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Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Celebrate the Weed Laws with Rock's Top 10 Stoners

Sure, there was some kind of election or something last week”at least we think that’s what we heard coming out of the mouths of the TV pundits. Honestly, we kind of stopped paying attention after a while, at least until the news broke about a truly earth-shattering political breakthrough. While the rest of the world was focused on whichever one of those guys with the suits and ties walked away with the prize, we were captivated by a revolutionary piece of legislation that proved to be election night’s biggest surprise: the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Washington and Colorado. While this monumental move has been the dream of stoners all over America for decades, it must be assumed that the passing of what we like to call The Bong Bill will be most widely celebrated in the realm of rock ‘n’ roll. To commemorate the dawning of a new era for uncontrolled substances, let’s look back at some of rock’s most notorious stoners, who are sure to be holding their lighters aloft in honor of these epochal developments.

Black Sabbath

Just for starters, one of their earliest albums introduced the much-covered metal marijuana anthem Sweet Leaf. But beyond that musical love letter to THC, Ozzy Osbourne is one of rock’s most titanic tokers, to the point that he ultimately changed his stance on legalization in recognition of the damage drugs had done to his neurological system. Granted, we’re talking about a lot more than merely pot in Ozzy’s case, but nevertheless, Sabbath are still stoner-rock (more…)

Oaklynn

Oaklynn

Bands of brothers”history is riddled with them. From Creedence Clearwater Revival to the Bee Gees to Kings of Leon to The Beach Boys to Kool & The Gang to Good Charlotte to Pantera to, well, you get the point. Oaklynn, a band out of Dalton, Ga., brings its own exceptional symmetry to this illustrious group. Made up of two pairs of brothers”Josh and Seth Smith and Tripp and Tate Howell”Oaklynn purveys catchy, hook-driven synth rock with gossamer vocals. Fans of Postal Service will love the band’s single Everytime. Over compressed beats, tambourines, digital bleeps, and reverb guitars, Tate Hollowell sings, Every time you come around here lately, you lift me off the ground. Oaklynn’s ethereal songcraft has a similar effect. Next time you need a serotonin surge, give these guys a try.

Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Hank Williams III's Hankering For Metal

Things could have been much easier for Shelton Hank Williams, better known as Hank Williams III, if only he was willing to play ball and give Nashville what it wanted from him. Just imagine the extent to which Hank III”who is the spitting image of his iconic grandfather ”could have cleaned up in the country market if he had offered up some polite, modern variation on grandpa’s pioneering honky-tonk sound, or even a contemporary recasting of his father’s ˜70s outlaw stylings, as Shooter Jennings has done with Waylon‘s legacy. But it was probably that very same maverick spirit Hank III inherited that kept him from pursuing the easy path to Cadillacs and caviar in Music City.

You see, while Hank III does indeed have a deep love of”and aptitude for”country music, and a healthy respect for his family tradition, he’s just as heavily inspired by metal and punk, and he’s never stopped trying to honor all of his inspirations, sometimes simultaneously. That’s what has now led him to release no less than four different album projects simultaneously, each one representing a different side of his fearlessly fragmented musical personality.

According to the thirty-eight-year-old singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, rock & roll grabbed him at an early age. I got my first drum kit when I was seven or eightyears old, he remembers, and I would get excited when I would hear Heart or Ted Nugent or ZZ Top or Elvis, and run around the room. I always felt connected to that kind of music because of being a drummer and feeling the beat. As he got older, he went on to develop a passion for hardcore punk and heavy metal, and Hank eventually wound up playing bass with Superjoint Ritual, Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo‘s punk-metal side project. When you’re on stage with Anselmo, there’s wild stuff happening, he says. I was working with one of my heroes, man. That’s always an honor and a trip. But every time I would take the stage with Superjoint my job was to bang my neck as hard as I could every show and take it to the next level, and that’s what I tried to do for them.

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For Whom The Bell Tolls: How To Rock Into The Great Beyond

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Rarely do we choose to confront our morality head on. Yes, one day you, me and everyone else will pass on to the great beyond. Yes, it’s a sobering thought, but who says you can’t go out in style? Now in the past, if one was a member of the landed gentry, you could have a top composer of the day write you a requiem. These days it would probably be harder to find someone to write a song about you for when you died, unless you were in the band. Fortunately, there are a few options out there for the discerning consumer who wants to go out with a little musical flair.

Vinyly, a UK based company, has recently begun offering something for the ultimate vinyl lover. For a little over $3,000, the company will take your ashes and press them into vinyl and produce a real, working record. Not only that, but you can make multiple copies of the record for you loved ones. For an additional fee, the good people at And Vinyly will write a song just for you. Users have the option to choose a plain, unadorned jacket sleeve or have an acrylic and ash portrait commissioned by artist James Hague. If the price is right, then you can R.I.V.”Rest In Vinyl.

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Musical Chairs

We recently caught wind of vocalist Joey Belladonna talking about his concerns over being a permanent fixture in Anthrax during his third tour of duty with the band. As unfortunate (and probably well-founded) as Belladonna’s concerns are, we won’t be focusing on his particular case today. His statement got us thinking on how commonplace lineup changes really are; we’re interested in how bands, especially those considered seminal in their genres, are able to maintain their sound and fanbase throughout the years with completely different members. After some research and many generalizations, we have made this list of what can happen to a band when new members are recruited.

Nirvana

Stroke of Luck Bands: AC/DC, Nirvana, Pantera

AC/DC was a band that had an established position within their scene, but would Back In Black have been so immensely successful if Bon Scott had still been on vocal duties? Would Nevermind be the grunge postersong if it weren’t for Dave Grohl‘s performance on the skins? Would the Cowboys From Hell have exploded onto the metal scene without Phil Anselmo‘s growling screams and falsetto? Probably not.

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Metal Monday: 1990, A Great Year In Metal

Though the metal genre has had many landmark years, no year in it’s musical history matches 1990 in terms of legendary and influential record releases. At a time when metal was starting to explore heavier sounds, such as brutal death metal, and bands like Judas Priest were evolving, the incredible album releases across the metal spectrum was an integral part of metal’s evolution. The year was epic in terms of both metal releases across sub genres and overall history.

For the new wave of British heavy metal, Judas Priest released their monster album Painkiller, which is considered to be one of the best metal albums of all time. It’s a considerably heavier sounding album than most Judas Priest material, and certainly heavier than their most famous songs such as “Breaking The Law” and “Hellbent for Leather.” Painkiller is the album in which Rob Halford finds his most sinister place, K.K. Downing finally breaks loose of the cheesier guitar riffs from the earlier days and Scott Travis adds more attitude on the drum kit. A true metal masterpiece.

Candidate for most metal artwork ever

The thrash world also had an all-time great album released in 1990 courtesy of Megadeth. Rust In Peace is a fairly short album, clocking in at just under forty minutes, but those forty minutes are densely packed with great riff after great riff, and blistering solos to spare. You also can’t forget Dave Mustaine’s incomparable voice, which is at its absolute best here.

That same year saw the debut release of the now legendary Atheist album Piece of Time, as well as Deicide‘s eponymous debut“both of which put a clear stamp on the death metal that would follow them. In a completely separate area of metal, Primus also released their debut album Frizzle Fry, considered by many to be their best album to date.

Splitting the top of the 1990 release charts with the powerful debut releases by Atheist, Deicide and Primus were bands like Pantera and Kreator. Both bands found the perfect formula for their very distinctive thrash styles, each releasing what was the best album of their careers (and still might be). Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell is certainly the band’s best known effort, boasting one of the most distinctive opening riffs in the history of metal. Even Bathory was on board with the year 1990, releasing Hammerheart, an album considered by many to be the first true “Viking Metal” album.

Less serious, but plenty awesome

In terms new metal bands, the “class of 1990″ list is pretty extensive: At The Gates, Converge, Kyuss, Opeth, Dark Tranquillity, Tool, In Flames, Fear Factory, Lamb of God and more. Many of these bands would go on to be extremely influential in their respective sub genres. In fact, the bands from Gothenburg (At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames) went on to define a scene and sound for Swedish melodic death metal for the two decade to follow.

The year was marred by tragic events, such as Judas Priest being sued when their song “Better By You Better By Me” allegedly prompted a kid to commit suicide (the band won the case) and the attack and ensuing paralysis of Possessed frontman Jeff Becerra. Still, with landmark release after landmark release, 1990 will go down as one of the best years in the world of metal.