Sucker For Punishment: Worlds Apart

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

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I was among those critics lavishing praise on Pallbearer’s debut album Sorrow & Extinction in February 2012, marveling at its surprisingly graceful take on doom metal. However, as the year went on, I felt I had to pull back from the praise of the critical hive mind, because the more I let that record settle, the more convinced I became that as strong as it was there was still a lot to be improved upon. It felt unfair to readers and the band to hail it as something groundbreaking and even classic when deep down I could sense the Little Rock band was better than that. Seeing them perform live only solidified my opinion, as they started to show glimpses of a much richer sound than what was on that debut. I wasn’t surprised when the album topped many year-end lists, including Decibel’s, and it wasn’t a bad choice at all, but still I bristled a bit. Then again, I’m the sort of guy who’ll deduct a point off an album rating from a talented new band just to hint that I’m not quite ready to name them the second coming yet.

Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore), much to my great pleasure, does exactly what I had hoped it would do, and more. Molded and shaped by the sure hands of Billy Anderson, arguably the best doom producer right now, the follow-up is bigger, more grandiose, and best of all, clears so much more space than the very dense Sorrow did. Consequently the music breathes a lot more, allowing for much more effective contemplative moments, whether it’s in an expressive guitar solo, some plaintive piano chords, or best of all, vocals. And for all the heaviness, it’s the vocals that are most crucial on this album. Guitarist Brett Campbell was still adjusting to his assumed role as singer on the debut, sounding tentative, intentionally buried in the mix. Confident in his ability after two years of touring, he’s so much stronger on the new album, and if that wasn’t enough, his bandmates come through with some startlingly good backing harmonies.

It’s in the singing, too, where you hear this album’s true genius. Because of the sheer length of the compositions, which often are in the ten to 11-minute range, the band is afforded the opportunity to play around with the vocal melodies. That, in turn, sees Pallbearer’s true influences come out. These guys are serious fans of progressive rock, and indeed those vocal melodies weave in, out, and around the arrangements in true prog fashion, almost feeling improvised at times, avoiding conventional patterns but always staying rooted to those riffs. As a result songs like “Worlds Apart” and “The Ghost I Used to Be” not only display staggering power, but show remarkable richness as well, imbuing the normally brutish music with moments of genuine soul. That’s not to say the guitar work isn’t central to this album’s appeal, either, in fact, the melodies and harmonies by Campbell and Devin Holt play a major role on the closing track “Vanished”, sounding typically melancholy but not without a faint glimmer of hope in the distance.

Accentuated by the three-minute ballad “Ashes”, which is sort of Pallbearer’s “Changes” to the rest of the album’s Vol. 4, Foundations of Burden carries itself with stately grace over the course of less than an hour, the work of a band that’s much surer of itself. I always say there’s nothing wrong with a little ignorance and arrogance from young bands, but although Sorrow & Extinction will go down as one of the more unique and surreal first albums in recent memory – bassist Joseph Rowland likened it to a 45 RPM record being played at 40 – there’s something to be said about musical growth and increased expertise. This album feels like a band just starting to come into its own. If I was apprehensive about placing Pallbearer on my year-end list three years ago, I sure as hell am ready to do so now.

Listen to and purchase Foundations of Burden via Bandcamp immediately. 

It’s a gigantic week for the new metal, and although I can only make a dent in the 50-odd titles that have come out, here’s a good sampling of the most noteworthy ones:

Accept, Blind Rage (Nuclear Blast): Four years ago a reunited Accept returned with a new singer, completely unsure of how it would be received by the public. Three albums later, the guys have a very, very good thing going, a career reborn on the strength of new material that gets right back to the basics of what made the German band an upper-tier act 30 years ago. Blind Rage continues right where Blood of the Nations and Stalingrad left off, but ultimately feels like the strongest record of the three, a lean, menacing album full of piss and vinegar led by Wolf Hoffmann’s trademark sharp riffs and melodic solos, and accentuated well by singer Mark Tornillo, who has turned into a tremendous frontman for this band. “Dark Side of My Heart”, “Final Journey”, and “Trail of Tears” feel like they could have fit perfectly on Metal Heart, while “Dying Breed” is a cute, sincere tribute to metal’s most revered figures. Accept is on one hell of a roll these days, and this incarnation of the band has outdone itself

Ace Frehley, Space Invader (eOne): Ace Frehley was never an innovator, but he was always everyone’s favorite member of KISS because he brought grit and musical character to a band that was so preoccupied with presentation. From “Cold Gin” and “Parasite” to “Shock Me” and “Rocket Ride”, and that solo album that was light years better than the other three, he was always the band’s best songwriter when given the opportunity. Five years after his last solo album, Frehley went with the old “back to basics” tactic, intent on capturing the feel of that classic 1978 solo debut, and he does a rather good job of it. It’s simple, heavy rock ‘n’ roll, loaded with his Who-derived Les Paul riffs and alternating from his psychedelic shtick to more playful garage rock, and it suits the man perfectly. “What Every Girl Wants” is a blast, and even the cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker” is fun. Longtime KISS fans will get a kick out of this.

American, Coping With Loss (Sentient Ruin): If you like your metal misanthropic, self-loathing, and just all-around miserable, you can’t go wrong with this release by the Virginia band. It’s raw, malevolent black metal, featuring the kind of tortured, incomprehensible screams the music requires, but it’s not a one-trick pony, serving up tracks that not only cut to the chase, but show exceptional dynamics as well, whether it’s tossing in the odd death metal passage, some loose, punk influences, or in the case of highlight “Lamb to Slaughter”, going full-on doom. Even the ambient 18-minute piece that comprises the last half of the album, something I have very little patience for, displays enough cinematic flair to stay interesting. It’s a promising debut well worth investigating. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Black Trip, Goin’ Under (Prosthetic): Featuring former members of Entombed, Nifelheim, Corrupted, and leprosy, this Swedish collaboration is a quirky blend of Pentagram-derived doom (quelle surprise) and Thin Lizzy flash. Put those together, and yep, you’ve got pentatonic doom riffs accentuated by sharp hard rock passages and twin guitar harmonies. It’s nowhere near a trainwreck as, say, Chrome Division, and there are moments that work quite well, but this idea still feels like it’s nowhere near reaching its potential yet.

Botanist, VI: Flora (Flenser): The latest release from the prolific San Francisco project just might be its best to date, as I don’t think I’ve ever heard Botanist’s blend of black metal, post-rock, and shoegaze coalesce as beautifully as it does on Flora. Unlike other “metalgaze” efforts, Botanist keeps things a little left of center on this record, the bombast toned down and even muted in a way, always contrasting beauty and extremity, yet always mindful of not letting one side overwhelm the other. It’s a bit unsettling at times due to its unorthodox approach – take “Leucadendron Argenteum” for example – but as a whole it’s a wondrous, colorful piece of work. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Children Of Technology, Future Decay (Hells Headbangers): This Italian band fits right into Hells Headbangers’ wheelhouse, firmly rooted in straightforward d-beat punk rock, but with just enough of a metal influence to keep things filthy. Not to mention a singer a little obsessed with copping the mannerisms of Tom Warrior. It’s a fun enough little diversion, but in a week that sees the new Midnight album released, on the same label for that matter, why even bother?

Deadlock, The Re-Arrival (Lifeforce): Ah, Deadlock, a classic sufferer of Lacuna Coil disease: a band with an exceptional female lead singer but is perpetually deluded by the notion that it would be better off contrasting competent singing with tone-deaf screaming. But when these Germans are smart enough to let Sabine Scherer take the helm, their otherwise plain-Jane metalcore can often shimmer, which is a rare feat. This seventh album is more of the same, frustration one track, pop metal skill the next. For some, inconsistent is good enough for them, but smart metal fans should demand more than that.

Dictated, The Deceived (Metal Blade): It’s not every day you get a death metal band led by two women on lead guitar. Although these Dutch upstarts don’t do anything particularly new and creative on this second album – proving women can be just as middling songwriters as men! – it’s mildly engaging enough to scratch that Asphyx itch you might have. But why bother when there’s plenty of actual Asphyx to listen to?

DragonForce, Maximum Overload (Metal Blade): Album number six from the perpetually likeable Brits treads familiar territory, blending power metal with hyper-extremity as always, and although it doesn’t feel as rejuvenated as 2012’s The Power Within did, it still has enough memorable hooks to warrant a solid recommendation. Singer Marc Hudson has settled into his role nicely, leading the charge on such standouts as “The Game” and “Symphony of the Night”, while guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman continue their histrionic shredding, dazzling displays of dexterity, but done with a level of flash and ebullience that one rarely hears in metal anymore. The cover of “Ring of Fire” is wholly unnecessary, and actually terrible, but that doesn’t derail an album that careens wildly for 46 lively minutes, which is all anyone asks from these guys.

King 810, Memoirs of a Murderer (Roadrunner): It’s easy to dismiss King 810’s debut album as nothing but knuckledragger nu-metal shtick. Sure, the Flint, Michigan band’s sound is very much rooted in that sound, but there’s a lot more to this record than that. Constructed as an hour-long concept album about life in Nowheresville, the sense of anger and despair is palpable over the course of three acts as the band veers from cathartic, primal metal, to Nick Cave-derived introspection, to daring spoken word pieces. It’s contrived, no question, but all metal is contrived, but no matter how exaggerated it all is, these guys sell it alarmingly well. Nu-metal has been a self-parody for well over a decade now, and I’ve never hesitated to mock its many shortcomings, but this is an undeniably powerful piece of work, the most vivid and visceral such album since Slipknot’s Iowa.

Midnight, No Mercy For Mayhem (Hells Headbangers): It’s amazing how many d-beat metal/punk band replicate the formula faithfully enough yet are completely ignorant that the core of the sound isn’t crusty chords and that tempo, but that it’s simple rock ‘n’ roll at its core. A huge reason why Midnight stands out isn’t because it sounds like Venom meets Motörhead – although that unquestionably adds to its appeal – but rather because they rock. It’s as simple as that. The songs move and groove in sleazy fashion, lending the music a sultry steaminess that so many “extreme” bands don’t understand at all. On their latest, hotly anticipated album, there’s more groove than ever. It’s akin to Turbonegro’s Apocalypse Dudes, where a glammy Hanoi Rocks influence creep into the tunes, and you can hear it on this album, sleek lead fills adding welcome flash to the music, making it a lot more than dumb, primitive fist-bangers. Not that this album is without those tracks, but it’s no longer the complete focal point. Masked mastermind Jamie Walters has outdone himself with this record, continuing where 2011’s brilliant Satanic Royalty left off, yet at the same time adding much more richness to the music without compromising its underground credibility. As if that ever mattered. They are Midnight, and they play rock ‘n’ roll. Crank this sucker over at Bandcamp, and buy it now.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

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

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

Photo by Greg Cristman | www.gregCphotography.com

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

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

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

Entombed – Sinner’s Bleed from Clandestine

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

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

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



Motörhead – I’ll Be Your Sister from Overkill

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

Black Sabbath – War Pigs from Paranoid

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

Black Flag – Police Story from Damaged

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

Nirvana – Dive from Incesticide / Drain You from Nevermind

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

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

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


Slayer – Mandatory Suicide from South Of Heaven

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



Melvins – Roman Bird Dog from Lysol

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



His Hero Is Gone – Raindance from Fifteen Counts of Arson

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

Read previous installments of Inside The Shredder’s Studio:

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

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

Darkness Undivided: Exclusive Music Blues Stream!

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

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Think you’re having a bad day/life?

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

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

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

See A Little Light: Exclusive Darkness Divided Stream!

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: exclusive, featured On: Monday, August 18th, 2014

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To co-opt/augment Riki Rachtman’s old Headbanger’s Ball sign-off, on Written in Blood Darkness Divided has one foot in the metalcore gutter, one fist in the Between the Buried and Me/Devin Townsend-y gold. And for those who don’t reflexively hate the former, the latter will be a very welcome development indeed.

Anyway, here’s your chance to check out the band’s Victory Record debut in full one day before release. Want more? We’ve got the video for “The Hands That Bled” and a couple making-of segments after the jump…

Pig Destroyer Frontman J.R. Hayes Reflects on “Twin Peaks”

By: andrew Posted in: featured, gnarly one-offs On: Monday, August 18th, 2014

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If you’ve been with us for a while, you surely remember our January 2008 issue, in which we not only bestowed Album of the Year honors on Pig Destroyer’s Phantom Limb, but talked to vocalist J.R. Hayes at length about major influence David Lynch. “With [Lynch], it’s like you’re watching paintings that move,” Hayes said at the time. “He could do a five-hour movie with no narrative and I’d be into it.” So, what better man to talk to for the Twin Peaks Project currently spreading across the internet. This article is part of a series of investigations, reflections and reminiscences by writers, artists and musicians who were influenced by David Lynch’s seminal television show Twin Peaks. To read more or to learn how you can participate, visit www.twinpeaksproject.com

I’m almost hesitant to write about Twin Peaks. I mean, I love it, it’s the shit and all that; it’s just that I know people whose TP knowledge blows mine out of the water. These people eat, breathe and shit Twin Peaks. They’ve shaken hands with Kyle Fucking MacLachlan. They’ve touched the Loglady’s actual log. They own not one, but two of the ultra-rare Leo Johnson commemorative ponytails. I don’t think those actually exist, but they should. My point is, only something truly unique and profound can inspire that kind of cultish passion and creepy devotion. Twin Peaks is less like a television show and more like a lucid dream or a voodoo spell.

Part 1 “It’s All Like Some Crazy Dream”

Most shows are in a hurry to shove you through the plot to the conclusion, but not this show. Twin Peaks would rather hypnotize you with long, suggestive shots of beautiful waterfalls and ghostly fir trees. It would rather pour you a nice hot cup of black coffee than tell you what the fuck is going on. Who killed Laura Palmer? Don’t worry about it, have another jelly donut. Twin Peaks is never in a hurry to do anything, except fuck your mind.

Most shows are too hung up on being realistic and believable, which usually translates to boring and predictable. David Lynch and Mark Frost sidestep this by boldly embracing absurdity and surrealism, putting the viewer on notice that anything could happen at anytime. Big Ed could turn into a 50 ft. praying mantis and eat the Double R Diner and you’re just going to have to roll with it.

There was an interesting piece in The Guardian a few years back, where Lara Flynn Boyle (Donna Hayward) talks about filming a scene in the pilot. She says that David Lynch told her to “Think of how gently a deer has to move in the snow.” Later, in the same article, Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Moran) says that Lynch “[would] get us into a circle and ask questions — it was like he was hypnotizing us.” At times, it seems like everyone on the show is overacting, but they are all overacting so well together that it moves beyond melodrama into something else entirely. Superdrama, maybe? I don’t know what it is, but it’s magnificent.

Part 2 “Mozart Is a Punk Bitch”

Anyone familiar with Lynch’s films knows that Angelo Badalamenti is his secret weapon, and his soundtrack for Twin Peaks may be his finest hour. It’s impossibly lush and warm and jazzy. It’s eerie and utterly horrifying. It’s so good, in fact, that it threatens to upstage the rest of the production.

This amazing composer deserves WAY more attention. In addition to his other work with Lynch, I highly recommend his soundtracks for Secretary and Arlington Road.

When that opening theme comes in, it’s like you’re falling into a giant fluffy bed full of NyQuil and Percocets. Relax, you are now under the Twin Peaks spell. Here, have a coffee and a slice of pie. And some incest.

Part 3 “The Haunting of Laura Palmer”

Usually, a victim in a murder mystery is more of a plot device than a character. Postmortem, they are quickly enshrined as an innocent, then promptly used as a vehicle for Matthew McConaughey to give a fiery closing argument or as a justification for Chuck Norris to sidekick 200 people in the head. There’s a shot in the pilot episode after the principal announces that Laura is dead, where they show the trophy case in the school lobby, and Laura’s picture is there in the center. Most of the time, that would be the last you’d see of poor Laura Palmer, but not on Twin Peaks, oh no.

Suddenly, the question isn’t just “who killed Laura Palmer?”; it’s also “who was Laura Palmer?” There’s a diary, and then a video, and then a tape, and then a fucking secret diary. Eventually, she’s brought back as Maddy the dopey lookalike cousin. Laura Palmer haunts the entire show like a poltergeist. Is she a homecoming queen? A devoted volunteer? A cokehead? A masochistic nymphomaniac? She’s all of those things and more; she’s the intersection of sex and violence, half kindness and half cruelty. She’s one of the most fascinating characters of the ’90s. Not to mention that Sheryl Lee is a fucking awesome actress, which brings me to…

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Part 4 “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me Is Some Dark, Dark Shit”

A lot of people hate this movie, including many hardcore devotees of the show, and to be fair, there is plenty of room for criticism (the mildly irritating presence of Chris Isaak; the unforgivable absence of Audrey Horne, for example), but Sheryl Lee’s performance here is one of those risky, daring, all-in, once-in-a-lifetime kind of performances, and she is just electric in every scene she’s in. When she screams, it cuts all the way down to your bones. Then Badalamenti decides to get dark as fuck and make you pee your pants. There’s no humor to be found in Twin Peaks this time around, only terror and insanity.

Part 5 “The Cliffhanger From Hell”

The infamous, hellish final episode. Crazy-ass David Lynch, absent for most of the second season directing Wild at Heart, parachutes in at the last minute to give you both barrels of his looney-gun in this deranged nightmare masquerading as network television. I mean, seriously, WTF David Lynch?

By all rights, Twin Peaks should never have happened. It’s a small miracle that it was even made, much less aired. The fact that it became part of mainstream American culture kind of makes my head hurt. National networks don’t usually hire real artists and then give them the freedom to indulge themselves like this. Maybe they should. Makes me wonder what Dallas would have been like with Jodorowsky at the helm, or if Cronenberg had been tapped to direct Airwolf. Ah, what could have been…

 

               

 

Aðalbjörn Tryggvason (Sólstafir) interviewed

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, August 18th, 2014

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** Sólstafir have been roving the plains of Iceland for the better part of two decades. Though originally a black metal act, replete with corpsepaint, the Reykjavikians transformed into something else years later. We’re not entirely sure if Sólstafir are post-metal, post-rock, or post-themselves, but whatever genre of music they fall into, they’re entirely unique. No band, alive or dead, sounds like Sólstafir (even on a bad day). I interviewed e-bow wingnut Aðalbjörn Tryggvason for Decibel #120 (10 years!), but here’s the rest of the piece in good ‘ol Playboy Q&A fashion.

OK, let’s get this one out of the way first. I didn’t know Iceland has cowboys. Are they homegrown or did you import them from New Mexico?
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: There are certain things that have always been associated with rock ‘n’ roll, tatts, boots, hats, ballads, guitars solos, bourbon whiskey, etc. We somehow have been more naturally drawn to these things than let’s say wearing khaki pants and reverse baseball caps.

On your last tour of the US you met with kids at a Junior High School. How’d that happen? It’s not like Sólstafir is a chart-topping artist in the states.
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: Our manager’s mom is a school teacher, so while meeting her over lunch in the states this idea came up, and it was great. Some of those kids are from Camden, New Jersey, which is about the most dangerous place in the whole U.S., so they don’t often meet musicians from Europe talking about art and songwriting. It was a privilege having a musical lecture for those kids.

How does Ótta differ from Svartir Sandar?
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: Well, we finally tried working with a string section, one of those things that we had discussed in the past, and even had some plans for Svartir Sandar, but the idea never made it further. I really wanted to go for softer vocals on this album. I don’t think more aggressive vocals would have fit this album. Apart from that it’s not really that different. We just made another album.

Were the songwriting sessions different from that of previous releases? I hear you often jam out the songs together instead of writing them individually.
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: Yes, sometimes we have a song that lasts for 10 minutes consisting of one riff, more like few chords. We are not a very riff-oriented band. Then, of course, we add layers and edit here and there. It’s sorta written blindfolded. One day Sæþór [Maríus Sæþórsson] came up with this hook that we all know has to be played on a banjo, but it wasn’t played on a banjo until it was recorded. I drop my guitar down to A and off we go. And the opening song, “Lágnætti” was basically done in two days. Some piano sections came to my head. I hardly ever play the piano by the way. We jam around it, and the next day we basically had it, that was the last song we wrote for the album.

You premiered “Lágnætti” and “Ótta” for the world. Any reason why these two tracks were chosen as album teasers?
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: I don’t know why, but for some reasons these are the “Battery” and “Master of Puppets” of this album in my mind. But I guess these two songs represent the album better than any other two, some of them are a bit obscure. There is a disco song there, and there is a full-blown piano ballad there, so…

Sólstafir relies a lot on the e-bow. What does the e-bow offer sonically to the songwriting process?
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: Some interesting questions here. I guess it adds sonic isolation. It’s very distant, drowning in reverb, and, of course, only works on one string at the time. It fills a lot up, and when Sæþór is coming up with some bizarre chord structure it’s a nice simple answer to that. That works well together. Then again, it’s sort of a lead guitar device, sometimes it’s hard to restrain yourself ’cause it’s very easy to come up with cool parts while having a good e-bow sound. And that’s another thing. I swear to god that e-bow has a life of its own. Sometimes it just won’t sound the way I want it to, even though I’m driving it through the exact same signal flow as the day before, so it’s almost never the same. Close, but never the same. But we’re sorta addicted to e-bow, and we always travel with two of them.

Ótta translates to Fear or Fears. Where are you coming from lyrically on Ótta?
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: That is the Google translate version you have there, but in our case, with the album title it’s the length of time equal to one-eighth of a solar day. Old Icelandic time plan.

Now that you’re getting attention from the rest of the planet are you inclined to change the lyrics from Icelandic to English? I guess Sigur Rós haven’t had too much of an issue…
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: Nah, can’t see that happening. We have used English in the past, and might use it again, who knows? We were close to using English on the the Svartir Sandar album, and the album before that Köld is mostly in English. But this one was always meant to be in Icelandic. And people don’t really care that much. They see the voice a lot more like an extra instrument. And I must confess that I find it a lot more comfortable singing in my mother tongue while singing personal stuff from the heart. Of course, English is a lot more rock ‘n’ roll, so if we go back to the first question, I guess we’re skipping that part of classic rock. At least, for the time being.

Where do you see Sólstafir going from here musically?
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: I don’t know, if you would have asked me that a year ago, I couldn’t have foreseen this album. We just raise our hands in the air like radio antennas and check out how the reception is for each day, and this time around it was Ótta.

** Sólstafir’s new album, Ótta, is out August 29th on Season of Mist. It can, and probably should, be ordered HERE.

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

By: admin Posted in: a fucking parrot previewing new releases, featured On: Friday, August 15th, 2014

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Well, the editors of this told me “if you don’t have anything nice to squawk, don’t squawk anything at all.”So like you’re not going to be able to bear what I have to pecking say about this week’s major release, like can’t peck  it at all, Paul.

What time is it? MIDNIGHT release No Mercy for Mayhem, and well, it’s a Midnight record, that’s for sure. They really haven’t changed their sound up at all, and in this feathered opine, that’s a good thing. This is just pure headbanging fun. You should know how this sounds: trash can drums, heavily distorted bass, blown-out guitars and barked vocals all over a death rock, Venom-ish sort of gallop, with a little trad metal thrown in. I kinda like it, but you know, like, do we need another one of these releases out there?  I think this is keen, but not winning any points for originality. So… 5 Fucking Pecks.

Wow, this is loud. SEA OF BONES put out the 91-minute (?!?!) The Earth Wants Us Dead on Gilead. This is LOUD, like I said, but unlike the previous review, this thing has a bite to it. There are DEFINITE nods to Neurosis here, without sounding like a clone. This reminds you that life is a futile and pointless endeavor. This is doom, but punishing and raw, sometimes plodding, sometimes pretty, but always dark and constantly mean. The one drawback to this is that it’s sooooo long; it’s a lot to ask from the listener.  I am digging this, though. 6 Fucking Pecks.

All right, enough with doom for now. Are you ignorant as peck? And not in a slam metal sort of way? KING 810 is on your scene with Memoirs of a Murderer. This sucks; I’ll just say it. I mean, this is part Limp Bizkit, part Hatebreed and part Emmure.  Apparently they are from  Flint, Michigan, the most dangerous city in America. They perform with guns onstage, as well as yellow crime scene tape, and various members have been involved in an assortment of illegal activities.  But enough about the image: This is shitty mosh nu-metal. The biggest complaint is that the vocals feel VERY put-on, and the riffs are super pedantic, like something your high school nephew (or niece) may write on their first guitar. Total birdshit.  I wonder why they don’t spell it “KYNG 810,” though. The “Stitches” (note:  Stitches is good, though) of nu-metal. Not even good for a laugh. 1 Fucking Peck.

Tough To Untie: Exclusive Colombian Necktie Stream!

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: exclusive, featured On: Friday, August 15th, 2014

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Only a few days left until metallic hardcore levellers Colombian Necktie unleash the scary/sick debut full-length Twilight Upon Us, but for those who can’t wait we’ve got an exclusive stream of the track “Guiding Light” below:

Check out another track here. For more information visit Bandcamp, Twitter, and/or Instagram.

Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack: Finland’s Edge of Haze

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Friday, August 15th, 2014

EdgeofHazeband

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.

EdgeofHazeLogo

The phrase “progressive elements” in a promotional blurb can, for the jaded and cynical among us, cause an almost mandatory smirk, narrowed glare and cocking of the head slightly to the left.  It can mean anything from multisectional songwriting to the use of keyboards, from djentrification to the splicing together of disparate musical forms.  Until the results are rendered, it’s hard to be sure what those two words mean.

Once the context words like “Finland” and “gothic rock” and “fans of Junius” take their place, it becomes much easier to discern the direction that Edge of Haze plan to take.  And so much the better.  Their second self-released full-length, Illumine, draws together the strongest qualities of melodic heavy music – commanding vocals, contemplative melodies amid emotive and truly muscular guitar rock, sky-high musical ambition that never loses sight of gut-thrumming ground.  Sure, the keyboards become prominent at times, and there’s some djent here, but the whole of Edge of Haze’s sound turns out to be quite a bit greater than the sum of these parts.

Now, a week before its official release, you can hear Illumine for yourself and find out from bassist Eero Maijala and percussionist Janne Mieskonen all about the band’s intent, process, and experience with, um, man-birth.  And if you like, check out the band on their Facebook and Bandcamp pages for more info.

Edge of Haze began life as Damage.  Can you talk about how that original version came together and what your vision was for it?  How did it grow into being Edge of Haze?

Janne: We formed the band as Damage with Eero in 2007 and were driven by the pure will to play and create music together. We’ve known each other for more than ten years so overall the project was about having fun and trying our limits. The music was more straightforward attitude metal with some alternative influence. After discovering bands like Katatonia and Swallow the Sun we began to write more atmospheric and experimental stuff and pushed the initial sound towards something completely new.

Eero: We became a full five-member band in 2010 and as a result we decided to change the band’s name for something more original and suiting the sound better. The spirit we had has lasted and above all all the band members are best friends with each other.

Janne: Yeah, all of us have been good friends before being in a band together.

Unlike many bands, Edge of Haze started recording music very quickly.  Was original music always a driving reason for the band?

Eero: Definitely! The two of us began writing our own songs with a crappy keyboard and a drum set sometime after we had first met. We recorded those songs into an old MP3 player and we still have that distorted jangle stored somewhere haha. Writing our own original music has always come naturally to us and we never really got into playing covers.

What would you say Edge of Haze is all about for you?  What do you hope it communicates to your audience?

Eero: Discovering, exploring and maintaining our own sound. Using every color of the palette when it comes to songwriting. Being as open-minded as possible band-wise.

Janne: Exactly. We’d like to convey our vision on good music and share the ideas we have behind the songs. I think our music has the ability to get you to a certain state of mind which is always cool. It’s also cool to try to visualize what we’ve been after music- and lyric-wise, for me each song on the new album has its own color and environment.

Do you think anything has changed in your approach since your last album?

Janne: We have expanded the field we operate in with more dynamics, rhythmic elements plus bigger production. I think the songs are more mature, better organized and more interesting than before.

Eero: Janne and I like to call the last album, Mirage, “nightclub metal”, as while listening it you feel like being in an old nightclub from the 50′s with jazz playing, Frank Sinatra etc. We don’t exactly know where this notion came from, I guess it’s just a vision in our heads from the ethereal vibe of the album. The Mirage nightclub is warm and cozy and not really dangerous in any way. As Mirage was like this casual jazz club, Illumine is that same club in a future dystopia. With decayed walls and abandoned hallways, with a lot more edge and danger. And with a very menacing atmosphere.

Janne: Yeah, as Mirage was more like a safe but vague selection of songs we had back then, Illumine is a clear uniform entirety. Each song has its role in the story.

Eero: It was also really cool to work with guys like Acle Kahney, who is primarily known from TesseracT and Tuomas Yli-Jaskari from Tracedawn. These guys really gave the album the sound we were looking for.

Do you have a specific approach to songwriting that you have used multiple times, or has the process been different for each song?  Can you describe that a little bit?  Is it an individual or collaborative process?

Eero: Now that I think about it the process on every song on Illumine was quite similar. Every member of the band has recording equipment at home, and one of us usually gives man-birth to an idea or a full song at his home and sends it to others. Then we begin to work on it, bounce off each others ideas and arrange the final version together as a band.

Janne: Nowadays we have five active composers in the band so all of us are involved in composing and it’s really cool to notice how we all share the same vision what Edge of Haze is supposed to sound like. Every one of us has their own style to contribute with but as we’ve known each other for so long we kinda end up making material that not only sounds like our own but also settles well together.

Do you think Illumine came from a particular emotional or philosophical place, or is each song its own entity?

Janne: Illumine came from the same foundation lyrically since it’s a concept album. I really enjoyed writing the story for I remotely see some association with me and the protagonist. The album is about finding yourself and daring to have an opinion, similar stuff which I’ve been dealing with in real life. I had the original idea for the album while spending a week in a cottage in the middle of wilderness. I had all the time in the world just to think about things and let ideas flow through my head. I somehow ended up imagining a city which represented all the limitations in the world and the place I was in, the wilderness, as the ultimate state of freedom. I really started liking the confrontation and so I made up the story about the transition between those two states. It’s simple, it’s universal and something you can identify yourself with and that’s why it works. I was also inspired by a book called Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden about a North Korean dissenter who had been living his whole life in a miserable prison camp but eventually had the courage to take the leap and attempt an escape. I think that is something to inspire every human.

Are there particular musical ideas you hope to explore more with Edge of Haze?

Eero: As Illumine was recorded almost a year ago, we have some new and unused material for the third record already! If I was to describe the new material I guess it focuses more on singing and little bit simpler song structures, something like Radiohead meets Gojira and Hans Zimmer [haha]. One thing that I’d love to do is to write a totally acoustic song for Edge of Haze in the future and on the other hand a crazy, fast song, kinda like “The Pyre” on Illumine but more twisted. This all is exciting for us too because we don’t yet know where this progress will take us but so far it seems really promising!

Janne: I would like to explore both making straightforward songs and in the other hand pieces that focus on the flow, atmosphere and dynamic building. It’s really exciting to notice how tenuous the limits are for an Edge of Haze song.

Do you have any specific plans/goals for Edge of Haze in the near future?

Eero: We definitely want to perform live more! We have some club gigs booked to support the album but we’d like to do more. So a tour in Finland or Europe would be fantastic.

Janne: There are a couple of music videos coming up too which will keep us busy at least during the fall, stay tuned for those on Youtube! Our singer and guitarist Markus and our good friend Olli Kiikkilä have some real talent on the visual side too and we want to utilize that as much as possible. And then of course we’ll keep on making new music as every member of the band is writing stuff for the new record already.

Eero: Every one of us has their own influences and an own style when it comes to writing music and it is always great to put these ingredients together and see what kind of mixture we’ll end up with!

The Deciblog Presents More “My Awesome Day Job” Content: USA Out of Vietnam Does a Secret Vegan Supper Club. Of Course.

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: exclusive, featured, gnarly one-offs, interviews, videos On: Thursday, August 14th, 2014

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In simplistic terms, I guess one would/could say USA Out of Vietnam is a space rock band. Actually, the Montreal outfit is a genre-defying entity that incorporates elements of everything from psychedelia, shoegaze and black metal to doom, noise rock and Angelo Badalamenti-sounding soundtrack stuff. The band has a new record out on New Damage called Crashing Diseases and Incurable Airplanes which is fully representative of their sub-genre use, abuse and broadstroking. In the run up to the release of said debut full-length a couple of months ago, we were informed by their handlers that the band’s keyboardist/singer, Blankie had a day job that involved going cooking vegan meals for families in the homes of upper crust Montrealers. The reality is that while this has been a part of their repertoire, a bigger piece of their employment puzzle comes from the vegan supper club (Vegan Secret Supper) run out of locations in Montreal and New York. Still sounds like a pretty sweet gig to our ears, so in-between preparations of “romanesco soup, bruleed figs with bergamont, mango tamarind-battered cauliflower, white chocolate puff pastry, house-made root beer, date toffee chocolates and marbled cashew mousse” [all dishes from a recent Montreal menu] we poked around to ask what’s what.

Let’s start with some of your background. How long have you been a chef? Did you always specialise in vegan food? Any formal training?
I’ve been cooking for about seven years. Vegan has always been what I cook, as I learned to cook as a vegan basically. I have no formal training. I worked a restaurant one time in Vancouver as an on call fill in for a bit but have always been on my own.

I’ve been told you actually go into rich people’s homes and cook for them at their places. How did you fall into this line of work?
I actually cook at my home and people come to me. It’s [called Vegan Secret Supper and it's] like a supper club or an underground restaurant, if you will. Every once and a while, I cook at fancy people’s houses, but I truly would rather not and it’s quite awkward. Since I have lived and done VSS in a few cities, I travel a lot to do it. I was living in New York and some of those clients let me take over their house and do supper clubs back in New York when I [would] go down about once a month from Montreal.

When working for one family, would you work for them full-time or do you go from home/family to home/family? Do you cook all their meals or only if they’re having a dinner party or something?
Maybe not so applicable. Never been a private chef…though I was supposed to be Ben Stiller’s private chef this past spring in Vancouver, but I turned it down when I realized it wouldn’t just be me and Ben high-fiving in Whole Foods picking out granola together.

One of these folks knows how to make birch syrup glazed sourdough doughnuts filled with orange curd…
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What’s an easier work setting: someone’s private home or a restaurant?
Since I do most of the suppers at my home, that’s definitely the best. It’s comfortable for me, and you as a diner get the whole experience of being in my zone. I don’t like going to other homes because it’s like catering and I have to get everything ready and be scared I’m gonna burn the people’s fancy pots or break something. As for a restaurant, it’s a very different thing for sure; I haven’t done it much, but I’d say my house. Who doesn’t wanna just cook at home in your underwear? Ok, I totally don’t do that but the “feeling” is there.

Because you’re working right there and they know and see you, do you find the people you cook for to be not as overtly picky about some part of the meal that’s not to their liking as opposed to restaurant patrons who, because you’re in a more faceless position, will send food back and complain openly?
I think because it’s more of an experience to come into a house set up as a restaurant and because it’s vegan, vegan people are always so pumped to be there. It’s not like a restaurant where you have no idea what mood people are in and where they came from, maybe they’re in a rush or something, but my supper club is a plan they’ve made and if they weren’t excited to come they probably wouldn’t have come! I have never had food sent back.

What’s the most ridiculous meal you’ve ever been asked to make by any of your employers?
I wish I had a good answer for this. I guess I get requests when I do a private supper; like once I got, make me “yellow cake.” I know that’s a thing, but really have no idea the difference between white and yellow, really. Oh, this other guy once when I did a private supper in New York told me to “make sure to wash the greens well if you serve them”. Ok, dad.

Seeing as some of the people you work for have been described as “well-off,” what’s the most extravagant thing you’ve seen or experienced on the job?
The people who come to supper club range from kids like me to 86-year-olds who bused across town to the very wealthy. The mix of that is pretty cool to see all at one table in my house in Bed-Stuy. The “wash the greens guy” rolled up to his private supper with his case of wine in his Mercedes and asked me for a discount and to get another person in for free. I was like, ummm, no thank you.

Have you ever travelled with someone or a family as their private chef on a vacation or something like that?
Could have been Ben if he was lucky enough to have me.

Does anyone know you’re in a band? What happens when you leave to go on tour – do people starve or relapse and start going to Burger King three times a day until you get back?
I doubt anyone knows I’m in a band…I am a minimal talker cause if I talk to people to much I’ll just make an inappropriate joke. Yes, there is some sobbing. They get pats on the back.

Email interviews are convenient, but I always feel like I’m missing something. Is there anything else you feel needs mentioning or that I missed?
I dunno, there’s a website here if you wanna look at it. I had a book come out last year. Maybe it’ll give you a bit more info on what I actually do.

Vegansecretsupper.com
It’s on Facebook, too.
And Tumblr.

Oh, yeah, there’s a band to check out as well: USA Out of Vietnam
Watch their “Leg of Lamb” video: