Saturday, December 3, 2016

THE BIG FOUR SONG CHALLENGE SERIES - Update Wrap-Up

Well, The Big Four Song Challenge Series Update has drawn to a close, and here we are in the aftermath.  Metallica edged out Megadeth on the strength of bonus material, Anthrax did okay and Slayer should have broken up when Jeff Hanneman died.  For real, all coming back with another album did for them was...well, make them money and allow them to keep touring and making more money, so there's that.  But more importantly, by releasing "Repentless", they dropped from two to three on my completely arbitrary opinion based blog series status ranking system!  Surely, that can't have been worth a couple million bucks?

Anyhow, I'm getting the feeling that rock music in general is going to need to evolve into something completely different or call it quits altogether.  Rock has had its 60 year run just like jazz did before it, and if it doesn't come up with something soon, it will fade away from the public consciousness, only to return in Gap commercials in the 2040's.

Point is, to expect that future to come from these four bands is a fool's errand.

Metallica barely know what they want to do anymore.  This album, more than any other in their discography, felt like "just another album".  And considering "Reload" was a thing, that takes some doing.

Megadeth, by Dave Mustaine's own admission, have two more albums in them at best.  The last time they made an album that tired to change up what they do, we got "Supercollider", so that's not happening.

Anthrax has a little more room to change because they've had a bit of a wider palate over the years, but "For All Kings" felt pretty tired.  And this is the band I felt had the most left in the tank going in to this experiment.

And Slayer?  Never rock to me or my son ever again.  (There.  I just did something as unnecessary as "Repentless".)

I did not expect this to be a bitter revocation of a genre I once loved.  But given that a) I'm not really much into listening to music these days, b) All four bands put forth less than stellar efforts, and c) I'm not in a good place right now emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually, it's probably not even a good idea to take what I say at face value.  Go listen to the albums for yourself.  Form your own opinions.  This is not fact and For Entertainment Purposes Only.

So, here's some stats to chew on from this update series:

Word count (including this blog entry): 7,480
All Time Word Count: 76,606

Longest Entry:          171 (643)
Longest All Time:    058 (799)

Shortest Entry:         180 (297)
Shortest All Time:   019 (131)

Avg. Words per entry:      436
Avg. Words All time:       405

Update Lead Changes: 5

There was only one position move during the update.  Here were the totals going in:

Anthrax: 438
Slayer: 431
Metallica: 426
Megadeth: 387

And here's where we ended up:

Anthrax: 476
Metallica: 465
Slayer: 460
Megadeth: 425

Metallica and Slayer switched places.  They're still close, so if by some miracle Slayer puts out the album of their career with Gary Holt (no offense to Gary) and they catch Metallica slippin' doing some bullshit like "Lulu" again they might have a chance.  And really with a barrier of a mere five points, the difference wouldn't have to be that drastic.

The same can't be said for Megadeth.  "Dystopia" is one of their strongest new millennium albums, and they're still 35 points out of 3rd.  Technically, they weren't mathematically eliminated from 3rd place before the update started: if they'd gotten all 4's and Metallica had gotten all 1's, Megadeth would have pulled into 3rd place by five points.  Overall, they're only four points closer to 3rd place than when they started.  That doesn't say much for "Dystopia" given how dull "Repentless" was.  (And "Dystopia" made my top ten albums for 2016.  SPOILERS!!!)

The gap between first and second is larger than when we went in, which means Anthrax at least acquitted themselves decently.  For all the shit I gave it, "For All Kings" isn't a bad album, believe it or not.  A different way to look at it is to see how the bands ranked in relation to each other.  Slayer started only 7 points back of Anthrax, but finished 16 behind.  Metallica were 12 points behind them, and finished 11 back (but five ahead of Slayer).  Megadeth were 39 points behind Metallica, and wound up 38 behind after all was said and done.  Crazily enough, their relation to Anthrax is unchanged at 51 points.

Thank you for reading The Big Four Song Challenge Series Update.  I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to hear what I have to say.  I don't think I say that enough.  I appreciate you for putting time aside to read the things I write.  You didn't have to, but you did.  Hope it wasn't too boring or dour, but I only have the material at hand to work with, and an honest review is what I sought to do.  And really, the albums are decent slices of rock.  If you forget the legacies involved and the baggage and the climate of music in general and the world at large, these four albums and their bonus tracks have something to offer in the way of a good time.  I may not have gotten that across, I may have been a little too hard on them, but eh.  It's rock & roll.  As long as it's loud and you're having fun, why the fuck not?

Indeed.  Why the fuck not?

Friday, December 2, 2016

THE BIG FOUR SONG CHALLENGE SERIES - Matchup 185

Anthrax "Vice Of The People" (2016) VS Megadeth "Melt The Ice Away" (2016) VS Metallica "When A Blind Man Cries" (2016) VS Slayer "Pride In Prejudice" (2015)

"Vice Of The People" is the Japanese bonus track for "For All Kings".  Aaaand it starts with that doofy march beat.  Wonderful.  The lyrics don't do it any favors in the "I should take this seriously" department either.  And like most of the songs I've slagged in this Update process, it's not bad.  It's just so "...whatever."

"Melt The Ice Away" is a Budgie cover that was the Spotify exclusive bonus track for "Dystopia".  It's funny how the original Budgie tracks are often much softer than the bands that cover them and turn them into fucking barnburners.  This song sounds a little goofy in the vocals and lyrics department, but knowing it's a Budgie song, it totally gets a pass.  And unlike some covers of Budgie songs, there's no painfully long quiet middle section to chop out like in, say, "Crash Course In Brain Surgery".  This is the original dialed up to twelve.

"When A Blind Man Cries" is a Deep Purple cover recorded for a tribute album in 2012.  It is also the second shortest song in the 3-Disc "Hardwired" package at 4:35.  (The title track is 3:09; the third shortest song is "Murder One" at 5:49.)  It's certainly the most laid back song out of the 60 I had to review for this exercise.  It's downright mournful, which works because it's a blues song.  It picks up by the end, but really, it's more a curiosity than a song to jam.

"Pride In Prejudice" is the only song in this matchup that isn't a bonus track.  Considering Slayer have a hard time keeping up since they don't put out as many songs per album, this is the shoe being on the other foot for a change.  What do they do with this opportunity?  Squander it.  The lyrics suck and the song is a slog to get through, despite being 4:14.  But again, context saves it from the floor because I didn't care about Metallica or Anthrax's entries.

Let's get this over with:

"Melt The Ice Away": 4
"Pride In Prejudice": 3
"When A Blind Man Cries": 2
"Vice Of The People": 1

UPDATE TOTALS:

Metallica: 41
Megadeth: 40
Anthrax: 38
Slayer: 31

ALL TIME TOTALS:

Anthrax: 476
Metallica: 465
Slayer: 460
Megadeth: 425

If you like statistics, come back tomorrow for the rap-up!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

THE BIG FOUR SONG CHALLENGE SERIES - Matchup 184

Anthrax "Zero Tolerance" (2016) VS Megadeth "Me Hate You" (2016) VS Metallica "Ronnie Rising Medely" (2016) VS Slayer "You Against You" (2015)

"Zero Tolerance" is trying to be harder than it is.  Anthrax (especially Belladonna-thrax) don't drop F-bombs a lot, but there it is, right up front.  I mean, the song's not wussy, but it doesn't seem tough enough.  After listening to "For All Kings", sure it might seem pretty brutal, but it could use another push to get it to where it wants to go.  I dig the message though, calling out the hypocrisy of religious extremism.

"Me Hate You" is better than anything I've reviewed from this album since "Poisonous Shadows" (save for "Foreign Policy", which edges it out slightly).  This could have easily replaced "The Emperor".  It's a really solid fist pumper of a song and the lyrics manage to cross back over that line of good sarcasm instead of lame platitudes.

"Ronnie Rising Medely" is the longest song in The Big Four Song Challenge Series Update, clocking in at 9:03.  It's a medley of Rainbow songs when Ronnie James Dio fronted the band, and those tunes are: "A Light In The Black", "Tarot Woman", "Stargazer" and "Kill The King".  It works pretty much like the Merciful Fate medley, but with less frequent song changes.  It's a solid chunk of high octane rock, so if you need nine minutes of well-executed blood pumping music, here you go.

"You Against You" is bog-standard as far as Slayer goes, but considering the lackluster nature of most of "Repentless" (and truth be told, most songs in "The Big Four Song Challenge Series Update"), it's above average in context.

"Me Hate You": 4
"You Against You": 3
"Ronnie Rising Medely": 2
"Zero Tolerance": 1

UPDATE TOTALS:

Metallica: 39
Anthrax: 37
Megadeth: 36
Slayer: 28

ALL TIME TOTALS:

Anthrax: 475
Metallica: 463
Slayer: 457
Megadeth: 421

Tomorrow is the exciting conclusion?  Sure.  Go with that.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED - Episode 066: Running Out The Clock

This is the last episode before a SLEW (a slew I tellz ya!) of special episodes comes your way!  (And seriously, we have another month of 2016 to get through?  Fuck that.)  Here is the schedule for upcoming Expect The Unexpected awesomeness:

DECEMBER 6 - Request Line XIV
DECEMBER 13 - The Top Songs Of 2016 Pt. 1
DECEMBER 20 - The Top Songs Of 2016 Pt. 2
DECEMBER 27 - The Top Albums Of 2016
JANUARY 3 - The Streaming Episode
JANUARY 10 - Request Line XV

So yeah, we got plenty sweet things on tap for the foreseeable future (and the Royal Rumble isn't to far after that, so there's another special episode).  Feel free to place your bets or make requests @nicholasnutter on Twitter or right here in the comments section below!

[P.S.: This week's episode suffers from an audio issue.  From 23:20 to 52:50 the input cord came loose and caused a buzzing.  I suppose you can pretend you're really listening on a radio or something; it adds a bit of ambience to the proceedings, but I can understand some may be turned off by this and for that I apologize.  I'll keep my ears peeled for such trouble in the future.]



1. "Typical" Mutemath
2. "The Undertow" Lamb Of God
3. "Drive Slow" Kanye West, Paul Wall & GLC
4. "Ghost" Ingrid Michaelson
5. "There's Not A Problem My Squad Can't Fix" Busta Rhymes & Jamal
6. "Spider Silk" Tetrafusion
7. "Time Of Trials" Corrosion Of Conformity
8. "Chasing Pavements" Adele
9. "I Love Every Little Thing About You" Syreeta Wright
10. "Very Little Daylight" Dave Navarro
11. "A Mood In Bossa" Opus 4
12. "Like It Or Not" Genesis
13. "Leonids" Fila Brazillia
14. "Patience" P.F.F.R.

THE BIG FOUR SONG CHALLENGE SERIES - Matchup 183

Anthrax "This Battle Chose Us!" (2016) VS Megadeth "Last Dying Wish" (2016) VS Metallica "Lords Of Summer" (2016) VS Slayer "Atrocity Vendor" (2015)

"This Battle Chose Us!" may be the only song that was placed correctly in the track order for "For All Kings", because it's that slower, more thoughtful conclusion before the thrash ending where the album blows its wad.  (Okay, two songs were placed correctly.  Spoilers.)  And then in the back half, it becomes the song where the album tries to blow its wad in a mad blast of energy.

"Last Dying Wish" is kind of ham fisted and it takes awhile to get into the choppy rhythm, but I can actually relate to the lyrics.  It's about the need to prove yourself and seize opportunity; the impulse to conquer, to be the best.  I mean, I only remember those drives as phantoms of a foolish youth when I believed such victories were possible, but I do remember them. 

Anyway, now that we got that goth bullshit out of the way, we have our first of two re-recordings.  The original version of this song was 8:21 and featured a The in the title, but now it's 7:10 and called "Lords Of Summer".  Considering my initial criticism of "The Lords Of Summer" (2014) was that it had no business being eight minutes, Metallica have certainly made this okay song better.  It's actually good now.  In fact, this is better than most of the album.  It has all the strengths of the good songs on "Hardwired" but with an addition missing from most of them: personality.  Also, it's kind of interesting to think of this as the positive counterpoint to a lot of doom and gloom lyrics metal has purveyed over the years.  In interviews, Metallica has espoused that "Battery" was about the positive and negative which is good in theory, but there was never much positivity in their lyrics before.  (Or in Microsoft Works, apparently, as it doesn't think "positivity" is a word.)

"Atrocity Vendor" is the best song on "Repentless".  Unfortunately for the band going forward, it's a re-recording of a song that was a B-Side from "World Painted Blood", and it was the last new song they released while Jeff Hanneman was still alive.  The difference between this and the rest of the album is kind of startling.

"Lords Of Summer": 4
"Atrocity Vendor": 3
"This Battle Chose Us!": 2
"Last Dying Words": 1

UPDATE TOTALS:

Metallica: 37
Anthrax: 36
Megadeth: 32
Slayer: 25

ALL TIME TOTALS:

Anthrax: 474
Metallica: 461
Slayer: 454
Megadeth: 417

Only two more left.  Place your bets.