Decibrity Playlist: Revocation

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, October 9th, 2014

revocation_photo01

When Revocation‘s David Davidson told me about his band’s upcoming album Chaos of Forms back in 2011, the guitarist/vocalist was pretty excited about using his past experience with horn and big band arrangements to compose a horn section for “The Watchers”. Between that and his focus on jazz while at the Berklee College of Music, it’s no surprise that the genre provides the theme for his playlist. Once you’re done checking out his picks, pick up a copy of Bostonians’ fifth full-length (and first for Metal Blade), Deathless, here.

Pat Martino’s “Just Friends” (from 1967′s El Hombre)
My first real introduction to jazz was as a freshman in high school. My guitar teacher at the school was very ambitious and would bring in transcriptions of full solos to learn that we would have to play in unison. I remember when he brought in “Just Friends” to the classroom, I was very intimidated but determined to not let him down. My fellow classmates and I struggled through the piece, learning it bit by bit, and when the recital finally came we actually played it pretty well for a bunch of teenagers just learning how to swing. This tune will always be special for me because it takes me back to a very inspiring time that pushed my boundaries and opened my ears up to a completely new approach to the guitar.

Pat Metheny’s “Solar” (from 1989′s Question and Answer)
“Question and Answer” is easily my favorite Metheny record and has a total dream team rhythm section featuring Dave Holland playing upright bass and Roy Haynes on drums. Pat’s lines are incredibly fluid on “Solar” and he really goes off as his solo progresses, playing out with a keen sense of melodic sensibility and motivic development. The interaction between Holland and Haynes is also quite remarkable and their mastery of form keeps this uptempo tune flowing and on track.

Liberty Ellman’s “Ophiuchus Butterfly” (from 2006′s Ophiuchus Butterfly)
I got turned on to this record a couple of years ago by a buddy of mine and it’s been in heavy rotation ever since. The title track begins with an off-kilter melody that still maintains a killer groove. The tune then builds as contrapuntal lines between the guitar, saxophones and tuba interact and bounce off each other. As good as the album opener is, every tune on this record has its own personality, with each track maintaining harmonic complexity and interesting melodies. Ellman’s unique compositional style shines throughout the record and is only elevated by the saxophone duo of Mark Shim and Steve Lehman, who each lay down absolutely crushing performances which elevate this album to an even higher plateau.

Kurt Rosenwinkel Standards Trio’s “Ask Me Now” (from 2009′s Reflections)
I’m a total sucker for chord melodies–there’s something about taking a jazz standard and reimagining it in different ways that is so beautiful and intriguing to me. Kurt Rosenwinkel’s rendition of the quintessential Thelonious Monk ballad “Ask Me Now” is played with a level of sophistication that few but Kurt are capable of. His chords are rich and harmonically complex, but he never loses sight of the melody. Kurt has proven himself to be one of the best guitarists in modern jazz and his thoughtful interpretation of this tune is a must listen for fans of classic standards played with pure class.

Anthony Braxton’s “Countdown” (from 2003′s 23 Standards (Quartet))
Anthony Braxton is one of the true geniuses of our time. He’s a forward thinking composer, educator and improviser who’s released over 100 albums since the ’60s. On 23 Standards, Braxton is on fire, playing with a burning intensity that is truly awe inspiring. His performance of the uptempo Coltrane classic “Countdown” builds in ferocity as he blazes through the lightning fast changes. Guitarist Kevin O’Neil also delivers a jaw dropping performance on this track, utilizing eyebrow raising post bop lines and abrasive chords.

MI0001984562

*Order a copy of Revocation’s Deathless here.

**For past Decibrity entries, click here

Interview and Exclusive Book Excerpt: Mark Rudolph

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: exclusive, featured, free, interviews On: Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

CFFRONT

For more than half of Decibel’s decade-long history Mark Rudolph has been a key component of what makes the magazine special. He illustrates the lead review in each issue and has designed covers for all of Decibel’s annual specials dating back to our 100 best death metal albums special.

When he isn’t busy with the magazine or his Detroit-based art business Rudolph edits and curates graphic books on our heavy metal heroes. The first was a King Diamond tribute Satan Is Alive. Due next is a tribute for Tom Warrior. Morbid Tales! A Tribute To Celtic Frost will be released by Corpseflower Records in an initial run of 1,000 copies.

You can preorder a copy of this fantastic book here. Mark also graciously shared a preview of the book with his Deci-comrades; visit his page to get an idea of what to expect in full-resolution glory not available via WordPress. Then read more with Mark below. Are You Morbid?

When did you get into art?

I grew up in the middle of Michigan in a small college town. I was a fairly withdrawn kid and drawing was the first thing before music that got me. It made me feel that nothing else mattered. It started with a love of comic books and cartoons. And then my Dad gave me a copy of MAD magazine which was one of the few cultural touchstones we agreed upon. I started seeing caricatures when I was about eight and it excited me a lot more than Spider Man. MAD made me realize that people were making a living doing illustrations. It got me into pop culture and put an extra twist on it with social commentary.

Jack Kirby was a big influence, correct?

In the late 70s and early 80s I wasn’t super aware of who specific artists were. But Marvel Comics always made an effort to make sure people knew Stan Lee and the artists and put personalities to them. I became more aware of Kirby in my late teens and early 20s and started to appreciate what he did for the world of comics. When I got into college I recognized what a genius he was; he could abstract the human figure and his work also transcended reality.

When did you decide to combine your metal fandom with illustration?

Chris Dick and a few other longtime Decibel contributors did the Requiem fanzine from 1992 to about 1998. It was photocopied. At that time album covers were paintings or Photoshopped. I tried to cater my illustration style to that at first. I also had a stint at Relapse in the graphics department. This was when everyone and their grandma was getting into design.

After Requiem died I did some design work and photography. I’d always been doing comics for myself. It wasn’t until about 2008 when I was in Decibel – I think it was issue 52. I’d been doing a lot of sci-fi comics with Twilight Zone endings. I was visiting Chris in Philadelphia and I gave Albert (Mudrian, editor) a copy of a comic I was doing called Mulligan’s Run. It was sort of like an EC Comic. Albert got a hold of me to do a lead illustration each month and it scared the shit out of me. Decibel was the first time I’d had metal in my illustrations outside of some fanzines.

Your illustrations have become part of Decibel’s aesthetic.

For the longest time I think any illustration having to do with metal was so serious. It was all traditional covers. The way Decibel is – I want to think of a good way to put it — it’s not just about super underground and true kult. It had a reach and that’s what I wanted with my work. You can have a sense of humor about things you love. When Albert approached me about the death metal cover I thought of the idea of doing a huge montage with different elements from album covers. The response has been fantastic and we have yet another special in the works.

What’s your favorite Decibel piece?

The ones that push me as an artist. The Danzig cover was tough but it would have to be the death metal cover, which got a great response. It made me reevaluate all of these album covers from when I was a kid.

After you did the book on King Diamond when did you decide to do a book on Tom Warrior?

The King Diamond book was a shot in the dark and it worked. I’ve always been a huge Frost fan and ended up reading copious amounts of interviews and I already had an idea for another book.

Tom’s story seems to lend itself to a graphic retelling.

Yes, especially his childhood. He definitely had an interesting upbringing and I respect how he took the inner turmoil and turned it into something rather than turning to drugs or less savory activity. His childhood is like a fairy tale. He was this kid that overcame these things to become a force. I was drawn to him because I also created my own worlds. And I was drawn to how he did that through music. I have a story in the book about my broad interpretation of him as a child overcoming those odds and becoming the Tom Warrior character.

Tom has been able to create an entire life out of the fantasy life he had as a kid.

Tom always tried to do something different with his career; just look at the back catalog from Hellhammer to Morbid Tales to Into The Pandemonium

I understand you heard from Tom?

I woke up one morning and he befriended me on Facebook and sent me a message asking about the book. I sent him a synopsis and pointed him to the Mercyful Fate book. He said he was honored and humbled by the gesture. When I approached King Diamond about the book he politely declined. I thought Tom might ask me to stop and I was honored he seemed stoked.

It’s interesting that the two books you’ve done have been on artists who pay painstaking attention to their image.

It might gave been completely unintentional (laughs). But it’s a testament to how identifiable they are. They are almost like horror movie icons. They are the musical equivalent of superheroes.

Hang With Hang the Bastard (If You Can…)

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: exclusive, featured On: Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

unnamed-6

Look out, people — Hang the Bastard dragged this lumbering, oppressive beast of a song up from the sludgy pits of its upcoming self-titled album to wreak exclusive havoc on the Deciblog…and it is way nastier than we were warned.

Record is oct October 14 via Century Media. Another track/trippy video after the jump.

Sucker For Punishment: Burning Like a Flame

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

amarth

It’s got to be a surreal adjustment for certain popular metal bands who headline huge festivals in Europe and come over to North America to play venues the tiniest fraction of the size. For some bands, you can tell they’d rather be egotistically drinking in the adulation of 75,000 people in a field in Germany instead of 500 people crammed into a pub in the middle of nowhere, while others are perfectly happy making eye contact with their audience, interacting in a cozy setting. Then you get the bands that don’t give a damn where they play, and those bands are always the best, no matter what the setting.

I’ve seen Swedish bands Amon Amarth and Sabaton play so many different venues, from tiny bars, to theaters, to cruise ships, and of course we’ve all seen festival footage of both bands. Sabaton played to more than half a million people in Poland last year, for crying out loud. With both bands, it never, ever matters where they play: they love to perform, they give their all, they entertain, and their adoring fans love them for it. That was certainly the case a couple nights ago as both bands, along with perennial crowd-pleasers Skeletonwitch played a sold-out show to a rollick group of headbangers on the local university campus.

It’s kind of absurd for a band like Sabaton to be an opening act these days; after all they are the biggest power metal band on the planet right now, and can very easily attract sizeable audiences as a headliner in North America. That said, it makes for one hell of a one-two-punch alongside Amon Amarth, and did Sabaton ever make their fleeting 45-minute slot count with a rousing set loaded with fan favorites and the odd new tunes. “Resist and Bite” and the crazily jaunty “To Hell and Back” held up very well alongside “The Art of War” and “Carolus Rex”, while staples “Primo Victoria” and “Ghost Division” brought the house down. A perpetual ham, mohawked singer Joakim Broden was in his usual good spirits, maybe a bit more than usual seeing it was his birthday that night. “End of passion play, it’s my birthday today,” he cracked during an impromptu “Master of Puppets” cover. That’s Sabaton in a nutshell. They’ll do anything to coax a smile out of a metal crowd, and they always pull it off.

Amon Amarth, meanwhile, is the AC/DC of death metal. Everyone knows what to expect from the guys, they have a tendency to gleefully self-plagiarize yet somehow manage to come through with catchy songs time and again, and that’s all anyone ever wants from them. The same riffing styles, the same melodies, the same subject matter (Vikings, Vikings, Vikings), and the same jokes (“If you don’t know the words, just yell along. It’s death metal, no one understands anyway”), and they are beloved for it. The band has been on a real career upswing since 2008 though, and it’s gotten to the point in Canada where the albums are doing so well that they’re starting to outgrow the venues they play, consistently selling out.

While the poor guy in line in front of me was devastated the show had sold out – prairie folks are laid back enough to assume walk-up are always available – the filled-to-capacity club had a great, festive atmosphere during Sabaton, and especially as Amon Amarth took the stage. The bulk of the 90-minute set focused on the last five albums, with only the staple “Death in Fire” representing the band’s early work. Which is perfectly fine by yours truly, as Amon Amarth has been on fire since Twilight of the Thunder God six years ago. Rightfully, Twilight and last year’s excellent Deceiver of the Gods were given the most focus, and those tracks went over hugely, the crowd responding with a furious mosh pit and, thanks to the absence of a barrier, plenty of stage diving. All the while towering vocalist Johan Hegg loomed over the kids like the Viking gods he sings of, his long beard and drinking horn attached to his belt cutting an imposing figure. From the early run of “Death in Fire” and “As Loke Falls” to the climactic “Cry of the Black Birds” and “War of the Gods”, the energy between band and audience was electric, and sent into overdrive during the encore of “Twilight of the Thunder God” and the requisite “Pursuit of Vikings”. All expectations were met, tons and tons of Viking-themed merchandise was sold, and everyone went home happy and exhausted.

As it happens, Amon Amarth, Sabaton, and Skeleltonwitch will all be part of Decibel’s big 10th anniversary celebration in Manhattan and Brooklyn later this month. It’s not every day you get two metal bands of this caliber touring together, and you owe it to yourself to see this bill if it comes your way. Here are the remaining dates:

10/10 Toronto, ON The Sound Academy
10/11 Montreal, QC Metropolis
10/12 Quebec City, QC Imperial
10/14 Burlington, VT Higher Ground
10/15 Hartford, CT Webster Theatre
10/17 Albany, NY Upstate Concert Hall
10/18 New York, NY Best Buy Theatre
10/19 Columbus, OH Newport Music Hall
10/21 Chattanooga, TN Track 29
10/22 Knoxville, TN Bijou Theater
10/24 Charlotte, NC The Fillmore
10/25 Jacksonville, FL Freebird
10/26 Birmingham, AL Iron City
10/27 New Orleans, LA The Civic
10/29 St. Louis, MO The Pageant
10/30 Joliet, IL Mojoes
10/31 Detroit, MI Royal Oak
11/01 Milwaukee, WI The Rave
11/02 Des Moines, IA Wooly’s
11/04 Lincoln, NE Bourbon Street
11/05 Oklahoma City, OK Diamond Ballroom
11/07 Austin, TX Fun Fun Fun Fest
11/08 El Paso, TX Tricky Falls
11/09 Tucson, AZ Club XS

On to this week’s new releases!

Abazagorath, The Satanic Verses (Eternal Death): The New Jersey veterans stick to rote, formulaic black metal on this third full-length, but despite its severe lack of originality – some Emperor here, Immortal there – this is nevertheless some strongly performed melodic black metal, heavy on speed and intricacy with a good mix of florid melodies and prog-leaning arrangements. If only the band followed through with more material as interesting as the instrumental “A City Visible But Unseen”.

Alunah, Awakening the Forest (Napalm): Is there a doom band that sounds dreamier than Alunah? That’s a big reason I love this English band: they play heavy music rooted in the tradition of Saint Vitus, but the focus isn’t so much on brute force but grace. The songs don’t plod and thud. They glide and swing, the guitars enveloping rather than crushing. By the time the tender singing of guitarist Sophie Day enters the fray, that’s it: you’re entranced. The songwriting as always been good, but this third album is a step up from 2012’s White Hoarhound, the melodies much more confident, the use of dynamics stronger, especially on such tracks as “Bricket Wood Coven” and “Heavy Bough”.

Audrey Horne, Pure Heavy (Napalm): After the astounding career turning point Youngblood in early 2013, which saw the Norwegian band abandon its boring “modern hard rock” in favor of a more classic sound reminiscent of early-‘80s Rainbow, I still feared that the guys might revert back to their old ways. Fortunately, it’s steady as she goes on the follow-up, as Audrey Horne continues to mine that sound from 30-plus years ago. It fits these guys perfectly, singer Toschie performing with verve on standouts “Out of the City” and speedster “Into the Wild”, guitarist Ice Dale (also of Enslaved) relishing his role as the showboating lead shredder. It’s nothing but good, catchy heavy metal like us oldsters remember, and it’s a total delight because of it. The band has embraced this change of direction fully, and it fits them perfectly.

Godflesh, A World Lit Only By Fire (Avalanche): As much as I loved Justin Broadrick’s shoegaze/metal project Jesu – and I loved it – there came a point where I realized that he’d taken that idea as far as it could possibly go. It was around when I saw Jesu perform in 2012, where I very nearly fell asleep standing up. The man should have stopped after Conqueror, and this was apparent when I saw the reunited Godflesh pulverize an audience a year later. I was more of an admirer of Godflesh than a fan – over the years I’ve tended to enjoy that minimalist industrial concept in bits and pieces rather than via full albums, but the energy, the ferocity that night was something to behold. After a teaser EP this past summer that felt decent enough but not exactly earth-shattering, A World Lit Only By Fire delivers the latter in surprising, spectacular fashion. A conscious return to the throttling sounds of seminal 1990s albums Streetcleaner and Pure, this new album is so straightforward in the way it sticks to that classic combination of massive riffs, martial electronic drum beats, and the post-punk edginess of Killing Joke. As much as it might seem like a regression, this record benefits immensely from modern production, as Broadrick has these ten tracks sounding even more colossal than anyone could ever have hoped. It’s simple, but sometimes the simpler approach is the best one.

Lo-Pan, Colossus (Small Stone): The Columbus, Ohio band is in fine form on this fourth album, once again finding a comfy middle ground between the heavy rock of Grand Funk Railroad and the searing garage rock of the MC5. Throw in a vocalist who actually makes an effort to sing, not growling nor yarling, and you’ve got a good little reminder of how satisfying music this simple can be when it honors its roots and tries to create something new at the same time.

Orange Goblin, Back From The Abyss (Candlelight): It seems as if Orange Goblin has been gaining serious traction in North America, at least in the B and C markets. The British veterans have stepped up the touring on this side of the Atlantic, and from my perspective, every time they hit the smaller centers, more and more people are drawn to the shows. And good for them for quickly following up 2012’s A Eulogy For the Damned with a record that’s even better. Typical of the band, it’s very much in keeping with the Orange Goblin aesthetic, which is essentially beer-fueled, sludgy rock ‘n’ roll, alternating between Motörheady speed and bluesy swing, led as always by the burly-voiced Ben Ward. Had this album been 34 minutes insead of 54 minutes, it might’ve had an even more immediate impact – for a band like this, less is definitely more – but this is still a hugely enjoyable record, led by “Sabbath Hex”, “Heavy Lies the Crown”, and the wicked “Devil’s Whip”.

Rigor Mortis, Slaves To The Grave (Rigor Mortis): The story behind Rigor Mortis’s first album in 23 years is impossibly tragic. Just as the Dallas band was wrapping up the recording, they threw a bash to celebrate guitarist Mike Scaccia’s 50th birthday, but while he was onstage performing with his longtime friends, Scaccia suffered a heart attack and died shortly thereafter. In honor of their buddy the rest of the band launched an online funding campaign to help them finish the album in a way that honored him in fitting fashion as possible. Indeed, they’ve done a very nice job of it on this exuberant record. Devoid of frills but performed with the kind of energy that feels like the work of thrash acts half the band’s age, best exemplified by the ferocious “Curse of the Draugr”. An appropriate, robust swan song for a popular guitarist who died far too young.

Stench, Venture (Agonia): In its perversely restrained approach, you can sense this second album by the Swedish band is trying to accomplish what Morbus Chron did so well on this year’s extraordinary Sweven, but while the ambition is there, the execution isn’t. The songs still feel rote, dalliances with post-punk sounds feel half-formed, and as is the case with so many extreme metal bands, the vocals lack personality, feeling more like an afterthought, adding nothing to the music. You can sense good things in this band, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Viathyn, Cynosure (self-released): This week’s biggest surprise comes from the burgeoning Canadian metal hotbed of Calgary, Alberta, where Viathyn has emerged with a shockingly strong album of progressive power metal that is guaranteed to interest fans of Symphony X and Angra. We’re so used to hearing work by unsigned young bands that sound nowhere near fully-formed that when a self-released album comes out that actualy feels like it’s already realizing its potential, you can’t quite believe it. But this is an exceptional piece of work, robust yet lively, fun but not cartoonish, proggy but always built around a strong hook. Cynosure already sounds like a band in full stride, and it deserves to be heard. Stream and purchase it via Bandcamp.

Winterfylleth, The Divination of Antiquity (Candlelight): Winterfylleth can always be depended on for some quality black metal rooted in Scandinavian tradition but always exploring their own English heritage. Nothing changes on this fourth album, and while that can be a detriment, these tracks hold up exceptionally, especially the more melodic fare like the nine and a half-minute epic “A Careworn Heart”.

Not metal, but worth hearing:

This is as exciting a week for new non-metal music as I’ve seen all year, and of the four titles I can’t decide to single out, there’s at least one that will appeal to anyone. Steven Ellison, AKA Flying Lotus, is a mad genius of a composer, and You’re Dead! (Warp) is a spellbinding 38-minute journey through jazz fusion, progressive rock, hip hop, and IDM. The equally talented electronic artist Dan Snaith is also in prime form on Caribou’s rich, vibrant, pop-friendly Our Love (Merge), his best work since 2003’s psychedelic classic Up in Flames. The great singer-songwriter Mary Timony, best known for her work with Helium and most recently Wild Flag, is back with a new band called Ex Hex, which unlike her past projects focuses on hard-driving, punk-infused powerpop on Rips (Merge). Think The Cars meets the Ramones. Meanwhile, Zola Jesus’s latest albumTaiga (Mute) sees Nika Rosa Danilova continuing to gradually shift her sound towards something more accessible with largely entrancing results, although I still consider last year’s Versions to be her best work.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

A Very Heavy Metal Halloween: Adam Ahlbrandt

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, gnarly one-offs On: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

unnamed-1

Ask writer/director/provocateur extraordinaire Adam Ahlbrandt for his job description and here is what he’ll tell you:

“I make audio/visual filth, gore, death and sleaze.”

This is no idle boast as anyone who has seen either Ahlbrandt’s uncompromising, viscera-festooned feature-length films – Cross Bearer (2012); The Cemetery (2013) — or his nightmarish music videos for band such as Today Is The Day, Burnt By The Sun, Circle Of Dead Children, and Agoraphobic Nosebleed can no doubt attest. (Last year we praised the death metal heavy soundtrack of The Cemetery here.)

Though Ahlbrandt is hard at work on his next splatter platter — The Sadist, starring legit scream queen Linnea Quigley and featuring a score by Steve Austin of Today Is The Day — the hardcore auteur was kind enough to help kick off our Halloween month coverage with this list of songs he’d most like to adapt for a horror film. Enjoy!

When I’m writing I usually put on music to help me escape reality and envision the story I’m working on. So when Decibel asked me to do this list, I had a million ideas already in mind. It was hard to leave things off. Bands like Gorguts, Exhumed, Deafhaven, Isis, Discordance Axis, Sun 0)))… All are constantly in my CD player. Below are a selection of songs that I’d love to put in a movie or do a music video for, out of an impossibly large reservoir. These thirteen songs are a few that I’ve found myself listening to and dreaming about getting to put during the most vile and violent scenes…

13. “43% Burnt,” The Dillinger Escape Plan

This song is a sonic killing spree. It plays like a circus tent machine gun massacre. The unrelenting time changes and sheer speed would be perfect score to watch a wave of human bodies turn into distorted mounds of mangled flesh. I imagine that in the ensuing melee stampeding elephants trample through the packed tent, setting the bangle tigers free from their steel cage. The once sturdy bars crumple under the crushing weight of the hysteria stricken beast. With the lion tamer pinned under three thousand pounds of writhing elephant the tigers stalk among the panicked mass, picking off the young and weak. Rounds pump through the fleeing attendees as Bobo gets his rocks off on wholesale slaughter, shrieking with glee each time a .308 slug slams home into it’s target…

12. “Sophistic Demise,” Fleshgod Apocalypse

Metal Yoga With André Foisy #5

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, videos On: Monday, October 6th, 2014

dscn0161

André Foisy plays guitar in Locrian and is a certified yoga instructor who teaches in Chicago, including a monthly candlelit yoga event set to dark ambient metal. You can find his yoga teaching schedule and more information about him on his website, Facebook page, and you can find past instructional videos on his YouTube channel. In this post, he talks to Brittany McConnell (Wolvserpent) about her yoga teaching, her practice and what she listens to while doing yoga. You can find out more about her yoga practice on her website.

André: What led you to developing a yoga practice?

Brittany: I started practicing yoga because of a back injury as a teenager. I was working on a farm and threw my back out. A friend suggested I try yoga, that it might help. I started on my own with books and a few classes. Soon, I found a good class with a knowledgeable teacher and began going once a week for instruction. I saw improvement with my injury so I became more regular with my own practice at home.

André: Has your yoga practice changed the way that you think about and play music? If so, how?

Brittany: Over the years, playing music has come to feel like one of the yoga practices. Music, like yoga, operates on many levels – the physical, mental, emotional, instinctual, intellectual, energetic, etc. So, the practices have been very helpful in a practical sense – the physical practices tend to my body so that I am healthy and can play more efficiently with less pain or injury. The other practices tend to the other layers of existence. They have helped me to grow more sensitive to the way that music affects me. Practicing yoga has also made me more aware of my aim in playing music. Music has become, like yoga, a tool for gathering my fragmented, scattered attention and consolidating it so that I can direct that attention to what I will – in this case, a creative endeavor. Practicing yoga also reminds me of the need for community – for like-minded people to be together and feel free to express themselves. This has changed how I experience the music community as well.

André: Do you have any suggestions for Decibel readers who are interested in developing a yoga practice?

Brittany: Yes, do it! If anyone has that urge to investigate a yoga practice and what it might do for them, follow that urge. Find a good teacher, read some books, talk with friends who practice and ask to practice together. One of the best things to do is start by learning a few basic poses and incorporate them into your daily life. Develop a consistent practice for best results.

André: Do you think it’s important to find a good teacher?

Brittany: It is important to find a guide, someone who has been through some of the difficulties that comes with practice. A good teacher can help bypass some of the pitfalls of practice like injury, breakdowns, discouragement, etc. This person should be trustworthy so that you can confidently progress in practice.

André: Do you have any suggestions on how to find a good teacher?

Brittany: Sure, I would suggest to first ask around. If you know people who go to yoga classes, ask them about it – what they like/dislike about class. A good recommendation can be really helpful in finding a teacher that fits your needs. It might also be helpful to consider what you are looking for in a yoga practice. Make a list of why you want to try yoga (stress reduction, strengthening, flexibility, spiritual practice, self-inquiry, healing an injury, stamina, etc.). Or, you may not have a clear idea of why you want to try yoga and that’s okay. A sense of curiosity is very helpful in finding what you are looking. Search for yoga studios in your area. Browse websites – see how their presentation, language and mission statements fit with your views of the world and what you are looking for. Call the studio and ask questions. Tell them you are new to yoga and wanting to try it out. Most places will be so happy to talk to you and help you find a class that is appropriate. Many studios have classes specifically for beginners to introduce students to the practice with little or no previous experience.

And be brave – go try some classes. Grab a friend, if you can find a willing accomplice, and head to a class. Try a few teachers to see what different people have to offer. It’s helpful to attend class with the same teacher several times – they may be having an “off day” and it might be a different experience another time. A lot of finding a teacher is intangible. It’s like other relationships, in my experience. A lot of what makes things “click” cannot be spoken. There is a sort of rapport or there is not. You know when you have found your teacher.

André: How would you describe your teaching style?

Brittany: My teaching is anchored in the lineage of studentship, supported by intelligent alignment and offered up with humor and humility. I utilize both form and flow in my teaching: held poses, core work and vinyasa (moving from one pose to the next in succession). My teaching is rooted in a Yogic philosophy of intrinsic goodness which holds that the physical body is a vehicle for transformation, devotion, creativity, expression and service. I aim to honor each student and their needs – to meet each person where they are and see how these practices can serve them most effectively. I place an emphasis on the practice as sanctuary to create a safe and supportive space. This includes an emphasis on “good company” to build a sustainable community for practice.

André: Can people passing through Boise take a class with you? How can they find out about it?

Brittany: Yes! Please come to class whenever you are in Boise.

André: What are your top heavy albums to listen to while practicing yoga lately?

Brittany: I have not been listening to music when I practice lately. But, here are some albums I’ve enjoyed practicing with in the past:


Mammifer – Mare Decendrii
Yob – Atma
Jex Thoth – Jex Thoth
Budhist Monks of Maitri Vihar Monastery – 7 Hundred Years of Music In Tibet – Mantras & Chants of the Dalai Lama
Menace Ruine – Alight in Ashes
Black Boned Angel – Bliss and Void Inseparable
Asva – Futurist’s Against The Ocean
Om – Advaitic Songs
(in no particular order)

Here’s a yoga pose for everyone to work on to keep your neck strong and loose:

I suggest that you stay in this pose for about as long as the first track, “Threshold Gateway,” on the most recent Wolvserpent album available here.

KILLING IS MY BUSINESS: Music Publishing 101 with Century Media & BMG Chrysalis

By: Etan Rosenbloom Posted in: featured, killing is my business On: Monday, October 6th, 2014

KillingismyBiz

When you write a song, by default you become that song’s music publisher – the entity that decides how it’s used, and gets paid when it is. Ideally, every time someone buys your album, streams your song on Spotify or hears it in a TV show or movie, you get paid as that song’s publisher. Managing all those income streams can be a lot of work for a single person, which is why many successful bands and songwriters sign deals with professional music publishing companies. For the Killing Is My Business column in Decibel issue #121 (At the Gates cover), I spoke with Branden Linnell of Magic Arts (the publishing arm of Century Media Records) and Emi Horikawa of BMG Chrysalis, two music publishers with tons of experience in the metal world. They revealed that there’s a lot more to music publishing than licensing that Bathory song for a toothpaste commercial and collecting royalties when it airs. 

********

What are some of the metal-leaning acts that BMG Chrysalis publishes?

Emi Horikawa: Some of the bands I have a pleasure of working with are Mastodon, Ghost B.C., The Dillinger Escape Plan, Pop Evil, Royal Thunder, Stephen Brodsky (Mutoid Man), Cave In, Geno Lenardo (Device/Filter), Finch and MonstrO. As a company we also publish Bring Me the Horizon, Scorpions, Bullet for My Valentine, Mushroomhead, Escape the Fate, Nothing More and others.

What are the major sources of your company’s publishing income?

Branden Linnell:  The major sources are:

1) Mechanical income – through licensing rights to use our compositions on recordings that appear on CDs, vinyl and legal downloads.

2) Performance income – through ASCAP/BMI/SESAC [see “Performing Rights Organizations,” issue 110], and the foreign performing rights societies that we are members of. This is income collected by these societies for performances of our compositions on radio, internet streaming, live concerts, etc.

3) Synchronization licensing [see “A/V Licensing,” issue #111] – where we license our compositions for film, TV, advertising or video games.

4) Print licensing – where we license the written music notation to songbooks or tablature websites.

EH: Publishers see the most income these days from mechanicals and performance [royalties]. Those are the biggest earners even though record sales and terrestrial radio’s value is decreasing. After that would be synch licensing.

Century Media is different from a traditional publisher in that many of the acts you publish are signed to the label. What’s the difference between the rights you represent as a publisher, vs. the rights that CM represents as a label?

BL: The rights that Century Media represents as a label are related to the master recordings. That is: the tangible CD (or vinyl if you’re really cool!) that you hold in your hand, the MP3 that you have on your computer/iPhone, or the master that you stream on Spotify.

The rights that our publishing companies (we have a few, but let’s use Magic Arts Publishing as the main one) represent relate to the intangible composition itself. That’s a bit of an abstract concept but it is the song as an idea itself, the composition of the song, what you have when the new Fozzy song “Lights Go Out” gets stuck in your head, and not the tangible form of the master recording of that song.

Here is a way to help illustrate: CM released an Iced Earth song called “Stormrider” on the studio album called Night of the Stormrider in 1992. CM later released a live concert recording of that song on the album Alive in Athens in 1999. CM (the record label) now has two sound recording copyrights. But as it is the same song (without major changes), Magic Arts (the publisher) still only has one composition copyright.

BMG used to be a major record label, but now it’s largely known as a music publisher. Can you briefly explain the difference between who/what you represent, as distinguished from who/what a label represents?

EH: The new BMG was formed in 2008 with a very different approach to traditional music companies. Historically music publishing rights and recording rights (masters) have been very separate businesses. The music publisher represented the publishing rights and the record label represented the masters. BMG, on the other hand, takes the approach of managing both rights on behalf of writers and artists all within one company. In just over five years since our launch, we represent around 2 million song rights, including 1.6 million publishing rights and more than 300,000 recording rights. People still think of us as a music publisher, but our records business is a big focus for us and will continue to grow.

Branden Linnell discussing the terms of a publishing deal

Branden Linnell discussing the terms of a publishing deal

What are the main administrative tasks that you handle as a publisher?

BL: The publishing business model is based on acquiring composition rights, and then monetizing/collecting on those rights wherever possible. So it all starts with getting our “house in order” on each composition by registering our copyrights with the Library of Congress (needed for standing to bring legal action against any infringement) and registering our compositions with our worldwide network of performing rights societies and foreign mechanical collection societies to collect performance/mechanical income worldwide.

We have offices in the UK and Germany to share in these duties on a global scale and we cooperate with sub-publishers in all other territories. We also make sure to supply new song data to any of our direct licensing deals like YouTube, so they can also use and pay out on new songs that are being monetized. On top of that we pursue any and all income streams that we can find, anything from submitting metadata to participating in a class action lawsuit to pitching songs for film, TV, advertising and video game projects. Finally, we need to collect on all those income streams and compose detailed royalty statements/payments for our writers. That is a big administrative task all by itself.

Since we are in-house with the label we are able to share in its resources like A&R, press and marketing, and it makes a more cohesive strategy. But it also means we do a lot of label-related admin work as well, like [processing] SoundExchange data and mechanical royalty statements.

EH: As a publisher, it is our main responsibility to protect and promote our writers’ copyrights. First and foremost are proper registrations with the PROs. That’s where every deal starts. We register the songs locally with either ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, and then register them globally to ensure proper performance (public performance via broadcast or live, etc.) collections are flowing. If writers are not members of any society, we’ll help them choose one and get set up. If the writer is also an artist or their songs have been released commercially in some form, we’ll license the songs to the record label to collect mechanicals.

In terms of synch, we handle all licensing requests. If a film or TV show wants to use one of our writer’s songs, we will negotiate and issue licenses/contracts on their behalf. Then either quarterly or semi-annually we will process all the money we’ve collected from all the various income streams (which there can be a lot of!) and then issue statements and royalties to our writers. There are other facets of the business as well, but those are the basics.

Do you interact directly with the acts that you represent? Why or why not does that make a difference?

EH: Yes, I have relationships with all of the artists and writers I work with. Some more so than others. I think it’s important to not just know their music but also them personally. It not only gives me a better understanding of their music, but also what they might be open to in terms of outside opportunities. It’s also a trust factor. I want them to know who I am, and that I’m part of their support team.

What creative tasks are part of your job?

BL: The job is a ton of admin work. There is creativity involved in negotiating publishing and licensing deals to find win-win compromises. But the pitching is definitely the most creative aspect, and that involves networking at conferences and industry gatherings like SXSW as well. My favorite pitching scenario is when I get a detailed music brief on what sort of music they are searching for, with descriptive terms on mood, subject matter and tempo, etc., or an actual song that they are looking to replace. Then I get to search through our own catalog and find the best fitting song(s) to pitch. I really enjoy doing this. It is not often enough that they are looking for extreme music, but if I can work any angle where it makes sense to pitch the extreme songs I will. I do have a few contacts that will always come directly to me when they need something extreme, or just some good old-fashioned metal. It’s great to be the “go-to” guy for that stuff. We’ve had some very heavy songs used in several primetime network TV shows, studio films and trailers, dozens of video games, and even a Volkswagen commercial.

EH: When people think of A&R, they always think about signing/scouting artists and writers. That’s definitely part of the job, but once we sign the deal we focus on giving them the best possible service we can. For each artist/writer that means different things.

I’m always looking for opportunities for my clients. As we all know metal is not generally used in film or TV, so I have to think outside the box. Part of it is “metal education” which is getting people to realize metal comes in all shapes and sizes, and there is no one sound. All of my artists produce different music and could work in a multitude of scenarios.

Also with some of my writers, they have aspirations outside of their current artist/band projects. It’s my job to help realize those projects, whether its co-writing songs, connecting people to work on a score, or helping one of my clients get to realize their dream of writing a song with one of their musical idols.

Emi Horikawa parties with BMG Chrysalis's newest signing at Noah's Park Retreat in Goshen, NY

Emi Horikawa parties with BMG Chrysalis’s newest signing at Noah’s Park Retreat in Goshen, NY

In the pop world, part of a publisher’s job is to put a client together with other songwriters – or pitch songs you represent to other artists. Does that ever happen with your clients?

EH: Absolutely! People would probably be surprised by how many metal dudes would love to write a pop song or two. I think as creative people they love writing and being in metal projects, that’s where their heart is, but like most people they have other interests as well. It can be really interesting and surprising the musical range these guys have.

Sometimes someone will write a song with a certain artist in mind, or we might take a song that they never released and try and pitch that to a different artist. They might not write the next Rihanna hit, but you never know. I work with a couple of guys who probably could! Co-writing is not just for the pop world though. I’ve set up co-writes for people working on solo records, or for a film project, etc.

Geno Lenardo and Stephen Brodsky both do a lot of co-writing/collaborating. Geno was originally in Filter, but recently he worked on the Device project with David Draiman (Disturbed) and the I, Frankenstein soundtrack with Daniel Davies (Year Long Disaster). Geno also ended up collaborating with [The Dillinger Escape Plan’s] Ben Weinman a bit on I, Frankenstein. He’s someone who loves rock, but is really open to working on all kinds of projects. Geno recently did some tracks with an up and coming rapper from Austin named Zeale, which came out really cool. He’s now working on a new soundtrack project that has an M83/electronic sound and worked on a cover with MLNY from Royal Thunder, so he really has a wide range as a writer and artist.

On Steve Brodsky’s end, if you’ve ever listened to his full catalog of music from Cave In to Mutoid Man and all of his solo records, you know he’s capable of writing a lot of different sounds. Steve’s music can rip your face off and then take you to this really beautiful, acoustic, atmospheric place. Since working together we’ve been exploring that some more, seeing what else he might be really great at writing. It’s only been a couple of months, but he’s already written a couple of new songs that I’ve really fallen in love with.

When a band signs a record label deal with Century Media, is a publishing deal with Magic Arts usually tied into it? Or are they two separate negotiations? 

BL: We keep them separate. There is a preliminary deal memo with general terms and it will include publishing if that is part of the overall signing terms. But after that the recording artist contract is negotiated by Century Media’s business affairs team and the publishing contact is negotiated by Magic Arts’ business affairs team. We also do have a few bands or writers in other bands who are signed to Magic Arts Publishing, but their recording contract is with another label. Sometimes a band will go to another label for whatever reason, but we will still have their publishing with Magic Arts.

We’ve also acquired sub-publishing rights in different territories from foreign publishers. For years, Magic Arts handled the Spinefarm publishing rights in the US, which included bands like Children of Bodom and Nightwish, until the publishing was purchased by Warner[/Chappell].

When you’re looking to sign a new band to a publishing deal, what kinds of statistics/financial benchmarks do you pay attention to? 

EH: If we’re just talking about financials, then the first place I’ll generally look is record sales history. While record sales are obviously decreasing, it’s still a relatively consistent revenue stream. In general, metal has a pretty devoted fan base. I’ll also take into consideration any [public] performance potential (mostly radio spins). Synch history can be very difficult to quantify. Just because one record might have received a bunch of synchs doesn’t mean the next one will. You can’t rely on synch income, so in general I don’t factor that in. The creative value of a deal is something else entirely.

Every deal is going to be different – but is there a standard way that you structure your deals? And are publishing advances ever tied into your deals?

BL: We have a few templates that we will start with and then tailor them to the specifics of negotiation. Publishing advances are almost always tied into our deals, but are always based on past earnings and future expectations.

EH: In publishing there are two main types of deals, admin (administration) or co-pub (co-publishing). Some publishers favor one over the other, but at BMG we will do either. Admin usually means a smaller advance is involved as the commission rate is smaller and the copyright retention is less, and with a co-pub we can advance more money up front as our splits (commission) are greater and our retention rights are longer. We do advances of all sizes. Just like each artist/writer is different, the specs for each deal are different as well.

Accepting a publishing deal means that a band gives up a percentage of its potential earnings. What can you do as a publisher that a band might not be able to do by itself?

BL: As said, having your publishing house in order worldwide is a ton of admin work. Learning to navigate different laws and collecting society rules in different countries as well as develop successful relationships takes a lot of time and effort. A band can learn it and do it, but it takes a lot of precious time. Bands can also self-manage, book their own tours, drive their own tour buses, and do their own taxes. But what is their time better spent doing? I think it is usually a mistake for a band to take on its own publishing as they will often not find the time required, resulting in money left on the table; or they will spend precious time and resources to make sure they get this piece of the pie, but that time could be better spent writing, touring, promoting and growing the entire pie instead.

I know that bands who sign to CM and also to Magic Arts most always benefit. CM really pushes airplay and will invest even more if the band is signed to Magic Arts as well. Label and publisher work together to get better tours and more live money in for the bands. It also allows us more flexibility and speed to get synch licenses and we actively look for those deals with greater success when we have both master and publishing rights to offer one-stop licensing. So even though the bands give up a small piece of the pie here, it allows us to grow the pie. They usually see more money and better careers in the end.

Also, I don’t believe individual writers can even get a direct deal with YouTube. I think they’d have to have a publisher or join a third-party aggregator to cover that growing income stream.

EH: Publishers don’t get paid until they collect money for their writers and, as is only right, the vast majority of the proceeds go to the writer. In return for our fee – effectively a commission – we are responsible for ensuring we maximize writers’ income from their songs. It’s our responsibility to make sure that all writer income sources (mechanical, performance, broadcast, synch, digital, print, etc.) are set up and payments are being tracked globally.

We have employees that specialize in royalties, income tracking, copyright, mechanicals, synch and licensing in all global markets. BMG Chrysalis and its affiliates are members of PROs all over the world, covering all major markets. While your manager, business manager and attorney might have some experience and knowledge in those areas, we have staff whose sole responsibility is to focus on being experts at that.

For example, it’s not uncommon for us to receive a synch request directly from one of our clients for their song to be used in a film or TV project. They tell us they’ve agreed to a certain fee. After we take a look at terms, we realize they’ve agreed to let a production use their song for the world (territory), in perpetuity (term), in all medias (media type) for a couple hundred dollars. As a publisher we can let our client know how much the license should be properly valued, let them know if we’ve licensed anything already for that production and what the fee was, or at least negotiate the terms or fee to a level that would be appropriate. Then we will have our client approve, issue the license/contract, and make sure it’s paid in a timely fashion. This can be difficult if you don’t have knowledge and experience in the synch licensing world, as it is easy to unintentionally agree to unfavorable terms.

What are the most reliable sources of income for metal bands specifically? Has that changed over the time you’ve worked in the biz?

EH: Mechanicals are still the largest [publishing] income stream for metal bands. That’s why it’s important when negotiating a record deal to pay attention to the mechanical rate your record label will pay you. Many record labels (both majors and indies) will try to negotiate a reduced rate royalty rate either to ¾ or cap it at a number of songs (i.e. 10 songs or less). That means instead of paying the 9.1 cents for songs that are five minutes or less [see “Covering Your Ass,” issue 113], you’re getting an even smaller payout. That could be a significant difference in the long run if your record has 15 songs on it and [the label is] only paying ¾ of the rate on 10 of them.

BL: I’ve been at Century Media/Magic Arts for 12 years now. I used to think that metal was somewhat immune to the music industry problems, since metalheads are such avid collectors who love the artwork and liner notes and take pride in displaying their collections. But I’ve watched as downloads increased while physical sales decreased. And now I’m watching as streaming increases and downloads have started to slip. So far it doesn’t seem like the streaming income is making up for the slip in sales. So it is getting harder for bands to recoup their advances and record royalties from sales may be a less reliable long-term income source.

Performance income can be reliable if songs are popular enough to garner enough airplay. That doesn’t happen much with the extreme stuff. But extreme bands tend to play live more, so with performing rights organization royalties on live concerts getting better, it can help with bands that continuously tour.

Synch income can be huge at any given point or it could be nothing forever. So that is completely unreliable. If a big synch deal happens it could increase sales and give a song more airplay.

But I think the most reliable source of income for metal bands has always been touring and merch sales. Especially since the majority of that income goes directly to the bands themselves. Having a label and publisher helps with marketing and gets bands better tours. Better tours help sell records and build a band’s following, so it’s all related. But as that happens, bands can rely more on touring and merch sales as steady income. They just have to keep their expenses low enough on the road to keep it profitable.

More and more people are listening to music via streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, etc. Has the growth of streaming made a difference in the publishing money you see coming through?

BL: Publishing royalties for non-interactive streaming [see “Like an Everflowing Stream,” issue #117] are paid by the performing rights organizations. I have not seen major increases in our performing rights statements. It is definitely not enough to make up for less mechanical income from slipping record sales. But the non-interactive streaming services are only required to pay about 5% of their revenue for publishing performances (as opposed to 50 to 70% that they pay to SoundExchange for master recording performances). I think mass adoption by consumers to pay for interactive subscriptions could make a big difference, but that hasn’t happened yet.

EH: Streaming is a complicated issue at the moment. So far, streaming services like Pandora are only required to pay [writers and] publishers 1.85% of their annual revenue while paying record labels a higher rate. If you spread 1.85% across every writer who wrote every song that’s available on Pandora, you’re not looking at a lot of income. Last year David Lowery (from Camper Van Beethoven & Cracker) posted his Pandora statement. His song was played over a million times on Pandora, but he only received $16.89 in publishing royalties. The NMPA (National Music Publishers Association) is presenting a case to the Department of Justice to change consent decrees to allow PROs to be able to negotiate a fair market rate for digital performance. In the current market it is difficult for songwriters to make money off of streaming services. If we’re able to change the common practice among streaming services, as we hope to do, then it might become a legitimate replacement for the drop in record sales.

What’s unique about publishing “extreme” bands?

BL: There are not a ton of song pitching opportunities rolling in for extreme music. But it certainly is fun when it happens. If a music supervisor happens to be looking for a song with over 300 beats per minute, I’d have several songs I could offer. Not many other publishers could do that. Extreme bands also tend to write all of their own music and do not work with co-writers or producers that get a writer percentage, so I can usually offer a one-stop shop for licensing.

I think most extreme bands are just writing songs that they feel compelled to write, and they are not really thinking about the market potential of that song or if it has any chance at getting used in a film or TV show. So when it happens, they are elated. I feel like extreme bands are more down to earth with their income expectations in general, and more grateful for what we can get them. It also allows me to offer reasonable pricing so we won’t get undermined by a cheap cover band or canned music library.

The Magic Arts catalog is unique in its history of genre defining metal titles, with early ‘90s death metal albums from Grave, Tiamat and Asphyx to the gothic metal styling of Moonspell, The Gathering and Lacuna Coil and recent deathcore titans Suicide Silence. I recently licensed some songs to a documentary about the sludge metal underground scene in New Orleans and realized that documentary absolutely has to have our Eyehategod songs in order to be legit. That is pretty unique!

At what point in a band’s career does it make sense to start looking for a music publisher?

EH: Music publishers can add value at any stage of a band’s career. You really just need great songs for a publisher to get involved. We work with some artists who have only self-released an EP or just put up some DIY videos and we’ll sign them at that stage because we see a lot of potential. We can help develop them as an artist and songwriter even further by connecting them with more experienced writers, helping them find a record deal, get their song licensed in a commercial, etc. We could also come in after a band has already signed a record deal but they haven’t been administering their copyrights. Some established artists might do a pub deal because they want help breaking into a whole different genre. Maybe they are secret country fans and want someone to help them get into the Nashville co-writing scene, or love EDM and want to co-write the next Avicii hit. There are a lot of different motivators.

I think the most important thing when considering a deal at any stage is to make sure you want to work with the people you are doing a deal with. Make sure you have someone at that company who really believes in your music and who is going to fight for you where it counts. It can be easy to just follow the promise of a check, but make sure you realize what kind of rights you are potentially giving away and know that they are going to be working in your best interest and not just the company’s. It is possible to do both!

Let’s say that a band doesn’t have a publisher or label behind it. What are some steps every band should take to make sure it’s maximizing its publishing income?

BL: As songwriters they should become a member of a performing rights organization like ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, and if they are recording and distributing their music they should register with SoundExchange. That way they can collect on any public performances they may get. Without a label there may not be sales, but if record or digital sales are happening, they should make sure to understand the distribution contract and know how mechanical royalties are being paid for the compositions. Focus tends to be only on the bigger royalty for the master recording, but there has to be something in the contract regarding mechanical royalties as well. It could be that both royalties are rolled into one payment but just make sure that is the case and nothing is being left on the table.

********

Visit BMG Chrysalis online at www.bmgchrysalis.com

Visit Magic Arts online at www.centurymedia.com

Casey Orr (Rigor Mortis) interviewed

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

rigormortis_thrashmetal_decibel_2013

** 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

bethlehem_darkmetal_decibel_2014

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

horses

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!