Deciblog Interview: Nunslaughter

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, January 19th, 2015

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Nunslaughter has been recording mandatory underground metal since 1987, a time when extreme metal was largely in retreat and teased hair was the norm. The band has been led for close to three decades by the inimitable Don Of The Dead (Donald Crotsley) a walking metal encyclopedia content to release the bulk of his band’s work on splits. Reading the band’s catalog is a lot like flipping through a college syllabus.

The Deciblog connected with Don last fall as he was between jobs to talk about KISS solo records, buying a shirt from Athenar of Midnight in the early 90s and going to college with a famous amateur and professional wrestler.

What have you been up to since you’ve been between jobs?

I’ve been taking it easy. I was anticipating the end of the contract. It’s been many years since I had a full summer off so my intention was to take the summer off and do a lot of riding and traveling. If something comes along this winter that’s great and if not I’ll keep writing music.

Did you travel cross-country?

We did a European tour earlier this year (in 2014). I’ve just been traveling the U.S. seeing friends from high school and college and next Friday I’m going to Orlando for the weekend. I just pop in and hang out for a few days. It’s nothing like a trip around the world or to Rome.

Where did you to school?

I went to Clarion University in Pennsylvania. I have a bachelor of science in communications.

Wait, did you know (Olympic gold medalist and pro wrestler) Kurt Angle?

I went to school when Kurt was there. I didn’t know him personally but he was a popular figure because of his wrestling career and it’s a relatively small school. I saw him a handful of times. And when he became this huge wrestler I was like “I went to school with that dude! We never crossed paths; he was more into the fraternity-sorority athletic group. I was more in the freaks and hippies group. So we didn’t hang out but he’s probably the biggest, most notable person I went to school with.

That would make for an interesting alumni magazine; on one side you have a gold medalist and WWE wrestler and on the other you have Nunslaughter.

(laughs). That would be pretty interesting.

How did you get into heavy metal?

The first band that ever spoke to me was KISS. There were other bands like Rush and Van Halen and Led Zeppelin but none of them spoke to me like KISS. It would have been about the late 70s or early 80s when I heard them. From there, I always wanted it a little heavier and KISS got me into Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and Ozzy and Black Sabbath. They started it all for me.

Did you ever see them live with the original lineup?

I saw the reboot tour in 1999 or 2000 and that was fantastic. That was the first and only time I’ve gone and seen KISS. Even when they were still doing shows I was a little on the young side to go see them. And I wasn’t interested in seeing stuff with Eric Carr or Vinnie Vincent. So, that was the one and only time.

You probably remember the day when KISS released all four solo LPS on one day.

I absolutely do. It took me a while to get all four of those because I wanted to get the puzzle posters that came with them. I actually wasn’t a big fan of the solo albums. Over the past 25 to 30 years they’ve grown on me; there are few really good songs. But when I was younger I didn’t like them. Back then, records were around six or seven dollars apiece and I didn’t have a job because I was young. So I had to wait to get my allowance.

The only one of those records that spoke to me was Ace Frehley’s solo effort. Gene Simmons did a cover of “When You Wish Upon a Star.” It was terrible.

Oh, that record was fucking awful. The only song that was good (on the Simmons solo LP) was “Radioactive.” I think Ace’s overall was the best. Then I’d have to say Paul, Gene and Peter in that order.

Did you listen to The Nuge a lot as well?

Not as much. I lumped that in with music that old kids listen to. I didn’t want to be that guy that continued to listen to music people had listened to for a decade. I’ve gone back and listened to Sweaty Teddy and saw him once. Some of his antics are very noteworthy; he was chastised for shooting an actual bow and arrow above his audience. But his political views are completely fucked. He should really just stop talking and play music.

So by the time Nunslaughter started had you moved past all of this stuff to listen to extreme metal?

Yes. Early on it was Manowar, Mercyful Fate, Motorhead and Hellhammer. In the mid 80s — about 1985 – is when I started buying demo tapes. From that I started tape trading. I had one or two other people in Pittsburgh and they’d buy tapes and we’d meet and copy tapes that we had rather than buying them. Around 1985 I was introduced to underground stuff, bands that didn’t even have an album. I figured if these schleps could do it I could do it too. That was my whole introduction to the metal underground.

I talked to Jamie from Midnight recently and he’s also on Hell’s Headbangers. What seems to unite a lot of the bands on the label is the ability to write good songs in an age of 10-minute wankfests.

Well, Jamie is an actual musician. I’m just a fan of music who makes more music than an actual musician (laughs). I’ve always been about gut instinct.

Five or six years ago I was at Jamie’s house and he pulls out a letter. He bought the Nunslaughter demo from us back in 1987 and had a handwritten letter from the original singer! He still had it!

Was it in good shape?

Very much so. He saved all of his correspondence with bands over the years. I first met (Jamie) back in 1991 or 1992. He came to Pittsburgh for a show and was wearing a Black Sabbath Volume 4 shirt. Back then you didn’t see that motif on shirts — it wasn’t as common as it is today because there were no reprints. I said “where did you get the shirt?” and he said “I silk-screened it in my house.” I asked him if I could get one and he said “yeah.” I gave him five bucks and he sent me the shirt and I still have it. Back then, I didn’t even know he wrote music.

Here you are more than two decades later and you are on the same label and there are people all over the country into your music.

It is really cool, isn’t it?

What do you think about his development as songwriter?

He’s an extremely talented individual. He plays all of the instruments himself. Bands struggle with things like timing issues or figuring out how a song needs to be played. But since he writes and plays the music it makes it more cohesive without having four or five guys tracking something.

When I originally moved to Cleveland he was in a band called Boulder and we reconnected. I thought they were excellent and they would blow up but they imploded instead. I was happy that he went ahead and did another project. We recently obtained an old Boulder song and so we’re going to have a split with Boulder and Nunslaughter.

Was the idea with Nunslaughter always to do a bunch of splits? Your discography is more than a human being can track.

It just seemed to happen. I’m fortunate enough to have a drummer (Jim Sadist) who is an extremely good and fast songwriter. He likes to move at my pace, which is relatively frantic, especially when you consider how slow a lot of other bands are. We are always on go, go as fast as you can. Once we start getting a lot of material a few things happen. We get four songs and we want to record them. And as soon as we record it we do it a split. If we had more labels and studio time we could record more and we’d have more records.

Do you have a copy of ever split you’ve done?

If I don’t I have almost all of them. It gets kind of difficult because there is different cover art or vinyl color or picture discs. I’m almost positive I have a copy of every record that we’ve put out. But I don’t know if I have every version.

How did you end up working with Hell’s Headbangers?

When we originally met them they were young kids coming to shows. There are four brothers and three of them run the label. When they liked a CD they often ended up purchasing three copies. Around three or four copies is when you can get wholesale prices. So, instead of buying three they would get five and try to resell two others. That morphed into them buying more CDs and putting them up for sale. Their first release was from our drummer Jim’s band The Spawn Of Satan. We were their second release — on a split.

What did you think about the enormous amount of attention the Satanic Threat reissues received?

A small back story. Jim had been talking about a doing a Satanic Minor Threat influenced band for a decade. We had a lull in Nunslaughter and I said “we’re fucking doing this!” Over a few weeks we cranked out the songs and got it recorded. We didn’t think much of it. Then a thousand copies flew out of the door. Hell’s Headbanger’s eventually wanted to rerelease it and it’s done pretty well. I also sent one to the Dischord house and heard back from Ian MacKaye.

Do you remember what he said?

He sent a postcard. I still have it it but I don’t recall. He did thank me for sending it and thought it was a very interesting take on Minor Threat. It was neat to hear from him.

If you keep going how man splits will you have at the close of your musical career?

Jim and I have talked about it a few times and agreed that if he wants to keep doing it I will keep doing it. We’re already working on a bunch of songs for splits and we’re supposed to do an album with Profanatica in 2015. After that maybe we’ll do another full-length record. It just seems to keep coming.

Visigoth Steps Out “From the Arcane Mists of Prophecy”

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: exclusive, featured On: Monday, January 19th, 2015

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We’re a little over a week out from the release of the new Visigoth record, The Revenant King, but we’ve got the exclusive premiere of the epic closer for you today…Enjoy!

Check out another album cut over at…NPR.

Top 5 New Releases (Q1) Not In Decibel’s February Issue

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, lists On: Monday, January 19th, 2015

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** Our February 2015 (HERE) issue features a fantastic expose on the upcoming releases of 2015. Here’s five crucial releases by killer bands that weren’t part of our list.

5. Hate – Crusade:Zero
Hate are viewed as underlings to the kingdom Vader built, but over recent years the Warsaw-based trio have come into their own. There’s still plenty of “Polish” in their sound—overly tight rhythm sections, guitar tone, riff architecture—but from Morphosis through new album Crvsade:Zero that little bit of coldness (let’s not call it “Industrial”) has edged Hate from imitaors to originators. From what we’ve heard already in Crvsade:Zero, clearly Hate aren’t settling for second best, regardless of press interest or sways in music trends.

4. Callisto – Secret Youth
Callisto waited four thousand years to release the follow-up to widely acclaimed Providence. The, uh, metalgaze Finns made an absolute gem in Providence. It might’ve been a little long in the proverbial tooth, but the songs—as verbose as they were—kept interest high and Jani Ala-Hukkala’s reserved harmonies—though some cringe-worthy—stuck hard to the forefront of the mind. “Rule the Blood” and “New Canaan” were simply awesome. On new album, Secret Youth, the newly crowned Svart Records group have taken some of the “pretty” out. There’s a bit more clang and bang and, as a result, Secret Youth takes a bit longer to sink it. Can’t wait to hear what it sounds like in November.

3. Necrowretch – With Serpents Scourge
French throwback death metallers have almost nobody waiting for the follow-up to Putrid Death Sorcery. The Century Media-signed trio have a cult following but not the gravitas of, say, Evocation or Tribulation (no relation in sound, actually). They sort of exist on an isolated French-speaking island, where daily rituals of beheading goats, soiling crypts, defiling sacrality (is this a word?) are carried out with no real care from the locals. This no man’s land has, however, afforded Necrowretch a bit of originality. The group’s new album, With Serpents Scourge, is as violent and (moderately) catchy as death metal can be. It’s like the ancient gods of Death and Grotesque blessed them with Schuldiner’s hand and Wåhlin’s vicious vision.

2. Melechesh – Enki
Levantine metal! From the most ancient of lands with its storied and sordid histories comes Melechesh. New album, Enki, with lineup changes to boot, sounds massive. It might not be as whipcrackingly smart as Emissaries or The Epigenesis, but it has an aura to it. Like it was meant for a higher purpose. Perhaps it’s all the blood, sweat, and ritualistic fire head chief Ashmedi put into his “comeback” album. Songs have already premiered to great applause. But the whole album is positively charming; it’s an eye into what it would be like if the Middle East was focused on its musical heritage (and merged with black metal/heavy metal) instead of whatever inane thing it thinks is important to itself and, well, itself.

1. Dødheimsgard – A Umbra Omega
There’s no question Dødheimsgard lost their minds ages ago. Well, the Norwegians have enough power to piece together their brain puzzle and write another album in A Umbra Omega. The cover art alone looks like it was from the Hydrahead stable. Musically, there’s no expectations of Dødheimsgard. It could be (ironically, speaking) off-the-wall normal. Meaning: Dødheimsgard could pull a fast one and write a “normal” album, one without all the hairbrained zaniness and wanton experimentation that’s defined the group since mindfuck, 666 International. Not a note has been whispered by either Dødheimsgard or their label, Peaceville, yet. The wait continues…

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

By: admin Posted in: a fucking parrot previewing new releases, featured On: Friday, January 16th, 2015

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Happy New Year, you pecking geeks. There’s not much going on at the end of the year, and not much going on in the beginning of the year either. At least we’re out of the doldrums of the reissue cycle, although there have been some that are cool.

Hailing from Portland, OR, LORD DYING release Poisoned Altars on Relapse. It’s produced by Joel Grind, who is normally known for having immense thrashy chops. I was curious to see what he’d do with a sludgy/doomy style band, and the overall result is great.  The guitars have a killer buzzsaw sound, which really lends to an overall clarity, and a kind of old-school type of vibe.  To simply pigeonhole this as sludge or doom is completely unfair, and while it definitely has that “vibe,” it certainly shifts and moves, and is downright mid-tempo at times, verging on the edge of “rock” without ever losing any nastiness. This is no bearded (although they do have beards) fuzzed-out Orange amplifier type of sludge, but more precise and gruff.  7 Fucking Pecks.

Wow, I’m really not too sure what to think of this. SATAN’S HOST is releasing a double album entitled Pre-Dating God Parts 1 & 2. Or, I guess I am sure what to make of this: this is that sorta perfect storm of “cult metal,” and by that I mean the overall feel of this is outdated, so “cult” it is.  This falls neatly between, like, early thrash and proto-black metal, coming across as a slightly more evil Grim Reaper (they do cover “See You in Hell” on one of these).  Calling this bad isn’t really fair, as it’s not bad, just immensely forgettable and uninspired.  So, this is like a little of the ’80s trad metal style; you know, the one where a ton of bands played this style and then were forgotten about? Yeah, that one, with a bit of early black metal thrown in. I dunno, not my perch really. I’m not going to hate on this, but recommending it is pretty hard, too. 3 Fucking Pecks.

So, sometimes I review a band just based off of their name, and ladies and gentleman, I give you SERIOUS BLACK. CLEARLY, someone’s kid was watching Harry Potter, heard the name and decided that this would make a GREAT band name… and they were wrong. But now onto the music. Yuck. I mean, this is just not my thing. The band’s a virtual who’s-who of the European power metal scene, and if any of you beak geeks know me, you know I am super not into that.  This is your typical power metal fare: soaring vocals, a couple of anthems, some string orchestration, a little middle eastern keys here and there. So, if you like this stuff, As Daylight Breaks will not disappoint your bland sensibilities in boring power metal. 2 Fucking Pecks.

That’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll be a little less cranky next time. Squawk!

 

Gearified by Matt Olivo: Intronaut mainman drops customized axes via Dunable Guitars

By: James Lewis Posted in: featured, gear, repulsion On: Friday, January 16th, 2015

Gearified

**Matt Olivo is the founding guitarist of extreme metal trailblazers Repulsion, whose Horrified LP ranks as Decibel’s #1 grindcore album of all time. Because we know that every reader ever plays guitar, we are bringing his print column to the Deciblog. In issue #121 Matt gave his feedback on Dunable custom guitars made by Sacha Dunable of Intronaut.

This month, Gearified takes a break from the mega-massive, corporate gear we normally analyze so we can give a scrappy startup a shot! Dunable Guitars began in 2012. Sacha Dunable, guitarist/vocalist of Los Angeles mathcore mavens Intronaut, is its sole proprietor/workforce. Which must be cool—he can be a dick to himself, take long lunches and give himself raises he doesn’t deserve, just like a real corporation! Anyway, he offers two different client-customized, hand-built models at a crazy low price (for what you get). He sent Gearified one of his “Yarnhawk” six-string designs, and this is what happened.

Under the Hood
The two-piece, walnut, double cutaway body is shaped like an evolutionary offshoot of Gibson’s hipster-hoarded SG design. Features include comfort cuts for torso and picking arm, a semi-gloss oil finish and a complementary all-walnut pickguard, with ebony wood binding. Electronics consists of a pair of Stonewall boutique-made pickups controlled by shared volume/tone controls selectable with a standard 3-way selector switch. The bridge humbucker can be tapped with a push/pull knob at the tone position. The 25.5-inch scale, wenge neck and fingerboard features a slinky u-shaped profile, jumbo nickel frets, Graph Tech TUSQ nut, Grover Sta-Tite 18:1 open back tuners, 13 degree reinforced headstock tilt, set-neck joint and all-natural wood finish. Other hardware includes a Gotoh TOM bridge and Dunlop strap locks.

Playability
The u-shape neck provides a slim setting from which to comfortably comp basic to complex chords. The Gibson friendly 12-inch radius on the fingerboard means it took our digits no time at all to get familiar with the playing field. The lack of finish on the neck threw us a bit at first, as it has a tendency to slow shred speeds. So, we switched focus on what this guitar does best: playing heavy, yet articulated rhythms with shimmery chordal departures. The string tension, action and intonation were set up beautifully. So much so that we didn’t even realize that we’d been playing with a wound G string for the first 20 minutes! It’s also worthy to note that the Yarnhawk came to us tuned to C sharp. At this low of a tuning, it’s typical to experience a dull-feeling, jangly guitar with no dynamics. Not so with this beast—now to plug in!

Sound
We decided on our Marshall Vintage Modern 100-watt half-stack as the benchmark for Dunable’s Yarnhawk. Reason being, the tone woods/pickup combo would likely yield more subtle tonal colors than this amp is known for. A high gain setting on the Stonewall Disorder humbucker (bridge) kick off the festivities in high style. As expected, the low end tone was quite clear and well-defined. Mid-range attack was punchy, but well-behaved, and highs were clear and glossy. An overall assessment at this point is that Dunable had designed an instrument with a balanced tone in mind. No frequencies seemed to jut out with a jagged edge on this (primary) pickup position.

The neck pup is a different story. Here we have a Stonewall P90. Switching to this in high gain mode is a bit precarious, as the P90 is a single coil. Shit-tons of noise will slap you in the face until your fingers get moving. To be fair, this has nothing to do with Dunable’s build—this is a universal rule when pairing humbuckers with single coils in high gain situations.
The tonal quality was styling, though. After dialing back the volume knob a bit, we jumped into some very satisfying blues/psych-rock stank riffs. P90s are known and sought after for their rude, dirty shrill, and this one delivers with a stuffed crust.

On cleaner settings, the pup selector went to the middle position to pair bridge and neck together. We utilized Yarnhawk’s handy push/pull coil tap switch to really bring out some shimmering highs, plucky midrange and hypnotic lows.

Yarnhawk November 2014 issue 121 resized

Summary
We give Dunable our stamp of approval. He builds a solid and impressive instrument for the post-metal/rock crowd. He’s also open to ideas, and very creative with his own. Lastly, but most importantly, he’s a pro player in an active recording and touring band. With the combination of his considerable skill and perspective, we believe this SoCal startup will establish himself as a respectable, sought-after builder.

Price
(for reviewed guitar) $2,350

For more info on Dunable Guitars, go to: http://dunableguitars.com/

Encrotchment With Eddie Gobbo of Jar’d Loose: Championship Weekend

By: Eddie Gobbo Posted in: encrotchment, featured On: Friday, January 16th, 2015

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R.I.P. Taylor Negron

The Resurrection of Andrew Wood

Growing up, I was a huge Andrew Wood fan. He was the singer of Mother Love Bone, which, all things considered, is the band that wrote the book on most of what came out of Seattle in the ’90s. Even though he grew up in Seattle, Wood was a HUGE Dallas Cowboys fan. Recently, I came across a website where Wood’s family is auctioning off a bunch of his shit, including his Cowboys shirts ($700 each). As soon as I finish this column, I am purchasing one, which will be proudly displayed in my home.

Now, we all know why Wood loved the Cowboys in the ’90s. They we’re a dynasty comprised of Hall of Famers that were destined for greatness. Ironically enough, this is what the Seattle Seahawks are turning into: the Cowboys of the 2010s.  This team is beyond built, with seriously about six Hall of Famers, and a future Hall of Fame coach. They have stars that you probably haven’t heard of yet. Like emerging tight end Luke Willson, for example. This guy is going to run amok next year. Plus, I wouldn’t put it past Seattle to go out and pick up an insane free agent wideout this offseason. (Larry Fitzgerald?)

A game like this coming Sunday’s against the Packers is the kind on which dynasties are built. You’re forced to out-muscle a team that deserves to be in the conversation with you. We all knew that Carolina last week had a puncher’s chance against Seattle, but had no business being compared to them just yet. The Packers, looking to build a dynasty in their own right, can visualize Seattle being a thorn in their sides for the next several years. What better way to set a tone for recurring playoff run-ins than going out there and upsetting them on their home field, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line?

This is what is at stake in Sunday’s NFC Championship game. One of these teams wins, and one becomes the other’s bitch.

Seattle’s win against Carolina proved that they’re more well-rounded team than the Packers. Frankly, Green Bay’s defense is underwhelming, and would have essentially blown the game had Dez Bryant’s reception stood. (Side note: I officially think Dez is the best wideout in football after this season, and has also blossomed in to an amazing team leader.)  Green Bay has a tendency to give up too many yards via the pass. It frustrates me that they are so copacetic with giving up the middle of the field like they do. Mix that with a dangerous Seattle run game, and it’s not good for the Green Bay D. Marshawn Lynch, love him or hate him, is the most insane running back in football.  I’ve never seen a player play with more angst. Try and tackle him, and he’ll drag you like RuPaul.

The only way the Packers win this game is if Aaron Rodgers outguns the Seattle D, plain and simple. He needs to be two steps ahead of them and hit miniscule windows. I also think Rodgers’ nagging leg injury will heavily come into play. One thing about Rodgers is that he is the best QB in the league when he’s outside the pocket. He scrambles and shakes defenders, and slings it great on the run. His offensive line is decent, but Rodgers’ ability to extend plays is what allows receivers to get open. That said, last week against the Cowboys, he only had four total plays outside the pocket the entire game. This dude’s leg is hurting. And lets face it, the Cowboy defense is nowhere near the Seahawks. A limited-mobility QB for Seattle’s defense to snack on is fish in a barrel.

Speaking of dynasties, the only team that would be considered a dynasty since the Sex and the City era is also in the mix this weekend. After Tom Brady led the Patriots to his third Super Bowl win over the Eagles in 2004, the last thing I would have thought was that I’d associate this team with not winning the big game. Well, that’s what the Pats are in the year 2015: a plethora of playoff appearances, a couple blown AFC Championship games, a couple of blown Super Bowls, and there you have it: New England Clam Chowder. Is that the red or the white?

This is it for the Patriots. They will not make it back to this level again with Tom Brady and his ever-changing and consistently questionable supporting cast. There are simply too many teams on the upswing in the AFC. Hell, the Bills might even be the favorite to win the AFC East next year. Let’s not even think about the NFC, which has contenders up the ass.  The Pats are on the verge of losing players to free agency or grim reapers, and losing their offensive coordinator to another team, or the Jeb Bush administration. Drafting and building a team for the future will soon become a priority.

The Pats should beat Andrew Luck’s Colts this week somewhat easily. They frankly don’t have a choice. It’s impossible for New England to get away with laying an egg this game. The torture they’d receive from losing to an upstart team like the Colts would be staggering. They are the better team, have the experience, and they are playing at home. They are also facing a team with a lack of a defensive identity, who’s had to play an extra week. Everything in this game works in New England’s favor.

What doesn’t work in New England’s favor is that the Colts are without a doubt peaking as they roll into this game. New England is coasting. There’s no way that the Pats should be confident right now after almost getting blindsided by the Ravens last week. It took them a perfect fourth quarter on both sides of the ball to claw back from an early deficit and get the win. The Colts, on the other hand, should be on cloud nine after going into Denver and escaping with a win which no one saw coming. It also greatly hurts the Pats that the Colts are playing as loose as they are. Until the Colts become the team to beat in the AFC, which arguably wont happen until both Manning and Brady retire, they are playing with house money. Everything they do prior to that is gravy on meat that has yet to be served. They are playing the football equivalent of Matthew McConaughey’s voice.

I do not like the Colts to pull this game out, but something tells me it stays close ’til the end. Threes are wild in this one. Lot of field goal attempts from two of the best kickers in the game. God help the Patriots if they lose.

So, that being said…

Indy +7 over the Pats

GB +7 over Seattle

And your Super Bowl match-up on Sunday, February 1 in the home of Bud Macintosh and Doyle Johnson,

THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS vs. THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Devin Townsend Interview: Part 2

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Friday, January 16th, 2015

DTP Fence Photo 2

When the Devin Townsend Project played their string of dates with Animals As Leaders a month ago, it was clear the show was not the Hevy Devy indulge-fest that the band’s past headlining shows have been.  Conspicuously absent was the pre-show Ziltoid Radio craziness that have accompanied Townsend’s stage show for a few years.  Townsend worked hard to engage the crowd in his version of a metal show, which at this point is often just a veil of distortion laid over some very pretty, occasionally shoegazy songs.

Last week, we ran the first part of our conversation with Mr. Townsend.  This week, you’ll read his thoughts on why Sky Blue sounds the way it does, the joys and frustrations of changing musical tastes, and the difference between an artist’s “best” work and his “favorite” work.  Tune in next Friday for the conclusion of the interview, in which the man discusses his good-faith attempt at being an industry whore and how he would blow through $200,000 if he ever had the chance.

Sky Blue really feels like the peak of what you were doing with Addicted  and Epicloud.

Thanks.  The thing is, amidst all this humming and hawing that I’ve done in the interview so far, the one thing that remains and will probably always remain is my intention.  My intention is to say something beautiful or something epic.  The moments that I’ve had of spiritual or emotional significance are such that I’ll always be trying to get closer to that goal.  I think that I’m emotionally retarded in so many ways that the only way that I can express some things that are healthy for me, like sadness or happiness or anger or fear or whatever, is always going to be through music.  Sky Blue was an opportunity for me to represent some of the more melancholy bits that I think I withheld through Epicloud and Addicted because I was convinced, “No, you just have to ignore those parts of your nature.”

No, those aren’t melancholy records.

The problem with those records, in my opinion, is those moments were there during it.  I can rationalize it, in that it was an intentional decision to make positive statements in the face of those negative things, but now I’m at a point, like, “Just say what you’re gonna say.”  Things aren’t always peaches and cream, so say it in a framework that people can understand.  A lot of times, that is more standard structures, and I’m not knowledgeable about them, so I tend to listen to popular music to see what’s a structure.  Okay, it seems like it starts with a chorus.  And I’ll just write it down – chorus, pre-chorus, modulation – and then I’ll just take the same statement that I’ve been making for twenty-five years and put it into that form.  I think that I managed to summarize it with Sky Blue, and I think I managed to make the Deconstruction-type puzzles more palatable with Dark Matters.  But from here, it’s like I’m tapped with that, I’m sick of it.  So now, like I said, if I had a ton of money, I’d probably disappear for a couple years, but I’ve got to maintain it, even if it’s for the sake of my guys [band, etc.].  So there’s a lot of things that we’ve got planned, but I’m not going to do any recording until I’ve figured out what I want to do next.

It’s cool to hear you talk about the transition.  I went through a total shift in the music I was listening to about ten or twelve years ago, and that hasn’t happened again, but the idea that it could is pretty exciting.

Yeah, it really has.  A lot of times, I think artists tend to have to rationalize it in interviews, but for me, I just hope that I can give a preface to it, so when it does happen it’s not out of the blue.  The only sure fire answer to all this stuff is that I don’t know.  I’m changing, and I don’t know how I’m gonna change.  I changed… what, seven years ago?  After Ziltoid and right before Ki.  And now it’s really changing again, but in a way that is not as dramatic as it once was.  Back then, it was kids and sobriety and Strapping [Young Lad], and I had a lot to say.  Now there’s a change happening, and I don’t know how much is needed for me to say.  A part of me, job-security-wise, is like, “What the fuck do you do?”  Because you can’t just get out there and lie to people and be like, “Here’s more of something like Epicloud, here’s more of something like Strapping!  Please don’t let me not be able to pay my mortgage!”

Don’t drop me!

But I think that’s really the risk:  to get to that point where you’re just scrambling to put out things just so that people don’t stop feeding the machine.  But I tell you, man, I’d just rather have a job if that’s what it comes down to.  Because I’m wired for music, and I could see myself in the future doing really beautiful things, for one, and symphonic things… I’d love to write a symphony.  And I’d love to make an album full of heavy lullabies, or something Zepplin-y.  But until it solidifies, the weird thing with this job is that you have to keep pimping yourself, keep selling yourself.

A lot of musicians also teach music; do you see that as a likely possible path?

Maybe not one-on-one.  It’s less about technique for me and more about ideology, I think.  I can see myself talking to people.  I went to Australia for guitar clinics a couple weeks back, and I ended up playing clean guitar while just rambling on, and it seemed like people drew some conclusions from that, that I think helped their music more so than if I said, “This is an A chord, this is a G chord.”  I could see myself doing that, but I could also see myself cooking for people or helping in some way.

I want to learn more about being a functional entity.  I think a lot of that comes to a head when you’re in a job where the focus of your entire world is you.  It’s weird.  I don’t consider myself more important than anybody else in my crew, yet last night I had my own hotel room.  The other guys slept on the bus.  And I really loved it, I was like, “Thank god, I’m fucking tired!”  But, at the same time, I came back on and I saw Dave, our drum tech who had slept on the bus, and I’m thinking to myself, “Why did I get that?”  That’s bullshit.  So it’s a weird period here, where I want to help, but at the same time I’m just fundamentally in a different position than others just by allowing the band to have my name.  So I’m trying to figure it out.  In the meantime, I’m really hoping that people like the show.

It took seeing you play for me to totally get the original Ziltoid songs and to totally dive into Epicloud, so I think the show is pretty important.  It’s a great way to increase that communication.

I agree.  I hope so.  I think I know so.  We went to Helsinki and London and did some Casualties of Cool shows where I didn’t have to speak, there was no production, I got to play tele, and it was much more about improve and music and I left those shows going, “Wow, I really enjoyed that!”  It was less about having to be an entertainer with puppets and things, and more about just playing my guitar, which is something I think I miss, and have been missing more recently than I anticipated.  Then again, you get rose-colored glasses when you’re doing one show versus seven hundred, right?

And you’re not including any of that material into a DTP show?

No, no, no.  It’s a metal show.  There’s an element of just how different that stuff is.  We’ve tried in the past to incorporate stuff from Ki – “Disruptr” or whatever.  It might work in the future, but this tour, we have pixel screens and all new gear and a new member on stage, new instruments… Everything was so new, man, that I don’t want to also have to compound that with trying to elbow Casualties or Ghost into the set.  Plus, there’s thirty records, and we get an hour.  Good luck!  I just released four fucking records… how do you make this work?

Do a medley where every thirty seconds something changes.

It’s a lot of information, and to be honest, I’m a lot less mentally interested in sorting out those things than I once was.  There was a time where I’d really put my mind to it and figure out how to make it all work, and right now, when I get some time off, I’m not fucking thinking about that, man.  I just want to watch a movie and chill out for a bit.  Fundamentally, other than trying to say something that resonates with that part of my spiritual life – not religious life, fuck all that – I just want to be honest with people.  I don’t want to lie to people and say, “Hey this is the best thing I’ve ever done!”  Or, “Do this, because it makes perfect sense for you, the audience, to spend money on stock shares or whatever.”

For me, if somebody said, “What do you think of Z2?”  I think it’s actually really fucking good!  Is it the best thing I’ve ever done?  Hell no!  But it’s really good because it turned out accurately, in the face of the frame of mind and a time that was pushing for it to be anything but accurate, anything but honest, anything but good.  My pride in it is that it turned out really good in a period where it could have just been a load of horseshit.  But I’ll go to the wall for it and say it’s fucking great.  It’s not the best thing I’ve ever done because it wasn’t the best part of my musical years.  The best things I’ve ever done were fifteen years ago.

You think?

I think so.  But I think my favorite thing I’ve ever done is Casualties.  It’s a weird dichotomy.

What would you consider the best things you’ve done?

City and Ocean Machine.  Maybe Infinity.  I think there’s been moments on the rest of it that are really cool – moments on Accelerated [Evolution], on Synchestra, Terria, Ki – moments on all those that were really good, but I think it’s been a long time since my mind has been on fire in a way that would resonate with the audience.  For me personally, that’s fucking great.  I’m so psyched that I don’t feel like that anymore.  I’m psyched that I don’t feel like the kid who wrote City or Ocean Machine or Infinity.  I learned what I needed to learn from those records, thank god!  But there’s a fire that comes with being a confused kid that people will always [connect with].  That’s why Streetcleaner and Godflesh and all the seminal records from bands are important… Ride the Lightning, all that shit…

All the demos and Side Ones of debut albums, right?  Everything after that is shit…

In a sense it is, because you’ve kind of used up that fire.  As an artist, you’re constantly put in a position financially of trying to convince people that your new shit holds a candle to that stuff, and in the ways that people want, I’m from the mindset that it won’t, it doesn’t, and it never will.  But as a human and as an artist, what I’ve done with Casualties, what I did with parts of Ki, and what I hope to do in the future is perfect for me.  Everything else I’ve done since Infinity is essentially discussing the fallout of that period of Steve Vai and my kid years.  Addicted, Deconstruction, Epicloud, Ziltoid – they’re not about songs.  They’re about the past.  But Casualties isn’t; Casualties is about the present.  I think that if the dominoes of fate will allow, then I’ll be able to support myself and my family being honest from here on out.  And if it doesn’t, then hey… Z3 coming soon!

But as much as it may feel like I’m downplaying the significance of some of the things that I’ve done, it’s not meant in terms of my own feelings towards the record.  Every record that I’ve done, other than the red SYL record and Physicist, were exactly what I meant to do and they meant a great deal to me.

The dedication in Sky Blue and the lyrics seem to carry a clear meaning.  Was there particular stuff that you and the band were going through?

Lots of people dying.  Pets dying.  Lots of death.  What I’m finding now is that you’ve got to find an angle to write.  I had to find an angle for Ziltoid – why does he go home?  Because I’ve gotta get rid of him, I’ve gotta get him out of my fucking head.  He’s driving me crazy.  That’s why Z2’s about what it’s about.  What about Sky Blue?  It’s about death.  It’s about learning to look at it and get a much better emotional grasp on mortality.  But it’s an angle, still.

In the beginning – City, Ocean Machine, Infinity – the angles were a lot more general.  It was about, “Now I’m pissed off!  Now I’m confused!  Now I’m on drugs!”  It’s gotten so specific now because I’ve run out of those first-time experiences, those really, “Wow, I’m exploding with inspiration because I just did mushrooms or just got my heart broken.”  I’ve done it!  So what the fuck do you write about now?  And the only thing that comes from the heart is picking up the guitar, and this song showed up.  “Bones” from Casualties, or “Daddy” or some symphonic crazy idea that I have.  The things that you don’t rush, that you don’t define.

But the music industry is really fucking tough, right?  You can’t wait for seven years for those moments to come.  So I keep finding angles, one of which is those things I mentioned with Ziltoid.  Another one which has really been fruitful for me is formulas.  Find structures from pop music and then adhere your sentiments to them.  Find melodies that harmonically don’t work with other harmonies and melodies and make them work together.  That has provided me with a good five years of material.  But I’m bored of it now.  [What comes] next is really up in the air because I can’t lie to people.

Calgary’s Arbitrator, Featuring Drummer Dirk Verbeuren, T(he)y Would Like You to Know

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: exclusive, featured, listen, videos On: Thursday, January 15th, 2015

deciblog - arbitrator rob

I don’t know much about Calgary’s Arbitrator outside of the fact that they refer to themselves (or at least have been referred to) as “industrial death metal” and have existed in various line-up permutations over the course of four years of existence. They’ve existed as everything from full-on quartet to duo status to one-man on a downtown street corner popping slick blasts on plastic buckets for spare change (OK, I totally made that last part up). The mastermind/focal point has always been guitarist/vocalist/programmer (and I’m presuming sometimes bassist) Rob Kukla. As I’ve been informed, at the moment the band stands as a quartet, but Kukla opened up the purse strings and employed the services of drummer Dirk [Anatomy of I/Bent Sea/Phaze I/Scarve/The Project Hate MCMXCIX/Vetur/ex-Anaon/ex-Eostenem/ex-Nuclear Blast Allstars/ex-Aborted/ex-Colosso/ex-Devin Townsend Project/ex-Headline/ex-Lyzanxia/ex-Mortuary/ex-Phazm/ex-Powermad/ex-Solium Fatalis/ex-Sublime Cadaveric Decomposition/ex-Satyricon (live)/ex-Artsonic/ex-Yyrkoon (live)/ex-Warrel Dane/ex-One-Way Mirror] Verbeuren in order to record debut full-length, Indoctrination of Sacrilege.

Fuck, I know there’s a lot of money being made up in the oil patch and the rape-of-the-land tar sands and that generally, Alberta (and Calgary specifically) is a relatively wealthy place, but this sort of thing can’t be cheap for anyone. Not only is Verbeuren involved, but Kukla also managed to scrounge up a few pennies to draft in Jens Bogren (Opeth, Katatonia, Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy) for mastering duties along with album artwork done by Colin Marks (Exodus, Scar Symmetry, Jeff Loomis). But having Verbeuren behind the throne is what Arbitrator has been pushing. When they debuted a track from Indoctrination of Sacrilege a few weeks ago entitled “For That Which May Appease Lions,” the accompanying video didn’t consist of live footage, wasn’t a promo video, or not even a bunch rehearsal room/studio slapdashery. Nope, it was Verbeuren doing a play through of the song on an e-kit using the EZ Drummer2 software, which I’ve included below. Hell, Kukla himself wasn’t even anywhere to be seen! While Dirk did play on the second track to be publicly showcased in advance of the album’s release, “They Will Worship This Fire of Agony,” there have yet to be any playthrough vids of Verbeuren, or of programmer Connor Linning for that matter, but we did wrangle a quote out of Kukla:

“Those that hunger for massive, anthemic-like death metal of the blasphemous variety will be pleased to find indulgence within ‘They Will Worship this Fire of Agony’. Grand orchestras compliment an onslaught of pummelling rhythms with distorted guitars, and unearthly vocals chime in the grand apocalypse in this electronically infused opus. This was the obvious album-opener choice, as I felt it gave listeners a well-balanced introduction into the Arbitrator sound.’

Check it out. Contact info at the bottom.

deciblog - arbitrator

www.arbitratorofficial.net
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Sister Sin Frontwoman Liv Jagrell Talks About Posing for Penthouse

By: j.bennett Posted in: bennett finally learned how to work the deciblog, featured On: Thursday, January 15th, 2015

sistersin

Liv Jagrell is at home in Stockholm when we call her on the Internet phone. Sister Sin’s athletic frontwoman has been promoting the shit out of her band’s latest album, Black Lotus, for weeks now. But she’s agreed to speak exclusively with Decibel about another type of public relations: her upcoming pictorial in Penthouse magazine. “Here in Sweden, we don’t even have Penthouse,” she explains. “I think you can find it at some book shops that have American magazines, but there is no Penthouse Sweden.”
Though she makes no apologies for her decision to appear in one of the most infamous skin mags in the history of porno, she’s bracing herself for the inevitable backlash from fans, feminists and folks who are uptight about nudity. As of this writing, Jagrell hadn’t even told her parents that she’ll be appearing in the magazine. And then there’s the whole selling-your-band-with-sex discussion. Even though that sort of thing has been going on since Elvis and Little Richard thrust their pelvises in the general direction of teenage girls (and boys) everywhere, some people still find it shocking. “You could say I’m selling a product with Sister Sin—of course I am,” Jagrell concedes. “But I think most of our fans think of me as a strong female that is trying to work in an industry that is mostly male. And I’m not scared; I’m not timid in my opinions. I’m a feminist in my own way. I’m not controlled by a band or a record label. I wasn’t forced to do this. But I want girls to see me as a role model, not the opposite.”

Before we get into the Penthouse thing, let’s talk about the surgery you had on your vocal cords two years ago.
Yeah, that’s two years now… damn! Time flies. They had to cut off this inflammation of the vocal cords that were making them too big and I couldn’t use them normally. It’s an easy surgery—they just cut it off—but you still have rehab. I couldn’t talk for a week because it has to heal. My doctor tells me he has other clients who are singers who have to come to him every three or four years to do this surgery because it goes back. So, hopefully it will not do that.

How long did it take to fully recover?
It was a two-month recovery. So, I was just recovered when we went on tour with Doro in the United States last year. I was very nervous about that tour because of my voice, but it was a really, really good tour for us. Doro and her musicians are very nice people. We hope to do more shows with them, maybe in Europe, because obviously in Germany and other countries she is very popular. And she’s really, really nice.

That was after Sister Sin covered Motörhead’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll” with Doro. How did you initially meet her?
In 2007 or 8, we played Masters of Rock in the Czech Republic, and she was there also playing. I think that was the first time we met. Over the years, we played some more festivals where she also played. When we asked her to help us out with the cover, she was very positive right away.

Did you listen to any Doro or her old band, Warlock, when you were growing up?
No, I didn’t do that. I don’t know why. When I started to listen to metal music, I was more into Pantera and Fear Factory and Slayer. There was a band in Sweden called Drain STH that played that kind of music, and they were all girls. So, for me, that was my idols. I know my friends played Warlock, but I didn’t feel it like them because I was into heavier music, and Warlock was more like rock ‘n’ roll. So, it came later to me. I was so much more into this heavy Pantera thing—they were my favorite band—and Dimmu Borgir, darker music, so I didn’t listen to this other stuff. I didn’t even listen to Mötley Crüe until I was 20-something and I had a boyfriend who liked them and Skid Row. That’s when I got into that kind of music. Before that, I thought it was kinda cheesy, not heavy enough for me.

Okay, so how did you end up in Penthouse?
Our label, Victory Records, has a very good relationship with Penthouse—they do a lot of interviews with Victory’s bands in the music section. So, they asked Victory which artists are releasing an album soon. Victory told them about Sister Sin and that the singer is female. That’s how Victory got interested. I think Penthouse would’ve done just an interview like they did with the other bands, but they asked me to do some pictures that would be just for Penthouse instead of using older band pictures. But from the beginning, I said it would have to be classy. And the interview is about Sister Sin, not me personally. So, it’s classy pictures that I could put up anywhere.

They’re not nude photos?
No, they’re not. They’re photos I could put on my website. I’m wearing this dress made out of steel, a leather jacket, lingerie and a one-piece lace thing in different photos. They came out really good and Penthouse was very pleased with it, so I’m happy.

It sounds like you’re not showing very much skin at all.
No, I’m not! This was done for Sister Sin and me as an artist in Sister Sin. If I wanted to be nude I probably could, but I had a choice. It’s like the pictures I normally do, but with Penthouse I was more careful because I don’t want to be put in kind of, “Oh, she just did this to get attention.” I wanted to do this because I thought it could be good exposure. It’s a big magazine. And also, I’m not a shy kind of person. I’m very artistic. I love being in front of the camera and I love experimenting with being in front of the camera. But I would say I would probably do more nude pictures if it was not Penthouse.

So, you’ve done nude photos before?
I’ve done it, but it was artistic kind of stuff where they totally [obscure] your body so you don’t even know it’s you. I had two heads and things like this. It’s artistic nude, and you would not even see it’s me. They appeared in a Swedish photography magazine that was very honoring to both me and the photographer. But I don’t think anyone knew it was me. It was just chosen as a really good artistic photo. I just happened to be nude.

Would you be open to doing nude photos in the future?
It depends what it is. I don’t want to be a glamour model. That’s not my purpose in life. My purpose is to be the lead singer of Sister Sin.

When the Penthouse offer came in, did you talk to your bandmates about it?
Yeah. They thought it would be very cool. But if they would have said no because people would mistake it for something else, I would not have done it. We are a band, so I listen to what they have to say. But they knew it’s a big magazine and that it could be good. So, why not, as long as it would be classy? I wouldn’t do it if they didn’t do the interview also, because I do it for the band’s sake also. It was very important to me that it was not just pictures. And I showed all the pictures to my bandmates, so I’m comfortable with that. They’re really nice, really beautiful. I could show them to my bandmates, who are men, and it wasn’t weird.

What about your parents?
I can, but I’m not sure what they’re gonna say because of what kind of magazine it is. But they would probably say the photos are fantastic. I can’t send them the photos because they live far away and the magazine is not out yet. I will show them—that’s no problem—but I don’t know what they will say about the magazine.

Do they even know you’ve done the photo shoot?
No, not yet.

Are you anticipating any backlash from fans when the magazine comes out?
Most of the people I’ve talked to have been positive, but of course there will be some who have concerns or hang-ups about it. It’s always like that. It’s happened before, just with our videos or outfits I wear onstage. So, it will happen probably. People will react to this, too. If you are a female in this business, you get comments on anything. It could be your clothes are too boring. Or you have too little clothes. Or you don’t need to put those clothes on. But it never happens to guys—the comments on how they look, what they’re wearing in the videos. Always to females.

Has that happened to you recently?
Just today I read a review that irritates me. It was a bad review, but that’s okay; sometimes the bad reviews are really fun to read. You find it comic. I understand that not everyone likes our music. But this guy actually talks about how I look, that I don’t look good, I don’t look pretty. I don’t understand what that has to do with music, so that irritates me. As a female, we have those comments all the time. So, I’m pretty used to it. And after this, I’ll probably get even more of those comments. But fuck it. I do what I want.

At the same time, you’re promoting your own appearance and your band with these Penthouse photos. How do you reconcile that with your irritation about that review?
I know. It’s a little bit double, I think. I very much understand. You know, I look up very much to Angela [Gossow], the old singer of Arch Enemy. She always said no to this kind of thing—to “Hottest Chicks in Metal,” everything like this. And I totally understand her point of view. At the same time, I was in the alternative modeling business before we ever released a record. In this business, you do a lot of pinup photo shoots, wearing latex, this kind of thing. So, it’s not like I changed when we got a record deal. The girl who I was before we got a record deal wasn’t shy. So, if I didn’t continue with it, that would actually be changing who I am. Maybe Angela’s view is more feministic, but I’m honored when people ask me to do a photo shoot like this. It can be something positive, not something negative.

Either way, someone’s gonna say that you’re contributing to the objectification of women. How do you feel about that?
It’s hard. I totally understand what they’re saying. At the same time, I think we’re objectifying a lot of things. You sell everything with a good look. It’s very normal, and maybe that’s bad. And when it’s sexy, it’s usually women. But I don’t think we should take the women out of the sexy pinup pictures. I say put the men up in some sexy pinup pictures. Instead of women taking a step back, I think men should take a step forward.

CONTEST: Woods of Desolation

By: zach.smith Posted in: contest, featured On: Thursday, January 15th, 2015

wod

Yesterday was a big day for music nerds, especially critics. Even though we’re already two weeks into 2015, end of the year fever never really subsides until the Village Voice’s annual Pazz + Jop poll hits. Ever wanted to know what some of your favorite Decibel scribes enjoyed most during the year? Well, now you can judge away! Some have even taken things a step further, making mathletes and staticians across the world proud. Any way you want to look at the ballots and data though, it’s always interesting to see the headspace in which your fellow scribes operate, especially outside of any constraints, genre or otherwise. It’s also a great way to find something cool you’ve never heard.

But we’re not just here to show off our collective (good) taste. To celebrate, we’re giving away two free downloads of a certain someone’s favorite album of the year, Woods of Desolation’s As the Stars (which also finished at #13 in our Top 40).

To enter, simply email us your favorite record of 2014–extreme or otherwise–by 5pm EST on Tuesday, January 20th. We’ll pick two entries at random and email each a bandcamp download link. It’s that simple.

In the meantime, if you’re not familiar with WoD, start listening!