2000’s when their songwriting magic had worn off and the band eventually imploded. I, like many, found that wave of nostalgia a few years ago and have been back hard on the Oasis train since.

Now who gives me shit for liking Oasis? EVERYBODY. It’s literally anyone who doesn’t like Oasis is like “You like that crap?” Yes, I do. And if I need to have a defiant, snarky attitude towards anyone hating on my tastes, I can’t think of two better role models for that than the brothers Gallagher. Perhaps calling them role models says something about my lack of well-being but hey, it’s 2021, we’re past that sort of thing now.

Black Metal

This is an entire subgenre rather than one band, and for good reason. I personally don’t feel guilty about listening to it at all, but black metal is some absurd music with a ridiculous history and a lot of unsavory characters who happened to record some of the music’s most revered works.

I have a post coming in the near future that gets far more into how I came into black metal so I won’t bloviate about it much here. But I first heard of it when the crazy ass story of Varg Vikernes and Euronymous made the rounds in the 90’s. The music wound up really clicking with me a few years later.

I don’t feel guilty about listening to harsh, misanthropic, anti-religious music. Those themes are likely why I took to it in the first place. I do, like many, try to make sure I’m not accidentally supporting outright Nazis, something that is an unfortunate part of several black metal bands. That’s its own culture war playing out on the battlefields of social media right now. The signals and messages often get mixed up and crossed, which is why I largely stay the hell out of the arguments. There’s nothing to gain and far too much ire and spite to wind up with in all of that shit. But the style as a whole is being called into question, that’s an unavoidable part of being into this shit in 2021.

I personally will keep on listening to who I like, hoping that they aren’t trying to ressurect the Third Reich. Outside of that I don’t really care what these people get up to, and by and large most of them aren’t into any sick stuff like that. The murder and arson and whatever is fine, I guess.

Insane Clown Possee

Here we are – my one true guilty pleasure, the one thing I have long hesitated to admit liking. It’s the one that I’m like “dude, you have an old picture of me in an ICP shirt, please destroy that kthanksbye.” It’s the one group I had every studio album of at one time but later made a beeline to the CD store to trade in for something inoffensive and unembarassing, like black metal.

In 1998 I was exposed to ICP and I thought they had some funny and entertaining stuff. I really got into them in 1999 and the turn of the millenium. I never went so far as to paint my face, drink Faygo or even go see them live, but I was pretty into their stuff.

My thoughts on them started shifting around 2001. Honestly, their music is pretty dumb. I listen to some pretty stupid stuff anyway but man, these guys take the cake. And also them getting obliterated in song by Eminem didn’t help matters. I quietly packed up my juggalo stuff and pretended that my brief era of being down with the clowns didn’t exist.

Today my thoughts have shifted some again. I can look back at what ICP have done and respect their place in things. They built their own subculture and the infrastructure around it and they turned their own passions into a living and a way of life. They’ve also shown they can roll with the punches, like when they got clowned on SNL for the absurdity of their song Miracles. And the community of juggalos seem to be some pretty cool people, despite how maligned they are in popular culture.

I’ll also admit this – I can’t really get back into them. I think they have a few songs that stand out and are pretty good but by and large this isn’t something I want to play again or have in my collection again.

Gently Down The Stream

I’ve talked a bit before about how I, and we as a whole, consume music. I grew up in the old days where you had to have some form of a physical collection if you didn’t want to be stuck with the radio. I’ve transitioned through a few different formats over the decades, from tapes to CD’s to digital and back to vinyl.

Now we are in the streaming age. While vinyl sales are still holding strong, there are some cracks in the wall. I wrote at length about my concerns a few weeks ago with where vinyl could be headed if something isn’t done to address the supply issue, among other concerns. The CD is still a semi-viable and cheap format, but it doesn’t do a lot that streaming doesn’t do.

And let’s face facts – streaming is by far the most convenient way to enjoy music. Pay roughly $10 a month and enjoy access to a service’s entire catalog of songs and albums? Yeah, there has never been a better deal in music. Sure, pirate downloading was fun and free I guess, but the RIAA’s heavy-handed lawsuits that would demand six figures from working-class people for downloading Appetite For Destruction weren’t so fun or cheap.

As an aside on streaming – yes, the audio is compressed and yes I’ve noticed the differences when comparing how things sound on Spotify compared to when I load a FLAC version of an album up that I own, but the vast majority of the music listening audience isn’t concerned about audio quality. The streaming services work just fine for the masses and they aren’t going anywhere.

Despite still being a physical format collector myself, I do use streaming. Spotify is the service I use. I pay for the normal premium version so I don’t have to listen to annoying ads. I had the student discount for a few years but I’m fine with the $9.99.

Honestly, Spotify is a wonderland for music. About 99% of what I look for is there. All I have to do is type in a name and boom, there’s a complete discography within reach. Some artists have 50 or more albums out – I do ok for myself but I don’t have the money for that kind of shit.

The big pro of Spotify, or any streaming service, is discovery. I’ve been able to explore new genres like indie rock or all the post-punk, post-metal or post-whatever stuff that I simply couldn’t get to with X amount of money to spend on records or CD’s. When I find an artist I really, really like, then I can shell out the cash on their physical releases.

For the listener, there are no real cons to streaming services. Sure, a service might delete an artists’ catalog in the case of “cancel culture,” but stuff like that is rare. I wasn’t queuing up R Kelly for my next playlist anyway so it’s no real skin off my back. And, without getting too much into it, I can type in plenty of nefarious names and find all their stuff still on the service. The companies aren’t on some moral crusade to rid their catalogs of anyone who has broke bad – rather they simply do what every company does and respond to the greatest outcries. Pretty common stuff in the 2020’s.

Of course the listener is only one part of the music chain. The artist is the one who makes the music and has to make a living on the music. And the streaming services are infamous for low payouts to artists. This article outlines how Spotify pays out to artists and a rough average of $3 to $5 dollars per 1,000 streams seems to be the going rate. That isn’t a truckload of money, especially for independent and underground artists who might be lucky to hit 10,000 streams on their most noteworthy songs.

Am I obliged as a more than casual music fan, to spend money on physical releases to truly support my favorite artists? Does me streaming a new band I’ve never heard of take money out of their pockets and hence food off their tables? I know music fans with this total diehard mindset, that “true fans” should support the artist as directly as possible.

I’ll say that I consider the stance admirable but misguided. Here’s a helpful lesson – the music artist has been getting ripped off since the dawn of the music industry. Read about Motown, read about payola, read about how album sales and money really work. Look up how much TLC got for being one of the most mega-successful groups of the ’90’s.

I get the argument that streaming services don’t provide artists the financial support they need, but nothing in the industry really ever has. Anyone who isn’t a supernova success won’t see windfalls, and even some of them will find themselves ripped off through shady label tactics, bad management, or greedy dope dealers.

I myself am just one person and I can’t counteract the financial sins of business by not using streaming. The service serves too many useful purposes in terms of discovery and also in not having to blow more money than I make just to find out if an artist is up my alley. I can enjoy more music and cover more, different stuff on here without having to go in debt to do it. If anything, I can use Spotify for the more “mainstream” stuff I like and give my money to the independent and underground acts that more desperately need it. I won’t say that’s the line I’ve taken just yet but it’s something that I’ve seen on the horizon as I go forward, and also as I round out grabbing those bigger releases I want in my collection.

There are alternatives to bigger streaming services, of course. Bandcamp is now relatively famous as a place for alternative or underground, even unsigned artist. Bandcamp gives artists and now labels a far greater degree of control on how their music is purchased and distributed, and as a result, lands more money in the artists’ pockets. Both digital and physical sales are supported on the site, and Bandcamp has even begun helping artists obtain small-run vinyl pressings to sell, a very tough thing to do for smaller artists in today’s supply shortage market.

I do use Bandcamp and at some future point I’ll start a semi-regular thing where I go over some of the lesser-known artists I’ve found through there. I don’t go hog wild on it but I don’t at all mind giving a band ten bucks or whatever for a good album or shelling out for a small-run vinyl pressing of something that really catches my attention. Bandcamp is helping keep the underground alive in the wake of the digital revolution that threatened to swallow everything whole.

As I go forward I’m sure I’ll remain a combination user of both streaming and physical releases. I don’t really wish to have the world’s largest collection or anything but I like having what I have. I do use the digital space to my benefit, though, in order to find more areas of music that I might not have access to through old-school means.

The face of music listening has changed a lot in 20 years and will probably change again in ways many of us can’t foresee as we sit here today. For the time being, streaming is here to stay and is the prime method for music consumption. It has its bad sides, but so does anything that is a business. For the fans? It really couldn’t be much better.

Album Of The Week – October 25, 2021

This week I’m going with a recent album and one from an artist I hadn’t heard of until said album’s release. I was browsing the social sites and saw a post from Consequence, Pitchfork or whatever hipster music aggregator when I saw a write-up for a new record from an act totally unfamiliar to me. Out of curiosity I pushed play and well, now here we are with a new album of the week.

Illuminati Hotties – Let Me Do One More

Released October 1, 2021 via Snack Shack Tracks/Hopeless Records

Favorite Tracks – Pool Hopping, Joni: LA’s No. 1 Health Goth, Kickflip

Illuminati Hotties is a band formed by producer and engineer Sarah Tudzin. The music could be described as along indie rock or pop punk lines (modern genre descriptors outside of metal are kind of beyond me).

Sarah and her band have already dealt with record label problems a whole two albums in and this album was a delayed release after fulfilling contractual obligations with a thrown-together effort in 2020. It’s nice to see the same old problems in the music industry take new forms all these years later.

Let Me Do One More is a fun album with a variety of songs to fit about any mood or atmosphere. Opening track Pool Hopping sets a fun and fast tone, which is carried forward with the totally copy-and-pasteable title MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA. Things turn toward the reflective and melancholy with Threatening Each Other Re: Capitalism.

The album offers a nice mixed bag of songs, showcasing a variety of styles and themes rather than honing in on one specific thing that works and running with it. It’s kind of a throwback to when more artists explored different areas of sound rather than just reinventing the same sound many times over.

There are a lot of interesting and subtle quirks about this album – from unconventional song titles and style-shifting breaks like the spoken conclusion of uvvp. It’s clear that this isn’t just a “pick up guitar and make some noise” effort – there was some clear focus on arrangement and atmosphere. I suppose that would be expected from someone who has spent time in every part of the music-making process.

In the end, Let Me Do One More is an engaging album with a lot of fun and some tunes for thought. It’s nice to find something out of my typical music circles to enjoy. Hopefully there’s much more to come from Illuminati Hotties, whatever obstacles record labels might throw in the way.

The Number Of The Beast – Satanic Panic in 2021

Note – I originally intended to post this last Friday, the 15th. I started coming into updated information about this incident so I held off until the final news of the matter came through. I had to rewrite most of what I had. This is why I don’t mess with current event stuff much. I’m a hobby blogger, not a damn reporter and I don’t have time for breaking news. I’ll still post this but it’s kind of a damn mess.

A strange case that seemed ripped out of headlines from 1986 came to the attention of heavy metal social media a few weeks ago. A group of parents with children in a high school in Ontario, Canada started an online petition to have the school’s principal removed from her job.

The original petition, since deleted, had a bit over 500 signatures to it. A counter petition filed by students of the school in support of the principal and obviously noticed by Iron Maiden fans, was over 23,000 signatures when I last looked Sunday afternoon. I will briefly mention that I think online petitions are totally useless, and then move on.

After some back and forth over the issue, someone who filed the original petition doubled down on their efforts. The filer suggested that they were uninterested in the principal’s music taste, but was concerned about the use of the number 666 on a sign the school official made in support of the band. Also, the principal dared flash the dreaded “devil horns” gesture in photos involving her obvious love of Iron Maiden. It is worth noting that the photos were posted to the principal’s official Instagram account as agent of the school, not a personal account.

Metal and rock sites offered details of the story and metal Twitter and Facebook lit aflame with criticism of the original petition filers. The filer continued to double down on the criticism of the Satanic imagery, even suggesting that the “battle” wasn’t over after the principal removed the photos from the school’s IG account. A campaign to “get to know” the “real” issue came from the first petition, even as the counter petition swallowed the original in signatures.

Someone file a petition to get me to stop using quotation marks in a sardonic manner, please.

This issue would dissolve for good on Saturday, October 16, when the school announced the principal would remain in her potion with no sanctions or action taken. The original petition was disabled and everyone went their merry way, I suppose. Here is a link to a article outlining the likely final resolution in this case.

This case did remind me of something and also easily caught my attention since Iron Maiden is my favorite band. The following text is the second part of what I wrote originally about this whole thing and I’ve decided to post it unedited. It might make for an incoherent narrative so I wanted to make a note of it for context.

There is no escaping the number 666 with Iron Maiden – it is woven into one of their most famous songs. The Number Of The Beast is usually an auto-include in any tour setlist and is one of the band’s most celebrated works. I would imagine that shirts, posters, tapestries and other merchandise of the album are among the band’s highest-selling merch offerings, and the album itself is a classic that is often ranked at least top 5 in the band’s catalog, if not at the very top.

And the devil horns? A common sign from heavy metal and also often rock fans. Hell, it’s used in other applications outside of music, such as fans of the University of Texas Longhorns sports teams. Sure, they’re popularly known as “devil horns,” but the gesture likely not invented by Gene Simmons does not truly bear any Satanic connotations. It’s just a thing, that’s all it really is.

I won’t get into some huge theological argument here. I’m not a religious person but this site isn’t a space where I intend to really discuss that outside of any relevant context to music. I know plenty of very awesome religious people who are into heavy metal, and I know plenty of very awesome religious people who aren’t into heavy metal who probably think this whole thing is a joke and would not want someone removed from her job because she likes a band.

The overriding point I get out of all this is flashbacks to that absurd battle of the 1980’s – the Satanic Panic. It was quite the chore to grow up and get into rock and metal while everyone was flipping out about real and perceived Satanism in music, movies, behind bushes and in shadows everywhere. That panic informed a great deal of my music-listening childhood and adolescence. I will get much deeper into these themes another time, but I and many others had some memories surface when hearing about this kind of crap going on toward the end of 2021, and about 27 years after the harrowing conclusion of the Satanic Panic.

In the end, all I can really do is hope the principal gets to keep her job (she will). She seems loved by her students and hopefully reason will prevail in a world where it often doesn’t. I don’t expect the group of parents calling for her head to grasp the folly of their argument or to open their perspectives to any different views. That’s not how we do business in the world in 2021.

If nothing else, I’m sure this woman will not have to pay for any beverage of her choice the next time she sees Iron Maiden in concert. If I know anything, it’s that this community does rally around its own. Down with panic, and as always, Up The Irons.

Upcoming New Releases – November and Beyond

It’s time to preview some promo singles from albums coming out in the near future. I’m still trying to get the timing right on these and December is generally a dead month for album releases so I’m still feeling this thing out.

Also, I will feature a few second singles from upcoming albums I talked about in the last (and first) version of this. I won’t normally do that because I’d like to cover more ground but it helps in the early going to again highlight a few releases I’m really looking forward to.

One more note – this one is almost exclusively metal, with one (two, if you’re elitist) exception. I haven’t run across a lot more from other scenes that’s releasing soon. I’ll try to do more to mix things up in the future, it will help when we get into next year.

Cradle Of Filth – Crawling King Chaos

I’m leading off with one I meant to have on the first round of previews. The main issue is that CoF’s new album Existence Is Futile comes out this Friday. I though it wasn’t until November, silly me.

I mean, it’s Cradle Of Filth. I am a fan, have been since the later ’90’s. I haven’t really been disappointed with anything I’ve heard from them and while this has a slightly different sound probably due to new band members and the passage of time, it’s still signature Cradle. I doubt I’ll have any issue with this new album.

Shadow Of Intent – From Ruin … We Rise

This cut is from the upcoming album Elegy, which hits early next year. Shadow Of Intent are one of deathcore’s more interesting prospects, fully embracing symphonic and prog-like elements instead of the often-sterile technical showcase many of the -core bands get into.

From Ruin… We Rise offers a new showcase of this use of melody and symphony to create a heavy yet smooth listening experience. This isn’t about wowing with crazy vocal ranges or BPM (not that I mind that…) but using the medium to present a well-arranged and executed song. It makes for a nice preview for the upcoming album.

Ghost – Hunter’s Moon

This one is a little different – it’s not a preview for an upcoming album. Rather it’s a soundtrack release for the now-in-theaters Halloween Kills. I personally haven’t seen the film and probably won’t anytime soon, I’m not a huge movie buff.

I’ll admit this too – I’m not a huge Ghost buff either. I think they have some decent stuff, I do like their song Year Zero quite a bit. I did also see them open for Iron Maiden in 2017 and I thought they put on a really good show.

But I don’t own their albums or seek them out much at all. And this song doesn’t really hold my attention much. I don’t know if this is the territory they’ve moved into after their more mellow and slower stuff from their early days but I can’t really hang with this. I don’t think it’s badly executed, I just can’t get into it.

Hypocrisy – Dead World

This is one that I’m “cheating” on. I covered Worship’s lead single Chemical Whore in my last romp through preview tracks, yet right then Hypocrisy offered this second song. The song gets into how screwed up the world is. I agree. The song is another sign that the new album is going to be a great release after a long period of inactivity.

The real highlight here is the video – it’s a woman fighting her way through a zombie apocalypse. It is pretty brutal and honestly would lead me to ask questions about who is allowed to post what on YouTube, but I won’t do that because I don’t want Hypocrisy getting their video yanked. (Not that I have that kind of stroke, but there’s a conversation to be had about YouTube content). Anyway, it’s a stunning video and I’m looking forward to the new album dropping next month.

Mastodon – Teardrinker

Here with another band I don’t really keep up with – I liked their first few albums but I drifted off after that. This song is just ahead of a new album, Hushed And Grim, which releases the Friday before Halloween on October 29.

This song is pretty cool. It’s not what I think of when I think Mastodon but like I said, I haven’t been in touch with them in a long time. I won’t be in line to buy this on release day but it’s an album I’ll give a spin to and see if there’s more there I can get into. I like the more melodic approach but it takes some getting used to when I haven’t heard them since their heavy early days.

Be’lakor – Foothold

This is melodic death metal from Australia (not Sweden! Shocking, I know) that comes from the album Coherence that releases Halloween weekend, or October 29 for those that don’t know when Halloween is. It has been a five-year gap between releases for the band.

This is some really good stuff, with arrangement and movements that sets it apart from the more savage extreme metal out. Of course there is more like this these days but this group does it quite a bit better than the “look we can put every kind of metal subgenre into one song” thing that kind of permeates metal in our current climate. It’s well-structured and offers some hooks that hold attention. I’ll definitely be keeping an ear out for this on its release.

Emma Ruth Rundle – Blooms Of Oblivion

I’ll close the same way I did the first time around – with a new single from Emma’s upcoming album Engines Of Hell. This is one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it will finally see the light of day on November 5.

While lead single Return felt very deliberate and orchestrated, this song flows more with a gentle acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment. Both the lyrics and video are sparse yet, I don’t know, kind of spooky, as if Emma got David Lynch involved. It’s a very simple video and has a almost ingenious yet profound ending.

Emma has stated that this album is sparse, fragile and a departure from the more noisy effort On Dark Horses that captured a lot of attention in 2018. And she wasn’t kidding – both songs so far are even more stripped down than her 2016 effort Marked For Death. That album’s closing track Real Big Sky was a quiet yet soul-eviscerating affair and so far it sounds like Engines Of Hell is operating in similar, yet not exact circles. I am absolutely looking forward to it, but I’m honestly also kind of scared. This level of raw emotion might be kind of fucked up to listen to for an entire album.

That covers it for this round of previews. We’ll see if we get much to go with as far as stuff coming out in December, since most acts like to get their stuff released in time for album of the year considerations. Perhaps some more bands will preview material that’s going to hit next year as early Christmas gifts, we will see.

Album Of The Week – October 18, 2021

This week I’m heading back to the early ’90’s for my AOTW pick. This record, by definition really an EP, was one of the most formative things I’ve ever heard and it’s also a set of songs that I’m very personally connected to after all these years. I’ve talked about a few of my favorite acts in the early stages of this site but now it’s time for my first dive into another of my all-time favorites.

Nine Inch Nails – Broken

Released September 22, 1992 via Nothing Records

Favorite Tracks – Wish, Last, Gave Up

The mini album features two instrumentals – opener Pinion and Help Me I Am In Hell in the middle of the effort. Both are fine and I’m not usually bothered by instrumentals or interlude-style things but certainly they are not the main event on Broken.

The show truly kicks off with Wish – a vicious, heavy as hell trip through self-hatred that wound up winning a Grammy in 1993 for Best Metal Performance. It was my first real introduction to the band as I didn’t remember much of the debut Pretty Hate Machine but I was primed and ready for NIN when Wish hit MTV. It’s easily one of my favorite songs from NIN and just songs overall.

Last is next and is another splendid take on self-dejection and the disposable nature of humanity. The pounding riff is superb and there are some fantastic lyrics in the song – “my lips may promise but my heart is a whore” being chief among them.

Happiness In Slavery hits with some crazy stuff about bondage or whatever. I certainly wasn’t in tune with what the song was talking about when I was 15. Regardless I still dig the track, there’s a shade more melody to it than the rest of the EP while still retaining the depths of heaviness found elsewhere.

The proper portion of Broken ends on another angst-ridden, depressive song that I consider a total masterwork. Gave Up is a sonic pummeling and some of the most messed up lyrics ever to be found in any mainstream music release. Trent Reznor masks some of his vocals in an almost black metal wail but the message of utter hopelessness is still conveyed in full measure.

The EP concludes with two bonus tracks – a cover of Adam Ant’s Physical and a quasi-cover of Pigface’s Suck. Reznor was a member of Pigface when Suck was originally recorded so it’s more of his own rendition of the song than a cover per se.

The physical album release provides some interesting trivia. The original CD release offered Physical and Suck on a 3-inch bonus mini CD. Both original and reissued versions of the vinyl have those songs on a separate 7-inch record. I think I had the normal CD way back when with the two extra songs tacked on after a lot of hidden silent tracks, kind of a thing in ’90’s CD releases.

I won’t get too much into it but there was also a film for Broken that was, let’s just say, flat out disgusting. I never saw the whole thing but bits I did watch were pretty messed up. Most of Wish made it onto MTV but the band apparently had to edit part of the video’s end out. I guess it’s not hard to get a DVD-quality version of the entire film on the ‘Net today but honestly that sort of snuff or whatever isn’t my gig so I don’t mess with it.

The three songs I mentioned as my favorites at the start – Wish, Last and Gave up – do hold pretty high personal connections with me. They are interwoven at multiple points in my life and mean different things depending on specifically what was up. It could be old friends who fell away, exes I should have never messed with in the first place, terrible heartbreak or just good old fashioned self-loathing and lack of worth. A copy of Broken is far cheaper than therapy, but I’m guessing that the album is also not anyone’s definition of self-care. I don’t know, I just roll with it.

Broken was a major shift for Nine Inch Nails in 1992 and would herald the magnum opus that was to come a few years later. But this EP itself is one of the high points of an extensive catalog of masterful recordings. Trent Reznor joined the likes of Ministry and others in a pursuit of dark, industrial metal and crafted an excellent, soul-crushing EP that was perhaps too dark for anyone’s good but would still go on to platinum sales status. It’s been one of the most valued and most important musical works in my life, and it’s definitely on my list of music I’d have to have on desert island.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 4

It’s time for another edition of S-Tier Songs. For a rundown of what this is all about and also who has made it in thus far, head here.

Today the honor goes to my favorite band and what is often considered their best song. Let’s go straight for it.

Iron Maiden – Hallowed Be Thy Name

From the Beast Over Hammersmith live performance

Iron Maiden hit the scene in 1980 after several years in England’s club circuit but found themselves scratching for a new direction after two albums. They canned singer Paul Di’Anno and replaced him with Samson’s eclectic frontman Bruce Dickinson. The ensuing decade would see them make an indelible stamp on heavy metal, one of the genre’s most defining and influential acts.

Dickinson’s debut with Maiden would come in the form of 1982’s The Number Of The Beast. Songs like the title track and Run To The Hills would be released as singles, but in the end Hallowed Be Thy Name would become a legacy-defining song and a staple of the band’s epic live sets.

Our song today would mark a shift in Iron Maiden’s sound from a punk/metal hybrid to a more epic direction. Dickinson’s trademark “air raid siren” vocals soared above the band’s now signature gallop. The epic would be a direction Maiden would pursue to greater degree, including many much-debated longer treks included in their longest-enduring “reunion” era of the 2000’s.

But back to the point – Hallowed Be Thy Name is a bombastic tale of a condemned man facing his final moments before he’s taken to the gallow’s pole. The narrator reflects on the meaning of life and his final fate, a trope in song found with Queen’s signature Bohemian Rhapsody, among many others. It’s a haunting and tragic tale, told in fine form through the song’s lyrics and Dickinson’s unparalleled delivery.

Live from the Powerslave tour in Long Beach, the definitive Live After Death performance

The song builds quietly with bells to accent the opening verse but then quickly moves into its signature galloping riff. Bruce’s vocal power is on full display as he pleads for his life in the second verse, interchanging with the riff rather than using a conventional chorus. A bridge takes us to the final verse, where the condemned man accepts his fate.

What happens when one accepts the end of their existence? Guitar solos, usually. At least that’s what I’m led to believe, I did grow up in the ’80’s after all. The solos play out then the song builds to its climax, with Bruce delivering the title before an epic finale.

Hallowed Be Thy Name has been played on nearly every Iron Maiden tour since Number‘s release. It was removed from the second leg of the Book Of Souls tour in 2017 after a lawsuit alleging that Steve Harris ripped parts of the song off from a ’70’s work. I’m not a scholar or a journalist so I’m not going to recount the specifics of that lawsuit, I’ll simply mention that the case was settled out of court on more than one occasion between different members of that band.

Did Maiden rip off someone else for this song? I don’t know and I don’t care. Moving on.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Hallowed Be Thy Name is an epic masterwork that highlights the strengths of what would become Iron Maiden’s most prolific creative era. The song is often considered the very best of the band’s output. It is a stunning, moving tale that is executed in spectacular fashion and showcases the various signature factors that would make Iron Maiden one of metal’s most celebrated acts.

Live footage from the Flight 666 motion picture release

Album Of The Week – October 11, 2021

There’s no real huge occasion for this week’s pick other than I recently scored a sweet copy of this on vinyl at my local record shop. Let’s head back to 1984 for one of rock and metal’s best debut albums.

W.A.S.P. – self-titled

Released August 17, 1984 via Capitol Records

Favorite Tracks – I Wanna Be Somebody, The Flame, The Torture Never Stops

WASP weren’t messing around with this collection of sleaze and riffage. The band had already made a name for themselves with raunchy, over-the-top theatrics on stage prior to their debut album drop. The band and album shocked and awed their way to rock stardom in the down and dirty prime of the 1980’s.

The album would court controversy before its release. The intended first single Animal (Fuck Like A Beast) drew the ire of watchdog groups, including the Parent’s Resource Music Center. The infamous PMRC, a collection of senators’ wives who were busybodies with nothing better to do, decided to try and moralize music. Their list of the “Filthy Fifteen” songs included WASP’s first-ever single. As a result, the band’s label decided to drop the song from the album. Of course, as with much that the PMRC lamented back then, both the album and the banned song would become highly sought after. Thank you, PMRC, for letting us know where to look for music.

If you were to pick up this CD in a shop or look this up on Spotify, you will find Animal in its place as the album’s lead track. In 1998 the album was reiussed, both restoring Animal and adding two bonus tracks. I’m personally not a huge fan of bonus tracks on the original portion of a reissued album – I’d rather things be kept separate from the known recording. But in this case I’m happy to have Animal on the reissue and honestly I’m more used to it at this point than I was without it. In contrast, the vinyl I picked up awhile back is an original press and doesn’t have it.

And yes I do like the song Animal. It’s not the best on the album but it’s a cool tune. I think the uproar over it was more funny than anything and was mainly due to the naughty word in the sub-title. It’s a bit of interesting lore and trivia from back when people tried to play morality police with popular music. Even more tidbit trivia – Blackie Lawless refuses to play the song live anymore due to his personal beliefs. Odd, but there’s enough of a WASP back catalog to not need it I suppose.

Animal is just one song though. This album is loaded with killer selections from rock and metal’s prime. Album opener by default I Wanna Be Somebody is a classic, one of the band’s most celebrated tracks. I know I’ve been there and many others likely have after a miserable grind at an unfulfilling job – I wanna freaking be somebody. Alas, we press on, lost to time and without the fame and notoriety of Blackie.

The album’s closer hits on a similar issue – The Torture Never Stops is totally about work. The band’s image from back then might lead a person to think that the song is some dark S&M romp but nah, that shit’s about work. It’s something darker and more hardcore than any sex dungeon could ever be (unless that is your job, I dunno).

Inbetween is a selection of all killer, no filler cuts. And also a lot of spelling things out with periods – L.O.V.E. Machine, B.A.D., hell the band name W.A.S.P. C’mon, this is kind of annoying to type out. But the songs are worth the suffering.

Sleeping (In The Fire) is a nice ballad-like track that sees the band set down the shred and offer some melody while still bringing the power. Tormentor and On Your Knees bring more of the hard and sleazy sound that WASP would become known for. And School Daze knocks the hallowed “class life” that was such a huge thing in America and a natural point of rebellion for many of the nation’s youth.

WASP’s debut album marked the beginning of a legacy that walked lines between hair, glam, shock rock and true heavy metal. Chris Holmes would become a guitar idol even in the midst of a less-than-savory portrayal on film a few years later. And band leader Blackie Lawless has left a very complicated legacy in his wake, but in the context of this debut album there is no disputing the power and prestige.

I did grow up in a semi-sheltered home but honestly my parents never really messed with my music much. But this album was one I kept hidden from plain sight – I knew the reputation WASP had and I wasn’t going to risk having this gem ripped away from me in the name of protecting my fragile psyche from this raw, primal power. Now that I’m all grown up I can freely play Fuck Like A Beast all I want.

WASP’s debut album was a metal classic and would start the band on a path to some unique and rocking albums throughout the ’80’s. The band truly cemented their place as one of hard rock and metal’s defining acts in a crowded era, and they crossed subgenres and defied categorization with an intense, well-executed set of songs that brought rapt attention from an eager fanbase. Blackie Lawless could wear a Skil Saw as a codpiece all he wants, but at the end of the day he and the band brought the tunes to back that brash sort of theatrics off.

A Soundtrack To Geography

Something I want to start doing more of around here is making playlists. It’s the modern version of the old mix tape, mixed CD, you name it. I find it fun to pick a theme or concept then find songs that fit that theme. I’ve just been a bit hung up on where to begin with that.

So a buddy of mine is taking some college classes and geography is one of those. I thought I’d try to help him out some by making a playlist that incorporated the theme of places. I took geography in high school. I did really well on the final, where we had to identify each US state and its capital, each Canadian province and its capital, and each other country in the world and its capital city. This was just after the fall of Communism too so I didn’t get it easy like all the really old people who were in school before me.

So anyway, I spent a lot of time working on this playlist about geography and then found out my buddy is taking geology. Dammnit. Anyway, here’s a playlist about places or whatever. I’ll highlight some of my choices below but the playlist itself has a lot more on it.

They Might Be Giants – Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

I can’t see any other way to kick this playlist off than with this tune. One of the most iconic songs involving a place that there is. It’s also an important lesson – if you’re from, say, the 1200’s and you’re used to calling the city Constantinople, then you need to update your terms, dude.

I have been to Istanbul, back in the late ’90’s while in the military I got there a few times. It was a really nice city, not sure what’s up in Turkey these days.

Joe Walsh – Rocky Mountain Way

One of Joe’s best songs, quite possibly the absolute best, and honestly a song I might have to consider as a future S-Tier entry.

We can pretend this song is about the majesty and awe of the Rocky Mountains all we want – we all know it’s about getting high. There’s no way it isn’t. And it’s fitting, as Colorado would later become the nation’s capital of blazing up. I personally don’t partake but I’m pretty sure glaucoma or arthritis or some such shit is coming around the bend. Maybe I’ll do what the rest of the US is doing and move to Colorado and get my Rocky Mountain Way.

Emma Ruth Rundle – Apathy on the Indiana Border

As a bit of trivia, ERR appears on three songs of this list. This is obviously one of them. I’m not doing write-ups on the other two but they’re on the list.

I guess she lived in Louisville when she recorded this album, hence the “…on the Indiana border” part of the title. Maybe also the Apathy, I don’t know. I’ve heard nice things about Louisville but I’ve never been myself.

Spinal Tap – Hellhole

As far as I know there isn’t an actual location called “Hellhole,” but there are some odd city names out there. There’s a Hell, but no Hellhole.

But I feel the lads in Spinal Tap spelled it all out with this, one of their stronger tracks. That hellhole can be anywhere and is often where we are. For all the good and bad of my current locale, there is no doubt it is a hellhole. But it’s my hellhole.

Amon Amarth – Guardians of Asgaard

We can debate whether or not Asgaard is real. My take is that it was until that third Thor Marvel movie, idk.

Can one be a viking in 2021? It’s made fun of a lot but I think one can. Have Norse or Danish ancestry (I do), listen to Amon Amarth (I do), drink mead (I have) and have one of those sweet Ragnar Lothbro hipster haircuts (I don’t yet but I will). You can be a viking in 2021 and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

This is a cool song from the band’s creative height and it also features a guest shot from LG Petrov of Entombed. RIP man.

Frank Black – Los Angeles

Solid tune from the Pixies frontman when he embarked on a solo career. It was a pretty popular jam back then.

I have been to the City of Angels. I’ll say that it’s interesting and, in parts, spectacular, but it’s also not really my speed. I did enjoy seeing the sights of Sunset Strip, where a lot of the music I got into came from. But yeah, I’ll probably leave Los Angeles to itself and sail for other waters.

Wayne Hancock – Tulsa

Yeah, some other country guy has a song about Tulsa time or whatever but Wayne Hancock is the man so I’m gonna roll with his tune instead.

I dig Tulsa. I’ve been there a handful of times over the years, always for concerts I think. I have quietly wondered about moving there more than once but I don’t figure I’m shoving off to there or anywhere else anytime soon.

Oasis – Columbia

Yeah I’m totally cheating here because the song isn’t really about a place. But, Columbia is a place. It’s a lot of places, in fact – it appears there are 30 Colubmias in the United States. I’m presuming that the ones in South Carolina and Missouri are the most well-known, but I’m not sure.

I do know that Oasis wasn’t talking about either of them in this song. The song is really about nothing, from the sound of it. A story I saw on the Oasis subreddit suggests that this tune was meant to be an instrumental intro song for the band but they chose to add words to it at the last minute. I have no way of sourcing any truth to the claim but it sounds plausible.

Hank III – Trashville

So the grandson of the legendary Hank Williams is obviously talking about Nashville, but he calls it Trashville because it’s funny and also because he was sick of the establishment country music industry. It’d be a recurring theme in his prime during the mid- and late-00’s.

I’ve never been to Nashville, probably a place I oughta visit someday. I guess they have a lot of stuff there.

Dropkick Murphys – I’m Shipping Up To Boston

I don’t really mess with these guys much but it seems like an auto-include song on a list of songs about places. I kinda figured this might be one of the top ones people scream at me for leaving off if I don’t include it. So here you go.

Belinda Carslile – Heaven Is A Place On Earth

I mean, the song literally has “place” in the title. Earth is a place I’m quite familiar with. I’ve been here awhile and reckon I will be a bit longer. I’m not a billionaire and can’t fly my own penis rocket off of this rock so Earth it is.

I’m probably also including it because Belinda was my first crush. This song hit MTV when I was like 10 or something and I was all about her. Sure, her turn in the Go-Go’s was far more relevant to my musical interests but that wasn’t really what my interest in her solo stuff was all about.

As for the Heaven part of it all? I’ll avoid any theological debates and just offer up one last tune that gets to the point.

AC/DC – Highway To Hell

Enough said, I think. I know where my road is paved and where it’s going. And I’ve got one hell of a soundtrack to get me there.

That does it for my first playlist. Let me know what I might have left out – there are literally tons of songs that talk about places. And I guess, to be fair to my buddy in geology class, I’ll throw together something later on about rocks.

Paying The Price – Collecting Records In 2021

One topic I want to cover more aspects of on here is music collecting. Not everyone does it these days but several of us still have collections of various physical formats. I’ve done one post so far on my own collection, as well as this post specifically about my Iron Maiden collection. And there are numerous issues within the realm of collecting that I plan to discuss going forward.

Today I want to get into vinyl collecting specifically and one huge elephant in the room that comes with modern-day record buying. Overall it’s the price of records today that has become an issue of huge concern among collectors. Back ten or so years ago old records were in flea markets for a few bucks apiece, while new records that were coming out could be had for maybe $20.

The music industry flipped on its head a few times in the past decade though, and now we live in a world where new releases push $30 or more and many old records are sought-after relics that command big prices depending on the shape they’re in. Flea market rummaging these days is reserved for the old polka classics that never had much of a market in the first place.

This isn’t a simple examination that ends with “damn, records are expensive.” There are a number of factors that play into the vinyl price inflation and why the market is the way it is today. Of course the prices of everything go up over time. If that was the only issue here I wouldn’t have a topic to write about. I know people love to lament how much cheaper things were way back when, but it’s a baseline business education fact that prices go up every year. This affects manufacturers, distributors and obviously, consumers. There’s nothing else to see here in regards to increasing prices.

What we have is a resurgence in vinyl interest. The record was a dead format, having been killed off in the early ’90’s in favor of the smaller CD. Then the digital revolution came and threatened the very existence of physical collections. I myself was still buying CDs and even a few records into the 2010’s but by and large people kept their music on their phones. This then gave way to streaming, where all you have to do is pay someone $10 a month to listen to more music than most people could ever bother with.

But then the vinyl boom came around and totally turned the physical market on its head. Records had never totally gone away – they were issued in limited pressings for diehard fans and collectors. Some of those 2000’s releases are now small goldmines. I’d love to have a vinyl copy of Neil Young’s 2007 Chrome Dreams II, but the price of admission is at least $100. And in the same year Nine Inch Nails released Year Zero, one of my favorite albums from them. If I want that record? We’re talking $250, at least.

Now both Neil Young and Trent Reznor have been pretty good about doing album reissues. I don’t have the income or desire to have original presses of everything ever released so I’d be more than happy with a new pressing of either album. Reissues do come around for a lot of albums, some that were scare in the first place or perhaps not even done on vinyl, as with much of the 1990’s. It is the saving grace for the middle-class or modest-income music collector.

But even reissues can be tough to come by, much like new releases. I don’t have a huge problem getting what I want but I have learned one valuable lesson – if I know a record is coming out, I better pre-order it and make sure I get a copy. Some new releases might be available at retail price until the pre-order sells out and will be two or three times higher ever after. And while some labels do their best to make sure reissues of even recent material are out there, the record manufacturing sector is in such short supply that lead times on new pressings are months out. It especially hits independent labels hard when the majors are filling orders in every available plant for Record Store Day reissues of the same ten albums.

I will say this about Record Store Day – I think it’s fantastic for the stores. Retail music stores were nearly extinct before this vinyl resurgence. I don’t at all mind seeing lines of people outside shops I frequent, I want these businesses to succeed and more customers is always going to be a good thing.

But RSD has a bad side, too. Multiple, in fact. It clogs up record plants, which again are in very short supply. But it also feeds into the modern market we have going on in music, gaming, shoes and even toilet paper at times – the secondary “flipper” market. In less savory terms, vinyl has fallen prey to the scalpers and price gougers.

The play is this – a record label offers a reissue or new release in limited scope, between 1,000 and 2,500 copies. Flippers buy up as many as possible and immediately post them on eBay and Discogs for insane mark-ups. Regular fans who really wanted the record but had no shot at the one copy in their local store with 35 people ahead of them in line on RSD are left out in the cold. It’s either suck it up and pay the scalpers’ prices or go without.

This issue plays out in consumer goods everywhere today. Scalpers using bots have turned current-gen gaming consoles into a total fiasco. PC stuff like GPUs are unobtainium these days. But it has redefined music collecting and not for the better.

I honestly have not gone to a Record Store Day. I’m not fond of huge lines for small buildings and also I often don’t see anything I absolutely have to have on the release lists. There’s always a record or two I wouldn’t mind having but nothing that gets me out of the house.

I did miss out on one record I would have like to have, though. In 2020 a reissue of Skid Row’s excellent Slave To The Grind was released for RSD in a limited format with bonus tracks, which is a creative way to get the clean and explicit versions of the album on one release. I was very stoked for a chance to get the record, but that chance never came. None of the local shops were able to get a single copy for their RSD allotments and the record instantly sold for $75 or more the day of release. The current price has gone over $100 on Discogs. It’s truly cheaper to get an original 1991 copy on record which was only released in a few countries and is pretty scarce.

I’m not willing to pay that much for the record even though I’d love to have it. It’s something I’ll just have to live without unless a local store gets a copy in someday and I can trade a bit into it. I’m fine with the CD copy of the explicit version I have that cost me $4.

Even without the dark aspect of flippers and scalpers, sticker shock is getting to be a thing with vinyl these days. Prices had moved to a rough average of $30 for a new copy of either a new release or reissue. But now that needle is moving upward. I’ve noticed a fair bit of new releases going for $40 or more. Hell, I paid $60 for the triple-vinyl copy of Iron Maiden’s new album Senjutsu. Yes, it’s Iron Maiden and yes I’m going to pay it, but I sure as hell noticed.

I do think this combination of factors like scalpers, supply shortages and rising prices might lead to the end of this vinyl boom. Let’s be real – this was never going to last forever. Collectibles as a whole are a weird market with unpredictable rises and falls, and in some cases those markets have now been entered into by investors. Just look at the collectible card game market for a prime example of that.

I’m not trying to be doom and gloom here, if I had my way a healthy vinyl market would continue on for the end of time. My town is lucky to have a handful of local stores that offer great selection and a much better shopping experience than ordering crap from Amazon or Discogs. But there are some alarming signs that, when put together, could lead to reduced interest in vinyl and an eventual crash in the market.

First off, labels are having issues getting records pressed. Smaller labels especially face months-long delays in getting their new albums to press. This causes smaller runs of vinyl, which feeds the scalper market by creating scarce supply to feed greater demand. The prices rise, both because of flippers and the natural or otherwise rise in prices.

What does this do? Seriously – Spotify is $10 a month. The other streaming services are roughly the same price. This is what the vast majority of music listeners use anyway so the economy of that is going to sway yet more people to it versus hunting down overpriced vinyl.

And for the diehard physical collector that refuses to give all the way in to streaming? As luck would have it, there is a much cheaper and more convenient format to consume music with. The CD is still around, though it was a battle for life there for awhile. I’ve noticed more collectors and music fans going back to the CD. Hell, any back catalog release is $5 or less these days and CD’s are literally all over the place. It’s a quiet undercurrent of people returning to that format but it’s noticeable and it’s getting a bit louder.

Should more people be turned off by the array of factors leading to higher record prices, I fear the market will suffer as a result. Many of the stores today are small businesses – they can’t survive a huge drop in demand. The vinyl boom needs to continue or at least plateau to something sustainable for them to continue on. If people keep running from the format or limit their purchases to their absolute favorite artists who often sell directly, it could spell trouble for what has been a fantastic renaissance for record stores.

Again, I hope this doomsday scenario doesn’t play out. In this crazy world that changes and mutates more often than most people change their underwear, I’d like to have something last for longer than a few years. I have X amount of life left and I’d like to spend it as a music fan and collector. Hopefully circumstances change a bit and the market can push through the rising prices, supply issues and scalper problems.

In the end, the price of records is an issue that needs to be dressed for the long-term health of the market. I can’t fix flipping nor do I have any practical ideas on how to, even though it’s a much-despised part of the modern process. But it’s not the only issue the vinyl industry faces today.

As a footnote – let’s give credit where credit is truly due to the vinyl resurgence. The independent and underground scenes in every genre kept vinyl going in a time where no one else cared. But it’s that oft-derided subculture from a decade or so ago that truly brought vinyl back. Give a round of applause to your local hipsters for kick-starting the vinyl revolution. I’ll talk more about them (uhhh, them…) another time but I wanted to throw a mention in while I was talking about this.