Live Review: …AYWKUBTTOD

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, live reviews On: Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

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I was a wee freshman in college when Source Tags & Codes, the third full-length from …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, dropped in the winter of 2002. I’d never heard of the Austinites, so when the music editors at my school paper told me they had a disc by a Swedish death metal band to review, my initial thought was “finally,” only to quickly be replaced by “well played.” I can’t say I liked the record as much as Matt LeMay, but the album–even without having a trace of Stockholm or Gothenburg in its DNA–ended up being the soundtrack to my spring semester. The band has been through a lot over the last 12-plus years, including numerous lineup changes, but they’ve continued to put out enjoyable records. So when they announced that not only would they would be playing a handful of dates before entering the studio to record their ninth studio album, but they’d be performing ST&C in full, I was there.

Trail of Dead v2k14 doesn’t quite have the same aura of unpredictability and danger that they possessed back in the aughts. The last time I saw them–August 2007 at Brooklyn’s now defunct Luna Lounge–they were over two hours late and performed one of the worst sets I’ve ever seen anyone play. Prior to that, you could always count on them to wreck something: instruments, stage curtains, faces. Sure, guitarist/vocalist/drummer Jason Reece and newish bassist Autry Fulbright did their fair share of stage diving and other shenanigans, but there was never a feeling that things had, or were about to, become unhinged. And that’s understandable, as not only are driving forces Conrad Keely and Reece now in their 40s, but they’ve presumably found a personal and musical comfort zone that works for them.

Instead, the quartet–which also includes guitarist/drummer Jamie Miller–treated the packed Bowery Ballroom to an energetic 90-plus minute set on Saturday night that showed not only can they still bring it live (even without a second drummer), but that they’re having fun doing so. I’ll never stop being impressed by watching Reece switch instruments every few songs (now shuttling back and forth with Miller between drums and guitar/vocals) and it probably helped the crowd’s energy that four of the seven non-ST&C songs predated 2002 (two of the remaining three were from 2005′s Worlds Apart). I’m also guessing that someone in the band is a college basketball fan given that things kicked off not less than 60 seconds after the thrilling end of the Wisconsin/Arizona game, with the quartet diving right into the record everyone was presumably there to see them play. Keely didn’t do much talking in between songs until the end (in addition to helping some poor soul for his or her glasses, Fulbright sprinkled in quips here and there), but he had a smile on his face throughout, though not as big as the one worn by the guy in the front corner of the balcony who knew every word to every song. In fact, Keely was so awash in the crowd’s energy that he nearly forgot his first vocal queue on “How Near How Far”. Oddly enough, the loudest receptions of the night were reserved for songs not even on ST&C, “Caterwaul” and “The Rest Will Follow”. Perhaps Worlds Apart–for all of the shit I remember it taking when it came out–was the album people wanted to hear and not the critical darling of the band’s catalog.

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Sure, it can be great to hear a record you love played in full–sharing the experience with others and hearing nuances brought to life in the live setting–but unless you came to that gig with only a passing familiarity, the show isn’t likely to take your love of said album to new heights (especially if, as most of these gigs tend to be, it’s happening a decade-plus after its original release). I may be alone in thinking this, just crotchety or both, but the whole concept has one potentially huge downside: it can diminish connections, emotional or otherwise, that you’ve made with that particular record. Back in 2010, Weezer played all of Pinkerton–one of my favorite records of all time–in its entirety, and given the flood of tears I witnessed (Brandon Stosuy may disagree, but I’m pretty sure this was the start of the #emorevival), it was disconcerting to see just how, um, emotional people were reacting. Fortunately, Trail of Dead left me with no such disconnect, and for that, along with their set, I’m thankful.

Inside The Shredder’s Studio #9: Kevin Hufnagel of Gorguts, Dysrhythmia and Vaura

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

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Kevin Hufnagel is traveling around the country right now blowing minds with Gorguts on the Decibel tour. We thought it was a perfect time to pull him aside and learn about the riffs that shaped his shredding style. Please welcome Kevin Hufnagel to the Inside The Shredder’s Studio.

Here it is: a list of my biggest influences, in mostly chronological order. When I was asked to do this I thought “This will be easy, it’s really only a handful of players.” Once I began reflecting on my beginnings as a player, recalling discovery after discovery, it hit me that the list of guitarists was way more extensive and far-reaching then I initially thought. I could’ve added more to this list, but I believe I will stop at what you see below. Enjoy.

Dokken “Mr. Scary”

As a youngster in the 80′s getting into metal, there was no guitarist who made a bigger first impression than George Lynch. It happened after tuning into MTV one day after school as the video for Dokken’s “In My Dreams” came on. By the time the solo finished, I knew I wanted nothing more than to play guitar. Prior to this, all I cared about was fishing and collecting insects. What always appealed to me about Lynch’s playing was that, unlike many other shredders of the time, his style was neither redundantly neoclassical, or overly bluesy; it was “outside the box” and had a dark melodic sensibility which has remained ingrained within me to this day. This video I dug up is a recent one of him performing a slightly more updated version of his classic Dokken instrumental “Mr. Scary,” showing that the man’s still got it.

Marty Friedman “Dragon Mistress”

I was heavily caught up in the Shrapnel Records/shred guitar thing during the first few years of playing. Eventually, my interest began to wane, as most of it was all starting to sound the same. Marty Friedman always stuck out to me from the hordes of others, thanks in part to his expressive playing, and unique harmonic sense. This kept me tuned in, when others became 128th note wallpaper. His uncanny ability to make even a pentatonic scale sound exotic is a testament to that. Friedman’s one of those guitarists where the moment he bends a note, you know it’s him. I’ve always found that inspiring, and a key to creating your own identity as a guitarist.

Julian Bream “Nocturnal: Passacaglia”

Thank you to my late grandmother for exposing me to the gorgeous playing of Julian Bream; first by giving me his “Guitarra!” VHS collection, then by purchasing me a ticket to see him live in NYC. I’ve returned to his albums a lot in recent years, and the nuance, passion, and dynamics in his performances have made me take a closer look at my own playing … particularly when composing my recent baritone ukulele pieces. I believe one thing that sets him apart from most other classical guitarists is his varied musical background; he played early jazz, as well as Indian music, not to mention lute. His performance of Albeniz’s “Asturias (Leyenda)” was what initially drew me in, but I couldn’t find a performance of that on YouTube. Instead, I’ve chosen his performance of Benjamin Britten’s “Nocturnal: Passacaglia.” To paraphrase composer Richard Rodney Bennett: “Julian’s playing has a sort of poetry, mystery, and darkness that no one else has.”

Fates Warning “Static Acts”

The 80′s-era of Fates Warning is particularly important to me, and albums like ‘Awaken the Guardian’ and ‘Perfect Symmetry’ have never lost their charm. Guitarists Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti are one of the most overlooked guitar teams in metal; I can say both influenced me during my formative years. Aresti’s creative use of intervals, octaves, and expressive bending is something I still draw upon, and Matheos’ mixture of progressive riffing, and chiming, melancholy clean guitar work is, I feel, still an obvious influence on my playing. Much like Rush, they never let their technical skills get in the way of a good song. This song “Static Acts” has one of my favorite Aresti solos, and is a lesson in how to use a wah wah pedal in a tasteful way. Another note; Matheos’ solo album ‘First Impressions’ was the impetus for me to start my early project Grey Division Blue, who only managed to make one demo, back in 1994.

Christopher Ladd “Un Sueno en la Floresta”

I met Chris in ninth grade and we formed a band. He was a few years older than me, and basically the guitar hero of my high school. I was honored he wanted to start a band with me. My technical skills as a guitarist excelled during those years we played together; his playing always pushing mine to the next level. I picked up many tips from him that became a big part of the way I play. These days he is a professional concert classical guitarist and instructor.

Voivod “Pre-Igition”

Denis “Piggy” D’Amour had the most profound impact on me as a player. I remember the first time I heard Voivod; I simply wasn’t ready for it. My ear wasn’t quite attuned to that kind of dissonance. A few years later, teen angst was setting in and Piggy’s dense, clustered, beautifully-gross playing made a lot more sense, and mirrored how I felt inside at that time. My desire to play power chords went out the window.

Morbid Angel “Rapture”

Trey’s eccentric, off-the-rails soloing and odd phrasing was a big influence on the way I approached my solos on ‘Colored Sands.’ Not to mention the dripping evil of those RIFFS.

Michael Hedges “Ariel Boundaries”

Another crucial player for me, obviously influential on my acoustic works, but on my electric playing as well. Hedges was the one who made me decide I should begin creating my own tunings. This is what Dysrhythmia was, and still is, based around for me as a player. His use of ringing, natural harmonics also became a large part of my vocabulary. I was so saddened the day I heard he was killed in a car accident.

Cocteau Twins “Crushed”

By mid-high school I was becoming a bit bored with the shred/guitar-hero scene, as it seemed all those players suddenly decided they had to either start singing, get “bluesy” or go grunge. Grunge never appealed to me, so instead I became way more interested in bands like the Cocteau Twins, who approached guitar in a way that was still orchestral and detailed, but in a mostly textural way. After hearing Robin Guthrie’s masterful use of delays, reverb, chorus, etc., I suddenly realized, “Hey, I guess there is more to guitar tone than just adding distortion.”

Fred Frith “solo concert at MÓZG”

One evening I was in my basement when I randomly came across a strange program on TV called “Step Across the Border”. This ended up being the abstract documentary about avant-garde guitarist Fred Frith, and his circle of musician friends. I saw this when I was definitely ready for something weirder, guitar-wise, than what I had already been exposed to, and Fred Frith was the next level. His fearless exploration, use of prepared guitar techniques, and tendency to let the most alien of sounds breathe, left a monumental impression.

John Mc Laughlin, Al Di Meola, Paco de Lucia “Aspan”

Yes, I get to fit three awesome players into one pick with this one. Their ‘Passion, Grace, Fire’ album was on constant rotation when I had a weekly gig playing classical guitar at a French cafe in high school. It used to get me all fired up to perform. My song “Hunter/Hunted” from my ‘Songs for the Disappeared’ release was inspired by this album (along with the Frith influence of prepared guitar).

My Bloody Valentine “To Here Knows When”

After getting heavily into Cocteau Twins, and the whole atmospheric way of playing, I decided to see what this My Bloody Valentine band was all about, and picked up ‘Loveless’ used at a local pawn shop. When this particular track hit, I nearly shit myself. How could guitar sound this warped and fucked up!? Still an inspiration.

Ralph Towner “Spirit Lake”

I first heard Towner’s music my freshman year at college. It was his ‘Solo Concert’ record (still my favorite of all his albums), and I was immediately drawn in by the majestic sound of what this man could do with a 12-string acoustic guitar. I’ve been incorporating more and more 12-string guitar into my releases (both solo, and with my various bands) as the years go on, to the point where I am now writing the entire next Dysrhythmia record on a 12-string electric. We can thank Ralph for that.

Gorguts “Obscura”

The fact that I actually get to play this song live regularly and am a member of the band still hasn’t completely settled in. I remember reading a review of ‘Obscura’ in a copy of a free metal zine I had picked up off the street. Everything it said it hated about the record sounded like something I would love. Still nothing could prepare me for what I heard when I first pressed play. This record was so overwhelming to me, I used to have to listen to it in halves, in separate sessions. In summary; an enormous inspiration to push my playing, and riffing, into stranger territories. R.I.P. Big Steeve.

Sonny Sharrock “Who Does She Hope to Be”

I went to school for jazz guitar, the irony in that being it made me realize I didn’t care for many (traditional) jazz guitarists. Sonny was anything but traditional though. One of the most emotional players in the world of jazz; his raw, biting, soaring tone and knack for moving melodic themes, completely drew me in. ‘Ask the Ages’ still stands as one of my all-time favorite albums of any genre.

Fennesz “Rivers of Sand”

I remember Dysrhythmia was getting set up to play an in-store at 33 Degrees Records in Austin, TX sometime in 2004 I think, when Fennesz’s ‘Venice’ record started playing over the speakers. I had no idea it was a guitar making those sounds at first, but I liked it. When I found out guitar was the main sound source, I became even more enamored. This album became one of main inspirations to give home recording my own experimental/ambient guitar music a shot, those being the ‘Transparencies’ album, and later the ‘Polar Night’ digital EP.

Ocrilim “Annwyn Part 10″

I’ve always thought of Mick Barr’s extremely vivid guitar playing as a form of alien language, or music being channeled from a distant planet, or perhaps from the year 3000. His idiosyncratic approach to composition and trademark techniques make him instantly recognizable within seconds. I’ve known Mick for years now and it’s been a constant inspiration to observe his restless, creative drive and prolific nature (I could say the same for my bandmate Colin Marston). Mick’s work under the Ocrilim moniker might be my personal favorite, in particular his “Annwyn” series.

Blut Aus Nord “MoRT Chapter II”

Vindsval of BAN has become a more recent favorite. In particular, his expertise at balancing consonance and dissonance. However, it was his extremely dissonant work on their ‘MoRT’, and ‘The Work Which Transforms God’ albums that impacted me the most when I first heard them; taking that delirious My Bloody Valentine-esque tremolo bar chord/note bending style to its darkest and most nauseating extreme. I believe he might be using a fretless guitar on these records as well? Nonetheless, this inspired me to use some fretless (subtly) on Dysrhythmia’s ‘Test of Submission’ record, as well as during the verses of “Le Toit du Monde” from the latest Gorguts album.

The Chameleons “Intrigue in Tangiers”

Here’s a band that should’ve been massive, but weren’t. Guitarists Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding sculpted gorgeous, shimmering (often independent) melody lines and textures, which weaved in and out of each other in perfect harmony, atop some of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard. For period of about 2 years, there was nothing else I listened to but The Chameleons. Reg and Dave’s playing, and way of orchestrating parts, is a big influence on the way I write for my band Vaura.

Read previous installments of Inside The Shredder’s Studio:

#1: Elizabeth Schall of Dreaming Dead
#2: Mike Hill of Tombs
#3: Jon Levasseur of Cryptopsy
#4: Alex Bouks of Incantation

#5: Kurt Ballou of Converge
#6: Mark Thomas Baker of Orchid
#7: Andre Foisy of Locrian
#8: Eric Daniels of GSBC and Asphyx

KILLING IS MY BUSINESS: Pig Destroyer’s Scott Hull Talks Corporate Branding

By: Etan Rosenbloom Posted in: featured, killing is my business On: Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

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Back when I started getting into punk and metal, I was naïve enough to believe that ideals were enough to keep someone making music that barely sold and appealed to almost nobody. Of course, my parents were paying my way through middle and high school in those days. How could I have understood that the folks that made the music I worshipped had to hold down shitty jobs and risk ruining relationships to keep making their art? Because it sure as hell wasn’t making them enough to live off of.

These days, extreme music practitioners are less likely than ever to make money through traditional means like record sales and publishing deals. And that puts the idea of “selling out” into a new context. Many of our most hallowed metal and grind bands are shacking up with huge corporate sponsors that shell out tons of money to put on free concerts, release new music, support tours and generally prop up the scene. Folks like Scion and Red Bull are behaving like patrons of the arts, not just car manufacturers or energy drink peddlers. And while this all sounds pretty icky in concept, it’s one of the few business models that is actually making extreme acts money these days.

As part of my Killing Is My Business column on corporate branding in Decibel issue 115, I spoke with Pig Destroyer & Agoraphobic Nosebleed mastermind Scott Hull about his own experience with taking money from The Man. Here’s what he had to say.

Pig Destroyer did that “Red Bull Sound Select” show at St. Vitus in January, some Scion gigs, and participated in the Adult Swim singles series. Do you have any other experience working with sponsors or major corporate brands?

The gig we did a few years ago at the Masonic Temple in Brooklyn (with Repulsion and Brutal Truth) had a couple of sponsors. I know Ardbeg Scotch was one, because there was a big inflatable Ardbeg bottle on the floor and we drank enough of it to not like scotch anymore. Other than that, I can’t think of any.

What kind of financial incentive is there for a band like Pig Destroyer getting a sponsor? Have they made gigs more lucrative, records easier to make, etc?

The gigs that we did for Scion back in 2009-2010 (I think) really helped us with building the new studio/practice place. Without those gigs and the money from them, the studio would probably have not been built properly or in a reasonable time. The Adult Swim thing, where it was more of a license deal, helped offset the recoupable expenses we have as a band such as borrowing money for plane tickets, merch, etc.  

When you get involved with a large brand like that, do they usually reach out directly to you to be involved? Or is it mediated by someone else?

It’s usually a single person that’s in the company’s marketing or promotional department, or someone that’s working independently with them. 

Do you have to care about the brand to agree to participate?

Not particularly, but I couldn’t imagine us playing a gig sponsored by the makers of Tofurkey. Red Bull makes sense because we drink the shit out of it. Adult Swim makes sense because we watch so many of their shows.

Have you been approached by any brands that you’ve refused to work with?

We have not. It doesn’t happen often anyway, but the few times it has they’ve all been cool, low stress, and they don’t really ask for much of anything in return.

In your experience, what does the brand require you to do in exchange for the sponsorship?

Usually an interview of some kind. It’s really just for content that would ostensibly draw people to their website. Obviously the grindcore EPs that have been done for Scion had the Scion logos on them, so I think they were viewed on the company side as a marketing device. From the band’s perspective, the Scion logo probably doesn’t feel much different than having a record label logo on it. They are both brands with a logo slapped on the CD.

When you were falling in love with extreme music, how did you feel when you saw a musician peddling someone’s product for cash or some company’s logo slapped on a show poster?

I don’t know. I didn’t think seeing Eddie Van Halen on a Kramer Guitars ad in Guitar Player was all that weird when I was a kid. But maybe if he was on a Cheerios commercial I might think twice about it. In principle, they are pretty much the same thing, right? Can I cherry pick what I object to without being a dickhead? 

Do you ever feel ethical compunctions about accepting a corporation’s money to get your art out there?

No. Not really. Many record labels are corporations anyway. I mean, sometimes the labels are 1-2 man operations, but I think even in those cases they are LLCs, which are corporations by definition. A case could be made that there’s a difference. I would say that case is mostly flimsy, but understandable.

The record business is in a shambles and consumers are used to getting everything for free. Can you envision a future where the only bands that are making enough to survive are supported by deep-pocketed corporations? Are you frightened of such a future?

I can see that, yes. I remember thinking a long time ago before Eraserhead was made available on DVD and hearing that its upcoming self-released version was going to cost upwards of $50 (and people were complaining about this) that if I were to see David Lynch on the street I’d gladly hand him $100 just for giving me so much great film to chew on all these years. I had no problem with that price tag.

I still believe people want to see their favorite musicians produce music and I still believe that they will gladly assign a value to that art. But the much larger piece of the purchasing pie, the more casual listener, will just download a copy and be content with the inferior product.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently “right” or “wrong” about this. It’s just the reality of the biz these days.

Sucker For Punishment: All I Hear is ‘Burn!’

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

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Remember when rock stars could act like total dicks and no one would even bat an eye? Imagine the lawsuits, the social media backlash if someone famous whipped a smashed guitar 30 feet into a festival crowd. Today’s rockers are pussycats compared to Ritchie Blackmore circa 1974. If you don’t know the story of Deep Purple’s California Jam concert, which happened 40 years ago this month, you should. With a completely revamped lineup featuring David Coverdale and bassist Glenn Hughes as dual lead vocalists, Deep Purple had a lot to prove. The new album Burn was their best since the classic Machine Head, and their sunset show at the California Jam, after Black Sabbath and before Emerson Lake & Palmer was in front of more than 200,000 people, featuring the largest sound system ever assembled.

Despite the fest running ahead of schedule, the band deliberately delayed their appearance by an hour (“It was a matter of principle,” Blackmore would tell Cameron Crowe a year later) and the combination of the hype, the anticipation of the crowd, the amplification, and the tension created by the TV cameras hovering too close for Ritchie Blackmore’s liking yielded an absolutely ferocious performance. Highlighted by a sensational performance of “Mistreated”, it all came to a head at the end during “Space Truckin’”, with Blackmore having one of the biggest meltdowns in rock history, smashing several guitars, destroying a TV camera, and blowing up an amp (the latter was staged but no less spectacular). It was an incendiary performance, in more ways than just an exploding Marshall. Anyway, nine years after coming out on DVD, Live in California 74 (Eagle Rock) has been released on CD and digital audio for the first time, and it remains an incredible snapshot of this legendary band at its most confrontational. It’s essential listening for any metal fan.

Also out this week:

Austrian Death Machine, Triple Brutal (Artery): I’m all for separating the art from the artist, as long as those who do it do so with awareness. So be aware that the guy behind this lame, one-joke band is a jerk who tried to hire a guy to kill his wife.

Cauldron Black Ram, Stalagmire (20 Buck Spin): The Australian band has returned with another collection of robust, nautical themed songs that, once again, neatly combine elements of metals death, doom, and black. It’s simple yet great fun, immersing itself in gimmick, but unlike the Alestorms of the metal world, keeps a straight face while doing so. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp. 

Cemetery Fog, Shadows From The Cemetery (Iron Bonehead): As a rule, whenever Iron Bonehead puts something new out, drop everything and listen. The German label has an impeccable ear for death metal, and they’ve discovered a good one in Finland’s Cemetery Fog, whose latest cassette release is 23 minutes of doom-tinged ugliness that hearkens back to a time when death metal showed a little restraint now and then. The songs breathe, shift in mood, and the result is a tremendously atmospheric yet still throttling piece of work.

Circle, Leviatan (Ektro): The bazillionth album by the Finnish progressive geniuses is a subtle one, working with largely acoustic instruments and creating a hypnotic yet very strange and unsettling collection of songs, made even more enigmatic thanks to the Finnish lyrics.

Lacuna Coil, Broken Crown Halo (Century Media): The Italian stars have toned down on the obvious attempts at active rock crossover, instead bringing back more of the gothic elements that made them so appealing a decade ago. Despite the strength of a couple excellent tracks (“Hostage To The Light”, “Cybersleep”) it’s all for naught, as the band continues to be oblivious to the fact that Andrea Ferro is a terrible, terrible singer. Yes, the male-female dynamic is a tactic that can work, but when it involves a talented, charismatic singer like Cristina Scabbia and the tone-deaf blurting of Ferro time and time again, it becomes a terrible distraction. You’re spinning your wheels, Lacuna Coil. For the umpteenth time, drop the dead weight and let the lady sing.

Lost Society, Terror Hungry (Nuclear Blast): Lost Society seem bent on becoming Finland’s answer to Municipal Waste, but how could anyone view that with any cynicism when these kids play ‘80s crossover thrash with such verve? High energy, catchy, and with a good amount of humor without overdoing it, this album’s a good encapsulation of everything that’s appealing about thrash, a strong improvement over last year’s raucous Fast Loud Death.

Magnum, Escape From The Shadow Garden (SPV): The Birmingham, England veterans’ 17th album will please longtime fans with its straightforward, goofy, yet undeniably pleasing prog-tinged hard rock tunes. Hooks are always of paramount importance with these guys, and no matter how overwrought Bob Catley’s singing gets, the songs always maintain an even keel thanks to tasteful and catchy melodies.

Mansion, The Mansion Congregation Hymns Vol. 1 (Streaks): The Finnish Kartanoist weirdos are a band to watch, and their new single is a fascinating departure from the overt doom sounds of last year’s outstanding We Shall Live EP. From the swinging heavy rock ‘n’ roll of “Wild Child” to the brooding, Coven-derived “New Dawn”, not to mention the free-form saxophone solos, this is welcome new music before the forthcoming full-length debut, which is presently being recorded and will apparently continue more in the doom direction of the EP. Order it here.

Monolord, Empress Rising (EasyRider): California label EasyRider is set to have a very big year. Hell, they already got off to a headstart in late 2013 with Shooting Guns’ incredible Brotherhood of the Ram, and now they’ve put out the debut album by Swedish doom trio Monolord. It’s straight-ahead epic doom of the Weedian variety: lugubrious, yes, but wickedly catchy and swinging as mightily as Udo Dirkschneider on a wrecking ball. Chris Dick premiered it on Monday, and I highly (well not that kind of highly) suggest you give it a listen.

Nux Vomica, Nux Vomica (Relapse): Much will probably be made of the sheer ferocity of the Portland-by-way-of-Baltimore band’s blend of crust, black metal, doom, and d-beat punk, but as intense as all that is, it’s the surprising melodies that have the strongest effect, which carry the three lengthy tracks that comprise this blindsidingly good second full-length. The command this band displays when it comes to melody, and how it never comes at the expense of the intensity of the instrumental arrangements, is remarkable. Crust punk that employs actual dynamics. Imagine that.

Pilgrim, II: Void Worship (Metal Blade): The second album by the Rhode Island band is a mildly enjoyable, sometimes frustrating exercise in obvious doom aesthetics that tests listeners’ patience by burying the singing deep in the mix. As strong as a track like “Void Worship” is, however, this is lousy timing, arriving in a year when it’s bound to be overshadowed by a highly anticipated new Pallbearer record.

Pyrrhon, The Mother Of Virtues (Relapse): Just when you think you have Pyrhhon’s Relapse debut sussed – okay, they play technical death metal – the Brooklyn band swiftly pulls the rug right out from under you. It’s always admirable for a band to make up its own rules, but to do so and keep the music engaging is an extremely tall order for new bands, and this record manages that with surprising ease. Like Gorguts, Origin, and even Voivod – the highest possible praise I can give – there’s an alien quality to the atonal riffs and abandonment of conventional song structure, the songs keeping you on the edge of your seat as you grasp whatever’s flying past you: a weirdly catchy noise riff, a skronky rhythm section groove, a jazzy bass solo, thoughtful lyrics. By no means do these songs feel arbitrary either; instead there’s a true sense of dynamics, especially on longer tracks like “White Flag”, “Eternity in a Breath”, and “The Mother of Virtues”. By daring to be a little different, it turns out to be revelatory. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Sabbath Assembly, Quaternity (Svart): Dave Nuss and Jamie Myers are back with another album devoted to the fascinating theology of the Process Church of the Final Judgment – in which Christ, Lucifer, Satan, and Jehovah are worshipped equally – only now, new original compositions have been included. Featuring a stalwart supporting cast including Kevin Hufnagel and Colin Marston of Gorguts and Dysrhythmia, Daron Beck (Pinkish Black), and Mat McNerney (Hexvessel, Beastmilk), it’s a very smooth transition, with “I, Satan” and the epic “The Four Horsemen” seeing Sabbath Assembly metamorphosing into a legitimate band.

Satan’s Satyrs, “Black Souls” (Trash King): The lovable trio has churned out a fabulous new single, and if you know these guys at all, you can expect more of the same fuzzed-out psychedelic garage rock ‘n’ roll that they’ve always excelled at. Purchase it digitally and on vinyl here.

Sonata Arctica, Pariah’s Child (Nuclear Blast): For those who treat Sonata Arctica’s music with a measure of respect instead of scorn – and if you know me, I’m among them – they’ll be well aware that for all the Finnish band’s strengths, singer-songwriter Tony Kakko has a bad habit of falling victim to flights of self-indulgence. Sonata Arctica’s blend of speed metal, symphonic metal, and power metal was an early formula that proved to be wildly popular, but typical of an ambitious artist who hates putting out the same stuff time and again, Kakko’s restless nature has led the band into strange directions that, he readily admits now, would have been better suited to solo projects instead. So despite soaring popularity over the least decade, their albums have veered crazily from great (Reckoning Night) to mediocre (Unia) to good (The Days of Grays) to awful (Stones Grow Her Name).

Predictably, Sonata Arctica is on the upswing again, but this time with a little twist. A series of anniversary shows in Finland saw the band performing a lot of older material for the first time in ages, and after years of trying to distance himself from that past, Kakko found himself enamored once again with those songs, and he strove to bring more of that classic element back into the band’s music. That’s all his fans have ever wanted from the guy, and as a result he and his mates have come through with their best album in ten years. “The Wolves Die Young”, “Running Lights”, “Cloud Factory”, and “Half a Marathon Man” have an air of familiarity that fans will immediately embrace yet feel very much in keeping with the more nuanced style of Kakko’s stronger recent work. Of course, there are plenty of progressive flights of fancy, but “Take One Breath”, “X Marks the Spot”, and “Larger Than Life” feel vibrant and fun rather than tedious. Even the shameless power ballad “Love” is admirable in its shamelessness. Who knows whether or not Kakko can continue to rein in his songwriting on the next record, but for now all is well for Sonata Arctica, having treated its audience to a gem of a record.

Steel Panther, All You Can Eat (Open E): The novelty’s really starting to wear thin on this joke band’s latest album, with nowhere near the blend of big ‘80s hooks and crude humor that they’ve pulled off in the past. However, the slow-burning “Bukkake Tears” is hilarious, and is even funnier when you hear the sly musical references to Night Ranger, Giuffria, and especially Whitesnake’s “Is This Love”.

Taurus, No/Thing (self-released): Musicians Stevie Floyd and Ashley Spungin have teamed up with producer Billy Anderson to create a towering and harrowing exercise in doomy drone. It’s abstract, surprisingly multifaceted – the Middle Eastern influences on “Set Forth on the Path of the Infinite” is fascinating – and guaranteed to leave you rattled. Purchase via Bandcamp.

Various Artists, House of Burners (Pre-Rock): Whether stoner, doom, shoegaze, or space, Canadian psychedelic rock is flourishing right now, bands right across the huge country exploring the more hallucinatory side of guitar-based music. Sensing there’s a strong underground movement afoot, the guys in Shooting Guns – students of the genre as well as talented musicians – have put together a tremendous compilation featuring 16 bands. There’s excellent variety, from the hazy sounds of Powder Blue, to the garage rock of Public Animal and The Back A.D., to the sheer power of Bison and Lavagoat. The formidable Hawkeyes, space noodlers Krang, boogie-meisters Chron Goblin, experimenters Mahogany Frog, and a great new stoner motorik track by Shooting Guns help round out a rich-sounding collection. Anyone heading to Roadburn in the next week has to get their hands on this album. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Various Artists, Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life (Rhino): Not surprisingly, this star-studded tribute to the greatest metal singer of all time is a mixed bag. After all, that’ll happen when there aren’t many who can match the vocal power of the late Ronald James Padavona. But for every clunker served up by Halestorm, Tenacious D, and Killswitch Engage, you get gems like Doro’s reverent cover of “Egypt (The Chains Are On)”, Corey Taylor’s surprisingly strong reading of “Rainbow in the Dark”, and Metallica’s scorching medley of tracks from Rainbow’s classic Rising. Proceeds from the album go towards Dio’s cancer charity, so while only half the album delivers it’s hard to fault the project’s intent, which is worth supporting.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

BREAKING: Decibel Tour Venue Change, Toronto

By: andrew Posted in: breaking newz, featured, the decibel magazine tour On: Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

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Attention, Canadians — and/or anybody crossing the border to catch the 2014 Decibel Magazine Tour in Toronto next Tuesday, April 8: We’ve got a venue change. The show will now be going down at the Opera House. The ticket link is still the same, so buy ‘em while you can right here. Got it? Okay, proceed with regular lives.

STREAMING: Satyress’s “Dark Fortunes”

By: Jeff Treppel Posted in: exclusive, featured, listen On: Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

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Satyrs are super horny (literally!) goat people. Satyress is the female version of that. Do not do a Google image search of the term unless you want to feel dirty. But if you want some awesome occult doom with an intense vocalist, Satyress the band are your thing. Their debut, Dark Fortunes, contains so many sweet riffs that it’ll rot your teeth. Dark, heavy, a little progressive, and catchy as the place their Lord lives, it’s a standout in what has become – let’s face it – a pretty crowded genre. And no, this isn’t an April Fools joke – we have the ENTIRE ALBUM streaming below.

***Dark Fortunes comes out on April 8. You can preorder the LP and digital download here.

Decibel Exclusive: First New Meatmen Track in 19 Years!

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: exclusive, featured, interviews, listen On: Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

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This is not an April Fool’s joke, except on the politically correct thought police: We have the first new Meatmen track in two decades! When I was a kid I sat in my room and cranked The Meatmen at ridiculous volumes and memorized Tesco Vee’s banter on the classic Meatmen platters. So to say this particular member of the Decibel family is stoked would be a major understatement.

Decibel sat down with the legendary Dutch Hercules last fall for a career-spanning interview. We got the scoop on the new album and planted the seed then: might your extremely extreme magazine host a premiere from the band that was extreme when most other punk and hardcore bands just towed the line? Tesco was game. Thus, we have the first track off of what Uncle Tesco calls “the first new album of Meaty originals since Slick Willie was stickin’ his RG Dunn into Monica Lewinsky’s gaping cavernous vulvatorium.”

Stream “Dinosaur” below and preorder Savage Sagas here. Then check out a Q&A with an American original on new Millenium meat. They’re the Meatmen — and everyone else still sucks.

Can you believe a new Meatmen track is coming out in 2014?

In the grand groovy scheme of things NO! In reality man, fuck yes! I just had to poop out a new platter for the legions of loyal Meatheads who have been patiently waiting … as well as a Jizm Cream Pie facial in the grilles of all the musical shit for taste weenbags out there, who need to hear a real wollop of old school Hate Rock Wack…whether they know it or not.

Tell us a little bit about the track we’re previewing today.

“Dinosaur” was conceived and practiced with the 1996 line up and has been bouncing around in my cranium like a rabid parakeet for all those years until now. It’s autobiographical in nature and full of male-oriented-aggressive rock bravado, and self aggrandizing sarcasm…and as much piss n vinegar as any Meat track should possess. I am from the Mesozoic era of punk rock after all and I’m still slingin the meat after 35 fucking years. The song says it best: “Still the King Of The Crass…Still up here teachin’ the class…30 years of loogie slingin’..if ya still don’t dig my singin’ FACEPLANT! And ANALINGUS MY ASS!”

How would you stack up the lineup of the Meatmen today versus the classic lineups?

Man that’s hard cause I’m so close to it…but fuck me with a rutabaga if this lineup isn’t tighter than Honey Boo Boo’s winkin’ pink brownie cave. I will pit it against any other assemblage of meaty bretheren ever! Quote me on that GI bleed breath!

Is this track representative of what’s on the rest of the record?

Every track is different…20 different slabs from 20 different directions…with nods to every decade of Meat…from the minute long ball peen to the melon 1979 style rippers…to the cock knockin 80’s Juggernaut of full on rock…Christ, we even have a song that should have been on the newest Sabbath record –”Wizards Of The Oblivion.” Lots of tunes about weed…because weed is awesome.

Who did the cover art? How did you decide on the approach?

Craig Horky from Lansing always loved EC Comics. We thought it would be a nice way to action pack your poop chute with an eye popping full color gatefold that represents what we are about…primarly fucking shit up like a bunch of amped up 20 year olds. We wanna satisfy the long suffering throngs of Meatfans who crave new originals.

What can we expect from the Meatmen for the rest of the year?

Lots of shows…Punk Rock Bowling..Two week West Coast Tour in late May and early June ..Shows with Antiseen, Black Fag, Gang Green… go to tescovee.com for all the dates.

Will your shows now include gaping?

Wide open man ass? You bet your sweet blossoms dickfuckers! Come see a real band. Get off your YouTube addicted wheelchair butts and come to a show!

Skinfather Wants You (To “Drown in Black”)

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, listen On: Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

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Maybe it isn’t a complete surprise that a rising death metal band would adopt a circa-1993 song title from Swedish extreme music legends (and Decibel Hall of Famers) Dismember as its moniker. How well Southern California’s Skinfather captures the spirit and unadulterated sonic brutality of that glorious moment in time, on the other hand, is no doubt about to turn more than a few heads.

The band’s debut LP None Will Mourn doesn’t drop until April 22 — on Todd Jones of Nails’ DIY label Streetcleaner Records, no less — but this morning we’ve got an exclusive sneak peek stream of one stellar track, “Drown in Black.” Also, you can get a free immediate download of the LP with pre-order.

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Tour dates after the jump…

INTERVIEW: Mike Abominator from Gravehill is going to crawl out the speaker and choke you to death

By: jonathan.horsley Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, March 31st, 2014

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Gravehill rule for a whole bunch of reasons. The Californian alpha-headbangers just have this anything goes attitude to playing gory ol’ school death metal and would just as soon mix in a little hardcore punk and crust feel as they are to bring it down slow and low and meditate upon a doom riff for a little minute before getting back to the blast and pummel. And they play songs, actual songs. But maybe the most persuasive aspect of their whole approach is their frontman, the incomparable Mr Mike Abominator.

Some vocalists just pass you buy, their performances sinking into the mix, lurking around with the percussion. Mike Abominator is front and center. He is the ice titan on Gravehill’s unholy cake. Sure, maybe live you could say he is in your face; YouTube footage would suggest that is the case. But when you experience him through headphones on the morning commute, he’s in your head, and that’s probably more disquieting, more intimidating. Intimidating is just a part of it, though, Abominator is more of a rabble-rouser, a fallen evangelist for extreme metal. If underground metal required a recruiting sergeant it could do worse than him.

A couple of weeks ago we premiered this awesome track from Death Curse. You can order that nasty piece o’ work here

It’s time you got to know Mike Abominator a little better, but be warned; this is the man who considers performance to be a form of intimidation . . .

Let’s go back, way back: what was your first musical memory?
“My family was always really into rock ’n’ roll music so there were always records playing, constantly, at the house. I distinctly remember the song “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath, playing it over and over again, and that album being played all the time. And, of course, Paranoid. Sabbath was always playing, and I was always really intrigued by it. My brother told me that I gravitated towards the heavy metal records, some of the heavier stuff. My dad used to laugh; he tried to put on Deep Purple and stuff, and that was cool, but I always seemed to calm down when Black Sabbath or Judas Priest, or KISS were playing. Those were my first three loves, I guess. KISS Destroyer, I was just intrigued by the makeup and the whole thing with them. Then Judas Priest, when “The Ripper” would come on it was like I’d stop being a pain in the ass and start behaving myself a little bit better and calming down. I guess that was my early memories; to get me back in line, they just put on one of those records and I would calm down.”

It’s MLB Opening Day and Your Team Doesn’t Suck (Yet)!

By: adem Posted in: baseball rules fuck soccer, featured, interviews, videos On: Monday, March 31st, 2014

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Why does every baseball fan everywhere look forward to opening day of Major League Baseball more than any other day of the season? For some it’s the only day their team isn’t in the cellar (Houston) or languishing in mediocrity (Chicago Cubs) or headed toward another 100-loss season (Seattle). For others it’s the possibility of a championship at the end of the six-month odyssey that is the MLB season or, hell, just a shot at an improbable playoff run. This is the day when things are possible. Tomorrow may look a little different, but today the glass is still half full.

So, with all the optimism we can muster (as a Mariners fan), we’re celebrating MLB Opening Day with a video of Bruce Lamont of Yakuza fame interviewing Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko about— what else—the metal he likes to listen to while preparing for a game. And for more quality metal and MLB, Decibel‘s annual MLB Preview is in the new issue (with Triptykon’s Tom G. Warrior on the over) which is now available for ordering here and on your tablet/smart phone.

B+K FINAL INTERVIEW from Justin Baron on Vimeo.