Friday, April 29, 2011

Forgotten Gems:Jesters Of Destiny-Fun At The Funeral


L.A. band Jesters Of Destiny were "alternative metal" long before the description became a household term. In fact in a day and age before the world would see bands like Jane's Addiction, Faith No More, Last Crack, Mindfunk, Medication and Tool suddenly re-shaping heavy metal music here you had truly groundbreaking group Jesters Of Destiny out there crafting their own oddball take on the genre. Featuring quirky pop moments, psychedelic infused rock and odd bits of Black Sabbath inspired doom the band no doubt confused crowds who were used to seeing either bands like Bon Jovi or Metallica at the top of the metal world. Who this group would have appealed to during the mid-eighties remains a mystery. Most certainly they would have been to pop for traditional metal fans and too left field for alternative rock junkies. It was as if they were of their own world somewhere out in the deep cosmos. The "band" started out as more of a studio project than anything else. To start with guitarist/keyboardist Ray Violet and guitarist Bill Irvin had studio time planned and were looking for a rhythm section to play with them. Drummer (and multi-instrumentalist) Doktor Stixx was recruited as was bass player/vocalist Bruce Duff with the promise that both would be "paid" in the fact that they would both be allowed to each write their own song for the recording. Two of the songs from the project ("End Of Times" written by Duff and "Digin' That Grave" a group collaboration) were good enough to inspire the four of them to be more than just a one-off studio team. In Fact "End Of Times" was good enough (and heavy enough) that it made it onto a Metal Massacre compilation which was standard practice it seems for L.A. bands of the time (to be on said compilation that is not to write a song called "End Of Times"!). The name of the band supposedly came to Bruce Duff in a dream. With a record deal in place Doktor Stixx would end up playing guitar (his weapon of choice) and so the group recruited Louie Schilling to play drums. Bill Irvin would play on Fun At The Funeral as did Eric "Sickie Wifebeater" Carlson (of The Mentors) although Irvin left after a few live shows. Carlson can be heard on the tracks "God Told Me To" and "Crimson Umbrella" which caused Guitar Player magazine to likened his playing to that of an "epileptic seizure." Although in hindsight his playing is inspired if admittedly a bit out there! Recorded in San Fernando, California ( at Dawnbreaker Studios) the album fell on deaf ears when it was originally released. As much as it is a work of art the fact is in 1986 heavy metal and it's culture was not ready for a band that worked Iron Butterfly into their metal instead of the usual Iron Maiden! While it would be remastered and reissued on CD by Ektro Records with eight bonus tracks if you want to get the real feel for the album hunt down the "yellow tape" version. This version is more heavy (or as my friend Garth likes to say "Metal Massacre like HEAVY") than the re-issue. The re-issue features more keyboards and while it is still a great listen some of the edge is gone. For some the albums weirder moments and more pop-oriented songs will be a turn off. Give "End Of Times" a spin though as well as the uber-catchy "Diggin' That Grave" and you'll be hooked. After the album line-up changes plagued the group before an EP of covers (In A Nostalgic Mood) was released. Again the band proved themselves groundbreaking in the fact that they were well ahead of the trend. Cover albums would not be in vogue until much later. The group were set to record a third album when they crumbled into oblivion. For something different and truly interesting you'd do well to track down Jesters Of Destiny.


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