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Top 5 Metal Songs We Hate To Admit We Like

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, lists On: Monday, July 14th, 2014


Every metalhead has a few skeletons in their respective closet. And by skeletons, we mean musical skeletons not anything particularly untoward or, possibly, illegal. Growing up first on pop music, then on cock rock, and then with thrash, death, black, and every fucking sub-genre (and sub-sub-genre) offshoot, it’s pretty easy to see and hear where extreme metal fails to scratch—traditional songwriting, for the most part—a particular itch. So, when metal bands—some not so metal in the eyes and ears of some—have a rare “song moment” and I’m not concerned about my scene cred allocation going into the negative, I get all stupid passionate about bands I normally wouldn’t give to the Decibot’s mega-brutal auto-delete bin.

So, here’s my Top 5 Metal Songs I had to admit I like. Tell us your Top 5 in the comments section.

5. Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Love Kills
Vinnie Vincent had a brief, albeit productive time in idiots KISS before he was summarily executed by chief dickheads Simmons and Stanley. After making KISS better, he ventured into solo territory with Vinnie Vincent Invasion. One record with ex-Journey frontman Robert Fleischman and one with future Slaughter star Mark Slaughter hit listeners with marginal success. That is until “Love Kills” appeared as the main tune for A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. It’s a prudent argument on whether or not Vinnie Vincent Invasion—and in particular “Love Kills”—is metal, but one listen to “Invasion” (HERE) and Vin-meister’s roots are evident. And, hey, Jeff Scott Soto’s on backing vox. “Love Kills” is a tried and true heavy metal ballad, with Slaughter’s saccharine vocals leading the charge. The thing is “Love Kills” is hard to forget. When the chorus hits, Vin and his boys are full-on Velveeta and, shockingly, brilliant. Sure, Dokken also knocked it out of the park with “Dream Warriors”, but “Love Kills” is a go-to song when the chips are down or I’m tired of hearing songs about slimy monsters from the abyss.

4. In This Moment – Forever
I’m half scared to admit I like—no, really like—this song. If only to continue to get assignments with Decibel, actually. Believe it or not, I combed In This Moment’s early catalog to much dismay, except for this song, “Forever”. Half Lita Ford, half new wave, “Forever” has that end-of-summer quality to it. That the video was filmed on a beach with a setting sun doesn’t really have anything to do with the sentiment either. Maria Brink is strong here. Her dynamic range is great and her emotion well-positioned. The band is also on point musically and compositionally, particularly at 2:21. I’ll defend the reasons why I like this tune to the death (if asked), but I can’t say I’ll militarily support In This Moment’s other stuff, like “Whore” (HERE, if you dare).

3. Deathstars – Blitzkrieg
Uh, oh! If names Ole Öhman, Emil Nödtveidt and Andreas Bergh ring a bell, well, you were well entrenched in mid-’90s Swedish black/death metal. Öhman was a one-time drummer for Ophthalamia, but he famously beat skins in Dissection, while Nödtveidt—Jon’s (RIP) younger brother—and Bergh were stakeholders in Swordmaster, whose Deathraider EP remains the only decent part of the group’s repertoire. Anyway, Deathstars formed in the post-abortal glow of millennial black metal, ’80s gothic music, and whatever Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson call themselves. It’s pretty easy to ignore most of Deathstars’ industrial goth, but “Blitzkrieg” is stupid catchy. Metal bands, even Swedish ones, weren’t known for a wicked hook, but between pseudo-Nazi uniforms and creepy Carl McCoy altars, Deathstars wrote a song that should’ve been major label and Hollywood-supported. Can’t really vouch for the rest of Deathstars’ catalog, but this song is great, even if it’s as stupid as Glen Benton’s best lyrics.

2. Metallica – King Nothing
St. Anger was Metallica’s Episode I – The Phantom Menace. There’s nothing remotely interesting on that record. When Death Magnetic hit, Metallica weren’t much better (less Jar Jar Binks level horseshit), so looking for a fix, I reluctantly went back to Metallica albums I initially heaved out of mind and thought with great force in the mid-’90s. Load and Reload are still Metallica neutered—compare any song from the self-titled, for example, to hear my point. But out of an embarrassing shitstorm comes “King Nothing”. Hetfield’s still can’t sing very well, but the Hammett’s at least riffing and soloing like he’s Hammett; not the shade of a shade of his former self as on St. Anger and Death Magnetic. “King Nothing” was probably written in the early ’90s only to surface on Load. It has that cutting floor quality to it. Nonetheless, when I’m trying to figure out where and when Metallica when awry, “King Nothing” is a cogent starting point.

1. P.O.D. – Sleeping Awake
There’s a theme here. Bands with songs written for movie soundtracks. P.O.D. (short for Payable On Death) were rock radio and MTV darlings for a good number of years. I have no idea what happened before “Sleeping Awake”, a song written for Matrix Reloaded, or after—likely Andrew knows—, but I remember when this song first aired on radio. Who is this? P.O.D.? No shit. Yeah, the singer-guy’s rap-like cadence grates a bit, but compositionally I’ll take this any day over any song on Tool’s 10,000 Days or Mastodon’s The Hunter (for a in-era and out-of-era comparison). It’s got an easy build, the backward rhythm—the drummer and bassist are on fire!—thing is ridiculously cool, and a viciously smart chorus. Not sure if P.O.D. did anything remotely similar to “Sleeping Awake”—doubt it—but this is a song that’s remained discreetly filed in my digital collection for years. In WAV format, too.

Inquisition frontman Dagon: “I’m not a Nazi.”

By: mr ed Posted in: breaking newz, exclusive, featured, interviews On: Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Earlier this week, an article on a blog called Shamelessnavelgazing was posted claiming that U.S. black metal band Inquisition not only had ties to the white power and neo-Nazi movements, but were, in fact, Nazi sympathizers themselves. The strongest accusations came from Daniel Gallant, a rehabilitated white supremacist who claimed that Inquisition guitarist/vocalist Jason “Dagon” Weirbach and drummer Thomas “Incubus” Stevens, “loved the white power movement” and openly professed “admiration for Hitler” when he drove a tour bus the band traveled on several years ago.

After a highly-trafficked metal blog ran excerpts from the story with the accompanying headline “Black Metal Band INQUISITION Are Probably Nazis,” pretty much everyone in the metal community quickly formed a passionate opinion on the matter. Call us old-fashioned, but we thought it might be a good idea to actually ask Inquisition what was up with all of this. Weirbach spoke with Decibel’s Editor in Chief yesterday by phone. Let’s get right to it.

Can’t Stop. Won’t Stop: Biipiigwan Interviewed

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, interviews On: Thursday, January 9th, 2014

deciblog - bp logo

Ontario’s Biipiigwan is a quizzical beast of a band. From their moniker and line-up’s open-door policy to their sound and members being spread out across this humongous province of ours, questions pertaining to how, why, where and who usually abound when the band is the topic of conversation. The driving force behind this are-they-metal?-are-they-hardcore?-are-they-noise-rock?-are-they-sludge-doom?-just-what-the-hell-are-they? is bassist/vocalist/guitarist Musqwaunquot “Musky” Rice, who is the lone original member and organisational focal point when it comes to getting things together for the purposes of writing, recording, touring and all the usual band stuff. The band has just released their latest, Something for Everyone; Nothing for Anyone, a record loaded with coruscating riffs, hammer-hitting-skull drumming, one hell of a headache-inducing cover and oodles of thematic references to Rice’s native heritage. We caught up with them a couple days after polishing off yet another tour of Canada and the US.

Ok, first and most boring question: what can you tell us about the history of the band?
Musky: Myself and my friend, Andrew Baird (drums) started as a two-piece “grind” (for lack of a better term) outfit in 2008. It’s taken a lot of member changes, learning and greenhorn mistakes to get to where we are now, but the core line-up has been myself and Mike Shrives from basically the beginning, with Steve Vargas coming on as our “touring” drummer in 2011, although he’s also written on anything we’ve worked on since he joined. Our main touring members are Mark McGee (drums or bass) and Matt Fleming (guitar). Unfortunately, Mike had to leave the band earlier this year on account of that whole “life” thing that tends to try and stifle one’s musical pursuits.

deciblog - bp live

What does the name of the band mean/refer to?
Musky: A biipiigwan is a war whistle in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language). Sounds corny in English and only slightly less so in Ojibwe. I’ve been interested in reviving and maintaining my traditional language for years now and the band has become a small expression of that in itself.

Your bio makes mention of an early EP that even you guys won’t acknowledge the existence of. This, I’m lead to believe, means that the band has changed, or at least, improved drastically over the years. How would you compare the BP of today to the BP of days gone by?
Musky: In the beginning, we were hindered by a lack of commitment to put adequate work into the music, so we resigned ourselves to being a bit too silly most of the time. It’s never a good idea to take oneself too seriously, but at the same time you’ve got to maintain some dignity, man! It took a bit of time to establish a productive line-up and then more time to get to a place where we can write music we were happy with and tour on it. Nowadays, we’re just a small core writing line-up with a handful of touring members who can jump on to play live. I’m pretty sure that EP is out there online if you want to dig. The song writing is pretty unpolished and we should have left out a couple jokes, but all in all it’s less embarrassing than the time I accidentally farted in grade 12 history class.

Your bio is also quoted as saying “Every band needs a gimmick and this one’s got two brown guys.” Discuss.
Musky: We included that line in our bio as a bit of a joke when throwing stuff out to labels. It is true that metal is a “white,” male-dominated genre and I have a unique perspective as an Anishinaabe person who is the main driving force behind the band, but in the end we’re just a group of guys who love writing loud music and touring it. In getting out and meeting folks across the land, I’ve found that, especially in grind and other subgenres of extreme metal that have been influenced by a punk ethos, dominant societal norms along racial, class, and gender lines are sought to be disregarded. And that’s a-ok in my books. That’s not to say we should pretend that everyone is the same, but rather that recognizing and respecting our differences, alongside our similarities, is a good thing.

Related, can you give a quick run through as to what some of the new songs – or at least the song titles – might be about; specifically “Nishkaak” and “Shkweyaang”?
Musky: “Nishkaak” is the imperative form of the verb to awake (or more accurately, she or he awakes/is waking up) when spoken to more than one person. So, in essence, it’s a command saying “wake up!” to multiple people. In very, very simple Ojibwe (I’m still a beginner), the lyrics relate a story of a man who comes across an injured robin and ignores its cries for help. It’s written as a reminder or a call to all people as individuals to take up their responsibilities as human beings to live in a good and respectful way with one another and the world in which we live. As for “Shkweyaang,” (a locational adverb describing something in the past or behind something), it’s a bit of self-reflecting on the days when the band was down to just me and Mike and our “practices” consisted of just a little bit of practice and maybe some writing, but for the most part was us two sitting around complaining.

What can you tell us about writing and recording the new album? With members spread throughout different parts of the province, how did this impact the processes? Do you feel there’s a noticeable difference in the new crop of songs because of these circumstances?
Musky: In the past, Mike and I would write songs on our own then show one another and maybe make a few changes, or sit down together with a couple ideas and try to come up with something cohesive before presenting to a drummer. Mike and I had most of the bare bones of the album worked out before I moved out of Ottawa and we even had a few opportunities to work on songs as a core group (Steve, Mike, and myself) on the few times we were all in the same city, but there are also songs that were written completely separated from one another. These latter ones were a bit troublesome in the studio since we hadn’t had the time to bang them out a hundred times in practice or live to find all the bugs, but we dealt with it. Most of our stuff has always been written pretty independently and I don’t think there’s a noticeable difference in the end result on account of our separation. If anything, it saved us wasting time nitpicking on inconsequential issues since in the end we keep things simple. If it sounds good to us, then we go with it. It’s not the ideal process for writing music, but we’ve always just plowed through or stumbled over such barriers in keeping this band rolling.

deciblog - bp steve

How did you approach recording the drums without the rest of the band present? What were you concerned about most in doing it like so? How do you feel the songs turned out compared to how you had conceptualised them in your head?
Steve: I wrote shitty MIDI versions of what the dudes sent so that I could beat-map the songs. I used the rough demos to see where we naturally sped up or slowed down. [Fuck the Facts bassist and drum engineer] Marc [Bourgon] helped me get everything set up and I was free to bang them out in the comfortable setting that is our jam hall here in Cambridge [Ontario]. It was nice to be able to record at my own pace. My main concern was to have the tempos feel natural while still maintaining a solid backbone that the guys could use to lay their shit down. Sure, I would have loved some gnarly bed tracks, but we did what had to do with what limited knowledge I have to make this work. In the end, I feel the ideas I laid down worked well with the songs. With each band I try to compliment whatever style we’re aiming for and I think I did a good job with Biipiigwan. My mom said I did a good job anyhow.
Musky: For myself, I never had concerns with how songs would turn out in the end. Steve is an amazing drummer and incapable of writing anything shitty, so it was fun and exciting to send him a pile of garbage and let him bring the songs to life. After Steve recorded the drums in Cambridge, Mike and I tracked guitars and bass with [Fuck the Facts guitarist] Topon Das at Apartment 2 Recordings in Ottawa. We finished with the vocals at Apt 2 when Steve came through between one of his various bands’ tours.

Is there a specific story behind your calling the album Something for Everyone; Nothing for Anyone? What’s the significance to the title?
Musky: Like a lot of things with this band, the title started out as a joke. Someone mentioned while recording that we had a bunch of different styles of music in the songs (hence the “something for everyone”), but we joked that ultimately the music would sound like shit and never please anyone (“nothing for anyone”). A strong theme in the album is oppression and when discussing a name, Mike and I talked about how western societies are presented and perceived as “free” and egalitarian despite being strongly socio-economically stratified, moreover with racial bases, especially in colonial countries like Canada and the US, and we noted how that could be tied into the joke from the recording session. The typical person in a “developed” nation enjoys a standard of living not afforded to those whose lands and/or labour that standard is built upon and even then, that typical person is practically enslaved by a political economic power structure that relies upon intellectual subjugation and commoditization of that person’s existence. We thought about calling it “Something for (Almost) Everyone; Nothing for (Just) Anyone” but that’s just overboard, man. Excessive punctuation in band names and album titles is a good indicator of pretentiousness and that semicolon puts us on thin ice as it is.

deciblog - bp cover

What the hell is going on on the cover?
Mike: I sometimes look at the artwork and wonder the same thing… Here’s my best to explain: I started out wanting to take a Canadian symbol and distort it in some way as some of the album material dealt with this idea. I tried some ideas with the flag, but nothing really worked, so I went with the coat of arms. I started researching what the various parts of the coat of arms represented, and found a lot of them related/hinted at common “illuminati” and secret society symbols (also rampant in a lot of American symbols, most notably the “all-seeing eye”). I particularly liked that, apparently, the chained unicorn is a symbol of the anti-Christ. So anyway, I loaded it with weird secret society references: Masonic eye and checkerboard floor, the Rosicrucian sun, various alchemy references, and the six-point star which is a common representation of wealth. I also tried to use contrast to have various “conflicts” happening throughout the artwork (black and white; the upper and lower halves; night day; etc.) which I felt again reflected the lyrics and basic themes of the album. I guess it ended up getting a little weird. Ultimately, I was trying for something that would be unique/different, ties together the album’s themes, and rips off [Montreal band] The Great Sabatini just a little bit, but not enough so that people would notice.

How would you characterise the new album against previous works?
Musky: I find the new record to be a little more riff-driven and not as dissonant and ugly-sounding as our earlier work and in my opinion that has to do with Mike having actual musical knowledge (as opposed to myself) and my own song writing becoming a bit more focused. Because of that I think it’s more cohesive and accessible. Also, Topon did an amazing job recording the album; production-wise it’s the best thing we’ve released.

How did your most recent North American tour go? Please share with us some of the more ridiculous adventures and experiences of the run?
Musky: Nothing too crazy ever happens with us since we’re a bunch of aging dudes more interested in nursing our various old man injuries and ailments that flare up on the road, rather than partying. We saw a couple fights because, you know, punk or whatever, and hit some deadly weather on the home stretch in Canada that made for some white-knuckled driving, but managed to avoid witnessing gnarly highway accidents and didn’t have any attempted van break-ins as on previous tours. We covered a lot of ground on this tour and saw some beautiful lands. Also got the chance to stop at the Little Bighorn battlefield and that was a pretty powerful place to visit. All in all, it was a successful tour all around that was made even better by the fact that we’re close friends who tend to laugh off shitty situations rather than get whiny or angry over the inevitable hardships that come with touring as a little-known noisy metalish-type band.

What’s up next, yo?
Musky: We’ve got a blank slate for writing more material, so I’m just going to hole up over the winter months and write stuff to bring down to Steve and bang out some new music with him. It will be interesting to hear how new music will turn out since it’s now just myself and Steve writing. Mike is a great songwriter and he’ll definitely be missed, but as always we’ll just carry on and have a good time doing it. Other than that we’ll do some minor touring before heading over to Europe in the fall of 2014.

[live photo by Scott Kincade]

Sucker For Punishment: A gift from a black metal god

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, November 6th, 2013


Pardon me if I’m a little distracted this morning, I just saw Slayer last night, and say what you will about Kerry and Tom heading out with a pair of hired ringers in Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph, but their all-oldies setlist warmed the cockles of this 43 year-old’s heart. No fewer than six Metal Blade-era songs, including “Captor of Sin”, which I’d waited 29 years to hear live. Three additional Reign in Blood deep cuts to go along with the requisite staples. An inexplicable but wicked cover of Exodus’s “Strike of the Beast”, for crying out loud. And five Seasons songs tossed in for the noobs. It was shameless nostalgia, bordering on a cabaret show, and when the new album arrives I’ll cross that bridge cautiously, but at a time when Kerry King needs to get back in the good graces of his longtime fans, my oh my, do he and the guys ever deliver on their current tour. Check it out if you can.

As for this week’s new releases, welcome to that time of year where the quality of new music starts to wind down. It’s a fairly busy week, the quality decent, with just a couple of must-buys. And yes, I endorse the new Stryper album, in that it’s very good at that particular form of music. However, if there’s ever a CD sticker or a print ad saying the new Stryper album is “Decibel approved”, I might have some explaining to do.

This week’s essential albums:

Cara Neir, Portals To A Better, Dead World (Broken Limbs): The Texas duo has always been great at combining black metal, punk, post-punk, and progressive metal, but their latest album molds it into a fully-realized, cohesive whole in a way they’ve never done before. Melodic, playfully atonal, ferocious, and never complacent enough to stay within one particular template, it’s high time people started regarding Cara Neir as important up-and-comers in extreme music. Stream and buy it via Bandcamp.

Gift Of Gods, Receive (Peaceville): If you’re a fan of Darkthrone’s The Underground Resistance – and if you profess to like metal, there’s no way you can possibly not like it – then you’ll love the debut solo EP by Nocturno Culto. Stylistically it’s very much the same, with loads of Celtic Frost worship, but it’s not without its quirks, like a startlingly good cover of Universe’s “Looking For an Answer”. Not only is Gift of Gods a fine companion to The Underground Resistance, but you can’t help but hope Nocturno continues to explore his own sound further with this project. This EP is far too good not to follow up.

Also out this week:

Aqua Nebula Oscillator, Spiritus Mundi (Tee Pee): The French rockers are back with another album that’s typically a diverse and often befuddling blend of psychedelic rock, space rock, garage rock, and even a little Donovan-derived folk. Highlighted by a psychotic cover of the 13th Floor Elevators’ “Roller Coaster”, it’s an unpredictable record, but one that’s never for a second dull.

Convulse, Evil Prevails (Svart): The Finnish death metal veterans reunited 18 years after splitting up, and have since recorded a third album, their first since 1994’s Reflections. Not surprisingly it’s a workmanlike example of first-wave Scandinavian death metal, plenty pulverizing but always mindful of songwriting dynamics.

Czar, No One Is Alone If No One Is Alive (Cracknation): The Chicago band’s second album is an interesting one, bridging hardcore, noise, and metal, but not in the obvious ways, instead creating a peculiar hybrid of power, dissonance, and melody. It crunches, it grooves, it lurches, all with impressive precision. Stream and buy it via Bandcamp.

Dagoba, Post Mortem Nihil Est (eOne): What sounded creative ten years ago now sounds stale and repetitive, as French band Dagoba continue to plug away with the chugging, atmospheric groove metal. It’s capably done and slickly produced, but despite some admittedly strong moments (“Yes We Die”) it’s impossible to get excited about this form of music. Which reminds me, remember the band Raunchy?

Enabler, Flies (The Compound): The best tracks on this new EP by the Milwaukee hardcore band are the surprisingly measured instrumental “Switch” and the wicked cover of Sepultura’s “Arise”. But the entire thing costs only four bucks, so why not buy the whole shebang? Get it via Bandcamp.

Falkenbach, Asa (Prophecy): It’s been a while since I last heard a Viking metal album as good as this one, the latest by the project helmed by German musician Vratyas Vakyas. Since Árstíðir Lífsins’ Vápna lækjar eldr, actually. Adorned with atmospheric, melancholy melodies that pine for the fjords like the Norwegian Blue, this is tastefully written and performed, richly arranged, and bracing to listen to.

Finnr’s Cane, A Portrait Painted By The Sun (Prophecy): It’s nice to come across Canadian metal bands that are inspired by their landscape, and Sudbury, Ontario’s Finnr’s Cane is just that. Hailing from a mining-ravaged environment that at times looks like the surface of the moon, this band’s music is suitably bleak, a forlorn blend of black metal and expansive post-metal. A welcome addition to Prophecy’s impressive roster.

Impending Doom, Death Will Reign (eOne): These Christian metalers actually have a much better grasp of deathcore than your average deathcore band, and on their fifth album their bludgeoning noise is competently accentuated by plenty of moments that involve genuine musicality.

Izegrim, Congress of the Insane (Listenable): The Dutch band continue to churn out the death-infused thrash metal in their Holy Moses-influenced way, frontwoman Marloes Voskuil following faithfully in the footsteps of Sabina Classen. “Celebratory Gunfire”  is a standout on a straightforward, satisfying record.

Lita Ford, The Bitch Is Back…Live (SPV): For a small club show recorded in her old stomping ground of Los Angeles, Lita Ford’s new live album is a somewhat tepid affair, with not much palpable energy from neither the band nor the crowd. That said, Ford is enjoying a nice little resurgence – last year’s Living Like a Runaway was a charmer – and the new material sounds solid here, as do the ‘80s staples like “Can’t Catch Me” and “Kiss Me Deadly”.

Mad Hatter’s Den, Welcome To The Den (Inverse): The Finnish band relies on keyboards a little too much, but that doesn’t take away from the songwriting, which is lovingly derived from Maiden and Priest and features a strong lead singer in Taage Laiho. Couple that with a song as wonderfully titled as “Sharks of Power”, and you’ve got a winner. This one’s a blast.

(the) Melvins, Tres Cabrones (Ipecac): The gimmick behind this latest Melvins release is that original drummer Mike Dillard has returned to celebrate the band’s 30th anniversary, with Dale Crover moving to bass for this album. It’s a neat little novelty, and Buzz and the guys are clearly having a blast on the new songs as well as the hilarious covers of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and “Tie My Pecker to a Tree”, but nothing these days beats the four-piece Melvins (featuring Buzz, Crover, and the Big Business boys) and it’s now been more than three years since The Bride Screamed Murder. This stuff is a blast, no question, but bring back the four-piece lineup, guys.

Mother Susurrus, Maahaavaa (Ektro): Another avant-garde gem from Finland, this time a remarkable combination of doomy metal and acid rock. No sunlight in winter and no darkness in summer clearly compels people to make the freakydeakiest music possible.

Nekrofilth, Devil’s Breath (Hells Headbangers): Hells Headbangers have an incredible ear for quality fist-bangin’ thrash filth, and the latest by the Cleveland band – their first full-length after a series of demos and splits – is a simple, predictable blend of thrash and hardcore punk, but done with tremendous energy and humor. Harmless, riotous fun.

Otargos, Apex Terror (Listenable): Creative black metal that smartly thinks outside the box? Of course, it’s from France. It’s not quite on the level of Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega, and tends to pay homage (putting it politely) to Gojira more often than not, but this latest album by Otargos is nevertheless worth investigating.

Ovo, Abisso (Supernatural Cat): The weirdo Italian duo has teamed up with Gnaw’s Alan Dubin and Carla Bozulich’s band Evangelista for yet another stupefying, impenetrable, yet surreally enthralling collection of music that ranges from relentless metallic pieces to arbitrary jamming in the name of experimentation.

Paradise Lost, Tragic Illusion 25 (The Rarities) (Century Media): It seems odd, and slightly cynical, to commemorate a significant anniversary with a Contractual Obligation Album but longtime fans of Paradise Lost will find this new odds-and-sods collection of mild interest, from the gothed-up covers (including Everything But the Girl’s classic “Missing”) to the two re-recorded tracks, and the new song “Loneliness Remains”. New and casual listeners might want to stick with the proper albums, though.

Rising, Abominor (Indisciplinarian): The Danish band’s blend of crust, sludge, and simple rock ‘n’ roll is energetic enough, but the monochromatic vocals by the sandpaper-throated Jacob Krogholt greatly diminish the overall impact of the otherwise very good music, feeling like an empty imitation of Lemmy and Jaz Coleman.

Stryper, No More Hell To Pay (Frontiers): It’s easy to lampoon Stryper these days, but once upon a time these guys made quality heavy metal/hard rock when they weren’t flinging bibles at audiences. 1985’s Soldiers Under Command was a first-rate record, and this new album very much follows that template, the music harder-edged, melodic, and bolstered by the singing of Robert Sweet, which is just as strong as it was 30 years ago. Even the cover of the Doobie Brothers’ “Jesus is Alright With Me” kind of works. Sure, the fundie proselytizing gets cheesy, but so does Watain’s Satanic proselytizing. In both cases, the music is good enough for secular listeners to enjoy just as much as those who take the lyrics seriously. Jebus, the Debil, it’s all a gimmick. Stryper have their gimmick, and they sell it well here. Yeah, I’m just as surprised as you.

Vengeance, Piece Of Cake (SPV): If it’s always 1989 in your mind, if the first Blue Murder album is your own personal Black Sabbath, if you keep wondering why Axel Rudi Pell doesn’t put out new albums every six months instead of annually, then you’ll probably be excited about this one. For the rest of you, Leon Goewie’s vocal histrionics will have you in stitches.

Zemial, Nykta (Hells Headbangers): Active since 1989 but with only three proper full-length albums, any day the Greek band puts a new one out is clearly an event for their followers. Helmed by Archon Vorskaath, who handles all the instrumentation, Nykta is very much like the recent work by Rotting Christ, a peculiar combination of influences, rooted in black metal but far more wide-ranging, songs hinting at a filthier side but recorded cleanly, riffs hinting at savagery but quickly giving way to melody. From the Celtic Frost-style “Under Scythian Command”, to the defiantly proggy, 11-minute “In the Arms of Hades”, to the “cover” of John Cage’s “4:33”, it’s an impressive work by someone unwilling to be tied down by genre restrictions.

Not metal, but worth hearing:

The Opium Cartel, Ardor (Termo): Led by Jacob Holm-Lupo, from one of my favorite prog bands White Willow, this Norwegian Collective focuses on the lighter, more pastoral side of progressive rock, combining such ‘70s influences as Genesis and King Crimson, and from the ‘80s, The Dream Academy. Production-wise this new album totally evokes the mid-1980s, a lush, sumptuous sound that celebrates the smooth-sounding excesses of that era, wonderfully exemplified on the epic “Mariner, Come In”. While singer Alexander Stenerud does a splendid job singing on such tracks as “White Wolf” and “Northern Rains”, Norwegian pop singer Venke Knutson steals the show on such standouts as “Kissing Moon”, “Revenant”, and the absolutely beautiful, understated cover of Blue Öyster Cult’s “Then Came the Last Days of May”. Check out Ardor at iTunes.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy 

For Those About to Squawk: Waldo’s Pecks of the Week

By: andrew Posted in: a fucking parrot previewing new releases, featured On: Friday, November 1st, 2013


Well, as the year comes closer to ending, the releases are slowing down. Maybe not so much right now, but soon enough, so don’t be surprised if your old boy Waldo starts “pecking”a bunch of stuff he doesn’t really like . So, here’s all of the hate that’s fit to beak.

Ten years of TOXIC HOLOCAUST. Say it ain’t so. Well, the toxic one, Joel Grind, has released Chemistry of Consciousness on Relapse, and your fine feathered friend is willing to say that it’s the most well-rounded TH album to date. That’s not to say that it’s a departure; far from it actually. This is a nasty piece of thrash, and thrash it is. Not breaking any new boundaries, this does come across as having a little more breadth than previous releases, mostly by referencing earlier anarcho-punk and the first wave of  U.K. hardcore. This is a downright nasty slab, and to call it just plain thrash doesn’t give this enough credit, so credit where credit is due. Grind’s vocals are filled with distorted razor-shredding vitriol, and the production is forceful and clear without sacrificing any intensity. There are some “slower” jams, which aren’t slow at all; they just stand to make the absolute shredders all the more shredding. The LP comes with a blotter sheet too.  Peck this thing up. 8 Fucking Pecks

CONVULSE release Evil Prevails on Svart, and this is a record that fans will both love and hate, not just in general, mostly at the same time. Convulse started off releasing the classic death metal record World Without God, and, well, this isn’t it. This isn’t a bad release, but it definitely shows the band’s age, and is a passable death metal record. There are some riffs and moods that are reminiscent of bands like Grave, and then some that remind the listener more of avant jazz, or rock passages, just more watered down. I hate to give a review that has the vibe of “you like this if you like it, and won’t like it if you don’t”; however, that’s really where I stand on this. I WANT to like it more than I do; I just think it’s pretty beaking boring and kind of goes nowhere. So, uh, yeah I guess I don’t like it. 4 Fucking Pecks

The Bitch Is Back by LITA FORD is an utterly worthless cover record of Elton John’s record of the same name. (No, it’s not, but I haven’t listened and neither should you). 1 Fucking Peck

Need some gothic doom rarities? Well, you’ll never guess what PARADISE LOST have in store for you. This is one of those things that’s usually a stopgap between records to try to remind fans that the band still exists, so Tragic Illusions 25 is more than likely that. This is a collection of tracks that have been released, but are difficult to find. Spanning their career, there is at least ONE new track on this. I dunno, I typically don’t get too excited about things like this, and this is not the exception.  I find this bland and unappealing, but I’ve never been a huge fan of the band, so I’m not going to hate on it. But I WILL say this is for fans, hardcore fans only. Gothic doom rarities…  sure…  5 Fucking Pecks.

Video Gold From Metal’s Early Years

By: adem Posted in: featured, gnarly one-offs, heavy tuesdays, stupid crap, videos On: Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012


Metallica were wise to wait several years before making their first promotional music video. Having experienced it first hand—waiting patiently for a metal video to pop up so we could capture it on our VHS recorder—we can attest to the fact that the dawn of music videos in the early ’80s was the worst. Especially the metal ones, which were frequently done on indie-label budgets and generally made no sense at all.

So using those old videotapes as a reference point we dug up some fine examples on Youtube of the kind of crapola that used to pass as promo videos.

The thing we always remembered most about this early Rods video can be summed up in three words: Carl Canedy’s shoulders. We actually really like this song and were stoked at the time to see a video of it since the band were still on Shrapnel Records. But as the video unfolded—and your guess is as good as mine as to what connection the song has to the video—it reminded us more of a really low-budget porno. The backseat scene with Canedy and a nubile around the one-minute mark is fairly creepy. Adding to the overall sleazy vibe is the video quality which looked like it was filmed on someone’s dad’s Betamax camera.

Early conceptual videos usually failed miserably. It’s one thing to have a few hairy biker-looking dudes diddling around with a leather-clad chick in the back of a hot rod while you’re singing about a hurricane, but please explain to us why the centerpiece of this NWOBHM video is a wig-wearing judge who’s really a woman. And why is the judge seated in front of the stage? Honestly, this is lyrically just about the simplest story and some high-concept, video-directing nitwit made it nonsensical.

This is definitely a case of the video concept trumping the actual song content. As far as we can tell, there is no connection between the two. They had an idea for a video and decided that the song “The Damned” would be the best soundtrack. Nonetheless, we offer this up as something of a good example of what could be done if you had no fucking clue as to how to make a mini-movie about a band’s song. Just get the lead singer to do some crazy-ass shit, blow up and smash a bunch of stuff, add a bit of lip-syncing and call it good.

Twisted Sister, to their credit, have always been very self-aware regarding their general image and the absurdity of giant, burly men wearing makeup. They don’t, however, deal in subtlety. If there’s a point they’re trying to make with their music and/or videos, you will be crystal clear as to what it is in no time. In this case, the song is “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll,” so, of course, some vaguely communist-looking bad guys who use cell phones the size of bricks are trying to, uh, stop rock ‘n’ roll. Sigh.

A few years removed from the Runaways and following on Joan Jett’s mega success with, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Lita Ford committed herself to the metal cause with her first solo album, Out For Blood. Like many, if not most, metal videos of the day, it inevitably involved some poor sap who is randomly hauled off to a mental hospital. There are a dozen other things about this video that lead nowhere—why is the bassist playing an actual axe, for instance?—so it’s best not to try to sort this one out, lest you hurt your brain.

We can imagine how the meeting with the director went when Michael Schenker was deciding what to do for the “Dancer” video. “How about we have a lady dressed entirely in spandex, but also wearing a leather jacket—to make sure people know she’s metal—dancing around on stage while the band lip syncs to the song?” Brilliant! “Oh, and make sure the singer looks really sweaty, too.”

STREAMING: Daylight Dies “Infidel”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Wednesday, August 29th, 2012


Normally, we like to pen a few lines of senseless drivel to entertain before you click that orange button thingie, but today—as August rightfully wanes into oblivion—our digital inkwell is virtually dry. Parched, if you will. That being said, we’re going to let Daylight Dies dash your hopes and weather-make your sunny day outright cloudy. They can do that, you know. It’s time to enter an overcast state of mind.

Oh, and don’t forget to read bassist/vocalist Egan O’Rourke’s all-too sensible answers to our probing questions after the Soundcloud player.

Four years separate A Frail Becoming from Lost to the Living. How do you think Daylight Dies has grown during that time?
Egan O’Rourke: There have been a lot of personal changes over the last four years and that’s forced us to grow up as individuals and subsequently as a band. We’ve had members moving all over the country; Guys have gotten married, started businesses and bought houses. It’s the sort of grown up stuff that could have easily broken us but instead it’s strengthened our resolve. The chaos necessitated some role changes and changes in the logistics of how we do things but I think the result is our strongest album to date.

Do you feel you faced a wall in terms of what fit into Daylight Dies’ framework? A Frail Becoming is your fourth album and I know there are varied musical interests throughout the membership.
Egan O’Rourke: I think the Daylight Dies framework has always been more varied than we’re given credit for, but I think this record demonstrates it in a way we’ve not shown. Barre [Gambling] and I split the writing on AFB which gives some more variety to the sound. We also involved Charlie [Shackelford] much more and actually really took advantage of his talents this time. In general, I think we were more open minded about this and focused on simply getting the best songs we possibly could. It all still sounds like Daylight Dies despite the fact that much of it is very different than past albums.

What do you think are the main sonic attributes that separate A Frail Becoming from your previous albums?
Egan O’Rourke: We really tried to push our boundaries on this and commit to the goals of the individual parts. I think that’s evident from the start of the record. We are far more aggressive out of the gate, but we expanded in the opposite direction as well. I’m singing a bit more on this record which creates an opportunity to really highlight the intensity of what Nathan does by contrast. We aimed for similar dynamic variation with the guitar and drum work as well. Everyone really stepped up and delivered performances beyond what we’ve done before.

At this point, has the Daylight Dies message stayed the same? Are doom and gloom still part of the lyrical fulcrum, for example?
Egan O’Rourke: If there is a singular unifying element to everything Daylight Dies has done it is darkness. In that regard the message has been constant since our earliest days. What has changed is that as we get older we’re more able to see and write about things beyond ourselves. There are certainly a lot of personal lyrics on this record but I think you’ll see an insight beyond that as well.

How much will fans get to see A Frail Becoming on stage?
Egan O’Rourke: We expect to be touring early next year and hope to get to fans who haven’t gotten to see us before.

What do you want fans to walk away with after listening to the new album?
Egan O’Rourke: This is the feel bad album of the year.

** Daylight Dies’ new album, A Frail Becoming, is out October 9th on Candlelight Records USA. It’s available HERE for pre-order. You could get the new Cobra-La edition of Sabaton’s military-themed Euro garbage, but we don’t endorse that course of action in the slightest. We’re less into boom and zoom and more into gloom and doom. As such, the new Daylight Dies long-player rules our autumn. And it will yours as well.

Baroness [#93] – July 2012

By: lucas Posted in: On: Tuesday, June 5th, 2012


Coloring Outside the Metal Lines

Fear Factory, Saint Vitus, Call & Response with Eluveitie, Job for a Cowboy, Marduk, Special: Inside Metal’s Reissue Craze, Q&A with Lita Ford, Decibel Hall of Fame: the making of Dying Fetus’s Destroy the Opposition
Nile, Moonspell, Mutilation Rites, Anhedonist, God Forbid, Ides of Gemini, Phobia, Ancestors, Struck by Lightning, Ehnahre

A Metal Mother’s Day Chat With Lita Ford + “Mother” Track Premiere

By: mr ed Posted in: featured, interviews On: Friday, May 11th, 2012


In honor of Mother’s Day, the Deciblog is exclusively premiering the song “Mother” from Lita Ford’s new album Living Like a Runaway (out June 19 on SPV). The Editor in Chief’s wife—christened by Ian Christie as “The Michelle Obama of Death Metal”—and new first-time mom, got on the phone with Lita to discuss heavy metal mommyhood. One listen to the track “Mother” and it’s clear that the original Runaways lead guitarist has been having more downs than ups as a mom lately. She’s working out her problems with her new album, and hoping her fans are ready for a return of her vintage riffs. But whose parenting wisdom does she value? Why, the great George Wendt, of course!

I’ve been listening to the new album. It feels like a throwback to when you were playing back in the ’80s. I felt like I was back in that time. It’s really fun; really good rock.

Lita: I think people miss that time, and people miss that era. And I think a lot of artists now are trying not to sound like that, when I think people want that. Deep down in their heart, it’s like they want to hear those riffs and they want to hear those old leads and the arena choruses. It was one of the best times in the music industry, to me. I just feel like this album that I did, Living Like a Runaway, it’s all real. There’s nothing fabricated about this record. We just did what we wanted to do. We didn’t try to sound like anybody or try not to sound like anybody. It’s not like, “We can’t play that, because that’s too ’80s.” I thought, you know what, it’s real; it’s what’s coming out. It’s got to be right.

It sounded like it was fun, heartfelt. You weren’t worried about what people were going to label it.

Lita: No, not at all. Absolutely dead on. That’s pretty much what we wrote this record for, was for people with ears and people with a heart, people with feelings. That’s all you need.

Could you update us on the situation with your kids?

My kids are with their dad [former Nitro frontman Jim Gillette]. There was a huge divorce that went down. Basically, he brainwashed them and took them from me—not legally take them from me, but he took them from me by brainwashing them and telling them, “Oh, you don’t want to go with Mommy, Mommy’s bad. Don’t go with Mommy.” Why put the divorce on the kids? He put the entire weight of the divorce on the back of my kids, is what happened, which is the worst thing any parent could possibly do to their child. It’s like losing your child. It’s like losing your child to some sort of freak, like in the mall or somebody hanging out in the bushes or at a bus stop. You know, you hear all these horror stories—that’s what it’s like, only I know where they are. That’s the only difference.

When I listened to “Mother,” it’s apparent that something like this is going on, but I didn’t know the actual story behind the song.

Yeah, that’s the real story, is in “Mother.” “Mother” is my song to my kids. And I hope that they listen to it and that they’re able to hear it.

You don’t know if they’ve heard it? Have you been in contact with them?

He won’t let them. He won’t let them hear it. He won’t let them have anything to do with me. He won’t let them look at any photographs. I’m wondering if they even have a computer. I mean, it’s bad. It’s just the worst thing that’s ever happened in my life. I wrote this song for them. I wrote this song to tell them how much I love them and to tell them that I didn’t mean for this to happen and that it’s not my fault. I didn’t do this to them, although they think I did. I miss them, I love them. They’re my life.

I think that came across so strongly in the song. It’s very sad and very touching, so I hope they’ll get to hear it.

We should hand a tissue out with everyone that listens to it. I’ve had grown men come over to my house, when they leave they’re crying, it’s like, “Bye, John! You got a Kleenex in your car?”

When I was pregnant, I’d have bad days and uncomfortable days, and it helped me feel better to think, “Lita Ford went through this.” I was hoping you’d talk a little bit about your pregnancies and what you remember about them.

I hated being pregnant. Sometimes you get people that love being pregnant and I understand why. Your hair gets thick and your skin gets real nice, and everyone goes, “You look so radiant!” But you’re like, “I feel like death!” My pregnancies were easy. My first pregnancy with James, it was a full-term pregnancy. I had a cesarean. I looked at the doctor, and I went, “There go my stomach muscles,” because I had the best stomach muscles. We wanted to have a second child, and I wanted my first child to have either a brother or a sister. I was an only child and I really didn’t want James to be an only child. I said to Jim, “Let’s try to have a second child. If I don’t get pregnant, maybe we can get that in vitro fertilization done.” And he said, “I don’t want a gift from science, I want a gift from god!” At that time I was 42 years old. I thought, “I don’t know how easy it’s going to be to get me pregnant at 42 years old.” I swear to god, I got pregnant in three months. I couldn’t believe it. Obviously Rocco was a gift from god. That was cool. I asked James, “What do you want, a boy or a girl?” James said, “I want a boy, just like me.” So, I took him with me to all the ultrasounds. When it got to that certain age, we did amniocentesis, where they take cells and study the cells. They looked at that and they knew it was a boy. And James saw on the ultrasound his little pee-pee. James goes, “Oh, it’s a pee-pee! It’s just like my pee-pee! It’s a boy!”

Were you touring or playing while you were pregnant?

With James, I was five months pregnant and we were doing live shows. It kind of freaked me out. I called the doctor and I asked her, I said, “Is this hurting the child?” Because it’s so loud, the volume is earth-shattering. She was a real smartass on the phone, and she said, “Not unless it’s hurting his ears!” She was being a jerk. I thought, “OK, he’s fine. Never mind.” Then I recorded some stuff in the studio seventh months pregnant. I got in the car and I drove from Panama City, FL to Nashville. I was like, “Man, what if my water breaks on the way?” I was thinking, “I’m just going to go for it and drive.” When I got to the studio, I had to wear my guitar off to one side, because my stomach was so big; I had to wear it over my hip.

How did your rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle influence the raising of your kids?

James, my older son, is amazing on guitar. We did this tour in 2008, and we played Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland—all through Europe. We took the kids. I took them everywhere I went. They didn’t go to school. They were home-schooled. I was their teacher. So, I had them with me all the time. When we came back from these shows, I was in the other room and I heard my guitar solos coming out of the other room. First thing I thought was, “Oh, they’re listening to a tape or they’re listening to some live performance on YouTube” or something. And I walked in the room, and it was my son James. He was playing my solos. I couldn’t believe it. I bought him a Goldtop Les Paul for his 10th birthday. My ex-husband was saying, “He doesn’t want that. He’s not going to play that. You just want that. You’re buying that for yourself.” And I said, “No, that’s not why I’m buying it. I’m buying it because he’s going to play it.” You know, kids are like, “I’m not going to play Mom’s guitars.” I bought him one for himself. I figured I’d put it in the corner of his room, and it can sit there as long as it likes until he’s ready to play it. Sure enough, he picked it up and he was playing the solo to “Close My Eyes Forever.” It blew me away. He had the vibrato. It sounded like me. And from that point he picked up all kinds of stuff—Guns N’ Roses and Def Leppard. It just got bigger and bigger.

Did you teach him guitar, or did he pick it up on his own?

I’d say he did learn from me at first. For a few months we would sit together at night, and we would play together. I would show him a couple of licks, and he would take it and make it his own. I showed him a little bit, but he really took off by himself. He really has a gift from god. I was really blown away.

Is there anything rebellious from your past, maybe with the Runaways or your early solo career, that you would fear your kids getting into? Is there anything that makes you think, “Oh, my god, don’t do that!”?

No, kids gotta be kids. They’ve got to go through that rebellious stage, and you just gotta trust and believe that they’ll do the right thing and not do something stupid. I think kids these days are really smart. I’m not saying the Runaways weren’t smart, but I just think they’re so in tune to more things than we were back in the Runaways. When I was in the Runaways it was 1976. I can’t believe that. When Nixon was in the Watergate Scandal, that’s how long ago that was. We got into other things. But today there are so many electronic devices and interesting things to get into, I think and I hope that my kids will steer towards that and be involved in something that’s more productive instead of just going crazy. With me, I got into playing guitar. I tried to stay away from drugs, but I got mixed up with the wrong people. I didn’t do a lot of drugs like a lot of people think. I did get mixed up into drugs, but I got out of doing drugs quickly, too. When my mom got sick and she passed away, I hung it up. I was like, “Drugs are for sick people, and I’m not sick, so why am I taking these?” I threw everything in the toilet. I put all my liquor in the box out for the trash man to take the next morning. And I haven’t touched them since. I hope my kids are rebellious. I think it’s a cool stage. I just hope that they channel their energy into positive things, like playing guitar or being athletic or being whoever they want to be when they grow up.

What was your policy on foul language? Were you for them using it or against them using it?

They don’t swear! It’s funny, because they’re around bad language all the time, and they never picked up on it. They never did. They just don’t speak like that, it’s really cool. There’s a certain point where you have to watch what you say. Some kids pick up on it and some kids know better.

What kind of music do your kids like that you hate?

They’ve got great taste in music; it’s really amazing. They listen to Def Leppard, they listen to Guns N’ Roses. They love heavy metal. It’s unbelievable. It’s not like they’re bringing home Justin Bieber. I’m not exactly a Justin Bieber fan. I know a lot of people are, and that’s cool. But they’re really into old rock and roll. They love it. Because I home-schooled my sons, I did this thing where, “A is for Alice Cooper, B is for Black Sabbath, C is for Cult, D is for Def Leppard.” We went through the whole alphabet. Then I would teach them all the songs, like, “A is for Alice Cooper,” so we would go through the whole Alice Cooper catalog, and I would play them “School’s Out” and “Welcome to My Nightmare” and “Only Women Bleed.” Then we would go on to Black Sabbath, and we would start playing Black Sabbath songs, AC/DC songs. I taught them the school of rock.

What do you think was the most surprising thing about being a mom, or the surprising way it changed you?

I think being a father and being a mom is probably one of the most difficult jobs in the world. I don’t know what it’s like to be a brain surgeon or anything like that, but I know that being a parent is truly a trying job. I read this article with the actor George Wendt where he said, “Being a parent is half love and half guerilla warfare.” I love that saying, and I thought it was so suitable. I really believe it’s one of the most difficult jobs on the planet.

What’s the most important parenting lesson you’d like to share?

I would say if you ever get angry at your spouse, don’t ever take it out on your kids. Don’t ever put them in a position where you use them as a tool or a pawn. Keep them out of it. Keep them out of your arguments. Keep them out of any family problems. They don’t need to know about it. Just let them be a kid.

Interview: Mares of Thrace, Part I

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, interviews, tours On: Thursday, April 12th, 2012

deciblog - mares-of-thrace2

If you root around the internet for about three-and-a-half seconds, you can find all sorts of info on Calgary’s doom-y, sludge-y, math-y metallic duo, Mares of Thrace. Most of that will pertain to the band being comprised of two women – drummer Stefani MacKichan and guitarist/vocalist Thérèse Lanz – and all that clappity-clap about hot(test) women in metal, breaking gender sterotypes, being role models and blah, blah, blah. But what else is going on beyond all the usual stuff they get thrown at them in interviews? The ladies in Mares have their own interesting sets of obsessions beyond rocking out and letting producer Sanford Parker “play” filling cabinet on their new and second album, The Pilgrimage. This week, we talk to Thérèse (on the right, above and below) about her second love. Or first love. Or only love.

Having witnessed your interest in video games firsthand, it came as no surprise when I heard you’re going to be attending school for video game creation. Can you tell us a little about the where/when/what/how long of the program you’ve been accepted to?
I’m attending Chicago’s Tribeca Flashpoint Academy of Digital Arts and Media and getting an Associate’s of Applied Science degree in video game development; my intent is to specialize in 2D concept art. Most schools that I researched offered BA programs. Frankly, in four years I fully anticipate that we’ll be able to plug video games directly into our brainstems; TFA’s shorter program greatly appealed to me, and there’s an even more accelerated version (slightly over a year) which I’m taking, for dorks like me who already have a bachelor’s. TFA is a crazy awesome school; it was voted “best post secondary institution” by the Chicago Reader. It’s on the fifth floor of a skyscraper in downtown Chicago and has more avant-garde art in it than my entire hometown– goodness, did I ever feel like a Canadian country bumpkin going there for my interview. Also, they sure didn’t have a motion-capture studio at the university where I did my undergrad.

When did you first develop an interest in video games and what were the first games that piqued your interest and got you hooked? How have your game tastes/interests changed over the years and what sorts of games are you most into these days?
Honestly, I don’t remember ever NOT being a gamer. My mom used to bring home 5.5″ floppy disks full of DOS games and I’d play the shit out of them, and when that got old, start reverse-engineering them. What really ruined my life was playing Final Fantasy II (or IV if you’re Japanese) for the Super Nintendo. That was the video game equivalent of me hearing Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath for the first time – I knew the rest of my life would be spent trying to recapture/recreate that experience. The funny thing is, my tastes haven’t changed that much! I’m a diehard RPG-er, and while I love the way technology has enabled the narratives of RPGs to become more immersive and 3D and shit, I still get excited by the sight of pixels and sprites, and the fact that they’re experiencing a renaissance because of mobile gaming.

In your opinion, what’s the best and worst video game ever made?
Oh c’mon! Asking that question without bringing genre into it is like asking “What’s the best record of all time?”! But if you held a gun to my head, I’d have to say the best one is MarioKart DS (which I spent some of the happiest moments of our North American tour with Enabler playing). It’s a good philosophical meditation on life, because no matter how far ahead we think we are in life, we are all one spiky, winged blue shell away from losing everything.
The worst one? There was a fighting game called Catfight for PC, with all very skanky female fighters that made me strongly contemplate ending my own life 30 seconds into playing it. Half the fun of playing a fighting game is kicking Zangief’s ass with Chun Li (or kicking Goro’s ass with Kitana. Or kicking Cervantes’ ass with Taki. You get me).

What was the first game you completed? If you were asked to explain it to a non-gamer (like me) what would finishing off a game be likened or equivalent to? Which one(s) provide the most challenging experience for you?
Technically, the first game I ever completed was a DOS text-based adventure, programmed in BASIC, that I finished at age 10. The first modern-ish one was a demo for a dystopian post-apocalyptic 2D RPG I did a couple years ago using a freeware tile engine. Dude, there’s a reason entire teams of people make games– it was the most time-consuming thing I’ve ever done. Finishing off that game felt like how prisoners in Alcatraz must feel when they get out of doing a hard stretch of solitary.

What did you have to do in order to apply for the game making program you’re starting? Did you have to submit an “audition reel” of sorts or was it as simple as submitting an application with “I really like video games” scribbled in crayon as your cover page?
I wish! Some of the other schools I applied to went to great lengths to woo potential students; TFA’s admission policies make it pretty clear that they’re not interested in your average Doritos-crumb-covered basement dweller. My application required several essays, two recommendation letters, a cognitive abilities test (which I had nightmares about for weeks), and a faculty interview. And I threw in a portfolio because I’m a keener like that.

How much experience do you have in game making as you head into this program? What are you hoping to learn and where do you hope to take this in the future?
My goal’s ultimately to be a game artist. What I hope to learn and where I hope to take this is a lucrative career drawing wizards.

Please tell me there are songs on the new album with gaming references or themes to them?
Well holy goddamn, are you ever going to be pleased to find out that THE ALBUM’S TITLE was partly inspired by the Mass Effect franchise!

What’s going to happen to Mares of Thrace with you being in the states for a year? Is the band going to be put on hold or are you and Stef going to be doing the long distance band relationship?
Definitely not going on hold! We both have mobile recording setups, we’ve already started writing the next record, and I have an awesome drummer in Chicago to play American jaunts (and the Sega Genesis retro Playstation collection) with in the meantime.

Mares of Thrace on tour:
4/26/2012 LBH – Kamloops, BC
4/27/2012 Funky Winkerbeans, Vancouver, BC
4/28/2012 Highline – Seattle, WA
4/29/2012 Voyeur Cafe – Olympia, WA
4/30/2012 East End – Portland, OR
5/03/2012 Broken City – Calgary, AB
5/04/2012 Amigos – Saskatoon, SK
5/05/2012 TBA – Regina, SK
5/06/2012 Negative Space – Winnipeg, MB
5/07/2012 Black Pirates Pub – Thunder Bay, ON
5/08/2012 Oddfellows Hall- Sault Ste Marie, ON
5/09/2012 This Ain’t Hollywood – Hamilton, ON
5/10/2012 Cafe Dekcuf – Ottawa, ON
5/11/2012 460 – Toronto, ON
5/12/2012 Club Absynthe – Montreal, QC
5/13/2012 Le Kaméléon – Quebec, QC
5/14/2012 Geno’s – Portland, ME
5/15/2012 St. Vitus – Brooklyn, NY
5/16/2012 Radio – Somerville, MA
5/17/2012 Cherry Street Station – Wallingford, CT
5/18/2012 Monty’s Krown – Rochester, NY
5/19/2012 Carabar – Columbus, OH
5/20/2012 Blind Bob’s – Dayton, OH
5/21/2012 Lager House – Detroit, MI
5/22/2012 Vibes Music – Indianapolis, IN
5/23/2012 Ultralounge – Chicago, IL
5/24/2012 The Heavy Anchor – St. Louis, MO
5/25/2012 Off Minor – Dubuque, IA
5/26/2012 Medusa – Minneapolis, MN

The Pilgrimage will be available April 24th through Sonic Unyon Metal.
This is what the cover looks like:

Here’s Mares standing in a field: