Casey Orr (Rigor Mortis) interviewed

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, October 6th, 2014

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** Texas-based thrashers Rigor Mortis have returned. Sadly, minus guitarist Mike Scaccia, who died with his boots on while performing on stage in 2012. The Mortis aren’t letting their legacy (their self-titled debut is in the Hall of Fame) die lightly. They’re about to issue new album, Slaves to the Grave, through crowd-funded IndieGoGo and are on a blitz to make sure the metal community knows about it. So much so they honored Decibel with a song premiere of the killer track “Poltergeist”. Now, we’ve cornered bassist Casey Orr for a quick Q&A about Slaves to the Grave and remembering Scaccia.

First of all, it must be surreal to have Slaves to the Grave coming out after Mike’s passing. What’s that like for you and the other guys?
Casey Orr: It is incredibly surreal. It feels like a cruel joke. The guy who should be finally getting his due is not here to enjoy it. Our brother is not here to celebrate with us. We’re happy that the record is getting a lot of attention and being so well received, but at the same time, it’s so final. This should have been a new beginning for Rigor Mortis, not our swan song.

How did you guys cope with Mike’s untimely death?
Casey Orr: It was not easy. There were a lot of tears. But, there was lot of support from our friends and family. The DFW [Dallas-Fort Worth] metal scene is a pretty tight family, and I guess we all kinda hold each other up when we have to. When someone was that close and important in your life, you tend to still feel their presence with you. Sometimes I feel like he’s prodding me on to do as much as I can before my time is up, and sometimes I feel like he’s fucking with me and laughing his head off! For instance, we offered a Scaccia tribute shirt for the fundraiser and record release show, and when I got them in the day before the show, I found that the print was off on half of them. And they were all off in different ways, like an inch over to the right on one, 2 inches to the left on another, crooked on another. I looked up at a picture I have of Mike on the wall and said “you fucker!” Laughs] I could just picture him jostling the screen print somehow and laughing. A “Mike Scaccia” shirt is something he would have never allowed in life. He was far too humble for that. We love him and we miss him and we try to honor Mike’s legacy in any way we can in everything we do.

What’s it like to have Rigor Mortis’ final product, a physical product, in your hands?
Casey Orr: It’s bittersweet, of course, but it also feels fantastic to have seen it through and be able to give it to the fans. For me it’s a relief. I actually took on responsibility for putting the record out; everything detail that the record label would do, I had to figure out and get done. It was a ridiculous amount of work, and I’m still not done. But, of course it feels so good to finally hold it in your hand and know that all of our hard work was not in vain.

Rewinding a little bit, at what point did the band decided to permanently re-band?
Casey Orr: I think that after we did the reunion shows in ’05-’06, and had so much fun playing together again, we knew we were going to continue. But Ministry and GWAR pulled Mike and I away here and there, so it took a while to carve out the time to devote to doing Rigor Mortis. Hell, between the recording of Slaves and Mike’s, he and I even managed to do a huge tour with Ministry. I think that with the release of this record, Rigor would have become our main focus and we would be talking tour and next record right now.

Was the reformation at all like the early days of the band? Different times, ages, and perspectives taken into account, of course.
Casey Orr: Absolutely! We were joking and goofing around like always, and were having a great time playing together again. There was a good balance of “just like the old days” and the experience of being older and (slightly) wiser.

Describe what it was like on Capitol Records. Dave Mustaine didn’t have high remarks for the label, historically speaking.
Casey Orr: It was bizarre to say the least. We were practically bumpkins in the big city, under the clever disguise of Heavy Metal Berserkers from Texas. We didn’t know what the fuck we were doing, we just wanted to play. Rachel Matthews signed us to Capitol and remains a dear friend to this day, but the label clearly had no idea what to do with us. They actually put out a split 8×10 promo photo of Rigor Mortis and Poison! It was no wonder that after Rachel left, our relationship with Capitol basically dried up and blew away. They focused all of their attention on The Beastie Boys that year as well, and we certainly didn’t fit that mold. But we spent a shit load of their money on equipment and got a classic record out of the deal, so we never held a grudge, we just moved on like we always do. I doubt there’s a single person at Capitol who even knows we were ever on the label.

The cover is killer. Was the cover specifically created for Rigor Mortis?
Casey Orr: I actually designed the cover. I found a very small black and white picture online, of a man in silhouette throwing a shovelful of dirt into an open grave, from the perspective of someone down in the grave. From there I started messing around drawing it and eventually painting a couple of different versions. I showed them to the band and the other guys liked the concept, so I continued playing around with it. In the end I decided that I just wasn’t good enough to execute the vision I had in my head, and we got Michael Broom to do it. I told him exactly what I wanted and he nailed it! The photos in the booklet were all shots I took in a graveyard in New Zealand. Our drummer Harden’s brother, Troy Harrison, did the layout. I love Harden and Bruce for more or less trusting me enough to let me run with it. It really meant a lot to me to get to do it. It really was a lot of work, but it feels good to look at the end result and it’s just as I envisioned it.

You went around the usual label paradigm with IndieGoGo. Were you intimidated by the uncertainty of having to do most of the administrative work yourselves?
Casey Orr: We didn’t have a choice. We weren’t getting any label interest and damned if we were going to just let it sit on a shelf. We investigated the crowdfunding thing and decided to take a chance with IndieGoGo. I had faith in our fans, and they did not disappoint! I used to work at a cd distribution place, and we already had connections for manufacturing and distribution, so I figured it can’t be that hard, right? All we need is financing right? Everything else takes care of itself, right? [Laughs] I used to wonder how a typo could get by without getting caught, or how a release could be delayed or whatever. Now I know!

Would you recommend the IndieGoGo/crowdfunding path to other bands? If so, why?
Casey Orr: Yeah, I would. You really don’t have anything to lose. We couldn’t have done it without something like IndieGoGo.

Could you describe the pitfalls of IndieGoGo/crowdfunding specific to your experience with it?
Casey Orr: The hardest part is keeping up with and fulfilling all the perk bundles. We offered some pretty sweet deals in exchange for contributions, and all of that merch and shipping is taking a big chunk out of the money we raised. I offered original paintings for the highest price bundles. I now have to create 10 original paintings. What was I thinking? [Laughs]

What do you make of the reception Slaves to the Grave has received? Surprised at all?
Casey Orr: It’s been tremendous! I guess I am a little surprised that it’s all been so overwhelmingly positive. I know we thought it was good, but you never know what other people are going to think. We’ve never really worried about what the critics say; we don’t make music for them, we do it for ourselves and our fans, but it does feel good to know that people are digging it. It’s pretty awesome knowing something we started 30 years ago is still relevant and still has a following.

Is Wizards of Gore an active outfit? Any chance of original material or a full-blown tour?
Casey Orr: We’re not sure. I’d like to think so. We’re playing a couple of events, Housecore Horror Film Fest, Oct 24th with VoiVod, and Halloween night here in Dallas, but as for the future, it’s kinda up in the air. If we did continue, there would absolutely have to be original material. We don’t want to feel like a cover band of our own band! And if there was enough interest and the situation made sense, I think we would be open to the possibility of playing in support of this record, at least.

What’s next for the members of Rigor Mortis?
Casey Orr: We are all busy with various projects and day jobs, etc. Bruce and I are in Warbeast (also at HHFF Oct. 26th with Danzig/Samhain), and we’re hoping to record a new record early next year. My old punk band, The Hellions, is going to get back together and do some stuff. Harden’s band Hint Of Death has a record coming out soon, and Mike Taylor (Wizards of Gore) has a band called Rabid Flesh Eaters who are working on their debut record, which was being produced by Mike Scaccia before he died. And of course we’ll be doing what we can to promote Slaves to the Grave. We have vinyl coming soon, and there’s a limited edition blood-splattered version as well. Next year I’d like to officially re-issue Freaks and Vs The Earth on CD, and maybe offer some cool limited vinyl versions of the first three records. We’d like to keep Mike’s legacy and the name Rigor Mortis alive, in whatever way possible.

** Rigor Mortis’ new album, Slaves to the Grave, is out soon, self-released through pledges on Indiegogo. You can order a copy HERE. Get your shovel now and help Rigor Mortis exhume to consume!

STREAMING: Bethlehem “Verbracht in Plastiknacht”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Friday, October 3rd, 2014

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Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia. Say that once. Hell, don’t even say it once. The tongue-twister simply means the fear of the number 666. U.S. presidents have feared the number 666, so it’s fair to say some others will as well. The Number of the Beast has affected untold millions since it was written in some stupid book ages ago, its true origins obscured by time and dust.

If you didn’t know, Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, is the title of German dark metal legends Bethlehem. It, like the albums before it, is complicated. It’s at once true to Bethlehem’s foundation, but also true to the band’s ability to color well outside established lines. There’s no doubt Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is dark metal, but those that venture deeper will find a German outfit at awesome heights (if open-mindedness is a personal trait, of course), transforming, blending, and fusing black metal, gothic rock, industrial, and even a little new wave. Truly, Bethlehem in 2014 are untouchable!

“I wrote this song ’cause musically it reflects self-destruction and doubts of a once split personality haunted by visions. Lyrically it gives the impression of been buried alive in this private hell,” says Bethlehem braintrust Jürgen Bartsch to Decibel.

If curious as to what Bartsch is talking about, the upcoming issue of Decibel (#122) provides hints.

Alright, time to spend Friday in plastic! Bring on “Verbracht in Plastiknacht”!

** Bethlehem’s Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is out October 10th on Prophecy Productions. It’s available HERE for pre-order, unless you fear 666. In that case, double down on your most spiritual of fears and get the 10-LP limited edition Hau Ab boxset, HERE. If you don’t know what “hau ab” means, click the link. That’s a German language lesson for the day.

Old Blood Pours From Cold Blue Mountain

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, listen On: Friday, October 3rd, 2014

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Earlier this week, we suggested that you nod out to the power-pretty sounds of New Zealanders Jakob.  Maybe you were into it.  Maybe that wasn’t angry enough or sludgy enough or vocalized enough for you (there were, in fact, no vocals).

Fine.  Let’s throw the malcontents a bone now with a full stream of the new album from California sludgesters Cold Blue Mountain.  This set of five long songs, called Old Blood, is the band’s second full-length and blends expansive instrumental contemplation with Brandon Squyres’s acid-drenched screams for a journey through the story the band wanted to tell this time around.  Says drummer Daniel Taylor:

“Lyrically, Old Blood tells a story. But musically it tells a story too. It tells the story of how we as a band took the different all the different styles we dabbled in on our first record – doom, sludge, post rock, fucked up ’90s grunge – and made them all gel into a cohesive, heavy melodic sound.  The album is about a group of people whose homeland was taken over by an opposing force some years ago, and most of the inhabitants have just grown complacent with their lives under the rule of this foreign body. So much so to the point that they have almost forgotten who they were. I was doing a lot of research on cultural history mainly American Indians but I made the story and lyrics somewhat ambiguous so as to let people derive their own idea of settings and time frame. There’s a common theme throughout history of things expanding and taking over others and erasing almost all traces of the original inhabitants be it through military force or natural selection. Nothing wants to be forgotten and most things don’t have a choice, this story represents a select few who chose to try and take back what was rightfully theirs.”

The album drops from Halo of Flies Records next week (October 7), but you can hear it all right now at the Deciblog before you pre-order it here.  Inject yourself with some Old Blood!

King Diamond Likes to have FunFunFun: An Interview with FunFunFunFest’s Graham Williams (Part I)

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: exclusive, featured, interviews, king fucking diamond On: Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

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The 7th, 8th and 9th of next month sees the ninth edition of FunFunFunFest, a ginormous three-day mixture of all sorts of extreme music, indie rock, electronica, hip-hop, comedians, extreme sports and air cannons that fire tacos into a crowd of thousands, take over the city of Austin, TX. Last year, I introduced you to Graham Williams, the dude who essentially books this whole she-bang here. This year, we decided another chat with Graham was in order because one of the big coups FunFunFunFest landed was nailing down King Diamond to perform at this year’s edition with the full European stage show in tow. When this rare appearance on North American soil was originally brought to the public eye, it was before the tour that King Diamond starts next week was announced and, as explained, the tour itself basically exists because of their being booked into play at FFFF on November 8th. Hell, it almost happened last year, we learned to our surprise.

Below is part one of a long-ass interview I conducted with Williams about the doings and transpirings as they pertain to FFFF 2014. This part covers booking logistics, the Sick of it All anniversary sets (in which they’ll be playing material exclusively from Blood, Sweat and No Tears and Scratch the Surface) and, of course, King Diamond, not to mention an inadvertent preview of his upcoming tour. Part two is going to see Williams whip out his good sport hat and directly respond to some of the bitching, whining and complaining about the fest that’s turned up on the FFFF Facebook page. Look for that in the coming days before the fest.

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Maybe it’s my skewed perception, but the early bird tickets seem to go on sale earlier every year. When early bird tickets are announced, how much of the line-up is set in stone and how long in advance are you working on this before that announcement?
As far as the early bird tickets, it varies. We could have two bands booked, we could have twenty. Early bird is just a special option we do for the die-hard fans, to give them an option to get a cheaper ticket. They’re the kind of folks who trust us enough that they know we’re going to book something they like and they’re going to get their tickets no matter what. It’s a limited run and we do that at various times of the year, a few months out. It gets people talking and excited and I don’t know, I guess it’s something to do, but it’s not so much around booking. As far as how far ahead we book, that’s getting earlier and earlier every year. Festivals in general are booking more and more every year and it’s crazy just how far out people are starting to do stuff. In Europe, I hear they have festivals booked for 2016 right now, which is kind of mind blowing. I think it’s bands trying to plan out what they’re going to do in advance; a lot of bands plan out around festivals now, which is a really weird way of thinking, but it is what it is. Basically, festivals pay a little more, exposure’s a bit better, you get on a festival there’s a lot more press around it when compared to regular shows. So agents, managers, labels and bands themselves would like to get on as many cool festivals as possible, so they’ll start routing that out in advance and agents will start contacting us, particularly if there’s a reunion-type band who hasn’t done anything in a long time; they want to plan out in advance to make sure it’s worth it so they can maximize a year’s worth of shows. It’s interesting, and it’s the way things have been sort of shifting so you gotta keep up with that. If you don’t start working on it pretty far in advance, you run the risk of missing out on an act who locked into something else further out because everyone else is looking further out.

Does that make things easier for you because you have all these agents and people coming to you with pitches that much earlier?
Yes and no. It’s easier than it was in the old days in that bands are more interested in playing and people know what FunFunFun is so we don’t have to convince anyone of something the haven’t heard of. The flipside of that is that there are so many more festivals and promoters all pushing for the same thing that there’s more competition. And underground music, whether it’s punk or metal or indie rock or hip-hop, wasn’t that popular when we started doing this; only we liked it and now more mainstream festivals are starting to be interested in acts they’ve never heard of before and that the bookers don’t even listen to, but the tickets sell. This year I got outbid for the Replacements, a band you never would have seen on certain events, but with the popularity of different genres, a lot of these artists are starting to have more choices and options and a lot of people are looking for the same acts. That doesn’t happen across the board; there’s still a lot of stuff we’re doing that no one else is doing and that’s what sets us apart, but there are definitely some acts that end up on other festivals and shows that are happening around the same time as we are and the band can only play so many shows.

OK, so King Diamond. I know for a fact that a lot of other North American festivals have been trying to get him to play forever, but the sticking point has been the size of his stage show and money. How did it come to be that you nailed him for FunFunFun? Do you think it might have something to do with his having a heart attack a couple years back and his realising that none of us are getting any younger and he’d basically better do this while he can?
I don’t know so much on the personal motivation side, but I know there were some health issues and he held off from touring for a little while before. As far as I know, his booking agent is someone I work with a lot. I just started booking him a couple years ago; we do a lot of bands through him and he’s a good guy. Whenever you get a booking agent or manager or someone who gets what you do in your corner, it’s great because they can convince or explain to an artist why they should do this over something else. But he was actually almost confirmed last year. They were planning a U.S. tour and it routed perfectly, but it fell through. The cost of them touring is expensive because they bring a full-on, massive stage show. There are so many places you would think they could play, but they can’t play due to the stage show. Long story short, there are two shows on this tour that are in seated theatres – like how weird is it to see King Diamond in seats? – because those are the only places with the stage height and depth to hold their ‘Black Metal Broadway’ show. There’s a castle with a fucking iron gate in front of it, multiple actors and witches getting burned alive; it’s a giant show. Outside of arena rock shows, this is going to be much bigger than what people are used to and most places, like House of Blues that have big stages and stuff, still can’t fit the production and they don’t want to scale back their show. They’ve been doing it in Europe like this for so long and they want to keep it as is, so they’re flying all that stuff over. I’ve been told it was a complicated tour to route because it was very venue specific, production-wise. As far as us, I think they liked it, I think they’ve liked what we’ve done before. King Diamond lives in Dallas, so he probably knows a little about FunFunFun because we’ve been in Texas for a while and we promote heavily in all these other cities. He probably also knows some of the bands on the bill and his agent seemed really into doing it, especially after cancelling last year. I think maybe they were like, ‘let’s do FunFunFun next year and route a tour around it.’ I think it’s done really well; I heard almost all of the dates have sold out, which is crazy, and it’s exceeded everyone’s expectations. It’s been so long; he hasn’t played the states in forever and it was hard to gauge what the reaction was going to be, but I think everyone has been really happy with it. I booked him at Emo’s probably around 15-16 years ago – way, way, way back and that club was a dump then, the PA was horrible, the stage was small. They literally walked in, he looked at the stage and they got back on their bus and drove off. And there was a line of people outside! That’s what happened the last time I booked King Diamond [laughs]. The opening bands still played, but even they didn’t want to get on the stage.

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There seems to be a pretty solid reunion or nostalgia vibe on the Black stage this year with the Blood Brothers, Gorilla Biscuits, Glassjaw, Death from Above 1979, Rocket from the Crypt and so on. Is this in part because of these bands coming to you wanting to play and get the most bang for they’re buck because they’re not doing their respective bands full-time?
Yeah…but it’s hard to say. Death from Above has a new record out and they’re touring. Judas Priest has a new record and are touring, but there are bands you mentioned who play every once in a while or who are doing a string of reunion shows. But yeah, once you get past the head liners, there seems to be a lot of more newer stuff that’s happening right now like Deafheaven, Ice Age, Pissed Jeans and Pallbearer… all kinds of bands that are currently on the road and have records out. But it seems like, especially with the Black stage, there are a lot of older acts that have been around and have some legendary status. Whereas with the more indie rock and DJ stuff, fans seem really excited about whatever the newest, hottest acts are, even though we do have some older acts this year like Modest Mouse and Dinosaur Jr. It seems like in punk and metal, there are new bands people are excited about but usually it takes a while those acts to find their way into our musical selections or radars, so the bands people tend to be most excited about are the bands they’ve been listening to forever, but maybe have never gotten the chance to see and that determines the top of the bill. Like that new Pallbearer record is amazing, but they’re not going to be a bigger draw than King Diamond or the focus band on a festival like this. Ultimately, we want the festival to be different than any night of the week. You can see a band any night of the week, but hopefully at the festival you’ll see some bands that you’ve never seen before or bands you’ll never see again and when we can, we try and make something special happen, like the Sick of it All thing…

…Which is something I was going to ask you about. How much of a role did FunFunFun have in that because they do have a new record out and will be touring it around that time?
Well, it’s the 25th and 20th anniversaries of their first and third albums, Blood, Sweat and No Tears and Scratch the Surface, so they’re doing a special set of songs from those albums and that’s something they’re only doing for the festival. So, how it happened was that some kid posted on Facebook that it was going to be the 20th anniversary of Scratch the Surface and that we should try and get them to do that. So when I went to double check that, I also noticed it was the 25th anniversary of Blood, Sweat and No Tears, so I pitched it to them. The band were a little unsure about doing it because they do have a new record coming out and they’re not a novelty band coming back to do an old record and cash in. They’re still a working band. My point was that this is a festival and there’s only one 25th anniversary of a record. So, they’re going to be touring the new record and I think we might be doing a Night show with them where they do a regular set with the hits and new songs, but just for that 45 minutes or so they’ll celebrate those old records that got the band started. They seemed into the idea of doing something special just for the festival.

Logistically, what do you feel you learned from last year to make this year’s better?
We take detailed notes and have meetings over the couple weeks after we wrap up about what worked and what didn’t. Usually, it’s more about production stuff, there are always a few bands that didn’t hit home or do well or put on a great show and you have to think about that kind of stuff. Most times it’s day-to-day stuff. This year the layout of the park is different and our concern has been production-wise and making sure all the bands have the right stage sizes, that the audience is going to be happy and there isn’t going to be too much sound bleed because we’re having to do a different set-up. That sort of stuff concerns us second most; first most, of course, is selling tickets to make sure we can cover everything. Beyond that, it’s about what we do on-site and making sure it’s fun and interesting and making sure that people will want to come back. We’ve always prided ourselves on not being a typical festival, so we always try to think of what fun unique things we can do on-site that stand out in addition to the bands.

Is there anything brand new going on this year?
Nothing I can tell you off the top of my head, but we are doing a few things differently with art and the layout’s going to be very different, so that’s going to add to things being different. The VIP and back stage section are going to be set up differently and we’re going to have a bunch of funny things and surprises that we’re going to throw in later. Previously, the park we used at Auditorium Shores was along the water. This year we’re only using a portion of that park and we’re having to use the park across the street and close off the street because the area we’ve always done it in is under construction right now and they’re going to be planting all new grass. That’ll be great in the future because it won’t be dusty, but in the meantime our mainstage area is fenced off and covered in sod right now.

For all your ticketing, scheduling and line-up announcements, go to www.funfunfunffest.com

Encrotchment With Eddie Gobbo From Jar’d Loose: Week 4

By: Eddie Gobbo Posted in: encrotchment, featured, nfl 2014 On: Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

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Here’s 10 bucks. Bring me the hair of Ariana Grande.

Three Gigs, a Gaze and a Cheese Place

This past weekend, Jar’d Loose did a string of shows with Oakland, CA’s Lecherous Gaze, an amazing, sleazy, ’70s-influenced rock ‘n’ roll juggernaut featuring former members of west coast thrash rockers Annihilation Time. Now, I knew these dudes were from Oakland, and was salivating at the thought of me interviewing them about the Raiders. The Oakland Raiders always have had the most badass music dudes as fans: Scott Kelly, Robb Flynn, Easy E. Also, how has somebody not thought to put Kerry King’s face in the Raider logo yet? That’d be a kickass shirt and/or Facebook profile pic.  Lecherous Gaze rolled through Chicago on Thursday night for a show with us and the great White Mystery. I don’t like playing shows on Thursday nights because it interferes with me watching Thursday Night Football, but yeah, I was there.

On Friday night, we played Milwaukee. On the way up from Chicago, Jar’d hit the Mars Cheese Castle, a huge castle that sells cheese off I-94 in Wisconsin. My band cannot pass it without stopping and getting lost for an hour trying to find it, even though it’s literally right off the highway. While at the Mars Cheese Castle, I found a knife. I noticed a dude in an Aaron Rodgers jersey sitting at the bar having a Molson and eating a block of cheese the size of a car battery. I asked Jar’d’s guitarist, Nate Madden, if he could take a picture of me creeping up behind the Packer fan at the bar with the knife in my hands. A big Bears/Packers division game was looming on Sunday (which I had tickets for), and I thought it would make for a funny picture for my column. He said his phone was having trouble getting reception, which actually makes no sense because I was only asking him to take a picture, not upload anything. My guess is he just didn’t want to get wrapped up in the whole “ me sneaking up behind a stranger with a knife” thing.

In Milwaukee, I saw Jon Liedtke from Toby Wong (who we played with that night). He also played bass for Sexual Atrocities, theremin for Inter Arma, and is a Packers fan (two out of three ain’t bad). We began reminiscing about the Bears/Packers NFC Championship game from 2010. He and a few friends had come up from Milwaukee in full Pack gear and had snowballs thrown at them after the Pack pulled out the victory, eventually leading to a Super Bowl championship. Talking with Jon reminded me of something Mike Ditka said on the Waddle & Silvy (a local ESPN radio show) this week: “The Bears/Packers rivalry, above anything, is based on a mutual respect.”

Saturday we were in DeKalb, IL for our third and final show with the Lecherous boys; it was the day we were going to have our epic Raiders conversation. If you haven’t been to DeKalb before, it’s the perfect place for a football roundtable: a college town filled with drinkers, hellraisers, juggalos, pizza pros and dudes in weird football gear, which explains the dude at our show who wore a Brian Griese Broncos jersey. Side note: I’m in the process of making a shitty ex-quarterback jersey scavenger hunt game.  I’m ranking all the shitty ex-quarterbacks of the last 15 years on a scale from 1-10 (1 being Chad Pennington shitty; 10 JaMarcus Russell shittiest). If you run into a person wearing a jersey of one of the QBs on the list, take a picture with him. Most points at the end of the season wins.

Right before the show began, I saw the Lecherous Gaze dudes sitting together. Now was the time for our big talk. I went up to them and asked them, “So dudes, you guys like football?” Their response, in unison:

 “Naw, man. We’re from Oakland. The Raiders suck.”

What a swerve.

As if Lecherous Gaze willed it, the Raiders got blasted by the mediocre-at-best Miami Dolphins on Sunday, reaffirming that they do, in fact, suck. You know what sucky management of sucky teams do when their sucky team sucks more than usual? They fire their sucky head coach. The Raiders did that on Monday when GM Reggie McKenzie fired head coach Dennis Allen after this season’s 0-4 start. It was the second head coach fired by McKenzie in two seasons. Ideally, in a two-year span, you fire no head coaches. But yeah, the Raiders do things differently out in Oakland. “[We have] a roster that could win,” said McKenzie in response to Allen’s lack of wins as a HC.  Former Dolphin head coach and current Raider assistant head coach Tony Sparano has taken over the role.

Within the next five years, the two best teams in the AFC West, San Diego and Denver, will be in rebuilding modes. The Raiders HAVE to have their shit together by then. Enough is enough! It sucks because the Raiders have tried to do this, but have had an amazing sIew of bad luck over the last decade. Absolutely nothing has panned out for them. The obvious bust is Russell, but what about first round wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey, who they reached for in the 2009 draft over dudes like Clay Matthews, Brian Orakpo and Brian Cushing. Or Rolando McClain, the linebacker drafted eighth overall in 2010 over Jason Pierre-Paul, Maurkice Pouncey and DEZ F’N BRYANT!  Dude was supposed to be their defensive leader for years to come. He was released two seasons into his Raider career (more about McClain in the Dallas section below). So yeah, it’s serious plan time for the Raiders now, and here it is:

1) Find your new head coach from college

The last sort-of-proper hire by the Raiders was USC’s Lane Kiffin in 2007. The whole JaMarcus mess really put a damper on what could have been great tenure (Al Davis fired him after one season). Also, Kiffin’s sort of a puss. He ran back to college and jumped at the first chance to become Nick Saban’s bitch. The Raiders need a traditional, smart, non-progressive college coach who wants to be in the pros for the long haul. He also must stress discipline and fundamentals, recognizing teams are up a creek without said qualities. As tempting as it may be to hire Sparano if he pulls out some wins, or a guy like Rex Ryan once the inevitable happens [fuck you: ed], The Raiders need a man looking to carve a NFL legacy, not live in one he’s already created. My choice would be Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops.

2) Find a franchise QB in the draft in the next three seasons

The Raiders will have high draft picks these next two years. They need a QB out of those. I wouldn’t draft a QB in the 2015 draft. Marcus Mariota is an overrated, a poor man’s Colin Kaepernick who game may not translate. Florida State’s Jameis Winston, though talented, is a disciple problem that a team like the Raiders will not be able to change. No one else is franchise-worthy.

3) Draft/pick up long-term, non-QB leaders on both sides of the ball

Even mediocre NFL teams have notable leaders in production on both sides of the ball. Can you name the number one Raider offensive weapon this year? Can you name the Raiders’ most productive defensive player this year? Can you name said players for 20 other teams, like I can? Therein lies the problem.

4) Maybe move back to L.A., if they want you there.

You want to stop playing on a baseball diamond, or no?

5) On the eve of home games, have Lecherous Gaze take the opposing team out and get them wasted, so they’re hung over and/or don’t make the game.

Check out this track from Lecherous Gaze’s new album, Zeta Reticuli Blues, out now on Tee Pee. They’re on tour in Europe from October 9 through November 2.  Amazing dudes.  Amazing live band.

Boys Better?

I’ve never seen a team enter a season with the deck stacked against them and persevere to play such well-rounded, fundamental, game-winning football like this year’s Dallas Cowboys. Experts not only predicted them to have the worst defense in football this year, but potentially one of the worst defenses in NFL history. Remember that guy the Raiders dropped who I mentioned in the last section, Rolando McClain? Well, he’s currently leading an overachieving defense in tackles. His career may be revitalized. Who do we attribute this to? I’d say new Cowboy’s defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.  If you’ve followed Marinelli during his career, most notably in Tampa and Chicago, he’s a player’s coach that stresses fundamentals and scheme execution; both things Dallas was horrible at executing last year under DC Monte Kiffin. Then there’s the Boys’ offense. It’s old-school and balanced. DeMarco Murray could have an MVP-type season. The run opens up the pass for Dez Bryant, and emerging legit number two receiver Terrance Williams, who had an amazing game against the  Saints on Sunday. Then there’s the — get this — mistake-free Tony Romo. Week 1 against the Niners sucked for Romo. But in his last three games, he has six TDs and only one pick. His passer rating was 137.4 this past week. Who is this guy? Who is this team? Where I am? What year is it?

Are You There ESPN Monday Night Football Commercial-Makers? It’s Me, God.

Why the hell did you guys make the soft-ass Kansas City Chiefs look like hardasses in the MNF commercial this week? You’re lucky they opened up a can on New England or else you would have looked like idiots, and I wouldn’t have bailed you out this time. Don’t pull that shit again, goddamn you.

I’m an Old Man. I’m Confused.

OK, I’m getting sick of the Baltimore Ravens’ Steve Smith constantly saying how old he is since he joined the Ravens. First off, he officially changed his name to Steve Smith, Sr. He said it’s because his son, Steve Smith, Jr. was born in July, but come on! We all know it’s because you want to seem older so it looks cooler when you burn a 20-year-old cornerback. He did light up his old team from Tarheelia this weekend with 139 yards and two touchdowns. But did he have to say in the postgame press conference, “I’m 35 years old and I ran around those boys like they were schoolyard kids”? What’s next, a cane?

Shouldn’t You Be Wearing the Bucket?

I don’t really have much to say about the Bears/Packers game I went to this weekend. The one where Aaron Rodgers torched the Bears’ secondary for 302 yards and four touchdowns while Jay Cutler threw two interceptions. The whole thing is sort of a blur. I will say this though, I’m DONE with the kids outside the stadium that bang on buckets with drumsticks. Any novice drummer can do what they do. It’s not a special talent. Also, banging a hollowed-out plastic tub is not sonically pleasing at all. Do not tip these kids. This needs to end!

The Friendly Rivalry From Hell

So, the aforementioned Bears/Packers “Friendly Rivalry” reared its friendly face after the game as I was leaving the stadium with thousands of depressed Bears fans and a few happy-faced Packers fans. As we were walking back to our respective vehicles, a Packers fan wearing a camouflage Clay Matthews jersey (nuff said) and his drunken girlfriend were gloating about the victory. He couldn’t resist dragging me in to the mix of his drunken gloating. He directed his attention to me and said, “Look at this guy. You don’t look like a sports fan.” At the time I was wearing a Bears jersey, a jean jacket, and yes, I happen to have long hair. So yeah, no way I’m a sports fan, let alone a guy who writes a weekly sports column.

Now the initial comeback that ran through my head was, “Well, I assumed you we’re straight until I saw your boyfriend” (pretty creative, both attacks his manhood that he loves so much and his girlfriend’s looks). But, in a stroke of genius, I came up with the perfect comeback on the spot to smoke that guy that you are all now free to use in your personal lives when you see fit: I looked a him in a grossed-out fashion and said, “Dude, you have something on your face,” and proceeded to walk away grossed out. In horror, he ran to his girlfriend (who was digging through her purse for a tampon at the time) and said, “Hey, whats on my face? What’s on my face?!” She looked baffled and said, “What?! Nothing’s on your face.” Now further down the path, I locked eyes with him. He realized he had been swindled. I smiled and waved. This comeback will work on any douche in any setting. As much as they want to start shit for no reason, they cannot live with the idea of having something on their face that may potentially embarrass them in front of the clan of supermodels they are certain to run into any minute now. They’ll sprint to a bathroom or any place to check their face, and feel violated when they realized they were played.

By the way, if you’re reading this, Clay Matthews fan with camouflage jersey, even though I already conquered you once, this isn’t over. I plan on finding you on Wisconsin soil and beating the shit out of you. Then I’m going to steal your girlfriend, take her on a romantic weekend getaway to Afghanistan, throw her passport in a river, and leave her there. Just thought I’d let you know.

Pick of the Week

New England -2 ½ over Cincy

 

 

Decibrity Playlist: Winterfylleth (Part 2)

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

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Last week, we brought you the first part of Chris Naughton’s landscape themed playlist. While his first six picks covered some well traveled territory–Drudkh, Bathory and Ulver to name a few–the rest dive a little deeper underground. According to Winterfylleth‘s guitarist/vocalist, however, all “capture the very essence of their environment and their history through the music they make and the imagery they portray.” If you haven’t already, pre-order a copy of his band’s fantastic fourth LP, The Divination of Antiquity, here (out Tuesday).

Saor’s “Roots” (from 2013′s Roots)
Our friend Andy Marshall (formally of Falloch) stepped out on his own, initially as Arsaidh but then rebranded himself as Saor and produced a fantastic debut album in Roots (which he’s recently followed up on new album Aura). I chose the title track because it shows a great link between the vast expansive riffs he writes but also the more delicate and inherently Scottish elements he puts into the music as well. If you’ve not heard this band before I encourage you to dig a little deeper.

Cnoc An Tursa’s “Winter – A Dirge” (from 2013′s The Giants Of Auld)
Sort of like a black metal Iron Maiden, our other Scottish pals in Cnoc An Tursa (which translates into modern English as “Hill of Sorrow”) are real unsung heroes of the UK metal fraternity in my opinion. Their music invokes strong feelings of ancient Alba as well as incorporating traditional Scottish melodies and poetry into metal music. I know what you’re thinking, this could be cheesy, but it actually sits on the right side of the line in a powerful and emotive way in the context of their songs. The track I have chosen is from their spirited and passionate debut album. Let’s hope it’s not long ’til they follow it up.

Wodensthrone’s “The Name Of The Wind” (from 2012′s Curse)
It wouldn’t be right to do this kind of playlist without mentioning our brothers in arms, Wodensthrone. We came out around the same time and forged a close link between our bands in that we are like minded souls who were singing about the same types of issues. They have released two albums to date and have really come into their own in helping to define what British black metal sounds like and should be. The song I have chosen is one of their slower, more expansive moments which I love, but don’t let that fool you–they are a force to be reckoned with. Go check out “Black Moss” or “Those That Crush the Roots of Blood” if you don’t believe me. Essential stuff!

Falloch’s “We Are Gathering Dust” (from 2011′s Where Distant Spirits Remain)
Another great bunch of guys who are also from Scotland. What is it about Scotland and bands singing about nature, the environment and their surroundings? Anyone would think they have beautiful highland landscapes all around them, not too far from the cities! Falloch is a fantastic band and walk a fine line between black metal and post rock in many ways, although definitely make a sound all of their own. The track I have chosen shows this unusual but powerful link between genres in action and is what drew me to these guys in the first place. They have recently finished a new album called This Island, Our Funeral, which is out soon and well worth hearing.

Ashes’ “Stone Spiral” (from 2014′s Hrēow)
If we are talking about unsung heroes from the British scene, Ashes has to be the most unsung. Still remaining years later in the realms of underground obscurity, I’m sure many a British band would call him (as it’s just one guy, D. Lumsden) an influence to some degree. Residing more towards the depressive, suicidal end of black metal these days, Ashes has returned with an introspective new album on Hrēow to remind us all he’s never gone away and remains relevant in 2014. If you’re into the more “necro” end of black metal, this is the one for you.

From The Bogs Of Aughiska’s “Aos Si” (from 2010′s From The Bogs Of Aughiska)
The final track is from a great Irish band, From The Bogs Of Aughiska. I was lucky enough to have the chance to release this album on my own Lone Vigil imprint a few years ago and they’ve gone from strength to strength ever since, releasing a second album to great critical success last year. Somewhere between dark ambient and black metal, they have a great and expansive sound. Also the link between that and their local and national history on this song is great. Interviewing old Irish folks about banshees and local history then setting that to synth driven dark ambient is an odd prospect but a work of genius. I think you’ll agree!

*Photo by Ester Segarra

**Order a copy of Winterfylleth’s The Divination of Antiquity here.

***For past Decibrity entries, click here

The Proselyte: The Deciblog Interview and Full Album Stream

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, tours On: Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

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Back in the day there were shiny things called songs. Albums were filled with good songs rather than two or three wankfests. Now, in the hands of the right band long songs can be potent (see: Sleep and YOB). But heavy songs that are infectious with less real estate are also a very good thing.

One band doing songs right is The Proselyte from Cambridge, who mix pop with Decibel approved influences like Floor, My Bloody Valentine and Converge. We liked their recent album Our Vessel’s In Need so much we tracked down guitarist/vocalist Nicholas Wolf for an afternoon conversation. We’re also streaming the full record below. If you need even more proof you can see them this month when they tour with The Atlas Moth.

How would you describe your music to someone who isn’t familiar with it?

We’re black sheep in everything we do. We’ve toured with crust bands and bands that do classic 70s riffs. We want to write dirgy music that’s difficult to digest but put so much pop sensibility on it that you have to like it. We want to make it indigestible but with a sweet aftertaste.

My understanding is that these songs were written in a blizzard?

Our drummer Alec (Rodriguez) works at New Alliance Studio in Cambridge. It’s been a staple in the Boston music community for a long time. Nick (Zampiello) did all the Isis and Pelican stuff and has been a go-to guy in heavy music. When we book we do it on a friend schedule – we just have to make sure they don’t lose money. We booked time way ahead and then the giant blizzard happened. We had a discussion whether or not we do this because the governor (Deval Patrick) was thinking about declaring a state of emergency and telling everyone to stay put. We just decided to say fuck it. We had a film crew there and they suddenly thought it would be more interesting. There were three of them stuck with us in a windowless building.

That environment can’t help but bleed into your music.

The ideas were already together and we knew what we were going for. But the circumstances surrounding the recording can definitely be heard. Not everyone goes to make a record and ends up sleeping on the control room floor because it’s illegal to drive. We tried to open the door at one point and the drifts broke the top door hinge off. We screwed the hinge back in and cabin fever set in. You can hear it on the record.

Floor was a big influence, correct?

No one is going to deny that Floor is heavy as fuck. But it’s essentially just detuned pop music. You can throw it on when it’s nice out and in the winter it also shines. I’m not going to say we’ve reached that but it’s definitely what we aspire to do. I like to make music that makes sense to the listener. Alec and I have been harmonizing for so long that it comes easy. We come with some notes on our iPhones and put together lyrics that work and turn them into melodies. So we’re definitely melody based.

Brad (Macomber, bass) and I grew up surrounded by talented people. When I got to the age I’d go to local shows. I’d see bands like Converge and Cave In at VFWs and gyms in the suburbs. The bar was set very high very young. Cave In was only about five year older. I was taught that if you want to go for it you need to practice, keep doing it, get better.

You must have seen Converge in their formative years?

I saw them several times pre Jane Doe when it was an entirely different style. That record changed the game not just for them but for everyone. To get to see a band like that in their younger years taught me if you aren’t bleeding, somehow injured, out of breath or dehydrated at the end of a set you don’t deserve fans (laughs).

How do you feel about the comparisons that you are heavier version of 90s music? Do you have things in common with Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden?

There’s a stigma to that music so when the comparisons do come they can be a deterrent. But I’m 31 and grew up with that stuff and you can’t take away what you listened to. I learned to play guitar from Superunknown and it does affect how I write a guitar lead. I only worry that there is a stigma in that I don’t want people to think it sucks (laughs).

The same people would make that criticism probably haven’t sat down with Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop. That’s a really good record.

Well, we don’t have a sound we’re going for. We’re a sonic based band. There’s a lot of diversity and tone on the record. If I want to have an inaudible squall I have a box for it. So I can listen to stuff that I liked growing up and add those effects to my arsenal.

How do you think people will perceive the band?

I think we translate well in a recording. I think seeing us live will put it in perspective. We are an aggressive band but the recordings have sheen to them. We won’t make vocals sound like crap. Some people really like it and some people really hate it. No one thinks it’s o.k. It’s always a yes or no and never a maybe.

An intense like or hatred is better than middle of the road.

I thrive on knowing you either really like it or don’t care for it at all.

The cover of the record reminded me of Edward Gorey.

The artist (Bill Crisafi) gets that comparison all the time. He’s very interested in all things Gorey and New England. It came from this house that was recurring in a dream I had for the better part of my life. It was new England colonial house. I feel like I’m going to drive past it in Salem or somewhere else in Massachusetts. I described it to him and the shifty idea of what it looked like. Without any edits it was perfect.

Why the single light in the window?

It’s an SOS. You need to let anyone viewing it know what it might be in shambles but someone is living there. There’s still light but it’s struggling.

What’s the song “An Irish Goodbye” about?

In Boston, an Irish goodbye is when you get so drunk you just disappear without saying goodbye to anyone (laughs). The next morning you are like “did I just disappear?” I seem to notice more people pulling the Irish goodbye more than in the past. I’ve definitely pulled my share in the past but now I write songs about it.

We put Floor in our Hall Of Fame and got some grief from purists about it. Was it the right call?

Absolutely. They’re an integral part of extreme music.

See The Proselyte:

10/04 Columbus, OH (no Atlas Moth)
10/06 Des Moines, IA – Vaudeville Mews
10/08 Denver, CO – Moon Room
10/09 Salt Lake City, UT – Shred Shed
10/10 Boise, ID – The Shredder
10/11 Spokane, WA – The Hop
10/12 Seattle, WA – The Highline
10/14 San Francisco, The Hemlock
10/15 Los Angeles, CA – The Complex
10/19 El Paso, TX – The Sandbox
10/20 Austin, TX – Mohawk
10/21 Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s
10/22 Oklahoma City, OK – The Conservatory
10/23 Kansas City, MO – Czar Bar
10/24 Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen

Nader Sadek and Decibel Join Forces for “Malefic”

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, gnarly one-offs On: Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

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Is there any heavy metal story more heroic and heartening than that of Nader Sadek?

Seriously. Here is a serious connoisseur of extreme music and culture — not to mention an extraordinary visual artist — who came up in a time and place — that would be Egypt in the eighties — where his interests were neither appreciated nor sanctioned; a man who made his way out into the world, mixed it up in the New York City art scene, got a gig as a stage artist for fucking Mayhem before serving as artistic director of his own eponymous death metal monolith manned by current and former members of Cryptopsy, Morbid Angel, Ava Inferi, Cattle Decapitation, Mayhem, Death, Sepultura, and Behemoth.

Ponder that insane journey for a moment.

Now, we’ll never be able to give Sadek the horns-up ticker-tape parade down Broadway he deserves, but Decibel is offering him — and you! — perhaps the next best thing: His band’s upcoming leveller of a four song EP The Malefic: Chapter III will be released as a free CD insert in our December issue (#122). Subscribe here.

We recently caught up with Sadek for a brief chat on Malefic, the inner workings of his musical outlet, and why he chose distribution via Decibel

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So In the Flesh was an excellent release, but The Malefic: Chapter III definitely feels like some next level shit.

Watch A New Video From Instrumentalists Jakob

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, videos On: Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

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New Zealand trio Jakob have a strong release history behind them, but they have been largely absent over the past several years due to injuries that have kept them from playing and recording.  All that is done now, and the band unveils the video for “Blind Them With Science”, the lead-off track from their forthcoming Mylene Sheath release Sines (October 17 in New Zealand and Australia, October 21 in Europe and the United States).  Check out the video below, then read up on the band’s drive and direction on the new record.

Can you describe (in more detail than your online bio) what injuries the band members suffered and when, since your last album?

In September 2008 I [Jeff Boyle, guitar] had arthroscopic surgery on an elongated ulna bone in my right wrist. Basically it means the ulna keeps growing and starts to tear the ligaments that are attached to the bones surrounding it. In April 2010 Maurice [Beckett, bass] broke his left metacarpal 5 bone. At the beginning of December 2011 Jason [Johnston, drums] lacerated his ‘little’ & ‘ring’ fingers to the bone, which meant his main tendons had to be retrieved and reconnected.

Were there particular emotional/conceptual or musical ideas you were interested in exploring with this new music?

I think with this album we were mainly trying to move forward musically. We were really conscious of not stagnating and recycling old ideas. It’s definitely the most crafted album we’ve done so far. As much as we originate ideas quite organically, we worked on elaborating on those ideas in different ways. Like with “Blind Them With Science” we wanted to get some riff action on because we hadn’t really done anything like that so far. And it was kind of a tip of the hat to some bands we had toured with like ISIS, Pelican & Tool. We also wanted to take these songs in a more cinematic direction, using string sections, pianos and samples to bring in other timbres to create a more cinematic mood. A lot of the time with our ambient parts I’m kind of playing guitar with a mind to appropriate a string section anyway so this pretty much just an extension of that.

 Over what length of time was the music for Sines actually written?

Some of the songs that made it onto Sines have actually been around in one shape or form since 2008. “Magna Carta” & “Harmonia” both originated from the writing sessions we did when we got back from touring with ISIS in Europe. The ideas for “Blind Them With Science”, “Emergent” & “Resolve” were originated in 2010. “Darkness” and “Sines” were the last to be written in 2012.

How do you think the band members have grown in technique over the time you have worked together?  Has this altered the sound of Jakob over time?

We’ve all developed our techniques over the years for sure. A big part of that has been in doing other musical projects. Maurice started a solo project called Desbot which has since turned into a band, Jason played with the Tiki Taane Live crew and I worked with Rhian Sheehan on a couple albums. I think when you start creating music with other people, parts of their style can work its way in your own. We’ve definitely taken pieces of what we’ve done with these other projects and brought them into this new album.

Where does Jakob go from here?

We want to get into some touring again now that this album is finally all done and about to be released. We’ll definitely head back over to Europe and USA next year for pretty extensive tours. And we’re already talking about the next album which I think we’ll try and record quite simply this time. Mainly we’ll keep trying to progress and evolve musically.

For more Jakob, check out their official webpage and their Bandcamp site.  Pre-order the album at iTunes or at Bandcamp, or head over to Mylene Sheath to pre-order the CD or 2XLP.

Sucker For Punishment: Needle Groper, Pinkeye Poker

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

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The situation surrounding the release of Witch Mountain’s latest album is not one you see very often. It’s one thing for a metal band to lose a singer – a real test of a metal band’s greatness is how difficult it is to replace the singer – but to see a band whose career was transformed by the addition of a supreme vocal talent suddenly part ways with that singer mere days before the release of a highly anticipated new album is surreal to say the least. But that’s what happened with the Portland band; after a tremendous victory lap tour across North America with Nik Turner’s Hawkwind, the formidable Uta Plotkin has stepped down, leaving three of the best doom albums of the last decade as her legacy.

Mobile of Angels (Profound Lore), her third and final work with Witch Mountain, is a slight departure, one that benefits the record immensely and after a few listens asserts itself as the superior work. While Plotkin’s booming voice, which can range from guttural growls, to high-pitched shrieks, to lower-register bellows, to moments of tenderness and soul is the focal point, it’s never the sole reason Witch Mountain is what it is. Guitarist Rob Wrong, the band’s central composer, is just as key, and the contrast, the give-and-take between Wrong and Plotkin is what ultimately makes – erm, made – this particular foursome so special. Wrong’s style of doom metal is far more rooted in blues than, say, fellow Oregonians YOB, and the way he trades solo licks with Plotkin’s voice on “Can’t Settle”, or how he helps accentuate her devilish blues vocals on “Your Corrupt Ways (Sour the Hymn)”, is a marvel to hear.

Four of the five songs here take their own sweet time, as epic doom metal has a tendency to do, but deep down these tracks are very deliberately traditional, old-fashioned. The only difference is that they’re played slowly, anchored beautifully by Nathan Carson’s precise, extremely disciplined drumming. Two tracks make the most immediate impact, starting with opening cut “Psycho Animundi”, which follows the lead of the 2012 tune “Bloodhound”, focusing more on menace and confrontation, Plotkin’s forceful, husky voice commanding your attention before giving way to the expressive solo work by Wrong. Much different, and more revelatory, is “The Shape Truth Takes”, which closes the record. A blues ballad in the tradition of Deep Purple’s “Mistreated” Plotkin’s sensitivity achieves a similar effect to that of Anneke van Giersbergen’s groundbreaking work with The Gathering, bringing a level of femininity to such a masculine form of music that stops you dead in your tracks. It’s the prettiest and most restrained track Witch Mountain has ever done, producer Billy Anderson helping build the seven-minute song to a majestic climax. Better yet, it’s a remarkable high note for Plotkin to end her tenure on. She will undoubtedly be missed, but with that perennial strength of Wrong as the songwriter, people have every reason to believe this band will be back on its feet very soon. If Wrong can create chemistry with the next singer that works as well as Plotkin did, then that’ll be even better.

Stream and purchase Witch Mountain’s Mobile of Angels via Bandcamp.

This week’s a big one, with a few more year-end list contenders. Read on:

1349, Massive Cauldron of Chaos (Season of Mist): Good for 1349 for putting out albums at a consistent enough rate and touring North America regularly enough to make them a fairly popular black metal band on this continent, but aside from their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun” is there actually any music of theirs that has any worth? This sixth album is yet another example where the whole process feels like a checklist rather than a memorable piece of music. Requisite black metal clichés, tropes, and playing styles are ticked off one by one, and it’s all done rather convincingly, save for the songwriting, which rarely rises above tepid. The song “Mengele’s” is a great example, with its snappy riff and head-bobbing groove, but like the incomplete title you’re left feeling oddly unsatisfied. Mengele’s what, guys? Mengele’s what?

Black Crown Initiate, The Wreckage of Stars (eOne): You hear moments where this young band could potentially swipe the torch from the once-mighty Between the Buried and Me, but for now this album merely follows the lead of BTBAM and Opeth a little too devoutly rather than coming up with its own ideas. It’s a good effort, but this band is clearly still growing, and I’ll be very curious to hear what these guys come up with next.

Butcher Babies, Uncovered (Century Media): Listen to these attention-seeking hacks massacre ZZ Top’s “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers”, and you’ll lose all faith in humanity. And Tank’s “Crazy Horses” cover is what you should be listening to, not the nu-metal shit these children are doing here. Shame on Century Media on pushing this garbage and ignoring a talented band on its roster like Wolf.

Death Penalty, Death Penalty (Rise Above): This band might be new, but it boasts a pedigree no new bands can boast, featuring former Cathedral guitarist Gaz Jennings and singer Michelle Nocon and drummer Frederik Cosemans from Belgian doomsters Serpentcult. Named after Witchfinder General’s Death Penalty, the greatest doom album by a band not named Black Sabbath or Candlemass, it’s also a fitting comparison, as Jennings finds a comfortable middle ground between hard-charging NWOBHM riffs and towering doom grooves. Nocon was already renowned for her great singing voice with Serpentcult, but she shows even greater range on these nine old-school rampagers. If “Howling at the Throne of Decadence”, “Written By the Insane”, and “Eyes of the Heretic” don’t leave you convinced this is one of the best new bands of 2014, the Tank-style jam “Immortal in Your Hands” will. In a month where Electric Wizard’s Jus Osborn was very outspoken in his dislike for Rise Above/Cathedral boss Lee Dorrian (be sure to read the Decibel cover story), Dorrian has quietly countered with the far superior album.

Decapitated, Blood Mantra (Nuclear Blast): It hasn’t been easy for Waclaw “Vogg” Kieltyka to rebuild Decapitated after the devastating 2007 crash that killed drummer Witold “Vitek” Kieltyka and seriously injured then-vocalist Adrian “Covan” Kowanek. Slowly but surely the guitarist got things back together with 2011’s impressive Carnival is Forever, but this follow-up, the band’s sixth full-length, is a monumental step forward. Vogg’s brand of technical death metal was always highly unique, but this time around those idiosyncrasies dominate instead of sharing the stage with traditional death metal ideas and forms. “Brutality” gives way for quirkier experiments, whether in Sepultura-inspired grooves or Meshuggah-style stuttered syncopation, yet never for a second feels derivative, instead using it all as a springboard to something he and the band can call their own. And the more adventurous this album gets, the better it is, as on “Red Sun”, the taut “Nest”, and the spectacular “Blindness”. This is a sensational piece of work by a stalwart band that finally, truly feels reborn in the wake of tragedy.

Electric Wizard, Time To Die (Spinefarm): The eighth album by the doom favourites is a strange one, alternating between moments where you feel Jus Osborn and Liz Buckingham recapturing the past glory of the classic Dopethrone and instances of pure tedium. At its best the record thunders and swings with force and grace (“I Am Nothing”, “Sadiowitch”, “Lucifer’s Slaves”), but far too often the songs slip into boring, extended jams that make no effort to leave an impression on the listener. Even worse is the overall tone of the record, which tries to sound abrasive but ultimately feels like an exercise in lo-fi gimmickry, with vocals by Osborn that sound like he just doesn’t give a shit anymore. Where’s the power this band is renowned for? They’re badly underachieving on this album, and someone at Spinefarm should have told them to come back with something befitting the Electric Wizard legacy. Despite its handful of good moments I’m not buying this music for a second, and neither should you.

Evergrey, Hymns For the Broken (AFM): Evergrey always has a good following, but it also seems as if they’re taken for granted, or worse, ignored by the hipper-than-thou underground set who refuse to find merit in strong heavy metal melodies. Well, sorry, kvltists who think metal should be “extreme” and “ugly” all the time, but this is a great band that so consistently mines the more ornate, gothic side of the genre, coming through with music that’s grandiose, epic in scope, and perpetually in keeping with what makes metal metal. Sure, Tom Englund has a habit of drifting into schmaltz, but what is gothic metal if not a bit schmaltzy? This is one hell of a good album (“King of Errors” is an absolute gem) that dives into melodic melodrama with shameless abandon. It’s a beautiful thing.

Gatekrashör, Gatekrashör (self-released): As I always say, I love any young band that looks and sounds permanently stuck in 1984. Of course, it’s important for heavy metal to keep moving forward, but it’s just as important for bands to keep the traditional flame alive, to keep the vintage sounds and ideas alive, whether derived from late-‘60s proto-metal, to those formative 1970s sounds, to the energy of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Or in this Calgary band’s case, the classic sounds of the great Canadian imprint Banzai Records. These four guys get it, from aesthetic to music, a charmingly lo-fi onslaught of speed and energy inspired by Jag Panzer, Agent Steel, Liege Lord, and most of all, Exciter. It is derivative, and revels in it, celebrates it. Anyone into whatever Hells Headbangers puts out will absolutely love this sucker, from “Force of the Blade” to the brilliant “Heavy Metal Rangers”. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Khold, Til Endes (Peaceville): The most interesting aspect of this latest album by the Norwegian weirdos isn’t the comically evil vocals, nor the cookie-cutter black metal riffing, but the hardcore punk element that permeates the music. When this album cranks the punk, wither via atonal riffs or straightforward grooves, it starts to set itself apart from the usual black metal conventions. Of course, that’s only flirted with. Had this band gone all in, then maybe it could have yielded something worth people’s time.

Meshuggah, I; The Ophidian Trek (Nuclear Blast): Meshuggah’s 2013 North American tour was something to behold, a masterful exercise in dexterity and awe-inspiring power by one of the best and most influential bands of the last 20 years. Now the band’s served up a cool little memento in the form of The Ophidian Trek, which was filmed at Wacken Open Air 2013 and features the exact same setlist. As with any other live DVD shot at Wacken, it can look a little sterile with little interaction between the band and its audience, but in Meshuggah’s case it works to their great advantage. These guys are so clinical in their approach, the music meant to be cold and precise, and it’s delivered impeccable here. Meanwhile, the long out-of-print I EP from 2004, featuring the stupendous 20-minute composition of the same name, finally sees a proper re-release in a special expanded edition. Personally I found this EP to be far more exciting experiment in cut-and-paste composition than the very disappointing Catch Thirtythree, and it’s great to see it back in this nifty edition that comes appended by a couple of live tracks and the studio track “Pitch Black”, which was originally released last year by Scion.

Nightbringer, Ego Dominus Tuus (Season of Mist): For anyone interested in finding the best black metal album this week, look no further than these Colorado guy. Always a consistently good band, Nightbringer is in strong form on this latest album, the sound suitably ferocious and overwhelming, but with plenty of melodic departures that range from classically inspired to good old progressive rock. At more than 70 minutes, it’s a challenging, strenuous listen, but while it would have benefitted greatly by having at least half an hour lopped off – the album would have left a much more immediate impression – this is nevertheless an example of a band completely understanding how to capture the sheer power of classic black metal, remaining firmly rooted in tradition but still plenty capable of carving out its own identity.

Sempiternal Dusk, Sempiternal Dusk (Dark Descent): Hailing from Portland, Oregon, this band plumbs the depths of primitive death metal, eschewing technical dexterity and “extremity” for churning, ritualistic grooves and brooding ambience. Lumbering along mightily with as keen a sense for melody as sheer force, this is the kind of death metal that remembers to create a sense of death so vivid you can almost smell the stench.

Sparky, #Humanimation (self-released): My patience has worn thin with “progressive” metal that shows no real progress at all, but this Canadian band has come through with one weird record, a total headscratcher that’ll have you dancing. Instrumentally as taut as King Crimson yet as playful as Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, Sparky remembers to incorporate a sense of fun to the music, and that levity makes this sneakily catchy music all the more personable. Crazily vibrant and always mindful of the importance of a good hook, this is one modern prog album that’s a total blast. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

White Empress, Rise of the Empress (Peaceville): Paul Allender’s first new band after leaving Cradle of Filth is in some ways cut from the same cloth from his old band, combining icy extremity with symphonic touches. However, so much more so than that band, White Empress has such a strong command of melody, creating an exceptional dynamic between harshness and hooks. Better yet, Allender has teamed up with the powerful-voiced Mary Zimmer, who after the short-lived 2000s band Luna Mortis had drifted away from the metal scene. Well, she makes a big, big splash on this record, which will appeakl to not only Cradle fans, but anyone who craves symphonic metal with more power and force than the frillier bands out there.

Not metal, but totally worth hearing:

Tove Lo, Queen of the Clouds (Island/Universal): Ready for some pop? Swedish singer-songwriter Tove Nilsson has been slowly making a name for herself over the past year thanks to the gorgeous, self-deprecating single “Habits (Stay High)” which has slowly become one of 2014’s from-out-of-nowhere pop hits. Her full-length debut arrives on the wave of some substantial Stateside hype, and featuring a whopping 19 songs, Queen of the Clouds swings for the fences. Whether singing about timebombs, liking ‘em young, or being “charming as fuck”, Tove Lo makes an immediate impression with her buoyant, confessional tunes, fitting neatly between Robyn, Lykke Li, and Ellie Goulding, coming across as playful, daring, and impeccably developed as so much Swedish pop is. And look out, the deliriously profane “Talking Body” could be huge. Get on this album before the rest of the world does, and you know that’s so going to happen.

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