Pain Is A Warning (Black Market Activities)
Steve Austin of the metal world is not to be confused with the television character Lee Majors played on TV in the 1970′s although he is in a way the Six-Million Dollar man of underground metal. A hero to many, Steve’s reputation does precede him. A legendary producer of other bands and through his own work with TODAY IS THE DAY, he has carved out a unique path of which only he has been the mainstay constant. When Austin works on a project for himself or others it is often and event and he has been remarkably consistent throughout his twenty-plus years in music. Pain Is a Warning is no different than all of his works: chaotic, pretty, sick and twisted. Austin’s perspectives on songwriting and lyrical style bleeds through the speakers and hits you square in the face and the heart. In a small way, he wrote the book on succeeding artistically in the underground a long time ago and he is still emulated and studied by many. As he should be.
“Expectations Exceed Reality” kick things off with a disjointed little ditty which finds Austin in brutal and sleek musical form. Frightening is a word I do not use lightly and this first song has a scary aspect to its riffage and scream therapy vocals. Immediately following that up with “Death Curse”, you get a blast of blackened death metal to rival any current hotshot band. You can tell that the time in between his last album four years ago has not tempered the beast in him at all. Austin leads the way, but he is not alone. Past lineups of the band and guests have included names like Brad Elrod, Mike Herell, Brann Dailor, Bill Kelliher, Chris Debari, Derek Roddy, Seth Putnam (R.I.P.) Jackie Peretz-Gratz to name a few so he always has the highest talent surrounding him. Drummer Curran Reynolds and bassist Ryan Jones are not mere sidemen even if it is ultimately Austin’s show. They turn in brilliant performances and shine as equals next to the giant. The song “Pain Is A Warning” has amazing dynamic sensibility and just builds and builds over time. Austin’s trademark lyrics and textured guitar work are present an accounted for as well. “Wheelin” with its stabbing riffs and neck-breaking beat takes the form of anger unleashed. Austin’s caterwauling pierces the ferocious din of the chords and you wonder how he doesn’t blow his vocal chords right out of his neck. “The Devil’s Blood” takes the form of an epic hard rock song that transforms into a thrash killer. There are even hardcore sing-a-long vocals here that add to the fun feel of the track. “Remember To Forget” is like a stillborn, demented country tune complete with confessional lyrics and ominous overtones. “Slave to Serenity” is another top flight song with sinister music that sounds like an advancing army is about make war on a small village. Downshifting gears once again is “This Is You”. A completely introspective ballad with chiming guitars and a somber mood, Austin comes off like a modern LEONARD COHEN or a mellow FRANK BLACK (whom he really sounds a lot like here). There are some great dramatic drums in the second verse that give it a little more hopefulness towards the end. Lest you think he has lost him mind album closer “Samurai” is noisy and obtuse full of razor wire riffs and more anguished yelling. Although none of the music here is groundbreaking all the songs are well crafted. Austin has been ripped off and copied so much it is refreshing that he still follows his own road and doesn’t repeat himself. He has been at the point for a long time where he makes music to please only himself and answers only to his own muse. If we are lucky he’ll hear that siren’s call for a long time.
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes