laugardagur, október 15, 2005

big riffs

Iceland is a land shaped by massive natural forces. As such, it is fitting that many of its inhabitants should have a greater-than-normal appreciation for the massiveness of metal rock. When Metallica played here last year (right before my arrival) they set a new record for Icelandic concert attendance. Right around 18,000 at the show, I believe. In other words, around 6% of the country's population. When was the last time 6% of [insert your country here] turned out for one metal show? Probably some kind of locomotive expo in the 1890s.

The mutual love affair between hard rock and Iceland may have started with Led Zeppelin, who after playing their only concert in Iceland, wrote "Immigrant Song" on the plane ride out, so inspired were they by the harsh beauty and mythical history of the Land.

Even a guy like me, known to dabble in such non-metal music as Sigur Rós, Talib Kweli, and even Paul Simon, has found himself more open than usual to hard rock after some time on the Ice. When X-ið 97.7 ("the X") played The Wizard by Black Sabbath a couple months back, I found myself nodding my head in appreciation and pursing my lips in a Nigel Tufnel sneer as I cruised down Hringbraut.

Sensing an opportunity to make inroads where none had before been possible, my brother made and shipped to me a mix CD titled "Remember: It Could Always Be Slower (Vol. 1)". The CD is a tribute to his favorite brand of rock, and what he maintains is the future of all rock, and that is riff-driven rock. Front and center on the CD, and originators of the large-riff format, are Black Sabbath. They are supported by Kyuss, Rage Against The Machine, and Iceland's own Brain Police.

I had never before, for example, really given Iron Man its due. I didn't realize that the song depicted a literal man of iron, feeling outcast among the carbon-based men around him. But as my brother explained, "See, this is exactly the sort of education you have needed. Ozzy is telling you a story about an iron man. Unequivocal. There is usually no hidden meaning or witty turn of phrase in a metal lyric." Exactly. And the man of iron would fit right in up here, surrounded by endless blank plains and steel-grey glacial flows.

The Brain Police (who I missed in concert last week) have done a tremendous job of putting their own northern twist on the big-riff sound, with songs like Jacuzzi Suzy and Taste the Flower. The riffs in these are every bit as ponderous as anything that came previously. I can imagine the tremendous recording apparatus they must have used to capture these vast riffs. Some kind of quarter-mile-wide magnetic tape stretching from Akureyri to Blönduos, perhaps, transiting at glacial speeds across recording heads made from mountains. We certainly have the space up here for that sort of thing.

I think the vastness and harshness of this Ice-land make it ideally suited for large-scale rock-riff appreciation. I am eagerly awaiting Vol. 2, and hoping that, indeed, it is slower.


Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

I made the Iceland Report! That roxors. But I must comment on a few items:

1. Metal seems to me a genre largely about alienation. I wonder if this has reflections in the Icelandic psyche?

2. If The Wizard had been recorded by the Eagles or CSNY or Zep sounding exactly like it does, it would probably get play on American classic rock radio and nobody would recoil reflexively the way they do knowing it's a Sabbath song. But that said, metal has maintained what rock hasn't -- keeping plenty of people clearly on the side of not getting it. (...and as you've said, perhaps not that many people are meant to "get" Iceland, especially NYers?) Everyone likes rock but only iron men can appreciate truly glacial riffs.

3. The whole "riff-driven rock" label is your way of summing up my likings, but I respectfully divorce myself from actually using that as, like, an actual term.

4. Kudos on recalling that gigantic tape transport system. The Brain Police needed to take it to the sky, I think, for Taste the Flower. The northern lights were laying the track on that one.

Vol.2 will be slower -- the track list is being researched even now.


Blogger EnuhCorK said...

What you need is a li'l "A Shogun Named Marcus" from Clutch!!

Although not slow, definitely ready to rock the land of ICE.

"I say So Beebopalloobopawopshamboo
And domo arigato if I got to!"

Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Nice. Yeah, Clutch will appear on the second volume. But is he ready for...Megadeth? Nah, prolly not.

Blogger Paul said...

Somewhere In Time and Seventh Son of A Seventh Son are both museum-quality metal albums.


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