To Raise the Cup of Stanley, To Drink the Sweet Nectar of Victory At Long Last

(This was an email reply to my dad but it also works well as an essay on my odd relationship with hockey. #ALLCAPS #WEGOTTHECUP)

Hockey… the sport of kings. Or at least, the sport of those with winter bound hides who revel in any opportunity to smash into each other at high speed while on ice skates, chasing after a hardened piece of rubber known affectionately as the “biscuit”. Growing up in California and Texas, hockey wasn’t a part of my sports DNA because the rink at the Gallery discouraged fore-checking into the boards. Ironically both California and Texas have healthy hockey cultures now, and in fact, my first hockey game was a Houston Aeros minor league match. I found it intriguing but also utterly foreign, somewhat akin to the first time one tries sushi. Why wouldn’t you just dip the whole thing in batter and deep fry it? It makes no sense.

NHL_Hockey_CoverartHowever, enter the world of video games sports. While attending Florida State (and a quick but heart felt shout out to the FSU Softball team for earning their first national championship) and working at The Mill Bakery, Eatery, and Brewery I fell in with some enthusiastic young men who introduced me to the Sega Genesis version of hockey, NHL Hockey 1991. Weekend long tournaments were held. Brackets were created. Bets were made. Drinks and other substances were consumed. Some people won, others (like me) lost but had an amazing time and started to vaguely get a grasp on the rules of this sport. Icing was no longer something reserved strictly for cake. Boarding wasn’t giving the ne’er-do-wells a place to live. Two-man advantage wasn’t just a bad ass punk band from New York.

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I hated the Penguins even back in 1993. HATED.

When I moved to Houston after graduating college, the first major purchase I made with my JC Penny credit card (the only card I qualified for at the time) was a Sega Genesis and the first game I bought was NHLPA 1993. This game featured stellar hockey stars in their prime and even without a license from the NHL (no team names or logos) it provided hours upon booze-and-drug soaked hours of entertainment for me and my equally insane roommates. I may or may not have smashed a few controllers over my head after particularly heartbreaking loses at the hands of that bastard Wayne Gretsky.

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Frenzy, the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks mascot. Yes, your mascot well never be as cool as this… thing.

Flash forward several forgettable years and I found myself back in Tallahassee. Expansion hockey had moved into town in the form of the ECHL’s Tallahassee Tiger Sharks. Already primed to enjoy the fastest sport on ice (sorry, curling fanatics, but you play with brooms and there is no cross-checking… in fact I would watch curling if one were allowed to hook the opponents legs out from under them as they mosey down the ice strip, sweeping away) I went to as many games as I could (turns out taking ladies from exotic up-north locations such as Chicago or Boston to a hockey game is the equivalent of giving southern women tequila) and even got to mingle with the players at the bar of the restaurant that curried my employment at the time. The players were smaller in person than I imagined, had outrageous accents (more exotic locales such as Czechoslovakia, Minsk, or Bangor, Maine) and usually walked away from the bar with all the women and left an enormous tab for someone else to pick up. I was hooked.

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Ray Ferraro, the Thrashers first captain, bobbling his head.

When the ever expanding fortunes of the NHL came to Atlanta, Debbie and I were quick to attend many of the Thrasher’s home games of the inaugural season. Tickets were reasonably priced, the arena was brand new and very nice, and as long as you didn’t mind being constantly abused by Toronto Maple Leafs fans during a game, it was a congenial atmosphere. The Thrashers were never a good team despite some first round picks of Russian vagabonds, but they did manage to make it to the playoffs one year. Of course we had to go. We took the kids and were treated to a sweep out of the playoffs by the Rangers from New York and it wasn’t too many years later that the Thrashers folded up shop and moved to Winnipeg where they became the Jets (again) and are now poised to make deep playoff runs (having lost to Vegas this year).

We moved to the DMV in 2013 and I was very happy because DC had a hockey team. I’d never paid that much attention to the Capitals, outside of knowing that Peter Bondra was a fearsome opponent in the Sega Genesis NHLPA 1993. But we embraced the Caps as our new home-town hockey team and have gone to at least a couple of games every season… and, given our history in Atlanta, were well positioned to root for a team that performed well in the season and folded in the playoffs. I became familiar with the “close but not quite enough”, the playoff runs that went 7 games only to be lost by the slimmest of margins. I also renewed my hatred for the Pittsburgh Penguins, in particular that son-of-a-bitch Sidney Crosby who is by all accounts a nice guy but he’d better never end up in front of my car in the middle of a busy intersection. When it came time to renew our license plates, we debated between going with the Nationals or the Capitals and ended up going with the Caps. Of course, this is why the team won the Cup this year. To suggest anything different is just ludicrous.

There was talk the window was closing, that Ovi was going into a decline, that he would be a Hall of Fame player but never have the team around him needed to win the Cup. They couldn’t find the chemistry, that mystical combination of skill and talent and luck that would turn it all around. The first time I saw Kuznetzov on the ice I said to anyone who would listen that he was the piece they’d been looking for to compliment “the Great Eight” and Nick Backstrom. They added piece after piece… Burakovsky, TJ Oshie, Bruce Orpik, Devonte Smith-Pelly, Tom Wilson, Lars Eller. We went to the final game of the season this year and watched Ovechkin chase 50 goals and just barely miss the mark… but they easily won the game. I had a good feeling.

This post season the Caps seemed to be poised for another quick exit, down two games in the first round to the John Tortarolla (a persistent thorn in the Caps crown) and the Columbus Blue Jackets. They’d lost two overtime games when the “puck luck” had gone against them. Then they changed goalies, righted the ship, and dealt the Blue Jackets as sound a defeat as Nathan Bedford Forrest ever had (a cheap but historically relevant shot). Next up were the hated – HATED – Penguins, who have historically had the Caps number come post season. And as quickly as you could say “Sidney Crosby has a venereal disease which has disfigured his ball sack in such a way as to render it unrecognizable as a human sexual organ” the Capitals had dispatched their rivals.

An odd thing began to happen. People around here started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, this was the year. But hockey disappointment around here is a structurally sound part of the fan base. The frustration of the early expansion years. The sweep by the Red Wings the only time the Caps made it to the Finals in 1998 (the Red Army line was still clicking for the Wings). Playoff bounce after playoff bounce even though the team seemed better than that. I can’t speak for long time Caps fans who have waited since 1974 for something to finally go their way. I don’t feel their pain, as I’ve only been a fan since 2013 and honestly these have been pretty darn good years to root for them despite their lack of the ultimate playoff victory.

The prognosticators said that we couldn’t beat the Tampa Bay Lightening. They were too fast, too skilled. But the Caps went out and played a style of hockey I hadn’t seen in years: a variation of the neutral zone trap, which forces the opponent into playing dump and chase and takes away the speed factor. Rough forechecking and backchecking, smash mouth hockey, coupled with skilled goal tending and a powerplay that featured Ovechkin lurking around the right faceoff circle ready to unleash his deadly one-timer. We were in the Cup.

Vegas had a storybook year. As someone who watched an expansion team struggle to win even a handful of games in Atlanta, it was really cool to watch from afar as Vegas lead their division all year. They had a great playoff run. They had a goalie in Fleury who had bedeviled the Caps before when he was with the Penguins. They were a high scoring offensive machine. But the hockey gods are as cruel and capricious as Crom or Cthulhu. Shots rang off the post. Open chances were blown. Those crazy bounces that always seemed to go against the Caps finally started to go their way. We won a road game. The two wins at home were dominating. Even the one loss at the Medieval Times – I mean Vegas Knights – home rink was a barn burner. And then came game five…

We went to eat at the Bungalow Alehouse, a local pub here in Prince William County. Arthur the Bartender has been an ardent Caps fan since he moved here from Georgia. He even went to Vegas and saw game one. He also made a $1,000 dollar bet on the Caps to win in 5 games at 35:1 odds… and couldn’t find his betting stub, lost somewhere in transit. He chastised us for not staying for the game, but we had tickets to the Potomac Nationals (minor league affiliate of the Nats) and left the bar before the puck dropped but promised to return if it looked promising. While watching the P-Nats drop another game to some damn team or other, we kept an eye on the ESPN scoreboard. 1-0. 1-1. 2-1. 2-2. 2-3 at the end the second period and I said, “Well, let’s just go home, I don’t know about this.”

When we got home, I took off my Caps gear because whenever I wear the shirt and hat and all that we seemed to lose. We sat down and watched as they tied it up on a Smith-Pelly goal that he scored falling onto his face. Then Lars Eller poked one in and we were up 4-3 with 7 minutes left. We were on our feet and like the song, breathless. Fleury was pulled from the goal and we missed several chances to salt it away but the clock kept running (even if the arena clock didn’t, a last minute bit of magical buffoonery that could only have been the work of Penn and Teller). I knew they’d won it, even before the final faceoff with .6 seconds on the clock.

USP NHL: STANLEY CUP FINAL-WASHINGTON CAPITALS AT S HKN VGK WSH USA NVI’ve watched the Cup raised many times (in video games and on TV) and always liked the notion that the names of the players were on the trophy. That’s just cool. No one else does that. And when they won… well, I was… I was perhaps a little underwhelmed. But hear me out. I’m a johnny-come-lately. I’ve only been a fan for a few years. I have a lot of admiration for the team but even in the few years of my fandom, they’ve really let down the side and that got to me. I had to put some distance on it this year, my blood pressure couldn’t take it if I was too invested. I was resigned to yet another fateful ending. Only this time, the hockey gods decreed it was the Capitals year. The puck luck was on their side. I was happy, but not in tears. And yet…

Seeing the look on their faces as they hoisted the Cup over their heads was priceless. It’s such a hard thing to do and it really is a great accomplishment. I’m so happy for the fans who have been with them since 1974 and never wavered. I’m happy for DC, which really does need something to celebrate in this Era of Idiocracy.

But I’m really sad for Arthur the Bartender. $35,000 dollars just went up in smoke even though his dreams of a Cup came true. The vagaries of life… now that’s something to ponder.

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It Was Fifty Years Ago Today…

…Dr. Satan told the band to slay
They’ve walked down the Green Mile
Still sharp as a crocodile’s smile
So may I introduce to the world
A band you’ve known for years
Seabass and His Clan of Merry Misfits!

The first person to wish me many happy returns on the day this morning was my lovely wife Debbie, who sang Happy Birthday as I crawled out of a dream about flying around in a car above the streets of San Francisco while being menaced by shadowy and sinister forces. We still don’t have flying cars. I just knew we would by now… but I digress.

The second person to wish me happy birthday was Google, which seems strangely appropriate given our current state of technological mania. Google was also happy to inform me that I share a birthday with Don Rickles, Harry Truman, Enrique Iglesias, and Chiu Yi the muckraking Chinese legislator. Germany surrendered to the Allies on this day in 1945, so that’s a good thing. In addition, Google was kind enough to tell me about two new inmates to the Manatee County Jail: Elizabeth Duerr, on warrants for providing false owner information on pawn items less than $300 and dealing or possessing stolen property, $18,000 bond; and Covington Raney, on contempt of court, no bond. Elizabeth! What were you thinking? You’ve tainted my birthday, shame on you.

Shout out to my birthday buddies Don York, Masuhara Iwasa, and Anthony Reidler. Happy Birthday, guys. Let’s show this day who’s boss around here!

Since I’m unlikely to ever return to my birth weight of seven pounds/fourteen ounces, I’m making up for it by letting my hair return to my birth hair of seventeen thin follicles held in place with superglue. It’s been 17,897 days since the fateful May morning in Sonora, CA in 1968 but if I’m to count my age by beers it’s been 19, 438 so make of that what you will. By shoes, it’s 56 pairs and 14 cleats. By guitar strings… well, you get the idea.

As I ate my hale and hearty morning cup of plain, no-fat, utterly tasteless yogurt made the Greek way (which I hope means it was whipped up on the thighs of Spartan women but it probably doesn’t), which I eat because my cholesterol hangs in the balance between vaguely healthy and OH MY GOD YOU’RE GOING TO DIE, I was given to contemplating what has transpired in the five decades since my birth.

Hits on parade: heavy metal, the Star Wars original trilogy, Swamp Thing, Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers, video games, Tina Belcher.

Swing and a miss: eternal war, Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football, the Star Wars prequel trilogy, bro-country, prescription drug advertising on television.

Rooster Cogburn once told me that looking back is a bad habit, but I mean to make a liar out of that one-eyed fat man. I somehow managed to avoid joining “Club 27” though I did make a run at it. When I realized my life would last longer that twenty-seven years, I did my best to have fun within reason and get a few things accomplished. I’m proud of the words I’ve written, the comics I’ve drawn, the music I’ve played, and the the lines I’ve spoken on the stage. I know I’ve made a few enemies along the way, and I’m sorry about that, but I’ve tried to make more friends than enemies and treat people with the dignity and respect they deserve.

If it’s all a slippery slide from here toward the inevitable date with death (I’m buying, but it’s going to be at the original Eddie’s Pizza so I have some leftover to take with me), then I’ll try to make the balance of my life as fun, loving, productive, and silly as the first part. I look forward to more sun filled days on the diamond scooping up grounders and making weak, off target throws to first. Long walks with my wife. Getting published (finally). Being kind to cats. Sharing my extensive knowledge of obscure cultural references with anyone stupid enough to get within earshot. And of course, more pints of fine ale shared in the company of hobbits.

Time is like a river of green sliding unseen beneath the trees (© Alan Parson/Roger Waters) and I have enjoyed punting down it, occasionally dipping my hand into the waters and letting the fish nibble on my fingers. Tomorrow may creep along at a petty pace from day to day (© Bill “Noodles” Shakespeare) but I plan to make the most of the ones I have still to come.

Cheers, well met, hail and fare thee well. Until we met again, may the hair on your toes fall out and somehow be magically transported to the top of my head.

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For Metal Fans Only

MordorO Father Befouled,
Hearken to the Witchcryer
Chanting the grim
Incantation of the Nihilist,
Who has Unleashed trve Mayhem
And Pestilence upon the outcast dead
Who would seek to
Dismember those once Entombed.

Slayer of the Haunted,
Be not Illdisposed toward the
Circle of Dead Children who open
The Paths of Possession to bring forth the
Morbid Angel to Swallow the Sun
And Master the Rotten Sound.

Drown the Human Remains in the
Cradle of Filth and spatter Carnage over
The Blood Red Throne;
Let the Immolation of the Cannibal Corpse
Be done upon the Altar of Hate Eternal!
For surely Daylight Dies when the
Knights of the Abyss tear down the Despised Icon
Once and for all time.

Bring us to the Edge of Sanity and usher in
An Epoch of Unlight, Terrorize the masses,
For we have Exhumed the Grave of the
Malevolent Creation and carouse in the
Gorguts of the Carcass, exposing the Brutal Truth
And the Hypocrisy behind the Fleshgod Apocalypse.

Heaven Shall Burn when the Gates of Ishtar
Are open to the Nile, and we have
Sentenced to Death the Sons of Azrael,
And Misery of Winter rides through a Bloodbath
Upon a Behemoth, lurching Into Eternity
Under the sign of the Hellhammer.

A Cancer upon those who oppose the
Legion of the Damned! We shall Raise Hell
And Salt the Wound from the plains of Gorgoroth
To the Bloody Shore, and we will see through
The Eyes of the Dead as the Skinless, Septic Flesh
Flows Upon the Deadtide to forever infest the Soils of Fate.

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The Comic Shop Conundrum

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Don Simpson’s Yarn Man. This is where my sense of humor resides. I’m weird.

As I browsed the latest and greatest news articles that the mysterious Google algorithms had deduced were what I wanted to see, I ran across this story on Gizmodo.

I’m not going to quibble with the author, a Mr. Charles Pulliam-Moore. And by that I mean, I am going to quibble, but I’m not going to try not to be a jackass about it. His experiences are his experiences, and I have no doubt that any attempted argument on my part to dissuade him from his opinion of comic book stores would come to nothing. And it may just be that’s how Charles is; he enjoys reading trade paperbacks and online comics and he finds little or no joy in the retail side of it. Even if I can’t change that – and I know I probably can’t – well, it makes me a little sad. And perhaps a little defensive.

Part of the problem here is that, in spite of how I feel about the medium of comic books, the specialty shops that sell them, or the people who work behind the counter, Charles has a point. Some, but by no means all, comic retailers have shops that are cluttered or disorganized. Sometimes you run into people who are working there to feed their own comic book habit or because they are missing whatever genetic marker it is that makes people have the ability to tolerate putting in 40+ hours in an office and not go fucking insane. They may have zero interest in helping someone who isn’t already immersed in the somewhat arcane world of comics and don’t want to just be nice.

It happens. I know. I’ve been in those shops myself, and it’s fucking annoying. The only thing worse than a shop of unresponsive, mouth-breathing fanboys is a staff of unresponsive, mouth-breathing fanboys.

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The incredible Troy-David Phillips of Flashback Comics in Woodbridge, VA. Go see him!

I’ve been in stores where I walk in the first time and say, “Hi, I’m Sebastian. I really like stuff like Sandman, Preacher, Strangers in Paradise, Hermes the Eye-Ball Kid and anything drawn by Don Simpson, Barry Windsor-Smith or P. Craig Russell, any suggestions?” And if they say something like, “Dude. Marvel is over there. DC is over there. Image is over there…” well, I vote with my feet. You don’t have to blow my mind with your encyclopedic knowledge of story lines, or know who inked issue 182 of Fantastic Four (yes, Troy at Flashback Comics, I know you know it was Joe Sinnott, and that’s why you’re the MAN). That doesn’t hurt, of course, and I will be appropriately in awe of such minutia, but what really makes a store work for me is that the person behind the counter gives a shit. Those are the stores I go back to and open up a subscription.

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Richard Evans at Bedrock City Comics in Houston, TX. As I like to call it, “The Center of the Comic Book Universe”.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I worked in a comic book store a while back. Bedrock City Comics in Houston, to be exact. When I was there, it was a small but thriving operation. The main store on Westheimer hadn’t expanded yet and it was one of those intimate retail specialty stores Charles might have hated. I like to think he wouldn’t, however; besides being well-organized, the owner (Richard Evans) and the manager (Mike Steenbergen) had a philosophy that it wasn’t just about retailing funny books, and it sure wasn’t meant to be some repository of arcane lore  and “over stuffed museum shop”. They taught me that building relationships with the customer was the foundation of a successful shop and if it wasn’t a place were people enjoyed themselves, they wouldn’t come back. Oh, and that playing Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s Karn Evil 9 Pts. I-IV on the store jambox was NOT conducive to a fun atmosphere no matter what. Point taken.

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It was never as fun as the picture made it look. EVER.

Comic books should be fun. I remember buying comic books at the grocery store. Okay, I’m old. I’m not saying I took my dimes down to Mr. Cacciatore’s Green Grocer and Liquor Emporium to buy the latest issue of All-American Comics or Outlaw Kid! But when I was a bit younger there weren’t that many comic books stores around so if I wanted a fix of Captain AmericaFantastic Four, or Thor (I was a Marvel guy even then – never mind my obsession with Superman’s cousin Power Girl) I’d toss one into the cart when my mom wasn’t looking. Thanks, Mom. Getting home and reading it cover to cover was a joy. Learning to draw by tracing the characters was awesome. Spending a couple of bucks on those “100 Piece Toy Soldier” sets (comes packed in it’s own footlocker!) was a lesson in expectation vs. reality (and the evil world of misleading advertising). I still have some of those 1970’s gems, and if I hadn’t read them to pieces, they might be worth a bit more.

Going to buy new comics, or to discover old ones, should also be fun. Maybe because I have a couple of degrees in English and spent an inordinate amount of time in libraries (those weird buildings where they store actual books? yeah, told you I was old) I like comic book stores. Talking with the staff, finding out what’s new, browsing through overstuffed and heavy long boxes, ogling the high-grade Golden Age or Silver Age books, admiring the toys and statues… man, that’s a blast. Do I occasionally have to deal with over-exuberant customers who break into my conversation or clog up the aisle? Well, sure. That happens. And it happens in lots of other places, too. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy eating a burger at a bar or standing in line at the post office.

This sounds like an attempt to justify my own good experiences, both on the retail side and the customer side. Perhaps. I do wish I could bring Charles to one of the stores I enjoy and see if maybe, just maybe, he could share in my enthusiasm.

 

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Black Sabbath – The Eponymous First Album – Review

Black-SabbathThis came out 48 years ago today and in honor of this momentous occasion, I’ve resurrected a review I wrote way back in the early days of the 21st century.

“The cataract of darkness form fully, the long black night begins, yet still, by the lake a young girl waits, unseeing she believes herself unseen, she smiles, faintly at the distant tolling bell, and the still falling rain.” – Part of a poem on the original album sleeve.

On February 13, 1970 Warner released Black Sabbath’s debut album and rock ‘n roll was forever changed. Black Sabbath played a new form of rock that was heavy, evil, and loud, and along with bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Blue Cheer, helped give birth to heavy metal. Black Sabbath has the distinction of being one of the few bands that can claim to be a huge influence of two different genres: metal and doom.

The first album is as a menacing a piece of music as one could hope to find in the saccharine world of early ’70’s rock. It was meant to be; the idea was to write scary music, the rock n’ roll equivalent of a good horror film. Even the name of the group was taken from a (crappy!) 1930’s Boris Karloff film. The new songs the band were creating dealt with the occult, war, and the nature of evil, subjects which have gone on to be fertile ground for heavy metal. By today’s standards, it may all seem a bit tame, but in 1970 people weren’t used to hearing Satan and Lucifer mentioned in rock.

 

For the first time songs that were frightening and intense both musically and lyrically were making their way onto the world’s stage. It’s the subject matter that sets Black Sabbath apart from Deep Purple’s “In Rock” or Led Zeppelin’s first two albums, both of which were more contemporary and less fantastic in theme. The lyrics aren’t totally over the top evil, but just dark and sinister enough to thrill the kids and scare their parents.

Tony Iommi, despite a severe accident to his right hand prior to the recording of this album, creates the prototype for heavy metal guitar. Down tuned and thick, the sound is a paradigm shift for rock n’ roll guitar; still based on the blues but now roaring out of over-driven amplifiers, loud, heavy, and distorted. Ozzy Osbourne’s distinctive voice makes up in charisma for what it lacks in range, while behind those two Bill Ward and Geezer Butler pound away on drums and bass. Rodger Bain’s production on the original is competent for the era, and surprisingly good considering the incredibly short time spent in the studio.

 

“Black Sabbath” the song is audio dynamite: after a brief intro of rain and thunder, Iommi’s massive guitar pounds that slow, evil tritone riff into the listener’s skull. Ozzy has a unique voice. He manages to sound both like the “great black shape” and scared of this apparition at the same time. “The Wizard” has an Ozzy harmonica bit in front of another great riff punctuated by Ward’s drums. Geezer Butler slips in a fluid bass solo before the crushingly heavy “N.I.B.”, which despite the sinister lyrics didn’t stand for Nativity In Black (as some proposed) but rather was a nickname for Bill Ward’s beard, which looked like the nib of a pen… or so the band insisted. Accusations of Satanism brought the kind of attention and press coverage no mere drinking binge, groupie sex acts or dangerous practical jokes could ever hope to equal. The bluesy “Evil Woman” is on the British release but on the American release the Ansley Dunbar song “Wicked World” is included instead; both are good examples of how Black Sabbath grew from their origins as a blues cover band. “Wasp/Behind the Wall of Sleep” seems like a bit of a toss off, but it’s wrapped in a classic Iommi riff and Bill Ward’s swinging drums belie the jazz influences behind his style. “A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village” is a bit of a sleeper, perhaps, but oh… that riff. Tony can make five notes downright inspiring. The song merges almost seamlessly into “The Warning”, a ten-minute opus that allows the band to open up, especially Tony Iommi. But without Bill Ward and Geezer Butler providing a solid foundation, Tony’s meanderings wouldn’t have nearly the same impact. Geezer Butler is, without a doubt, the most underrated bass player in the long history of metal. I can’t imagine hearing these songs without him.

Controversial in their day, Black Sabbath were reviled by parents and conservative religious groups, again breaking ground for metal groups which followed in their wake. This first album, rough around the edges as it may be, remains at the heart of a genre that has branched out far from its roots and humble beginnings. It’s dark and scary and loud, and damn if that’s not what a metal fan wants on a Friday night!

But excess alone doesn’t explain the kind of hero worship Black Sabbath has inspired.  From the very beginning they had tapped into a source that resonated strongly with a certain segment of the population… and spawned, as Iron Maiden dubbed them, the Earthdogs, Hellrats, Rivet Heads and Metal Maniacs of the world. Both loved and loathed, it’s a sound that once unleashed has yet to be reigned in.

(I wrote this back in… gulp… 2003 when I was trying to get a foothold with the mighty Deadtide.com crew. I remember where I was when I wrote the original draft, which I revised a bit here. I had a computer, a pallet to sleep on, and a bunch of CD’s. That was about it… sigh.)

 

 

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CARNIVOROUS HUNTING BICYCLE HIDES IN PLAIN SIGHT

20180128_110708January 28, 2018 (VA) Local shoppers at Potomac Mills were shocked when a dangerous carnivorous bicycle was discovered hiding in plain sight behind the Bahama Breeze.

Thomas Parnam (27) of Lorton was cutting behind the restaurant from the AMC 18 movie theater and spotted it on the ground near a small tree. His first thought was that it was simply an abandoned bicycle and he approached it to see if it was locked. It wasn’t until it snapped at him that he realized how close he’d come to being eaten.

“It was acting wounded,” Parnam said. “The derailleur appeared to have come off the rear wheel and the chain was hanging loose. It had a nice chrome green paint job. When I got closer, it suddenly reared up off the ground and had a go at me.”

He ran into Potomac Mills and called mall security, who rushed into action and cordoned off the area around the composite framed beast.

“That young man is a hero,” said Sylvio Manbun, head of mall security. “This could have been a real tragedy. A carnivorous hunting bicycle might have had struggled to devour an adult human, but if a small child or elderly person had come too close, we’d be looking at a very nasty scene.”

Resident experts from the nearby Olde Town Bicycles shop were summoned to the scene to handle the dangerous creature. As a horde of onlookers cheered them on from a safe distance, the brave bicycle wranglers surrounded the bike, which spun vicious carbon fiber wheels and even rang a small bell attached to the handlebars as they closed in on it.

“You can’t be too careful with these things,” said Max Silverhammer of Olde Town Bicycles. “They may look like a harmless domesticated two-wheeled, non-motorized conveyance, even down to a well-known manufacturers label on the frame… this one was clearly marked as a Glendale… but that’s just clever camouflage to lure the unsuspecting victim close enough for them to pounce.”

More normally found in the wild, often in proximity to mountain bike trails, carnivorous hunter bicycles (habebat vehentem Laufmaschine ) typically hide beneath piles of leaves or sometimes lean up against trees.

“We’ve been seeing them in urban areas more and more,” Silverhammer added. “As their natural habitats continue to be encroached, we’re going to see more of this, especially in the lean winter months when hunger drives them to more populated areas, looking for food. It’s sad really as they’re magnificent creatures and really misunderstood. This one, for instance, is really quite beautiful despite being so deadly.”

Olde Time Bicycle wranglers quickly secured the beast and sedated it. “We’ll take him out to the country, there’s a nice downhill track where we’ve relocated several others over the last couple of months. I’m sure he’ll be fine, and will soon be feeding on his usual diet of lost children and despondent hikers in no time.”

Thomas Parnam, for one, will be a little more cautious the next time he sees a seemingly abandoned bicycle. “Just because it isn’t locked up or appears to be broken, that doesn’t mean it can’t still be dangerous,” he said. “I’ve learned my lesson.”

Olde Town Bicycles urges anyone who thinks they’ve seen a carnivorous hunting bicycle to contact local law enforcement and don’t attempt to take matters into their own hands. “You’d be surprised,” said Silverhammer, “but people think that just because it looks familiar, it can be easily handled. Leave it to the professionals. We don’t want anyone losing a finger in the wheels or getting a pant leg torn in the chain mechanism. It’s just not worth it.”

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Review: The Nutley Brass: The Misfits Meet the Nutley Brass at the Fiend Club Lounge

(This is a review I penned for Deadtide.com back in 2005. I was looking for something else, and found this, and wanted to give it some new life.)

Crawling through gutter muck in the deep purple predawn isn’t my normal mode of transportation, but my car got towed, my cell phone died, and the so-called friends that I’d been drinking with all night suddenly turned vicious and administered boots to the head while I was pissing on an alley wall. So there I was, crawling along in a light but persistent rain, feeling awful and desperate to be somewhere other than on the nearly deserted downtown streets. Out of the corner of my swollen eye, a flickering neon sign cast a ghoulish glow. I thought I knew all the clubs and bars and after-hours joints in this town, but I’d never heard of The Fiend Club Lounge. Reasoning that more drinking couldn’t do any more harm, I pushed through the moaning piles of garbage (wait a minute… moaning garbage? I made a command decision to let well enough alone) and knocked on the rune-incrusted door. After a minute, the door slot slid open, exhaling a puff of foul, greasy smoke that reeked of the open grave. I girded my soul and stepped up to the door as a pair of faintly glowing eyes faded into view.

“Yeeeerrrssssh,” said the door…man? Woman? Thing?

“I’d love to come in an have a drink,” I attempted to say, but with a drunken tongue and painfully split and swollen lips, what came out was an unintelligible mush. To my surprise, the door swung open and several pairs of suspiciously rotted arms reached out and roughly dragged me into the Fiend Club Lounge.

“Wellllllllcuummm, zir,” he said, possibly mistaking me for a patron. The doorman thing was huge, bloated, and thoroughly pierced with a variety of hooks, pins, staves and a few extra arms which were busy groping me. Through the persistent gloom and smoke, I could just make out the contours of a bar full of people, so I shook off the welcome wagon and bellied up to the bar. The barman could have been the doorman’s sawed-off Siamese twin, and before I even ordered a drink he was tossing together various ingredients. I could have sworn that a few chunks of flesh flaked off into the drink, but in the semi-dark it was hard to tell. Sitting back in the stool, I sipped the odd tasting concoction and took a good look around.

There was a dude on stage dressed in a funeral home reject of a suit, leaning on a mic stand and telling jokes that no one seemed to hear or understand. Plenty of good looking ladies were at the bar, or sitting at tables, and they all had a particular look; sort of a late ’50’s glamorous thing, sexy dresses and steely hair. And the other patrons? well, they looked the worse for wear. Decay seemed to be the order of the night.

On stage, the comedian was dying a proverbial death (and possibly a real one) while behind him and band was setting up. Good, music… that was what was missing from the whole equation; a lounge as decadent as this needed a killer soundtrack. After a few minutes the comedian said, “Ladies, fish, and gentlemen, the Fiend Club Lounge presents the melodious sounds of The Nutley Brass!” Muffled applause squeezed through the thick smoke, and the lights came down, plunging the room into darkness.

The Nutley Brass kicked into the first song, and something (or someone) started squeezing my thigh, but I tried to ignore it because the opening bars sounded hauntingly familiar. The band was illuminated from below, a spectral glow that cast perverse shadows on the walls. I was tapping my foot and half-singing some words when the shock of recognition went through me… this was a Misfits song that I liked… “Last Caress”! I leaned over towards the bartender and said, “I’ll have another one of these things… what’re they called?”

“Epiphanies,” he said, slinging bottles around. Fair enough, I thought. If a brass band is going to do Misfits covers, what better place to take it in than a lounge from hell populated by the undead and their ravishing women?

“Good evening, thanks for coming out to the Fiend Club Lounge,” said the band leader, “I’m Sam Elwitt and this is The Nutley Brass. We’d like to dedicate this next one to all the undead aliens out there… this is for you,” as they broke into the classic “Astro Zombies”. That got a blurry cheer from the crowd, some of which started dancing with their dates, occasionally slipping on the blood covered floor or getting their feet tangled up in someone’s intestines.

“This isn’t an Iron Maiden song,” Sam said next, “but it’s called ‘Where Eagles Dare'”. It started with a weird sitar-like riff before the brass popped in. I was totally into it; there weren’t any vocals, but I knew the words to these songs… I’d grown up on the Misfits, after all.

“Please welcome to the stage Claire McKeen, she’s going to add her pipes to this next one… Claire McKeen, everyone. No relation to Dave, so don’t ask her.” All velvety curves, she swayed as the opening strains of “Some Kinda Hate” cut through the gloom. “Hybrid Moments” and “Hatebreeders” went by in a flash of brass before Sam cut loose on the mighty marimba, signaling the start of “Teenagers from Mars”, while Claire and the band added odd train sounds to the background.

This was all very fun stuff, a rather severe retelling of the classic Misfits songs but done with a sense of humor and tongue firmly planted in rotted cheek. The undead where getting down on the dance floor, sweat and body parts flying through the air as songs like “Attitude” and “Angelfuck” (complete with a mad scientist’s gruesome experiments) whipped them into a frenzy. And then it was over, almost before it got started.

“You’ve been a great crowd, thanks so much for coming out tonight, we’re The Nutley Brass. We’d like to leave you with two real chestnuts,” intoned Sam, “This is ‘Skulls’… and the last song we’ll be playing for you tonight is ‘Die, Die My Darling’, which we dedicate to all the hell dogs, earth rats, and rivet heads out there.”

When they were done and the lights came up a bit, I detached the hand that had been massaging my thigh and looked around for its owner. Not finding a likely candidate nearby, I stuck it in my glass and oozed out the door. Dawn was swiftly arising, my head was throbbing, and I’d be humming those Misfits tunes for weeks to come. I never did find that hellishly haunted lounge again…

STANDOUT TRACKS

Last Caress
Astro Zombies
Die, Die, My Darling

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