Slayer and Me

IMG_0822As I currently write this it is cold, the Philadelphia Eagles are going to the Super Bowl, and Slayer is calling it quits. Now if you know me well you know which of these things matters the most to me. The shock of the Eagles beating the Vikings 38-7 has worn off, and I don’t really mind the cold. For those of you who don’t know me, Slayer takes precedence at the moment. Earlier this week, the California thrashers have announced that they are planning a farewell tour. They announced this tour in a brief hellish video, profiling their incredible 37 year career. This run includes both a North American and World tour. On this tour they will be bringing Lamb of God, Behemoth, Anthrax, and Testament along for the ride.

I was introduced to Slayer around the age of 12 when I had exhausted all the classic rock from my system (or so I thought). My older sister’s friends listened to metal and even played in a band together. I was introduced to bands like Metallica, Slipknot, and Lamb of God. At the same time a lot of my friends and peers were also into metal; meeting new friends just by wearing a Metallica t-shirt. I was what I like to call a metal sponge; absorbing all I could of these bands that were old but new to me. A binder of CDs was eventually passed down to me. I downloaded gigabytes of metal at a time, sometimes dedicating hours to the process of transferring music from friends CDs. Dark and macabre music that I never heard before. This was the moment I was dragged down to Hell and introduced to Slayer. Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King had a guitar partnership that could never be matched in ever. Tom Araya and Dave Lombardo provided the galloping horse for these shredding guitars to ride on. It was ripping, disgusting, and morbid. Araya’s demonic vocals told apocalyptic premonitions, fables of inferno, and tales from Nazi gas chambers. It was something I could never conjure in my worst nightmares. It was breathtaking. Eventually I would collect my own CDs, copying them onto my own PC’s hard drive and lending out to friends. Since then you can find me screaming “SLAYER!” wherever I go.

I’m almost embarrassed to mention how late it had taken me to see Slayer live. I was told Slayer was a captivating force and I finally saw them in 2012 on the Mayhem Festival circuit. My high school career consisted of times anticipating Mayhem Festival and the day of Mayhem Festival. It came around the country each summer and metalheads would converge onto the then Susquehanna Bank Center for a day of sweat, mosh pits, and metal. It was a great way for a metal sponge like me to take in as much new and old music as possible. Smaller bands would play during the day each having about a half hour set to tear it up. The evening was for more popular mainstream groups to take the main stage. I was very excited to see Slayer headlining the festival. Although I would be seeing them from a distance, it was still a fun time to throw down in the field. Slayer played their set at dusk. Their stage was simple and straight to the point. Their Marshall stacks behind them were in the shape of inverted crosses. They came at you with the Noise, like you hearing it for the first time. The sky fading to black made the mosh pit pandemonium that much more exciting. But the special moment of that day of that day was hearing the opening riff of South of Heaven I stared up at the Moon. It had just enough cloud cover to match the eerie atmosphere the song provided. It was truly a captivating moment in metal for me.

Since then I have seen Slayer a total of 3 times. Each show had its own stunning moments and positive vibes I shared with great friends of every gender, color, and sexual orientation. When I found out Slayer was calling it quits I was happy. I was happy that I was fortunate enough to see this band enough times and live in a time where I could consume as much Slayer media as I could. I’m also happy that these guys are ending their very successful career now. With bands like Motley Crue and Black Sabbath, they will end how they started: on stage. They have been a band for 37 years with members phasing in and out. Since the start they have stayed true to their gut wrenching sound and no fucks given attitude. When other bands were changing their sound with the times, they were able to stay unchanged and relevant. Slayer will hold a legacy in metal for all time. Anytime you hear a fan scream “SLAYER!”, a demon gets its wings. If that’s not metal, I don’t know what is. 

** Thank you for taking the time to read this. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter for updates on posts. My Instagram is @soundchefofficial and Twitter is @soundchef. You can also find my movie podcast at tortelliniatnoon.com **

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The CMAs and Alt-Country

Last night I watched the CMA Awards in anticipation for a night of the typical acts getting awards, with a few nods to the handful of Country artists I enjoy. For a while, I was not a fan of country as it stands today. You either have to sing about girls, trucks, and beer if you’re a man; and if you’re a woman you have to sing about your plans to kill your significant other. Of course I’m ridiculously broad brushing but I don’t think I’m that far off. We are long gone from legends such as Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and George Jones but to be honest, that’s OK. They did their thing for as long as they could and to say they left an impact on music is an understatement. Now a few years ago I thought that Country was completely lost from these heroes of the past but I was mistaken. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the music of Chris Stapleton.

 Chris Stapleton already had a successful career as writer when he recorded his own first solo album. He plays an older brand of country with songs of heartbreak and problems with that devil whiskey. Since his debut album he has risen to become one of Country’s biggest stars. Even saying that makes me both happy and sick at the same time. Happy that Chris and his wife Morgane have finally found the recognition they deserve while at the same time almost gagging at the term “Country’s Biggest Star”. Last night he came out on top with Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year. That was a pleasant surprise for me. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Chris and his music and I would choose him to win most of the categories but I’m not used to seeing people I like in the country community winning things. For instance, while announcing the nominees for Album of the Year, a list I did not see, I saw Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit nominated for their new album Nashville Sound. I was so happy to see his band nominated and pleasantly surprised to see Nashville give him a nod at all.

That brings me to the topic of Alt-Country. This is a subgenre of country that strays away from the mainstream pomp and circumstance that you see at these country concerts and award shows. They are the underground of country. I found this goldmine of music shortly after discovering acts Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves. Artists who weren’t afraid to push the envelope on subjects their genre tends to stay away from like bad apple pie. It wasn’t until I started listening to Kacey Musgraves that I realized country artists can really be quite outstanding lyrically and sonically. She opens up on subjects like accepting all people, being less judgemental, and just doing your own thing. What country is really all about. It was wrong of me to hate on country for so long without really opening up the old crate and finding those records. Whether they are satirical or not, this is the genre that is really moving country forward. I don’t think mainstream country is going to keep moving forward and that’s ok. As long as cheap beer is flowing, cheap music will always be there to provide the soundtrack to your mistakes. 

Now the one thing I was really able to take away from last night was compassion. Whether it was outside the venue or not. Inside, Carrie Underwood performed an incredible rendition of “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” which was enough to tug at your heartstrings alone but they displayed pictures of  victims from the Las Vegas shooting. Although they tried to keep the show politically lukewarm, the pictures should have been enough for someone who is questioning their ideas on gun control to take a second look at their second amendment right. I hope that even this subtle message was able to change people’s hearts. Outside there was a less subtle message being made. Sturgill Simpson was playing tunes outside the venue in a protest of the stale stance country takes on politics. Broadcasting it on Facebook, Simpson was busking and everything he got from that night he was donating to the American Civil Liberties Union. While playing he had a sign that read, “I don’t take requests but I take questions about anything you want to talk about because fascism sucks.” If that isn’t punk rock I don’t know what is.

This is why I love to follow Alt-Country. It is as Harlan Howard would say, “Three chords and the truth.” Country hasn’t died or gone away. It has gone into hiding. Playing on small NPR radio stations and curated Spotify playlists. I almost want it to stay that way. Just so that the few of us who have found these records can buy them without Nashville getting their dirty hands on them. So for me, I’m going to keep my antennas up for any incoming country that I should know about, try to ignore the mainstream takeover sponsored by Walmart, and be as open as I can possibly be with all music.

** Thank you for taking the time to read this. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter for updates on posts. My Instagram is @soundchefofficial and Twitter is @soundchef. You can also find my movie podcast at tortelliniatnoon.com **

*** I apologize for the odd paragraph breaks. I’m working on fixing that. ***