Thursday, June 30, 2011

She can Kiss Me with her Fist Any Time

Florence and the Machine
Lungs
2009, Island
produced by Paul Epworth, James Ford, Charlie Hugall, Stephen MacKey, Eg White

Florence Welch - vocals, drums
Rob Ackroyd - guitars, bass
Christopher Lloyd Hayden - drums
Tom Monger - harp
Isabella Summers - drums

singles-
  • Kiss with a Fist/ Hospital Beds
  • Dog Days are Over/ You've got the Love
  • Rabbit Heart/ Are you Hurting the One you Love
  • Drumming Song/ Falling
  • You've got the Love
  • Cosmic Love
The strength of this music is tough to describe. There is so much depth to this, if there was a royal rumble of contemporary music, this group would be tossing out contenders left and right. James Christopher Monger from AllMusic describes the album as equal parts Sinead O'Connor, Kate Bush and Fiona Apple. I'd like to think of Janis Joplin being less bluesy and more folk and I think you'd nail Florence Welch on the head.

Kiss with a Fist and Dog Days are Over are probably the best tracks. Kiss with a Fist reminds me of songs like O Bondage Up Yours by X-Ray Speks, and Wave a White Flag by Elvis Costello.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Holy Moly, Frodo! Something Evil Lurks!

So, obviously, this post is not about the music project.  Although, the title could be a Led Zeppelin reference, I suppose.  But it isn't.

A while ago I discovered a new fantasy writer, and quickly became in awe of the expanse, detail, and depth of his epic creation.  This, I told myself, and others who were in earshot, makes Tolkien look like a beginner.  I stumbled, pretty literally, upon R Scott Bakker's first volume in a bookstore while looking at Lord of the Rings editions.  The cover, which was the first edition hardcover published by Penguin Canada, was black with sinister sanskrit-like runes scrawled across it.  Pretty interesting, and after reading the synopsis, and the reviews, I invested about $27 dollars into it, deciding this wasn't a Tolkien knock-off, or a lame role-playing novelization, but appeared to be legitimate, and could possibly be groundbreaking.  And it turns out I was right, but seemed to be the only one who thought so.

Where Tolkien created things that lived around mankind and had different culture, language, customs, and history, Bakker has created differences between people, painting realistic nations split by culture, religion, proximity, language, much more like George RR Martin.  Bakker had not needed to go outside of the species to create scenarios of misunderstanding and distrust for evil to take advantage.  Religion and questions of spirituality, theology, philosophy, and metaphysics are at the heart of this epic, more so than Tolkien or Martin ever dared.

Not to say that Bakker has only created a world with the sole inhabitants being human.  There are non-men, similar to Tolkien's elves, but twisted by time, driven insane by their immortality.  Sranc roam uninhabited wastelands that remind one again of Tolkien's orcs.  There are also Wracu (dragons), ciphrang (demons), genetically engineered monsters (Bashrag), and the primary antagonists, the Inchoroi, who appear to be otherworldy (read aliens).

The influences of Tolkien and Martin are unmistakable.  But the way the world is created has more of a Greco/Persian eastern influence than western Nordic/Germanic or War of the Roses England.  The conflicts depicted in the first trilogy (Prince of Nothing) more resemble crusade-like middle-ages mentality than epic journeys of fortune, which seems to be the driving force behind the second unfinished trilogy, The Aspect Emperor.  End times theology seems to play a role as well, as aspects of the Judeo-Christian and Islamic ideas of Anti-Christ and apocalypse flit in and out of the narrative.  There are also powerful ideas of feminism, the sacred feminine, gender roles, social impact of warrior culture, mysticism, xenophobia, and the thin boundaries of sanity.

The idea that caught me pretty early on while reading, and truly impressed me the most, however, was that unlike in other epic fantasy mainstays like Lord of the Rings, Conan, Harry Potter, Eragon, Narnia, Wheel of Time, or Song of Ice and Fire, there is no clear boundary between good and evil.  In fact, it could be said that there is no true good at all in Bakker's universe, only shades of evil, which manifest through greed, amorality, and entitlement.  and at the top (or bottom, I guess) of this evilness scale is the true bad guy of the series, a race of evil beings that make all other characters deeds pale in comparison.  Everyone here has faults, impure thoughts, agendas, emotional shortcomings.

Not only is good and evil up for debate here, but also sanity.  Multiple characters battle with what it means to be sane and a good many slip over the boundaries, most unable to recover after grasping with realities and concepts of meaning not meant for weak men (and women).  There are times when it seems the insane are the only ones who truly know reality.

This isn't meant to say that none of these characters are like-able.  The main characters in the first trilogy and the relationships they have to each other are interesting.  The way they interact, use each other, tolerate each other in order to get what they need echo the reality of true human beings.  Also, it takes some time to truly appreciate the deviousness of the characters and figure out who is truly betraying whom.  No one in this world plays nice, making this series at once epic, and at the same time a horror.

Part of Bakker's world building includes the physics of Magic. Seen by one of the prevailing religions as a sinful abomination, magic is practiced by guild-like institutions called schools. Incantations, songs, are sung that can redefine reality. There are three types of magic, only two are described in detail. Gnostic sorcery reshapes reality through abstractions, and Angagogic sorcery reshapes reality through allusions. Basically, the Gnosis creates  new reality by describing the new reality outright, and the Anagogis alters reality by describing the new reality through metaphors. The physics of magic in this universe is unlike anything I've encountered before in fiction, and probably makes the most realistic sense.

The biggest criticism seems to be from feminists, or more specifically, people arguing that Bakker is a degenerate misogynist and therefore should not be read by anyone.  Below are a few links to reviews concerning this.  The first one is actually intelligent, from Shattersnipe.  http://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/the-problem-of-r-scott-bakker/

The other two degenerate pretty quickly into name calling and condemnation, one begins the post by saying she only read 5 pages of his first book before making a sweeping judgement.  Being able to write a review based on the first five pages of a book is an amazing talent.

http://www.alexdallymacfarlane.com/2012/02/oh-r-scott-bakker-no/
http://requireshate.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/r-scott-bakker-prince-of-misogyny/

I think, in each of these cases, the writers are so quick to condemn anything even remotely offensive, that they miss the point entirely.  I've read Bakker's interviews, the Q and A sessions where he addresses these issues.  I've read the spin put on these answers.  There is nothing in these articles I believe Bakker would disagree with, but yet, he is still lambasted as being misogynist and inherently evil.  The problem, I think, is his refusal to create a female character that is strong in the same way that his male characters are strong.  Both genders have different strengths, and to try and force men into female strengths and women into male strengths would be disingenuous.

Also, something must be said about the one-sidedness of these arguments.  His female characters might not be "strong" in the way that feminism may want them to be, but then again, none of his male characters are strong either in the typical western ideal of heroes.  Perhaps his female characters are lacking in certain ideal feminist traits, but then again, none of his characters are likeable, strong, altruistic characters, male or female.  Unless you believe that sociopathic thinking, violence, and abuse are all excellent traits.

I definitely recommend the Prince of Nothing and the Aspect Emperor trilogies.  And just think, you won't have to wait years at a time for the next book to hit the shelves, as there are now five volumes available.  There are epic battles, doublecrosses, philosophical inquiries, a vast world to become accustomed, mysteries, love, abandonment, corruption, true evil, and a realistic portrayal of war and conflict.  These are not easy books, however.  Enjoyment of intelligent, thought provoking writing is a must.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Traveling Wilburys, Jr.


Fistful of Mercy
As I Call you Down
2010, Hot Records
Dhani Harrison
Ben Harper
Joseph Arthur

singles -
  • Fistful of Mercy
This "super group" was a very pleasant surprise for me.  I've been a huge Ben Harper fan for quite some time, and got into Joseph Arthur after catching his song In the Sun in a movie soundtrack.  Fistful of Mercy has paired up these two neo-folk/neo blues artists with Ayrton Wilbury, also known as George Harrison's son, Dhani.  

Harrison has called this project his own Traveling Wilburys, however, the comparison stops there.  I so very much want to love this album and collaboration, however, I wish there was more Ben Harper rhythm and less Arthur/Harrison schmaltz.  The songs are very soft and sometimes uninspiring.  Also, I'm not sure what to think of bands that name themselves the same thing as a title of a song they wrote.  Fistful of Mercy the song is one of the better tracks on the album.  Father's Son should have been a single, and is the best track, having an upbeat rhythm unlike the rest of the music, and very much like Ben Harper's work with the Innocent Criminals. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Who are the Watson Twins?



Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
Rabbit Fur Coat
2006, Team Love

Jenny Lewis
Chandra Watson
Leigh Watson

singles-
  • Rise up with Fists/ Paradise
  • You are What you Love/ Fireplace
Jenny Lewis fronts the band Rilo Kiley, famous for their hit Portions for Foxes.  Jenny Lewis is cool for a few reasons.  She was a child actor in the '80s and '90s, and is also part of the Ben Gibbard/ Connor Oberst Indie music scene (Death Cab for Cutie, Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, Postal Service).  

I love her voice, and I love the direction this album takes.  Less indie rock star than Rilo Kiley, more of a stripped down folksy country feel, complete with a Traveling Wilburys cover.  There is no producer credit, but I'm assuming since it is on the Team Love label, that Oberst and/or Gibbard functioned as producers.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Blues Traveler: a suite, part two


You'll remember in the first part of this epic suite, I covered the first five studio albums from this band.  The next studio album would be released in 2001 and would be a turning point for the band, musically, spiritually, and psychologically.  Between 1997 and 2001 a few big things happened to dramatically change the band. 

They began working on a concept album for their next release, but in 1999 the tragic death of Bobby Sheehan nearly ended the band's 12 year career.  Around the same time, John Popper nearly died of a heart attack and underwent gastric bypass surgery to drop a lot of weight.

The surviving members took Sheehan's death hard, especially John Popper who hasn't appeared to be the same since.  In the aftermath of this tragedy, the band added a new bass player (Chan Kinchla's brother Tad) and a full-time keyboard player (which makes sense, since every album previously had numerous guest piano players). The concept album was jettisoned, and new work was written for their next release.


Blues Traveler
Bridge
2001, A&M records
produced by Matt Wallace

John Popper - vocals, harmonica, guitars
Chan Kinchla - guitars
Tad Kinchla - bass
Brendan Hill - drums
Ben Wilson - piano, organ, keyboards

singles -
  • Back in the Day
This album is pretty good considering it follows life altering events and missing a quarter of your original line-up.  Remember, even though Bobby Sheehan didn't write much music, he still was a steady contributor.  His bass style helped propel the jam rift and the bluesy funky feeling many of their songs relied on, the band misses him, and its pretty obvious at times.  Also note, this is a new producer, they did not stay with the duo that helped produce their two most successful albums.

John Popper continues to write, although his writing seems to lack the happy-go-lucky and playful feel of earlier work.  The album's original title was Bridge Over Brooklyn, the first letters spelling out BOB.  The album is officially dedicated to Sheehan's life and memory, and no other track makes this more clear than Pretty Angry, which also showcases the best lyrics on the album, showing glimmers of John Popper's previous wit and color.  Tracks worth a listen include Back in the Day, Girl Inside my Head, Just for Me, All Hands, and Pretty Angry.  Avoid Rage, it's bad.  Overall, the album matches up well with the rest of the catalog and reassures fans that the band is still able to make good music despite missing an integral piece, and a great presence.  Warren Haynes makes a guest appearance.


Blues Traveler
Truth Be Told
2003, Sanctuary
produced by Don Gehman

singles-
  • Let Her and Let Go
A&M records parted ways with Blues Traveler following Bridge.  They signed to Sanctuary which, if you've been paying attention, is the first time they've been not on A&M.  Truth be Told is a step in the right direction for Blues Traveler.  The band becomes more comfortable with their new members.  Chris Barron also makes his first appearance as a guest since Travelers and Thieves.  Popper and Barron were great friends in the 80s and 90s, but grew apart, and then Barron had throat cancer, which he made a full recovery from.  He has a writer by-line on Sweet and Broken.  The band comes so close to recapturing the hit-making sound from their earlier career.  This album doesn't receive the attention and critique it deserves, and quietly gets overlooked.  Overall this album is good, it falls somewhere between Save his Soul and Four, definitely better than its predecessor, and very much better than the next endeavor.


Blues Traveler
Bastardos!
2005, Vanguard
produced by Jay Bennet

singles-
  • Amber Awaits
Upon first glance, this album looks like it wants to be an epic masterpiece.  The cover is a spaghetti western mock-up poster, complete with masked outlaw with guns drawn, bar fight, sexy senorita, and a man on a rearing horse.  The colors are bold and cartoony.  However, the music content leaves much to be desired and doesn't live up to its packaging.  It has been, at the time of this release, 6 years since Bobby Sheehan's passing, and yet John Popper's lyrics still hold a tinge of mourning and sadness that seem to stem from this tragedy.  Instead of being poignant and relevant as on Bridge, these themes have become sad, typical, and depressing.  The song writing is not good.  Tad Kinchla and Ben Wilson do not help write listenable songs, and instead contribute to songs that sound jerky and uneven instead of inspired and flowing.  In addition, Popper's lyrics do not pop and often the sad love songs become boring and unlistenable.  There is a rocking edge that Blues Traveler had on previous albums that is non-existent.  On top of this inability to write songs that people want to hear when not cutting themselves, is the producer's lack of ability when it comes to creating a good overall album.  The decisions made on order of tracks couldn't be worse, and the album has no proper or listenable flow.  There is no continuity.  Don't waste your time with this album, buy a few single tracks on iTunes, Amber Awaits may be worth owning.


Blues Traveler.
North Hollywood Shootout
2008, Verve
produced by David Bianco

This album is aptly named.  After the largest bloodiest confrontation in US police history, North Hollywood Shootout is frustratingly brutal.  Some of the same issues that have plagued Blues Traveler on Bastardos!, and really since Sheehan's passing, still rear their heads on this album.  Having worked with seven different producers on nine albums probably doesn't help, and then bouncing through three different record labels in five years wouldn't give a band confidence either.  I can summarize my experience with this album as follows... it is the most excruciating album to listen to.  There are so many windows into the past here, and I am only allowed to peek through the glass for only moments.  I so much want to like this album, and it isn't bad, considering the hole that they had to crawl out of after the last album bombed.  Also, Bruce Willis guest appears, and I can't decide if this is awesome, or just weird.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Blues Traveler: a suite, Part one

Blues Traveler has been, for me, one of the better bands to come out of the post 80s alternative pop scene that wasn't a proto-grunge, pop-punk, hip hip, or nu-metal band.  Let me explain further... certain types of music are in vogue, and there is no shortage of sound alike or copycat bands to ride the trend.  A good example is Pearl Jam.  Candlebox, Live, the Toadies, Silverchair, 7Mary3, and Creed could all be considered Pearl Jam copycat bands.

Blues Traveler didn't fit into the trendy sounds of the late 80s and early 90s.  They came out of a budding underground music scene in New York, and were incorporated into Bill Graham's music promotion enterprise.  The same scene that would produce the Spin Doctors, the Counting Crows, Joan Osborne, Blind Melon, and Jeff Buckley.  The blues-tinged sound mixed well with country roots and a jam band swagger.  The harmonica as lead instrument was a unique contrast to the usual lead guitar sounds of most other bands.

I followed them from their hit release (which was actually their 4th album) to just about recently.  This is part one of a career in review.


Blues Traveler 
Blues Traveler
1990, A&M records
produced by Justin Neibank

John Popper - vocals, harmonica, guitars
Chan Kinchla - guitars
Brooklyn Bobby Sheehan - bass
Brendan Hill - drums

singles-
  • But Anyway

This album features many of their later live show staples, and shows their musical jam style better than later studio albums.  Many of the sounds, and riffs would later appear in other songs on other albums, and would help to set up their unique style.  Most of the album is written by John Popper and Chan Kinchla.  This will be important later on.  Overall, this is a pretty well done album.  Guest musicians include Chris Barron, Joan Osborne, Kevin Traynor, Howie Wyneth, and Joe Flood, who is uncredited.  


Blues Traveler
Travelers and Thieves
1991, A&M records
produced by Jim Gaines
singles-
  • Sweet Pain
  • All in the Groove
  • Mountain Cry
This album continues the happy funky bluesy sound from the first album.  Bobby Sheehan contributes to more music on this album, and an angry rock sound begins to emerge on songs like Onslaught and Ivory Tusk.  Most of the tracks are either social conscience tracks, or happy carefree little love songs.  John Popper comes into his own on this album as a lyrical song writer, and seems to enjoy writing catchy lyrics.  Good tracks to check out are Optimistic Thought, the Best Part, All in the Groove, and Support your Local Emperor.  Guest Musicians include Chris Barron, and Greg Allman.



Blues Traveler
Save His Soul
1993, A&M records
produced by Dave Swanson
singles -
  • Conquer Me
  • Defense and Desire
This is my favorite Blues Traveler release.  The sound begins to rock out more, especially on tracks like Love and Greed, Defense and Desire, NY Prophesie, and Whoops.  The band shows it has an edge, and Popper begins to write with a passion and anger only seen in briefs glimpses on earlier releases.  And yet, Popper is still able to write sweet little love songs like Love of my Life and Conquer Me that have some substance.  Sheehan and Hill contribute, but most of the music is written by Popper and Kinchla.  They also are able to still show that jam band structure on tracks like Go Outside and Drive, and Whoops.  Guest musicians include Paul Shaffer and the City Singers.


Blue Traveler
Four
1994, A&M records.  
produced by Steve Thompson, Michael Barbiero

singles -
  • Run Around/Trust in Trust/ Regarding Steven/ Featherhead and Lucky Lack/ Escaping
  • Hook/ Run Around/ The Mountains Win Again
  • The Mountains Win Again
This marks Blues Traveler's peak.  They have two hit songs from this album, and it goes platinum 6 times.  As for the music, the band seems to finally figure out the right mixture of all the sounds they had been playing around with for years.  John Popper's lyrics have never been better, or more clever especially on Run Around and Hook, both written to be hit pop songs.  The music has the right mix of edgy rock, and soft bluesy country.  They still hold onto their jam band structure with tracks like the Good the Bad and the Ugly, and The Mountains Win Again (Sheehan's only solo writing credit).  Overall, this album is fantastic, and deserves to be a platinum record.  Guest Musicians include Warren Haynes, Paul Shaffer, and Chuck Leavell.


Blues Traveler
Straight on til Morning
1997, A&M records
produced by Steve Thompson, Michael Barbiero

singles -
  • Carolina Blues
  • Most Precarious
  • Canadian Rose

This is a good example of Bill Simmon's idea of the 'quest for more'.  The premise, according to Simmons, is sports teams have a hard time repeating championships due to trying so hard to copy the success of the past season, that they fail to grow and get better.  Coming off of Four, Blues Traveler attempted to copy the success of their last critically acclaimed album.  This is the first time they worked with the same producers on two consecutive albums.  Most Precarious was supposed to be the next Run Around; it falls short.  Even though this is not as good as Four, it is still as good if not better at points than the first three albums.  This is a great follow up, and I don't think it gets enough credit.  It takes the best parts of Save His Soul, and Four and tries to jam them together.  There is something dark about this album that was hinted at on Save His Soul, but is abandoned in the future.  The band takes you into creepy shadowy places and then walks you back out again.  Perhaps this album was a quest for more, but I dont think it failed as much as the band, critics and some fans think.  Guest musicians include John Medeski, Larry Hoppen, Paul Griffin, and Mark Eddinger

Stay tuned for Part Two.....

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Time out for Education

For a while now ignorance and stupidity have been glorified in America, and it needs to stop. I started to realize this phenomenon in middle school. It became not a good idea to have all the correct answers, cool to feign ignorance, and okay to be proud or indifferent of bad grades. Perhaps I had teachers who were also indifferent of how their students viewed accomplishment. Perhaps low self esteem lent itself to falling into poor peer pressure. Perhaps marketing and entertainment at the time showed us all to aim low and be proud of it. Whatever the reasons, the damage had been done and mediocrity and blatant ignorance have become acceptable.

I can't blame it all on these guys, though
And this was in the 1990s. By now, since it doesn't appear that anything has changed, this particular culture of failure has had time to grow. What happens when an entire generation embraces mediocrity and is okay with imperfect academic skills? When being educated does not necessarily equal economic success, why bother? Remember when it was necessary to graduate from high school and earn a BA to get a good paying job? Remember when a masters degree meant a large annual salary? Remember when you realized that people without these things could make just as much or more than you and not have college debt?

What happened?

We now live in an era when people who make an impact socially and culturally can come from anywhere, thanks mostly to the internet and reality television. Sarah Palin is a good example of someone who has no business being anywhere near impressionable people. I saw this on the news recently, which made me angry:



You would think that anyone in public life, especially politicians, and even more so governors (even ex-governors) would need to know basic US History. I would hope that anyone within earshot of this news would toss out any ideas of possibly supporting her. This is basic US history, not obscure details and policies studied by stuffy history PhDs in tweed jackets. This is essential national mythos. Paul Revere's ride is legendary Americana, and Palin presumably graduated from high school without knowing. She was somehow elected as governor of a state, and ran as veep on the GOP ticket.  I'm willing to bet Dan Quayle knows about the lamps in Old North, even though he doesn't know that Latin Americans speak Spanish and Portuguese, and not Latin. The sad thing is, this episode of ignorance will most likely be swept under a rug somewhere, and people will continue to support the GOP's weakest link.
but she's such a milf!
Palin is very good at brushing aside ignorance and being proud of her misconceptions and blatant inaccuracy. She defended herself by claiming the question was unscripted, and she gave the best answer she could without any prep. Why would you need to prep for a third grade history question?I'm not sure either.

History is not the only thing overlooked. Grammar and spelling have both taken their hard knocks. Apparently it is acceptable now to use the made up words gotten, and funner in professional settings, such as legal, academic, and government writing. Just so we're all clear: funner is wrong, its a modern bastardization. The correct comparative is more fun. Technically, fun shouldn't be used as a normal adjective at all, only as an attributive. But if you must, than more and most ought to be used. Anyone who tells you different is making excuses for using bad grammar. And I don't much care for dictionaries adding words to enable these poor speakers (see Merriam/Webster).

Secondly, gotten isn't technically wrong, but it is old, and awkward, and lazy. There are always better words to use in its place (obtain, become, moved, managed), it is not to be used to show possession (receive).

Also, the rise of texting and instant messaging in America has destroyed proper spelling and given rise to misspelled words, and phonetic spelling. Examples are substituting d for th, double o for hard u, combining words like going to into single words (gonna), and using numbers and letters to represent actual words like 2 instead of to or too, and r and u instead of are and you. Also, could of may sound like could've when you're speaking, but it actually makes no sense, and could have is actually correct.

Regardless of how you feel about proper grammar, or the facts of American History, the trend recently in government is to slash social budgets dramatically. This means, in short, that public education is in jeopardy. No matter how you feel about social spending, or public education in general, the majority of US citizens are publicly educated through high school. The fact that money is not going to public education, and budgets are unable to pay for the things that education specialists (the dudes with PhDs that spent their whole lives studying this stuff) say are needed for quality education means things will get worse. National trends in bad grammar and poor knowledge of history may not be that big of a deal, but if students haven't a grasp of those things, how can they possibly master critical thinking skills, good study habits, and effective reading and writing skills? Will our future as a nation be politicians that not only can not get their US history correct, but also can not read or write?

I found this poem by Taylor Mali, and it basically sums up my whole post and then some.  Enjoy.
Totally, like, whatever, you know?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Oh Mr. Sandman.... Boo!


Metallica 
Metallica (the black album)
1991, Elektra.
produced by Bob Rock

James Hetfield - vocals, guitars
Kirk Hammet - lead guitar
Jason Newsted - bass
Lars Ulrich - drums

singles -
  • Enter Sandman/ Stone Cold Crazy/ Holier than Thou
  • Unforgiven/ So What?/ Killing Time
  • Nothing Else Matters/ Harvester of Sorrow/ Enter Sandman
  • Wherever I May Roam/ Last Caress/ Am I Evil
  • Sad But True/ So What/ Nothing Else Matters
In 1992, this album won the Metal Grammy, prompting Lars Ulrich to thank Jethro Tull for not releasing an album that year.  No competition...  get it?  Fans have nicknamed this album the Black Album, which just makes me think of Spinal Tap and giggle... ("It's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none.  None more black"). 

This album marks the end and the beginning of Metallica.  

Let me explain...  

Metallica was this gritty, drunk, thrash metal band from the early '80s that thrived on bootleg support and leather clad drunken mosh pit fans.  Their sound was fast, loud, Motorhead-like metal that relied on dark, twisted, evil lyrics.  That is until after they toured for this album.  

The black album, as it is known, is the last sounds from this era.  This album does its best to recapture the sound of '80s metal, the bygone era of punk hardcore, and bootleg thrash.

Following this tour, Metallica briefly disbands, cuts their hair (which is a huge faux pas in the metal community) and releases the worst pair of albums in their career.  Eventually Newsted quits, the rest of the band has a huge carthartic moment, hire the bass player from Ozzy, and begin releasing better contemporary hard rock.  However, the sound of this album will only be heard in snatches of melody, and bits of leftover thrash solos.

I guess I should have seen that all coming.  This album almost tells the future.  There are a few slower, softer songs on this album, Hetfield has started to sing in a lower register.  Newsted still did not seem to belong in a band that he had been a member of for almost five years.  Looking back, this album marked a division in the career of Metallica, and for most fans, is the last hurrah for '80s metal.