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The University of Hartford

Sams Sonic Freakout
By Sam Hatch

Remember me? That Culture Dog feller who used to ramble on and on about DVDs and other shiny products? Well I’m back, but this time I’m going to try something different and ramble on about DVDs and other shiny products. The key difference is that I’m reviewing a few instead of supplying a calendar of upcoming releases. So that means this is stuff you can run right out and buy/borrow/usurp today! We’ll be rocking for the most part, but I’ll throw in a mellower disc at the end for a proper chill-out moment. Enjoy!
Clutch – Blast Tyrant (DRT Entertainment) Clutch is one of my favorite bands (and are a mind-blowing group to see live), so a new release from them is always more than welcome. For the uninitiated, they’re a splendid mix of Mountain-style 70s power rock, Frank Zapper psychedelic with a sprinkling of funk here and there. Their past catalogue contains stunning examples of Space Rock, Redneck Rock and even Civil War Rock. The new release flies closer to the former, with tales of a bizarre tyrant hunting down wormlike creatures with his ship the Swollen Goat. But fear not, this is not a concept album where style drowns out the groove. Nope, the tunes are the number one priority, and this has to be one of Clutch’s accessible efforts.
Vocalist Neil Fallon still sound as if he gargles with Drano on occasion, and he continues to stun as one of the most imaginative lyricists around. (Though my favorite line at the moment is still the simple “Condoleeza Rice is nice, but I prefer A-Roni’) The guitar work from Tim Sult is some dirty, mean stuff – all originating from vintage Orange amps and effects pedals. And for the first time ever, he lays down two tracks with copious amounts of acoustic guitar. It works well, and hints that Clutch still has plenty of unexpected moves to make in the future. The drumming from Jean-Paul Gaster is always in the pocket, and Blast Tyrant is no different. Though their earlier, self-released album Jam Room contains a drum solo track that hasn’t been topped yet.
The fifteen tracks go by quickly, and that’s the point. Clutch is here to park their van, rock you for an hour and move on to the next gig. Throw in some nifty artwork on the digipak and a bit of CD-Extra material, and you can’t go wrong. Old school fans may gripe that they’ve wimped out in later years (their earliest releases flirted heavily with hardcore), but I think the band has been soaring ever since they spaced out and expanded their musical horizons. So many bands out there can bludgeon you with riffs, but how many hardcore bands can rock your world and your imagination? Well, sure, Hanson comes close but… Never mind. Clutch rules. Check out Blast Tyrant and your ears will thank you.
Probot – Probot (Southern Lord) I understand that this is heresy, but I’m really not all that bothered by the music world’s loss of Kurt Cobain. Because with him out of the way, I can truly appreciate just how talented ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl is and be thankful for the fact that he rocks my world on a regular basis. Okay, he’s got that Foo Fighters gig going for him, but he also showed up pounding skins for Tenacious D on their eponymous debut. Then he shows up destroying the skins on the last Queens of the Stone Age album. Then he pops up once again as part of Killing Joke on one of their best releases ever. And if those last three examples hint that Dave likes to rock a bit more than is evident from his Foo Fighters material, Probot is the release that seals the deal.
First whispered of as a rumor in 2001, Probot was supposed to be Dave Grohl’s metal project, in which he would collaborate with numerous luminaries of the genre. It was dangerously close to being a ‘one of these days’ project, until the head of Southern Lord records gave Grohl a record deal and the kick in the pants to get it all going. So cut to now, and we have a heavy, heavy release with Grohl performing much of the instrumentation by himself (remember that bit last paragraph when I said he was talented?). The vocals he left up for grabs, and manages to convince tons of metal gods to add their own touches to the record. Sepultura/Soulfly frontman Max Cavalera helms a pre-9/11 warning in “Red War’, while Motorhead’s Lemmy does his thing on ‘Shake Your Blood’, the first single from the project. Other folks include members of D.R.I., Celtic Frost, Venom, Voi Vod and Mercyful Fate’s legendary vocalist King Diamond. Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich (who also appeared on Clutch’s last album) from The Obsessed throws in his two cents as well. You may need to be a fan of 80s/90s metal to get the full effect of what makes Probot work so well, but give it a shot. Dave Grohl is a marvelously passionate music fan, and I look forward to seeing what he does (or who he works with) next.
Beth Gibbons & Rustin Mann – Out Of Season (Sanctuary Records) Okay, you’ve rocked too much, your neck is sore and you need to take it down a notch or five. Beth Gibbons is the heinously gifted vocalist from the trip-hop (I hate that word… sorry I used it) ensemble Portishead. If you’re wondering when their third studio effort will hit shelves, well so am I. In the meantime, Beth has loaned her beautiful vocals to this collaboration with ex-Talk Talk bassist Paul Webb (aka Rustin Mann). This disc was available for a while as a pricey import, but the stateside release has finally arrived with a bonus live track and a video for the opening track ‘Mysteries’.
First off, this album is similar in feel to the style of Beth Orton and a bit of Nick Drake, but can be even more fragile… so TURN IT UP! This really has to be played loud to be enjoyed. Fans of Portishead may be a bit befuddled at first, but by track five (Sand River) you should be suitably entranced. ‘Spider Monkey’, the sixth track is probably my favorite at the moment, but that could change as every listen seems to yield new information and melodies. The instrumentation is spare, so just because P-Head mainstay Adrian Utley is on board for some tracks doesn’t mean that his John-Barry-in-a-dark-alleyway guitar twang is present. Soft acoustic guitar and bass are the main focus, and Beth’s vocals weave their way in and out of the arrangements. Sometimes her voice sounds so fragile that it threatens to evaporate at any given moment. And that’s a good thing. So if you’ve had a long night at the clubs and need something to take the edge off of the wee hours, slap this puppy in the player and feel free to melt into a couch of your choosing.
And since as a Culture Dog I deal extensively with the world of DVDs, I’ll throw down a little on two of my favorite music DVDs to have come down the pike this year.
Opeth – Lamentations/Live At The Shepherd’s Bush Empire (Koch/Music For Nations)
Stockholm, Sweden’s Opeth are one of the biggest metal bands in the world. They’re also one of the best prog/mood rock bands in the world. Sound like a bit of a contradiction? They are, but are all the more popular for it. Opeth began as purveyors of Swedish death metal, blasting double bass drums and croaking out demonic vocals with the best of ‘em. Yet their music was well written and often experimental. That style evolved over the years, and they eventually joined forces with a certain member of Porcupine Tree. (bait for editorial commentary ?) (and here it is: a note from yours truly, the psychedelic, ambient princess…aka the editor: I found this band because of Steven Wilson’s work as producer, etc. I was hooked because these masters of metal are so much more than just purveyors of dark, fast thrash, they are truly interesting, melodic, masters and beg for the attention of more than your usual metal fan.) This DVD mainly focuses on their more melodic material, with the addition of a keyboard player helping things along. I’ve yet to sample the other supplied sound options, but the 5.1 DTS Surround track is simply stunning. Mikael Akerfeldt’s guitar sounds like it’s in the room with you, and these guys are playing for keeps during this performance. Mistakes are nowhere to be found, so enjoy listening to a superb live performance with excellent audio quality. The only drawback is the constant urge to turn it up even louder, thereby angering neighbors and/or cattle. Visually this disc is stunning. The rich colors from stagelights are often hard to convey on video, but this release does it extremely well. It’s one of the best live DVDs I’ve ever seen. As an extra you get a documentary on the making of the albums ‘Deliverance’ and ‘Damnation’. I always love the fact that guys from death metal bands always seem to be such happy people in general. And you’ll be happy too if you purchase this cheap, marvelous DVD.
Tenacious D – The Complete Masterworks (Epic Music Video)
I name-dropped these fellers earlier, and I’ve reviewed it with Kevin on a past segment of Culture Dogs, but let’s make this clear – Tenacious D rocks! Yes, they are the acoustic metal maestros known as Jack Black (of ‘School of Rock’ fame) and Kyle Gass. And if you’ve been rocked by their awesome riffs via their full-length 2001 album or their numerous HBO shorts, then this release is a no-brainer. Disc one contains an entire concert from London’s Brixton Academy, in which they play most of their material in the original dual-acoustic D style. They also unveil a killer rendition of Queen’s theme to Flash Gordon. Rock!
The remainder of disc one contains all of their ‘Mr.Show’ era HBO mini-movies, in which the D search for Inspirado, Sasquatch, or just do mightly metal battle with a shiny demon who yields to their mighty axwork. A fave bit is when Kyle steals JB’s beloved, a record shop clerk who is into Satan, spinal piercing and clogging. Disc two (labeled ‘for psycho fans only) reveals more HBO shorts in even worse taste, most of which are helmed by Sifl and Olly co-creator Liam Lynch. Also included are D appearances from Mad TV, Crank Yankers and Late Night With Conan O’Brien. Not to mention Spike Jonze’s video for ‘Wonderboy’, Liam Lynch’s video for “Tribute’ (both with making of segments – check out Dave Grohl as Satan!) and Spumco’s gutbusting animated video fro FHG. Throw in two documentaries about touring and recording and you’ve got a killer DVD release from the greatest band of all time! Bow in their presence and bask in their afterglow!
And that’s it for me this time out. Thanks for reading and hopefully something I’ve covered will pique your interest. Rock!

Copyright©WWUH: May/June Program Guide, 2004

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