Back in 1990 when thrash was a big deal in the Western world, a prolific Christian crossover (one part punk, one part metal) band recorded their debut album. The guitarist decided to record some songs on a 4 track for fun. These songs did not fit The Crucified’s style, so the demo tape ended up on the desk of REX Records… and the demo became an album. It was a good collection of thrash demos. What I did not realize until recently is that Greg Minier, who played and sang everything on the entire album, recorded the songs without bass. The rationale back then was that they were demos, and Metallica had released their …And Justice For All that year without bass (Jason Newsted actually did record bass on that album but thanks to ego-maniacs in Metallica, you can not hear them).
I thought the Minier album was solid then and I think it sounds better with age. The expanded edition is the Minier album plus demos done in 1988 and 1989, along with a radio show interview recorded around the time of the release. One of the expanded edition tracks worth mentioning is a fun demo entitled “Mulligan Barf,” which is Greg’s satirical rendering of the Vengeance Rising’s “Mulligan Stew.” I won’t spoil it for you, but you will spill a gut listening to it.
You can order this CD, complete with a 6-panel insert, at Boone’s Overstock. Just throw that in the search engine and wait for the tunes to arrive. Note: Minier is great for driving, cooking, and construction work. It might be good for cleaning fish, but it has been awhile since I’ve been fishing.[2017 Retroactive Records | Purchase: boonesoverstock.storenvy.com]
Back in the 80s I was into metal (still am actually). I grew up in the Midwest and heavy metal was quite accessible. Growing up Christian meant I gravitated towards metal on Christian record labels. Let me tell you, there was a lot of Christian metal back then. But before I tell you my life story, one of the bands I listened to was Xalt. They put out four releases, with their fourth album being inconsistent from their others. This one, Dark War, their debut, was only made on cassette tape, and it was released before they got signed to Pure Metal. So this tape is a bit of a find. I actually had the tape sent to me from White Throne magazine back then. I listened to it and for some reason gave it away to a street kid who lived in a ministry house I frequented. That young guy actually liked the tape and did an air guitar performance to a song off the tape, “God In A Box.” I was stoked about how much I enjoyed the song after I saw the air guitar performance.
So now twenty-five years later, this tape finally gets the merit it deserved back in the day. Fact is, nothing on this tape ever charted or launched the band to play festivals. It was a one-off tape that went no where. When I listen to it now, it sounds a bit dated and the vocals have an echo effect I am not crazy about. The lyrics are descent but they may come off a bit too evangelical in places. But on the plus side, the musicianship is very much working man’s metal, on the level of any late 80s metal band. Guitarist James Erdman might be one of the great musicians of that time to not get the recognition. The real charm is that it is a practically undiscovered gem that gets a professional treatment a quarter of a lifetime later.
This Remastered Reissue also comes with five songs from their 1989 demo prior to their Under The Ruins release. Scott Waters of Ultimatum and Roxx Records reworked the cover art, touching it up with some color that enhances it to something astounding. Overall, this is a confident reissue of a tape that got lost in the stacks, and that makes me smile. I picked this one up and I encourage anyone who likes old school metal to do the same.[2017 Retroactive Records | Purchase: boonesoverstock.storenvy.com]
Before I write a review of the show, I want to share a bit about how much The Alarm has meant to me since the very first time I heard them and how much they still mean to me today. The first time I saw the video for “The Stand”, I was blown away! Acoustic guitars, harmonicas and an amazing song all delivered with the energy and passion that can only be expressed when rooted in true conviction. I was sold! I bought into what they were selling hook, line and sinker.
I can’t really say for sure that The Alarm is the reason I started playing guitar or started writing songs, but I can say for sure that they formed the way I play and write. I remember analyzing their writing style, and while I don’t sound anything like The Alarm, they formed my songwriting DNA.
One thing that really drew me in was that I believed what they were singing about. I believed so much that at 18 years old I hitchhiked over 1000 miles, slept in parks and showed up dirty, scraggly and uninvited to introduce myself and say thanks. In retrospect, this was a bit rude on my part but Mike and Jules were gracious and kind. My belief was confirmed, Mike was the real deal.
I’ve gone on to work in the music business and in radio for the last 25 years and have never met anyone who is as enthusiastic and as engaging as Mike Peters. So that being said, on with the show!
This was my third time seeing The Alarm. Twice now in New Orleans and once in Nashville. There was no opening act – who would want that job? Mike took the stage with an acoustic guitar, several harmonicas and a kick drum. Along with Mike, was James Stevenson on bass and guitar, Smiley on drums and for the encore Jules Peters on Keys.
They tore through a set of hits and favorites including “Sold Me Down The River,” “The Stand,” “Strength,” and “68 Guns”. The set-list relied mostly on songs from their first few records. They delivered these songs with grit, passion and energy and the crowd felt every bit of it as we sang along. Now that rock is getting older I’ve seen a lot of mature bands who just phone it in. The Alarm played with the energy and passion of bands half their age. As I said earlier, Mike Peters is the real deal whose passion is infectious on and off stage.
They are still on tour in the States for a little while longer. If you need a reason to believe in Rock and Roll again don’t miss this opportunity to see The Alarm.
(Mike Indest has worked in the music business and in radio for the past 25 years, is a Lutheran Chaplain, and has just released a music retrospective that you can download for free at mikeindest.bandcamp.com.)
King Never has been working on this EP for quite a while, through many ups and downs… and the wait is worth it. If 80s and 90s alternative were still a major thing today, this is what it would sound like. I can hear everything from early U2 to emo in each song, all blended cleverly into a coherent whole. The only problem with this is the length: only three songs leaves you wanting more. But the three songs you get pack quite a punch. I love the interplay between the bass, guitar, and drums on each song. Current fans of King Never have some new songs to dig into, while those that have been itching for some new alt-rock should look into this asap.[2017 Independent | Purchase: music.kingnever.com]
What many people don’t know is that Kula Shaker is kind of one of the reasons this magazine exists. Years and years ago, Ruff and I were trying to think of ways to promote music from the bands we liked that were still around. I had been a fan of Kula Shaker since the 90s, so I had started reading a fan zine that kept up with their current music called Strange Folk. I told Ruff that we could do the same – put together a PDF magazine and put it online for free for anyone to read, and DTL was born. However, I was a bit late to K 2.0 basically because I had not been a huge fan of their last album Pilgrim Progress. I should have not given up hope on Kula Shaker. K 2.0 is a killer reinvention of everything that made their debut K so great. The Hindu mysticism and Indian music fusion elements are there, the guitar-based Brit-Pop is there, the clever lyricism is there… it’s just tweaked a bit into something fresh, some thing new, something…. 2.0. Believe it or not, but the cheapest physical product version I could find in the U.S. was the vinyl version, which comes with a bonus track (well, so do the digital versions, but I like that it is also on the vinyl). From the laid back sitar-driven psychedelic groove of the opener “Infinite Son” to the rock out surprise musical twist of “Here Come My Demons” to the devotional muted tones of “Hari Bol (The Sweetest Thing)” to the groovy Bollywood disco rock of “Get Right Get Ready,” this is band that is proving they can still bring the jams after several decades of existence.[2016 StrangeFolk | Purchase: www.kulashaker.co.uk]
Seaside Holiday returns with the follow-up album to their impressive 2012 self-titled debut. Right out of the gate, “Wartime Reflections” strikes a very intriguing balance of electronic and indie rock… or “dream pop” as their BandCamp page labels it. That seems to be a good label: some of their songs lean to the electronica/darkwave side, others lean towards the indie/lo-fi side, but they all have a dreamy atmosphere compiled with a pop sensibility. There is also a good sense of 80s throwback on this one, but not in the cliché sense that many bands are using today. This is more like deep underground 80s new wave throwback of an Erasure B-side remix more than someone trying to be the modern A-Ha. Just check out “Etchings of Yesterday” if you are a child of the 80s and you will know what I am talking about. Throw in the occasional non-standard song structure for good measure, and you pretty much have Seaside Holiday’s sound. They throw a lot of variety into a mix of familiar genres to come up with something unique and engaging. I highly recommend checking this out.[2016 Independent | Purchase: seasideholiday.bandcamp.com]
Wickeds End is still alive and kicking! I never really thought I would be saying that in 2017, but Glenn Rowlands has defied the odds and come back with multiple albums over the past few years. Of course, this is a newer, heavier Wickeds End. Gone are the thrash hardcore crossover sounds of the 90s – this is extremely heavy and fast thrash / black / death metal. Growled / shouted / shrieking vocals are the norm here, with bone crushing riffs and pummeling bass and drums. This may be too extreme for some of their past fans, but those that enjoy the extreme side of metal will dig this. I know I enjoy it. The lyrics are very right wing hell-fire and brimstone, with many misunderstandings of the liberal enemies they seek to attack. That may be your thing, or it might not, but I personally feel it is better to disagree with the truth rather than tear down a straw man. I know that for many, it is hard to be fans of a band that has such extremely political lyrics, as I struggle with that as well. But I say this just so you will know.[2017 Independent | Purchase: wickedsend.bandcamp.com]
Lenny Smith is back with a collection of new recordings of older songs written between 1971 and 2000. If you aren’t familiar with Lenny Smith, you may recognize one of his most well know songs “Our God Reigns.” He is also father to Daniel Smith of Danielson/Sounds Familyre/Steve Taylor and the Danielson Foil fame. This collection of songs continues in the folk/singer-songwriter/alternative music style of past recordings, with a definite “Sounds Familyre” sound thrown in the mix. Of course, Lenny puts his own stamp on the whole sound – maybe it is his unique voice, or the way he arranges the instruments, but you know it is Smith when you hear it. There is a general joyous sound to the music here, and not just because these are worship songs. This is a deeper joy than the typical synthesized joy on many worship albums. And, of course, there is the Smith-family eclecticism here that makes sure things stay interesting and unexpected. Highlights for me include the bouncing album opening one-two punch of “Teach Me, My God” and “Ho! Everyone Who Thirsts”, the rollicking “City, O City”, and the album closer “With All My Heart” that seems to bring out the whole family (or a lot of background singers). As usual, a solid collection of music that feels fresh and innovative in a day and age where those qualities are sorely missed from modern music.[2016 Great Comfort Records | Purchase: lennysmith.bandcamp.com]
This album encompasses everything I love about modern, independent, underground music. I feel the same freeing elements on DW’s latest release that I was going through during the early stages of the Bloody Strummers album I took part of a few years back. Best I can describe the vibe going on is a blend of Garage Fuzz, 60’s Brit Invasion, Psychedelic Pop, as well as early 80’s to early 90’s Post Punk and a dash of Shoegaze. Spacious instrumentals are scattered throughout this 10 song LP that accomplishes a lot in under 40 minutes. Stand out tracks for me are the Gabriel-esqe, synth heavy, “Commercial One,” the Boom Bap instrumental “Ancients,” “I Get That From You” is a great piece of modern Post Punk, and the Garage-Fuzzy-Reverb drenched riffs on “Cut You Loose.” Great music on a hike in the woods with the dogs and some headphones, excellent for driving the rural outskirts, it’s reflective music start to finish. The First Thing That Came To Mind will be revisited in my vast library for sure and not lost in the “oh yeah, I remember that” file.
There is an ocean of independent artists out there, some amazing stuff when you dig in, DW’s album is well worth your time, highly recommended! You can find the album on BandCamp, iTunes, and other digital outlets.[2015 Independent | Purchase: dwdunphy.bandcamp.com]
I wanted to do something different on this review, so I asked DW to discuss the album track by track. I feel an artist can give the best review of his art. So here is the album in DW’s words.
Before I dig into these, I feel I should first make everyone aware that, yes, this album will be available on cassette. And not cassettes made by me, my CD player and my TEAC tape deck either. These will be the real deal. It’s exciting and will hopefully exonerate me after the fiasco that was the publicized but ultimately unfulfilled 8-track edition of Test Test Test.
Please Listen Carefully To The Following As Our Menu Options Have Changed 02:15
I wanted to open the record with a poppy, uncomplicated track. The majority of the record is just laden and fraught, and I wanted to start with a drink of water first.
There was a bit of experimentation going on, especially at the bridge. I wanted to put just a light bit of phasing on the guitar. Instead the darn thing went into orbit, but I liked the uplift it gave things, so I left it. That’s my favorite mode for working. I don’t like hammering away at “perfection” because you never get there. Things become mechanical and you resent the process. This track happened fairly naturally and I appreciated not having to sweat (too much) blood over it.
Commercial One 03:43
I’ve never sounded like a pop star and so I’ve never pretended to be a pop star. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told to do something or other because it will get me noticed. That’s not how it works, but life is short…much too short to actually attempt explaining this. So this song applies some rather modern pop trappings with a bit of attitude thrown back. “Is this what you wanted?”
The beat was made with an online rhythm generator meant to mimic an old 808. the original intention was to layer real drum sounds over the loops this online generator made, but the emulator’s cycles were always slightly off. The Internet, although it seems to function like a “real time” machine actually isn’t. There’s latency. You can’t witness it until you do something like this and then pair it to a metronome and see how far off you are. So I abandoned the real beats and stuck with the synthetic. Ideologically it actually suits the premise of the song better anyway. Call it serendipity.
Those Who Exalt Themselves Will Be Humbled (Galloping Hooves Of Eternal Hellfire) 03:31
So I wanted to then take that same beat and then throw buckets of ordinance at it. The Biblical verse that comprises the title is best translated as “pride goes before a fall.” I have no idea what inspired me with that one.
The guitar assault probably was inspired by either Godspeed You Black Emperor or Swans. It’s that vanishing point between the note and what the note is meant to express, and then just the volume of the wail. You can have the most eloquent soliloquy about why you are angry, but sometimes it is more effective to simply scream monosyllabic angst. You’ll get your point across.
No Lite 02:19
I love the old punk stuff. This is just some old punk playing in an old punk style. I think I got off a couple of nice verbal barbs in here too. And that was always a neat trick in (particularly) the old U.K. punk songs. Those musicians, as raw-bones as they claimed to be, had fantastic vocabularies and knew how to construct lyrics that were at once rude purges but also had layers of double meaning backing them up. That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate the U.S. variations. I did, but frequently they were exactly what they said they were. At least they were honest about it.
A nice trudge. A marching column. It feels like Spartans gearing up for a battle. There isn’t a whole lot of subtext to be found beyond I wanted a thick-necked instrumental with a meaty guitar sound.
I Get That From You 02:39
Relationships, man. I tell ya. The phrase existed before the song did, and that’s kind of the miracle of songwriting. There isn’t, and shouldn’t be a formula to it. Sometimes the words dictate the music, and sometimes the music calls upon you to come up with words.
In this case, it’s the idea that when a relationship goes sour, what you get from your partner is all the stuff you’d be better off not having at all. You love her but she makes you feel like a microbe. Or, as David Gilmour once sang, “Was it love or was it the idea of being in love?”
The guitar heroics came late in the fourth quarter. The glitchy guitar pattern that’s threaded throughout the song was always there. I wasn’t sure the tune needed that big coda until the first “final” was typed on the mixdown. What I thought might have been overkill now seemed to be missing something. Oh, okay. We thought we were done, but no. A week later the guitar and pedals were back out to put the last kick in those pants.
The First Thing That Came To Mind 04:03
The proggiest song on the album, I suppose. Anyone who knows me knows I love that symphonic instrumentation. They also know that I don’t have the money to contract an orchestra…not even an oboe. So synthetic orchestras had to suffice again. In all I think it still holds up, and I like my solo in the bridge a lot too. I didn’t nail down that Brian May tone like I aspired to, but I think you can hear what my intentions were.
Faith is fragile. We hold on to it because we want to, not because it compels us to. I also think you have to constantly question it for it to be worth anything. Furthermore, you have to look at these things as you, alone, not as an organization. Organizations have an easy way of deciding a little murder is okay for the greater good. Some lies are fine. Some prejudices are forgivable in the grand scheme of things provided we’re all agreeing to this. Sometimes faith requires you to step away from the organization and say, just because the state doesn’t charge you taxes doesn’t confer upon you infallibility. Your status doesn’t make you holy. Sometimes the hive is diseased, and in order to save what you believe is right, true and, sure, holy, sometimes you have to leave the swarm.
I don’t think I’m going to win any Dove Awards for that sentiment.
Aspidistra (The Birds Are Circling) 05:31
This song is really the saddest on the record. I wanted it to be that way. An aspidistra is a plant, it is rooted to the ground, and if the birds are circling above, they’ll eventually come down and rip you apart. Nothing you can do about that. I thought I conveyed that sense of being trapped, of being bound up in situational futility just because of who or what you are.
I also called it “Aspidistra” because that kind of reminds me of the word “asphyxiate.” I remember as a kid my mom would take us to the video store to rent movies. One of the few stores we frequented wasn’t the most discriminating as far as the stock went. They had a lot of b-movies. One of them that I recalled — only from the box — was a movie called Asphyx. It starred the comedian Carol Kane in what, I guess, was a fairly unfunny psychological horror movie. That box haunted me. Here I was, renting Spielberg movies and Disney cartoons, and week after week, there was the box for Asphyx haunting me. You now know more than you actually need to know about me.
Cut You Loose 05:48
This is the oldest song on the record. It was the proper first song, but also the primary backing track dates to around 2013. Why I never completed it back then is lost to the mist of time. I want to think it was divine providence. I had three scenarios in the song and all three circled around the same idea: the disposability of human beings. The first is the job that shucks you away like so much corn husk after years of service. The second is the love relationship that severs ties, as Earth Wind and Fire once sang, after the love is gone. The third is the sickly or aged who only seem to gain proper attention after the death, when it is safe to cry about them and not be burdened by responsibility for helping in any way.
Two guitarists drive the sound of the song, and they arrive years apart. When the track was initially recorded, I was listening to a lot of Lindsey Buckingham. He’s such a great and underrated guitarist. He regularly is overshadowed by people he has worked with (re: Stevie Nicks). But I encourage everyone who loves great guitar playing to revisit his work and listen to what he’s doing. The soloing on the way out, although pretty crude, is me pretending to be Buckingham wailing on the close of “Go Your Own Way.”
Years later I had finally written lyrics and put down the vocals. When that was done, the whole song felt somewhat incomplete. It was good and it was almost there, but I needed an emotional rope to drag the rest across the line. The coda, although sounding nothing like AC/DC, does utilize the string pluck technique Angus Young used at the opening of “For Those About To Rock, We Salute You.”
Transcendental Mathematics (Improvisation) 01:24
This was going to be the end of the album. It is the simplest track and acts as a sort of happy ending to a record that leans heavily on my dark side. It reminds me of a southwestern cantina acoustic trio, plucking out little odes to sunsets and dust, thus that closing statement I presumed it would be. It wasn’t the case.
Your Call Is Important To Us! Please Stay On The Line And A Representative Will Be With You Momentarily. 02:13
What did I say about serendipity? So, I have some very old recording software on my family’s home PC. It has recorded everything I’ve done since 2003 with only a couple of exceptions. And like an old fusspot, sometimes it wants to be ornery. In one of the many final mixes for the opening track, the percussion was dropped right out. I said a few things I regret in a very loud voice, but then I listened to it again. The mood was different. It wasn’t propulsive like “Please Listen Carefully…” It seemed — oh, I don’t know — more thoughtful. It was the wisdom of experience after the knowledge gained from innocence, or having had too many cups of coffee. I went back into the mixing part of the software, intentionally dropped the beat out, raised the synths up and laid down another synth line to give it that extra heft.
I didn’t intend for the record to end this way, but oddly, it seems the record itself intended to end this way. Who am I to argue?
Remember the 90’s when 4-track cassette recorders and free time brought out the best in some of our heroes of alt-rock?
Jack Logan, Guided By Voices, Godstar and Palace are some of the pioneers of true DIY indie-rock.
Nowadays, with digital recorders, cheap and good compressors, mics and (God forbid) corrective devices, we seem to be lacking in the inspired sounds of the “get it on tape and call it done” era.
Although Mike Indest doesn’t quite have the nerve to call these songs more than demos, they are moving, honest, inspired and without intention, (just guessing) nostalgic.
I haven’t heard or felt this kind of loose, carefree, fun in an intelligent package since about ’92!
Take a break from the modern polished, masterpiece mentality and check this out!
2016 Independent | Download: mikeindest.bandcamp.com]