1992 was an interesting year in music. Looking back at some of the landmark events of its 365 or so days:
- Rob Halford announces that he’s leaving Judas Priest while Ozzy Osbourne “retires”
- Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ album goes to No. 1 in the US Billboard 200 chart, establishing the widespread popularity of the Grunge movement of the 1990s, while ‘November Rain’ by Guns N’ Roses enters the world record books when it becomes the longest single, at 8 minutes, 57 seconds, to reach the US Top 20
- The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert takes place at Wembley Stadium in London with all proceeds going to AIDS research
In terms of notable releases:
- Faith No More release ‘Angel Dust’
- W.A.S.P ‘The Grimson Idol’
- The Prodigy ‘Experience’
- Ugly Kid Joe ‘America’s Least Wanted’
….and somewhat completely under the radar, Bad 4 Good release ‘Refugee’.
Who Were Bad 4 Good?
Bad 4 Good were a band of teenagers put together by guitar hero Steve Vai. With the youngest at the time being aged 12 and eldest at 16, Bad 4 Good were leap years ahead of their time. The band was comprised by Danny Cooksey on vocals, Thomas McRocklin on guitar, Zack Young on bass and Brooks Wackerman on drums. At 16 years of age, Cooksey was a child actor who had appeared in the US hit show ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ as well as the movie Terminator 2. McRocklin, at the tender age of 11, had appeared in Steve Vai’s ‘The Audience Is Listening’ video and had his 5 minutes of fame while opening for Ozzy Osbourne in concert. Young was the youngest graduate of the ‘Bass Institute of Technology’ at 15, while 15-year-old Wackerman had won regional rock and jazz awards, plus had a Remo endorsement.
These guys were anything but amateurs and while their music may have been dismissed by many rock/metal fans, it’s not an album that one can dismiss all-together. Aggressive, polished, straightforward hard rock played by an accomplished group of teenagers, mentored by Vai who had his fair share of contribution in the songwriting, composition and production of the album itself. It kicks off with a cover of Phil Lynott’s ‘Nineteen’ which really get’s the album off to a pace-paced aggressive start. ‘Curious Intentions’ and ‘Bangin’ Time Again’ continue in roughly the same pace, while things start to mellow out from ‘Mother of Love’ onwards. ‘Slow and Beautiful’ is your typical late 80’s to early 90’s emotion-drenched get-yer-lighters-out ballad while a few “filler” tracks start to creep in. ’Terminate’ is a cheesy as cheese can get with influence clearly drawn from Cooksey’s acting years, while ‘Tyre Kickin’ (Ya Makin’ Me Nervous) doesn’t seem to really go anywhere. The album closes with the inane rap-rocker ‘Felony’.
The Downward Spiral
‘Refugee’ failed to sell and after the accompanying tour was complete McRocklin departed to form Virgin Sun. The remainder of the band remained together briefly as Lucy’s Milk, before deciding to break apart. Following the break-up, Cooksey returned to acting, Wackerman joined both Bad Religion and Suicidal Tendencies, Young formed a rock/electro-clash band called Artificial Intelligence (A.I) and McRocklin started working in a music store. It was an abrupt end to what was a promising start for this talented young band.
I was fortunate to own ‘Refugee’ on cassette and will admit to listening to ‘Nineteen’ pretty much on repeat. The tape disappeared as did my memory of the band but every once in a while Bad 4 Good would creep back into my thoughts. Through the wonders of the internet, in March 2014 I found their album on CD in near mint condition on eBay for a mere £3.99. Suprisingly, their album seems to have not only retained its original value but also gained some as well, with some new and sealed CD versions worth over $150 and used one’s above $50. The cassette edition is also worth a pretty penny as well.
And there you have it. Our trip down memory lane, remembering an album which is now some 22 years old. Yet listening to songs like ‘Nineteen’ you get the feeling that it was only just released yesterday.
If you’re lucky enough to still have this in your collection either on cassette or CD, hold onto it. If you’ve never come across them but would like to, shop around, there’s still some copies floating about and with some unaware of the growing value of ‘Refugee’ it’s easy to swipe a bargain.
Here’s that killer opening track ‘Nineteen’.
Audiomachy can only be described as the Sheldon Cooper of rock music. For those living under a rock and not familiar with the name Sheldon Cooper, he is a fictional character, portrayed by actor Jim Parsons, on the CBS television series ‘The Big Bang Theory’,
An Australian band based in Brisbane, ‘Holofracture’ is Audiomachy’s 3rd album. They’re a two-piece band which much like Sheldon posses an incredible amount of “Geek Factor” but unlike our fictional Big Bang character, these guys do have a wicked sense of humour.
Who Are Audiomachy?
Audiomachy call themselves “The greatest Electro Metal band in the history of International Relations”. And whilst their statement may be deemed as tongue-in-cheek or potentially narcissistic behaviour, we will ask this question again at the end of this review.
At their very core they are an eclectic, progressive and highly experimental outfit, fusing metal and electronic music elements. Their influences range from the likes of Meshuggah, Panzerballett, Every Time I Die, Dillinger Escpae Plan, The Number Twelve Looks Like You and Justice among others.
Album opener ‘Mobius Gyp’ is an extract from ‘Titus Andronicus’ the tragedy written by William Shakespeare. Why? Well according to the band “because we can can” . They go on to insist that the song has nothing to do with the ‘Möbius strip’ or ‘Möbius band’ as it’s also known, which is described as being “a surface with only one side and only one boundary component”. Further research also tells me that the möbius strip has the mathematical property of being non-orientable.
While I won’t disagree with the band’s statement, knowing what I know about them today I’m more inclined to believe that this is a very very cleverly put dichotomy; while Titus Andronicus may very well be the content the subject matter sways me more towards the Mobius Strip theory. Then again, perhaps I’m digging too deep!?
I’m sure by now you’re all asking “What on earth are you on about Johnny?” Please bare with my thought process and let’s move on to their lyrics and inspiration…
Take ‘πchotomy’ (track 3 of their album) as a further example of Audiomachy’s superb geek factor. Apparently, the lyrics for this song are written in ‘Pilish’, a style of writing in which the lengths of consecutive words match the digits of Pi, the mathematical constant equal to a circle’s circumference divided by its diameter. For example:
3 – For
1 – a
4 – life
1 – I
5 – aptly
9 – eradicate…
…and so on.
In addition, every riff is related to Pi in some way. How awesome is that?!
The inspiration of ‘Audiomachy: The Song’ (track 4 and one of my personal favourites) came from a Polish review of their first album. This led to a song in which they used poorly translated english lyrics for, you just can’t make this stuff up!
On track 5 we find (potentially) a world first in music of any genre. ‘There’s No I In Socket’ is a song which has been written without using the letter ‘I’ and a small bit at the end without ‘E’ as well. Has this ever been performed by a band before I’m honestly not sure but my guess is that the answer would be a definitive no…?
Track 10, ’10 This Song Is Called Go To 10’ will have computer geeks left with a ear-to-ear grin. To quote the band “The title is a reference to computer code where if it says to “go to 10″ the code will be read back from where “10” is. In this case, the title is an infinite loop. With that in mind, the theme of the song is fractals which are shapes that stay the same if you zoom in on them infinitely (basically).
There is even a reference to the Dragon curve in the song, at 2:12 the pattern plays a riff with notes in the left or right speakers:
R R L
R R L R R L L
R R L R R L L R R R L L R L L ….“
Last but certainly no least is track 12, ‘Tormentertainment’ which is another standout track in what is an incredible sounding album beginning to end. ‘Tormentertainment’ finishes with a reference to a scene in the 2005 film ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’.
I’ve lost you haven’t I?
Well as you have probably realised by now, Audiomachy are not your typical band. They could choose to sing about politics, the environment or take the brain-cell killing approach that the so many (so-called) artists and band’s do and who are currently enjoying vast (and repeated) airplay on mainstream radio. Their approach may seem trivial to some, over-engineered for others and potentially you’ve been all too quick to shrug this review and band off and say “so what”?
And maybe it is just me. I like to understand a band’s way of thinking, inspiration and what makes them tick. Audiomachy have produced a technically, technologically and lyrically accomplished masterpiece that sadly could go entirely unnoticed. The effort, creativity and thought process that went into this album is second to none. It almost feels as though this album could have been the product of a 30-year project, but I’d be wrong, given their last one was released in September of 2011.
Even if you’re not a fan of the geek-wizardry applied in plentiful amounts by Jesse and Tox from Audiomachy, you would be seriously missing out on one incredible sounding album.
So is it a case of a superiority complex and/or narcissistic behaviour?
Categorically no. It’s more a case of two incredibly talented folk with a great sense of humour, a passion for technology, and who have taken music to a whole new level in terms of creative and lyrical subject matter. Are they perfect? Hell no and I wouldn’t want them to be. This isn’t about polished productions with glossy covers. It’s about raw, edgy material that pushes well beyond the conventional boundaries we know today.
I can only hope that Audiomachy get recognition for their work as it tuly deserves every bit of praise.
‘Holofracture’ is available digitally via their Bandcamp website. It’s a “name your price” option but sincerely ask that you donate what you can in support for Audiomachy. My only request is that a physical copy of this album is available soon!
Rounding up this review, I’ll leave you with track 10, ’10 This Song Is Called Go To 10’ and allow you to draw your own opinions.
My biggest gripe in music today is the lack of emotion. Emotion can mean different things to different people but for me it is that moment, where minutes into a song, you get that spine-tingling sensation, shivers and then the goose bumps… Emotion can translate into a number of feelings be it anger, love, fear, or in the case of FROM HELL, sheer terror.
Within the first 30 seconds of ‘Standing At The Mouth of Hell’ you really do get the feeling that you are truly standing at the mouth of hell itself. The intensity, chaos, the snarls; you can almost smell brimstone and ash whilst flames engulf your screaming body. That’s certainly not an emotion that’s easy to convey but trust me when I tell you, FROM HELL do it, and boy, do they do it well!
So what differentiates a group that’s able to convey emotion so succinctly?
Well, cue in George Anderson. Anderson had a successful stint as the frontman of Down Factor, a California-based band with a strong socio-political message. He soon grew tired of the ideologies the band was portraying and wanted to seek alternative sources of creativity. And so he came up with the concept of FROM HELL.
FROM HELL means a lot of things for Anderson. It’s a homage to his all time hero King Diamond, a nod towards the likes of Aleister Crowley, while at the same time he also credits an old black and white version of the movie ‘A Christmas Carol’ as his inspiration. In this version, Ebenezer Scrooge who was portrayed by actor Aleister Sims. A quick play on words and Aleister Sinn was born, Anderson’s alter-ego and the narrator of this dark and broody tale.
Aleister Sinn is not the only character of this story. Anderson, having mustered some trusted and experienced (to say the least) talent from reputed sources, has a force to be reckoned with; Paul Bostaph on drums (Slayer, Forbidden, Exodus, Systematic, and Testament), Steve Smyth on guitar (Forbidden, One Machine, The Esseness Project, Nevermore, Testament, Dragonlord, Vicious Rumors, Ariah) and by no means least, Damien Sisson on bass (Death Angel). This is by its own virtue a supergroup, an all-star cast that cannot be easily dismissed.
So what is the story behind ‘Ascent From Hell’?
It is a horror concept album which was originally titled “Eyes Of My Dead”. It tells the story of a corpse which wakes up in hell and needs to find its way back to earth in order to reclaim its soul, which (rather inconveniently) is in another body. It was later, and rather appropriately so if you ask me, that the band renamed it “Ascent From Hell” to fit in with the overall theme.
At 70 minutes long this is by no means a short album, with the average song ranging at 6.5 minutes and some up to 10 minutes in duration. Did I at any point get the feeling that the album was stagnating? To be honest at an average of 6.5 minutes I was expecting it to be, but just when you think things are sounding a little stale, bang!, a riff, a break, a bass/drum solo, reminds you that this is anything but a predictable journey as our corpse battles it’s way out of hell.
What I like about FROM HELL is that they refuse to be type-casted. This album is all over the place stylistically with echoes of trash, death, doom and black metal all thrown into the mix. Even the vocal delivery changes from time to time. During the ‘The Walking Dead’, Anderson sounds almost Jeff Walker-like while in ‘Nuns with Guns’ there’s more than a few Rob Zombie undertones. And that’s not a bad thing in my opinion. Too often I’ve seen bands try to do too much; they showcase what they can and try to cram as much into 60 minutes as humanly possible as a measure of diversification. It’s a risky strategy and has been known to fail miserably. But FROM HELL really do pull it off. It’s almost as though the album takes you on an evil journey and like any good story there are twists, turns and a few pleasant surprises for good measure. It is for this reason that I thoroughly recommend you enjoy this album from beginning to end. Each song has a way of linking into the next; clearly a lot of thought has gone into the sequencing of the album. Moreover, the album in its theatrical release comes complete with segues in between each song, providing the listener with additional details to this horror story.
Yes, But Is it any good?
Absolutely! Many supergroups have tried and failed with their first release. For a debut, FROM HELL have certainly captured my imagination and tapped deep into my head banging subconscious. Have they raised the bar too high for a debut…? I guess we’ll have to wait for the next chapter to decide, but I have a good feeling about these guys.
‘Ascent From Hell’ is expected to be released physically and digitally worldwide on April 8th, 2014
Ahead of the album’s release here’s the title track ‘Ascent From Hell’, enjoy!
Power metal is a strange fruit. I was around 12 years old when I heard Helloween’s ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys’ (parts I and II) and flabbergasted comes to mind when I think back to my first reaction. The late 80’s and early 90’s truly defined and shaped the sound of Power Metal, but towards the late 90’s and early 2000’s something changed. No longer was it about story telling or composing incredible melodies, no, it was more about outdoing the competition in technical ability. It all became too sanitised, far too much guitar twiddling, with lyrics, composition and to a great extent originality taking the back seat – I lost interest.
Fast forward a decade or so and sadly not much has changed.T he Power Metal landscape is still littered with pompous bands racing at 100 miles per hour, drowning their composition with the shrieks. wails and a guitar cacophony. As much as I try to get back into the genre, it all seems too formulaic, too predictable, too… perfect.
So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across Van Canto’s ‘Dawn of the Brave’.
“Acapella Power Metal” is how Van Canto was the description of their genre and the main reason why I thought I’d part with the 7 odd pounds to download this from iTunes. I must admit I’d not heard of Van Canto before and can only attribute this to my general avoidance of all that is “power” metal. ‘Dawn of the Brave’ is the 5th album from this German six-piece band made up of five singers and one drummer – that’s right, no twin guitars, no bass, no lead no rhythm, just the sheer vocal ability of four men and one woman. The result is staggering, so much so, I actually purchased their entire back catalogue based on the viewing of one YouTube video. At times I couldn’t actually believe there were no guitars and while I’m sure these guys apply some very clever (knob twiddling) production techniques to achieve this polished result, it never feels too clinical.
‘Dawn of the Brave’ features the staple of Power Metal themes of fantasy and takes it a step further by incorporating comic book heroes, a recurring theme with many of their albums and the main reason for the somewhat bonkers looking cover. According to sources, the band actually recruited some two hundred backing vocalists for the making of parts of the album, most of who were actual Van Canto fans.
The band certainly displays an impressive amount of reverence and close connection with its fan-base. ‘Van Cantians For Van Cantians’ is a scheme employed by the band’s fanclub and which aims to get fans from countries where the band doesn’t perform, e.g. anywhere outside Germany, to enjoy a show. Effectively it’s a lottery concept, with fans winning anything from t-shirts to signed memorabilia and presumably some very lucky fans might actually win and see the band perform live. Whether it works or not, hats off to these guys for their entrepreneurial spirit.
Tor Marrock is a three-piece band based in Aberystwythe, Wales. They formed in 2004 and fall under the dark, gothic, death, black concept metal umbrella. Previously, the band released a demo, “The Death of Summer”, in 2006 and their debut full length album, “A Gothic Romance”, in 2007. After a six year break, the band returns with their sophomore full length “Destroy the Soul”.
As a huge Type O Negative fan I must admit to being a little lost since the demise of Pete Steele and pretty much the disbandment of the band. Sal Abruscato is doing wonders with “A Pale Horse Named Death” but their sophomore album paled by comparison.
If you’re a fan of early Paradise Lost and Tiamat releases this may certainly be of interest to you. It’s a refreshing sound which manages to stray clear of much of the cliched formulas associated with the whole gothic genre.
This is “The Harbouring of Suicidal Thoughts” taken of this brilliant album “Destroy The Soul”.