Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pale Divine - Righteousness of Passage

Pale Divine - Crimson Tears Liner Notes
“Righteousness of Passage”
By Perry Grayson
© Copyright 2010 By Perry Grayson

[These liners originally appeared in an improperly formatted version on the CD reissue of the Pale Divine demo Crimson Tears. Paragraphing and formatting are correct here.]

1997 was a whirlwind year for me musically. At 22 I was poised to become part of the dual-axe attack in the prog/power metal outfit Destiny’s End. But ’97 packed a fiercer wallop all the more because it was the first time I heard Glen Mills, Pennsylvania doom metal masters Pale Divine. That first taste nailed me hook, line and sinker. Slumbering stock sound effects ushered in the opening blasts of “Morphia” on a plain cassette with a blue computer print-out cover. It bore merely the band logo and a silhouetted face. This was the tape that became the fabled Crimson Tears demo several months later. “Crimson Tears” kicked in, and the one-two punch was complete. Warm, crunchy guitar running the gamut from Glenn Tipton-ish stabs to Iommi-like dirges. Power-packed vocals with gravel, grit and a commanding disposition. Hey, a power trio even! I didn’t know it at the time, but Pale Divine axe-slinger/singer Greg Diener was still a teenager. Those guitar and vocal lines impressed me as the work of some seventies shaman risen from the dead. Regardless of his youth, Diener’s work was that of a confident natural. I was instantly entranced. The drums were swinging and meaty, a welcome departure from the clickety-click of modern metal—no over-reliance on triggers. Enter Darin McCloskey, keeper of the keen lyrics and Brian Downey-esque beats. I was pleasantly pummelled by a modern day band who could groove in full bell-bottomed ’70s bombast on one hand and on the other slickly succor with modern day doom shadings. McCloskey and Diener: the Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson of American doom metal!

I still remember recall where I was when Pale Divine’s tunes sank their teeth into me vividly—many beers and years later. Great catchy tunes have a tendency to freeze a space in time in my mind. Deft bands like Rush, Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Uriah Heep, Cirith Ungol, Pentagram and the like have a tendency to do that. So does Pale Divine! I was up in Northern California visiting friend Rob Preston, the man responsible for introducing me to heaps of obscure and raging heavy rock ’n’ metal acts. Though Rob and I are both freaks for long forgotten gems, it was Rob who got his grubby paws on Pale Divine’s demo. He dubbed it for me on the rear of a cassette bearing a bootleg of a ’93 Pentagram live gig at the Paragon in Virginia. I practically wore that tape out on the drive back to L.A., mainly due to the joyous PD jams.

Rob Preston fired a note off to Darin McCloskey, mentioning me raving about his band. That planted the seed for an underground metal friendship that endures to this day. When the shrink-wrapped copy of Crimson Tears arrived in the mail a few months later I revelled in the dark and foreboding artwork, one part Weird Tales pulp mag cover and one part Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Took time to digest the big thanks list, complete with Darin’s list of influential bands. The tunes themselves floored me on that initial listen. “Rites of Passage” begins with a sad clean-tone passage and some trippy wah-laden psychedelia. “Rise Above” is a driving track, exploring faster tempo territory. “Lord of Sorrow” is a crushing monolith of doom. The full-tilt boogie section in the middle of “Serpent’s Path” recalls early ZZ Top, complete with a very wicked guitar solo courtesy of Diener. McCloskey and bassist Jay Purnell lay down a foundation that will have any fan of heavy-ass rock stompin’.

Darin and I began chatting and emailing. No mere dunderheaded green globule on the drum throne, Darin struck me as a multi-talented musician on par with Rush’s Neil Peart or Heep’s Lee Kerslake. I’d always go on at length to him about how much I felt Pale Divine deserved some serious recognition.

Pale Divine's perennial duo, Greg Diener and Darin McCloskey
To me Crimson Tears was one of those metal demos that quakes the underground with its inherent quality. Perhaps the way Metallica’s No Life ’Til Leather, Death’s Mutilation or Cynic’s Reflections of a Dying World did to others in the past. Yet, there’s something more energetic, exciting, urgent and lasting about Crimson Tears that causes me to revisit it and rekindle the flame. The musicianship, songwriting, production and even recording quality have a certain luster and muster that makes Pale Divine’s head peek out above the wasteland of faceless metal acts.

When I managed to get my foot in the door at Metal Maniacs—thanks to associate editor Jeff Wagner—one of the first things I did was pen a “Fast Forward” piece on Pale Divine. Bear in mind my early stock in trade at Maniacs was “Rewind” articles on cult bands like Bang and Cirith Ungol. I was dying for Pale Divine to get some much-deserved recognition for their towering talent.

Little did I know when I first heard Crimson Tears that I’d hit Darin McCloskey up to drum for my ’70s heavy rock power trio Falcon. But Darin was the first dude who came to mind. All due to his display of rhythmic righteousness with Pale Divine! In 2005 Darin gave me the opportunity to play bass in his band, this juggernaut that blew me away first in ’97. Pale Divine is now in its second decade of existence and evolving with each release. Now they’re a quartet. Rehearsing and touring with Darin McCloskey and Greg Diener in ’05 was a pleasure, one of those rare situations where everything seemed to fit like a glove. In a parallel universe that three-piece Pale Divine lineup is still slithering down the serpent’s path to destinations unknown...

Pale Divine live at Doom Shall Rise III - Göpingen, Germany, April 2005
L-R: Perry Grayson, Darin McCloskey and Greg Diener

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Destiny's End Pre-Production Demos - 1999

Destiny's End Pre-Production Demos - 1999 to early 2000

Destiny's End Metal Blade Germany promo glossy - photo by Alex Solca

Now for the second batch of Destiny's End pre-production demos! The pre-production tapes from Breathe Deep the Dark were posted earlier on the blog here: http://unvanquishablefalcon.blogspot.com/2010/12/destinys-end-pre-production-demos-1997.html. The same methods were used to cut these demos, mostly from 1999. A couple of Shure mics placed in front of the band playing live fed into Dan's old mixing console and out into a cassette deck. We usually only did one or two takes of a song. When the basic tracks were on tape they occupied two tracks. Dan and I then stayed after rehearsal or visited the jam room separate from Nardo and Brian to track our leads on the two remaining tracks using Dan's Tascam 4-track unit. Because we got down to the wire on a couple of tunes, we played some of our solos live instead of overdubbing to save time.

A recap from the Transition blog entry:
In hindsight, the fact that James lived in Houston–while the four DE instrumentalists called L.A. home–kept us together longer than we would have if we’d all been in the same locale. Early on I was kinda disappointed that our singer resided over a thousand miles away, but after a while it worked about for the best. James spent most of his time in Houston and sang Dio and Sabbath covers with some hired guns, meanwhile we had our friend Mike Grant come down to rehearsals and sing for us so that we weren’t just practicing instrumentally. (It got to the point where I felt like Mike was part of our band!) There was terrible tension at the close of our otherwise successful May-June 1999 U.S. tour with Iced Earth and Nevermore. Coming off the road was a hazy nightmare. Dan DeLucie didn’t witness the bad juju. He chose to spend a few days in NY with his family and fly back to L.A. The rented tour van carrying Brian, Nardo, James and I lumbered through Houston for a couple of days, where James got busted in a drug-related arrest. An attempt was made to steal the tour van containing all our equipment. It resulted in a shattered window. The window was the least of our trouble, but it sure was symbolic. We were worried that we wouldn’t make it out to Europe for Wacken and the post-festival tour in August ’99. We feared our singer might be serving a jail sentence. Though Nardo had his share of drug trouble in the early days of DE, I think losing his license and car taught him a bit of a lesson. Nardo’s pot bust at Jaxx in Virginia on the tour was a almost a walk in the park by comparison to James’ whole Houston mess.

When I explained the Houston horror to Dan in SoCal, he said, “I wish you hadn’t told me that.” But somehow Europe went ahead. Post-Euro tour, the four L.A. DE dudes hunkered down to work on album no. 2. We didn’t have to see James. Out of sight, out of mind. We already had a few tunes in the can, “Transition” (written by Dan), “The Legend” (a Dan/Perry/Nardo co-write, with lyrics by James) and my “First You Dream, Then You Die.”

We had no gigs booked after our Euro trek in August '99. No shows until James arranged a one-off November date in Phoenix, AZ on a weekday at the Mason Jar. I didn't have to see James for 3 months. He came out to L.A. overdub his vocals on our demos and do the AZ gig. By a funny coincidence it was with my fellow metal journalist Micha Kite's prog/power metal outfit Born of Fire. It was rough getting to AZ. We had no trailer for our gear and I was sure our tools of the trade would get rained on in the back of Dan's pickup. A small tarp did little to protect the stuff. We couldn't lock it up, and I was freaked something would get stolen. Bumbling maneuvers of a pro band, wouldn't you say? There weren't more than approximately 5 paid attendees aside from the 3 bands. That's being generous! Anticlimactic and bumming to the max. To top it off, we played pretty sloppy. James whizzed back to Houston. We didn't see him again until a couple of months later. Again, out of sight, out of mind. We could concentrate on the last remaining tunes for Transition and rehearsing instrumentally instead of worrying overly much about inner band woes. But those woes took center stage during the Transition sessions themselves.

As always, right click (and "save as") on the links below to download the MP3s.
 1. First You Dream, Then You Die (Lyrics/Music by Perry Grayson)
"First You Dream" was the first track we demoed for the second DE album. I wrote the lyrics and music to it as a tribute to one of my fave authors, Cornell Woolrich, and his bio-bibliographer Francis M. Nevins. The title itself is one Woolrich coined but never got around to using. Nevins dubbed the Woolrich biography First You Dream… two decades after the author’s death. It’s an existential set of lyrics encapsulating the bleak beliefs and themes found in all of Woolrich’s gritty and grim crime tales. Part of the tune is in an odd key, and I chucked in some jazzy octave chords and melodies for good measure. Dixieland it ain’t, but I wanted to do something different. My second fave guitar solo is on this track. I remember rehearsing "First You Dream" at an hourly studio in Houston with Nardo, Brian and James a coupla days before Dan showed up to begin the tour with Nevermore and Iced Earth. We didn't get to play it live until just before we recorded Transition.

2. Transition (Lyrics/Music by Dan DeLucie)
We finished this demo second. "Transition" became the title track of DE album No. 2. Dan’s science fiction tune about humans being overthrown by self-aware computers and machines with an intro from Colossus – The Forbin Project. We started playing this live nearly every date on tour in ’99. Brian’s ever-present double-kicks set a frantic pace for the rest of the Transition album numbers.

3. A Choice of Graves (Lyrics by Perry Grayson & James Rivera/Music by Perry Grayson)
My tune about the perils of drug addiction. Originally I called this tune "Solar Winds," with lyrics adapted from a poem I wrote in 1993 called "Rush of the Solar Winds." Because we already had too much clean-tone guitar, I canned the spooky clean intro. Lyrically, Dan and Brian objected to my omnipresent theme of individuality. I whapped out a new set of lyrics and under a new title "Requiem," loosely based on my old guitarist friend Jesse Wenick's peripherally drug-related death. The line "you had a choice of paths to walk, a choice of graves to dig" gave way to the less generic title. James changed some of my lyrics around (he tried to coerce me into "Drowning in Shame") and added a few lines of his own. It was a lot like having Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling singing my anti-smack lyrics on the Falcon tune “On the Slab.” We played this live at our last gig at the Garage in Silverlake, CA, on John Bush's Rockhouse night.

4. A Passing Phase (Lyrics/Music by Dan DeLucie)
Another DeLucie-penned tune with a very neo-classical intro. Lyrically it’s pretty grand in its cosmic scale. Dan was getting way into his SF, and I was going more human in the lyric department it seems.

5. Vanished (Lyrics/Music by Perry Grayson)
An epic and very personal track I brought to DE. Another power ballad you say?! How could it be? Dan had "Storm Clouds" around the same time I introduced this one to the guys in L.A. I originally wrote it on a guitar tuned to C#. I had the axe tuned low for doom metal jamming with my old metal bro Aric Villareal. I’d been listening to a lot of Solitude Aeturnus and had fallen in love with the post-psychedelic L.A. band Red Temple Spirits on the road in May ’99 (many thanks to friend Natalie Vlahovic). On one hand I was thinking demented gothic, and on another there was a very commercial AORish tinge like Journey or Boston. The third alien hand was progressive, thanks to all the wacky arpeggios and chord inversions. The sort of stuff Alex Lifeson did/does in Rush. In a nutshell, this one is about kids having to live up to the expectations of their parents and other authority figures. I borrowed some horror imagery from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Outsider” too. My favorite solo of the Transition album is on this song. I played slow and with a lot of emotion. Dan’s closing harmonized solo is melodic Neal Schon-like gold. I even told James to think Steve Perry all the way on the outro! Nardo’s tasty bass fills stand out in a big way. The demo version of “Vanished” bears my “graveyard” chords, instead of the more melodic offerings on the finished product. Also, this demo lacks the 12-string acoustic and eletric guitars which I added to the album version.

6. From Dust to Life (Lyrics/Music by Dan DeLucie)
A pumping power metaller about the Big Bang theory by Mr. DeLucie.

7. The Suffering (Lyrics by Perry Grayson, Dan Delucie, James Rivera & Nardo Andi, Music by Nardo Andi, Perry Grayson & Dan DeLucie)
This started as a couple of acoustic parts bassist Nardo brought to the table—which wound up in the bridge. For the first couple of weeks of our U.S. tour we had Nardo’s battered Jasmine acoustic with us, and that gave us something to work on when we had time off. Dan and I added the bulk of the heavy riffs and refined the the mellow bridge. Brian, as usual, helped arrange cohesively. In keeping with Nardo’s Middle Eastern vibe—he’s from Iran—I slapped a wahed-out melody similar to the one I wrote for “Idle City/The Fortress Unvanquishable” in the intro.  This one is a cautionary tale about the endless vicious cycle of war and absolute political power corrupting absolutely. The lyrics were a collaboration between me, Dan, James, with a few ideas from Nardo (“Throw in Babylon!”). There is no 12-string guitar on the demo version, but I played tons of 12-string electric on the album version.

8. Separate Strains (Lyrics by Dan DeLucie & Perry Grayson/Music by Dan DeLucie) 
“Separate Strains” was based on the Walter M. Miller Jr. science fiction story “The Ties That Bind," about an Earth colony isolated from their homeworld for many generations, only to be visited by their distant brethren who have turned into violent warmongers. I gave Dan the paperback anthology containing the Miller yarn, A Sea of Space edited by William F. Nolan, for his b-day. He dug the story and asked me to contribute some words to what he started. So, "Separate Strains" is a forgotten DE gem. I really dug the Fates Warning-like intro riff, and was head over heels in love with the old school thrash of the first bridge. Ordinarily Dan and I would overdub our guitar solos, but we played our improvised leads here live, straight to tape. There's a bitchin' harmonized Dan/Perry double lead. We had three in "Clutching at Straws" on Breathe Deep the Dark. I always had a blast coordinating the harmonies with Dan. After nearly 3 years of playing together it came together painlessly. What wasn't painless? I was on the edge of train-wrecking my arpeggios leading from the double lead into the main riffs. It came out choppier than I intended. If we'd been recording an album I would've resorted to a punch-in. Another tune, my “Rise and Defy,” was demoed instrumentally. In a rush, Dan sent the original cassette to James in Houston without making a backup copy. "Rise and Defy" was lost. I took DE's music very seriously and handled our demo tapes with a lot of caution. I expected Dan to just send James a copy, otherwise I never would've let him take the cassette home from the studio. A fan gave James the Combat first pressing LP of Helstar's Burning Star while we were on tour, which he subsequently allowed to get thrashed to pieces. Apparently, neither that LP or the demo of "Rise and Defy" were very important.

How 'bout some lyrics, folks?

Separate Strains
Lyrics by Dan DeLucie and Perry Grayson

We are not what they've become and they're not what we are
A thousand generations past, ancient thoughts extinct
Nature has learned to survive despite the threat of man
The poison that we introduce corrupts their fragile minds

Minds so pure and hunger all but gone
Cities fall into the wild

Tranquillity is lost
Utopia is dead
Our presence is our doom
Our quest will never end

Eager now to be enslaved, they welcome the war plague
Fear no longer seems ingrained, a never ending youth
Patterns from our ancestral times are waiting to emerge
Dormant thoughts are not extinct we infiltrate their world

Worlds apart, through centuries return
Distant brothers meet again
Unconscious inheritance of culture
Questions plaguing minds

Disruption within the system
Stimulate the lines that still exist
The sword at home in their hands after many years
Words have been erased but the message is still clear

Nature buried deep inside, instincts now arise
True savagery will now take hold, regain the taste for blood
Blood diverged into separate streams
Of the two, which has regressed?

9. The Legend
(Lyrics by James Rivera/Music by Perry Grayson, Nardo Andi & Dan DeLucie)
A DE team effort between me, Dan and Nardo for the music. I wrote nearly half of "The Legend," including the chorus and the dual guitar harmony. Dan, Nardo and I are very big fans of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, so the intro and verses were a tip of the hat to metal masters Kim Petersen, Hank Sherman and Michael Denner. James threw some lyrics over it which I’ll leave you to discuss amongst yourselves. Dan whipped out an Adrian Smith-like lead with a lot of feeling in this one.

A sidenote: There is no DE demo of "Storm Clouds." Dan wrote the music to "Storm Clouds" for Crescent Shield, then a side-project he was forging with vocalist pal Mike Grant. Crescent Shield is now Dan’s main thing. Anyhow, James heard the demo and loved it so much that it received the full DE treatment instead. It became our big power ballad, complete with Dan’s beautiful acoustic work and my Maiden-like arpeggios during the chorus. Dan joked that it’s the only DE song about “bitches.” If you're interested, maybe you can pester Mr. DeLucie to make the Crescent Shield demo available.