From Hell’s Heart: April 2009
"Giving Up The Ghost"
In most cases, no one likes to run down another’s hard work. Whether or not someone “likes” what a musician has laid down is entirely subjective and varies from person to person, but a critic’s job is to defragment and spout with some intelligence just why an artist’s bread and butter is, well, dried up and moldy.
Which brings us to the topic du jour: “Giving Up The Ghost.” Once a band has passed its’ “best before” date, like a carton of rancid milk or that take-out food that got pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten, it should be disposed of to avoid exposing innocents to its foul appearance and acrid reek. Sadly, most musicians’ devote their lives to their art and once the commercial well has dried up, they are left with no means of supporting themselves once the days of being mobbed by fans and dating strippers has passed. Others fail to realize—or admit—their own popularity decline and carry on as if the glory days still exist.
Such is the subject of the resurrected “From Hell’s Heart” column here at Metal-Rules.com.
“Don’t Go Away Mad, Just Go Away”
by Lord of The Wasteland
As a broad generalization, most bands whose heyday was more than two decades ago or whose “one-hit wonder” status fell under the same date umbrella has no business trying to force new material on fans. We want the hits, so please spare us the new albums and PR hoo-ha.
But like the intro says, musicians don’t usually have a backup plan and if singing, playing guitar, etc. is what you’ve devoted your life to, the coke-ravaged deviated septum and L-O-V-E/H-A-T-E knuckle tattoos tend to limit one’s forward advancement in the business world. Of course, that is a crude exaggeration of the rock ‘n roll lifestyle but the truth remains: when music has been your life’s blood and a good portion of time was spent with the mindset of “rock and roll all night, party every day,” it’s difficult coming to grips with the reality that you now have to pay the mortgage, grab the mega-pack of diapers at the Wal-Mart and actually work for a living like the common folks who once idolized you (look to Phil Varone’s eye-popping WAKING UP DEAD documentary for proof to that fact). So, rather than face the 9-to-5 grind of working for “the man,” bands keep churning out the songs, hoping for a shred of the success that has long since passed them by.
Now, while Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne are still several millions of dollars away from the breadline and thrift store shopping, here are 5 bands/lineups (in alphabetical order) that should “give up the ghost” and call it a day:
Good God…they couldn’t hold it together with Joey Belladonna and Dan Spitz for a new record and even John Bush wants nothing to do with Anthrax these days. So, instead of leaving well enough alone, the pioneers of East Coast thrash metal soldier on with an unknown vocalist and Rob Caggiano following the orders of Scott Ian and Charlie Benante. Look for the new record to go nowhere in a big hurry.
Other than our own devoted fanboy, Celtic Bob, and Brian Vollmer himself, no one has found a reason to get excited about a release from this once-heralded institution of Canadian hard rock in over twenty years. Witnessing Vollmer and his latest group of hired hands working new material into Helix’s set standards of “Rock You” and “Heavy Metal Love” sees most people hitting the bar and taking pee breaks. Let’s not even get into the band’s Christmas album that was released last year…
It pains me to say this but let’s be honest and admit that no one (besides KISS’ accountants) wants a new KISS record in 2009. The band’s last studio effort, 1998’s PSYCHO CIRCUS, was an album composed through smoke and mirrors with little to no musical input from either Ace Frehley or Peter Criss. While Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer have stepped into the respective roles of “Space Ace” and “Catman,” seeing Gene Simmons’ sixty-year old wagging tongue does little to impress these days. Keep some integrity to what a global institution the KISS logo and makeup signifies, play the oldies for the fans that still come in droves and spare us the inevitable version of “Beth 2009.”
4. Ozzy Osbourne
Paranoid. NIB. War Pigs. Crazy Train. Ozzy has sung some of heavy metal’s most beloved anthems, yet most of the population knows him as the bumbling fool from The Osbournes TV show. Sadly, that “reality” show has one-upped most of Ozzy’s recorded output since 1991’s NO MORE TEARS. With only three studio releases since that album, each has dwindled in quality and the increased use of outside writers has left many wondering if Ozzy is being propped up in the studio and on stage merely to keep the cash flow pumping.
5. The Rocklahoma Circuit
The upswing of summer retro festivals has opened up hope for the has-beens that the “Me” decade left behind. Not one, but TWO versions of L.A. Guns are currently battling it on the road, Warrant has allowed Jani Lane back in the band to embarrass them on stage more times than can be forgiven and who in their right mind wanted Trixter and Nelson to get back together?! At least Stevie Rachelle is smart enough to mock his peers through Metal Sludge rather than resurrect Tuff but that hasn’t stopped others like Enuff Z’Nuff, Danger Danger and Vixen from trying to milk their 15 minutes of fame for a quick buck twenty years later.
***LotW’s disclaimer: Please note that this article is in no way meant to be taken as mean-spirited or hateful but rather a plea from a fan to leave good memories of the music in place rather than tarnish them with half-baked stabs at one last kick at the cat. In fairness, if the tables were turned and I was taken out my accredited occupation and thrown in a van with a bunch of smelly dudes for several weeks to play music at 120 decibels until 2:00AM, I would likely scurry back to my fluorescent-lit comfort zone in a heartbeat.
EvilG – Giving Up The Ghost
Ya know what, people get the music they deserve. If they are blind enough to think that Kiss are really Kiss and not the ‘Paul & Gene Experience’, then let them spend hundreds of bucks on concert tickets and think they are seeing the real band. The plebes see the make-up and don’t give a shit that it’s not Ace on guitar, that the dude on drums is not Peter but is actually Eric Singer (who is an mazing drummer regardless). So while us critics can sit here and scratch our heads and wonder why people support washed up bands with one original member left, maybe we shouldn’t get so riled up…maybe. If these CASUAL FANS of the bands want to experience a copy or pale imitation, and they are willing to spend their money on it, who are we to break their bubble?
Would the real Kiss please step forward?
So besides Kiss, who are easy targets? Well Van Halen for starters. I am a fan of the DLR VH stuff, but the reunion tour last year without Michael Anthony on bass was a cash grab. If they don’t have a decent new album out with the original members, then I do not want to hear about them doing a tour…and forget having 15-odd-year-old Wolfe on bass. If Eddie wants to play on stage with his kid, let him, but someone needs to tell him to stop the madness. I am not quite as hung up on the lack of original members thing if the remaining members are writing new and meaningful music.
Forbidden is another band I’m upset over. I love their first two albums and last summer they got together to do some festivals and such….well that would have been cool if they were recording and touring in support of a new thrashterpiece. As soon as they got back together they should have been writing new material. I mean, I’d love to hear them ripping through “Chalice of Blood” again, but without new music, what’s the point? Here we are a year after they did a bunch of reunion shows and I don’t have a new album in my hands yet I see new tour dates this summer…why?? Either release some new music or get in a band that is.
While I’d prefer that bands would release new music, maybe some of them just have nothing left to give and are only able to play the old tunes. They basically become cover/tribute bands to their past. There is a whole bunch of the glam metal bands that tour almost every summer (Poison, Cinderella, etc.) yet they are not writing new music and maybe they can’t or what they come up with makes “Shake Me” or “Unskinny Bop” sound like a masterpiece. Ha! At least Dokken are still writing decent material and showing up the most of the glam metalers.
My last thought on who should give up the ghost is sadly…Ozzy. The last album of his that I really got off on was 1988’s NO REST FOR THE WICKED. Then we have Ozzy re-recording classic albums and the Osbournes TV show which was just retarded. It’s sad to see someone who was a part of the birth of metal sink to these levels. I still revere all his Sabbath and most all his solo work, but enough is enough….let the madness END.
Ozzy with Black Sabbath…when they were gods!
“Giving up the ghost” or “Today I realized that my band is irrelevant, and how I learned to cope.”
by Aaron Yurkiewicz
Why is it that some bands feel compelled to outstay their welcome by refusing to call it a day, even when any shreds of relevance and dignity have been stripped away long ago? There’s the usual tell tale signs that your favorite band is creeping into irrelevance – numerous lineup changes, shifting musical climates, quick payday tours hastily shuffled together, the commonalities are all there. So is it better to for a band to surrender gracefully in the face of adversity or is it better to keep fans coming back to the table hoping that the next album won’t be a disappointment? Personally speaking, when I find myself asking that question about bands I like, there’s two important criteria that I measure: 1) Is the music being released still worthwhile and relevant and 2) Is the band continuing on doing more harm than good to their legacy? Allow me to indulge myself as I share some thoughts on some of my favorites that have let me down.
Let’s go straight for the jugular and discuss one of my all time favorite bands, Mercyful Fate. King Diamond holds a particular place of importance with me for a variety of reasons and like many other fans, by the time I got turned onto the King’s work, Fate was long since dissolved. When King announced that the Mercyful Fate was reuniting minus original drummer Kim Ruzz in the early ‘90s, critics and fans rejoiced in the streets by exchanging high fives and throwing up devil horns. The resulting IN THE SHADOWS lacked some of the bite of the old days, but it was still a good album as a whole. And if it gave the world one more chance to see King, Hank, Mike, Timi, and whoever they got to play drums play “Satan’s Fall” live, then it was all worth it. But Timi Hansen didn’t go on tour; he had a day job and a family and couldn’t commit to the road. Sharlee D’Angelo stepped in the band’s new bass player and Snowy Shaw from King’s solo band would drum. The follow up album TIME sounded more “Fate” than its predecessor, but the reunion buzz had worn off by then and the album was released with zero promotion in comparison. And then another album quickly followed, and then another album, and then another. With Michael Denner leaving the band, King Diamond and Hank Shermann were the last remnants of the original Mercyful Fate. By the time that 9 was released at the end of the decade, Mercyful Fate looked and sounded more like King’s solo band than what the original reunion had ever intended, essentially becoming King Diamond-lite. As I look at the band’s discography on my shelf, those first two albums (as much as I love them) now seem somewhat diminished as they’re forced to sit next to snoozers like DEAD AGAIN and INTO THE UNKNOWN. It’s not special anymore, proving that you can have too much of a good thing. While the band is on indefinite hiatus, I can’t say that I’m disappointed. Put the band permanently in the ground or at least give us some breathing room before you decide to tempt Fate again, King.
While we’re on the topic of old school evil, let’s talk some Venom. Does the world really need Venom in 2009 if it doesn’t feature all three founding members; Cronos, Mantas, and Abaddon? The current version of Venom features in its ranks only Cronos from the original lineup, with his brother now playing drums and a series of different guitar players filling in over the last couple of albums. Cronos watched his former band mates destroy the good name of Venom a decade ago when Mantas and Abaddon drove the band into obscurity with new frontman Tony Dolan. But Venom is really a one trick pony that’s sustained by the influence of the first three albums. More so than the sloppy music and poor production, it was the characters and imagery created by the original trio that made the whole thing seem downright awesome at the time. Their second album would go on to spawn an entire genre of Christ hating Norwegians for crying out loud! It was more than just the music that kept us coming back for more. It was the personalities and interaction of the trio, the photos with the band making scary faces holding skulls, the satanic passages printed on the back of the album sleeve, it was the whole package. If you take any of those elements out of the equation everything thing falls apart. And fall apart it did, twice now. The reunion of the original lineup lasted for about 10 minutes before the band splintered, but Cronos seems convinced that he needs to keep the Venom name alive by releasing crappy albums that are content to ape the band’s history rather than contribute anything viable to it. Why? Because an album or tour marketed as Venom will always sell more than one marketed as a Cronos solo project. I think he learned that the hard way – ROCK ‘N’ ROLL DISEASE anyone?
Consider if you will the case of poor, poor Anthrax. Anthrax overcame substantial odds when original vocalist Joey Belladonna was given the boot and replaced with Armored Saint throatster John Bush. During his decade with the band, Bush proved his meddle as a performer and as a contributor to the band, helping Anthrax stay afloat during some admittedly rough times and earning the respect and admiration of legions of ‘Thrax fans in the process. So when it was announced that the AMONG THE LIVING lineup would be reuniting for a tour and an uncertain future, many fans reacted with a resounding “WTF”? Scott Ian and Charlie Benante had enjoyed trash talking Belladonna for years and now they’re going to have a second honeymoon? You could smell the payola through the press releases. I still question how they could completely misjudge what they thought the fans wanted in trying to relive the past. Either way, the reunion was unsurprisingly short lived and Anthrax found themselves without the services of either of the vocalists that defined the Anthrax sound. So 25 years into things, the band is forced to reinvent themselves yet again and have to do so in the shadows of not one, but now two classic lineups. Anthrax has overcome tough odds before, but, errrr…good luck with WORSHIP MUSIC guys. And Scott – I hope that VH1 gig is paying the bills.
And what’s the deal with one member of a classic band deciding that they’re going to reform the band in their own image? Why trample on the memories of your fans for your own self indulgence? Nocturnus recently announced that it was going on tour and would be performing material from their debut album THE KEY. I cut my teeth on Nocturnus and that album, so just hearing that they were alive again had me salivating. But then a follow up announcement clarified that the Nocturnus that would be touring would actually just be original drummer/vocalist Mike Browning and a band that he’d cobbled together. I give Browning credit for coming clean beforehand, rather than waiting until fans get to the shown only to discover that they don’t recognize 4/5 of the band on stage, but still – what’s the friggin’ point? Why bother with such an exercise if you’re not going to do it right? Because Nocturnus will sell more tickets than whatever band Mike Browning is in today…
Kam Lee did the same thing with Massacre as well, announcing that the band was going to do some select shows but that the remaining roles in the band would be filled with members of his other band at the time, Denial Fiend. It was promoted as the last time to hear the classic Massacre tunes live, as Lee would be focusing on his work with Denial Fiend. So was this really “Massacre” jaunt just a thinly veiled chance to get his other band some free publicity? It sure smelled that way, regardless. As fates would have it, Lee recently parted ways with Denial Fiend and, you guessed it… Kam Lee is putting together a new version of Massacre! I think original bassist Terry Butler is along for the ride, but no Rick Rozz? C’mon now…Is this for the fans or is this just because it’s easier than starting over again? Because Massacre will sell more tickets than…you get the idea.
The award for “Band that almost destroyed a lifetime of history but saved itself at the last minute with a reunion that people wanted to see” goes to (drum roll)….Black Sabbath 1984-1997! At the end of this dark, dark period in metal history, Sabbath was reduced to a fledgling indie label in the US, club tours, and 2nd /3rd billing festival billing. I’ll admit that much of the Tony Martin material is pretty doggone good, but does any of it hold up in comparison to VOL. 4, MOB RULES, or jeez, even DEHUMANIZER? If you were take the best cuts from each of the 5 Tony Martin fronted albums and released them as one disc, maybe…nah. Just because a band plays “Paranoid” in the set list, does that make the band Black Sabbath? Consider the possibilities if the albums released sans Ozzy, Dio, or (gulp) Gillan, were released as Tony Iommi projects? Essentially that’s what they were, right? Would that have salvaged the band’s reputation during that period? Would people have listened? Would people have cared?
“The jury is out until I hear it for myself” award goes to: Voivod possibly continuing without Piggy. Yeeeshhh. I don’t know how I feel about this one. I know that if Voivod were to give it one more go, it would be done with the class and respect deserved of our fallen metal brother, Mr. Denis D’Amour. But still, I’m very much on the fence here.
An honorable mention nod goes out to Entombed: I love you guys, but seriously, what’s going on?
Finally, saving the best for last…YOU WANTED THE BEST, YOU GOT THE BEST…THE FORMERLY HOTTEST BAND IN THE WORLD WHO IS NOW A COVER BAND OF ITSELF…KISS!!!! I take this one very personally. I’ve stomached the umpteen greatest hits packages that have been released over the years, I’ve stomached the glam schlock that had the Kiss logo on it during the ‘80s, I can even stomach the overpriced concert tickets, but this train of exploitation has got to stop. Putting Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer in Kiss makeup does not make them Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, so stop pretending like it does! Kiss had their biggest tour in ages with last year’s Alive 35 Euro tour, and I can’t understand why? Are people so desperate for the real thing that they’re willing to suspend their disbelief in the process? When the original 4-piece got back together around ’96, I thought it was great, but I would have preferred that they did it without the makeup. Don’t ape your own past for the sake of building a viable future. Now that Ace and Peter are out for good, it makes even less sense. Tommy Thayer may have researched Ace like a Shakespearean understudy, but no matter how close he gets it, there’s always something that just seems, well…off. And Peter Criss’ hair was NEVER as black as Eric Singer has it dyed. I mean, Peter Criss was born with gray hair. If you’re going to play dress up, at least try to do it right. Does anyone expect anything out of the new album they’re recording? After PSYCHO CIRCUS, I sure don’t. I am curious as to how they’ll present Thayer and Singer in makeup on the album sleeve – either as themselves or as “the Space Ace” and “the Cat Man?” Either way, it’s misleading. Either take off the make up or hang up the tights for good fellas.
But for every Venom or Kiss, there’s At the Gates and Napalm Death. At the Gates had the foresight to realize that they were never going to do better that SLAUGHTER OF THE SOUL and opted to quit while they were ahead. They’ve got the freedom to do shows if and when the mood strikes as there’s no expectations or pressure to follow up what many agree to be a near perfect final album. And given the challenges that Napalm Death has faced in their 2 decade long career, the odds should have counted them out a long time ago. Though they’ve been without a single original member since 1992, the band has continued to get better with age. Currently riding a resurgence of popularity with back to back to back albums of that are arguable they best in their discography, Napalm has remained successful because they’ve taken their craft seriously and treated the fans (and themselves) with respect.
So I realize that most bands barely scrape by as it is, even without considering an economy in the toilet and illegal downloading killing record sales. So as cynical as I am, I know that a decision to carry on a band past its prime isn’t always driven purely by capitalism. So is it stubbornness? Is it reluctance to let go of the past? Or is it just being so out of touch with your audience that you don’t know that you’re out of touch? I’m curious as to what you the readers think about the subject, or if there’s a band I haven’t mentioned that you think has outstayed its welcome. Drop me a line on the forum and let me know what you think and let the bashing begin! Now how much longer do we have to wait for the new Armored Saint album?
Erich – Giving Up the Ghost
Kiss were a decent band back in the day, capable of filling up stadiums on the premise of basic party anthems and odes to the groin. Today, Kiss is quickly mortgaging their legendary past on the daft actions of lead buffoon Gene Simmons, and the ever revolving door of bassists and drummers on Kiss’s never ending 7th Tour of a Farewell Tour. The band’s last new studio material, PSYCHO CIRCUS, failed miserably in resurrecting the magic of the past, and while no one expected any stylistic departures on par with THE ELDER, you need look no further than Peter Criss’s atrocious “I Finally Found My Way” to see how far the mighty had fallen.
Not satisfied with the disaster of Psycho Circus, Kiss decided to try to mimic Metallica’s success with S&M by releasing Kiss Symphony, another muddy wreck. The band finally decided it had nothing useful left to contribute and has resorted to shamelessly milking their die hard fans for all they are worth by releasing the same 15 songs on different compilations year after year and a string of live DVDs and cds. You get the feeling that since Twisted Sister did a Christmas album, it is only a matter of time before Gene and the boys try to milk that cow. Gene, long the face of Kiss, has also further tarnished the band and his image with his dreadful reality show “Family Jewels”. Kiss was recently excluded from the Rock Hall of Fame and you get the feeling that the memory of their pedigree was overshadowed by the career drift of the last 13 years might have had much to do with their exclusion. Gene, Paul, and the hired hands; before all credibility is erased it’s time to punch the clock.
Giving Up the Ghost by Munkwunk
When the topic of "Giving Up the Ghost" – which bands should be calling it quits – was presented, I immediately began considering a number of bands which need to throw in the towel. True, for some of the bands I never felt like they ever should have started producing music, but for others it just seems like they are artificially prolonging their lives with reunions, get-togethers, and first-in-over-a-decade releases that just don’t live up to the standards they set for themselves in their hey day.
The first thing that springs to mind in regards to this topic is Wacken Open Air 2006 where both Carnivore and Whitesnake made appearances, neither of which had released a studio album in years. Whtiesnake have since released the band’s first studio album in a decade, 2008’s GOOD TO BE BAD, featuring vocalist David Coverdale, the band’s only remaining original member. Whitesnake (or what is left of them) played a few more shows in 2008 with Def Leppard, another ancient NWOBHM band who lost steam a decade ago but is still releasing music in a sick attempt to keep disappointing old fans who remember when they used to not suck.
Unfortunately, the trend of classic bands releasing classless albums has only been getting worse. Judas Priest may have been churning out a steady stream of albums over the years, but 2009’s NOSTRADAMUS marks another disappointing release for the once-glorified band. Perhaps the most sure sign of failure – and this applies to many bands with 20+ year careers – is that album reviewers can’t help but reminisce about the "good old days" when member X used to be the coolest and all of the songs used to shred, but now he’s lacking his signature tune and none of the songs seem to live up to the classics. A band can only release so many disappointing albums like this before they need to realize that they just don’t have what it takes to please the fans anymore.
For Metalheads, it’s hard to admit that our favorite musicians – and dare I say idols? – grow old and impotent after decades of playing heavy music. We immortalize our Metal heroes and newcomers constantly play tribute songs from classics like KISS, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest, and our memories of their music stay alive and fresh within us. However, many of us need to wake up and face the sad reality that even our heroes grow old and eventually dwindle. Maybe if we would just let the memories live by themselves, the artists who have passed their prime wouldn’t fel obligated to deliver disappointing album after disappointing album, in an attempt to keep some small flame alive. Then again, perhaps they’re just as stubborn as the rest of us and refuse to quit despite all indications that their time is long past due.