Monday, August 28, 2006

My Pet Demon with Ravage, Indignation, Pyad, and The Four Horsemen [Sputnix, 8/25/2006]

This show was about everything a local show ought to be, and a frickin' incredible time for seven bucks. It may well be the best show in Sputnix' history, but this is quite likely because the top three bands on the bill are more than ready to go on to much bigger and better things. At this level, they're mostly doing this sort of thing to keep in shape -- or should be.

Doors was not stupid early, so I had time to drive home and get changed before heading in to Salem, then hang around on the sidewalk for a bit chatting with various people before going in. Because of this stupid review compulsion, I feel guilty if I miss a major part of any band's set.

The Four Horsemen [4/7]
These guys have definitely taken a step up from the last time I saw them, though they're definitely the 'openers' on this bill in terms of overall effect -- and a lot of the focus this time was on their guest guitarist. However, this made a cool and interesting snapshot of the way in which bands rise out of the morass of a local scene, by either breaking up or slowly aggregating the best players of bands that do. The Pantera-worship is still extremely obvious, and the singer still oddly lacks presence, but these are redressable issues. This band is good and getting better, and becoming more original will necessarily come with writing more original material.

Pyad [4/7]
Another good band being held back by various factors, I had not heard these death-doomsters before, but was glad to see them put on a cool show. The guitarist has a few more good ideas per song than can always be structured in, and won't exactly be auditioning for Atheist real soon, the bass sound was often buried, and the vocalist had a tendency to sound like Rapid Charlie when doing his clean parts, but it was still a good set of some interesting music, probably the most in my normal underground line of the night.

Indignation [6/7]
Kenny was referring to these guys as the Priest/Manowar of the night before they went on, though I have little idea of where he got this from: their sound is a lot more in the line of early Pantera (the 'early' part of their career that the band ever actually acknowledged) or a more brutal Megadeth. They put on a killer set, but it was a little cover-heavy, especially given the talent that they obviously have, but they picked a nice diverse selection of material (seriously, who does "Tornado of Souls" when they play Megadeth?), and kicked ass on that as well.
This really points up one of the biggest advantages of going to local shows; by necessity, you're going to get at least two or three bands that really should be headlining gigs like this or doing local support for national tours -- if you're in a serious local band, you prefer bigger gigs, but will do just about any show to stay in shape. We got a total of three headliner-level performances out of this show, again for basically pocket change.

Ravage [6/7]
Some people in the crowd were feeling sorry for Ravage, having to follow Indignation, but this reckoned without the band, and without the fact that these guys were the only outfit on the bill with a record contract at the time. They started off a little slow as Al's vocals got properly dialed in (Pyad had had some problems with the board as well), but eventually wound up and blasted out a strong set of their characteristic power/thrash that got everyone up and moving. The Spectral Rider material sounded great, and the Damnation stuff at least as good, though they're still working up that record. They're not quite ready for the True Metal stage yet, but if they can get some decent label support in Europe and keep making good music, I would not be surprised at all to see them up there early in the day in '09 or '10.

My Pet Demon [7/7]
DAMN. There were a few rough parts, mostly in "Raise The Flag", which as a new song is necessarily somewhat under-rehearsed, though still overall killer; for the most part, though, they were dead on, and when MPD is dead on, they are dead fucking on. The set built in intensity straight through, even past the closer and into the first encore that I can remember them playing since they were headlining my basement. For this they even kicked out "Self Destruct", sandwiched in between "The Trooper" and "Demons Are Forever", even though that song isn't supposed to exist any more. The last two tracks also saw probably the first two crowdsurfers in Sputnix history, which given that the place can hold maybe 100 people, absolute tops, is kind of amazing. A lot of this rating may be the fact that I was basically on top of the stage, flailing and thrashing around into members of the other bands on the bill, also going nuts, burning out energy I didn't know I had left, but this is what local shows do, and it's what makes them special; even in a tiny hall that used to be a Russian bingo room, when nobody on the bill is basically getting paid at all for their music and bands will give away shirts for no reason, just to build scene, we both audience and musicians can synthesize that unbeatable high that you can't get from anything but music. We all know each other, either personally or within three degrees of separation, and thus we can all completely sell out, no need to impress anyone and nobody is going to be fooled.
The next step, of course, for MPD is a real record deal, and it's clear that they're aiming in that direction, especially given the amount of professionalism that is going into the writing process for the new demo (still not recorded, but they played like half of it). Depending on perspective, they're either a companion piece or perfect antidote to the current metalcore trend, and that can't help but be a positive; they've got enough crossover points to appeal to the trend crowd, but their metal roots go deep and they will be around long after this, and the next, trend wave rolls back out. I have to dupe Metal Inquisitor and Spellbound's debuts for Kenny, and probably pack along Hellion and Armageddon's contact info as well. It's too bad that I don't actually know anyone in the business in Germany, but the least I can do is share my knowledge of how the scene is, and where in the business they should look first.

I also found out from Kenny that Maiden will be playing in Boston after all, so I need to get moving on tickets, and from Garret (Bat Cuntry) that Anal Cunt is actually doing a show at the Middle East next Sunday. Gotta see if I can get down for that, for the experience if nothing else. My jacket got a fair share of comments again, but probably more than it deserved; Pat had his kutte on as well, and that has the potential to be substantially cooler if he does a little work on it. From the first three bands on the bill I picked up three new demos (unfortunately, I couldn't wrangle a copy of Spectral Rider); reviews will be forthcoming in with everything else acquired on the weekend.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

stories from the field....

This did not happen to me, but I've helped out the engineers who were there when this tool blew up on other issues, and worked on software for a tool of this vintage. It is pretty much the worst-case scenario of what you can do to an ion implanter accidentally and still survive; if they were using old-style gas bottles that were at positive rather than negative pressure and those had blown off, there would also have been a significant poison gas release, and if the tool was more recent or had a linear-accelerator unit on it, the explosion would have been that much bigger.

The tool in question is of a type that ceased manufacture shortly after I was born, and is pretty much out of the industry. However, all names of customers and suppliers have been redacted to protect those not at fault. The implanter designation has also been redacted, because it's not like these things blow up all the time. This should be seen as we in Product Support saw it, as a cautionary tale about the Extremely Bad Shit that can happen when you work with a system that produces poisonous vapors and excessive voltage by design, and explosive precursors as a side affect of operation.


Let me start by saying that all that was necessary to change out the [supplier] supply was to shut off the breaker to High Voltage, and Isolation Transformer in PD2 in the TERMINAL PD only. This could have also been locked, or tagged out to fulfill safety requirements. By shutting off power to the entire terminal, the customer actually created an out of control set of conditions that resulted in the explosion.

Shutting off terminal power without first going to a vacuum safe condition does several things, none of which are good, by the way.

First, the power is removed from RP1, which backs the diffusion pump as well as the remote vacuum controller. The DP is still hot and will begin to backstream oil. V4, V2, V5 and V17 will NOT close, as the vacuum controller has just become 100% dedicated to trying to communicate with the remote vac controller only. This communication was interrupted when the power was shut off to the terminal.

So, as the mechanical pump stops, a leak to atmosphere will happen, quickly raising the pressure through the source beamline and resolving housing, and once the pressure exceeds ~2x10-4 torr the ion gauges on P2 and P3 will extinguish (due to limitations on the emission control pcb, and not due to any commands from the vac controller -- in this particular case, this also removes the possibility of an ignition from the cryo ion gauges). Next, the cryogenic pumps will ice ball and begin to warm up due to heavy loading from the leak condition described above. In this case, due to the pumping load, the cryos will be overwhelmed and begin to warm up even though they were bypassed and the compressors and cold heads continued to run. Once they warm up to ~ 20 Kelvin, hydrogen will begin to be released from the array; a little warmer and oxygen is released from the array also.

Because all of the valves are open through out the system, H2 and O2 will began to fill the resolving housing, beamline, source housing and diffusion pump. The slight draw on RP1 exhaust may have facilitated pulling more gas into the DP through its foreline, concentrating the amount of gas in this location.

The system is now primed and ready, and waiting for any spark from an ignition source. Once terminal power was restored, and DC power restored to the remote vac controller, it would begin to re-establish communications with the vacuum controller; however most likely before that could take place, the remote vac would bloom the DP ion gauge, because the logic and gauge power are coming up at the same time. Normally this is not a big deal, and even if the DP is cold, it would only result in a ½ second pulse and immediately shut off the gauge filament power. However, if you happen to have the vacuum system filled with some amount of H2 and O2 the resulting explosion could be quite impressive.

Note: from the pictures [originally attatched, obviously redacted] you can see that the optical baffle over the DP is bent towards the electrode, indicating that at least part of the explosion (also believed to be the ignition point) was in a direction out of the DP into the Source housing, then out through the source bushing as the holding dogs broke, and the source and source mounting flange fell away. At the same time that the gas in the beamline and resolving housing ignited, it would have caused the damage to the cryos, the housing blank off plate, and the accel bushing, and even move the terminal a little; as I said, very impressive.

Thankfully, no one was injured, as things could have been much worse.

The [obsolete tool] explosion I told you about earlier is actually worse than first thought. Evidently when the terminal power was off it also shut down the cryos. When I turned on terminal power I suspect the ion tubes over the cryos lit and exploded the hydrogen released when they started warming. The source and flange blew out of the housing. The cryos blew off the mounting flange, the terminal shifted and blew open the muff coupling. No telling what other damage was caused.

When the [customer] electrician was swapping the [supplier] tanks from 137 to 167, his supervisor told him turn off all breakers. The machine was still in hivac. I think what happened when he did this was that he inadvertently hit the terminal power off button. Neither [other FSE] or myself were involved in the [supplier] swap. We were concentrating on the [unrelated tool] problem which was priority with [customer] and is positioned right next to the [obsolete tool] that exploded. When the [customer] electrician had the [supplier unit] connected he asked me to check all the connections, which were all ok. After he turned on all the breakers he had turned off, I noticed the terminal power wasn't on. I hit the terminal power on button, I noticed that the fluorescent light in the terminal came on, and a split second after that is when we all heard a great bang. I immediately pushed the EMO button on the terminal power distribution panel.

I wanted to write this as soon as possible while it was still fresh in my mind. [Other FSE], if you can add anything have at it. I just want to add, since I was standing right next to the machine when this happened, it thoroughly scared the living crap out me. In all my years as an FSE with this company, this has never happened to me.


Tool detonation is an uncommon but extant problem in the semiconductor equipment field. It's unknown how many implanters or other devices with cryo pumps on them blow up every year, because both customers and equipment manufacturers never want to admit that their tools blow up, or that tools blow up in their fab, and jealously guard the information. It still happens, and is the reason that we insist that our cryo pump suppliers detonate one of their pumps for us before we purchase any, so that we can be sure that the unit will contain the explosion and not throw shrapnel into anyone that's standing around. Of course, one of the major side benefits of designing a system that will bear borderline hard vacuum (edge-of-the-atmosphere pressures) without imploding is that it's also unlikely to disassemble itself when you get a mini-Hindenburg inside.

Just glad it wasn't me standing in front of it....

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Wacken 2006 Part 4: Sunday, Summing Up, and the Long Road Home

Sunday was as normal a normal festival Sunday could be. I packed up my gear, threw out everything I didn't need, walked back to the festival for one last breakfast, then on and out to the bus to the train to the other train to Hamburg to walk to the subway to the right stop to walk to the hotel, where I checked in early, washed all the dirt and sweat off my nicely roasted skin, and fell asleep almost immediately, being on a bed rather than a mat on the ground.

Monday was a little more eventful. Waiting to get through outbound immigration, I saw Peter Steele walking down to another flight, but I couldn't get my camera out of my jacket in time, and my Vinnland flag was safely packed away in my pack, so I didn't really have anything for him to sign. SUCK.

Nine hours later, I was in Newark sweating through the bullshit that current meaningless security regs have imposed on Americans coming back from overseas and continuing on by air past the hub, then making a short run to the plane for a short flight back to Boston, where a short wait got me onto a quick train home. And I was back, but carrying Wacken with me in images, memories, stories, and merch.


Band scoring by day:

Thursday: average 3/7, total 3 points. This is not fair and is affected by environmental factors.
Friday: average 5.6/7, total 84 points.
Saturday: average 6.13/7, total 49 points.
total festival: average 5.67/7, total 136 points.

I saw fewer bands this year, but more of them were better; if I'd seen the last two bands Thursday instead of the first one, or rated the two bands I sat in the beergarden for on Saturday night, I'd have tied last year for numbers and reported down even more greatness. This was a fantastic lineup and the bands gave for the most part incredible performances, and I'm still burned up about missing Morbid Angel and Korpiklaani, among a few others, but you can't be everywhere all at once. Next year will hopefully be as killer if not better, and I'll definitely be on hand again. Blind Guardian, Immortal, and Saxon are already announced, and the run-up to '07 has barely begun. I'll be putting my wristband on my jacket over the weekend, but definitely still leaving space for future fests.


Germany stuff:

On the subway in Hamburg, I saw that there are 20 million traffic signs in Germany, about 1 every 30 meters. To say this is kind of insane is an understatement.
The clerk at the hotel when I checked out was a metalhead and a Leipziger, and as we talked about Wacken, and the bands, and stupid US security measures that don't help anything, and Saxony, I realized that I was just as nostalgic for that part of Germany as he was, and while extremely weird, it was at least understandable. When you really think about it, there is a lot that draws you back to Saxony, and for as long as I lived there and as good memories as I had, it does make sense that I can be homesick for Dresden, much more than anywhere I've used so far as a permanent address. Despite the occasional bad stuff like long hours and cars getting banged up, there's no better place to live, as long as unlike 13 percent of the population you have a job. I will go back at some point, probably sooner than later for work, but if the book hits, then sooner rather than later permanently as well.

Wacken 2006 Part 3: Saturday, or, Burned Up, Blown Apart, and Strung Out

So this brings us to Saturday, where another breakfast and another trip into the village led directly into the day's music, via camping the front row for Metal Church.

Metal Church - 7/7
Despite going on early in the day and on a smaller stage than they played last year, they delivered a top-quality, tremendously kickass set, probably driven on by the huge crowd for so early in the day. The material was a mix of the real old stuff as well as newer cuts from the stuff they've done since Vanderhoof came back, weighted as of course old, with the three classics from their self-titled closing the set. After this, they did "Mirror of Lies" again as an encore to film a video, and the crowd was strongly up for it again. We won't know for probably another month or so, but I may have gotten into this video, as I was standing in the front row and did a psycho Gene Simmons grimace right into the camera as the camera dude was running it by. As Quentin Tarantino says about Robert Rodriguez' films, all you have to do is be "the dog"; stay on your mark, look cool, and you'll get in the picture when the editor needs to fill a gap.

30 - Metal Church doing "Watch The Children Pray".

Caliban - 5/7
Pretty good, but they'd rather have been on the Party Stage (saying exactly as much), and while they recovered well from the power going out in the middle of their set, they never came off as much more than average, perhaps intimidated by the size of the audience. Also, even at a festival like this, you really shouldn't have to feel the need to explain what a 'wall of death' or a 'circle pit' is. People who show up to watch a metalcore band will know what this shit is.

31 - Caliban before the power went off.

Arch Enemy - 4/7
The electrical problems continued with Arch Enemy on the other main stage; the performance was pretty good, but the sound was totally fucked up, very trebled out to the point that the guitars sounded like junk. Angela had a couple problems with her mic as well that brought back memories of Metalfest, but that wasn't the dominant issue here -- the intermittent failures of the right PA tower to function were. Not a fun time for those trying to listen back in the audience.

32 - Arch Enemy, fortunately with only visuals and not their fucked-up sound.

Fear Factory - 5/7
I was doing much more sitting around and waiting for Orphaned Land to go on, but they seemed to put on a good show, even going back to their first disc to do "Martyr". Pretty cool overall, but this isn't a band I'm hugely into, and where I was sitting made the True Metal stage sound a little flat.

Orphaned Land - 6/7
These guys definitely did not disappoint, either musically or in the showmanship department. However, as good as they were, they weren't quite good enough to justify the huge media circus that formed up around them due largely to their national origin. Great music, but that wasn't all that the photographers hogging the front rail were interested in, which is a shame.

33 - Orphaned Land blasting and grooving.
34 - A crop showing the #2 and #3 reasons Europe is getting into Orphaned Land; being AWESOME is definitely primary, but the bandmembers having SCREAMING HOT girlfriends/wives definitely helps.

Gamma Ray - 7/7
I was much more listening to Orphaned Land's soundcheck, but the parts that I did hear of Kai et al did make me thoroughly regret missing the set. Even standing in front of another stage the sound and feeling of this were purely awesome, going through newer stuff as well as the classics, and blending everything together into a smooth and unbeatable whole.

35 - One of the robotic guitar units of the machine known as ATHEIS~2 gets some of its circuitry tightened up.

Atheist - 8/7
O. M. F. G. Atheist pounded the crowd into a fine powder with a nonstop barrage of ultimate brutal and technical death metal that was only intensified for me by being stapled to the front row, directly in front of the left-side PA cab. There's no band like this anywhere, and the crowd realized this as well, never giving a down moment and continuing to shout for an encore long after the crew started to take down their gear.

36 - Atheist crushing the audience.
37 - Three instrumentalists, three independent and totally sick riff lines wrapping around each other. Fuckin' A-theist!
38 - Tony "The Man" Choy laying down a totally sweet solo in "Mother Man". Suitable for screen background use.

Here are some fun facts about Tony Choy that you may not know:
- When Tony Choy fell through the stage in Italy, he did not stop himself by breaking his bass' neck. Tony Choy stopped himself by projecting a wave of pure AWESOME from his face, and the bass broke its own neck out of repsect.
- Tony Choy does not sleep. He plays Stu Hamm and Victor Wooten lines.
- Tony Choy's bassplaying can make women spontaneously give birth at a range of 50 yards. This may increase to 100 yards if the woman in question is already pregnant.
- Tony Choy was going to use his powers to resurrect Roger Patterson and Chuck Schuldiner for this year's Wacken, but Kelly Schaefer reminded him that Lemmy was going to be there as well, and that much concentrated AWESOME might blow a hole in the planet. So Tony Choy decided not to, even though he probably could've handled it.
- There is no endangered species list. There is merely a list of creatures that Tony Choy has not thumbslapped into oblivion yet.
- Tony Choy missed a note once. When he realized his mistake, though, he went back in time and played a totally sick syncopated-64th-note fill in its place instead.
- Tony Choy does not use the dials on his bass or his amp. He controls his sound directly with his mind.
- Tony Choy once met Chuck Norris. Chuck tried to roundhouse-kick him, but Tony was able to block the kick with a wall of totally sick notes. They have since agreed not to blow up any more galaxies fighting each other.
- Tony Choy's day job is playing bass on a cruise ship. His totally sick bass lines propel the boat through the water, and additionally destroy the zombie shark people who would otherwise take over the Caribbean.
- When Atheist was flying over to Europe, there were motherfuckin snakes on the motherfuckin plane. So Tony Choy grabbed like 8 of them and made them into a bass and played a totally fucking sick solo that made the rest of them all die. The airplane additionally spontaneously shat itself and dumped all their gear into the ocean, that solo was so awesome.

More Facts:
1. Tony Choy is a mammal.
2. Tony Choy plays totally sick bass lines all the time.
3. The purpose of Tony Choy is to flip out and play awesome bass solos.

Tony Choy can outplay anyone he wants. Tony Choy plays insanely sick bass licks all the time and doesn't even think twice about it. I heard that there was this one time Tony Choy was eating at a diner. And when some dude said something bad about Roger Patterson Tony Choy flipped out and played this sick solo that blew up the whole town. My friend Mark said that he saw Tony Choy totally uppercut some kid just because the kid said that Soulfly was technical.

And that is some Real Fucking Ultimate Power!

Q and A:
Q: Why is everyone so obsessed about Tony Choy?
A: Tony Choy is the ultimate paradox. On the one hand he plays the world's most massively sick death metal bass lines, but on the other hand, he gets paid for playing on a cruise ship.

Q: I heard that Tony Choy isn't as good as Roger Patterson. What's his deal?
A: Whoever told you that is a total liar. Just like other mammals, Tony Choy can be as good as Roger Patterson AND not better than Roger Patterson.

Q: What does Tony Choy do when he's not touring with Atheist or playing on the cruise ship?
A: Most of his free time is spent at his house in Florida, but sometimes he smokes weed. (Ask Kelly or Rand if you don't believe me.)


Ok, silliness aside, back to the festival.

Emperor - 7/7
The set was a little short, but little short of perfect. There were some problems with the sound early, and Ihsahn forgot which album "...Nightspirit" was off of when he called it out, but they played about everything you could possibly want (I had to rack my brains to come up with "Ye Entrancemperium" to yell for the encore, since they had already done "Wordless Chamber" and "With Strength I Burn", my personal favorites), and Ihsahn even busted out the old shoulder armor for "The Loss and Curse of Reverence", even though no one was in corpsepaint. This is how a reunion ought to be, and I was hella glad that I got to see and take part in it.

39 - Ihsahn leading the Emperors' Return.
40 - The titanic crowd for Emperor.
41 - Ihsahn again, with better lighting.

With Emperor over and me thoroughly tired out, I headed up to the beergarden for some food, a few more drinks, and the chance to check out absolute gone lunacy while Motorhead and Finntroll threw down. Both bands did kickass sets, though I was concentrating a little more on the colorful terrain, as such:
- A dude who looked like Japanese cult TV personality Hard Gay/Razor Ramon standing on (and often falling off) tables, giving security a Fuehrerbefehl (literally, 'direct order from a superior', but it's got all the connotations you think it would) when they came to remove him. (Hard Gay in a rare sane and not-standing-on-tables moment.)
- A kid standing brain-frozen, a beer in one hand and his cellphone ringing in the other, not knowing what the hell to do.
- Fat people playing Surfin' USA when the person sitting on the other end of their bench gets up, popping it up into the air.
- A guy who stepped on someone's Holsten can and now for the life of him can't shake it off his foot.
- A guy so wide he can wear 3 backpatches side by side on his vest.
- Someone raising money for "alcohol research".

If you want to know what it's like, it's like lunch in junior high, except that everyone has been drinking, many heavily. Eventually, though, it had to end, and I had to go back to my tent and get some sleep.

Wacken 2006 Part 2: Friday, or, Hail Satan, Fuck the Sun, Pursue the Vikings

Since I was occupied spending too much money on merch on Thursday and didn't get in to the Edeka in town, I decided to stop at the breakfast tent and get some fuel in me before I went into town to get additional cash. I got the basic drunk-and-can't-order breakfast set, which can be eaten piecemeal German-style, or combined Voltron-like into the most unappetizing-sounding yet awesome breakfast sandwich in history.

How to make a Wacken-style German breakfast:
Take a mini-baguette or other hard-crust, flattish roll about 6 inches long and split it, then put orange or peach jelly or marmalade on the bottom part. Put a slice or two of real cheese on top of this, then put about the same amount of salami on top of the cheese. Butter the top half and stick it together. Drink some good coffee or cold OJ with it, and put the nutella packet in your pocket for eating/depraved acts later. This will keep an adult metalhead awake and thrashing all morning.

On the way down to breakfast, I saw two separate cars just on the road that I walked in with an alphanumeric code on their license plates ending in 666. Given that a later more careful survey later found 10 cars with this element on the same road, I think we can rule out coincidence, despite the fact that I wasn't aware until now that Germany generally allowed vanity plates.

After breakfast, though, it was on in to town, to get some more cash from the fly-infested ATM booth, and to hit a local landmark:

10 - The world-famous sign on the town's only real hotel.
This sign on the Gasthof Zur Post is de riguer for German-speaking metalheads, wherever they come from: Be Happy, You Are In Wacken. And truly, everyone should; 51 weeks a year, it's a perfect little farming town, and the other week, it's the most pure and perfect heavy metal city in the world. Things are not hard here, either for the festivalgoers or for the year-round residents whose economy they substantially underwrite by dumping in a substantial share of the 4 million euros in gate receipts
and buying up a colossal share of the food and beer in stock at the Edeka a little down from this sign, in addition to the money raked in by the households on the main drag that set up bars in their back yard or sell kegs of Warsteiner off their front porch.

At the Edeka I got some research, some food, and a souvenir that I unfortunately couldn't take away:

11 - Wacken beer from Flensburger. I was not able to bring back an actual bottle, so this will have to do. This beer was some good stuff, a nice clean pilsener feel, and a rich aftertaste of toast and coffee...though this may have as much to do with my own breakfast as with the breing process.

Both at the market and on the way back to the Festivalgelande, I noticed a lot more French, Italian, and Spanish being spoken in addition to English, German, Dutch, and the Swedish dialects from north of here. Some of it is that there are more people than there were in 2005, when the weather kept out all but the ultradiehards, but it's quite possible that part of it is an aftereffect from the World Cup, and the associated Europe-wide recognition of the fact that the Germans know how to fucking throw a party. Given the level of the bands and the fans there, Wacken is in itself the World Cup of heavy metal, except that, as with Queen's "We Are The Champions", everyone has already won just by showing up. Of course we win, it's fuckin' metal man!!

Finally, the bands start,

Mystic Circle - 4/7
These guys opened the Black Stage for Friday, and provided a decent start to the day with a mixture of black and death metal that at least got everyone into it, even if it was really kind of average. There's a reason they went on at 11 AM instead of headlining, after all.

12 - Mystic Circle kicks it off.

Wintersun - 5/7
The new project from the former singer of Ensiferum, these guys were genuinely epic and definitely got the surprisingly huge crowd pumped up, even if they started to drag a little by the end. They didn't really have enough unique riffs to fill out all of the space in some of their longer songs, though the initial impression was absolutely kickass.

13 - Wintersun totally rocking out.

Legion of the Damned - 5/7
This Dutch band is fairly original as the brutal thrash revival goes, but in this set there was a lot more kick and punch than original manner of doing such. However, that's just fine in a festival context (can't get Slayer in every year), and the intensity of the performance was to be marveled at. Watch for them on next year's DVD.

14 - Legion of the Damned thrash it up.

Danko Jones - 6/7
Despite starting out a little slow, including a crazy tirade when people turned to look at a low-flying Bundeswehr helicopter rather than at the stage, Danko eventually won the crowd over by the anthemic end of a punky and kickass rock set, probably the second-best non-metal set after Motorhead of the entire festival, which also included a lot of lunatic commentary that you're not going to get anywhere else. Hail Satan - fuck the sun - Danko Jones.

15 - Danko Jones and company playing some satanic rock'n'roll.

Ektomorf - 4/7
I wasn't really watching, but they had the whole crowd at the Party Stage jumping and pounding their fists. It's still mostly the same jumpdafuckup music that people would miss from Soulfly in order to watch Atheist on Saturday, but the delivery was ofcourse impeccable...and there's still the hope that this band will one day grow up and do something original.

16 - Ektomorf exhort the crowd to show their fists.

Six Feet Under - 5/7
Another band I wasn't really paying attention to, but I was leaning more this way while standing up at the front waiting for Nevermore to go on. The response was good, but the set was mostly average, somewhat formulatic deathgroove until Barnes opened up with "TNT" as the closer. Still good shit, but considering the pedigree of the band, they shouldn't have to borrow AC/DC's thunder.

17 - Chris Barnes and Six Feet Under covering some AC/DC.

Nevermore was the first band I went forward for this year, and the first time that I'd really, really gone forward for a band at Wacken. Last year I was concentrating mainly on the spectacle, but this time around, there was a real ton of bands that I was hugely into, so up to the front I went.

18 - The infield waits for Nevermore.
19 - Changing sides from SFU for Nevermore.

Nevermore - 7/7
A flat amazing set, with a crazy crowd response that you really had to be in the second or third row to see and believe. No mistakes, and never a down moment, and while we didn't break Bodom's crowdsurfer record from a few years back, I didn't break my fucking knee either, unlike the last time I got in a pit at Wacken. I did twist one up a little lifting this one crowdsurfer a little awkwardly, but someone else had just kneed me across the nose, so it was probably distraction as much as anything, and it had mostly cleared up as soon as I got out of the heavy lifting zone. Pure chaos, but pure bliss as well.

20 - Van Williams gets some help tweaking his drums.
21 - Van warms up.
22 - Jeff Loomis gets his sound dialed in.

Opeth - 6/7
They did a good job, and played out a smooth, awesome set, but in a setting like this, they really need to be the only band playing. They were on the Black Stage, whcih meant that the Party Stage was going at the same time, and the result is that from where I was standing, half of their dynamic variations and almost all of their softer parts were overridden by the Krach from fucking Soilwork. They persevered and put on a good show, but this isn't really the right venue for them.

Soilwork - 5/7
Since I was trying to watch Opeth at the time, I don't have much more than a peripheral feel for them, but they did deliver pretty well, and they certainly had their crowd going. Unfortunately, they were stomping all over Opeth's sound and not with music I particularly care for.

In Extremo - 7/7
I'd seen this stage set, and heard all of the material played, plus a lot more cool stuff besides, on the Dresden stop of their fall 2005 tour, but In Extremo showed off their masterful show coordination abilities as much as their musicianship by carefully selecting all and only the songs that would work best in the festival setting for their set here. The performance was totally killer, with everyone singing along on nearly everything, and a couple new fire gimmicks as well, including fireworks attatched to the ship's wheel that they could not have done in the narrow confines of the Alter Schlachthof.

23 - In Extremo's ship stage set.
24 - In Extremo playing "Macht und Dummheit".

Carnivore - 6/7
A cool set from a band that no one rationally thought they'd ever see again, but the day of this style of music has come and gone, and it's hard to look at the band and think that Pete Steele doesn't also realize and acknowledge this. It's pure nostalgia, but it's also nostalgia that remembers how it got its original edge, and fucks with the crowd by leaving after the intro music and only coming back when they hear people yelling about how much they suck, nostalgia that still gets topless chicks out to throw blood substitutes on the crowd, completely and throughout the twisted product of Steele and his warped, dark sense of humor. Cool almost as much for this as for the actual content.

25 - Carnivore setting up.
26 - Carnivore jamming on "Jesus Hitler".
27 - Carnivore in butchers' smocks for their second encore, "Sex and Violence", as the moon comes up.

Children of Bodom - 7/7
They tried but failed to break their own crowdsurfing record, but the rest of the set, by contrast, was marked by delivering exactly as expected. No surprises, ot from this band, butt lots of mile-a-minute melodic black metal, or blackened heavy metal, whatever you want to call it. I was way in the back, but this still turned out as a damn cool set.

28 - Children of Bodom get the place fucking crazy.

Celtic Frost - 6/7
A great set, full of the old, dark, doomy material, but unfortunately their really, really weird stuff didn't make the cut. It was a good balance between old and new, but Celtic Frost's most experimental period was in the middle, and not nearly as well represented...though in truth, their most psychotic stuff might not have been the best for a huge festival like this.

DespairsRay - 4/7
They hung over a little after CF finished, so I was able to hear a song or two for real from them. They were a jrock band, but fortunately didn't totally suck, which was a relief, and while I'd never in a million years skip Celtic Frost to listen to them, I'd definitely take them over Dir En Grey.

I didn't really hear anything at all from Ministry as I was up front waiting for Amon Amarth at the time, and the side of the Black Stage that I was at is in an acoustic shadow such that nothing intelligible from the True Metal Stage gets over. This was some important intelligence for Saturday night, allowing me to both camp for Emperor and avoid hearing Whitesnake at all.

Amon Fucking Amarth - 7/7
Amon Amarth, live headlining the biggest heavy metal festival in the world. A new song ("Runes To My Memory") off With Odin On Our Side, nearly two months before street. The Jomsvikings, battling it out during the interlude in "...Stabwounds..." in real Viking country. From "Pursuit of Vikings" to "Death In Fire", this was the perfect festival set from one of our era's greatest festival bands. Absolutely incredible, and this alone would have been worth flying over for, even if Emperor hadn't gotten back together.

29 - Johan Hegg throws up the horns at the conclusion of Amon Amarth's set.

I also ran into Andy and Lars from last year again, this time briefly after Celtic Frost, but we only talked briefly; with a festival lineup like this, there wasn't much reason to stay in one place. After Amon Amarth, it was basically back to camp, to sleep and recharge for another long hot day and long crazy night.

Wacken 2006 Part 1: Travel and Thursday, or Well, Quality Over -- Wait, *What*??

Because Emperor was reuniting for Wacken this year and I somehow knew that the US Heimatsicherheitsdienst would not allow Samoth into the country for the US shows, I packed up my pack again and flew off across the Atlantic to the metal Mecca for another year of "great festival - great bands - a perfect evening for METAL" (to quote Amon Amarth's Johan Hegg from last year's Rock Hard fest). I got my skull blown in by an absolutely stellar lineup, and will of course be going back next year; Blind Guardian, a reunited Immortal, and Samael are already announced, and there's of course going to be even more godlike bands announced over the next 11 or so months.

This is a documentation of how I got to and from Wacken, and little things about Germany and other places noticed en route, with some commentary and analysis that I was able to think and see about because I wasn't a newbie this year, and marveling at simply being able to take part.


2 and 3 August - Reise, Reise, Ankunft

The single signal mistake I made planning this trip was flying Continental instead of Lufthansa. Continental sucks, not least because everything crossing the Atlantic is routed through Newark. Now, some people may think that getting down on Newark isn't fair, but I have family in New Jersey, and even New Jersey people get down on Newark. Newark is so bad, it's the New Jersey of New Jersey...but in all fairness, Continental's other hubs are in Cleveland and Houston, so Newark is probably the least sucky of them. This is an awful and condemnatory statement.

Fortunately, they were able to at least get me and my gear in to Hamburg without losing any of it. Then it was over to the central station, and on a train to Itzehoe that turned out to be free because the ticket-taker's handheld ticket-printer was out of order. Hooray technology. Off the train and onto the bus, where I got to listen to a bunch of first-time attendees from Sweden and Finland talk in English about what they expected from the festival. I was smiling inside at their naivete, and at how much Wacken was going to exceed their expectations. Twenty thousand people? Try one and a half times again that many, and for the headliners almost all of them are going to be in the infield.

However, even I was surprised at how camped-up the place was. Last year, I got in later on Thursday and didn't have any problem setting up fairly close to the entrance, but this year I was out in East Siberia, as can be shown on the map. Getting there required walking almost all the way around the festival grounds, a great workout and a discouraging if simultaneously totally awesome reminder of how many damn people this festival draws. Next year, I'll go a day earlier; I'll get to see TSV Wacken get their butts kicked by St. Pauli, and maybe I'll even be able to get a reasonable campsite.

After setting up the tent, it was off to the festival grounds to get in some beer and merch, including a vital piece of equipment because I forgot to bring a carabiner for certain uses. After bolting it up, I was good to go:

01 - Wacken mug gear im vollen Effekt. A 3,60-euro goth wristband attaches the mug handle to the tool strap on the shorts. The liter-mug is the most efficient available drinks vessel, but kind of a pain to have in your hand all the time. This way, it's constantly to hand, but not necessarily in your hand.

While in the beer garden, I took a couple other pictures as well.

02 - New this year: festival banners on the old foundry tower.
The Raiffeisen tower is a Wacken landmark, and for this year, the festival organizers were able to hang banners on it, probably due to their strong and ever-better program of village relations that makes it possible to hold a festival of 50,000 metalheads in a town of 2000 farmers -- and have most of the locals like it. Any way you cut it, this looks damn awesome, especially for festival veterans for whom it was not only new but different.

03 - This dude wears two backpatches by using one as a backflap. The big takeaway from Wacken, clothing-wise, is that there's no wrong way to build a patchjacket. Later, I encountered a guy whose vest was all patches, the underlying canvas having worn away, and a guy so big that he could wear three normal backpatches side by side across his back. Mine, worn constantly, was about average in badassedness level, as opposed to the US where it's one of the few and often one of the most kickass among that small number. I ofcourse picked up a number of new patches at Wacken this time, but only a few will fit on the current jacket; time to start building another one as soon as I find the right backpatch.

My first drink finished and some good pictures taken, I went down into the infield to wait for the first bands of the fest to go on, and took a few pictures that make a discount panoramic:

04 - Empty infield pan shot part 1.
05 - Empty infield shot part 2.
06 - Empty infield shot part 3.

I got a beer, stood about watching people fill in while drinking it, then sat down at the base of the bar to rest while waiting for Faster Inferno to start. It was at this point that things started to go wrong.

The first problem was that I fell asleep without noticing. The second problem was that when I woke up and tried to stand up, I didn't notice that my legs were still asleep, and unable to balance, I fell over on my butt. I was uninjured, but well aware of how dumb and lame I looked as I pounded and massaged feeling back into my lower limbs. This was not a good sign, as Faster Inferno was only barely getting started. If I continued to hang around, I would likely fall asleep again, and if I fell over again, I might get escorted out to get medical attention that I didn't really need; I wasn't drunk at all, just exhausted from travel and basically not having slept in the longer part of 32 hours. So I decided to return to base camp and get some sleep; with enough sleep I would be recharged for the rest of the festival and, besides, Faster Inferno was pretty bad.

Faster Inferno - 3/7. I only heard about half their set, but if the guitarist's last name wasn't Schenker, and if his dad (Michael) and uncle (Rudolf) weren't playing later in the same night with MSG and Scorpions, respectively, there is no way in hell that they would be even on the W.E.T. Stage, let alone opening the festival on a mainstage. Unoriginal and with crummy songwriting and arrangements, I should have just continued sleeping -- back at the campsite, and set an alarm for when Victory was going on so I could wake up and get merch before MSG.

On the way back to the site, the rain which had been dripping intermittently had cleared off, leaving a good omen behind:
07 - "At the end of the rainbow/With gold in our hands"; a good omen over the campground.

This would be the last notable rain of the weekend, with only a few drips on Friday during Nevermore.

Before dozing off, I snapped some shots of the huge merch haul. Most of this stuff is from the Metal Markt, but I also joined in the run on festival wear in order to get some good shirts for me and my brothers before they sold out. Stuff was selling out while I was in line -- it was fucking whack.

08 - Swag pile part 1: t-shirts, Eddie pin, and some CDs.
09 - Swag pile part 2: a whole bunch of CDs and some stuff from the last shot.

In amid this stuff you can see a Bifrost longsleeve, which is ultra-rare, and a Xentrix album, which while it isn't For Whose Advantage?, is still ultra-ultra rare. I actually asked the guy who was selling it if it was actually for sale, because the idea of Xentrix albums available for purchase is so foreign to be that I could not initially believe it. 25 euros for a used CD, and I still think it was him who got ripped off. I mean, it's FUCKING XENTRIX, man.

At around 2300 I had to get up and walk into the woods to take a piss, and I saw the Scorpions' lights and heard some of their music coming across the empty fields and crowded campgrounds. it was some good stuff, but I was still too bushed to go down in person. Yet another reason to fly in a day earlier next year, especially if it's Saxon doing the "Night To Remember"show.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

good thing I'm not flying out till Monday

......and that Hamburg is a 24-hour city. Look what I have a chance to get into: W:O:A afterparty .

I may or may not be able to get tix, and I may or may not be able to make it over and/or back to my hotel, but still, the chance to see Carnivore again! How cool is that? Plus, whoever they get for support, and more beer.

Unfortunately, Carnivore is not doing an autograph session, so I won't be able to get Peter to sign my Vinnland Wacken, anyway. Maybe here; if not, I'll just have to settle with maybe getting Orphaned Land or Nevermore to write on my jacket....if, again, I can get time off from actually seeing bands when they're available.

Shelfcore Quest 2006: Step 19 [42] (crosspost)

Leaving for Wacken tomorrow, so there's just enough time to post this one, and then maybe get almost through the end of what I currently have. I've got the last 10 discs in my collection sitting on the shelf here at work, and will probably not pick up more than 15 or 20 at Wacken (gotta save money for beer and shirts), so after that it's tapes...and I need to find the rest of my tape collection, because I'm pretty sure that my brothers have made off with or lost my Metallica and Megadeth material, and Utopia Banished, Spreading The Disease, and a bunch of other ancient stuff is just AWOL. I should probably dub them over to digital, but the rig I've got for that kind of sucks, and didn't do well working over the Graveland tape I got at Wacken last year.


Gamma Ray - Heaven Can Wait [5/7]
"This isn't nearly so much an EP as a short little album that didn't get a proper release... [w]hile it's good stuff, a lot of the tracks are available elsewhere, so it's probably only worth it to current Gamma Ray fans to actually go and dig it up."

Gamma Ray - Heading For Tomorrow [5/7]
"...somewhat generic-sounding early Germanic power metal disc, not powered by knights and dragons but not especially memorable either. There are quite a few good tunes on here, but Gamma Ray has substantially left this sound behind..."

Gamma Ray - Future Madhouse [5/7]
"The music is top-notch, some of Gamma Ray's best work from what I consider their better period, though most people will probably shy away from importing something this short and this out-of-print. If you happen across it, it's a good pickup, but even as good as it is, probably not worth searching after."

In Extremo - Weckt die Toten! [4/7]
"'s clear that In Extremo is just beginning to get a handle on who they are as a metal band rather than a group of early musicians, and above all else the arrangements aren't as strong as they'd later become. Though the roots of their style are evident and this one will be essential for fans, it probably isn't worth the while of those with a more casual interest."

Bruce Dickinson - The Chemical Wedding [7/7]
"...probably the best of Bruce's solo records, and thoroughly essential as well. The songs are dynamite, and the performances offered are flat incredible; when you stack this next to Iron Maiden's Virtual XI, it should be immediately obvious why Maiden realized the reunion had to happen. An excellent album, maybe the one Bruce disc to get..."

Iron Maiden - The X Factor [5/7]
"...the material is decent, actually a step up from Fear of the Dark and anticipating their comeback material in spots. Blaze isn't a bad singer, either, but there isn't anywhere on this disc where you can hear him and not immediately think of how Bruce would do it, and it'd come out at least as good if not better. The Blaze discs aren't essential, even for Maiden fans...but collectors may be interested in this one..."

Iron Maiden - A Real Live One [5/7]
"...a lot of Fear... songs -- more, actually, than there are in fact good songs on said record. There isn't anything from before 1987 on this record, making it an interesting document in contrast to every other existing Iron Maiden live album, but given that fact, one that's probably of interest only to collectors and diehard Maiden fans."

Let Me Dream - The Maze [3/7]
"In places they echo both Borknagar and Bifrost, so some collectors will probably be interested, but over the bulk of the disc, they're fairly uninteresting, with pedestrian riffage and goopy Russian-singing-in-English vocals filling the spaces in around the Bifrost-biting. Fortunately, it doesn't go on for very long..."

Megadeth - Youthanasia [6/7]
"...quite a few classics spread over it, and still overall in a style that's both wholly thrash and wholly awesome. Though it's one of Megadeth's most accessible works, it's no less worthy for it, and a strong addition to any metalhead's collection..."

My Pet Demon - A New Found Evil [5/7]
"'s fairly easy to tell that the band was still averaging age 14 when this one was recorded. It's obviously not Decapitated by any stretch of interpretation, but on this one, MPD shows off some fairly good thrash chops... The band has decided to officially consider several of the songs on this one to never have existed, but there's still some good music in here..."

Nightwish - Century Child [5/7]
"Nightwish definitely have their own sound, and it's quite epic and operatic for those to whom this appeals, but in many parts it's even more tentatively metal than power metal at large is. Nightwish fans and those into smilar bands will be all over this one, but regular metalheads may want to approach it with caution."

Rapid Charlie - Zombie Town [4/7]
"The riffs and grooves are mostly quite simplistic, but covered with gonzo shrieking and ridiculously bloodthirsty lyrics, Rapid Charlie laid down the foundations for the ludicrous yet extreme North Shore ''meat metal'' scene, which inspired a lot of bands but was always much more performance art than musical performance."

Savatage - Handful Of Rain [6/7]
"There is some really good material on here, but given where it sits in the band's history, it shouldn't be surprising that it also includes a few of the negatives of both sides of Savatage; the tiredness of their hard rock period and the pretensions of their later Broadway-show era. They keep it together well, and these moments are transient, though still present; the bulk of the disc is executed at a high level and well worth it for fans of hard rock and melodic metal..."

Sentenced - Down [5/7]
"...better than I remembered; despite the fact that they essentially did this one over as Frozen, Sentenced still has some good music and decent performances here. The focus and direction that would come back on Crimson is still absent, though, so in a lot of parts this one is forgettable, and to a certain degree 'just another Sentenced disc' -- but this kind of neglects the reality that Sentenced is quite reliable at putting out quality, if not superlative, records."

Stone - Free! [5/7]
"A good but somewhat overwhelmingly long live performance from this Finnish stoner/thrash act, the music is cool and well-delivered, but one piece has trouble standing out from the next when collected into a compendium like this. It's a good introduction to the band, though given that the labels they were on were never the most high-profile, getting this, let alone other material from them is a bit of an uncertain proposition."

Xentrix - Dilute To Taste [7/7]
"A practically perfect 30-minute EP, this punches up five tracks of ripping thrash metal with a nice shot of comedy at the end; while the band is probably best known for ''Ghostbusters'' and the controversy that their use of the logo caused, this doesn't distract from the extremely high quality of the musicianship over the rest of the disc. With strong writing and performances live as well as in the studio, this is Xentrix at their best, and general metalheads as well as thrash collectors ought to pick this up if they run across it."

Sepultura - Morbid Visions [6/7]
"The execution is sometimes lacking, but the spirit is omnipresent on Sepultura's debut, which is a lot more death metal after what Death, Possessed, and Kreator were doing about this time than the thrash metal that they...would later develop into. The sound is similar to the grooving basement blasts of Scream Bloody Gore, and while the performance isn't at Chuck's level, it's still some damned good stuff..."

Sepultura - Bestal Devastation [5/7]
"...not as brutal or crushing as their first full-length, but the thrash feel of Sepultura here is much more like what they'd do later, though thoroughly informed by early Slayer as was the case with nearly all brutal thrash in this period. There's some good material here, but as a standalone it's valuable chiefly for reasons of history..."

Immortal - Damned In Black [6/7]
"The playing and songcraft rip as usual, and the tight Abyss production just puts the extra shine and crunch on top. While it's not as generally essential as At The Heart of Winter, it's still pretty much a must-buy for black metallers, and it does have some general appeal as well.

Nuclear Assault - Alive Again [5/7]
"Another thrash band returns from a long layoff, and Nuclear Assault does it in just about the same fashion as everyone else; a thick slice of material that, while good, is much more solid than revolutionary, and will please old fans while not necessarily drawing in anyone new."

Myrkskog - Superior Massacre [5/7]
"...despite the intricacy of the music, like Zyklon with the intensity dialed back a notch to allow for some more complex, almost Hate-Eternal-esque guitar lines, it doesn't put high demands on you to immediately listen and pay attention. I'm not certain whether this comes from the songwriting or from the production, but whatever the cause, it's going to take close listening to bring the true value out of this. It's still pretty cool black/death metal..."

Carcass - Symphonies of Sickness [6/7]
"Dense, dark, and gore-obsessed, this is not Carcass at their absolute best, but it deserves its reputation as a death metal classic. The oppressive atmosphere is only furthered by the medically precise lyrics, which are unintelligible in actual performance... It's not as strong or strongly original as Carcass would be when they later grew away from this style, but in order for that development to happen, Carcass first had to create this clinical grind-death sound, which of itself has been tremendously influential as well."

Celtic Frost - Into The Pandemonium [6/7]
"For the most part it's black metal of the older thrash-driven school, but it's flavored with a few electronic or otherwise digressive pieces that still compare favorably with the weirdest bits that Sigh, ...And Oceans, and Arcturus have been able to come up with. This is a deliberately and desperately inaccessible disc for most people, but once that tough nut is cracked, it's a complete world all into itself."

Alastis - Revenge [5/7]
"...significant influences in both sound and arrangement from electronic forms. The instrumentation is still death metal, and the overall music is still doom-death, but in places it's easy to see how this almost could be counted as a member of a whole different genre. If you're interested in a death metal version of Samael's later period, this would be a good disc to pick up..."

Anthrax - Persistence Of Time [6/7]
"...while it's definitely original, there are a couple songs that may not sit so well with the average metalhead; Anthrax's up-beat thrash has turned out to be an evolutionary dead end in metal so far, and it may well only be fans of the style and of the band who are going to go back for this one. It's cool, but it's different, and so different that in a modern context it may be a little difficult to listen to."

Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell [7/7]
"While Sabbath, like the stoner bands that they influenced, is often a lot more rockish than nonstop metal, this one is still a thoroughly cool metal album as well as being fairly easy to listen to and get into. The instrumental side of the band is spot-on, and Dio's voice suits the writing like a glove, even though Ozzy could well have done just as good a job on these tracks. Highly recommended; while Ozzy's discs are the essential Sabbath, Dio Sabbath is nearly as good..."

Blind Guardian - Imaginations From Hamburg [4/7]
"Guardian fans will sweat through the rotten sound quality to get to the rare acoustic show at the end of the disc, which they did in Sweden after Thomen passed out and couldn't drum any more, but people less into the band will be much better off with one of the band's official lives or a studio record."

Borgabor V - Born In The Woods [5/7]
"Bizarre and poorly recorded, this dirt-level combination of Pantera and Mayhem is the ultimate testament of the short-lived and exceedingly bizarre 'meat metal' genre, in which, as in a lot of offshoots of black metal, musical performance took a back stage to acting psycho on stage. While the CD will not itself spit raw meat over you or do push-ups while playing, it is otherwise a fair testament of this scene's lunacy, and not too difficult to listen to, provided that you're into underground, necro sounds in the first place."

Bruce Dickinson - Skunkworks [4/7]
"...a decent record, but barely more than peripherally metal, and it often gets caught up in itself, especially with the overuse of space/black-technology references in a couple of songs to tie in the title, which was also trendy in the mid-1990s. Between this one and Maiden's contemporaneous X Factor, there is a single very strong record lurking, but here as there, Bruces offering is barely more than average without the presence of the other half of the equation."

Death - Live In L.A. [6/7]
"The recording quality isn't always the best, but the performance is absolutely top-notch; Death deliver as no one else is able to on a 70-minute set covering most of their career, while concentrating on the later material, which is both intrinsically complex and acquiring greater brutal punch in the live performance. Since there won't ever be any more Death live shows, this record is a necessity..."

Dystopian Abyss - Tendencies [4/7]
"The overall feel is sometimes boring, sometimes cool, with the band coming off as a less experienced, less creative, less capable Maudlin of the Well. Given the fairly good quality of the playing and the fact that all the members were still in high school when this one was laid down, it becomes less surprising that several of them have gone on to distinguished bands in the North Shore underground...though the lack of creative focus here also explains why they weren't able to go on together..."

Helloween - Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I [7/7]
"...this is a momentous and almost uniformly crunchy album which is a blast to listen to as well as the wellspring for the entire modern power metal movement. Most fans will be able to listen to it on this basis, but even the extreme undergrounders may be won over by the degree of fanatical guitar pyrotechnics to be found here; Kai Hansen puts on a clinic the likes of which he has rarely come near in Gamma Ray, though always well-integrated with the actual song structure."

Helloween - Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II [6/7]
"Lacking as memorable, or as good songs, this one does not come up to the standard of its predecessor, and so is essential for power metallers only, rather than for everyone. The playing is still cool, but the songwriting isn't as strong... Normal metalheads will crank up ''I Want Out'' and likely forget the rest of the record."

Metallica - Hero of the Day [4/7]
"The title track is forgettable, and the components of the medley on the B-side are from albums that everyone owns already, but they still make this single worth the usually nominal price of entry. The performance is pretty good as well, though nobody but thorough Metallica fans is going to buy this, and history has shown that they are not overwhelmingly discriminating..."

Iced Earth - Night of the Stormrider [5/7]
"This was a good disc before it was re-produced and repackaged for Dark Genesis, though this is somewhat masked by the fact that this is far from the peak Iced Earth lineup. Still, they do a good job with the material, and the record rips and punches in a way that was totally anachronistic for its time, but is no less cool almost 15 years on."

Metallica - Kill 'Em All [6/7]
"Though some of the playing is raw and the arrangements and lyrics would take a huge step up in the near future, this is still a thrash classic that ought to be found in everyone's library, no matter what you think of their current state of suck. In the end, the music remains, and this is kickass music..."

Metallica - King Nothing [3/7]
"...there is one passable song on this one and one clunker that even James' uninspired stage banter cannot drag back up to the level of respectability. It's a waste of silicon, and if you get it, a waste of money. Dont bother."

Iron Maiden - Run To The Hills 2002 [5/7]
"More of a short EP, this fundraising single for Clive Burr's MS treatment packs on some good live tracks as well as the always-awesome title cut. Given the lack of new material, this isn't really essential, but buying a copy helps out a good guy..."

Metallica - Master of Puppets [7/7]
"This record includes zero bad songs and several that have a legitimate shot at the title of 'best metal song ever'. Of course its essential; even if it didn't turn out to be a tremendous musical landmark and maybe the second most influential thrash record ever after Reign In Blood, it's still full of incredible music, and the sound is just absolutely perfect."

Megadeth - The World Needs A Hero [4/7]
"...plainly a second-rate, second-run Megadeth album, on which a lot of the writing and arrangements were simply mailed in, trying deliberately to recapture the magic of the past, but mostly failing. Some of the unlucky-in-love material verges almost on emo in philosophical intent, and the sum total of the disc is not the enema that Mustaine suggested the world might need at the time of the release of this disc, but rather the impacted shit that such a treatment would flush out."

Gamma Ray - No World Order [7/7]
"Gamma Ray has really hit their stride as of late, and this one will compare well, perhaps even favorably, to the bands classic output. It's not as influential, or accordingly as essential, but if you're into melodic metal, this is an extremely strong pick that will easily overpower nearly everything else being put out currently. I wasn't as into it on the first pass, but there are several songs on this one that will become classics with time..."

Nocturnal Rites - Tales of Mystery and Imagination [5/7]
"The performance is decent enough, but this mix of Helloween and Mario-Brothers background music cannot but grade out as merely more of the same, yet more second-tier power metal done with no more heaviness than might be expected from HammerFall or commitment to its topics than might be expected from early Gamma Ray."

Show review will be up around the end of next week; I'm going to skip a week in shelfcore updates so that I can cover stuff from today and yesterday as well as stuff bought in Germany at one fell swoop.