Album Stream: I Döden by Swedish Atmospheric Black Metallers Skogen

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Friday, March 28th, 2014

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A little over a week from now, Skogen will release their fourth album in five years, called I Döden, meaning In Death.  The three Swedes have compiled an hour of farsighted, contemplative black metal – not quite folk, even though quiet acoustic passages exist; often raucous but with the sharpest edges all filed away by performance and productions choices, all to enhance the mood.  Due to hit shelves both actual and virtual on April 7th via Nordvis ProduktionI Döden can be heard in full right now at the Deciblog.  Start your zoned-out Friday with a first listen (or two, or twelve) of Skogen’s new album and read multi-instrumentalist Joakim Svensson’s thoughts on the band’s most recent work.

How and when did Skogen form?  How did the band’s sound come together?

Me and Mathias had a discussion and realized we had the same musical vision, so we joined forces in 2009, and immediately started making songs that eventuelly ended up on our first album “Vittra”. Linus joined as a permanent drummer in 2010. We have slightly different approaches in song writing, but complement each other to a perfect balance. Our goal was, and still is, to make atmospheric music, and we always write from the heart.

In Skogen’s five years, you have released four albums.  Most bands take much longer between releases.  Do you feel like you write Skogen music continuously, or have you taken breaks between albums?

We write continuously, and always have new ideas. Mathias writes lots of music all the time, a bit more than the rest of the band, and we already have tons of material for a new album. It’s not finished, but lots of ideas and songs are made.  We have taken a small break from rehearsals right now, due to newly born babies and moving to new cities. We’ll start writing new stuff pretty soon though.

Did you work with any new musical or lyrical ideas when writing I Döden?

Musically, we write what feels right. What comes from the heart. We never sit down and try to sound like different bands. But if I look at it from an outside perspective, I Döden sounds a bit more like our first two albums, than [2012’s] Eld. Less aggressive and more atmospheric. Lyrically it’s similar to where we left off at Eld. Exploring the entity and essence of death, in different shapes.

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What was the recording process like for I Döden?  Different from or similar to your other experiences?

It was quite similar to the other albums. We recorded the drums at a studio, a new one for each album so far, and then we recorded bass, guitars and vocals at Mathias’ studio.  It has everything we need, and time is not an issue. And of course the expense is at a minimum. When we record, we are quite fast, but we spend a lot of time finding a suitable and good guitar sound, drum sound and so on. No plugs, triggers, pods, pads, and what not. Real amps and heads. That is very important to our sound. It has to sound natural.

The cover art for the new album is pretty incredible.  Where did it come from?

Samos from Folkingrimm Arts did it. He also drew all the artwork for Eld. We chose him because of his tremendous skills and understanding of what we’re aiming for. We gave him the title and some ideas and inspirations we had, and he drew an amazing piece of art, that fits perfectly with the music.

Do you have any favorite songs or moments on the new album?

I can only speak for me now, I’m proud of the album as a whole. But if I have to choose a few favourite passages, I’d say the Burzum-sounding passage in “Svartskogen”, the vocals in “Sleep”, which were kind of a gamble, but turned out good with gloom and doom, and the ’70′s Genesis-inspired harmony in “Solarvore”. But as I mentioned, I like the album as a whole. We always release albums that are supposed to be played as a whole, without interruptions. The track order is carefully chosen.

Members of Skogen have worked together in other bands as well.  How does working in Skogen differ from those other musical entities? 

We have more of the same vision in Skogen. We share the same musical goal. That might be the difference. In past bands we never really started together with the same idea, we more of bumped into each other at the pub and asked each other to join as a guitarist, drummer or such. Skogen have had the same vision from the beginning, without any line-up changes. And that is our strength. It wouldn’t work with replacements.

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For more Skogen and other Nordvis releases, check out this Facebook page and the online store where you can snatch up I Döden.

Into Mosh Pit: Nervosa Interviewed

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, interviews, videos On: Thursday, March 27th, 2014

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Sao Paulo, Brazil thrash brigade, Nervosa had their debut album, Victim of Yourself hit the streets very recently, although the buzz in the patch-jacketed ‘n’ bullet-belted underground has been swirling around this trio for a couple years. Being a trio of staunch and avowed all-tits-no-dicks thrash heads hailing from a faraway, sun-kissed land will always be a selling point to people who spend most of their time debating who sold out when and consider Austin, TX a mysterious and exotic locale. But when that trio can blast out with traditionally spiced, raw thrash inspired by the hallowed Teutonic “Big Three” and mid-80s Huntington Beach, well, that should turn more than a few heads as well. With the help of the internet and some form of translation program, we caught up with bassist/vocalist, Fernanda Lira and guitarist Prika Amaral via email for an all-things-Nervosa primer.

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Could you give us a bit of personal history about how you came to be thrash/metal fans and some band history explaining how Nervosa came to be?
Fernanda: Well, I’ve always been into metal, since I was a kid, but I started with the ‘lighter’ stuff like Iron Maiden, Kiss, Black Sabbath. My first memory on loving thrash metal was when I started listening to early Metallica and Megadeth! It was completely different from all I had listened to before, and the first thing that drew my attention to thrash metal, was the energy the genre carries. Still nowadays I can’t describe what I feel when I listen to the traditional thrash metal beat; it’s something that really touches me inside, it’s a mix of aggressiveness with energy, it makes you feel alive inside. Right after I got into these bands, I moved on to Slayer and got crazy with old school American and German thrash! Actually Prika started the band; I came a little later! I had been just kicked out of my previous band because they said I was ‘too thrash’ for them [laughs]! Then, after some time being away from playing metal, I decided to get back to pursuing my dream of having a band. I started looking for girls to gather up in an all-female thrash metal band. It was really, really hard to find available and committed girls, especially [who wanted] to play extreme metal. Nowadays, there are plenty of girls playing metal around, but three years ago, it was a little bit different. So when I was just about to quit my quest, Prika got in touch with me saying she had a thrash metal project and it perfectly fit with what I wanted to do! After some chats, we saw we had the same ideals and goals and also we got along really well – which is pretty important. We decided to start making Nervosa an active band, so we did!
Prika: I was born listening to rock. My mother listened to bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Yes, etc. So, to listen to rock always was natural. I don’t remember the first metal band I heard; I think it was either Slayer, Sepultura or Metallica. I played in a death metal band in 2010 and we needed a drummer. A friend showed me a female drummer and we began the idea for an all-female band. I searched for one year for female bassists and vocalists. [There were] many girls, but nobody was ideal. In July of 2011, I found Fernanda as a bassist. She is perfect for us because she had the same ideas. She suggested [trying out on] vocals, and when I listened I liked very much! The band had four songs before Fernanda. After she joined the band, the first show happened, we recorded our first demo, and the band began to [move].

When you were faced with having to replace members over the years, how determined were you to keeping Nervosa an all-female line-up? Did you ever entertain the idea of having a dude play with you? How difficult is it to find female thrash musicians in your part of Brazil?
Fernanda: I have always been determined to only play with girls! And when we had to face line-up changes, even with all difficulties, I never gave up on finding girls to play with us and the result is this all female line-up we have nowadays. After our first drummer left the band, I felt bad for a while, but then I started looking for other ones right away. We found many, but not all of them played extreme metal, and some of them couldn’t compromise with a band professionally the way we needed. So, the quest was REALLY hard! But I was always looking for girls; contacting them, talking to them, some even from other countries. I have no idea how we would handle a girl from abroad in the band, but I contacted them anyway. You can see my determination [laughs]! Before I remembered about and contacted Pitchu Ferraz, who’s with us nowadays, Prika suggested having a man behind the drums, but I told her I would only accept that if ALL the options were REALLY discarded. Fortunately, they were not. We knew Pitchu, but she was never in a thrash metal band before, so we didn’t know if she would fit in. But I told Prika that she had the guts and energy to play thrash and also she seemed to be a very [hard-working] person. Even if she didn’t know how to play it, she would learn how. To our surprise, when she started playing our songs, she did it perfectly, exactly the way we wanted and a lot better than we were expecting! She’s the one who kept us moving ahead as an all-female thrash metal band and she’s my precious. She’s a very hard-working girl and deserves everything that comes our way. That would be a gift from the universe for the awesome soul and professional musician she is!
Prika: I’ve always played with men and when I began Nervosa it was very difficult to meet professional girls. It is easy meet girls that play well, but it is very hard to meet girls that would abandon all to be on the road. Here in Brazil. I think that it is easy to meet a female musician because here there are female bands and in the Brazilian scene. Women are very present, [but finding] girls as engaged as men are is very, very hard and meeting girls that are easy to hang out with is even harder. Nervosa was my project, so I didn’t [feel I had to rush] and I never gave up.

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What were you looking to achieve with your first full-length? In what ways was the recording of the album different than your previous EP?
Fernanda: This time we knew the album would be much more mature because we have naturally evolved as musicians and as people. Besides that, we knew it would be a lot more [about] what Nervosa represents today and will represent from now on. When I joined the band, some songs were already written and I just gave some adjustments to them and worked on lyrics and vocal melodies. This time, all the songs have ideas from both me and Prika and the albums lyrics’ are perfectly shared by me and her. So this album is the perfect mix of mine and Prika’s ideas, who are the main composers in the band.
Prika: It was natural. The demo/EP was composed in majority by me because Fernanda joined the band after those four songs were already done. Therefore, this album is different because there’s more of everyone’s opinion and this makes the music grow. Each opinion adds to it for the better. Recording the album was special because this is Nervosa’s first full album; we were very careful with each detail and it was very special for me because I recorded the whole album [while suffering] with tendinitis and my arm in a plaster cast. I was in a lot of pain, but the final result was worth it.

How do you feel the songs and sound of Victim of Yourself turned out compared to what you envisioned in your mind going into the recording?
Fernanda: When we headed into the recording sessions, we knew exactly what we wanted to do, so everything came out pretty similar to what we had in mind. The only things that were my responsibility and that came out better than I thought, were the vocals and the bass tone. I was really well rehearsed when we recorded the vocals, so I could explore my voice in many ways I hadn’t imagined and in the end I thought they were REALLY cool and added a whole different aspect to the songs. As for the bass, I took a long time looking for inspirations to help me find the perfect timbre for my bass on the final mix. Alex Webster from Cannibal corpse was VERY influential to me. In the end, I simply LOVED my bass timbre. It was a lot better than I expected and much closer to what I wished to!!
Prika: As a whole, I really think it’s very good. But for the next album, I am sure that it will be better for me, because I won’t be [dealing] with tendinitis and now I have a custom guitar and custom pedal [made] for me by Ed’s Mod Shop. Now, I have a perfect sound!

What does the title of the album refer to? Is there a specific story or significance about why you called the album Victim of Yourself?
Fernanda: Prika came up with the initial idea for the cover which can be real related to the album’s theme. When I was writing the song “Victim of Yourself,” I was inspired by something that happened to us that made me reach the conclusion that everything you do will have a consequence. If you do bad things, bad things will come your way and if you can’t take responsibility for your own decisions, you become a victim of yourself. When I told Prika that I had a song in mind with this title and the meaning behind that, we agreed that it had to do with everything she had in mind for the cover and that this would be the name of the album.
Prika: Some people tried to harm us because of pure envy and they were burned by their own attitudes. The idea is that you are responsible for your attitudes and that all you do will come [back] to [haunt] you. My idea for the art cover is a skull killing another skull, but both are the same person.

How did you come to the attention of Napalm Records? Are you hoping that the label can do the work for you in Europe and America that you can’t? And just how popular are you in Brazil, anyway?
Fernanda: Right after we released our video clip, people shared it and it ended up being watched by many people overseas, but when Napalm got in touch with us, it was really a surprise. We know we’re a very hardworking band and everything that comes our way is a result of all the effort we make to keep the band going on, but I was shocked because we didn’t even have an album released. What I liked about them is that, since the beginning, they seemed to believe in us and our music as much as we do and this is the best thing you can expect from a label. They’re already doing many things we’d never be able to do. Without them we would [have taken] a lot longer to record our debut and be acknowledged outside of Brazil. A label can be very helpful to a band if both sides are looking the same way and fortunately that happens with Napalm! I am sure they will do many, many more things for us and we hope we can ‘repay’ them for what they do for us. In Brazil, many head bangers know us; we’re very popular and many of our Brazilian idols [know] our material and most of them support us, which makes me really, really happy!
Prika: Our video clip, “Masked Betrayer” had 16,000 views in 24 hours. This was a great surprise for us because this number is very large for a band that wasn’t known. Schmier from Destruction shared our clip on Facebook and Napalm viewed it and sent us an email. We are very happy with Napalm; they are great partners and we have [the freedom] to be what we are. We are popular in Brazil. We have already played with Exodus, Destruction, Raven, Kreator, Artillery, Exumer, Exciter, Legion of the Damned, etc. The distribution of our album around the world will be very important and Napalm has the structure for this.

What’s the plan now that you have a growing profile, an international label, a manager and album with an Andrei Bouzikov-painted cover?
Fernanda: We have many plans in mind and we’ll work really hard to make them come true. After releasing the new video and album, we plan to play a lot, wherever we can. We’re a band that loves being on the road, so we plan to discover many new places in and outside Brazil and play as much as we can.
Prika: The plan is to play around the world, [as many] places [as] possible. We want to continue working and displaying our work. We want to record many albums and to play much!

Here’s the old video, “Masked Betrayer”

And the new one, “Death”

Nervosa’s website
Nervosa on Facebook
Nervosa on YouTube

Jets Fan Tommy Victor of Prong Rights the Ship

By: andrew Posted in: featured, nfl 2014 On: Thursday, March 27th, 2014

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NFL free agency has been in full swing for a couple weeks now. Prong’s Ruining Lives drops courtesy of Steamhammer/SPV on April 28; we asked longtime mainman Tommy Victor what he would do if he were in charge of his favorite team, the New York Jets. Snap your fingers, snap the ball, do not buttfumble.

Well this is an interesting day to write a report on the J-E-T-S, JETS! JETS! JETS!

With all the needs to be addressed, the Jets front office still focuses on the big headline acquisitions. Today, just hours ago [actually Friday, March 21 - ed], they signed veteran Mike Vick as a possible tutor/competitor to quarterback Geno Smith. Mark Sanchez is finally history, something that definitely needed to be done. I must admit, I like this deal. I, too, would have signed Vick to maybe straighten Smith out and be a potential starter at our  tumultuous position.

But there’s so many other issues that haven’t been addressed, that need to be.

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The sentiment around Jet Nation  is that the  GM, John Idzik, missed out on free-agent targets, misreading the market and miscalculating the huge salary cap changes in the NFL this year, where the cap is now up to $133 million. I tend to agree. I think he overanalyzed free agency.

He’s left a hole at the defensive position of cornerback,  and head coach Rex Ryan has expressed displeasure at that.  I would have never released Antonio Cromartie, with the thought of maybe resigning him at lower pay. Arizona grabbed him, and now he’s gone. Yes, I would have tried to get Darrelle Revis back.  We are way under the salary cap, so although he was pricey, we had the money. Now our nemesis New England has him. We needed a veteran CB.  Now we are stuck with  second-year player Dee Milliner and the underproductive Kyle Wilson, whom I’ve never been happy with. His answer has been to resign Lankster, Walls and Johnny Patrick, cut by the Chargers, all just not good enough.

boss hogg says, "have faith, tommy."

boss hogg says, “have faith, tommy.”

The safety position is also in need.  Antonio Allen performed fairly well in the strong safety role, especially against the run. Dawan Landry and the aging Ed Reed provided some experience to the secondary, but they never made a difference from against the pass. That’s what we should be looking for, as none of their safeties graded positive in pass coverage last season. Chris Clemons is a good pass coverage safety and is still available in free agency. I’d sign him.

If there is a position group in the league that needed to be vastly improved, that’s the Jets’ wide receivers.  Santonio Holmes has been let go, something I don’t believe any Jet fan would have disagreed with. Owner Woody Johnson and Idzik again went with the sexy free agent signing of Eric Decker, which I don’t believe will come close to solving the problem. Look who he was surrounded with at Denver! The two Thomases and Wes Welker! Look who was passing to him! That leaves us with only Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson as options for Geno or Vick. Stephen Hill isn’t anywhere close to the player they expected he would be, and could be on the way out if he doesn’t get better this offseason. We need to trade for DeSean Jackson. With Vick knowing offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg ‘s offense, and his past relationship with Jackson, it just makes sense.

The tight end position should  be a priority in the 2014 draft. Although I like Jeff Cumberland, who was resigned, he’s not the answer. We need a weapon and a blocking TE.

Now on to the offensive line, another shortcoming. The Jets offensive line ranked 25th in 2013, down from third in 2012. The problem’s at left guard: first with Vlad Ducasse, then with the rookie Brian Winters. That hurt the whole unit, especially the star players, Nick Mangold and  D’Brickashaw Ferguson. The new contract for Willie Colon was a good move for the right side. The bad news for the right side being the departure of the impressive Austin Howard, who just got nabbed by the Raiders. Another miscalculation by Idzik, unable to get a grip on the budget and the ramifications of letting proven Jets move on.

Thank goodness we didn’t let Nick Folk go. The kicker was our biggest playmaker last year! That was a no-brainier. But a lot of this offseason’s decisions should  have been obvious. In reality, at 8-8, we didn’t do too bad last year. Keeping that nucleus while making solid improvements where necessary is — or was — the way the way to get us in the playoffs. Keeping  key guys should have been a priority.  Letting them go to sign elsewhere and leaving mysterious holes in their positions makes no sense. Having great opportunities on the free agent market and an ocean of salary cap, our needs could have painlessly been met before the speculations of the draft. And based upon what we’ve seen from Rex and Woody calling the shots in the draft, we can’t be too confident. If I was was GM, I would reel Rex in, like the big-mouthed tuna he is, and maybe have Marty in the draft room, too. There, maybe we can get a cross perspective on playmakers rather than just guys that are thought to be “cool ” or headline-makers. We should focus on talent rather than NY Post popularity.

Decibrity Playlist: Iron Reagan

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, March 27th, 2014

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Sure, it’s been a year since Iron Reagan dropped its debut full-length. Despite the various other commitments of its members, the band recently began a run of tour dates that will take them through April, all while wrapping up work on their sophomore LP (which, by the way, will be for Relapse). Given how much we liked Worse Than Dead (it made our top 40 of 2013) and how stoked we are about that last sentence, we asked frontman Tony Foresta about some records he digs. His picks are as eclectic as they are entertaining.

Pick up a copy of Worse Than Dead here and check out IR’s tour dates below.

Quicksand–Slip (1993)
One of my top five favorite albums. Whenever I have to do a long shift and don’t want to fuck with my iPod, I just let this one roll. It’s funny, I used to do the same thing with this record mowing my parents lawn in high school. Only instead of an iPod, I had a Walkman cassette player and my Slip cassette. I remember having to stop the lawnmower to flip my tape mid-mow (laughs)!

Pusrad–31 Premature Ejaculations Tape December 2012 (2012)
Kevin Sharp got me into these guys. Super fast blasts of short and fun hardcore. I mean really, really fast. Not something you want to listen to while in a stressful situation like driving in New Jersey or something, it might just make your brain explode. Regardless, this always puts me in a good mood when I listen to it.

Black Flag–Who’s Got The 10½? (1986)
This is in a three-way tie with Decendents’ Hallraker and Iron Maiden’s Live After Death as my all-time favorite live record. This one goes on the list because it was cranked in the van a shitload during the recent Iron Reagan/Power Trip/Mammoth Grinder tour and on this album they play a ton of stuff off Loose Nut, which is my top Flag record at the moment. My fav Flag records change from time to time.

Longmont Potion Castle–Best of Longmont Potion Castle: Volume 1 (1996)
I’ve established so many long term relationships with people just by one of us muttering one of the million hilarious quotes from these prank calls. Just one weird comment usually follows with “Wait, you listen to Longmont?!?” and then we are friends forever. It’s really happened. You are either the type of person that really loves this stuff or you hate it. If you hate it then I probably don’t want to hang out with you.

Tegan and Sara’s “Closer” (from 2013′s Heartthrob)
Everybody was jocking that Robin Thicke “Blurred Lines” shit as the dance jam of the summer last year–although that’s a hell of a catchy song, the lyrics are a little to “date rapey” for my tastes–all the while this Tegan and Sara song was killing it then and is still chugging away at parties now while theres a foot of snow outside.

Sockeye–Barf On A Globe (1999)
The best/worst band on the planet. I go through phases where I wont listen to them for a couple years and then “Buttfuck Your Own Face” will pop in my head and then I’m screwed for at least three months.

Mercyful Fate–Melissa (1983)
Album rules. But you dummies already know this.

Spazz/Romantic Gorrilla–Split 12″ (1996)
This record was my first introduction to power violence back in the day. Spazz from then on have been one of my favorite bands of all time. But unfortunately for them the standout track on this release would have to be on Japan’s Romantic Gorilla’s side. The song “I’m On Diet” has just as much anger and angst as any Youth of Today track out there, and who can blame these ladies really? Diets fucking suck.

Out Cold–Two Broken Hearts Are Better Than One (2000)
Out Cold is one of the most underrated hardcore bands of all time in my opinion. They were cranking out killer release after release for what seemed like forever on a yearly basis before the singer/guitar player’s untimely demise. My favorite track on this record is “Skinned Alive”, not because it’s the best song they wrote, but because it’s the slowest jam on the record and sticks out as a heavy track in some weird way.

Dystopia–Human = Garbage (1994)
This record changed my life and really gave me a different view of the world both socially and musically. I’ve been going back to this one a lot lately and it still has parts on it that give me chills.

Asylum–Demo (2013)
Awesome new d-beat band from Richmond. They’re great live too. It’s still mind blowing how much killer music comes out of this town on a yearly basis. Looking forward to more stuff to come out from them soon.

*Pick up a copy of Worse Than Dead here.

**Iron Reagan tour dates:

3/29/2014 Philadelphia PA @The Underground Arts

Iron Reagan and Occultist
4/2/2014 Richmond VA @Strange Matter
4/4/2014 Harrisonburg, VA @ MACROCK
4/5/2014 Nashville, TN @ TBA
4/6/2014 Little Rock, AK @ Vino’s

Weapons of Thrash Destruction Tour
Ghoul, Iron Reagan, Occultist
4/9/2014 Tempe, AZ @ Club Red
4/10/2014 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
4/11/2014 Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room
4/12/2014 Camarillo, CA @ Rock City Studios
4/13/2014 Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy
4/14/2014 Sacramento, CA @ Midtown Barfly
4/15/2014 Portland, OR @ Branx
4/18/2014 Oakland, CA @ BRAINSQUEEZE

Iron Reagan and Occultist
4/22/2014 Salt Lake City TBA
4/23/2014 Denver CO @ Moe’s
4/24/2014 Lawrence KS @ TBA
4/25/2014 St. Louis MO @ Fubar
4/26/2014 Munster In @Three Floyd’s Brewery
4/27/2014 Chicago IL @ Cobra Lounge
4/28/2014 Toledo @ Frankie’s
4/29/2014 Columbus @ Ace Of Cups
4/30/2014 Pittsburgh @ Smiling Moose

***Past Decibrity entries include:

Fight Amp
Cynic
Melt-Banana
Junius (Part 1) (Part 2)
Alcest
East Of The Wall
Enabler
Wolvserpent
Drugs Of Faith
SubRosa (Part 1) (Part 2)
Vattnet Viskar
Skeletonwitch
Ihsahn
Earthless
Watain
Orange Goblin
God Is An Astronaut
Primitive Man
Gorguts
Exhumed
Ulcerate
Pelican
Scale The Summit
Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Mouth Of The Architect
Howl
Kings Destroy
Zozobra
Call of the Void
Saint Vitus Bar
Coliseum
Woe
Anciients
Soilwork (Dirk Verbeuren) (Björn Strid)
Intronaut
BATILLUS
Inter Arma
Helen Money
Misery Index
Ancient VVisdom
Holy Grail
Rotten Sound
Ancestors (Part 1) (Part 2)
Kowloon Walled City (Part 1) (Part 2)
Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Early Graves
All That Remains
Bison B.C.
A Life Once Lost
Fight Amp
Witchcraft (Ola Henriksson) (Magnus Pelander)
Vision of Disorder
Grave
Anders Nyström (Katatonia) (Part 1) (Part 2)
“Best of” Rush (Part 1) (Part 2)
Dawnbringer
Ufomammut
Shadows Fall
Horseback
Greg Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Torche
“Best of” Meshuggah
Astra
Pallbearer
Barren Earth
Shane Embury (Napalm Death) (Part 1) (Part 2)

Repulsion: Live Tonight!

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, repulsion, the decibel magazine tour On: Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

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In case the lineup of Carcass, The Black Dahlia Murder and Gorguts isn’t enough to convince you to attend the San Francisco stop of the Decibel Tour tonight (in which case you’re crazy) there’s another treat on hand: an exclusive appearance by Hall Of Fame verified legends Repulsion.

Repulsion is near and dear to both our magazine and readership and have ripped at previous Decibel events like our 100th anniversary show in Philadelphia last year and a Decibel grindcore showcase with Pig Destroyer and Brutal Truth in New York City in 2009. I attended both and can assure you that you’re in for a treat.

Check out some recent Repulsion footage below and get yourself to the Regency Ballroom tonight — a few tickets should still be available. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Sucker For Punishment: Of Death & Cuttlefish

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

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Everyone dies.

Of course we all know that, we’re aware of it from an early age. Yet in metal the idea of death, actual death, not phony-baloney doom and gloom play-acting, has always been overly romanticized rather than dealt with head-on. The explanation is simple: heavy metal is still a very young subculture. Prior to a few years ago every single notable death of a major heavy metal talent has always involved someone cruelly young, taken far, far before their prime. Randy Rhoads, Euronymous, Dimebag, Quorthon all gone before they made it to middle age. Couple that with the overt hero worship in metal, that beer-fueled, bleary and teary-eyed romanticism that reeks of Vikings raising a cup to their fallen brethren, and you’ve got a scene populated with a lot of people who clearly aren’t ready to accept that metal musicians are not immortal, are not “gods”, are not impervious to the ravages of the hard life, let alone old age.

People get old, and people die. Ronnie James Dio was the first major icon of heavy metal to die at a rich old age, and the more time goes on, the older those rockers from the 1970s and ‘80s get, musicians hitting 50, 60, and in the case of a few, approaching 70. It was interesting watching the reaction in the past year to Lemmy’s own health problems, as so many seemed shocked that this guy, beloved to everyone, is starting to show signs of wear and tear. Well, a steady diet of cigarettes and Jack and Coke will do that to a person, even the guy who created one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands in history. Nobody is immune, and it’s a statistical fact that more prominent figures in metal will indeed die soon. Some earlier than others, it’s so very sad to say, but metal fans, and especially we writers, have to get a grip, because some very difficult obituaries are looming on the horizon. Dio, Jon Lord, Jeff Hanneman, and the wonderful Dave Brockie are just the tip of the iceberg.

Brockie’s death is especially disheartening, because GWAR was on one hell of a roll, having put out its best album in forever, 2013’s Battle Maximus. Brockie, as GWAR’s chief architect, was a brilliant creative mind, and some might say a conceptual shock rock genius. No matter where you lived, it seemed, GWAR was a constant, always churning out new music, always rolling through town once, twice, or maybe more per year. It was great to have them around, and over the years I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen them play. Nearly sixth months ago I saw my umpteenth GWAR show, arriving with no real expectations, but the band blew my mind that night with a ferocious performance, also using the most fake blood I’ve ever seen sprayed at one of its shows. There was a literal lake of crimson liquid on the floor afterward, delirious fans playing slip-and-slide through the pool, and down the street outside were bloody footprints trailing for more than a block. It was extraordinary, and reaffirmed my appreciation for Brockie and his band.

Then again, Brockie and GWAR always had a rather special place in my heart. I saw them play a show in November of 2004 in a cozy dive of a club, which as usual was covered from floor to ceiling with sheet plastic to avoid staining its gaudy tiki bar and 1980s carpet. It was such a tiny place for a GWAR show that no matter where you were, you were in danger of being splattered, but I had been doing a good job ducking the flying goo. That is, until an aborted fetus Brockie – erm, I mean Oderus – was holding nailed me with globs of green liquid. It was much thicker than you usual water-based GWAR goo, and refused to wash completely off. The next day, my second niece was born, and I held her for the first time that afternoon in arms still bearing those green stains. I thought of that moment every time I saw GWAR since, and that little girl has grown up to be a nine and half year old, guitar and drums playing, hockey playing, snowboarding, horns-throwing hellion. Above all else, I’m a dreamer, and I like to think a little GWAR rubbed off on that awesome little kid when she and I first met.

Thanks, Dave.

***

Meanwhile, life goes on, and new releases keep rolling in. Here’s this week’s crop:

Ancient Ascendant, Echoes And Cinder (Candlelight): The fact that the second full-length album by the British band has an uncanny similarity to Enslaved is immediately appealing. It’s capably done, with strong melodies, a good balance of controlled pace and full-on extremity. However, what’s missing is that creativity and mastery that sets Enslaved apart from its peers. With a promising track like “Embers”, though, the band shows it could find its own niche soon enough.

Animals As Leaders, The Joy of Motion (Sumerian): What’s so extraordinary about Tosin Abasi and Animals As leaders isn’t so much how the band has appropriated the compositional style of Meshuggah, but rather how they’ve taken the influence of King Crimson’s Discipline, one of the most arch, pretentious, and nerdiest sounds rock music has ever produced, and created something so shockingly popular. This new album is a Chapman Stick away from full on geekery, and good for them. And to be honest, the less overtly heavy the songs are, the more the record succeeds. Abasi is an incredibly inventive musician, his percussive playing style displaying remarkable fluidity and sensitivity, and when freed of that distracting Meshuggah fixation, which to be honest will never, ever top the actual Meshuggah, the songs achieve a dreamy, ethereal quality, haphazard note patterns sounding busy at first but always settling into a strange comfort zone. Consequently a song like the gorgeous “Another Year” stands out, Abasi and company stopping lying to themselves, ditching the metal, and embracing progressive rock fully.

Barren Harvest, Subtle Cruelties (Handmade Birds): Two of the West Coast’s most interesting creative minds, Jessica Way of Worm Ouroboros and Lenny Smith of Atriarch, have teamed up for a haunting new album that sets aside all metal inclinations in favor of a quietly spellbinding marriage of neoclassical and gothic aesthetics. This record lingers with you long after hearing it, a magnificent release by Handmade Birds, who can do no wrong. Order it here.

Coltsblood, Into the Unfathomable Abyss (Candlelight): Typically slow, sludgy doom that lumbers along as a predictably catatonic pace. Yes, this kind of music requires patience, but despite checking off all the required boxes, the British band does nothing to make itself stand out.

Darkentries, The Make Believe (Retro Futurist): At last, a band on Kylesa’s new label that doesn’t sound exactly like Kylesa. Instead, this South Carolina band is all about sludge at its most caustic on this five-song release. While the vocals leave a lot to be desired, there’s no denying their power and hostility, making this a rather promising start overall.

Dread Sovereign, All Hell’s Martyrs (Van): Alan Averill is a metal lifer, an artist who cannot sit still when his regular band is dormant. So while his best known project, the great Primordial, is in between albums, he’s carrying on, dipping his wick into whatever new musical effort he can find. Last year brought on the debut album by the Bathory-inspired Twilight of the Gods, and now there’s Dread Sovereign, in which Averill picks up a bass and churns out some old-school doom alongside Primordial drummer Simon O’Laoghaire and a fella named Bones. And like Twilight of the Gods, this album is nothing particularly special – Averill’s vocal melodies are similar to everything he’s done before – but still a solid exercise in a classic form of heavy metal.

Forteresse/Chasse-Galerie/Monarque/Csekthe, Légendes (Sepulchral): For whatever reason, Quebecois black metal is flourishing right now, and four of the better French Canadian bands out there have joined forces on a very cool new double seven-inch release. Each band has contributed one song that pays homage to Quebec folklore, and each is well worth investigating, but top marks go to Forteresse, whose “Wendigo” is some blistering, fast black metal played with rigidity and reverence.

Horseback, Piedmont Apocrypha (Three Lobed): Jenks Miller is back with another Horseback record, and typical of the artist, it’s impossible to predict what you’re going to hear. Well, that’s not entirely true, as you’re bound to hear some sort of music that will elicit the adjective “rustic”. But make no mistake, this latest album is a surprise, and a very pleasant one at that, as Miller is in a far more contemplative mood than on 2012’s much harsher Half Blood. With a bare-bones sound that’s spacious enough to conjure thoughts of the prairie, this is very much in the vein of Earth and Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack, ragged, western-influenced guitar meshing beautifully with trance-like drones. No, there’s no “extreme” metal to speak of on this record save for the faintest trace on the last track “Chanting out the Low Shadow” but in this case that’s a very good thing. There’s power in its tribal stoicism, an unsettling menace in its minimalism.

Hundredeth, Resist (Mediaskare): Instead of writing about this truly awful children’s metalcore, let me steer you in the direction of Hundred, a London band that actually knows how to play proper heavy freaking metal. They’re sort of a British version of Slough Feg and Hammers of Misfortune, heavy on the Thin Lizzy/Celt worship, with the odd proggy touches here and there. Lively, melodic, and promising. Unlike Hundredth, which is just plain depressing. Give it a listen over on Bandcamp.

Pantera, Far Beyond Driven (20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (Rhino): Pantera’s seventh album came out 20 years ago this week, and it was noteworthy achievement on several fronts. Although the metal scene was driven back underground in the early 1990s, Pantera was one of the only bands whose popularity was on the rise, and Far Beyond Driven debuting at number one in America was not only a statement of just how much clout the Texas band had earned in the wake of the image-shattering Cowboys From Hell and the classic Vulgar Display of Power, but it was a reassertion of just how much of a force metal could still be. And in a way the popularity of this difficult, uneven album marked a turning point for the genre as a whole. Aggression had always been a vital part of metal, but on this record Pantera brought a level of ugliness that was unsettling. The aggression of Vulgar Display felt safe, its subjects vague, its overall themes ultimately empowering, but Far Beyond Driven wallowed in anger, in antisocial behavior, in negativity. Phil Anselmo’s lyrics were startling in their candor, and were matched perfectly by Darrell (rechristened from “Diamond” to “Dimebag”) Abbott’s down-tuned, sludgy riffs.

However, while kids immediately gravitated to the thing, those of us who were older could sense that worm turning. Along with Korn and Marilyn Manson, the fun was slowly being sucked out of mainstream heavy metal, melody and escapism replaced by crunch and whining about “issues”. It was so much different that death metal at the time, its broad appeal felt fouler, and listening to the sour last two thirds of Far Beyond Driven today, you can practically see mainstream metal heading down that 1990s rabbit hole, that loathsome prefix “nu” looming in the distance. If you want to feel nostalgic about that, then go right ahead, this reissue does sound fantastic and comes with some good bonus material, but it’s nowhere near emblematic of 1990s metal at its finest.

Pretty Maids, Louder Than Ever (Frontiers): “The reason for doing this project is to give those songs a different spin…” You lost us right there, guys. At the very least, fans can buy the five new tracks individually on iTunes, but nobody in their right mind should fall for the “re-recorded hits” gimmick.

Shores of Null, Quiescence (Candlelight): Safe, predictable melancholic doom in the vein of Swallow the Sun. Very good singing, strong dynamics, but the songs need to pop more. Like so many new metal albums, it’s a decent work in progress, but not worth spending money on yet.

Thou, Heathen (Gilead): After innumerable EPs and split releases, the prolific Baton Rouge band is back with its first proper album since 2010’s wildly acclaimed Summit. As hyped as that record was, I refused to buy into it as willingly as others were; for all the promise it showed, it felt like there was so much more to this quintet than what was heard on the record. The usual refrain from scenesters was always, “But you have to see them live.” If they’re that good live, then make it happen on record. If you don’t translate that live power on wax, you’ve failed as a metal band. Consider Heathen a resounding, commanding response to that statement. It is colossal, imposing, highly intense sludgy doom, but as always has been the band’s great strength, always mindful of dynamics, inserting moments of breathtaking beauty amidst all the density. Opening track “Free Will” is a stunning 14 minute exercise in awesome power and startling delicacy, but the real treasures are during the spectacular latter half, where all the doom and gloom is countered with a sensitivity and thoughtfulness that’s genuinely arresting. True, Bryan Funck’s vocals are still the weak spot, but he is nevertheless able to complement the music decently enough to avoid being a distraction. Either way, those who loved Summit have every reason to freak over Heathen, as Thou continue inching towards realizing its massive potential. Listen to it via Bandcamp here. [And find Funck's outstanding lyrics for Heathen here]

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

TRACK PREMIERE: Raw Power’s “We’re Moving”

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

raw power

Raw Power have long been one of the most underappreciated bands of the early crossover movement (I even did a Lazarus Pit on them a few years back). Still going after 30 years of punk fury, their 10th full-length, Tired and Furious, is about to kick everyone’s ass. We have the first track for you, and it’s two minutes of lethal ordnance the way it should be done. These Italians will make pizza out of your face.

 

***Tired and Furious comes out April 19 on Beer City. Preorder it here!

“Barf Out Riffs, Barf Out Thoughts”: The Die Choking Interview

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, interviews On: Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

PromoImage

Back in January Philadelphia grind-punk all-stars Die Choking — bassist/vocalist Paul J. Herzog (ex-Total Fucking Destruction), drummer Joshua T. Cohen (Cop Problem), guitarist Jeffrey V. Daniels (Burden) — hit the ground running, unleashing a leveling sonic devastator in the shape of a debut self-titled digital E.P. as infectious as it is unsettling.

A few weeks from now the band will open the Philly stop of the Decibel tour, and then there will be a new five-song salvo this summer on The Compound leading into a full-length before the end of the year.

It seemed like the perfect time to get the lowdown straight from the (choking) horse’s mouth…

Give me a little background on the origins of the band. Was there a certain sonic goal at the outset or did you just want to see what happened when the three of you jammed?

Joshua T. Cohen: Nothing specific other than the yearning to create some super fast and brutal tunes. I had feelers out for a guitarist who was fond of the like and was referred by a mutual friend. Probably the most common criticisms to each other during the jamming/writing process continue to be “play faster,” “more brutal,” “faster, faster,” “good, but…faster.” We just recorded our second EP due out later this summer, and are working on the LP. The new tracks continue to get faster, we’re adding more nuances and weird time signatures to the speed as things progress.

Paul J. Herzog: Coming in, I wanted to strip things down from a performance, writing, and recording stand-point. I came to the table with some riff and lyrical ideas and wanted to execute a more mid-range vocal style with dudes like Blaine Fart, Kurt Brecht, Chuck Schuldiner and Martin Van Drunnen as the foundational influence. Something different than the typical high/low alternating approach that dominates most grindcore. We are open-minded, very eclectic in our personal musical preferences, and still completely obsessed with our instruments. There is a physical component to the style of music that we play and embrace. I like that endurance piece of it. And, as a grindcore band, the interest and opportunity to progress is really unending.

At what point in the writing process did you guys decide Die Choking was the most appropriate moniker to hang over your creation?

Read ‘em and weep: Will Lindsay of Indian gives us his all-time on-tour reading list

By: jonathan.horsley Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, March 24th, 2014

Indian

Chicago’s Indian are presently hauling their blackhearted nihilism across the tarmac of the UK and Europe in support of the Decibel-approved From all Purity. It’s a sick record from disturbed men, maybe more noisy, more off-the-chain than anything they’ve cut to record before, and if your record collection exists primarily to harsh your mellow (which, y’know, is a safe assumption since your browsing habits have landed you here) you’d do well to visit the Relapse store and click the ADD TO CART button. You do the necessary and order From All Purity here.

But while we’ve got Indian safely packed into a van eating up the road miles for the greater glory of blackened sludge-doom-noise-whatever-you-want-to-call-it, we pressed vocalist/guitarist Will Lindsay on the books that keep him sane or thereabouts on the road and this is what he told us.

FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY — Notes from the Underground (1864)
Will Lindsay: “Notes from the Underground was the first book of his that I read. I came across it in the early to mid-90s. The publishing company Dover did these thrift editions, and they were all like classic books that were one to three dollars, and you’d see them everywhere. They’d be at major book stores, used book stores. There was a radical leftist book store in Eugene, Oregon, called Hungry Head, and they had a whole selection of them, too. I kinda just bought it on a whim. It was 99 cents so I figured I couldn’t really go wrong with it. It’s just over a hundred pages, and it’s written in a first-person narrative. It’s divided into two sections: the first section is the narrator weighing out his philosophy, I suppose; and the second half of the book is a scene that takes place with him and a group of people. The whole book is amazing. The first half of the book is what I guess really resonated with me. When you open the book, the first lines—it depends on the translation, and I might be paraphrasing slightly—read, ‘I’m a sick man. I’m an unattractive man.’ It’s just a really powerful opener. One of the driving points of that book is the divine right to act against one’s own self interest.”

GITTA SERENY — Into that Darkness(1974) / Albert Speer: His Battle with the Truth (1995)
Will Lindsay: “My friend Peter Sotos turned me onto Gitta Sereny. There are two books that she wrote that I am really into. I’m really into World War II history, which in one of the first conversations I had with Pete that came up, and he asked me if I had ever read Gitta Sereny. I said I hadn’t—but I saw later that he had referenced her in some of his writings. She was originally Hungarian and grew up in Austria. She was living in Austria at the time of the Anschluss; she was a teenager, and she ended up fleeing to France and being part of the underground resistance there during the Nazi occupation. She finally had to flee France, through Spain and to the US. She went back to Germany right after the war ended and did a lot of work in the immediate post-war in West Germany, finding children that the Nazis had taken, eastern European children that they felt were sufficiently Aryan and put them in German homes. She had to find these children who often would think that they were German as they were brought up that way, take them away in the rare circumstances where she was able to find their real parents and send them back to Poland, Ukraine, or some of the Baltic States.
“She wrote these two incredible books. The first was called Into that Darkness, and she did something like 70 hours of prison interviews with Franz Stangl, who was the commandent of Treblinka. Stangl fled after the war through Italy and through the Vatican to Syria, and then to Brazil, and was arrested and extradited back to West Germany, and got a life sentence for it. She interviewed him in prison and it was all about his early life, his times in the concentration camps. He was also part of the Nazi euthanasia program in 1940/41, and the last interview she did with him was the first and only time in his life that he ever admitted his culpability in his role in the Holocaust. He died 19 hours after the last interview, kinda out of nowhere—he died of a heart attack. I love Germany. It is one of my favorite countries in Europe. I have a lot of friends there and when you travel through it, it is really hard to believe it is only 70 years ago. It is such recent history and it’s really hard to keep it in mind sometimes. I know William Shirer argued that it couldn’t have happened anywhere other than Germany in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich but I don’t agree with that. It’s apples and oranges in a sense, but you look at what people were doing in Stalinist Russia; I mean, people were doing terrible things. Russia under Stalinism was just awful and it couldn’t have happened without the active participation of millions of normal citizens. The other book was a biography of Albert Speer; she lived with him on and off for a number of years—I could go off on that one for a long time, too. They are both very interesting even if you are not into WWII/Holocaust history. It’s worth anybody’s time to seek them out.”

H.L. Mencken — Anything [A Mencken Chrestomathy: His Own Selection of His Choicest Writing available here is a good place to start (1982)]
Will Lindsay: “Most of the stuff I’ve read is collections so maybe with this one I won’t be so book-specific as I am author-specific—H.L. Mencken was an American journalist from Baltimore. He edited a magazine called The American Mercury for a while in the 1920s. He was very contrarian. He never shied away from saying what he had on his mind; he was very straight in his opinions. He caught a lot of grief because he was pro-German during World War I, and he had a really hard time to get him to stray away from his pro-German tendencies, even during World War II. Part of it was an ethnic thing for him; I don’t remember his specific lineage but there was definitely a lot of German in his family history. Most of what I’ve read about him has been in the context of The American Mercury and his writings. I read a biography of him a few years back. He caught a lot of grief; it was the standard accusations people throw around, eg. he wasn’t patriotic, he wasn’t this or that. Part of his thing was that he wasn’t the biggest fan of democracy to begin with. I think that he viewed democracy as a failed experiment. But he was contrarian on a lot of other things, too, I mean his critics at the time would have had plenty of ammunition. He covered the Scopes “Monkey” Trial; he thought the whole thing was absurd—it was absurd. I wouldn’t say he was an agent provocateur, just ‘cos the insinuation that he was some ulterior motives; he was just a contrarian, and he didn’t shy away from expressing an unpopular opinion.”

MARQUIS DE SADE — Justine, or The Misfortune of Virtue (1791)
Will Lindsay: “I’m reading this one right now. I’m not even all the way through it but I can’t believe I have never read it before. These two girls are orphaned and one of them, Justine, is a most pious, pure religious girl, and her sister, Juliette . . . Her sister Juliette just isn’t. We’ll say that. They go their separate ways and Juliette becomes a prostitute, steals when it is convenient to her, when it’s going to be of benefit to her. She lies and has a wonderful, prosperous life. She does really well for herself. Justine is pious and pure and just suffers one misfortune after the next. The premise of the book—and I’ve only gotten through the first section of it—I mean, the title just kinda sums it up, The Misfortune of Virtue. She falls into all these unfortunate situations where she’s raped, where people are trying to force her to commit murder. But in between all the violence in the story she is trying to argue with her assailants. At least for me and my interpretation of the book; the violence is really an aside, that it’s debating the merits of virtue and where virtue is going to get you. Part of De Sade’s whole thing was that virtue and piety was a weakness. He certainly had a low opinion of religion. I just recently read 120 Days of Sodom too. It was a great book but I am enjoying Justine even more. He wrote 120 Days of Sodom when he was locked up in the Bastille, and basically what little I know of him we are talking graphic sexuality, and I think he was probably writing something more to jerk off to while he was in prison. There is certainly more too it than just that, but . . . It’s interesting. He smuggled some of that out but he also hid some of it in the Bastille. It wasn’t discovered until after he died. He went to his grave thinking it was lost forever. He had to publish Justine anonymously, and even denied that he was the author.”

James O. Long and Thomas E. Gaddis — Panzram: A Journal of Murder (2002)
Will Lindsay: “All five of these books, I’m not sure if they are the most influential books in my life but they were the first ones that came to mind, I guess, so clearly they must have had some sort of impact. I can’t remember the author’s name off the top of my head but it’s a book called Panzram. It is about an American serial killer who was born in the late 1800s, in Minnesota, and one of the things I found really amazing about the book was that Carl Panzram had no real friends, or anything like that. He didn’t make a friend until near the end of his life, and it was one of his prison guards. He wrote out his life story and gave all the sheets to this prison guard to smuggle out. This would have been in the late 1920s or early ‘30s. It was right around when the American Stock Market crashed. This book is interspersed with his own personal writings, and he goes all the way from his life up until the last jail sentence he did where he ended up being executed. He talks a little bit about his philosophy, and also has his letters that he sent to this guard, which are more or less the only letters that he sent aside from maybe working on subscriptions: when he got the death penalty, which he wanted, he discovered that there was an anti-death penalty group in America that was petitioning to have his sentence commuted to life in prison and he wrote just the most violent, brutal letter to them, protesting that they would not interfere and that he would get the sentence that he wanted. He wrote a letter to the President asking the same thing. He didn’t want any clemency. He was just incredibly violent, lacked any kind of morals.”

**Indian on Facebook

Dave Brockie: 1963-2014

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, RIP On: Monday, March 24th, 2014

Gwar_Oderus

In the late 90s, perhaps around 1998, I pulled over at a truck stop about 45 miles outside of Richmond, Virginia. I grabbed a few snacks and went to the checkout line when it occurred to me that the clerk was staring, somewhat horrified. I looked down and remembered why: my entire body was covered in fake blood and unidentifiable substances. I had spent the evening near the front row of a GWAR show at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. I politely paid for my food, walked out and laughed in the car.

I lived in Richmond for about four years, until early 2000. I wasn’t a part of the city’s metal scene as much as I was an outlier, a guy with a straight job who dropped in on gigs at the old Twister’s club on Grace Street. At that point, you couldn’t see GWAR play a proper gig in their home town. The reason for the band’s exile was for something dubious like performing an alien abortion on stage. It seemed ridiculous but, then again, this was the same city where Howard Stern was booted off the air. You could see GWAR as “RAWG” which, in case you forgot, was advertised as “Gwar Without Costumes!” on fliers.

I ran into Dave Brockie plenty of times at the Richmond YMCA. He’d show up to work out in a Redskins hat. When I finally got up the nerve to talk to him he couldn’t be friendlier and told me that the long Stairmaster and weight-training sessions prepared him for the rigors of wearing a near-suffocating suit on stage. I was one of the fortunate few who got to see more of Brockie in his civilian clothes than as his alter ego. Everywhere in town you’d run into people that were somehow part of the GWAR enterprise, which seemed to employ half of Richmond’s creative class.

How fitting that one of the people who helped develop Richmond’s metal culture couldn’t play a proper gig in his hometown for years. For Brockie, spectacle still mattered. He gave people something they remembered. They remembered it so much, in fact, that they saved gross, gory shirts and wore them the next time GWAR played. Brockie was perhaps one of the most prescient people in metal. Years before downloading effectively gutted the recording industry, forcing bands to live on the road, Brockie figured out what mattered was putting on a show that fans remembered. It’s not that albums weren’t important. But when the rest of the world got dour and wore lumberjack shirts Brockie only increased the audacity. What made a GWAR show fun wasn’t just the hysterics that took place but the wait: walking into a club and seeing plastic wrapped around the room like a Costco warehouse. It was a tacit admission that things will get very messy. But these guys will sell out and there’s nothing we can do.

Brockie provided metal with a much needed shot of levity throughout his 30 year career. So much of metal is about taking yourself too seriously. Brockie and GWAR allowed your eternal inner kid, the kid with a KISS record player who dressed up like Ace Frehley, to come back and believe in super heroes for an evening. He also smashed every sacred cow in his path. When I last saw GWAR shortly after President Obama’s first election I told my friend there was no way that we’d see the new President get the GWAR treatment. But like every idol before him, an effigy was brought on stage and decapitated.

What made everything about GWAR work, and made Dave Brockie such an improbable success story, was that there was no Jekyll and Hyde involved. Brockie was Oderus Urungus as much as he was the nice guy who worked away at the gym.

In Richmond, there is a street called Monument Avenue that houses the statues of the famous Confederate dead. How fitting it would be to place Oderus Urungus right on the avenue and then slime the rest. Dave Brockie, halfway on his journey to parts unknown, could laugh somewhere and let us know he approved.