By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, August 21st, 2014
Despite teases here and there, it’s now been five long years since the last Irepress record (yes, I realize this is a Lazer/Wulf playlist–I’ll get there next sentence, I promise). Given that the group is one of my favorite acts around, it’s high praise that stumbling upon Lazer/Wulf has helped satiate my craving for new material. Not only did the Georgia trio put out one of the most eclectic and interesting instrumental(ish) records you’ll hear this year with The Beast of Left and Right, but Phillip Cope, Laura Pleasants and Carl McGinley (aka Kylesa)–three folks whose musical tastes I respect–put the sucker out on their Retro Futurist Records. So when we hit up bassist Sean Peiffer and guitarist Bryan Aiken for some suggested essential listening, it didn’t come as a surprise that their picks were all over the place. Once you’re done perusing their selections, pick up a copy of Lazer/Wulf’s debut LP here.
Trans Am’s “Television Eyes” (from 1999′s Futureworld)
Bryan: Every day should begin with Trans Am, and often does for us. This groove practically raises the sun, dries your sheets and brushes your goddamn teeth for you. No argument can be made for synth-rock being super rad without invoking this band–these three dudes justify an entire genre. A lot of their early stuff slams and some of it is too ambient to be appropriate for this list, but “Television Eyes” is the dissonant compromise. It’s a gentle, caffeinated cloth across the forehead. Good morning.
The Fucking Champs’ “Esprit De Corpse” (from 2000′s IV)
Bryan: The Fucking Champs are fucking essential, both individually and as a group. And as their discography ages, it’s becoming more important to talk about. Nobody touches today what they did with only two guitars and a drum kit. Or three guitars and zero drums, if that’s what it took. Symphonic and major and intelligent, but with zero pretension. It’s like watching Drunk History: equally refined and sloshed. Every song is another harmonizing eagle triumphing across your brain cervix.
Mercyful Fate’s ”A Dangerous Meeting” (from 1984′s Don’t Break The Oath)
Sean: The other guys may disagree with me on this one, but Don’t Break the Oath is the perfect driving album. This song in particular brings about a feeling that I am embarking upon an epic quest. We have to listen to it loud to cover up my attempts to sing whole songs like “The King”. Because it is going to fucking happen.
Bryan: I do not disagree, and it does happen.
Decapitated’s ”Day 69″ (from 2006′s Organic Hallucinosis)
Bryan: It’s true, though–Lazer/Wulf agrees on few things. But Decapitated is the monolith upon our common ground. This band alone validates the single guitar metal model with creativity and ferocity. To say nothing of Vitek’s legacy, there’s something about Vogg’s songwriting that jettisons bravado and shred worship in favor of…well, fucking songwriting. Unstoppable.
Aphex Twin’s ”Bucephalus Bouncing Ball” (from 1997′s Come To Daddy EP)
Bryan: Brilliant idea for a song, man. He’s made a lot of great, dark tunes, but this one is so damn inspired. Since the second half draws from the sound of a bouncing ball, there’s a visual component to the music. You can see the song as you hear it.
Sean: It was awkward at first, sending my young mind into swirling chaos. But as I grew into a man, it just seemed right. We will cover this song at some point in our lives, so L/W officially calls dibs.
Cinemechanica’s ”Get Outta Here Hitler” (from 2006′s The Martial Arts)
Bryan: Further essential listening. File it under mathrock and be damned, but Cinemechanica rips through that genre into something rabid and urgent. This whole record is amazing, and our mutual love for it is how Lazer/Wulf found each other. Here’s an instrumental song they did, which I’m picking only because a) it kills, and their use of double drums remains unparalleled to this day and b) they’ve since swapped singers from this album toward something way tougher. The new shit is tough as Nails. I don’t know when they’re going to release their new album, but you’ll know, because the Earth damn blew its brains out.
Dysrhythmia’s ”Room Of Vertigo” (from 2009′s Psychic Maps)
Bryan: There’s no understating the importance of Dysrhythmia in the instrumental world. It’s not mopey or flashy or post-anything. Nor is it unlistenable madness. They just write great songs that work on the surface level, but offer a transformative depth to those who look for it. Remember those Magic Eye pictures? They’re all pretty and shiny, but then there’s a fucking boat hidden somewhere in there? That.
Zu’s ”Carbon” (from 2009′s Carboniferous)
Bryan: I wish I didn’t love this so much. It’s so unlikable. A saxophonist, bassist and drummer, all piloting mosquitos into your stupid eyes. But it’s so joyful and confident and Italian. 100/10.
Sean: We had the pleasure of playing with the Italian syncopation masters in Pisa. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea they were off hiatus. I was excited then, and even more excited now that they’re recording again with Gabe from The Locust on drums. Carboniferous is on steady rotation when we’re on the road.
Dying Fetus’s ”Praise The Lord (Opium Of The Masses)” (from 2000′s Destroy The Opposition)
Sean: At 17 years of age, a young man hears–seemingly–the most extreme music ever created. He would never be the same. A treasured classic of utmost brutality, Destroy the Opposition is still the go-to record for nostalgic, head-slamming fun.
Bryan: Yeah, this record is a total watershed for me, too. The opening track both introduced me to and galvanized my love for no bullshit death metal, back when I required “melody” and “pacing” and “structure” and all that pussy shit. Absolutely warlike.
Soundgarden’s ”4th of July” (from 1994′s Superunknown)
Bryan: But before anything else, this is the song that started it all for me. It started me. I was nine years old and I knew I loved music, but I didn’t know what instrument was mine, or what type of music I belonged to. So try to find that place in yourself before you listen to it. Hollow everything out, and know nothing of the world but Ninja Turtles and the Jurassic Park theme. Then…those chords. That dread. I became, if not a man, a guitarist that day. Superunknown is still my favorite record of all time.
*Pick up a copy of Lazer/Wulf’s The Beast of Left and Right here
**For past Decibrity entries, click here
You want music that sounds (and looks) like one of the high-octane action scenes from the classic film The Road Warrior? Well, Children of Technology embrace the post apocalypse pretty enthusiastically with their dystopic D-beat punk attack. They even dress up like members of Lord Humongous’s gang of marauders, which is way more awesome than dressing up like ponies or whatever the kids are doing these days. Not much for subtlety, but who cares when it’s this much fun? Strap on your motorcycle leathers and prepare yourself to enter Future Decay, which we are proud to premiere in its entirety below!
***Future Decay is out now on Hells Headbangers. You can order the CD here.
A few years back super-under-appreciated Minneapolis noise rockers Hammerhead reunited for Amphetamine Reptile’s twenty-fifth anniversary bash and released an EP dubbed Memory Hole…which for a long while seemed to describe the place where the band was destined to disappear down.
Happily, it is not so, and today we have your first exclusive taste of the new Hammerhead joint, Global Depression, which can — and should! — be pre-ordered here.
By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
I was among those critics lavishing praise on Pallbearer’s debut album Sorrow & Extinction in February 2012, marveling at its surprisingly graceful take on doom metal. However, as the year went on, I felt I had to pull back from the praise of the critical hive mind, because the more I let that record settle, the more convinced I became that as strong as it was there was still a lot to be improved upon. It felt unfair to readers and the band to hail it as something groundbreaking and even classic when deep down I could sense the Little Rock band was better than that. Seeing them perform live only solidified my opinion, as they started to show glimpses of a much richer sound than what was on that debut. I wasn’t surprised when the album topped many year-end lists, including Decibel’s, and it wasn’t a bad choice at all, but still I bristled a bit. Then again, I’m the sort of guy who’ll deduct a point off an album rating from a talented new band just to hint that I’m not quite ready to name them the second coming yet.
Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore), much to my great pleasure, does exactly what I had hoped it would do, and more. Molded and shaped by the sure hands of Billy Anderson, arguably the best doom producer right now, the follow-up is bigger, more grandiose, and best of all, clears so much more space than the very dense Sorrow did. Consequently the music breathes a lot more, allowing for much more effective contemplative moments, whether it’s in an expressive guitar solo, some plaintive piano chords, or best of all, vocals. And for all the heaviness, it’s the vocals that are most crucial on this album. Guitarist Brett Campbell was still adjusting to his assumed role as singer on the debut, sounding tentative, intentionally buried in the mix. Confident in his ability after two years of touring, he’s so much stronger on the new album, and if that wasn’t enough, his bandmates come through with some startlingly good backing harmonies.
It’s in the singing, too, where you hear this album’s true genius. Because of the sheer length of the compositions, which often are in the ten to 11-minute range, the band is afforded the opportunity to play around with the vocal melodies. That, in turn, sees Pallbearer’s true influences come out. These guys are serious fans of progressive rock, and indeed those vocal melodies weave in, out, and around the arrangements in true prog fashion, almost feeling improvised at times, avoiding conventional patterns but always staying rooted to those riffs. As a result songs like “Worlds Apart” and “The Ghost I Used to Be” not only display staggering power, but show remarkable richness as well, imbuing the normally brutish music with moments of genuine soul. That’s not to say the guitar work isn’t central to this album’s appeal, either, in fact, the melodies and harmonies by Campbell and Devin Holt play a major role on the closing track “Vanished”, sounding typically melancholy but not without a faint glimmer of hope in the distance.
Accentuated by the three-minute ballad “Ashes”, which is sort of Pallbearer’s “Changes” to the rest of the album’s Vol. 4, Foundations of Burden carries itself with stately grace over the course of less than an hour, the work of a band that’s much surer of itself. I always say there’s nothing wrong with a little ignorance and arrogance from young bands, but although Sorrow & Extinction will go down as one of the more unique and surreal first albums in recent memory – bassist Joseph Rowland likened it to a 45 RPM record being played at 40 – there’s something to be said about musical growth and increased expertise. This album feels like a band just starting to come into its own. If I was apprehensive about placing Pallbearer on my year-end list three years ago, I sure as hell am ready to do so now.
It’s a gigantic week for the new metal, and although I can only make a dent in the 50-odd titles that have come out, here’s a good sampling of the most noteworthy ones:
Accept, Blind Rage (Nuclear Blast): Four years ago a reunited Accept returned with a new singer, completely unsure of how it would be received by the public. Three albums later, the guys have a very, very good thing going, a career reborn on the strength of new material that gets right back to the basics of what made the German band an upper-tier act 30 years ago. Blind Rage continues right where Blood of the Nations and Stalingrad left off, but ultimately feels like the strongest record of the three, a lean, menacing album full of piss and vinegar led by Wolf Hoffmann’s trademark sharp riffs and melodic solos, and accentuated well by singer Mark Tornillo, who has turned into a tremendous frontman for this band. “Dark Side of My Heart”, “Final Journey”, and “Trail of Tears” feel like they could have fit perfectly on Metal Heart, while “Dying Breed” is a cute, sincere tribute to metal’s most revered figures. Accept is on one hell of a roll these days, and this incarnation of the band has outdone itself
Ace Frehley, Space Invader (eOne): Ace Frehley was never an innovator, but he was always everyone’s favorite member of KISS because he brought grit and musical character to a band that was so preoccupied with presentation. From “Cold Gin” and “Parasite” to “Shock Me” and “Rocket Ride”, and that solo album that was light years better than the other three, he was always the band’s best songwriter when given the opportunity. Five years after his last solo album, Frehley went with the old “back to basics” tactic, intent on capturing the feel of that classic 1978 solo debut, and he does a rather good job of it. It’s simple, heavy rock ‘n’ roll, loaded with his Who-derived Les Paul riffs and alternating from his psychedelic shtick to more playful garage rock, and it suits the man perfectly. “What Every Girl Wants” is a blast, and even the cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker” is fun. Longtime KISS fans will get a kick out of this.
American, Coping With Loss (Sentient Ruin): If you like your metal misanthropic, self-loathing, and just all-around miserable, you can’t go wrong with this release by the Virginia band. It’s raw, malevolent black metal, featuring the kind of tortured, incomprehensible screams the music requires, but it’s not a one-trick pony, serving up tracks that not only cut to the chase, but show exceptional dynamics as well, whether it’s tossing in the odd death metal passage, some loose, punk influences, or in the case of highlight “Lamb to Slaughter”, going full-on doom. Even the ambient 18-minute piece that comprises the last half of the album, something I have very little patience for, displays enough cinematic flair to stay interesting. It’s a promising debut well worth investigating. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.
Black Trip, Goin’ Under (Prosthetic): Featuring former members of Entombed, Nifelheim, Corrupted, and leprosy, this Swedish collaboration is a quirky blend of Pentagram-derived doom (quelle surprise) and Thin Lizzy flash. Put those together, and yep, you’ve got pentatonic doom riffs accentuated by sharp hard rock passages and twin guitar harmonies. It’s nowhere near a trainwreck as, say, Chrome Division, and there are moments that work quite well, but this idea still feels like it’s nowhere near reaching its potential yet.
Botanist, VI: Flora (Flenser): The latest release from the prolific San Francisco project just might be its best to date, as I don’t think I’ve ever heard Botanist’s blend of black metal, post-rock, and shoegaze coalesce as beautifully as it does on Flora. Unlike other “metalgaze” efforts, Botanist keeps things a little left of center on this record, the bombast toned down and even muted in a way, always contrasting beauty and extremity, yet always mindful of not letting one side overwhelm the other. It’s a bit unsettling at times due to its unorthodox approach – take “Leucadendron Argenteum” for example – but as a whole it’s a wondrous, colorful piece of work. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.
Children Of Technology, Future Decay (Hells Headbangers): This Italian band fits right into Hells Headbangers’ wheelhouse, firmly rooted in straightforward d-beat punk rock, but with just enough of a metal influence to keep things filthy. Not to mention a singer a little obsessed with copping the mannerisms of Tom Warrior. It’s a fun enough little diversion, but in a week that sees the new Midnight album released, on the same label for that matter, why even bother?
Deadlock, The Re-Arrival (Lifeforce): Ah, Deadlock, a classic sufferer of Lacuna Coil disease: a band with an exceptional female lead singer but is perpetually deluded by the notion that it would be better off contrasting competent singing with tone-deaf screaming. But when these Germans are smart enough to let Sabine Scherer take the helm, their otherwise plain-Jane metalcore can often shimmer, which is a rare feat. This seventh album is more of the same, frustration one track, pop metal skill the next. For some, inconsistent is good enough for them, but smart metal fans should demand more than that.
Dictated, The Deceived (Metal Blade): It’s not every day you get a death metal band led by two women on lead guitar. Although these Dutch upstarts don’t do anything particularly new and creative on this second album – proving women can be just as middling songwriters as men! – it’s mildly engaging enough to scratch that Asphyx itch you might have. But why bother when there’s plenty of actual Asphyx to listen to?
DragonForce, Maximum Overload (Metal Blade): Album number six from the perpetually likeable Brits treads familiar territory, blending power metal with hyper-extremity as always, and although it doesn’t feel as rejuvenated as 2012’s The Power Within did, it still has enough memorable hooks to warrant a solid recommendation. Singer Marc Hudson has settled into his role nicely, leading the charge on such standouts as “The Game” and “Symphony of the Night”, while guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman continue their histrionic shredding, dazzling displays of dexterity, but done with a level of flash and ebullience that one rarely hears in metal anymore. The cover of “Ring of Fire” is wholly unnecessary, and actually terrible, but that doesn’t derail an album that careens wildly for 46 lively minutes, which is all anyone asks from these guys.
King 810, Memoirs of a Murderer (Roadrunner): It’s easy to dismiss King 810’s debut album as nothing but knuckledragger nu-metal shtick. Sure, the Flint, Michigan band’s sound is very much rooted in that sound, but there’s a lot more to this record than that. Constructed as an hour-long concept album about life in Nowheresville, the sense of anger and despair is palpable over the course of three acts as the band veers from cathartic, primal metal, to Nick Cave-derived introspection, to daring spoken word pieces. It’s contrived, no question, but all metal is contrived, but no matter how exaggerated it all is, these guys sell it alarmingly well. Nu-metal has been a self-parody for well over a decade now, and I’ve never hesitated to mock its many shortcomings, but this is an undeniably powerful piece of work, the most vivid and visceral such album since Slipknot’s Iowa.
Midnight, No Mercy For Mayhem (Hells Headbangers): It’s amazing how many d-beat metal/punk band replicate the formula faithfully enough yet are completely ignorant that the core of the sound isn’t crusty chords and that tempo, but that it’s simple rock ‘n’ roll at its core. A huge reason why Midnight stands out isn’t because it sounds like Venom meets Motörhead – although that unquestionably adds to its appeal – but rather because they rock. It’s as simple as that. The songs move and groove in sleazy fashion, lending the music a sultry steaminess that so many “extreme” bands don’t understand at all. On their latest, hotly anticipated album, there’s more groove than ever. It’s akin to Turbonegro’s Apocalypse Dudes, where a glammy Hanoi Rocks influence creep into the tunes, and you can hear it on this album, sleek lead fills adding welcome flash to the music, making it a lot more than dumb, primitive fist-bangers. Not that this album is without those tracks, but it’s no longer the complete focal point. Masked mastermind Jamie Walters has outdone himself with this record, continuing where 2011’s brilliant Satanic Royalty left off, yet at the same time adding much more richness to the music without compromising its underground credibility. As if that ever mattered. They are Midnight, and they play rock ‘n’ roll. Crank this sucker over at Bandcamp, and buy it now.
By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
Since their debut When All Became None was released about four years ago critics have struggled to find a moniker that fits Coffinworm. Are they blackened crust? Doom punk? Blackened death? Blackened tilapia? After a while all of these phrases begin to sound a lot like the Applebee’s menu so we’ll settle with the trustworthy “excellent.”
Coffinworm’s second album IV.I.VIII was released earlier this year and Carl Byers dropped by the shredder’s studio to give us an overview of the riffs that shaped him. Byers has so much game that he actually switched to guitar after spending time behind the drum kit. Does that mean he can also appear in our, er, banger’s studio?
Please welcome Mr. Byers to the shredder’s studio, our 13th episode.
Entombed – Sinner’s Bleed from Clandestine
Talk about a riff buffet. My first exposure to extreme metal was Entombed’s second album when I was 12 years old. I bought a used copy on cassette at a pawnshop near my father’s house based on the cover art and song titles. Entombed has always been my favorite death metal band and was a tastemaker for further influences. Clandestine had it all: driving two-beats, those reverb-drenched guitar solos that hang like a thick mist, probably the best guitar sound on a classic record using HM-2 pedals, and the song structures are killer. I generally prefer death metal firmly rooted in punk, but Clandestine is the best of both worlds: complex enough to not sound like Left Hand Path mach II (although, who the hell would complain about that?) and things slow down occasionally to let the riffs breathe.
Celtic Frost – Human/Into the Crypts of Rays from Morbid Tales
An obvious song, but totally undeniable in the effect it had on me when I heard it for the first time. Morbid Tales was responsible for more guitar players in both the punk and metal realms than a heap of other albums in the ‘extreme music’ world. Tom Gabriel Fischer and Martin Eric Ain influenced my writing and guitar playing when it comes to creating heavy music, and this record was the guidebook. What I’ve always loved about Frost is the balance between mammoth, driving riffs full of aggression and a counterbalance of very straightforward song structures. It’s almost pop in that respect, so it’s memorable and catchy. The music is fuck ugly, but there are riffs to grab onto and the arrangements are familiar because they’re usually written in a verse-chorus structure.
Motörhead – I’ll Be Your Sister from Overkill
The best, hands down. Motörhead is all I ever need if I had to choose just one band. It’s hard to choose just one song, but Overkill is my favorite record and ‘I’ll Be Your Sister’ is a perfect song. Fast or slow, they are the masters and a daily soundtrack to my existence. When I think of rock ‘n’ roll, punk, or metal it sounds like Motörhead.
Black Sabbath – War Pigs from Paranoid
None heavier. When I was a kid there was a guy working in acquisitions at the public library that would consistently add great metal and punk cassettes and CDs to their audio collection. This was my first exposure to a lot of music; the most important album was a copy of We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll. I checked out the summer between sixth and seventh grade. I constantly dubbed tapes, but that Sabbath compilation got the most play for years. The band sounded scary, the riffs were huge, and the lyrics were heavy. I made my guitar instructor teach me how to play ‘War Pigs’, which was the first full song I learned. Iommi will forever be the riff god.
Black Flag – Police Story from Damaged
Up through the Damaged album, Black Flag’s output is perfect. I love later Flag as well, and no less, but my favorite songs are the short bursts of feedback and intensity rather than the slow dirge. Greg Ginn sounds like a mad scientist and his arrangements/solos don’t sound like he was overthinking them, more like he’d never play the latter the same way twice. The guitar tone on Damaged is fucking nasty and every song sounds like it’s in danger of falling apart. I don’t feel like I’ve ever been able to fully capture that type of immediacy in my playing, but it’s always something I strive to do.
Nirvana – Dive from Incesticide / Drain You from Nevermind
Seemingly a pair of odd ducks in this list, but Nirvana had a profound effect on me and has continued to be one of my all-time favorites since I heard them in 1991. Their influence has colored my playing as a guitarist and a drummer, as well as my approach to songwriting (back to the point of Celtic Frost’s song structures). Two favorites here: The churning riff that anchors ‘Dive’ could cycle on forever, and that turnaround before the chorus descending to the open D chord and the noisy build-up in the middle of ‘Drain You’ – all so simple, but there’s a power there that hits harder than a barrage of notes or a 200 BPM blast beat. Pop structure or not, they were a band that knew how to write heavy and memorable songs.
The Dream Is Dead – Redefining Progress from Hail the New Pawn
Jared Southwick was a friend and an inspiration, despite the fact that we weren’t that far apart in age. In high school I saw several shows his death metal band, Legion, played and it seemed larger than life. He was this tall, gangly guy with an amazing energy. His fingers looked like a bunch of snakes on nuclear-grade meth pummeling the fretboard. Dude was an animal and so amazingly talented. When The Dream Is Dead started they were a game changer – I wanted to be able to play like that. They were my favorite Indianapolis band from the first time I heard them. My old band did a split 7” with them and we toured together, which solidified this bond that eventually led to me joining TDID as a second guitar player. Learning to play those songs taught me so much and pushed me to become a better guitarist. RIP, Jared.
Slayer – Mandatory Suicide from South Of Heaven
Another band on the short list of which I will never grow tired. Master of Puppets was in constant rotation in my formative years, but hearing Slayer had a more visceral effect. South Of Heaven is the album that hits me hardest and ‘Mandatory Suicide’ is a perfect example of Hanneman and King’s power. Slower and plodding, with that harmonized top-end riff descending, it’s always been a favorite. This record has also been a point of reference for Coffinworm when writing and arranging.
Melvins – Roman Bird Dog from Lysol
A band that has evolved and reinvented itself many times, and I love almost everything they’ve done. This EP was the first release of theirs I heard and the early 90s period of the band is my favorite. Buzzo is such a great guitar player, especially in that he’s understated most of the time. The riffs speak loudly and there’s a slow-motion tidal wave of low-end crashing over and over. Also the reason for my using a Rat pedal.
His Hero Is Gone – Raindance from Fifteen Counts of Arson
His Hero Is Gone had some of the most inventive two guitar arrangements and every song was a total banger. This album is the one and ‘Raindance’ has always been a favorite cut. Beyond heavy and the top-end discordant parts made a huge impact on me, which has had direct influence on us trying to incorporate similar types of ‘creepy’ high parts in Coffinworm.
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
#9: Kevin Hufnagel of Gorguts
#10: Marissa Martinez-Hoadley of Cretin
#11: Eric Cutler of Autopsy
#12: Woody Weatherman of Corrosion of Conformity
Think you’re having a bad day/life?
Well, Stephen Tanner is pretty sure he’s got your ass beat, and then some: The bassist of experimental sludge-y noise rock auteurs Harvey Milk is about to release a unsettling-yet-mesmerizing, pitch-fucking-dark concept album about his life entitled Things Haven’t Gone Well under the apt moniker Music Blues and we’ve got the full-album stream below.
I could go ahead and try to condense the crazy story of the album’s origins into a graph or two here, but I think the press release is worth reading in its entirety, so it is pasted after the jump. Suffice it to say, it includes death, depression, and a steady diet of booze and “six hours of the original 90210 every day.”
Now, without further ado, here comes the sublime bleakness…
To co-opt/augment Riki Rachtman’s old Headbanger’s Ball sign-off, on Written in Blood Darkness Divided has one foot in the metalcore gutter, one fist in the Between the Buried and Me/Devin Townsend-y gold. And for those who don’t reflexively hate the former, the latter will be a very welcome development indeed.
Anyway, here’s your chance to check out the band’s Victory Record debut in full one day before release. Want more? We’ve got the video for “The Hands That Bled” and a couple making-of segments after the jump…
By: andrew Posted in: featured, gnarly one-offs On: Monday, August 18th, 2014
If you’ve been with us for a while, you surely remember our January 2008 issue, in which we not only bestowed Album of the Year honors on Pig Destroyer’s Phantom Limb, but talked to vocalist J.R. Hayes at length about major influence David Lynch. “With [Lynch], it’s like you’re watching paintings that move,” Hayes said at the time. “He could do a five-hour movie with no narrative and I’d be into it.” So, what better man to talk to for the Twin Peaks Project currently spreading across the internet. This article is part of a series of investigations, reflections and reminiscences by writers, artists and musicians who were influenced by David Lynch’s seminal television show Twin Peaks. To read more or to learn how you can participate, visit www.twinpeaksproject.com.
I’m almost hesitant to write about Twin Peaks. I mean, I love it, it’s the shit and all that; it’s just that I know people whose TP knowledge blows mine out of the water. These people eat, breathe and shit Twin Peaks. They’ve shaken hands with Kyle Fucking MacLachlan. They’ve touched the Loglady’s actual log. They own not one, but two of the ultra-rare Leo Johnson commemorative ponytails. I don’t think those actually exist, but they should. My point is, only something truly unique and profound can inspire that kind of cultish passion and creepy devotion. Twin Peaks is less like a television show and more like a lucid dream or a voodoo spell.
Part 1 “It’s All Like Some Crazy Dream”
Most shows are in a hurry to shove you through the plot to the conclusion, but not this show. Twin Peaks would rather hypnotize you with long, suggestive shots of beautiful waterfalls and ghostly fir trees. It would rather pour you a nice hot cup of black coffee than tell you what the fuck is going on. Who killed Laura Palmer? Don’t worry about it, have another jelly donut. Twin Peaks is never in a hurry to do anything, except fuck your mind.
Most shows are too hung up on being realistic and believable, which usually translates to boring and predictable. David Lynch and Mark Frost sidestep this by boldly embracing absurdity and surrealism, putting the viewer on notice that anything could happen at anytime. Big Ed could turn into a 50 ft. praying mantis and eat the Double R Diner and you’re just going to have to roll with it.
There was an interesting piece in The Guardian a few years back, where Lara Flynn Boyle (Donna Hayward) talks about filming a scene in the pilot. She says that David Lynch told her to “Think of how gently a deer has to move in the snow.” Later, in the same article, Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Moran) says that Lynch “[would] get us into a circle and ask questions — it was like he was hypnotizing us.” At times, it seems like everyone on the show is overacting, but they are all overacting so well together that it moves beyond melodrama into something else entirely. Superdrama, maybe? I don’t know what it is, but it’s magnificent.
Part 2 “Mozart Is a Punk Bitch”
Anyone familiar with Lynch’s films knows that Angelo Badalamenti is his secret weapon, and his soundtrack for Twin Peaks may be his finest hour. It’s impossibly lush and warm and jazzy. It’s eerie and utterly horrifying. It’s so good, in fact, that it threatens to upstage the rest of the production.
This amazing composer deserves WAY more attention. In addition to his other work with Lynch, I highly recommend his soundtracks for Secretary and Arlington Road.
When that opening theme comes in, it’s like you’re falling into a giant fluffy bed full of NyQuil and Percocets. Relax, you are now under the Twin Peaks spell. Here, have a coffee and a slice of pie. And some incest.
Part 3 “The Haunting of Laura Palmer”
Usually, a victim in a murder mystery is more of a plot device than a character. Postmortem, they are quickly enshrined as an innocent, then promptly used as a vehicle for Matthew McConaughey to give a fiery closing argument or as a justification for Chuck Norris to sidekick 200 people in the head. There’s a shot in the pilot episode after the principal announces that Laura is dead, where they show the trophy case in the school lobby, and Laura’s picture is there in the center. Most of the time, that would be the last you’d see of poor Laura Palmer, but not on Twin Peaks, oh no.
Suddenly, the question isn’t just “who killed Laura Palmer?”; it’s also “who was Laura Palmer?” There’s a diary, and then a video, and then a tape, and then a fucking secret diary. Eventually, she’s brought back as Maddy the dopey lookalike cousin. Laura Palmer haunts the entire show like a poltergeist. Is she a homecoming queen? A devoted volunteer? A cokehead? A masochistic nymphomaniac? She’s all of those things and more; she’s the intersection of sex and violence, half kindness and half cruelty. She’s one of the most fascinating characters of the ’90s. Not to mention that Sheryl Lee is a fucking awesome actress, which brings me to…
Part 4 “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me Is Some Dark, Dark Shit”
A lot of people hate this movie, including many hardcore devotees of the show, and to be fair, there is plenty of room for criticism (the mildly irritating presence of Chris Isaak; the unforgivable absence of Audrey Horne, for example), but Sheryl Lee’s performance here is one of those risky, daring, all-in, once-in-a-lifetime kind of performances, and she is just electric in every scene she’s in. When she screams, it cuts all the way down to your bones. Then Badalamenti decides to get dark as fuck and make you pee your pants. There’s no humor to be found in Twin Peaks this time around, only terror and insanity.
Part 5 “The Cliffhanger From Hell”
The infamous, hellish final episode. Crazy-ass David Lynch, absent for most of the second season directing Wild at Heart, parachutes in at the last minute to give you both barrels of his looney-gun in this deranged nightmare masquerading as network television. I mean, seriously, WTF David Lynch?
By all rights, Twin Peaks should never have happened. It’s a small miracle that it was even made, much less aired. The fact that it became part of mainstream American culture kind of makes my head hurt. National networks don’t usually hire real artists and then give them the freedom to indulge themselves like this. Maybe they should. Makes me wonder what Dallas would have been like with Jodorowsky at the helm, or if Cronenberg had been tapped to direct Airwolf. Ah, what could have been…
By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, August 18th, 2014
** Sólstafir have been roving the plains of Iceland for the better part of two decades. Though originally a black metal act, replete with corpsepaint, the Reykjavikians transformed into something else years later. We’re not entirely sure if Sólstafir are post-metal, post-rock, or post-themselves, but whatever genre of music they fall into, they’re entirely unique. No band, alive or dead, sounds like Sólstafir (even on a bad day). I interviewed e-bow wingnut Aðalbjörn Tryggvason for Decibel #120 (10 years!), but here’s the rest of the piece in good ‘ol Playboy Q&A fashion.
OK, let’s get this one out of the way first. I didn’t know Iceland has cowboys. Are they homegrown or did you import them from New Mexico?
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: There are certain things that have always been associated with rock ‘n’ roll, tatts, boots, hats, ballads, guitars solos, bourbon whiskey, etc. We somehow have been more naturally drawn to these things than let’s say wearing khaki pants and reverse baseball caps.
On your last tour of the US you met with kids at a Junior High School. How’d that happen? It’s not like Sólstafir is a chart-topping artist in the states.
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: Our manager’s mom is a school teacher, so while meeting her over lunch in the states this idea came up, and it was great. Some of those kids are from Camden, New Jersey, which is about the most dangerous place in the whole U.S., so they don’t often meet musicians from Europe talking about art and songwriting. It was a privilege having a musical lecture for those kids.
How does Ótta differ from Svartir Sandar?
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: Well, we finally tried working with a string section, one of those things that we had discussed in the past, and even had some plans for Svartir Sandar, but the idea never made it further. I really wanted to go for softer vocals on this album. I don’t think more aggressive vocals would have fit this album. Apart from that it’s not really that different. We just made another album.
Were the songwriting sessions different from that of previous releases? I hear you often jam out the songs together instead of writing them individually.
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: Yes, sometimes we have a song that lasts for 10 minutes consisting of one riff, more like few chords. We are not a very riff-oriented band. Then, of course, we add layers and edit here and there. It’s sorta written blindfolded. One day Sæþór [Maríus Sæþórsson] came up with this hook that we all know has to be played on a banjo, but it wasn’t played on a banjo until it was recorded. I drop my guitar down to A and off we go. And the opening song, “Lágnætti” was basically done in two days. Some piano sections came to my head. I hardly ever play the piano by the way. We jam around it, and the next day we basically had it, that was the last song we wrote for the album.
You premiered “Lágnætti” and “Ótta” for the world. Any reason why these two tracks were chosen as album teasers?
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: I don’t know why, but for some reasons these are the “Battery” and “Master of Puppets” of this album in my mind. But I guess these two songs represent the album better than any other two, some of them are a bit obscure. There is a disco song there, and there is a full-blown piano ballad there, so…
Sólstafir relies a lot on the e-bow. What does the e-bow offer sonically to the songwriting process?
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: Some interesting questions here. I guess it adds sonic isolation. It’s very distant, drowning in reverb, and, of course, only works on one string at the time. It fills a lot up, and when Sæþór is coming up with some bizarre chord structure it’s a nice simple answer to that. That works well together. Then again, it’s sort of a lead guitar device, sometimes it’s hard to restrain yourself ’cause it’s very easy to come up with cool parts while having a good e-bow sound. And that’s another thing. I swear to god that e-bow has a life of its own. Sometimes it just won’t sound the way I want it to, even though I’m driving it through the exact same signal flow as the day before, so it’s almost never the same. Close, but never the same. But we’re sorta addicted to e-bow, and we always travel with two of them.
Ótta translates to Fear or Fears. Where are you coming from lyrically on Ótta?
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: That is the Google translate version you have there, but in our case, with the album title it’s the length of time equal to one-eighth of a solar day. Old Icelandic time plan.
Now that you’re getting attention from the rest of the planet are you inclined to change the lyrics from Icelandic to English? I guess Sigur Rós haven’t had too much of an issue…
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: Nah, can’t see that happening. We have used English in the past, and might use it again, who knows? We were close to using English on the the Svartir Sandar album, and the album before that Köld is mostly in English. But this one was always meant to be in Icelandic. And people don’t really care that much. They see the voice a lot more like an extra instrument. And I must confess that I find it a lot more comfortable singing in my mother tongue while singing personal stuff from the heart. Of course, English is a lot more rock ‘n’ roll, so if we go back to the first question, I guess we’re skipping that part of classic rock. At least, for the time being.
Where do you see Sólstafir going from here musically?
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason: I don’t know, if you would have asked me that a year ago, I couldn’t have foreseen this album. We just raise our hands in the air like radio antennas and check out how the reception is for each day, and this time around it was Ótta.
** Sólstafir’s new album, Ótta, is out August 29th on Season of Mist. It can, and probably should, be ordered HERE.