#982: MOMENT OF METAL 192 (WITH VIDEO!)

Q #1,979: MOMENT OF METAL #192 (watch my newest video here!)

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‘Believe In Nothing’ was Nevermore’s lead single off of their catalytic fourth studio album ‘Dead Heart in a Dead World.’ Produced by the legendary producer of all things metal, Andy Sneap (Arch Enemy, Megadeth, Annihilator, Testament) helped to capture the sonic fingerprint of the first Nevermore album to feature the use of seven string guitars. Included on the album is a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound of Silence,’ which enters a musical “celebrity death match” versues the newly released Disturbed effort. I have yet to hear back from Paul Simon or Art Garfunkel’s respective camps to get their final say on which is the superior version.

Speaking of covers, ‘Believe In Nothing’ was covered by two separate bands in the same year; both Gus G’s Firewind and All That Remains covered the track in 2008. I’m inclined to think that Firewind wins the death match on this one, for a few reasons; the two driving forces of this song are the uniquely dark and melodic vocal lines of Nevermore’s Warrel Dane, and the powerful guitar melodies found in Jeff Loomis’s lead lines and guitar solos. While both Firewind and All That Remains seem to easily tackle the musical instrumentation, Firewind seemed to combine that Dane-esque vibe within their own style.

Also, it is greatly worth noting that this style of guitar work could be very easily mistaken for Arch Enemy’s Mike Amott. The wah-pedal sing-songy lead style counter balancing the vocal is something that Amott really has locked in. Both Gus G (briefly) and Nevermore’s Jeff Loomis (currently) have gone on to do time in Arch Enemy alongside Amott, so while this particular track doesn’t feature anything too techincal on this side of the seven strings, it is a great Arch Enemy cover waiting to happen. It would be delightfully humorous to see Amott take the lead on this one, with Loomis providing the rhythm backing.

To recap: ‘Dead Heart in a Dead World’ featured a cover, spawned a few other covers, and it set the bar for Nevermore as far as production was concerned in the eyes of the band’s fans. Three years later the band followed up with ‘Enemies of Reality’ in 2003. This was recorded as the band’s contract with Century Media was ending, and negotiations were ongoing. The two sides struggled to reach an agreement to re-sign before the album went into production, and the label cut their budget down to a mere $20,000. Believe it or not, this was seen as unacceptable to the band, with Jeff Loomis saying the budget was “a nothing deal to do a record.”

Andy Sneap was called back to remix the album in 2005. As I have said before in what feels like 278 Skull Toaster emails at this point, the album was plagued in reviews over the production. Warrel Dane said, “I find it really strange that the production on that album got reviewed more than the songs did.” The songs were different, the production was different, and the band felt they weren’t going to play it safe with attempting to recreate ‘Dead Heart.

The follow up to ‘Enemies, and revered as an instant classic, was 2005’s ‘This Godless Endeavor.’ With Sneap back at the helm, many attributed this to the band’s return to form, but it’s certainly not a Dead Heart knock off. The band has always embraced the “progressive” side of writing, and not limiting themselves to one particular blueprint. Would Enemies have been seen as another “instant classic” if Sneap had handled the mix the first time? Should the mix really determine the quality of a song? Personally, most people should stick to worrying about how they mix their drinks!

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#975: Happy birthday to this guitarist who co-founded a rather Queen in 1970

Q #1,972: Happy birthday to this guitarist who co-founded Queen in 1970.

A.

Guitarist Brian May co-founded Queen alongside vocalist Freddie Mercury, and drummer Roger Taylor. May has almost exclusively played one guitar for most of his career, and that is not to say exclusively used guitars made by one manufacturer. He and his father constructed his ‘Red Special’ in the early 1960’s, to May’s specific design requests. After seeing Jeff Beck create multiple types of feed back live with his guitar, he wanted to have an even greater command over the instrument.

What’s more; May and his father did all of this with what could basically be described as household items. The wood used for the guitar’s neck, came from another resident’s fireplace mantle that was to be discarded. The bridge of the guitar is a hardened steel knife edge, and the springs used for string tension came from a motorbike. He even experimented with incorporating an internal Vox-based distortion unit, to which he would eventual remove to settle on the use of the cranked amplifier. It’s no wonder that May has gone on to earn a PhD in Astrophysics, amidst a musical career that has kept him more than busy to begin with.

In 2005, Brian May was appointed a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his, “services to the music industry and charity work.” Eligibility for such an appointment is based on significant achievements made for the United Kingdom, although different titles can and have been awarded to those from other countries as well. The Sovereign of the United Kingdom grants these appointments, and the Sovereign is none other than Queen Elizabeth II. The next highest order of appointments would be a knighthood. What would be the appropriate way to address such a prolific member of society? Sir Dr. Brian May? Perhaps a more Shatner’d version of a James Bond introduction; “May. Brian May. CBE. PhD. Killer Queen.”

Brian May has been included and voted onto multiple “Greatest Guitarists of All Time”-type lists, while also being responsible for a great many Queen hits, himself. Some of May’s Queen compositions include ‘We Will Rock You,’ ‘Tie Your Mother Down,’ and ‘Fat Bottomed Girls.’ Consider the spine tingling ‘The Show Must Go On,’ the final track on the album “Innnuendo,” which basically chronicled Mercury’s illness and impending death. Around that time, it was only media speculation that Freddie Mercury was ill, but he and the band knew he was on ‘borrowed time.’ Unsure of whether he could handle the final vocal parts, May essentially had a heart to heart with Mercury expressing that he knew it might not be an easy performance to capture, to which Mercury reportedly responded with “I’ll fucking do it, darling.” Mercury took a measure of vodka, and went in to deliver the performance that appear on the final recording. Mercury passed away on November 24th, 1991.

As if that was not enough of a goose bump inducing, hair raising “final” performance, all of the material that appears on their final album ‘Made in Heaven’ was assembled from a multitude of sessions that Mercury performed up until his death. Brian May describes the sessions, saying that Mercury said, “Get me to sing anything, write me anything and I will sing it and I will leave you as much as I possibly can.” Mercury wanted to leave the band with as much material as he could. May says that he feels ‘Made in Heaven’ is “possibly the greatest Queen album we ever made. It has so much beauty in it. It was a long, long process, painstakingly put together. A real labour of love.” The show must go on, indeed.

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#973: The last album the Melvins recorded for a major label was…

Q #1,970: The last album the Melvins recorded for a major label.

A.

The last major label Melvins release was the 1996 album ‘Stag.’ Signing with Atlantic records, after the booming success of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind,’ the band would make their major debut with the 1993 album ‘Houdini,’ with Kurt Cobain landing guitar, production, and mixing credits across the release. ‘Houdini’ landed the band at #29 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, which you would think a fairly positive endeavor for a new signing during this era of the music industry.

The following year the Melvins would release two albums, ‘Prick’ and ‘Stoner Witch.’ At face value this sounds like a very ambitious undertaking, in a very Beatles sort of release schedule. However, ‘Prick’ was supposed to be an experimental spin off of sorts, and was released through the label Amphetamine Reptile, under a mirrored version of the Melvins moniker, SNIVLEM. Releasing this album one year after a major label debut, under a rival label, more or less under the same name just to dodge contractual obligations could not have made the suits over at Atlantic happy. Their major label counterpart to ‘Prick,’ ‘Stoner Witch,’ failed to reach a chart position. Then, the following year the Melvins released the ‘Tora Tora Tora’ EP through X-Mas Records.

Not knowing any details of their contractual workings, I can only speculate on how things went down. That said, it is more than possible that Atlantic was concerned with the band as a brand, and wasn’t keen on subsequent material being released without their consent, regarding maintaining the overall ‘product.’ I say this because by the time the Melvins made it to their third (and ultimately final) major label release with ‘Stag,’ they managed to regain a chart position, hitting the Heatseekers again at #33 in 1996. The album was co-produced by GGGarth (Garth Richardson), who has worked with Nickelback, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Testament, and Chevelle to name a few (I’ve talked about GGGarth before, on his work with Testament’s ‘Low,’ and Chevelle’s ‘Chevelle – Wonder What’s Next‘).

So, with such a well seasoned producer to keep things solid, and a chart position to boot, it’s a wonder as to why this album would result in the band being dropped. It’s likely a three album deal fulfilled, with the contractual acrobatics not sitting well at Atlantic. Melvins mainman Buzz Osborne has also made it no big secret that he is far more into the legacy of punk rock, as opposed to having dreams of arenas. It makes the band’s signing with a major quite the head scratcher in the first place, and doesn’t likely end with the band being disappointed at their release from the label.

All things considered, it was probably still an good career move to capitalize on the popularity of the Seattle / Aberdeen music scene, likely gaining a few new fans and a few extra dollars from the deal. Feel free to tweet me (@JohanssonShreds) if this period of years qualifies as a “sell out” move, weighing on material vs. belief systems. Sure, the band kept up their no frills experimental nature, but that was more on the side releases, and much less notable on the major label efforts.

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