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

By: admin Posted in: a fucking parrot previewing new releases, featured On: Friday, August 29th, 2014

unnamed

BURZUM has been described as “music to make mortals dream,” and  The Ways of Yore (Candlelight) will do just that, because it’ll put you to sleep. I guess living in France can’t be that cheap; it seems like Varg cranks records out once a year or so. I’m not going to delve into his politics, the fact that he’s a murderer or anything like that. This release is not black metal at all — not that anyone really expected that.  Clocking in at a little over an hour, this is a fully realized dark ambient piece. It may seem like I like this; I don’t.  This comes across like that part in Zeppelin’s “No Quarter,” you know, before it kicks into the jam.  Certainly, this is no Filosofem. The synths here sound dated, a little like old Pink Floyd, and the whole album seems to drag a little too much for my pecking taste. There are parts here and there that don’t completely sound like overindulgent Rick Wakeman worship, but there’s no overall feeling of despair or dread.  You certainly won’t be jamming this one on a road trip. So, like, get your pink underwear on and, I dunno, go get Filosofem if you want something like this.  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz. 3 Fucking Pecks.

I can’t say I’m too sure what to make of BLOODSOAKED‘s  new one, Religious Apocalypse.  It’s not really a record, because it’s like three new songs, some covers and some live stuff. The new songs are cool, guttural death metal that don’t just rely on pig grunts and blast beats.  The material is strong and goes for the jugular. Old-school death metal that’s pretty mean, with a little groove. As far as the covers go, I don’t think you’ve lived until you’ve heard death metal versions of Cinderella and Ratt. The live songs here lend to the vibe of the record and let you know how good the “band” can be. Overall, this is a pretty fun release, and I’ve gotta say I’m glad I heard it, but I’m not sure I’d buy it. 6 Fucking Pecks.

So, I haven’t heard the new PHOBIA EP, Grindcore, on Deep Six, but I’m willing to bet that it rules. Phobia rules, and if you didn’t know, now you do.

Waldo out.

Exclusive: Stream The New Noisem

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: exclusive, featured, listen, the decibel magazine tour On: Friday, August 29th, 2014

00_147_cover

By now Decibel readers have come to know and love the young upstarts in Noisem. They turned heads during the last Decibel tour (and almost got Jeff Walker of Carcass in a lot of trouble — check out the details in the instant oral history). So Decibel and our friends at A389 Recordings are excited to premiere the main track off the new Noisem seven-inch.

Here’s what’s cool about this: RSR Records (Europe) and Amputated Vein Records (Japan) are part of this release. There are three versions of the 7″ — all limited to 500 copies.

Side A features the new song “Consuming,” Noisem’s opener for many recent sets. The band then recorded three classic cover songs by Terrorizer, Slayer and Cannibal Corpse to use as three b-sides. The songs have been dispersed randomly among the versions.

Check out the new tune below and then follow the links to get a pressing of your choice.

Red Version – A389 Recordings

European Gold version – RSR Records

The Japanese Blue version w/Obi Strip — Amputated Vein Records

Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack: Dawn of a Dark Age

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Friday, August 29th, 2014

DawnofaDarkAgeband

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.

DDAlogo

As both a loyal proponent of atavistic black metal and a man with familial roots in southern Italy, I have searched for years for great Italian extreme music.  It has often seemed like a fool’s errand.  In recent years, right on the heels of the surge of varied French extremity, lots of metal has erupted from the land of Romulus and Mussolini, but often there was nothing recognizably Italian in it.  Lyrics spat in English, chords shredded out in styles Scandinavian, British and American.  Not that it was bad, but I could derive as much (or more) pleasure from those bands’ influences, and it all seemed a bit superfluous.

All of which makes the sharp individuality expressed by Dawn of a Dark Age so much more satisfying.  The Agnone duo, comprised of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Eurynomos and vocalist Buran, promise and achieve raw black metal, but that description only serves as a sonic foundation for the agitated and melodic events contained within the songs.  Eurynomos’s musical training allows him to inject the savage swirl with piano, alto and baritone saxophone, and clarinet.

Wait!  Don’t go yet!  Just try it.  The heart and bones and crispy viscera of Dawn’s music are undeniably black.  The other instruments add color in interesting places and twist things just enough to make the view more intriguing.

To add to the allure, Dawn of a Dark Age have promised that this debut recording, The Six Elements, Vol. 1: Earth, will be followed every six months by another six-song recording through 2017, each one thematically exploring humanity’s experience with an elemental force.  The ambition is astounding.  We hope all goes well, and we look forward to the next installment.

For now, here’s a stream of Earth and a look into the mind of the man behind all this vision.

Dawn of a Dark Age just started a few months ago and you already have a complete recording to release. Were you writing music before the band’s official beginning, or did the songs really come out that fast?

Working in solitude makes everything easy and streamlined. I can create, compose and record music for 10 – 12 hours in a day, and then to add the voice of Buran is just the finishing touch. About the music, some songs required long time working, but others just came out easily. “Eurynomos Army” was created in four days but “Dawn Of A Dark Age” took several months of work. Anyway all the songs were written and recorded starting from the last February, when we [were] born as Dawn Of A Dark Age.

How did the musical ideas come together?

When I start to compose a new song I don’t follow a standard schedule. Sometimes I create a melody with my woodwinds, many others a guitar riff or a sequence of chords on the piano can start off the song. Then it is important to have clear in mind the right drumming. So I add the drums and gradually the song comes to life and I start thinking about the arrangement, which has an important role in our sound, especially for the integration of wind instruments. They allow me to experiment [with] different colors and nuances that I want to give to the song.

What part of Italy are you from? Are there other metal musicians in your area who you have worked or corresponded with?

I live in Abruzzo, a region in central Italy full of mountains, sea, hills and streams and with a long history. And this colorful land makes me feel music closer to the natural elements. In the winter you can spend hours in the woods and in twenty minutes you can reach the seaside, and this changing landscape is reflected in our music. But on the other hand there aren’t many musicians in this area to relate with and to share a long term project like this.

What got you interested in writing music for the ancient concept of elements?

As said before, the place where I was born is essential for this project. Being able to play different instruments allows me to relate to each element with a particular nuance of sound. The nature tells us stories only if we are able to hear her! This may sound [like] a project focused on the melody and on the sweetness, but it’s just an illusion. Our music is sometimes melodic, but in a matrix [that] is violent and aggressive, because the nature is threatened day after day by the cruelty of the men that try to take possession of its elements to destroy. His ego, his thirst for power will lead to the inevitable clash between nature and the human race, and that will be the day of Dawn Of A Dark Age.

Which came first, the musical style or the elemental concept?

When I compose a new song I always try to find the right balance between both of them to let them grow together. You can’t think the two things separately; they are tied together and need to be in symbiosis in this long and exciting project.

What music/artists first sparked your interest in black metal? What inspired your inclusion of woodwind and piano instruments into such a violent form of music?

When black metal began to have followed in the early 90s I was studying clarinet at the Conservatory and use to play Mozart, Beethoven and Stravinsky. One day a friend of mine came with a tape recording of Mayhem. Until that time the most extreme things that I had heard were Venom, Slayer, Bathory and Carcass. But that sound was new, dirty, raw and at the same time  charming and above all cold and very aggressive. Since that time I discovered the Scandinavian scene and bands like Emperor, Darkthrone, Immortal, Marduk. I decided to put the ‘classic’ instruments like clarinet, saxophone and piano, which are part of my personal training, just searching for the right colors during the arrangement of the songs, trying to give each one its own footprint that is as similar as possible to the sound I have in mind. If there’s a song that can give you an idea probably this is Stravinsky’s “The Rite Of Spring,” which could be understood as a mother (Earth) sweet and dear who suddenly becomes violent and out of control. This is the meaning I would give to “The Six Elements”, where the peaceful nature can suddenly unleash a fucking hell with an earthquake, a tsunami, or a snowfall in summer.

Do you have a favorite piece of music on this first volume, Earth?

It’s hard to pick up one song, just because, as I said before, I tried to give each one its own particular character and its own particular sound. And also their placement in the setlist is made so that they can follow a path that begins a cycle, grows, reproduces and closes the circle. It is not a coincidence that the tribal bongos open and close this first element (Earth) projecting toward the second one.

Is it a challenge to write the lyrics you want in English, or are you pretty comfortable with the language?

Even for the lyrics I am always searching for the best metric and rhythmic solution that blends with the music and with the idea that I have in my mind. In the next albums I could use the language of my country or a dialect, following the ancient black metal tradition.

You’ve promised five more related recordings over the next 3 years. Are you overwhelmed by that ambition, or is this just the way that the musical ideas are coming out of you?

It might seem like a race against time, but it’s not. Simply everything in the project is related to the number 6 and so I decided to publish them after six months of each other. I’m not worried about the time schedule, I have the full path already clear in my mind, and, as I said, working in solitude allows me to be prolific and to focus all my energies in this project.

Catch up with all things DDA at their Facebook page.

KEN Mode News and Notes: Tour Dates! New Material! New Videos!

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, listen, tours, videos On: Thursday, August 28th, 2014

deciblog - ken-mode-skot

Tomorrow begins the touring cycle for Winnipeg’s tireless road warriors, KEN Mode in support of their forthcoming album, Success. The record itself isn’t slated to be recorded until November, but after almost a year at home, the rest of the world can almost hear the itchin’ in their britches to get back out on the blacktop for a few shows in-between all the lane divider counting.

First up, the “Bonjasky vs. Schilt: Double Dutch to Hopscotch Tour 2014.” Then, after their customary handful of minutes break between tours, they hit the Old World with HARK and stand up comedian Garrett Jamieson in tow before hitting Anselmo’s Housecore Horrorfest in late October. So, come one, come all, come on out to hear some new material (preview below), some old material (some of which can be seen/heard in the final video from Entrench, “The Promises of God”), welcome new bassist Skot Hamilton (who cooks a mean burger the closer it gets to 4am), talk shop with their fucking asshole merch guy and, if you’re anything like me, wish you could be there to see how Jamieson’s comedy routine goes over with legendary German humourlessness.

KEN Mode Tour Dates:
Aug 29, 2014 Riverview, MI Rocky’s Pub
Aug 30, 2014 Toronto, ON Soy Bomb (w/Greys, Child Bite, Animal Face, Life In Vacuum)
Sept 1, 2014 Burlington, VT Nectar’s
Sept 2, 2014 Brooklyn, NY St. Vitus (w/Primitive Weapons, Psalm Zero, Couch)
Sept 3, 2014 Pittsburgh, PA Smiling Moose (w/Slaves BC)
Sept 4, 2014 Philadelphia, PA North Star (w/Bardus)
Sept 5, 2014 Raleigh, NC Hopscotch Music Festival @ Kennedy Theatre (w/Power Trip, Artificial Brain)
Sept 6, 2014 Johnson City, TN The Hideaway (w/Generation of Vipers)
Sept 7, 2014 Newport, KY Thompson House
Sept 8, 2014 Chicago, IL Reggie’s (w/The Atlas Moth)
Sept 9, 2014 Minneapolis, MN Triple Rock (w/Buildings)

Europe: all dates with HARK and Garrett Jamieson
Sept 25, 2014 Amsterdam (NL), Winston
Sept 26, 2014 Oss, Groene Engel (NL) http://bit.ly/1zmp065
Sept 27, 2014 Copenhagen (DK), Stengade
Sept 28, 2014 Flensburg (DE), Folksbad
Sept 29, 2014 Aarhus (DK), Backstage
Sept 30, 2014 Brussels (BE), Magasin4
Oct 01, 2014 Orleans (FR), L’Astrolabe
Oct 02, 2014 Nantes (FR), Ferrailleur
Oct 03, 2014 Barcelona (ES), Razzmatazz
Oct 05, 2014 Madrid (ES), tba
Oct 06, 2014 Toulouse (FR), Saint des Seins
Oct 07, 2014 FR Montpellier (FR), Black Sheep
Oct 08, 2014 Milan (IT), LoFi
Oct 09, 2014 Innsbruck (AT), PMK
Oct 10, 2014 Chemnitz (DE), AC17
Oct 11, 2014 Leipzig (DE), Zoro
Oct 12, 2014 BE Liege (BE), La Zona
Oct 13, 2014 Brighton (UK), Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar
Oct 14, 2014 London (UK), Our Black Heart
Oct 15, 2014 Bournemouth (UK), Anvil
Oct 16, 2014 Nottingham (UK), Chameleon
Oct 17, 2014 Glasgow (UK), Audio
Oct 18, 2014 Sheffield (UK), South Sea
Oct 19, 2014 Swansea (UK), Garage

Oct 23-26, 2014 Austin, TX Housecore Horror Festival (w/Danzig, Eyehategod, Neurosis, Satyricon, Portal, etc.)

www.ken-mode.com
Facebook

INTERVIEW: Pit Full Of Shit

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

pitfullofshit-updated3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10354509_1449376268638660_57140722_n

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

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

db Exclusive: The National Anthem Courtesy of Exmortus

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: baseball rules fuck soccer, exclusive, featured, videos On: Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

IMG_1571

Decibel‘s love of baseball is well documented, from the staff baseball road trip of years past recounted in the oral history of the magazine’s first decade to our annual baseball special. Our editor-in-chief is at this moment wondering why fate decided he should edit an extreme metal magazine rather than play in the majors.

So when we heard a rumor from our friends at Prosthetic Records that the young shredders in Exmortus served up their own version of the national anthem at a minor league game in Bakersfield, California we were all over it. Exmortus recently released the smoker Slave To The Sword and appeared in our Metal Muthas column. We’re happy to have them on the Deciblog.

Below, check out an exclusive video of Conan and David showing off their national pride and chops last week at a Class-A minor league Bakersfield Blaze game. Look for the holy shit moment when they play each other’s guitars at about 1:15.

Catch Exmortus on tour this fall with Arsis and Allagaeon, followed by a featured stop at Knotfest in late October. Dates follow the video.

8/27 Amarillo, TX – Wreck Room

8/28 Oklahoma City, OK – Leon’s Lounge

8/30 Spartanburg, SC – Ground Zero

9/1 Springfield, VA – Empire

9/2 Trenton, NJ – Championship Bar

9/3 New York, NY – Santos

9/4 Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall

9/5 Montreal, QC – Foufounes Electriques

9/6 Quebec City, QC – Dagobert

9/7 Rochester, NY – Montage Music Hall

9/8 Lakewood, OH – The Foundry

9/10 Joliet, IL – Mojoes

9/11 Eau Claire, WI – House of Rock

9/12 Winnipeg, MB – The Zoo

9/13 Saskatoon, SK – Rock Bottom

9/14 Edmonton, AB – Pawn Shop

9/16 Vancouver, BC – Red Room

9/17 Seattle, WA – Studio Seven

9/18 Portland, OR – Tonic Lounge

9/19 Walnut Creek, CA – Red House Studios

9/20 Anaheim, CA – OC Music Hall

9/21 La Jolla, CA – Porter’s Pub

9/22 Mesa, AZ – Nile Theater

9/23 Denver, CO – Moon Room

9/24 Kansas City, MO – Riot Room

9/25 Fort Worth, TX – Rail Club

9/27 Orlando, FL – Haven Lounge

9/28 Tampa, FL – The Orpheum

10/2 Atlanta, GA – The Drunken Unicorn

10/3 Gainesville, FL – The Atlantic

10/4 Pensacola, FL – The Handlebars

10/5 Houston, TX – Mango’s

10/6 McAllen, TX – Aces North

10/7 Austin, TX – Holy Mountain

10/8 San Angelo, TX – Penny Pub & Grill

10/9 Midland, TX – Blue Max

10/26 San Bernardino, CA – Knotfest (Extreme Stage 005) @ San Manuel Ampitheater

Sucker For Punishment: Eleventh Observation

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

band01

Last week I mentioned how writers like yours truly like to cart out the phrase “fully realized” upon hearing an album we deem to be a creative zenith, as if to immediately negate anything the artist might have in store in the future. Nope, sorry, this is as good as it will ever get. If anything, it’s best to use the term in retrospect. Daydream Nation, Ege Bamyasi, Rocket to Russia, those are examples of a band’s potential being fully realized. It’s irresponsible to say the same about a band that’s still going, still pushing forward. Besides, with a songwriter like Mikael Åkerfeldt, the man is so perpetually several steps ahead of what anyone expects from him, that we critics are hoodwinked every time. As soon as we get it into out pompous heads that a certain Opeth album feels like something Åkerfeldt has been building towards all these years, he follows it up with something that expands on that idea even more.

What’s especially cute was how 2008’s album Watershed felt like such a bold step forward for Åkerfeldt and Opeth. “The title could not be more appropriate,” I wrote then. Sheesh. If I only knew. In actuality, his true watershed moment was ditching the extreme metal element from his songwriting once and for all. It’s amazing that the solution to his personal creative stasis was so stupidly simple, but it was a mental block that took him years to get over: instead of making the kind of music you feel obligated to make for your longtime fans, why not make the kind of music you personally want to listen to, and try to still keep it within the overall Opeth aesthetic? If you don’t like to listen to death metal anymore, don’t play death metal anymore. It’s as simple as that. And incredibly, Åkerfeldt made it work on 2011’s inspired Heritage, which was both a reinvention of his band and the most natural possible progression.

In the end, that’s what it’s all about for progressive rock and metal bands: progression. It’s a career-long journey, and part of the fun of the best progressive music is that when it’s happening before your eyes it feels so daring, even baffling, but in the grand scheme of things, when you take a look at that discography after 20 or 30 years, it all somehow makes sense. There have been some significant leaps for Opeth, from Orchid, to Blackwater Park, to Damnation, to Ghost Reveries, to Heritage, but grouped all together, it’s a remarkable career arc the man has created over the past couple decades. And when you crack open the latest new Opeth album and finish listening to the last track, the question that always remains is, Well, where could it possibly go from here?

In the case of Pale Communion (Roadrunner), what listeners get this time around is a lot more consistent that Heritage, which for all its great moments is in retrospect a rather charming mishmash of styles, the sound of Åkerfeldt finding himself all over again, starting essentially from scratch. In fact, the guitarist and singer has never sounded more comfortable with where he is creatively as he does on the new album, exploring numerous facets of vintage progressive rock. Touches of Deep Purple, Goblin, Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, King Crimson, and more can be heard throughout this album, but it’s far from a quaint “retro” exercise, as Åkerfeldt uses those decades-old sounds as a launching pad for something that feels neither old-fashioned nor modern, but timeless, something completely his own.

For all the bellyaching about how Opeth isn’t “metal” anymore – please, can we let that whole thing die already? – there are still plenty of moments of darkness and striking power on Pale Communion. Only unlike Opeth’s early work, the musical palette Åkerfeldt draws from is so much richer, to the point where it’s not merely the black-and-white “light and shade” that was his forte for so long. Instead, it consists of splashes of color everywhere, those deep black brushstrokes offset by hues and tones that bring warmth, mystery, and soul.

In fact, structurally this is the most complex Opeth album since 2002’s Deliverance. The bulk of the album consist of tracks ranging from seven minutes to 11, each winding their way through Åkerfeldt’s trademark labyrinthine paths. Typically, Pale Communion doesn’t require the listener to study, but it does need time to settle in. It’s a trip that has to be taken four or five times before being able to get a handle on it, akin to sitting at a window on a train and taking in as much that rolls by as you can. A little jazz fusion here, a little playful funk there. Eastern melodies. Mellotron. Rich vocal harmonies that conjure comparisons to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Touches of string synths that add cinematic flair. Classical guitar appearing, and gone in a flash.

It all sounds so arbitrary, but that’s where the man’s skill as a songwriter works to this record’s great advantage. There are diversions, tangents, but songs never lose sight of their goal, but that resolution is often a lot more understated than, say, songs like “Deliverance” and “Blackwater Park”. And in the end, after several listens, you’re struck by your own impressions of these eight tracks. The taut “Cusp of Eternity” evokes heavy metal better than most extreme-minded bands this year. “River” is so pastoral sounding that it’s striking. “Goblin” is so damn Goblin-esque it’s practically a love letter to Claudio Simonetti. The beautiful “Faith in Others” is the best mellow track he has ever written, genuine feeling surpassing mere craftsmanship. And “Moon Above, Sun Below” is a classic Opeth epic, in which the entire band – whose supporting work on the entire album cannot be overlooked – coalesces in typically exhilarating fashion.

And of course, you’re left wondering where Åkerfeldt and Opeth will go next. But it’s also a feeling of contentment, of knowing that the master of modern progressive rock/heavy metal has never sounded more confident as a songwriter, guitarist, and singer. Again, it’s tempting to call this “peak Akerfeldt”, but it seems I say this every single time, and if you ask the guy, like any supreme talent he’ll never tell you he’s content. That perpetual lack of complacency is what makes this band so special. At this point, his audience will gladly take whatever he offers next, but in the meantime there’s Pale Communion, Opeth’s most rewarding album in many years, to take in again and again.

Also out this week:

Bastard Sapling, Instinct Is Forever (Gilead): When I first heard Bastard Sapling’s song “Lantern at the End of Time”, I practically leaped out of my seat, I was that excited to hear such a spellbinding combination of classic Hammerheart-era Bathory and vocal incantations reminiscent of Coven. It’s a glorious 11 minutes, as impeccable a black metal tune I’ve heard all year, and needless to say I was greatly looking forward to hearing the rest of the band’s new album. Typical of any other overhyped American album, sadly, Instinct is Forever is mostly bluster with very little payoff, in this case reverting to rote black metal arrangements with not enough imagination shown. It does have its moments, as “Elder”, “The Killer in Us All”, and “Forbidden Sorrow” show great promise, but nothing on this record comes remotely close to the perfection of that one highlight. Sample it via Bandcamp.

Chainbreaker, Constant Graving (self-released): This came out back in January, but this week is deadsville, and better late than never. This Toronto band features current and former members of Cauldron, Rammer, and Burn to Black, and can easily be seen as a combination of Midnight and Toxic Holocaust. In other words, filthy, no-frills thrash derived from Venom and Sodom, equal parts maniacal and catchy, with plenty of bad taste on display, right down to the cassette cover, which is crude but definitely, erm, memorable.  Hells Headbangers might want to sign these fellas ASAP. It’s available as a name-your-price download via Bandcamp. Go get it.

Circle II Circle, Live at Wacken (Armoury): I’ve never minded Zak Stevens’ affable Savatage knock-off, the prog/power tunes always decently executed and sung well by Stevens. But in this album’s case, it’s being billed as some sort of triumphant live album at the world’s biggest metal festival. That’s what they always say, when in reality it’s just another one of more than 100 bands playing over four exhausting days. And you can feel it on this recording. The silence from the crowd is deafening. There are some fans present, but mostly it’s the sound of people patiently taking in a band on a quaint side stage before moving on to the next. A god live album has a palpable energy conjured by both the band and its audience, and that’s just not happening here.

English Dogs, The Thing With Two Heads (Candlelight): I vaguely remember English Dogs from back in the day. And by “the day”, I mean a quarter century ago. This band didn’t impress me at all then, and this current incarnation does absolutely nothing either, an awkward combination of hardcore punk and thrash-derived metal that never gels.

Force of Darkness, Absolute Verb of Chaos and Darkness (Hells Headbangers): Nothing but no-frills, thrashy black metal fun on this lively little EP by the Chilean band. Tailor made for those interested in the filthier side of thrash, namely very early Sodom and Sarcofago.

Machinae Supremacy, Phantom Shadow (Spinefarm): If you think your power metal just isn’t right without corny Commodore 64 music, then this Swedish band has you covered. Frankly, I find it unbearable, but if it floats your boat, be my guest.

Sea of Bones, The Earth Wants Us Dead (Gilead): If the kind of doom you’re after is the sludgy sort, the kind that delves, deep, deep into the sludgier side of the genre to uncover something darker and uglier than the more melodic, blues-derived aspect of the sound, then you can’t go wrong with this Connecticut band. Typically it’s powerful to the point of mortifying when they slow things down to a droning, funereal pace, but it’s moments like the Neurosis-like “Black Arm” and the multifaceted “Failure of Light” where this album becomes truly exhilarating. Even the 39-minute drone piece that concludes the album is remarkable in its discipline and moodiness. You know what you’re going to get with Sea of Bones, and that still doesn’t prepare you for the wickedness they have in store. If you missed out on this fine album last year like I did, a new triple LP vinyl reissue is out now. Listen via Bandcamp.

X-Drive, Get Your Rock On (Frontiers): In which journeyman musicians – including James Lomenzo, formerly of Megadeth and White Lion – revisit the watered down cock rock of 1989 with a more, erm, “modern” sensibility. Which means it sounds exactly like Nickelback, with almost as much smarm, and zero charm. Go listen to the new Kix album instead.

Not metal, but worth hearing:

The New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers (Matador): For 15 years – wow, how time flies – The New Pornographers have served as a very welcome, sunny respite from a declining increasingly boring indie rock scene, a reminder that a simple, beautiful hook will lift your spirits more than sounding precious and looking fashionable. These old Vancouver friends have always had remarkable chemistry on record, and this sixth album ranks as one of their best. Again, it’s led by A.C. Newman, whose Jeff Lynne-via-Bacharach pop sensibility meshes so well with his enigmatic lyrics, accentuated so well by the great Neko Case, who serves as the perfect vocal foil on “Champions of Red Wine” and “Fantasy Fools”. Inimitable Destroyer impresario Dan Bejar, who always does his best work with this band, hits a high note with the playful “War on the East Coast” and the more incessant “Born With a Sound”. Initially intended as a one-off project, this band has become one of the most enduring, endearing indie bands of our time, and this album fires on all cylinders.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

STREAMING: Blackwolfgoat’s “Drone Maintenance”

By: Jeff Treppel Posted in: exclusive, featured, listen On: Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

blackwolfgoat-31-Photo-by-JJ-Koczan

“Black,” “wolf”, and “goat” are all words frequently found in the pages of our magazine, so any band with all three words in its name has to be good, right? Absolutely! Only probably not for the reason that you think. Blackwolfgoat is the solo project of guitarist Darryl Shepard (Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, Hackman, Milligram, Roadsaw), and it ain’t black metal. A mesmerizing mix of psychedelia, drone, and general experimentalism, Drone Maintenance takes the listener on a journey, its deliberate repetition bringing about an almost hypnotic state similar to Six Organs of Admittance or Ash Ra Tempel. Unlike most drone, things actually happen in these songs! Check out our exclusive premiere of the full album for yourself below.

***Drone Maintenance is out now via Small Stone. You can buy the CD or digital download here. Grab his last album here.

Rise to Snarl Again: English Dogs Q&A

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, interviews On: Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

rsz_promoimage

When the classic line-up of UK crossover heroes English Dogs reconvened for a raucous U.S. tour a few years back enthusiasm went straight through the squat roof.

And yet a rumored new album, even the band’s most ardent fans would likely admit, seemed a much dicier prospect.

After all, the 2011 jaunt focused on To the Ends of the Earth and Forward Into Battle — releases that dropped in ’84 and ’85, respectively. Capturing lightning in a bottle is one thing, but looking for a charged remnant of the bolt two or three decades later? That’s just crazy, right?

Wrong.

The Thing With Two Heads is a blistering triumph of a comeback record featuring vital and adventurous songs informed by the celebrated English Dogs sound of yore rather than imprisoned to it. (The record is available today on CD, LP, and via Bandcamp.)

Decibel recently caught up with drummer Andrew “Pinch” Pinching and lead guitarist Graham “Gizz” Butt to chat about punks, monsters, and the different ways the flame still burns thirty-plus years on.

So…how’s it feel to have a new English Dogs record coming out in 2014?

GIZZ: [Laughs] We’ve done it at last and who would have believed it? It’s a bloody miracle I tell you! There’s a colossal sense of pride that I feel between us all. We’ve managed something which is absolutely worthy of attention when only a few years ago we couldn’t imagine us ever even sitting around the same table.

PINCH: Bit of a surprise, really. We were only ever dipping our toes back in the water to see if anybody gave a shit any more and were pleasantly surprised to find out that not only the old heads remembered, but the kids had done their homework and were pretty excited to see us as well…It’s a tough place we put ourselves in — allegedly being too metal for punks but not metal enough for metal heads. Thankfully, we were never afraid to just release what we believed in. This record sounds like ’84-’85 era English Dogs. And for that, I am relieved and proud.

Before we get back to the future, I wanted to delve a bit into the past: English Dogs originally slayed right smack dab in the middle of one of most seminal moments in punk rock. You were label mates with GBH and Discharge. I’m curious, what do you think the biggest misconception is about that time? And how do you think those days compare with the scene you’re storming back into now?

GIZZ: I toured with and hero-worshipped GBH and we hung out together and had a lot of fun. But the early ’80′s weren’t always like that. What happened back then was partly a product of pain and misfortune. They were violent times — I remember once in 1980 being beaten right outside my front door by three guys. I was a thirteen year-old punk. These were two skins and one punk.Thatcher and Reagan evoked a fear of nuclear threat and this was 1984. We had all read George Orwell. It was heavy going and not long out of the 70′s when it was normal for fully grown men to beat the hell out of teenagers, maybe something they had picked up from the ways of the SS or the NF! Our parents did what they could but our gear was substandard and we couldn’t afford music lessons. We tried to imitate our heros by using our ears and our memory. Our songs were a reflection of our times. Our pain. Now it is a similar story. War everywhere, and who to believe? The muggings have started again and the safety we felt for a while has gone…because there is so much hate out there. Not long ago I was attacked, head-butted by a random guy for no reason, without warning. No one helped me. Once I’d cleared the blood from my face and went to look for him he had gone and nobody would tell me who he was. So once again we are able to write great songs, maybe because once again we are going through the pain. 1984. 2014. A thirty year cycle — same fears and life is still cheap.

PINCH: I’m not sure there were any misconceptions about the ’80 to ’84 hardcore punk scene in the UK. It did what it said on the label! The biggest tragedy to me was the fragmentation of an already small scene. Bands were suddenly split into categories — hardcore, crusty, anarcho, etcetera. It was stupid, really, as there were great bands in every scene and we were being fed bullshit that none of these scenes could mix. I was a huge Rudimentary Peni fan, but never saw them. I loved their music and their message was powerful, but did I live my life by their writings? Fuck no! Did it make them less attractive because they were a Crass band? No, but would they ever consider playing with a band like us? Unfortunately not. There was definitely an air of snobbery around some bands back then, which was hard to come to terms with, as we were all on the streets fighting the same fight about working and living conditions and dealing with the same dickheads who wanted to fight with you everywhere you went. Fortunately, it seems like most of the violence has gone from shows and there is a real spirit of camaraderie, where it is ok to like multiple forms of music and just be who you are. The world seems like a very different place to the 80s now, but really, is it?

How’d the 2012 reunion for the classic line-up’s first North American tour since 1985 come about?

Comments Off

Pardon, Please: The Deciblog Interview With Lord Worm

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, interviews, The Decibel Study Hall of Fame On: Monday, August 25th, 2014

Rage_Nucleaire_15_(c)Jean_Sebastien_St-Pierre_small

Dan Greening — alias Lord Worm — is one of the few true mavericks in death metal. Worm is best known for his work with Cryptopsy; Decibel Hall Of Fame inductee None So Vile and potential inductee Blasphemy Made Flesh are genre classics. Worm’s work with Cryptopsy is inimitable; his lyrics are crazed poetry as notable for their humor, wordplay and puns as for their over-the-top violence. Consider the opening line to the classic “Defenestration”: Oh what a gal!/She seems such a perfect victim/This I can tell, for if beauty by guilt/she’s guilty. And while some consider Worm’s voice an acquired taste the only real competition for extreme metal screams in the past two decades is Dave Hunt of Anaal Nathrakh.

Worm rejoined Cryptopsy earlier in the new millennium and appeared on the underrated Once Was Not. Since leaving the band he has worked with Rage Nucléaire, a Canadian industrial death metal hybrid. Rage recently released their second album Black Storm Of Violence via Season Of Mist. Worm talked to us about the new album, teaching English and why songs about serial killers have gone stale.

You recently participated in an academic conference in Canada on extreme metal (Grimposium). What was that experience like? Could you ever have imagined something like this when you started playing metal?

I never would have imagined anything like it. Here you have all these people with doctorates and masters. You know the sitcom Big Bang Theory? I was Howard. I was the guy at the symposium without a doctorate. So it felt weird. They got a hold of me from Jason (Netherton) of Misery Index — he suggested me.

How did the whole weekend roll out?

It was supposed to be a Friday and Saturday and kind of grew from Wednesday to Sunday. There was a bunch of shows: Carcass, Gorguts and Voivod. They got a bunch of tickets for people who wanted to go.

Well, you’ve made your living as a teacher, right? So it probably didn’t feel alien.

The situation wasn’t alien but – how can I put this — I work with a language center. I get contracts and I go to these student’s workplaces by schedule as opposed to a classroom. Someone from the language center in Quebec gives me a call and says: “we have a bank president that’s only at a certain level of expertise with English and needs more for whatever reason.” It might be a 30 or 60-day contract for twice a week. It’s government people, company people, CEOs, even secretaries. But it is rewarding when they get that little light in their eyes.

Has anyone ever been a death metal fan and noticed you?

A couple times and one really threw me. It was a middle-aged lady who decided to Google her teacher. She came to me about halfway through the year and said: “I hear you have a pseudonym.” And I’m thinking: “uh, oh.” I told her to just ignore it and get back to class.

When you aren’t making music and teaching what are you doing?

Drinking, of course, is a huge part of my life. I live for my liver. I’m the quintessential half drunk English teacher. The best way to teach is halfway sober. And I’m a cinephile and I collect movies.

Don’t you worry that any stuff you buy will get replaced with a new format?

I should start saving for whatever copy is next because I can’t be without my movies. There’s one I watch about every six weeks: Spinal Tap. Cryptopsy was kind of like Spinal Tap; we really are that stupid.

There’s a fine line between clever and stupid.

We straddle that line and it hurts our ball sacks.

Had you always imagined doing something like Rage Nucléaire ?

I was approached by the guys in the band to do a four-song demo but I still wasn’t done with Cryptopsy. It ended up being about three or four years before we could get anything done. By then it grew to a full-length album. I really liked what I heard; they gave me the album (Unrelenting Fucking Hatred) complete but instrumental. I just had to add my bits. This new record wasn’t the case. I got to sit down with the guys and compose.

Did that make you feel more a part of the whole process?

Well, the first Rage Nucléaire album actually felt a lot like the last Cryptopsy album Once Was Not. In both cases I was handed a instrumental full-length album and asked to put my stuff on top of it. So I much prefer the second Rage album.

When you have to work like you did for the first record how do you put your thoughts together?

I’ve done for years and this goes back to the late 80s before Cryptopsy. I’m always in the process of writing lyrics. My journal is an old green thing with a bunch of lined paper. I don’t do anything on a word processor; I’m old school. There are cocktail napkins, matchbooks, and bits of paper. I’ll write a bunch and some words will come and I need to jot them down immediately.

Do any of your songs come fully formed or do you usually work with pieces?

The best songs — if they don’t come all at once — it’s nearly all at once. “Goddess Of Filth” on the new album came while we were in a basement, literally under the stairs. There’s just room for two chairs and computer. We were trying riffs and drum programming. We put “A Sino-American Chainsaw War” aside because “Goddess of Filth” was so good we had to stop what we were doing.

How has your lyric writing changed since Cryptopsy?

It’s a bit different. In earlier Cryptopsy – the first two albums – I hadn’t done much before. We’d jam once a week on Friday and get a bunch of beer. (For example) one day the band came with something totally inspired. We listened to it and I flipped through my lyrics and we turned it into a song you might know called “Abigor.” (laughs). The process took about twenty minutes. Sometimes things click together and it works and other times it’s extremely painful; when we were doing “Orgiastic Disembowelment” it was painful and it took me like four months to complete.

So on this record was it more things coming together or pain?

There’s no pain with Rage. We also gather on Fridays. We never use the word “no.” Everything is worth trying. There’s no “that sucks” – there is mutual respect. We try everything and when something fits we know it. When it works like it did with the song “Black Storm Of Violence,” which took a few weeks, it works out well.

You have to explain the song the “A Sino-American Chainsaw War” (which premiered earlier this year on the Deciblog).

It’s a title that came to me one day. Back in 2006 we were in Europe touring with Grave and Aborted. We were in Belgium and Sven (de Caluwé) from Aborted had all of these song titles — songs he hadn’t finished. He always writes the title then the lyrics. I thought that was interesting challenge. For this album the challenge was “A Sino-American Chainsaw War.” It’s a “what if?” scenario. What if there were no explosives and war had to be fought with bladed instruments, but they could be gas powered? (laughs). It’s basically medieval warfare with gas!

One thing I’ve noticed that’s different between Cryptopy and Rage is that with Cryptopsy you wrote about individual moments of horror and terror – like getting thrown out of a window. Now the focus is terror on a global scale. What changed?

So, the switch from personal to global terror? It was the logical choice. When I was writing for Cryptopsy in the early days like one or two bands were doing the whole serial killer motif: Cannibal Corpse and maybe two others. I was one of the few and the proud. Then, everyone started doing it, even grindcore and black metal bands. Everyone was doing the serial killer thing. I needed a new shtick.

Have you heard a good new serial killer song in recent years or has that been spent?

The music might be interesting now. Lyrically, though, no. I haven’t read any interesting serial killer lyrics. They are torture porn, aren’t they? We get that already in cinema.

I think you presented it with a certain artistry and verbal flair and now it’s like an audio version of the movie Hostel.

Fair enough. I try to keep that flair going. Even when I use second person singular I try to make it something anyone could potential feel.

I can’t think of anyone else in metal who started a song “pardon, please”…

Ah, the old “Slit Your Guts” thing. Oddly enough, on one of their tours during my first Cryptopsy hiatus early in the millennium they found themselves on tour with Cradle of Filth and Flo (Mounier, Cryptopsy drummer) was hanging out with Dani Filth. Mr. Filth confided that he actually managed to rip off “Slit Your Guts” in one of his songs. I saw it in a lyric book and, yeah, he borrowed. It’s a compliment. Dani Filth borrowed from me – what are you going to do?

What song is it?

I don’t remember. I only have their first album. They got too vampiric for me. Vampires are too sexy and I’m asexual. Give me zombies every time.

What do you like to hear in death metal lyrics?

There has to be a back end of black, black humor. It needs to be the same type of humor Clive Barker is guilty of, or the band Nuclear Death. They are the metal Clive Barker. The black humor turns me on every time.

Cryptopsy at the end was taking a toll on your health and our voice. Considering that are you done with that sort of lifestyle?

I won’t state categorically that it’s over but Rage just can’t tour. Fred (Widigs, drummer) plays with Marduk so we don’t have a drummer. Flo actually agreed to play but Alvater and Dark Rage can’t tour for different reasons so that would leave it as a one man band with a drummer and I’m not going to do that. I’m not so addicted to this that I’m just going to do it for the sake of doing it. Any live tours would have to be with a live band.

It’s sort of nice to even be able to choose between Fred and Flo Mounier.

It’s an honor. We’re very pleased to work with Fred. Even though we’ve never met the man he seems like the kind of guy we could hang out with.

Did touring make you not like music for a while?

No. I don’t like touring but for different reasons. As for music, any time you become creative it sticks with you forever. I can’t not make music or not write. It becomes like a zit that turns into a boil when you don’t scratch it. So, I have to create. That will never stop.

Do you ever think of your place in the death metal genre?

I’m too busy creating to worry about it. People can go online and argue about it, but I need to work.