Finland and fire are the cheapest special-effects for a metal video. Wolfheart have both! Started as a solo project by Tuomas Saukkonen (ex-Before the Dawn, Black Sun Aeon, a whole bunch of others), it’s since morphed into a full band effort. The video below comes from the upcoming reissue of his debut, Winterborn, so most of the people you see in the video below didn’t actually perform on the original song. The magic of Finnish Hollywood! It’s pretty sweet, though, and what it sounds like should come as no surprise considering its source. Enjoy some frost and fire for yourself below.
***Winterborn comes out February 3 on Spinefarm in the US. Follow Wolfheart on Facebook.
They say to know the heart of a man first you must walk a mile in his shoes
What I am learning from your footsteps…One day in my life would destroy you
I remain firm where you falter
I swim in the tears of your daughter
So roars Alekhine’s Gun’s singular force of nature frontwoman Jessica Pimentel on “Atlas,” one of six genre mashing extreme music salvos on …And Kings Will Fall the Brooklyn levelers’ next-level follow-up to the already excellent Meditations in Wrath.
Clearly fucking around isn’t in the AG DNA, and, thus, out of respect for the band we’ll get right to the jam…
…And Kings Will Fall is available via Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp. Join the band in those Facebook and Twitter fishbowls. The brilliant Jeanne Fury dug into the juncture of metal and Pimentel’s role on the Netflix series Orange is the New Blackhere.
Check out Decibel‘s exclusive live video of “Crown of Knives (Tsoncha Korlo)” after the jump.
We’re not at all shocked that a band called Couch Slut had trouble printing the artwork to their new album My Life As A Woman. And that’s before we even saw the image — a nothing-is-hidden illustration of felicitous fellatio too racy for ribald 70s tome The Joy Of Sex (check it out on their Bandcamp page). We’ve decided not to print it here, well, because we don’t want our Mom to see the image with our name right on top. Up next: we suggest the band do a companion album called My Life As A Man, which shows a dude sitting on a recliner by himself playing Assassin’s Creed.
Trying to get the cover printed in North America was quite an ordeal as Handshake label head David Hall recounts. We’re also premiering the new Couch Slut video for “Lust Chamber.” Watch it and then check out Hall’s story.
Photo credit: Stefan Raduta
I first heard Couch Slut close to a year ago. My friend Doug Moore of the band Pyrrhon (it’s his fault!) sent me a link and said “I think you would dig this.” And I did. I instantly fell in love with what I heard and wanted to hear more and was excited about the chance of working with the band on my label. I gradually heard the demos, then rough mixes of what would become My Life As A Woman – the first album/ep/whatever by New York City’s Couch Slut.
Cut to Memorial Day Weekend, 2014, Maryland Deathfest. I got the chance to meet Theo, the drummer of Couch Slut. We talked about the album and various plans and we got to the subject of cover art. “I’ve got this book of smut I picked up in Brazil, there’s a piece by a cool artist, it’s kind of like a woman’s face after giving a blowjob…”
A few weeks later, finally awakening from the post MDF haze, I could slightly recall a conversation about Couch Slut artwork. The word “smut” was really all I could really remember. I messaged Theo. “So what’s up with the cover artwork we talked about, can I see it?”
A few seconds later an email arrived. Oh. Okay. Smut. The image – the drawing – was of a woman, post fellatio. (I’m assuming post fellatio anyway, I guess a number of scenarios could be involved). The thought of unleashing this cover on the world struck me as kind of funny, especially given the title of the album.
Now, I’m not going to pretend to speak for the band or their logic for wanting to use this image, and the other images from the same artist that make up the design and artwork for the album. Personally, I think the drawing and design works. It’s a drawing of a woman giving a blowjob. You can make up your own “narrative” regarding the image, but on the surface, it’s a drawing of a sexual act, plain and simple. Is this something that should be on the cover of an album? Is it offensive? Is it inappropriate? Is it shocking for the sake of being shocking? I mean, yeah, I don’t think the album is appropriate or children to look at, but other than that, it is what it is.
The first gleam of trouble came when it was time start the printing process. The decision and design process of the album art took a long time – like five months. There was a lot of discussion amongst the band as to whether or not to roll with the cover as it now appears. I don’t really know what those discussions were about or what was said or debated. It’s not really my business; it was something the band had to decide. I merely told them I’d run with whatever they decided.
The first email came from the record pressing and printing plant. This is the company I’ve used since I started the label and they’ve always treated me extremely well. My dude at the plant was upfront and honest about what he had to tell me. “The cover artwork is not gonna fly with our printer. I’ve seen stuff less graphic than this been turned down, so I could go through the motions and submit this, but I just know it is not gonna happen here.” Okay. Fair enough. At least he was upfront and honest. Plan B. I called a few other vinyl places and explained the situation and was told pretty much the same thing: not gonna happen. I thought it was weird, I mean, the image is ‘pornography’ but I’ve seen way worse and much more graphic shit on gore and brutal death metal albums and as far as I know that stuff gets made without so much as peep.
Okay, so no one in the USA, it seemed, was willing to print the cover. I’m Canadian, I live in Canada, we’re known for our liberal views on art, right? (Are we? I don’t know, actually – maybe not.)
I called a Canadian printing company and explained the situation. “Oh yeah, no problem. As long as it’s not racist, or depicting anything really horrible happening to children, we’ll do it.” Perfect. I typically print all my stuff in America because it’s waaaaaaaaay cheaper, most of my deliveries are in the states and so it’s easier and cheaper in terms of shipping, and honestly, Canada is just not that great a place to do business when it comes to anything artistic. But now it seemed my Canuck brethren would prove to be useful. I sent the file to the printer, gave the specifications, and waited for an invoice. A few weeks passed. Nothing. I called the company and left a message. Nothing. I emailed. I called back. I left messages all week before I finally decided the company had blown me off. I tried another company and the exact same thing happened. Super friendly and accommodating on the phone, but after I’d email the artwork all communication ceased.
Back to the USA. Freedom of Speech and capitalism and please just print these fucking covers! I called a big printing company I had used before and spoke with a rep. “Hi, I have to print some record jackets, and the artwork might be construed as being offensive to some, and I was hoping you could help me.” The rep laughed and then informed me that as long as the artwork wasn’t depicting or promoting anything racist, they could do it. YES! I was super relieved and even though the cost was more than I was used to paying, at that point I just wanted to get the things done as the records were set for release in just over a month. I paid the hefty amount upfront and submitted the artwork. I let the band know we were good to go and happiness and relief abounded.
A week or so went by when I got the message. At least the company called me instead of ignoring me like the other places. Still, it was not good news. Though the parent company and its employees had accepted the job, the workers at the printing plant did want to work with the Couch Slut cover. And X Company promotes an environment of inclusion and respect of our workers’ decisions. I called the company and demanded to speak to the president. How is that these workers determine what you do and don’t print, I wanted to know. What kind of socialist nightmare were we dealing with? The WORKERS control the means of production? Goddamn. The company, to their credit, did come up with an alternative way to print the jackets with tabs and glue and feathers or something, that would enable them to print the record jackets “in house” and thus bypass Marx and Engels at the printing warehouse, but that did not appeal to me. If I ordered a record and on receipt saw some funky tab and glue shit instead of just a normal record jacket, I’d think some weird shit was going down.
I rescinded the job and went on to Plan F. I started cold calling printers. The band asked, via social media, if there were any printers that could handle the action. Lots of suggestions came in; they were a bust. It turns out that all, or most anyway, of the record printing plants in the USA use the same or one or two of the same, printers – they outsource the jackets to the cock-blocking Communists.
After weeks on the phone, massive amounts of emails and “let me get back to you, I’m pretty sure we can make this happen” promises that never amounted to squat, I came across a company that has taken on the job and promised to deliver. The job has to be printed overseas where either the workers don’t mind looking at a drawing of a blowjob or simply don’t care what the hell is put in front of them as long as their paychecks clear.
It’s been a real eye-opener in terms of the process required to print something deemed “offensive”, and it’s been trying for fans of the band and the band too. The record release show came and went without records. People that have paid for a vinyl copy over two months ago are still waiting. There hasn’t been, that I’ve seen anyway, any complaints about the artwork online, no one has really taken it to task or made a stink. The reception to the music has been amazing. I’d say next time we’ll just roll with something ‘non offensive’ but that probably won’t be a reality.
The last time I spoke with the band they informed me that for the next album, they’ve been talking with a great artist who specializes in “torture porn.” Czech Republic…start your engines.
Lev Weinstein, Krallice drummer and extremely extreme baseball aficionado, asked us for a chance to nerd out on metal and MLB with ESPN senior baseball writer/bastion of sensibilityKeith Law (whom we interviewed in the 2014 baseball preview). We’re not surprised that both of them stepped up to the plate with the following insightful and progressive exchange.
All right, metal shit first. You described in your Decibel interview last spring a little bit about how you got into this sort of music. Could you elaborate a bit on your progression from Whitesnake to heavier stuff?
I learned to play guitar when pretty young, and upgraded to electric when I was about 14, after which I became obsessed with pretty much anything distorted, and eventually zeroed in on some of the more technical shit out there. At the time, “heavier stuff” wasn’t what we’d call heavy now, but as some of the more extreme stuff started to emerge from the U.K. — I’m thinking early grindcore — I was paying attention, but not really a fan of the music, just of the idea of pushing the speed and sound envelopes. When some of those bands started to morph into more melodic territory and the Swedish/Norwegian bands emerged, then I was more on board. And the fact that there was no end of insanity coming from that scene that made for soap-opera reading didn’t hurt either.
Did you ever play an instrument? Start a band?
Yes, guitar. Played with friends, but never played a real show with anyone until some readers invited me to play in a Smashing Pumpkins cover band this October. It was fun.
You talked about digging the new Carcass, but being pretty turned off by the sort of unthinking bombastic nature of a lot of modern metal. How would you characterize the sort of sound that draws you in?
The music has to have a melodic element. That’s the common thread in all the genres I listen to — I need a good hook, a good sense of melody or maybe counterpoint to draw me in, and then even there are elements I don’t like (e.g., Cookie Monster vocals … really, I do that voice to make my two-year-old niece laugh). I can just tune them out. But I also have no interest in childish lyrics — the Cannibal Corpse kind of splattercore or misogynistic stuff or any of the Satanic material from the Nordics just seems juvenile. If you’re doing it to shock me, you failed, and if you really mean it, you’re sick.
Have you ever talked about Armored Saint with Metal Mike Piazza?
I was unaware of his affinity for them, but now I’m going to corner him next time I see him.
You mentioned that John Clayton probably actually doesn’t dig Slayer. Any ESPN personalities out there who are actually secret metalheads? Any dudes with truly legit taste around Bristol? Is Trey Wingo actually into early Deicide? I know Gammons fucks with some Beyond the Gates-era Possessed, right?
Some behind-the-scenes guys, but none of the other talent has ever come out to me as metal fans.
Priest or Maiden?
Maiden all the way.
Megadeth or Metallica?
Metallica. Although as far as I’m concerned, both bands broke up in 1992.
Death Angel or Dark Angel?
That’s a good one. Respect to Dark Angel for being about 30 years ahead of their time lyrically. I preferred Death Angel’s music, though.
All right, down to brass tacks: We first have to talk about my Mets. I am deeply concerned with this Michael Cuddyer deal. This is seemingly the first misstep from the Alderson camp. I know you were also puzzled by the move. How bad is it? Any consolation here? Lie to me if you need to.
I can’t lie. It was terrible. I don’t see what they want with him — he’s a bench guy, hardly worth the draft pick, let alone what they’re paying him.
That said, I’m seriously excited about their crop of prospects, especially this class of pitchers. Does it make any sense for the Mets to try to exchange some of these arms for bats, or do you think they’d be better served holding on to what they have and cultivating a (hopefully) extremely strong rotation?
Given how volatile arms are, I’d look to trade some of them for the predictability of bats. Remember how we all loved Rafael Montero a year ago?
Somewhat of a corollary: do you get the sense that the zeitgeist has shifted insofar as more value seems to be being placed on prospects as opposed to established big leaguers? Is this liable to lead to more trades involving major league talent ,such as those we saw at the deadline this year?
I do think it’s changed quite a bit — probably changes every year based on the mix of GMs and their relative job security.
I’m fascinated with, and know very little about the process of physically scouting young talent. How many plate appearances/innings does it usually take before you feel you’ve got a true sense of the athletic abilities and mechanics of a given player?
If I get BP [batting practice] and 3-4 plate appearances, I’ve got a start on a hitter, enough for an opinion. You never get a true sense of his actual skill level; the more you see, the closer you’ll get, but I think it’s an asymptotic relationship. For a pitcher, I want two innings’ worth of pitches (maybe 30-40, all his pitch types) from behind the plate, and at least an inning up the line.
Is it ever the case that you’ve scouted a prospect whose swing/delivery has looked radically different from game to game?
No. Month to month or year to year, yes.
To that end, how much canon does there seem to be in the teaching of technique to kids across the country? I know there are some college programs you’ve been critical of in this respect. Is anyone coaching the coaches? Is there any consistency nationwide in terms of what’s being taught to young players? Do you suspect that there’s a vast amount of talent out there going undeveloped due to coaching deficiencies?
The last question is the key, and I think the answer is yes. Baseball is a skill sport. Football and basketball are sports of size and athleticism, but baseball requires more specialized skills that need to be developed over years of practice and, usually, instruction. (Occasionally you get a kid like Byron Buxton who’s just preternaturally gifted.) And I think 95% of amateur coaches can’t or don’t develop. There are exceptions, but we know them because they’re so few and far between.
At about what age does it seem like players get locked into mechanics and have a difficult time making more than micro-level adjustments? Or is that more due to the adaptability of the individual than to age?
By 20-21, I think a player’s body has developed around his mechanics to the point where changes are difficult.
I remember watching a segment on Real Sports years ago which featured Mike Marshall‘s school of pitching, featuring radically different mechanics from any I’ve seen. Is this something you know about? Is he a nut or is he onto something?
Most people in the industry think he’s a nut. I just don’t think it works for most body types. His biggest success story, Jeff Sparks, threw very hard and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
To that end, how much stock do you put in the various supposed red-flag arm positions in deliveries? Reading your chats, it seems like you’re more interested in easy and repeatable deliveries than whether a guy’s got an inverted W going on or whatnot. Fair?
That’s a pretty good summary. And use your lower half, damn it. Short striders and all-arm guys might as well tattoo a scarlet A on their foreheads.
I’ve also been fascinated by your stance on the efficacy of steroids in regards to actual performance on the field. Even understanding intellectually that there won’t be the same one-to-one translation of juicing to improved ability in a skill game like baseball as there is in sports fueled by pure athleticism, I nonetheless viscerally find it hard to wrap my head around the notion that usage doesn’t improve performance. Could you briefly lay out what evidence or lack thereof has led you to your conclusions on the matter?
My contentions are: 1. we treat all PEDs as the same, even though, for example, there are studies showing HGH doesn’t do much for men under 50; and 2. we don’t know to what degree usage of any specific drug affects performance, so we like to pretend they’re miracle drugs. I actually think amphetamine use has been more prevalent and has had more of an effect on performance than steroids … but I can’t prove it, or even estimate it, so I have to leave it out of my analyses.
Finally, I’d like to pick your brain a little in regards to sabermetrics. It seems like the new frontier is defensive metrics. What’s going to be the new favorite stat of all us amateur nerds in the next few years? Essentially, what’s going to be the new WAR?
Teams are working with better batted-ball data than ever right now. If that gets out into the mainstream, it’ll be the next frontier.
** 2014, the Year of the Horse. 2014, the Year of Horrendous. While Horrendous’ previous full-length, The Chills, sent death metallers back to the grave (whatever that means), new album Ecdysis made the stateside trio a household name (admittedly small number) and a contender for top spots on Year End lists. Trust us, the word on the street (and in Decibel) is real. Like death. Ecdysis is death metal reborn!
The definition of Horrendous is “extremely unpleasant, horrifying, or terrible”. Would you call the music of Horrendous “extremely unpleasant, horrifying, or terrible”? Horrendous: Hmm…generally, no, at least I sure hope our music is not terrible. However, there are certainly times when we aim to evoke a horrifying atmosphere with our music. We just thought it would be a cool band name, and “Morbid Angel” was taken, so we went with the next best thing.
How would you describe making music at this stage in the band’s lifespan? Easy, hard, rewarding, annoyingly necessary? Horrendous: I would say it is a very rewarding experience. Though it is a long and arduous process, I think the three of us are at a place where we all feel that we are indispensable to the writing process and that our creative input is valued. With this type of relationship, the three of us are able to musically synch-up and avoid the ego boundaries that can sometimes plague group songwriting. With these boundaries erased, we are free to experiment musically and express our creative energies through what we are writing. These moments are the best aspect of songwriting for me—getting lost in our work and letting the music take us places we didn’t know existed.
How would you compare Ecdysis to The Chills? Horrendous: Overall, I’d say Ecdysis is more varied, diverse, and complex. It embraces a more vast array of influences than its predecessor, but I feel you would probably need to look at the album as a whole, not just individually by song, to really notice that. It’s more complex; we packed in more riffs, made the bass even crazier, and the drums are undeniably more intricate. There’s probably even more leads, as well. We really obsessed over every note, every drum hit, etc. during the recording process. Overall though, I think we retained our signature sound. This is not a different band or anything like that.
Do you worry about how people will perceive your “maturity” on Ecdysis? Horrendous: I like that you put ‘maturity’ in quotations here. To me, Ecdysis is more mature than The Chills in terms of songwriting, structure, complexity and creativity—not because of any perceived shift in style that the band experienced. I think a good deal of people mistakenly equate maturity with adding melody or creating more palatable, textured (read, ‘sophisticated’) music when this is not always true. I view our maturity solely through the lens of how much we have grown and developed our sound as a band, not by abandoning a particular style or subsuming another. In this sense, I think we still have room for a good deal of evolution in the future. Having said that, I do wonder how Ecdysis will be received. I know some fans will be disappointed that we didn’t create The Chills part 2, but I also think that a lot of people were ready for something else after so many years of revivalist bands. Ecdysis may be a ‘grower’ for some people, and I think it may take them a little time to get over the initial shock of not having their expectations met before they can digest the album.
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but everything from ’89 – ’94 is classic lately. Even if it was terrible in ’89 – ’94, it’s considered gold. Like the Cancer records or the lone Sororicide record. Terrible records, by and large, yet considered cult classics. Horrendous: This is an interesting point that I never really thought about; probably because I didn’t experience the original death metal movement until at least a decade after it occurred. There’s definitely an element of rarity, and people wanting what they can’t have or easily find. Whether or not that ties in with the modern digital age/culture where people can basically have access to whatever they want whenever they want or not is up for debate. There’s sort of something mysterious and compelling about discovering a movement after it happened, and slowly discovering just how many bands were part of the style. Like, what other bands am I yet to discover, and yet all of this occurred 20 or more years ago? It’s like a little time capsule. Combine all these facts, and there’s an intangible element of mystery and allure surrounding the whole thing.
There’s a lot of adventurous stuff on Ecdysis. Was there a turning point musically where you felt, “This feels and sounds good. Let’s roll with it!”? Horrendous: I think the musical turning point had more to do with our personal evolution as musicians and music listeners than anything else—we never set out to write songs that were meant to adhere to a particular sound or style, and other influences slowly creeped into our work. Another dimension of our songwriting is related to our abilities as songwriters during any given time frame. We are always pushing ourselves and a good deal of our progression comes from being able to play either more technical or compositionally complex/informed music. Increased skill and creativity leads to increased experimentation, and that leads to more adventurous songs. What I mean here is that The Chills, for example, is not less adventurous (compared to Ecdysis) due to a decision to keep the album purely old school; the realm of adventure/progression we tapped into on Ecdysis simply wasn’t in our collective musical consciousness at that time of The Chills.
Where do you think Horrendous will go from here musically? I know you guys have different influences. Horrendous: Believe it or not, the three of us already started writing new material for the next album. I can’t say for certain where we will be going musically, but if that writing session is any indication, we will probably be taking what we did on Ecdysis a step further for the next album—not necessarily in terms of progressing (I promise LP3 won’t be an avant-garde jazz record or anything) but clarifying our sound and making everything sharper, bigger and better.
Where’d the cover come from? Reminds me of a more literal Zdzislaw Beksinski piece. Horrendous: The cover is a result of us working with Brian Smith. I discovered Brian pretty much by fluke one day while researching art and artists. So we can thank the ever-changing Google search algorithms for altering the course of history in this regard. But yeah, I took a look at his work and just loved his style, so we contacted him and asked if he would like to make us an album cover. We gave him some general ideas of what we wanted, and brainstormed together, and then he let it rip.
The title, Ecdysis, isn’t exactly easy to pronounce. Americans in particular will have trouble with this one. What the hell does it mean and how does it relate to Horrendous’ music? Horrendous: [Laughs] It’s really not that hard, but yes I’m sure 50 percent of people will pronounce it incorrectly, and 90 percent of people will have to look it up. Ecdysis is a word that refers to transformation and growth, or the shedding of layers/skin/form. It’s a metaphor that relates to the album by way of the lyrical content, as well as the album art. It could also be applied to our music in the sense that the concept of Ecdysis concerns a natural process of progression and maturation. Not that we “shed” any aspects of our pre-Ecdysis sound, but that we are growing into our own sound.
Lyrically, where are you taking Horrendous? By the song titles and the cover, it’s not all fun and games, right? Horrendous: Definitely not fun and games. [Laughs] Honestly, it saddens me to see a lot of bands making a mockery of the metal genre, or acting as some type of metal parody. I don’t really get that—in some ways when I see these bands it makes me think that they missed the point when they listened to the genre, though maybe I am just taking it too seriously. I know time and cultural evolution can make things from the past seem cheesy, but I doubt that metal bands playing during the ‘classic’ period were in any way joking about it. That being said, our lyrics reflect this philosophy on metal. For the most part, we try our best to say something worthwhile in our songs and use the music to explore topics that we find meaningful. That is not to say that we don’t have homages to tried and true metal topics (songs on The Chills like “The Ritual” and “Monarch” from the new record, for example), but we never let these songs fall into parody. As far as the lyrics on Ecdysis are concerned, most of the songs focus on both identifying and transcending aspects of society that we see as detrimental to the human experience. Some songs are more literal in their indictments of particular institutions or trends of behavior, while others are meant (both musically and lyrically) to conjure the experience of living in a world that is frequently hostile, chaotic and illogical. In this sense, I think the music on the record compliments the lyrical themes—the music explores the psychological turmoil of living in the world that I described, and is in many ways a tangible expression of the resulting existential crisis. Some corners of the album certainly have pockets of hope for transcending these issues, but the lyrics, music and album art show that the process of change will be a painful one.
OK, Horrendous think differently. You had a yellow shirt with your logo on it. Really, do you not understand? Horrendous: Yeah, I guess we like to be a bit different. What’s the point of only retreading old paths? It’s fine to be into a particular style/niche, but it’s also cool to branch out a bit. We were pretty keen on having the second press of our demo tape be on pink cassettes, for example. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. Anyway, yellow shirts aren’t completely unheard of, but they’re pretty rare, and we thought it would be a cool, limited edition type of shirt. They’re pretty popular though, so maybe we’ll keep them around longer than we had initially intended. Metal can often be a sort of conservative scene, but sometimes novelty pays off.
What do you make of the reaction to the songs premiered so far? People seem excited. Horrendous: Yeah, so far the vast majority of people seem pretty impressed and are pumped to hear the album. That’s a great thing. Of course, some people don’t like the songs, and that’s OK. It would be great to please everyone, but that is impossible regardless of what songs we write. We can’t wait for everyone to hear the album in its entirety—we are so proud of the result. It does seem like a lot of people understand the songs so far and appreciate their complexity, which we are also very happy about.
** Horrendous’ new album, Ecdysis, is out now on Dark Descent Records. It’s available HERE in vinyl and CD formats. There’s no reason for any metalhead to miss out on Ecdysis. It’s stunningly good.
Ok, ok, ok, it’s getting to be the end of the year, so the releases REALLY slow down here. I’m going to just go ahead and get my end of the year list out of the way now, in case you want to get your Xmas shopping on. If you have a curiosity or have been putting off buying any of these releases, go ahead and get ‘em now.
EYEHATEGOD- Eyehategod- The last with now-deceased drummer Joey LaCaze (R.I.P). A great return to form. All hail EYEHATEGOD.
MISERY INDEX- The Killing Gods- This is a nasty little platter of anger and aggression. This thing rips. Misery Index tearing it up, again.
GRIDLINK- Longhena- Not sure what the title means, but what a way to go out. Their swansong is their best effort yet.
LORD MANTIS- Death Mask- I’m not sure how this slipped under the radar with me, but once I heard it, it easily made this list. Death with a little bit of blackened thrown in, but yes, this is awesome.
NOTHING- Guilty of Everything- Bleak and nihilistic shoegaze; definitely not for everyone, but this rules. Moody Britpop that’s heavy, too.
MERZBOW/FULL OF HELL- Split- Powerviolence, grindcore, blackened death and harsh noise all honed to perfection here.
AUTOPSY- Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves- Dust the crust. Autopsy’s latest effort falls right in along with any of their past releases. Sludgy mean death metal the way it’s meant to be played.
THE CUTTHROATS 9- Dissent- This EP is punk noise mayhem. Lays down a rocking groove and goes for the jugular.
HORRENDOUS- Ecdysis- Swedish old-school death mixed with Floridian death metal roots. Nasty, yet there are hooks.
GODFLESH- A World Lit Only by Fire- Godflesh the way you’ve never heard them… OK, Godflesh the way you heard them and WANT to hear them. Industrial death noise.
INTERNAL BLEEDING- Imperium- Slams, slams and more slams. Hate all you want, but this thing grows on you. Slam-a-riffic riffs with some melody thrown in, but my beak the breakdowns!
IRON REAGAN- The Tyranny of Will- Get your circle pit on. A crossover punk/metal amalgam that’s super fun and super catchy, and will have you swilling warm PBR in no time.
NAUSEA- Condemned to the System- Crusty, raw, angsty, visceral, from the gut: those are just a few ways to describe this ferocious piece of grind punk fuckery.
CRETIN- Stranger- This just came out, but jeez this thing is good. A grinding, blistering assault that is not without its subtleties. This is awesome.
German/Yank quartet Downfall of Gaia have returned with their latest attack on the status quo with Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay, the band’s third complete full-length. This is a late-in-the-year offering you’ll want to pay some attention, as it gathers all shades of darkness, then both pets and pummels you with it. It’s occasionally sludgy, sometimes mournful, often blackly brutal, and always engaging. Check out how they find a way to make screeching feedback actually fucking resolve at the end of “Carved into Shadows” before dipping into the slow-breaking-day of “Ascending the Throne.”
Next month, the band takes on a 22-date U.S. tour, spending most of their time on the East Coast but also heading to Texas and parts of the Midwest. The tour poster is below. Also, don’t miss new drummer Mike Kadnar’s take on the way the new material happened (below the tour poster).
Why does this album focus on time as the enemy of man? What personal events or philosophies made this a topic that you wanted to engage now?
I think the quote we used by Dion Boucicault, “Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them” accurately explains what the album is about. Time has influenced each member of the band differently, especially over the past couple of years. Dominik wrote all the lyrics on his own, but the eerily resemble my life in a lot of ways. I lost a very close family member a couple of years ago, and it tore my family apart unfortunately. Portions of the album are about loss, and how time can heal certain things or make other things worse.
Mike, how did you get hooked up with the band? How does it work, with you based in NY and the rest of the band in Germany?
My New York based band Black Table toured with Downfall of Gaia in August/September of 2013. After the one month US tour, we all became really good friends and stayed in contact via email/Facebook. When I heard their drummer was leaving, I contacted them to see how the drummer search was going and offered my services, jokingly at first. When they informed me the search wasn’t going well, we began talking seriously about me being their touring drummer (Since they had two big European festivals booked for the summer already, Hellfest and Metal Days). This conversation snowballed into them asking me to record their next record with them and joining the band full time.
I learned and transcribed all the songs from their previous set list in the winter of 2014. Then they flew me out to Hamburg, Germany for a 2 week rehearsal in March, and then again for another two week rehearsal in late April/May. The transition was pretty seamless and we were able to start working on new songs after a few days. As of now, I still live in the NYC area, and the other three guys live in Hamburg and Berlin. We have all been practicing on our own, and we will meet up for a rehearsal a couple of days before our next tour, which will be a US tour in January/February of 2015.
How did the album’s concept affect the approach to writing or performing this music?
During these two rehearsal periods, we wrote the entire record instrumentally and recorded crappy demos in our dingy basement rehearsal space. We listened to these and made edits via internet and then polished everything up during the second rehearsal. The rough concept of the album was already in place, but the album really came together during this second rehearsal, which is when Dominik brought in the final version of all the lyrics.
As I explained in the previous question, all four of us had a difficult year, and this is definitely reflected in the mood and atmosphere of this record. We are all coming out of a dark, desolate place, and we put all of these emotions and experiences into the music.
What was the recording process like? How was it different from other recordings you’ve been involved in?
The recording process was surprisingly smooth and efficient. I flew into Germany June 2nd, and we packed the equipment in the van, and started setting up drums the next morning at the ’79 Sound’ in Cologne. This is the same studio Downfall of Gaia recorded their last album, Suffocating in the Swarms of Cranes, but it was my first time recording and meeting engineer Christoph Scheidel. Fortunately for me, he was extremely easy to work with and very encouraging, while maintaining the integrity of the project and giving pointers where necessary. We spent most of the first day setting the drums up and tuning the house Yamaha 4 piece drum kit to where we wanted it. The drum tracking went smoothly once we got the drum tone we wanted.
Bass tracking was next and was going really well, until we discovered one of the tubes had blown. We found a local repair guy in Cologne, and he ordered the parts, fixed the tube, and had it back to us by the time both guitars were tracked. We were really fortunate to find a local amp guy since we only had 11 days in the studio before we kicked off our European tour with Toxic Holocaust and Black Tusk. Vocals took a little more time than we expected, but we got everything tracked the day before tour started, so we even had time to run through the set before we loaded out of the studio.
Does the current Downfall of Gaia sound draw from any non-heavy influences?
I studied jazz performance in college, so I am immensely influences by jazz. Some of my biggest jazz drumming influences are Roy Haynes,Tony Williams, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Dafnis Prieto, Jim Black and Mark Guiliana.
Another big influence for me is John Coltrane’s ability to create “sheets of sound” with one instrument. He was able to create these cascading arpeggios with his horn that would fill the sonic spectrum. I’ve taken this concept and incorporated it on the drums by using two crashes/rides everywhere I physically can to produce the biggest wall of sound possible. Instead of traditionally riding on one cymbal, I ride on two to fill the sound out more. I also started 22-24 inch ride cymbals as crashes to help achieve this sound.
If you could join a dream tour line-up, what other bands would you want to share the stage with?
We were fortunate enough to play with some of our favorite bands and heroes at this year’s Hellfest. However, I’m still dying to play with The Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge. This year’s Decibel tour is pretty much perfect!
Two years ago, we tried to wrap our punk-savvy tech-death brains around Dimesland’s debut EP, Creepmoon. The task proved too difficult to complete, but we sure enjoyed trying. Complex frustration/anger/love is one of the perks of freaking out on heavy music.
Next week, the Dimesland crazies will release their full-length, Psychogenic Atrophy, which features this gem we’re focused on today, a song called “Bound in Stone.” Below the player, you can read about some of the band’s influences and peers in our interview with guitarist Drew Cook, or you could listen to the song a few times and do a pretty decent job of picking some of them out yourself.
How long have you been working on the new album?
We worked on and off in the studio from late-2012 until early-2014, as our funds allowed. We did a lot of pre-production, so there wasn’t any wasted time (money) in the studio. The album was recorded, mixed and mastered at Trakworx in South San Francisco with Justin Weis, who was a perfect fit to work with us on this undertaking.
Did you approach the songwriting any differently this time than on Creepmoon?
As far as furthering our sound, it’s usually a pretty natural thing because we’re always writing. It just happens – this is the latest batch of stuff, and everyone helps to shape it. The thing that makes this record different than Creepmoon is that we have a solid lineup that just works, and that’s pretty lucky.
Do you feel like your playing style has shifted in the last couple years?
Our playing style will always be there. The great thing is keeping the wheels rolling and facing some new challenges. The future holds more Dimesland recordings.
What were the recording sessions for Psychogenic Atrophy like?
Nolan and I have worked on a number of albums in the studio together, but this record was still it’s own beast. Harley (drummer) and Greg (bass, vox) just slayed and all the work we did was fun and rewarding. We’ve established a new unit.
Who do you think of as immediate musical peers, bands who are interested in creating music similar to the way you do? Who do you think inspires your musical direction the most?
I’d have to list too many! We love bands that really do their own thing and push dimensions. I guess bands such as Gorguts, Loincloth and Portal come to mind immediately. We recently played a show with Gigan and really enjoyed them. There are many great bands out there, people just need to find out about them and check them out. Get out of the house and go see someone play, even if it’s in some weird warehouse in a bad neighborhood, you could discover something!
What live performance plans do you have coming up, if any? What are your hopes for Dimesland’s near future?
We usually play certain shows locally (Bay Area), but more touring in the western U.S. is always in our sights, and we’re hoping to hit Europe for our first time somewhere in the not-too-distant future.
Some time ago, I introduced you to a new face on the NYC crossover scene, Activator (refresher course, here). At the time, they were on the eve of the release of their self-titled debut album. Since then, they have been relatively quiet, especially considering bands these days post every aspect of their musical and non-musical lives all over the interhole. That relative semi-silence has been broken with the recent completion of the band’s first promo video, “Sexy for Breakfast.” Featuring a brief cameo by Quicksand’s Sergio Vega and a storyline about vocalist Shannon Moore having his girl two-time him while he screams his balls off and supports local sports teams in hat-style, the video takes a rather confusing turn towards the end. Did he fail at his crime of passion? Was this all an elaborate role play scenario climaxing in an auto-erotic asphyxiation, erm, climax? Is Vega’s coming over later to teach the couple to play “Fazer” on that baby grand? Watch and draw your own conclusions.
Two weeks ago, I watched a game that captivated me like few have this season. It was a match between the then 7-3 Kansas City Chiefs (who are riding what I believe will be a massive tailspin) and the 0-10 Oakland Raiders. The Raiders had nothing to play for but their fans. As usual, said fans showed up in droves to support the team they love. The result was a team with nothing to play for willing a win over a team that had everything to play for, in prime time, no less.
When asked about the win after the game, quarterback David Carr said simply, “ I just can’t wait to get back [to the locker room] and see my teammates smile.” Veteran safety, champion, leader and future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson said in his postgame interview, “I needed this win like I needed to breathe.” Losing sucks. But one thing’s for damn sure: Habitually losing really sucks.
This week, it was back to normal for the Raiders, getting fucking LEVELED by the St. Louis rams 52-0. Seriously, how do you lose 52-0? That means literally you lost every play in the game. Also, it’s not like they got blown out by Green Bay or New England. It was the Rams. Jesus Christ, Raiders.
In order to get some perspective, I spoke to Early Graves guitarist — and diehard Raiders fan — Chris Brock about his take on the current Raiders, as well as what it is like to Raid in the US of A. It seems like forever ago, but the Raiders had a great team in the early 2000s, and then seemingly overnight, that teamed vanished. Brock recalls the moment of the sea change:
“The Tuck Rule Game changed everything [2001 AFC Division playoff game, New England Patriots/Oakland Raiders]. It dismantled the team and left Al Davis with little time left to live and [accomplish] the goal of winning another Super Bowl. He was a penny rich and dollar short with every draft pick and free agent signing from then on.”
Al Davis passed away in 2011, and his son Mark Davis took over as owner. I think it’s pretty easy to see that Mark isn’t as accepted as his father was by the Oakland fan base. Brock agrees, and thinks a change in ownership might put the team back on track:
“His son isn’t a great owner. He doesn’t know the game of football like Al did. They need to sell the team to an owner who doesn’t have a bowl cut, hire a GM that knows what he is doing, and hope they get lucky.”
I LOVE first round draft pick Khalil Mack. I think he will be the face of the Raiders D for many years. However, besides Mack, I can’t see anything the Raiders have to offer but a bunch of question marks. Starting with rookie QB David Carr. I’m not sold on Carr, and neither is Brock, but I think we both agree that it may be out of context to analysis his skill set on this current team.
“I think he is going to be a solid player, but how can you possibly judge a quarterback when there is no running game to speak of? MJD and McFadden are so abysmal that Carr has to throw the ball way more than he should. They are always playing from behind. The other teams they play know that a throw is coming. He has proven to be a very tough player and resilient, but I guess I still am left wondering what season two will have in store for him. I think it’s too early be sold on or to give up.”
Now as far as next season for the Raiders, they frankly don’t know who the hell is going to be leading their team on the field. Coach Dennis Allen was fired four games into the season this year. He was replaced by assistant coach Tony Sparano. Even if he’s able to get a few more wins this season, I think everyone will collectively agree that Sparano’s done with the team after this season. Brock argues that his coaching style is not NFL-caliber, and it’s time to get a fresh guy in the mix who might be on the outs with his team at season’s end, as well. Then there’s the Jim Harbaugh rumblings. In four weeks, when the San Francisco 49ers don’t make the playoffs, the Niners organization will turn on their acclaimed coach, and he them. They will take a first-round draft pick for their head coach. The Raiders, a team that lacks direction in all aspects, would be a legit landing spot for Harbaugh. The Raiders would give him the keys to the low-rider, without hesitation. Brock would approve.
“I don’t trust anyone who runs a gimmick offense — the wild cat, the read option — like Sparano does. I would love to see Jim Harbaugh end up in Oakland. I don’t really remember anything about his tenure here in Oakland when he was a QB coach or assistant or whatever he was, but seeing how he turned around the 49ers is crazy.”
A new coach can turn a team on and off like a light switch. I look at the mess that was the Arizona Cardinals a few years ago before Bruce Arians came in to the mix and made them a juggernaut.
I love Early Graves. Best Bay Area band to come out California since Ugly Kid Joe (who actually were from Isla Vista, but wore backwards caps). Check them out here!
I mentioned the Rams/Raiders game this past Sunday. I read this interesting article this week where Boomer Esiason said that he is certain that both the Raiders and Rams are headed back to L.A. Both teams’ leases are up and L.A. wants football in the new stadium they’re erecting. They want their erection to not go to waste. We know how frustrating that can be. I believe the Raiders relocating would be okay. Why the Rams, though? It seems like overkill. The Oakland fan base would travel over with the Raiders moving to Los Angeles. The St. Louis fans would not move over. Who in L.A. would jump on the Rams bandwagon after a 20-year absence?
You want to hear a statistic that you won’t believe? A Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) wide receiver has not caught a touchdown all season (13 weeks). Seriously. I’m not making this up.
Good for Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine, who yesterday announced that he will be sticking with Brian Hoyer (for now) as QB over Johnny Manziel. Here’s what sucks, though: Manziel can actually use the experience. Manziel, no doubt, will win the starting job this offseason and be the Browns starting QB next season. If Manziel got the reins now, it’d be a trial by fire that would season him for an inevitable push for a AFC North division championship next year. Regardless of what happens this week, Hoyer either pulls down the win, or he gets benched for Manziel next week. Tall order for Hoyer. But with playoff pictures already shaping up, the Indianapolis Colts seem to have less and less to play for every week. I like the Browns A LOT this week.
If You’re 555, I’m 666
I will tell you one thing about the month of December in the NFL: sixes are wild. All these teams are fighting over the last playoff spot in their conference, and it will all come down to the last week of the season to decide. Two bold predictions:
1) the Arizona Cardinals, currently positioned as the #1 seed in the NFC, will be the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC. Their next four weeks are Chiefs, @Rams, Seahawks, and @Frisco. They will lose three of those games. The Seahawks will win the NFC West in the last week, setting up a much-needed first round bye for the Eagles, and the Cardinals going on the road to try and upset Seattle.
2) the Pistburgh Stillers will lock up the sixth seed in the AFC UNLESS Baltimore beats the Fins on the road this weekend, in which case Baltimore gets it. Pitt plays Cincinnati twice in the next four weeks, which they will split. Their two other games are @Atlanta and vs. KC. They essentially control their own destiny. I am certain the Miami Dolphins will split their last four games (Baltimore, @New England, Vikings, Jets), which will mean they will more than likely fuck off and lose a winnable game, and not deserve a playoff birth.
As far as those five seeds go, the Chargers and Lions are locks. The Chargers have an unbelievably hard last four weeks, but Philip Rivers owns December. They will at least split December, which will more than likely have them a game ahead of all six seeds, or winning tiebreakers against said six seeds. In the NFC, the Cowboys will look back to November 2, 2014 as their demise: The day they lost the (would be) tiebreaker to the Arizona Cardinals, which at the time no one would fathom to be a tiebreaker.
And finally this week, I’d like to address something that NBC is doing right now under our nose that will actually lead to something pretty revolutionary: they are slowly introducing us to their future play-by-play commentator for Sunday Night Football once Al Michaels (70) leaves. The revolutionary part: It happens to be a woman, sideline reporter Michele Tafoya. I’ve noticed them going to her for random comments approximately every eight minutes, which is a hell of a lot. If you’re not familiar with Michele, check out this clip.
The problem is every comment she has during SNF is horrible and nonsensical. It’s shit like, “Jonas Gray ate a bunch of Kix cereal this morning, hence him out of nowhere having four touchdowns in this game.” Just really bad comments that make her look like a total fool or someone who picks winners based on jersey color. I don’t blame her. I blame the producers feeding her the lines. We are subconsciously learning not to trust her opinion when, in actuality, she’s a beast when it comes to football knowledge.
This is why the NBA will be the most sexually progressive of the Big Four sports in the next decade. Not only will Spurs assistant head coach Becky Hammon eventually be the first female head coach of a major male sport, I believe that the lead voice of the NBA will eventually be female sideline commentator, and occasional color commentator, Doris Burke. If you haven’t seen Burke’s commentary work, she’s amazing. Burke and Tafoya just happen to be the same age (49). The difference between the two is that the NBA feeds Burke legit stats and topics to address when she gets mic time, not BS like the NFL feeds Tofoya. Either way, Tafoya has my stamp of approval. She’s great.
Also, I’d like to take this time to apologize to all my Facebook friends who read my post recently about me wanting to have a threesome with Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong. I was joking. I don’t even watch SNL.