Sunday, May 29, 2005 celebrates Circus magazine.

Blackout, the first band I was ever associated with, used to practise in Mike Schmidt's mock tudor/Germanic basement on Huxley Ave. Between run-throughs of Willingdon Black's "The Things You Do" and air banding to News of the World we'd read Circus, inhaling some rancid inspiration from the heady waft of rock & sleaze & teenage lust emanating from its pages. Although, as the rockcrit commentary says, Circus was a somewhat staid cousin to Creem magazine, it packed enough thrills and oddities to keep some kids in Burnaby entertained.

One of our favourite parts of Circus was "Into Your Head," the teen advice column tucked away in the back. It was sort of a Dear Abby for the earth shoes and Big Blue jeans set. Never mind what Gene Simmons or Ted Nugent had to say up front, the real freak scene was "Into Your Head." The best letter ever was from a young woman troubled by her obsession with Freddie Mercury. All other guys, she claimed, were shit compared to Freddie—the only way she could endure encounters with her boyfriend was to imagine it was Freddie making sweet love to her instead, probably on white satin sheets. Indeed, she was in urgent need of counselling.

Despite being 12 and not suspecting what Freddie's true preferences were (or would become), this poor girl's letter was still the most ludicrous thing we'd ever contemplated. I still wonder about her and whether she got over her debilitating Freddie fixation. Did she have flings with a string of "hot cops" in a quest to snare a surrogate Freddie, or did she snap back to reality with a sickening jolt once she heard Hot Space?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Primordial — The Gathering Wilderness (Metal Blade)

Ireland’s Primordial are one of my favourite black metal bands partly because they’ve grown beyond the conventions of the genre. Instead of grooveless blasting, their rhythms surge at a satisfying pace; instead of adding keyboards to affect cod-symphonic majesty, they build their atmospheres with good old guitars/bass/drums; and instead of screeching, buried vocals, AA Nemtheanga’s singing is understandable and up-front, and of varying timbres—similar to My Dying Bride’s Aaron with his alternating wailing/growling style. Primordial have done some label hopping in their decade together: The Gathering Wilderness is their first for Metal Blade and fifth overall. Despite this instability, they’ve never stopped honing their sound, and here it is spread over an hour of savage, passionate metal, captured with the perfect balance of grime and clarity by doom-master Billy Anderson. Primordial’s main concession to black metal philosophy is their reverence for heritage. They’re aggressively Irish in both their music and lyrics. Their riffs have a pronounced Celtic feel, with broad-stroked strumming that I can imagine working well in an acoustic context. The drums are often tribal, like a mighty bodhran of the gods, as you can hear in the introduction and denoument of the first track, “The Golden Spiral.” This approach manages to retain the uneasy dischord of black metal, and thankfully never descends into Riverdance-style kitsch. The words, written exclusively by AA Nemtheanga, use a lot of nature imagery—the first track alone incorporates the wind, rain, the sky, streams, and forests—to evoke the mysterious forces that beset us; again in keeping with a lot of black metal. “The Coffin Ships,” the album’s emotional centerpiece, is devoted to the Irish famine of 1845–49, when Ireland lost 3 million people to starvation and emigration. (This info courtesy of AA’s booklet notes, another indication of Primoridial’s desire to communicate to its audience.) Primordial also retain black metal’s apocalyptic/genocidal sensibility, unafraid to depict carnage on a massive scale, as they do on the title track where Nemtheanga, personifying the terrible maelstrom gathering to cleanse the world, doles out punishment to men, women, and children "with a rusted blade across their throats." Like Sabbath before them, however, the message behind the lyrical grand guignol is cautionary and moral. Primordial’s strength, their singular style, perhaps contributes to the album’s only weakness, which is a lack of variety between tracks. Each song uses the same rhythm at different velocities, and lasts for 8 or 9 minutes. I would have welcomed one or two digressions, like the sparse, nearly a cappella "Solitary Mourner" from A Journey's End, to disrupt the uniformity of song. Still, it’s not so bad to be overconsistent if you’re consistently good—which Primordial are here.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Mel and Adam’s Wedding, May 2 to 7, Kaanapali Beach, Maui
When we checked in at the Maui Kaanapali Villas, the first thing I had to sign was a form waiving the hotel of any responsibility for our deaths in the ocean currents. The next day, though, I was happily floating in the sea, just beyond the breakers. The waves were fun to play in too, but they could deposit a diaper-load of sand in your suit if you weren’t careful. Cypress and the other kids loved getting smashed in the surf, playing Tsunami. We were still rinsing sand of her hair after we got home.

The water was unbelievably clear and warm, free of the seaweed and other swimmer-unfriendly crud that fouls the ocean here. Actually, fancylady found a lone floating clump of brown spongy stuff while sculling around on her back. She immediately used it as a merkin, and I nearly inhaled a lungful of the Pacific.

I went cold turkey in Hawaii, spending almost a whole week without any rock. I think my ears needed a rest anyway, coming off a long stint of Unrestrained! work, reviewing stuff, and metal this and metal that. A couple people in the wedding party had rooms with stereos, but ours didn’t. We did have two TVs in our suite, so we alternated between Comedy Central and Animal Planet during our downtime.

I did experience a very light brush with rock royalty during the trip, though. Mel and Adam took us to Maui Tacos twice, where they not only make a damn good burrito, but they’ve got pics of famous customers on the wall, including Alice Cooper and Sammy Hagar!

The wedding was Wednesday at sunset on the beach. Cypress was flower girl and passed out leis to everyone. The justice of the peace was this super cool woman who used to live in Victoria. Mel and Adam did a great job with the vows and afterwards endured the thousands of photographs like troopers. I took a few myself—the Taysers are undeniably cute.

Adam’s dad’s digital camera was quite a conversation piece. It was the size of a brick and used floppy disks for storage. I’ve been in the market for a digital camera for a while; I think want one just like that now.

After the ceremony we all went into Lahaina for dinner at I'o—one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to. Great food, unbelievable service. Our waiter handled our 14-person table and didn’t break a sweat. The dude had his shit together. Fancy and I had this macadamia nut-encrusted brie appetizer that nearly killed us with goodness.

The whole trip was nice—we had the nicest hotel on the nicest beach surrounded by (for the most part) the nicest people. We needed more time in Maui. We have to go back someday.