There was a lot of e-mail directed toward me after my Feb. 23 column proclaimed that there was no true metal in Orlando. Quite a few were exhaustive lists of bands like Nailshitter, Crotchduster, Gore Head, Infant Slaughter and other bands that sound absolutely nothing like the kind of metal I am missing. (Allow me to repeat: Nailshitter.) These are death metal and grindcore bands, and I don't deny that they're loud and fast and appropriately morbid, but they aren't true metal. In fact, they are the exact opposite of the metal I was talking about.
To generalize, the Florida metal scene largely comprises bands that prize speed and aggression over skullfucking heavy riffage that sounds like Tony Iommi having a bad day. Cookie Monster vocals, crush-the-system/dice-the-corpse lyrics, blast beats and lightning-fast solos are cool and all, but how about some variety? As I said: a little less Metallica (or Slayer or Deicide) and a little more Blue Cheer (or Mastodon or Sleep or Boris or High on Fire or The Sword). I want music that's heavy, but that also rocks.
Beyond those e-mails were a large number of missives that were clearly the result of a coordinated effort on behalf of local band Persona. Each and every one of them (including some from band members) was exceedingly polite and seemed to understand what I was looking for in a local metal band. So I decided to check the band out. Sadly, they weren't quite it. Thankfully, they were not a post-grunge band, nor were they metalcore or grindcore or death metal. No, they were in the Iron Maiden/Fates Warning/Dream Theater school of proggy power metal. Long songs, complex instrumental breakdowns and a reach-for-the-sky vocalist ... let's just say I'm still looking.
Underappreciated blues artists dropping off the planet are a sadly common occurrence these days, but the passing of a force of nature like the Rev. Charlie Jackson deserves notice. His gritty guitar work and deeply emotional spirituality were hard to forget. He had been sick for the past year and died in his sleep at a Louisiana nursing home in mid-February.
A week earlier, saxophonist Elton Dean died at the depressingly young age of 60, apparently from heart and liver problems. Dean, who supplied Reginald Dwight with the first half of his stage name and helped turn Soft Machine from a progressive pop band into a progressive jazz-rock band, was a renowned improviser and the kind of nutty, try-anything-once type of musician that used to define Britain's post-psychedelic and jazz scenes.
More recently and with somewhat more attention from the media Malian musical giant Ali Farka Toure died last week of bone cancer. His raw style and unending dedication to the beauty of his country's musical traditions made him a hero to musicians around the world.
Hey, composers: Tired of having your highly unmarketable works controlled by a publishing agency that doesn't know what to do with 'em, and when they do finally sell your work, you only wind up with a measly cut? Well, do it yourself … at least some of it. A new website www.composersworks.com was recently set up as a way for composers to publish their works themselves and for potential customers to easily download and print the compositions. The composer maintains all rights, and Composers Works only keeps 25 percent of each sale. Right now, the number of composers is limited largely to some Z-list jazz musicians from New York, Brazil and Croatia, but it still looks like a workable opportunity.
So, I signed up on www.last.fm because they finally built an Audioscrobbler plug-in that works with my iPod and my Mac. Don't know what I'm talking about? Well, it's totally old news, but it's also the best thing in the world: a web service that builds communities based on shared musical affinities. You play your stuff on your iPod or in iTunes (or Winamp or whatever) and the info is uploaded to a central server that collates it and hooks you up with recommendations and like-minded listeners. My "group list" is awfully bizarre, and I've already gotten some interesting recommendations, but I find it equally interesting to look at what I've been listening to, as the site creates "charts" on a regular basis. Here are the last 10 songs I played:
Sam Cooke: "Win Your Love (For Me)"
The Drifters: "There Goes My Baby"
Hassan Hakmoun: "Lala Aisha"
Talvin Singh: "Vikram the Vampire (Heavy Rotation Refixx)"
Bee Gees: "Horizontal"
Bar-Kays: "Give Everybody Some"
Pixies: "Levitate Me"
Minutemen: "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love"
Sonic Youth: "100%"
The Damned: "See Her Tonite"