Interview: MARDUK’s Morgan “Evil” Håkansson on “Serpent Sermon” and jogging to black metal

By: jonathan.horsley Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, July 23rd, 2012

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Twelve albums in on a 22-year-old career and Swedish black metallers Marduk can still be relied upon 100 per cent to stick to the program and deliver a typically iconoclastic tour de force, touching upon all the genre essentials, anti-hymns to send toes curling in the Vatican and throughout Christendom. Serpent Sermon is pound for pound the most scabrous piece of BM orthodoxy that twelve bucks can buy. Here’s what founding member and spokesman, guitarist Morgan “Evil” Håkansson had to say about it.

The music business is rarely that exciting but what happened with Regain?
I don’t know, but it’s like what is happening all over the world with record labels having problems, and when they got into problems they couldn’t really keep up with the pace we were going. We had a gentleman’s agreement with Regain; we never had any paper so we could leave whenever we wanted. When we came to the conclusion that we wanted to leave, they agreed, so we’re still on good terms. We just decided we needed a new plateau for what we were doing. We’ve still got our own label Blooddawn Productions but as for which label we were going to work through, we went round more extreme metal labels than you can imagine and eventually we went with Century Media. They’re one of those labels who have been round for ages, they know what we were doing, and we just felt that they were the best base for a band like us.

Would you agree that Mortuus coming on board was the catalyst for your sound to change a bit?
I don’t know, I mean the vocalist is such a big change. People don’t notice it if it’s a drummer or a bassist but a new vocalist is a big change. We’ve got a vocalist that’s stepped up to the plate of being in the band, being a songwriter—as it should be in a band, everyone all on the same level, like we have right now. We have four people all striving for the same goal. It’s great to have a line-up that is so dedicated to what we are doing.

These days you’re not afraid to drop the tempo a bit.
We always tried to develop and delve deeper into the concept that we are working with. But we are a band who very much enjoys playing fast because the message comes across from playing fast…. So long as it has a meaning to it.

You’ve been going since 1990, it takes a lot of dedication; what keeps you going?
Absolutely, that’s why it’s such a great pleasure to have a line-up like this. When we made this album, Serpent Sermon, everyone took part in the songwriting. Our drummer [Lars Broddesson] has written so much of the material and has grown into the band, our bass player [Magnus Andersson aka Devo] as well. For us, it doesn’t matter who writes what because we all take part in the arrangements and work equally as a band. We’re four guys working for the same goal.

One of the things that you’ve been doing, and I would say since Rom5:12, is placing more emphasis on atmosphere. Has this been a conscious decision?
Yeah, you could be correct. It’s always weird to talk about your albums, and it’s such a cliched thing that when you talk to bands they always say, ‘Oh, this is the best we’ve done’, and maybe this isn’t the best but it’s equal to the best. I’m proud of all of our albums. I always believed that they are pillars that we the band can stand behind. Even if you go back to our earliest albums, I see things that I would do differently now but I still love themm and they represent what we were about in that time period. I believe that they are equally important in that way. But when you’ve just completed an album it’s so fresh in your mind, you’re so dedicated to it. You love it so much but in a way you hate it so much because you’ve heard it so much.


What was the writing and recording process like?

There’s no set pattern to our songwriting. Everybody writes music and we go back into the rehearsal bunker and each of us will bring up our ideas, and exchange them and everyone is open to suggestions, and when someone has a good idea it’s a good idea. If someone wants to change something it’s always for the sake of the band. We all work together. I don’t know if it’s democratic, though. It was a very basic recording; it’s very much a rock album in that respect; it’s got guitar, drums, bass and vocals. And it’s not some big wall of sound, that some bands and ourselves used to have, where you put six to eight guitars all playing together; this is just two guitars.

Does the songs all come from a riff?
Sometimes someone will bring in a whole song, sometimes I’ll have a riff. It’s always different. We never work to a pattern. I can only speak for myself, and sometimes I get inspiration from having just a song-title in my head, and it just comes naturally until the lyrics and music become one. I think it’s important the lyrics are reflected in the music. It’s not like what a lot of bands do; they record an album and then work on putting the lyrics to it. We work very hard to get the lyrics to fit the song to get the spiritual dynamics of it. For me that’s important, to have one thing reflected in the other. And the layout is important, so that the graphics relate to the music too. It takes one third music, one third lyrics and one third graphics to make it work. They should all speak to you; you should get a feel for the lyrics and the music throughout the layout too.

You talk about it being a stripped-down recording, is it important not to over-work it?

We record in a studio owned by our bass player so now we can go in and work 50 hours in a row on it; if we want, we can work day and night, go home for a week and come back in a week with fresh ears. This is great for the dynamics, rather than just having to be finished by a certain time. We only go in when we are in the mood for it. But overall it’s a pretty basic album.In a way, the last three or four albums have had a lot of death themes whereas this one is back to the more diabolical sense of what black metal is really all about

Is there a concept?
The title of the album peaks for the whole lyrical concept. The lyrics will be included so that everybody can make up their own mind; we shouldn’t need to explain it. The title and a lot of the song-titles really explain the whole concept and by reading the lyrics they will speak to everybody differently. They will all see it their own way. That’s what I like. When I am on tour and speak to fans I find out what they think it’s about, and sometimes it is completely different to how I see it. It’s just how the music and lyrics come alive in people’s minds.

Does there come a point where influences come not so much from music, and other bands, as they do from art, politics, etc?
When you are young you listen to a lot of bands and they inspire you but now it is not the music that inspires me. The music comes naturally when you have worked with it for a long time. I can be more inspired by an overall feeling, or just seeing something, a painting, architecture comes alive in my mind, historical happenings, whatever… It’s just a feeling that creates music in my head more than anything else. It’s writing a soundtrack to a happening. Whatever the lyrics are dealing with, it is reflected in the music and it’s the other way around, so you are writing the soundtrack to whatever that is.

Is it political?

We got a lot of people asking about the song-title “M.A.M.O.N.”, and whether it’s got something to do with money or what is going on in the world and it really doesn’t. But you can see the reflection of many things that are going on.

You’ve always been extreme but you’ve never really championed a manifesto in the way other bands do, be it politics or religion.

In a way, sure. I don’t really know why it should bother us what other bands are doing. I feel we are comfortable and dedicated and we are comfortable with our own creation, so I don’t need to reflect on what other bands are doing, or the so-called scene. That’s all like old lady magazines… ‘Oh, he said this. He did that!?’ People are so insecure. But I am proud of what I’m doing and I know where I’m going so I don’t really care what’s going on. I have my own agenda, my own ambitions, so I just follow that. We’re excited just to be making music, to work with a new label. The last few years haven’t been the best so it’s good to have a bigger label backing us up.

Is there any direction you feel you couldn’t take Marduk?
We can do whatever we want, that’s the way I see it. We don’t have any limitations—those are for other people. We’ve never been pinned down to do what others want us to do, in a narrow mind. We always do what we want. I just let the energy flow and it goes in the right direction.

Is black metal still extreme, still an elitist art-form?

Yeah, absolutely. I believe it is for a special few. I think so, and you see who is really dedicated, you can see who, in the long run, is still there.

You’ve been doing this for over 20 years now, do you view the world, music differently?

Of course I feel I’ve changed. I mean it’s a big thing whether you’re 17 or your 39 years old, of course you see things very differently. I still have those same ingrained principled thoughts from back in the day but of course I’ve changed throughout my life. Personally, I feel stronger in body and mind than I have ever done before, and even when I go back to an album like Those of the Unlight, the lyrics will speak to me in a very different way. I had an idea about those lyrics back then, but now they speak to me in a different way and that fascinates me. They mean even more to me right now. That is the magic of music. And that’s the thing I like when it comes to our albums, when we go on tour everybody has a different favourite album. I meet up with people who’ll say that Opus Nocturne is the best thing we’ve done, or it’s the latest album or whatever; everybody has a different favourite and I believe that is a very good sign that you have done something out of the ordinary.

Does the sensationalist obsession with black metal still surprise you?

Some people are stuck in histories that happened a long time ago, ha ha ha! I don’t know, people will always have a sensational interest in some things.

What’s the plan for Marduk now?
We’re trying to reach as many territories as we can before we go back to work on the next album. I don’t think it is going to take three years between this and the next album. I think that is a very good sign for the next one. But right now we’re just very glad to go out on the road and march out and deliver the new material. That’s a healthy sign. When it comes to bands there are a lot of them who are living on one or two things they have done in the past, and making a living off of that. I believe that you are only as good as your latest album. I don’t believe in being sentimental. I’m still proud of the albums we did in the past and we try to play as much as we can when we are on tour but I believe in where we are now.

You’re very passionate about getting to as many countries as possible.You must have seen a lot of strange things in your line of work. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen when on tour?
For sure, a lot of strange things! Ha ha, it’s the whole thing of what is strange. I remember in the mid-90s in Barcelona, always at the same venue, we had a guy who would change into a jogging suit or whatever, and just be running around to the music in the hall—that’s strange. It’s strange playing the same places in ’94 and then seeing the same faces in ’95, then ’96… And I still consider us to be a young band because time flies so fast, but sometimes I’ll meet fans who weren’t even born when the first album came out, like… Man!?

**Serpent Sermon is out now through Century Media. Buy it here**

The Myth of the Peaceville Three

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, July 23rd, 2012

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This piece is a long lost companion section to Decibel #92 cover story Paradise Lost. It explores and debunks the myth of the Peaceville Three—Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Anathema—connecting and riffing off one another in the early to mid-’90s. Think of it as an updated version of fellow Decibel contributor Greg Moffitt’s UK doom explorations in the Masters of Misery expose, as masterfully penned in Decibel #50.

For the longest time, the media—hey, that’s us, too!—perpetuated the stereotype of the so-called ‘Peaceville Three’. Specifically, Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Anathema as some sort of Super Doom Team set out for the sole purpose of making teenage dudes introspect. To be fair, Decibel’s own Greg Moffitt tried in vain to dispel the myth in a December 2008 [with grumpy …And Justice-era Metallica on the cover] Masters of Misery article about the origins of the ‘Peaceville Three’ against the backdrop of Paradise Lost’s 20th anniversary show, which included strangely enough live performances from My Dying Bride and Anathema. Perhaps it was the fact that Peaceville’s most notable and sales-worthy bands—Extra Hot Sauce and Tekton Motor Corporation failed to make much of a dent, naturally—were all on the same label from the same country around approximately the same time. As Halmshaw explains in Moffitt’s expertly penned piece, Peaceville didn’t have a master plan to lord over UK’s most precious doom/death metal acts/exports, while the rest of labeldom were left with bottom-feeder acts in Enchantmant, Chorus of Ruin, and Acrimony. As with Paradise Lost, it was with My Dying Bride and Anathema. Goddamned geography.

“It’s an urban myth,” states Mackintosh. “I think Anathema and My Dying Bride formed in 1990 or 1991. We had already been gigging by then. And we had an album. We were on vinyl, which was a huge deal back then. And we were already off Peaceville in 1992. We were never really part of the so-called ‘Peaceville Three’. We hadn’t played with My Dying Bride until our 20th anniversary a few years back. I do recall Anathema supporting us in Liverpool. What I remember about that gig was they were very young kids. But, more importantly, we were at the bar and they go into a cover of “Eternal” from the Gothic album. We were thinking, ‘Shit! Why’d they cover this song?! We got to go on stage and play the same song!’ They ended up playing it slightly better than us, which was annoying.”

“Basically, from my recollection of the early days the ‘Big 3’ didn’t actually exist in its present form,” My Dying Bride guitarist Andrew Craighan adds. “What I mean was the bands were all there, but kind of oblivious to the other two and very much all were (if My Dying Bride are to be used as a gauge) doing their own thing. I never really liked Paradise Lost or Anathema’s earlier stuff to be honest and deliberately never listened to them because of the Peaceville/Northern England Doom connection.”

But therein lay a not-so-quiet rivalry. Not from Paradise Lost’s point of view—“I wouldn’t call it a competition,” Holmes giggles sardonically—but from that of My Dying Bride and Anathema it was game on. In many respects, Peaceville’s younger two felt they had something to prove by constantly measuring their, uh, woebegone worth. To be heavier, more experimental, or possessing and therefore expressing truer emotions; Anathema’s Danny Cavanagh outright accuses the other two of faking it in Moffitt’s exposition. “They viewed us as competition,” Mackintosh confirms, “but we never viewed them as competition. It never even crossed our minds. It wasn’t until years later that I spoke to Andy from My Dying Bride. He said, ‘In every interview they ask us about Paradise Lost.’ I think it used to annoy them. We never got any questions about My Dying Bride.”

“They [Paradise Lost] were our rivals then and us theirs,” Craighan asserts. “So, to us it was competition if anything. Be heavier. Be doomier. Be more morose. More brutal. Anything. So, in that respect they were a great influence on us as they kept us trying to be better at being My Dying Bride, for a while anyway. Once My Dying Bride had kind of clearly become the band it is we stopped taking any notice of them completely. Then, I suppose all three bands quite dramatically went their very own ways.”

OK, so there is no such thing as the ‘Peaceville Three’. Not in the minds, hearts, or music of the bands that helped coin the descriptor. But that doesn’t mean the towering triad didn’t influence a great deal of musicians and bands, as well as Anglophile magazine editors, over the course of their select and impressive discographies. That Paradise Lost’s Gothic and My Dying Bride’s Turn Loose the Swans have been inducted into the Hall of Fame isn’t a surprise to bands from Chicago and Santiago to Stockholm and Lazio who have taken what they wanted from England’s brightest lose-hearters and ran with it. Even so, the indelible fingerprints of Peaceville’s finest are and always will be recognizable. “It’s a very specific sub-genre,” says Mackintosh. “Often, bands influenced by us, and move on to do something of their own. We started out the same way. That’s how music starts. I remember the first time I heard Katatonia. It was in our manager’s office. He was playing Katatonia. I guess he thought I was moonlighting on another record. I thought the same thing when I first heard Lacuna Coil, with Andreas’ vocals. It’s like, ‘Christ! He sounds like Nick. It’s unbelievable!’ The thing is both bands went on to carve out their own niche in music. It’s a reference point. We had ours. And we were theirs.”

** Paradise Lost’s new album, Tragic Idol, is out now on Century Media Records. Be a king and grab it HERE.

The Lazarus Pit: Decoryah’s Wisdom Floats

By: Jeff Treppel Posted in: featured, lazarus pit, listen On: Friday, July 20th, 2012

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Welcome to The Lazarus Pit, a biweekly look at should-be classic metal records that don’t get nearly enough love; stuff that’s essential listening that you’ve probably never heard of; stuff that we’re too lazy to track down the band members to do a Hall Of Fame for.  This week, we go skinny dipping in the fall dark waters of Decoryah’s Wisdom Floats (Witchhunt).

Finland!  It’s a dark place.  Dark and cold.  And there are reindeer.  And saunas.  Basically, it kind of sucks to live there, which is why there’s been so much great metal originating from that country.  The Finns have a way with melody, although it’s usually laced with melancholy (see: Sentenced, Amorphis, Nightwish, really anybody).  Their misery is our musical gain.  And while there are some big obvious influential acts from the infant days of the 1990s, one that you very rarely hear about is Decoryah.

Formed in 1989, when the members were only 13, they recorded a few crappy demos (as was the case with pretty much everyone back then) before settling on the dark, doomy sound they would make their own.  It was an unusually ambitious style; simplicity didn’t suit them.  Instead, they went for a layered, classically-influenced approach, one that was so intricate that they never even bothered trying to perform live.  They probably shared more in common with Dead Can Dance or Fields of the Nephilim than Paradise Lost or My Dying Bride (although there are certainly heavy traces of the latter two).  Listening to it now, it doesn’t sound particularly unusual – this type of ornate, Gothic metal has become fairly commonplace.  Back in 1995, though, their debut, Wisdom Floats, was much more innovative.

For one thing, they were one of the first acts to do the beauty/beast, male/female vocal dynamic.  While Jukka Vuorinen handled the bulk of the moaning and growling, they liberally interweaved Karolina Olin and Sini Koivuniemi’s ethereal singing.  Combined with the keyboards, which played the part of both atmosphere generator and piano, that really gave the slow, gloomy compositions a unique ambience.  They also weren’t afraid to let the songs breathe – most of the tunes are over six minutes.  While none of them are exactly what you would call “catchy,” “Astral Mirage of Paradise” and “Monolithos” show how deftly they balanced darkness and beauty.

They released another, equally excellent record after this one, and then broke up.  Their allergy to touring didn’t help spread the word, and their original label, Witchhunt, didn’t really do a whole lot for them.  Even though they signed to Metal Blade, it’s not like Metal Blade in the mid-90s was any sort of meal ticket.  Also, from the interviews I’ve uncovered, the main guy doesn’t seem like the easiest dude to deal with.  Anyway, for whatever the reason, they broke up, and subsequently vanished – their legacy obscured by higher profile groups.  Still, their wisdom will hopefully float to the surface again.

Buy it here!

Interview – Max Côté blackens the Great White North

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Friday, July 20th, 2012

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It’s nice to have friends introduce us to new music, but in this age of ever flowing information and ubiquitous quick links, we often rely on bands’ personnel connections to lead us to our next aural awakening. Dude in our favorite death metal band also plays on this grind record or in that prog collective, and pretty soon we’re hopping among musical universes like a frog from lily pad to lily pad… or maybe more like a massive, hairy Ludo from rock to farting rock (if you’re not down with campy Muppet fantasy Labyrinth, then what’s the point of living?).

Canadian Maxime Côté provides just this kind of linkage among various Quebecois outlets of extremity. He captains the envelope-straining death project Hands of Despair, plays with blackened Gaul metal antagonists Catuvolcus, and has been technical guru for various other bands, including previous Deciblog denizens Aenygmist. The strength of his work to date, as well as his clear goals and his frankness in the interview below, bodes well for the continued growth of his solid musical offerings. Find about more about this extreme up-and-comer while getting an earful of “Them” from the recent (and soon to be physically released) Hands of Despair record, Hereafter.

So what’s your musical/technical background and training?

 I started playing guitar when I was around 16 years old (I am now 23). I took private lessons at first for about 2 years than decided that I wanted to play music as a living so I went to college to do a 3 years degree in music. This gave me the opportunity to develop my ears a lot more than my playing, since I didn’t have time to practice “shredding” exercises, nor the interest. It more precisely made my hearing a lot [better] and made it easier for me to translate what I was hearing in my head into the shape of music.

What music first got you interested in following this kind of work?

 A couple of bands really influenced me and made me discover new musical horizons. Naturally the first band that changed the way I saw music was Opeth. I remember that before listening to Opeth I was listening to mostly thrash metal like Slayer, Testament, Metallica and a lot of Slipknot too, then I discovered Opeth with the song “Blackwater Park”, and it was a shock. My father listened to a lot of old prog rock like Pink Floyd, Genesis, etc. and I didn’t really liked it back then because of the lack of aggression in the music. Opeth added the violence of death metal to prog rock structures and that’s why I immediately adored their music. I was amazed by the vocals and the progression in the songs. I then discovered some other prog bands who influenced me a lot, like Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation, but still less than Opeth did. The main other band that changed my way of writing music was Katatonia. Even though my Katatonia influences may seem a lot less present in Hands of Despair, Katatonia influenced me as much as Opeth by the way they put their feelings in their songs, and by the way they create an atmosphere within their songs.

What recordings have you worked on as a non-musician?

 I produced a couple of albums within the last few years. First band I mixed was Ablaze Coal, they had a bad experience with an expensive studio and they liked how my old Hands of Despair demo was sounding so they asked me to mix their EP. I did it but basically I wasn’t really [sure] what I was doing (haha). I did it for free though. [The] first band I really produced was Eyeless, a death prog band from Quebec. They were really talented so the recording went well; I spent a lot more time experiencing mixing and the mastering was done by Pierre Rémillard so the final result was pretty good I think for the first real EP/album I was producing. They’re now recording their first album and I’m sure it will be awesome. I then produced a couple of other bands, like Aenygmist, Inhaled, my other band Catuvolcus, and I’m now producing the album from The Unconscious Mind which will absolutely destroy and be my best production yet.

 I know you’ve written and recorded as Hands of Despair as well as for Catuvolcus. Can you describe the different emotional/thematic approaches to these projects?

 Whether I write for HoD or Catuvolcus is really clear for me, the riffing of the guitars is really different in both to start with. HoD is more about heavy riffs and dark atmospheres, where Catuvolcus there’s always 2 guitars playing different parts, and its more about tremolo picking and epic melodies. I know for which project a song will be before even composing it.

 Any other projects in the works?

 Hard to say. I think my [most recent] compositions don’t fit either HoD and Catuvolcus, so there may be another project in the works effectively (haha). I really want to make an album darker and more depressive then [HoD’s] Hereafter, but at the same time I don’t want HoD to become all mellow and lose all the aggression in the songs. But the next HoD album may be a lot different than Hereafter; I really don’t want to repeat myself and produce the same album time after time. I know a lot of bands are heavily criticized when they change their musical direction, but I honestly prefer that a lot more than a band who will release albums that sound all the same.

 Any plan of a physical release of the album?

 Absolutely, in fact Hands of Despair recently signed to Deathbound Records, a new label from Montreal who is a division of Metalodic Records more into the extreme metal band genre. They previously signed my other band Catuvolcus, and I got along really well with the guys from the label, so I sent them Hereafter and they really liked it. They then offered me a deal with HoD and I accepted it. The album will be available worldwide probably somewhere during next fall. It will include a bonus track, which will be a remake of an old song (“The Red Well”).

 What further goals do you have for your music or your behind-the-boards work?

 Recently I’ve been putting music a bit on the side since I’m still at school and it is my priority as of now. But I’d definitely want to do shows when I’ll have finished my degree. I easily see the appeal the songs would have being played live. I don’t want to make a living off music though; music is something I enjoy a lot because of the liberation it provides me and the sense of accomplishment I have from creating art. To make a living off music, especially in metal, is really hard. I don’t want music to become a chore, I’d prefer it to stay something I enjoy to do when I have free time. I fear that having to do long tours would stain the way I see music right now. I’d prefer to continue compose albums and start doing some shows locally, as soon as possible.

 As for my behind-the-boards work, I still enjoy doing it but not enough for making a living off it, for multiple reasons. Since music software is becoming better and better, a lot of bands just don’t practice anymore and just ask the engineer to correct their mistakes. I’ve been fortunate to work with great bands, but it’s still something that takes a lot of time and you basically have to work 7 days a week if you want to make a living off it, and this is definitely not what I want.

What other music/art/literature are you enjoying right now?

 I think 2012 is one of the greatest years for metal since a long while. A LOT of great albums are coming out this year. There was Alcest at the beginning of the year, Swallow the Sun too. New Katatonia and Daylight Dies are coming later this year and I’m sure they will be great because these bands never disappoint. I recently discovered Septicflesh and I really can’t stop listening to The Great Mass! “Therianthropy” is one of the greatest songs ever. I also re-discovered Ulver and I can say it reached my top 5 bands ever. Their DVD is one of the most amazing and creative piece of art I’ve ever seen. Same thing for Deathspell Omega; Paralectus was one of my favorite albums last year, and their upcoming EP is an absolute masterpiece. Their music is so chaotic and melodic at the same time, I don’t understand how can human beings compose this kind of music (haha).

 I’m also a big fan of movies and I have to say that they influence a lot my music. Songs I compose are really visual, and I compose lyrics like if I was writing the story of a movie. I love depressing movies, my favorite recent one is We Need to Talk About Kevin. I really like Christopher Nolan movies, and especially really can’t wait for the new Batman! I also enjoy David Cronenberg a lot, my favorite one probably being either Spider or A History of Violence.

**Check out more from Hands of Despair at this Bandcamp page.**

Fight Fire With Metal

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, gnarly one-offs, interviews, uncategorized On: Thursday, July 19th, 2012

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Obviously, War On Music’s Charley Justice works a lot faster than I do. When his original retail location at 38-44 Albert Street in downtown Winnipeg went up in flames back on April 19th, he ramped up his usual whirlwind of internalised kinetic energy and went to work at opening another location as quickly as possible. Within two months, he had a new place at 91 Albert and was back to selling records to Winnnipeg metalheads and punk rockers by the time I got in touch with him for an interview on the topic at hand in mid-June.

And if you’re scoring this one, note that it’s now a month later and I’m just getting around to running the ‘net chat I conducted with Charley. This dude is a firebrand, so read about his misfortune, hard work and help him out by dropping by if you’re in the Winnipeg area, or checking WOM online, and speading heartily. Tell ‘em that that lazy bastard KSP sent you!

CHOCK FULL O’CASPIAN

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, listen, uncategorized On: Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Caspian live photo

The past week or so has brought lots of Caspian news, which we were thrilled about given that aside from some shows here and there, it’s been a while since we’d heard from the instrumental post-rockers. According to their Facebook page, the Massholes spent much of April through June not playing, but rebounded nicely by announcing that they’d signed with Triple Crown Records and would release their third full-length (and first since 2009′s Tertia) this fall. Check out a preview of Waking Season below.

Sure the band’s records great, but we also witnessed their complete mastery of the live arena back in February. So if you haven’t checked out Caspian before, now is a perfect time seeing as they’ve made their first and only live album—recorded at the Old South Church in Boston in 2010 to benefit Amirah, a non-profit dedicated to providing whole-person care for victims of human sexual trafficking—available as a FREE download (which you can get by scrolling down here and providing your email and zip, or you can purchase a physical copy here). Be sure to check out closer “Sycamore”, which triumphantly ended the NYC show we saw with an unbelievable drum-circle of sorts…which might start to make sense if you listen to it, but it makes even more if you ever happen to see it yourself.

Speaking of which, the group also just announced a boatload of upcoming tour dates, so your opportunity to check them out first-hand is likely coming up soon if you live near any of the cities below.

Caspian tour dates:

09/13 Minneapolis, MN Varsity Theater
09/14 Milwaukee, WI The Rave
09/16 Iowa City, IA Blue Moose Tap House
09/17 Indianapolis, IN The Vogue
09/18 Grand Rapids, MI The Intersection
09/19 Cleveland Heights, OH Grog Shop
09/20 Rochester, NY Water Street Music Hall
09/21 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE
09/23 Sayreville, NJ Starland Ballroom
09/25 Silver Spring, MD The Fillmore
09/26 Clifton Park, NY Upstate Concert Hall
09/27 Boston, MA Royale Nightclub
09/28 Philadelphia, PA Electric Factory
09/29 New York, NY Best Buy Theater
09/30 Richmond, VA The National
10/01 Raleigh, NC Lincoln Theatre
10/16 Le Havre, France Mac Daid’s
10/17 Nantes, France Le Ferrailleur
10/18 Bordeaux, France I-Boat
10/23 Lyon, France Le Sonic
10/24 Colmar, France Le Grillen
10/26 Wil, Switzerland Gare De Lion
10/27 Laufen, Switzerland Biomill
10/28 Bern, Switzerland Neubrückstrasse
11/03 Ljubljana, Slovenia Channel Zero
11/04 Zagreb, Croatia Klub Attack
11/05 Vienna, Austria Chelsea / Lerchenfleder
11/07 Budapest, Hungary Dürer Kert
11/08 Prague, Czech Republic Club Stahov
11/09 Berlin, Germany Bi Nuu
11/10 Oelsnitz/Erzgebirge, Germany JH Ragga
11/11 Dresden, Germany Beatpol
11/12 Hamburg, Germany Kulturhaus III&70
11/13 Aarhus, Denmark Radar
11/14 Gothenburg, Sweden Fängelset
11/15 Osnabrück, Germany Kleine Freiheit
11/16 Oberhausen, Germany Druckluft
11/17 Ludwigshafen, Germany Das Haus
11/18 Wetzlar, Germany Franzis
11/19 Leipzig, Germany Conne Island
11/20 München, Germany Kranhalle

Garage Days Eternal: Zac Ohler’s Life In Hardcore

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, interviews On: Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

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If this sounds like the rambling of an old fart, so be it: kids have it too easy these days when it comes to underground music. If you have a laptop and spare time you have unfettered access to pretty much every rare treasure recorded during the past four decades of metal and punk. That wasn’t the case for longtime Strong Intention frontman Zac Ohler, who grew up in Western Maryland and routinely schlepped across states to see shows even when he feared he might get jumped for being a hardcore carpetbagger.

Ohler started his powerviolence/grind band Strong Intention back when Nirvana ruled the charts and has been at it ever since, with intermittent breaks. He’s an old school purist who still wishes he could release everything on vinyl and books shows despite a steady day job. Strong Intention recently released the EP Razorblade Express (on vinyl, of course). We were lucky enough to preview a song on this blog and can vouch that it will appeal to every angry listener with limited time in an ADHD world.

Ohler talked to dB during a recent tour about his upbringing in the hardcore world and the beauties of a life spent underground. Like Sick Of It All said way back in the 90s, the dude is built to last.

How long have you been at this?

I grew up in Cumberland, Maryland, which is two hours west of Baltimore and two hours east of Pittsburgh. It was a typical small town. You weren’t so far removed like the Midwest, five or six hours from everything. We had to travel and got used to it. If you wanted to go to killer shows you knew it would be at least two hours away. We also tried to bring some bands like All Out War and the old New York band Subzero here. When they did shows here it would be so well attended because there was a hunger – and you could bring your own beer.

Strong Intention started around 1993 or 1994. We started jamming on our own. We didn’t have any direction or purpose; we were kids trying to do something. There was nothing planned. We started playing locally and then some out of town shows and it grew from there. Around 1995 all the dudes wanted to start families and others wanted to be more like a death metal band. Since I ran the band I just decided to get some new guys when I moved.

Do you think growing up in Cumberland made your hunger for the music stronger?

When you are in a small town you need to make things happen. Just sitting around jamming with your friends is where it all comes from. You don’t go to a bar on a weekend – you jam and play metal or hardcore songs and make your own original stuff.

What were some of those trips to other cities to see shows like?

The first time we went to a show in New York City at CBGB’s we felt like we had a target on us, like we were out of towners. At other shows, I’d get cracked in the back of the head and realize that was the cost if I wanted to be up front. I never got into a fight or had anyone step to me. But New York City was the one place where being from out of town was an issue. In DC and Baltimore we made friends right away and knew we’d keep seeing friendly faces. In New York, there were none.

What was the first CBGB’s gig you went to?

It was the original Madball, Rejuvenate, Meraurder, Warzone and Agnostic Front.

That sounds like an intimidating lineup.

I’d been to so many shows and seen the Cro-Mags and Sheer Terror, the tough guy bands. I knew the crowd would be wild and out of control. But when Madball played it was violence on a scale I wasn’t prepared for; it was so over the top. When you are young you just roll with it.

What was the DC area punk scene like in the 90s, after the 80s heyday of harDCore?

I started going to shows around 1990, seeing Sick Of It all and Sheer Terror and other bands. You’d go to some shows and you never knew how things would turn it out. I’m not saying there aren’t any good bands now, but back then it was crazy. The shows were unpredictable; there were a lot more people and I don’t remember any small crowds. There wasn’t any Internet so you’d just find out about shows.

What show was the most memorable?

Agnostic Front when Roger (Miret) just got out of jail along with Sick Of It All at the old 9:30 club in D.C. It was just ferocious. I remember Sick Of It All came on stage and said “it’s good to be in DC.” It seemed odd how polite and unassuming they were. Then they said “do you guys know what time it is?” And they busted into “It’s Clobberin’ Time” and the place went nuts.

It was amped up even more when Roger and Agnostic came out. They played stuff from the Liberty And Justice for record and the classic stuff from the first couple of records. It was definitely one of the shows, like people say, that changed my life. I’ve been to bigger metal shows like Slayer and Metallica but as far as underground shows go that was the one.

I remember seeing Sick Of It All in the early 90s and my head was stepped on about three times.

When they started playing some dude stepped right on my face. I knew then it was going to be a great show.

Did you want to communicate that same energy with Strong Intention?

At first we just wanted to put together some cool songs and shows. Now, things are so segregated. Back then, you’d go to a show and see a lot of different people. You’d see metal kids because they liked how aggressive the Cro-Mags were. Now it’s completely divided. I do think it lacks some of the energy.

What keeps you driven?

There have definitely been times I thought I didn’t want to do the band. From 1996 to the mid-2000s we were playing a lot even though we weren’t a full time band. Right around 2006 there was a two year period where it didn’t seem like things were happening. We did a tour in 2007 with Extreme Noise Terror. We only did 10 shows that year. In 2008, it was the same way, maybe 20 shows. It seemed like the energy wasn’t there. Then we went to Texas and did some dates with AC and Gates of Slumber and that seemed to get things amped up. The shows have been bigger and better and it seems like the energy is back.

You mentioned how it’s been start and stop with the band. Is it tough to have a lot of your records out of print or hard to find?

I think so. This record we’re doing – Razorblade Express – I’ve always been a vinyl fan and wanted vinyl. But I understand that bigger metal bands have CDs out. When we do our next full length we’ll definitely do digital and CDs and put it out on many formats. I’d still prefer vinyl to all of those formats even though I know people want those.

Any thoughts on doing a collection?

I think that will happen and I’d be into doing it, going into the catalog and pulling songs. I’d have no issue putting that out because we play a lot of those songs, but those older records aren’t available. So it would be good to put them together in some format.

We’ll play a set and the stuff I have on the merch table isn’t always reflective of what they’ve just heard. So you might to be able to get nine or ten of our songs but then there would be four or five songs that won’t be on the records.

How did you hook up with Mike IX for this EP?

I’ve known him for like ten years and when we were on tour with AC in 2008 or 2009 we did some dates with Outlaw Order, which has all the Eyehategod guys except Jimmy Bower. Mike and I had talked about jamming on one of our songs. I felt like Razorblade Express totally fit with Mike. I asked him and he was all about it and made it happen. Then we had the idea for another song. The collaboration worked out exactly how I wanted it too. He did one song in New Orleans and another in Baltimore.

He has a great voice for punk or hardcore.

I agree. His voice — that sound he has – he can sing in a fast band or a hardcore or grind band. His voice is so suited to it.

Strong Intention: Built To Last

You now live in Frederick, Maryland. What are you doing when you aren’t playing music?

I didn’t know this until I moved there but Frederick has a long history of stoner rock and doom shows. When I moved there, the first week, there was a show with Murphy’s Law. And then there was a grind show right down the street. So I started organizing my own shows and now there are a lot of killer shows. There are people that aren’t going to be able to travel to DC or Baltimore but a show in Frederick will work. Traveling to a show now costs like 15 or 20 bucks. If it’s closer, you will go. In my down time I have a regular job at my house working for Citibank and I run a booking agency. The bank office closed so I work remotely.

What is it like to be peers with bands like Agnostic Front that you saw as a kid?

It’s definitely cool. You do think about when you saw them as a kid. Then you play with them and you realize they are normal. But I feel very fortunate. When we toured in 2004 with DRI I was never starstruck, but there were moments where I was like “bands like this are the reason bands like mine exist.”

Get in touch with Strong Intention or order the new Razorblade Express EP (vinyl only) from PATAC Records.

Silje Wergeland (The Gathering) interviewed

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

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Silje interviewed as part of our most excellent Women in Metal issue [dB #94].

How will Disclosure differ from The West Pole?
Silje Wergeland: it’s fresher, braver, more confident and honest, deeper, newer.

Now that the lineup’s had a few years to synch what’s it’s like working together?
Silje Wergeland: It’s great and inspiring! We know each other better, we know what and where we can go, where to push each others limits to go further and be braver.

You released “Heroes for Ghosts” (click HERE) as a single a long while ago. Was it released to keep interest up? Usually, singles are album-lead material, but this time you pushed it out way early. Sort of unorthodox.
Silje Wergeland: Yes, you are right. We decided to not do it for any other reason than release it because we wanted to! The song is way too long for a ‘normal’ single, but that didn’t matter. We never released it to try to get it on radio or on TV. We know their limits of about 3 minutes to get airplay, and knew we’ll never get there anyways. It was only marketed through our Facebook, Twitter and webpage, so very low key. The Gathering has its own label [Psychonaut], but we are not very business focused. It is still all about the music and art. We were just so happy with it and wanted to share it with the world.

More interestingly, you released an 11-minute track as a free download. Seems like you have a more open viewpoint on your creative work. Most bands might release a 4-minute track and then charge for the long song, know what I mean?
Silje Wergeland: Well, as mentioned above it was never released for the money. But of course it was a teaser for the up-coming album, as we knew this song would represent the direction of the album so people could ‘prepare’ for what to expect.

I hear real strings, I think, on “Heroes for Ghosts”. Will real instruments play a larger role on the new Gathering album?
Silje Wergeland: We used strings and trumpet this time, as well. We also had strings on The West Pole, but this isn’t something new in The Gathering camp. The organic sound is very important for the band, and ‘real’ instruments add [the] layers we like in our music.

The Gathering had a reunion of sorts for the Always… album. Did the re-replaying the old material influence or sway some of the songwriting for the new album? That’s the curious fanboy asking.
Silje Wergeland: Well, playing with ‘others’ is always inspiring in many ways. The fact that this lineup has a harder doomy approach, [but] I don’t see much doom on the album though. Most of the songs were already in the loop when they started playing together again.

What if anything particular inspires The Gathering at this point? You’re on your 10th album now, so I’m wondering if it’s more comfort that keeps the engine running or is the creative vision still strong?
Silje Wergeland: I can assure you that the creative vision is still the strongest part. We work really hard to reinvent ourselves all the time and not repeat ‘the old days’. I think you can see it quite clearly on most of our older work that we are not a band that uses the same recipe on every new release. We always pay attention to ‘what’s new’ in the musical soundscape and try to make something we haven’t done before. I think that inspires us the most.

** The Gathering’s new album, Disclosure, hits stores and digital outlets on September 12th through E1/Psychonaut. Or you can pre-order HERE directly from The Gathering. They’ve got all kinds of neat combo packs with t-shirts and vinyl.

** Visit and like The Gathering on Facebook.

LIVE REVIEW: Melvins Lite Freak Puke All Over Victoria

By: adem Posted in: featured, heavy tuesdays, live reviews On: Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

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Melvins Lite w/Retox, Club 9One9, Victoria, BC, July 16
Who can really keep up with just exactly what the Melvins are up to at any given moment? There are new releases like clockwork. They have always been a prolific band and we suspect they always will be. If nothing else, they’ll have a discography that stretches on for ages by the time they’re done. And clearly they’re not done. This latest incarnation of the band, Melvins Lite, features founding members guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osbourne and drummer Dale Crover along with Fantomas/Mr. Bungle/Tomahawk bassist Trevor Dunn. The Big Business boys are out for now, but apparently not permanently.

This Victoria date was added last minute, and for that we give Melvins Lite much thanks and praise. And considering its late addition, there was a decent crowd for a Monday night. The venue, a basement techno danceteria, was the perfect place, as it turns out for this show. The flashy lighting, behind-the-band video screen and sunken dance floor in front of the stage made a surreal performance all the weirder.

The fact that openers Retox seemed kinda normal in contrast to the rest of the spectacle says a lot. They are a frantic quartet of short-coiffed ragers who always seemed in a hurry to get somewhere. Their music was precise, abrasive and unpredictable. The vocalist yelled till he was outta breath, then yelled a whole lot more. They tinkered with all kinds of sounds from total power violence to surf rock and most tunes lasted a minute or two. We suspect the Melvins started out on a similar path back in the early ’80s before they slowed things down.

Melvins Lite is an altogether different beast than Melvins Mk I, or even Melvins Mk whatever number they are on at this point. Let us recount some of the ways. First, bassist Dunn played a stand up bass all night long. And by “played,” we mean he both slapped it with his fingers and sawed on it with a bow, depending on what the song called for. In fact, Dunn—dressed like he just got done filming Revenge of the Nerds—kicked off the set with a few simple bowed notes that gradually Crover and Osbourne, dressed as, I dunno, intergalactic overlords (our friend said Osbourne’s get-up looked like a monk’s frock with a tea cozy sewed on the front) joined in on a tension-fraught improv that kept the crowd anticipating a crescendo that never arrived.

Ah, but the rest of the show had plenty of peaks and valleys. Though the addition of “Lite” to the Melvins brand may seem to indicate something less than heavy, it’s not quite so cut and dried. The overall impression we were left with was that this incarnation allows Buzz and Co. to swing a little more, to ride some grooves, to indulge in a few Grand Funk Railroad riffs. Look, we’re not going to go so far as to say there was “jamming” going on, but there was a profound looseness that was kind of, uh, fun. Bits of songs ran together—including the Paul McCartney gem “Roll it to Me,” from Freak Puke—and we’re not sure that there was a true pause in the last third of the set. It was like, once they had a head of steam, they weren’t going to slow down for anything.

The sound rolled off the front of the stage in physical waves. Crover’s ferocity is unbelievable. He hits way harder than he actually needs to, but, man, does it have an impressive effect. Between the surely unintentionally bizarre light show, the band get-ups and swirling music, there was a definite psychedelic vibe to the performance that seems to suit the Melvins (Lite) well. We don’t know if they’ll revisit this lineup in the future, but we’re damn sure stoked they brought it to Victoria.

Melvins Lite 51-Date United States Tour
September 5, 2012 – Anchorage, AK – Bear Tooth Theatre and Pub
September 6, 2012 – Seattle, WA – Showbox at the Market
September 7, 2012 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre
September 8, 2012 – Boise, ID – Neurolux
September 9, 2012 – Missoula, MT – Top Hat Lounge
September 10, 2012 – Salt Lake City, UT – Club Sound
September 11, 2012 – Cheyenne, WY – The Depot
September 12, 2012 – Denver, CO – Bluebird Theatre
September 13, 2012 – Lawrence, KS – The Bottleneck
September 14, 2012 – Columbia, MO – The Blue Note
September 15, 2012 – Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room
September 16, 2012 – Des Moines, IA – House of Bricks
September 17, 2012 – Sioux Falls, SD – The Vault
September 18, 2012 – Fargo, ND – The Aquarium
September 19, 2012 – Minneapolis, MN – Grumpy’s
September 20, 2012 – Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
September 21, 2012 – Chigaco, IL – Double Door
September 22, 2012 – Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue Theatre
September 23, 2012 – Louisville, KY – The Vernon Club
September 24, 2012 – Detroit, MI – Smalls
September 25, 2012 – Cleveland, OH – The Grog Shop
September 26, 2012 – Morgantown, WV – 123 Pleasant Street
September 27, 2012 – Allentown, PA – Crocodile Rock Cafe
September 28, 2012 – South Burlington, VT – Higher Ground
September 29, 2012 – Dover, NH – Dover Brickhouse
September 30, 2012 – Portland, ME – Asylum
October 1, 2012 – Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club
October 2, 2012 – Pawtucket, RI – The Met Cafe
October 3, 2012 – Newhaven, CT – Toad’s Place
October 4, 2012 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
October 5, 2012 – Hoboken, NJ – Maxwell’s
October 6, 2012 – Wilmington, DE – Mojo 13
October 7, 2012 – Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
October 8, 2012 – Washington, DC – Black Cat
October 9, 2012 – Charlottesville, VA – Jefferson Theatre
October 10, 2012 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
October 11, 2012 – Knoxville, TN – The Square Room
October 12, 2012 – Greenville, SC – The Handle Bar
October 13, 2012 – Athens, GA – 40 Watt Club
October 14, 2012 – Birmingham, AL – Bottle Tree
October 15, 2012 – Pensacola, FL – Vinyl Music Hall
October 16, 2012 – Jackson, MS – Duling Hall
October 17, 2012 – Little Rock, AR – Juanita’s Cantina
October 18, 2012 – Baton Rouge, LA – Spanish Moon
October 19, 2012 – Austin, TX – Mohawk
October 20, 2012 – Norman, OK – Opalis Production
October 21, 2012 – Albuquerque, NM – Launchpad
October 22, 2012 – Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom
October 23, 2012 – Las Vegas, NV – Artifice
October 24, 2012 – Los Angeles, CA – Hollywood Forever Cemetery
October 25, 2012 – Honolulu, HI – The Republik

Deci-Mation Theater: Santa Claus Investigates the Webster Hall Stabbings

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, videos On: Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

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To say the stories coming out in the aftermath of the recent CBGB Festival stabbings have not exactly jibed would be an understatement, but, then, Cro-Mags have always been a band that encapsulated a certain degree of volatility and cognitive dissonance. “Show You No Mercy” follows “World Peace” on the landmark Age of Quarrel. It’s part of the appeal. Anyway, in pondering the at-odds statements of Harley Flanagan and John Joseph, it seemed like what we really needed was an unimpeachable mediator to sort this out without poor Harley having to run his War out of a Riker’s Island cell… So we — to employ modern Hollywood parlance — re-imagined the context of the statement texts below.

By the way, we kid, but for the record, Harley’s War churns out excellent gritty old school hardcore and John Joseph has not only written perhaps the great punk rock autobiography as well as, yes, Meat is for Pussies, but also kills it with his version of the Cro-Mags. Here’s hoping the hurt dudes get well soon and that this is all resolved with minimal destruction of lives and families. Videos after the jump.