Friday, June 25, 2004

Tourography: Sonogasm live at Priceless Inn 2004-06-25

It was back to Boston's/Priceless Inn for a stealth show.  I was getting over a cold and we had two shows left booked before the band was going to disintegrate due to general frustration, so I didn't even document this one.  No video or audio, I'm sorry to report.  Which was a shame, because we actually got a decent turnout for this one... the end-of-the-month clip was working out pretty well, and we didn't even really recognize it at the time.

[YouTube video clip to be added]

Band: Sonogasm
Date: 2004-06-25
Venue: Priceless Inn
Location: Tempe, AZ

Vocals, Bass: Mike Bahr
Guitars: Jeff Mink
Drums: Chuck Prime

Other act(s): Ashes of Eden, Slip Mickey

1. Shinespark

2. The Truth Will Set Me Free
3. Schism (Tool)
4. Luna
5. Crystal
6. After You Fell Asleep
7. 21 Months
8. The Safety Dance (Grim & Necro version) (Men Without Hats)
9. Threads

What we were thinking closing the set with Threads, I have no idea.  This was just a strange, frustrating show, if memory serves... broken strings, no Blue Instant, time and staging issues... urgh.  Worst of all, we had some peeps show up and we didn't play as well for them as I would have liked.  The band's internal frustration might have been coloring my perception of the show, though.  I'll confine that discussion to the tourography entry for the Cooperstown show in August.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Tourography: Sonogasm live at Ziggy's on Mill 2004-06-12

I was really happy to get this booking because I grew up in Tempe and I had longed to perform on Mill Avenue since I was just a kid.  Mill Avenue, for those of you not familiar, is the commercial "party district" that marks the western terminus of the campus of Arizona State University, and it served for years as something of a de facto cultural center for independent and up-and-coming bands.  Bands like the Gin Blossoms and Jimmy Eat World cut their teeth at the Mill Avenue pubs.  Perhaps Sonogasm could follow in their footsteps?  Alas, but no.

Speed 63 went on early and rocked a big crowd remarkably well.  Niki Kwik and the Super Friendz played next, and by the time we schlepped our gear on stage at (yawn) midnight, there was barely an audience left.  Niki was nice and all, but her performance was... was... well, it made us sound good, I'll leave it at that.  The Super Friendz went on to become Ekosphere, who joined us for our final show at Cooperstown, and their bassist Aaron went on to become one of my best buddies.  So plenty of good things came out of this performance, even though Sonogasm somehow failed to rocket to the top of the buzz charts.

The lesson of the night, of course, was never to play a venue where you have to schlep your gear up and down a stairwell.  No good!

[YouTube video clip to be added]

Band: Sonogasm
Date: 2004-06-12
Venue: Ziggy's on Mill Avenue
Location: Tempe, AZ

Vocals, Bass: Mike Bahr
Guitars: Jeff Mink
Drums: Chuck Prime

Other act(s): Speed 63, Niki Kwik and the Super Friendz

1. Shinespark

2. Blue Instant
3. Schism (Tool) including Sober interlude
4. The Truth Will Set Me Free
5. Luna
6. After You Fell Asleep
7. Threads
8. 21 Months
9. The Safety Dance (Grim & Necro version) (Men Without Hats)

We premiered "Shinespark" at this show, and even though Blue Instant came first and was better known by our audiences, I think Shinespark was the best song I wrote during the Sonogasm era.  It was a top-down design that actually integrated its concept (lightning as a metaphor for passion and determination) into the very structure of the song, building up gradually and exploding into an anthemic revel.  It is not a coincidence that this is essentially what happens when a player performs the "shinespark" move in various video games, such as those in the Metroid series.  Shinespark worked on every level, enough so that Jeff asked my permission for his next band, Dead Man's Gambit, to play it -- permission I happily granted.

Jeff broke a string during Schism, so Chuck and I improvised the interlude from Sober.  The drunken heckler who shouted for Tool was Jason "the British," one of my compadres from that time period.  Jason, buddy, I lost your phone number.  Send me a message or something.  Drinks are on me.

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Album Review: "Comalies" 2-CD Edition by Lacuna Coil (2004)

[I posted this album review to a progressive metal message board in 2004.  I gush too much and should have been more critical of the band, though in all fairness Comalies is considered even now to have been Lacuna Coil's high-water mark.  In the ongoing effort to recover and republish more and more of my writing from the past, no matter how poorly executed it might have been at the time, I present to you the following review.  Enjoy!]

LACUNA COIL - Comalies (2CD Edition)
Grade: A+ (10 out of a possible 10) - and it'd be higher if the scale allowed itSee end of article for comparative scoring.

Wow. It's a rare thing when a band comes along that instantly stakes its claim as the best in a genre, and an even rarer thing when it is creating that genre out of existing concepts. Rarer still is when that band can take a CD full of bonus material and make it worth buying the album all over again. With this release, Lacuna Coil has done so - by a wide margin. This release is a two-CD slipcase set containing the Comalies album from 2002 (disc 1) and a CD filled with amazing bonus material (disc 2), and it's priced the same as regular single-CD releases.

Those of you who have procrastinated getting into LC are actually being rewarded, in a sense, because this is the best possible first purchase you could make. Some of you heard LC being mentioned during 2003 when Evanescence was popular - you heard "Bring Me To Life" on the radio, and whether you dug it or not, you wondered if the tales of a true heavy rock band called LC with even better soaring female vocals could be real. It was very easy for the metal or progressive fan in all of us to stay away from Lacuna Coil, lest they become a flash in the pan and one of those bands whose CDs you would later be embarassed to admit you bought. But some of us recalled that The Gathering had been decent, and gave the Coil a chance. Those that did were rewarded with some of the most compelling and intricate songs written in years. The rest of you now have your chance to get on board before this band - appearing in 2004's Ozzfest concert tour - breaks wide open into mainstream rock popularity.

Lacuna Coil hail from Milan, Italy, and are a six piece band. Lead vocals are provided by the goddess-like Cristina Scabbia and the more straight-forward metal of her male counterpart Andrea Ferro. Seven-string guitars and five-string basses provide a satisfying metallic CRUNCH in their songs. The music is provided by Marco Coti Zelati (bass and keys), Cristiano Migliore (lead guitar), Marco Emanuele Biazzi (rhythm guitar), and Cristiano Mozzati (drums). Lacuna Coil premiered their first video, "Heaven's a Lie," in late 2003, and it rotated on MTV2 and Fuse for a while. May 29, 2004 saw the Headbanger's Ball debut of the "Swamped" video, a radio edit of track one off the Comalies album. The band also did a live acoustic performance of "Heaven's a Lie" on the show. Don't let "radio edit" fool you - this is no hack job. The radio edit of "Swamped" is a complete remix that brings Cristina's divine vocals and some of the lead guitar accents further into the forefront, where the original mix had them somewhat deeper down. Both music videos are included on the bonus CD in this package.

This paragraph is for those who are already fans of Lacuna Coil. Go get this CD. Seriously. The acoustic version of "Swamped" is worth the price of admission all by itself. It sounds *incredible*. They completely reworked the tune, with a tasty chord progression during the verses and some hauntingly beautiful suspended chordwork during the main riff and choruses. Andrea Ferro even backs up the chorus in a harmonic blend that must be heard to be believed. And just when you get to the end of the acoustic "Swamped," already long since satisfied with the money you spent on the CD, they play an acoustic "Unspoken" that exceeds your expectations once again. Spectacular. The bonus disc has the radio edits, studio acoustics of those two songs plus "Heaven's a Lie" and "Senzafine," and a live acoustic show of "HAL," "Senzafine," and "Aeon," plus the two music videos. Incredible.

In short, the new 2CD version of Comalies is as much a slam-dunk as you're ever going to see in today's anemic and bland music industry. This band is so good it's amazing it took so long for American audiences to learn about them. Italy - it gives us food, women, and music... a lot of great stuff to fit into just one boot!
-Mike Bahr, June 9, 2004

Comparative ratings and tracklistings:

LACUNA COIL "Comalies" 2CD Edition
Century Media (c)2004

Disc 1 - Comalies (same as original album)
  1. Swamped
  2. Heaven's a Lie
  3. Daylight Dancer
  4. Humane
  5. Self-Deception
  6. Aeon
  7. Tight Rope
  8. The Ghost Woman and the Hunter
  9. Unspoken
  10. Entwined
  11. The Prophet Said
  12. Angel's Punishment
  13. Comalies

Disc 2 - Acoustic (or at least that's what cddb is calling it)
  1. Heaven's a Lie (radio edit)
  2. Swamped (radio edit)
  3. Heaven's a Lie (acoustic)
  4. Swamped (acoustic)
  5. Unspoken (acoustic)
  6. Senzafine (acoustic)
  7. Heaven's a Lie (live WAAF acoustic)
  8. Senzafine (live WAAF acoustic)
  9. Aeon (live WAAF acoustic)
  10. Heaven's a Lie (quicktime video)
  11. Swamped (quicktime video)


Comparative ratings
Lacuna Coil "Comalies" (original version) B+ 8/10
Lacuna Coil "Unleashed Memories/Halflife" A- 9/10
Lacuna Coil "In a Reverie" B+ 8/10
Lacuna Coil s/t C+ 7/10
Metallica "St. Anger" F 2/10