Wednesday, 19 May 2010

MY TRIBUTE TO RONNIE JAMES DIO

As you will all know by now, Ronnie James Dio passed away on May 16th after a brief but intense battle with stomach cancer. The greatest rock singer of his (or any other) generation has left the mortal realm and the lives of his family, friends and millions of fans around the world will never be quite the same again. Those are the facts and there’s nothing that any of us can do to change them. And as much as I dislike the vicarious grief that people so often indulge in when famous people die, on this occasion I am more than willing to let everyone shed their tears and tell their stories without me sneering from the sidelines. It’s always immensely sad and emotionally draining when people you care about die. I lost my father last year, also to cancer, and I’m still struggling with his absence on a daily basis. These are yawning chasms that can never be filled and they force you to stare your own mortality in the face. It’s fucking hard and painful. That’s life and that’s death. We deal with it and we move on as best we can.

Of course, I can’t claim that I knew Ronnie particularly well on a personal level, but the power of music should never be underestimated. People love to wheel out the clich├ę that music is “the soundtrack to your life”, but as much as that sounds like twinkly-eyed bullshit, it really is true, unless you’re one of those freaks that doesn’t find music to be one of life’s greatest joys. Ronnie James Dio and his wonderful, life-affirming music had a massive impact on my life and I cherish the one occasion that I met him as one of the greatest moments of my life as a music fan. I was also lucky enough to interview him over the phone on several occasions, and he was never anything less than an absolute gentleman, a genuinely fascinating and inspiring figure and, perhaps most importantly, a fucking awesome bloke.

When I met him, backstage at Wacken Open Air a few years ago, it was in my capacity as a writer for Kerrang and I had to ask him a bunch of pre-prepared questions for some banal little sidebar piece that was, amazingly, just about the only way that I could get Ronnie some coverage in the magazine. I was cringing inwardly as I sat down and got ready to ask him what his most embarrassing moment had been, what he would choose for his last meal and, ironically it seems now, which song he would have played at his funeral (he chose ‘A Salty Dog’ by Procol Harum, which is a beautiful song...give it a listen!), rather than ask all the questions I really wanted to ask; about his glorious career, his huge creative achievements and where that amazing, soul-stirring voice came from. Speaking from bitter experience, I know that a lot of big rock stars are used to this kind of frivolous idiocy from the British music press. We often like to kid ourselves that our readers aren’t really interested in the music itself, and would rather see a picture of our favourite bands sitting in a bathtub full of baked beans. Utter bullshit, of course, but bullshit perpetuated by people who care more about looking clever than displaying any sort of passion for anything, as they foist their own self-absorbed cynicism onto everyone else. It’s horrendously tiresome, but that’s showbiz.

Anyway, I don’t get to pick and choose what I do most of the time, so I got started with my daft questions and, much to my surprise, Ronnie James Dio immediately got into the spirit of the thing, answering everything and putting plenty of thought into his replies, chuckling at some of the more moronic questions but answering them all the same, keeping eye contact with me the whole time and sticking with it until I had everything I needed. We carried on chatting for a few minutes after I’d switched my dictaphone off, and he asked me about my family and my life and seemed genuinely interested. The encounter ended with his assistant taking this picture of Dio and I together – DIO & DOM - followed by a handshake and friendly farewell.

I stopped grinning about a week later. It’s easy to get jaded when you speak with well known musicians all the time, but moments like that stay with you forever. I wasn’t a music journalist for those 30-odd minutes. I was a fan, surfing on a wave of adrenaline and happiness. That’s what Ronnie James Dio meant to me, and I know that thousands of people feel the same way. I’ve spoken to loads of people this week and many of them have their own stories, either about meeting Dio (without exception, everyone genuinely found him to be a lovely, charming and genuine man) or about the immense importance and power of his music. When it comes to heavy metal, Ronnie was not just one of our greatest singers, he was also one of the most significant creative forces that the genre has ever seen. Even if you just list the really obvious stone-cold classic albums that he was involved in – Rainbow Rising, Heaven And Hell and Holy Diver – it’s hard to think of anyone who has such a rich and seminal CV. But there’s so much more great music in Ronnie’s catalogue...I’ve been listening to it all on rotation ever since I heard about his death, and it’s amazing how many great songs there are. Albums like The Last In Line, Dream Evil, Master Of The Moon, Dehumanizer, Long Live Rock & Roll...they’re rammed with brilliant moments, all elegantly transported along on the wings of Ronnie’s commanding but beautiful voice. How fucking awesome was The Devil You Know? Easily one of the best things Ronnie ever recorded, it was rightly hailed as a new masterpiece by everyone sensible when it came out last year. It’s horrible to think that it represents Ronnie’s last creative endeavour, but even so, what a way to go out! Even the records that we’re not really supposed to like that much – Angry Machines, anyone? – are way better than the reviews they received would suggest. The man was an enormous fucking talent and I don’t care whether you were a huge Dio fan or just someone with a passing interest in rock and metal that quite liked Holy Diver and that Tenacious D movie...Ronnie James Dio left his mark on the world and nothing can erase it. I recently wrote a small tribute to my dad when I was designing the artwork for my band’s forthcoming album, and I wrote that “he did what he loved and loved what he did and left a lot of beautiful things behind”. I think the same applies to Ronnie. As terrible as it is to lose him so prematurely, his legacy is vast. He left a lot of kick-arse music behind and we will play it, as loud as possible and as often as possible, until we all cash in our chips too.

The sad truth is that, assuming we all survive for the next 20 to 30 years, we’re going to have to watch most of our heroes pass away and, as much as it pains me to admit it, there don’t seem to be too many artists and musicians of comparable calibre to take their place. There’s plenty of amazing new music, of course, but where is the next Dio, the next Ozzy, the next Lemmy? Who is going to replace Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Metallica when they’re gone? We can safely ignore the internet morons that sneer at and disrespect these musical giants. I was originally going to write a blog chastising the snivelling cuntsores that had been slagging Ozzy off on the Metal Hammer site, but what’s the point? If you can’t be mature or smart enough to acknowledge the massive contribution that people like Ozzy and Ronnie have made to our world and the music we love, then your opinion is utterly irrelevant and I’d quite like my oxygen back, please. I’m no nostalgia junkie, but there’s no denying that these names, these legends, are the bedrock upon which our entire culture is constructed. You don’t have to love their music and you don’t have to treat them with blind reverence, but you do have to salute them for their achievements and their passion. Anything else would be fucking stupid.

The mainstream media will never understand heavy metal. Just look at the clumsy obituaries that Ronnie has received from certain quarters this week, most of which focus primarily on his status as “the guy that invented the Devil’s horns”, with obligatory references to Denzil the Dragon and Spinal Tap and how silly heavy metal is etc etc...oh fuck off, you ignorant, patronising twats. Metal fans are fully aware that their music can be preposterous, over-the-top, bombastic and daft. That’s one of the main reasons we like it so much. But don’t pretend that it doesn’t have substance...that it doesn’t mean anything. Because it means a lot more to me and my metal brothers and sisters than the bland, banal indie rock and sterile pop tripe that mainstream magazines exist to exalt mean to anyone. In the event of a nuclear holocaust, who do you think will crawl from the smoking rubble? It won’t be Pete fucking Doherty. It won’t be Justin ‘The Singing Wankstain’ Bieber. It will be some guy in a Venom shirt, clutching a half-drained bottle of Merrydown and shouting ‘Slayer!’ at the top of his voice. Heavy metal fans are the most devoted and passionate fans in the world and I defy anyone to prove otherwise. This music will never die. Ronnie James Dio’s music will never die. Every time we crank up Neon Knights or Stand Up And Shout and raise a glass to our fallen hero, his legend will grow.
Rest in peace, Ronnie. Thanks for everything. We’re missing you terribly but we will continue to rock in your honour, now and forever. Horns up!

Dom Lawson, May 2010

Thursday, 29 April 2010

BITING THE BULLET

It’s strange how people always remember the negative things we music journalists write, rather than (in my case, at least) the overwhelmingly positive stuff that we spend most of our time penning in order to celebrate and support our favourite music. I’ve never had more responses to a review than I did to the one I wrote for the last Bullet For My Valentine album, Scream Aim Fire, back in 2008. I’ve lost count of the amount of handshakes and pints I received as a result of my entirely honest response to what I thought was a rather poor and contrived record by a band that really didn’t deserve to be as widely praised as they had been over the years. I also received a fair few insults and several accusations that I am not the cheerful heterosexual I claim to be. And I saw that coming. There is no escaping the fuckwits. They’re everywhere. You get used to it after a while, to be honest, but the thing that does genuinely bother me (albeit only a tiny bit, until I get to the pub) is when people accuse me of having some weird ulterior motive for giving a record a bad review. Seriously. Fuck off.

I had – and still have – absolutely no problem with Bullet For My Valentine on a personal level. I have spoken with Matt Tuck on the phone a couple of times and always found him to be bright and friendly. And, as I said in the review, I wish them all the best as they become ever more popular and, hopefully, convert loads of really young kids to the ways of heavy music. I’m not a total cunt, despite what you might infer from these blogs, and my somewhat damning review of SAF was not designed to do any damage to Bullet’s inexorable rise. In fact, my principal aim was to inject some balance and objectivity to the UK rock press’s rather obsequious and cynical approach to writing about them. From the moment it became plain that BFMV were going to be extremely popular, not least due to their powerful management company and the huge amount of money that was being invested in promoting them and ensuring that they got great tours, the UK rock press rolled over like a daft puppy and started dribbling. Reviews were, almost across the board, ridiculously enthusiastic and gushing, as if BFMV were somehow the greatest new metal band to emerge from the UK since Iron Maiden...which, incredibly, was the PR pitch I was given when a copy Scream Aim Fire plopped onto my doormat. Now, if the album had been – in my opinion, naturally - as fantastic as the accompanying press release had described – and, let’s face it, virtually all press releases are basically one long cry of “Ooh, this is the best thing ever!” – then I would have said so and praised the band accordingly. But it wasn’t. It was a glossy and expensive-sounding effort, but musically it was weak and clich├ęd, lyrically it was abysmal and vocally, Matt Tuck was clearly struggling. Aside from that, if BFMV were plainly hedging their bets and writing songs that always began as bombastic modern thrash tunes but then, without exception, morphed into bland, poppy emo-friendly choruses. That’s the main reason why there is very little crossover between the band’s crowd and, say, a Slayer crowd or a Lamb Of God crowd.

Bullet’s audience is a predominantly young one, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Thank Satan there are bands like BFMV to draw kids in before Justin Bieber or N Dubz get their retarded claws into them. But when a band as successful as Bullet are being sold as the undisputed kings of modern day British heavy metal, the flaws in the music itself needed to be addressed. So that’s what I did. Of course, once Metal Hammer published the review, both the band and their management reportedly had huge hissy fits and threw their toys out of the steel-plated pram. It was all a bit undignified and petulant, but not entirely unexpected. The thing is, learning to handle criticism is something that all bands have to do at some point. I spotted Bullet’s drummer whining on Facebook recently about how Metal Hammer used to be “better in the old days”, i.e. when Bullet received no criticism whatsoever. Yeah, it would be nice if we just wrote positive things about everything all the time, wouldn’t it? Actually, no. It would be stupid, childish and pointless. The relationship between bands and magazines is two-way and meant to be mutually beneficial, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree with everything we say in our reviews and nor does it mean that popular bands should always expect an easy ride and lots of frothing adulation. That’s not how I roll as a journalist...or as a musician, come to that. I fully expect that a substantial majority of people will think my band’s album (Botheration by Oaf...it’s out on June 21st, folks!) is rubbish. Boo hoo. Not bothered. I try to be honest about what I think of new records, and musicians should try to take negative feedback on the chin. It’s all part of growing up.

One of the more dispiriting things about writing for a music magazine is that a lot of people seem to have trouble grasping how the whole reviewing process works. It is often assumed that there is some weird agenda or pre-meditated party line that we all have to follow, wherein certain bands get good reviews and others don’t. That’s bollocks. Of course, there are times when magazines will ensure that an album gets a positive review because, and this is the important bit, the general consensus among critics and fans alike seems to be that the record in question is an absolute belter. No one wants to be the magazine to get it wrong – remember Kerrang’s 2K review of Machine Head’s Through The Ashes Of Empires? – and so a bit of common sense never goes amiss. That said, the vast majority of albums are dished out to reviewers who are then respected and trusted enough to come up with their own subjective verdict. No one tells me what scores to give albums. I might have the occasional discussion about a score with the editorial team, but essentially I am left to make the final decision, and quite right too. With Scream Aim Fire, I genuinely felt that it was a poor record and one that it was very hard to believe in as a metal fan. We’ve all had a good chuckle at Matt Tuck’s golf jumper on YouTube (and if you haven’t, just search for ‘jeff killed john’) and it’s quite easy to be cynical about his band’s peculiar musical evolution, particularly when he makes statements like the recent one about Bullet being “a hard rock band with metal influences”, which is plainly bullshit (you don’t wear cut-off Metallica shirts, throw the horns and stick your tongue out in every photo shoot you’ve ever done if you’re a “hard rock band”...that’s the visual language and aesthetic of metal, and Matt Tuck knows it). But if we can set aside those doubts, Bullet have as much right to be regarded as a big and important metal band as anyone else.

The “it’s not metulz” brigade should really shut the fuck up and jump in front of a bus at this point, because although there are thousands of bands that I’d rather listen to than BFMV, they are undeniably a metal band. It might not be the kind of metal I particularly like, and it lacks the darkness and intensity that I get from most of my favourite bands, but it’s still metal. And, judging by the new album, Fever, the band’s sound is evolving in the right direction. I can certainly live without big ballads like Bittersweet Memories, which could easily fit onto any big budget pop-punk or mainstream emo album, but the heavy tracks – most notably Your Betrayal, Fever, Begging For Mercy and Pleasure And Pain – are plainly better than anything the band have produced before. Matt Tuck’s vocals are much stronger this time round too, and although the songs still conform to a fairly predictable formula and seldom do anything surprising, they do have a bit more punch and vigour about them. I’d give it a qualified thumbs-up if I was in any position to review it, but for some bizarre reason no one sent me a copy of the album and I had to listen to it on MySpace. Can’t think why.

Amusingly, the rock press has again fallen at the band’s feet and given them insanely positive reviews across the board for Fever. I don’t think it’s deserved in the slightest, but then a similar situation will arise when Iron Maiden release their new album later this year. In truth, no one wants to be the reviewer to put the boot in, even in the unlikely event that Maiden release a stinker. The same was true with Death Magnetic...a decent but basically unremarkable Metallica album that received no end of vociferous praise. The rock press don’t necessarily have the balls to lay into big bands and give them a verbal dressing down because the implications go far beyond upsetting a few fans and making the band do a big cry. There are political considerations too, and although that’s a shame – i.e. why should my honesty be compromised because a major label is threatening to withdraw advertising revenue? – it’s also the way of the world. But regardless of all that, there should always still be room for dissenting voices. I’m not a fan of Bullet For My Valentine, but I am a music journalist and a devoted metalhead and I have as much right to voice my doubts about the band and their music as anyone. Disagree with me, by all means, but don’t be a fucking twat about it, eh? Many thanks.

Dom Lawson 29/4/2010

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

SHUSH NOW, YOU WHINY TWATS!

Dear Morons Of The Internet,


I hope you’re happy and well and didn’t swallow your tongue during the night while dreaming about hitting yourself in the genitals with a plank of wood with nails sticking out of it. That just wouldn’t do, would it? The rest of us, slightly less stupid people on the internet, would feel so terribly sorry for you. Tears would be shed, I’m sure. Anyway, like I say, I hope you’re happy and well and the tongue-swallowing thing didn’t happen. All the best to you!


Meanwhile, it’s time for me to write another blog. Strangely, this one is about exactly the same thing as one of the previous ones I wrote. It’s funny how things turn out, isn’t it? I thought that the previous blog about this subject was pretty straightforward and easy to understand, but apparently not. I received all manner of abuse from the inarticulate, the ignorant and the irredeemably dim, including one actual threat of physical violence! Hard to believe, I know, but one must take the rough with the smooth, don’t you think? Live by the pen and die by the pen, and all that sort of bollocks.


(At this point, I feel I ought to point out that if you ARE one the “Morons Of The Internet” that I’m referring to, it would probably be sensible to stop reading this now. I know you may find this confusing, but I’m not actually aiming this blog at you. It does seem like I am, doesn’t it? It’s a little trick I use to justify what follows, to be honest. I’m not really aiming it at you, principally because I know exactly how you’re going to react and I’m not remotely interested in your opinions. Because, you know, you’re a moron! In fact, I’m aiming this blog at all the sane, rational and open-minded people that are capable of recognising things like sarcasm, irony and hyperbole, and who will probably agree with me anyway...or, at least, understand that the point I’m making is a valid one and that I’m merely writing it in an aggressive and over-the-top way for comic effect. I think all that stuff is a bit beyond you, to be fair, so if you stop reading now you’ll avoid getting all cross and hurting yourself when you bang your head against your laptop. It’s okay to be cross, of course. Even middle-aged millionaire Fred Durst gets a bit irate every now and then and has to break someone’s face (which seems a bit extreme, if you ask me, but he knows best), so you’re by no means alone in your desperate, impotent rage. Feel free to keep reading if you want to, though, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. I will be calling you a cunt at least once before the end of this. Just so you know. Oh, and by the way, if you’re the person that instructed me to “GO SUCK A COCK YOU FAG” recently, could you please tap your Caps Lock key before you make your next sexually-orientated suggestion? I don’t mind the implication that I’m a practising homosexual, but I really don’t like being shouted at. Thanks.)


Anyway, where were we? Oh, I know. Download. Yes. There was an another announcement last night, as you may well know. Another bunch of bands were added to the bill, some of which I was really pleased about and some that I wasn’t bothered about at all. That, my moronic friends, is the way the festival cookie crumbles. And, being a sentient being with a decent amount of common sense, I was able to take this new information and process it using only my brain, ending up with the fairly satisfying conclusion that I will probably have a really splendid time at Download this year, even though the bill does not precisely mirror my own personal wish list of bands. Sadly, it seems that many of you were not quite so willing or able to take the announcement on the proverbial chin. So, for your benefit, I’ve prepared a little list of facts that might help you to cope with any future announcements. You might want to read them a few times, just to make sure that you understand them. Or just read them once and write an immediate and staggeringly cretinous response that basically amounts to a violent dirty protest by a brain damaged chimpanzee. It’s entirely up to you which one of these approaches you wish to take. Now, here’s the list of facts that I mentioned earlier...


  1. THE WORLD IS NOT DESIGNED SPECIFICALLY TO MAKE YOU HAPPY

I know. It’s a fucking choker, isn’t it? Imagine my disappointment when I found out! I was livid. I even wrote a stern letter to my MP, demanding that everything in the entire world should be reorganised for my convenience and gratification, but I guess they must have mislaid it because I never got a reply. Honestly, it’s enough to make you spit! Still, I got used to the idea eventually. It’s called growing up and not being a total fuckwit. Not everything in life is perfect. Not everything that happens to you will be positive. That’s just the way it is, as Bruce Hornsby memorably sang. Whatever happened to Bruce Hornsby? He probably got run over by a bus. Or crushed by a falling piano. That would be fucking ironic, wouldn’t it? Poor old Bruce. Anyway, the point is that the world is not designed specifically to make you happy. Your parents may have given you that impression when you were a toddler, and Christ knows I try to do the same for my kids, but there will come a time when things start to happen that will piss you off. You’ll lose things. Electrical equipment will stop working. TV shows that you like will be cancelled and replaced with more banal crap about sexy vampires. Your football team will lose against a non-league club in the FA Cup. Your girlfriend/boyfriend will decide that you’re a prick and cop off with someone else instead. In front of you. While laughing and giving you the finger (but not in a good way). You will become slightly chubby. People you love will die, you will become addicted to some terrible drug and everything you have ever believed in will crumble before your eyes, leaving you in a harrowing and miserable vortex of despair and misery that will eventually cause you to abandon all hope and start listening to All-Time Low. And, as if that wasn’t punishment enough, the Download organisers will put a bill together that doesn’t give you an instant boner and make you dance around your padded cell singing ‘Walking On Sunshine’. That’s just the way it is. And some things will never change. Poor old Bruce.


  1. OTHER FESTIVALS ARE AVAILABLE

I know it’s hard to accept. You’ve only ever heard of one festival and you go every year, expecting the bill to be an accurate representation of your CD collection and the beer to be free and that you will be transported from one end of the site to the other on the shoulders of people you’ve never met before...and they’re all chanting your name and offering you sexual favours and as much Hog Roast as you can eat without getting worms. That’s pretty much what Download 2009 was like for me, to be honest, so I know where you’re coming from. But what you might not realise is that there are some other festivals taking place this summer. That’s shocked you, hasn’t it? Well, it’s true. I’ve checked. In the UK alone there are several other rock/metal festivals which may or may not cater for your needs and/or send you into a blind and pitiful fit of anger. Sonisphere. Bloodstock. High Voltage. That other one in Hyde Park. Stevie Wonder’s playing, apparently. Furthermore, there are literally several festivals taking place in Europe, some of which are exclusively metal-orientated, which means that if you are genuinely allergic to listening to anything other than Slayer or Pantera, then you may be able to last the weekend without feeling outraged or threatening a music journalist with a kicking. Personally, I’m hoping to attend the very marvellous Hole In The Sky festival in Bergen, Norway. It looks awesome. However, I will definitely not be attending Glastonbury, despite the fact that Willie Nelson is on. The rest of the bill looks rubbish, but rather than going online and leaving a stream of illiterate insults on the Glastonbury forum, I have decided to exercise free will and put the whole sorry incident down to experience. After all, there’s always Download. I rather like the look of the line-up. How do you feel about it? Actually, don’t answer that. You fuckwit.


  1. SKINDRED WERE THE BEST BAND ON AT HAMMERFEST THIS YEAR.

They just were. I’d love to be able to tell you that it was Iced Earth, Devildriver or Akercocke, all of whom were brilliant, but I guarantee that if you took a straw poll of everyone who attended Hammerfest this year, Skindred would be overwhelmingly voted the band of the weekend. They’re not a metal band in the traditional sense of the term, of course, and there’s no reason at all why anyone should be obliged to like them, but the fact remains that they tore the place apart and made a large room full of people very happy indeed. You can squint, dribble and bark “It’s not metulz!” at me all you like. But I’m right. Just saying, like.


  1. BEING NEGATIVE ABOUT EVERYTHING IS NOT AWESOME!

It’s just dull, really. It makes you seem dull. It makes you seem extraordinarily self-absorbed and misguided and ignorant and petulant and spoilt. It makes going onto the Metal Hammer website to see what people are saying about the music we write about a tiresome experience, rather than a joyous one. It makes everyone’s lives a little less enjoyable and a bit more stressful. And, perhaps more importantly, it achieves absolutely fuck all. There are plenty of bands I don’t like, festival line-ups that don’t appeal to me, TV shows that irritate me, celebrities that I’d like to hit with a bat, alcoholic drinks that make me do sicky burps and people – lots and lots of people – that I find mind-rapingly stupid and pointless, but other than occasionally writing a moderately amusing blog about such things, as a cheap substitute for proper therapy, I really have no desire to spend any more of my life focusing on any of it than I already have to. Maybe it’s something you learn when you get older and pull your once beautiful face out of your own arse. I’m not sure. But there are few things more likely to spoil your own life than the sound of your own whining, moaning, self-important, flatulent voice, droning on and on and on about how everything’s shit and how everyone else is a wanker and WAH WAH WAH MUMMY DOESN’T LOVE ME AND I’VE GOT A CRAP MOBILE PHONE AND SMALL SEXUAL ORGANS AND A DAFT HAIRCUT AND TWILIGHT ON DVD AND WAH WAH WAH I’M SO DESPERATE TO BE COOL PLEASE LOVE ME MUMMY PLEASE LOVE ME MUMMY WAH WAH WAH DO YOU WANT FRIES WITH THAT? WAH WAH WAH!!!!!


Seriously. Chill the fuck out. You don’t like the Download line-up. Big fucking deal. It’s still going to sell out and we’re all going to have a brilliant time. Stay at home. Enjoy some re-runs of Two Pints Of Lager. Eat some cheese. Slit your own throat. Whatever. Just stop fucking moaning. You cunts.


Lots of love,


Dom “Sucking A Cock And Really Rather Enjoying It” Lawson


Thursday, 21 January 2010

AN ALL-TIME LOW FOR ROCK 'N' ROLL...HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Rock ‘n’ roll is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? That joyful, celebratory, life-affirming racket that we fill our ears with every day…it’s one of the few things that stops us all from hurling ourselves in front of a passing bus. And although most of us have neither the cash nor the freedom to truly indulge in the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, it’s still something to which we can intermittently aspire, whether via the medium of a balls-out, drunken Friday night or a brainless, debauched, oh-shit-the-neighbours-called-the-police house party. Failing that, we can always live vicariously through a handful of bands that genuinely walk it like they talk it; the true rock ‘n’ rollers that live life at full throttle, with a semi-drained bottle of Wild Turkey in one fist, a massive bag of illegal drugs in the other and a pair of swivel-eyed groupies doing something unspeakable in the general vicinity of the groin area down below. People like Lemmy. People like KISS. People like Motley fucking Crue. Bands that make an ear-smashing stiff-dick din and put on a show that makes your eyes spin, before buggering off to the dressing room to snort a huge line of tits and throw a tour bus out of the window. Yeah. Rock ‘n’ roll, baby! Living the dream, 24 goddamn 7, with a puke-encrusted t-shirt and shoes that are ACTUALLY ON FIRE RIGHT NOW AND I DON’T EVEN CARE THAT I MAY NEVER BE ABLE TO WALK AGAIN DUE TO SEVERE THIRD DEGREE BURNS!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

So yeah, rock ‘n’ roll is awesome, and it’s always good to hear about new bands that are upholding those wild and crazy traditions. On the other hand, there are few things more depressing and dispiriting than reading interviews with some of the latest generation of mainstream rock bands that are currently being fawned over by certain other publications that you may know and/or love. In a newly published interview that you can read in all its hideous, shameful glory this week, pop-punk fucknuggets All-Time Low have decided to announce that they’re “the Motley Crue of our generation”. Once the mind stops boggling, it’s worth taking a closer look at the interview, because in fairness to these simpering tools, they do seem to be dimly aware of the fact that they are far about as far removed from Nikki Sixx and his drug-munching comrades as it is humanly possible to be. All of which makes this one of the more disingenuous and ultimately meaningless non-stories to hit the internet in recent times. And that’s no mean feat.

But let’s look a little deeper into the mind-blowingly vacuous and creatively dead world of All-Time Low. I’m going to have a little peek at one of their videos on YouTube right now, just for you and in the name of journalistic integrity, research and all that other bollocks. Bear with me a second…

…right, this song is called Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t). It’s really not very good. Something inside me died about 40 seconds in, to be honest. To be fair, it’s probably not aimed at devilishly handsome but slightly overweight 37-year-old music journalists with functioning brains, but by Christ, if this is what gets the blood racing for teenagers these days, I’m absolutely delighted to be a couple of decades ahead and just that little bit closer to death. No wonder these pointless cockwads “always break stuff” when they’re drunk on half a shandy and a packet of Maltesers. It’s probably a necessary exercise in catharsis, as it slowly dawns on them that their band makes McFly sound like Behemoth and that their haircuts look like comedy wigs from a provincial theatre costume cupboard. Like far too many so-called rock bands these days, All-Time Low have no edge whatsoever. They have the slick, over-produced, sing-along tunes, without a doubt, but their music has no balls, no bite and nothing that anyone with healthy sexual organs could possibly describe as charisma. The self-consciously wacky videos, the goofy interviews in which they admit to “stealing parking cones”, the general air of smug, major label complacency…it’s all symptomatic of a generation of bands that have absolutely no fucking clue what rock ‘n’ roll is all about. There’s no hunger here. No energy. No irresistible urge to howl into the void and grab life by the knackers. It’s just safe, tame, painfully polite, utterly joyless and the exact opposite of everything that rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to represent. Lady Gaga is more rock ‘n’ roll than these twats, because at least she has the decency to be a mentalist with a penis.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing mainstream rock bands out there, and some brilliant punk bands and even some great bands that skilfully cross over from pop to punk or vice versa, but when bands like All-Time Low are being promoted as an exciting part of the rock ‘n’ roll world – our world, lest we forget – then we really are in trouble. Can you imagine being on the road with these bell-ends? After a couple of hours of forced wackiness and enough hairspray to suffocate a rhinoceros, you’d be desperate to set fire to them as they slept. Twice.

“We have more fun than most bands in the world,” says drummer Rian Dawson.

You really don’t. Now fuck off. You’re getting on my nerves.

Lots of love,

Dom Lawson xxx

HAPPY NEW YEAR...OR WHATEVER!

HAPPY NEW HEAVY METAL YEAR, FOLKS!

Here we are again, then. Another shiny new 12 months of breathing in, breathing out and trying to avoid being flattened by oncoming vehicles and large, horned mammals. I hope and trust you had a tolerable festive period and didn’t kill yourself by choking on turkey or by discovering, as I did to some considerable cost, that drinking red wine all day and then having a Sambuca/Bloody Mary drinking competition is the fastest way to ensure that Boxing Day is a whole world of horrible hell and PLEASE GOD KILL ME NOW I BLAME THE CHRISTIANS AAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGHHH! Meanwhile, I also hope that Santa brought you some nice socks and a DVD or two and whatever else it is that keeps you on the right side of thoroughly miserable in your squalid and vile part of the world. I’m a benevolent kind of guy, let’s face it. But enough of the cheery stuff. It’s pretty much beyond dispute that 2009 was a fantastic year for metal (and music in general, I’d say) but a pretty horrific, shit-stained disgrace of a year in every other respect. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, I’m writing this, not you, so shut the fuck up and observe my New Year’s Resolutions, none of which will be kept or taken remotely serious because I’m writing them FOR COMIC EFFECT. Do try to keep up.

THREE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

1. I WILL TRY, EVER SO HARD, TO STOP SAYING NASTY THINGS ABOUT METALLICA. It’s not like I don’t absolutely love everything they did from the No Life Till Leather demo up to and (possibly) including the Black Album. Metallica are, as we all know, one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time, the undisputed kings of the thrash metal era and one of the only genuinely heavy bands to ever truly conquer the mainstream. For all that, I doff my hat to them many times and at high speed. Yes, I realise I look ridiculous, but at least I’m not Danish. The struggle for me, however, is to fall into line with everyone else and smother my critical judgement in nostalgia and sentiment, rather than face up to the fact that (a) Metallica haven’t made a classic album for nearly 20 years and (b) they’re really not that brilliant live anymore. I did enjoy them at the O2 Arena last year, but my enjoyment was primarily based on the fact that it’s always good to hear those songs being played at ear-mangling volume and seeing thousands of people singing along and punching the air in a euphoric manner. Fun is a good thing. Of course it is. But, and here’s the clincher, I’m lucky enough to have seen Metallica several times “back in the day”, when Lars could still play the drums properly and the band were tighter than an emo kid’s drainpipes. They were so much better back then and played every last riff with utmost conviction and belief. As entertaining as Metallica are these days, they are pretty damn sloppy and sound more like a bunch of middle-aged musos having a jolly good time, rather than a bone-crunching, Devil-worshipping, whisky-stinking heavy metal band at the height of their powers. Megadeth, Slayer and maybe even Anthrax (if they can get their shit together and stop making tits of themselves) will blow them off the stage at Sonisphere in the summer. I’ll bet my knackers on it. But, you know, I won’t say anything nasty about Metallica this year, and nor will any other writers at British rock and metal magazines, all of whom will dish out the customary full marks and bang on about how they’ve just seen the greatest gig of their lives. You disingenuous twats.

2. I WILL DRINK A LOT LESS AND GET SOME EXERCISE. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! Oh, I crack myself up. I really do. I might give it a go, though. I do get quite envious of all the people I know that seem to have the time and money to go to “the gym” (whatever that means) and posture and preen while sweating profusely and haemorrhaging money left, right and sweetly narcissistic centre. It’s also undeniably true that our Wii Fit Plus balance board has started to emit little gasps every time I get on it to attempt another heroic bout of ski jumping. It even said “One at a time, please!” last week, in that irritating, child-like, quasi-Japanese voice that the creators of the Wii think will help to encourage you to lose more weight and stop thrusting fistfuls of Quality Street down your neck for six to eight weeks after Christmas. Not me, though. I’m on a high caffeine, low joy diet, as always. Fuck you, Nintendo.

3. I WILL TRY NOT TO CRY WHEN OPETH PLAY AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL.

Well, you know it is. You get into a band at the very beginning of their career and then you watch them evolve and grow into something truly special and meaningful…one of those bands that you know you’ll always listen to and love, and that you will want to play to everyone you know (even my mum has an Opeth CD by this point). And then you watch as that band starts to pick up a lot more press and sell a lot more records, and then finally they release an album that introduces them to a much bigger (and worldwide) audience…and then they’re not really just /your/ band anymore, but they still mean a whole lot. And then, because you’re a very lucky boy and have somehow managed to wangle a job as a music journalist despite arguably being better suited to mopping the floor in Burger King, you get to know the band on a personal level, conducting numerous interviews over a ten year period and spending loads of time with them at various venues and festivals around Europe and in the US…and let’s not forget that you also nick loads of their booze and get sexually assaulted by their singer in a coach park in New Jersey…and, well, like I said at the start, you know how it is. I fucking love Opeth and I’m so proud to see them celebrate their 20th anniversary in style. The gigs are going to rule…they’re playing Blackwater Park from beginning to end, in case you didn’t already know…and I am going to be a very pissed and very emotional wreck by the end of it all. My boys. Wonderful.

THREE NEW YEAR’S PREDICTIONS

1. THE SOUNDGARDEN REUNION WON’T SUCK BALLS.

It can’t. It’s simply unthinkable, and here’s why: there are many things that can and often do go wrong when supposedly legendary bands return after a long hiatus, mesmerised by the delicious allure of the promoter’s chequebook, but nothing can ever…EVER…detract from the overwhelming brilliance and ball-grabbing awesomeness of Kim Thayil’s beard. Never mind the fact that Kim Thayil is one of the greatest guitarists of all time or that Soundgarden were always a million times better and more interesting than Nirvana or that Jesus Christ Pose (along with the vast majority of the band’s catalogue, to be fair) still sounds utterly fresh a full 19 years after it was first released or that the four band members are generally believed to hate each other (which nearly always results in great music with lashings of electrifying edge) or that anything, no matter how tired, feeble or half-arsed, could ever be as appalling as that last Chris Cornell solo album (Dear Chris…that was fucking shit…reform Soundgarden or kill yourself…lots of love, everyone in the world xxx)…no, it’s all about Kim Thayil’s beard, and when you factor in the popular notion that he has been living in the wilderness for the last decade or so, living off fried cactus and wrestling coyotes while whacked off his grunge gourd on mescaline and Mountain Dew, the thought of the great man hitting the stage again and letting rip with those monumental riffs, that vast facial growth flapping gently amid the dry ice as vultures circle overheard…well, it’s pretty fucking exciting, don’t you think?

2. MEGADETH WILL TRIUMPH AT THE BIG FOUR SHOWS.

No, I’m not remotely predictable am I? As much as I hate the phrase “it’s a no-brainer”, this really is a no-brainer. Slayer are always good value for money, Anthrax will probably be hugely entertaining, assuming that they don’t absent-mindedly call John Bush a cunt on the way to the airport, and you can read my views on the ongoing Metallica debacle further up this page, but does Dave Mustaine ever fail to deliver the goods? No, he does not, particularly in recent times when he seems to be one of the only metal legends of his generation to truly understand what it means to honour a legacy and do things properly, performing with musicians who can really cut it, night after night, and making records that simultaneously fit perfectly with the modern era while providing plenty of old school money shots for the ageing faithful. If you don’t own a copy of Endgame yet, get to it. It was the finest metal album released in 2009 and one of the finest of the decade. Any other opinion is idiotic. And you can put that fact in your fact pipe and smoke it. Factually. Now fack off.

3. IRON MAIDEN WILL RULE ALL. AGAIN.

So predictable it actually makes my eyes ache, the inevitably glorious return of Iron Maiden, with a new studio album and yet more pant-shreddingly amazing live shows, is one of those banker phenomena that make the slow, knee-bruising crawl through another year’s worth of crushing disappointments, mild irritations and narrowly-escaped beatings just that teensy bit more bearable. A Matter Of Life And Death was one of the greatest albums that the band have ever made, and there’s nothing to suggest that they are not capable of topping it this time round. This might even be the last Maiden album, terrifyingly enough, so it’s hard to imagine Steve or Bruce or any of the band allowing a single second of it to be substandard. I’ve already got through three pairs of underpants today, just from thinking about the Sonisphere show, so I should be swimming in my own man-milk by the time summer arrives. And I can’t swim a stroke. What a way to go.

Arguably the band that most precisely encapsulates what Metal Hammer stands for as a magazine, Iron Maiden have been the soundtrack to most of my life and 2010 will be no different. I’ll see some of you at the shows, I imagine, and you’d better be singing your fucking hearts out. Either that or buying me a pint. Firm but fair. That’s my policy. Happy New Year, fuckers. Horns up!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

STORMCORPORATION EP

We can rant and rave all day about how metal bands need to be brutal and technically adept, but the fact remains that the difference between truly great bands and the merely mediocre is nearly always the ability to write memorable tunes. In that regard, Stormcorporation are already several large paces ahead of most other aspirational British metal bands. The five songs on their debut EP are absolutely bulging with melodies that lodge themselves somewhere in the skull and refuse to be shifted. But it’s the combination of that melodic intelligence with an overall sound that brilliantly straddles the divide between state-of-the-art metallic crunch and old school heroics, with a substantial dose of progressive dexterity thrown in, that makes songs like A Quiet Belief In Angels and Stand Up And Be Counted so thoroughly likeable and impressive. This is unashamedly modern metal that thinks big and wears its ambition as a badge of honour, but with more than enough brains and brawn to dispel cynicism from the metal die-hard contingent. And yes, Stormcorporation are, whisper it, “a female-fronted metal band”, but vocalist G-Storm side-steps the usual stereotypes, oozes genuine, dizzying charisma and sings with disarming power and enthralling authority, particularly on EP highlight Megatronix; a classic metal anthem emboldened with myriad twists, turns and tangential leaps. It’s only on the mid-paced introspection of Serious Damage that this Preston-based quintet sound anything less than remarkable; a sturdy but traditional ballad, it proves that the band have versatility and depth, but lacks the electrifying urgency displayed elsewhere. Nonetheless, this is a debut effort that sounds like the work of a band that already know precisely what they’re doing. And what they’re doing is pretty fucking awesome. Ones to watch in 2010, without a doubt.

Check them out HERE!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

JOHN LAWSON 1932-2009

Being a writer and all-round opinionated bore, words don’t often fail me, but I’m finding it extremely hard to describe how I feel this morning. Last Friday night, my father passed away after what we are, I suppose, obliged to refer to as “a long battle with cancer”. He slipped away in the night, at home and in bed with my mum (just as it should be), and he leaves a yawning chasm behind, not just for me but for my entire family and anyone who ever knew him.

I know almost everyone thinks that their parents are infallible, but my dad really was a wonderful human being. He was a kind, generous, gentle and fiercely intelligent man who never knowingly said or did anything that caused pain or sadness to another living being. Most remarkable of all, he seldom spoke unless he had something to say. God knows, the world could use a few more people like that.

In some respects I didn’t have a huge amount in common with my dad. I didn’t share his religious faith, his political views, his taste in music or his calamitous dress sense, but those things are utterly trivial when you love someone as much I loved him. The important thing is that I always knew that my dad loved me and was proud of me, despite my many faults, and that he knew that I felt the same way towards him. And I admired him immensely. I’m lucky enough to do what I love for a living, and my dad was the same. An insanely talented artist, he designed stained glass windows for a living and leaves behind an astonishing legacy of beautiful creations that, with luck, will survive for many hundreds of years. I can only hope that I will be able to make such a lasting and worthwhile mark on the world. I also hope that I can become a little bit more like my dad along the way.

I miss him terribly and will carry his memory in my heart forever, as will my mum and my two sisters, Rebecca and Helena. We all love you, Dad.