Had the chance to chat with Justin Manning about some stuff…so check it out:
Had the chance to chat with Justin Manning about some stuff…so check it out:
I recently received the new Monte Pittman record Inverted Grasp Of Balance for review. Little did I know that it would cause me to have a profound revelation to a question I have been seeking an answer to. Over the years of recorded music people have been trying to answer the question: What makes a record good? There has been a myriad of answers that run the gamut of the music industry. The problem is most of the answers that have been provided are subjective to the answerer and biased to their own opinions. For me, at least, I feel that I have finally answered said question. A good record is one that when you put it on you find yourself turning it up, tapping your foot or nodding your head to the beat, and when it’s over you find yourself feeling as if you just got back from…somewhere.
I was excited to review this record as I have spoken with Monte before and have enjoyed his previous work. I didn’t realize that I would spend the rest of the day and the next listening to it on repeat and still humming the songs long after. There is a level of craftsmanship to this record that is hard to find these days (one other is the work of Jeff Sandoval and Mike Araiza). There is no doubt that music flows through the soul of Monte Pittman and I hear nods to so many musicians in his playing and writing. When a record is made for the purpose of sharing what one feels in their minds ear, it is profound and beautiful.
Inverted Grasp Of Balance features Monte on guitars and vocals, Richard Christy (Charred Walls Of The Damned, Iced Earth, Death) on drums, and…..wait for it….Billy Sheehan, yes I said Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, Winery Dogs, just to name a few) on bass. Jay Ruston (Anthrax, Steel Panther) handled the production duties and the record sounds clean and crisp. I read somewhere that Monte recorded his guitar parts while on the road, but this record feels so organic to me and it feels like someone turned on a mic in a jam room and captured some live magic.
Inverted Grasp Of Balance gives us twelve tracks which flow together beautifully and I guarantee you will NOT find yourself reaching for the skip button, in fact you WILL find yourself reaching for the repeat button.
If you have to pin me down for stand out tracks I would have to say “Skeleton Key” just reaches out to me the most. This track, in my opinion should be on every radio station across the planet, period. It’s just good rock n’ roll that gets in your head.I find myself just humming throughout the day. “California” opens with bass that just drips with cool and is pure Billy Sheehan and then paints a picture in your mind of being on a cool road trip with the radio blasting, the wind in your hair, and your best friends at your side. “New Blood Keeps Us Alive” is an epic track that, again, I feel should be blasting out of every speaker across the world. It begins with some wonderfully beautiful acoustic work that grows to some powerful rock n’ roll worthy of note. This song opens up the mind and makes you reflect on life.
Monte’s guitar work is across the map on Inverted Grasp Of Balance, taking from gentle acoustic to balls out shredding, and it all works in connection with each other. Not only is there stellar guitar work here Monte’s vocal work is strong and epic as well. The songwriting on Inverted Grasp Of Balance is something else. Monte has reached deep within and written some deep compositions that I believe were truly from the point of artistry. Combine all of that with great drumming and legendary bass playing this is a music lovers wet-dream.
Inverted Grasp Of Balance drops on Sept 23 on Metal Blade Records make sure you do NOT miss out on this record.
Inverted Grasp Of Balance track-listing
1. Panic Attack
2. Arisen in Broad Daylight
3. Guilty Pleasure
4. The Times Are Changing
5. Double Edged Sword
7. Pride Comes Before the Fall
9. Be Very Afraid
11. Skeleton Key
12. New Blood Keeps Us Alive
Pre-order “Inverted Grasp of Balance” at metalblade.com/montepittman/
Monte Pittman online:
it’s loud, it’s dirty, it’s Monte Pittman
“Hit The Lights” was the first track I ever heard from Metallica. I liked the energy and aggression I heard. I thought myself “These guys have something here.”
Well, we all know how that turned out. Metallica, for me at least, has had its ups and downs. But this is something to expect when people grow and their life situations change around them. In the beginning there was a hunger in them, a drive, a sense of angry passion to be heard, they had something to prove.
Over time Metallica went through some changes that like it or not affected the direction of the band.
By the time Kill ‘Em All was released the lineup consisted of James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Cliff Burton. The kings of thrash were ready to kick ass and take names.
We got two more fantastic records from this lineup Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets before the tragic death of bassist Cliff Burton. This is where I feel the first chapter closed and the band began to undergo some changes.
The hard choice for them at this time was to find someone who could step up and climb aboard the speeding freight train that was Metallica at this time. That someone had some seriously big shoes to fill as Cliff Burton was a fan favorite. Metallica tapped Jason Newsted to fill those shoes. We probably have all heard the stories of the hazing, the turning down of the bass during recording, blah blah blah, yada yada yada. This was band business and not fan business and we can only speculate as what really went on. This, however, I feel was the catalyst for change in Metallica.
…And Justice for All gave us a different Metallica sound than we were used to. In my opinion a more mature less frantic sound. Not all together bad, just different than before. The next release, Metallica, furthered that change and ultimately became their best-selling record to date and broadened their fan base immensely while at the same time alienating some of their hardcore fans. Suddenly people who looked at you like you were crazy for liking Metallica before were “fans”. And, again this is just my opinion, they became drunk with success.
Despite what we have all heard the members of Metallica are all human and such, subject to the limitations of that. Life experience and growth is what I attribute to the changes in style we saw with the release of Load and Reload. Less thrash and more experimental musical songs combined with image change further pushed their early hardcore fans away and thrust Metallica into the mainstream world.
I happened to respect their changes and growth. While I loved the early aggressive sound, I found an appreciation for this new sound that reflected life changes even as I found myself growing and maturing.
And then, another shakeup, Jason Newsted was out of the picture. No replacement was announced and producer Bob Rock filled in on St. Anger and we were let into the inside world of their lives and problems with the film Some Kind of Monster. The release St. Anger gave us yet another style of Metallica. People panned the writing and production, and others panned the recording. The fair-weather “fans” that came on board with Metallica silently folded their Metallica shirts and placed their CD’s and records on dusty shelves and moved on to the next flavor of the month. The hardcore fans continued to grumble and listen to the early stuff and prayed for a return to the thrash sounds of old…
I have been a longtime fan of Rob Trujillo’s work and was excited to hear of his addition to the Metallica lineup. I had to wait until Death Magnetic dropped to get that chance. While I found this to be a good, solid record I had still expected a little more. Good but not great in my opinion. I did catch them on the Death Magnetic tour and the energy and passion given to the old school tracks was fantastic to see. I refused to give up on Metallica.
I am not even going to speak on Lulu as I feel it not to be a Metallica album (maybe I’ll talk about it down the road on a collaborations article).
All of this leads us to today. Metallica broke the internet yesterday when they released the new track “Hardwired…to Self-Destruct”. All day long I saw back and forth postings about the track. Name calling, bashing, criticisms, speculations…. on and on. My personal thoughts on it? I liked it. Did I love it? Not really. Do I appreciate it? ABSOFRICKINGLUTELY!!!
I posed the question on Facebook yesterday asking if a band that was once relevant could once again gain said relevance in today’s day and age where people just want to hear the “hits” and only the “hits”. Yes, I was talking about Metallica and the upcoming album Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. Given the effect they had on the internet yesterday what do YOU think?
It’s loud, it’s dirty, it’s METALLICA!!!
Summer of 1977…
I had just met the neighbor kid in the apartment complex we had just moved into. He invited me over to hang out and listen to music one afternoon. He asked me if I liked Black Sabbath and I told him that “Iron Man” was a cool song but that was about all I knew. He then proceeded to play Master of Reality. The music was like an adrenaline shot to my senses. I was hooked immediately and had to have more and find out all I could about Black Sabbath.
Over time I managed to collect their music and it became a part of my regular listening schedule. I couldn’t explain it but the music reached me on many levels. And then, as quickly as I had found them, there was news of a band split.
Back then (before up to the minute news from the internet) rumors began circulating of Ozzy leaving the band. This unfortunately became truth.
It came to pass that Black Sabbath had hired Ronnie James Dio to sing and Ozzy launched a solo career. I was a long time Rainbow fan and was curious to see what Dio would bring. I was positive that Ozzy would have some cool stuff as well.
Let’s talk Black Sabbath first. With the addition of Dio they brought us Heaven and Hell. I like this record but it brought about a sense of change to the Black Sabbath style. I always felt that this record took them in a more pop rock oriented style. It wasn’t bad but it just wasn’t MY Black Sabbath that I’d grown to love. It proved to be the same with the Mob Rules. They had just failed to reach as had been done with their previous work. I like both records and still listen to them today but not nearly as much as the earlier work. And then Dio was gone.
To be honest I left them at that point not even bothering to listen or seek out their music. Black Sabbath was lost to me at that time.
Ozzy went on to great success as a solo artist. He surrounded himself with stellar musicians and made some good records. Like Dio era Sabbath it was different. Ozzy tried to cultivate the Prince Of Darkness image but it failed to reach me. The music while great again, in my opinion, leaned a little more towards the pop rock side.
I know, I know, I can just see some of you rolling your eyes at this. Change is ok and sometimes can be good. It was good for Ozzy’s career and not so much with Black Sabbath. Sabbath eventually reunited with Dio for Dehumanizer before parting ways again.
Eventually Ozzy and Sabbath got over the past and reunited for 13 (without Bill Ward), but, for me, the magic just wasn’t there anymore.
Over time we lost Dio to cancer, Ozzy’s solo career kind of came to a slow down, and Sabbath again had some infighting leading to a permanent split with Bill Ward. But, as I have said in other conversations, that is band business of which we as fans have no part.
All in all, it’s been a good ride with Sabbath and Ozzy. I will always have and cherish the early music they made. Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Master of Reality, Vol. 4, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Sabotage, Technical Ecstasy, and Never Say Die! will ALWAYS be the definitive Sabbath albums for me. I will still continue to support anything Sabbath or Ozzy does because that’s what we as music fans do. I don’t have to love it but without that support it will go away. The bands that were influenced by Black Sabbath are countless.
Thank you Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward for the hours upon hours of enjoyment you have given to me over the years. You four will forever be Black Sabbath in my heart and mind. To all of the others who have had a hand in the Sabbath legacy: Geoff Nicholls, Craig Gruber, Vinny Appice, Ian Gillen, Bev Bevan, Ron Keel, David Donato, Eric Singer, Dave Spitz, Glenn Hughes, Ray Gillen, Bob Daisley, Tony Martin, Cozy Powell, Laurence Cottle, Neil Murray, Bobby Rondinelli, Mike Bordin, Adam Wakeman, Tommy Clufetos, Rick Wakeman, Gerald Woodroffe, Don Airey, Brad Wilk thank you for being a part of such legends. Zakk Wylde, ZAKK SABBATH?!?!?! That’s what I’m talking about!
Dio, you just rule, period.
It’s loud, it’s dirty, it’s mother#$%*ing SABBATH!!!
My mom introduced me to music at a very young age. There was always some kind of music playing somewhere in the house. One of my earliest musical memories is running around with my cousins screaming in our tiny off key voices “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles.
The music my mom listened to was across the map, but mostly rock oriented. My stepfather, however, was a country man and there was no alternative. I learned to appreciate the sounds I was hearing from songs that they both listened to. I felt the stories they were telling, and that was how I interpreted them, as stories. These “stories” would end up becoming my best friends as my childhood took some nasty turns. They were always there and wouldn’t ever let me down. I ultimately developed an affinity for rock and that became my preferred style of music. I never did lose my appreciation for classic country music though.
The 70’s were a great time for music on the radio. I could hear a broad spectrum of artists on one rock station from ABBA to ZZ Top. I LISTENED and devoured all of the music that I could, often staying up until the wee hours with a small radio under my pillow. I remember a conversation with my mom once where I asked her why she liked music so much her reply was “Because the songs take me away to different places.” I got it, and found myself taking the same journeys. The music was fresh and entertaining and never ever seemed to go stale for me. There was no sub, sub, sub genres, just good music.
This was a time when it was cool to one day wear a Bee Gees shirt and a KISS one the next. We just loved the music. We were clueless and we loved it. We used our imaginations to think about what our favorite musicians were doing and what they would do next, there was bliss in our ignorance.
…it was just music and we simply loved it.
If I were to have to give a quote about the music Jeff Sandoval and Mike Araiza make, it would be this: “This is music as it should be, no preconceived formula here. These guys write and play what they “feel” and that, my friends, is the true spirit of music.”
I’ve known these two guys for a while now and it had been my great fortune to have been at the birth of most of their work. Of The Earth, Frank Hannon Band and now as Jeff and Mike.
That being said, let’s talk about their latest effort Project Playlist. I cannot tell you how many times I received a text or an excited phone call from Mike telling me to “check out this riff” or “what do you think about this?” there was passion in those messages and that fervor and passion found its way to the record untarnished. Jeff, on the other hand, is like a Zen Master, calm, cool, and collected. His lyrics and powerful yet smooth vocals carry weight and presence that in my opinion border on legendary. Let’s get into the tracks and stroll around a bit.
Project Playlist opens with “The Good Fight” (which happens to be my go to track on this record). Have you ever heard a song that just stays with you? I mean one that you find yourself hitting repeat over and over again? One that you manage to find something new with each listen? You find yourself absent-mindedly humming or tapping the beat throughout the day? “The Good Fight” just happens to be a song like that. Even cooler is that a couple of my close friends wrote it. I tried to put that aside and came to the conclusion that the fact that they were my friends was irrelevant, this is a damn good song, period. As I continued to listen to “The Good Fight” I compared it side by side with other songs and artists I consider in the same vein. This comparison led me to the conclusion that this track by a couple of guys that live in my town and I know personally can go toe to toe with artists like SIXX A.M., Pop Evil, STP, etc., etc. This track features studio wizard Chris Collier on drums and bass as well as production.
“So Long”, featuring Will Hunt on Drums, has a fresh , yet familiar feeling and yet stays unique. Powerful and yet not abrasive in away this is a song that one could use to set the pace of their impending day. Feeling good and energetic is what this track brings to me.
“It’s All I need” features Kurt Arft on bass and Chris Collier on drums and really packs a punch. Deep lyrics and Jeff’s powerful vocals give this song some weight. This is a heavy song but not overbearing if you get my meaning. Their craftsmanship shines through here.
“Beggars And Thieves” features Kurt Arft again on bass and Will Hunt on drums. This track is probably the “grooviest” one on the record and will have your head bobbing and foot tapping as soon as you start listening to it. There’s a couple of twin guitar parts that Mike just kills with.
Project Playlist closes out with “No Answer” which features Frank Hannon has that 70’s vibe that just goes so well with this song. I love the guitar wok in this track. Nice way to close out the record with some quality music and friends.
What do we ultimately get with Project Playlist? A Rock and Roll record that stands up in this turbulent time in the music industry. Jeff and Mike said “Damn the norm, we’re gonna make the music that we feel inside” and it works, on so many levels. Music at its purest level is what we have here folks.
I must also give shout outs to Kurt Arft, Will Hunt, and Frank Hannon for stepping up and going toe to toe with Jeff and Mike. Their performances are outstanding on this record. I didn’t forget Chris Collier, not only did he deliver some killer bass and drums, like a mad scientist he grafted it all together to deliver a superior recording. I think that in today’s DIY music industry production quality has suffered at the hands of inexperience in record production. Jeff and Mike know the value of a properly produced record and have developed a relationship with Chris that works.
So, after all of that why should you get a copy of Project Playlist? I could say because they are my friends and it would be cool to help them out, but I’m not. You should get this record because it’s great music, that’s it in a nutshell.
Now, you only have until Friday 08/12/16 to get your order in at https://squareup.com/store/JeffAndMike after that you will only be able to pick it up at live performances. Good news is new music is already being made so stay tuned.
Thanks Jeff and Mike for keeping music alive. – the Hellion
I remember now…
This writing will probably piss off and alienate some of my friends and readers, but it is my thoughts and feelings and I will not apologize for that.
In the early 80’s a track caught my ear one day and wormed its way into my brain, “Queen of the Reich”. It was Iron Maiden meets Judas Priest and yet somehow…not. I didn’t catch the band name but a quick phone call to the DJ, yes I said DJ, and found it was a band named Queensrÿche and I was hooked.
Album after album came out and my love for the band and appreciation for their music grew and grew. In the midst of all of this I met and married my wife and she, in turn, grew to like Queensrÿche as well.
The years gave us great albums and music to share. We were fortunate to catch them on the Hear in the Now Frontier tour and then Chris DeGarmo left the band.
I thought to myself surely the departure of Chris wouldn’t be the end of Queensrÿche and I stood by patiently to see the results. Q2K was released and it was ok, but something seemed lacking in the song structure. I then heard some rumors that Chris was working with Queensrÿche again on a new record. Tribe was released in 2003 and it gave me the magic I felt before from open to close. The “reunion”, however, was short-lived. Chris faded away again.
2006 to 2011 brought us Operation: Mindcrime II, Take Cover, American Soldier, and Dedicated to Chaos, all decent efforts but still lacking that je ne sais quoi. Then, the Taterÿche Wars (as I like to refer to them) began.
While I refuse to take sides in the whole fiasco (I am not nor will I ever be a part of their internal business matters, and was not included in any discussions so everything we read or hear is hearsay.) I kept an open mind as to the outcome.
I then heard that Geoff Tate and the band had split. Rumors of a new band called Rising West featuring Todd La Torre surfaced and I was impressed and glad they had decided to move on. As for Geoff I was hoping that he would pursue a solo career and Queensrÿche would be put to rest in an honorable way.
Needless to say that did not happen. Like a bad political campaign there was name calling and mudslinging galore. Eventually it settled, Geoff gave up the name Queensrÿche and named his new endeavor Operation: Mindcrime.
Both camps have continued to make new music and yet have failed to reach me on the level that Queensrÿche once did. Don’t get me wrong, Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield, and Eddie Jackson, are all stellar musicians and were critical to the Queensrÿche sound. Parker Lundgren and Todd La Torre are great additions as well, I just wish they would have stuck to the Rising West name and let Queensrÿche die an honorable death. Todd is a phenomenal vocalist and front man but he’s no Geoff Tate and neither should he be. Was Chris DeGarmo Queensrÿche? Maybe not but he certainly was a big part to me.