Friday, February 19, 2010

Into Another - Ignaurus

You know how I know when an album I own and love doesn't get enough love on the internet? When the best image you can find to gank for your own hot-air-review based blog is a shitty, grainy scan from the record label that released it like 15 years ago. This is the first request I have ever had for Mediocrity. My friend, Scott Sheridan asked for me to write it up and I am glad he did because my blog was lacking in things that weren't extreme metal.

By the time I had graduated high school (1995), I had drifted pretty far from metal. I was listening to a bunch of crazy stuff. Mostly arty punk and no wave stuff like the Minutemen, and the Swans, Lots of 80's "deathrock" like Sisters Of Mercy, Bauhaus and Siouxsie. There was still a pretty healthy addiction to Sabbath, but I was totally convinced that metal and I were just done. This was to change in the next 5 years, but first, metal needed to flirt with me again. Metal's first re-flirtations with me were through Snapcase, Strife, Harvest and the early metalcore bands. Eventually, I was to hear Converge's "Petitioning The Empty Sky" which sent me running headfirst to the closet to dig out my warped cassette copies of "Clandestine" and "Necroticism," but that was still some years off. I played in a hardcore band for a few months right out of school, but shortly fell out of favor with those guys. In the meantime, I was discovering the "emotional" post-punk sounds. I cringe to use the term that was first used for bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Texas Is The Reason and Sensefield, but that was what we called it. They had inherited the mantle from the primarily DC based "emo" punk scenes of the late 80's/early 90's, smoothed the rougher edges, and expanded the melodic possibilities of the form to create a style that was part Smiths, part Supertramp, and part spastic temper tantrum.

You could draw a line directly between the sounds of most of those musics I just mentioned (sans the extreme metal.) using the music of Into Another, so they were like tailor made for me to get into. They were clearly heavy metal influenced, but melodically experimental. They each had an obvious restrained virtuosity to their playing, but they were given to dropping in a Sabbath sized throb on occasion to spice things up. Richie Birkenhead's choir-boy range was emotive, but not in the OTT "crying with his back to the crowd" kinda way. There was no equipment destruction at the end of their performances, but they were obviously talented enough, that should they have decided to do so, they would have stayed in key while doing it. They could somehow be both uplifting like the lead off songs to the first two Boston albums, but still be as dark as any goth band out there. So many people just didn't get it. I remember some clueless assclown journalist comparing their first album to Motley Crüe. Into Another set out to do a number of very different and progressive things with their songs, and accomplished every single one of their goals in flying colors, but in a very tasteful and thought provoking manner. Peter Moses is still one of my favorite guitarists to ever walk the earth. Listen to the first 80 seconds of Ignaurus to find out why. Tony Bono opens with one of the most memorable basslines I know of, and Moses lays a modal, quasi-legato solo over the top of it that was slightly flashy, but introduced any who heard it to one of the few guitar players of the 90's that could solo with a unique style and still be a respectable player at the end of it. Moses never sounded masturbatory or self indulgent and his jazz-hippie-metal canoodling was as integral to the Into Another sound as Ritchie's voice.

I was sold from there. Tony Bono is John Entwistle cool in my book. He would literally MAKE the song for me a lot of times. Ritchie has mad pipes, and Peter Moses plays the aforementioned guitar hero/anti-hero swimmingly, but Bono provides the hook more often than not. All involved could outplay anyone in the scene at the time, but they always seemed to take the high road, or at least, if someone WAS getting notey and noodly, it never seemed like it.

Into Another had their fair share of media exposure at the time, but they had terrible marketing. No one was interested in a couple of ex-NYHC straight edge guys and two long haired metal players who all dressed like hippies and played arty, spiritual, mature progressive rock. They didn't wear oversized chinos, or have a rapper, or dreadlocks, or a political agenda, or played 7 string guitars, or gang choruses, or any of those tired cliches (even at that time) that record labels were flogging to drum up sales. The band just didn't have a very good visual hook and they made the mistake of going for the gold and signing to the major disguised as an indie with no obvious marketing savior-faire when it came to any kind of highbrow music (clearly the territory of the indie labels.) For some ungodly reason, Into Another were basically marketed as a metal band, when they were merely metal influenced, and when provoked, only displayed the most thoughtful and well mannered aggression on album. Would they have had a shot had they been marketed differently? Perhaps to a more Soundgarden crowd (I always think of Peter Moses and Kim Thayil as musically kin.) I dunno. It didn't work for Voivod. They lost almost all their early fans by the time they released Angel Rat and were clearly gunning for the flannel crowd. (Moses could also beg a strong comparison to Piggy's playing of that era.) They got a video or two on Headbanger's Ball I think, and were featured numerous times in Metal Maniacs (which is where I first heard of them.) but that was about it. The internet was still in it's infancy at this point and the label was eventually swallowed up in the "great conglomeration" of record labels in the mid 90's and they were one of the bands to get the axe. The record industry were clamoring for the next Nirvana in the wake of the Cobain suicide and had no time for anything they could not hang a sign THEY could be comfortable hanging. It was not for trying though. Into Another got a damned healthy promotional push for a time, during that nebulous time of the 120 minutes "BuzzBin" which I don't believe they ever got featured on.

They split up in 1996. There was no farewell tour, and probably not even an official final show. In 1995 they released "Seemless," which is basically an extension of this album with some smoother edges. I like them both about equal for different reasons. Seemless has some really great moments and is as equally worth tracking down (yr likely to find it in a dollar bin somewhere.) It's as much a work of genius as Ignaurus, but Ignaurus is the darker horse of the two. There was an unreleased album as well.  I heard it, it sounded unfinished.  There were alot of electronics involved, not much guitar, and it was pretty unclear what they were focusing on.  Into Another were shelved by whatever record label absorbed Hollywood Records and they just sort of quietly disappeared.

In 2002, Tony Bono sadly passed away unexpectedly, shocking the metal, punk, hardcore and emo worlds that this band straddled so effortlessly and equally. His work in Into Another influenced my own bass playing heavily. I read in an interview with Ritchie was that the last time anyone knew of Peter Moses's whereabouts was at Tony's funeral. Moses did not keep in touch with Ritchie and Drew after the band dissolved. In this age of "legendary" and underappreciated reforming and playing for the crowds that they never had when they were initially active ("Kyuss Lives?" Without Josh Homme? c'mon.) it's especially heartbreaking to know that this is one act that will never play again.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ocean - Monument/Fork Lashing Eye 2004 CDR demo

You know something that is sweet about demos? They are short. Sometimes, albums just go on too long and don't have enough to say. Some of my favorite albums are victims of this. "And Justice For All" really could have done without the 9 minute songs. Demos are graceful and quick to upload and download. No splitting of the archive, or timeouts on the server. Wanna know something that is a fucking DRAG about demos? They are SHORT. I have a 20 minute drive to work and that is not enough time to get into the meat of a good album. No "Forest Of Equilibrium" for me in the morning. I'm a third of the way in by the time I am through the intro. If you are listening to something, you almost want it to be something you are not that interested in, or something that can pert-near complete itself within the time frame granted. So the What The Fuck?!? demo posted a few posts back leaves me driving 75mph on the interstate and rather unsafely removing my eyes from the road while trying to find something else in my iPod to listen to that will interest me for the next seven and a half minutes. ("You know, and I know, I can't live without my radio")

Maine's Ocean really felt the need to write ten (twenty... thirty) minute songs. On their self released 2004 demo, they had it right. Two songs, 25 minutes long. Perfect drive-to-work length. It's before they had figured out how to be molasses slow too, so it's not like it puts me to sleep on the way (another good reason not to listen to "Forest Of Equilibrium" while driving I guess.) Playing tectonically slow really takes some tweaking on the groups's part. It takes a keen sense of time amongst all involved for everyone to stay together.

My old band played with Ocean in Cleveland some years ago. At that time, the only thing they had released was this 2 song demo. It was not terribly indicative of their live sound, but it was crushing nonetheless. They had just re-recorded their entire debut album after being entirely unhappy with what they had recorded with Sanford Parker in Chicago. I don't know how that can be possible, but their reasons I think had more to do with their own performances and they just ran out of time to get it the way they wanted it. (Something about it not being slow enough.) Ocean are obviously perfectionists in many regards. Their second album, "Pantheon Of The Lesser" is an utter fucking sludge/doom masterpiece, probably the last sludge/doom masterpiece that was ever recorded. The second song (Of The Lesser) is like 37 minutes long, it's super super slow and it STILL rules from beginning to end. It's REALLY hard for something super super slow to be able to do that. It took them 2 years of writing to get it right apparently, and when they did, it was a doozie. It doesn't get boring, and I highly recommend you get it if you like it slow. Then again, if you already like it slow, you probably already own it.

You may NOT however, own their highly sought after "Monument/Fork Lashing Eye" 2 song, self released CDR demo. Weep no more, for I do. I finally got around to scanning the cover as well. Ocean were some of the most solid guys I have ever met. They gave me my pick of T shirts, but I was grabby and not thinking and grabbed a small. Sold it some years ago. Still kicking myself. I should have at least made it into a back patch or something cuz I REALLY love this band. They released this on a limited 500 copy run of 12" vinyl with sick, handmade packaging a few years ago. Doubtless, it sold out. Here is your chance to at least have it in some form if you so desire.