I’ve been meaning to check out New Zealand’s Beastwars for quite some time, but I’m ashamed to admit that the band somehow got lost in the disheveled and disorganized avalanche that is my “bands to check out” list when their self-titled debut was released back in 2011. In spite of this grievous error, it would appear the metal gods chose to smile upon me anyway, as my colleague Craig Hayes recently hooked me up with a promo of the band’s second album Blood Becomes Fire on the band’s behalf. Just one spin of the quartet’s sophomore opus had me cursing myself for a goddamn fool for not getting ’round to them sooner, because not only is this bad mama-jama right up my alley, it’s one of the all-around best metal albums I’ve heard so far in 2013.
After Kurt Cobain blew his brains out in 1994, alternative rock, the supposed savior of the mainstream, took a shit and died. The loss of Nirvana seemingly created a domino effect; the remaining “big bands” of the genre either broke up, imploded or simply petered out, with the exception of Pearl Jam, who became alt rock’s answer to The Grateful Dead (as if we needed another one), while the lesser known bands went back underground. For me, those bands belong to a certain time and place; Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains were a big part of the soundtrack to my teenage years. I didn’t discriminate between heavy metal and so-called grunge; it was all just a bunch of ugly, hairy dudes with guitars playing big, loud riffs.
Roughly 5 months ago, Brandon Duncan (whom you may know from The Sequence of Prime) contacted me with an idea; let’s start a new online metal zine. Typically I prefer to work alone, but Brandon’s enthusiasm is contagious and I’m proud to call him my friend, so there was absolutely no way I could refuse. Brandon gathered an ace design team while I hand-picked some of my favorite writers from internet metal land with the express purpose of creating something new and unique, to drag the old school metal zine into the future, come Hell or high water with an emphasis on good old-fashioned writing and design.
After 5 months of hard work, I’m proud to present to all of you the fruits of our labors in the form of Backlit #0; fifteen pages of mind-melting music, art and literature.
Backlit / 0
Now available at backlitzine.com
Cover Art by Dan Harding
Raping Angels in America #1 / Joshua Haun
Angry Old Men / Jordan Campbell
Helpless Child / Dan Obstkrieg
Fucking The Future / Joshua Haun
Libations in the Labyrinth Vol. 1 / Dan Obstkrieg
Words That Wound / Dan Obstkrieg
Doomsday Device / Joshua Haun
Interview With Jester King Brewery / The Dragon of M87
Interview With Ashencult / Jordan Campbell
Art & Fiction:
Succubus in the Attic / Nikki Guerlain
Dan Harding: The Fine Art of Horror / Brandon Duncan
The Dragon of M87
I hope that you will all enjoy reading the first issue of Backlit as much as we enjoyed crafting it. This is only the beginning!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that Baroness were very recently involved in what appears to be an absolutely horrific bus accident, while on tour in the UK, leaving three-fourths of the band seriously injured (as well as various members of their crew). This would be an absolutely tragic thing to befall any band, but it is even more so for Baroness when one considers the triumph that is their third album, the fantastic Yellow & Green.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting on my couch watching the Bad Religion episode of Guitar Center Sessions. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the show, it consists of the band playing their “hits” in an intimate setting interspersed with interview segments. As I watched Greg Graffin, Brett Gurewitz and Co. rip through “Generator” and “21st Century Digital Boy,” all I could think is “goddamn they look old.” The same thing occurred to me when I watched Animal Underworld, Henry Rollins’ new show on Nat Geo (which is fucking awesome, by the way). Sure, Rollins looks like he could still kick the living shit out of just about any mere mortal, but his hair is mostly grey and his face is showing the kinds of craggy lines that only come with advancing age. He definitely doesn’t look the same as when I started going apeshit over Rollins Band videos on MTV in junior high, or even when I saw him speak at my college.
Helmet’s Meantime was an odd bird when it was released in 1992. Straddling the line between heavy metal and the alternative rock explosion that Nirvana had ushered in a year earlier, Helmet was probably the only band capable of getting airtime on both Headbanger’s Ball and 120 Minutes. That’s how I discovered Helmet; I was thirteen years old and just beginning my headlong dive into the world of heavy music. I remember seeing the video for “Unsung” and being struck by several things: 1) the riffage was absolutely crushing 2) no one in the band had long hair 3) was that a fucking pink ESP?! Helmet looked and most importantly sounded like no other band I had encountered up to that point.
In 1994 I was a freshman in high school. A good boy who followed the rules, got good grades and showed up to work on time… on the outside. On the inside I was a fucking maniac, an animal caged inside a pressure-cooker that wanted to kill, fuck or destroy everything in sight. A ball of hormones and confusion, tightly wrapped in a nice little Catholic school attending, grocery bagging for $4.65 an hour package. I couldn’t wear my black jeans and Metallica shirt to Catholic school, I didn’t have the strength or the self-confidence to stand up to the privileged, pampered, future white collar asshole scumbags of America that ran the place and I definitely didn’t have the courage to be anything more than friends with the ladies.
But alone in my room, cranking Weight on my first stereo at as close to top volume as I could get away with, yelling along with Henry Rollins:
“You’re pathetic and weak / You’re a fake and you lie / I’d like to crush you like an insect / But I don’t want to do the time / Do you really want to confront me? / Do you really want to deal with me? / No! / I didn’t think so!” – “Step Back”
I felt ten fucking feet tall. I felt like Rollins was speaking directly to the war going on inside my head, like maybe at some point he too had been a scrawny little nothing that quietly went about his daily business, keeping his head down and trying not to draw too much attention to himself, all the while wishing he could be something more, wishing he had the stones to “fuck on the floor and break shit” (to borrow a phrase from the man himself, see the Henry Rollins – Up For It DVD).
Of course, it also helped that the musical backdrop for Rollins’ vein-popping pep talks was an incredibly rich one. In fact, referring to the music as a backdrop is to do it a great disservice. Rollins Band drew from the entire spectrum of sound as I knew it at the time; rock, metal, prog, blues, funk, punk/hardcore, Weight had it all in spades, making for an album that was crushing but also funky and danceable in some bizzaro-world kind of way, all without sounding silly or contrived. These were men that held Black Sabbath’s apocalyptic doom dirges and George Clinton’s bop gun-fuelled freak-outs in equal esteem. Chris Haskett, Sim Cain and Melvin Gibbs played with the same intensity and conviction that Rollins put into his words, a perfect soundtrack for raging hormones, sexual frustration and a pent up desire for reckless abandon that an existence in the bowels of the Midwest could never hope to gratify.
Even today Weight is an inspiring album for me. Being a little older and wiser(?), I have a better understanding (I think) of where Rollins was coming from with his lyrics, as well as a deeper appreciation of the vast ocean of musical influences Haskett, Cain and Gibbs were drawing from/destroying with. When the pressures of my everyday existence (corporate job, crazy relatives, bills to pay, etc) start to get me down, I still find myself reaching for Weight, still trying to find “grace in times of friction”.
In case you were wondering, yes, this was at least partially inspired by the recent Invisible Oranges interview w/ former Rollins Band bassist Melvin Gibbs, which can be read HERE.
If you’re still feeling nostalgic like I am, here are the two well known music videos from Weight, for the songs “Disconnect” and of course “Liar”.