Jul 19, 2014

Am I Dreaming? The Skull Are Performing One of My All Time Favorite Albums in Barcelona!

If I had to name one band as being the most influential in my own creative journey, I could do it in about three seconds.  I could tell you exactly which album pointed me towards heavy music.  There were a few bands that caused me to turn down certain alleys when I was younger, but they really just kept me moving along a path. The Beatles made me love music, so there will always be an argument for them to wear the Crown in this discussion, and Rush, or more precisely Neil Peart was responsible for making me want to be a drummer.  But lots of people who like music piddle at drums, or guitar or saxamaphone ( calling Homer Simpson ) without ever being passionate about playing or creating music.  The band that hit me in such a way that I knew what I wanted to shoot for in my own music was Chicago's hidden treasure, Trouble. As luck would have it The Skull, which is comprised of Trouble's singer, bassist and original drummer, will be performing at the Day of Doom Festival the same night as Confessor.  Not only that, but they will be performing the record that made me love heavy music and all of it's dark promise... the legendary "Psalm 9"!  Will someone please pinch me?!?!?!

Everyone in Confessor called Trouble their own personal favorite band at some point along the way.  I was in high school when I first heard them, probably eleventh grade.  I had been in a punk rock phase for a little over a year when I heard Trouble's first record.  Actually it was hardcore that I liked more than punk rock.  Punk rock specialized in being superhumanly obnoxious.  In fact, that was kind of the only thing punk rock had going for it... the power to annoy.  Hardcore was a little more multidimensional, but it was still rooted in a very well mapped out and predictable 'coming-of-age' style temper tantrum.  Hardcore was a little heavier and a little dirtier than punk rock.  Bands like Discharge, Crucifix and G.B.H. were what I listened to  most in those days.  It wasn't the political message they all trumpeted that drew me to them, but their energy.  That energy was palpable and moving.  I was hooked from the very first punk rock show I went to in which a battle of the bands turned into a show stopping melee within about twenty seconds of Corrosion of Conformity's first note! Mohawks were flying through the air by design, while stagehands went flying through the air without any idea how they left the ground.  It was a scene, man!

Punk rock gave me an outlet through which I was able to begin to come out of my shell.  It was undisciplined, raw and exciting.  I dyed my hair black ( not exactly the best move for a ginger with blonde eyebrows! ) and even spiked it a couple of times.  Those failed, blue-black spikes and my ripped up band t-shirts showed the world that my own individuality was forged by the exact same cookie cutter that defined every other hard core fan, and I parroted the exact same slogans and counter-culture jibberish one would expect from a movement made up of pimple faced kids who wanted an identity that set them apart from their parents, but only after they dropped them off downtown for the all ages punk shows with spending money. Freaking fascists!  As tired as all of that was then and is still today, I wouldn't exchange the experience for anything.  It was part of the ride after all, but I wouldn't have taken it so seriously had I known then what I know, or think I know now.  Yes, hardcore was fun and rebellious but it lacked the kind of drama and focus I had enjoyed in other kinds of music.  I found myself running out of interesting hardcore bands pretty quickly.  Angst without purpose wears thin fast.  Once I heard Slayer's first release, "Show No Mercy" and Trouble's first album I knew my days of hanging out with faux intellectuals regurgitating bumper sticker criticisms about the evils of this thing or that thing were over.  My musical journey was about to become purposeful, pointed, brutally mean and heavy as hell.  At least metal used horror movie imagery, which I was a big fan of, and historical references to poke at the status quo, and you can't garner cool points in pop culture without a little cultural self-loathing.  My counter culture 'edge' would stay sharp, after all.  Like Tom Araya said, it makes for a great story, right?

Underground metal took the best feature of hardcore, a high energy ass whipping, and focused it until mean riffs began to chisel away at your face.  Hardcore meant to get you up and moving with its message and energy, whereas underground metal meant to cut straight through the meat on your bones until your quivering mass of pinkish-grey intellect spilled out of your cranium for all to see.  It was fierce.  Trouble were different because they were slower than most bands at the time, and their heaviness was intensified because of that.  Thrashier bands have an energy that is not unlike punk and hardcore, and has a lot to do with why they don't typically do much for me.  Some thrash bands are pretty interesting, but I still find the genre to be mostly one dimensional. Slowing things down gives notes time to breathe and morph into something more than just a note.  Harmonies become richer, a well placed bass drum becomes heavier and you really begin to 'feel' what's going on more.  Trouble's guitarists were the absolute best at writing big, emotive riffs.  They weren't shooting for mean, they were shooting for heavy. They were the best band to come at things from that angle since Black Sabbath, and Sabbath created the slime from which heavy metal arose.  Sabbath benefited from being the first of their kind but they weren't always heavy.  Trouble took that ball and ran with it!  I actually prefer their kind of heavy over what Black Sabbath did.  Trouble wouldn't exist without Sabbath, but Black Sabbath would never have taken things to the melancholic extreme that Trouble created.

Trouble's first two albums are full of dark, melodic gems dripping with guitar harmonies, and their drummer knew how to carve out the biggest punch possible with an aggressive rock approach that was straight from the Bonham School of Ass Kickery. Songs like 'Revelation: Life or Death' and 'Endtime' seemed to have been written specifically for me.  I spent five years worshipping at the altar of Trouble before my tastes led me to more technical metal.  I know those first two records inside and out.  In fact, were The Skull's drummer to suddenly contract an intense case of poop-arrhea after eating some special cookies with Ex-lax, I mean... "chocolate chips", I could fill in for them on the spot.  Stranger things have happened.  I've had two dreams over the years in which I had to save the day by jumping behind his kit at shows.  I even spoke to their original bassist about trying out for them just before they recorded their fourth album.  I am a fan for life.

In October, both Confessor and Loincloth will be totally pumped to get to play in Barcelona in front of a niche crowd who will know what heavy means.  And on top of that, we get to see the most influential record in our musical development played from front to back!  This will be one trip that will bring all of us, and this humble blogger in particular, a lifetime of memories. The organizer of Day of Doom asked to be left out of any posts about the show.  I'll respect that, but I do want to thank him for what is shaping up to be a dream come true.  "Gracia para ayudarnos realizar este sueno!  Tengo un abrazo muy fuerte para ti, amigo!"  Holy crap! I get to see 'Victim of the Insane' live!

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