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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.

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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.

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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.

Sucker For Punishment: Our Cup Runneth Over

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

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Review enough metal albums, and the process can be pretty simple, especially when it comes to those bands that stick to the specific characteristics of one particular subgenre. Each style has its own specific requirements and criteria, and as a critic, you’re basically asking yourself a) if it captures the essence of what this subgenre is all about, b) how it stacks up against the subgenre’s most important work, and c) whether or not the songs are any good. Traditional death, thrash, black, power, retro, what have you, you can nail a generic album in one listen.

Generic metal will always be a great thing, it’s important for bands to uphold certain traditions, to keep heavy metal grounded, but not only is it just as exciting to hear bands that defy categorization, but it makes you work a hell of a lot harder as a music critic. Some bands’ sounds are so amorphous that it can be positively murder to try to put into words. The Atlas Moth is one such band, one I’ve admired a great deal over the years, but which I can never get quite right when critiquing. As I wrote elsewhere, writing about The Atlas Moth is like nailing Jell-O to a wall.

No matter how you want to describe the Chicago band in metalspeak (progressive blackened psychedelic sludge doom?), The Atlas Moth has shown tremendous growth over the course of three albums, and The Old Believer (Profound Lore) is their best work to date. It’s a sneaky record, mind you, as it took a good two months for the thing to wriggle into my head, but once it does, that little earworm stays there like a Ceti eel. Only a much more pleasant Ceti eel than Khan’s nasty buggers, one you’re more than happy to submit yourself to. The more The Old Believer goes on, the more the heaviness and extremity gives way to dreamy grooves and melodies reminiscent of the Deftones’ best work, singing continuing to dominate, with black metal screams adding some unique texture in the background. “Sacred Vine”, “Collider”, “Halcyon Blvd”, and “Blood Will Tell” are splendid examples of the band’s greatly increasing mastery of dynamics, with a level of tension underscoring the otherwise pensive-sounding arrangements. It requires a little more patience from the listener, but this is an album that gets more rewarding with each spin. It’s good timing, too, because by fall we writers should be even more smitten with it come year-end list time.

Listen to and purchase The Atlas Moth’s The Old Believer via Bandcamp. Then when you have the CD, head for the nearest faucet.

What a crazy, crazy week for new releases. I went with as many as I possibly could, and as you’ll see, the quality is exceptionally high. Along with The Atlas Moth, which you must own, you’ll find another one or two here that’ll cater to your interests, for sure. Except for Varg. Varg is hilarious.

Anathema, Distant Satellites (Kscope): The best thing Anathema ever did was get the hell out of the metal racket. It’s been an endlessly fascinating trajectory for the brothers Cavanagh, as they embraced their progressive rock proclivities and took their music into increasingly sumptuous directions. Especially impressive has been Anathema’s post-2010 incarnation. While not particularly original, and kind of dated in an Elbow-circa-Asleep in the Back sort of way, 2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here and 2012’s astounding Weather Systems were sublime marriages of mainstream rock and progressive rock, the kind of music just begging for a large chunk of the Muse audience, but sadly relegated to cult status time and again. Still, the band remains on that creative upswing with Distant Satellites. Sure, following up the classic “Untouchable” suite with the similar two-parter “The Lost Song” is not only inferior, but painfully, painfully obvious, but like Weather Systems, it’s all about tender grandiosity, and the chemistry between singers Vince Cavanagh and Lee Douglas, as well as the richness of the arrangements, makes for yet another spellbinding achievement.

Arch Enemy, War Eternal (Century Media): Michael Amott wins the award for 2014 Poker Face of the Year, hands down. I interviewed him early this year for a Decibel studio report, and all he said was, “This album is actually very different from Khaos Legions.” Considering the band had quietly replaced one of the most charismatic lead vocalists in metal, he sure was mum about what became one of the year’s biggest stories in the genre. But to be honest, is it that big an adjustment for fans? Not really. Angela Gossow projected power on record and onstage as well as anyone, but let’s face it, metal growlers are a dime a dozen, and Alissa White-Gluz steps in on War Eternal without missing a beat, providing that crucial contrast with Amott’s melodic guitar work that Arch Enemy has built a long career of. Stylistically, not a thing has changed in the band’s approach, and it’s a little disappointing that White-Gluz doesn’t show her own formidable vocal range more than the requisite monotone snarl, but this album overall feels much stronger than 2011’s Khaos Leions. The charismatic Gossow will be missed as she steps into her role as the band’s full-time manager, but with White-Gluz as the new face/voice and Amott as the songwriter, it’s steady as she goes for one of the more consistent bands in mainstream metal.

Body Count, Manslaughter (Sumerian): I couldn’t be sicker of hardcore. The posturing, the boring songs, the lame self-help lyrics, all the attitude but little palpable passion. But at a time when Hatebreed, Terror, and all the sound-alikes continue to coast, plagiarizing themselves time and again, Ice-T and Body Count have come through with an absolutely brilliant comeback that brings eloquence, humour, rage, and genuine songwriting skill back to straightforward hardcore that we haven’t heard in ages. Before settling into a good career as an actor, Ice-T was a masterful lyricist, and he proves it here, his songs edgy, provocative, and laced with wickedly dark wit. Backing it all up is the band, who matches Ice’s charisma with music that’s suitably intense and surprisingly vibrant. From the inspired covers of “Institutionalized” and “99 Problems’ to the storytelling skill of “I Will Always Love You”, this is not only the best Body Count album since the notorious 1992 album, but Ice-T’s best album since O.G. Original Gangster, and the best hardcore album in years. Not even a Jamey Jasta cameo can ruin this sucker.

Burzum, The Ways of Yore (who cares what label it’s on): Yeah.

Equilibrium, Erdentempel (Nuclear Blast): One of the loopiest bands in pagan/folk metal, the German band is back with another busy blast of jaunty melodies, polka tempos, and silly black metal vocal gurgling. Say what you will of this style of metal music, but Equilibrium has a real knack for lively hooks, and this album is a goofy blast. You can’t listen to “Uns’rer Flöten Klang” and not have a big stupid grin on your face.

Godflesh, Decline & Fall (Avalanche): Upon learning that Godflesh was back together making new music, many metal fans rejoiced because they’d missed Justin Broadrick’s colossal industrial metal riffs during his time with the more sedate Jesu. And while there’s plenty of crunch to be heard on this new four-song EP, the main draw for me is what’s between and underneath those massive guitars and merciless martial beats. The spirit of Killing Joke continues to permeate Broadrick’s work with Godflesh, and the atonal accents on “Dogbite” and “Playing With Fire” add richness to the otherwise blunt compositions. The title track might reek of been-there-done-that, but it’s still absolutely worth a listen on Bandcamp.

Hellyeah, Blood For Blood (Eleven Seven): Yeah, Vinnie Paul’s band continues to churn out the same old lazily-paced redneck metal, but much to my surprise this is not the full-fledged Southern metal suckfest you’d expect. “Sangre Por Sangre” is the catchiest song the band has ever written, “Demons in the Dirt” has a wicked little groove, the ferocious “Say When” sees Vinnie offering a glimpse of the Vinnie Paul of 1992, while “Black December” tackles a subject near and dear to every Pantera fan. For the first time the band has made music you can remember after hearing, and for Hellyeah, that’s a quantum leap.

Mars Red Sky, Stranded In Arcadia (Listenable): I want to say the Bordeaux band’s brand of psychedelic metal is infused with a strong doom influence, but that would imply the music is gloomy. Though it’s plenty heavy, the melodies feel oddly positive, from the guitars to the lilting singing. The chugging “Holy Mondays” and the hazy “Join the Race” are both a blast, reminiscent of the old-timey charm of Bigelf and Danava, a good indication of how likeable this album is. One for the Roadburn crowd.

Mayhem, Esoteric Warfare (Season Of Mist): Mayhem is so overshadowed by its early legacy and notoriety that any attempt at making new music will forever be placed alongside the towering De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, or in some deluded cases, Deathcrush. But while the Norwegian band’s music will never reach that level of adoration again, you have to give it credit for soldiering on with its gaze cast forward. 2007’s Ordo ad Chao was a daring, polarizing statement, and the long-awaited follow-up is even better, thanks primarily to the addition of guitarist Teloch, whose clever, atonal riffing on The Konsortium’s excellent 2011 debut is reflected in even more primal fashion on Esoteric Warfare. In a way he’s the perfect foil for the inimitable Attila Csihar, his nonlinear, lurching yet oddly catchy guitar sounds matching Csihar’s persona step for step, punctuating, accentuating. As for Csihar, he’s in typical flamboyant form, growling, gurgling, and gnashing all over the record, spewing lyrics about manimals and frankenfood, he and the band proving to one and all that while the fans still cling to the early recordings like baby blankets, they’re willing to show a continuing passion for experimentation and growth. Personally, that’s far more interesting than dead singer album covers and murdering sociopath bassists.

Night Ranger, High Road (Frontiers): No, Night Ranger wasn’t even metal in 1984. Appearances in Circus magazine aside. Still, I like these guys without shame. Their ‘80s singles were brilliant, exuberant hard rock, and their last album was shockingly enjoyable. And I’ll be damned if new tunes “High Road” and “I’m Coming Home” make me smile. Either Night Ranger is on a nice little creative upswing, or like my friend Jen insists, I’ve suffered a stroke. It’s probably the latter – Jen’s always right – but I’m not complaining.

Spiders, Mad Dog (Reaktor): It might be only a single, but the latest song by the Swedish hard rockers is a scorcher. Led by former Witchcraft guitarist John Hoyles and the fiery Ann-Sofie Hoyles on vocals, “Mad Dog” the MC5, Stooges, and Alice Cooper, with Ann-Sofie providing some welcome Suzi Quatro sass. The band always keeps things straightforward and direct, never wasting time with jamming. They cut right to the chase, and as a result their music has a bite that few Swedish retro rockers can match. 2012’s album Flash Point was outstanding, and this track is a good indication that the band is still as fiery as ever.

Tombs, Savage Gold (Relapse): Tombs might be a longtime Decibel favorite, but as strong as the Brooklyn band’s work has been – especially on 2011 Decibel album of the year Path of Totality – the music, rich and intense as it is, has always been in need of a little more color than was already there. Surprisingly, it’s with death metal producer Erik Rutan where Mike Hill has found that middle ground between extremity and texture. Amidst typically throttling songs, “Echoes”, “Deathtripper”, and “Severed Lives” offer welcome, moody respites, working so well that you can’t help but wish Hill would explore this more gothic side of his music even more. Then again, people want extremity from Tombs, and they get it in a huge way on this album, hitting an early high with “Edge of Darkness” and reaching a crazed climax on the closing “Spiral”, one of the best tracks Hill and the band has ever recorded.

Trap Them, Blissfucker (Prosthetic): Crust riffs, d-beats, psychotic vocals, Kurt Ballou production, and best of all, songs played with passion. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Trap Them, and all you’d ever want.

Not metal, but worth hearing:

Wife, What’s Between (Tri Angle): In the wake of the abrupt end to the wonderfully mercurial and innovative Altar of Plagues, James Kelly has quickly returned with an album that is even more surprising than last year’s outstanding Teethed Glory & Injury. Created in collaboration with The Haxan Cloak, one of the most exciting figures in electronic music, and ambient producer Roly Porter, Wife at times echoes the martial, industrial quality of Author and Punisher, but instead opens the music enough to let in more subtle, haunting melodies, which at times are reminiscent of James Blake. Minimal and beautiful, it ranges from the ethereal (“Heart is a Far Light”), to the jarring (“Salvage”), to moments like “Dans Ce” where you get the sense that he’s on the verge of something special, desolation and warmth incongruously intertwining.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

Interview: My Dying Bride’s Return of the Robertshaw

By: mr ed Posted in: breaking newz, exclusive, featured, interviews On: Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

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Yesterday U.K. death/doom progenitors My Dying Bride announced the departure of longtime guitarist (and current Vallenfyre axeman) Hamish Glencross due to “irreconcilable differences.” Replacing Glencross is the man he originally supplanted back in 1999—founding guitarist Calvin Robertshaw. In his first interview since rejoining band, the author of rifftastic MDB classics like “Your River” and “The Cry of Mankind” explains his decision to rejoin the band after 15 years, and what the near-future holds for doomiest of the original “Peaceville Three.”

What was your main reason for leaving MDB in 1999?

There was a lot of changes after [the band’s tour in] America in ’97, not just within the band but personally as well. To get myself through this I threw myself into the writing and recording of 34[.788%... Complete] with all that I had. I came out the other side a little jaded from the experience and realized that the desire to pursue My Dying Bride had left me. No fallout or arguments just arguably the hardest two years of my life led me to walk away from what had been the most important thing in my life. My Dying Bride is still the only band I’ve ever been in and would want to be in.

You’ve lived a fairly-regular “civilian life” since exiting My Dying Bride. Though you’ve remained friends with them in the years you’ve not been an active member, even tour-managing the band on occasion. Any plans to pull double-duty on MDB’s next set of live dates?

I did the tour manager job for a couple of years, around the time my son was born. But working full time and spending the summer weekends on long round trips to the festivals meant I was missing out. There are only so many days here with fine weather and I missed my boy, so I ended that part of my connection with the band. Double duty on future tour dates? I don’t think so. We have a brilliant tour manager in Debora who does an outstanding job, even in difficult circumstances. She knows the business takes no shit and gets the job done.

You began writing and recording a solo metal project called Many Suffer a couple years ago. What’s the current status of that?

It’s damn hard writing on your own. But with no deadlines or label involved I’ve taken my time writing the Many Suffer material. The first six months was a steep learning curve on using the software and getting to grips with the recording process. Then I began in earnest. A total mixture of styles, no one train of thought on choosing what it should sound like. I ditched a lot of material along the way only keeping what I was happy with. Which has got me to this point where I have nine songs complete, and about another four that will need a lot of work for me to even consider them as finished. I play and record it all including the vocals.

[My Dying Bride guitarist] Andy [Craighan] has heard some, as have you, and he says some of it sounds like My Dying Bride. Well, it’s going to, I suppose.

How and when did Andy and Aaron approach you about rejoining MDB?

About 12 months ago I got a call out of the blue from Andy asking me if I would consider stepping in and possibly helping out on some festival dates they had booked last summer. I said yes. He e-mailed me a set list but I never heard another word about it. Fast forward a year same question but this time it would be on a more permanent basis. I got to say I wasn’t expecting it, but the opportunity to be back in My Dying Bride, to write the most sorrow filled music out there, to be back in the bosom of the best bunch of people I know — it’s an honor to be given a second chance to call myself a member of My Dying Bride and to revive a truly great writing partnership.

There are seven songs already complete for the next MDB record. What—besides pinch-harmonic Incantation-styled guitar squealizes—can we expect you to contribute to this recording?

You’ll have to wait and see. The band have three festivals left this summer, which they are playing with the guitar tech. After that we will be getting together to work on the new material. Myself and Andy both have distinctive styles, which complement each other. This led to some of the greatest material I have ever been a part of. And with a new beginning comes a new exuberance to push the boundaries of the My Dying Bride sound.

Are you growing your hair back or what?

What hair? It’s beyond help now. I still have some but not in the condition it once was. This ain’t no pretty boy band, you know?

Body Count’s Ice-T Talks Shit but Does the Shooting

By: Laina Dawes Posted in: featured, interviews On: Thursday, June 5th, 2014

bodycount

1992 was an interesting year. On the West Coast, the dichotomy between the intensity of Seattle’s grunge scene and Los Angeles’ growing racial tension (thanks to the highly publicized beating of Rodney King and the following riot) made for some interesting times. White kids were rebelling against conformity and black folks were rebelling in the name of social justice. While Body Count was first formed in 1990, 1992 sparked not only the occasion of Nirvana’s Nevermind hitting No 1 on the Billboard charts, but also the self-titled release of rapper Ice-T’s metal band, Body Count. Black and white folks were  enraged at the single “Cop Killer,” not only for the fact that due to the social climate, the suggestions of revenge against authorities was not appropriate, but that a black dude who had a successful solo rap career started a metal band (listen to Body Count’s “There Goes the Neighborhood” for a refresher).

Since then Body Count, continued to tour and release albums, and the frontman became an actor on the small screen, playing a (gasp!) police detective for 14 seasons on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. With Manslaughter, Body Count’s fifth album and their best to date, be prepared for Ice-T’s trademark vitriol – more concise than ever – but also a more streamlined, yet visceral collection of excellently produced tracks.

Right after the album drops on June 10, the quintet will be joining New York’s finest hardcore legends Madball at the Gramercy Theatre on the 12th, and then embark on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival tour in July and August. Ice-T took a few minutes to chat with the Deciblog about his need to get back into the studio. “I’m just trying to put some balls back into the game, that’s all.”

Manslaughter is undoubtedly the most cohesive Body Count album to date, despite the various challenges the band has faced, including the deaths of three founding members and the regular demands of your day job.

Over the years, Body Count has suffered some great tragedies in the losses of [drummer] Beatmaster V from leukemia in 2004, Mooseman [bassist Lloyd Roberts, from a drive-by shooting in 2001] and D-Roc the Executioner [guitarist, died from lymphoma in 2004]. So, Ernie C and I are the only original members, but the new guys are hungry, they want to live up to the Body Count expectation, and it’s really given the band a new energy and excitement. The new members are drummer Ill Will and Vincent [Price], the bass player, but he’s been with us for quite a few years, and the new kid is [guitarist] Juan of the Dead [Garcia]. When you have a band like Body Count, there are always people “around” it, waiting on a shot, and Vince suggested Will – he’s from the DC / Maryland punk scene, and Juan was playing in a group called the Evil Dead and other bands.

The album is surprisingly tight and crisp, and has a lot of lyrical and musical variety. What newish bands were you listening to when you recorded it?

Nah, my influences tend to be from the old school. I’m a Slayer fan, Megadeth, and all that kind of stuff. When I listen to bands, I pick up on the energy, I make up riffs in my head – we tend to keep Body Count kind of dark, so its always going to have a [Black] Sabbath vibe to it, as they are our biggest influence, but I don’t want it to sound like the other stuff – I don’t want it to be “metal” or “hardcore” or “punk” – I just want it to be Body Count. It has to come out of my head.

What makes this album different is that I wrote with all of the guys. Last summer in Las Vegas, we jammed for a month and a half and recorded it on a cassette player until we thought we had some good tunes. No vocals, just ideas. Then they took the music to L.A., tracked it [with] the producer Will Putney [Asking Alexandria, Impending Doom, the Acadia Strain], and then they took the tracks and sent them to me in New York, and I lived with the tracks for a minute, and then write the vocals and then went into the studio with Will, recorded it, and then they mixed it.

It sounds so good because of the producer. A lot of bands can make great records, but they lose it in the studio. You gotta have a real good producer to make the shit sound right in the computer world with Pro Tools and all that shit. A lot of times, records can end up sounding thin, and you turn the record up and it starts to hurt your ears, and I realized that this is really an art form, and Will is just very good at it, and he made the record sound really good, and that’s all on him.

Back in the day, Body Count was categorized as “rap metal” or “nu metal.” Manslaughter sounds like just a straight-up metal album, without the hip-hop tropes that — because of your background (and ethnicity) — the band was initially categorized by.

I think they did that because they didn’t know what to do with Body Count, because there was no category. You have to remember that when Body Count came out, the first band we took out on tour was Rage Against the Machine. So there wasn’t anything similar to us, so what do you call it? We were more lyrical than other bands at the time, and the way that I was delivering the lyrics were close to that rap/hip-hop flow, so people were just trying to figure out what I was doing. But the thing of it is, is that we didn’t really care “what” it was. It was embraced by all the bands we admired; I was doing work with Slayer, I was on tour with Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Henry Rollins loved us, Bad Brains were sending us love – so it was just a sound that we tried to create and we still say to this day, put it into whatever category you want to put it in – we just want to rock. And it is rock.

But in my book, rap is rock. If you listen to an MC, we rock the house, we rock the mic. It’s rock – we don’t “r&b” the mic! So, rock is – whether you are doing it on piano like Jerry Lee Lewis, or on guitar – an attitude. So, when I hear [Public Enemy’s] “Welcome to the Terrordome,” I think that shit’s rock!

Tru dat. When Body Count was initially released, what meant more to me as a young, black metal fan than even the album was seeing a group of black men playing music that I had thought we would never be “allowed” to play…

[He interrupts, laughing] I got a song for you: [Manslaughter’s] “Bitch in the Pit”

Right! I was going to ask you ask you about that! Over the years, have you had any black metal fans talk to you about how important it is for you as an African-American man to be fronting a metal band as a representative, or an “allowance,”signifying it is okay for black fans to listen and to participate as musicians within the scene?

Absolutely! And someone’s gotta do it first.  That’s what’s called being a pioneer. It takes somebody who doesn’t give a fuck about what people think about them. And if you’re that black kid and you’re walking around with that metal T-shirt on, you gotta have some balls – whether you’re a man or a woman. You gotta stand on it, and Ice-T has always been about that. I’m gonna do what the fuck I’m gonna do; I’m only here for a short time, so fuck you! I can’t be concerned… I wouldn’t be married to Coco [his wife, who is white] if I were concerned what people think. I wouldn’t be playing a cop on TV If I gave a fuck what people think.

I think that at this point of my life I’ve proven myself that … I don’t allow people to set these barriers for me. And when I was coming up from hip-hop, I heard a lot of “Well, what are the other rappers going to say?” I was like, “I don’t give a fuck about the rappers.” I don’t give a fuck. I’m gonna do me, and if you don’t like it, I don’t give a fuck. You really have to have that attitude to live your life freely, as you can’t be concerned with people’s opinions. Who are they any fucking way? The only problem that I can see in metal is if you end up with a boyfriend who hates it and you live together… that could be a problem. But now they have headphones!

Have you seen an increase of black kids at shows over the years? In terms of extreme metal, outside of God Forbid, there haven’t really been very many all-black underground metal bands that have emerged.

Oh, of course. There are always a couple of black guys at shows, but now we are seeing bands come at us. Guys are telling us about where their bands [are] and where they are from. But it is kind of odd how we’ve been gone for almost 10 years and no band has filled our spot. But that is kind of good, as it means we are doing something different and unique. I’m 100 percent about being unique. The biggest dis about this album would be that we sounded like somebody else, and no one has said that. We just want to sound like ourselves, but better.

You know what it takes? And I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back – it takes a charismatic frontman, like Angelo [Moore] from Fishbone. It takes a character that can really grab an audience. I could put five guys up there and they can just stare at their instruments and play the most incredible metal, but it is the words that jump off the stage; the words grab people’s attention and makes them believe in that band. And without that person, it’s really hard to get past that hump. And if it’s a black girl, she’s got to come out real hard and she’s got to say some shit. Even when we put out our video [“Talk Shit, Get Shot” from Manslaughter], people cried, “You’re shooting white people. Why are you shooting white people?” Because that’s what the video people casted… I didn’t give a fuck. You gotta have a really rock attitude to do this shit. If you are worried about offending people, stay the fuck out of this game.  Or you are going to be Macklemore – and that’s the polar opposite of metal.

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So, about “Bitch in the Pit”: What inspired you  to write that song?

I write all of my music for the stage. When I write a record, I think about what would be good to perform at a concert. And I always try to sing for the audience, about the audience, or to the audience. I try not to think about me – it’s all about them, and I can position myself in the crowd. For that song, it started off with that punk riff, and it was real fast, it sounded like a pit. So, the first verse is about the pit, but then I thought, “Every damn show, there is one girl in the pit.” We haven’t really done a song about women in the scene, outside of “Black Voodoo Sex” which is one of Ice-T’s legendary stories [laughs], and Coco is featured on that as the Voodoo woman… She went off on that [laughs even harder]… but I started writing after thinking that it’s one of the most honest songs on the album because every single show we do, there are always just one or maybe two women in the middle of the pit with the guys… I don’t know why… But they want it faster, they want it harder, and I just made a homage to the chicks in the pit. And in the end it’s like, “Who the fuck is that bitch?”

The thing with Body Count… and this is very important: It’s the humor. Body Count is over the top. It’s hyper-violent. It’s hyper-ridiculous, but it’s honest in that way … It’s not as serious as what a lot of rock bands try to make themselves. It’s more… I call it “grindhouse.” You wish you could grab a motherfucker through his phone when he’s talking shit – we can [see the video for “Talk Shit, Get Shot”]. It’s that fantasy you want to do.

Speaking about fantasy… one of the best tracks on Manslaughter is “Manhood.”  You are talking about how “masculine” men “were” – referring to your dad as an example – versus the seemingly emasculated version of how men are currently presented. I was thinking about the recent killings of women in California by Elliot Rodger, and how he took what he thought of as being “masculine” to a whole ‘nother level.

That kid was a fucking idiot. He was a fucking pussy, the farthest you can get from a man. Honestly? I watched [the news reports] on that dude, and that was one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen… a guy that’s going to kill girls because you can’t get any pussy?  You got enough money to buy a gun, but you couldn’t buy some pussy? What the fuck? That guy was a weirdo, and that’s not what we are talking about on this song. I’m just saying that we got the “pussification” of the male species where men are not willing to stand for anything, men that are too concerned with being politically correct, that they have gotten really soft – and I’m not talking about gay men at all.  Even with hip-hop – men are wearing really skinny jeans and tight shirts, and I’m like, “What the fuck happened?” But that doesn’t mean abusing women; I’m talking about taking care of your kids. Man has to be about something. Man has to be buck up, power through it – man just can’t give up. What am I saying wrong there? A man is sharpened steel. And at the end of that track, I talk about going to a foreign country and getting your head cut off. Those people ain’t playing. So, if the men in the United States are getting soft, they need to figure that shit out.

What bands on the Mayhem Fest lineup are you looking forward to meeting this summer?

I’m an old school Cannibal Corpse fan, so I’m excited to play with them, and we just did a show in Arizona where we played with Asking Alexandria. I’m just excited to play Mayhem to be in front of a lot of people that might have never heard of Body Count, because you have to remember, [the band is] 20 years old. I didn’t want to go out on a Body Count tour where only the fans would show up. I want to get new fans and play in the afternoon amongst all newer bands, and try to build a new fan base of young kids. We know that when we perform, motherfuckers will connect. We know what the fuck we’re doing.

Manslaughter (Sumerian Records) will be released on June 10. New Yorkers can catch Body Count with Madball at the Gramercy Theatre on June 12 and at the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival at dates across North America in July and August.