Thursday, November 3, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 46

Heavy Metal Thunder”

All evidence points towards William S. Burroughs having coined the term “heavy metal” first in his 1962 novel The Soft Machine in the form of Uranian Willy, the Heavy Metal Kid and then in his subsequent novel Nova Express where Burroughs uses the term as “a metaphor for addictive drugs”
"With their diseases and orgasm drugs and their sexless parasite life forms—Heavy Metal People of Uranus wrapped in cool blue mist of vaporized bank notes—And The Insect People of Minraud with metal music" Though Burroughs vaguely gives the term a musical context, I imagine the radical, purposely incompetent rock noise such as that produced by NYC avant noise pioneers, The Godz to be a better match than the riff happy hard rock of the early 1970s.

In the hippie and beatnik vernacular of the day, Heavy was synonymous with profound. Metal represented an industrial element. Originally referred to as acid rock, hard rock or downer rock (a term used by Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward to describe their music due to their fans preference for Quaaludes) Heavy Metal as a musical genre developed almost simultaneously in both the U.S. and the U.K. In the U.S.A. The origins of so called heavy metal music could perhaps be traced back to proto punks, The Music Machine, the brainchild of Sean Bonniwell, a heavy metal front man if ever there was one. The band cultivated a dark goth like image characterized by their use of black clothing, black gloves, “heavy” musical arrangements featuring distorted guitar leads and growling vocals.

In the U.K. some consider The Kinks You Really Got Me to be the prototype for the sound that would evolve into heavy metal. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Pretty Things, Deep Purple were just a few of the bands developing what would soon become known as “hard rock” Across the pond, Blue Cheer (Summertime Blues) Vanilla Fudge (with their trademark extended arrangements of hit songs) Iron Butterfly (In-a-gadda-da-vida) Bloodrock (D.O.A.) and Grand Funk Railroad (who defied convention by succeeding without commercial radio play) were early purveyors of the “heavy metal sound” Blue Cheer, named after a strain of LSD made by Owsley Stanley, went against San Francisco's musical conventions to invent a ruckus form of music unlike anything heard before.

The first mention of “Heavy metal” in song lyrics would be Steppenwolf's Born to be Wild, “I like smoke and lightning, heavy metal thunder, racing with the wind and the feeling that I'm under” Kudos to Dennis Edmonton (better known as Mars Bonfire, an original member of Steppenwolf and author of Born to be Wild) for coming up with that line, which may well have been the impetus for labeling the nascent musical genre as “heavy metal” The phrase also started to creep into the language of music critics at Rolling Stone most notably Mike Saunders and Lester Bangs. Saunders famously referred to Humble Pie's first U.S. album release, Safe as Yesterday Is as “a noisy, unmelodic, heavy metal laden shit rock band with loud noisy parts.... 27th-rate heavy metal crap”

It's your one way ticket to midnight, call it heavy metal, desperation on a red line, call it heavy metal noise” New York Times music critic John Rockwell described "heavy-metal rock" as "brutally aggressive music played mostly for minds clouded by drugs" and then in a later review added "a crude exaggeration of rock basics that appeals to white teenagers" He's describing Grand Funk Railroad to a tee and stating the obvious.... heavy metal from its very inception was white noise for white boys. Eventually, the universal appeal of the music cut through racial and cultural divides, making it one of the most popular and profitable forms of commercial music to come down the pike. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that the genre ruled FM radio through the 1980s and 1990s. Boy Howdy!

I know that I could make this world so peaceful and calm,
If I could only get my hands on a hydrogen bomb”

Ground zero for heavy metal in New Mexico may well be Carlsbad, an intolerant burg nestled on the banks of the Pecos River in southeastern New Mexico. C-bad has sustained a vigorous metal scene for years, producing a number of relatively successful regional bands. With some fluctuation across the “relatively successful” range. Working in a genre that appeals to a limited audience certainly didn't help matters none. Despite oodles of talent and tons of determination, major label stardom eluded these Little Texas sultans of schwing. Footnote: Prom Night Girls, Edgrr, Cidogen, Flood the City, As Idols Fall..... live on only in the minds of hardcore oil patch heshers. Trying to find any mention of them online was an endeavor equivalent to searching for intelligent life at a Trump rally.

If you're talking Carlsbad heavy metal, you have to go back..... way back “The best band that ever came from this area ..Carlsbad,NM. was Banbury Cross..Period..” Perhaps named after an old English nursery rhyme.... “Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross, to see a fine lady upon a white horse; rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, and she shall have music wherever she goes” (cock-horse meaning a high spirited horse or a hobby horse ) Banbury Cross, formed in the early 1990s revolving around lead singer Tom Ireland plus guitarists Dion Hood and Martin Burris. Don't confuse this Banbury Cross with the slick alt-rock Seattle band from the same period that featured lead singer Gina Ricci, a Martha Davis sound-a-like and don't confuse that Gina Ricci with the shoe shop in Windermere, UK.

In 1995, following several personnel changes and stymied by the usual problems that plague bands, Banbury Cross called it quits.... Sadly, Tom Ireland passed away just two years later. Their languidly paced brand of heavy metal had more in common with the fading “arena rock” style favored by big hair metal bands of the 1980s than the thrash / doom / death metal bands that would follow. For one, the guitars weren't heavily distorted and you could actually understand the lead singer. If you wish to form your own opinion, Banbury Cross still has an active SoundClick page with three tracks available for streaming (Night Shift, Black River, Midnight Run 2) Dion Hood makes mention of a compact disc they recorded at some point. As one chapter of Carlsbad music closed another opened.

N-Cyde (the precursor to Kryoburn) came about from Todd Brashear jamming with Les Huber, which led to Chris Huber joining them (having just acquired his first drum set) They would go on to form the core of Kyroburn, the poster boys for Carlsbad's metal scene. Not sure of the band's full line-up during the early years. (They spent ten years grinding it out before recording their first album) The band has been through several bass guitarists, including Les Huber who takes on the duties when need be. Jared Pace was their bassist at some point, though Derick Richards plays bass on “Enigmatic Existence” Hunter Correll, bass player/vocalist joined after the debut album but left before the release of their second album, he was replaced by keyboardist Kelly Bogues.

It took ten years for Kyroburn to drop their first album “Enigmatic Existence” on the Continental Entertainment label in 2005. Recorded at Krank Studios in El Paso, produced by Eddy Garcia (Pissing Razors, he also produced the 6-track N-Cyde demo for the band. Which included a cover of the Simple Minds, Don't You Forget About Me) “Enigmatic Existence” is triumph of crisp, clean production, strong, muscular instrumental performances, and the barking vocals of Todd Brashear. While the exact parameters of this organically appealing sound have been explored before (Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad) It doesn't detract from the album's overall appeal. Kryoburn carefully culled their influences from the very best of the alt-metal rockers from that period with highly effective results.

AllMusic's take: “This 2005 release is generally decent, at least if one enjoys a big dose of crushing brutality. Not every artist who comes along is obligated to be groundbreaking or innovative” Kyroburn wasn't having any of that “trendsetter” bullshit and once they dropped the hammer on their audience, it's not likely that anyone had any fucks to give about innovation. It's nothing but a party ya'll. Whatever momentum Kyroburn may have garnered after “Enigmatic Existence” quickly dissipated as the band suffered a number of setbacks including a round of personnel changes which left them pondering their own enigmatic existence. “When artists who wear their influences on their sleeves, function as followers rather than leaders, the question becomes, Are they good followers?” 
It took five years for Kryoburn to regroup. They did so by poaching guitarist Allen Scott and keyboardist Sam Logan from Blessed Disease, a metal band originally from Hobbs, N.M. The addition of keyboards added an entirely new dynamic to their sound, which they displayed on their long awaited second album “Three Years Eclipsed” Todd Brashear explained: “It took us awhile to get this done, with all the changes we've had going on, we had to find our legs again” Recorded at the band's own studio, KryoLab, “Three Years Eclipsed” produced by Todd Brashear, really benefits from their collaboration with Tue Madsden, who mixed and mastered the album at Antfarm Studio in Aarhus, Denmark. Todd Brashear: “He has done some amazing albums and we're big fans of his work”

AllMusic wasn't all that impressed: “Three Years Eclipsed pretty much picks up where their first album left off, they still operate on the harsher side of alt-metal, favoring an abrasive, claustrophobic, viciously dense approach” then as if to deliver the head shot, AllMusic concludes: “Now for the bad news, Three Years Eclipsed simply isn't very memorable” they go on to point out that Todd Brashear's “angry barking vocals” simply ape those of Fear Factory's Burton C. Bell. “One cannot help but root for Kryoburn and hope that their third album will be stronger” There would be no third album, in 2011, Allen Scott (who appears to have become the band's torch carrier) released a statement announcing that the band had officially called it quits.

Allen Scott later released a statement declaring that he was in the process of getting the band back together “There is a chance Kryoburn is not finished. Everyone keep your fingers crossed and send us some good vibes” No subsequent releases have seen the light of day, although Allen Scott seems to have hijacked the band's material while carrying on as Progenerate. Not certain if this project includes any members of Kryoburn, though Scott had hinted that he would be working together on a new project with Chris Huber. Twenty years after they first formed, we have to conclude that Kryoburn, Carlsbad's great white hope is no more. In fact the entire Carlsbad metal scene appears to be at a crucial crossroads. Most bands have disbanded or on semi permanent hiatus. Which doesn't bode well.

Inside Everyone is a Heavy Metal Kid

While researching for this article, I came across a Topix discussion on Carlsbad local metal bands. It proved to be more than helpful and highly entertaining. “Kryobum? hahahaha, Toad and his washed up buddys, hahaha,what a joke. How old are they? like 40, haha. Kryoburn, that is a good one haha.” Beat me daddy, eight to the bar “Kryoburn have been around since 1995. They broke up because they were tired of going on tour and coming back broke with no jobs. Everyone's a critic: “Dude stfu! These bands suck! I have been around and seen the original local bands and they were good these "bands" f***Ing suck. They don't play music they make noise and yell at these white kids from the rich side of town that have it good but want to be cool and rebel!” One commentator summed it up well “I knew that this town was not capable of any positive feedback or support for any local talent” Boy Howdy!

Of Graves and Gods, hailing from Oil Center, N.M. was successful enough to release an album “Slit Throat Andromeda” on Candelight USA records (same label that released Kryoburn's second album) and embark on a 2006 tour of the U.S. (which included a pair of shows in 'Burque) The album garnered some less than enthusiastic reviews: “Of Gods And Graves occupies the harder end of the metalcore spectrum. The band’s sound is belligerent and brutal” observed Anna Turgel at Metallian Towers “Then again, the lack of originality, the spoken vocal segments and the non-descript drumming take back most of the aforementioned gains” Dismissively, Ms. Turgel then ponders the tenuous connection between the band's name and C.W. Ceram's history of archaeology “Gods, Graves and Scholars”

All Music's reviewer sorta liked it: “When a band like the New Mexico-based Of Graves and Gods has a recipe that is about 90 percent metalcore and ten percent death metal, brutality is bound to result -- and this is definitely a brutal, harsh, vicious sledgehammer of a CD. Of Graves and Gods' jagged material isn't remarkable or terribly memorable -- other bands have done a better job with this type of approach -- but Slit Throat Andromeda is a generally decent listen if one is in the mood for pure, raw, head-kicking exhilaration” To sum it up, it's a dose of European metalcore for American metal heads who prefer metalcore played by Americans. “Slit Throat Andromeda” is available on Amazon for $1 U.S. plus shipping. Keep the change you filthy animal.

Of Gods and Graves consisted of lead singer Lance Staggs, lead guitarist Dustin Mellenbruch, drummer Jake Rogers, guitarist Shawn Norris and bass guitarist Dustin Norris. The Norris brothers were also members of Lest My Heart Dies, a highly talented Carlsbad metal band that we'll get into next. “Slit Throat Andromeda” was produced by Eddy Garcia whom I mentioned previously as having produced Kryoburn's first album and the N-Cyde demo tracks. Eddy is the drummer for Pissing Razors, a metal band originally from El Paso, since relocated to New York City......New York City? get a rope. Highly influential on the Transpecos metal scene, Pissing Razors have recorded seven albums for a number of labels including Noise Records.

Lest My Heart Dies was a Carlsbad teenage metal super group of sorts. Shawn Norris, Dustin Norris (Of Gods and Graves) Dustin Morril (Through Gore Comes Glory) Todd Brashear (N-Cyde, Kryoburn) Ismael Molina and the ubiquitous Kris Kerby, Carlsbad native and Albuquerque's most innovative and recognized drummer. (Joe Bolt coming in a close second) Kerby, the self proclaimed; One Man Percussion Apocalypse, is best known for his work as Icumdrums, but he also sits behind the drum kit for Leeches of Lore, Tenderizor, Knife City and collaborates on Monica Demarco's solo project Cthulha along with Jessica Billey. Kris also works with Lilah Rose, Sean Lucy and god knows how many others. I prefer to think of him as “Carlsbad's Renaissance Man”

For those of you interested in exploring Kirs Kerby's musical roots. Kris, Shawn Norris, Dustin Norris (who handled vocal duties) along with Dustin Morril, CJ Burton and Bronson Roybal were also involved in Death For the Well Dressed, a metal group that followed Lest My Heart Dies. Both groups released albums, albeit short ones. Lest My Heart Dies' album clocks in at a furious 18:10 and Death For the Well Dressed at 25:51. Both are available on YouTube. My New Mexico music source of choice. As you would expect, both groups have a similar sound, though for being teenagers their musical chops were well developed. To me this says a lot about Carlsbad Public Schools excellent music programs. Marching bands being the main source of rock musicians in the U.S.

Ibleedblood included Thomas Williams (Through Gore Comes Glory) and Wesley Whitaker (pretty sure he's related to Dillon Whitaker of Through Gore Comes Glory) They're best remembered for having won a battle of the bands that led to them opening for Veil of Maya, After the Burial and Within the Ruins during the Lubbock, Tx. Warped Tour stop in 2011. Ibleedblood were heavy as fuck, splendid in all their gut grinding, throat mangling glory. There's still a SoundClick page for the band with six tracks queued up for streaming... do it, do it now! All the Carlsbad bands I've mentioned suffered from “failure to launch” to one degree or another. None more so than Through Gore Comes Glory (Dillon Whitaker, James Dingler, Thomas Williams and Dustin Morrill)

Primed to become the next Kryoburn, Through Gore Comes Glory ran out of steam before reaching their full potential. A long awaited album never surfaced and their presence online seems to consist of a few live concert videos on YouTube that are rendered almost unlistenable by poor audio.
The one thing that jumps out at ya' about Through Gore Comes Glory are Dillon Whitaker's vocals... they can best be described as the sound a bobcat-that-got-caught-in-a-tractor's nuts would make... just before it died a slow and horrible death. All of which led one Facebook commentator to say: “That singer is fucking nasty” Through Gore Comes Glory, like almost every band I've mentioned is in a holding pattern. As are we all, waiting for the next big thang to come outta C-bad.

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 46

Retribution Shot- Space Truckers
Unkept- The Ground Beneath
Ramble Song- The Dirty Clydes
Court of Kings- Five Hundred
Gateway- Winterlock
Soul Crusher- Catfish Hunter
The Agent- Sincerely
Night Shift ~ Banbury Cross
Transience ~ Kryoburn
Curbstomp vs. Face ~ Through Gore Comes Glory
Above All ~ Immortal Prophecy
Taking Advantage ~ Arcadian
Alice ~ Cordova
Beneath Desire ~ Kryoburn