New Swedish Black Metal From Bhleg

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Monday, December 1st, 2014


I would give all the skin from my left armpit to hear a DJ at the local 80s/90s soft rock station –which right now is exactly one week deep in their Christmas All The Time holiday barfaganza – say, “Weather and traffic coming up, but first, here’s new music you’ll love from Bhleg!”  I don’t even care which song gets queued up after that; just the announcement itself would be preposterous enough to make me proud.

Given the opportunity to listen to a band called Bhleg, most people would elect not to.  In fact, the choice between listening to a band called Bhleg and feeding a beloved family member to crocodiles would at least cause the average workaday American to hesitate before deciding.  At Decibel, we have already listened to Bhleg, and even so, we saw no reason to let the crocs go hungry.  (Sorry, Uncle Gary, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes.)  And we’re offering you the same choice, though sadly we couldn’t send any toothy reptiles your way.

Bhleg are a Swedish duo (with a session drummer for recording purposes) who play music that dances on the fulcrum between savage black metal and misty forest atmospheres.  Today they release their first album through Nordvis, the label who has recently brought us material from Lustre, Skogen, and Stilla (if none of these names ring a bell, find crocodile, insert head).  Stream the full album below, and read about the band’s origins and dreams in our interview.

Welcome to December.  Don’t forget to brush.

Who are Bhleg? What kinds of backgrounds, musical or non-musical, do the members have?

We are two individuals from Ale, a suburb north of Gothenburg. We have been writing together since 2007, the same year we got to know each other. Neither of us had any earlier experience of writing music before that.  The way I learned to play instruments was through expressing myself and write music. Neither of us are any good at the theoretical parts of music or music in general to be blunt.

What were your inspirations to start this project and play this particular type of music?

Our first thought was initially to be able to express ourselves together once again. Because there had been a couple of years when we didn’t write music together.  We really didn’t have any expectations or hopes that we’d sound in a special way. But it felt very natural to express ourselves through metal, because that is something we have been very passionate about since we first met when we were both 13 years old.  Metal is a very forgiving genre when it comes to the creation of abstract and atmospherical music.  We gather our inspiration from the great mystery called life. The great megin within all that lives and dies, the sun and the moon, the stars and the great space in-between them.

 I find it interesting that the album starts out being very obviously metal, but the next couple tracks back away from that aggression quickly. What role does this play in you intent and pacing of the album?

I didn’t really think of that when the album was being created.  I just wrote the songs, and placed them in the same order they had been made.

What does the album title mean to you in the context of your music?

Draumr Ást, To fall in love with the dreams. We want the listener to be able to dream themselves away amongst the tones, and hopefully feel the timelessness of which the album was inspired of and maybe fall into a different state of mind.  We do not claim to be able to speak Old Norse, nor to be correct in the small parts where we are using it.  The reason why we won’t release any of the lyrics is that we don’t want to chain your mind to the ‘meaning’ of the lyrics. We want you to be the interpreters. We want those who hear it to be able to reflect their own emotions and lives into the music.  Of course there is an inner meaning for us in all of the songs, but that we will keep it to ourselves.


How long did it take to write/record Draumr Ast? Was this an easy, natural process or were there any difficulties along the way?

It took us about 3 months to write the instrumental part of the album. And another 1-2 months to write the lyrics.  The writing process came very natural. Although the mixing and mastering of the album was a bit tricky.  At first we recorded the whole album with another drummer, but we weren’t satisfied with the results.  So after a while we came to the conclusion that we wanted to record it all over again. This time with a different drummer.  The first drummer Vidar had been rehearsing the album with us since we started rehearsing. He played on our rehearsal demo which was actually recorded on our first ever rehearsal. So he already knew all of the songs.  Whilst Robert hadn’t heard a single thing from our album. But he didn’t have any problems what so ever. And it all turned out very well!  Our last recording session was this fall, when we recorded two guest artist on our title track.  The mixing of the album was a long and outspread process. We didn’t even work on the album for a few whole months. But we managed to finish it this summer.

What is your opinion of the final results on the album, compared to your original ideas?

We actually didn’t have any clue or thoughts of how we would sound. To us, the most important thing is the atmosphere and the emotions you might feel whilst listening to the music. I think we have managed to capture the feelings that I felt while I was writing the songs.  The sound can always be discussed, changed, improved and so on. But as long as the music carries the emotions to the listeners, I don’t really care about the ‘sound’ of the music.

Does Bhleg play live?

No we don’t. Considering that there are only two of us, it never felt really natural. Although Bhleg is still a very young band, and we know of a lot of interesting musicians that we’d like to work with.  Only time will reveal where Bhleg is headed.  Thanks for the interview.  Árs ok fridr!

Check out more Bhleg news at their Facebook page, and more Nordvis releases at their official website and Bandcamp site.

KILLING IS MY BUSINESS: Chattin’ Charts with Billboard‘s Keith Caulfield

By: Etan Rosenbloom Posted in: featured, killing is my business On: Monday, December 1st, 2014


Music sales and airplay charts document the most heard and purchased artists, albums and songs in music. Death metal and grindcore never get airplay and barely sell anything compared to less-niche genres. So the logic should be simple: charts are irrelevant to extreme metal bands and fans, right?

Not entirely. The fact that almost nothing is selling these days has actually helped bands chart that would normally have zero chance of making it into Billboard Magazine, the music industry’s favored source of info on what the nation is buying and listening to.

For the final print edition of Killing Is My Business [in Decibel issue #123, Mastodon cover], I spoke with Keith Caulfield, Associate Director of Charts / Sales at Billboard. According to Caulfield, when you drill down to Billboard’s genre charts (e.g. Hard Rock Albums or Hard Rock Digital Songs), there’s actually a decent opportunity for a metal band with a following to show up. And there’s more opportunity than ever for bands at any level to use the kind of data that Billboard uses to help make smart business decisions.


Can you explain exactly what your position entails at Billboard?

Primarily my job is to manage the Billboard 200 chart, which is our main top albums chart, do analysis on that chart, and trends in album sales. Talk about who’s #1, who’s moving up, who’s coming down, who’s selling, who’s not. My main gig is doing a lot of administrative stuff, ensuring the accuracy of our charts, working with Nielsen SoundScan to make sure the chart’s correct, making sure that albums are categorized correctly on different charts. I also manage some other charts, like the Catalog Albums chart, Heatseekers, Internet Albums, Digital Albums, Broadway Albums, Soundtracks, Compilations…and in addition to that, I do write. I have a column that runs in the magazine each week.

How exactly does Billboard determine what is hard rock vs. active rock vs. alternative rock?

We have a lot of different rock genres, and it depends on whether you’re looking at our airplay charts, or our sales charts. Specifically for our Hard Rock Albums chart, it’s basically a broad term that’s any sort of loud, guitar-based rock music. Which includes obvious metal acts, obvious punk rock acts.

It’s one of those things where you know hard rock when you hear it. You know Jack Johnson and Colbie Caillat are not hard rock, whereas Metallica and Pantera are very clearly hard rock. Sometimes an act can be multiple genres. Nirvana is both hard rock and alternative, and they’re also in the catchall “rock” category. Then someone like Sheryl Crow might just be rock, but not hard rock or alternative.

There are some other factors: how an album is being marketed and positioned in the marketplace. What radio stations are playing it, if any. If something’s not very clear cut, we have to go to other sources to see how it’s being treated, how the band identifies themselves, how are they being promoted. But most of the time you can quickly tell sonically – “Is this hard rock?” “Yes it is.” And then you move on.

Keith Caulfield

Keith Caulfield toasts your  success

For a chart that’s sales-based, like Hard Rock Albums, there can be a lot of research that goes into it. Would I imagine there are some other charts that map more clearly onto radio formats?

We have a number of those. We have a Mainstream Rock chart, an Alternative Rock chart, there’s a Triple AAA radio chart, which is like adult alternative radio…it’s kind of like KCRW-ish, if you’re in Los Angeles. There’s also heritage rock stations, which are more old-school, old-fashioned, ‘70s type rock music, with a little bit of contemporary music. And those charts are basically directed by the stations that report to that chart.

There are a certain number of stations that are on a “panel” – the bucket of radio stations that report to a particular format. So there are X number of stations we consider “alternative” stations, and those stations each week are monitored by Nielsen BDS, part of the Nielsen company. Each week we tally up how many times all these songs are played on those stations, that are on the alternative panel. And that, in turn, produces the Alternative chart.

So sometimes, if KROQ in Los Angeles decides to go out on a limb and play a song that’s not traditionally rock, but they want to play them on KROQ, then you’ll see some weird anomalies pop onto the Alternative Airplay chart. Eminem charted Alternative back when he first came out, with “My Name Is.” I always thought that was so weird – like “Woah, what’s this white rapper dude doing on the Alternative chart? How does Billboard think he’s alternative?” Well, we don’t think he’s alternative, but the radio stations that we consider alternative decided to play him.

So even though you’re just reporting what airplay is happening, there are ways in which that act of reporting ends up defining how people think of a band or an artist.

Yeah. Certainly this past year, a lot of people blinked at the categorization of Lorde as a rock artist. She actually won a rock category at the Billboard Music Awards. It’s funny, because when a bunch of alternative stations play you, and they make “Royals” one of the biggest hits in alternative radio, well, by definition, you’re technically an alternative act, according to those stations that played you. And that’s where the categorization happens – those stations played you, and in turn that funnels into all the other things that happen afterwards. Award shows, where you get placed in magazines, where people categorize you on the web – “Oh, they’re alternative!”  It’s all because of what happened to this introductory single, before your public identity was ever established.

With metal, it’s very clear. You’re a hard rock band; you’re a metal band, there’s no denying that. Cannibal Corpse is not going to be turning up on Top 40 radio anytime soon.

What sort of data does Billboard use to determine positions on your various hard rock charts?

The two sales charts, Hard Rock Albums and Hard Rock Digital Songs, it’s sales from brick and mortar retailers, from chains like Target. It’s also internet sales from, digital sales from iTunes, Amazon MP3, Google Play… It’s just what Nielsen SoundScan collects in terms of sales each week. I think SoundScan captures like 90% of music sales in America. So the chart’s pretty close to what’s being tangibly sold in the US each week.

Same thing for Hard Rock Digital Songs, except it’s just songs that are paid downloads from digital services. Pretty much any significant seller of digital music in the United States is reporting to SoundScan each week. There are dozens of them.

I know you have separate streaming charts as well. Does Billboard have ways of looking at the overall picture of an album or song, regardless of the way it’s heard?

We have rock on-demand charts. On-demand is where you’re making a specific decision to listen to something – like I’m clicking “yes” on Spotify, whereas a passive listener is just having something streamed to them, without making a decision. We’ve got a chart for everything. But these are all separate entities. We don’t have one blended chart that blends all these things together, if that’s what you’re getting at.

[UPDATE: the month after this interview was conducted, Billboard announced that it would start integrating streaming statistics into its main Billboard 200 album charts beginning December 2014.]

How long have the Billboard Hard Rock Albums and Hard Rock Digital Songs charts been around?

The Hard Rock Albums chart actually started in July of 2007. Hard Rock Digital Songs we’ve had since January of 2011. SoundScan’s been tracking digital song sales since 2003 or 2004, but it took a very long time to get the process in place to divvy up all the different genres for digital songs. The album and genre categorization was in place before then – we’d been doing that for decades. But in terms of digital songs, it’s a lot harder.

What was the first #1 album or track on those two charts?

The first #1 hard rock album, in July of 2007, was Smashing Pumpkins’ Zeitgeist. The very next #1 album after Smashing Pumpkins was Linkin Park, Minutes to Midnight, if that makes you feel any better. Then Korn, untitled.

The first hard rock digital song #1, in January of 2011, was My Darkest Days featuring Zakk Wylde’s “Porn Star Dancing.” Sick Puppies was next, Aerosmith, Guns n’ Roses.

Which album has held its #1 position on the Hard Rock Album chart the longest?

You may laugh at this: Nickelback’s Dark Horse. It was #1 for 37 weeks on Hard Rock Albums.

I’m laughing, but I’m crying on the inside. I’d be curious to see the one that I would qualify as hard rock as metal – which of those actually lasted longest?

Certain really aggressive, sonically pummeling rock music doesn’t really sell incredibly well in general, period. So for any of those albums to even chart is kind of a big deal, and for them to hit #1 is an even more incredible deal.

The few charts where it might happen on for an extreme act are things like Heatseekers or Tastemakers. Might you have examples of extreme acts that have done well on those charts? I know Motionless in White was at the top of some chart just this past week.

Reincarnate was #1 on our Rock Albums chart, and the Hard Rock Albums chart, as well as #2 on the independent albums chart, and #8 on Internet Albums. Also #9 on the overall Billboard 200 chart, which is the overall all-the-genres-competing-against-one-another chart. [Motionless in White’s label] Fearless [Records] has actually generated a lot of high-charting records on the pop charts over the past year or two.

[Extreme] albums don’t generally stick around for very long. They’ll chart for a week or two on the Billboard 200 maybe, a little bit longer on the rock charts. But because so much emphasis is put on the first week of an album being on sale, and also because there’s a fairly limited fan base that’s going to buy this album, it adds up to a robust first week but then not a lot of sales afterwards. That’s why you’ll see someone have a big debut, and then fall off the chart.

That happens with a lot of niche acts, be it a hip-hop act or a classical act or a metal act. You have 300,000 fans, and you’re going to get maybe 20% of them to show up in your first week. And then the rest will eventually get the album, maybe they’ll stream it later, but the core fans that turn out in your first week, that’s going to be your biggest week. And then after that, it’s dwindling sales, and the album falls of the charts. So it’s not unique to metal. That’s just the nature of the beast.

When the self-titled Metallica album came out in 1991, it was a different era for metal. But that was extremely successful for a long, long time. What accounts for that long-tail for certain albums?

It could be said for any kind of album. Metallica at the time had built up such a large fan base from their work in the ‘80s. Then MTV started to embrace them with “One,” and they really embraced MTV with the self-titled album. It was the perfect blend of bringing your core fan base, and merging that with a mainstream sensibility to a degree. Sometimes artists and consumers meet at the right time and the right place. Your music resonates with people. That’s why they were able to debut at #1 with the black album, and they’ve been incredibly successful ever since then. Almost every album they put out debuts at #1 with a huge first week.

In terms of the long-tail, how it continued to sell so well, the thing had like six, seven different hits on it. MTV consistently played videos on it for, I swear, two years. You heard them every time you turned on rock radio. I’m sure the entire album was probably in rotation at many radio stations. They were on the road constantly.

I think literally for three years after it was released, they were supporting it on tour.

It was just constant hard work, constant promotion and constant great music that clearly resonated with people. That’s why that album continued to sell so well, and continues to sell so well today. It is the biggest-selling album of the SoundScan era –and when we talk about the SoundScan era, we mean when Nielsen SoundScan started tracking sales in 1991. It has sold more than 16 million copies in the US, by far the biggest-selling album in the US since 1991. So that says something!

That metric captures the success of Metallica pretty accurately, because SoundScan started tracking sales the same year the album came out.

Yeah, right around the same time. Metallica’s album debuted in August, and we started using SoundScan in May of that year. That same year, Skid Row’s album [Slave to the Grind] debuted at #1. That was a really big deal. And that was only a month after we started using SoundScan. Everyone was like “Whaaat?!”

The charts operated so differently before then. Before SoundScan, the charts were very driven by pure pop and adult contemporary music – just because that was the best kind of tracking capabilities we had, and that was what was reported to us by the retailers. Once SoundScan information came on board, we were able to see that these genre acts, like Garth Brooks, like Reba McEntire, like Metallica, like Skid Row, like Pantera, sold incredibly well. And that wasn’t truly reflected on the charts before SoundScan started. That’s why you see so many core rock acts, and core country acts, for example, show up high atop the charts after SoundScan started.

Pantera’s a unique situation. When Far Beyond Driven was released, there were so many more fans of metal at that time, and they were willing to go out and buy. Is that one of the only truly extreme albums, with screaming and loud guitars and heaviness, that has done that well on the Billboard 200?

I put together a list of the “hardest” rock #1s on the Billboard 200. I can quickly rattle them off for you, and you tell me if any of them match the sound of Pantera. I have a feeling they probably don’t: basically every Metallica album since Metallica. Skid Row’s Slave to the Grind. Van Halen, not so much…Limp Bizkit…Tool? They were #1 with Lateralus and 10,000 Days. Korn had a couple #1s. Staind was #1 a couple times. System of a Down. Disturbed…not really. I don’t think AFI counts, but they’re certainly a rock band. AC/DC, not exactly a screaming type band, but kind of screaming! Avenged Sevenfold, probably not “metal” metal. And Black Sabbath actually was #1 last year.

Wow, with 13!

Yeah, that was their first #1 album! It’s a long time coming.

None of those bands other than Sabbath approach the level of extremity or underground respect of Pantera.

Pantera continues to be this big “really?” at #1. They built up such a fervent fan base at that point, and it was the right time and the right place. Had it been any other particular week, they may have not been #1. They sold 186,000 copies in the first week with Far Beyond Driven.

Okay, so the Hard Rock Albums and Hard Rock Singles charts we’re talking about track physical and/or digital sales. Do you find that your sales charts like these two are pretty well correlated with the airplay or streaming charts?

Yeah. I think so. Sometimes you get an anomaly. Sometimes songs are huge on the radio, and no one buys them for whatever reason. Sometimes songs are big airplay hits, but that doesn’t translate into sales. It’s more difficult to convince people to buy something. As hard as it is to get on the radio, it’s harder to get anyone to buy something.

And vice-versa. Sometimes you have a great sales story, and radio just ignores you. So there generally is a lot of crossover between all the charts, and sometimes you have a curiosity that’ll do well – it’ll be a top 10 record on the airplay charts, but in terms of sales, it sells like 1000 downloads a week. And you’re just like “Really! How many millions of people heard this song, but no one wanted to buy it?”

How do companies use Billboard info to make business decisions? 

I think the general vibe is that our charts are used as a measurement tool for the industry – record labels, management, booking agents and so forth – to gauge what are the most popular acts, and what are the most popular songs and albums in the country. How can we use that to book talent on TV shows? How can we use that to book shows at concerts? How can we route our tours better?

Certainly SoundScan’s information and a lot of streaming information, you can whittle that down to zip codes and regions, so you know how well you’re doing in certain areas, so you can better gauge how to route your tour, for example. Our charts are national charts, so I don’t tell you on our chart how many copies sold in Poughkeepsie. But you can access that data through SoundScan.

Then a lot of our charts are used in a more consumery way. Consumers like to find out where their favorite acts are on the charts. It’s this huge range of “Hey I like to look at lists. Where’s my favorite artist? Oh, it’s at #6 this week. That’s fun!” to the far extreme of “Let’s look at super-granular data from Nielsen to see should we have a meet ‘n greet at this place, or should we save that opportunity for a different place, because there aren’t enough fans there?” 

I can imagine stories about a manager, or a label, that’s looking at the Heatseekers charts and they’re like “Wow, this person doesn’t have a label already! 

Yeah. Especially with our new Twitter charts, we have these new Billboard Twitter real-time charts which are pretty cool. They monitor the most-discussed and talked-about tracks and artists on Twitter. We have two different charts. One is just for the top tracks, period. So if a hugely popular artist on social networks drops a new song, it could [make it on] that Twitter chart. And it’s a real-time chart, so it may not be #1 15 minutes from now, ‘cause it’s constantly refreshing.

Then we have a chart that’s just for emerging artists on Twitter. It’s for artists that have less than a certain number of Twitter followers, so Twitter and Billboard define them as “still developing.” We hear stories from departments at different record labels and management people who look at these charts as guides to help them find new talent and to acquire for whatever the organization is. They look at these charts to help them narrow down “Alright, which of these acts are unsigned? Can we license this song that’s really popular on the charts and happens to be a European hit, but no one’s licensed it in America? Maybe we should use this chart to help find out which songs we should acquire.”

That same thing was done with all of our charts in the past, and continues to be done, but I think the Twitter real-time charts are a great example of how something that’s very now, very of the past hour, can be used.

Or you know, if you’re just a publication, if you’re a TV show and you’re looking for stories to tell, look to the charts and see “Who have we not talked about recently? Let’s scroll down and find someone. Oh look! They have a great story! They have an interesting look!“ That sounds really pedestrian, but that happens too.

It’s an interesting story in itself, those real-time Twitter charts. That’s kind of the holy grail for any data keeper – knowing exactly what’s happening NOW, and to be able to analyze it and deploy it.

Yeah. If everyone could be like “Right now, three copies have been sold in this area. One ticket has been bought in Anchorage, Alaska.” Yeah, that’s great.  But my god, we’d be just drowning in data. At least the Twitter real-time charts give you a snapshot of what’s happening right now.

And it captures a certain segment of the audience and a certain segment of the music audience that may not be captured in other ways. A lot of people on Twitter just don’t buy anything. They stream it, they play it on YouTube, they share links with people. And that’s how they interact with music.

Have you noticed any chart trends that apply to metal more than to other genres?

I don’t have a great thought on this one for you unfortunately. The general notion is that, because of the way our album sales charts work, everyone has a much better shot at charting than they ever did before. One, you don’t need to sell that much to get onto the charts, period, because fewer people purchase albums. And therefore if you can convince your fan base to buy a couple thousand albums in a week, or 10, 15, 20 thousand albums in a week – that’s a TON for some metal acts, but if you can convince them to buy that many in a week, you’ll chart. And you may not be around the week after that, but you’ll have your moment in the sun on the charts.

I mentioned Cannibal Corpse jokingly earlier, ‘cause I just love saying their name…I don’t listen to them, I just love the fact that they exist. They’re so extreme! But they just charted their highest-charting album ever, with A Skeletal Domain. It debuted at #32 on the Billboard 200 chart. Which is huge. Are they as big as they were in the ‘90s, early 2000s? I don’t know. But they’re able to have their moment. They can now say they’ve had two Top 40 albums in the United States on the Billboard 200 chart. Which is pretty cool for a very extreme act. And there’s lots of examples like that. They just happen to stick out because every time they pop on the charts, I go “Ooh boy! I get to write about Cannibal Corpse.”

There are so many sales in the metal world that happen either at shows, or some kind of distro that exists only online. It’s a single person, sending you a copy from his or her home, where it might not be reported to SoundScan.

[SoundScan] knows that they can’t capture every single transaction. So they try to extrapolate for what they’re missing. Sometimes sales are weighted. The number that we announce – you know, “Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett sold 131,000 copies, and they’re #1” – well it’s not really a pure number. That’s a weighted number. It’s a number that is based on actual sales, but it’s also weighted a little bit, to account for what’s missing in their capturing of sales. So when people say “I sold exactly 10,000 copies,” actually you probably sold more like 10,500. Or maybe 9,800-something. But SoundScan did some shake ‘n bake to the number to determine “Alright, we’re missing this percentage of the population. How do we estimate how many copies we missed?” If they’re doing their job correctly, which we think they are, they are going to capture the sales and project for the sales that they’re missing.

Now, for sales that are just some dude selling something on eBay, no, we’re not gonna be able to capture that. If it’s someone selling something at a show, actually those sales can be reported by SoundScan. We accept venue sales all the time from acts on the road. All you have to do is set up an account with SoundScan, and you report your venue sales each week. They have a process in place to collect the receipts, you show them the ledger of what’s been sold, blah blah blah.

Sometimes we see acts pop on to the Heatseekers chart primarily because of venue sales. You can look in SoundScan, and see each week, they don’t have that many [sales], but the sales you see each week, “Oh look, it’s in this region. The next week they didn’t sell any in that region, but now they’re over here, in San Diego. The next week they didn’t sell any in San Diego, but now they’re in LA.” It’s because they’re moving through the country, selling a handful of copies at all these different locations. Sometimes that can help you have a nice robust number, and that can attract attention, and maybe can get you a bigger label deal, etc. But yes, we do accept venue sales, and SoundScan does that all the time.

Are you aware of any charts other than Billboard’s that focus on extreme music?

I’m not a metalhead, so I don’t know. I know there are tons of publications and websites that deal specifically with metal and hard rock music, but I’m not immediately familiar with other charts that deal specifically with hard rock and metal. 

I used to subscribe to Rolling Stone, and there would be a snapshot of what’s selling well at one specific store in North Carolina that might be metal-focused. Or you go into Amoeba, and they have a list of the Top 10 metal records from that month. 

I guess that’s useful, but we’ve already said how old we are, because we’re talking about physical albums at a brick and mortar retailer. Ooh, how old-fashioned is that! There are hardly any traditional record stores left. It’s just so hard now to say “This is the definitive way that we should rank the top metal acts.”

I’m trying to think what would be most useful to a band. I would think it would be most useful to find who just clicked on my YouTube video? Who just clicked on my lyric video? I’d imagine a lot of these metal bands, if they’re young enough, they’re really in tune with social media and the internet, and digital stuff. What would be incredibly useful to me is using Google metrics, and YouTube metrics, to find out where my song as played, and who’s clicked on it, who’s watched it so many times, and how many different playlists have I been added to. Who’s subscribed to my channel. Maybe I can route our future climb-in-a-van tour towards those cities. Just in the same way you’d use SoundScan information to do that, this could be on a much more granular level, visually-speaking.

But that isn’t like a public chart. It’s not something just anyone can access on YouTube or Google Analytics. It’s just focused on your own material. If you say “Here are 10 other metal acts that are like me. I want to look at how they’re trending on YouTube and Twitter and Facebook across the US.”

How can a band get that kind of information?

We have great social charts that track the most social artists – the Social 50 is what it’s called – it’s a company called NextBigSound [that provides the data]. They scrape data, and they also have deals with different providers where they access Facebook information, Instagram information, YouTube, Vevo, Twitter…the really big, obvious ones. And they look to see who’s up, who’s down, who had more likes than normal this week, who had more fans subscribe to them and so forth.

NextBigSound is a really great resource for artists. If you subscribe to NextBigSound, you can access a lot of data that they collect for you. It’s kind of like a Nielsen SoundScan, it’s kind of like a Google, where they can provide you with a lot of information that can help you better plan your plan of attack when you roll out an album or a song. We use that information to make a lot of our social charts.

Are there obvious trends that Billboard charts can’t capture?

I’d like to say that we try to capture everything. If we notice something we’re missing, or that is a new trend in the industry, we try to get a chart going that would capture that. If you’ve seen how our charts have evolved over the decades, back in the ‘40s and ‘50s we had jukebox charts, we had charts that charted what DJs would report as being played, and what was the top-selling songs in retail stores.

Eventually, that jukebox chart went away, because jukeboxes didn’t exist so much anymore. But then we started tracking all these different genres of music, because the different genres started to grow and got bigger. We have more genre chats now than we’ve ever had before. Back in the early ‘90s, we had country and R&B, we had classical, we had jazz, but it wasn’t until later that we had blues charts and new age albums and world albums and all these different genres that became more and more popular, and we were able to track them.

The same thing happened with YouTube and streaming and Spotify, all these different ways that people are consuming music. We were able to create charts and work with the industry, work with the people that collect this data to present charts to the public. If we ever see something that is not being captured by us, we certainly try to gauge if that is something we should be capturing, and if so, then we try to make it happen.


Visit Billboard online at

Follow Keith Caulfield on Twitter yonder: @keith_caulfield

See everything he’s ever written for Billboard here.

Cyber Monday Deal: Get a FREE issue of Decibel!

By: andrew Posted in: breaking newz, featured, gnarly one-offs On: Monday, December 1st, 2014


We are but a month away from J.C.’s birthday bash. Time to crash the party, Decibel-style. Treat either yourself or the misanthropic metalhead in your life to a killer deal sure to sour the Christmas spirit.

It’s Cyber Monday once again, and today only, if you sign up for a 12-month or 24-month subscription to Decibel, you’ll receive one extra issue for FREE. That’s right, one extra installment of North America’s premier monthly metal magazine is on us!

Bear in mind, this one-day sale ends atmidnight tonight (EST). So, click here to order now!

STREAMING: Abysmal Dawn “Night’s Blood”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Monday, December 1st, 2014


Highly proficient, super-classy death metal is rarity these days. That’s why Abysmal Dawn’s new album, Obsolescence, should be on your radar. It’s probably not, but we’ll do our part to change that. Forged in the great fire pits of Los Angeles and informed by a wide range of great artists, Obsolescence, immediately makes its mark. From opener “Human Obsolescence” through closing cover, “Night’s Blood”, Abysmal Dawn inspire and awe. It’s as if they were meant for death metal and death metal for them.

So, it’s an absolute honor that we get to premiere Abysmal Dawn’s cover of Dissection’s “Night’s Blood”.

“Scott and I were sitting around in-between tracking drums for our new album Obsolescence and throwing ideas back and forth about songs we should cover,” says guitarist/vocalist Charles Elliott. “Amidst the smoke and beer bottles was the Dissection Live in Stockholm DVD playing in the background. That’s when lightning struck and Scott had the brilliant idea to cover ‘Night’s Blood’.”

“I for one was really happy to cover a Dissection track because their music meant so much to me when I was growing up. I must have listened to Storm of the Light’s Bane a million times, just sitting in the dark with headphones on when I was younger (fucking moody teenager, I know). The vibe on that record is just pure evil, and the production captures their cold atmospheric sound perfectly.”

“I was also glad to do something slightly out of the confines of what we’d normally do and to make it our own. We could have covered a Death song for example but people probably would expect that of us a bit more. It strangely works really well within the context of our album I feel too.”

“It was a last minute decision but the whole band did their homework and it turned out awesome in the end. We tried to maintain the essence of the track while maybe making it a bit faster and heavier, and I think we succeeded. It still gives me chills and great childhood memories whenever I listen to it. Enjoy!”

OK, time for “Night haunts and evil lurks in every corner”…

** Abysmal Dawn’s new album, Obsolescence, is out now on Relapse Records. It’s available HERE in CD and vinyl formats, plus a sweet blue splatter limited edition vinyl (HERE).

Musk Ox: Video Premiere Part 1

By: Posted in: featured, tv, videos On: Wednesday, November 26th, 2014


What’s a Musk Ox? Is it some sort of rare delicacy that your backwoods family member serves up at Thanksgiving Dinner? According to the sages at Wikipedia a musk ox is: an Arctic mammal of the family Bovidae, noted for its thick coat and for the strong odor emitted during the seasonal rut by males, from which its name derives.

Alright then; it’s a big creature that smells when it gets horny. Perfect name for a band. Will it fight a Mastodon?

But Musk Ox actually isn’t crust or sludge or doom as the name implies. It’s a neofolk project formed by Nathanaël Larochette. The band says the project “blends Neofolk’s lush acoustic textures with the expansiveness of post rock, the intricacy of progressive rock, and the emotional weight of metal.” You should put aside our juvenile puns and check out the music because it’s beautiful and perfect for the season.

We’re hosting two videos on the making of the band’s new album Woodfall below. The second video will follow on December 1. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving.

The Decibel Black Friday Book Buying Guide

By: adem Posted in: featured, stupid crap On: Wednesday, November 26th, 2014


For the next few weeks, the Western world will devote much of its time, energy and money to buying stuff. Mostly for other people. And all in the name of a Christian holiday. Or maybe a Jewish one. I don’t think there are any Satanic holidays this time of year and if there are, I’m not totally clear on the whole gift-giving protocol. Maybe a pigs head or goat gall bladder? Regardless, if you’re reading this, chances are you will be participating in this massive exchange of commerce.

We’d like to make an appeal to you before this season starts. Give your money (in a manner of speaking) to us. Decibel, believe it or not, has a lot of talented writers in its employ. Some are so talented that they have even seen their names listed on the New York Times Bestsellers List—cough, cough, John Darnielle—but it’s not like we’re keeping score as to who’s better or best or who was long listed for prestigious literary awards (again, Darnielle). Anyway, to help you with your seasonal gift buying, we’ve assembled a list of the many tomes our staff and contributors have written in hopes you’ll consider purchasing one of these and further showing your support for Team Decibel.

Many of these can be found at independent book stores, which are like the vinyl-carrying indie record stores of the book world—a dying breed. So, if you’re going to be out there spending your money on Black Friday or, better yet, Small Business Saturday, look for some of these titles. We’ve included links to titles that you can purchase online through Decibel (a small business) or other indie endeavors.

disposed of

Andrew Bonazelli
A Regular (available through Vitriol)
The Dreamt and Deathless Obscene (available through Vitriol)
Disposed Of (available through Towering Achievements)

wolf white van

John Darnielle
Wolf in White Van: A Novel
33 1/3 Black Sabbath: Master of Reality

choosing death

Albert Mudrian
Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore (available through Decibel)
Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces (available through Decibel)


Kevin Stewart-Panko (with Justin Smith)
Do You Have Anything to Declare (available through Vitriol)

morbid tales

Mark Rudolph (edited by Rudolph and also featuring the illustrations of Bruno Guerreiro)
Satan Is Alive: A Tribute to Mercyful Fate (available, along with several other of Rudolph’s comic books and illustration collections here)
Morbid Tales: a Tribute to Celtic Frost (available from Corpse Flower)


Adem Tepedelen
Decibel Presents the Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing’s Outer Limits (available from Decibel)

soul on fire

Jeff Wagner
Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Metal (available from Bazillion Points)
Soul on Fire: The Life and Music of Peter Steele (available for pre-order here)

Sucker For Punishment: Housecleaning – I Mean, Gift Guide!

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, November 26th, 2014


As a Canadian I can’t help but marvel at American Thanksgiving. The sheer brilliance of it: make it a Thursday holiday, which’ll in turn compel people to take Friday off, and just like that you’ve got a four-day weekend. Unless Remembrance Day or the February statutory holiday falls on a Thursday, we don’t exactly have that experience here up north. So to my American buds, I salute your country and its knack for fun little loopholes like that.

Anyway, Thanksgiving is always the official start of the holiday spending season, and because we are now in that deadsville new release period of the year, for a little fun I’ve slapped together a little gift guide for Decibel readers, featuring plenty of stuff that’s either appeared in my mailbox over the year, my email inbox, via social media, or which I’ve simply gone out and bought as a fan. Either way, there should be something you like here. So enjoy, and have a fabulous Thanksgiving while the rest of the world wonders why Twitter is so dead on a Thursday.

New Music:

The new release schedule might be entering its December dormancy, but good music is still trickling in. Primordial’s Where Greater Men Have Fallen (Metal Blade) is a very welcome return by the Irish pagan metalers, featuring some of their strongest material to date, not to mention the best production on any Primordial record to date. Powerviolence band Full of Hell have teamed up with noise maestro Merzbow, and the resulting album, fittingly titled Full of Hell/Merzbow (Profound Lore) is a wickedly intense, sneakily catchy 24-minute piece of work that meshes some rather ambitious grindcore and abstract ambient work with great creativity. Listen and purchase it via Bandcamp. And then there’s the mighty AC/DC, who after an eventful year for all the wrong reasons, cap it all off with Rock or Bust, their best new album since Fly on the Wall 30 years ago. I’ll review it in full next week when it comes out, but in the meantime go stream it at iTunes and think about whom you want to buy it for.

Music BluRay, DVD, etc.:

It’s been a fairly slow year for metal video releases, but a handful have stuck out for yours truly. Gojira’s Les Enfants Sauvages (Roadrunner) is as good a live album/concert film as I’ve seen in recent years, a near-perfect snapshot of one of the best live bands in the world in action. Meshuggah’s The Ophidian Trek (Nuclear Blast) works better as a live album than as a concert film, but is still an essential purchase for fans of the band. Meanwhile Rush’s gigantic R40 box set compiles the band’s last five BluRay releases, and as a tantalizing bonus, tosses in two hours of bonus material, including video footage of a complete performance of “2112”.

Wait, cassettes are still a thing?

I refuse to buy into the idea that cassettes are a viable option as a music medium in 2014, but once or twice a year I will make a rare exception, and the one cassette I didn’t hesitate to buy is Gatekrashör’s self-titled debut album. Not only is it a ferocious, riotous dose of filthy speed metal in the tradition of Exciter and Nasty Savage, but the Calgary band have taken upon themselves to faithfully recreate the cassette design of the highly influential Canadian underground label Banzai Records, whose old tapes have become collector’s items, and for many of us old-timers and old-at-hearts, fetish objects. You see this tape, and you go, I must own that. And you definitely should. Purchase Gatekrashör on cassette here.

Yes, metalheads do read books:

2014’s been fairly lively when it comes to metal-themed reading material. Mike “McBeardo” McPadden’s Heavy Metal Movies is yet another hugely enjoyable release by Bazillion Points, whimsically delving into the connections between metal and cinema. For those looking for more serious subject matter, Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult, by Dayal Patterson (Feral House) is a well-researched, exhaustive history of black metal that, despite its curious (condescending?) ignorance of USBM, nevertheless is a worthy inclusion to any kvltist’s bookshelf. Handshake, Inc. has come through with a pair of essential books too: Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground, by Jason Netherton of Misery Index, is a massive, 480-page history of death metal that fully deserves to stand alongside Daniel Ekeroth’s Swedish Death Metal and our own Albert Mudrian’s Choosing Death. Then there’s Dan Lilker’s Perpetual Conversion, which chronicles the life and career of arguably the coolest guy in all of metal, with all the charm and likeability of the man himself.

The great, prolific Martin Popoff continues to churn out the books, but none in 2014 was better than The Big Book of Hair Metal: The Illustrated Oral History of Heavy Metal’s Debauched Decade (Voyageur Press), a coffee table-sized volume that chronicles the rise and fall of glam/pop/hair metal with studious attention to detail, featuring loads and loads of insightful quotes from many artists. I can’t recommend this one highly enough, it’s a total pleasure.

The notion that metalheads are gentle souls just like anyone else is hardly news to those of us in this scene, but that doesn’t make photographer Alexandra Crockett’s Metal Cats (powerHouse) any less adorable, as musicians pose with their favorite felines. Plus the proceeds go towards helping save cats, so why not?

Two years ago Decibel illustrator Mark Rudolph released Satan is Alive, a wonderful comic book tribute to Mercyful Fate, and this fall he’s followed that up with Morbid Tales! A Tribute to Celtic Frost. Featuring illustrations and commentary by far too many artists and metal writers to mention, this is a no-brainer, a must-own. I pre-ordered a copy, and you should too. Get it here.

Lastly, if you read Decibel, you know who John Darnielle is from his monthly South Pole Dispatch at the end of every issue. Not only is he an incredibly talented Decibel writer, a wickedly sharp metal fan in his own right, and a rather famous indie musician, but he’s also a best-selling author now. His novel Wolf in White Van (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) has met with universal acclaim, and was nominated for the National Book Award, and although I haven’t read it yet (it’s in my possession as of today!) I’m very optimistic. His book about Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality contains probably the best writing about teen alienation I have ever read, and I expect Wolf in White Van to be as enjoyable a book, if not more.


Metal fans love horror movies, and I saw my share in 2014, and I haven’t enjoyed a horror film in 2014 as much as Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead. It expands on the original Dead Snow to a loopy, gory, hilarious degree: not only are there Nazi zombies, but Soviet communist zombies as well, plus a group of geeks led by Martin Starr (?!) who help do battle. And then there’s the horror movie love scene to end all horror movie love scenes. It’s a total blast, and comes out on DVD and BluRay on December 9.

When it comes to more serious fare, no flick in 2014 comes close to the ambition and vision of Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. Starring Scarlett Johansson and featuring a mesmerizing soundtrack by Mica Levi, it’s not the usual effects-ltden sci-fi movie mainstream audiences expect, but takes its cue from Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, going for something a lot more vague, more meditative, and quieter. It requires you to think, to absorb, to lose yourself in its mind-blowing beauty. This is one you have to see on BluRay.

As for re-releases, the Criterion edition of David Lynch’s 1977 masterpiece Eraserhead is, hands down, the finest BluRay movie release of the year. The restored visuals are stunning, the supplements are thorough and highly entertaining, and best of all, that weird, weird story about Henry Spencer, his deformed baby, and that Lady in the Radiator is as thought-provoking and disturbing as ever.

What about gear?

If you write on a personal blog well enough and long enough, promotional items practically fall into your lap. One day I was asked if I wanted to review a new pair of headphones, and seeing that freelancers can never say no to free stuff, I said yes. Well, it turns out that my pair of LSTN Troubadours is easily one of my favorite things of 2014, giving me exactly what I want out of a headphone, and what I was in need of, quite frankly. I don’t want that battery-boosted sound that the more popular modern headphones provide, I’m always interested in something more understated. LSTN is totally old school and organic, in both its aviator-style design and its sound. Featuring wood, housed speakers that fit comfortably over the ears, it’s all about warmth, and whether on the iPhone or listening to the turntable, my ebony Troubadours feel great and sound even better. It lacks that bass boost that other headphones give, so if you listen to more rock/folk/classical than electronic and hip hop, these are an excellent fit. I can’t recommend these highly enough. Check them out here.

The ultimate 2014 album guide!

I can’t write a gift guide and not include the current issue of Decibel now, can I? Metal fans wait all year to check out and argue over Decibel’s annual 40 extreme albums list, and more than a few use it as a guide to figure out what albums they’re going to purchase for themselves over the holidays that they might’ve missed. So if you haven’t seen it yet, buy the new issue here.

Reality check:

On a more humanitarian note, the folks in Ferguson, Missouri are having the worst year ever. Amidst the murder of an innocent youth by police, the prosecutor’s shoddy parody of justice, the tear gassing of peaceful protesters, the violence and looting, the Ferguson Public Library remains open for the youth of the community, and is always accepting donations. Go help them out.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

From Internment to Obliteration: Jucifer’s “It Can’t Be Helped”

By: Jeff Treppel Posted in: exclusive, featured, listen On: Tuesday, November 25th, 2014


Those who follow Jucifer’s twitter feed will know that they harbor some pretty strong political beliefs, but it’s taken them until now to launch a full-scale assault on the very institution of democracy. District of Dystopia contains their shortest screeds to date, the duo’s wall of amplifiers redirected towards grindcore instead of their usual filthy doom. Considering how grind started as a political statement, it makes sense. Of course, just because the songs may be shorter, it doesn’t mean that they don’t still have the careful, intelligent research the band is known for. “It Can’t Be Helped,” the second song off the record, tells the story of our nation’s shameful internment of  Japanese Americans during World War II. You can hear it for yourself below with our exclusive premiere.

***Pre-sale bundles for District of Dystopia cds are now open at (order button is just below donation button on the homepage) and the gatefold digipaks will also be available at shows beginning December 6th in Little Rock.  Look out for both a cassette version via Handshake Inc and an LP courtesy of Alternative Tentacles in early 2015.

Here are the tour dates coming next in Jucifer’s never-ending road war – shows get added often, so keep an eye on the website:



STREAMING: Dellacoma “My Kinda Woman”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Tuesday, November 25th, 2014


There are plenty of times when the Decibel staff will put down our Bolt Thrower, Watain, Paradise Lost, and Napalm Death LPs in favor of something more, well, rocking. If our EIC had his druthers—and he does—The Darkness might edge its way into the Hall of Fame one day. So, it stands to reason, Aussie-’Merican rockers Dellacoma have kangaroo-kicked their way onto the Deciblog with new track, “My Kinda Woman”.

Dellacoma features in their ranks Rick Reynolds on bass, Art Struck on guitar, Matt Cook on drums, Dellacoma Rio on vocals. The group recently trekked through the US on their debut tour, which saw the quartet hit 80 venues in just about as many days. While itinerant and woman-buckling, Dellacoma also managed to record their self-titled debut. Produced by Chris “Frenchie” Smith (Jet, The Darkness, Scorpion Child), the band’s first full-length is a rock dream, recorded as analog as humanly possible to get that ’70s feel without being subservient the big-time productions of the era.

It’s time to open the closet, take out those skeletons, and shake a few legs to Dellacoma’s “My Kinda Woman”.

** Dellacoma’s debut album is available for pre-order now (HERE). It’s self-released, too. If that matters, knowing where your green goes directly to Dellacoma.

Fister Video Premiere: Not What You’re Probably Thinking…

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: exclusive, featured, gnarly one-offs, videos On: Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

deciblog - fister

Lemme tell you a little story about how I offended a good number of folks in a room full of people I had just met or hardly knew. I know what you’re thinking: “You’re only going to tell us one story?” I know, right? Anyway, I was working. Seriously, a real job and everything. What I was doing is inconsequential, but suffice to say at the time of this incident, I was in a waiting/herding area surrounding by many of my colleagues who happened to be from all corners of Canada and the world. We all had two things in common: the work we were there for and that we all had time to kill. Some people whipped out phones to sate their Angry Birds addiction, some people shot the shit, some people read, I donned the ol’ headphones and sank into a couch with some tunes. As time ticked along and the wait became longer, a couple of people ended up engaging me in small talk by introducing themselves before asking what I was listening to. Without thinking (as is usually the case on the best of days), I blurted out “Fister. Their (then) new split with The Lion’s Daughter called And Their Master’s Bled For Days. Awesome dirty doom metal, dude!” Cue looks of nervousness, unbelieving, surprise, horror and/or shock.

We extreme music folk sometimes forget we live in our own bubble where band names like Carcass, Death and Cannibal Corpse are the equivalent of a florist rhyming off, “daisies, roses and tulips.” Needless to say, after the inevitable double-take and come-again questioning, I was greeted with a variety of nervous tittering, various “Omigod”s, “How could you”s and probably forever branded as a potentially violent serial killer/sex offender because of my open admiration of that “kill you dog, rape you mother” noise. Hilarity all around. Makes you wonder what this St. Louis-based trio, those who would sport their merch and Washington Nationals pitcher, Doug Fister have to put up with on a regular basis.

The band aren’t going to be making their relationship with the mainstream any easier with the release of a provocative, self-shot and edited video for “Life is Short, Life is Shit and Soon it Will Be Over” off of their forthcoming split with Primitive Man to be released on Black Friday via A389 Records (which we will be streaming next week). We asked vocalist/bassist, Kenny Snarzyk to let us know about the video, give us some insight into its making of or about the process of writing the song. He was brief and terse in his response, to say the least:

“I like to think it kind of speaks for itself. I honestly don’t have anything too interesting to add. The title is a Kids In The Hall reference and there are a lot cops getting set on fire in the video. There’s a short sample of our other song at the end. Also, Primitive Man’s side fucking crushes. Sorry it’s brief. I really don’t know what to say about it. I’m glad it’s coming out.”

Here it is. Look for a stream of the split sometime next week:

UPDATE: In a just-before-going-live response to what’s happening in Ferguson, MO at the moment, Snarzyk wanted to add the following post-script, expanding upon his original response above.

“Kevin originally asked me if I had anything to say about the video and I didn’t have much to say aside from my regular ‘fuck cops.’ In light of what’s happening in my city right now I should mention a few things.

1. The footage I used (aside from us performing) was compiled back in March during the heat of the Crimean Crisis in the Ukraine. It made me feel like people can still fight against the corrupt powers that try to oppress common civilians and it inspired me deeply. It had nothing to do with the murder of Michael Brown. In fact, Michael Brown’s murder was months after I edited this footage with our track.

2. The rioting in St. Louis right now is being orchestrated by two horrible groups of people. Opportunists and cops. Opportunists are looting stores and attacking people. Cops are gassing peaceful protesters. They are waging war on people that are sick of having their civil rights stripped away to nothing. I myself, have never been to a single protest in my life. I’m not going to act like I’m on the front line of any protests peaceful or otherwise. Right now I’m sitting on my couch listening to the sirens wail down the highway I live next to. What’s happening in St. Louis right now is horrible, but people are hurting here. They feel they can’t trust the very government that is supposed to protect them. There’s a strong us-vs.-them mentality between the lower class and the police right now and there is no one to blame but the police.

3. I hope that Darren Wilson goes blind and deaf and lives a long painful life in constant fear for his safety. He hurt our great city deeply and I will never forgive him for what he’s done. ACAB

Photo by: Corey Woodruff
A389 Records
Fister Facebook