Deftones-selftitled_albumcover

 

by Andy Lyons

Following a year and a half of touring in support of the platinum-selling album “White Pony,” Deftones took a two-month break before heading into the studio to produce their eponymous fourth album released 11 years ago.

“Deftones” was the last album produced by Terry Date, who had worked with the band since their first album, because of the ridiculous amount of time spent in the studio. They took considerable amounts of time to write and record music, and lacked material when they entered the studio. A few of the songs on the album were written while the group was in the studio.

Despite a total production time of 12 months and a bill of roughly $2.5 million (because the band was fined by label Maverick Records for missing deadlines), the group put together one of their heaviest and most memorable albums. The album, released May 20, 2003, entered the Billboard 200 at No. 2, sold 167,000 copies in its first week and remained in the Billboard top 100 for nine weeks supported by the first single, “Minerva.”

Reviews for the record were mainly positive, the heavy sound garnering praise for the originality while most of the “nu-metal” scene was dying out. Album reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that “Hexagram,” the album’s first track, “hits hard – harder than they ever have, revealing how mushy Staind is, or how toothless Linkin Park is.”

Chino Moreno’s lyrics are some of the best on this album, even standing up against newer releases. He is rather well-known for the duality of a lot of the lyrics, and most songs on this album allow for multiple interpretations by the listener. He truly shows his range with his singing as well – the growls, high-pitched screams, and melodies are carried by the fact he had vocal lessons after damaging his vocal chords during the band’s 2001 summer tour.

Musically, the album is a lot heavier than “White Pony.” From the opening riff of “Hexagram,” the album is a heavy metal journey. The song sets the tone for the rest of the album with thundering bass hits to soft melodies. The song was the second single off the album, and the video was well received and had significant rotation on MTV’s “Headbanger’s Ball” and Fuse’s “Uranium.”

 

There is an abundance of distortion with guitarist Stephen Carpenter’s sound, with late bassist Chi Cheng picking up the role of the rhythm, most notably on the album’s fifth track, the mournful “Deathblow.” It doesn’t take away from the music; in fact, it makes it that much easier to get involved with. Cheng and drummer Abe Cunningham really bring the thunder with this bass-heavy album, especially with the visceral “When Girls Telephone Boys.”

The track features heavy distortion on Moreno’s vocals, which come off as an almost guttural scream. The drum work and guitars glue together what is probably the heaviest song in Deftones’ entire repertoire.

Band DJ Frank Delgado comes off the turntable and plays both the synthesizer and keyboards on the album, making synth-heavy “Lucky You” a song that gives listeners a brief reprieve from the assaulting sound of the rest of the album.

The group also used a grand piano and a toy piano with “Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event,” which is the slowest and most melodic on the album. The opening chords with thundering bass crashes give listeners an instant lump in the throat, and Moreno’s mournful tone brings the song home. It’s easily one of the most melancholy yet beautiful songs, and of course with large duality in the lyrics listeners can interpret the meaning of the song in a way that really personifies it.

Most of the songs on the album have a heavy feel, yet Moreno’s melodies make them songs any music lover can enjoy. Most notably is “Minerva,” the first single of the album. The soft touch of vocals and guitar slow the song down, yet the droning bass work keeps it feeling like it belongs on the album.

 

The album’s final track, “Moana,” has become the go-to “driving home from an awesome day” track in my musical library. From the opening guitar riff it’s a song that builds and builds until finally releasing with Moreno’s vocals into a masterpiece of a song that encompasses the entirety of the album.

Overall, “Deftones” is a really eclectic album. The songs span across a range of emotions and genres, giving testament to the band’s range. The musicianship and Moreno’s vocals are tuned together into a beautiful album. In an age where artists slap together junk songs around two or three singles, it’s refreshing to pick up an album like this one where every song could be one of those singles. Being the follow-up to their most commercially successful album, Deftones put on a masterful display of a band that would stand the test of time and still be producing albums 11 years later.

 

gots4e9

by Andy Lyons

Fans of “Game of Thrones” know to expect the brutal climax of each season of the HBO series in the ninth episode. It was Ned Stark’s beheading in the first season, the Battle of Blackwater in the second, and the Red Wedding a year ago. Fans have been gearing up for a battle at the Wall for most of the season, following Mance Rayder’s promise to “light the biggest fire the North has ever seen” and the less-than-loving scene where Jon Snow’s lover, Ygritte, shot him with three arrows after a confrontation with the Wildlings.

This episode, “The Watchers of the Wall,” provides an hour-long battle scene and includes all sorts of cool sights, including giants attacking the gates to Castle Black. We finally see perennial pushover Sam Tarly stand up for himself and discover the fates of most of Jon’s friends at the Wall. While there is no clear line of good and bad guys when looking at Westeros, it’s the Night’s Watch vs. the Wildlings at the Wall. This episode showed the hatred between the two.

The episode begins with Jon and Sam talking about Ygritte in relation to their vows as members of the Watch. Sam knows every gap in the vows and tells Jon that physical relations aren’t blatantly listed, as long as he doesn’t take a wife and doesn’t father a child he’s in the clear. As Sam prods into Jon’s former sex life, Jon gives the response any man would – “I don’t know, I’m not a bleeding poet!”

South of the Wall, Ygritte’s Wildling band is having an almost identical conversation. Styr calls Ygritte out for leaving Jon alive and then makes some attempt to intimidate the Wildling archer, who is indomitable. She proclaims that anyone who tries to kill Jon before she can will feel the wrath of her bow.

After a conversation with Maester Aemon Targaryen – yes, Targaryen – Sam finds Gilly shouting at the gate, alive and well after Ygritte spared her life at Mole’s Town. In a scene almost as ironic as the “I’ll never let go” scene in “Titanic,” Sam locks her in a cupboard and assures her he’ll never leave her again. He pulls her in for a quick kiss and leaves after promising her he won’t die.

The men of the Night’s Watch fortify Castle Black as much as they can, gathering with bows at the top of the wall as the forest to the north burns in the fulfillment of Mance’s promise. We finally see some humanity from Ser Alliser Thorne, the guy that’s had it out for Jon since the Stark bastard arrived at the Wall. He admits to Jon it was a good idea to seal the tunnel and tells Jon they’ll win so Jon can go back to hating him and he can go back to wishing the Wildling whore finished the job.

As the siege commences, thousands of Wildlings come through the tree line north of the Wall. There are a handful of giants, including one atop a mammoth. The Night’s Watch unleashes a couple volleys of arrows, but the Wildlings are mainly out of range of the archers, and the band from Mole’s Town comes over the walls of the keep to the south.

As the battle rages, one of the giants shoots a spear-sized arrow that knocks a member of the Watch into the main keep – from the top of the wall! Inside Castle Black, the Thenns are killing everyone. Ygritte looses an arrow and hits Pip in the neck, who dies in Sam’s arms. As Sam moves for a better position he nails a Thenn in the face with a crossbow.

The giants hook a mammoth up to the gate and begin pulling it down. Jon sends Grenn to hold the inner gate. As the giant breaches the gate and it slams behind him, Grenn begins chanting the oath of the Night’s Watch as the giant charges them.

In the courtyard, Ser Alliser is wounded while fighting Tormund, which leaves Jon in charge. In the major confrontation of the courtyard, Jon and Styr face-off in what looks like it could be Jon’s last fight. As he maneuvers, Jon ends up losing his sword but comes out on top, bashing the Thenn’s head with a blacksmith’s hammer.

Through the fighting, viewers are treated to deaths featuring eyes being gouged out, butcher’s cleavers ravaging bodies, and weaponized boiling water. It all leads to a really anti-climactic face-off between Ygritte and Jon. Ygritte has her bow knocked and ready to fire, but doesn’t kill Jon. However, the little boy who has been living at the wall since the Thenn’s killed his parents has picked up a bow at Sam’s bidding and shoots Ygritte right in the heart.

As she fades away in Jon’s arms during a raging courtyard fight, she asks Jon, “Remember that cave? We should go back there.” She fades and the fighting finishes. Tormund is taken prisoner and defenders of Castle Black start piling the bodies.

While the celebration is brief, Jon reminds the men they are still outnumbered 1,000 to 1 and that Mance was just testing their defenses. Sam and Jon head to the tunnel to find Grenn and the men with him all dead, but they held the gate. Jon heads off to kill Mance and Sam returns to Gilly.

While this battle wasn’t as tragic or as plot-altering as former episode nines, it set the groundwork for a lot to happen in the next couple of seasons. There is still plenty more that can happen at the Wall, and I’m looking forward to it. More battles – do the Wildlings break through? How far behind them are the White Walkers?

The next episode teaser showed a little bit of everyone. Bran and his gang are still somewhere north of the Wall, Arya and the Hound run into some trouble, and Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons even made the teaser.

But there are more pressing questions: what happens to Tyrion? Does Tywin let his son die? And what ever happened to Brienne and Podrick? The final episode of the last three seasons was more like a bridge episode to the next, but with so many possibilities I would be surprised if there weren’t some major cliffhangers.

 

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Story by Andy Lyons
Photos by Andrew Mather

Music festivals bring fans from all walks of life together in what could be considered their own culture. As 55,000 people descended on the Liberty Memorial Mall in Kansas City Saturday for Rockfest, it became just that.

Between the two stages set on opposite ends of the park were plenty of vendors selling merchandise, food, drinks, beer, and more forms of entertainment. There was a booth where a jester would launch insults and concert-goers could pay to launch tomatoes at the jesters face. There was a rock wall people could climb manned by members of the U.S. Army and a zipline that cut across the middle of the park sponsored by Adventure Zip KC. Near the rock wall there was also a portable hookah lounge, which remained popular into the evening.

Throughout the day fans gathered in large groups to entertain themselves between bands. One group included men in polo shirts and designer shorts playing hacky sack with shirtless men with dreadlocks. Later in the day, post-rain, people gathered near the beer tents for mud wrestling while those gathered in a circle around them placed money bets on which combatant would be the victor.

Another big part of the culture was marijuana. Vendors were selling all sorts of gear adorned with pot leaves. There were necklaces, strings of beads, hats, shirts, and everything in between with the symbol of herbal enjoyment all over it. And of course, parts of the park had that skunky odor lingering. I even saw people smoking within eyeshot of a couple of the numerous members of law enforcement without being arrested. I was pleasantly surprised – without getting overly political it was nice to see officers allowing people to enjoy themselves and not bust them for a minor offense, especially as the legalization debate comes to the table.

And then there was the lack of clothing. Band members and DJs for concert host 98.9 The Rock were constantly encouraging women to flash their breasts, and many obliged. And after rain poured for about an hour early in the day there were all sorts of shirtless men running around. On the flipside, it was quite shameless. People of all sizes were displaying themselves. It was kind of refreshing knowing that it wasn’t only beautiful people at the show, but I saw my fair share of beers guts and saggy parts of people that I can never un-see.

My friend, photographer Andrew Mather, and I made our way into the throngs of people to be sure we had a good position as legendary shredder Zakk Wylde played the national anthem. We were fairly close to the stage and the crowd chanted U.S.A. before and after Wylde played his version. Adelita’s Way hit the stage immediately after, and of course there were plenty of flashers and crowd surfers as rain starting pouring on the Liberty Memorial.

I could hardly pay attention to the music because of the high volume of crowd surfers, and I soon found myself ankle deep in mud. After the set I met up with Mather and we took shelter under a nearby tree. We made our way around the venue and grabbed food and drinks in between artists. The Rock had the bands in a staggered schedule so fans could potentially catch every group at the two stages. I didn’t pay too much attention to second stage, as the lineup for the main stage included a lot of bands I really wanted to see.

We were at the back of the crowd as Pop Evil hit main stage, but shortly after going on we headed to the Monster Energy Drink trailer to soak up some air conditioning and grab a drink. I had seen them before and they had the crowd pumping their fists in unison; it was quite the site to behold from the elevated view of the trailer.

The first heavy hitter of the day was definitely Black Label Society. The musicianship of the group was second to none, as Wylde displayed why he has had so much success as a guitarist. I was really surprised when I realized Jeff Fabb, former drummer of In This Moment, was playing with BLS.

After the BLS set we made our way to second stage to catch The Pretty Reckless. Lead singer Taylor Momsen didn’t disappoint. Her thick vocals came across better live than they did on the band’s two albums. She started the set with an orgasmic moan into the microphone that had heads turning and gripping the attention of everyone in the park. Their set was pretty short, but the former co-star of “Gossip Girl” proved she can hang with hard rock powerhouses.

Mather and I posted up near the autograph booth for most of the day –  one of the many big screens was nearby and we didn’t have to deal with the closeness of the pit.

Next up was inappropriate glam rockers Steel Panther, and they had some of the best energy of any band during the day. Being a group with songs that have titles such as “Gangbang at the Old Folks Home,” fans knew what to expect, but I don’t think I was the only one surprised by the show. The group consistently interrupted their show to interact with the crowd and make fun of each other and fans and also to reapply lip gloss and hairspray throughout the set. The greatest part of their show is the ‘80s hairband feel – they have the glamorous hair and play swaying side-by-side during different parts of the set. It was my first time seeing them live, and I was really impressed.

On main stage next was rockers Staind, one of the bands I loved in my childhood that I had never seen live. And they were really good. Their set was overshadowed when lead singer Aaron Lewis lashed out at the crowd for getting handsy with a crowd surfer.

“Alright, listen up, you f***ing a**holes,” Lewis says to the crowd. “That f***ing girl right there is, like, 15 f***ing years old, and you f***ing pieces of s**t are molesting her while she’s on the f***ing crowd. Your f***ing mothers should be ashamed of themselves, you pieces of s**t.”

But it didn’t stop there.

“You should all be f***ing beaten down by everyone around you for being f***ing pieces of s**t. If I f***ing see that s**t again, I swear to god, I will point you out in the crowd and have everyone around you beat your f***ing a**.”

While it definitely put a damper on their set that included hit songs from the late ‘90s, including “It’s Been a While,” it was awesome to see an artist stand up against crowd behavior that can damage people such as groping.

Five Finger Death Punch singer Ivan Moody referenced Lewis’ rant later in the day, saying that he wouldn’t have been as nice and would have come down into the crowd himself to administer some justice. Later in the FFDP set, he asked anyone paranoid about getting hurt to get out of the pit, and invited a young boy named Cooper and his dad to the stage while the group got two mosh pits going in the crowd.

Killswitch Engage closed out second stage with a visceral set, with the heavy metal band shredding and lead singer Jesse Leach masterfully delivering the vocals that make up the group’s growling and melodic sound.

One of the great things about Rockfest is the multiple screens and speakers around the park that allow fans to see both stages from almost anywhere. As we made our way into the main stage crowd for the night’s closer, Korn, KSE was on display. It finally got disappointing as Korn’s instruments being soundchecked played over the KSE set on the system. Although it was only a minor annoyance, it was still really distracting during KSE’s hits such as “My Curse.”

Korn finished off the night, with the fireworks going off as band members tossed guitar picks and drum sticks to the crowd. They had great energy and a spectacular light show, despite just returning to the U.S. after a Russian tour. The set list was a bit disappointing to me, as a fan from the time the first album released I was expecting some older music, but they played a lot of radio hits such as “Narcissistic Cannibal” and “Coming Undone,” and understandably so considering the show was hosted by Kansas City’s rock station.

Overall it was a great experience. It’s always interesting seeing people interact at a concert, and America’s biggest one-day music festival is no exception. It would have been entertaining even without the music, but the lineup this year made for what could probably be one of the best ever.

 

gots4e8

 

By Andy Lyons

As season four winds down, no character is safe in Westeros. In episode 8, “The Mountain and the Viper,” the show’s producers hit the most exciting points in the storyline as they have in the previous three seasons. There is plenty of drama abound, as plot twists are happening in most of the storylines, but fans have been anticipating the fate of Tyrion Lannister and the trial by combat. SPOILERS AHEAD

Oberyn Martell, who has earned the nickname of the “Red Viper of Dorn,” positioned himself to fight for Tyrion after his sister, and person accusing him of murdering King Joffrey, named Gregor Clegane her champion. Clegane, also known as the “Mountain,” is a huge warrior and a reputed killer. Martell has been itching to kill Clegane, and is no fan of the Lannisters because Clegane raped and murdered his sister and her children during the war that precedes the series.

The fight itself was a beautifully choreographed fight sequence, with Martell spinning and dancing with a spear and Clegane heavily armored and wielding a sword that was taller that the imp himself. Throughout the fight, Martell screams “You raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children,” to Clegane and the two engage in their dance of death. Martell was definitely in control of the fight, connecting on several stabs and even a raking blow to the back of Clegane’s leg.

As Martell is about to kill Clegane, who is on his back with the spear protruding from his chest, Martell tells the Mountain that he cannot die until he confesses and he pulls the spear out. “Who gave you the order?” Martell screams as he looks at the combats judging table, full of the Lannister family.

With Martell distracted, Clegane grabs him by the leg and knocks him to his back and lifts him by his throat. He connects a gruesome punch to Martell’s face and knocks most of his teeth out. Clegane rotates to the top of the semi-conscious Martell and finally responds.

“Elia Martell, I killed her children. Then I smashed her head like this!”

The Mountain squeezes Martell’s eyes out of his head and crushes his skull with his hands. A wide shot shows one of the most gruesome gore scenes of Game of Thrones and then Clegane tries to stand but succumbs to his wounds and dies. Tyrion’s father, Tywin, announces the decision that Tyrion has lost his trial by combat and is sentenced to death.

It was really a beautiful scene. Masterfully executed by the producers and with a plot twist fans of the series have become accustomed to.

Around Westeros, there was still plenty of minor plot twists to build the anticipation for the final two episodes.

In the Eyrie, Lord Petyr Baelish is being questioned by a panel about Lysa Arryn’s death and Sansa Stark is brought in as a key witness. She has been hiding under the lie that she is Baelish’s niece, not the daughter of the slain Ned Stark. She admits it to the panel and weaves her own tale into Baelish’s lie that Lysa committed suicide.

Finally, a Stark that understands you have to do what it takes to survive!

Arya Stark and the Moutain’s brother, Sandor Clegane, finally reach the Eyrie so the Hound can get some money for the youngest Stark girl. As they approach the gate they find out that Arya’s aunt is dad and the scene ends brilliantly with a stunned look on the Hound’s face and Arya laughing manically.

On the other side of the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen banished her trusted adviser Jorah Mormont after Tywin Lannister sends his pardon to Barristan Selmy and he shares it with the “Mother of Dragons.” Mormont had been giving information to Lord Varys, who’s spy network has kept him in a position of power in King’s Landing.  That information led to an assassination attempt earlier in the series, and despite Mormont protecting her, he is banished anyway.

Throughout the episode we finally see Grey Worm, the castrated leader of Dany’s Unsullied army, become a bit less robotic and a bit more human as he sees Dany’s handmaiden, Missandei, naked and bathing in a stream. Missandei approaches Dany about the incident but Dany reminds her that he’s missing the parts that would truly draw him to her naked body. Later, Grey Worm apologizes to Missandei and she forgives him, and says she’s sorry he was castrated. Grey Worm conveys that without it, he would have never become Unsullied and in turn would have never met her.

In the north, psychopath Ramsay Snow uses the plaything formerly known as Theon Greyjoy to trick some Ironborn into surrendering a keep and butchers them all. After killing their leader to surrender, the same man is shown with his skin flayed and still steaming in another one of the goriest scenes of the show. In exchange for the victory, Snow’s father the traitor Roose Bolton (who helped orchestrate the infamous Red Wedding), gives Snow legitimization and lordship as they become the new lords of Winterfell, the former home of the Starks.

The opening scene of the episode sets up the next, as Wildlings invade the town where the kindhearted Sam Tarly sent the wildling mother Gilly to keep her safe. The band of Wildlings led by Tormund and Styr kill everyone in the town, yet Gilly and her baby are discovered by Ygritte, formerly Jon Snow’s lover. She holds a finger over her mouth, signaling to keep quiet, and goes about killing the defenseless townfolk.

Back at the Wall, Jon Snow and his small crew of friends complain about not being able to go out and fight them. Snow reminds his cronies that if they are attacking that close to the Wall then Mance Rayder and his army of 100,000 must be on their way. The next topic is defending against the invaders with barely more than 100 men.

With two episodes left, the preview for next week’s show included a lot of Wildlings. I expect the fight between the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings, and I’m sure there’ll be some plot twists there. But then there’s the question of Tyrion’s fate. Will his father let him die?

Will there be fallout from Dorne following Oberyn’s death? What ever happened with Brienne and Podrick? What will the Stark sisters do? Game of Thrones certainly leaves no shortage of questions, especially with two episodes left.

 

UCM biology major Eva Gann poses in one of the biology labs. Photo by Taz Hall / Muleskinner

UCM biology major Eva Gann poses in one of the biology labs. Photo by Taz Hall / Muleskinner

I’ve been wanting to move into features for a long time and finally had the chance to do so with a big feature profiling four students and their tattoos. Here is an excerpt.

As tattoos and tattoo culture gain popularity and acceptance, more and more young people are getting inked. There are many students with tattoos, and they are getting bolder with placement. It’s not so taboo anymore to have tattoos visible on arms and legs, which creates a Technicolor student body. As spring hits and students dress for the weather, it can be surprising to see how many students have tattoos. While there are probably hundreds of inked students, it’d be impossible to highlight each of them. The Muleskinner staff picked four students to highlight not only the uniqueness of their tattoos, but their lives as well. It’s students like these who make UCM such an interesting and special place to get an education.

Head over to muleskinner.net and check out the profiles here.

One of the songs from the shelved Deftones’ album, “Eros,” was released yesterday to commemorate the one year anniversary of the death of former bassist Chi Cheng.

“Eros” was supposed to be the group’s sixth studio album and was in production when Cheng was seriously injured in a car accident Nov. 4, 2008. He had been in a semi-conscious state until his death last year. Fans have been speculating about the fate of “Eros” for years, more so since Cheng passed.

The song, “Smile,” was posted to lead singer Chino Mareno’s official Twitter and the Deftones’ official Facebook. It had more than 1,000 retweets from Moreno’s Twitter and is now unavailable due to “a copyright claim from Warner Brother’s Music,” which is the label Deftones are signed to. However, there is a second upload that will surely be brought down soon.

The release of the song is sure to add speculation to when “Eros” will actually be released, but there has been no word from the band at this time.

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All photos taken by me at the Switchfoot and Royal Concept concert at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland on Monday April 7. Be sure to check out my concert review here! This was a really fun concert and a great shoot, I ended up with some solid shots. Check them out and let me know what you think!