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Die in Hell!: Author Lewis Dimmick Uncovers Hardcore Hero Tom Capone’s Mutilated Metal Roots

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: exclusive, featured On: Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

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Last year we excerpted a couple selections from Lewis Dimmick’s excellent book This Music over at the Metalnomicon. He came back not long ago to take us behind the scenes of hardcore megaliths Sheer Terror. Today he returns with another great guest essay on Beyond/Quicksand guitarist Tom Capone’s metal roots and his uber-brutal Mutilator fanzine…

In 1985, Tom Capone, renowned guitarist for New York Hardcore legends Beyond and post-hardcore trailblazers Quicksand, published a single issue of Mutilator fanzine. It documented the proliferating world of underground metal: thrash metal; death metal; satanic metal; power metal; deathcore thrash.

Playing fast and destroying wimps and posers are dominant themes throughout the issue.

As the title of the fanzine might suggest, Tom was something of an outcast in high school. Mutilator was his creative outlet: interviewing bands; trading tapes; writing letters — you know, on paper, delivered by a postman, that guy with the funny outfit who’s always getting bitten by a dog — typing out interviews on a manual typewriter; learning to cut and paste layouts together.

“Seeing other zines was what inspired me to do my own,” Tom tells me. “I ordered the Hellhammer demo from a zine called Kick Ass Monthly. That demo made Venom sound like Mickey Mouse. No one knew about all these underground bands. They were doing really advanced stuff. It was genius.”

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The initial batch of Mutilator was fifty copies. Dutch East India Trading, a prominent distributor, saw a copy and was impressed; they asked for two hundred more.

STREAMING: Nightbringer “Ego Dominus Tuus” + Naas Alcameth (Nightbringer) interviewed

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Monday, September 22nd, 2014

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** U.S. black metallers Nightbringer are an entity unto themselves. The Colorado-based trio make music unlike any other. The group’s new album, Ego Dominus Tuus, is a haunting reality check of the darkness that is around us and the darkness that consumes us. Claustrophobic, uncompromisingly intense, and yet very musical (think Classical), Ego Dominus Tuus is the answer to brow-beater, mouth-breather black metal. Nightbringer brings sophistication to the genre. Nightbringer brings the genre to new places, some real, some ritualistic. Either way, Nightbringer is America’s answer to black metal. All should hail! All should bow!

FULL ALBUM STREAM AT BOTTOM OF POST!

Is Ego Dominus Tuus merely the follow-up to Hierophany of the Open Grave or is it something else entirely?
Naas Alcameth: Musically, there is much departure from previous works I would say. The core elements that are the foundational musical identity of Nightbringer are still present, of course, but there is a lot that has changed. The approach was much more refined this time and more time, and emphasis was given to the dynamic of the guitar, bass and keyboard lines while keeping with the overall goal of composing movements highly evocative of images appropriate to the subject matter: darkness, night, strife, furor, majesty and so on. Lyrically ,there are of course some shared subjects between Ego and some of our previous releases given that they are all inspired by certain esoteric traditions, and such traditions, at their core, aren’t transient, yet it is not reiteration of what has already been said. That would be somewhat pointless. You could say that this path we are undertaking, spiritually speaking, like any true path, is something that begins to change at the onset, or more accurately it changes you, and with the first attempted step, mystery gives way to little truths and what you thought was truth gives way to more mystery in an ongoing process. This all sounds very nebulous and vague perhaps, but it is the best way I can explain this inner movement, and it is this process which inspires esoteric art, which is what we consider Nightbringer to be, so, not unlike this process, each offering from us musically is like an epiphany, another ray of light, refracted through the prism of our souls from the same light source, way-markers upon a very long path that we have just barely set foot upon.

There’s an uncommon density to Ego Dominus Tuus. Is Nightbringer’s goal to occupy sonic space and consume it?
Naas Alcameth: I think it is less of a goal and more of a habit, a natural consequence of our preference for grandiose and elaborate compositions. I have said in the past that I view our approach to compositions akin to a mason’s approach to constructing cathedrals. We are building cathedrals of sound with the same intention that a mason constructs a cathedral of stone—for the glorification of our Lord. The compositions are often complex and high-arching in order to relay the same sense intended with the cathedral. The symbolism and intent is the same, albeit who or what we praise is not. With that said, one can just as effectively relay this spiritual gravity by carving a few lines in a single stone. Minimalism is an art unto itself and when done with mastery can move the soul as profoundly as the most elaborate work.

Musically speaking, Nightbringer doesn’t sound too tied to the tropes of black or death metal. There’s almost a classical sense to the band’s musical approach. Comment on this, please.
Naas Alcameth: The old black metal influences are present still of course, but I agree with your statement overall. This has everything to do with our love of classical music. We have much appreciation for individuals such as Bach and Rachmaninov to contemporaries such as Legitti and Arvo Part. I am also a huge fan of Elend. It is also no coincidence that our black metal influences are those few old bands who incorporated this same classical approach.

Is there something deeper with the title, Ego Dominus Tuus, which translates to something like “I am your lord”?
Naas Alcameth: Certainly. The meaning is manifold. At the surface it is both commandment and revelation and says much about where one stands, at various points along a dark initiatic path, in relation to the God(s). It also ties directly into a certain divine name that serves as cipher for a hermetic process of tribulation that is represented as a hierarchical trinity.

What significance does religion have to humanity at this stage in our history?
Naas Alcameth: Keeping in mind that word ‘religion’ is somewhat inadequate as a description of what we are speaking of, given the inevitable associations that come with it, I would say that it mirrors the current state of man and the cyclic stage he finds himself in, i.e. the Kali-Yuga. It is an inevitable process of movement away from forms that may have at one point housed sacred truth to forms that are all but completely profane; we find such forms wanting, empty. It is like building a temple to house and nurture a flame, in order that others might come to be within its light, yet becoming so entranced with the edifice itself that the flame becomes forgotten, and so it is now long gone out from the temple (this could very well also serve as an allegory for spiritually inspired music as mentioned above). The temple may be empty, but we remember, while most continue to tend to the temple not even realizing a real flame was ever present, or in their ignorance mistaking sentimentality, “social progress” and the like for the flame. Most do not even bother, as the light of the modern world is enough to light their lives. Science and a purely human reason have replaced the sense of the sacred. For such people, the quantitative has become the temple, and no other truth exists. In truth, this ‘flame’ I am symbolically speaking of cannot go out. It is everywhere and in all things eternally regardless of how dead the world has become to it.

Do you see separation between Abrahamic religion and other religions of the world, ancient and contemporary?
Naas Alcameth: This is a vast topic that can only be briefly touched upon here. In approach and spirit, yes, most certainly there is a separation. To be sure, one can find similarities, but it should be stressed that the Abrahamic religions adopted and adapted (some would say stole) some of their more foundational myths from the Babylonians before them (see Herman Gunkel) and took much of their philosophy from the Greeks. When it comes to the more esoteric aspects of the Abrahamic faiths, things become complex, though even here there are differences. I will leave it at that, since it is hard to say more without going into much more detail.

There are references to magic in your music. What is magic?
Naas Alcameth: Let me now reiterate something I have recently stated elsewhere, that for us to even begin to speak of these things in this context, to try to lay bare and relay the profound mysteries of magic, is to speak with a vast measure of inevitable falsehood, as the only way to truly know something is to be it, and we are in no position to speak on such matters with a voice of authority, as to do so will ring hollow and only serve to make mockery of what we tell you we believe to be sacred. We can only speak of the shadow of the thing but not of the thing itself, by way of symbol and allegory as well as the innate inborn intuition and lastly and most importantly, by the most fleeting of glimpses of what we have indeed experienced, in dream or in practice, but of nothing else, and to do otherwise runs the risk of quickly becoming absurd, an unintentional sophistry but sophistry never the less, something we have painfully come to realize and cautiously reassess. So let me sum this question up by quoting someone who could indeed speak with an authoritative voice on the matter of magic…

“Magick is the transmutability of the Quintessence of all nature.” ~ Andrew D. Chumbley

And now let me follow it with this…

“Always we want to learn from outside, from absorbing other people’s knowledge…. The trouble is that it’s alwaysother people’s knowledge.” ~Peter Kingsley

How does Yeats play into the title?
Naas Alcameth: The title was inspired by Yeats conception of the Daemon. This Daemon and one’s ‘otherness’ is central to our beliefs as relayed within the lyrics.

Black metal isn’t often literary outside of the usual suspects. What have you been reading lately?
Naas Alcameth: I have been reading some of the works of Algris Uzdavinys, Peter Kingsley, Johannes Nefastos and have most recently started going through Chumbley’s Dragon Book of Essex.

Tell us about the cover art by David Herrerias. How does it relate to the music?
Naas Alcameth: The album cover depicts the hierarchical triad, the enigma of the sacred name and path spoken of above. David is involved with many of the same esoteric currents we value which only further strengthened the symbolism used. He did an absolutely brilliant job.

What do you think of the current state of US black metal and where it’s headed?
Naas Alcameth: I am mostly ambivalent towards the scene in general. I like the bands I like, and am very appreciative of the good black metal that does surface, regardless of location. For me that is really enough. I can say that I have been really impressed with Funeral Presence.

Why is darkness so unfrightening now? Or perhaps darkness is merely light in another guise.
Naas Alcameth: Aesthetic has become unfrightening perhaps. Darkness? No… People have adopted this idea that darkness is simply an idea, a concept as effuse as a daydream, opposed to something real. Darkness is as real and alive as you or I, so much more so. There is a tendency not to fear what you are simply not aware of, what you truly do not know and have no real reference to even begin to know. True darkness, in its most profound sense, is the very heart of all fear. Those that experience this darkness experience what it actually means to die, to die in the most profound possible way, and none but those that have learned how to “die before they die” could possibly be in darkness without fear. Some of us have come close to this darkness in dreams (especially in dreams) or during meditation, or during hallucinations and those of us who have respect the magnitude of what this is and understand a fear that is far beyond the mortal fear of physical harm. This darkness is the dispersion of who you are (what you think you are is more correct). It is the slipping away of everything, literally everything, and all you know to be you. It is complete and utter annihilation, and yet it is also the road to salvation. This all sounds very melodramatic, but the truth of it hums just beneath the surface of your waking reality, and all one needs to do is to deprive one’s self of all senses for a duration of time to begin to understand, to feel this truth. Even still most will rationalize the significance away afterwards, like treating a burn (as the darkness burns all who enter) with an anesthetic until the significance is buried under the numbness of reason. Learn to be still (so that you may feel this darkness), learn to be silent (that you may hear it speak) and learn to die (that you may for the first time live). This is what we seek. Nothing less.

** Nightbringer’s new album, Ego Dominus Tuus, is out September 30th on Season of Mist. It’s available HERE (domestic!) for Pre-Order. We recommend clicking the link before Eschaton brings us all down.

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.

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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.