Monday, January 30, 2017

Music Review #107:
The Beginning Of All Things to End
Epic Records

In 1997 Mudvayne released an 8-track EP titled Kill, I Oughtta. According to the band this was in order to meet a grassroots demand that had been growing for several months before it's release for studio material. The EP was rather good and it eventually led to Mudvayne releasing their actual debut in 2000, L.D. 50, and them skyrocketing in popularity. In the wake of the success of L.D. 50, Mudvayne decided it would re-release Kill, I Oughtta to their now vastly larger fan-base. A well intentioned decision, as the band claimed to protect their fans from scammers and bootleggers who claimed they had access to the EP.

The compilation / EP hybrid would come to be known as The Beginning Of All Things to End, and was released in 2001, a year after the release of L.D. 50. The release is undoubtedly better than the 1997 EP it's based off of, as it contains all it's contents as well as two remixes of Dig (the hit single off of L.D. 50) and a 17 minute long experimental electronic track from which L.D. 50's name was based off of. The remixes are what you'd expect from the early 00's- the first one a techno/eurodance style (not good sounding with a heavy metal band) and the other being a sort of industrial metal remix that disassociates things like the guitar and bass from one another and intersperses them in solo parts of the song. 'L.D. 50' if it were to be compared to something, is like Orbital on either meth or steroids. Maybe both. I'm not sure exactly how I feel about it as I'm not really an experienced connoisseur of avant-garde music, but it's safe to say I don't return to it to much looking for enjoyment.

While we're at it I might as well review the original material that was featured on Kill, I Oughtta, as it was the main attraction for original buyers and is admittedly the best part of this release. Being from the 90's, the music takes elements from then-current nu metal artists. The opener 'Poop Loser' with it's sophisticated motif of "you're a motherfucking piece of shit/and you'll never amount to nothin'" is extremely similar of something Jonathan Davis would, and in fact did sort of do on many of Korn's albums. Granted, Chad Gracey and Davis are much different, but it is more or less an ode to their influencers. 'Seed' is really where the album begins, acting as a much stronger and more powerful opening. From there heavy crunch of the overly aggressive guitar and bass coincide well with the almost drug fueled vocal techniques of Gracey. His voice held, and continued to hold a subtle amount of emotional value as he constantly switches from clean to scream vocals on a dime, often at unpredictable times. The strength of much of the tracks of Mudvayne's catchiness, of which there are a heavy amount. The almost deriding style of the vocals mixed with raw instrumentation such as this make for a sort of masochistic experience. Mudvayne's performance seems like a haphazard and painful one, but in reality it's just a facade, and acts more as an aesthetic. Kill, I Oughtta isn't exactly as progressive as the band would later become only 3 years later, but it is a great slice of what comprised the alternative/nu-metal scene in the mid-late 90's.

The Beginning of All Things to End acts as a sort of alternative debut to L.D. 50, appealing to a more commercial audience and to those who weren't as fond of the band's 2000 album. As a Mudvayne fan myself however, I'd wholeheartedly say it's worthwhile piece of material.

 2017 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Have a nice day! 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Music Review #106:
Wes Borland
Crystal Machete
Edison Sound Records

I can say many things about myself. One I cannot is that I am a fan of Wes Borland. The man's political zealotry, as well as his borderline vitriolic sense of superiority over those who disagree with his opinions don't ring with me. Not to mention Borland is a member of famously infamous rap-metal band Limp Bizkit, which doesn't necessarily aid my disdain towards him. I've made a point to avoid his words and thoughts for awhile now, more or less in order to stop the ravenous headaches that often ensue upon coming into contact. I recently surfaced following the cataclysmic event of the United States' 2017 presidential election to discover good 'ol Wes had come out with some studio material. I decided to take a peak.

I'll admit I can man-up when the time comes to disassociate someone's work from their person, though it can be argued that the two are one in the same. If that's the case, then it appears that the post-rock ambling of 2016's Crystal Machete is in fact the musical representation of Wes Borland. And if that's the case, then I guess I don't mind the guy. 

It's honestly a bit staggering seeing the transition Borland took from Limp Bizkit, Black Light Burns, Big Dumb Face, etc. to the solo studio. What we have here is not a Borland who's going all-out attack mode, but a more conceded version of himself. And when I say Borland, I mean only Borland. The album is completely instrumental with all songs being written and performed by himself. Crystal Machete was a bit of an isolationist project as Borland reasoned with himself to accept "as little outside help as possible." You could reason that this is Borland's early-peaking opus, which is possible. Borland himself has stated in the past that he doesn't exactly listen to the kind of music Limp Bizkit plays, so this may be an example of what he does listen to.

The sound of Crystal Machete is glittery, smooth, and as the title suggests, interesting. Speaking of the title, it is actually a good indicator of what's in store on the record; the music is blunt and to the point as a machete would be, as the music, while in no means perfunctory in nature, still uses rather simplistic percussion patterns (understandable as Borland isn't a percussionist) with some other conventional guitar techniques. In order to examine the "crystal" half then we really have to look at post-rock as a genre. When you hear that genre, what do you think of? Some might think of Iceland's Sigur Rós, others the U.S.'s own Swans. If Wes Borland's album would be juxtaposed with another, the closest you might come is toe (a Japanese post/math-rock band from the 2000's). Sonically, the two are similar, as they both use glittery, sort of bouncy rhythms and vast echoing guitar tones. For Borland this sort of holds for the more ambient songs, aka 'Svallbard' or 'White Stallion'. Ergo, Crystal Machete has elements of beauty in it's sort of hidden complexity, but also in it's blunt simplicity.

Turns out this album is actually a concept album as well, being supposedly centered around being an imaginary 80's filmscore. So we have another to take into account- atmosphere, both lyrically and musically. Lyrically the album is avant-garde in nature. No human vocals are utilized throughout the project, rather something like a text-to-speech (a semi-high quality one at least) is used in more cinematic sections of the album. I myself took the album as more of a series of soundscapes that, using the right mental gymnastics, could be pieced together, however loosely. On it's own these voice sections seem more included to instill a façade that the album is in fact a concept album rather than reaffirming it with concrete narrative elements. In simpler terms: the album isn't really narrative-driven, it just seems like it. Granted I could be wrong, but I suppose at the same time it's up to one's own interpretation of what an album really means, isn't it?
Next is the music. Ambiance plays a big part in filmscores, particularly when setting a stage for the plot to take place. Crystal Machete does in fact use this to it's advantage, and even with the aforementioned lack of plot does give it, at times, very extraordinary emotional weight. As the music shifts nonchalantly around you, it seems to give a sense of investment one might have while watching an actual film. I have to hand it to Borland, the man could score a filmscore, albeit likely to a film not of conventional nature. Think more Kubrick than Spielberg. 

For my end credits, I give, and I can't believe I'm saying this, Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland kudos on his above-average post-rock album. I expect to hear more of this soon. Doesn't mean I like you, though.

 2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Have a nice day! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Music Review #105:
Broken Glass
Pavement Music

Sludge metal has had it's roots particularly deep ever since the mid-late 80's. Bands formed in '88 - '91 began releasing albums throughout the 90s, inspired by the sound of Washington-based sludge predecessors The Melvins and particularly the albums Gluey Porch Treatments and Ozma. Being an almost solely American scene in it's early stages, sludge metal began springing up mainly in Louisiana, specifically the New Orleans area with it's bustling and diverse music scene. One of the more prominent bands of this area are Crowbar, who themselves released their debut Obedience Thru Suffering in 1991, preceded only shortly by New Orleans peers Eyehategod by about a year.

It took Crowbar a few albums to get going, though it's contested as to which album it was where the band had made their mark. Obedience Thru Suffering, although highly acclaimed and extremely good, was more or less a tribute to the Melvins. I hasten to say the band's self-titled was where the band just kept getting better and better (sans Time Heals Nothing, not a fan). The bands zenith is arguable yes, but I'd like to think it's 1996's Broken Glass.

Broken Glass is quite the experience. Packed with raw emotion and power, this is album is both a return to basics and inversely and improvement. The album sort of incorporates doom elements on some of the slower tracks, as well as featuring more tuned-down instruments than those on prior albums. It's honestly a unique experience listening to the cohesion of the instruments, even though they each have their own unique recording style. The drums don't sound booming, on the contrary their more akin to a garage-rock style. This is almost amusing (though not mock-worthy) to a certain degree, as the guitars are loud and booming, and the bass is one of the most audible instruments on the album as they both crunch out some of the most cantankerously unyielding riffs that grab you by the balls in the most wonderfully violent way. It's so strange because the album puts you in the sort of stranglehold where you can't just stop listening, but it's consensual on both sides. A strange fact it may be, but a fact it is.

If you are a fan of sludge or really hardcore material in general, I'd say this is the cream-of-the-crop when it comes to Crowbar. Go wild!

 2017 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Have a nice day! 
Music Review #104:
Nuclear Blast Records

Candlemass was a fairly early band to the doom metal scene, debuting all the way back in 1986. The band had quite the lineup, though the member that would go onto be known for his involvement in other projects was bassist Leif Edling. Edling has dabbled in a few different facets of the metal circuit, such as when he worked with progressive metal band Abstrakt Algebra on their 1995 album, however he stayed mostly within the confines of the doom metal style. After a long, nine year stint with Krux, Edling went on to form one of the more highly regarded doom acts of the recent era, Avatarium, in 2013.

Before their debut, all Avatarium had released was a three-track EP in 2013 titled Moonhorse, whose title track and 'Boneflower' would end up in the debut in the same year. So it's safe to say Avatarium was relatively fresh as an outfit going in. A rather well-marketable aspect of the band was indeed their female vocalist, Jennie-Ann Smith, as female fronted doom acts were and are few and far between. Avatarium had shown a lot of potential as a band and, being on the already rather prolific record label Nuclear Blast, were set on the fast track to greatness.

As much as this album is heralded as fantastic, I can't say I can exactly replicate that opinion. Don't get me wrong- the music's okay. Pretty damn okay, I would hasten to say. But that's just it- it's just okay. A problem I've always had with Avatarium as an outfit is their overwhelming mediocrity, sounding less like something unique and more like the more derivative moments of Candlemass in the 90's. Avatarium's debut is replete with overbearing guitar solos, powerful drumming, and energetic musicianship-- but it's just not interesting to me. The album also has a sort of sludge vibe that's hard to pin down and when infused with their already established sound, only sort of turns out sounding half-baked and phony. I have a feeling that Avatarium is meant to be a sort of product of all the groups Edling was a part of during the 80's - 00's, combining the prog of Algebra, the crushing doom of Candlemass and Crux, and a bit of sludge influence as a finish. To some it might sound good but to me it just sounds disgustingly average. The musicians are great, they have a lot of skill, but their finished product was just not nearly as impressive as I expected it to be.

2017 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Metal Music Archives on 1/23/2017.
Visit the site at
Music Review #103:
2004 / 1994
No Idea! Records

(This is the second time I've written this review because I realized after I wrote it that Floor's Dove was comprised of songs recorded in 1994, and seeing as much of the said review was me comparing faults of the debut to Dove as if it was some sequel, I had to delete it because so much of it was incorrect. So, second time's the charm.)

"I don't have the wisdom that you think you've got."

The 90's underground scene of doom metal was practically filled to the brim with hard-noggin, shoe-gazing stoners that thriving as long as you looked the part was no big deal. Among the scene were bands that emphasized the fuzzy- a characteristic that even now dominates the genre. This fuzz focused on lumbering chords, linear musical variation, and most important of all- volume. Doom metal prided itself on being the loudest of the bunch, and not in the way that arena rock took the world by storm in the 80's. This, with a lack for a better term, loudness was more conceded than it's bombastic predecessors like Priest, Maiden, or hell even Sabbath, yet focused on power over purity. This latter mentality created a lot of lazy, ill-equipped bands that laid themselves under the moniker that doom metal's 90's scene was plagued with as much quality as it was mediocrity. But once in awhile, you come across a diamond in the rough.

This diamond I reefer to is Flordian act Floor, formed in 1992 in Hialeah. Floor had some differentiating qualities about them that made them stand out quite a bit. If bands like Cathedral, Candlemass and Pentagram's fuzz defined their loudness, then Floor made theirs with sheer distortion. The sheer warpedness of Floor was, in simple terms, unparalleled by anyone else. It's a power that's sort of hard to describe in word format, so I'll try to explain their legacy and their sound as best as I can.

Now Floor didn't exactly end up focusing much on personal output as they were more content to record split after split with other bands. In fact, the band's formal debut wasn't released until 2002. However in 1994 the band had scraped together enough material to create a sort of makeshift studio album, later to be released as "Dove" in 2004. Dove is a quirky little thing, sort of like a science-fair project haphazardly created out of glue and construction paper in the efforts to make some sort of tangible product to meet a deadline. It isn't exactly, well, cohesive, and it sure isn't a professionally made product. But I believe this quality is where Dove derives it's strong suits. The band is so amateurish that they didn't really feel the needed to have a damned bassist. Here are some of the charms.

Dove only has a short, 6-track-tracklist. The album only peaks a bit over the half-an-hour mark, with 18 minutes of that dedicated to the title track epic. Tracks 1-5 is where the album shines the brightest:'Who Are You' is less of a serious track and more of an embodiment of the caricature of metal portrayed by Queens of the Stone Age on 'Six Shooter' (from SFTD), but it manages to get a point across pretty well in a short time. It and 'Namaste' sort of bleed into each other, although 'Namaste' does have some neat guitar hooks that give it personality. 'In A Day' is where the album picks up, granted in a more stoner direction, but picks up nonetheless. 'In A Day' is actually one of the more consistent songs of the Floor catalouge- taking a bit from RHCP (in the way that they use a brilliant drum hook as groundwork for the whole song) and utilizing clever vocal queues. 'Figure It Out' is my personal favorite of the album, as it starts with a wall-of-sound esque attitude blended with a sort of punk vocal style from Steve Brooks. 'Floyd' is more or less a delineation of a blurred line between the rampant distortion of Floor and the conceded form seen on prior tracks. It's good for what it is as I don't mind Floor when they're in no-man's-land.

But track 6 is the definite kicker. 'Dove', the massive 18 minute title track is a purposeful stain on an otherwise rather well-done album. Granted, it has it's moments, but as I once sat through it's entirety I came out with a feeling of discomfort. Not a positive feeling of discomfort one might have experiencing a thrill for the first time, but more along the lines of relief in an experience being over. This after-feeling is the death-stroke for me, and this track subconsciously goes straight into the bin because of it. But I will admit it has it's pros. The opening bit pure and honest Floor, acting like they would on one of their earlier splits. But the track just sort of dies a quarter of the way through, opting for either a confused screech or sad rumble, both of which are more akin to microphone feedback than music. I will give them credit, as they may have been going for a Esoteric-esque fuzzfest, but no matter how how ambitious it may be, it ends up falling ultimately flat.

Other than that however, Floor's Dove is quite the spectacle. I'd recommend it for fans of the underrated, the bold, the beautiful, and the doomy. Very good.

 2017 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Have a nice day! 
Music Review #102:
Roy Harper
Harvest / Chrysalis

Folk music is a genre as time-weathered as the most ancient forms of music out there. It's spanned generations at yet never faced a particular decline. Sure, the 20th century beckoned innovation left and right, such as the inception of jazz and rock as a pop culture medium. These genres, even though existing for a few decades, have been tampered with to the point of ridiculousness, discovering countless avant-garde pathways of musical experimentation. Yet folk hasn't really gone through a mainstream upheaval. Granted a genre as vast as folk is doubtless to maneuver through less traveled territories, which is definitely did in many different cultural landscapes. These ambitious takes on the genre were never financially popular. Most mainstream folk musicians were and are still content to patter out the same material as they were a hundred years ago, mainly because of society's familiarity and comfort with folk staying inside the proverbial box.

The 1970's ushered in the most eclectic and experimental period in recent history. Genres were not being introduced- rather they were being reintroduced in new clothes. Rock morphed itself into such genres as punk rock, disco, funk, and progressive rock (to a smaller extent). Jazz was delving deeper into perplexing territory on one side, but on the other hand genres like smooth jazz began to erupt in popularity. Hell, the two combined in the late 60's into jazz-rock, another newly-discovered music form. Still though, folk remained pinned in normalcy. Sure, psychedelic injections in the genre came from artists like Donovan, but the traditionalism still overshadowed it in popularity with acts like Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary. One artist tried to break this glass ceiling, however. Roy Harper.

To be fair, Mr. Harper doesn't necessarily require a grandiose introduction like some exalted king of tunes, but the man is quite the interesting fellow. In an interview, Harper states that he himself is not a fan of traditional folk music, and "was never really a bone fide member of the folk scene". Harper's difference from his peers becomes quite stark when delving into his music. He doesn't play like a romanticized pretty boy sticking to a linear set of sparing phrases that can be sung to make the crowd swoon, as much as he does a poet or a bard. Harper is a fan of John Keats, an 18th/17th century romantic poet, and it definitely translates fluidly into his work. He sticks mainly to lengthy songs, usually over the 8 minute mark, each filled with colorful language and rich stories. If you want to find good examples of these said songs, look no further than what is perhaps Harper's 1971 opus, Stormcock.

Stormcock is as progressive as they come. First, it has a short set of 4 tracks. Second, each track is individually lengthy, with the longest track being over 13 minutes. Third and finally, upon it's release, it was practically loathed by the labels. Marketing was practically impossible as radios refused to air it's tracks. Financially, Stormcock was a flop. A big flop. But honestly- who cares what the radios think in the end? Stormcock has since then has gained somewhat of a cult following and for good reason. It's influence has stretched quite a way to bands like The Smiths and modern folk/indie band Fleet Foxes. The album itself doesn't feature much diversity musician-wise other than Harper himself, except for Jimmy Page's under-contract-cameo as "S. Flavius Mercurius" and orchestral arrangements by David Bedford (who has worked with Kevin Ayers of Soft Machine). Roy Harper's musicianship is unique and extremely intricate. His guitar skill coupled with his sort of Ian Anderson-esque rasp color vivid literary pictures on each track. As someone who likes a bit of zesty writing, Harper is absolutely my medicine. The production is something highly praised, but personally I think it's rather rough at times. 'Same Old Rock' I know features far too blunt audio-balancing techniques and are usually just acceptable at best. I will give credit where credit is due though; the large production staff managed to master the art of atmosphere, particularly on the last track 'Me and My Woman' (we'll be coming back to this one). The echo of each instrument lends great power to every song, as well as giving it a great personality. More or less this album is guitar-centric, structured around Harper's overlapping acoustic and vocals but given different and interesting effects. If that sounded like something hackneyed to you, I'll admit that it is a bit. But usually where most 70's folk-cheese falls flat is that is becomes overly self-indulgent and you can no longer take it seriously. Stormcock has a certain subtlety to it that gives it a sense of maturity over it's contemporaries. This is mainly shown on the closer, 'Me and My Woman', which I've become convinced is one of the greatest musical compositions of the 1970s. Each movement in the song (especially the opening) flows almost perfectly into each-other, and the orchestral accompaniment does wonders to the piece. I'd really suggest checking it out on your own as it's one of the most worthwhile experiences I can recommend on this site.

Are you looking for an escape, my musically-frustrated friend? Then to reiterate: look no further than Roy Harper's Stormcock. It features some of the most soulful music to come out of the 70's folk scene, and is definitely top quality progressive material. Godspeed.

2017 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 1/6/2017.
Visit the site at
Music Review #101:
Trust Us
Sony / Stickman

Motorpsycho is a Norwegian rock band that surfaced around the late eighties. The band named themselves after the 1965 Russ Meyer exploitation film of the same name. The movie follows a veterinarian named Alex Rocco whose wife is raped by a motorcycle gang, and his subsequent revenge plot. This namesake doesn't have the most interesting history, as the biggest reason Motorpsycho picked it was due to all of Meyers' other acclaimed movies having bands forming under their names, and "Motorpsycho" was the only one left not taken. However this origin does give a bit of basis into the band's early history. The band started as a stoner/alternative metal band, releasing their debut Lobotomizer in 1991. To call the album special was perhaps an overstatement; it was grungy and rough but also had glimpses of deeper complexity. Aside from the quality, what Lobotomizer marked most importantly was a signal for more to come. As the band progressed through the 90's they almost entirely lost their metal edge, opting for a more and more progressive, hard-rock, Led Zeppelin-esque output. This, in a way, is what made Motorpsycho's albums so unique in their own rights; every single one was like a different era in themselves, unheeded by any superficial tie-downs to any one genre. This is what truly made Motorpsycho an eclectic band.

Now we could take a look at really any one of the band's albums and have an enjoyable experience, but I decided to pick my personal favorite of the bunch. This album was none other than Trust Us, released in March of 1998.

Trust Us is perhaps the most complex of Motorpsycho's 90's material, which is saying something for a band such as this. Usually when it comes to albums released in '98 or '99, I make a point of how the band's sound was changing to fit a new decade, or that they began to synthesize new techniques of that time period. Motorpsycho is unique as Trust Us was not an absolute guarantee in a change of style. It sort of continues where Angels and Daemons At Play left off, albeit with less "indie" attached to it's name. Trust Us takes in a lot of influences, like Pink Floyd and the aforementioned Led Zeppelin. Hans Ryan and Bent Saether's overly-crunching riffs coincide staggeringly with the quieter background music and the overly-intricate drumming of Haakon Gebhardt, but with a few spins it becomes much more cognitively natural as your brain adapts to it. That brings up a bit of a nitpick some might have about Trust Us- pertaining to it's inaccessibility. Many of the tracks are 7+ minutes long and I can see how that could turn casual listeners or those with "musical A.D.D." off. I for one suffer from the latter, yet I'm easily enthralled by the sheer nail-biting talent showcased in some of these songs. '577' is undoubtedly my favorite, starting with the soft croon of Ryan and Saether's harmonizing vocals and leading directly into 4 minutes of unique and complex guitar solos, until finally re-arriving at the vocals. For me it's a true flagship of the bands talent with instrumentation (which undeniably is where they shine the most). However on the less heavy side, 'Ozone' is a bluesy kicker with a dash of White Stripes and a disarmingly fun beat. On the prog side 'The Ocean In Her Eye' fits the bill, an almost post-rock infusion undercutting an over nine minute long exercise of the band's creative muscle. Other tracks hold their own water very well but this praise isn't meant to be dealt by me, at least I don't believe so. Trust Us is a whopping 81 minutes and is nothing short of an experience that should be held at a personal angle rather than given away. I mean that in the most positive way that I can.

Motorpsycho is a unique band and revolutionary in their field. Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend that a first-timer start at Trust Us, I would conversely recommend that anyone looking for a powerful experience whilst stuck in a musical drought, then this album is definitely for you. Good luck.

2017 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Metal Music Archives on 12/22/2016.
Visit the site at

Monday, January 23, 2017

Music Review #100:
Rusted Root
Cruel Sun
Blue Duck

It's been a long time, but I'm really glad to have reached 100 reviews posted on this blog. I know I don't really have an audience, and most of the reviews posted are old reviews from a few years back, but it's still great to see how far the site's gotten since I started it back in October of 2015. So, as a late send off to 2016 and as a celebration of the big one-hundo, I'm gonna review one of my all-time favorite albums. 

Cruel Sun by Rusted Root.


I consider myself to be pretty erudite when it comes to bands that consider themselves to be a part of the "jam" scene of rock-n'-roll. As a scene, they're quite loosely-related and most of the time are much different as individual outfits. Sure, you can correlate similarities between say moe. and Widespread Panic, but as a whole they will be different in many complex ways, whether it have to do with their attitude as a band or their music style in general.

It's always extremely entertaining to interact-or hell, even observe the community that thrives around these bands. They've built themselves a reputation as massive group of stoners and potheads who can't tell the bands they're watching on stage from a ham sandwich, but in reality they remain one of the most tightly-knit communities that still exists in the rock world. People come from all walks of life to sing, dance, and generally enjoy life every since The Grateful Dead popularized the idea of massive jam shows back in the late 60's. This diversity of people also illustrates the diversity of the bands that fall under the label. Bands like Phish,Umphrey's McGee, Blues Traveler, and the aforementioned Widespread Panic and moe. all gather under the moniker yet translate it in different ways. However as the delineations between these bands can be made with ease, those classified under the jam band name can be vastly different than the most popular names.

This is where we encounter a band called Rusted Root, who are a little harder to compare to they're peers. Root made their honest debut when they practically exploded out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with their smash hit 'Send Me On My Way' in 1994, and to a greater extent the album it came from, When I Woke. The song itself is best known for being featured in children's films such as Ice Age (2002) and Matilda (1996), and it's no wonder why. The song was apt for a children's movie the day of it's inception, with it's light and bouncy atmosphere neo-scat gibberish lyrics. While most people know this 90's cultural touchstone from When I Woke, the song in reality debuted on Rusted Root's actual debut, Cruel Sun, in 1992.

You may be puzzled. It's understandable- the existence of the actual Rusted Root debut is practically unbeknownst to the mainstream crowd on which the band built their fame. This was mainly because Cruel Sun was more or less a passion project, bourne from the practically unknown Maryland-based Blue Duck Records. A passion project it may have been, but it was a highly ambitious one. Folk is a loose term that encapsulates a gamut of different sounds and bands, but it is what describes 'Root on this album. Albeit folk rock might be a more apt term, but folk nonetheless. And to tie back into our theme of diversity, Rusted Root brings in a plethora of different subcategories of the folk genre, specifically in a multicultural way. Cruel Sun incorporates ideas of Celtic, tribal, African, Asian, and other folk sounds under the same paintbrush. The album as a whole is filled to the brim with almost an unfathomable amount of different genres, so much so that the album and Rusted Root as a band were often dismissed by critics for being so ambitious that they fell flat. Some may say that Rusted Root's 'ambitious' qualities are in reality just the band being unable to pin down a unique sound of their own, but I think that's pure malarkey. Rusted Root did have their own sound, and they were constantly derided for such. In their earliest stages Rusted Root embodied the latter-day hippie movement to a t, as one would expect any conscious folk band to do. Now while I won't deny the scorn that neo-hippies to receive, Rusted Root's real power does emanate from their music, and the hippie ideal doesn't necessarily translate into it.

The multifaceted brilliance of this album is very prominent, right off the bat with 'Primal Scream', a song that lives up to it's name with an aggressive, foot-stomping beat as well as a splash of minstrel-esque music. 'Send Me On My Way' is of course a track pick-- it's iconic in so many ways that it will take a very long time to see it fade from our collective mind. I actually found myself enjoying this more raw, dilapidated version of song more than the more shiny version seen on When I Woke. 'Tree' is another highlight (although the whole album in itself is practically flawless), being a multi-movement, sort of prog-folk romp that clocks in at a clean 8 minutes. It might be smart to mention that much of this album is in fact early renditions of songs that would later appear on subsequent albums all the way until Welcome to My Party in 2002. My favorite of these is 'Cat Turned Blue', which is an energetic, wild track that really brings out the fun qualities of the band. It was turned into a more Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque song on When I Woke, also sans an 'All Along the Watchtower' bridge that was featured on the original, a removal I'm not exactly fond of.

Now this might seem like a cop-out, but I suggest you experience Cruel Sun for yourself. If you don't like it the first time, I urge you to give it at least 2 more spins. I myself had to ease into it, and now it's one of my favorite albums. The happiness this album has bestowed on me is extremely great, and when I went to go see Rusted Root back in December 2016 in a weed-smoke-filled theater in Syracuse, I felt an indescribable sense of wonderment that I've rarely felt with other musical groups. Recognizing songs- some new, some deep cuts- gave me the best thrill in awhile. And although some of the songs that were on Cruel Sun that didn't make it to When I Woke will doubtfully ever be played by the band again, there's no doubt that it increased the validity of my love for the band tenfold. So I urge you, listen to this album. You won't regret it.

Shoot for the stars, friends.

 2017 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Here's to a thousand more.