Win a copy of Pantera's Cowboys From Hell 3CD Deluxe Edition!
The same thing happened to me nine years earlier, when I went to see Suicidal Tendencies, who were supporting their (it turned out) career best album, Lights...Camera...Revolution. Their opening acts were Exodus, who were okay, and some band from Texas nobody'd ever heard of, called Pantera. While Pantera didn't steal the show from the Suicidals, at least not in my eyes, they were an astonishing live force, and I walked out a fan.
The album Pantera was supporting, Cowboys From Hell, is being reissued this week in a 20th Anniversary deluxe edition—you can get a two-CD set that comes with a bonus disc of live tracks, a three-CD version that includes the live stuff and all the demos for the album plus a previously unreleased song, "The Will to Survive," or a massive box (due out in November) that has all three CDs, a T-shirt, and a whole bunch of flyers, patches, laminates and other uselessness. We're giving away three copies of the three-CD version; all you have to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct answers to the following three questions:
• What's the name of Pantera's first album?
• What does the tattoo on the left side of Phil Anselmo's head say?
• What was the drink guitarist Dimebag Darrell invented?
Deadline is Friday, September 17. Good luck!
And now, Phil Anselmo...
MSN: I saw you on tour with Suicidal Tendencies and Exodus in 1990.
PA: First US tour. New York, I remember that show.
MSN: Were the Suicidal guys good hosts?
PA: They were great, man. They were so, so cool. At that New York show, speaking of cool, right when we got into town the Koller brothers from Sick Of It All, Lou and Pete, really embraced us and made us feel at home. We had known the cats from Biohazard for a long time and they all came out, too, so it was an honor to be around people that we respected and shit like that. It was fuckin’ fun. And that was a great crowd. That was the beginning of Pantera’s hold on New York. That was a really good gig for us.
MSN: Did that affect how you treated opening bands when you were a headliner?
PA: We in Pantera we had experienced working with cool bands—not necessarily bands, you end up working with the road crew for bands and managers for bands, and we worked with shitty ones and then we worked with really cool ones. Nothing against Judas Priest, all of the guys in Judas Priest are super cool guys, but at the time in 1990, the first time we went to Europe, they had this cat named Bobby Snyder who was tour managing, and he was…to say he was a dick would be an understatement. And I don’t give a shit. The guy was a dick, he was a piece of shit. And we learned a lot from that. We learned how not to treat bands. Then Skid Row took us out in ’92, and their crew treated us like gold. And when that happens, your road crew learns the etiquette. We’d pull everyone together, we’d have meetings, and it was a rule that we treat every band that came out with us with respect and be kind to ’em, make ’em feel welcome, and it showed. Because if you go back and look at any Pantera show throughout our career, you always see those bands on the side of the stage, comin’ up onstage anytime they wanted, singin’ with us, jammin’ with us, and that was a thing, man. It was welcome and we took pride in that.
MSN: How much touring had you done outside the Texas and Louisiana club circuit before Cowboys From Hell came out?
PA: Very minimal, man. I think we had played some shows in New York and, god, I can’t think of really anything else. But we’d gone to New York in the old blue van and played some gigs there, and really, like I said, I think that’s the only venture out we did before we got signed.
MSN: It’s totally different now. There’s no such thing as local bands anymore.
PA: Man, you ain’t gotta tell me. I live in New Orleans and the scene always was a little shaky, but now there’s no scene. And it’s like that everywhere, and it’s a shame.
MSN: 'Cause everyone makes their name online now.
PA: It’s true, and you know what, man? I have to say it’s a shame. Because back in the day, man, the scene was the thing. It was so much…growing up and watching hardcore bands and metal bands merge, and the audiences merge into this one thriving thing, was an incredible thing to see. I was 15 years old and Motörhead came through town, and at the time they were definitely considered heavy metal, they still are, but Agnostic Front was opening for Motörhead. And that was a turning point to say the least. My god, 15 years old, seeing a show like that, it was mind-boggling. So the scene was an important and thriving thing. And like you say, everybody is with the MySpace online and whatnot. I understand, I totally understand, I just think this generation is missing out on what the scene really was. You know, especially New York. New York, the scene was awesome. Fuckin’ matinee shows, anytime we came into town we’d always try and make as many shows as we could ‘cause there was always a show in new york. A lot of bands, man. Carnivore, Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All, even Warzone—there was all kinds of bands, man.
MSN: What was your live set like back then if you weren’t opening for someone? How much pre-Cowboys material did you play, or did you try to make a clean break?
PA: Oh man, it was really short after I got into the band—put it this way. The first record I did with Pantera was Power Metal, and that was released in 1988. Man, I had just joined at the end of ’87. Next thing I know, a few weeks later, "Hey, try this song out." I’d scribble down some lyrics here and there, next thing you know, this record’s put together. So it was thrown together quick, and we started writing the material for Cowboys From Hell in ’88 and throughout ’89, and that was a big part of our set. Those were songs that people were looking forward to and got to know from seeing us weekend after weekend after weekend and by the time we got around to recording at least 85 percent of Cowboys From Hell, those songs were pretty fine-tuned.
MSN: Cowboys From Hell really feels like a bridge between Power Metal and the sound you’d develop and refine over the next two records…
PA: I would agree with that assessment. The first time I ever tried out for Pantera, we had a discussion about just what we wanted to do, and it was agreed we wanted to move into a heavier, more aggressive direction. And I just think it took some time, it took a lot of different things to happen and fall into place. It took a lot of cramming on my part, playing my mix cassettes full of thrash—I overloaded those guys with music they hated at first, they were like "turn this hundred mile an hour noise off," and then of course it became more palatable for ’em after a couple of spins. I definitely will take credit for turning the guys on to some heavier bands, but like I said certain things had to happen. I can’t go into the entire story or I’d eat up all the time here, but Slayer played Texas and we played the night before, and Slayer came out to see us just because they were going out; they had nothing else to do and it was suggested to them, go out and see this band Pantera. Well that night I befriended Kerry King and I gave him my phone number and whatnot. They jammed with us—we played “Raining Blood,” him and [Jeff] Hanneman played…Tom [Araya] was a little indisposed that night, you know. [Laughs] Anyway, months later Kerry called me. They were off tour, he flew down and hung out with us. A little while later he called again, and wanted to come down and visit, but he said this time he didn’t want to waste his time. I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "I wanna get up and jam." So we basically put together an entire set with Kerry King and we worked it out the entire week. I think that particular happening right there, Dimebag and Kerry King jamming together, really gave the rest of the guys in the band this entire new respect for aggressive music. So like I say, that’s just one story that really helped push the limit of the extremities and where we were willing to go as a band.
MSN: The demos for Cowboys From Hell are sometimes really different from the final album versions—“Message in Blood” has completely different lyrics. How much were you shaping the record in the studio?
PA: You know what? I haven’t even listened to the demos in 20 years, I didn’t even know the lyrics were different. I’m gonna have to go and listen to ’em. But I know this. We demoed for both Cowboys and Vulgar, but since we’re talking about Cowboys I’ll say this, but it holds true for Vulgar as well. I fell in love with the demos, and that happens. Musicians will demo and they’ll fall in love with the demo and when they go to re-create it for the real deal, the real record, sometimes it doesn’t capture that raw feel, and that’s what I was feeling on a few things when we actually cut the real record. The demo to me had a rawer edge, certain songs had a better groove to ’em. I thought the record was too tight, too precise, too machine-like, and then 20 years later I’m listening and I had no clue that that tight, machine-like thing was gonna be such a staple of Pantera's sound, so that goes to show you how much I knew as a kid.
MSN: Some of it is almost industrial, the rhythms are so locked in…
PA: I’m gonna tell you I have never in my life played with musicians tighter than Pantera. As a trio, bass, drums and guitar, there has never been a tighter group of musicians I’ve ever been around. They were so flexible. Just messin’ around at soundcheck they’d kick into country and western stuff and it would sound unbelievably authentic. They could play anything and it was just tight as a dime, no pun intended. So the machine-like tightness was definitely not out of character to achieve for Vince and Dime and Rex. It wasn’t, you know? It was something real, and they could pull it off live. Like you say, almost an industrial feel because of its precision, but that’s just how they played.
MSN: The previously unreleased song, "The Will to Survive," is like a bridge between Power Metal and Cowboys—the riff souds like something off of Fair Warning, the Van Halen record. I can totally hear why it didn't make the album.
PA: Yeah, it didn’t make Power Metal, either. [Laughs] You can tell if you listen to Power Metal, I think it was recorded around the same time we did that—I just think it was a track that never quite fit what we were really gonna eventually be or where we were headed. Not one of my more favorite tracks. I gotta say, my pipes are pretty good on the song, though.
MSN: Can you still hit those high notes?
PA: Hell no, man. It’s a range in my voice that I lost. But there’s a difference between singing full out and using a falsetto, and I never had a falsetto. I still don’t. Listen. [Makes ultra-hoarse screeching sound] That’s as good as it gets for me. No falsetto sound. I was singing that shit full out, man. Do I wish I still could? Sometimes. But what am I supposed to say. For the time it was an accomplishment. Like Rob Halford, you know?
New-schoolers select their old-school favorites
#5: Soilwork, A Predator's Portrait (Nuclear Blast, 2001)
"This record had some of the coolest leads I have ever heard. The songwriting was very well thought out. I remember listening to this and thinking, 'Wow, I'm not bored with metal anymore.'"
#4: Arch Enemy, Wages of Sin (Century Media, 2001)
"One of the best death rock albums I can think of. The recording was groundbreaking. The production and songwriting was a beyond any death metal I had ever listened to. This was the record that made me want to start playing music again. I loved how Mike and Chris Amott brought back exceptional guitar playing again."
#3: Dismember, Like an Everflowing Stream (Nuclear Blast, 1991)
"I remember going to Aces Records in Tampa, Florida. At the time I was 17 years old and James Murphy worked at Aces, helping with sales. I was looking for something to buy and he handed me a tape and said, 'Check this out.' The tape that didn't leave my boom box for a month was Like an Everflowing Stream by Dismember."
#2: Edge of Sanity, Crimson (Black Mark Production, 1996)
"This was introduced to me in 1996 when I was turning my back on death metal. I guess I was getting sick of it and needed a break or a change. This was a masterpiece that made me realize that it wasn't over yet. I loved the epic idea of this 40-minute-long song. The changes and different styles of heavy metal it showed us were amazing to say the least."
#1: At the Gates, Slaughter of the Soul (Earache, 1995)
"When I first heard this band I wasn't very impressed with death metal. Probably because of the assembly line of bands that were flooding the scene in the early Nineties. This record had probably the best songwriting in the genre. Tomas Lindberg's vocals were of no doubt some of the most aggressive of the genre. The only thing I think this record lacked was high flying leads. I think the thing that hurt this band was nothing more than simply saying they were late bloomers. That's why they are being praised now instead of then. They are a way bigger band now than they were in '95. I only say that because they split up and reformed just recently. Most likely because of the praise they now receive. Good for them. If you have not heard Slaughter of the Soul, slap yourself in the face very hard and immediately go out and get it."
The Absence's Enemy Unbound comes out on September 14 on Metal Blade Records. The band will be on tour this fall, first with Goatwhore and later with Firewind. Here are the dates:
09/22 Raleigh, NC Volume 11
09/23 West Springfield, VA Jaxx
09/24 Trenton, NJ Championships Bar & Grill
09/25 Middletown, NY TMT Metalfest @ Orange County Fair
09/26 Jermyn, PA Eleanor Rigby's
09/27 Pittsburgh, PA Belvedere's
09/28 New York, NY Webster Hall w/Black Anvil, Ipsissimus
11/04 Raleigh, NC Volume 11
11/05 West Springfield, VA Jaxx
11/06 New York, NY Gramercy
11/07 Montreal, QC Les Foufounes Electrique
Support from Veil of Maya, Periphery, and Revocation
11/12-Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
11/13-New York, NY @ Gramercy Theatre
11/14-Allentown, PA @ Crocodile Rock
11/15-Quebec City, QC @ Dagobert
11/16-Montreal, QC @ Tulipe
11/17-Toronto, ON @ Mod Club
11/18-Detroit, MI @ Majestic Theatre
11/19-Cleveland, OH @ Peabody’s
11/20-West Dundee, IL @ Clearwater Theatre
11/21-Des Moines, IA @ People’s Court
11/22-Denver, CO @ Marquis Theatre
11/23-Salt Lake City, UT @ In The Venue
11/24-Las Vegas, NV @ Area 702
11/26-San Diego, CA @ Soma
11/27-Pomona, CA @ The Glasshouse
11/28-San Francisco, CA @ DNA Lounge
11/29-West Hollywood, CA @ The Whisky
11/30-Mesa, AZ @ Nile Theatre
12/01-Albuquerque, NM @ The Launchpad
12/02-Lubbock, TX @ Tequila Jungle
12/03-Austin, TX @ Emo’s
12/04-Dallas, TX @ Trees
12/05-Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
12/07-St. Petersburg, FL @ State Theatre
12/08-Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
12/09-Wilmington, NC @ The Soapbox
12/10-Philadelphia, PA @ Starlight Ballroom
12/11-Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar
12/12-Richmond, VA @ Hat Factor
Presale tickets are available until Monday, but only through Artist Arena (and you have to register with the site) at this link. There's a VIP package available, which includes:
• 1 GA ticket
• Pre-show Meet and Greet/Listening party for new album*
• 1 Commemorative Laminate
• 1 VIP-only Darkest Hour t-shirt
* The band is currently working on their debut CD for E1, which will be out in early 2011; Peter Wichers of Soilwork is producing.
"I am about to write something I never imagined I'd ever write.
"After 25 years, I have decided to leave DREAM THEATER... the band I founded, led and truly loved for a quarter of a century.
"To many people this will come as a complete shock, and will also likely be misunderstood by some, but please believe me that it is not a hasty decision...it is something I have struggled with for the last year or so...
"After having had such amazing experiences playing with Hail!, Transatlantic and Avenged Sevenfold this past year, I have sadly come to the conclusion that I have recently had more fun and better personal relations with these other projects than I have for a while now in Dream Theater.
"Please don't misinterpret me, I love the Dream Theater guys dearly and have a long history, friendship and bond that runs incredibly deep with them... it's just that I think we are in serious need of a little break.
"Dream Theater was always my baby...and I nurtured that baby every single day and waking moment of my life since 1985... 24/7, 365... never taking time off from Dream Theater's never-ending responsibilites (even when the band was 'off' between cycles)... working overtime and way beyond the call of duty that most sane people ever would do for a band.
"But I've come to the conclusion that the Dream Theater machine was starting to burn me out...and I really needed a break from the band in order to save my relationship with the other members and keep my Dream Theater spirit hungry and inspired.
"We have been on an endless write/record/tour cycle for almost 20 years now (of which I have overseen every aspect without a break) and while a few months apart from each other here and there over the years has been much needed and helpful, I honestly hoped the band could simply agree with me to taking a bit of a 'hiatus' to recharge our batteries and 'save me from ourselves'...
"Sadly, in discussing this with the guys, they determined they do not share my feelings and have decided to continue without me rather than take a breather... I even offered to do some occasional work throughout 2011 against my initial wishes, but it was not to be...
"While it truly hurts for me to even think of a Dream Theater without Mike Portnoy (hell, my father named the band!!), I do not want to stand in their way...so I have decided to sacrifice myself and simply leave the band so as to not hold them back against their wishes.
"Strangely enough, I just read an interview that I recently did that asked me about the future of Dream Theater and I talked about 'always following your heart and being true to yourself'... Sadly, I must say that at this particular moment, my heart is not with Dream Theater...and I would simply be 'going through the motions,' and would honestly not be true to myself if I stayed for the sake of obligation without taking the break I felt I needed.
"I wish the guys the best and hope the music and legacy we created together is enjoyed by fans for decades to come... I am proud of every album we made, every song we wrote and every show we played...
"I'm sorry to all the disappointed Dream Theater fans around the world... I really tried to salvage the situation and make it work... I honestly just wanted a break (not a split)... but happiness cannot be forced, it needs to come from within.
"You Dream Theater fans are the greatest fans in the world and as you all know, I have always busted my ass for you guys and I hope that you will stay with me on my future musical journey, wherever it may lead me.... (and as you all know my work ethic, there will surely be no shortage of future Mike Portnoy projects!)"
I genuinely don't know what this means for Dream Theater. They're going to try to move forward without this dude? He is that band. Outside of ultra-dorky pieces in guitar or keyboard magazines, nobody ever wants to interview anybody from Dream Theater except Mike Portnoy. This is bigger than when Dave Lombardo quit Slayer. Portnoy is (was) the absolute and unquestioned leader of this band, despite being in the back. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if the fans turned on the other dudes. We'll see.
Romanian black metal band travels a path of mystery
That lineup's been pretty productive, too, releasing two albums (and the aforementioned single) so far in 2010. The first release of the year, Măiestrit, was actually a re-interpretation of the group's 2000 album Măiastru Sfetnic. The second one, Vîrstele Pămîntului, was a limited edition (666 copies, scary!) that according to the Encyclopaedia Metallum, came in a "handmade woodbox, roped and filled with the very earth of the place it comes from." Awesome; thanks for the box of dirt, Romanians!
Seriously, though, while Măiestrit is decent black metal with a few stylistic flourishes along the way, Vîrstele Pămîntului is flat-out awesome. It begins with several minutes of droning keyboard, atmospheric vocals, percussion and flute, the whole thing reminding me of Popol Vuh's soundtracks to the Werner Herzog movies Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Nosferatu. When the second track kicks in, the high, trebley guitars almost sound like a female voice behind leonine primary vocalist Corb, as the drums gallop like a thousand horses trying to stampede you off a cliff. On other tracks, the band brings in acoustic instruments, even more powerful drones and small hand-held percussion devices that sound like clicking bones, and generally work hard (and successfully) at creating a horror-film vibe that's not cheesy, but genuinely unsettling.
There's something deeply foreign about Negura Bunget's approach, as though their music is rooted in a cultural context that Americans will simply never get (and note I'm not calling Americans shallow—there's a lot about our culture that nobody who's not from here can ever truly understand). One of the best things about the Internet is its ability to expose you to something totally alien, while giving it a feeling of accessibility because it only cost you a Google search and a mouse click to find. So while you can find Negura Bunget's music easily enough if you want to, getting to the heart of it, achieving true understanding of what they're about, might take years. I'm gonna give it a shot myself, and I suggest you do the same.
Comedy gold from the Norwegian black metal kings
As always with Immortal's videos, it's kinda awesome, but it's also a goldmine of unintentional comedy. Here are the 10 moments that made me laugh the hardest:
• 0:40 - Guitarist-vocalist Abbath appears to be signaling to someone off-camera with his head
• 0:45 - Abbath crab-walking
• 1:35 - Abbath rolls his eyes as if even he can't believe Nuclear Blast paid to fly him and his bandmates to the top of a glacier for the day
• 2:15 - Abbath kicks off his guitar solo with a puff of smoke that really could have used a little more CGI
• 2:27 - Abbath thrusts his crotch at the viewer like David Lee Roth
• 2:50 - Bassist Apollyon makes a worried face, like he knows things are about to get even worse (they do)
• 2:59 - A wizard appears (no more need be said)
• 3:50 - Abbath makes a face like a bug flew in his mouth and he chewed it by mistake
• 4:40 - Abbath smiles inappropriately (and again at 5:20)
• 5:25 - Abbath runs with an axe (Not safe, dude; not on slippery, snow-covered rocks, and especially not in those boots)
A few other things that stick out: Abbath's guitar posing and general flouncy demeanor kinda remind me of T.Rex frontman Marc Bolan, and maybe it's just me, but does drummer Horgh look like Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD?
It's probably just me.
Live album & acoustic studio disc
The first one, Live at Roadburn 2009, is exactly what it sounds like; a document of his set with the first band ever to simply bear his (nick)name, featuring the late Jon Blank on bass and Jean Paul Gaster (of Clutch) on drums. The music is mixed by sometime Sunn O))) collaborator Mell Dettmer for maximum crunch and boom, and the set list, which includes tunes by some of his other bands in addition to tracks from his 2008 solo disc Punctuated Equilibrium, is/was as follows:
1. The Woman in the Orange Pants/Punctuated Equilibrium
5. Release Me/Blue Yonder
7. (On the Sacrificial) Lam
8. Yen’s Sleep
9. Lost Sun Dance/Secret Realm
10. Gods, Frauds, Neo-Cons
11. Neatz Brigade
You can listen to (or download) the first track at this link. And you can order it from Burning World Records.
The other release is Adrift, a predominantly acoustic disc on the German label Exile on Mainstream. That's coming out October 13 in Europe, but you can preorder it here. And you can hear a song from the album, "Hold On Love," at this link. There will be CD, vinyl and super-fancy ultra-limited editions of this disc; the latter version, also on vinyl, comes in the snazzy wooden box seen above.
(Thanks to Cosmo Lee for all this info; no thanks to the publicists who are supposed to keep me aware of developments like this. Wino, you need better PR people.)
Enslaved, Blood Red Throne, and Dawn of Ashes to open up
Maybe in other parts of the country, folks will have better luck. Here are the tour dates:
11/05/10 The Palladium – Worcester, MA
11/06/10 Northern Lights – Albany, NY
11/07/10 Recher Theater – Towson, MD
11/08/10 Terminal 5 – New York, NY
11/10/10 The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
11/12/10 Mr. Smalls – Pittsburgh, PA
11/13/10 Royal Oak Music Theatre – Detroit, MI
11/14/10 House of Blues – Chicago, IL
11/15/10 The Rave – Milwaukee, WI
11/16/10 Cabooze – Minneapolis, MN
11/18/10 MacEwan Ballroom – Calgary, AB – CANADA
11/19/10 Edmonton Events Center – Edmonton, AB – CANADA
11/21/10 Rickshaw Theater – Vancouver, B.C. – CANADA
11/22/10 The Knitting Factory – Spokane, WA
11/23/10 Roseland Theatre – Portland, OR
11/24/10 Showbox SoDo – Seattle, WA
11/26/10 The Knitting Factory – Reno, NV
11/27/10 The Fox Theater – Pomona, CA
11/28/10 The Regency Grand Ballroom – San Francisco, CA
11/30/10 House of Blues – Las Vegas, NV
12/01/10 Rialto Theater – Tucson, AZ
12/02/10 Marquee Theatre – Tempe, AZ
12/03/10 Sunshine Theatre – Albuquerque, NM
12/04/10 Gothic Theater – Englewood (Denver), CO
12/06/10 House of Blues – Dallas, TX
12/07/10 House of Blues – Houston, TX
12/09/10 Newport Music Hall – Columbus, OH
12/10/10 Electric Factory – Philadelphia, PA
12/11/10 Town Ballroom – Buffalo, NY
12/12/10 Sound Academy – Toronto, ON – CANADA
12/13/10 Metropolis – Montreal, QC – CANADA
12/14/10 Imperial – Quebec City, QC - CANADA
No word yet on who will be playing bass for Dimmu Borgir on this tour. I think Michael Anthony might be available, though...