REVIEW: High on Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis

“What if Jesus had a twin who died at birth to give Jesus his life? And then what if the twin became a time traveler right then? He lives his life only going forward until he finds this scroll from an ancient Chinese alchemist who derived a serum out of the black lotus—which is actually in Robert E. Howard’s ‘Conan’ stories—and then he starts traveling back in time. He can see the past through his ancestors’ eyes, but his enemies can kill him if they kill the ancestor that he’s seeing through at the time. Basically, he keeps waking up in other people’s bodies at bad times. It’s kinda like that old TV show Quantum Leap. Kurt actually pointed that out to me after I told him the idea. But whatever—time travel is a killer concept.” – Matt Pike (vox & guitar, High on Fire)

That’s Pike’s laid-back, California biker style explanation of the concept behind High on Fire‘s latest head-removal tool, De Vermis Mysteriis. It’s an aptly metal theme for an album of such infinite grit. And seriously, if Matt Pike gets any grizzlier, someone’s gonna have to set some traps. Listen to his vocals on the final track, “Warhorn”, where they’re spotlighted to stunning effect. All the gnarls, barbs, and bristles in his voice are in your face, naked, calling to mind a wounded Kodiak; a battle-hardened beast bleeding out but fighting mad. Matt’s big, filthy guitar–and those RIFFS–along with Jeff Matz’s dexterous, elephantine bass, and Des Kensel’s muscular drumming bear up (sorry) that crusty howl with the force of a natural disaster.

In other words, this is a High on Fire record. Really, I’ve come to expect nothing less from these three guys, and they deliver yet again with this one. As appears their custom, they chose a new producer, going this time with Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. After the clarity and polish of 2010’s Snakes For The Divine (produced by Greg Fidelman), Ballou takes it back the other direction, roughing it up and making it more monolithic. This one is road-dog dirty, and that with the progression and growing sophistication on display here makes for an undeniably powerful combination. For my money, De Vermis Mysteriis is a strong, early contender for album of the year.

Listen:  Warhorn


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Trayvon Martin’s racist, Facebook peanut gallery

And now…Ladies and gentlemen… “Post-racial” America:

This fat sack of shit was such an asshole, I included two of his posts:

Ugh. Unfortunately, these were all too common and easy for me to find. Please feel free to look these fucks up and give them a little constructive criticism, or a lot of it, as you see fit…

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VIDEO THRASHBACK: Voivod – Astronomy Domine (1989)

The first thing I associate with Voivod’s Nothingface is a strange girl’s home. The girl herself wasn’t strange exactly; I only mean I didn’t know her and can’t recall a thing about her. But the house…Her parents’ house…It was a beautiful, ultra-modern place in a neighborhood that will be forever cost-prohibitive to me. I’d never been in a home like it. Haven’t since. It was cavernous, filled with expensive art and kept immaculately clean. I can’t remember how I got there or who I was with other than my friend Danny, the headbangingest bastard I knew [see: Brainwashed]. The girl’s parents were away, of course, and we were spilling beer and dropping ashes all over the place, but the chick didn’t seem to give much of a fuck.

Danny threw the tape in.

I’d heard it before, but things were different this time around. This time, everyone in the room was under the influence of LSD, and “Astronomy Domine” set our minds on fucking fire. It was the early stage of a new transition for me, and I soon embarked upon a journey beyond metal into wider, sometimes weirder realms. My use of LSD had just begun, and it wasn’t long before Metallica jumped the shark and I found myself practicing full-on Beatle worship, mining the Floyd vault, and charging headlong into the then burgeoning, heavy “alternative” scene:  Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Soundgarden and the like. Psychedelicized.

The trip lasted nearly 20 years. (The musical one, not the chemical one.) It was a fine excursion, and my mind was well expanded, but my return to metal a few years ago felt like a return to home. It’s good to be back. My tastes are wider than ever, but because of it, I’m way more stoked by metal now than I was before. I look at it differently than I did when the young metal me was formed, and I can now appreciate the groundbreaking and mind-bending of Nothingface soberly, but with a wizened ear. It’s a wonderful sound.

Mosh On.

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REVIEW: Meshuggah – Koloss

I am the great leviathan…The insatiable colossus…I am life and death…You empower me…I’m a mammoth king evolved…Conjured by your dreams…Summoned by your fears…I’m the imposing giant…Infallible dictator…My rules apply to all…You remain before me…I am life and death
I decide your fate…

The above is a sampling of the lyrical introduction to Koloss, and it definitely sets the tone. You are about to be mauled by a force much bigger than you. Stronger. Meaner. It will be surgically brutal in its dispatch of you, a puny admirer who fawns over their executioner even in the midst of the deed. You will kiss the feet of the mighty Meshuggah, and your neck will be severed before you even notice the taste of Holy Fuck on your tongue.

Here, the band has harnessed their H.R. Giger-as-proggy-death-metal-band aesthetic, condensed and disguised the skull-fuckery, and molded it into semi-familiar shapes. Still odd, alien shapes to be sure, but finessed to resemble something vaguely human. It’s brilliant. Koloss has made me a much bigger Meshuggah fan.

Listen: I Am Colossus

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Kony, Khrist, and The Kloset (or, Sympathy for Jason Russell)

Imagine your favorite food, hands down, is hamburgers. You can think of nothing tastier. Problem is, you’ve been told all your life, by most everyone you know and care about, that liking hamburgers is an abomination and that giving in and actually eating them is pure evil. I’m sure it’s obvious where this is going, but even so, please indulge me for a moment. Imagine confessing these burger longings of yours to these people. So long as you agree with them that it’s wrong, they may deign to afford you some pitying acceptance, but you’ll be expected to go through your entire life seeing hamburgers everywhere you go—in magazines, on billboards and TV, and smelling them as you pass fast food joints and when you’re sitting there not eating one in every restaurant you go to while the approved people are scarfing them right under your nose—all without ever following through with your unabating desire. If they find you’re actually eating hamburgers, well…  Bad to worse. You’re deemed a pox on the very essence of all that is good. Less than a person. Your closest family might even disown you. And rightfully so;  you’re fucking disgusting. Oh, and when you die, they say, your spirit will live on to be endlessly tortured for your burger blasphemy. Okay? Now mull that scenario over a moment. Really imagine how you’d probably feel. Now imagine how much worse it must be for many gay folks who grow up in evangelical families. Everyone who’s come anywhere near puberty knows a weakness for McDowell’s ain’t got nothin’ on a sexual preference.

Which brings me to the recent internet hullabaloo that is Kony 2012 and its architect, or, perhaps more fittingly, its choreographer, Jason Russell. When I first saw his smug little propaganda video, I figured “So what if it’s really douchey and weirdly egomaniacal? If it works and this Kony fuck is dealt with, then fine. Who gives a damn?” Then there was the backlash. Then the back story began to fill in…His evangelical upbringing and connections with anti-gay groups… Then the guy went ape-shit on the streets of San Diego and into the laughing academy for a few nights. All in a handful of days. Whoa. But it never crossed my mind when I first saw the Kony 2012 video that this Jason Russell weasel was a closeted gay man.

I usually think of my gaydar as pretty decent. Definitely above average, but it has been known to fail me once or twice. In this case, I think I went in focused pretty intently on the message and the claims being made, but the overwhelming douchiness and arrogance was a huge factor in my distraction as well. In fact, it was probably the biggest factor, as I was more or less mesmerized by it. Seriously, it was almost difficult to think of anything else while watching this thing. That and maybe his hetero marriage and the cute little beard of a son he trotted out so manipulatively helped to throw me off. At any rate, I should have picked up on it.

The following day, I saw out of the corner of my eye that this guy was on CNN and un-muted the TV. Then, for some reason, he didn’t get more than a few sentences in before it occurred to me very, very strongly that he was probably gay. The way he moved, his manner of speech, the way he expressed his enthusiasm…I picked up on all these little clues at once. Of course I can’t know it for sure, and it’s not an accusation of any sort. In my view, being gay is nothing particularly remarkable in itself, and certainly nothing negative. It’s merely what I thought at the moment.

I was further convinced when I saw this video of Jason at the evangelical Liberty University, espousing his love of Christ,  and—as if there could be a better clue—musicals. Then there was this video for his organization, Invisible Children, wherein he sings and dances his little heart out. And after that? The breakdown:

Is that or is that not the single gayest breakdown possible for a supposedly straight man? Not the nudity of course, but the walk, the posture, and the gestures. As a friend posted on Facebook, “The closet really is a deep, dark place I guess. That’s it, girl. Sashay the gay away!” Really, anybody who knows gay will tell you:  GAY.

As you probably know if you’ve been trying to follow this story, his wife says he wasn’t on drugs or alcohol at the time. Or rather, more specifically, that he doesn’t do drugs or alcohol. It doesn’t much matter to my point. The official story is that old bullshit favorite of people in the public eye who act a fool before it:  exhaustion and dehydration. But for those of us who are observant and aren’t members of the Kony 2012 cult or the Christ cult, it’s looking more and more like a big part of the explanation probably lies somewhere in the beginning of this post.


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Back quackery: The dishonesty and ludicrous claims of chiropractic

My back has been fucking killing me. Evolution, the blind bastard, by shoddily adapting a quadruped’s back to serve a biped, has assured that most of us will have back problems at one time or another. But man…mine has really been hurting. All the time. Doctors tell me this is due to my pelvis slipping out of alignment and that there’s not much to be done about it except regularly manipulating it back into place, stretching, and exercise. I recently figured out how to put it back in place without assistance and hit upon a combination of the three that I think may finally be doing the trick (a little more time will tell for sure), but it’s been a long, uncomfortable pain-ride, and I, like many others, have looked to chiropractic as a possible path to relief.

A couple of years ago, I made my first two (and only) visits to a chiropractor I picked from a list of local practitioners because he was nearby. I knew there was some issue taken with chiropractic by the mainstream medical community in regards to the validity of some of their claims, but I figured a good back-cracking and a massage could at least lend me some temporary relief. And it did. But the almost religious zeal with which this guy told me what chiropractic was and how it was going to help me—not just with my back, but with practically everything else that might be ailing me—was off-putting from the start. First, though I was explicit and up-front about being there for my lower back pain only, the questionnaire I was given to fill out when I first arrived asked about every single health issue I had. What the hell do my allergies have to do with getting my back cracked? My bullshit detector was sparking and belching black smoke when, after that, he explained subluxations.

Subluxations, he tells me, are basically little blockages of the nerves caused by your vertebrae being out of whack, which prevent your body’s natural healing energies (see:  Innate Intelligence) to flow freely and properly. Sort of like a regular ol’ pinched nerve, except instead of just the obvious bio-mechanical effects of numbness and pain, the symptoms can even be things like stomach aches, allergies, depression, fatigue, and asthma. Actually, he told me, just about anything wrong with me would probably benefit from spinal manipulation. Nonsense, I thought, just crack my goddamn back, would ya? But before we could get on with it, he had another bit of woo for me:  the subluxation station.

The subluxation station is a device that purportedly “finds imbalances in your nervous system by measuring differences in heat and electrical stimulus through different vertebrae in the body via thermoscan and surface EMG.  When the left side compared to the right side of the body shows a significant difference, it means that is subluxated and there is a dysfunction at that vertebral level.”  He runs a useless thingamajig up my spine, stopping and clicking at each vertebrae, tapping on computer keys, then shows me the printed results and says something like “See there?” He points to a colored line on the left side of an illustrated spine that’s longer than the colored line on its opposite side. “That’s your T4 vertebrae. You know that fatigue box you checked-off on the questionnaire? I’ll bet if we work on that T4 it’ll reduce that fatigue. You can see it’s way out of balance here…”*

By now, I’m fiercely rolling my eyes on the inside. “I really just want you to do something about the back pain,” I say.

And he did, finally and thankfully, get around to the crack-job and a massage by a fabulous, manhandling mechanical chair. It felt nice. Afterward, he came up with a plan for me:  three times a week, possibly for several months, I should return for more of the same, as well as perhaps some lifestyle counseling. Lifestyle counseling? Yeah, see, chiropractic is a holistic practice; exercise and nutrition hand-in-hand with spinal manipulation. He seemed quite certain that with all three, anybody can be pain and illness free most of the time. No matter that I was just there because my back hurt. I left with the intention of coming once or twice more simply for the manipulation, but if I wasn’t on my way to recovery after that, then fuck this charlatan knob. I returned again later the same week. A few days after, I was still hurting and I couldn’t stomach all the voodoo anyway, so I never went back.

Since that close encounter of the woo-rific kind, I thought I’d left chiropractic behind for good, but my pain persisted and I considered going to another one just to have my pelvis tweaked back into place every now and again. I went online to see if I could find one who wasn’t full of crap and who’d merely provide bio-mechanical manipulation without the wacky claims. I didn’t get through all of them in my area, but I went through about a dozen before giving up. All were subluxation based, and many made other unsupported claims as well. Some even offer the utilization of something called a ZYTO nutritional scanner:

“a computerized scan (that) can help detect which vitamins your body needs to achieve maximum health…using the body’s natural energetic field, a communication link is established between the patient and the computer via the ZYTO hand cradle. Through this connection, ZYTO sends stimuli and then records the body’s response. This conversation is called biocommunication, and it provides insights into health and wellness.”

 Mmmkay. And luckily for you, their offices just happen to carry an expensive line of vitamins to take care of the deficiencies “detected”. Also, why does this remind me of the E-Meter? For readers unfamiliar and too lazy to click the link, the E-Meter is famously used by Scientology to assess the “spiritual” progress of its adherents. This thing reminds me of it because it is it. It’s the same fucking technology, and equally useless. Unsurprisingly, the E-Meter was invented by a chiropractor.

They’re not joking.

To understand chiropractic, it’s important to know its origin. It was created in 1895 by one D.D. Palmer, a guy who claimed to heal people with magnets, and thought of chiropractic as a religion (again, see:  Innate Intelligence). He also claimed that in his very first chiropractic session, he cured a deaf man, simply by manipulating his spine. His son, B.J. Palmer, also in the family business, once wrote:

“Chiropractors have found in every disease that is supposed to be contagious, a cause in the spine…There is no contagious disease… There is no infection… There is a cause internal to man that makes of his body in a certain spot, more or less a breeding ground [for microbes].”

So much for germ theory, huh?

The American Medical Association denied all this madness, of course, and fought the legitimization of chiropractic for a very long time, calling them, in 1966, an “unscientific cult”. Many chiros have since tried to distance themselves from the more crackpot elements of the practice’s founding, desperately citing any legitimate study it can that even hints at its efficacy. And in another parallel with Scientology, they’ve been successful enough with lawsuits against informed naysayers to stay in business and become more firmly ensconced as an acceptable form of treatment. However, even at this date in 2012, there is zero peer-reviewed scientific evidence to show chiropractic manipulation is any more effective than placebo and/or already existing, mainstream methods of physical therapy.

This dubious origin and the tendency of chiropractors to supplement their practice with other unscientific flapdoodle are underlined by a very basic dishonesty, which almost always accompanies magical thinking. After my failure to find that rare orchid: a chiropractor who wasn’t a snake-oil salesman or a hippy-dippy believer in all the hogwash, I did some research and in the process stumbled across this chiro in California. He has a section on his website dedicated to the question “Who are the quacks?” where he attempts, by making stuff up and distorting facts, to show that it’s mainstream medicine who are the nuts, not the chiros. He prattles on about a conspiracy by the American Medical Association to maintain a “total monopoly of the practice of medicine”, then quotes a number of physicians who appear to be pooh-poohing science and medicine and confessing to acting as though they know more than they actually do. I chose this quote at random and decided to check it for accuracy:

“Medicine is a humbug! I know it is called a science, but it it nothing like science. We are ignorant, as ignorant as men can be. I know nothing about medicine, and I don’t know anybody in the world who does know anything about it.”

Frances Megendie, M.D.

What I found immediately was that the name was wrong. Frances Megendie never existed. There did exist, however, a 19th century physiologist named Francois Magendie. This “mistake” is likely deliberate obfuscation, because when I looked to see if Francois indeed said what is attributed to him, I quickly found this volume of The National Magazine from 1856 and the truth. See, Dr. Magendie did say those things, but not in that order. Put in order and context, we learn that the quote is second hand, from a very long time ago, and that Francois was trying to communicate that, though medicine had a long way to go, it was advancing everyday. And in the next century, he predicted in this passage from the same speech, medicine would be a robust science indeed:

“True enough, we are gathering facts every day. We can produce typhus fever, for example, by injecting a certain substance into the veins of a dog; that’s something; we can alleviate diabetes, and, I see distinctly, we are fast approaching the day when phthisis [tuberculosis] can be cured as any disease. We are collecting facts in the right spirit, and I dare say in a century or so the accumulation of facts may enable our successors to form a medical science… “

And he was correct.

See? Quote mining. Clearly this sort of sneaky slight of hand wouldn’t be necessary if there were actual evidence that chiros were legit.

The bottom line is that chiropractic is a practice neck deep in horseshit. It may offer some minor relief for bio-mechanical discomforts, but none that can’t be obtained through your physician, physical therapist, masseuse, or sometimes even just a placebo. Why bother wading through all the feces?



For more on the subject:

*I have no clue what vertebrae is what and which corresponds to what ailment in subluxation theory; this is only an approximation of the actual dialogue and is essentially true.


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Colder than a witch’s tit, hotter than the hinges of Hell

There was a nice article at Salon published recently called “Rise of the Super-Earths.” It’s excerpted from the epically titled book, “The Life of Super-Earths:  How the Hunt for Alien Worlds and Artificial Cells Will Revolutionize Life on Our Planet,” whose author, incidentally, has been quoted as once saying “Biology is the future of astronomy,” which is an awesome thing to say. So so far, so good, right? Anyway, the whole thing’s about planets outside of our solar system, larger than our own, that are within an hospitable distance from their respective suns;  planets that could probably sustain life. Super-Earths. Check out this wonderful bit discussing the formation of planets:

 “The preplanet structure—the ‘seed’ of a planet—consists of solids (mostly silicates) and volatiles (such as water and ammonia), with trace amounts of hydrogen and noble gases. Due to the energy of the accretion process and the constant collisions with large solid bodies, this seed is thoroughly molten. (Some of Earth’s internal heat is a relic of this process.) In this state the structure differentiates. Iron and siderophile elements (high-density transition metals that like to bond with iron) precipitate from the silicate mix and sink under their own weight to form the core in the center. The remaining silicate minerals will remain in a mantle with the less dense ones closer to the top. Volatiles that are left over after hydrating the mantle minerals will rise to the surface and atmosphere.

 “Differentiation is an orderly and predictable process thanks to our knowledge of chemistry and mineral properties under pressure. Some super-Earths, the rocky ones, develop quite similarly, although the pressure in the mantle is almost tenfold higher and different varieties of minerals form. Other super-Earths, the oceanic ones, are totally exotic beasts, with oceans that are 100 kilometers deep overlying a dense hot solid water, called ice VII.”

 Fucking hot water ice. That’s ice at temps of over 1,300°F. How about that? The rest of the article’s great, and you should read it, but that stuff about oceanic planets, and especially the ice thing, really peaked my interest. Not least because of my familiarity and love for Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s novel, Cat’s Cradle (see ice-nine), but mostly because it’s just plain fascinating on its own.

Vonnegut's drawing of Vanilla Ice.

After reading the Salon piece, you should then read the Wikipedia page for ice. For real. It’s a far deeper and more interesting subject than you’re probably thinking in your initial consideration of the topic. For example, there are apparently 15 different phases of ice, varied by a combination of pressures and temperatures. There are a few hot ices, and Ice-nine is actually a thing (but fortunately nothing like Vonnegut’s insidious, fictional variety). I also learned a bit about rotten ice, diamond dust, the lost, ancient practice of ice harvesting, and the existence of the term “ice famine.” And hey, did you know that at *super* high pressures ice is predicted to become a metal?

No shit.

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