Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Random Ten - #3

1. Audioslave "Cochise" from Audioslave

The opening track to Audioslave's 2002 self-titled debut, "Cochise" sounds pretty much like what you'd expect an early collaboration between Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and the band from Rage Against the Machine to sound like. Back when this band actually had something to prove, they wrote groovy, rocking songs that, although not groundbreaking by any means, were refreshing in a period of rock history that was unbelievably stale and stagnant. I had heard the leaked demos from this project when they were called Civilian, and this album version of "Cochise" sounds a lot more powerful. This song is more than overused at this point, having made appearances in Talladega Nights and Iron Man, but it's still one of the better hard rockers of the early 2000's.

2. Megadeth "High Speed Dirt" from Countdown to Extinction

An up-tempo rocker from Megadeth's most commercially successful release, "High Speed Dirt" features some inventing riffing, and a structure that includes a lot of bluesy starts and stops. Many people either saw this as Megadeth's last great album or their first bad album; I'm in the former camp. I think Countdown showcases the band at their songwriting apex, and the catchiness and musical virtuosity shown in songs like "High Speed Dirt" are a good example of that. They can still write a great song here and there (see: "Kick the Chair" and "Blackmail the Universe" from The System Has Failed), but this was Megadeth at their peak, in my opinion. (Don't get me wrong, their earlier, thrashier material is also incredible, but I find this album to be great all the way through, something I can't say about any of the first four.)

3. Talking Heads "Take Me To the River" from Stop Making Sense

Stop Making Sense may be the best concert "film" ever created, and what a film it is. Picking a setlist of the greatest Talking Heads songs would be difficult, considering they rarely wrote anything bad, but this "soundtrack" showcases them at their live best. This version of the R&B classic is further enhanced by the expanded live band the group employed on this show, and this is probably my favorite version of this song (along with the version Al Green performed with Dave Matthews Band back in 2001 or so).

4. Emperor "The Loss and Curse of Reverence" from Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk

As I mentioned in my last column, Anthems is by far my favorite Emperor album, and maybe even my favorite black metal album of all time. This band manages to be absolutely destructive, melancholic, melodic and dissonant all at the same time on this song, and this album features them at their atmospheric best, before they got too deep into progressive death metal leanings. This song also has the bonus of having one of the absolutely cheesiest music videos ever committed to film, highly recommended for you to check out on youtube if you get the chance. This song has incredibly chaotic-yet-tight drumming, menacing keyboards, and some great classically-influenced riffing on the guitars. Emperor's finest moment.

5. Children of Bodom "Silent Night, Bodom Night" from Hatebreeder

I am not a huge CoB fan, but this is one of my favorite songs of theirs. They've always reminded me of an 80's type melodic metal band (think Europe) with some black metal vocals and masturbatory keyboard and guitar solos over the top of everything, and sometimes they completely suck. Lately they've tried to beef up their sound and get away from the more melodic, high-pitched songs, but they've lost some of their charm along with the cheese. This song is from their second album, back when they just went all-out with the soloing and melody, and on this song, it works. Also, one of the worst song titles ever written.

6. Cannibal Corpse "Hatchet to the Head" from Gore Obsessed

From one of the worst song titles of all time to one of the best! I'm kidding, but you have to give it to CC, they always bring the funny with their titles. This song is quick and painless, much like one would imagine a hatchet to the head feels. Gore Obsessed sounds like pretty much any one of the past 7 CC albums: stagnant drumming; clever riffing; monotonous vocals; unrelenting heaviness. If you're a fan of CC, you're a fan, that's pretty much all there is to it. I'm no die-hard, but I'm a fan, and this song is too short to be boring, unlike some of their more sprawling compositions (if you can call them that).

7. Immolation "Of Martyrs and Men" from Unholy Cult

Immolation are one of the more criminally underrated death metal bands of all time, and this song showcases just why. They have their own distinct style, in the drumming, riffing and vocals, and they still don't get the respect they deserve, which is a shame. This song comes off what I consider their best overall album, and it opens the album up in unique fashion with eerie guitars before exploding in with the full band. The drums have almost a swinging feel for most of the song, and the riffing is like early Voivod put through a blender. One of my favorite death metal songs from one of my favorite death metal albums. Also, the stop-start-tapping that Bob Vigna employs on the guitar solo is fantastic. The slow riff at the 2:51 mark makes me want to hurt somebody, always the sign of a good metal riff. Another one of those, "I should listen to this band more" bands, Immolation own!

8. Deftones "Engine No. 9" from Adrenaline

A fitting album title, as this song is pure energy from start to finish. Call them nu-metal, call them rap-metal, but you're wrong. Deftones were always about energy in their old days, and this song (and album) is nothing but an explosion. Is it funky? Sure, the beat is a little hip-hop oriented, but the riffing is pure metal, and Chino's vocals are at their throat-ripping best on this song. While they sound like a completely different band these days in a lot of ways, Deftones still continue to do their own thing and avoid labeling in a way only they can. This album was groundbreaking (and the more I listen to it, I get a Faith No More Angel Dust vibe from the guitars) and this song is a classic. I had the pleasure of seeing them bust this one out in 2003 at the Burlington Memorial Auditorium in Vermont, and the pit was insane.

9. Local H "Eddie Vedder" from As Good As Dead

This band is mostly known for their hit "Bound for the Floor," but this song was quite a hit itself back in 96 or so. This band was always hard to peg, as they clearly aped a lot of Nirvana-isms in their sound, but they also mocked grunge and angst-rock on a consistent lyrical basis. This song's line, "If I were Eddie Vedder, would you like me any better? That's it, I quit, I don't give a shit," seems like an indictment on the entire early 90's rock scene, yet musically the song sounds like a mellow Nirvana song. I have to admit, whenever I go back and listen to this album, I'm shocked at how much I enjoy it the whole way through. There are some balls-out rockers, and some more mellow fare like this song, and they all seem to work. Were they original? Not really, but they're still playing today, and you have to respect them for that. Plus, I'm sure the singer gets some good royalties from "Bound for the Floor" still being a rock-radio staple, at least in Boston (I can't go for a week without hearing that song on either WFNX, WBCN or WAAF).

10. Death Cab for Cutie "Soul Meets Body" from Plans

I'm far from a huge fan of Death Cab, but I respect their musical innovation, and I think Ben's vocals and lyrics are generally pleasing. I'm not a huge fan of some of their upbeat material, but I do like this song. I also appreciate their clever studio work, as headphones reveal a lot more about this band than simply listening to them on the radio. I first heard this song in my days at St. Mike's; the kid who hosted the radio show before mine always closed his show with something Ben Gibbard-related, and I asked him what song this was and downloaded it immediately.

In some ways, the Random Ten is a way to re-live my radio days, as I basically would just rant about the bands and songs I played for a good 2 hours. While the Random Ten takes a lot less than 2 hours to do, it helps me get out that inner music nerd that I don't think I'll ever be able to fully exorcise. And that's perfectly fine with me.


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