Friday, March 23, 2007

Heaven and Hell

On Sunday, I was privileged enough to catch the first show of Heaven and Hell, a union of Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Vinny Appice. Yes, THOSE guys. Playing together again for the first time in fifteen years. These guys can literally be credited with inventing entire genres of metal. We expected much.

Also in the lineup, popular New Orleans band Down (credentials, surprizingly include ex-Pantera and Corrosion of Conformity), and mainstay of thrash metal, Megadeth. Due to ferry issues from our Comox vacation, we only caught the finale of Down. This, incidentally, was the last anyone heard from them for awhile, as their next several dates on the tour were cancelled.

Megadeth didn't really bring any surprizes - they know their music, and they do it well. Sadly, the same couldn't be said of the sound engineers, who had the mixing ridiculously off, and triggered a great deal of feedback. Still, sound quality aside, a solid show, and a welcome introduction to live Megadeth for myself.

Then, Heaven and Hell. Wow. When was the last time you saw sixty-year old men go on stage and kick your ass four a couple of hours? Well let me tell you, their age does not show; neither in their playing nor in their setlist. This stuff was heavy, evil, and played with full energy. Dio still has one hell of a set of lungs, and he lets you know it. Their stage: amazing. They took this classic graveyard scene, and then could adjust based on some minimal adjustments and lighting. The effect was spot on, even way at the back in our seats.

Heaven and Hell will trigger a new Golden Age for Metal. Need proof? Just watch the cellphone recordings. You won't be able to disagree.

Vacation Time: Mt. Washington

What better way to escape the working grind than an epic vacation?

Having no good answer to this, myself and The Irishman planned out exactly such a vacation for ourselves and the ladies (Kyna and Popple). First, Kyna headed up to Seattle, so that I could take some time to show her the sites (aka. wine and dine her). Then we headed up towards The Irishman's for an evening of boozing and partying.

(as a note: in both directions across the border, they were very insistent on seeing Kyna's full papers, including proof of citizenship. Gone are the days where a driver's license would suffice to get you across the border. You have been warned.)

After a day or two of adventures, slackination, and Maplewood hockey and beer (mostly me drinking, gotta love Cowen scoring twice in a game), we headed over to Comox, the little town neighbouring Courtney; itself a somewhat bigger town an hour North of Nanaimo. We were staying in the Vineyard Cottage suite at Restless Winds. A lovely little getaway on the coast, with a wood stove, a complete kitchen, lovely decor, and even TV for those nights when you just want to curl up in front of the fire and veg. They get my first recommendation of the night.

Comox itself is a cute little town, but except for the air force base (lots of tourist stuff around that), and a very cute SPCA shelter (where the kitties just use the entire complex as their personal playground), it's not going to win points for adventure spot of the year. Courtney was more of your standard urbanised town, and had more amenities, though less focused on tourists. We found a lovely cheese shop and a few nice coffee places to amuse ourselves. Top points to the shopkeepers in Courtney and Comox for the worst puns for innocent stores: "Wood in Hand", "All Wet", and "I-ho's" take the medals.

Skiing was lovely. Mt. Washington is a high quality drive-up mountain, with a comprehensive selection of runs, from a whole region of the mountain for beginners to a pure double-black back-country. Prices were certainly not cheap, but more affordable than some other mountains. Ample rentals, and a cozy cafeteria to rest on. Where this mountain loses points is its hours - afternoon skiing ends at 3:30! There is night skiing, but it only includes the green runs.

For our final night, myself and The Irishman took the ladies out for a nice dinner at Tomato Tom├Ąto, a cute little restaurant in an old heritage house location. This place takes top spot for recommendations for this trip. Without a doubt, this is the best restaurant I've ever been to, and I've been to a few very nice restaurants. The drinks were tasty and boozey, the appetizers mouth-watering, the entrees perfect in every way, and desserts so tempting that even completely stuffed, we couldn't resist. All with a warm friendly decor, and excellent service. If you are ever in Courtney, go there.

Of course, then we headed home. You'd think, with all the effort Microsoft put into the Daylight Savings Time fix, that I of all people wouldn't forget. But sure enough, we thought we were doing great getting back right up until we pulled into a Nanaimo gas station, and saw we were an hour late. But, heroes that we are, we found an alternative route down to Tsawwassen, and still made the upcoming epic concert. But that is a story for another post.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Women in Metal

Blabbermouth linked me a great article today: Woman in Metal. Discussing yet another article, published in print, "The 13 Sexiest Chicks in Metal".

Basically, this magazine interviewed Lacuna Coil, among others, and did a photo spread of sexy female metal musicians. Some applaud the obviously clever play to the male audience's insatiable need for eye-candy. Others deride the obvious appeal to appearance over musical talent. Even others take a tangent to that idea, observing that metal chicks are generally getting typecast into the "sexy goth vocalist" role these days.

Personally, I applaud teh sexy metal. Seriously, if you got it, show it off! Yes, metal should be about the music... but the second you step up on a stage, the second you make a music video, a promo shot, you're becoming more than just a musician. You're a performer. There's a reason why Metallica has huge pyro at their shows. Why Heaven and Hell (separate blog coming on that one) construct wickedly creative sets. Why Iron Maiden burns giant wicker effigys, complete with virgins, on stage. Hell, would you be as impressed showing up for an Amon Amarth concert, and instead of a long-haired viking badass, being greeted by Wierd Al screaming from the bowels of his lungs?

Anyways, for the record, in live concerts, I've seen more floppy man-wiener (the Shitty Dwarves nightmare, forever scarred into my mind) in concert than I've seen woman titty. I think the women of metal owe me one...

While there are still a few asshats that can't get over the girls in metal bands, there have been plenty of bands who showed that women can be respected for their metal, and not just in the stereotyped roles either. One of my favourites was Drain STH, a distinctly doom band with hard rock overtones. A band that purposely avoiding letting their image get out, so that their music would be respected before people discovered they were four smoking hot Swedish bombshells.

Sadly, in recent years, a lot of the women have been herded into the Goth metal role. Not that this is a bad thing! It has produced some amazing goth metal bands, including Lacuna Coil, Nightwish (with Tarja), Evanescence (hey! Just because they get radio play doesn't mean they can't be heavy sometimes!), Within Temptation, and dozens of others. However, I really wouldn't mind seeing a few girls breaking out of goth. Especially as vocalists (since, yes folks, most women sound different than men), and in other roles too. That was part of why I was so eager to hear samples of Missy K in Stratovarius... not the same sound to be sure, but it'd have been novel, and I always appreciate something new in my metal.

Hell, if they sound good, I won't even care if they're hot or not. Though I certainly wouldn't complain if they are...