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It’s the time of year for deathless nostalgia again, because unless you’re stuck in a yurt in Mongolia (in which case you’re not reading this blog, but I hedge my bets!), you know it’s the end of one year, and the virgin, untouched beginning of a new one, filled with hopes, dreams and possibilities that may or may not happen. On the other hand, hope springs eternal, tomorrow is another year, and nothing will ever happen the way you expect it!

The year 2010 was a strange one, strange in the real world of Big Decisions and increasing issues with severe weather and its consequences worldwide, strange in the world of music because of all the gaping lacunae left behind by those we lost, and strange in my personal sphere, mostly for good, somewhat for bad, but not so bad I can’t stand it!

Below follows my entirely idiosyncratic, tunnel-visioned view of All I Left Behind. What I loved in 2010, what I loathed, what I embraced and rejected and a few things I will never, ever understand so long as I live.

The Good:
Music-wise, I’m getting jaded. So jaded, it takes a major sonic blast that registers on the Richter Scale before I get up and flip out my enthusiasms and Air Guitar In Ratty Underwear. Having said that, there were a few that ended up on deathless repeat on my iTunes playlists.

I know I’m getting old. I know I’m getting old when I find it increasingly hard not to gravitate toward the old pros who know precisely what they’re doing, exactly how to do it, and still manage to be relevant, still blowing my mind to this day. There really isn’t a lot on the younger end of the musical scale I can get riled up about, and what’s far worse – I don’t care any more! I shall henceforth be doomed to eternal unhipness. Deal with it.

Best Ballad Of The Year:
Grinderman, “The Palaces of Montezuma”, from Grinderman 2
When it comes to ballads, I’m hardcore. I’m so hardcore, that unless I’m sonically reduced to a puddle of melted cherry Jello, bawling like a schoolgirl with the sheer, immortal splendor of a killer tune and lyrics a cut or two above the Moon-June-Youuuuuu variety, forget it. Ain’t happening. I can count most of those on the fingers of one hand. Well, along came Nick Cave and Grinderman with “The Palaces of Montezuma”, and the unforgettable lines “The spinal chord of JFK, wrapped in Marilyn Monroe’s negligé, I give to you”… and I was done for. Drip, drip, dripping cherry Jello, all over my floor. There are a gazillion songwriters who would give their eardrums for a chance to write something half so good, or their eyeteeth for lyrics half so original. (“A custard-colored super dream of Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen, I give to you…”)

Best Unexpected Happenings:
Sometimes, it can be good to push yourself above and beyond what you think you can do. Or else have someone around who can kick you hard enough to rise above your limitations! 2010 was the year I became a writer in earnest. Never in my sorry existence have I written so much, so varied and so broad as in 2010. More emails were sent, more blogs written, more rage was vented, more words were spilled out upon an unsuspecting world than ever before in my entire life. I managed to finish the first draft of “Quantum Demonology”, and I also managed to rewrite the first nine chapters from the bottom up. I still have a few miles to go and words to write before I arrive, but I can do this, I know. Whether the rest of the world agrees with me will remain to be seen.

Likewise in the year now dying, I dashed off an idiot email in response to a loaded question, and many, many emails, much venting on both sides, a sprouting, flourishing friendship and a telephone call later, I’m both flattered and privileged to be a part of “Retaliate”. Ray Van Horn of The Metal Minute– with whom I share not a few predilections, musically and otherwise – and I have plans to turn the world, the world of online magazines and the world of music writing slightly sideways on its axis, and so we will! Watch this space!

“Quantum Demonology” began taking over so much space on MoltenmetalMama, I had no choice but to give it its own blog. What a great thing I had hedged my bets beforehand and landed the title. What a great thing to write. What a bitch to revise! I wish I could say that should any of my four proofreaders show up on my doorstep, I shall be waiting with a pitchfork, four hand grenades, a Winchester, and a loaded AK-47, but in spite of all my griping, they’ve all four taught me more than I would ever know otherwise, and I am – willing or not – very grateful. And glad to have them. So long as no one mentions Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi ever, ever again. The horror!

I launched another blog – Scent Less Sensibilities – and without too much by way of promotion or even exposure, it’s taking off, giving me yet another kind of audience for my words, another focus for my writing, and best of all, an outlet for all my girlie sensibilities and the ability to connect with likeminded souls in the ether who share a love – and share the love. Ladies and gents, you know who you are. My life would not be nearly so complete without you, so fragrant or so much fun!

Best Albums of 2010:
This is where the metal hipsters will hunt me down and shoot me for my utter lack of imagination and sophistication. My sorrow to say it, ladies and gents, but there was not too much “new” to get newly enthused about. The albums that blew my socks off, the ones that had me playing air guitar in questionable attire, the ones I listened and listened to, the ones who likely will never leave my playlists, the ones I loved and love with a fury – all were issued by the pros who have delivered the deathless, timeless musical goods for decades. The rest in my view suffered from a distinct overdose of hype and expectations they couldn’t quite deliver. I’ll be getting back to those. The following albums are hated by my neighbors – for several good reasons!

Danzig: Deth Red Sabaoth
Glenn Danzig doesn’t need me as a press agent, but it’s not a state secret I’ve been raving about him for a while for many reasons, most of them dubious, some of them dangerous, and a few even libellous. For one thing, his discography gave me my novel and a very atrophied wallet. So when he released this, his first ‘proper’ studio album since 2004’s “Circle of Snakes”, I pestered the crap out of my CD pusher until it was finally available in Europe. It was worth the wait. Glenn Danzig returned to the blues-based metal he has done so much to invigorate, his voice as good and his songs as uncompromising, as strong and as solid as ever, and we were so thoroughly not disappointed. Tommy Victor showed his true colors at long last, Johnny Kelley proved yet again why he’s such a great drummer and I’m so grateful, it really is pathetic. Or I am. Bite me!

Grinderman: Grinderman 2
I’ve always had a thing for Nick Cave – simply because I have a thing for those songwriters who do their own thing and go their own way. But when I came across this one late and sleepless night on YouTube surfing the “You might also like” section, well, people, what little brains I have left promptly went splat all over my laptop. So embarrassing when that happens. It took me a long time to finally give in to this album, for no other reason than Nick Cave is a devious fox hell-bent on giving us a practical joke so well-crafted, we never even realize just how much we’ve been had. The energy level is through the roof, the insights into the middle-aged masculine mindset are staggering, and the lyrics are all Nick Cave shaking out of his sleeve what others toil years to achieve with only limited success.

Accept: Blood of the Nations:
Back to Ye Olde School Pros again. I wasn’t all that wild with Accept in the glory days in the Eighties, and I sorta wonder why, when they give us their all in this all-out glory of a comeback album. Love it, love it, love it.

Seventh Void: Heaven is Gone
Technically, this came out in the spring of 2009, so it is not, strictly speaking, a new album. But after a very respectable launch in the US and a tour with Type O Negative and a show with Danzig in 2009, Seventh Void finally found European distribution in 2010 and several of my friends silenced my incessant whining by buying me a CD. Despite sharing two members of Type O Negative and a love of sludge guitars, Seventh Void is more of an amped out, maxed out Alice in Chains on a combo of steroids and Demerol. Kenny Hickey’s vocals will not make Layne Staley rotate with envy in his cold and narrow grave, but who the hell cares? This is raw, immediate, Brooklyn sludge grunge, and it’s highly addictive.

Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier
I’m a sucker for Bruce Dickinson. I should know better, I know, I know, but I don’t care. Not even Henry Rollins’ brutally funny parody of Dickinson in his “Up For It” could ruin Iron Maiden, although he came close. If this album had been released by anyone else, it would have been declared a masterpiece. Alas, it was released by Iron Maiden, who then had to live up to their own reputation and back catalogue. It still blows me away, even as it means I can’t see or hear Bruce without hearing Rollins in my head ever again.

The Best Metal Autobiography, or Guiltiest Vicarious Reading Pleasure:
Ozzy Osbourne: I Am Ozzy
This book nearly caused a fistfight in my household over who got to read it first. Since I am by far the fastest reader, I won, hands down. And ghostwritten or no (it was, Ozzy is severely dyslexic), it was the most fun I ever had reading about someone else’s life. It could well be that apart from Keith Richards, not many rock stars have done so much, so wildly, and with such abandon as Ozzy. There can be only one Prince of Fucking Darkness. Any more would be far too much for the world to bear! I laughed, I cried, I had total hysterics.

The Bad:
Here’s what sucks in metal these days – the sad and sorry fact that so many hundreds of bands sound so…alike. It’s getting harder and harder to make any kind of distinction between the newer, younger bands, and although there are exceptions, I haven’t heard enough to blow my mind the way Ye Olde School pros can. For this and several other reasons, I’ll never understand bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan or Bullet For My Valentine. I. Just. Don’t. Get. ‘Em. Then again, I’m So Not Their Demographic. No. I’m a demographic all by myself. The demographic called…I’ve Heard Almost Everything, And If You’re Trying To Impress Me, Try Harder.

Another thing that totally, utterly, completely sucks: We lost a few of those who cast long, long shadows in the metal world. The Rev of Avenged Sevenfold, Paul Gray of Slipknot, Ronnie James Dio and one of my own Primeval Forces – Peter Steele of Type O Negative. Dio was a definite loss – few other performers had his staggering range or his charisma, and we were millions who were infinitely lessened by his passing.

But when your contemporaries die off, you start to freak a little. Peter Steele had been such a major influence and voice in my own life that when he died, I made a public spectacle of myself on a city bus during rush hour. Without Peter Steele, without some of the most beautiful songs ever written (and some of the most sarcastic), I would likely never have begun to write. Type O gave me the soundtrack of my life for the past seventeen years, and it’s been hard to find something half so good to fill the void he left. (But I did!) Meanwhile, the Type O discography has been on constant rotation on my iPod, but then again, it never really left. As the Egyptians used to say: So long as one person remembers you, you are immortal. Millions remember Peter Steele. We always will. Just as we always will play those haunting, evocative songs he wrote.

Bad was also…the weekend of Sweden Rock, June 9th. I wanted to go so badly, I nearly put my kid in a pawnshop. Bad was being completely unaware – such is the tunnel vision of a burgeoning writer in the midst of revision – that Seventh Void came to Copenhagen at one of my favorite music venues – and I missed them! Damn it! Bad was being forced to economize what music I really, truly, wanted to buy. Support your starving rock legends, or there won’t be any left, not even in L.A.

Bad was Ozzy Osbourne’s “Scream”. Apart from the title track, I was rather underwhelmed. Then again, I had a great excuse for hauling out all my vintage Sabbath, as if I needed one.

Bad was…Dimmu Borgir’s new album, “Ahabradabra”. Or should I say, not precisely bad, but not as great as I had hoped for. It sounded like Dimmu Borgir – an incredible collection of musicians otherwise – had fallen prey to what I could call “Satriani syndrome”. Virtuoso, no question, but where’s the soul? I couldn’t find it.

The Ugly:
The utter ubiquity of Lady Gaga. Puleeeze. That so much of the music industry has focused on hype over craft, and a lot of so-called bold-faced names now can’t deliver the goods behind the hype. That if you want a writeup in certain music publications, you have to pay for it. WTF??? That I’m almost a year older. That nothing is happening – nearly fast enough. That if it’s any consolation, I’m not getting any, either.

But the best thing about 2010, hands down, has been my readers. I could never have done this without you. And I do it all for you! And my vaunting ambition and oversized ego, too!

So – wherever you are on Planet Earth this New Year’s Eve – Happy New Year. Horns Up! May your 2011 be happy, lucky and make all your wishes come true!

I shall be here in front of my geriatric Mac, working on making my own a reality!

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Blabbermouth, that instant source of edification and general rock’n’roll snark fests, hauled off another one of my goats today to the slaughter, straight to the UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph, where I read that a small town in Russia has plans to ban heavy metal music on the grounds that it is “satanic” and “ideologically destructive”.

Small town or no, the morally upright citizens of Belgorod have been newsworthy before, instituting fines for public swearing, dancing and trying to ban the celebration of Valentine’s Day.

Oooooh, baby. From Valentine’s Day to forbidding local music venues to play “satanic” music – these latter-day Calvinist killjoys are on a roll. As if living in Russia isn’t bad enough, now they have to take away metal?

The mayor of Belgorod admitted he didn’t know anything about that type of music, but. “If children are exposed to satanic influences, the parents would never forgive us.” He also cited an infamous Soviet-era psychiatric hospital study stating that heavy metal music was “ideologically destructive”.

Ahem. And?

Satanic. Which means what, precisely? If you wanted to play hardball with me, I could tell you that “satanic” music is nothing new. Over two hundred and fifty years ago, the celebrated violinist Giuseppe Tartini dreamt one night that he taught the Devil to play violin, and immediately, the Devil grabbed the violin and played a tune of such fiendish complexity and hellish beauty, Tartini couldn’t wake up fast enough to write it down, and even then, he felt that what he wrote down was nowhere so good as what he heard in his dream. This piece is so difficult to play, rumors were quickly circulating that Tartini had not five, but six fingers on one hand – how could he play it, otherwise?

Carl Orff claimed likewise that the Devil came in a dream and gave him a little something to remember him by. It wasn’t what he heard, but he tried to recreate it anyway – “Carmina Burana”.

Down in the Mississippi Delta a few years later, Papa Legba lay lurking at the crossroads at midnight, waiting to tune the guitars of itinerant musicians. One dreamy-eyed youth – shy, retiring, musically inclined – took up his offer and came back, so the story goes, as the original ur-God of the blues and rock guitar. They all whispered it behind his back. “Sold his soul to the Devil, he did!”

It made for a much better story than simply saying that the mild-mannered young man who sang with such a fury and played with such a passion practiced – in a graveyard.

You didn’t mess with Robert Johnson. The Devil came to claim him for his own soon enough.

These days, nothing is shocking any more. Rock music has been flirting with all manner of devilry – good, bad, benign and not – ever since poor Bobby Johnson drank that bottle of free and fatal whisky.

Of course, things have gotten, well, hairier since then.

For one thing, evil is no longer an abstract principle, a control device put in place by religious dogma to keep us all on the straight and very narrow. It’s all around us, every day. Turn on the news – there’s your Devil in all the thousand and one details of a thousand and two international horror stories, brought to you live by CNN.

For another, much as I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, far too many avatars of Good and Noble, whether they’re televangelists with supposedly God-like powers and all-too human failings or the Pontiff of the Catholic Church – surely the most evil and evilly long-lived institution ever created on Planet Earth – denying a massive abuse of both children and implicit trust –can no longer be considered good by even the most Pollyanna imagination. Good…just don’t cut the mustard any more.

We degenerate, cynical, long-haired, non-conforming, loudmouthed metalheads worldwide know better. There’s no such thing as good. Virtue is an ideal as opposed to a reality, because it’s a lie.

Vice, on the other hand, is…nice. At least it’s honest. It’s certainly real. It’s – fun. Your thing might be vintage Alice Cooper, who always held his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. It might be the further reaches of black metal, if that’s your thing, and you might be surprised to learn that it’s actually far more heathen in its sensibilities than outright satanic.

The Prince of Fucking Darkness is not, in fact, evil, but he’s smart enough to know that if you connect with the darkness in your audience, they will love you for it, love you for articulating and saying what they can’t.

Some of us have a need, near biological in its impetuosity, to look around in the dark of our souls and first of all, accept it. Second, to celebrate it. It keeps us sane, to acknowledge what the rest of the world refuses to see. It keeps us rebelling, in all the best senses of the word, against conformity, against dogma, against a world that prefers to categorize humanity into neatly ordered segments, easily defined and easily contained.

We know it’s dark and hairy and ugly in there. We know. We know no matter where our Devils come from, whether it’s a suburb of Birmingham or Lodi, New Jersey.

And those club owners in Belgorod?

One club owner said that any official who tried to interfere would get punched in the face.

Rock’n’roll, yes. Satanic?

You be the judge!

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