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INTERVIEW: Pit Full Of Shit

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews On: Thursday, August 28th, 2014

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If you’ve been to shows around the NYC area–particularly at The Acheron or Saint Vitus Bar, both in Brooklyn–then chances are you’ve seen Frank Huang. More often than not, he’s armed with at least one video camera to capture that night’s show for everyone else’s viewing pleasure. After noticing him time after time at gigs, we finally caught up with the man himself about his work, his life and music in general. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out his blog Pit Full of Shit.

For those who may not be familiar, tell us a little bit about Pit Full of Shit. How did the idea come about? When did you you first get started and what was the first show you shot?
I started shooting live video when I was back in Taiwan around 2007. It began with a school project I made for my friends’ band called Horsemen. I was trying to shoot a short documentary on them. At the time, there was this series of shows called “Metal Monster”, and the band was one of the organizers of the show. So I went in and shot the second show of the series in which Chthonic played. I believe it was the peak of the series. After the show, I found I really liked filming bands and the music, and I felt that since I knew how to shoot video, these bands deserved to be documented. Plus, I could also show our scene to the world (aka the Internet). After that, I kind of just fell into this abyss and never got to get out. I got some really good experience when I was over there, not only shooting local bands but also bands like Abigail, Unholy Grave, Misery Index, Exodus and Death Angel. I’m still good friends with some of the people in those bands, and that really helped me start up when I first moved to States.

Pit Full of Shit didn’t start until I moved to NYC in 2011. I met Frank Godla from Metal Injection and Meek Is Murder at Revocation’s Chaos of Forms record release show at The Studio at Webster Hall. We were both shooting the show, and he suggested that we edit our footage together and post it on Metal Injection. After that project, they offered me a channel on Metal Injection, and that’s how Pit Full of Shit came about. But two years later, MI decided to change its server and all of my videos were gone, and that was when I started the blog. Right now I still post videos both on my blog and Metal Injection, but the source is from my own YouTube channel instead of MI’s server.

Most of your live footage is from shows in and around NYC — how long have you lived around here? What’s your favorite local venue to see a show and to shoot a show?
I moved to NYC from Taiwan in the summer of 2011 for grad school, so it’s been around three years now. If you look into the videos I’ve shot, you will find that in terms of venues, Saint Vitus Bar and The Acheron are the two places I shoot at the most. I can’t really pick just one from those two. Both of places took care of me pretty well when I first started in NYC, are very, very friendly, and believe and are very supportive of the things I do, which means a lot to me personally.

Taking another step back, tell us about some of your formative music experiences — in particular, when and how did you first get into the more extreme side of things?
Well this sounds really corny, but I started listening to Marilyn Manson when I was in junior high school which led me to Slipknot. (This is Taiwan we are talking about, I didn’t really get to find that much information on extreme music, not to mention the Internet wasn’t that cool at that time. Hell, I even liked Limp Bizkit. But it’s 2014, it’s way much easier to find underground music now.) But I always felt like I wanted something heavier. When I got into college, my friends showed me bands like Chthonic and Arch Enemy, and that was when I started digging more extreme music. Bands like Dark Funeral and Naglfar were my favorites at the time, and shooting shows exposed me to a lot of other music too.

There’s a group in Taiwan called Raw Noise Attack. They were the ones that got Abigail and Unholy Grave to play in Taiwan, and they also introduced me to bands like Electric Wizard, Church of Misery and so many other thrash or grind bands that shaped a lot of my musical tastes nowadays.

How many shows a month do you think you shoot? What’s been a favorite recent show you’ve been able to share with everyone? All time?
I would say I shoot about 10 to 15 shows a month, but it really depends on what’s going on. Sometimes I shoot five or six nights a week, sometimes one night in two weeks. It really depends. I would say my favorite recent show was Eyehategod with Iron Reagan and Strong Intention at The Acheron. All time for now I would give it to Gorguts at Saint Vitus Bar–that set completely blew my mind.

Can you tell us more about the equipment you use to shoot shows and the process more generally?
For cameras, I mainly use my Canon 60D. If I’m doing a multicam shoot, I have a Sony VG10 and a GoPro. Soundwise, I use a Sony PCM-D50, which is a really old sound recorder I’ve been using since the beginning but it’s still amazing and a Zoom H4n for board sound. And for editing I use Adobe Premiere Pro and PluralEyes for sound syncing (it’s life saver). Sometimes I try to do different things too, like I shot Eyehategod in Super 8mm film earlier this year.

What are some of your other videography/filmmaking endeavors (music videos, documentaries, etc)?
I’ve actually done music videos for bands like Phobia (and here), White Widows Pact, Bezoar, Call of The Void, Rituals, Noisear, Skelptarsis and Scattered Purgatory from Taiwan. The latest music video I made was for Phoenix’s Funerary, which premiered on Noisey.

Do you ever feel that you’re missing out on the “live experience” by being behind the camera instead of in the crowd? Do you try and mix it up and not shoot every show you go to?
Yes I do, haha, but if you see me at a show with my camera, you would most likely see me headbanging to songs all of the time, so I’m not missing out that much. And sometimes when I do a multicam shoot, I will be at the front of the stage, which to be honest can be really annoying sometimes.

I actually tried going to shows without my camera, but I found I would feel very uncomfortable, and normally after the show I would be like “Fuck, I should’ve shot that show.” So normally I shoot every show I go to, unless there are special reasons like the venue charges a ridiculous amount of money just to bring in a camera, which is totally stupid and greedy in my opinion.

What do you otherwise like to do when you’re not going to shows?
Movies. I’m a film school graduate and it gets me excited that NYC has so much to offer in terms of movies. Especially places like the IFC Center, Lincoln Center and BAM [Brooklyn Academy of Music], which always come up with some of the best programs on indie, classic or even cult movies.

For those who haven’t had a chance to go there, what’s so special about Saint Vitus?
Saint Vitus Bar is a place for everyone who loves metal–you can’t really go wrong when you have a King Diamond portrait in the middle of the bar. They play all good songs in the bar, the drinks are very nice and don’t miss out on their buns!

And to me it feels like home. The people who work there know about the music, they are involved in the scene and most of them play in metal bands too. So they actually understand what is like being a metalhead. And they also book some of the best shows in Brooklyn. But don’t be an asshole and ruin other people’s good time, they will be total jerks to you if you do so. But just in general in life, DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE.

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What are some tunes you’ve been spinning recently?
2014 has been an awesome year in terms of new releases. I’ve been obsessed with the new Gridlink, Indian, Eyehategod, Coffinworm and Triptykon records. But I’ve been going back to SubRosa’s More Constant Than the Gods for the past week.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Be nice and respectful to all the videographers and photographers you see at any show.

When There’s No More Beer in Hell: Cross Examination Returns with Dawn of the Dude

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, liver failure On: Thursday, August 21st, 2014

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This almost didn’t happen. By ‘this,’ we mean the interview portion of our announcing the return-of-sorts of St. Louis’ Cross Examination to the world of playing crossover thrash while balancing tens of beers on their livers. The quintet, after about six years of silence, has a new 7″ out and available as of last month and recently just completed a run out west. You can stream Dawn of the Dude‘s raging, snot-nosed, party thrash below. Enjoy, because you know they did and they’d probably feel pretty bummed if you didn’t crack open a good time at their behest.
The reason this came down to the wire was because vocalist/interviewee, Cross Exam Dan [a.k.a. Devil Dan] works at a major newspaper called the Riverfront Times in the Ferguson, MO area and considering what’s going on in town (nightly protests/riots, curfews, military presence, etc.) and that everyone else everywhere else is talking about it, you can imagine that working at a ground zero news source in a city previously best-known for being the childhood home of the Doobie Brothers’ Michael McDonald is keeping employees just a little busy. We didn’t find out about the local newspaper-Cross Examination connection until after we emailed these questions to the band, so sorry we didn’t get a chance to ask more socially relevant questions, if that indeed is what you came to the Deciblog looking for. Then again, we’re sure these guys, more than ever, welcome the opportunity to ramble on about metal and beer.

Where the hell have you guys been and what have you been up to since Menace II Sobriety?
We have actually still been getting together every week for practice all throughout our radio silence, though that has many times just involved drinking a lot of beer and not remembering to touch our instruments. We’re life-long friends and Friday or Saturday night has been when we get together and kick it for over a decade now.

Was there a particular spark to the return of the band?
Well, we never really left; we just worked very, very slowly. On top of being lazy fuck-ups, we also believe in a slow-simmer approach to song writing in order to achieve maximum flavor. Don’t call it a comeback; we’ve been here for years.

Having been on the sidelines for a few years, what have been the most noticeable changes in the metal/thrash scene that you’ve paid exterior witness to?
Seems like “party thrash” as a whole has died down, no longer an overarching trend. Which is neat because that means we can crawl out of our hole again with a bunch of songs about stupid funny shit without it being, like, a “thing.”

When did you start working on Dawn of the Dude and how long did it take to write and record?
We started working on it a few months after Menace II Sobriety came out, so it took six years of relaxed, no-pressure writing. Then, we recorded the music in three days and then, a year later after I finally finished the lyrics, I recorded the vocals in two. We actually recorded an entire other EP’s worth of material in these same sessions that will see the light of day within a year, entitled Shred the Living.

How would you say Cross Examination is different today from Cross Examination of yesterday?
Ray, bassist extraordinaire and primary taskmaster in times of over-arching lethargy, had himself a couple of babies, got married and got a job, so now we have Jimmy playing bass and trying to get us to do stuff. But Ray was better at the latter part. He would call us assholes and tell us about how he was going to fuck our moms whenever we were slow to get to work. Ray stepping back is probably the biggest reason it took us so long to get this out there. Still hang out with him all the time; much love.

Do you still have the van with the drink cooler built into the floor? Are you planning on using it extensively once the EP is out and makes the rounds?
No, we had to smash that van to pieces on the side of the highway after it broke down on the way to Chicago.

Couldn’t be avoided. Then we got a different van, dubbed it the Jambulance, and have since allowed it to fall into disrepair.

The last time I started it the alternator caught fire, and the squirrels that I am pretty sure live inside it now are steadfast in not relinquishing control. We had a buddy drive us in his van on our west coast tour earlier this year, but that one was towed across the finish line after the transmission gave out an hour and a half from home. We are bad at vans.

Is there going to be a new full-length coming in the near future?

We like EPs. They take less time and we all have ADD. Shred the Living coming soon; the world is our oyster after that. Who knows?

Buy Dawn of the Dude and Cross Examination merch here.

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Sucker For Punishment: Worlds Apart

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

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I was among those critics lavishing praise on Pallbearer’s debut album Sorrow & Extinction in February 2012, marveling at its surprisingly graceful take on doom metal. However, as the year went on, I felt I had to pull back from the praise of the critical hive mind, because the more I let that record settle, the more convinced I became that as strong as it was there was still a lot to be improved upon. It felt unfair to readers and the band to hail it as something groundbreaking and even classic when deep down I could sense the Little Rock band was better than that. Seeing them perform live only solidified my opinion, as they started to show glimpses of a much richer sound than what was on that debut. I wasn’t surprised when the album topped many year-end lists, including Decibel’s, and it wasn’t a bad choice at all, but still I bristled a bit. Then again, I’m the sort of guy who’ll deduct a point off an album rating from a talented new band just to hint that I’m not quite ready to name them the second coming yet.

Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore), much to my great pleasure, does exactly what I had hoped it would do, and more. Molded and shaped by the sure hands of Billy Anderson, arguably the best doom producer right now, the follow-up is bigger, more grandiose, and best of all, clears so much more space than the very dense Sorrow did. Consequently the music breathes a lot more, allowing for much more effective contemplative moments, whether it’s in an expressive guitar solo, some plaintive piano chords, or best of all, vocals. And for all the heaviness, it’s the vocals that are most crucial on this album. Guitarist Brett Campbell was still adjusting to his assumed role as singer on the debut, sounding tentative, intentionally buried in the mix. Confident in his ability after two years of touring, he’s so much stronger on the new album, and if that wasn’t enough, his bandmates come through with some startlingly good backing harmonies.

It’s in the singing, too, where you hear this album’s true genius. Because of the sheer length of the compositions, which often are in the ten to 11-minute range, the band is afforded the opportunity to play around with the vocal melodies. That, in turn, sees Pallbearer’s true influences come out. These guys are serious fans of progressive rock, and indeed those vocal melodies weave in, out, and around the arrangements in true prog fashion, almost feeling improvised at times, avoiding conventional patterns but always staying rooted to those riffs. As a result songs like “Worlds Apart” and “The Ghost I Used to Be” not only display staggering power, but show remarkable richness as well, imbuing the normally brutish music with moments of genuine soul. That’s not to say the guitar work isn’t central to this album’s appeal, either, in fact, the melodies and harmonies by Campbell and Devin Holt play a major role on the closing track “Vanished”, sounding typically melancholy but not without a faint glimmer of hope in the distance.

Accentuated by the three-minute ballad “Ashes”, which is sort of Pallbearer’s “Changes” to the rest of the album’s Vol. 4, Foundations of Burden carries itself with stately grace over the course of less than an hour, the work of a band that’s much surer of itself. I always say there’s nothing wrong with a little ignorance and arrogance from young bands, but although Sorrow & Extinction will go down as one of the more unique and surreal first albums in recent memory – bassist Joseph Rowland likened it to a 45 RPM record being played at 40 – there’s something to be said about musical growth and increased expertise. This album feels like a band just starting to come into its own. If I was apprehensive about placing Pallbearer on my year-end list three years ago, I sure as hell am ready to do so now.

Listen to and purchase Foundations of Burden via Bandcamp immediately. 

It’s a gigantic week for the new metal, and although I can only make a dent in the 50-odd titles that have come out, here’s a good sampling of the most noteworthy ones:

Accept, Blind Rage (Nuclear Blast): Four years ago a reunited Accept returned with a new singer, completely unsure of how it would be received by the public. Three albums later, the guys have a very, very good thing going, a career reborn on the strength of new material that gets right back to the basics of what made the German band an upper-tier act 30 years ago. Blind Rage continues right where Blood of the Nations and Stalingrad left off, but ultimately feels like the strongest record of the three, a lean, menacing album full of piss and vinegar led by Wolf Hoffmann’s trademark sharp riffs and melodic solos, and accentuated well by singer Mark Tornillo, who has turned into a tremendous frontman for this band. “Dark Side of My Heart”, “Final Journey”, and “Trail of Tears” feel like they could have fit perfectly on Metal Heart, while “Dying Breed” is a cute, sincere tribute to metal’s most revered figures. Accept is on one hell of a roll these days, and this incarnation of the band has outdone itself

Ace Frehley, Space Invader (eOne): Ace Frehley was never an innovator, but he was always everyone’s favorite member of KISS because he brought grit and musical character to a band that was so preoccupied with presentation. From “Cold Gin” and “Parasite” to “Shock Me” and “Rocket Ride”, and that solo album that was light years better than the other three, he was always the band’s best songwriter when given the opportunity. Five years after his last solo album, Frehley went with the old “back to basics” tactic, intent on capturing the feel of that classic 1978 solo debut, and he does a rather good job of it. It’s simple, heavy rock ‘n’ roll, loaded with his Who-derived Les Paul riffs and alternating from his psychedelic shtick to more playful garage rock, and it suits the man perfectly. “What Every Girl Wants” is a blast, and even the cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker” is fun. Longtime KISS fans will get a kick out of this.

American, Coping With Loss (Sentient Ruin): If you like your metal misanthropic, self-loathing, and just all-around miserable, you can’t go wrong with this release by the Virginia band. It’s raw, malevolent black metal, featuring the kind of tortured, incomprehensible screams the music requires, but it’s not a one-trick pony, serving up tracks that not only cut to the chase, but show exceptional dynamics as well, whether it’s tossing in the odd death metal passage, some loose, punk influences, or in the case of highlight “Lamb to Slaughter”, going full-on doom. Even the ambient 18-minute piece that comprises the last half of the album, something I have very little patience for, displays enough cinematic flair to stay interesting. It’s a promising debut well worth investigating. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Black Trip, Goin’ Under (Prosthetic): Featuring former members of Entombed, Nifelheim, Corrupted, and leprosy, this Swedish collaboration is a quirky blend of Pentagram-derived doom (quelle surprise) and Thin Lizzy flash. Put those together, and yep, you’ve got pentatonic doom riffs accentuated by sharp hard rock passages and twin guitar harmonies. It’s nowhere near a trainwreck as, say, Chrome Division, and there are moments that work quite well, but this idea still feels like it’s nowhere near reaching its potential yet.

Botanist, VI: Flora (Flenser): The latest release from the prolific San Francisco project just might be its best to date, as I don’t think I’ve ever heard Botanist’s blend of black metal, post-rock, and shoegaze coalesce as beautifully as it does on Flora. Unlike other “metalgaze” efforts, Botanist keeps things a little left of center on this record, the bombast toned down and even muted in a way, always contrasting beauty and extremity, yet always mindful of not letting one side overwhelm the other. It’s a bit unsettling at times due to its unorthodox approach – take “Leucadendron Argenteum” for example – but as a whole it’s a wondrous, colorful piece of work. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Children Of Technology, Future Decay (Hells Headbangers): This Italian band fits right into Hells Headbangers’ wheelhouse, firmly rooted in straightforward d-beat punk rock, but with just enough of a metal influence to keep things filthy. Not to mention a singer a little obsessed with copping the mannerisms of Tom Warrior. It’s a fun enough little diversion, but in a week that sees the new Midnight album released, on the same label for that matter, why even bother?

Deadlock, The Re-Arrival (Lifeforce): Ah, Deadlock, a classic sufferer of Lacuna Coil disease: a band with an exceptional female lead singer but is perpetually deluded by the notion that it would be better off contrasting competent singing with tone-deaf screaming. But when these Germans are smart enough to let Sabine Scherer take the helm, their otherwise plain-Jane metalcore can often shimmer, which is a rare feat. This seventh album is more of the same, frustration one track, pop metal skill the next. For some, inconsistent is good enough for them, but smart metal fans should demand more than that.

Dictated, The Deceived (Metal Blade): It’s not every day you get a death metal band led by two women on lead guitar. Although these Dutch upstarts don’t do anything particularly new and creative on this second album – proving women can be just as middling songwriters as men! – it’s mildly engaging enough to scratch that Asphyx itch you might have. But why bother when there’s plenty of actual Asphyx to listen to?

DragonForce, Maximum Overload (Metal Blade): Album number six from the perpetually likeable Brits treads familiar territory, blending power metal with hyper-extremity as always, and although it doesn’t feel as rejuvenated as 2012’s The Power Within did, it still has enough memorable hooks to warrant a solid recommendation. Singer Marc Hudson has settled into his role nicely, leading the charge on such standouts as “The Game” and “Symphony of the Night”, while guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman continue their histrionic shredding, dazzling displays of dexterity, but done with a level of flash and ebullience that one rarely hears in metal anymore. The cover of “Ring of Fire” is wholly unnecessary, and actually terrible, but that doesn’t derail an album that careens wildly for 46 lively minutes, which is all anyone asks from these guys.

King 810, Memoirs of a Murderer (Roadrunner): It’s easy to dismiss King 810’s debut album as nothing but knuckledragger nu-metal shtick. Sure, the Flint, Michigan band’s sound is very much rooted in that sound, but there’s a lot more to this record than that. Constructed as an hour-long concept album about life in Nowheresville, the sense of anger and despair is palpable over the course of three acts as the band veers from cathartic, primal metal, to Nick Cave-derived introspection, to daring spoken word pieces. It’s contrived, no question, but all metal is contrived, but no matter how exaggerated it all is, these guys sell it alarmingly well. Nu-metal has been a self-parody for well over a decade now, and I’ve never hesitated to mock its many shortcomings, but this is an undeniably powerful piece of work, the most vivid and visceral such album since Slipknot’s Iowa.

Midnight, No Mercy For Mayhem (Hells Headbangers): It’s amazing how many d-beat metal/punk band replicate the formula faithfully enough yet are completely ignorant that the core of the sound isn’t crusty chords and that tempo, but that it’s simple rock ‘n’ roll at its core. A huge reason why Midnight stands out isn’t because it sounds like Venom meets Motörhead – although that unquestionably adds to its appeal – but rather because they rock. It’s as simple as that. The songs move and groove in sleazy fashion, lending the music a sultry steaminess that so many “extreme” bands don’t understand at all. On their latest, hotly anticipated album, there’s more groove than ever. It’s akin to Turbonegro’s Apocalypse Dudes, where a glammy Hanoi Rocks influence creep into the tunes, and you can hear it on this album, sleek lead fills adding welcome flash to the music, making it a lot more than dumb, primitive fist-bangers. Not that this album is without those tracks, but it’s no longer the complete focal point. Masked mastermind Jamie Walters has outdone himself with this record, continuing where 2011’s brilliant Satanic Royalty left off, yet at the same time adding much more richness to the music without compromising its underground credibility. As if that ever mattered. They are Midnight, and they play rock ‘n’ roll. Crank this sucker over at Bandcamp, and buy it now.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

Fest or No Fest, Don’t Call it a Fest Promises to be Pretty Awesome

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: exclusive, featured, interviews On: Thursday, August 7th, 2014

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Next Friday the 15th, the inaugural Don’t Call it a Fest slams into the Motor City with all the impact of a severely downgraded credit rating and an avalanche of housing foreclosures. Even during the best of times, Detroit has always had a negative air surrounding it; some of that civic black eye has been all too entirely justified, some has had its fires flamed due to a long-standing international game of telephone. Either way, Don’t Call it a Fest hopes to spread some positive vibes to a hurting metropolis via the local (and beyond) extreme music community by bringing Magrudergrind, Young and in the Way, Dangers, the Banner, Full of Hell, Homewrecker, Architect, Graf Orlock, Cloud Rat, Holy and more to the Tangent Gallery for what promises to be a grand old time all of the low, low price of $15 advance/$20 at the door! We recently caught up with Maxwell, one half of the team putting this shindig together, for a little background on the fest and to help put the pieces of the city’s true nature together.

What can you tell us about your history as promoter and Don’t Call it a Fest?
This is the first year for the festival. My roommate and myself, we decided to put it together. I’ve been booking shows for about 14-15 years. Originally, I started in Iowa because that’s where I grew up. I was just playing in bands, then I started booking stuff. Then, all of a sudden one band from out of town will come in to play, then they spread word to so-and-so and then I had booking agents hitting me up. When you have a small enough market where kids are desperate for music, it was pretty easy to get bigger crowds. I was 15 years-old and having bigger packages come in and was able to get the band $2000 on a weekday because there’s nothing else happening; who wouldn’t want to go to those markets? That’s pretty much how it started. I moved to Detroit three years ago and just kind of started booking up here because I’d been touring through here for a couple years at that point and had made a lot of friends here.

That begs the next question: you voluntarily moved to Detroit? Why?
Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot [laughs]. Essentially, how it started was that I came up here for the first time in 2006 and I played the scariest club ever. It was literally in the worst neighbourhood you could find anywhere, but I made a few friends that night, despite everything which is a whole story in itself. From there, I ended up meeting a few people who would end up becoming band mates a couple years down the line. It was kind of the right time and I needed to do something new, so I came up here so I could continue playing music and make it more frequent. This was the best way to go about it.

Time for some self-promotion: what bands are you playing in?
Sender Receiver, Sawchuk and Deadchurch.

What was the impetus for the fest? Was there a particular reason you made the leap from doing shows to doing the fest?
It was more that we wanted to do something that was substantial here in Detroit. There are a lot of people who do shows now that have 12 bands on them that are almost all local with maybe one out of town band from maybe two hours away and they call it a fest with some big elaborate hokey name. We wanted to showcase bands from around the country and some from out of the country and kind of bring something cool like that here. There used to be a lot of sweet fests up here in Michigan, but not really anymore. So I guess it was kind of an anti-fest fest, stabbing at the all-local thing and trying to bring some cool bands in.

Being that this is your first year doing it, how has it been in terms of organisation?
There have definitely been some difficulties coming in. There aren’t really many big venues here willing to work with people without wanting more money than they’re worth. There’s no reason to be paying $1400 for a 500 capacity room; that’s just not cost effective for anyone. These places have their own in-house agents. I won’t say the name of the company, but they’re around the country, they own multiple venues and they only care about having people work with them directly so they’re going to try and have everybody charge a lot. There was that, but there’s a really cool space we’re using. It’s got two rooms in it so we’re able to go with two different stages, back-to-back with a five minute turnover. That was pretty much the main difficulty. I guess also having people and bands outside of friends and personal contacts wanting to take a chance and come out to Detroit because the city has its own reputation.

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What differences have you noticed in putting this together versus a regular show?
I guess there’s a lot of excitement around here, but we’ve noticed a lot of excitement and interest from out of state. There are so many shows always going on in Detroit. It seems like somebody is always doing something that everybody’s kind of spoiled here, I guess is a way of putting it. We’ve had a good reception, it’s just that people are sort of like, “oh, cool. It’s another cool thing that’s happening.” People are kind of used to it. But, I’m noticing from the surrounding areas, like the other side of the state, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and parts of southern Ontario, that people are super-excited because it’s a cheap festival with a lot of bands people want to see coming together. But, like I said, here in Detroit, there are literally five or six shows going on every night of the week.

Ok, so here’s your chance to dispel any of the myths surrounding the city of Detroit. I spent some unavoidable time wandering the city for a day when I went to see Raw Power there last year and it was pretty barren and sort of post-apocalyptic. Most people have heard about the city bankruptcy, the auto industry troubles, the former mayor being in jail, the water being shut off recently…Is it a case of the arts community thriving in light of – or because of – all the shit going on in mainstream business, government and politics?
Oh yeah! I mean, right here it’s almost like a cesspool of almost every type of culture and art. Probably one of the main things that drew me here, aside from music, was that you can come here with nothing and create something. Everybody is kind of almost in it together in the sense that we’re all not doing so hot, but for the people who are, like you said, into art of any type of medium, you don’t need a ton of money to have a studio space. Generally, in most cities, it’s going to cost you a couple grand and you’re going to have to split a space with other people. Here, you can rent or get a facility for next to nothing because people will take that. Plus, when everybody around is kind of a little bit down or depressed, that breeds a lot of creativity and a lot of people are trying to do really cool things. We all get it, but it’s hard to explain unless you’re here.

In booking shows and tour stops, do you have to often convince bands that it’s worth it stopping in Detroit? I’m sure the farther away you are from the city, the more outlandish the stories about how decrepit the city is are.
That’s for sure. In terms of crime or at least feeling you’re going to get mugged or something, it’s not really worse here than any other major city. I’ve had worse experiences elsewhere in the country, I’ll say that much. Since I’ve moved here, I personally haven’t had too much happen, but I’ve had way worse happen everywhere else. You’d be surprised how many people want to play Detroit, if only to just say they played here [laughs]. I guess it’s the rougher areas, like here and Oakland or something, that have their own thing about them. A lot of people want to play Detroit, especially Detroit house shows and that’s the mainly what I like to do because I’ve run a couple different houses since I’ve moved here and we do a lot of different stuff from smaller to bigger bands. This year alone we’ve had the Banner, Shai Hulud, the last Mongoloids show was in my basement, so I mean there have been a lot of pretty large events. People will literally go, “oh, we’re playing Detroit, at a house” and in many minds it’s cool because it’s where punk rock was pretty much created. It feels right, so a lot of people are really open to the idea when they see that, on a weeknight kids are willing to cram into a basement, go nuts, buy merch and hang out. There’s a pretty cool community going on here.

Tell us about the venue the fest is being held in. It looks like a multi-use sort of place, but did you have to do any amount of convincing to let them use their space?
They were pretty open about it and really excited when they heard what we wanted to do with the multiple room, all-day thing. They’ve done a lot shows there; surprisingly, there have been a lot of black metal shows there, but they also do a lot of community art shows and people do book signings and stuff. They’re pretty open to just about anything.

Is it your intention to do this annually?
We would like to. Both me and my roommate Nick are both going full force on it and we’d like to make that happen if we could. If people are into it we’ll definitely do it again.

If it is a success – however you define success – what do you think you’d in the future? Have you even thought about the future beyond getting through year one?
We’ve definitely thought about it as there has been a good response and a lot of support. People who couldn’t commit this year – it wasn’t a last minute thing, but we only had a couple months to organise this in comparison to other people or fests who plan six months to a year ahead – have talked about wanting to play next year. Hopefully maybe we can make it a two-day thing and fly out some more friends from the west coast or bands from the southeast and Florida.

For more info and to order tickets, check out www.dontcallitafest.com

Sucker For Punishment: Godsmack Day Edition

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

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Happy Godsmack Day to all you Boston readers. You must be so darn proud.

Anyway, on with the show:

Alestorm, Sunset on the Golden Age (Napalm): What grades did the pirate get in school? HIGH SEAS!!!

Belphegor, Conjuring the Dead (Nuclear Blast): A merciless return to simple, blasphemous black metal, the Austrian veterans keep it quick and simple on this new album. Which is all well and good, it’s nice to see them re-energized after Helmuth’s typhus scare, and the band clearly knows exactly how an album this simple should be paced. My only gripe is that it lacks a couple tracks that truly pop out, but those craving honest-to-goodness extremity will likely get a kick out of this.

Blues Pills, Blues Pills (Nuclear Blast): Two years ago this Swedish band caught my attention with a debut EP that put a different spin on the whole Swedish proto-metal thing that was exploding. With more emphasis on blues and boogie rather than Pentagram/Sabbath doom ‘n’ gloom, and featuring a powerhouse singer in Elin Larsson, the music immediately set itself apart from the rest of the retro rockers out there. At long, long last, Blues Pills’ debut album is finally out, and it completely delivers on the promis of the previous EPs the band’s released. It’s devoid of frills, firmly rooted in Cream and early Fleetwood Mac, with Larsson adding welcome doses of soul to tracks like “High Class Woman”, “Jupiter’, and “Black Smoke”. What more could you want from a band like this? It’s one of the year’s finest.

Bolzer, Soma (Invictus): After percolating in the underground, the buzz surrounding the Swiss/New Zealand death metal duo grew steadily throughout 2013, thoroughly impressing yours truly at the Noctis fest last September. By 2014, the hype grew exponentially, with overflow crowds clamouring to witness the band’s formidable sound firsthand at Roadburn in April, and by the time they played to the American critical hive mind at Maryland Deathfest, that was it, Bolzer had officially exploded. Although the guys have yet to grace folks with a proper album, they’ve slapped together another EP follow-up to last year’s revelatory Aura, and this new music continues to refine that primal yet deceptively musical sound. For a duo Bolzer is able to sound towering, as the 12-minute epic “Labyrinthian Graves” is positively monstrous. However, the real advancement just might be the much shorter track “Steppes”, which is not only relentlessly punishing, but easily the catchiest song they’ve ever written. At the rate they’re advancing, if and when they actually create a proper album, it could be the most exciting death metal release in ages. Very big things are in this band’s future.

Cold World, How the Gods Chill (Deathwish): The Pennsylvania band might have a pretty good gimmick involving various cameo appearances by several rap artists, but at heart this is a fairly straightforward hardcore album, and in a good way, performed with ferocity and featuring blunt yet often startlingly eloquent lyrics.

Columns, Please Explode (Relapse): Grindcore songs that are smart enough to be catchy, yet at the same time make you want to hurl yourself into the nearest wall. Plus a terrific sense of humor. What more could you ask for?

Eluveitie, Origins (Nuclear Blast): By now we all know that every Eluveitie album will basically rip off At the Gates and toss in violin, penny whistle, and hurdy-gurdy all over it. But they do it exceedingly well, and those Celtic arrangements burst out beautifully on this latest album, which sometimes comes close to recapturing the magic of the band’s two breakthrough albums Spirit and Slania. Still, it would be nice to hear this band turn things down a bit – this album is horrendously loud – and simplify like on the superb Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion, but tunes like “The Call of the Mountains” and “From Darkness” will nevertheless go over extremely well in a live setting, as they always do.

Entombed A.D., Back To the Front (Century Media): The split between LG Petrov and Alex Hellid has resulted in yet another one of those stupefyingly dumb situations with neither musician willing to let go of the Entombed brand. Petrov’s version, Entombed A.D., does absolutely nothing to live up to his band’s legacy. Granted, Entombed hadn’t put out a great album in a very long time, but this effort is boring, tepid, and most troublingly, devoid of solid grooves.

John Garcia, John Garcia (Napalm): You can’t listen to an album by John Garcia and not hear Kyuss in it, but there are moments on this new solo album where you can hear the influence of Glenn Hughes-era Deep Purple, the broader heavy rock sound allowing for some singing from Garcia that sounds more soulful than usual. Highlighted by “My Mind” and “Flower’, this is a much more impressive record than last year’s release by Vista Chino.

Kix, Rock Your Face Off (Loud and Proud): It’s no Blow My Fuse, but it’s great to have these Maryland rockers back in action after all these years, playing music with plenty of raunch and energy on “Rollin’ in Honey” and “Love Me With Your Top Down”.

Mutilated Veterans, Necro Crust Warhead (Hells Headbangers): Look at that title, and note the record label. This EP sounds exactly like the title implies, and this being a Hells Headbangers release, it’s a total death crust scorcher.

Nachtmystium, The World We Left Behind (Century Media): Blake Judd got into so much trouble in the past year or two, burned so many bridges with people, that a lot of folks are ready to pillory this latest attempt to restore some credibility and respectability. Personally, I have no beef with the guy and have thoroughly enjoyed his music over the past decade, and contractual obligation or otherwise it’s good to see Judd (hopefully) cleaned up and focusing on music once again. In fact, this latest album, while not in the same league as the landmark Instinct: Decay or the Black Meddle albums, is nevertheless stronger than 2012’s Silencing Machine. Unlike that record, which was a full-on assault of black metal, the pace is a lot more measured on The World We Left Behind, simple, catchy riff patterns and groovy tempos allowing plenty of room for psychedelic-tinged melodies and Judd’s expressive vocals. True, the album tends to run a bit too long – something this simple doesn’t have to be an hour long – but based on the strength of such tracks as “Fireheart”, “In the Absence of Existence’, and the bluntly defiant “Voyager”, this is a surprisingly inspired effort. Maybe this’ll be the fresh start Judd needs.

Swashbuckle, We Hate the Sea (Get This Right): What do you call a pirate with two eyes and two legs? “Rookie.”

Unisonic, Light of Dawn (earMUSIC): Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen are meant to make music together. The singer and guitarist are power metal incarnate, and this follow-up to their 2012 reunion once again trounces anything Hansen’s Gamma ray has done lately. In fact, this album is a lot more consistent, combining classic heavy metal, flamboyant power metal, and streamlined hard rock very well, Kiske still hitting the high notes as strongly as he did more than a quarter century ago.

Wovenwar, Wovenwar (Metal Blade): The more you read about how convicted murder conspirator Tim Lambesis ran As I Lay Dying, you couldn’t help but notice how he was the sole reason that band sucked so badly, and wonder just how much the rest of the band had been held back. Now that they’ve shed the loathsome Lambesis from their lives, they’ve started anew with singer Shane Blay, they definitely sound reborn on this debut. Granted, this is still very much in keeping with the metalcore formula, but while As I Lay Dying felt lazy and featured boring grunted vocals, every song on this record bursts with life, guitars often soaring, Blay holding his own with some very strong singing. It’s all you ever ask for from a metalcore album, but never hear consistently enough, and Wovenwar’s album is a triumph, very much on par with the best work by Killswitch Engage and All That Remains. Here’s hoping the band gets the sales they so deserve after their ordeal.

Not metal, but worth hearing:

Mozart’s Sister, Being (Asthmatic Kitty): Because Caila Thompson-Hannant is based out of Montreal and creates solo electronic music, the comparisons to Grimes are inevitable, but unlike Claire Boucher’s carefully contrived quirkiness, Mozart’s Sister is decidedly more up front, not to mention coherent, more rooted in ‘90s R&B diva singing. Atop clever arrangements of minimalist synths, loops, and glitchy beats, she brings some genuine soul rather than sound precious, which works to her great advantage on standouts like “Lone Wolf”, “Salty Tear”, and “Don’t Leave it to Me”. This is well worth seeking out.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy 

Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack: Texas’s Giant of the Mountain

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Friday, August 1st, 2014

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Because every day another band records another song.  Because 83% of those songs are unlistenable and you can’t be bothered to sift through the dreck.  Because metal is about not giving a shit and waking your own personal storm.  Because music is universal, expression is boundless, and even indie labels (whatever that means these days) don’t know everything, Decibel brings you Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack.

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Genres are useful denotations of style most of the time, but bands who defy easy categorization are always welcome in the Decibel universe.  Enter Dallas, TX trio Giant of the Mountain, who sound a little like early Mastodon dressed up as Skeletonwitch with occasional forays into sweaty, gusty Americana a la USX or Across Tundras.  None of that is totally accurate, though, as the band definitely radiates their own style.  They’re three albums deep since forming in 2008, and their latest, Moon Worship, bears a title that sounds like a stoner jewel but mostly ain’t one.  The highly evolved songwriting weaves jagged black metal, sinewy Southern riffage and both harsh and clean vocals through some fantastic journeys in its time-warping 40-minute run time.

We shot some questions at guitarist/vocalist Cody Daniels so he could clue us into his band’s genesis and traveled paths.  Lose yourself in lunacy!

What is the driving force behind Giant of the Mountain?  Do you peruse the musical and conceptual peaks or do you simply love to rock the fuck out?
I would say the driving force behind GOTM is an insatiable love for music.  It seems like everything we do in our lives circles back around to it.  Whether it’s looking for new music or going through the catalogues of bands we’re already digging, it always seems to be like a thirst that is unquenchable.

Our songs are usually pretty well planned out, and a lot of thought is put into them, but a lot of our tunes begin being built off of riffs that “rock the fuck out”.  I subscribe to the idea that heavy music should be loud and kicking ass, but I also love music that challenges me.  It’s hard to pick one direction musically when both have so many attractive traits.

You started recording early in Giant’s life, and you’ve maintained a pretty steady release schedule.  Does the music flow out of you pretty consistently and easily, or do you feel like the songwriting process is hard work?
Yes, I would definitely say the music flows easily.  In fact, I’ve even tried holding off at the risk of putting out too much new stuff too soon.  One major factor behind us recording so early on, is that my wife (Randi, the drummer) and I actually met at Mediatech, an audio engineering school, and have always had a love for recording. We don’t have much equipment to work with but for us, recording is part of the fun. I usually don’t have a problem coming up with riffs, but I do go over them and make sure they’re the best they can be.  There are always a million different ways to play something, and I like to be sure I chose the right one.

What has your live performance experience been like?  What have been some of your favorite shows to do?

Without a doubt, the live performance aspect of being in a band is the most rewarding.  I started playing in cover bands with my dad at 17, and ever since then I’ve had “the bug”.  There’s nothing that beats getting on stage and playing your heart song for people and bearing everything you have and getting a positive reception.  It makes you feel like all your hard work is worth it.  You always wonder if your creation, your “baby”, is actually worth a damn, and having that confirmed is incredibly fulfilling.
My favorite shows are out of town shows.  I love hitting the road and making new friends and playing for people I’ve never met.  Living in constant motion is hard and taxing, but so incredible.  Every time I get home from a string of dates I feel like I’m wasting time not going to a new city.

Was the writing/recording process for Moon Worship particularly different than other recordings you’ve done?

Yes, it was definitely more thorough, and having someone else laying down vocals was new as well.  We rehearsed the songs as a band more before recording than in the past also.  We didn’t just accept every riff, and threw away quite a few that weren’t up to snuff.  We wanted to make sure our songs were as strong as we could make them before we laid them to tape, and the other albums we spent less time nitpicking over the songs.   “Cult of the Moon” and “Call to the Depths” were new experiences as well.  We don’t usually have “clean” songs that last as long as “Cult.”  The keyboards on “Call to the Depths” were something we’ve never done, and we were new to playing in a tempo that slow also.   I wanted to do something outside the usual GOTM sound, and I was pretty stoked that it came out so well.
What drew you into heavy music?  What keeps you here?

The energy.  I’ve always compared the feeling of jamming out some awesome metal to going down a crazy rollercoaster.  It’s intense and exciting.  When I started playing guitar, I was listening to Korn and Limp Bizkit (this was when they were “popular”) and my dad bought me an Ozzy tape and showed me what real guitar playing was like and I became obsessed.  Ozzy turned into Pantera (I’m from Texas so there was no avoiding that), Pantera into Opeth, Death and Emperor and so on.

What keeps me here is there is always something new that catches me off guard.  It’s not a predictable genre in the least; it keeps me guessing.  No matter how much I listen to, there are always bands I haven’t gotten a chance to check out.  There’s so much good metal out there, on the local level as well.  There are some incredible local bands all over the US that are so talented.

What non-metal do you think has weaseled its way into your playing/writing style?

Most metalheads would be ashamed to admit this, but I’m really into pop.  Lady Gaga, Kesha, Nelly Furtado, and lately Cher Lloyd.  To be honest, I’d be more embarrassed getting caught listening to Hellyeah or Five Finger Death Punch, but you’d never catch me doing that. I also really dig Imogen Heap.  She is an incredible songwriter and musician, and her singing voice is not of this earth.  I’m super jealous of what she can do.   Of course GOTM doesn’t have any obvious pop elements, but it has influenced my singing quite a bit.   The main attraction of pop for me is that you can just shut your brain off.  It’s pure dumb fun.  Metal is so intricate and deep.  The emotions it conjures are dark and intense and sometime I just need a breather.  Pop is something I can just shut my thinking off, and bounce around like an idiot too. I’m also a huge Rent fan.  That musical is straight up genius. 

Moon Worship is a monstrous fucking album, and you have two other full-lengths under your (one must assume large-buckled) belt… how is it that you remain unsigned?

Thanks, monstrous was what we were going for!  We’re pretty into DIY, we record ourselves, we make our CDs, posters, tapes, and pretty much everything but the shirts and we pay for those all ourselves as well.  We’ve had a few offers, but we’ve held out for something to come along that can help us do something we haven’t been able to do yet.  We have been discussing the idea of shopping Moon Worship out to get picked up for a vinyl pressing (if that’s even a thing), because that’s something we definitely can’t do ourselves (Until they make do it yourself vinyl pressing machines of course).  The one negative aspect of DIY is that it’s harder to book in cities you’ve never been to when you don’t have that label name to make promoters and venues take you more serious.  So while we are definitely open to offers, we have no interest in sitting around waiting for a label to come and help us out.  We like to get down to business and do what we can, so label or no label GOTM goes forward into the abyss and never stops.

You seem to have run through several bassists.  What is so dangerous about being a bassist in Giant of the Mountain?  How did you get hooked up with Alexander?

One of the hardest parts about being in a band is finding people who live within a reasonable driving distance, and whose schedule lines up with yours just enough to get in regular practices.  Randi used to be the 2nd guitarist in the beginning, but after our former drummer moved home to Vermont and having so much trouble finding a replacement, she switched to the drummer position.  That’s always been the biggest issue as far as member turnover. We first saw Alexander play in his former band, Megatherian, and we were instantly impressed.  The dude is such an incredible bassist and vocalist too.  We asked him if he would be interested in filling in for a tour we did last year, and much to our delight, he said yes!  Now he’s our bass player.  It was love at first sight.  He’s so dreamy <3.

Do you have any particular thoughts about musical or lyrical things going on in the new album that you’d like to talk about?

Moon Worship is an amalgam of feelings and reflections on my life experiences cloaked in a veil of Lovecraftian and Elder scrolls lore.  “Moon Worship” is a call to Dagon, “Spiral of the Serpent” refers to Yig, “Cult of the Moon” and “Call to the Depths” are expansions of the “Moon Worship” concept lyrically.  “Flesh Divinity” is about the worship of the two moons, Masser and Secunda, in the Elder scrolls lore (yea, it’s from the video games Oblivion and Skyrim).  Next time you play one of those games, look in the sky at night and check the moons out.  I’ll leave the listener to interpret their own meaning behind the lyrics, because I want there to still have that element of mystery.  I do recommend listening with a beer, and a nice fat bowl.
Upcoming big things for Giant of the Mountain?
We’re definitely excited about the future.  We will be hitting the road again in the future.  We did quite a few dates back in April, so we’re still in the discussion phase of what our next move will be tour wise, but we will be touring, so keep an eye out for us.  We’ll be playing a city near you soon! We’ll of course be playing for our Dallas family regularly so be sure to come out to a show if you’re ever in the big D!

“All PsychFest All the Time.” Interview with White Hills

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, interviews On: Thursday, July 31st, 2014

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New York-based experimental psychedelic stoner spacerockers White Hills has only been a band since ’round about 2005, yet they’ve already amassed the following discography:

They’ve Got Blood Like We’ve Got Blood (Fuck Off And Di/Head Heritage, 2005)
Koko (White Hills, 2006)
Glitter Glamour Atrocity (White Hills, 2007)
Abstractions and Mutations (White Hills, 2007/Thrill Jockey, 2009/Immune, 2012)
Heads on Fire (Rocket, 2007)
A Little Bliss Forever (Drug Space, 2008)
Oddity… A Look at How the Collective Mind Works (Drug Space, 2010)
White Hills (Thrill Jockey, 2010)
H-p1 (Thrill Jockey, 2011)
Live at Roadburn 2011 (Roadburn, 2011)
Oddity III: Basic Information (Drug Space, 2012)
Frying on This Rock (Thrill Jockey, 2012)
So You Are… So You’ll Be (Thrill Jockey, 2013)

And that’s not even including their EP and 7″ releases and compilation appearances. This also doesn’t make mention of the fact all this has all been done with members coming and going around the core of guitarist/vocalist Dave W. and bassist/vocalist Ego Sensation. A couple years back, the band was tracked down by director Jim Jarmusch and flown to Germany to perform “Under Skin or By Name” from 2007′s Glitter Glamour Atrocity for scene placement in a movie called Only Lovers Left Alive starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. Despite our never having heard of it previously and it being a bit of a commercial bust (according to IMDB), the drama/horror/romance flick was a hit with critics and on the festival circuit, garnering various high-profile nominations and awards. As Glitter Glamour Atrocity was originally released on CD-R by the band, their on-again-off-again relationship with Thrill Jockey was turned on again and the album is being re-issued and re-packaged (or packaged, as it were) for broader consumption and it’s for this reason we’re taking the time to get to know the duo of Ego Sensation and Dave W.

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Tell us a little about the formation of White Hills and how the band has changed from then to now?
Ego Sensation: Dave started White Hills himself as a reaction to the influx of bland, rehashed new wave/post-punk bands that were flooding the New York scene at the time. There was nothing about the music that expanded on what it imitated to bring it into the present. It was disappointing because both of us had moved to New York because of its history of harboring innovative musicians and artists and we hoped to connect with a community of people that would value experimentation over mainstream success. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a creative void at the time. So Dave recorded the first White Hills album, No Game to Play in his tiny studio and from that decided to form a proper band with yours truly. Since then, we’ve constantly been changing and working to evolve. It’s important to us to never make the same album and to never play the same show. That is one of our main guiding principles.

You’ve been known for being fairly prolific as far as releases go. To what do you attribute this to and is this pace one you think you’ll be able to maintain?
Dave W.: As long as we want to maintain this pace and feel that we are creating something worthy, we will do so. We are artists so we create, it’s that simple.

Were there plans to re-issue/re-release Glitter Glamour Atrocity before this whole thing with Jim Jarmusch came along? Do you find yourselves doing this – re-releasing older works – very often? Do you get a lot of offers to re-issue older, smaller run stuff or to have a label do the CD of a vinyl-only release?
DW: We’ve been approached several times over the years about re-releasing Glitter but I’ve never been one to stay in the past, so it never really crossed my mind to do it. We do get offers quite often but we are a young band, even though we have a number of releases under our belt, so why just keep re-releasing old material when we continue to create new material?

The dudes at Thrill Jockey described their release of Glitter Glamour Atrocity as “the first proper issue of the hyper-limited album…which has been in dire need of a real edition since shortly after it was originally released.” Agree? Disagree?
DW: Well, I guess you could say the first release of it was improper due to its cover which was slightly offensive to some – mainly to monkeys.
Ego: And frankly we have had certain fans contact us having a small cry about not being able to find a copy of it. So “dire need” existed! It’s all relative isn’t it?

What did you know about Only Lovers Left Alive before you were approached to be in it? Have you since watched more than the part you’re in and what do you think?
DW: We knew nothing about the film before we were approached by Jim. Ego and I have seen the movie a few times since its release. The movie is fantastic! Even if we weren’t in it I would love this film. Its tone and topics explored are deep and interesting. It’s the only “vampire”-themed flick that I know of that explores the existential dilemma of eternal life. That, in and of itself, takes the genre into a completely new direction instead of relying on the cliches of the genre to sell the story. It’s also a beautiful love story. Even though the characters aren’t human, there is a humanity to them that touches you deeply.

Apparently there’s a pretty neat story about you and all your gear being flown over to Germany to be in this movie. Can you tell us about that? Was your trip over exclusively for the movie or did you manage to get some tour dates in?
DW: We went to Germany specifically to shoot the scene we were in. We were flown in in-between tours in the US. The timing was perfect for us.
Ego: It was actually great to not have any tour dates scheduled but instead spend some extra days on the set watching Jim work and getting to talk about music and film with him on breaks. Being a filmmaker myself, I felt really honored to get a behind the scenes look at a master directing seriously high-class talent. The actors were all fun to work with, especially Tilda Swinton who has a wildly infectious creative spirit. In between takes, Dave stepped in and gave her a little acting guidance which she graciously listened to. She’s so smooth and loose – like Iggy Pop!

As I understand, your live shows are quite the visual spectacle as much as they are musical event. Can you describe what goes on, the impetus for going beyond the basics of a rock show and if you have any future plans to expand upon what you’re doing now?
Ego: No, I can’t describe what goes on – you’re just going to have to come see it! A lot of what happens on stage is spontaneous and is generated by the energy of the players and the audience that culminates in a sort of ecstasy. For Dave and I, it isn’t just a rock show and White Hills isn’t just a band. You have to care more than that. Mental mediocrity is impolite when it’s brought to a public forum. Our impetus for creating a larger experience with our shows comes from a deep-seated value that what you put out into the world should be something you would enjoy as an audience member and can personally be proud of. And we will continue to grow, develop and expand the show into something revolutionary!

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Judging by some of the gig posters I’ve seen online, there are numerous psychedelic festivals in Europe. Is there a really strong fanbase for this type of music over there? Do European crowds/fans react differently towards you and bands of your ilk than people over here do?
DW: “Psychedelic” appears to be the in thing right now. Europe has more of a festival culture than the US does, so it’s of no surprise to me that you see more “psych” themed festivals over there. Europeans have a different attitude towards music and, more specifically, towards live music. It is taken more seriously there. In the US, everyone’s focus seems to be on money. That creates a completely different culture and mindset that keeps people from taking a risk. You don’t see that as much in Europe which creates a different culture and atmosphere from the promoter all the way down to the fan.

Do you subscribe to the “born in the wrong era” mentality when it comes to the music you write, play and listen to or do you feel you are actively applying new elements to psychedelic rock as opposed to doing what some bands do and simply rehash the 60s/70s?
DW: Fuck no! I live now. That is what matters to me. I never set out to copy something from a previous era, but rather take what has existed and bring it into the present. That’s what the Sex Pistols and their peers did. They took 50′s rock n’ roll and brought it into the present for their generation. It wasn’t anything new, just updated. You can say the same thing about Nirvana, Soundgarden, Sonic Youth and that generation of “indie” bands. They took what came before them and updated it for their time.
Ego: I don’t subscribe to the “born in the wrong era” mentality. I think it’s a lazy excuse to not create something unique to your own time. Any artist is always fortunate to have whatever came before them as a model or inspiration. At this point in my career I have no interest in imitating other people’s art. Imitation is often an important first step for a musician. When I was fifteen I picked up the guitar with my main goal to learn “The Rain Song.” If you choose to move forward as artist you have to find your own voice which is, of course, informed by all the art you take in: music, film, theater, dance, painting, photography, etc. as well as your life experiences. You must let yourself be altered by experience because otherwise you’re the living dead. Because we don’t exist in a vacuum, the uniqueness of our ideas is usually the product of an existing idea filtering through a different perspective and this is what gives it new life.

I’m going to assume you have a bunch of stuff in the works. Care to share what’s upcoming in your world?
Ego: You bet we do! We’re headed out on a European tour in September that starts at Oslo PsychFest and culminates at the Liverpool PsychFest. It’s all PsychFest all the time these days! Then, we’ll be staying over in the UK and going to Wales for a few weeks to record a new album with a producer which is a first for us.
DW: There’s a new documentary film that we’re featured in Sound and Chaos: The Story of BC Studio about Martin Bisi’s legacy where we recorded our last two albums. It opened in New York, Philadelphia and Boston in July and hopefully will be getting a wider release this fall. And, in my immediate future, is another cup of coffee!

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Sucker For Punishment: I Got Hurt Feelings

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

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Extreme metal bands withholding lyrics is commonplace, something we writers have learned to constantly deal with, to the point now that even though we’re never given the complete album experience, it’s pretty much taken for granted that we have to give readers an even and thorough assessment of a record even though we have literally no idea what so many of these bands are screeching and hollering about. When bands withhold lyrics from the actual album that’s released, however, it always strikes me as particularly odd.

Extremity in metal includes lyrical topics, and in black metal the level of introspection and cathartic anguish in lyrics is commonplace, but at the same time, for a genre so bent on strength and bravado, ironically there’s a strong sense of insecurity when an artist refuses to print the lyrics to his or her songs. The fact that they’re screaming these words in a manner that’s impossible to comprehend what’s being said serves the same purpose as a security blanket: they’re emoting, baring their soul, but keeping audiences at an arm’s length. In a way that refusal to go all-in defeats the purpose of metal music. Metal is supposed to be an all-or-nothing genre, is it not?

Besides, what these metal bands are doing is nothing new at all; “dark night of the soul” songs and albums have been a huge part of popular music for eons. If Sinatra, Dylan, Nick Drake, Willie Nelson, Fleetwood Mac, Springsteen, Tori Amos, Beck, even Bon Iver have the guts to engage in such a public form of bloodletting, why don’t some extreme metal artists show similar courage? Yes, those songs mean a lot to you and represent truly painful moments in your life, but if those people went all-in, 100 percent, on a much more public stage, why can’t you do the same to the couple thousand that will buy your album? Instead, they scream away, emoting yet never fully communicating. Yes, part of the appeal of the music is to hear that anguish in those tortured screams, but to do so without providing lyrics feels like a cop-out, an easy way out to avoid confronting what people have to say about your art. Diffidence masked as “enigmatic”.

Anyway, those thoughts ran through my mind as I took in the latest album by Austin Lunn’s black metal project Panopticon, which, as you might have guessed, will not come with any lyrics. Which is perfectly fine, I’ve been dealing with that shtick for so long that it’s water off a duck’s back. And besides, Lunn is such a supreme talent that it’s easy to focus on the music of Panopticon, which is consistently a cut above all black metal coming out of America these days. 2012’s Kentucky was the most inventive American extreme metal album since Cobalt’s Gin three years earlier, a watershed moment that saw Lunn combining raw, melodic black metal with bluegrass and folk music and themes that delved into the cultural history of the region, and the way he made something so incongruous feel so seamless, so unabashedly soulful, was a marvel.

Although the follow-up Roads to the North (Bindrune) offers no new invention, simply following the same rustic path as Kentucky, it further refines that sound to the point where listeners are just thrilled to hear Lunn combine those two sides of his artistic persona so vividly. This time around, the sound is expanded in graceful fashion, most beautifully on the three-part suite “The Longest Road”, which serves as the album’s centerpiece. Over the course of nearly 20 minutes the music ebbs and flows gracefully between bluegrass, black metal, and even progressive metal, the harshness of acoustic folk and blasting extremity giving way to more contemplative, ambient moments reminiscent of Isis and Godspeed You! Black Emperor and more gothic, “blackened doom” moments reminiscent of Woods of Ypres. The composition, the musical aspect of it anyway, is a masterstroke by Lunn, produced beautifully by the great Colin Marston.

Bookended by tracks that also rank among Lunn’s very finest work, including the epics “Where Mountains Pierce the Sky” and “Chase the Grain”, Roads to the North might not feel as groundbreaking as the Harlan County USA-inspired Kentucky did, but it proves the last record was no novelty, but rather another sublime and powerful statement by a vital artist. However, if Lunn, who is an undeniably eloquent lyricist, ever makes these new lyrics available for all to see, this album will feel even more towering than it already does. There’s no shame in giving your listeners the complete, unfettered package. If Frank was still around he’d tell some extreme metalers to man the hell up.

Here’s what’s also out this week.

Abolition A.D., After Death Before Chaos (Pulverised): Hailing from Singapore, this band’s debut album is a very adept blend of sludge, doom, and crust punk, the variation in tempo making for some very effective variety. Black Breath one minute, St. Vitus the next, Asphyx the next. Robust and very disciplined, and not above tossing a little melody in here and there, this is well worth checking out. Preview and purchase via Bandcamp.

AOV, Act of Violence (Inverse): This Finnish band focuses on the more modern, “extreme” form of thrash, integrating elements of death metal into the arrangements, and nails it on this very surprising debut. As strong as the faster moments are on the album, the real strength lies in the more mid-paced material like “Surrounded By Concrete”, which is built around some very robust rhythm guitar riffs and fluid, Testament-style grooves. It’s a fresh, energetic take on a familiar formula, and deserves to be heard.

Device, Device (self-released): My weakness for bands that replicate that brief period of Canadian melodic heavy metal from 1982 to 1986 borders on obsession, but I can’t help it, when I hear bands that capture that quirky Banzai/Attic-era sound, my ears perk up. Vancouver band Device – not to be confused with David Draiman’s alt-metal side project – capture that sound well on this fun debut. Stylistically it runs the gamut from UFO worship (“Don’t Mess With Texas”) to NWOBHM co-option (“Lost My Soul”) to speed metal (“Enemy’s Blood”) to more progressive doom material (“The Devil and the Shoemaker”), but the trio does a good job keeping it all from flying off the handle, with bassist Marc LeBlanc providing great melodic vocals punctuated by some truly hair-raising screams. Fans of classic heavy metal will get a big charge out of this. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Fungonewrong, Fungonewrong (Legend Group): Give this knuckle-dragging nu-metal band credit, it actually sounds like all they’ve ever heard are Limp Bizkit and Slipknot albums, and if anything their music faithfully adheres to that sound. An hey, they even have a silly ‘90s metal gimmick too, although wearing paper bags on your head is clearly scraping the bottom of that barrel.

Invidiosus, Malignant Universe (Tridroid): This death/grind hybrid is plenty intense and intricate, but it’s a testament to this Minnesota band’s smarts that the songs are always mindful of the fact that you’ve got to have a hook, and there are some sneaky ones on this debut. This is a record fans of The Black Dahlia Murder and that ilk should check out. Besides, any album that includes a sample from Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist is fine by me.

Sacrificio, Sacrificio (Iron Bonehead): The Spanish band’s debut album bored me to tears, that is until the aptly titled song “Sacrificio” came on, an absolutely wicked blast of Venom/Sarcofago filth, featuring a nasty groove that grabs you immediately and keeps you riveted. Sadly the rest of the album immediately reverts to sloppy, chaotic death metal, devoid of personality and competence. But at least we had those nice few minutes, I guess, metal band and critic passing each other like two ships in the night.

Taatsi, Amidst the Trees (Forever Plagued): Repetitive, hypnotic atmospheric black metal from Finland, keyboards and guitar duking it out atop drum machine, plenty of forest and fog evocation, mournful melodies, the odd acoustic interlude, silly troll-sounding vocals. Neither bracing nor haunting. Just there, the ennui fading only on the superb last track “Hunts in the Night’s Mind”, a fleeting glimpse of what might’ve been.

Unbreakable, Knockout (Dark Star): These preening, camera-mugging German kids come across as goofy in their video, but the music is a very surprising, not to mention deft co-option of that early-‘80s Scorpions AOR sound, with simple, polite guitar riffs accentuated by exceptionally strong vocal melodies. Unlike The Darkness, who did it all with a wink, Unbreakable is straight-faced on mild, pleasant rockers like “Rock the Nightlife” and power ballads like “Come Back to Me”, producer Herman Rarebell (that’s right, the old Scorps drummer) doing a very good job keeping this album sonically and musically consistent. The novelty of “Crazy Cat Lady” aside, this is quite a pleasant surprise.

Not metal, but worth hearing:

The Muffs, Whoop Dee Doo (Cherry Red/Burger): For those too young to remember, The Muffs were one of those early-‘90s major label powerpop/punk curiosities from back in the Alternative Nation day, led by the irrepressible singer-songwriter Kim Shattuck. Responsible for such whimsical little tunes as “Lucky Guy”, “Everywhere I Go”, and “Sad Tomorrow”, The Muffs never set the music world on fire, but they could always be counted on for a good album loaded with witty pop tunes. The band had been dormant, new music-wise, for the past decade, with Shattuck briefly returning to the public eye last year during her ill-fated stint with the Pixies, but The Muffs’ spirited sixth album is a wonderful return to the form of 20 years ago, “Like You Don’t See Me”, “Take a Take a Me”, and “Cheezy” leading the way with their Beatles-esque rock ‘n’ roll, Shattuck’s inebriated-sounding snarl lending the music that distinct charm so many of us know so well, not realizing how much we missed it.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

Decibrity Playlist: Misery Index

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, July 24th, 2014

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Misery Index is no stranger to these playlists. In fact, we were in the midst of winter 2013 when bassist/vocalist Jason Netherton regaled us with “bleak tunes that recall those snowbound blizzards from yesteryear.” This time around, guitarist Mark Kloeppel went in a totally different direction to get you in the know about “hard” jams. We’ll let him take things from here: “‘Hard’ is a special set of subtly nuanced cross-genre aesthetic characteristics within extreme music that may be a little elusive to the untrained ear. Basically, we are talking about ignorant, pounding grooves that might make you want to destroy a room or get in a street fight.” Still curious? Check out the 10 tunes below. Just know that Kloeppel’s not the first to make a Wendy’s reference around these parts — that’s how hard we roll at the Deciblog.

After perusing his selections, you can pick up a copy of Misery Index’s fifth full-length, The Killing Gods, here.

Rattenfänger’s “Clausae Patent” (from 2012′s Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum)
Hardest shit ever! Rattenfänger, a side project of our label mates Drudkh, is quintessentially “hard”. Being hard is a subtle thing, as the music evokes in the listener a notion that talented musicians are utilizing a kind of elective ignorance as a purposive composition method. Listen to how the “thrash” beat mid-song sounds just a little to slow. That would be a big no-no for a band attempting to use a beat like that for its original purpose. To play a fast style beat too slow, in this case, is purposive ignorance. Now that is hard!

Goatwhore’s “FBS” (from 2014′s Constricting Rage Of The Merciless)
Goatwhore? More like GoatwHARD. Bands have influences, and Goatwhore’s influence is Celtic Frost, unabashedly deathrolling Warrior after Warrior-style riff. [Guitarist] Sammy [Duet] just doesn’t give a F, and not giving a F is what being hard is all about. That’s not to say Sammy doesn’t have his own style. That dude has written the most rocking riffs I can remember, and his style is distinct. But the Frost is strong in this one, as is the Priest. I digress. On a song with a title like this, you might expect the meaning of the FBS acronym to be repeatedly rammed down your god-fearing throat. Nope. [Vocalist Ben] Falgoust only gives it to you one time mid-song. Hard!

Portal’s “Curtain” (from 2013′s Vexovoid)
Ah, Portal…the big “F you” to computer-perfect precise death metal. It’s almost as if the song was written for the video, which sets nice imagery to visually imagine their other songs. By totally ignoring any sort of trendy standard, these fellas put the clock faces and robes on and put the darkness in you…hard!

Hate Eternal’s “I, Monarch” (from 2005′s I, Monarch)
[Erik] Rutan [guitarist/vocalist] is no slouch. But what does one do when he’s already conquered the throne of the king of all kings? Punch you in the face with tyrannical, narcissistic rage, that’s what! Hate Eternal has put out great tunes before and since this record. For me, this one just happens to be the hardest!

Fulgora’s “Risen” (from 2013′s Risen/Artifice EP)
Better go to Wendy’s and get yourself a Frosty, because you’re going to need it after a track this hard! For me, it’s like VOD went deathgrind. I don’t include Fulgora because our drummer Adam [Jarvis] happens to be in the band. Rather, the riffs these dudes are churning out are next level. This is legit harshcore!

Xibalba’s “Cold” (from 2012′s Hasta La Muerte)
In a world of hipster-djenty-quirky-vegan-douchey “metal”, it’s refreshing to see a band slam liquor and pork chops and then bring the pound cakes. Thank you Xibalba…for being hard!

Dying Fetus’s “Subjected To A Beating” (from 2012′s Reign Supreme)
If you were to sit down with [vocalist/guitarist] John Gallagher for five minutes with a guitar, he would proceed to write more pummeling catchy riffs than you could in five years. This song and album is right up there with the “classic” material. And yeah, I did do some vocals on this track, but that’s not why it’s on the list. It’s on the list for riff número uno in the song. So hard!

Magrudergrind’s “Bridge Burner” (from 2009′s Magrudergrind)
I don’t think you can get much harder than “Bridge Burner”. The main riff is like getting curbed over and over again. I was a little bummed when [drummer] Chris [Moore] left this band. Those chops! That groove! That über-funked-in-the-pocket blast! I thought it was going to be all over. But the dudes pressed on strong, and still bring the pound cakes and the super grind…hard! Definitely your new favorite band, if they aren’t already.

Infestdead’s “JesuSatan” (from 1999′s JesuSatan)
The end of this song makes me want to punch every pony at the petting zoo. This is a drum machine project Dan Swanö used to figure out how to use a Mac to record for the first time. The riffs are spontaneous and pummeling. This is my absolute favorite record from Dan. Every single riff is catchy, rife with ignorance, and, most importantly…hard.

Machine Head’s “Davidian” (from 1994′s Burn My Eyes)
Don’t you even start to talk shit right now. I know, the same guy that was in Vio-lence could be seen sporting a scencester sideways cap and bandana like in some alternative monthly, and uniform code metal attire in your typical Euro metal mag in the same month. I know. Let’s not even begin to talk about the “Red” album or how this video looks for that matter. Victim of the times, victim of the times. This song, though…you cannot tell me, for one instant, that when you hear “Let freedom ring with a shotgun blast” that you don’t want to punch the person standing next you. Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s hard.

So, class, hopefully you have a better understanding of what “hard” is all about. Then again, maybe you don’t. Either way, go support your local record shop, and pick up some hard jams. Might I suggest Misery Index’s The Killing Gods be your first choice. Shameless plug. Go hard or go home.

*Photo by Alyssa Lorenzon

**Pick up a copy of The Killing Gods here

***For past Decibrity entries, click here

Morean and V. Santura (Dark Fortress) interviewed

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, July 21st, 2014

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** Germany’s Dark Fortress have plied black metal’s murky, obsidian-colored waters for the better part of 20 years. In that time, they’ve crafted seven full-length, all of which have gone on to acclaim and recognition. Unlike most bands, Dark Fortress haven’t played it easy across their varied discography. They’ve experimented, tried new ways to mold the dark into their own visage, and have, largely, come out the other end an eviler, cleverer entity. This plays into new full-length Venereal Dawn. Easily the group’s most accomplished album, Venereal Dawn fits somewhere between Mayhem, Triptykon—guitarist V. Santura is a contributing member—, and, well, Dark Fortress.

Twenty years? What does that mean to Dark Fortress having survived for two decades?
Morean: It just shows how old and how stubborn we are. I guess it’s in our Bavarian blood to hang on to things.
V. Santura: This is a difficult question and maybe I wouldn’t emphasize the fact that we already exist since 20 years too much, makes us look older than we actually are. Asvargr founded the band back then with our old vocalist Azathoth and from the early days it is only Asvargr left in the band. So, for us others the band feels younger, but it speaks for our stamina, idealism (and yes) stubbornness that we are still around. And also that we still really enjoy this band.

How is Dark Fortress a different band now than you were in 2001 on the Tales from Eternal Dusk full-length?
V. Santura: After the recordings for Tales…, which took place in summer 2000, there was a major turning point in the band, because within a few months with Seraph, Draug and myself three new members joined the band. Since then this “second” line-up of Dark Fortress proved to be very stable with the exception that Azathoth and Dark Fortress parted ways in 2007, but Morean established himself extremely quickly as the new face and frontman of the band. I couldn’t imagine Dark Fortress without him now, and it is almost seven years now and three albums together. Of course, the “daily routine” of the band also changed a lot since 2001. Back then we were all living in the same area, rehearsed regularly once or twice a week, arranged a lot of songs together and were still a rather unknown band in the underground. Now, one third of the band lives in the Netherlands, so regular weekly rehearsing is impossible nowadays, so when we get together it is always for special purposes, but then it is super intense.

Venereal Dawn is quite an album title. Tell us where it first came to Dark Fortress and what it means.
Morean: I was ready to start writing my concept and lyrics in 2011. Traveling in Mexico, I was reading Stephen R. Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever again at the time, and was fascinated by the idea of sunlight becoming something that actively and drastically twists and mutates the world. Simultaneously, the ancient lands of Oaxaca and the mind-boggling skies over it that particular day left me spiritually impressed and inspired; something got triggered in my mind and I started seeing scenes like from a movie, heard music, there came a story, images… It had nothing to do with Mexico and not even with Donaldson too much, but sometimes there is this moment that you know something wants to create itself. It can be quite unstoppable. “Venereal Dawn” and “Betrayal And Vengeance” came as titles to me that very moment. We had about 10 good options at the end how we’d call the album, and funny that it came back to the very first words I had written for it. “Venereal” originally just means “pertaining to Venus”, but in daily use it has another connotation: Venus is the goddess of love and beauty, very seductive and elevated, but in reality it is a hellish planet where nothing from this earth can survive. In the term “venereal disease”, it implies a disease that consumes you from the inside. We thought “Venereal Dawn” is an apt title for the similarly two-sided story of this album.

It’s a concept album in nine chapters. Tell us about the concept.
Morean: It centers around the idea of living light; the confrontation of our world with beings whose body is mere quantum quivering, but who possess sentience, intelligence and a long history. The scenario is that the sun has acquired a new character which deforms and perverts all life on the planet. The only way people can protect themselves fleetingly is to anoint their skin with living blood. This has brought down civilization. The protagonist is one of those human sacrifices left to be devoured by those beings. Halfway through the album, the focus shifts from the outside world to internal experience. The story of his and mankind’s demise and transfiguration becomes one of deep spiritual upheaval and catharsis, to the backdrop of a grotesque and extremely hostile world. I’m not sure why I can’t seem to avoid those two elements, dying worlds and spiritual transformation. In that sense the departure point might be similar to other albums we made. However, this time I was interested in the human implications of going through such a process. In a way, the external story is just the images my particular mind created around what I felt when I delved into my own abyss and astral adventures when writing the words. In that sense I hope the album is more than just a story; the emotions and visions we put into it are very real, and left me rather shaken at times. So it’s not just science fiction; I see it as a morbid parabola on things hidden deep inside us.

Was there a particular magic moment—something that said, “Yes! This is our path forward”—for the band while writing Venereal Dawn?
Morean: I guess the song writing session in January 2013 was what finally broke the dam. We had a bunch of loose songs before that, but somehow it always struggled to find a center. We got together every day for a week, everybody bringing their ideas to the table. Then Santura and Seraph jammed out Santura’s ideas in a few intense sessions spread over months, and all of a sudden there was too much stuff! Santura has these periods, when the world leaves him alone for just a little while, that all of a sudden you get five mp3s and there is an album on the table… and suddenly it’s rolling.

You’ve spoken about the album writing process. How’d you finally find time to put it all together?
Morean: Santura has a lot to say about this, I guess. In fact, we worked on it whenever we could in the last three years, many hours went into this album. But the crunch time, once recordings started, was a combination of comparing agendas (and despairing), and Santura finding the time, since he was busy with it full time for months on end. We were annoyed of course that we had to postpone the release again, from early to later 2014, but it was good that we had some time for the finishing touches after Santura delivered the new Triptykon album. Once again, the devil is in the details in this one.
V. Santura: I don’t have to add much to Morean’s explanations here actually. After those songwriting sessions in January 2013 it was clear to me that we would be able to record a complete album somewhere in 2013, because we broke the levee creatively. In the next few months I kept on working on further ideas and had some jam and arranging sessions especially with Seraph and Asvargr, so we decided to produce the album in October and November. The original plan was to record and also mix and master the album within those two months. Usually this should be more than sufficient, but especially during the guitar recordings I got lost in my own world and again I was simultaneously rehearsing with Triptykon for Melana Chasmata. Towards the end of November we basically had everything recorded but I had to admit that I just couldn’t pull of the mix anymore at that time. So we had to cancel our first deadline and postpone the mix for a while until I was finally having time and energy for this again. It sucked that we had to postpone the album, but in the end it was the only right decision, so I could put as much time and love for details into it as I wanted and this way I am super satisfied and happy with the final result. I think I was only once about that satisfied with a Dark Fortress album directly after it was finished.

Dark Fortress are known for doing different cover songs. Katatonia and Angelo Badalamenti. Any covers on Venereal Dawn?
Morean: Not on the album, but we did record a cover of Shining’s “Besvikelsens Dystra Monotoni” a few years ago, which is now floating around in our ether with the other songs we wrote and recorded for the album. So, we hope to be able to release an EP with more material not too long after Venereal Dawn.

How was the studio experience this time around? I gather there was a lot of soul searching given time and professional constraints.
Morean: I don’t know how Santura doesn’t go crazy during his months of production, but I always enjoy screaming at him for hours on end. [Laughs] It felt it took forever, and we kept re-doing and tweaking the smallest details till the last second. But I enjoyed every moment, we had deep conversations and good food, and time to really focus. It was extremely exciting to witness these songs coming to life.
V. Santura: Well, I was running out of time and energy during the first mix (as described before) and I got too fucking self-critical with the guitar recordings at a certain time which was a little counterproductive, but other than that the studio sessions were great. This time we used an external studio with a big room for the drum recordings and this was a really interesting experience. It was our explicit aim to achieve a very natural, but still aggressive drum sound. I know, it is kind of en vogue to sound like a ’70s band nowadays, and the other extreme is to have totally quantized, triggered-to-death plastic drums. Personally, I don’t like either of these extremes and we tried to achieve a good compromise between a natural classic rock and a modern metal production. Also, every song in the album has its very own identity and so each song had to be treated very differently the way it was recorded, produced and mixed. Also, we never put so much time in the vocal recordings and arrangements and I think you can hear that. The most important thing to me was to capture the emotions that are within the songs in the right way and emphasize them.

Name five German black metal bands—other than yourselves—that deserve a name drop.
Morean: Haradwaith, Farsot, Secrets Of The Moon, Eudaimony, Lunar Aurora.
V. Santura: Ascension, Secrets of the Moon, Sonic Reign, Katharsis, Farsot

What is black metal to Dark Fortress?
Morean: The musical expression of emotional abysses.
V. Santura: The musical expression of emotional abysses. P.S. Is Dark Fortress still black metal? Or are we far beyond that?

** Dark Fortress’ new album, Venereal Dawn, is out September 1st on Century Media Records. Pre-orders are not yet available, but click this link (HERE) to get back catalog titles like Ylem and Eidolon.