Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I am happy to welcome back into the contributor's fold my musical foil and fellow metal-head James Reetz. After considerable prodding, I was finally able to procure a review for Metallica's latest studio effort "Death Magnetic". I'll simply say the it was well worth the wait. - J.

Why haven’t I written a review for Death Magnetic yet? It’s been (8) months since it was released. I’ve listened to it enough times to have a solid opinion. Jon’s been giving me heat about not writing it for about (6) months now - and my last review (Motley Crue’s Saints of Los Angeles) became the most viewed article in Tone Farm history. So why the procrastination?

It would be easy to blame it on my family responsibilities or my increased travel, but I already use those two excuses for why I don’t ride my mountain bike, play my guitar, work out, etc. After some contemplation, however, the answer became clear: the album just isn’t that good. To be fair, it’s not that good for Metallica. I am a Metallica fan. I’ve had to remind myself of that more and more since the St. Anger release which I think was their worst effort since inception. I was excited for St. Anger. Rob Trujillo had joined the band, and he played bass for Suicidal Tendencies - one of my all time favorite bands. My good friend bought St. Anger the day it was released. He gave it a few spins and gave it to me. He didn’t loan it to me. He didn’t burn a copy for me. He gave me the one he bought because he couldn’t stand it. He’s a bigger Metallica fan than me. I listened to it about a dozen times over the next two months - - and then pitched it in a dumpster. I couldn’t find anyone to take it.

When Death Magnetic was being hyped, I tried to be interested. When I heard the fist single, “The Day That Never Comes”, I wrote the album off as St. Anger II. My friend gave them another chance. He bought the album and loaned it to me. That’s a start. He wanted it back at least. I think Death Magnetic is the first baby step in the right direction for Metallica. It’s 100% better than St. Anger, but still a far cry from the Metallica I love.

Speaking of which, I haven’t LOVED a Metallica release since 1988. Has it really been (21) years since they released something that I couldn’t take out of my cd player because it kicked ass that much? You can look at the awards and the charts and the video games and the income since the Black album and conclude that Metallica is as big as ever, but for me, “Justice” was the end of the mind-blowing greatness that was Metallica. Maybe I should have seen it coming. After all, it’s pretty tough to sound like a pissed off kid in his 20's when you’re a multi-millionaire in your 40's.

All things being equal, I don’t think it’s unfair to hold a super group to a higher standard. The Black album signaled the end of an era. James (Hetfield - lead vocalist / guitarist) changed his vocal style. - and he had to if he wanted the chords to last another thirty years. But the change was to the detriment of the sound I had come to love. The songs were more radio-friendly. I won’t go as far as to say they sold out, but they changed enough to be acceptable to mainstream radio, which was moving towards wider acceptance of metal at the same time. I remember hearing James in an interview after “Justice” saying they’d never make an album like that again because it was nearly impossible to memorize and play . . . but that, specifically, was what made it great. No one else would have even attempted an album with that many tempo changes, and tone / riff experiments. Not with songs as long as those anyway. Only the "real" Metallica could pull that stuff off - in the studio and live. Certainly, one would have to expect a drop off of some kind after a ground-breaking album like "Justice For All". Unfortunately, Metallica fell too far.

I remember watching “Some Kind of Monster” while on the road somewhere. The constant bickering while in the studio, seeing the guys sitting around, drinking coffee with their legs crossed; all the side hobbies; Lars constantly telling James that the riffs sounded “stock” but being unable to explain what he meant. For the record, if “stock” means the sound your band defined, why not sound stock?!? You’ve given us three fracken versions of Unforgiven for shitsake . . . and it sucked all three times. Will anybody be disappointed if their next album has the same general sound and feel of "Master of Puppets" or "Ride the Lightning"? For me, that’s when it hit home. The pre-Black Metallica was gone forever. What took me so long to realize that? Hope?

The bottom line, Death Magnetic is a hugely successful commercial album. The songs are solid metal songs that you’ll enjoy. The problem…Death Magnetic has nothing that will make you select it rather than the CD next to it. I shouldn’t have to convince myself that I’m a fan. I shouldn’t procrastinate when asked to write a review. Metallica should be better than that. - - by James Reetz

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Now Hear This . . .

Thought we'd try a little something different this month in regards to the standard Tone Farm gear review. Along with the usual written diatribe, I've put together two additional audio features, both of which can be accessed through the Box.Net links below. The first is a short piece on the pedal itself - narrated by Academy Award winning actor James Earl Jones (*yes, I'm lying about that - - it's just me). Here I'll give you an idea of how the pedal sounds by playing it though an amp; first without the pedal - and then, with it engaged. Some of the chords / riffs I'll use to demonstrate the pedal will transfer over to the second part of the feature - an actual song written / performed using the gear / item being reviewed. I know - what an amazing concept !!

For our initial "test run", I've chosen the BOSS / Fender FDR-1 '65 Deluxe Reverb Pedal. It was a little more work doing the audio part of it, but hopefully, it adds to the fun. Below are the Box.Net links to the .MP3 files, which you can listen to using the resident player; or, download to listen to at your convenience. - - J.

Part 1 - Audio Review - FDR-1
Part 2 - Hearts & Knives - the FDR-1 in action

Paint It Black . . .

The alliance of music industry giants Roland (parent company of Boss USA) and Fender has produced (2) unique effects pedals - the BOSS '59 Bassman (FBM-1) and BOSS '65 Deluxe Reverb (FDR-1). Both are part of Boss' Legend Series and were introduced at Winter NAMM 2007 to eager players and glowing reviews (*imagine that!) Using Roland's propietary COSM technology (Composite Object Sound Modeling) technology, the FBM-1 and FDR-1 pedals were designed to impart the tonal nuances of Fender's 1959 Fender Bassman and 1965 Deluxe Reverb amplifiers to standard tube and solid state amplifiers.

Given the iconic status of these two amps and the incredibly fickle nature of die-hard Fender fans, one might look at this as an exercise in futility. Certainly, the thought of confining the tonal saviour fare one of these classic rigs into a single pedal is appealing; realistically - the task is nearly impossible, and for a variety of reasons that I need not mention.

I managed to steer myself clear of buying either these pedals for the better part of a year and a half, mostly on the basis of price (*they initially retailed for $149). But when I spied a FDR-1 on the Music Go Round website for $69, I thought, "what the hell". Even if the pedal sucked, I could unload it on Ebay for at least what I paid for it, and be none worse for wear. Ah yes, the sad plight of a sworn gear-hound.

I've been playing my FDR-1 pedal for a couple weeks now, and I must say that it does some things very well. Unfortunately, there are some things about it aren't so great - but nothing that overwhelmingly detracts from the fun of using it. Without further adieu - my tale of the tape:


1.) Tone - While the FDR-1 does not have quite the delicious bite or full-fledged auditory swat of the Real McCoy, it works extremely well as a "color" pedal - imparting some of the unique characteristics of a vintage Blackface amp. Chords have a familiar Fender Blackface "kerrang", and single notes slice easily through a mix. Go easy on the gain / reverb / tremolo, though.

2.) Cosmetics - A sleek, black pedal casing, chrome faceplace, and Fender script logo add to the retro Blackface vibe. I know that this doesn't make the pedal sound better - but as someone with a penchant for graphics, BOSS gets style points for cool touches like these.

3.) Accuracy of design - All of the primary features of the '65 Deluxe Reverb are there - from the gain, bass, treble, and reverb - right down to the Fender's inaccurate reference of the on-board tremolo effect as "vibrato". Indeed, it seems that no detail was left unturned.

4.) Tremolo (vibrato) - While not super-great, the tremolo does help the pedal capture a bit of the Deluxe Reverb vibe. As a matter of fact, it apes the effect quite nicely - and even more so with its tap-tempo capabillity (*although a bit cumbersome to use). Best advice I can give here is to use in moderation, as it can get annoying at higher settings.

5.) Durability - BOSS pedals are notoriously over-built. My hope is that the internals are as half as tough as the case and exterior controls.


1.) Reverb - Digital reverb does little justice in approximating the lush, surf-y goodness of a real spring reverb tank (*that is, unless you're the Lexicon-equipped Digitech Hardwire RV-7.) The FDR-1's reverb is horribly fake-sounding and basically unusable beyond the lowest settings. Boo!

2.) Gain - Like the reverb, too much gain (i.e. beyond half-way) results in digital-y blarps and glurgs. As an 80's metal head, I have no problem with extended gain capabilities. What I want, though, is something that sounds decent at these levels. The FDR-1 does not. If it sounds shitty past halfway - what's the point? Hiss!

3.) Battery drain - If you get this little guy cookin' (i.e. maxing out reverb, tremolo, and gain settings), it'll munch through 9V batteries like Kirstie Alley at a KFC buffet. If you're planning on using this pedal regularly, a 9V power supply is a necessity.

The FDR-1 is a pretty cool pedal. It'll add a bit of vintage Fender tone to just about any amp - tube or solid state. Its add-on features (gain / reverb / tremolo) are OK if used in moderation. It's real strength lies in its use as a "color" pedal - not an overdrive effect.

Since being introduced in Jan. '07, BOSS has reduced their retail prices on the Legend Series pedals by a whopping $30 - which might give one the indication that the initial hype was a bit heavy on the frosting. If you can find a good used one in the $60 - $70 range, it might be worth checking out - esp. if you have a good tube amp you can run it through. - - J.