Repulsion: Live Tonight!

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

Repulsion_MaclynBean

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

gwar

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

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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.

STREAMING: Gamma Ray “Born To Fly” and “Master Of Confusion”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Monday, March 24th, 2014

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Power metal isn’t a frequent sight on the Deciblog. For that we (kinda) apologize. There are times when powerful metal, with soaring vocals, eagle cries, and shiny battle armor rules our respective roosts. But most of the time it doesn’t. Power metal, at least of the Euro variety, is, well, too Euro. We do have a soft spot for vintage Helloween, however.

Which is precisely why we decided it was high time to partner with Gamma Ray–you know, Kai Hansen was once a Helloweener–for the premiere of not just one song but two from new album, Empire Of The Undead. Take that naysayers. Turns out Empire Of The Undead almost never happened. The recording studio, Hammer Studios, burned down with everything in it. Luckily, the Gamma Ray masters survived. From the fire Hansen and Gamma Ray arise!

“If this could not stop us, nothing ever will,” jokes Hansen. “We got rid of a lot of shit that we gathered there. Unfortunately, a lot of good equipment as well. Anyhow, we look towards the future, we saved the production and we can continue now in this new place.”

OK, let Gamma Ray lighten your manic Monday. Oh, and we weren’t kidding about eagle cries (anyone remember Lost Horizon?)

** Gamma Ray’s Empire of the Undead is out April 1st on Eagle Rock Entertainment. It’s available for pre-order HERE. Eagle cries sold separately.

STREAMING: Insomnium “Revelation”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen, videos On: Friday, March 21st, 2014

insomnium_deathmetal_decibel_2014

“We haven’t changed our style dramatically”, vocalist and bassist Niilo Sevänen explains. “Fans can rest assured that it is still classic Insomnium. Of course there’s also some new flavors here and there, and maybe it’s even more diverse compared with the last album. The easy stuff is easier than before, the heavy stuff is heavier. The contrasts between the songs are probably bigger than on any of our previous albums.”

The truth is we’ve heard Sevänen say this before. Probably starting with second album, Since the Day It All Came Down, and about every album since. And each time, Insomnium’s come out and destroyed all expectations. Remember, “Mortal Share”? Killer. Remember, “Down with the Sun”? Stupidly good. Remember, “Through the Shadows”? Untouchable, really. So, for new album, Shadows of the Dying Sun, the Finns will transcend space, time, and expectations. Which is why we’d like to share with fans of melodic death metal (even old-school fans of NWOSDM and NWOFDM) the new Insomnium cut, “Revelation”. Your weekend just got a lot better, if we may say so ourselves.

** Insomnium’s new album, Shadows of the Dying Sun, is out April 29th on Century Media. It’s not available for pre-order yet, but link to nab previous Insomnium titles is HERE.

BREWTAL TRUTH: Drink This (or Something Like it) Now!

By: adem Posted in: featured, liver failure On: Friday, March 21st, 2014

Mikkeller-Invasion-Farmhouse-IPA

Apologies first off, if you go looking for this specific beer and can’t find it. Consider it an example of the kinds of beers that are subject of this week’s online Brewtal Truth. The topic at hand is “gypsy brewing,” or if you find that term offensive, “itinerant brewing.” Basically, if you’re a brewer, but you don’t want to actually spend all the money on equipment and a building to brew your own beer, you can pay breweries that are already up and running to brew and bottle your recipes for you. That would make you a gypsy, er, itinerant brewer, since you have no actual brewery yourself. This is a concept that not only frees the brewer from the financial constraint of building and maintaining a brewery, it also allows him/her to collaborate with different brewers, literally, around the world. So, not surprisingly, the brewers who have chosen this path tend to be quite creative with what they produce, and many don’t really produce a “core” lineup, instead opting to do whatever strikes their creative fancy. Mikkeller, the subject of this week’s Brewtal Truth, does exactly that, producing scads of beers at dozens of breweries around the world. Other itinerant brewers include Evil Twin, Pretty Things and Stillwater Artisanal.

INVASION
Farmhouse IPA
Mikkeller (Anchorage)
Denmark
8% ABV

We selected this particular beer because it was made by Anchorage Brewing, who is a particular favorite of ours. Anchorage is known for its use of brettanomyces yeast to ferment its beers and, indeed, this follows form. Beers fermented with brett aren’t everyone’s bag, as this “wild” yeast tends to produce some unusual flavors. And when brett goes awry (as can sometimes happen, since it’s a bit unpredictable) it can create some really unpleasant flavors. When it’s good, though, you’ll find notes of fresh-cracked pepper, tart fruit, leather and funk. ANd when it comes to brett, Anchorage knows how to play to its strengths. This is no different.

Invasion is called a “Farmhouse” IPA, because, quite frankly, it tastes more like a saison (or farmhouse ale) than an IPA. And the smell of this hazy, bright golden ale is pretty unusual, as well. What it has in common with an IPA in its current state is a fair swack of hops. That’s about it. The smell is quite funky, with bright notes of cannabis, pineapple and that classic brett descriptor, horse blanket. It’s alternately incredibly inviting and slightly off-putting.

Still, a brett-fermented IPA is hard to say no to. And this one delivers everything the aroma promises. First of all, probably due to the fact that this was bottled about 18 months ago and brett continues to develop and evolve, it is remarkably dry and hides its 8% ABV shockingly well. Some double/imperial IPAs of this strength can be quite sweet, but this is almost austere, it’s so dry. What you get is an incredible mouthful of fruity/spicy hop character, a whole lotta fruity/leather funk and a crisp, dry and bitter finish. It’s like eating a semi-ripe pineapple sprinkled with pepper. You get a nice pineapple flavor, but with no sweetness and a whole heap of peppery spice. It’s very well carbonated and incredibly refreshing.

Again, apologies for the fact that this probably isn’t that widely available (Western B.C., you gotta grab what’s in stores NOW!), but what we can tell you is that if all this sounds good, then seek out any Anchorage beers. This is very representative of every Anchorage beer I’ve had. And though this has Mikkeller’s name on the label (and maybe it’s actually his recipe), this particular beer wouldn’t have been brewed as expertly at probably any other brewery.

Beer’s made by itinerant brewers can be pretty interesting. They aren’t necessarily always this collaborative, but free of the responsibilities of the overhead costs of a brewery, there’s lots of opportunity to brew beers that are a little (or a lot) off-center.

Adem Tepedelen’s new craft beer book, Decibel Presents the Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing’s Outer Limits, is now available in the Decibel online store.

Spell Song Premiere: “Possessed By Heavy Metal”

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, listen On: Friday, March 21st, 2014

Spell band Photos - web-5 (best)

Candles?  Flowing hair?  Human bones?  Leather?  Bullet belts?  A moustache?  Song titles like “Shocker” and “Possessed by Heavy Metal”?  We all know what this leads to…

Vancouver rollickers Spell used to be called Stryker, and under that earlier name the trio released an EP and a split full of trad-heavy love.  Next month, they’ve enlisted the help of Hard and Heavy Records to release The Full Moon Sessions as reinvigorated entity Spell.  The album seems to be meant as a tying up of loose ends and is intended to beckon prospective fans toward more new material that the band is working on.

When asked for details about the album, vocalist/bassist Cam Mesmer said, “This record, recorded, mixed and mastered under a series of full moons, is a summation our musical process over the past 6 years, as well as a window into the direction we have been taking more recently which will be fully realized on our next release.  If your town still has the bollocks to host cool live shows in unique spots, get in touch and we’ll bring our music to you!”

Decibel also asked – mostly in jest – about the band’s favorite places to score a burger, a question that seemed to raise a bit of unexpected ire:  “Whatever good burger joints there may have been here in Vancouver are quickly getting evicted and bulldozed to make room for faceless corporations and condos, so your best bet these days is to hike up the mountains or out along the coast somewhere nice and grill up your own burger over the fire, that’s what we do.”

On April 19th (Record Store Day) you’ll be able to hear the whole air-guitar-worthy boogying album, but right now you can hear “Possessed by Heavy Metal” on the Deciblog.  And if you’re Canadian and a real planner-aheader, keep scrolling to find out when Spell might be playing in your area later this year.

Happy Friday!  Get “Possessed”!

 

“Full Moon Sessions” record release shows:

Friday, April 25th, Nanaimo BC:

Saturday, April 26th, Victoria BC:

Friday, May 23rd: Surrey, BC

 

“Spellbound” Canadian Tour Dates:

Friday, August 22nd: Penticton, BC

Saturday, August 23rd: Calgary, AB

Sunday, August 24th: Edmonton, AB

Monday, August 25th: Saskatoon, SK

Tuesday, August 26th: Regina, SK: O’Hanlon’s

Wednesday, August 27th: Winnipeg, MB

Saturday, August 30th: Montreal, QB

Sunday, August 31st: Quebec City, QB (w Funeral Circle)

Monday, September 1st: Ottawa, ON (w Funeral Circle)

Tuesday, September 2nd: North Bay, ON (w Funeral Circle)

Wednesday, September 3rd: Sudbury, ON (w Funeral Circle)

Thursday, September 4th: Kitchener, ON (w Funeral Circle)

Friday, September 5th: London, ON (w Funeral Circle)

Saturday, September 6th: Toronto, ON: (w Funeral Circle)

Monday, September 8th: Thunder Bay, ON

Tuesday, September 9th: Brandon, MB

Wednesday, September 10th: Moose Jaw, SK

Thursday, September 11th: East Coulee, AB

Friday, September 12th: Banff, AB