Friday, May 30, 2003

Interview: Ty Tabor of King's X

What King's X fans want, they get. The proof of that is in the band's latest album, "Black Like Sunday."

The album contains newly-recorded versions of some of the oldest songs in the band's catalog - songs that go back beyond the first record deal to the days when King's X was an unkown band touring the country out of Springfield, Mo. Guitarist Ty Tabor said the band members constantly field requests from hardcore fans for their favorite tunes from that era, and they finally decided to dedicate an album to those tunes.

"We wrote hundreds of songs that were never put on a record, but they were favorites of people in different areas of the country," he said. "People have been begging us to do an album of all that material for all these years, and we finally got to a point where it made sense to us to do it. It's the most representative album of what this band is really about and where we come from. It's some of our favorite music ever."

Tabor does warn that "Black Like Sunday" isn't a typical King's X record. In recent years, the band has become more and more experimental, but this album has a more primitive sound than even their early albums like "Out of the Silent Planet" and "Gretchen Goes to Nebraska." Based on the reactions he's gotten, he thinks most people will come around to the sound.

"If people listen to it not thinking that it's King's X, they love the record," he said. "If they listen to it thinking it's a King's X record, they already have this idea in their head of what they think it's supposed to be, and it throws them a bit at first. But all of them, after listening to it a few times and letting it grow on them, have come to just really love the record."

Tabor admits it was a chore combing through tons of old tapes and trying to find the right songs to put on the record. He said they were searching for the songs they thought were most effective, as well as the ones that were fan favorites.

"We ended up with enough to do a double or triple album, so we just gathered the ones that we liked and some of the ones that we got the most requests for, even if we didn't like them," he said. "Several songs were actually like that."

In the end, he's proud of the album.

"After we did it, because of how we're playing these days and how we're interpreting things, we got very excited about these songs," he said. "We realized that these were good songs, and we shouldn't have just thrown them out."

He also thinks the tracks on the album are relevant to today's music scene, even though some of them are 20 years old.

"In the earliest days of the band, we were doing some stuff that was really high-energy, almost punk, and we were doing a lot of the stuff that's like the alternative music now," he said. "Some of it sounds like it fits with what's going on now with no problem. The only difference is this was written in a different time period, when it was much more radical music."

If "Black Like Sunday" goes over well with fans, Tabor says there's plenty of early material left that they'd love to put out. But, he adds, King's X won't live in the past. The band is constantly writing new material as well.

As for the future of King's X, Tabor said the critically acclaimed power trio is stil alive and well. Though they don't pop up in the media as often, they've managed to build a hardcore, dedicated fan base. In fact, Tabor says their last headlining tour was one of the best attended and most successful in the band's history. It's those fans that King's X is banking on.

"We did drop out of spending money to keep our faces in the media," Tabor said. "We decided to spend our money in different ways to keep this thing going and build it in a different way. Although it doesn't have all the appearances that it used to, King's X is rolling on."

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Review: M.O.D., "The Rebel You Love to Hate"

On M.O.D.'s latest album, the first since 1996's "Dictated Aggression," he takes the music in a different direction. After watching, of all things, "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Behind the Music," Milano was inspired to introduce parody and satire into M.O.D.'s arsenal. He's done it well on "Rebel You Love to Hate."

It starts on the cover with parodies of Michael Schenker Group and Kiss covers, and continues with the music. He takes on all-comers, with jabs at rapper Eminem, German rockers Rammstein and, of course, the easiest target in entertainment, Osama bin Laden. One of the most poignant attacks comes in "Rage Against the Mac Machine," where Milano points out the fundamental flaw in the reasoning of highly successful bands that rail against the evils of capitalism.

The album also offers some different sounds for M.O.D., from the incorporation of Eminem's "please stand up" chorus in "Wigga," a statement about white suburban rap fans who style themselves gangstas, to perfectly aping the techno-metal sound of Rammstein on "De Men of Stein" and Kiss on "Get Ready," which could be considered either a parody or a tribute.

There are of course some typical hardcore M.O.D. numbers like the title track and "He's Dead, Jim," a tribute to an extra on "Star Trek." Then there are the fiercely patriotic thrashers "Making Friends is Easy" and "Assghanistan."

The only downside of this album is that there isn't enough of it. There are only eight new songs, and Milano fills out the album with semi-live versions that change very little and radio edits, which no one wants to listen to anyway. Still, he packs plenty to be happy about into those eight tunes. M.O.D. is reborn and better than before.

Get "The Rebel You Love to Hate."

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Review: Anthrax, "We've Come For You All"

In the years since their last album, the members of Anthrax have seen their band name become a household word. Unfortunately for them, the word is usually spoken in fear, rather than out of respect for their music.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the threat of biological attack with anthrax bacteria became very real. The band members went through a period of questioning and anger, even briefly considering changing their name. In the end, they decided to remain Anthrax and take all of those frustrations out on their latest album, "We've Come for You All."

The record, released earlier this month, is fully locked into the groove the band has gained since vocalist John Bush came on board in the 1990s. The bashing and speedy riffs in songs like "What Doesn't Die" and "Nobody Knows Anything," may take fans back to the 1980s thrash sound, but those tunes are the exception rather than the rule on this album.

Far more than any other album, "WCFYA" showcases Anthrax's influences. Shades of AC/DC come through in the chorus of "Strap It On," an ode to old school metal. Who vocalist Roger Daltrey guests on "Taking the Music Back." "Cadillac Rock Box," featuring Pantera/Damageplan guitarist Dime, is aptly described by drummer Charlie Benante as "Lynyrd Skynyrd meets 1976-1977 Kiss." Throw a touch of ZZ Top in, and you've got the sound of one of the tastiest morsels of feel-good hard rock I've heard in a while.

But it's not just the bands that came before them that influence this album. The insane frenzy of the pre-chorus in "Black Dahlia" even calls to mind their contemporaries, Slayer.

Fans may miss the tongue-in-cheek humor of the past that's lacking on this album, but that's to be expected considering the turmoil the songs grew out of. What it lacks in the fun factor, the album more than makes up for in raw power.

Ultimately, guitarist Scott Ian gives the bottom line on the album - "It sounds like Anthrax."

Indeed it does, but not the thrash-happy Anthrax of the 1980s, nor even the grunge-tainted sound of early '90s Anthrax. Instead it sounds like a growing and evolving organism - a band that remains loyal to its roots, yet at the same time, isn't afraid to try a new approach here and there.

Get "We've Come For You All."

Friday, May 2, 2003

Interview: Tony Rombola of Godsmack

With two multiplatinum albums under their belts, you'd think that rockers Godsmack wouldn't be "Faceless" anymore, but the band members would disagree with you.

In fact, they chose the name for their latest album for that very reason. Despite the success of their first two albums and last summer's smash "I Stand Alone" from the "Scorpion King" soundtrack, the band still felt they were flying under the public radar. Even the debut of their new record at No. 1 on the Billboard charts hasn't changed the mind of guitarist Tony Rombola.

"It was awesome (to debut at No. 1), but I think we still are (faceless)," he said. "I don't feel any different."

While the sound of "Faceless" obviously marks it as a Godsmack album, the band experimented with some subtle melodic elements and singer Sully Erna used songs like "Changes" and "Re-Align" to stretch his vocal skills a little. Rombola attributes the difference to producer David Bottrill of Tool and King Crimson fame. Rombola said he challenged the band to do some things they hadn't done before.

"We did `I Stand Alone' with him, and we liked what he did with the band," Rombola said. "He worked with Sully on some vocal things, and he's a great engineer. We were really confident with using him again."

A lineup change brought more new energy to the band during the recording of "Faceless." Drummer Shannon Larkin joined the fold and took over all drumming duties. In the past, Erna - who played drums for underground thrashers Meliah Rage before forming Godsmack - had laid down all the drum tracks. Rombola said Larkin fit seamlessly into the band's sound.

"Sully's talked about Shannon for years," he said. "This is actually the first record that Sully gave up the drumsticks for, but they have similar styles so it was a great fit. It's like we didn't miss a beat."

While the members of Godsmack may think they haven't reached the pinnacle of the rock world, they're enjoying the fruits of their success on stage. Their last tour to promote their second album "Awake" gave them the opportunity to unveil the elaborate new stage show that they'd always wanted to do. Though he wouldn't give away any secrets, Rombola said this time out the production is going to be even bigger, and he's excited about playing the new tunes for an audience. With ever-increasing ticket prices, he said it's important to give fans their money's worth.

"That's always been our philosophy, to go out there and just kill - do the biggest show that we can do," he said. "Every tour we've always added something and tried to make it different, new and exciting."

That's part of the approach that's earned Godsmack one of the most dedicated fan bases of any new band in heavy rock - that and the fact that there are no gimmicks in their music, said Rombola. While trendy styles like rap metal and techno-metal disappear after a while, he said real, straight-ahead rock will never go away.

"I hope people take (our music) for what it is and dig it," he said. "When we write a song, we all get off on the groove, the guitar riff, the beat, everything. It's pretty exciting to know that other peole are feeling the same thing from our music."

Rombola said the band has a lot of music left in them, and he thinks Godsmack is close to a worldwide breakthrough. In any case, they've set lofty goals for themselves.

"We want to be the biggest rock band in the world," Rombola said with a laugh. "We're setting our sights high. Maybe we won't be disappointed if we're the second biggest rock band in the world."