I’d like to go on record as saying that Nightosaur is the funnest band working in the City of Minneapolis. Pretty much everything I’ve ever read about them has questioned how seriously their music should be taken, as though to suggest music can be fun or it can be serious but never both.
(“There May Be Dragons”)
Nightosaur’s music – live and on record – is a cathartic reward, at least to a certain demographic. I’m thirty-four years old and some twenty years ago I spent hours in a half-finished basement studying the details on the cover of Powerslave and making the case for KISS’ Rock and Roll Circus – still the best, and I’d be glad to tell you why. I don’t think the best singer of the 1980s is Prince or Whitney Houston or Cyndi Lauper. I know it’s Tom Keifer because the evidence is right there in “Bad Seamstress Blues.” I was a metalhead and goddamit I miss it.
In the 1980s metal was the music of white, suburban teenage boys, making it my music. I may have hidden my metal records years later when my punk rocker friends came to visit and put on the top of the days stack some Crass record I hardly ever played, but I still loved headbangin’ hard rock.
And I grew to miss it. That’s what makes Nightosaur so much fun. They’re not singing songs like “Valkyrie’s Sons” and “Thunder Wizard” to lampoon the music we all grew up with, they’re bringin’ it back. In one of the best pieces I think he’s written about local music this year, the Star Tribune‘s Chris Riemenschneider talked to Nightosaur before they released their second disc, Spaceaxer this summer (you can read the whole thing here). What stuck with me more than anything else was what bassist John Henry said because it echoed something I have heard here in the record shop many times:
‘I hadn’t really listened to metal since Metallica’s “Black Album,’”‘ Henry said, pinpointing the moment when a lot of other metalheads lost interest in the music. ‘I realized how much I really missed it.’
I feel about the same, and it’s weird to imagine “Enter Sandman” as an entire genre’s swan song, It’s also weird, however, to imagine grunge without metal. I never took much of an interest in bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden because they always felt to me like dumbed-down versions of Metallica and Iron Maiden (yeah, dumbed-down). Still, I never thought about it much, and for the most part I got rid of my metal records – it wasn’t until reading Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City a few years ago that I felt comfortable for the first time making the case for metal’s merits.
I don’t doubt that Nightosaur would have a lot to say about it, probably disagreeing with me here and there and probably leading to a heated discussion that could go all night if there were a bottle of Kentucky straight to pass around. They speak loudest and clearest with their guitars, and I guess that’s why the band is so fucking good – it’s a labor of love. They rock so goddamn hard on “Too Far South for Mutiny” because they have to. And the bitchin’ double guitar solos in “Warrior Bride” are not just an expression of rock and roll’s raw power, but of thanks for the hundreds of hours of fun metal records have given us.
(“Too Far South for Mutiny”)
Spaceaxer is way more awesome than their first disc, Black Blood of the Earth. The sound is bigger and more epic, even though there isn’t a song as bombastically huge as “Thunder Wizard.” What’s lost in terms of undead dinosaurs is totally overcome by the onslaught of awesome guitars, and there’s plenty of apocalyptic fear and nightmare dragons, too.
It’s a little late to be posting an album review for Spaceaxer, but you could just as well say it’s a little late to be putting out a metal record in the first place. I know I’m not the only person who loves this music – look at the metal section in ours or in any record shop and you’ll find there’s hardly anything there. A bunch of shitty Y&T and Axe albums, and usually a copy of Kiss’ Animalize. And Chinese Democracy, you can’t give that record away. That’s because all the good metal records sell right away, and also because nobody brings them into the shop in the first place.
At least, when new customers complain we don’t have any good metal in stock, I can tell them we have a new album by a new band that fucking rocks. We often say here on the Hymie’s blog that we’re lucky to live in a city with so much great music, and here’s about as good an example as you’re going to get. Think of those poor kids in hipper cities like Portland who have to listen to stinky punks sing about bicycles and composting – at least we get to rock out.