Simon Wizén (Valkyrja) interviewed

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured On: Friday, August 22nd, 2014

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** Valkyrja has largely existed in a vacuum of uncool. The Swedes’ brand of fiery black is likened to Watain fucking around with early period Enslaved, but that’s the extent of Valkyrja’s Satan-powered volcano. Throughout the group’s three-album discography they tap an unknown darkness. They make you feel as if you’ve stuck your head and heart into the abyss. Valkyrja’s latest album, The Antagonist’s Fire, is a genuine and personal journey into inner recesses of evil, where existentialism and nihilism meet in a grimy, blood-and-dreams soaked pit. Black metal reigns supreme with Valkyra!

What’s been happening over the last three years in Valkyrja?
Simon Wizén: After the release of Contamination we focused on increasing the—at the time—quite scarce amount of live performances made. Two tours and several of other performances followed in ’10 and ’11. During the summer of [last] year we record the third album, namely The Antagonist’s Fire, a work that has been growing on us since the birth of Contamination

These two phrases “As always – determined to reach further, ascending higher and descending even deeper. As always – prepared to announce the discontinuation of Valkyrja if all past deeds could not be exceeded.” were on your Facebook. What do they mean?
Simon Wizén: Lay to waste every restriction. If you stick to the same formulae again and again, what do you possibly have to channel? If your only goal is to create a catchy melody for others to cherish, demonstrate your technical ability, or in any other way use the audio tool for a shallow reason without content, what is the actual point of investing time? Evolve or be gone, have something to display through this medium or stop interrupting. Look at your festival poster of choice, I bet you can easily spot ten bands that have lost their spark and simply run on routine, past success and the fame of the now-gone glory days. If you have nothing to say, close your mouth. How simple it might sound, I can’t underline this enough.

Do you think you’ve come out of silence/hardship a stronger unit?
Simon Wizén: Every experience, good or bad, strengthens us as a unit. Difficulties require a solution, which in the end comes out as a valuable experience. Without hardship, what could you possibly learn about yourself? The struggle sharpens the blades.

Did you approach The Antagonist’s Fire differently from Contamination?
Simon Wizén: For the Contamination recording, we had a longer studio session to rely on. This time we had to cut it down, which forced us for greater preparations. We did a full preproduction, which allowed us to get a better grip of what we the overall picture and what details to focus on. I’m equally satisfied with both albums since we pushed them to the limits-at-the-time, and with that in mind I’m secure they will stand the test of time. If they will to others, I can’t say, but if one can’t recognize the great labor put into the own effort, they don’t deserve to be recognized.

I feel The Antagonist’s Fire is more direct than Contamination. Any truth to that statement?
Simon Wizén: We never wanted to do a pure ‘follow up’. We wanted to evolve and use new tools and elements. Sticking to a secure blueprint was never an option. The core is quite similar, as the fruit of all our work are plucked from the same tree, but I see different strengths and approaches in these two albums. If the last one is more ‘direct’ I really can’t answer. It’s a matter of opinion. I don’t share it myself, but that doesn’t make you incorrect. If you ask me, I find the material more raw and furious, more straight-forward and stripped down, but at times channeled through more melodic and/or melancholic parts, which I guess enhance and lift the atmosphere.

The singles we released on Decibel’s blog were received very well. What did you make of peoples’ first-time impressions of your music?
Simon Wizén: Before the album was announced, we had the final result recorded and completed, thus we already knew what to make of it. From what little I know regarding the previews, they received mainly positive critique. On the other hand, these two are only two voices of the overall picture and I guess they will make even more sense when heard in the full context.

Lyrically, what’s happening on The Antagonist’s Fire? Who is the Antagonist? Me, you, Satan?
Simon Wizén: The Antagonist in this case is the opposer of all that defines man, the world, life, laws and every restriction that comes with these shackles. The manifested force of perdition and undisturbed silence.

What do you make of the evils of the world at the moment? Lots of unrest, violence, and tribe-like behavior. Maybe death and destruction will always be part of the human condition.
Simon Wizén: I suppose most of the conflicts are collisions in the political and cultural fields. I don’t care about their wars, actions or rat race to reach the top of the pyramid. Their struggle for leadership is effortless anyhow, as sheep aren’t meant to lead. The wheels of claiming the position as the leader will most likely keep turning until the end of days, it’s in the human nature to conquer. One must understand – mankind has the amazing ability to overrate what we truly are. We are but animals who claimed our own superiority by reducing all other species in our surrounding, hence placing ourselves as the elite. When this meaningless globe is burnt to powder, so is man and all our past ‘achievements’. There is only one solution to our problems, and that is extinction, as we are the problem in the very core. Cattle are meant to slaughtered, keep that in mind.

What’s happening on the cover?
Simon Wizén: The message of the front is pretty clear if you look at the album title and the content of the lyrics. Displayed here is the manifestation of Death, the state of complete nothing. His fires symbolize the many ways through which he works, without limitations and barriers of the worldly. This is a red line, spanning through everything we’ve done, released and channeled since our formation, but in a more ‘obvious’ illustration. It’s actually quite representative for Valkyrja as a unit, in summary. The smoke takes forms as serpents, which should speak even clearer to the observant. A suggestion is to approach everything at the same time, not dissection the audio, lyrics and illustrations alone. They complement and enhance each other for the good of the greater picture.

You moved from Metal Blade to W.T.C. Why the change?
Simon Wizén: We had already been collaborating with W.T.C as they released the vinyl edition of Contamination in ‘12. After all, it was a more suitable label for us, mainly for their understanding of our kind of audio and their interest in our work. I’m satisfied to say we are not stuck in the regular label/band-relationship, but more of a unity in which we aim to reach the same result.

How do you think the way bands operate has changed in the last 10 years? More DIY these days, for sure.
Simon Wizén: We haven’t been around long enough to notice a bigger change. I have the feeling the standard was higher, taken from the thin air though, as anyone nowadays can buy cheap studio equipment, record another Transilvanian Hunger clone, get a friend to release their stuff and call themselves signed. Take a look at the majority of distribution sites, the amount of effortless nonsense filling their space is vast, which makes the whole industry quite fuzzy. Sadly, too few have reached the conclusion that there is no need for additional clones of Darkthrone, Blasphemy, Beherit or their likes. The originals will always outdo their followers anyhow. It’s a simple fact. We never surrendered to the easy way out, nor allowed something to be done for the sake alone. If more time and effort was needed to fully complete a work, nothing was allowed to interfere with the process and rush the result.

What do you make of the current state of black metal? Where does Valkyrja sit in that?
Simon Wizén: The world of black metal is quite dormant right now. There’s always another trend in bloom among us, like the seemingly never-to-end retro garbage, to keep the lowlifes busy. On the other hand, these weak-minded cunts will always seek the next shallow thrill, so let’s find joy in the fact that they pollute something I’m not involved in. As a result, it seems like the genre is taken more serious, compared to some years ago when everyone had an active ‘black metal’ band— whether you were serious with your work or had this project alongside your power- pagan-viking-or similar worthless-metal band. The criterions were face paint and a heavily limited rehearsal tape. I don’t really follow the genre when it comes to new acts, thus I could be wrong, but having idiots of Stockholm around, the judgment might get clouded. Of course I’m speaking generally; there have been some acts that caught my attention for more than one reason—Fides Inversa and Ascension, for example. There are some more great ones out there, but that’s enough namedropping. Great artists don’t need this kind of promotion as their work will surely speak for itself, for those who take the time of discovering it—yet it couldn’t hurt mentioning the superior work made by these two classics-to-come. Support unto those who surely deserve it.

** Valkyrja’s The Antagonist’s Fire is out now through W.T.C. Productions. It’s available HERE for the firebrands, the darkness appreciators, and the sanguine among us.

Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack: France’s Father Merrin

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Friday, August 22nd, 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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Like most people, when I think of France, I think of burly, hairy doom metal.  If you are not like most people, however, you may be surprised by the rumbly midpaced thunder offered by Father Merrin’s debut EP, All Is Well That Ends In Hell.  You might ask, what good can come of a band blending its love of classic horror film with meaty riff platters and serving it all at a steady gallop?  Lots of good, we reply.  At four songs and about 25 minutes, All Is Well is a supremely enjoyable argument in favor of everything this band stands for.  Once you hit play on the stream below, we don’t think you’ll want to make it stop.  While you get addicted, read our interview with the band’s vocalist – known only as A – and sink further into their clutches.  This is your doom.

Who are the musicians/personalities that make up Father Merrin?  When did you start playing music, and how did Father Merrin come together?

A (vocals): FATHER MERRIN was born in 2009, three of us were in a group of Doom / Death Metal called CIRCLE OF HATE that had split a few months earlier. We started writing new stuff without imposing style and the song “Hellride” was born. Then, to play on stage, J joined us on bass. We have continued to refine our style and music to record four of our best titles that make up the EP All Is Well That Ends In Hell released last May. Earlier this year, we welcomed a new guitarist so I can focus on singing. The Brotherhood is in working order now and everything is going well. On the EP we were 4 (S – Battery / J – bass / D – guitar / A – guitar and vocals), now we are 5 with the arrival of another guitarist.

What were your interests that led you to Father Merrin’s style of heavy music?

A (vocals): We had just as a guideline to propose a dark and powerful music, which can be done in several styles of metal but in the way we write and sound, we have this Doom Metal gene that [comes through] quite clearly. We all listen to different styles but Doom Metal brings us together. [Critics’] first reviews talk about influences from BLACK SABBATH, ELECTRIC WIZARD, CELTIC FROST, TRIPTYKON, CATHEDRAL, CANDLEMASS or MOSS and I quite agree with that, we can be seen as an assembly of all.

Father Merrin has existed for several years, though this EP is your first non-demo release.  How much of that time was Father Merrin writing songs and playing live?

A (vocals): We take our time to compose. We propose an accomplished music which requires experiments on arrangements, structures, and vocal lines because [though] we do not want to lose certain spontaneity, we want to have some perspective on our music. This is also why we recorded “Hellride” in a demo version; it allowed us to [become] known to the concert organizers and the metal scene but also to prepare the recording of EP, fix some little things. However, before the first EP we wrote more songs than what appears on the record. We wanted to offer something homogeneous, [so] some tracks are definitely left out, other ideas were still not mature enough to exploit. Furthermore, we welcomed two new members, find concert dates for honing our music, keep repeating our set to be ready for the stage and the time passes very quickly because it’s been almost a year since we recorded this EP now. As we take care of all aspects that revolve around the band, it takes a lot of time and energy but you will not have to wait 4 more years to have some of our news.

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What has your stage experience been like?  How widely (geographically) and you played, and who have you shared the stage with?

A (vocals): We gave around fifteen concerts in 3 years, which may seem low but in our style and our country it is a great achievement. Finding people who [enjoy] Doom Metal is not common in France, but we do not despair, we work very hard to play live soon (if an organizer reads these lines, he should not hesitate to contact us!). We’ve played with CALDERA, CHILDREN OF DOOM, SPIRIT, SURTR or LYING FIGURES as well as the LEZARD’OS METAL FEST which were scheduled on the same day LOUDBLAST or NIGHTMARE for example. We have played in France in Metz, Nancy, Clermont Ferrand or Chalons En Champagne but if an opportunity comes to play abroad, our bags are packed! Our concerts are dynamic and powerful, and in general, the organizers expect something rather soporific with Doom, wrongly.

What was Circle of Hate (your pre-FM band) like?  How was the dynamic in that band similar or different?  Did you significantly adjust your musical style or goals?

A (vocals): CIRCLE OF HATE was another dynamic, another universe. We were the Doom / Death Metal very basic and it matched what we wanted at the time. The starting point of this band was the ASPHYX or SOULBURN albums still part of our musical background. However, we are not able to go further than the demo; we had other desires and have finally split. But with S (drums) and D (guitars), we knew for years and we wanted to make music together very quickly. Both bands are really totally different in their dynamics and approach to music; I think that CIRCLE OF HATE could never do what we do with FATHER MERRIN.

What will Father Merrin be doing over the next few months?

A (vocals): Continue the promotion of All Is Well That Ends In Hell because we are proud about these 4 tracks and the first feedbacks give us reason; then to find a maximum date to play as it is on stage that FATHER MERRIN takes its full extent and write again and again for a first full-length or other format according to our desires and what is being proposed. We do not have a career plan, but that’s how we see the coming months.

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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Christ, Not Death: Exclusive Napalm Christ Stream!

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: exclusive, featured On: Thursday, August 21st, 2014

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Napalm Christ lives up to its name.

Need we say more?

Actually, no, no we don’t. ‘Cause we’ve got the exclusive stream of the band’s upcoming catchy-yet-dark-as-fuck self-titled 12-inch streaming below. (Pre-order here.)

Enjoy!

Decibrity Playlist: Lazer/Wulf

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, August 21st, 2014

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Despite teases here and there, it’s now been five long years since the last Irepress record (yes, I realize this is a Lazer/Wulf playlist–I’ll get there next sentence, I promise). Given that the group is one of my favorite acts around, it’s high praise that stumbling upon Lazer/Wulf has helped satiate my craving for new material. Not only did the Georgia trio put out one of the most eclectic and interesting instrumental(ish) records you’ll hear this year with The Beast of Left and Right, but Phillip Cope, Laura Pleasants and Carl McGinley (aka Kylesa)–three folks whose musical tastes I respect–put the sucker out on their Retro Futurist Records. So when we hit up bassist Sean Peiffer and guitarist Bryan Aiken for some suggested essential listening, it didn’t come as a surprise that their picks were all over the place. Once you’re done perusing their selections, pick up a copy of Lazer/Wulf’s debut LP here.

Trans Am’s “Television Eyes” (from 1999′s Futureworld) ­
Bryan: Every day should begin with Trans Am, and often does for us. This groove practically raises the sun, dries your sheets and brushes your goddamn teeth for you. No argument can be made for synth-rock being super rad without invoking this band–these three dudes justify an entire genre. A lot of their early stuff slams and some of it is too ambient to be appropriate for this list, but “Television Eyes” is the dissonant compromise. It’s a gentle, caffeinated cloth across the forehead. Good morning.

The Fucking Champs’ “Esprit De Corpse” (from 2000′s IV) ­
Bryan: The Fucking Champs are fucking essential, both individually and as a group. And as their discography ages, it’s becoming more important to talk about. Nobody touches today what they did with only two guitars and a drum kit. Or three guitars and zero drums, if that’s what it took. Symphonic and major and intelligent, but with zero pretension. It’s like watching Drunk History: equally refined and sloshed. Every song is another harmonizing eagle triumphing across your brain cervix.

Mercyful Fate’s ­”A Dangerous Meeting” (from 1984′s Don’t Break The Oath
Sean: The other guys may disagree with me on this one, but Don’t Break the Oath is the perfect driving album. This song in particular brings about a feeling that I am embarking upon an epic quest. We have to listen to it loud to cover up my attempts to sing whole songs like “The King”. Because it is going to fucking happen.

Bryan: I do not disagree, and it does happen.

Decapitated’s ­”Day 69″ (from 2006′s Organic Hallucinosis)
Bryan: It’s true, though–Lazer/Wulf agrees on few things. But Decapitated is the monolith upon our common ground. This band alone validates the single­ guitar metal model with creativity and ferocity. To say nothing of Vitek’s legacy, there’s something about Vogg’s songwriting that jettisons bravado and shred worship in favor of…well, fucking songwriting. Unstoppable.

Aphex Twin’s ­”Bucephalus Bouncing Ball” (from 1997′s Come To Daddy EP) ­
Bryan: Brilliant idea for a song, man. He’s made a lot of great, dark tunes, but this one is so damn inspired. Since the second half draws from the sound of a bouncing ball, there’s a visual component to the music. You can see the song as you hear it.

Sean: It was awkward at first, sending my young mind into swirling chaos. But as I grew into a man, it just seemed right. We will cover this song at some point in our lives, so L/W officially calls dibs.

Cinemechanica’s ­”Get Outta Here Hitler” (from 2006′s The Martial Arts) ­
Bryan: Further essential listening. File it under math­rock and be damned, but Cinemechanica rips through that genre into something rabid and urgent. This whole record is amazing, and our mutual love for it is how Lazer/Wulf found each other. Here’s an instrumental song they did, which I’m picking only because a) it kills, and their use of double drums remains unparalleled to this day and b) they’ve since swapped singers from this album toward something way tougher. The new shit is tough as Nails. I don’t know when they’re going to release their new album, but you’ll know, because the Earth damn blew its brains out.

Dysrhythmia’s ­”Room Of Vertigo” (from 2009′s Psychic Maps) ­
Bryan: There’s no understating the importance of Dysrhythmia in the instrumental world. It’s not mopey or flashy or post­-anything. Nor is it unlistenable madness. They just write great songs that work on the surface level, but offer a transformative depth to those who look for it. Remember those Magic Eye pictures? They’re all pretty and shiny, but then there’s a fucking boat hidden somewhere in there? That.

Zu’s ­”Carbon” (from 2009′s Carboniferous) ­
Bryan: I wish I didn’t love this so much. It’s so unlikable. A saxophonist, bassist and drummer, all piloting mosquitos into your stupid eyes. But it’s so joyful and confident and Italian. 100/10.

Sean: We had the pleasure of playing with the Italian syncopation masters in Pisa. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea they were off hiatus. I was excited then, and even more excited now that they’re recording again with Gabe from The Locust on drums. Carboniferous is on steady rotation when we’re on the road.

Dying Fetus’s ­”Praise The Lord (Opium Of The Masses)” (from 2000′s Destroy The Opposition) ­
Sean: At 17 years of age, a young man hears–seemingly–the most extreme music ever created. He would never be the same. A treasured classic of utmost brutality, Destroy the Opposition is still the go-­to record for nostalgic, head-slamming fun.

Bryan: Yeah, this record is a total watershed for me, too. The opening track both introduced me to and galvanized my love for no bullshit death metal, back when I required “melody” and “pacing” and “structure” and all that pussy shit. Absolutely warlike.

Soundgarden’s ­”4th of July” (from 1994′s Superunknown) ­
Bryan: But before anything else, this is the song that started it all for me. It started me. I was nine years old and I knew I loved music, but I didn’t know what instrument was mine, or what type of music I belonged to. So try to find that place in yourself before you listen to it. Hollow everything out, and know nothing of the world but Ninja Turtles and the Jurassic Park theme. Then…those chords. That dread. I became, if not a man, a guitarist that day. Superunknown is still my favorite record of all time.

*Pick up a copy of Lazer/Wulf’s The Beast of Left and Right here

**For past Decibrity entries, click here

STREAMING: Children of Technology’s “Future Decay”

By: Jeff Treppel Posted in: featured, listen On: Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

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You want music that sounds (and looks) like one of the high-octane action scenes from the classic film The Road Warrior? Well, Children of Technology embrace the post apocalypse pretty enthusiastically with their dystopic D-beat punk attack. They even dress up like members of Lord Humongous’s gang of marauders, which is way more awesome than dressing up like ponies or whatever the kids are doing these days. Not much for subtlety, but who cares when it’s this much fun? Strap on your motorcycle leathers and prepare yourself to enter Future Decay, which we are proud to premiere in its entirety below!

 

***Future Decay is out now on Hells Headbangers. You can order the CD here.

Shark Week is for Sissies: Exclusive Hammerhead Premiere!

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: exclusive, featured On: Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

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A few years back super-under-appreciated Minneapolis noise rockers Hammerhead reunited for Amphetamine Reptile’s twenty-fifth anniversary bash and released an EP dubbed Memory Hole…which for a long while seemed to describe the place where the band was destined to disappear down.

Happily, it is not so, and today we have your first exclusive taste of the new Hammerhead joint, Global Depression, which can — and should! — be pre-ordered here.

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

Inside The Shredder’s Studio #13: Carl Byers of Coffinworm

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Photo by Greg Cristman | www.gregCphotography.com

Since their debut When All Became None was released about four years ago critics have struggled to find a moniker that fits Coffinworm. Are they blackened crust? Doom punk? Blackened death? Blackened tilapia? After a while all of these phrases begin to sound a lot like the Applebee’s menu so we’ll settle with the trustworthy “excellent.”

Coffinworm’s second album IV.I.VIII was released earlier this year and Carl Byers dropped by the shredder’s studio to give us an overview of the riffs that shaped him. Byers has so much game that he actually switched to guitar after spending time behind the drum kit. Does that mean he can also appear in our, er, banger’s studio?

Please welcome Mr. Byers to the shredder’s studio, our 13th episode.

Entombed – Sinner’s Bleed from Clandestine

Talk about a riff buffet. My first exposure to extreme metal was Entombed’s second album when I was 12 years old. I bought a used copy on cassette at a pawnshop near my father’s house based on the cover art and song titles. Entombed has always been my favorite death metal band and was a tastemaker for further influences. Clandestine had it all: driving two-beats, those reverb-drenched guitar solos that hang like a thick mist, probably the best guitar sound on a classic record using HM-2 pedals, and the song structures are killer. I generally prefer death metal firmly rooted in punk, but Clandestine is the best of both worlds: complex enough to not sound like Left Hand Path mach II (although, who the hell would complain about that?) and things slow down occasionally to let the riffs breathe.

Celtic Frost – Human/Into the Crypts of Rays from Morbid Tales

An obvious song, but totally undeniable in the effect it had on me when I heard it for the first time. Morbid Tales was responsible for more guitar players in both the punk and metal realms than a heap of other albums in the ‘extreme music’ world. Tom Gabriel Fischer and Martin Eric Ain influenced my writing and guitar playing when it comes to creating heavy music, and this record was the guidebook. What I’ve always loved about Frost is the balance between mammoth, driving riffs full of aggression and a counterbalance of very straightforward song structures. It’s almost pop in that respect, so it’s memorable and catchy. The music is fuck ugly, but there are riffs to grab onto and the arrangements are familiar because they’re usually written in a verse-chorus structure.



Motörhead – I’ll Be Your Sister from Overkill

The best, hands down. Motörhead is all I ever need if I had to choose just one band. It’s hard to choose just one song, but Overkill is my favorite record and ‘I’ll Be Your Sister’ is a perfect song. Fast or slow, they are the masters and a daily soundtrack to my existence. When I think of rock ‘n’ roll, punk, or metal it sounds like Motörhead.

Black Sabbath – War Pigs from Paranoid

None heavier. When I was a kid there was a guy working in acquisitions at the public library that would consistently add great metal and punk cassettes and CDs to their audio collection. This was my first exposure to a lot of music; the most important album was a copy of We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll. I checked out the summer between sixth and seventh grade. I constantly dubbed tapes, but that Sabbath compilation got the most play for years. The band sounded scary, the riffs were huge, and the lyrics were heavy. I made my guitar instructor teach me how to play ‘War Pigs’, which was the first full song I learned. Iommi will forever be the riff god.

Black Flag – Police Story from Damaged

Up through the Damaged album, Black Flag’s output is perfect. I love later Flag as well, and no less, but my favorite songs are the short bursts of feedback and intensity rather than the slow dirge. Greg Ginn sounds like a mad scientist and his arrangements/solos don’t sound like he was overthinking them, more like he’d never play the latter the same way twice. The guitar tone on Damaged is fucking nasty and every song sounds like it’s in danger of falling apart. I don’t feel like I’ve ever been able to fully capture that type of immediacy in my playing, but it’s always something I strive to do.

Nirvana – Dive from Incesticide / Drain You from Nevermind

Seemingly a pair of odd ducks in this list, but Nirvana had a profound effect on me and has continued to be one of my all-time favorites since I heard them in 1991. Their influence has colored my playing as a guitarist and a drummer, as well as my approach to songwriting (back to the point of Celtic Frost’s song structures). Two favorites here: The churning riff that anchors ‘Dive’ could cycle on forever, and that turnaround before the chorus descending to the open D chord and the noisy build-up in the middle of ‘Drain You’ – all so simple, but there’s a power there that hits harder than a barrage of notes or a 200 BPM blast beat. Pop structure or not, they were a band that knew how to write heavy and memorable songs.

The Dream Is Dead – Redefining Progress from Hail the New Pawn

Jared Southwick was a friend and an inspiration, despite the fact that we weren’t that far apart in age. In high school I saw several shows his death metal band, Legion, played and it seemed larger than life. He was this tall, gangly guy with an amazing energy. His fingers looked like a bunch of snakes on nuclear-grade meth pummeling the fretboard. Dude was an animal and so amazingly talented. When The Dream Is Dead started they were a game changer – I wanted to be able to play like that. They were my favorite Indianapolis band from the first time I heard them. My old band did a split 7” with them and we toured together, which solidified this bond that eventually led to me joining TDID as a second guitar player. Learning to play those songs taught me so much and pushed me to become a better guitarist. RIP, Jared.


Slayer – Mandatory Suicide from South Of Heaven

Another band on the short list of which I will never grow tired. Master of Puppets was in constant rotation in my formative years, but hearing Slayer had a more visceral effect. South Of Heaven is the album that hits me hardest and ‘Mandatory Suicide’ is a perfect example of Hanneman and King’s power. Slower and plodding, with that harmonized top-end riff descending, it’s always been a favorite. This record has also been a point of reference for Coffinworm when writing and arranging.



Melvins – Roman Bird Dog from Lysol

A band that has evolved and reinvented itself many times, and I love almost everything they’ve done. This EP was the first release of theirs I heard and the early 90s period of the band is my favorite. Buzzo is such a great guitar player, especially in that he’s understated most of the time. The riffs speak loudly and there’s a slow-motion tidal wave of low-end crashing over and over. Also the reason for my using a Rat pedal.



His Hero Is Gone – Raindance from Fifteen Counts of Arson

His Hero Is Gone had some of the most inventive two guitar arrangements and every song was a total banger. This album is the one and ‘Raindance’ has always been a favorite cut. Beyond heavy and the top-end discordant parts made a huge impact on me, which has had direct influence on us trying to incorporate similar types of ‘creepy’ high parts in Coffinworm.

Read previous installments of Inside The Shredder’s Studio:

#1: Elizabeth Schall of Dreaming Dead
#2: Mike Hill of Tombs
#3: Jon Levasseur of Cryptopsy
#4: Alex Bouks of Incantation

#5: Kurt Ballou of Converge
#6: Mark Thomas Baker of Orchid
#7: Andre Foisy of Locrian
#8: Eric Daniels of GSBC and Asphyx
#9: Kevin Hufnagel of Gorguts
#10: Marissa Martinez-Hoadley of Cretin
#11: Eric Cutler of Autopsy
#12: Woody Weatherman of Corrosion of Conformity

Darkness Undivided: Exclusive Music Blues Stream!

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: exclusive, featured On: Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

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Think you’re having a bad day/life?

Well, Stephen Tanner is pretty sure he’s got your ass beat, and then some: The bassist of experimental sludge-y noise rock auteurs Harvey Milk is about to release a unsettling-yet-mesmerizing, pitch-fucking-dark concept album about his life entitled Things Haven’t Gone Well under the apt moniker Music Blues and we’ve got the full-album stream below.

I could go ahead and try to condense the crazy story of the album’s origins into a graph or two here, but I think the press release is worth reading in its entirety, so it is pasted after the jump. Suffice it to say, it includes death, depression, and a steady diet of booze and “six hours of the original 90210 every day.”

Now, without further ado, here comes the sublime bleakness…