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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Decibrity Playlist: Mutilation Rites

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, July 31st, 2014

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Mutilation Rites’ last record, Empyrean, landed on our top 40 records of 2012. To these ears, however, the group’s new LP tops that effort and so we’ve been playing it on a near daily basis since it dropped last week (Daniel Lake also streamed the whole thing here earlier this month). Since the Brooklynites just finished up an East Coast jaunt, we figured we’d check in with bassist Ryan Jones about what he and his bandmates spin in the van while on the road (we’re really going to start a book of these soon). Not surprisingly, his picks span the musical spectrum. Be sure to pick up a copy of Harbinger here.

Eyehategod’s “Anxiety Hangover” (from 1996′s Dopesick)
Because I usually have one. Eyehategod is a staple in our van and this is one that creeps into the mix often.

Dispirit’s “Ixtab’s Lure” (from 2010′s Rehearsal At Oboroten demo)
This is good for a post-show drive on a shitty rainy night when everyone else is passed out and it’s just you and the road. This song weaves you down a murky path to hell.

Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman” (from 1968′s Devil Got My Woman
Distorted guitars and pummeling drums can get tiring on tour. This is a different kind of heavy that no screaming can conjure.

Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass’s “Spanish Flea” (from 1965′s !!Going Places!!)
We listen to this song in the van to take a mental vacation. To a place where the water is clear, the linens are clean and the children are happy.

Abominable Putridity’s “Skin Removal” (from 2007′s In The End Of Human Existence)
Somebody better call the Slambulance!

Motörhead’s “Born To Raise Hell” (from 1993′s Bastards)
This is the anthem to get us in the mood for the after-party.

Tangorodrim’s “Horror” (from 2002′s Those Who Unleashed)
Israeli Hellhammer worship! Self-described “alcoholic black metal”, these guys would apparently get completely shitfaced and loosely write songs. It’s like they wrote music just for me. They changed drummers after this album and then released a more focused album, but I prefer the earlier material.

The Yellow River Boys’ “Hot Piss” (from 2013′s Urinal St. Station)
Good old fashioned American rock ‘n’ roll!

Blasphemophagher’s “Chaostorm Of Atomization” (from 2011′s The III Command of the Absolute Chaos)
Italian war metal freaks, this is the opening track on their most recent full-length. After a stereotypical metal album intro, complete with computer game Doom samples of demons and fireballs shooting, the song starts with riffs that go straight for the jugular. A band with significantly more clarity in production than most muddy and hissed Blasphemy worship bands, this album is one of my more recent favorites.

Vordr’s “Rhythm Of The Storms” (from 2004′s I)
Finnish ignorance. A slightly more audible Ildjarn, these guys are the kings of the monkey beat. Some people get turned off by the tortured vocals, but I love early Burzum and don’t find these vocals nearly as offensive as that or Silencer or any of that other goofy DSBM people get down with.

*Pick up a copy of Harbinger here.

***For past Decibrity entries, click here

STREAMING: Bastard Of The Skies and Grimpen Mire

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, listen On: Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

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For your streaming pleasure this Wednesday, the Deciblog presents a British sludge noise vs. doom knife fight courtesy of the Bastard of The Skies and Grimpen Mire joint LP from Future Noise Recordings.

Bastard Of The Skies, last heard from two years ago on their LP Tarnation, do their damage via monster riffs touched with attitude. Grimpen Mire has just three songs on their side of the split — so we’re streaming a third — and it’s all doom and darkness.

All seven songs were recorded at Bastard guitarist/vocalist Matt Richardson’s Full Stack Studio and mastered by James Plotkin (OLD, Khanate, Khlyst). Michael Cowell’ designed the artwork. You can order the limited release LP here. Enjoy.

Sucker For Punishment: I Got Hurt Feelings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what’s also out this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not metal, but worth hearing:

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

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

VIDEO PREMIERE: Eluveitie’s “Call of the Mountain”

By: Jeff Treppel Posted in: featured, videos On: Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

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Folk metal, fuck yeah. You know what I like about the video for Eluveitie’s “Call of the Mountain?” Lots of nature. You don’t need crappy CG for your video when you have the beautiful wintry landscapes of Switzerland. I guess there is also a dude with a harp and some woman standing on top of a mountain (although if she’s the one that’s calling, does that make her the mountain?). But man, in the middle of this sweltering summer, that mountain’s call seems pretty irresistible to me. Cool down and get your pagan on with our premiere of the video below.

***Origins comes out August 1 on Nuclear Blast. You can stream the whole thing for free right now here and preorder it here. In the meantime, check out their website and follow them on Facebook.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Device (CA)’s “Miracle Metal”

By: Jeff Treppel Posted in: exclusive, featured, free, listen On: Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

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No, not THAT Device. This Device is from Canada, which instantly makes them 1000% cooler. Featuring noted metal scribe Kyle Harcott putting his money where his mouth is (or drumstick holding/typing hands) and a sweet space station album cover from up-and-coming designer Brandon Duncan, Device go decidedly old-school. Not just the usual touchstones like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, though; they put their knowledge of deep metal cuts to use, at times reminding listener of Manilla Road or Cirith Ungol. Their album came out last Saturday, and the whole thing is streaming on Bandcamp. As a special treat to Decibel readers, though, they’ve decided to offer their track “Miracle Metal” as a free download. Grab it below, and when you like what you hear, go buy the whole thing and support a band called Device that ISN’T terrible.

***Device is out now; download it or order the CD here.

The Phantom of the Paradise is Back!

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, gnarly one-offs On: Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

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Never thought I’d get to meet the devil
Never thought I’d meet him face to face
Heard he always worked alone, that he seldom wrote or used a phone
So I walked right up to meet him at his place

Two years before unleashing Carrie on the world in 1976, Brian DePalma concocted the profoundly weird, unabashedly flamboyant horror-flick-meets-rock-opera romp Phantom of the Paradise — a brilliant film as gleefully deranged as it is slyly subversive and featuring myriad aesthetic wonders and narrative oddities…including — though hardly limited to! — a performance that provides the bridge between KISS and Dead-esque corpsepaint as well as a live “ritual” that out-Watains Watain…

Phantom tells the story of Winslow Leach, a young starry-eyed composer struggling to garner some attention for his cantata inspired by the life of Faust. (You see where this is heading…) Alas, Leach falls victim to flattery and does the one thing worse than selling his soul to the Devil — he signs an extremely lopsided recording contract with Swan, minion of Hell, CEO of Death Records, and proprietor of the soon-to-be-opened Paradise rock club.

Still, at first all Leach’s dreams appear to be coming true — his work is being produced, and he meets a sweet and alluring singer boasting a magnificent set of pipes who seems at least as interested in him as his work. But soon Leach finds himself on the outside looking in as Swan’s machine works to pervert his artistic vision and steal his lady. And when he tries to regain some semblance of control, Swan has him framed for smack and sent to Sing Sing where his teeth are replaced with metal in a pilot program designed to prevent gingivitis (!) Driven mad by a boy-ish band version of his song on the prison radio, Leach escapes prison and breaks into Death Records HQ. Unfortunately, a not-too-smooth attempt at sabotage gets poor Leach’s head cranked in a record press and, left for dead, the broken and disfigured man sneaks off to the Paradise where he plots his revenge as the Phantom.

The trailblazers over at Scream Factory were kind enough to send Decibel a copy of the upcoming Phantom of the Paradise deluxe reissue — out next week — and, lord, is it a thing of beauty! The high-def transfer of the film is gorgeous; the extensive interviews with DePalma, composer/star Paul Williams, and actress Jessica Harper (Suspiria), among many others, are entertaining and edifying; and the doc on the making of the film — “Paradise Regained” — is something else.

This classic is about to expand its cult, as well it should.

After the jump, a clip from the film via Scream Factory and the official trailer…

Bad Mojo: Death Curse Premiere!

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: exclusive, featured, listen On: Monday, July 28th, 2014

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So…here’s one of those times when you actually can go ahead and judge an album by its cover: Friday the 13th obsessives Death Curse play nasty, fuzzy, stripped down death n’ roll and the band isn’t really isn’t inclined to do fuck-all to pretty it up for anyone outside the horror metal cult.

We’ve got an exclusive track from the upcoming debut on Razorback Records later this year.

Get grimy or get scared — the choice is yours!

In other Razorback news, the second issue of the label’s horror culture mag Evilspeak is out now. Our review of the first issue lives here.

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Ihsahn (Emperor) interviewed

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, July 28th, 2014

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** Hall of Famers Emperor are celebrating the 20th anniversary of black metal classic, In the Nightside Eclipse. As part of our journalistic duties, we couldn’t pass up a chance to talk to icon/good guy Ihsahn about two decades of black fucking metal and why this time Emperor are taking the stage with them to the grave.

What prompted you to re-start Emperor this time? Sure, In the Nightside Eclipse is celebrating two decades. And you’ve got Faust and Trym back as well.
Ihsahn: When we started doing this again—rehearsing—it was about the time I released by previous [solo] album. Not sure if you heard that, but it’s kind of experimental, but it comes from a very primal place inside. It’s very connected to the old-school black metal atmosphere. Even though musically they’re different, they come from a similar place. Having done that album it was pretty easy to get into the old songs again. With the lineup it’s the same as last time, except we had Faust on drums, which is working out really well. That was criteria to do this. I didn’t want repeat what we had done in 2006-2007. Just run through the whole album, preferably with Faust on drums, if you know what I mean. Trym has a different style from Faust. He [Trym] has a tendency to speed everything up. [Laughs] It’s nice to play the songs as they are on the album again. There’s a lot small details that Faust does that Trym didn’t do.

You didn’t tour much in the early ’90s. You had one tour—the UK tour with Cradle of Filth, if I’m not mistaken.
Ihsahn: Our UK tour was pretty much it apart from a few shows in Norway. That was pretty much it. Back in those days touring wasn’t really done in Norwegian black metal. There wasn’t a sketch. There was no second album, do a European tour, do the third album, do a European and US tour. None of that. It wasn’t organized like that back then.

Well, it wasn’t a cool thing to do for black metal back then either. Touring was a “life metal” job, even though Immortal and Marduk toured.
Ihsahn: It didn’t have the same priority. To me personally, it’s always been that way. I’ve only done a few shows considering I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. [Laughs]

Why is that, looking back on your time in Emperor?
Ihsahn: Well, I was a bit put off by the first European and US tours we did. I enjoyed playing the shows, but everything else around it… life on the road isn’t cut out for me. The tours were badly organized. There were drunken people everywhere. All the technical issues. It wears you out. Over the years, I picked up touring with my solo stuff. It’s not that I don’t like playing live though. I just prefer doing creative work in the studio. So, these last few years where I’ve been with Leprous as my backing band have been great. We only do like 8-10 shows per year. That’s best of both worlds for me.

Does nostalgia play into your recent live performances?
Ihsahn: No, not really. [Laughs] Nostalgia is something you have to be very aware of. When you’re playing a show—and I think most artist relate to this—you can’t really think about much. You’re just in your environment playing. When you start to think about too much that’s when you start to screw up. You have to be in the moment. At that point, it doesn’t really matter what the songs are.

In the Nightside Eclipse has a very special place in many hearts. Hearing these songs live again is important to people.
Ihsahn: I can relate to albums I grew up listening to that did something special for me. Like with Iron Maiden. It’s only then you can really connect. That’s when nostalgia hits. I mean if you listen to an album in your teens and suddenly you hear the album again years later, you can remember the smells, the thoughts, the places you hadn’t thought about in, say, 15 years. As people, we connect very strongly to music. I think we store music memories in a different way. Music, as an art form, is an abstract thing. It’s up to the listener to fill in the blanks to make it meaningful. Going back to not being too conscious while playing the songs, the audience is the opposite. They’re coming to see us because they have a strong connection to the music. This is a kind of music you can’t pull off just technically. It’s not that technical. It has to have an edge to it. An atmosphere to it. People aren’t easily fooled if you aren’t coming from an honest place with this type of music.

Keyboards weren’t exclusive to Emperor. But, I think, Emperor used the instrument more effectively than others. Why did you use keyboards as a scaping device?
Ihsahn: That was a result of our previous bands. Me and Samoth had our own bands prior to Emperor. In those bands, we had keyboards. I started out on keyboard when I was 6 or 7. I didn’t start playing electric guitar until I was 10 or 11. Emperor started out as a back-to-basics extreme black metal band with no keyboards. More of a punk attitude. As soon as that became a priority for our projects we started to add in the elements from our previous bands. I have to admit, as much as we listened to black metal, we listened to a lot of soundtracks. Horror movie soundtracks. Inspiration came from these big, grandiose, larger-than-life sounds. The orchestral parts added impact to our music. A lot of extreme metal is one-dimensional. There are no dynamics. I won’t say it’s boring, but it’s just full-on aggression. Black metal, as opposed to death metal, has more emotional depth. The vocal style and the music can be expressed without being too technical. It’s almost romantically melancholic. There’s a wider span in a way. I always missed that in extreme music. So, that’s why I wanted to put in layers of keyboards. Whatever to create swells in our music.

How old were you when you recorded In the Nightside Eclipse?
Ihsahn: By the time we got to record it I was 17.

Late teens. Most guys that age are out chasing girls, drinking beer, trying to find their place in this world. You were creating a black metal landmark.
Ihsahn: [Laughs] Well, we did that too. We were pretty normal in that sense. I do remember when we recorded the album, some of the other guys got to go to the pub. They were a bit older. People ask me that all the time. I remember that so well. The guys got to go to this rock pub in Bergen, where we recorded the album. I was kicked out the first night ’cause I wasn’t 18. So, I stayed in the studio with Pytten [aka Eirik Hundvin], doing vocals, keyboard layers, lead guitars while the other guys went to the pub. That spurred me on to the whole studio passion thing. [Laughs] But, remember, we were deep into this. It was a very strong subculture with very few people involved.

I always wondered why everyone went to Pytten early on.
Ihsahn: It was just that he did the Burzum stuff. The Immortal records. He did the Mayhem record. It was one of those studios that had good references. It was like the Florida studio that had all the death metal bands. Morrisound. Pytten isn’t a metalhead though. At all. [Laughs] He did country records. A lot of people remember him as a host of a youth program in Norway in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. A lot of the black metal bands were teenagers, with hard empathies and sympathies, extreme philosophies, ways we looked at the world. He had absolutely no problem with that. He treated us a young people. With respect. He took us 100 percent seriously. But he understood we were young. He understood what we wanted to achieve. He understood that we wanted this sound, drenched in reverb with explosions going on. He was very open-minded. He still is. People his age are normally put off by what we stood for and would be much more moralistic about the bands and the guys in the bands. At the time, because we had such extreme views, we were confronted as adults. He managed to see through all that. He was a friend and a collaborator.

You were, as your solo debut correctly called, adversaries. Enemies of the state, so to speak.
Ihsahn: [Laughs] You’re right. The more we were confronted and the more opposition we faced, we had two choices: fall over or use it as more fuel. It was fuel for the fire for us. Peoples’ strong reaction to us meant we had impact. It underlined the differences between us and them.

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Do you ever look back at the promo photos you took in the early ‘90s and laugh? Taken out of context they look a bit strange.
Ihsahn: Having done this for such a long time, the pictures go along with the album covers. You get used to them. It’s not like they pop up after 20 years and you’ve forgotten them. They are part of us. I still remember our mindset. At the time, we felt perfectly comfortable wearing make-up and dressing up for the photo sessions. Obviously, the mystique we were able to create back then you can’t do today. The Internet is everywhere. Sure, people then thought it was ridiculous too. Most of the magazines—at the time of Eclipse and Anthems—thought we were absolute idiots. The music was crap. Now, I see Eclipse next to Black Sabbath as “important albums” in the same magazines. It’s interesting and absurd to see how public opinion changes.

Time changes everything.
Ihsahn: It’s like that with all subgenres and subcultures. Eventually, they’re accepted.

Tattoos are good example. For years, tattoos meant you were an ex-convict, in the Navy, a biker, a drug addict, or someone who had a really terrible life history. Now, tattoos are everywhere.
Ihsahn: I see that in the small town I live in. I feel like my wife and I are the special ones now. We don’t have tattoos. [Laughs] I’m rather happy I don’t have the tattoos I wanted when I was 17.

Right. Like a huge Baphomet on your chest. Or a pentagram on your back.
Ihsahn: More or less. You’re spot on. [Laughs]

Why didn’t you get tattoos? I don’t have them either, which is probably tied to my strong sense of regret.
Ihsahn: Well, my parents basically told me I could get my driver’s license—the money for it—if I didn’t get tattooed back then. And there you have it. If I wanted to drive I couldn’t have tattoos. [Laughs]

OK, any chance of doing a US tour?
Ihsahn: With this lineup we didn’t bother getting work visas. The last reunion was without Samoth. Now, with Faust, it would be very far-fetched. You probably know why it wouldn’t work. [Laughs] It would be stressful to everyone. There’d be a lot of disappointment, I think. It would be great though. When we announced the shows last year, our manager had to turn down 60 offers. He’s now turned down over 100 offers. We got an offer to tour with Slayer and Marilyn Manson in 2007. Our record company wanted us to do it. So, it’s been no secret I’ve been reluctant to do the reunion again. I’m 38 now. I don’t want to message to be, “I give up. I can’t do anything new. So, I’ll just play the old classics.” I don’t want to be that guy. I mean, in 2006 we set out to do one show. We ended up doing much more than that. We want to keep this run short but sweet. Special. It’s been 20 years since Eclipse. Let’s celebrate that and move forward.

I think it’s pretty incredible Emperor gave you a career. That Emperor remains close to people is remarkable.
Ihsahn: It’s a huge privilege. Me and Samoth talk about this all the time. When me and Samoth started Emperor in ’91 and even when we recorded Eclipse, we had absolutely no commercial thoughts. At all. Making a living out of this wasn’t in our thoughts. Twenty years later, we played to 50,000 people at Hellfest. After, we grabbed a few beers and watched Black Sabbath. That’s not a bad day on the job is it? [Laughs] It’s pretty weird seeing the Emperor logo next to Black Sabbath and Aerosmith. Huge bands. We feel privileged, really. At the same time, we’re down to earth. We take it for what it is and to enjoy the moment. We want to respect our audience. They’ve made all this possible by keeping us in mind. When we quit in 2001 we were uncompromising. In all my career I’ve never compromised. I’ve been able to say “no” to anything I want. That makes me feel much better about what I’ve done and what I do today.

** Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse is out now as a remastered digibook and 2xLP. It’s available HERE. Chances are you already have it, but if you don’t, well, you’re missing out on a black metal great.