TPB Debaser 20170430 500The main reason why I abandoned vinyl and switched over to cd 27 years ago was that I was getting really tired of all the skipping, scratching and significant surface noise. Of course, I didn't treat my vinyl records as I was supposed to. In fact, they were heavily mistreated. The guiding principle for grading is "The Goldmine Grading System", see link here (opens in a new window). The scale from high to low is Mint (M), Near Mint (NM), Very Good Plus (VG+), Very Good (VG), Good Plus (G+), Good (G), Fair (F) and Poor (P). Most of my records were graded G or F. The new cd format offered an easy and carefree handling. When the cd came it was said to be practically impossible to wear out (with normal use). This is true. Almost every cd in my collection plays without any problems at all. The few cds that have some minor flaws are bought from thrift stores. It's appalling but there are people who never put the cds back in their cases, stack them or use them as coasters. For these cd abusers there's a chance to redeem themselves - a machine. I was totally unaware that such a machine existed. However, if you mistreated your cds despite their relative high price you're not likely to invest in an expensive machine that fix them. The product is more intended for those who care about cds. It's not just plastic. It's a format in its own right.

Let me introduce you to the Disc Repair Machine ECO Smart - a single disc, semi-automatic disc repair system for CDs, DVDs, Books on Disc, Blu-ray, and even game discs. Read more here, (opens in a new window). It has color-coded magnetic pad holders. The machine cleans disc's in less than a minute and most repairs take less than 3 minutes. The ultra-quiet design is perfect for a library or retail environment. No hand finishing or cleaning after the repair process is required. The disc comes out of the machine clean, dry, free of residue. The liquid cooled repair process means no heat or damage to the disc. The ECO Brand disc repair systems have the lowest cost per disc than any other machine. The weight is just 35 lbs (approx. 16 kg) and the measures are 9 * 16 inches (23 * 41 cm). However, the price is high, $ 3 695. This is, by the way, the budget version. Why settle for less? Why not aim high and go for the ECO AutoSmart which is fully automatic and processes one disc at the time. The price for this fine machine is $ 5 780. If you want industrial strength I recommend the Eco Master which is fully automatic and have a disc capacity of 50 discs at the time. The price tag is $ 19 985. "What did you dream? It's alright we told you what to dream...So welcome to the machine". 

 

  

TPB Debaser 20170430 500I'm a late adopter. I didn't know what Throwback Thursday was until recently. Throwback Thursday is the name of a weekly social media posting trend and hashtag game that people use to share and look back on. It could apply to almost anything that happened in the past. Vanity is one of the seven deadly sins and is highly related to this phenomena. Me, me and me. I've never posted anything that could be filed under this term. Since moments tend to turn into years my throwback moment is a whole year, namely the year 2007. Why? Because this particular year represents the golden age of gothic country. How about Antic Clay – Hilarious Death Blues, Blanche - Little Amber Bottles, Vic Chesnutt – North Star Deserter, Christian Williams – Built with Bones, Christian Williams - Defiant, O’Death – Head Home, Slackeye Slim – Texas Whore Pleaser, Sons of Perdition – The Kingdom is on Fire, Strawfoot Chasing Locusts, Those Poor Bastards – Hellfire Hymns, The Builders and the Butchers - The Builders and the Butchers, Woodcat – Woodcat, The Peculiar Pretzelmen – Uncanny Eyes among many other albums released this year.

However, I had not seen the light yet (or more correctly the darkness) ten years ago. In 2007, I was mostly listening to wimpy altcountry artists. Your musical taste may change over time. Some musical influences, however, seems to be stuck in concrete. Sometimes I feel a little sad over the fact that I wasn't around back then buying highly obscure and self-released albums in limited editions of 200 from artists and bands that have a short expected (and actual) life. As a late adopter you have to live with choices you make in life.  

 

 

TPB European tour 2017Those Poor Bastards is finally here in Sweden. At the moment they are touring in Europe from April 20th to May 6th (just a single day off for logistics) in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and last but not least Russia. The gloomier the music, the happier they will be. Maybe, the dark streak in the music of TPB fits their very troubled mindset all too well. To my knowledge, this is Those Poor Bastards first tour in Europe. It may be a pure coincidence, but they actually played on Walpurgis Night in Stockholm. Debaser Strand is a perfect venue (the closest you get a deep and dark dungeon). It's almost to good to be true. Walpurgis Night is an old pagan rite which has become Christianized (the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga, an 8th-century abbess in Francia). Walpurgis Night (english), Walpurgisnacht (german) and Valborgsmässoafton (swedish) are all names for the night of 30 April. In older German folklore this is believed to be the night of a witches' meeting in the Harz Mountains, a mountain range in central Germany. Local variants of Walpurgis Night are observed throughout Europe in the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, and Estonia. In Sweden we light bonfires to scare off witches. 30 april marks the last the day of winter and the first day of spring. It's also a great day for hedonistic student festivities. In Uppsala there's a 36-48 hour party for those who are have the right stomach and disposition. Yes, those were the days. Nowadays, older and wiser, I'm perfectly content watching the bonfires. However, I'm not dead yet and decided to buy two tickets to Those Poor Bastards and went with my friend Johan. Time is of the essence. Someday it will all be over. It may very well turn out to be a once in a lifetime event for a gothic-starving swede. The tour poster is an example of false advertising (depicting The Minister below left). In fact, The Minister (bass, banjo, percussion and backing vocals on studio recordings) never appear live or on tours. The Minister doesn’t want to show his face. For this reason he wears a burqa-curtain like hood. At live shows and on tours Vincent Presley plays drums and moog. A pretty unorthodox band constellation, but it works.  

  

TPB Debaser 20170430 500Well, what about last night? My friend Johan and I arrived ridiculously early, because we believe what we read. The evening started out with Stockholm-based female DJ-duo called Andersson & Räv that played music from the 1960-70's with a great help from a pre-programmed playlist. Very good choices, but the real job was obviously already done. There was an opening act, Vurro, a one-man-band who plays multiple instruments (organ, piano, drums) carrying a cow skull on his head. He was interesting at first, heavily inspired by Jerry Lee Lewis and banging his cow horns on the cymbals, but "he overstayed his welcome" as Johan nicely put it. The opening act's performance serves to "warm up" the audience, making it appropriately excited and enthusiastic for the headliner. A mystery to me. All good things come to he who waits. At 22:30 Those Poor Bastards finally went on stage. They took a firm grip of the audience and never let go. What TPB have to say in a song is said in about three minutes. As a listener, you also need to catch your breath. Their relative short songs works in both ways. The tempo was by any standards furious, no chit-chat between the songs and no crowd-pleasing mutual recognition phrases. In fact, Lonesome Wyatt is totally focused on the music and stares frantically right out and through you. He had the setlist written on cardboard paper on the music-stand, but didn't look at it many times. Those Poor Bastards are perfectly attuned and overly experienced. The soundscape is impressing. Vincent Presley manages to combine exquisite drumming with handling the moog. However, I miss the bass and banjo playing from The Minister, who probably at the moment is hiding out somewhere in Wisconsin. The high-tempo show ratched up even further in "Crooked Man", "Satan is Dead", "Headed Nowhere", "Ten Ton Hammer", "This World is Evil", "Glory Amen" and in the encore "Evil on My Mind". Vincent Presley had some initial problems with the stage monitoring system (too low volume), but the sound quality was very good (by rough gothic country standards). My overall impression of the show: very professional, hilarious and well worth the money. But where were the audience? I estimated that it was only about 150 people in the audience, which is pretty scandalous for a band of this magnitude. Johan and I count ourselves in "we few, we happy few" for going to this maybe once in a lifetime event. As promised, I studied the audience since there are no reference studies for Sweden at all. The method I used was participant observation. Common feature: black clothes and a lot of bunch of keys. This is, however, where the similarities end. The audience consisted of strange mix of young hippies, black and ordinary metal fans, a few David Eugene Edwards copycats, beardy hipsters, some hard-to-define outsiders but only two truck caps. What I experienced yesterday was a blast. When I got home I had to undergo debriefing with Midlake's "The Courage of Others". "You're getting old, buddy!" as TPB elegantly put it.         

 

Setlist (as I perceived it)

1. The Bright Side (Satan is Watching)

2. Your Faith Shall Be Tested (Behold the Abyss)

3. Stay Away From the Forest Boy (Hellfire Hymns)

4. Unwanted (Sing it Ugly)

5. Crooked Man (Satan is Watching)

6. Open Wounds (Gospel Haunted)

7. The Dust Storm (Hellfire Hymns)

8. No Light (Sing it Ugly)

9. Satan is Dead (Necrosphere)

10. The Accident (Country Bullshit)

11. Headed Nowhere (Sing it Ugly)

12. Family Graveyard (Hellfire Hymns)

13. A Curse (The Plague)

14. Old Pine Box (The Plague)

15. Ten Ton Hammer (Sing it Ugly)

16. Pills I Took (Country Bullshit)

17. With Hell So Near (Songs of Desperation)

18. Chemical Church (Gospel Haunted)

19. I am Lost (Vicious Losers)

20. He of Cloven Foot (Behold the Abyss)

21. Everything is Temporary (Behold the Abyss)

22. This World is Evil (Satan is Watching)

23. Judgement is Coming (Gospel Haunted)

24. Glory Amen (Gospel Haunted)

Encore

25. Evil on My Mind (The Plague)

   

 

oldboyofthefensThe survival rate in the gothic country genre is disturbingly low. The "british rural realism" duo OldBoy is an outlier in the depressing statistics. OldBoy was formed in 2007 by Adrian Hunt (vocals, guitar) and James Campbell (multinstrumentalist). To mark 10 years since they formed as a band, they have released the retrospective ‘OldBoy Of the Fens’. The album (digital only) features tracks selected from the bands six releases to date. You can listen and buy the album here (opens in a new window). The compilation is a good introduction to the band. But, you got to have all six original albums. Furthermore, as OldBoy go forward into their second decade as a band to aid in distinguishing themselves from other artists they will adopt the subtitle ‘Of the Fens’ in promotional literature, i.e. OldBoy (Of the Fens). I think this change is a good idea since there's a lot of confusion with the South Korean mystery thriller and neo-noir movie from 2003 and the two remakes with the same name. What I like about OldBoy (and respect them for) is their honesty, unwillingness to compromise and endurance. There’s no anxious glancing sideways, only a consistent implementation of their ideas. After ten years they decided to add a subtitle, that's all. I'm looking forward to ten more years with stripped-down to the bone arrangements and lyrics about death, doom and despair. 

 

 

  

doomletlooseI'm old. In fact, my age stands the comparison with Methuselah. As you get older flashbacks comes more often and lasts longer. You begin to think about why, when and how you stumbled into gothic country music. Black Sabbath definitely played a part in this progress if you can call it that. At the time - and with their down-tuned riffs ringing in my ears - I didn't realize the full magnitude of their gothicismus. Recently, I've been absorbed by their equally impressive as implausible history. In short: it's the story of Tony Iommi, Bill Ward, Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler hailing from Aston, a gloomy industrial suburb of slightly less unglamorous Birmingham who changed heavy metal for ever. I got down to work, as always, with an scientific approach. In practise, this means that I googled "best book Black Sabbath" to get recommendations. A lot of books showed up in the search results. Then I made an assessment. Let it be said. Most of the books are pure crap. However, I found five distinctive books which also constitute the standard references. This is my assessment: "Rat Salad: The Classic years 1969 - 1975" by Paul Wilkinson. This personal and fan-inspired book focus on the first six albums. The second book is "How Black Was Our Sabbath: An Unauthorized View from the Crew" by David Tangye and Graham Wright. The two authors were part of the Black Sabbath crew. The book is truffled with piquant anecdotes and trivia. The book focus on the period 1969-1979. The third book is "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" by Joel McIver. It's a thorough book. The fourth book "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: The Battle for Black Sabbath" by Garry Sharpe-Young is another notable book. This book focus on the period 1979-1995. However, the definitive book is "Doom Let Loose: An Illustrated History" by Martin Popoff.

"Doom Let Loose: An Illustrated History" is a massive piece in many respects. The dimensions are 8x0.8x10 inches (20,3x1,9x25,5 cm) and the weight is 2.2 pounds (1 kg). The book contains 355 pages with 373 graphics, consisting of 127 band photos and 246 memorabilia and record sleeve shots. Doom Let Loose was published in 2006 on ECW Press and is long out-of-print. Used copies are expensive. But, I'm a lucky bastard and found a copy in very good shape on Tradera (Swedish eBay) for 150 SEK (which is approximately $17).

Doom Let Loose explains how the classic albums and songs came to be and is meritorious written in chronological order. The chapters are divided in each individual album and it's consecutive tour. The book deals with the strains of relentless touring, psychiatric and physical problems, legal disputes, alchohol and drugs. Black Sabbath gives the concept of consumption of cocaine a new and deeper meaning. "Lying snowblind in the sun" in Los Angeles, CA. You get new insights. For example, the house on the cover of their debut album is Mapledurham Watermill, located on the River Thames in Oxfordshire. N.I.B. or Nibby is Bill Ward's nickname (a very popular misconception is that the abbreviation stands for Nativity In Black). The leather trousers they wore in the beginning of their career were made of car seat leather from a Birmingham car manufacturing company. You will also find out why Bill Ward wears red tights (belonging to his wife) on the cover of their sixth album, Sabotage, which many - including myself - also consider their "last". When "Technical Ecstasy" was released in September 1976 even I realized that, sadly, it was all over. Nothing lasts forever. Even the longest, the most glittering reign must come to an end someday.

 

  

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