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Help Katherine Ludwig Annihilate Her Cancer

By: jeanne.fury Posted in: featured On: Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Katherine Ludwig, pioneering metal maniac

If there’s a select group of people responsible for Decibel becoming the magazine it is today, one of those people is undoubtedly Katherine Ludwig. Why? Because as the founding editor of Metal Maniacs magazine, she helped spearhead extreme-music journalism. Unlike the more popular Metal Edge, a sort of US Weekly of hair metal bands, Metal Maniacs saw extreme music and bands as topics just as worthy of insightful discourse as whatever acts were in the pages of Rolling Stone.

“A lot of people tell me that by Metal Maniacs not being one-dimensional, it made them feel less alone,” she told me in 2012, for Decibel’s Women in Metal issue. “Like they weren’t the only metalhead in the world who wasn’t sexist, and read books, and actually questioned authority instead of just complaining about it. People have told me they became vegetarian, or vegan, or a feminist, or started voting because of the magazine. All of this floors me, stuns me, slays me. I still can’t believe it.”

Katherine’s stance made a profound impact on many Decibel writers, and now she needs a little help. She was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), and friends set up a Facebook page to help boost her spirits and raise money. Click here to join the LymphoManiac: Help Katherine Ludwig Annihilate Her Cancer Facebook page. There’s also a YouCaring page where you can donate toward her care.

Look for an interview with Katherine in an upcoming issue of Decibel. Meanwhile, throw your support behind this trailblazing badass as she pummels her NHL into remission.

Getcho’ Nerd On: Deconstructing Sequence

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists, videos On: Friday, September 5th, 2014

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UK time travelers Deconstructing Sequence have recorded a new 2-song EP called Access Code, amounting to more than 16 minutes of new music.  Yeah, that doesn’t really sound like a lot, but the futuristic mech-out violence metes out a very high quality to make up for the relatively low quantity.  They pack as much music into these tunes as a doom band can fit into eight hours, so we’re not complaining.

To celebrate the release of Access Code, we asked DS to tell us about their ten favorite sci-fi movies so we could all get in the mood before diving headfirst into their space-age explosion.  Here’s what they said:

Fahrenheit 451 by François Truffaut

A dystopian future where firefighters have only one mission: find your beloved books and burn them. Did they ever deal with extinguishing fire? Nonsense… everything is built fireproof. The only threat to your well-being are books, which spawn emotions – the greatest plague of modern humanity. Although very old this movie is still enjoyable to watch, despite some funny special FX.

Mad Max by George Miller

A very delightful vision of postapocalyptic and anarchistic future! Mel Gibson, before he decided to torment Christ on screen, managed to create very interesting character that has little to say during the movie, which is overall scarce in dialogue. But thanks to that the weight of building the atmosphere is shifted towards visual side which works very well.

They Live by  John Carpenter

Obey, marry and reproduce, no independent thought, consume, watch TV, money is your god… I think the brainwashing procedures that aliens imposed on the society in this 80’s classic are pretty well executed by great portion of our modern counterparts. This movie is a great allegory of consumerism that is still very up to date. Governments control us to make us dumb? I think we are doing the job very well ourselves. And of course one of the most badass movie quotes that was borrowed later by creators of Duke Nukem was uttered here: “I have come here to chew bubblegum an kick some ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum…”

Blade Runner by Ridley Scott

A very interesting adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel, that has little in common with the book. Ridley Scott basically just borrowed the concept and created it’s own dark, futuristic setting with killer machines on the run, that is graphically very impressive even now and in some ways is even better than animated worlds offered by today’s cinema. And if you’ve watched the movie, grab the book. You’ll plunge deeper into this world, and have a chance to grasp very interesting religious and emotional aspects of it.

Dune by David Lynch

Another very interesting adaptation. I remember watching it for the first time as a teenager and afterwards being mesmerized and confused at the same time. I had to watch it several times to get all the pieces together, spot every minor detail and build the big picture. I enjoy very much that kind of movies, music and art in general and this is the approach we take on our music. We tend to make it a bit complicated, so you’ll need some spins to hear all the details. This kind of art is a bit difficult to digest, but that makes it more rewarding and interesting. The movie itself was criticized by Herbert’s fans for not being true to the book, but seriously, you just can’t recreate the written word on the screen, you can only play with it for better or worse. And I think that Lynch did a great job on this one.

1984 by Michael Radford

Approach on Orwell’s book that came out very well. This one covers most of the major elements of the original story and adds additional depth in terms of vision and sound. This film depicts grayness of futuristic, dystopian United Kingdom perfectly with rich details, or rather lack of them. Scenery of ruined, dull and empty city, colors used, the uniforms characters wear… all of it forms a very compelling picture. Similar to “They Live” Orwell did an interesting job on predicting the future, maybe it didn’t turned out to be so hopeless, but still with all the invigilation… the Big Brother is watching!

12 Monkeys by Terry Gilliam

One of the authors of Monty Python proved himself to be a formidable director in other genres than comedy. 12 Monkeys is another futuristic setting, where mankind goes to hell… love it! Movie with great atmosphere achieved by well created scenography and camera work. An I even like Brad Pitt in here…

Aliens by James Cameron

Now a proper sci-fi movie! Space marines blasting big bugs with acid instead of blood! I don’t think anyone needs an introduction to this one, a classic that spawned entire lines of comics and video games. Cameron did a great movie, but let be honest, this franchise wouldn’t be half as popular if not for the presence of the most iconic alien creature spawned in the demented mind of H.R. Giger – the Xenomorph.

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A Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick

Not that much of sci-fi cinema, but since imdb.com categorizes it this way I decided to put it here, because this one is so damn good. The violence, classical music and a murder with a giant penis… Both novel and the movie spawned a lot of controversy, but that’s not the main reason to watch it. Deconstruction of main characters’ violent mind that goes through “innovative” resocialization program is what makes it memorable.

2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick

A haunting and mesmerizing classic of the sci-fi genre that changed my perception of movies forever! I remember watching it for the first time as a kid. It was my first encounter with this kind of avant-garde approach, not your regular lasers, robots ’n’ explosions kind of sci-fi experience. Everything about this movie was so cold, sterile and static it made me feel anxious, I remained tense through entire piece. And after the final, ten minute long scene of Bowman exploring the Monolith in a series of surreal and hypnotic images  I realized that lasers and robots suck and this is my kind of cinema! I had Bowman’s quote “my God, it’s full of stars” saved on my hard drive for years and finally had a chance to utilize it as an intro in our upcoming production.

Tales From the Metalnomicon: The Return of Dustin LaValley

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: exclusive, featured On: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

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Welcome to Tales From the Metalnomicon, a column delving into the vast world of heavy metal-tinged/inspired literature and metalhead authors…

Some readers may recall Dustin LaValley’s memorable Metalnomicon bow a little over a year ago. We’ve invited the literary extremist back today to give us the lowdown on Swallowed: A Hypersexual Romance, his new novel of down n’ dirty heavy metal erotica, along with an exclusive soundtrack to crank while you’re you know, reading…

I have always let the story take me to where it wanted to be, never let genre(s) stand in the way. Whenever an idea comes along, I let it come naturally and wherever it falls when it’s finished being written is where I aim to have it published. In the past that’s been action, thriller, horror, comedy, drama… There has always been an aggressive stance at sexuality in my fiction. As a reader I noticed a lot of authors danced around it, like some taboo that is only to be thought, perhaps maybe muttered during sex, but never fully brought to light. Either these authors have incredibly boring sex lives or they are censoring themselves, keeping things nice and safe and plain, Puritan-like.

I had an idea to do a memoir, to keep nothing hidden and after some thought, decided that sex, illness and hardcore shows wasn’t much of a book, so I added in some fiction. Most of this book is true, I’ve taken certain liberties with it, but for the most part I’d say seventy-five percent is true to life. (I’ve never killed a man, but I’ve been on my deathbed.)

Wanting Swallowed to be as LaValley as LaValley could be, I stuck with the formula that I’ve been using for my more literary work, and that is: fuck with everything…

Mastodon, “Blood and Thunder” and “I Am Ahab”

This one was chosen due to the fact that the woman in chapter it’s listened to, was brought up in discussion when we met as she was wearing their t-shirt. From there we hit the jukebox and played some tracks from Leviathan.

Metallica, “Dyers Eve,” “One” and most of …And Justice For All

These tracks were usual go-tos for any bar I hit up with Ant, real name Tim. Mostly due to the fact that the album is on most jukeboxes and that “Dyers Eve” and “One” are fucking badass.

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Suicidal Tendencies, “Go Skate!” and “Institutionalized”

Sounds of the Damned: Chris Alexander Talks Fangoria Musick

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, gnarly one-offs, interviews On: Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

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To paraphrase the demon that once mauled Albert Brooks in his own car on the side of a darkened road back in ’83: Hey, d’ya you want to hear something really scary?

Yeah? You sure?

Alright, then, Fangoria Musick — the exquisitely eclectic, ceaselessly unsettling new digital download music label from the legendary flagship magazine of dark cinema and culture — is here to whisper (and sometimes scream!) not-so-sweet spine-chilling somethings to you through those innocent looking earbuds of yours.

“A lot of bands out there that are good at math — they’re like the telepods in The Fly,” Fangoria Editor-in-Chief Chris Alexander tells Decibel when we inquire just how in the hell he managed to summon one of the best labels in sinister cinematic music seeming out of the ether in less than two months time. “They go in one side and come out the other exactly the same — information regurgitated exactly as inputted. You can reproduce anything, but if there’s no stamp of originality…what’s the point? We’re looking for those bands that get the fly — whatever that may represent, musically — mixed up on the journey and create a completely new beast.”

Alexander knows more than a bit of which he speaks: Aside from his kinetic, distinct writerly salvos, the modern day Renaissance man creates both music — the glorious, kaleidoscopic 2012 mindfuck Music for Murder and its worthy, 100 percent free Fangoria Musick successor Beyond the Darkness: An Audio Nightmare — and ethereal, otherworldly films — Blood for Irina; the upcoming Queen of Blood — that truly earn the typically too-freely given accolade “boundary-pushing.”

Oh, yeah, and dude also once boxed House of the Dead director Uwe Boll

Alexander was recently kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to chat with Decibel about the launch of Fangoria Musick, his own work as a composer and filmmaker, and the joys of getting Ogre from Skinny Puppy to vomit blood in the woods on command…

You only put up the call for submissions a few weeks ago — are you surprised at all by how quickly you were able to put together such a high quality stable of artists?

I suppose I was taken a little off guard by how much cool, weird stuff came in. I presumed I’d be getting a lot of third-rate rock n’ roll bands with a bunch of skulls painted on their guitars singing psychobilly songs about Dracula rocking out in a tomb or something. That’s not scary; that’s not horror. So for someone whose personal tastes lean more toward the abstract and atmospheric — in both music and cinema — to have people sending me all this really interesting avant garde stuff has been just great.

That last statement is only a tiny bit ironic coming from a guy harboring such an outspoken love for Kiss!

Sucker For Punishment: Buying Time is Here

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

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When it came to new metal music in the first half of 2014, personally I feel it was mediocre at best, with only one album, Triptykon’s Melana Chasmata, deserving of the adjective “exemplary” a rung or two higher than a small handful of releases that qualify as being “very good”. However, this year’s release schedule is so heavily weighted towards the latter half of the year, that any publication’s “best of the year so far” lists seem pointless. Looking at only the next three months, I counted around 20 new albums, nearly all of which I have heard, that are worthy of consideration for my own ballot for Decibel’s year-end writer’s poll. Considering the fact that less than ten percent of the more than 300 albums I listened to and wrote about from January to July were worthy of singling out, that number is staggering. I said a while back that 2014 would get a lot better, really fast, and here in this second week of July it’s gotten truly nuts. The summer release schedule is officially off to a rampaging start this week, with no fewer than seven, maybe eight new albums you must hear. So while the music is often on the doomy and gloomy side, the forecast for the next few months is anything but. Get ready for some fantastic new tunes.

Bongripper, Miserable (self-released): By now you should know exactly what to expect from the Chicago foursome, nothing but slow, deliberate, mind-bogglingly heavy instrumental doom. Contrary to Earthless’s explorations of the more textured side of the sound, and Shooting Guns’ smart blend of krautrock and psychedelia, Bongripper is all about sheer metallic force. If you’ve ever seen them live, you know what I’m talking about. What this seventh album also proves, though, that for all the Conan-levels of knuckle-dragging doom, the band is also capable of strong dynamics, only with the speed, or lack thereof, with which they work, it requires a little patience. Let these three compositions flow, though, and you’ll find just how well everything shifts gears subtly, naturally, and enthrallingly. The album is currently available as a name-your-price download via Bandcamp, and if you like the doom, this is a total no-brainer.

Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket, In A Dutch Haze (Outer Battery/Roadburn): At a festival like Roadburn it’s impossible to see everything, but one omission from my 2012 experience that I always regretted was the collaboration between J. Mascis, his Heavy Blanket bandmate Graham Clise, and the rhythm section from San Diego psychedelic rock institution Earthless. That performance generated a fair amount of buzz afterward, and now that it’s been released as a special live album you can understand why. A sprawling, hour-long jam it ebbs and flows from mellow passages to pure rampaging hard rock, Mascis and Clise shredding all the while. Some have pointed out that the presence of Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell is missed, and that’s understandable given his talent and the chemistry Earthless is renowned for, but this jam works well in its own ragged, immaculately stoned way.

Exordium Mors, The Apotheosis of Death (Iron Blood & Death): Considering the past work of bands like Ulcerate and Beastwars, and two absolute stunners in 2014 courtesy Diocletian and now Exordium Mors, something is happening way over on the other side of the world in New Zealand. It’d be easy to call this kiwi obscurity “blackened thrash”, but there’s a whole hell of a lot more going on under the surface. The Absu influence looms large, but most importantly, so does the specter of Mercyfrl Fate, as the guitar work shows flashes of flamboyance that you just don’t hear in American metal. There’s no shame in showing a little instrumental flash amidst such otherwise primitive sounds, and to hear that kind of bombast juxtaposed with such brutal black/death music is a welcome thing to these ears (and wait, was that some Messiah Marcolin-style singing on one track?). Highlighted by a sprawling, 30-minute suite and continuing into three more concise tracks, this is a great example of how it’s often best to be far removed from any particular metal “scene”. With no hive mind to follow, left to think for oneself, this band has put a very unique spin on extreme metal, one that’s plenty towering and formidable, but most importantly, stands out because of its unwillingness to be categorized. This is a splendid debut full-length. Preview and purchase via Bandcamp.

Goatwhore, Constricting Rage Of The Merciless (Metal Blade): It’s not that Goatwhore made a bad album – for these guys that’s just impossible – but I just wasn’t as absorbed by 2012’s Blood For the Master as I was by 2009’s stupendous Carving Out the Eyes of God. It didn’t grab me enough; after all, you can imitate Celtic Frost all you want, but even Celtic Frost had hooks. This new sixth album, however, is a big, big return to the form of five years ago, thanks to a bevy of tracks that waste no time getting in your head. “Reanimated Sacrifice” is more of that Warrior worship, “Schadenfreude” sneaks in some very strong melodies, “Fucked By Satan” and “Externalize This Hidden Savagery” are a pair of delirious ragers, and best of all, “Baring Teeth For Revolt” is the best Goatwhore song since “Apocalyptic Havoc”. As per usual, the New Orleans band will be touring like mad, and it’s good to know they have a tremendous album to promote. Buy this one.

Gotthard, Bang! (The End): I always found the Swiss band’s popularity in Europe inexplicable, and then I saw them perform a couple shows a year and a half ago. It’s shameless ‘80s pop metal, but much to my surprise it was performed with great energy and charisma, and listening to their 11th album that pleasant feeling is palpable. Never mind how often the band rips off Sykes-era Whitesnake and all the clichés that entails, “Jump the Gun”, “Feel What I Feel”, and the title track are great tunes that dad rock (or in my case, uncle rock) fans would thoroughly enjoy.

Judas Priest, Redeemer of Souls (Epic): Having already written several pieces about the new Judas Priest album, including a review in the next issue of Decibel, I’m reluctant to go into great detail again for fear of self-plagiarizing. However, I will say Redeemer of Souls is a joy, from start to finish. Richie Faulkner has proven to be a terrific replacement for the retired K.K. Downing, and you can tell he’s brought new life to the band’s new songs. All 13 tracks – and the five bonus tracks on the deluxe edition too – burst with life, channeling the better moments from Painkiller as well as the more melodic moments from Screaming For Vengeance. It’s a huge step up from the wildly uneven Nostradamus, simply Judas Priest being Judas Priest, and by keeping things simple the band has reasserted why Priest remains the truest living embodiment of heavy metal. It’s important for a genre’s masters to make vital music, and it’s a pleasure to see this band back in peak form.

Mortals, Cursed To See the Future (Relapse): I stumbled across Brooklyn trio Mortals a couple years ago and was thoroughly impressed by the intense combination of black metal, doom, and sludge they created. The more I followed their progress, the more impressed I became with their willingness to let things grow. They were signed to Relapse incredibly quickly, in early 2013, but they smartly kept working on new material and honing their work on the road. By the time I finally saw them perform in person last fall, they’d become something a lot more formidable than I’d heard on record, and the much-anticipated debut album captures that live power extremely well. Guitarist Elizabeth Cline and bassist Lesley Wolf bring feral ferocity to Cursed to See the Future, from the buzzsaw riffs to the snarled lead vocals, while drummer Caryn Havlik punctuates and propels the songs with startling authority. This is a band absolutely brimming with ideas, and at times you feel that some of the songs don’t have to approach the nine-minute mark, but that’s a very minor gripe, as this music roars with a level of intensity I haven’t quite heard lately. It’s a remarkable effort. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Origin, Omnipresent (Nuclear Blast): It’s so interesting how Origin, a band that helped pioneer the full-on, brickwalled assault that is post-2000 technical death metal, has made a significant change in the way the band makes an album. Musician and producer Colin Marston is a sworn enemy of that overly loud production and mastering, and what he’s done with Origin on its sixth album is so simple, yet so overlooked in extreme metal, creating distinct space in the sound. The music is as dense as ever, but it now breathes, and is so much easier to take in. The trio of guitarist Paul Ryan, bassist Mike Flores, and drummer John Longstreth is as great as any death metal band working today, and they flourish on these dozen tracks. More death metal should sound like this.

Sonic Syndicate, Sonic Syndicate (Nuclear Blast): Still carrying on like it’s 2004, still mimicking Killswitch Engage, still showing no musical growth whatsoever, still hilarious.

Steel Prophet, Omniscient (Cruz del Sur): At its most focused, Steel Prophet’s first album in a decade is adequate prog/power metal, galloping along in its Iced Earthy way, rife with robust Nevermore-isms and moments of Symphony X-stasy. But for some insane reason this thing quickly loses itself in 9-11 conspiracy theories, awful psychedelic interludes about taking a meander through oleander, aliens and Richard Nixon, George Orwell, and a truly awful cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I’m all for ridiculousness in metal, but this much ridiculousness? Goodness, no.

Vintersorg, Naturbål (Napalm): The musical partnership of Andreas Hedlund and Mattias Marklund has yielded some very good Viking metal over the years, but the band has been especially strong as of late, with 2011’s album Jordpuls turning out to be one of Vintersorg’s finest moments on record. Naturbål – Swedish for “nature’s bonfire” – continues that positive momentum nicely, the band’s epic yet welcoming music equally bracing and affable. Hedlund is in his usual strong vocal form – it’s always nice to hear Viking metal with actual singing rather than growling – while these compositions skitter gracefully from blastbeats, to palm-muted marches, to more contemplative, melodic fare.

Wolves in the Throne Room, Celestite (Artemisia): The latest album by Olympia, Washington brothers Aaron and Nathan Weaver seems like a severe departure, but is it really? Sure, all the guitars and drums have been replaced by vintage synthesizers and a wind ensemble, but essentially this is very much the same kind of music, the same hypnotic chord progressions and melodies as heard on their past work. Only this time, instead of following the lead of Weakling they’re looking to Tangerine Dream for inspiration. With that “Cascadian black metal” gimmick so played out, it’s encouraging to see Wolves in the Throne Room branch out more, but this music follows more than it should lead, often feeling too derivative, not exactly coming through with many assertive ideas. The music just floats along complacently, going nowhere, achieving nothing. If the goal was to strip the band’s music of all metallic trappings to expose the real core underneath, you can’t help but wonder just how hollow and empty this whole thing was from the start.

Wolvhammer, Clawing Into Black Sun (Profound Lore): A little restraint in extreme metal goes a long way. After capturing people’s attention with a pair of outwardly hostile, aggressive albums, the Minnesota-based band takes a much more measured approach on this new record, and the difference is, ironically, colossal. It’s not unlike when Nachtmystium toyed with psychedelic rock on the classic Instinct: Decay, how the music here reins all the aggression in. There’s more control, and consequently more space within to work, and songs like “The Desanctification” and “The Silver Key” benefit immensely, with even a slight gothic influence creeping in, most noticeably on the subdued “A Light That Doesn’t Yield”. That’s not to say the music is any less intense – that couldn’t be farther from the case – but by pulling its punches just a little, Wolvhammer still manages to score a wicked knockout. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy 

Sucker For Punishment: Hail Sateen

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

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With the way the metal scene leaps on to musical trends can be hilarious and frustrating, how labels will get a whiff of a fresh sound, whip themselves into a signing frenzy, beat it to death and beyond, and strip the music of all the charm it had in the first place. So it’s understandable that eventually what was greeted with enthusiasm one year will be met with exhausted cynicism two years later. It’s funny, though, while many of my peers now roll their eyes at the thought of another new “occult proto-heavy metal” band, I have not tired of it. Is it because the burgeoning trend has become one of the last bastions of melody in heavy music these days? Or the juxtaposition of a woman’s voice against a heavy backdrop, a combination I’ve always been a sucker for? Or am I just getting senile? It’s probably the latter; to paraphrase Seinfeld, I think it’ll be a very smooth transition for me.

RidingEasy Records (formerly known as EasyRider) has really cornered that “new vintage” sound as of late, providing several 2014 highlights, including terrific albums by Salem’s Pot and Monolord. But the one that tops them all is a record I first heard early this year, and which I’ve been waiting months and months to write about. Electric Citizen hail from Cincinnati, and like Canadian mainstays Blood Ceremony and recent Metal Blade signees Mount Salem, feature a fresh-voiced woman singer, but what sets this band apart is the instrumentation on the debut album Sateen, which, despite the odd Pentagram reference, is nestled more in a Cream and Budgie niche rather than psychedelic doom. The rock ‘n’ roll grooves are at times tremendous and insanely catchy, and although it definitely evokes a certain era, it never comes across as a novelty. The band sells it exceedingly well, and singer Laura Dolan cements it with her phrasing, which bears a great similarity to the clarity of Jex Thoth’s singing style. From the authoritative stomp of “Magnetic Man”, to the darker themed “Shallow Water”, to the fury of “Light Years Beyond”, Sateen offers a fresh perspective on a sound that, to many, has started to reach its saturation point.

Order the vinyl now from RidingEasy here.

For whatever reason (the July 4th holiday for my American buds, perhaps?) this week is extraordinarily light, especially in comparison to next week, which is massive. Although Electric Citizen is far and away the best album coming out, here are a few other new albums that have surfaced as well:

The Dead Rabbitts, Shapeshifter (Tragic Hero): A metalcore supergroup. A metalcore. Supergroup. I’d write a review of this piece of shit, but I’m laughing too hard.

Drunk Dad, Ripper Killer (Eolian Empire): This new album by the Portland band fits in quite nicely with this month’s special noise issue of Decibel, which you should, like, totally own. Combining the thunderous sludge of Melvins, the confrontational punk rock of Flipper, and the abrasion and psychosis of Harvey Milk, this brilliantly named band wastes no time grabbing your attention on the furious opener “Five Pack”, and aside from the feedback wank of “Worthless”, doesn’t let up. “How you like me now?” the vocalist howls at one point. Um, very much, thank you.

Every Time I Die, From Parts Unknown (Epitaph): Every Time I Die was always the most enjoyable band in that ridiculous post-hardcore wave of the mid-2000s, a potent blend of manic energy, metallic swagger, and wonky groove. This seventh album is exactly the same as what the Buffalo band has been doing all these years, walking that fine line between chaos and inspired song fragments. It all has the feeling of severe ADHD, it always does, but Every Time I Die always manages to get a sneaky little hook into every song, if only for a fleeting moment. In the end, that’s the most frustrating thing about this band, how they never, ever let these hooks develop into something truly extraordinary, but that’s their shtick, they lure you in, veer from melody to pure Converge insanity, and you find yourself waiting for the next little hook to come around. It’s oddly intoxicating.

The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, Every Man For Himself and God Against All (Crowquill): It’s hard to get excited at all about another instrumental post-metal band, as that all became stale back in 2006, but this five-part album by the San Antonio band gets more interesting the more it brings doom into the equation. The heavier the material, the more involving it becomes, as “Part IV” employ brute force, while the climactic “Part V” is built around a searing guitar solo atop a Neurosis-style arrangement. This is one the Roadburn crowd would want to check out.

Illdisposed, With the Lost Souls On Our Side (Massacre): The latest album by the Danish veterans does this thing capably, churning out old-timey death metal with energy and good use of dynamics as the ‘90s death bands do so well. Unfortunately here’s very little here that sticks out, nowhere near enough moments grab listeners like this music should. With so much death metal to choose from, especially when there’s been a fair amount of good music this year, people can’t waste time nor money on anything that isn’t outstanding, and this just doesn’t make the cut.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy 

Tales From the Metalnomicon: Fresh Blood (On the Page)

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, gnarly one-offs On: Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

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Welcome to Tales From the Metalnomicon, a column delving into the surprisingly vast world of heavy metal-tinged/inspired literature and metalhead authors…

Today the Metalnomicon offers up introductions to two brand new publications with pounding, bleeding heavy metal hearts…

All this time we thought we could only listen to, or play instruments, or scream our metal. But we can write it, too.

So avers the incomparable Kriscinda Lee Everitt in the introduction to the endlessly awesome, horns decidedly up first issue of her dark, dark fiction mag Despumation, a repository for stories and poems inspired by — and infused with the ineffable spirit of — such stalwart sonic icons as Dio, Voivod, Megadeth, Judas Priest, and Candlemass.

Or, as Everitt puts it, a “writing experiment”:

We’re seeing if there are things inherent in metal that are conducive to a particular kind of writing. Songs based on books can lead to short stories that have nothing to do with the original source. Stories in songs, brief as they are, can find new, fleshed out life when stretched and sprinkled with a fresh helping of new imagination over 3000-5000 words. And words can be borrowed and implements, supplemented, played with and chewed over. It can be funny. We can write about murder and swordplay and Vikings and neurosis and everything. We can use words like serrated, bone, rotting, pulverized, blood, grave, bludgeon, raw, mincing, brutalized, tears. Ts like knives, Os like screaming mouths, Vs and Zs like buzzsaws, Gs like muted, chugged chords.

As a bonus, the inaugural issue includes Metalnomicon alumni Dustin LaValley and Dean Swinford.

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Next up is EVILSPEAK, a new magazine from the First Couple of Heavy Metal Horrordom Billy and Vanessa Nocera — i.e. the dynamic duo behind Razorback Records.

Holy Shit III – Ironsword’s Overlords of Chaos

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, gnarly one-offs, listen On: Thursday, June 26th, 2014

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Hello folks, it’s been a while, but I’m back with another installment of ‘Holy Shit.’ If you’re unfamiliar with the concept – and you should be, because until a few days ago, I totally forgot this series existed here and here – basically it boils down to the disciplinary practice of me keeping it in my pants (my wallet, that is!) while record shopping UNLESS I come across something that makes me exclaim those two magical words. This edition comes to you courtesy of the gang of music nerds and record buying enthusiasts who have accompanied me to the Maryland Deathfest the past couple of years. Suffice to say, things do get pretty ridiculous with our posse: topics of conversation tend towards which hand-numbered copy of random limited edition records we own; we’ve been known to bring bunches of empty vinyl mailing boxes to secure and protect our purchases; we’ll spend inordinate amounts of time cruising around, looking for shade in downtown Baltimore to park our car underneath to avoid as much heat and potential vinyl warping that may occur; and it always seems to take more gas to get home than it does getting there which makes sense when you consider the hundreds of pounds of vinyl, CDs, books and other merch four dudes who should know better, but don’t, come home with after Memorial Day weekend.

deciblog - ironsword cover

This past year at MDF, the topic in our hotel room/place where our purchases are stored was that the fine folks at Hells Headbangers were liquidating numerous copies of Ironsword’s Overlords of Chaos. The ‘holy shit’ hook being that it was the double-vinyl gatefold version of said unheralded, underrated and generally unheard classic of Robert Howard/H.P. Lovecraft-centric heavy metal proper, a version I didn’t even know existed. What made things even more worthy of mention and resurrection of this column is they were selling ‘em off at $5 a pop! Luckily, I didn’t wait once all this unbelievable information was presented. I bolted over to the HH booth and nabbed what ended up being the second-last copy.

deciblog - ironsword

Ironsword is a trio from Lisbon, Portugal that started in 1995 as a one-man project of guitarist/vocalist Joao “Tann” Fonesca and even though Metal Archives says they’re still an active unit, 2008′s Overlords of Chaos was their last release and there’s no indication they’ve done anything since. Hell, they haven’t even made the move from Myspace to Facebook or started a Bandcamp page. Anyhow, Overlords of Chaos is a masterclass of chugging, heavy metal fundamentals in the vein of Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol deeply ensconced in the Howard/Lovecraft fantasy worlds; those authors and their works were touched upon in each and every song. As well, Ironsword knew the value of a hook and how to write killer choruses and by the time they got to Overlords after their self-titled debut and its follow-up, Return of the Warrior, this skill made album number three a top-to-bottom exercise in excellence. Six years down the line and the melodies and choruses of “Road Warriors,” “Hyperborean Hordes,” “Cimmeria,” “Fear the Night” and “Blood and Honor” still pop into my head, unprovoked, on an all-too-regular basis. It doesn’t hurt that we played the latter song on our radio show every week for a year and that Tann’s broken English pronunciations add uniqueness and charm to his vocal phrasing. All that and a bassist named Rick Thor as well as the battle scene, swords and pneumatic-breasted women gracing the cover – it’s all metal all the time in their world. Aside from the obvious differences in medium and size, the vinyl version is virtually the same as the CD as far as artwork and liner notes are concerned, but to score an underground classic on double vinyl in mint condition for $5? Holy shit is right!

A couple of teasers:
Cimmeria

Crown of Iron

The Hells Headbangers webshop says they still have a few kicking around. Check it out if you’re into it.

And if you have any interest in the radio show mentioned above, I’m on-air Sundays from 9Pm-midnight EST. Go here and click the “listen live” link.

Sucker For Punishment: Taking the High Road

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

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As a metal writer you often meet young bands that are so desperately hungry to get out on tour and live the road dog life in their van, going from city to city, crashing wherever they can. Just to live the live of a touring metal band and do what they love to do most in the world. Once you make it to that one short rung above that of a local band, though, it’s a serious, serious grind that separates the grown-ups from the children, the true test of ones mettle, ‘scuse the bad wordplay. The highs can be fantastic, while the lows can be deflating.

Vancouver phenoms (and Decibel favorites) Anciients embarked on their first full Canadian tour last week, and despite playing on a Saturday night in June, pretty much the perfect time for a metal show around these parts, the turnout was a little lower than hoped. They were coming off a night where they and touring mates Black Wizard made an absolute killing playing to a packed bar as part of that city’s big Sled Island Festival, so to go from that to maybe 30 people in a 400-capacity room has to be a real letdown. Plus the fact that Black Cobra had been turned away at the Canadian border hurt things as well, especially considering that duo’s sterling reputation as a first-rate live band.

But give Chris Dyck, Kenny Cook, Aaron Gustafson, and Mike Hannay credit, they strode onstage and played just as well as I’d seen them in a beyond-capacity venue at Roadburn in the Netherlands two months prior. It was a scorching hour-long set heavy on selections from their excellent 2013 debut album Heart of Oak (“Overthrone”, “Faith and Oath”, “Raise the Sun”, “Giants”, “The Longest River”) and climaxing with a whopping, ambitious 12-minute new song that sounded even better than when I’d heard it back in April. It was a performance searing enough to compel those still hanging around at two in the morning to buy whatever the band was selling, and that’s where you got to see the sincerity in a guy like Cook, who shook the hand of everyone who came up to him, looking them in the eye and engaging them in conversation. It’s little instances like that where you sit back and think, yeah, their main tour support couldn’t show up with 18 shows and several thousand miles to go, there’ll be more than a few miserable sleeps in the van ahead, but these guys will be fine.

If you live in Canada, be sure to catch Anciients and Black Wizard when they roll into your nearest city. Here are the remaining dates:

06/26 Montreal, QC – Il Motore
06/27 Ottawa, ON – Maverick’s
06/28 Sherbrooke, QC – Le Magog
06/29 Rimouski, QC – Cactus Show-Bar
06/30 Fredericton, NB – The Capital Complex
07/02 Moncton, NB – The Caveau
07/03 Charlottetown, PE – Hunter’s Ale House
07/04 Halifax, NS – Michael’s
07/05 Trois-Rivieres, QC – Rock Cafe Le Stage
07/06 Quebec City, QC – L’Agitee
07/08 Kingston, ON – The Mansion
07/10 London, ON – Call The Office
07/11 Toronto, ON – El Mocambo
07/12 Sudbury, ON – The Townehouse 1H
07/13 Sault Ste Marie, ON – Canadian Nightclub
07/14 Thunder Bay, ON – Crocks
07/17 Regina, SK – The Exchange
07/18 Edmonton, AB – Pawn Shop
07/19 Armstrong, BC – MetalFest

It’s another monstrous week for new releases. Welcome to summer. Here’s a dozen eclectic selections to choose from, including one particularly big one.

Allegaeon, Elements of the Infinite (Metal Blade): If you’re going to sound like every other melodic death metal band that ever was, you might as well come up with melodies that stand out, and give the Colorado band credit, the restraint the guys show on their third album is mildly impressive, in an early In Flames sort of way. “Dyson Sphere” is a real standout, the polished death metal reined in just enough to create room for those guitar hooks and harmonies to leave a good impression on the listener. With a new At the Gates album on the horizon it’s easy to say, “Why bother?” but this is actually a laudable effort.

Alraune, The Process Of Self-Immolation (Profound Lore): The Nashville black metal band is being mentioned in the same breath as Ash Borer and Krallice, but as potent as this five-track album can be at times – the sprawling “Kissed By the Red” is an immediate standout – there’s still plenty of catching up to do. As it stands, though, it’s a fairly strong exercise in raw black metal, capable of hypnotic, swirling, blastbeat-driven passages, but always mindful of melody. The potential for great things is definitely there. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Auroch, Taman Shud (Profound Lore): I made the mistake of listening to the latest album by the Vancouver band right after the new Incantation album, reviewed below. Even though this project by Mitochondrion’s Sebastian Montesi and Shawn Hache is cut from a slightly different cloth, more indebted to the technical inclinations of Gorguts and Cryptopsy, its very dry tone strips away any sense of majesty the music could have had. Structurally there’s plenty for death metal fans to like here, nimble arrangements dynamic enough to keep listeners involved, but there’s the lingering sense that this record could have ben even better than it is. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Cannabis Corpse, From Wisdom To Baked (Season Of Mist): “Baptized in Bud”. “Individual Pot Patterns”. “Pull the Carb”. Oh, I get it. They’re parodies of actual death metal songs, but with weed jokes stuck in. Okay. In other words, the death metal version of this sketch.

Cemetery Lust, Orgies of Abomination (Hells Headbangers): Savage, filthy thrash/death metal with no shortage of tongue-in-cheek humor, this album might have a tendency to get a little repetitive after 15 minutes, but with songs like “Cum on the Cross” and “Sexually Transmitted Death”, the Portland band doesn’t fail to leave a stupid smile on your face.

Corrosion Of Conformity, IX (Candlelight): It doesn’t seem fair to the guys, but every time I hear a new Corrosion of Conformity album these days, I think, damn, I wish Pepper Keenan was back in the band. That’s how great that band could be when it wanted. Woody Weatherman’s doomy Southern rock grooves are still potent at times on this new record, and the trio can swing as it always has, but the vocals leave a lot to be desired. Imagine how absolutely killer it’d all sound if songs like “Brand New Sleep”, “Elphyn”, and “The Hanged Man” were sung with some semblance of authority instead of Mike Dean’s thin whine. Yeah, Mike and Woody are the originals, but as a foursome with Pepper COC was a force, and although it’s good to see him doing steady work with Down, his presence in this band is sorely missed.

Incantation, Dirges of Elysium (Listenable): I always say it, when it comes to songwriting skill in death metal, look to the progenitors, the bands that have been around 20, 25 years. The pace might be more measured and a lot less “extreme” than bands half their age, but it’s always for the better, not to mention by no means less punishing. We have yet to hear from Cannibal Corpse this year, but at the moment Incantation has come through with one of the stronger new albums by a veteran death metal band, right up there with Autopsy and Vader. In Incantation’s case, their forte has always been creating an effective contrast between the full-on assault of death metal and the more disciplined sounds of doom, and Dirges of Elysium is at its best when both sides have equal footing, as on “From a Glaciate Womb” and the towering, 16-minute “Elysium (Eternity is Nigh)”. Trust these old masters to show the rest of the genre what’s what.

Kobra and the Lotus, High Priestess (Titan): Hyped (and funded) to the nines, Gene Simmons protégé Kobra Paige and her perpetually rotating lineup of backing musicians had not shown any potential whatsoever on her first two Kobra and the Lotus albums, but that’s all changed on effort number three. Clearly following the NWOBHM revivalism of Huntress and Christian Mistress, with a few fashionable “occult” references tossed in for good measure, the band’s prefab quality is obvious, but easy to ignore as soon as you hear Paige belt out her vocals on these ten songs. A full-throated singer more akin to Lee Aaron than the rather shrill Jill Janus of Huntress, the classically trained Paige sells tracks like “Warhorse” and I Am, I Am” convincingly. However, if Paige and her wealthy backers wanted to make this project seem more credible, they should have chosen to grind it out with the Holy Grails and 3 Inches of Bloods of the metal scene rather than tour with KISS and Def Leppard, playing to people twice as old as their target audience. So while this album is a modest success, Kobra and the Lotus should tread carefully, because metal fans sense falseness and cynicism immediately. Money helps, but in metal taking the easy route rubs working class audiences the wrong way.

Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (Reprise): I find myself weirdly conflicted with Mastodon’s current musical incarnation. I loved Remission and Leviathan as much as anyone a decade ago, really dug the psychotic Blood Mountain, and the wonderful progressive rock tendencies of Crack the Skye. And I fully acknowledge the best thing the band could ever do to finally score a crossover hit was to streamline its sound, which The Hunter admittedly did very, very well, both musically and commercially. Never mind the fact that replicating the band’s studio vocals has yielded inconsistent results in live settings. So this sixth album smartly decides to stick to what made The Hunter appealing to so many, featuring songs that are mostly short bursts rather than sprawling epics, with very strong focus on vocal melodies by Troy Sanders, Brent Hinds, and Brann Dailor. That’s all well and good, it’s nice to see a contemporary American metal band make a concerted effort to improve in the lead vocal department, but on this album it all seems to come at the expense of the riffs. Yes, vocal hooks are great, but from the instrumental side nowhere is anything as towering as “March of the Fire Ants”, “Blood and Thunder”, “The Czar”, or even “Curl of the Burl” to be found. By no means is it a total loss, though, as “Tread Lightly” and “The Mother Load” are tremendous hook-oriented tracks, while “Diamond in the Witch House” is a welcome return to the more ostentatious side of the band’s work. But although it’s no real surprise that the band has chosen the if-ain’t-broke route, the fact that Once More ‘Round the Sun is the first Mastodon album to offer no real surprises is a little deflating. With far too much new metal to choose from, merely “good” just doesn’t cut it. A Mastodon album should be great.

Mournful Congregation, Concrescence Of The Sophia (20 Buck Spin): It might be classified as an “EP”, but this being Mournful Congregation”, it’s still a whopping 30 minutes of first-rate funeral doom, highlighted of course by the wondrous, beautiful title track. No band succeeds so well at funeral doom as these Australians, and they are in masterful form here once again. Stream and purchase via Bandcamp.

Nunslaughter, Angelic Dread (Hells Headbangers): Finally, a proper new album by the Nun’s Laughter boys, and typically it’s the kind of crazed yet catchy hybrid of thrash, death metal, and hardcore punk that they’ve been doing for years. Nothing’s changed, and nor does anyone want it to. It’s a big, dumb, Satanic joy by a consistently fun band, and probably the strongest album I’ve heard from the band to date. Jeff Treppel premiered the album here yesterday. Give it a listen!

Rog & Pip, Our Revolution (Rise Above): Musical partners going back to their days with ‘60s band The Sorrows, Roger Lomas and Philp “Pip” Whitcher continued making music in the 1970s under a number of guises, and this collection curated by Lee Dorrian offers a very entertaining glimpse of the duo’s more heavy rock-leaning music from the 1970s. Listening to these tracks all these years later, it’s nothing exactly revolutionary nor ahead of its time, but tracks like “Evil Hearted Woman”, “Doin’ Alright Tonight”, and “Warlord” are splendid, highly entertaining blends of early heavy metal, glam rock, and psychedelic rock. It’s a great little nugget well worth seeking out.

Septicflesh, Titan (Prosthetic): Here’s one band that’s always so much better on record than in person. Performed live, the Greek band’s songs are often overwhelmed by shrill backing tracks, but the actual studio product is a much more even balance. Septicflesh has always been mighty consistent in the album department, and this ninth full-length once again offers slickly recorded death metal accentuated by orchestration, and more often than not effectively so. The symphonic bombast on “Order of Dracul”, for example, is wonderfully over the top, towering and theatrical, and will leave you wishing you could see Septicflesh perform with a full orchestra just one time, because those backing tracks do not do this music justice. In the meantime, stick with the albums, including this darkly majestic piece of work.

Not metal, but worth hearing:

White Lung, Deep Fantasy (Domino): The hotly tipped Vancouver punk band made a name for itself with a pair of blazing, independently released albums in 2010’s It’s the Evil and 2012’s Sorry, but with a new high profile deal with perpetually trendy label Domino and the full attention of America’s indie cognoscenti, White Lung is taking aim at a broader audience than the punk crowd while trying to retain that punk credibility. Although what the band is doing on Deep Fantasy is no different than what was going on in Olympia or D.C. 20 years ago – a decided riot grrrl-meets Dischord feel runs throughout this record – and despite the fact that Mish Way’s vocal affectations gets a little too Courtney Love/Brody Dalle for comfort at times, the blend of feral energy, taut musicianship, and most crucially, plenty of wickedly catchy songs makes for a scintillating 22 minute listening experience.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

Heavy Metal Movies: Interview with author Mike McPadden

By: Sean Frasier Posted in: featured, interviews, uncategorized On: Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Mike McPadden - Chris Roo

I blame every sobering statistic regarding global literacy on the fact that until now the world didn’t have Heavy Metal Movies, the twisted tome cataloging Mike “McBeardo” McPadden’s infatuation with extremely extreme music and film. With 666+ reviews of headbang-friendly films, McBeardo is your personal Virgil leading you into the underworld of metallic cinema treasures.

What was your first distinct memory of metal and cinema colliding in your own life?

In 1976, when I was eight, the New York Daily News Sunday Magazine ran a feature on an emerging crop of freaks in the Village who were repeatedly returning to the Waverly Theater and dressing up as characters from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This, I needed to know more about.

Moms McBeardo reports I emerged from the womb loving horror movies and all the classic monsters. Rock-and-roll came to me quickly enough, largely through repeated spins of my cousin Mary Snow’s Sweet 45s—“Little Willy” and “Fox on the Run”, to be specific—and when I stayed up late and got simultaneously terrified, transfixed, and transformed by Kiss on NBC’s concert series, The MidnightSpecial. And then the real apocalypse hit when I struck gold in an old hamper and discovered Pops McBeardo’s Playboy stash. I invoke all these things because Rocky Horror seemed to combine each of these elements into some living, thriving new thing.

The following year, I secured a copy of the Rocky Horror soundtrack album and I’d spend days staring at the back cover with Susan Sarandon in a bra under the words “Lots of Larfs and Sex!”

And then, monumentally, the newspaper ran a misprint that labeled Rocky Horror as being rated PG, and I conned Moms into allowing some hippie aunts and an uncle to take me into Manhattan to see it for my tenth birthday. It was the ’70s, everybody—people did this. And there it all was: monsters, rock-and-roll, a spooky castle, leather jackets, motorcycles, cannibalism, polymorphous perversion, and, as promised, “lots of larfs and sex!” The girl who played Janet in the live cast even took off her bra. Hers were the first boobs I ever saw not attached to someone to whom I was related.

From Stuart Gordon’s underrated Dagon to French stomach-churner Inside, you cover hundreds of hidden gems. What are a few of the films you recommend, no matter the person’s taste?

It’s impossible for me to imagine anyone not being launched into a sphere of pure joy while watching the fifteen-minute 1986 documentary, Heavy Metal Parking Lot.

I feel similar affection for This Is Spinal Tap, but in the course of the writing the book, I’ve stumbled across some folks who don’t find it funny. We don’t hang out anymore. Some people hear the words “Spinal Tap” and automatically bark how the NWOBHM spoof Bad News is better. You can love both, you know. I do.

Don Argott’s recent documentary As the Palaces Burn, about Randy Blythe’s manslaughter trial after a fan’s death at a Lamb of God concert, is a gripping, moving film that would work even if the heavy metal elements were removed.

One nice aspect of writing about the bumper crop of heavy metal horror movies from the ’80s is that I didn’t come across one that I didn’t enjoy—even Monster Dog with Alice Cooper, which is horrendously incompetent, but still a knee-slapping good time. Of those movies, The Gate from 1987 feels like a real buried treasure, even though it was the only title in that subgenre to actually be a theatrical hit. Somehow, it’s fallen through the cracks since then, and I’m kind of hoping the book can help bring it back.

The Gate is about a couple of kids who play a heavy metal record backwards and thereby open a portal to Hell in their backyard lawn. All kinds of cool creatures come out, the greatest of which is an army of amazingly real-looking foot-high demon-men. The movie is extremely well crafted and, as it’s just scary and funny enough for a PG-13 audience, it’s a great introduction for kids to both horror and metal.

Heavy Metal Movies Cover edited

When did you start writing the book, and at what point did you realize all the work it would take?

After coming up with the initial list of titles to review and getting the go-ahead from Bazillion Points in early 2011, I just started writing the movies up, willy-nilly. About six months in, I imagined I had to be nearing the halfway mark, so I took stock and totaled up the amount of finished reviews, and the tally barely scraped one hundred. I freaked. Right on the spot, I had a vision of all these zombies and slashers and DVD bonus features and Swedish TV documentaries bombarding me—hundreds of them, thousands of them—and I wanted to crawl into a corner of my office and melt into a puddle. But I didn’t. I am occasionally taunted by seeing initial book announcement materials that proclaim “Coming in 2012!” Remember that year—2012? I kind of don’t.

If you could watch a film based on any heavy metal concept album, which would you choose?

Music From the Elder by Kiss, which actually did go in to production as a movie starring Chris Makepeace, who was Wudy da Wabbit da Winna in Meatballs and who co-starred with Tom Hanks in the hilarious anti-RPG TV movie Mazes and Monsters. That would have been awesomely terrible.

2112 by Rush is one my all-time favorite albums and side one has always seemed to be screaming to turned into a film. It still could be, I just hope not by whoever churned out those cheapo Atlas Shrugged boondoggles.

I’d really love to see Mastodon’s Blood Mountain in movie form, but only if they did it without CGI effects. The Cysquatch—a one-eyed psychic Sasquatch—would have to be played by a guy in a full-body Cysquatch suit.

What would be your early vote for Decibel’s album of the year for 2014?

The Oath by the Oath. The Devil’s Blood has been my favorite band of the twenty-first century, so I am delirious over the onslaught of witchy, druggy, female-fronted occult rock going on—Gold, Blood Ceremony, Christian Mistress, Witch Mountain, Jex Thoth, Jess and the Ancient Ones, and so on.

I thought the first singles released by the Oath were just spectacular. When the full-length album finally came out and I thought it was very good, but not great. But then this band that had a great in-born theatrical gimmick—two ludicrously sexy Nordic sirens wailing up top—pulled the pin and set off the greatest of all gimmicks: they broke up! One and done. Boom. Seeya!

Bolstered by that context, The Oath now sounds to me like an instant classic.

Between your work with Mr. Skin and Hustler your career may be perpetually connected to nudity. What’s your favorite metal album cover featuring nudity?

Let us immediately rule out Virgin Killer by Scorpions and Led Zep’s Houses of the Holy.

Discovering Coven’s proto-metal milestone Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls in my stoner uncle’s record collection was definitely a before-and-after moment. Lead singer-cum-sorceress Jinx Dawson is complete nude in the gatefold, splayed out on a sacrificial altar while the other band members loom over her black magic sacrifice.

Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix certainly set a standard to which all other album covers—and maybe all other everything else, too—should aspire.

I love Death Penalty by Witchfinder General. On the cover, that poor bare-bosomed witch they found sure is enchanting. She really got MY stake burning—nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

While it’s only metal adjacent, Cristina Martinez practically launched me into a second puberty in 1989 by nakedly posing as the Playboy Femlin on the bluesy noise-punk Boss Hog EP, Drinkin’, Lechin’, and Lyin’. I was always hoping Julia Cafritz from Pussy Galore would do an answer cover. So far, it hasn’t happened.

I’ve also had an image of the Dwarves’ Blood, Guts, and Pussy album cover posted somewhere in all my various residences since 1991. Right now, it’s in sticker form on a file cabinet.

Once and for all, what’s more metal: Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Wars opened when I was eight and I loved it like religion. But just a few years before that I loved Sesame Street like religion too. And for all the same reasons. Eventually I saw a naked woman and a slasher movie and I heard Black Sabbath and the Sex Pistols and the baby scales fell from my eyes and ears, among other organs.

This whole present-day reality of grown adults not just clinging to but proudly championing their most infantile passions from kindergarten—meaning superhero blockbusters being the only movies in theaters now and the Internet’s maniacal preoccupation with playground concepts like “bullying” and “their fair share”—all that comes from Star Wars.

Star Trek tackles the big ideas and cosmic questions that come up when you’re in high school—stuff like ethics, race, politics, globalism, liberty, responsibility, the dominance of certain cultures over other cultures, humanity’s role in the universe versus the individual’s role within humanity, and so on.

I’ve long said that by the time I turned fifteen, I was essentially done forming in terms of taste and mentality and perceptions of the world. Layers have been added but, really, by sophomore year of high school, the core McBeardo package rocked complete. As a result, I get to congratulate myself via feelings of superiority, due to my teenage Star Trek degree of development, over the swarms of contemporary conversation-cloggers stuck, by way of Star Wars, in kindergarten.

More metal, then: Star Trek.

***Order Heavy Metal Movies over on the Bazillion Points site, and check them out for more extreme books. Author photograph by Chris Roo.