When Snorting Ants Ain't Crazy

Don't take Grandma to the International Extreme Music Festival

Is this what heavy metal has come to? Foul-mouthed exchanges between Iron Maiden's aging sextet and washed-up doper Ozzy Osbourne's hausfrau, Sharon, who spent the past couple of weeks publicly berating main Maiden Bruce Dickinson after allegedly pulling the plug on his band's final Ozzfest gig?

But just when you thought the genre was reduced to geriatrics getting their leather pants in a wad, along comes the first International Extreme Music Festival to remind us all that heavy metal really is -- that's right -- extreme.

How extreme? Well, the following info wasn't in the official publicity materials for this traveling circus of death-, grind-, thrash-, power-, and anarcho-metal. But just check out what we hear these bands had to do to prove their, ahem, mettle for initiation into the IEMF:

God Dethroned is a band from the Netherlands, where just about anything goes, including radical bod-mod practices that make tongue piercing look like a Boy Scout merit badge requirement. The IEMF made God Dethroned the headliners when the band showed off its stage routine of trephinations and nullifications with rusty elastrators and burdizzos -- all completely unlicensed and while high on Quaaludes. Unfortunately, GD's skull surgery and limb removals with sheep-castration tools are off-limits at this week's show. Florida, apparently, has laws about these things.

Southern California's Manntis made the cut because it once led a Hale-Bopp/Heaven's Gate-styled murder-suicide cult. Broken up by Riverside County authorities before its planned apocalyptic orgy of Jim Jones margaritas and unprotected sex with UC Riverside coeds, the boys have now channeled their energies into a full-length titled Sleep in Your Grave. It's really loud.

The Swedes in Nightrage proved their "extreme" bona fides by burning down an Ikea store. We hear their stage-show pyrotechnics are awesome, if loosely wired.

Opening act Lilitu hails from Atlanta, Georgia, but the band convinced the IEMF that it has closer ties to the former Soviet state of the same name. After the band claimed to have endured Ludivico/MK-Ultra-styled conditioning by former KGB agents fomenting rebellion in the Caucusus nation, the IEMF figured the band's training on Kamov KA-50 attack choppers might actually come in handy during the tour.

Also on stage: Hell Within, Epoch of Unlight, and Thine Eyes Bleed. The Pink Flamingoes level of atrocities committed by these musicians is far too wide-ranging to reveal here, but extreme forms of sexual, culinary, and sartorial deviancy are well-represented.

This is how hardcore the IEMF is about its extreme cred: We hear that heavy/dark rockers Byzantine were nixed from the tour after it was discovered that members who claimed to be doing drive-bys with semi-automatics on assisted living facilities in West Virginia had in fact toured Italy as understudies of Topo Gigio's traveling puppet troupe. And that, thank the Devil, ain't extreme enough to grace this stage. -- Abel Folgar The International Extreme Music Festival rolls into town at 7 p.m. Saturday, September 24, at the Culture Room 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $15. Call 954-564-1074. Sonic Surgery

There's a sign at my receptionist's desk that reads, "Kindly give 48 hours notice before canceling an appointment." It's the least a patient can do before moving the Botox fix until after the regatta. But when you're talking about shaggy guys idolized by the indie-rock intelligentsia, a scant two days' notice before canceling another kind of appointment -- a rock show -- is about as convenient as a kidney stone.

After nixing its August 8 show at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach, Brian Jonestown Massacre also called off its makeup gig scheduled for this Friday. But what concerns me more than this troubling record for recklessness is something far more annoying than its latest no-show: Lead vocalist and resident Jim Jones wannabe Anton Newcombe has been seriously misdiagnosed.

Based on the flimsiest of evidence, some suspect practitioners have declared that Newcombe's brain operates at genius level. After the release of Dig!, a documentary that showed Newcombe preening with a classic case of clinical narcissism, rock journalists got their charts upside-down and pronounced Newcombe a rock 'n' roll messiah. Unfortunately, feeding such an ego is like telling an anorexic that she could stand to lose a few pounds.

Critical confusion no doubt was based on the flawed hypothesis that equates experimentation with good songwriting. But would you trust an experimentalist to take out your appendix? Didn't think so. Imagine coming to me with a sore throat and instead of prescribing cough syrup, I randomly rearranged your vital organs, hoping the results would be favorable. If I got lucky and you got cured, would that make me a genius?

It's time my musical colleagues stop being so gullible every time an avant-gardist trashes a stage, fires his band, or releases a slew of half-baked, retro-leaning albums. Under normal circumstances, Newcombe's latest bout of flaky behavior would lead critics to realize that, hey, maybe this guy's just your average crybaby rock star. But it's too late -- they already drank the Kool-Aid.

Findings: Findings? Shit, any clue as to Newcombe's whereabouts would be a start. Diagnosis: Kool-Aid poisoning. Treatment: How about showing up next time you book a tour, Anton? Oh, and if anyone's suddenly free this Friday night, my appointment schedule is wide open. And I make housecalls. -- Doc Le Roc

Go Ask Alice

Amazingly, after 35 years of shock tactics and showbiz shtick, Alice Cooper still maintains as much rock 'n' roll cred as he did in his 1970s heyday. Currently celebrating the release of his 28th album, Dirty Diamonds, a surprisingly tenacious affirmation of the Alice of old, he now boasts another more dubious distinction -- that of midwife to rock's lunatic fringe. Over the years, rabid rockers from Ozzy Osbourne and Twisted Sister to Insane Clown Posse and Marilyn Manson were spawned from Alice's example of gory, gruesome excess. Outtakes spoke to the former Vince Furnier about Alice and his offspring:

Outtakes: It seems like Alice has had a heavy influence on American music.

Alice Cooper: We were punk before there was punk, glam before there was glam, theatrical before there was theatrical. The shock-rock thing was the easier label to pin on Alice, but in the beginning, it was the punks who related to us, because we were out to offend everybody.

Alice may be shocking, but can he compete with the scary stuff in the real world?

It's true, you can't outshock CNN. We'd decapitate Alice on-stage, but now you turn on CNN and you see some terrorist taking a hostage's head off there on TV. So it shows Alice for what he really is -- a vaudeville character with a sense of black humor.

Do you ever feel like Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby, wondering how Alice birthed such twisted offspring?

(chuckles) That's what happened when the barrier came down. But I can only be responsible for what I'm doing, not what crawls through that door. As far as Marilyn's concerned, I don't agree with him on a lot of things -- his theology, his politics, the drugs. But he does put on a good show, I'll give him that.

Have you ever met him?

We've had our arguments and comments back and forth in the press, but no, I've never met him.

So what kind of advice would you give Manson?

I'd tell him at least where some of the pitfalls are, like if you want to be around in 50 years, you need to write ten hit records. Music is always what's going to be the most important thing in your career. Otherwise, you're going to end up being a puppet show.

Some might say Alice has become a puppet show.

Alice is woven into the fabric of Americana. He's like that bad stain that won't go away. -- Lee Zimmerman Alice Cooper performs at 8 p.m. Tuesday, September 27, at the Hard Rock Live Arena at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood. Tickets cost $50. Call 954-797-5531.

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Abel Folgar