Thursday, February 28, 2013

Jess and the Ancient Ones - Astral Sabbat

February has given us tons of great music in plenty of different categories, so let's end the month with a fun one. Finnish retro rockers Jess and the Ancient Ones released their delightful Astral Sabbat EP on the 22nd, which provides a true trip back in time. Similar to fellow Swedish rockers Graveyard, Jess and the Ancient Ones pull proudly from the 60s and 70s musical tradition, but rather than heavy metal they go for more of a campy 60s occult vibe. The title track from their Astral Sabbat EP is distinguished by Egyptian flavored guitar riffs and a ripping bassline. They're in a similar vein to Witchfinder General if they were less doom and more silly psychedelic pop/rock.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Atoms for Peace gives Thom Yorke chance for one more encore

It's no secret that Radiohead brainchild Thom Yorke has been mesmerized with electronic music since the 2000 release of Kid A, but his efforts to refine the sound has provided one of the more intriguing storylines over the years. This time he's got some new guys around him -- the principals being Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, former R.E.M. drummer Joey Waronker, and producer Nigel Goodrich, best known for his work with Radiohead.

It's not hard to see who the dominant influence is. Amok has already drawn a smattering of comparisons with Thom Yorke's 2006 solo album The Eraser, and for good reason. The key differences are that Amok is much heavier on analog elements, features a much more spastic and diverse rhythm section, and also showcases the fact that Yorke has made many strides in production and arrangement of composition since then. Many of the synths that come in over the top are pure sex for your ears, able to dominate songs in ways they never had been before.

A great example is "Inguene," which opens with one of the album's thickest synth patterns. It sounds like something from Boards of Canada's Music Has the Right to Children, while projecting a serious sense of groove and swagger. Meanwhile, opener "Before Your Very Eyes" dazzles the ear with its pulsing synths, while introducing more and more layers as it goes on. Not to be outdone, lead single "Default" opens with an infectious rhythm, leading into one of the most blissful pure electro-pop songs on the album.

Of course, one of the key areas where Amok stands apart is in its sense of groove and swagger. Songs like "Dropped" and "Stuck Together Pieces" have prominent, well defined basslines, but "Reverse Running" is the only song that approaches the gold standard rhythm awesomeness of "Lotus Flower" from the previous Radiohead album King of Limbs. With its warm, open bass tones, oriental inspired guitar lead, and Yorke's spiraling vocals, it's an easy standout.

The title track and album closer is easily Amok's most unique song. Its ghostly and ephemeral opening sets the scene for Yorke's fleeting phantasmal images. It showcases an uncanny knack for progression with a shimmering keyboard riff coming in near the end, all structured around one of the album's best basslines.

In comparison with King of Limbs, Amok is much more straightforward and less meandering, but not as deep. In general, the meat of the album is laid on the surface of most songs. This makes it more accessible than the last couple Radiohead albums, but leaving less to discover on repeat listens. In addition, it doesn't do much to push forward the sound that Yorke and his various companions have developed via various side projects over the years, expect that he now has the best bass player behind him he's probably ever had.

Yet despite some flaws, it is still a well thought out and well composed composed electronic pop album that delivers large doses of sensuality while also being capable of conveying a downcast and detached vibe. In short, it's a great dish for anyone craving more of Yorke's patented sense of rhythm and style.

Score: 86/100

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Menomena delivers smashing sing along to enthralled crowd at Mercy

Portland indie rockers Menomena have been through considerable upheaval since losing guitarist Brent Knopf  in early 2011, one of the major creative cogs in the band. Fortunately,  it hasn't changed the fact that they are still one of the most creative and innovative bands in indie rock today, and their live performances continue to kick ass. If anyone doubts that the band is still teeming with life and vitality, their set at Nashville's Mercy Lounge Saturday night is just one more piece of evidence to toss onto the pile.

Justin Harris provides propulsive rhythm for Menomena.
The first ingredient in their magic spell is stage presence. Justin Harris possesses a stout, muscular build; all eyes are on him as his leonine hair splashes about while he plucks the strings of his bass. He projects a very serious demeanor  In contrast, drummer Danny Siem is tall, gangly, and long limbed. He presents a laid back and free spirited persona onstage, a trait that also provides an apt description his drumming style.

He's like a wizard that sits in front of a kit and conjures the perfect rhythm to drive forward his band's distinctive style. Each hit gives his sticks tremendous bounceback off the pads, providing him with the kinetic energy needed to to deliver a performance full of thunder and passion. And he's always moving around the kit, cooking up something creative, so that even when he is playing a basic beat it still seems dynamic.

While Siem's rhythms provide an invaluable foundation, the rest of the band lays down a varied tapestry that makes up the backbone of the Menomena's sound. There are splashes and flourishes of guitar here and there, but the instrument often serves as more of a mood generator as opposed to actually taking the lead itself.  Keys, pianos and Harris's saxophone fills out the structure of most songs, but ultimately it is the catchy and addictive vocal melodies that seal the deal. The evidence was on display in the Mercy Lounge crowd, as the whole front row joined in wholeheartedly, pouring and singing their hearts out.

Their subject matter is also varied and diverse. Many of their lyrics focus on the knotty tangle that often forms between men and women over sense and sexuality  "Don't Mess With Latexas," builds a story around a morally questionable bedroom encounter.

"Heavy is as Heavy Does," one of the best songs from last September's Moms album, is a brooding piece focusing on the deterioration of a relationship between father and son. The tripped out guitar feedback/distortion section near the end provides a great complement. And they closed their main set with the adrenaline blast that is "Taos." It wows with its swaggering sense of braggadocio, only to turn reverential in the second half. A dynamic drum fill and moving piano chords complete the experience.

Danny Siem drums, sings, and powers Menomena's engine.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The dark wings of the raven deliver Steven Wilson's finest solo album

Those who aren't familiar with this prog rock mastermind best stick their nose in a book and read up on Steven Wilson. Best known as the brains behind prog rock heroes Porcupine Tree, Wilson delivers for our pleasure his third solo album, The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories). 

Those who don't know better might confuse it for a book title, but those who do know the two mediums have their similarities. For Raven, Wilson has designed each song to tell a standalone story, much like chapters in a book, and each story focuses on some type of supernatural or occult element. There are tales of murder, death, regret, longing, and detailed character sketches to top it all off.

And it's not just the lyrics that are supernatural; the skill involved in the musicianship is pretty otherworldly itself. One of the biggest upgrades between this album and his two previous solo albums is that he now has the most talented backing band behind him he's ever had. Famed English axeman Guthrie Govan handles guitar duties, and provides a level of skill and technicality rarely seen in any of Wilson's works. Adding to that confection is esteemed German drummer Marco Minneman, but Theo Travis's contributions are also integral. Travis plays a variety of instruments, including flutes, clarinets, and saxophones, which helps give Raven its signature sound.

Wilson's compositions haven't been very technical compared to most progressive rock band, but as Wilson explained to Anil Prasad on, this album marks the first time he's written instrumental material that is beyond his own skill level. The result couldn't have been more sublime. Orgasmic guitar solos dripping with pomp and splendor, fluid basslines, exotic flute, horn, and saxophone solos, elements of jazz fusion -- it's all there, and Wilson has arranged it like a master craftsman.

Much of the buzz has centered around opening track "Luminol," and for good reason. The song's backbone is its flowing and effusive bassline, which has been a typical theme in many of his works with Porcupine Tree, but it's been awhile since he's written one this effective. The character sketch is pretty detailed; Wilson describes the central character as an aged and wizened old man, strumming a guitar, playing songs he knew from long ago from dusty scratched LPs, but not scoring many style points while doing it.  Although the track includes a litany of solos from various instruments, its keynote characteristic is Govan's majestic and flowing solo on the guitar. The technical virtuosity in his playing is obvious and undeniable, but never feels gaudy or overblown.

Many of Wilson's previous works, including Grace for Drowning, are heavily influenced by the 70s prog tradition, and Raven is no exception. Raven is not as depressingly dreary or murky as Grace for Drowning, but its influences often lead to many tracks possessing a sweeping and grandiose feel. "Luminol" is no exception. But even more bombastic is "The Holy Drinker," the busiest, most dynamic, and most intricate of Raven's compositions. The army of keyboards and Hammond organs get a major workout here, while the story focuses on a man whose indulgences bring about his ruin. At least he's got an awesome soundtrack to do it to. The coda features a series of menacing King Crimson influenced scales, while Marco Minneman goes nuts with his pedal and crash cymbal. This passage will most certainly have you cranking up your volume knob.

"Drive Home," meanwhile, is much more subdued and serene, the perfect soundtrack to gazing into the starry night sky. Its atmospheric sweeps and cool washes calm the mind after the opening blast of "Luminol," and generates a sense of spaciness often associated with Pink Floyd. "The Pin Drop" is the least notable of Raven's tracks, but is also one of the most frenetic. It delivers the furor of a driving rainstorm, while also being the most jazz influenced with its volley of erratic horn and trumpet solos.

In terms of storytelling, however, "The Watchmaker" is one of Wilson's most haunting tracks. With its focus on gentle acoustic guitar and lonely, forlorn flute solos, it truly feels like a storybook come to life. Thematically, this is the album's most disturbing and brooding track, which focuses on an elderly couple who meet a grisly end. But it becomes downright eerie thanks to the detailed description Wilson gives of the watchmaker's anguish at having led a wasted life.

Finally, the title suite closes out the album on a haunting note. On the surface it's a sparse piano ballad, but Wilson gives it layers of depth with heartfelt lyrics and minor soul overtones,  The soul influence was something he and Mikael Akerfeldt began playing around with on "Ljudet Innan" from last year's Storm Corrosion album, but he uses it much more effectively here. It all adds up to a sensitive,  touching, and emotionally poignant finale that expresses a profound sense of loss and longing.

His two previous projects, 2011's Grace for Drowning and 2012's Storm Corrosion were brilliant but flawed efforts, which showcased Wilson's intellect while feeling self indulgent. Raven tops those efforts and is at least as impressive as the last couple of Porcupine Tree albums. His stunning composition skills are matched by phenomenal instrumentation, and his method of structuring the album around individual stories makes each song fresh and unique. While it's still early, Raven is easily the best album of 2013 so far, and a work well deserving of serious study.

Score: 94/100

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Bloody Valentine intends to steal your mind and never give it back

For the uninitiated, or perhaps those who weren't born at the time, My Bloody Valentine's seminal release Loveless may very well sound like a typical 90s record. But the truth is the other way around: it's typically the 90s that sound very much like Loveless. That album, and the band for that matter, have become elevated to near mythical status in the 22 years since it was released.  Add to the fact there was no followup in that time, and Loveless became an album frozen in time, forever appreciated by their adoring legions of fans even though most of them had long since given up hope of seeing a new album.

This combination of hype, critical acclaim, and rosy nostalgia has given the band a rarely seen level of leverage and control over their long awaited followup, mbv. It's clear that the Irish indie shoegazers aren't making radical changes to the formula  but they do demonstrate that their hazy, lush, and atmospheric sound can manifest itself in a quite a few unexpected ways.

"Only Tomorrow" knocks the dust off, recalling everything that was great about My Bloody Valentine while also showing that this dog has learned new tricks. It captures that muddled, messy and hazy aesthetic that drove millions into rapture on Loveless, while also showing that Kevin Shields can speak in many different ways with his guitar strings. As the track progresses he mixes things up with several different guitar riffs, while still managing to sound like he's playing out of a cracked speaker in his bedroom. All the while, the torrents exuberance  youth and joy he's unleashing is enough to move even the stoniest heart. It's going to be hard to avoid being swept up in the tidal wave this album is about to generate.

They dip into their shoegaze side a little bit more on "Who Sees You," a much slower paced piece that calls to mind an array of fuzzy and distorted landscapes, while the vocals float over the top like a descending mist. It's like being on a ride at an amusement park, as your cart travels slowly along the rails, watching in wonder at the scenery unfolding before you.

Speaking of vocals, it's true that they have often functioned as just another instrument with the framework of each song. But the band isn't ready to let us forget that they are capable of crafting songs where the vocals are the centerpiece. They accomplish this task on "New You," on which Shields's voice penetrates to the forefront while the guitars and other instruments simply chug in the background. It's a nice change of pace, but the instrumentation gets a bit repetitive.

They also successfully demonstrate that they're capable of injecting some pep into their step. "In Another Way" is very upbeat and fast paced, powered by some acrobatics from drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig. The guitars move around from one riff to another, while a soothing synthesizer line comes in over the top near the end and ties everything all together.

Some design decisions work out better than others, however. "Is This And Yes" is a minimalist piece predominately consisting of some glistening keyboard and misty vocals parceled in very sparse. It certainly sounds different from the rest of the album, but it's a bit fruity. It smacks of something that should have been left to the 80s post punk scene.

"Nothing Is" is an abrasive, disjointed mood piece near the album's close. It does a great job of setting a vibe, but its inane insistence on repetition can't save it from its own monotony. Perhaps its main function is to set the stage for album closer "Wonder 2," the most rhythmically frenetic track on mbv. There's plenty of fast strumming and drumming, and it delivers a washed out effect. It's like listening to the band on a damaged radio when you've accidentally turned the knob a notch or two too far.

So after 22 years, what does My Bloody Valentine have to show for themselves? It's certainly not a flawless effort; its main problem being that it gets bogged down in repetition from time to time. It's certainly an album's album; aside from "Only Tomorrow" or perhaps "In Another Way," there aren't many pieces that work well in a random mix. And it is certainly requires a certain mindset. But it's not hard to be impressed by how versatile the band is in being able to cover a great deal of musical ground and maintain their sonic fingerprint while doing so.

Kevin Shields has proven himself a master at taking instruments every rock band in existence have played, and making them create sounds that almost no one else has ever produced from them. Most telling of all is the way he uses those sounds to create a wonderland so lush that if you find yourself lost inside for too long, you may never find the way out again.

Score: 91/100

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Totally Unauthorized 2013 Grammy Analysis & Predictions

If there's any lesson to be learned from watching the Grammys over the years, it's that trying to predict which way the votes will fall is a fool's game. Yet speculation has its purpose; viewers can gain a definite feel for who the favorites are. And besides, it's always a good bit of fun to take a stab at which artists are going to be doing some rearranging to their trophy case by night's end.

Record of the Year

The thing to keep in mind here: will Grammy voters suffer Swift fatigue? They may very well decide enough is enough and select Thinkin Bout You, the best song here, or maybe Lonely Boy. Taylor supplies some devious pop hooks, however, and even though her song is like nails on a chalkboard, she outpops the rest of the pop songs. She likely wins here.

Album of the Year

This is the category they've got to get right. Public selection of the Grammy selection process as a whole is going to be dictated largely by who the winner is here. Blunderbuss, Channel Orange, and Babel are the frontrunners. Jack White is probably the odd man out. A Mumford & Sons win would be one many people could stand behind, and would be respectable. I just think that Frank Ocean is more progressive, more unique, and is doing a fantastic job at pushing forward the sound he's developing. I think here, committee recognizes the truest artistic achievement and bestows Ocean with the award.

Song of the Year

We Are Young, just because.

Best New Artist

This is going to be really intense between Alabama Shakes and Frank Ocean. In years past, they've tended to go more toward someone big in the indie universe, and Ocean has no shortage of Pitchfork hype. Alabama Shakes have a sound that recalls the grandeur of rock history. Ocean, meanwhile, sounds like no one else I can think of and is doing his own thing. I think he takes it. Lumineers are the dark horse.

Best Rock Performance

There are two bonafide heavy hitters here -- Alabama Shakes and Mumford & Sons -- and Bruce Springsteen can never be counted out. Alabama Shakes have too much critical acclaim to be shut out, and with only two nominations this seems to be their best chance at a win.

Best Hard/Rock Metal Performance

This will be a considerable upset if Maiden does not take it. Blood Brothers, like many of their songs, are pretty sweeping in scope with lots of melodic leads and just a really powerful feel in general. Lamb of God's Ghost Walking, Anthrax's I'm Alive, and Megadeth's Whose Life is it Anyway have great instrumentation but overall are pretty standard fare, especially so for Megadeth who is capable of so much more. Halestorm has spunk, but the song sounds like the typical watered down drivel Atlantic records is notorious for putting out. I refused to subject myself to Marilyn Manson.

Best Rock Song

The Black Keys have a ton of nominations; the problem is it's just really difficult to see where they can honestly win. They're up against Jack White or Mumford & Sons in just about every category they're nominated for, and both of those artists are primed to take home their fair share of trophies. I have Alabama Shakes winning for Best Rock Performance, so I think Mumford gets the nod here.

Best Rock Album

This should be Jack White's to lose. Maybe Muse could take it, but White's album is a better critical success, and just better in general. Who knows, maybe they'll feel sorry for the Black Keys.

Best Alternative Album

If you saw my post on Top 12 Albums of 2012, you know damn well who I think should win. Fiona Apple has not only the best record in this group, but the best record of the entire year last year and I think she wins here. Tom Waits or M83 would be acceptable alternatives.

The Rest

Channel Orange wins for Best Urban Contemporary Album.

Nas wins twice for Daughters. "No Church in the Wild" wins Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Undun wins Rap Album of the Year.

I hope Jamey Johnson gets Country Album of the Year. Don't think he will.

Jimmy Cliff for Best Reggae Album. Mumford for Americana.

Beiber for biggest whiner.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter redefines jazz's boundaries

Wayne Shorter has lived through many of jazz's finest moments. The art form is etched into his bones.

He was a protege during the bebop era, learning the craft under giants like Miles Davis and Art Blakey, making contributions here and there. In 1971, he founded jazz fusion mainstays Weather Report with Joe Zawinul, and took the first steps toward crafting his own indelible imprint upon the annals of jazz.

Shorter's recordings today are still steeped in those traditions he helped forge over 40 years ago. If you're looking for relaxing background jazz or a soundtrack for an elegant dinner party, this is not your album. If, however, you want to listen to a visionary capable of challenging most listeners' understanding of the art form, Shorter will provide riches in spades.

His quartet engages in a somewhat unusual style. Shorter is the bandleader -- on paper. In reality, it's more like a party of equals, so many times they'll go off in their own direction without losing their theme or sense of cohesion. This is truly a staggering feat; it literally opens up a hundred million directions they could go within a single piece. There are moments of pure cacophony, then there are little subdued moments that ease you into a lull, and sometimes there are moments of pure, lovely melody. But it usually isn't long before Shorter's sharp saxophone stabs penetrate into the foreground like an unexpected guest.

The songs on this album can be broken down into three separate categories. Let's start with Shorter's reinventions of previously recorded songs. He picked out three songs from different eras, rewrote them, and produced a work that fits cleverly fits under the umbrella of what he's trying to do on the album.

Album opener "Orbits" was a standard bebop piece he wrote for Davis's 1967 album Miles Smiles, but the version presented here sounds like a quartet directed by a mad scientist. It opens with some menacing piano chords from Danilo Perez and demented sax, setting the tone for the rest of the album. The main refrain from the original song is retained, but the rest is unrecognizable. Shorter employs shrill sax, and the piano work sounds like a five alarm fire is going off. But even as the band members drift apart from one another, they always manage to find their way back.

"Plaza Real" was a song Shorter originally wrote for The Weather Report. The original had more of a warm, eclectic flavor to it, with more whistling, flutes and electronic effects. The Without a Net version doesn't bear a great resemblance to its predecessor, but it does bring the same startling level of musicianship. This is one of the band's more passionate pieces. There are plenty of wild solos from Shorter as drummer Brian Blade goes wild. You can even hear whooping and hollering from the crowd around the 3:08 mark.

His last reinvention is the title song from "Flying Down to Rio." This one sounds virtually nothing like the original,  but appropriately is more subdued than his other two reinventions  It serves as a great showoff piece for Blade and Perez.

The second category consists of several original compositions preformed with Shorter's quartet only. "S.S. Golden Mean" is one of Shorter's greatest showoff pieces, which he coats in wild frilly saxophone solos that go all over the place. The song's underbelly is crisp and melodious, at least until the drums start to make their presence known about halfway through.

"Starry Night" is a more calm and subdued, allowing the talents of Perez and bassist John Patitucci to take center stage. Shorter picks up the pace later on and the whole band goes nuts at the end. "Myrrh" is one of the briefer but more enjoyable pieces, being predicated upon a sense of unease and tension established by Shorter's piercing sax shrieks and the clattering of cymbals and drum pads. It ends in a roar, finalized by the clanging crescendo of the piano.

"Zero Gravity to the 10th Power," meanwhile, provides Patitucci with his moment in the sun. The entire rhythm section is insane here. Shorter takes a backseat on this track until near the end, at which point he frenetically alternates solos between himself and Perez.

Finally, there is the 23 minute piece "Pegasus" which the Wayne Shorter Quartet recorded alongside the Imani Winds quintet. This gives the piece a strong orchestral feel; think Fantasia mixed along with free flowing jazz. The Imani Winds take the lead for the first third of the song, then they begin to lay a backdrop for Shorter to solo off of. He takes the lead in the song's second half, before tapering off and allowing the two outfits to masterfully complement one another for the last few minutes of the song.

Without a Net, like many of Shorter's recent releases, is a demanding piece of jazz. You have to be in the mood for it, and it certainly isn't for everyone. Given its length and density, there may be times this album  makes your head hurt.

Shorter has long had an affinity for experimentation and there's no chance he's shying away from that. Yet it perfectly captures what jazz is about -- the interplay, the improvisation, the way each bandmember can feel each other like putting on an old glove -- these have always been the core elements of the art form, experimental or not. The opportunity that Without a Net presents is a chance to hear some of the world's best doing it better than almost anyone else.

Score: 83/100

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Phil Anselmo shreds speakers with southern heavy metallers Down

There is a special bond that metal fans share with their favorite performers  That bond -- the energy both sides feed off of -- are more intense and passionate than in virtually any other music scene. This bond was on full display when Down, fronted by the famed Phil Anselmo, played to a packed crowd Feb. 1 at Chattanooga's Track 29.

Anselmo, the former vocalist of 90s metal stalwarts Pantera, has long owned a reputation for being one of metal's fiercest and most well respected figures; he is a giant impossible to ignore.

Down vocalist Phil Anselmo pours his heart out at Chattanooga's Track 29, while guitarist Pepper Keenan backs him up.

Down is fresh off the release of last September's Down IV Part 1 - The Purple EP, a crushing slab of lurching heavy metal that is the opening salvo in a set of four planned EPs.

Phil wasted little time in showing off his famous sense of machismo, and was not afraid to be profane. Before "Witchtripper," an acclaimed fan favorite from the latest EP, Phil commanded: "if the cocksucker next to you doesn't know the words, scream it in his fucking face!" His adrenaline pumping antics also included ramming the mic against his forehead several times, leaving him with a bloody spot on his head.

His onstage persona was forceful, authoritative, and spirited. He was like a super macho cheerleader, never ceasing to get the crowd pumping. For their part, the crowd went all out. At one point, Phil hoisted a couple of house photographers onstage and instructed them to snap shots of the crowd, saying "they're the reason we're all here."

The sound was excellent, with the crispness and blunt force of every instrument ringing out clearly. The vocals were a little low in the mix, but that's the only possible negative. The setlist enabled Down to showcase several different facets of their sound. "Open Coffin" and "Misfortune Teller" are crunching hulks of doom inflected metal, while "Ghosts Along the Mississippi" veers more toward heavy rock, with mostly clean vocals and a generally relaxed easy going nature. It does, however  contain an extremely sick riff from guitarist Pepper Keenan. "New Orleans is a Dying Whore" meanwhile, is one of the band's go-to grinders. "This song is slow as fuck and heavy as fuck," Phil described.

Scott Shelby of Warbeast demonstrates his mastery of all things metal.

He even got into the act with the opening bands. He preformed a song with Warbeast, who is signed to Anselmo's Housecore Records label, near the end of their set. He also led an impromptu birthday celebration for guitarist Bobby Tillotson Jr, singing "Happy Birthday" with the crowd. Tillotson blew out the candles on his cake, then had it shoved in his face. They handed him a towel to wipe the frosting out of his hair.

Warbeast's sound is heavily influenced by 80 thrash metal. Their singer, Bruce Corbitt, rocked out on a chain link microphone stand while guitarist Scott Shelby was fully clad in leather with spikes on his armbands. Corbitt was pretty chatty; it seemed like he was trying to mimic Phil's style of talking to an audience without being able to pull it off the same way he does.

Houston headbangers Venomous Maximus kicked off the evening with an admirable performance. Their set consisted of traditional straight ahead metal, but was heavy and direct. Vocalist Gregg Higgins's performance was never lacking in spirit or passion.

Gregg Higgins and Trevi Biles of Venomous Maximus in a heavy metal salute.