Welcome to Tales From the Metalnomicon, a new twice-monthly column delving into the surprisingly vast world of heavy metal-tinged/inspired literature and metalhead authors…
No fences, no borders. Free movement for all…It’s about fucking time to treat people with respect.
So railed Propagandhi on the incendiary Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes track “Fuck the Border,” but as those who delve into the compulsively readable, endlessly fascinating new book Do You Have Anything to Declare? will quickly learn, whatever conceptual merits that song may or may not possess, those lines are no closer to becoming a reality today than they were back in ’01 — and may very well be considerably further away. Within its pages veteran music journalist/Decibel mainstay Kevin Stewart-Panko and “Vitriol Records head honcho/rent-a-guitarist” Justin Smith glean the best, baddest, and ugliest border crossing stories from more than seventy-five touring bands and musicians, including the Dillinger Escape Plan, Fear Factory, Atheist, Zoroaster, Tomas Lindberg, and Rich Hoak.
It’s an eye-opening, engrossing, funny, scary, gritty, perspective-shifting reading experience — essential, really, for any connoisseur of underground music, gut-level geopolitics, or, more generally, sacrificial tribulation.
Last week Stewart-Panko and Smith were gracious enough to submit to the following short Metalnomicon grilling…
How long was this idea of exploring band border war stories percolating before you realized it might have the makings of a full-blown book?
KEVIN STEWART-PANKO: I actually tell the story of what finally cemented the idea of doing this as a book. It’s in the first chapter and involves myself, fellow metal hack Jay Gorania and Cephalic Carnage’s John Merryman shooting the shit about the band’s border experiences while driving through Texas. That was 2010. But I guess this sort of thing has been something in the back of my mind most of my life. I’m mulatto — my father is a lily-white Canadian farm boy and my mom is dark-like-night, straight outta da Caribbean — and growing up I experienced a lot of fucked up, ignorant shit while crossing the border into the U.S. with my parents. We’d get a shit-ton of attitude from border guards about the whole mixed marriage thing and their racially mixed offspring on a far-too regular basis. Sure, a mixed marriage may have been a lot rarer in the late 70s and 80s, but you can’t tell me you’ve never watched the fucking Jeffersons! More than a handful of times while going from Canada to the U.S., my brother and I have been asked straight up if my parents were actually my parents. Chronicling something pertaining to border crossing was probably something that was bound to come out of me at some point and it’s probably no surprise that it came out in the context of music and touring.
JUSTIN SMITH: The idea [for me] began in the summer of 2010 while I was touring in Canada. Kevin and I spoke in Toronto about the mayhem and aggravation involved in crossing the border and some of the problems we had dealt with a few years prior…The conversation eventually turned into this project and, through a lot of seemingly fruitless activity, a book.
There are a ton of great/insane stories in here. Were you surprised by the eagerness of various musicians to participate?
KSP: I can’t say I was surprised at all. Talk to any touring musician or listen on the periphery to the conversation between a bunch of bands and that’s one topic that will generally come up. A lot of people were more than happy to share their stories and were pretty surprised no one had done something like this before.
Was there any particular story early on that made you think, “Yeah, we’re actually onto something here”?
Because every day another band records another song. Because 83% of those songs are unlistenable and you can’t be bothered to sift through the dreck. Because metal is about not giving a shit and waking your own personal storm. Because music is universal, expression is boundless, and even indie labels (whatever that means these days) don’t know everything, Decibel brings you Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack.
Oh death metal, how sweet the sound. Such an overplayed style should be stale, uninteresting and increasingly disappointing. And sometimes it is. Not Belgian solo project Humanity Defiled, though. The sick death grooves that plow through Circling the Drain prove again that doom-struck horror remains rich with rhythmic possibilities, tone depth and skillful aggression. Anybody can write jaded lyrics about bled-dry topics: hate, war, depression, Satan. But HD’s Iwein Denayer pours a very personal dark brew from his throat and instruments, since he works daily with people who have a tough time just making it through each oppressive hour of a life they reject. His work transforms his music into an expression of pain and grief, not simply an outlet for unbridled youthful energy that so many bland bands communicate. Everything on the album vibrates on a terrifying and cathartic level, but definitely check out the centerpiece “Exit?”. The darkness will enfold you. Hopefully you will live more forcefully in its embrace.
Below you can hear the whole album, and you can read Denayer’s thoughtful responses to Decibel‘s questions. And, hey, if you’re into Dutch, you can check out an interview he did with FM Brussels here. I don’t have a clue what’s going on there, but everybody involved sounds excited to be there. Celebrate death metal!
(close-up photo above by Lore Basyn)
How long have you been playing music?
My first experience with music was at a local music academy, when I was 12. I did my first year of musical theory but it was a disaster. My end grade was 1/20. I was frustrated because I really wanted to play an instrument. But it was, again, lessons and boring theory. Until then, the only instrument I was allowed to play was the triangle. Because I was that bad. I quit after that first year.
I started playing guitar when I was 14. I was quickly bored with chords, so I started playing by ear. After two years I played along with music, without tabs or notes. I was in my first band when I was 19. Not long after that, I was in a metalcore band (the good mid-90’s kinda metalcore), an old school hardcore band and a deathgrind band. The band I loved the most [that I played in] was Time Out (the old school band). We recorded 3 demos and played a decent amount of shows.
But after being in bands, I wanted to do something on my own. It was then I decided to risk it. I wanted to go somewhere with my musical ideas. The past years I invested in a modest home ‘studio’ (nothing fancy). The first project I started was Doodsangst – lo-fi instrumental black metal, inspired by Flemish folk tales. A 4-track demo was recorded. I got some really bad reviews and some good ones on that demo. Love-it-or-hate-it, I guess.
How did you get so comfortable with all of the instruments you play/program?
I guess I went through a natural evolution while playing guitar. I always followed my soul. I never learned chords and I’m too lazy to read tabs. I play with my ears and heart, not my brains. When I play or record music, I want it to be something that comes naturally. I don’t know, but I think other musicians would see me as a bit of a weird one. Most of the songs I record are finished on one evening, on-the-fly if you like. For instance: I recorded the intro on “Exit?” on one evening. The [next] evening I did the rest. When I record, I tend to be a maniac about it. When someone’s disturbing me while I record, I get angry. [I] need to be alone. That’s when I feel most comfortable. When not recording, I’m a friendly, positive guy, though.
For Doodsangst, I also recorded some keyboard stuff. It was my first time, but it all came out naturally. Humanity Defiled was the first project where I recorded all bass parts playing with my fingers, instead of a plectrum. The most important thing for me, is that I record when I feel the time is right for it. I think that’s why I’m pretty comfortable playing instruments. On Circling the Drain there’s also parts where I improvised while recording. All the lead parts were done like that. I don’t write songs or structures before recording. When I’m ready, I switch on my recording gear and go for it. Maybe that’s the reason why it sounds comfortable…
What albums or musicians inspired you to put together the Humanity Defiled project?
I strongly believe in DIY ethic. Maybe the biggest inspiration is the hardcore scene. I recently saw the Boston Hardcore DVD (xxxAll Agesxxx – I’m a big Boston Hardcore fan) and when I see the story told there, I feel home immediately. That’s the way we did it when we started those hardcore bands. Record on our own, make our own flyers, organize our own shows. Other than that, there have been a lot of people telling me to simply do my own thing. That’s what I did. I don’t tend to think of other bands while or before I’m recording. It’s just me and my ideas. Sure, it’s impossible to block out influences. But I certainly don’t think consciously of bands or albums.
I’ve always been a big fan of Disembodied (RIP). They were (and still are) the band that, for me personally, embody (no pun intended) the whole process of putting emotion into music. I finally saw them live, a few years ago at Ieperfest and I was ecstatic. One of the most memorable shows I witnessed. I think they unavoidably inspired me.
You’ve said that making music is a necessity for you. Can you talk about what you mean by that?
I need to because it’s a kind of therapy for me. It gets me over things. My day job is really intense. I’m a counselor at an independent youth centre and I see a lot of youngsters dealing with heavy stuff. Suicide and depression are #1 right now. I recently lost someone whom I was counseling. Even with years experience, you take something like that with you. So, it gets translated into a song. There are evenings where I just can’t resist the urge to record. I have to or I won’t be able to sleep. And then, of course, I have to finish the song.
Where and when did you record the album?
The first song on Circling the Drain was recorded on the 30th of October, 2012. From then on, I recorded when I had the time. I did everything at home. From the first riff to the last minute of mastering. Always evenings/nights. During the day, I work and there’s also family life. I’m married and we have two kids. Family and work always get priority. Also, my job is no 9-to-5 one. We also work on some evenings and weekends, luckily not that much.
You have recorded a bunch of short songs, and then there’s “Exit?” at 9 minutes. How does that song differ in its focus and intent from the other songs?
“Exit?” is the song where the most heart and soul went into. At work, we were confronted with a seemingly endless stream of youngsters in a crisis and with suicidal thoughts. 2012 was a year full of suicides in my private life. My neighbor, a friend… I was surrounded by the stuff. At a certain point, it really got to me and I recorded “Exit?”. Two weeks after I recorded the song, a young girl I saw at work committed suicide. It was a strange twist of fate.
The reason why the song is that long is because I liked to match structure and lyrical content. It’s about someone who struggles with suicidal tendencies. It’s about doubt, failure, desperation but also hope, light and courage. I tried to show how this struggle takes up a lot of time and energy. I’m not able to put this into a 3-minute rager.
Do you have any favorite non-extreme music that you’re listening to these days?
I’m listening a lot to Dax Riggs, Trixie Whitley and the new Antimatter now. All three of those singers have a unique voice and put their souls into their songs. I also listen to trance from time to time. Almost all the stuff Mike Dierickx puts out is fantastic.
Besides music, how do you spend your time?
I spend a lot of time with my wife and kids. When not busy with family or music, I like to read a good book, watch British comedy and play a good PC game (because consoles are for wimps and posers). I’m on Bioshock Infinite now, as a way of conquering the recording-cold-turkey.
What plans do you have for your music in the future?
I’m planning a new Doodsangst release in the following year. It first was planned for early 2013, but then Humanity Defiled got in the way. After recording the first self-titled song, I went on to record more songs and before I knew, a full album was finished. Nothing is certain, though. Things don’t always turn out the way I want them to. And maybe that’s just fine.
The latest entry into the world of scathing, screamy, melodic hardcore is Chicago-centric Multiple Truths. For the most part, the quintet, formed by guitarist Justin Wettstein, did and do things the old-school way: rehearsing regularly together, hanging out like a small gang of record collecting nerds and taking the time to find and refine their musical voice before foisting their songs onto the public’s saturated ears. Their debut, No One Wins is out now on Halo of Flies – a label that’s been knocking it out of the fucking park lately – and I not-so-recently caught up with Justin just before a little mini-tour to celebrate the album’s release.
So, I notice that, in addition to Multiple Truths, you’re all in other bands. Or is that list all bands you’ve been in previously?
Actually, pretty much most of them are currently running bands. I have been in Herds for 5+ years and it’s kind of a long distance thing, so we haven’t done much, but we’re not broken up. Miriam [Bastani], our singer, lives in San Francisco and she is doing a band out there called Permanent Ruins. When she used to live in Chicago, she was in Condenada and they actually never broke up. Our bass player [Tim Murphy] plays in another band, our guitar player [Lucas Sikorski] plays in another band and our drummer [Shane Hochstetler] plays in two other bands.
Why add another band to the list of stuff to juggle and what does this band do that the others don’t?
I moved to Chicago from Milwaukee like two-and-a-half years ago. I grew up in Wisconsin and spent my entire life there up until the end of 2010. I was playing in Herds and that band was so different than any other band I’d been in, in terms of what was going to happen to it, because a month into us starting the band, our guitar player was like, “Hey, my wife is pregnant” and our singer was in school for his masters in library science. Basically, it wasn’t going to be like all my other bands where we were just going on the road for weeks at a time and put out records and all that. This was going to be a band where we practiced once a week and maybe put out a record here and there and not really do much anything else. It really changed how things were going to go for me as far as being in a band went. We stopped practicing after our singer moved to Toledo because once he was done with school, his wife was like, “OK, now it’s my turn to go to school” and that’s where she ended up. After all that, I was like, “I’m not staying in Milwaukee anymore if our band isn’t going to be doing anything.” I’d been saving up songs and Multiple Truths was the band I was waiting to start since Herds starting being inactive. I had the songs, I just needed the friends and when you get to a city like Chicago, everyone’s in multiple bands. I was prepared to do No One Wins by myself, but I really enjoy the experience of being in a band and seeing what other people have to contribute to the songs and stuff like that. It all happened innocently enough and it didn’t seem like everyone was too busy to do it. I wanted to record the record and start booking shows only after we had the physical LPs in our hands.
Musically, what sort of direction were you going with Multiple Truths that you weren’t exploring with others?
I definitely wanted to hit a more melodic hardcore side. Herds was very fast, heavy and with shorter songs and that’s it. As I was writing songs for Herds, I would write songs that felt were different, bring them to practice and they’d be, “Ahh, we don’t like that one.” I sectioned all those off to the side and by the time I was living here, I had almost an album’s worth of songs. A lot of them are longer, they have different tempo changes and aren’t as straight forward. And when we got Miriam, it was awesome because she was into it, she has a super-powerful voice, but she can also sing.
So, where does everyone live now?
Miriam is in San Francisco. She’s the coordinator for Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll magazine; that’s what she moved out there for. Eventually, she’ll be moving back to Chicago. Myself, Tim and Lucas – our bass player and other guitar player – are in Chicago and our new drummer Shane lives in Milwaukee.
You moved from a band that wasn’t able to do much of anything to a band where everyone is sort of spread out. What’s the goal or intent of this band?
When we put this band together, we had an actual meeting where we went out, grabbed some beers and talked about stuff because everyone has so much going on. We went around and said what we each wanted to do with this band. I wanted to tour at least a couple times a year. Miriam comes home enough that we can do shows when that happens and I still wanted to be a band that practices every week, even if there were no shows upcoming. Our original scope envisioned up playing 20 shows a year, practicing and recording and hanging out together; I think we’re still on the same page with that. We’ll do some touring after the record is out, but I think we’re still in the incubation stage of people hearing our name and knowing who we are at all.
You mentioned you were on the verge of recording No One Wins yourself. How was it recorded?
Before I moved to Chicago, the idea was to do it myself, but when I moved here I felt I wanted to be in a band. We practiced every week to get the songs down; I wanted it to be a band where everyone played on the record. By the time we got to it, we were going for six months, but we were having problems with drummers. I had spent a lot of time behind drum kits, so after we had gone through four drummers, I decided to play drums and record my guitar parts after. It worked because we recorded with this guy Shane, who I’ve recorded with a lot over the course of five years. It’s comfortable and he’s honest about takes and that sort of thing.
How much of the album lyrically and thematically was you and how much was Miriam?
That was 100% Miriam. That was another reason I decided I didn’t want to do it myself. She has been a singer for years and years, that’s how I met her. We agree on a lot of intellectual and philosophical points and I was just curious to see what someone else would do with these songs. What we would do is practice, send her a shitty sounding demo via email and we kept doing that for 6-7 months. When she came home, we practiced with her and she had all these songs and we worked it out to where we had an image of what the record was shaping up to be.
What’s the meaning behind the title No One Wins?
There’s a song on the record called “Someone Has Won” and it’s about not believing in karma or divine fate and having to pay for everything you’ve done in your life at the end. And the title is basically is a contradiction where everyone else loses because you’re not paying for being as ruthless and doing whatever it takes to stay on top when you’re here, but paying for it at the end. But I don’t know what a ton of the songs are about because we haven’t sat around and talked exactly about what the songs mean, but I did the artwork and the layout and I had to read those lyrics a million times, so I made my own judgements.
In case you haven’t heard, the new Coliseum record—which was one of our Top 20 Most Anticipated Records of 2013—comes out on Tuesday. Our May issue not only has Shane Mehling’s review of Sister Faith (spoiler alert: he likes it), but Adrien Begrand’s profile of the Louisville trio. In fact, said interview with Ryan Patterson ended up serving as the impetus behind the vocalist/guitarist’s playlist that he was kind enough to pass along (spoiler alert #2: Killing Joke fans—who should be sure to check out our June 2011 issue for this—are in for a treat). We’ll let Ryan take it from here:
Since Decibel‘s Adrian Begrand and I briefly discussed Killing Joke during my recent interview and he perceptively pinpointed them as an important influence and touchstone for the band, I thought it apt that my Decibel playlist highlight my favorite songs from the seminal British band. Although Coliseum ultimately sounds relatively little like Killing Joke and they are but one of a number of important bands that inspire us, they are an easy band to obsess over. Their massive catalog and 35 year history leave much to discuss, dissect, disagree on, and be passionate about, which those of us in the band and producer J. Robbins (a dyed in the wool Killing Joke fan) spent a lot of time doing during the recording of our new album, Sister Faith. As great now as they’ve ever been, Killing Joke are as powerful an inspiration in 2013 as they have been during their various peaks in 1980, 1985 and 2003.
(Also, I must note that I downloaded Spotify solely for this project and deleted it upon its completion, it’s not a service that I am interested in supporting because it doesn’t support artists. If you like these songs, go buy these records!)”
“Absolute Dissent” (from 2010′s Absolute Dissent)
After the death of longtime bass player Paul Raven, the original Killing Joke lineup reconnected and reunited to record the absolutely pummeling Absolute Dissent album. This song is a perfect representation and highlight of the post-1990 Killing Joke sound—a souring chorus with singer Jaz Coleman’s incredibly melodic and gruff vocals (a huge influence on me as a singer) reaching into the heavens, flowing and melodic guitar work by Geordie Walker (another huge influence on me and the only other KJ constant along with Coleman), all backed by elevating bass lines and powerful near-tribal, heavy but danceable rhythms.
“You’ll Never Get To Me” (from 2003′s Killing Joke)
In 2003, seven years after their previous album and having been written off by many as a lesser version of the bands they inspired, Killing Joke returned with their second self-titled album and completely demolished the expectations of fans and detractors alike. Produced and drum programmed by Gang Of Four’s Andy Gill, the record benefitted from high profile fan Dave Grohl’s appearance as drummer and the attention that his involvement brought to the project. Luckily, the band was in top form and Coleman and Walker (along with original bassist Youth) more than rose to the occasion. Just about every Killing Joke record since Night Time has one mid-album long, melodic, epic song and those are very often my favorites on the records. I have been known to listen to this song on repeat, over and over. It’s the kind of song that I never want to end. It moves me and speaks directly to me. If this was the only song Killing Joke ever wrote, they would still be one of my favorite bands of all time.
“Europe” (from 1985′s Night Time)
While assembling this playlist, I was tempted to simply pick all the songs from Night Time, in order, and talk a bit about each one. I ended up with just three tracks from this amazing album, but I easily could have fixated on all eight. If not for Killing Joke’s flawless, essential, game changing 1980 debut album, this would be my favorite in their oeuvre. Hell, it might be anyway. It’s a strange and beautiful record, caught in a unique spot between gothic post-punk, the heavier elements that gave birth to industrial music, and dance-friendly nightclub sounds. A lesser band could have taken this step and fallen into a void of attempted pop crap or well-intention cheese. Instead, it’s created with utter sincerity and the outcome was stunning. (Spotify annoyingly has the cover to the vastly inferior Brighter Than A Thousand Suns assigned to this album. Granted, half of Killing Joke’s records have photos of Jaz on the cover so it’s easy to get confused.)
“Complication” (from 2008′s The Peel Sessions: 1979-1981)
This version of “Complications” is slightly stronger than the version from the self-titled debut album due to a less murky recording and a crucial backing vocal harmony in the chorus. Montreal’s Complications, named after this song, are one of my favorite current bands and put their own slant on the early Killing Joke vibe. Check out their Complications LP on Feral Ward.
“The Hum” (from 1982′s Revelations)
Between the first album and Night Time, Killing Joke started to reach out into different directions, with varying results. Their second album, What’s THIS For…!, is a strange follow up to such a strong first outing. Despite having reasonably good songs, it follows the exact formula of the first album without having material that is quite as strong. Their third album, Revelations, saw the band beginning to define the path they’d perfect on Night Time with cleaner (very “80s”) production and more melody seeping into their now patented dark, gothic dance/industrial/post-punk. Revelations‘ two best songs are its first two, but it’s a solid listen throughout and probably among the band’s five or six best records.
“Let’s All Go (To The Fire Dances)” (from 1983′s Fire Dances) Fire Dances is a record that I must admit I forget to appreciate as much as I probably should. It might actually be a better album than Revelations, even though I find myself listening to Revelations more often and referencing it regularly. I suppose I’ll have to remedy that. This one marks the first appearance of bassist Paul Raven, a crucial part of the Killing Joke lineup and history. Fire Dances can get pretty “dance-y” and almost dips into territory that’s too tribal, but highlights like this one can’t be denied. That chorus…wow!
“In Cythera” (from 2012′s MMXII)
Remember those mid-album melodic masterpieces I mentioned earlier? “In Cythera” is that song from Killing Joke’s most recent album, MMXII. It’s a strong record, not their best nor my favorite but a very respectable entry in a career this long. Most other bands would be lucky to make one album this good, much less kick this much ass on full length number fifteen. This song is wonderful and touching.
“Total Invasion” (from 2003′s Killing Joke)
As heavy as Killing Joke gets…and it’s pretty damn heavy. That chorus hook could level city blocks. The guitar on this album has such a strange boxy, scooped quality, something I would detest in most cases but somehow works so perfectly in this context. What else can I say? This is heavy music done absolutely perfectly.
“Love Like Blood” (from 1985′s Night Time)
I’d put this in my top five favorite songs ever. Everything about this song is perfect (a word I keep coming back to throughout this commentary). In doing a little research while writing this piece, I read that Mötley Crüe took Killing Joke on tour in 2005. I wonder if that was that to repay them for outright stealing the riff from “Love Like Blood” for “Dr. Feelgood?” I love this video too.
“Eighties” (from 1985′s Night Time)
Speaking of stealing…reports differ as to whether Nirvana had to settle with Killing Joke after biting this riff for their mopey “Come As You Are”, but apparently all was sorted by the time Dave Grohl stepped behind the drums for Killing Joke in 2003. No one is above a little obvious riff-biting here and there, but for my money Nirvana never came close to Killing Joke and few songs can top the fun and sarcasm of this essential barn-burner. Another great video with Jaz at the podium, Geordie looking androgynous in his clerical collar, Raven’s red tie and pleated pleather pants and Paul Ferguson’s bouncing pompadour.
“Requiem” (from 1980′s Killing Joke)
One of the the best songs ever, with one of the best guitar parts ever, opening one of the best albums ever from one of the best bands ever. This song simply cannot be topped or duplicated. It’s absolutely wonderful and perfect, kicking off an inspiring, challenging, and unparalleled career.
You might remember our friends from specialty vinyl label Last Hurrah. Last year, they pressed an ultra limited vinyl run of 16′s Lost Tracts Of Time. This summer, they will release a full length album from Mike IX project The Guilt Of…
Although this will only be released on vinyl Decibel scored an early peak at three tracks from Isolation Room, available for streaming below. Keep in mind that these tracks were mastered for vinyl.
Following the stream, we have an interview with married label partners Chad Hensley and Carey Hodges, who decided to open a vinyl only label in the age of ubiqitous digital. You can preorderIsolation Room and learn more about Last Hurrah on Facebook.
What made you start the label? Carey Hodges: After SXSW 2010, it just popped out of my mouth while driving back to New Orleans. I guess I was inspired somehow. My husband Chad has been a music journalist for years now. We used to attend SXSW back in the ‘90s. Back then, Lindsey Kuhn used to put on anti-SXSW shows at his Swamp warehouse in Austin. We’ve always gone to shows and had friends in bands. Chad and I both love cool vinyl records, so a combination of all that together explains a bit about Last Hurrah.
Chad Hensley: Carey and I were driving home from SXSW and she turned to me and casually said “Why don’t we start a record label?” I had a zine in the ‘90s called EsoTerra the journal of extreme culture, so I was familiar with mail order. I’ve also been a music journalist since ’94 and before that I use to be a silkscreen printer for Frank Kozik and Lindsey Kuhn in Austin, Texas. So I have lots of connections with bands from these activities.
How do you go about selecting material for release?
Chad: Obviously, both my wife and I are music fans. In regards to selecting material for the label, we both pick and choose. So what we release is sort of a collaboration of our separate but similar tastes.
Carey: A gut feeling. We are both into edgy, dark, heavy music. I try to bring a female edge to the label, such as Star & Dagger’s In My Blood record, a band fronted by three women. Sean Yseult from White Zombie and Dava She Wolf from Cycle Sluts from Hell are both in this band. We have a ton of fun with these gals as they’ve gotten to play with bigger bands such as Down, High on Fire, Eagles of Death Metal, and Helmet and the crowds have been very responsive.
Have you thought about digitally releasing material or does keeping it vinyl only make the releases more special?
Chad: We like to keep each release as special as possible. I’ve been a record collector for a long time, so we try to do something we haven’t seen before. Our goal is to combine heavy music with exciting visuals in order to create a single focus of sound and style. We try to outdo ourselves with each release and see what kind of combinations we can come up with. We want people to buy the record for the music and the art. The jacket, the sleeve, the vinyl, is all part of a bigger package. We only make 500 of each release. Once they’re gone, that’s it.
Lindsey has handled a lot of the artwork for your releases. How did you start collaborating?
Carey: Chad and I have known Lindsey forever and he is a good friend. We all grew up on the Southern Gulf Coast. Lindsey is a great artist. It seemed natural for him to be the art director for Last Hurrah records; a creative fun project between friends and an excuse to travel and hang out.
Chad: I grew up with Lindsey in Ocean Springs, Mississippi in the early ‘80s. At the time, he had one of the biggest vertical skateboard ramps in the world in his backyard. It was called the Swamp Ramp. Later on, I worked for Lindsey and Frank Kozik printing silkscreen rock posters in Austin, Texas. Since then, we’ve continued to collaborate on various projects.
How did you meet Mike IX?
Chad: I met Mike sometime around ’94, after moving to New Orleans from Austin. Since then, I’ve interviewed Mike about his various bands a bunch of times and he is also a fan of EsoTerra magazine. New Orleans has a small scene so we’ve seen each other at shows for a long time.
How did this project come about?
Chad: We’ve been talking to Mike about letting us put out something for awhile. When Mike told us about his project The Guilt Of… I thought it would be a good fit for the label. Mike and Ryan Mckern sent us the songs and we liked them immediately.
What’s next for Last Hurrah? Carey: On June 8 at Siberia in New Orleans, the Vomit Spots are playing a show and it will also be the record release party for The Guilt Of’s Isolation Room. We are trying to get The Guilt Of… to play the gig but it depends on Mike’s schedule with EyeHateGod and Corrections House. After that, we’ve got some cool things planned that I can’t talk about yet.
Vomit Spots Dude, I Didn’t Know! Hurrah-LP-001
12-inch vomit colored vinyl in printed polybag
Star & Dagger In My Blood Hurrah-EP-002
12-inch dipped in blood translucent vinyl with foil stamped jacket
-(16)- Lost Tracts of Time Hurrah-EP-003
One-sided 12-inch midnight sky colored vinyl with etching
The Guilt Of… Isolation Room Hurrah-LP-004
12-inch translucent green with a splash of doublemint vinyl with embossed jacket
By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listenOn: Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
Name one British thrash metal act from the Golden Age of Thrash that kicks ass and makes newcomers Evile look like prepubescent chipmunks. Do it. Xentrix? Cerebral Fix? Hellbastard? No, no, and no. OK, we’re way off. The Brits had their share of awesome. Sabbat, Onslaught, Lawnmower Deth, Sacrilege, Seventh Angel, and Acid Reign were all part of England’s attempt to top Americans and Germans. Luckily, metalheads the world over didn’t have to pick countries over bands. They just liked what they liked. And that included Xentrix, Cerebral Fix, and the unsightly stylings of Hellbastard.
For Evile, however, they’re part of the new vanguard of thrashers. Informed by history but not a slave to it, the Yorkshire-based act have not just moved units since their 2007 debut, Enter the Grave, but transformed kids with bad musical taste into discerning heshers, who are bound to do what metalheads have done since like, uh, 1980. They’ve gone on to heavier things. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Evile’s shown no signs of weakening or slowing down. The group’s new album, Skull, is every bit as intense as anything—young or old—on the market. How do we know? We’ve heard it. And so shall you, at least eight of nine tracks.
So, it’s with great pleasure (of the flesh) that we present Evile ripper “Underworld.”
** Evile’s new album, Skull, is out May 27th on Earache/Century Media Records. It’s available HERE. Or, you can skate and go home, which isn’t very fun ’cause the Zorlac Double Cut deck you got from the kid down the street has a tailbone and a pair of Z-Rollers.
Guys in metal bands grow old. We know that. It’s natural and can’t be helped. Sometimes they continue to put out good music, sometimes they lose the fire that drove them back in the day. That’s fine. We aren’t here to talk about the music. We are here to take a look at some of the terrible, terrible album covers these legends of metal have chosen to grace their recent releases with. Your eyesight goes as you get up there in age, obviously a bunch of them have had their brains fried by drugs, and obviously a few had pretty lousy album art back in the day, but you’d think that, with all their experience in the industry and multiple levels of band members and management to go through, they wouldn’t wind up with these eyesores. Apparently not! I thought about including some older examples likeIron Maiden’s Dance of Death or Judas Priest’s Nostradamus, but there’s been enough lousy the last few years to make my point.
Let’s start with the image up top, the design for Black Sabbath’s 13, their first full album with Ozzy Osbourne up front since the 70s. Boring title to begin with, but man, why herald your long-awaited comeback with what appears to be a crappy computer image? The teaser footage for the album made it look like somebody actually lit a wicker “13” on fire. The final result looks like a crappy Photoshop job. If it isn’t, they didn’t do a good job of making it look otherwise.
Next up, we have the upcoming Megadeth release, Supercollider. Yup, that is about as literal as you can get: a picture of a supercollider. There’s good literal, like the cover for Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?, with Vic Rattlehead selling off the UN building in the aftermath of a nuclear war. Then there’s this. Even putting it through the Hollywood teal-and-orangerizer and adding lens flare ain’t gonna make a piece of scientific equipment pop.
Speaking of literal, here’s the latest Biohazard. See, it’s called Reborn in Defiance, so it uses an ultrasound. Do you see what they did there? Also note the generic block font and easy Photoshop effect on the letters. Not a group known for their fantastic design aesthetic, but come on – I could’ve put this together, and I haven’t used Photoshop since college. A decade ago.
Anvil got a career boost thanks to that documentary that came out a few years back, but apparently they haven’t shared any of that windfall with a decent graphic artist. Their covers may have been cheesy in the past, but at least they were painted, giving them a striking quality. While Hope in Hell may also be striking, it’s not in the right way. That’s some Command and Conquer-level computer rendering right there. Again, not a great idea for an album cover, but imagine it executed using traditional media. Way better!
Tankard have had some really lousy artwork over the years, but A Girl Called Cerveza takes the keg. Even considering their reputation as a joke band, it’s hard not to view this atrocity as anything other than kind of racist and most likely misogynistic as well. Combine that with their use of Comic Sans MS for the title and you have a real loser. At least it’s not CG!
Ministry’s Relapse goes one further and has a real human being on the cover, but that’s as far as the good qualities go. The dead-on angle feels awkward, the props look pasted in (and probably were), and that green screen backdrop looks both ugly and out of place. It’s no “dude with a liver on his head.” Pretty shameful for a group that once had a really unique design aesthetic.
Finally, we have… Whatever the hell is going on here. I mean, I get that the sky is vomiting fire on a city that looks like it came from that one scene in Inception and there’s a naked angel lady fighting jet planes, and it’s all orange, but holy crap. Stratovarius’s Nemesisis, apparently, a pretty decent record. You’d be hard-pressed to figure that out from the mess they slapped on front.
So, anyway, this has been a public service announcement: just because you’ve been around for a while (and physical media is on the decline) doesn’t mean you can get away with half-assed cover art. Do better next time.
They’re three-time cover stars. They’re Hall of Fame inductees for Tomb of the Mutilated. They’re headlining our second annual Decibel Magazine Tour. It’s safe to say we have an, um, uncharacteristically sharp affection for Cannibal Corpse. So, what better time for the living death metal legends to commandeer our Flexi Series than our special dB Tour issue?
Swedish retro thrashers F.K.Ü. — i.e., Freddy Krueger’s Underwear — cite “80′s horror flicks and old copies of Metal Forces magazine” as the band’s primary inspiration, and the band has spent over a decade now backing up that claim, encapsulating odes to Maniac Cop, Hellraiser, C.H.U.D., Motel Hell, and a bevy of other seminal horror splatterfests in sonic homages to Exodus, Nuclear Assault, and Overkill. This mash-up reaches its apotheosis on the zombie-themed 4: Rise of the Mosh Mongers, a hard-driving, exuberant sixteen track album that raises both F.K.Ü.’s sound and imagery to new heights without losing its gutter culture joie de vivre.
This morning, F.K.Ü. graciously provides us with a sneak peek of 4: Rise of the Mosh Mongers as well as this exclusive list of these uber-Krueger-philes fav Nightmare kills.
1. Painting the Ceiling Red — A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Tina (Amanda Wyss) is slashed in bed and pulled up the wall and across the ceiling of the bedroom, then falling back into bed with a bloody splash. Made in ’84 and still one of the coolest death scenes ever!
2. It’s A Bug’s Life — A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
Debbie (Brooke Theiss) is weightlifting when Freddy sneaks up from behind and pushes down on the weights, breaking her arms. Roach legs then sprout from the wounds and she slowly transforms into a roach, realizing she’s in Freddy’s hand, trapped inside a roach motel. Finally he crushes the box and disgusting goo leaks out. Pure classic!
According to their Facebook page, UK doom/Heavy Metal quartet Arkham Witch‘s personal interests include, “Ales, Histories, Wars, Invocations and Audible assaults. Drinking as fuck!” And their description of their sound is pretty much bang on too. “Old School Heavy Metal/Doom infused with Lovecraftian horror, tales of mighty Barbarians and festering evil superstitions!” What’s not to like there?
Featuring alumni of on-hold UK doom legends The Lamp of Thoth, Arkham Witch are a throwback to classic 70s hard rock, NWOBHM, and rough-cut early doom a la Vitus and co. This week the Deciblog caught up with the band’s founder, Simon Iff? (that’s probably not his real name, but a Crowleyian detective is exactly the sort of character who should front a band like Arkham Witch), and asked him about Lovecraft, The Lamp, and playing this year’s Live Evil Festival.
How did Arkham Witch get together?
Simon: We were just writing a shed load of songs and it was just really a side project to deal with the amount of songs we had, to find a way to record them and to put them out. The first demo that we recorded, in 2009, was well-received. We’re still selling copies of it today, which is brilliant for a £200 demo, so we decided to make it a full-time band. In Keighley, where we come from, we’ve got a lot of friends that we’ve been in bands with from years before, so it was easy just to go to them and ask them, “Do you want to play guitar? do you want to play bass?” And get the band up and running as a live band.
Could you put Arkham Witch and The Lamp of Thoth into context, musically? What would you do with The Lamp that you wouldn’t do with Arkham Witch?
Simon: That’s a good question, because when I came up with The Lamp of Thoth, when it was just me on my own, recording demos with my trusty drum machine, the idea I had in mind was a band like Trouble; you’ve got the doomy riffs, but that sort of metallic edge, that sledgehammer riff where they could take it up a notch if they wanted to. And I am thinking of the first two albums, the brilliant sound on those two albums. But a lot of the songs that I was writing were also really influenced by St. Vitus, which is a completely different sort of approach where it is sort of stripped down and slow punk, a bit messy, and the songs were [going] from one extreme to another. So when Randy Reaper joined, he had such a distinctive guitar sound, based on Dave Chandler of St. Vitus’, so certain songs worked and certain songs didn’t. The more metallic ones ended up being Arkham Witch songs, and the more doomy, laid-back slower ones were what The Lamp of Thoth did. We weren’t Reverend Bizarre slow, but the vibe of the band was more St. Vitus where Arkham Witch is more New Wave of British Heavy Metal with the doom element in it. The doom element was more to the fore in The Lamp of Thoth, driven by Randy Reaper’s guitar sound.
What has become of The Lamp? I heard you had a lot of material just waiting to be recorded.
Simon: One of the big problems with The Lamp of Thoth was we just had loads of material. Haha! Organising and recording it was a problem. It is the age old problem that affects most bands in the underground scene, where, to all intents and purposes, what you are doing is an expensive hobby, and everyone’s got a job. It’s time and money that restrict what you do. But when Arkham Witch took off a bit, Randy started playing with Solstice, and Solstice were one of his all-time favorite bands, and basically we just haven’t got around to doing anything else yet. We headed off in different directions and at the moment I can’t afford to be in two bands or spend the time rehearsing two bands, so we’ve just been doing the Arkham Witch thing.
So The Lamp is just really on-hold then?
Simon: I always intended to start it up again and record some new stuff; it’s just getting it together and organising it . . . But I am hoping that in the future I can come back to it because there is a lot of stuff that I have got recorded, demo-wise, that I would love to do with that band and that guitar sound.
It’s a good problem to have, though, surely: At least the ideas are there so you can bring the band back.
Simon: Well I hope so. That has always been the plan.
The demand has always been there. Does that surprise you?
Simon: Yeah, it does. It’s a nice surprise. I can’t listen to that album without listening to all the faults on it and the things I would do differently, but that was the first time we had been in a proper studio, and making that album was a proper experience because we recorded it in Germany. But it’s the same thing . . . I am fans of bands’ other albums and it’s what you see in it; when I hear it I just hear the mistakes, the out of tune vocals or whatever. People seemed to really like it, though, which is something I am really grateful for.
You’re always going to listen to your work differently from how we the audience do.
Simon: A good example for me is like St. Vitus. On stuff like “Clear Windowpane”, where the drums seem to go out of time but you love it because it’s so raw, unusual, and I hope that is what people see in The Lamp of Thoth, because it was our first album and in that session we recorded 17 songs which, looking back, was a bit ambitious, but we managed to come out of it with an album that people liked so . . .
With Arkham Witch, you have loads of catchy, hooky bits. Where did you get those influences from?
Simon: I think that comes from when I was a kid and I didn’t have much music. I had two cassettes of The Beatles; it was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Music album, Volume One, and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Music album, Volume Two. I listened to them relentlessly, and I think it’s that coupled with the St. Vitus vibe, the way that I write the songs (verse/chorus/verse/chorus/middle) is not like a Black Sabbath song where they don’t really have a chorus, but it’s kind of how I’ve always subconsciously structured the song. Plus, I’ve always had that love of NWOBHM, doom, rock and metal in general. It’s just the way that my songs come out, and if you look at the songs that I write, for some reason they all reach about six minutes. It’s amazing how many songs we have that are six minutes long. It’s some sort of subconscious pattern that are stuck in my head.
Does it surprise you how doom has evolved?
Simon: Well it’s the age old question: What is doom? Because the bands who originated this style weren’t consciously setting out to invent a genre that was all slow and all heavy and mournful. I mean a band like Pagan Altar, I don’t think they came out and set out to be doom. But then I think it is more about the underlying spirit of the music rather than the arrangements or tempo. I mean, a band like Pentagram are not slow, but they have that eerie vibe, and that’s what I look for in a doom band. I don’t just look for a band that’s really slow and mournful. I think I might have done in the 90s when I was younger, bands like Cathedral and the slower stuff from St. Vitus, but that kind of music, like any kind of music, any kind of metal, it got taken to the extreme, and I think what’s happened in the past is that they’ve taken it in all these new directions, sludge and death-doom etc, and now I think there’s nowhere for anyone to go. People can pick and choose the style that they love.
Nowhere to go in terms of extremes, but no matter the genre, good songwriting is rewarded. There can still be originality so long as the personality shines through and the songs are strong enough.
Simon: Yeah, but I think it’s the underlying spirit of the music; some songs are just DOOM. It’s actually amazing how up-tempo St. Vitus are as a doom band. I once figured out a cover of “Mystic Lady” and I thought I’d try and do something a bit different with it; so I played it as a sort of punk song, but when I listened to the original it wasn’t that much faster. With music, with regards to tempo, it can be like time-travel; a song like Reverend Bizzare’s “Cirith Ungol”, which is 21 minutes long? It doesn’t feel like that when you are listening to it because of the way it’s arranged. I think you are right: the songwriting and the structure is the most important thing.
Tell us a bit about Keighley. It has got a lot of doom history, has it not?
Simon: Well, The Lamp of Thoth, the idea for the band started when I discovered a local legend of a secret society that operated in Keighley in the late 19th century, who were so popular that the Golden Dawn and the Rosicrucians felt threatened by them, so they publicly denounced them as black magicians. They probably weren’t, but the idea of that, and knowing the town I come from . . . It’s a small town, they are proud of their heritage, of being a small town, and there’s an element of that hardness of an insular community. It just seemed natural that, of course, this secret society indulged in black magic because they are from Keighley, and they probably would do that. Living near the moor, near all the old pagan monoliths, it just seeps into your subconscious, no matter what genre of music you are into. There is just something about living in this part of the world.
And reading about the secret societies probably just confirmed your suspicions that there was some clandestine force, some society pulling the strings.
Simon: Yeah, some underground forces or society. I don’t know if you know, but Wurthering Heights, that was written near Keighley, and that has a lot of violent subconscious drive in it. Maybe it is the landscape, but it’s that sort of connection with Arkham Witch and the town of Arkham; we read about the town of Arkham in H.P. Lovecraft and have sort of identified with that, knowing what Keighley’s like, y’know!
You’re playing Live Evil in October. What do you make of the other bands on the bill?
Simon: When we looked at the bill, yeah, it suited us and our style of music down to the ground. We jumped on the chance to play it. We’re just excited to be playing with bands like Satan and Midnight, and we’re really interested to check out Deathhammer. But it’s just a really coolly constructed bill. This year I have spent most of my holiday on gigs. We’re doing a little tour of England with our good friends Iron Void from Wakefield, a brilliant, brilliant doom band, and Hooded Priest from Belgium. That’ll be in October, and we’ve got a few dates in Europe centred around Doom Over Vienna. This year’s a bit different for us, it’s the most gigs that I have ever done in a band. We were going to take some time out to record the third album but instead of going into the studio we can play the new songs in front of a live audience and maybe that’ll change the way we decide which songs are on the album, or hopefully make them more dynamic when we do record them.
Which is a luxury you’ve not had before.
Simon: For me, personally the best part about playing in a band is the studio. Playing live is cool and all, but I am impatient to get all of these songs recorded.
Right, last question: What would top your Lovecraft essential reading list?
Simon: The essential reading in a critical sense would be the Call of Chtulu, which is not just a brilliant piece of pulp fiction in the old fantastical style but a very carefully constructed literary tale with real literary merit. My other favorite, is The Shadow Over Innsmouth, which people may recognise from Shadows of the Deep, and “Dagon’s Bell”, and that’s just a really cool horror story. I won’t say it’s terrifying, but it just proves what a brilliant imagination the guy had. Brilliant revelation at the end; it’s just a brilliant piece of pulp horror fiction, and there was a good film made of it. I don’t know if you’d seen Stuart Gordon’s Dagon, that’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and it’s quite faithful to the story except he sets it in Spain in the present day. There are a few dodgy digital effects in it but if you over look that it’s a really good adaptation. So I’d probably say those two stories are, for me, essential reading, if that’s all you’re going to read of H.P. Lovecraft. Personally, I’m drawn to his pulpy side, and the way that these gods and archetypical scientific hero become tropes in modern horror, where you can just mention them or invoke them and it’ll put some in someone’s head. He did have a pulpy, frivolous side that the critics dismissed.
**Arkham Witch on Facebook
**For more on Live Evil Festival 2013 click here