It’s been a productive past few years for Emma Ruth Rundle. Her 2018 album On Dark Horses captured a lot of attention from many circles and her 2020 collaboration with Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full, offered a work even greater than the sum of its parts.
As the decade shifted and the pandemic hit, Emma shifted gears and promised a sparse, minimal album that veers away from the sonic wars of her recent work. And she has delivered exactly that – this new album features her voice, piano, guitar and little else beyond a guest vocal and cello.
Emma Ruth Rundle – Engine Of Hell
Released November 5, 2021 via Sargent House Records
My Favorite Tracks – The Company, Return, Razor’s Edge
I could waste words on questioning if this stylistic turn is a risk or not, but there’s no need to ponder the question. While Engine Of Hell is a shift it’s certainly not a departure. Emma’s 2016 effort Marked For Death bears some similarities to this new album, with moments that are sparse and harrowing. This album might forego the effects pedals and sonic range but it fits well within the body of work Emma has already created.
This album is apparently a very intense therapy session for Emma, as she has discussed how she is processing traumatic events of her past through these songs. She adds layers to the lyrics so that the bare meaning is concealed. And that’s the point of art, of course – it doesn’t do much for anyone to just grab a guitar and bitch about how things suck. It’s the shaping and twisting of form and the resulting work that gets attention. It’s also what allows the listener to find their own meanings to the songs.
On a record where minimalism is the theme, every word sang and note played becomes important. Emma’s delivery on this record is very deliberate and methodical – each chord strummed or piano key hit seems to be there for a reason. Album opener and lead single Return showcases this deliberate form of arrangement, it seems that every note is there for a purpose. It’s a realm away from finding a decent hook or melody and then shoehorning words that sound nice on top of it.
Engine Of Hell differs from Emma’s past work in that there is no hope or triumph to be found here. The music may be gentle but the subject matter is heavier than death metal. The happy ending is either down the road or not to be found. This album isn’t for the faint of heart.
With any music, and especially a record like this that’s extremely personal yet wrapped in enough layers to keep the true meaning hidden, the listener will find their own meanings and draw their own conclusions. In my own listening, I can say that The Company and Return are the songs that hold the highest order of meaning to me. The rest of the album offers bits and pieces that resonate, but the album as a whole is a very enjoyable listen even without having some personally identifying connection with a lot of it.
Engine Of Hell is not a casual listening experience with a hit single or a feel-good vibe. It is an album to be consumed whole – and one that might consume the listener whole, depending on one’s strength of spirit. It is a beautiful, haunting piece of art from one of the best musical artists in circulation today.
This upcoming week marks a bigger holiday here in the US. It’s Wild Turkey Wednesday, Black Friday and some day inbetween where we eat a lot, idk.
Anyway, I am going to take a small break from posting over this next week. I have a lot of half-finished posts I need to get done and I want to get my content for the rest of the year and into early next year mapped out. I’ll have some extra time off this week so I can get these posts nailed down and I’ll also finally get to setting up YouTube stuff, which is some time-consuming shit.
Enjoy the week, especially Wild Turkey Wednesday, which is the true reason for the season as they say. I can’t think of any good Thanksgiving-related songs so here’s Motorhead.
It’s time to look at a new batch of preview singles. Most of this stuff is releasing next year but a few are still going to hit in 2021. A few will land in a few days and one is already out. It goes to show how much attention I pay to things.
Scorpions – Peacemaker
The Scorpions are almost eternal at this point – these guys refuse to quit. Not only are they still at it but they’ve offered up a very nice lead track from a new album called Rock Believer due early next year. I’m very impressed with how great this song sounds and I’m very happy to have yet more new music from a band I got into before I could reach the kitchen counter.
Exodus – The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)
This is one I overlooked awhile back as the song has been around a few months now. This comes from the band’s newest record Persona Non Grata which hits this Friday. The song is a nice, short thrasher that fits right in with Exodus’ now extensive catalog. The video is really damn violent, like I’m kinda surprised it’s being shown on YouTube. It plays like a CIA field guide in how to, uh, get information. (it is age restricted, apparently)
Jack White – Taking Me Back
This song hit a few weeks ago as part of the campaign to launch whatever the hell the new Call Of Duty game is this time. Now Jack has filmed an official video for the song and it is part of two new albums from him due next spring.
I didn’t get all that into the song when I saw the COD preview but now I’m liking it more. I think maybe this one is a different version, I’m not entirely sure about that. It’ll be interesting to hear what Jack has on offer with two new albums coming out. I haven’t followed his post-White Stripes career too closely but he’s one of the more interesting musicians around today.
Slipknot – The Chapeltown Rag
This song is Slipknot’s first preview of new music from an as-yet unannounced album that will presumably see the light of day in 2022. The song was premiered live at the band’s own Knotfest concert a bit over a week ago.
I am not the biggest Slipknot fan in the world. I never was moved to like their stuff that much, though they’ve had songs I liked over the years. This song is fine but it doesn’t compel me to explore them further or anticipate the new album. They have their place and plenty of people are into them, and all that is fine, but it’s not really my cup of tea. It is frenetic and heavy, not something I’d frown upon. But honestly not my cup of tea.
Oasis – Wonderwall Live At Knebworth
Ok so I’m totally cheating here. Obviously Wonderwall isn’t new and Oasis sure as hell isn’t recording new music. This is from the official live release of the historic Knebworth concerts from 1996, which hits record store shelves and streaming platforms this Friday. I like Oasis, in case you haven’t noticed. Here’s just one example from the other day.
As for the Knebworth performances – absolutely the height of their fame, historically important, but also not their best. All of their tracks are on coke here, probably just like the band. Everything from these shows was done at a frentic pace, which I think belies the importance of their more significant work. I do hope they go back and catch Earl’s Court and Maine Road as future official live releases, as those better capture the band when they were firing on all cylinders. But hey, nothing to bitch about with the historic Knebworth gigs being available.
Brand Of Sacrifice – Lifeblood
I’ll be upfront – I know nothing about Brand Of Sacrifice. They are a newer band in the deathcore realm, that is totally all I know.
But if you notice from the video title, this has a bit something different about it – much like Carlos Santana featured the talents of one Rob Thomas in 1999 for the hit smash “Smooth,” Brand Of Sacrifice also brings a guest vocalist in for a turn on their song. Instead of Rob Thomas, BoS thought to ask someone else to guest on their reworked track – new Lorna Shore vocalist Will Ramos, who has made waves this year as the dying Dark Souls boss in To The Hellfire.
Here is the original version of the song, released at the beginning of this fun year. It is a wonderfully serviceable deathcore song, but there is no denying the extra atmosphere added by having Will Ramos drop vocals on your shit.
I have already stated how I feel about Will Ramos and Lorna Shore. I’ll certainly be paying attention to Brand Of Sacrifice going forward – this “symphonic blackened deathcore” movement is gaining steam fast.
Korn – Start The Healing
Here’s one from a band with a long lineage that I’m not particularly into. I went over them a bit when I started this blog, here’s that info drop.
But, I’m not totally against Korn. I might have gotten into their little brother/bastard cousin a bit more, but I can respect what Korn brought to the mid-90’s scene. I don’t keep up with them though so there’s a lot of lost time and music between then and now. This song is from a new album Requiem, which hits early February 2022.
This song is fine. It doesn’t move me to pre-order the album but I’m not mad that I listened to it. At this point in my life, where I’m fighting being middle-aged, I can appreciate that Korn is still going.
Emma Ruth Rundle – The Company
I am totally cheating here because this isn’t an upcoming album. Emma released her new album Engine Of Hell last week on the 5th. I’m kind of not cheating though, because she just released this self-directed video the other day, so it’s like a new release of a new release. It’s also worth note that I might be a bit into her past work…
Not to give away what’s going to be my pick for an album of the week in the extremely near future or anything, but this is in the early running for my favorite song off the stunning new album.
I’ll save the very specific talk about this song and the rest of the album for later, because I’m going to bring it up twice in the next month.
But this song hits home like few others. I’ll never claim to know what she’s talking about, but I know how and where exactly this hits me. And I’ll say this – it isn’t some foregone memory. This song hits right here and now. I don’t really know what else to say, other than all hail the new queen, king and god of music.
That’s all I have for this installment. I’m going to forego this feature next month because acts don’t usually announce shit in the holiday month. If they do I’ll catch up to it next month. Let me know anything I might have missed in the comments below.
This coming Friday the 19th marks the long-awaited official release of the landmark Oasis concert at Knebworth 1996. I will be waiting a moment for my package with everything to arrive from Europe so to bide my time I’ll talk about the band’s landmark second album.
Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?
Released October 2, 1995 via Creation Records
My Favorite Tracks – Champagne Supernova, Don’t Look Back In Anger, Morning Glory
Oasis entered the release cycle for What’s The Story … in a singles chart battle with Britrock rivals Blur. The end result would see Oasis become one of the biggest bands on the planet, with over 20 million copies of the album sold and one of music’s most recognized songs living on for decades after its release. The album was the UK’s best selling of the 1990’s and it marked the pinnacle of the Britrock movement.
This is my favorite Oasis record and, like so many others, my jumping-on point for the band. It was a changing time in music as well as my life – I had just graduated high school a few months before its release and would be on the other side of the world a few months after it. These songs would be with me as I entered a new phase of my life and left childhood behind. And music in the late 90’s would not be what it was in the early 90’s, that much is for sure.
It’s only fitting to tackle this record track-by-track, there’s a lot to talk about here.
The album opens with a nice, steady rocker that’s bright but also gets a bit in your face. The song serves its titled purpose well – it’s a nice introduction to the album about to unfold. Some nice, washed out guitars compliment the album’s compressed mix (apparently compressed because no one besides Noel Gallagher could play their instruments…) The song doesn’t do much besides say “hello,” and it does that just fine.
Roll With It
The album’s lead single was the focus of a chart battle with countrymen Blur in 1995. Blur’s Country House would edge out this song as the winner of the week’s battle, but What’s The Story… would obliterate The Great Escape in album sales. The chart battle was a media invention that pitted the British everyman that Oasis represented versus a more upper class, artsy vibe offered by Blur. Honestly the whole thing was kind of a lame, media-contrived mess and I don’t put much stock in the war between the bands other than noting its historical significance.
Roll With It is a perfectly fine song but an odd choice for a lead single given what else lies on this record. This song doesn’t punch as high or hard as others but that doesn’t make it a bad song. It’s still a nice tune and fits the vibe of the record well.
Here we are – the immortal, titanic song from this record, from Oasis and from Britrock as a whole. This song took over airwaves of all forms and lives on today as one of the 90’s most recognizable hits. Wonderwall was the second song recorded before 2000 to hit over a billion streams on Spotify, trailing only Queen’s epic Bohemian Rhapsody. It is often found on polls of “Best Britrock Songs Ever” behind maybe only Live Forever or Pulp’s smash hit Common People.
Wonderwall is a mainstream sensation, even to this day it’s near impossible to escape hearing it. But it’s also a huge point of debate amongst Oasis diehards – is the song worth the attention it gets or is it possibly the worst song on the record? I’ve ran into this argument on many occasions and especially in the past few years as Oasis nostalgia has a lot of people revisiting their work.
The truth is that no, it’s not the worst song on the record. It is an expertly-crafted song and most likely deserves the fanfare it gets. I wouldn’t say it’s the best song on the record but I won’t throw Wonderwall under a bus just because it took on a life of its own, even if I feel the next track is the one that should have seen the supernova of attention.
This tune is often cited as a love song but there is confusion as to its real meaning, a discussion taken up on the song’s Wikipedia page. That confusion is owing to the song’s creator, Noel Gallagher. Noel did state that it was a song dedicated to his then-wife, but after divorcing that wife he said the song was about “an imaginary friend who’s gonna save you from yourself.” Of course we probably won’t know the truth of the matter as Gallaghers and historical facts tend to not get on together at times, but I do like the alternate meaning of the song he proposed later.
Whatever the case, Wonderwall lives on in the hearts and ears of both willing listeners and people sick to death of it. It is the defining moment of this album and the Oasis legacy.
Don’t Look Back In Anger
I could write another essay about this song. Thankfully, I already have. Don’t Look Back In Anger was my third selection to my list of S-Tier Songs, those being what I consider the greatest of the great songs. That post covers the major points I’d want to address.
There is the question of this song’s place in history – is this the true crown jewel of the record? Did Wonderwall steal the thunder from this tune, which has become entwined with British culture? Was Noel’s decision to handle vocals on it instead of Liam what held this song back?
There’s an argument to be made that DLBIA was a bit held back, but there is no stopping popular culture. Wonderwall became the sensation and this song rode in the backseat. But in the years since it has quietly taken the driver’s seat as the album’s premier song. Its message is universally resonant and it has been a part of triumphant and tragic moments in culture over the decades since its release.
And yes, while objectivity is rather impossible when looking at music, I would say that in an objective sense this is the best song on the album. It isn’t my favorite, we’ll get to that in a bit. But there’s no denying how powerful and impactful DLBIA is.
The album’s fifth cut is the one that many feel drags down the record. Many evaluators put the band’s debut Definitely Maybe ahead of What’s The Story… and Hey Now! Is exhibit A in the arguments. This tune is certainly meandering and ponderous and probably isn’t going to win many “best of the bunch” awards from anyone but the most contrarian of listeners.
I don’t look at the song as harshly as others but I do get the arguments. I don’t mind hearing it and I can play the album as a whole just fine without needing to skip this. There is no danger of this song appearing in a future S-Tier Song post, but that’s fine.
Some Might Say
The album’s mid section picks back up after a brief interlude with another of the album’s singles. Some Might Say might sit a bit under the radar in the wake of Wonderwall, DLBIA and Champagne Supernova, but the song brings its own weight to the table.
The song moves through some silly but great lyrical observations along with simple yet well-placed guitar work and the sum becomes greater than the parts. Liam drawls through the verses before belting out a powerful chorus full of some very interesting word choices. It’s one of several Oasis songs that is total nonsense yet still totally brilliant.
Cast No Shadow
This haunting, melancholy song was written by Noel to his friend, Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft. This interview with Noel spells out more of the background behind the song and Noel and Richard’s relationship.
The song is absolutely gorgeous and also depressing. I definitely feel the vibe coming from it, the desperation of trudging through life and just being plowed over by everyone and everything around you. It is a shitty thing to identify with but it’s there, no getting around it.
Cast No Shadow is a quiet favorite of many fans as well as the band, Liam has said it’s one of his favorites and he often includes it in his present-day solo sets. It’s just yet another example of how amazing Noel was at songwriting in this time.
The band is back with another fun, silly tune about a girl and a crazy relationship, or lack thereof with the protagonist. There’s a nice mix of the usual lyrical nonsense often found in Oasis songs and a very interesting narrative of a guy and girl who are or aren’t about one another, kind of hard to say.
The song is really nice and I enjoy it when it comes on. It won’t ever be accused of being the best on the record but it certainly still has a place here.
The album’s quasi-title track is an absolute banger. It comes in loud and runs red hot. Oasis only really “rocked out” a few times on their debut and this marks the only example of it here. While I clearly don’t find much fault with the band’s music, I do wish they had done a bit more of these headbangers.
The song is obviously about the band’s favorite party favor – cocaine. The white line is ubiquitous with rock n roll and Oasis did not shy away from their consumption of it in the 1990’s. It would lead to numerous issues for the band through their height of popularity and would mark their coming descent from the top of the mountain just around the bend in 1997, but it also gave us this magnificent tune.
The album’s closing track and fifth single takes a different turn, bringing a trippy and atmospheric vibe to close out the record. The song did extremely well worldwide and is often the second most-recognized track behind the gargantuan Wonderwall.
The song is, like many other Oasis tunes, total lyrical nonsense. It is perhaps the most famous example of words simply meaning whatever the listener wishes them to mean. Noel has made no effort to shine greater meaning to the words, only indicating that it means what the fans who sing every word back to him want it to mean.
This song is also my favorite Oasis track. It is simply splendid and it flows with just killer vibes that can’t be faked or conjured out of thin air. The song always takes me back to the mid 1990’s when I was in continental Europe as part of the US Navy. It was that perfect time between adolescence and adulthood where it seemed like the world was in my hands. It was all too brief of course, those moments are just that – moments. But it was a moment I’ll take with me as I drift into middle age.
Outside of my own personal connection, the song resonated with multiple generations of Oasis fans. It was one of the band’s most-played songs live and is often found in the solo sets of both Gallagher brothers. People far and wide still wonder just what the hell a Champagne Supernova is.
(What’s The Story) Morning Glory saw Oasis truly conquer the music world in the mid 90’s. It is today the fifth-best selling album in the UK and only Adele has topped its sales numbers with an album since. Oasis would ride the wave as conquering heroes into a series of landmark festival shows in 1996, with two epic concerts at Knebworth being the exclamation point on their career and the Britrock movement as a whole. The band would live on until their 2009 implosion, but were unable to attain the same stratospheric heights reached with this album.
Many words have been said about Oasis and the Gallagher brothers, some reverent and some reviled. But there is no question that for a time in 1995, they changed the shape and face of music. They lost a chart battle to Blur in the beginning of the album’s release cycle, but in the end they conquered everything.
A few weeks ago I offered up my first playlist. I chose the theme of geography because I’ve got a friend in classes right now and I thought that’s what he was taking. As it turns out he is taking geology. So I guess I’ll take a shot at making a geology-themed playlist.
I myself took geology just a year ago in the fall of 2020. It was honestly one of the most boring classes I ever took. It sounds interesting on the surface – rocks, tectonic plates, volcanoes and stuff. But nah, I was burned out on school and more as it was and I just did not connect with the subject.
But geology offers up an easy way to make a playlist. At its core, geology is about rocks. So, let’s rock.
Usually when I do these I won’t talk about every song on the playlist. But since this list is simple and, let’s face it, pretty dumb, I can go ahead and rip out a line or two about each one.
Kiss – Rock N Roll All Nite
Pretty easy choice for the opener here. It’s Kiss, it’s their signature song, it’s automatic.
I won’t say it’s my favorite Kiss tune – the heavier tunes like War Machine, God Of Thunder and Unholy really get me going. But it’s an all-time classic for a reason, no denying that.
Sammy Hagar – There’s Only One Way To Rock
Sammy posits that there is only one way to rock. Far be it from me to argue with one of rock’s most successful artists, but I’m not sure about that Sammy. I think there might be a few ways to rock.
Twisted Sister – I Wanna Rock
I’m going with the live extended jam of this signature tune from Twisted Sister. They were a band known for their live prowess and the live version of this song is a lot of fun.
Joe Walsh – Rocky Mountain Way
Yeah, this song was on the last playlist and now it’s on this one. I doubt it makes the cut next time but maybe I can shoehorn it in somehow, I don’t know.
Spinal Tap – Rock N Roll Creation
It’s a bit amazing how many kick ass songs a “fake” band put out. This one is certainly about rock, or rocks. I’m sure it’ll help someone pass a geology class.
Motorhead – Doctor Rock
I’ve been at this blog for a bit now and I haven’t had a chance to even mention Motorhead yet. No time like the present. I also need to get to some writing about them, just a massive band.
Night Ranger – (You Can Still) Rock In America
As far as I know, you can, in fact, still rock in America. One of Night Ranger’s signature anthems stands the test of time here. Now, you might want to check your local laws before you do go on still rocking, but if you get busted you should tell the cops that Night Ranger said it was ok.
John Mellencamp – R.O.C.K. In the U.S.A.
Now we have a dilemma on our hands. We have confirmed you can still Rock in America, and now we have updated guidance that you may also R.O.C.K. In the U.S.A. But, can you R.O.C.K. In America, or perhaps Rock in the U.S.A.? This is the kind of stuff that keeps me and geology teachers up at night.
Neil Young – Rockin’ In The Free World
If you’ve still got a list of your freedoms out, here’s another to add to your list. And this isn’t just for America – it’s for the whole free world. Wherever that is…
AC/DC – Rock N Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution
Let’s scale down from country-wide freedoms to municipal ordinances for a moment. Let the masters of rock have their say here. The next time you get upset because your neighbor in the suburb or the trailer park is jamming out, you should cut them some slack. Crack open a cold Busch Light and rock out with them. That’s what it’s all about.
Dio – We Rock
Perhaps the most important lesson in geology is this – we do, in fact, rock. It’s confirmed by the master of rock and tectonics himself, our lord Ronnie James Dio.
Boston – Rock N Roll Band
What a debut record, one of the best ever done as far as my memory serves. And of course, Boston are indeed a rock and roll band. Just perfect for this dumb little exercise here.
Van Halen – And The Cradle Will Rock
We can’t talk about rock without bringing up one of the most important bands to the genre, even if David Crosby disagrees. And this is one of their sneakier good songs, sometimes left out of the overall conversation.
Corrosion Of Conformity – Stonebreaker
So stones and rocks maybe aren’t the same thing but I don’t know because I didn’t pay attention in geology class so here we are. COC are a great band.
Oasis – Rock N Roll Star
I gotta shoehorn an Oasis song onto as many playlists as possible. Easy pick here. This is one I like to play for people who say they don’t like Oasis. They still don’t after I play it but hey, I got to jam out for a bit.
Montrose – Rock Candy
I don’t guess candy is very geologically themed but there is no discussion of rock music without including this Montrose classic. Also I’ll keep cramming Sammy Hagar stuff on here as much as I can. Van Hagar didn’t have a rock-titled song, but Sammy solo had more than one.
Sammy Hagar – Rock Is In My Blood
In the “I’m too lazy to sequence this dumb playlist with any thought to listening quality” department, I’ll just cram the other Hagar song here. It’s two-for-Tuesday with one of rock’s most enduring artists, and a Hagar hat trick.
Huey Lewis And The News – The Heart Of Rock N Roll
I almost didn’t put this on here but I always liked Huey’s stuff so here we go. The song is fine, maybe not his best, but Huey is a cool dude so I’ll jam out for a bit.
Scorpions – Rock You Like A Hurricane
There is no discussion of rock music without Germany’s greatest export. Hell, if you’re taking a geology class and they don’t talk about the Scorpions, you should ask for a refund. I didn’t get through my own geology class without a healthy dose of Love At First Sting.
Ok, so our favorite Teutonic rockers are probably more owing to biology than geology. But if you’re gifted enough in the physical arts, maybe they’ll do your geology homework for you. I don’t know.
Great White – Rock Me
An absolutely fantastic track from a band that maybe doesn’t get their due. They had an awful tragedy and later some lineup drama but they still put out some bona fide classics. I need to get around to picking up their stuff on wax. And we all need to get around to rocking out to this classic cut.
The Rolling Stones – It’s Only Rock N Roll (But I Like It)
I figured I’d let the Stones bring this playlist home. I’m not like a super massive fan of theirs but I do very much like and respect their place in rock and their body of work. This is a really cool song and a nice way to wind things down before we go take our geology finals. Or crack open another cold one and rock out.
Here’s the list. I’ll try to do something with a grain of thought to it next time but hey, this was fun.
Today I wanted to chill out for a bit and have a look back at a handful of cool music videos. The music video used to define the landscape, MTV was as important in getting people to buy records as radio was. Nowadays more acts than ever can make really good videos, but it takes a lot to get eyeballs on them. They aren’t the way to reel in listeners like they were in the past.
There is no connecting theme here or anything – I’m just pulling up a few videos I remember from way back, or whenever on the timeline they fall.
Dire Straits – Money For Nothing
This video made use of early computer animation in an unlikely and groundbreaking way to put forth a video that took on a life of its own and stood out even beyond Dire Straits’ massively successful Brothers In Arms album. It was the talk of everywhere when it hit.
What’s funny is that I don’t think I’ve seen this video in full since it originally aired on MTV. I never have looked it up on YouTube, until now. The video might seem dated by today’s standards, sure, but I still remember how unreal it was at the time. It probably won’t land with younger audiences much, though I see some love for it in the video’s comment section.
Tool – Prison Sex
This was crazy stuff in the early ’90’s – another kind of animation technique not widely used at the time and in part put together by Tool’s guitarist Adam Jones. The video itself got played fairly regularly on MTV for a bit – until people found it too uncomfortable and yanked it from the airwaves. It got a second life on Beavis and Butthead a bit on down the road.
I’m not entirely sure what the song is about, though plenty of other Tool fans will be happy to slug it out in arguments over the meaning. It’s certainly not a pleasant topic, some form of abuse. The video disturbingly yet also amazingly portrays that theme in its animation.
Journey – Separate Ways
If you would have told me decades ago that I would unironically consider a video of Journey playing air instruments in front a pier-side warehouse one of the best videos of all time, I would have looked at you really funny. Yet here we are and I am offering just that opinion – this video is fantastic.
This is just so unreal and so 1980’s. Journey crafts a wonderful pop rock song and gets zero budget for their video apparently, so this is what we get. And after I reached adulthood and looked back on the video I couldn’t help but smile fondly. It is as goofy as it gets, but damn if it isn’t awesome.
The song is an absolute masterpiece and the video matches the music blow-for-blow. Video-wise it’s the end of a trilogy that also includes Don’t Cry and November Rain, though I don’t know if the songs themselves play into that (they kinda seem like they do, at least loosely).
The video was clearly big-budget, I would assume more money went into it than many theatrical release movies of the time. It does spell the end of Guns N Roses’ time in the sun, as the band would splinter apart in a few years after this final single from their double album was released.
The video showcases Axl’s eccentricy and self-centerness, sure, but it’s still an honest take of the band at the time and probably goes a long way to painting the picture of this song. The way the song goes into its final movement, one of the most powerful in music, right when Axl jumps off the ship around the 7 minute mark is just perfect timing.
Kiss – Lick It Up
Kiss missed out on the music video format with a lot of their early material. It’s a shame that such a visual, theatrical band didn’t get to shoot music videos for their top-flight 70’s output. Just imagine what we could have gotten out of that.
Instead, we get ’80’s no-makeup Kiss wandering a post-apocalyptic wasteland but with hot women who want to party. It’s like Mad Maxine Beyond Thunderdome, I don’t know. I do know that I really like this video, even if it is honestly kinda cringe.
The song is one of Kiss’ stronger ones from their ’80’s catalog and this video is – well, certainly a video. I can’t help but like it though, this is what I grew up on. It does appear that ¾ of the band is all about the video, while Gene Simmons might have benefited from keeping his demon makeup on.
Muse – Knights Of Cydonia
Let’s wind up with something from this side of the millennium line. This goofy western/sci-fi/kung fu mash up to a sillier than shit song about who knows what somehow winds up being one of the best music videos ever committed to film.
The video is just splendid. It’s a mini feature film, replete with plot and characters. The band only appears as brief hologram projections, I guess that’s fine since they looked like the Gallagher brothers playing alongside James Hetfield anyway. The good kung fu cowboy guy and the girl ride off into the sunset after bad cowboy kung fu guy is digitally vaporized, so I guess everyone goes home happy in the end.
There isn’t a lot more for me to say about it. The video is widely celebrated as one of the best music videos ever made and the song is towards the top of any list of Muse tracks. A pretty good marriage of song and film here.
This week’s AOTW pick is a classic from 2004 that saw one of metal’s rising stars reach new heights and start to secure their place as the genre’s premier act. The album is largely based thematically on the second U.S.-Iraq War and features one of the best 3-song (if not 5-song) opening album sequences ever put to record. The new gods of groove metal arrived in 2004 to headbang through the new millennium.
Lamb Of God – Ashes Of The Wake
Released August 31, 2004 via Epic Records
My Favorite Tracks – Laid To Rest, Hourglass, Now You’ve Got Something To Die For
The album leads off with Laid To Rest – a track that is one of LoG’s most popular songs to this day. The song is one of a few that doesn’t betray its meaning right away – it could be about a victim haunting their killer, as is often surmised. That same concept could play out with the album’s overall theme of looking at the U.S. Wars in the Middle East. Perhaps a “collateral damage” victim is looking for their killers.
Or, the song could simply be a damn break-up tune. That’s what it sounds like to me. There’s definitely something under there to pull that conclusion out, even if the result is quite screwed up. I don’t necessarily recommend screaming “Destroy yourself – see who gives a fuck” over and over again if you’re trying to get over somebody, but hey, it’s there if you need it.
The next few songs jump more overtly into the issue of the wars in the Middle East. Hourglass is a sharp warning of the dangers of nation-building, warnings that have largely come to pass. Now You’ve Got Something To Die For gets into the true cost of war, that being the piles of bodies wrapped in flags and dollars.
The Faded Line continues the harrowing exploration of the cost of war, this time looking at the loss of faith and connection to one’s country, vision and values. It’s a definite standout and one I can truly connect with, it’s kind of shit living in a place where I can’t connect with the ideals that so many among me are rabidly shouting in defense of.
Ashes Of The Wake goes on to explore a handful of other themes. Omerta is a clear visitation of the Mafia’s “code of silence” and the brutal consequences of violating it. There’s more political musing on One Gun, and Break You is about some specifically unidentified heavy stuff.
The album’s title track takes a different approach to outlining the horrors of war. An interview with a Marine who saw combat in Iraq presents the harsh realities of the orders the combatants were given. The song offers a handful of guitar solos, including guest shots from Testament’s Alex Skolnick and Chris Poland, formerly of Megadeth.
Lamb Of God were one of the many bands lumped into the “New Wave Of American Heavy Metal” tag in the early 00’s. That tag got a bit confusing over time and grouped many dissimilar acts together. Either way, Lamb Of God separated themselves from the pack with Ashes Of The Wake. The road ahead would see even more success and exposure for the group through the rest of the 00’s.
In 1987 rock was king and it had hair. Everyone was on board the hair train – every new band, no matter their actual sound, made sure their luscious locks were on prominent display in press photos and videos. Many old guard rockers, such as Heart, joined in on the hair party. Rock some tunes, get some huge hair, and cash the royalty checks.
And in 1987, the four people most chiefly responsible for starting the whole hair mess arrived with a new album. Motley Crue returned with Girls, Girls, Girls as a way to reclaim a bit of glory after their prior effort Theatre Of Pain was commercially successful yet critically panned. The album was a success and the band continued their hot streak through the end of the decade they helped define.
For everything on that record, one song stands out as among the very best tunes Crue recorded. The album’s opener Wild Side did not see an official release as a single, but a crazy MTV video put the song in the spotlight and the song became a sensation.
It is Wild Side that I’ve chosen as the next entry to my list of S-Tier Songs. For an explanation of what S-Tier songs are and the list as it stands today, head here.
Motley Crue – Wild Side
In the late 80’s where the formula for success was hard rockers about sex and ballads about sex, Motley Crue showed back up to add a grittier edge to the sound of their own doing. The band started heavier and nastier than the scene they helped forge, and on Wild Side they returned to explore the sleazier side of life.
The song is a hard hitter, going straight for the throat with a great riff and some pounding drums. Motley Crue were never technical masters of their instruments but when they wrote a great song it was unmistakable. Wild Side is signature Crue and it stands with the other staples of their set, and towards the top of it.
The song lyrically explores the seedier side of life. It’s something often left out of the polish and shine of 80’s rock – everyone was so busy glizting up the Sunset Strip that people forgot how screwed up Los Angeles really was. But this band, one who was billed as the most dangerous in the world, reminded everyone what life on the streets could really be like.
And yeah, they really were dangerous – sadly they were a danger to themselves and others.
The heralded video showcased a live performance replete with Tommy Lee going upside-down on a crazy drum rig. The stunt was a huge talking point that helped spread word about the song and also cemented the band’s reputation as over the top and crazy.
Why is this an S-Tier song?
Wild Side is a kick ass banger that is widely considered one of the band’s best songs. It stood apart from the muddled rock scene of the later 1980’s and re-established some of the grittier edge to Motley Crue. It might not be hard to stand out from the hair rock pack when you drew the blueprints for it, but the band’s return to a harder sound was timely as the Sunset Strip was about to give birth to a dangerous new band who would directly challenge the Crue for the top spot as the king of the rock hill.
I’m not at a point yet where I would take the time to rank individual Motley Crue songs but Wild Side is an easy top 3 for me. It’s one of the real gems in their catalog and it stood out from the crowd as 80’s hair metal excess began to swamp the scene.
It’s fair to say that COVID has totally wreaked havoc on the music industry. Tours were canceled in 2020 and have been faltering to get off the ground again this year. Acts were left at home for a year with nothing to do but record albums that they can’t promote on the road, the only place to truly get an audience if you’re trying to make a living as a musician.
For us fans it’s been equally tough not participating in the ultimate form of the musical experience – seeing live music. No shows, then limited capacity events, and now in some places full on attendance while others still have restrictions due to the pandemic. For fans who find shows to go to sometimes just to have something to do, the removal of live music left a void that can’t be filled with anything else.
I have spun down how many gigs I attend, even before the pandemic made that a necessity. It’s a pain to put a bunch of money together and travel somewhere, which is necessary when the town you live in doesn’t book a lot of what you listen to. I used to be a fixture at local shows but the scene has moved on and also I’m old and don’t feel like it nearly as much.
But coming out of the pandemic (or I guess just still going through it) I did wonder what my first show back would be. It would need to be something noteworthy, either a familiar to me act or someone new that captured my attention. I missed a handful of local shows due to ever-shifting work schedules or conflicts with other events.
On Wednesday, October 20, I finally took in my first gig of the post-2020 era. While metal isn’t booked in spades where I live, country is. And my first show back was one of country’s emerging stars with a reputation for delivering the goods on stage – Charley Crockett.
Crockett has come up through country’s independent scene, releasing 10 albums in 6 years (!) and building a reputation as a road warrior through relentless touring across the country. He offers his brand of “gulf and western” sound that criss-cross country, blues, R&B and other genres.
I was very happy that he was coming to where I live – not a lot comes around here that I’m into and I had been considering traveling a fair distance to see him later in the year. But if someone wants to play like 2 miles from my house then I’m all about it.
The venue is a very nice theater downtown that holds a fair crowd and has a lot of history behind it. I’ve been to a few shows there and have always enjoyed the experience. One thing I will say – if your venue is hosting a country show, you better be ready to sell some beer. They had to open a second bar to sate the demand for alcohol. No harm, no foul in the end but that was some pretty funny stuff watching several hundred people try to buy beer in one line at one small bar.
The concert opened with Brennen Leigh, an artist I was totally unfamiliar with until the show. She has an extensive history in the business and quite an impressive catalog of tunes. It’s always cool to see an opener worth the price of admission themselves and Brennen was certainly that. I was told that I missed her best song while I was in the comically long beer line, but everything that I heard was pretty great and I’ll be exploring more of her music.
After a brief set change, Charley Crockett took the stage. The crowd in this theater piled up front to witness the action. Charley ran through a number of noteworthy songs from his already-extensive catalog. It was a rapid fire approach, with Charley and his band simply storming out one song after another. One of the advantages of country music is a generally shorter song length and a lot of Charley’s tunes run the 3 minute mark, so it’s easy to fill a set with a lot of variety.
Some highlights included The Valley, the title track from the album that really saw people far and wide begin to take interest in Charley’s work. A few cuts from his newest album Music City USA, including the title track and lead single I Need Your Love were aired out. And early on the band threw out Welcome To Hard Times, the 2020 single from the album of the same name that marks where I came across Charley and a landmark song in his catalog.
Charley also took time to pay tribute to a friend and influence of his, Texas country artist James Hand. Hand passed away in 2020 just as Charley was entering new heights with the release of Welcome To Hard Times. Ever quick to the recording studio, Charley cut an album of covers in honor of Hand, and several of those songs were given the live treatment.
Charley finished up with a few solo acoustic cuts, which I guess are songs he just keeps up his sleeve. He even changed his mind on one, I guess it’s hard to decide what to play when you’ve been recording for 6 years but are about to already catch Iron Maiden in terms of number of studio album releases. The band and opener Brennen Leigh came back out to join Charley and close the show.
Although gigs have been going in my state since back early this year, I’m glad I waited until this one for my return to concert going. Charley Crockett put on a spectacular show and Brennen Leigh was a fantastic discovery. I know the future of touring has been questioned with the pandemic, but at least for country music’s newest-minted star, the future looks bright indeed.
This week I’m grabbing one of my favorite albums from recent memory. It’s now 4 years old and it’s a record that shifted the band’s profile and also highlighted significant political issues within modern America. One song in particular from this album would get re-released as a single after massive racial tensions engulfed the country in 2020.
And yes, this post will discuss politics. It’s not always my bag and not where I want to go with my blog but it’s unavoidable when discussing this album. Deal with it, I guess.
Body Count – Bloodlust
Released March 31, 2017 via Century Media Records
My Favorite Tracks – No Lives Matter, Civil War, Here I Go Again
Body Count arrived on the scene in the early ’90’s in mega controversial fashion, as Ice T’s metal band found themselves with a banned song in the form of Cop Killer. The band would go on for years to earn a legit reputation for banging music and consistent gigging. The group went on a long hiatus before returning in the mid 2010’s with a refined focus on Manslaughter.
Bloodlust arrived in early 2017, just after a bitter political battle in 2016’s U.S. Presidential elections. Tensions were at an all-time high after the most vile and cancerous arguments presented in public forums I’ve ever seen, and this Body Count record would explore many of the issues in a manner fitting of the savage climate of the time.
I’m going track-by-track this week, as this record deserves the specific attention.
The album begins with a mock emergency announcement, one real-sounding enough to scare people who might be within earshot. (It’s happened to me more than once). Dave Mustaine narrates an official government announcement of martial law before the song starts.
Civil War is just like it sounds – a brutal exploration of things breaking bad in America. When this album came out things were looking pretty grim here. It might seem calmer in 2021 than then but there’s still a lot of contempt and resentment for any different perspective today, so I don’t know if the threat has really dissipated.
Mustaine lends an excellent guitar solo to the track and the band slams through dystopian violence gone horribly wrong. It’s a great song but also extra unsettling due to the very real possibility that something could kick off.
The Ski Mask Way
This song sees Ice T and company explore the topic of high-profile robbery. Today’s influencer culture has people flashing their goods more than ever before and this leads to a dark subculture of those people being targeted by thieves. These aren’t the two-bit thieves who make off with your rusted Huffy bicycle at 2:00 AM, these are the pros who will do anything to get what they want.
This Is Why We Ride
One of Bloodlust‘s feature tracks discusses the real issues behind ghetto violence in America. People might complain that Ice T is rich and doesn’t have a voice in the matter, but I’d wager he knows more about the issue than some white guy filming a YouTube video in the huge truck he’s balls deep in debt on.
The song is excellent, a real standout on the record. It pairs a great guitar hook with an actual depiction of the issues truly behind street violence, stuff far deeper than most average people would ever care to explore or discuss. It’s essential listening on a record packed with great tracks and on a topic lighting fires across the country.
All Love Is Lost
This dark, heavy song of betrayal and mistrust features legendary Sepultura and Soulfly mainman Max Cavalera. Max screams along in his distinct growl to a brutal, militant pummeling as Ice T laments the loss of bonds between someone once trusted.
The accompanying music video stands out for this song. Ice T’s Law And Order SVU co-star Kelli Giddish has a go at revenge against her philandering husband. In Body Count world, revenge has an ugly finish.
A pair of covers come next. Ice T gives a brief spoken intro where he discusses the reasons for forming Body Count and the main influences behind the music. One of those is obviously Slayer, and Body Count covers two songs from the seminal Reign In Blood. It’s an interesting take on the songs, fits the record well, and also goes to showcase Slayer’s influence on the rest of the album.
God, Please Believe Me
A brief interlude offers a lament/prayer. It’s a fitting piece that helps pause the action a bit.
Walk With Me
This song kicks straight in with guest vocals from Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe. There always seems to be a lot of walking involved with Lamb Of God, I guess this is a muthafuckin’ invitation to hike. I don’t know.
Anyway this is another nice cut. Randy and Ice T collaborate well to another savage metal offering. This is another exploration of murder and psychosis, something Ice T has done quite a bit over the years.
Here I Go Again
This track continues the murder “ballad” exploration. This song was apparently a leftover track from Ice T’s 1996 solo album Return Of The Real. I don’t have an official citation for that but it sounds nice so let’s roll with it.
This is one sick, twisted tale of a killer on the prowl. It’s a fantastic cut and builds to a great climax where the killer attacks himself without realizing it. It’s not just a hollow, gory tale – this is some excellent storytelling set to a nice, groovy pace. It’s easily one of my favorites from the record.
No Lives Matter
The Black Lives Matter movement entered discourse in the latter part of the last decade. It started an extremely heated and divisive argument with counter-protest shouts of All Lives Matter. And on the edges, disaffected and nihilistic edgelords made memes proclaiming the inevitable No Lives Matter. Won’t lie, I shared a few of those myself.
Body Count takes the “No Lives Matter” phrase and re-purposes it for real discussion of the issues. After a spoken intro shredding apart the “All Lives Matter” response, Body Count delivers one of the most important and light-of-truth shining songs in recent memory.
No Lives Matter breaks the issues down to what it really is – divisions and hatred that distract from the true center of power and control, and the actual bottom line of it all – money. People look around and look down to find targets for their rage instead of looking up at the true source of society’s misery.
This song would find renewed prominence in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd sparked a renewed wave of protests in the midst of the pandemic and a bitter presidential election. The truth is the truth, and sadly it will probably rear its ugly head again.
The album’s title track is pretty simply stated – humans like to kill. It’s a vicious, hellbent track that pounds home the twisted desire to maim and slaughter. It’s kind of hard to tell how much of it is Ice T’s fantasy musings about murder and how much is a very real examination of the ills of humankind.
The album’s closer goes again into the issues of race in America, this time shining light on police killings of black people. As Ice T says in the intro – he’s been talking about this shit for over 20 years. It isn’t a new issue, but in today’s information-saturated climate, it’s an issue that gets a lot more play than it did way back when.
Honestly, I’ll just let the song speak for itself. The issues discussed are so raw and so viciously debated that I really can’t add much to it. All I’ll say is that it feels like I live in a sick, brutal society that places no real value on human life.
Clearly Bloodlust is loaded with red hot social/political discourse and also its namesake bloodlust. The two tend to go hand-in-hand, after all. The record struck a nerve with me right away, elevating Body Count from “curiosity side project” status to one of metal’s most interesting and hard-hitting bands. I would go so far as to call Bloodlust my favorite album of the 2010’s, but there is some competition in that regard I wouldn’t hear until the decade was over.
Either way Bloodlust remains a seminal moment in music from recent memory. Everything the album discusses is still sadly in play, it’s not anything I see changing anytime soon. It’s impossible to remove the social commentary from the record, but outside of it exists a fantastic, slamming metal album. The album’s musical guests, metal legends all, add true weight to their songs and are far beyond just cursory appearances. It’s a record that is a total pleasure to listen to, even in the face of some very harsh issues facing civilization today.