Bad Mojo: Death Curse Premiere!

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: exclusive, featured, listen On: Monday, July 28th, 2014

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So…here’s one of those times when you actually can go ahead and judge an album by its cover: Friday the 13th obsessives Death Curse play nasty, fuzzy, stripped down death n’ roll and the band isn’t really isn’t inclined to do fuck-all to pretty it up for anyone outside the horror metal cult.

We’ve got an exclusive track from the upcoming debut on Razorback Records later this year.

Get grimy or get scared — the choice is yours!

In other Razorback news, the second issue of the label’s horror culture mag Evilspeak is out now. Our review of the first issue lives here.

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Ihsahn (Emperor) interviewed

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, July 28th, 2014

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** Hall of Famers Emperor are celebrating the 20th anniversary of black metal classic, In the Nightside Eclipse. As part of our journalistic duties, we couldn’t pass up a chance to talk to icon/good guy Ihsahn about two decades of black fucking metal and why this time Emperor are taking the stage with them to the grave.

What prompted you to re-start Emperor this time? Sure, In the Nightside Eclipse is celebrating two decades. And you’ve got Faust and Trym back as well.
Ihsahn: When we started doing this again—rehearsing—it was about the time I released by previous [solo] album. Not sure if you heard that, but it’s kind of experimental, but it comes from a very primal place inside. It’s very connected to the old-school black metal atmosphere. Even though musically they’re different, they come from a similar place. Having done that album it was pretty easy to get into the old songs again. With the lineup it’s the same as last time, except we had Faust on drums, which is working out really well. That was criteria to do this. I didn’t want repeat what we had done in 2006-2007. Just run through the whole album, preferably with Faust on drums, if you know what I mean. Trym has a different style from Faust. He [Trym] has a tendency to speed everything up. [Laughs] It’s nice to play the songs as they are on the album again. There’s a lot small details that Faust does that Trym didn’t do.

You didn’t tour much in the early ’90s. You had one tour—the UK tour with Cradle of Filth, if I’m not mistaken.
Ihsahn: Our UK tour was pretty much it apart from a few shows in Norway. That was pretty much it. Back in those days touring wasn’t really done in Norwegian black metal. There wasn’t a sketch. There was no second album, do a European tour, do the third album, do a European and US tour. None of that. It wasn’t organized like that back then.

Well, it wasn’t a cool thing to do for black metal back then either. Touring was a “life metal” job, even though Immortal and Marduk toured.
Ihsahn: It didn’t have the same priority. To me personally, it’s always been that way. I’ve only done a few shows considering I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. [Laughs]

Why is that, looking back on your time in Emperor?
Ihsahn: Well, I was a bit put off by the first European and US tours we did. I enjoyed playing the shows, but everything else around it… life on the road isn’t cut out for me. The tours were badly organized. There were drunken people everywhere. All the technical issues. It wears you out. Over the years, I picked up touring with my solo stuff. It’s not that I don’t like playing live though. I just prefer doing creative work in the studio. So, these last few years where I’ve been with Leprous as my backing band have been great. We only do like 8-10 shows per year. That’s best of both worlds for me.

Does nostalgia play into your recent live performances?
Ihsahn: No, not really. [Laughs] Nostalgia is something you have to be very aware of. When you’re playing a show—and I think most artist relate to this—you can’t really think about much. You’re just in your environment playing. When you start to think about too much that’s when you start to screw up. You have to be in the moment. At that point, it doesn’t really matter what the songs are.

In the Nightside Eclipse has a very special place in many hearts. Hearing these songs live again is important to people.
Ihsahn: I can relate to albums I grew up listening to that did something special for me. Like with Iron Maiden. It’s only then you can really connect. That’s when nostalgia hits. I mean if you listen to an album in your teens and suddenly you hear the album again years later, you can remember the smells, the thoughts, the places you hadn’t thought about in, say, 15 years. As people, we connect very strongly to music. I think we store music memories in a different way. Music, as an art form, is an abstract thing. It’s up to the listener to fill in the blanks to make it meaningful. Going back to not being too conscious while playing the songs, the audience is the opposite. They’re coming to see us because they have a strong connection to the music. This is a kind of music you can’t pull off just technically. It’s not that technical. It has to have an edge to it. An atmosphere to it. People aren’t easily fooled if you aren’t coming from an honest place with this type of music.

Keyboards weren’t exclusive to Emperor. But, I think, Emperor used the instrument more effectively than others. Why did you use keyboards as a scaping device?
Ihsahn: That was a result of our previous bands. Me and Samoth had our own bands prior to Emperor. In those bands, we had keyboards. I started out on keyboard when I was 6 or 7. I didn’t start playing electric guitar until I was 10 or 11. Emperor started out as a back-to-basics extreme black metal band with no keyboards. More of a punk attitude. As soon as that became a priority for our projects we started to add in the elements from our previous bands. I have to admit, as much as we listened to black metal, we listened to a lot of soundtracks. Horror movie soundtracks. Inspiration came from these big, grandiose, larger-than-life sounds. The orchestral parts added impact to our music. A lot of extreme metal is one-dimensional. There are no dynamics. I won’t say it’s boring, but it’s just full-on aggression. Black metal, as opposed to death metal, has more emotional depth. The vocal style and the music can be expressed without being too technical. It’s almost romantically melancholic. There’s a wider span in a way. I always missed that in extreme music. So, that’s why I wanted to put in layers of keyboards. Whatever to create swells in our music.

How old were you when you recorded In the Nightside Eclipse?
Ihsahn: By the time we got to record it I was 17.

Late teens. Most guys that age are out chasing girls, drinking beer, trying to find their place in this world. You were creating a black metal landmark.
Ihsahn: [Laughs] Well, we did that too. We were pretty normal in that sense. I do remember when we recorded the album, some of the other guys got to go to the pub. They were a bit older. People ask me that all the time. I remember that so well. The guys got to go to this rock pub in Bergen, where we recorded the album. I was kicked out the first night ’cause I wasn’t 18. So, I stayed in the studio with Pytten [aka Eirik Hundvin], doing vocals, keyboard layers, lead guitars while the other guys went to the pub. That spurred me on to the whole studio passion thing. [Laughs] But, remember, we were deep into this. It was a very strong subculture with very few people involved.

I always wondered why everyone went to Pytten early on.
Ihsahn: It was just that he did the Burzum stuff. The Immortal records. He did the Mayhem record. It was one of those studios that had good references. It was like the Florida studio that had all the death metal bands. Morrisound. Pytten isn’t a metalhead though. At all. [Laughs] He did country records. A lot of people remember him as a host of a youth program in Norway in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. A lot of the black metal bands were teenagers, with hard empathies and sympathies, extreme philosophies, ways we looked at the world. He had absolutely no problem with that. He treated us a young people. With respect. He took us 100 percent seriously. But he understood we were young. He understood what we wanted to achieve. He understood that we wanted this sound, drenched in reverb with explosions going on. He was very open-minded. He still is. People his age are normally put off by what we stood for and would be much more moralistic about the bands and the guys in the bands. At the time, because we had such extreme views, we were confronted as adults. He managed to see through all that. He was a friend and a collaborator.

You were, as your solo debut correctly called, adversaries. Enemies of the state, so to speak.
Ihsahn: [Laughs] You’re right. The more we were confronted and the more opposition we faced, we had two choices: fall over or use it as more fuel. It was fuel for the fire for us. Peoples’ strong reaction to us meant we had impact. It underlined the differences between us and them.

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Do you ever look back at the promo photos you took in the early ‘90s and laugh? Taken out of context they look a bit strange.
Ihsahn: Having done this for such a long time, the pictures go along with the album covers. You get used to them. It’s not like they pop up after 20 years and you’ve forgotten them. They are part of us. I still remember our mindset. At the time, we felt perfectly comfortable wearing make-up and dressing up for the photo sessions. Obviously, the mystique we were able to create back then you can’t do today. The Internet is everywhere. Sure, people then thought it was ridiculous too. Most of the magazines—at the time of Eclipse and Anthems—thought we were absolute idiots. The music was crap. Now, I see Eclipse next to Black Sabbath as “important albums” in the same magazines. It’s interesting and absurd to see how public opinion changes.

Time changes everything.
Ihsahn: It’s like that with all subgenres and subcultures. Eventually, they’re accepted.

Tattoos are good example. For years, tattoos meant you were an ex-convict, in the Navy, a biker, a drug addict, or someone who had a really terrible life history. Now, tattoos are everywhere.
Ihsahn: I see that in the small town I live in. I feel like my wife and I are the special ones now. We don’t have tattoos. [Laughs] I’m rather happy I don’t have the tattoos I wanted when I was 17.

Right. Like a huge Baphomet on your chest. Or a pentagram on your back.
Ihsahn: More or less. You’re spot on. [Laughs]

Why didn’t you get tattoos? I don’t have them either, which is probably tied to my strong sense of regret.
Ihsahn: Well, my parents basically told me I could get my driver’s license—the money for it—if I didn’t get tattooed back then. And there you have it. If I wanted to drive I couldn’t have tattoos. [Laughs]

OK, any chance of doing a US tour?
Ihsahn: With this lineup we didn’t bother getting work visas. The last reunion was without Samoth. Now, with Faust, it would be very far-fetched. You probably know why it wouldn’t work. [Laughs] It would be stressful to everyone. There’d be a lot of disappointment, I think. It would be great though. When we announced the shows last year, our manager had to turn down 60 offers. He’s now turned down over 100 offers. We got an offer to tour with Slayer and Marilyn Manson in 2007. Our record company wanted us to do it. So, it’s been no secret I’ve been reluctant to do the reunion again. I’m 38 now. I don’t want to message to be, “I give up. I can’t do anything new. So, I’ll just play the old classics.” I don’t want to be that guy. I mean, in 2006 we set out to do one show. We ended up doing much more than that. We want to keep this run short but sweet. Special. It’s been 20 years since Eclipse. Let’s celebrate that and move forward.

I think it’s pretty incredible Emperor gave you a career. That Emperor remains close to people is remarkable.
Ihsahn: It’s a huge privilege. Me and Samoth talk about this all the time. When me and Samoth started Emperor in ’91 and even when we recorded Eclipse, we had absolutely no commercial thoughts. At all. Making a living out of this wasn’t in our thoughts. Twenty years later, we played to 50,000 people at Hellfest. After, we grabbed a few beers and watched Black Sabbath. That’s not a bad day on the job is it? [Laughs] It’s pretty weird seeing the Emperor logo next to Black Sabbath and Aerosmith. Huge bands. We feel privileged, really. At the same time, we’re down to earth. We take it for what it is and to enjoy the moment. We want to respect our audience. They’ve made all this possible by keeping us in mind. When we quit in 2001 we were uncompromising. In all my career I’ve never compromised. I’ve been able to say “no” to anything I want. That makes me feel much better about what I’ve done and what I do today.

** Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse is out now as a remastered digibook and 2xLP. It’s available HERE. Chances are you already have it, but if you don’t, well, you’re missing out on a black metal great.

STREAMING: Saturn “So, You Have Chosen Death”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Friday, July 25th, 2014

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Retro is cool. Retro is where the girls are at. Retro is where the dollars are at. If you’re retro, you’ve got it made. Unless you’re in the business of retro heavy metal. Then, you just get the girls. Just ask Swedes Saturn. With just a few strums of their throwback axes and bygone haircuts, they hook in the ladies. Actually, we have no idea about their womanizing abilities. But we do know the Swedes take heavy metal back to when it was pure and good. No frills or GI Joe jumpsuits or Superhero Monster cover art. Saturn let the music and cool persona do all the talking.

“We’re trying to not copy anything but of course we’re influenced by the music that we love,” says guitarist Robin Tidebrink. “It’s as simple as trying to create music that we would like to listen to ourselves. We are keeping it true and simple. Don’t make things harder just for the sake of it! If a track that we’re satisfied with just clocks in at 2 minutes, we keep it that way. We don’t have any rules or any templates to adhere to. We recorded everything except vocals live at the same time, so what you hear is what you get on a live show. If people love guitar and bass-driven heavy metal from the 70s and mix it with blues and thrash, they are going to love what we do. Be prepared for heavy metal, blues rock and many great guitar riffs along with unique vocals!”

And, folks, that’s exactly what you have with “So, You Have Chosen Death”. It’s Friday, too. So, pop open a cold one, crank up the volume and ride off into the weekend sunset with Saturn. That’s what we’re doing.

** Saturn’s new album, Ascending (Live in Space), is out August 5th on Rise Above Records. Pre-orders are available HERE if you need a good ole dose of traditional Swedish heavy metal.

Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack (NOISE Edition II): Christopher S. Feltner

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Friday, July 25th, 2014

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It’s been a good month for celebrating the noisier side of the extremely extreme.  All good things must end… though it’s hard to believe that we won’t be revisiting gritty, shadowy, unfettered sound in the future, if only here on the Deciblog.

To round out the month of noise, we spoke to Virginia-based Christopher S. Feltner about his own journey through recordings and performance.  While he is most certainly an engaged musician, we have mostly encountered his live physical performance work, which uses ugly sound as merely a bed for off-putting stage action while wearing an uncomfortable (for the audience) clash of garments.  We have witnessed Feltner, head and face gauzily covered, stalk a room with a knife whose sharpness is demonstrated by shoving it into a wooden table; the knife is then used to slash a mouth-sized wound into the facial shroud, then forced between Feltner’s lips.  The audience sat utterly transfixed, stunned as red liquid streamed from Feltner’s face, wondering whether it was all part of the act or if he was shedding real blood in front of them.

While the anguish Feltner channels is real, he also makes easy conversation and is straightforward about his artistic interests.  Below is a sample of his recorded output, as well as a brief interview and a video sample of a Philadelphia performance.

It’s almost August, but that’s okay – keep it noisy if you want to!

Can you describe how your musical interests (d)evolved toward working with noise?

Aggressive music has always been appealing to me. From age 14, I have played in punk, metal, and hardcore bands. I saw a music review for Wolf Eyes’ Burned Mind in a magazine. The review didn’t really interest me as much as the photos that were included: members head banging and going nuts with instrumentation that I couldn’t imagine being heavy. I picked up the album, and fell down the rabbit hole.

Did your interest in music/noise lead you to performance art, or did that develop separately?

My interest in performance art started about two years ago. I saw Gerritt Wittmer and Paul Knowles perform in Baltimore, and it opened another door that I didn’t know was there. Their performance mixed a subtle, but strong, physical presence with a noise composition. Before that, I had always thought of noise and performance art as separate entities. Since then, I have come across other artists that mix noise/sound and performance art, masterfully, like Olivier de Sagazan, and Yann Marrusich.

What do you see as the connection between the sound involved in your performances and the physical aspects? Does either one feel more important or require more of your attention than the other?

The connection between the sound, and the physicality, is 100% intentional. Sometimes I want the sound to be the dominant presence; sometimes, the opposite. It all depends on the concept of what I’m performing, the performance space, and how much control I have over the lighting in the room.

I don’t consider one to be more important from a creative aspect. But, in my opinion, if you’re going to be performing live, then there should be a solid physical presence. Nothing turns me off more than people staring at a laptop, or standing still, turning knobs the whole time.

What is your performance experience like? How widely have you performed (geographically) and at what kinds of shows?

This is my sixth year performing solo work. I have performed in 18 or 19 states, at this point, and multiple times. I have performed in a lot of different types of spaces: bars, clubs, houses, galleries, DIY performance spaces, schools, residential treatment center, museum… I have opened for Melt-Banana in a popular DC club, and I have played for 10 people in a kitchen in North Carolina.

What are your current sources of inspiration for your noise/performance work?

Films are a constant source of inspiration for me. David Lynch’s films, in particular. Unusual paintings and photography also charge me. My faith in Christ. The human condition. It all plays a part. I have noticed that the longer I do this, the less inspired I am by specific artists.

Can you talk about the first noise or performance piece you completed that you felt really proud of?

The first noise piece I had completed that I felt really proud of was the first Kingdom of Sharks album, “ALPHA/OMEGA.” The release was my audible interpretation of what creation would sound like in the book of Genesis, and then of Revelation. It was my first attempt at a full release, and, even now, it still holds up.

The first performance piece that I was proud of was one I made based on my dog. He started having severe seizures, and it was really sad to see how helpless and confused the episodes made him, and how much of a toll they took on his health. The performance is on YouTube. I did the performance in Philadelphia at Common Circuit Fest.

You’ve said that people tend not to talk to you after performances. Can you talk about some counterexamples – people who have been really enthusiastic with you after experiencing your work?

If people are used to unusual performances, they tend to be the ones who will talk more. The problem is, they want to talk immediately following the performance which is the worst time for me. It takes some time to get back to normal after. I try to be friendly, and answer questions, but I’m not quite there yet. The more intense the performance is, the more time I need after to myself.

I had a guy who was working on a documentary of performances at this space outside of DC wanting to ask me all of these questions right after a rough performance. Then, he wanted me to fill out and sign this permission form. It was really bad timing.

In Hildebran, NC, as soon as I stopped the performance, two people immediately wanted to know what my influences were. That was very strange, and unexpected to me.

Have you worked with more or less the same set of props/clothing in your various performances, or have you accumulated/changed these over time?

Before mixing more performance-based elements into what I do, I dressed as I normally would. Once I started performing under my own name vs. the Kingdom of Sharks moniker, I began dressing in white button-up shirt, black tie, pants, socks, and dress shoes. Then, for some performances, I began using the white head covering in addition to the outfit. Now, at times, I’ll alternate a black head covering, and dark green button-up shirt.

The clothing, and the variance in the use of the head covering, is all intentional, and depends on what I’m performing.

Do you have any go-to instruments or materials you like to use when recording, or is it different all the time?

Honestly, it all depends on the concept, or approach, for the album. I use my voice in most of my recordings. Sometimes it sounds like I’m using other things when it’s just vocal-based. Didgerdoo is something I have used multiple times. Those are really the only two things I have used the most. I was just talking to my brother-in-sound, Guillermo Pizarro, about new recording ideas. I have 10 different concepts/approaches ready to go when I’m ready.

How and why did SEVEN1878 get started?  What goals do you have for the imprint?

SEVEN1878 was just a name I put on a former project of mine, Spoken War. I wanted to do a small label of some sort but I didn’t have the time, or much focus at the time. Then, it became a blog promoting interesting art. Fast forward seven years later, it is a modest label imprint that has put out releases by myself, and several others; it a music blog with reviews and interviews with experimental-based artists; and, it is a show organizing entity.

My goals as an imprint is to present experimental expression to as many people as are willing to give it a chance. Much like I fell into the rabbit hole of this world of sound, I’m hoping to do the same for others.

Check out more noise insanity by Feltner and his conspirators at the SEVEN1878 webpage, Feltner’s direct page, and at his music blog.

Also, don’t miss a similarly riveting interview conducted by TMaFLH alumnus Guillermo Pizarro.

Raw Power is Coming to America Again! Why So Glum Chum?

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, interviews, tours On: Thursday, July 24th, 2014

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In addition to holding the illustrious (or dubious) honour of being one of my personal favourite bands of all time, Italy’s Raw Power is undoubtedly one of the most enduring and consistent hardcore punk bands to emerge from the world of hardcore punk. They formed in 1981 (with roots going back to the late 70s), have eleven awesome full-lengths comprising their extensive discography (yes, even Too Tough to Burn has its latent charm), have weathered unexpected popularity, sinking obscurity, personal tragedy and gone through more ex-members than dudes sitting on the roof of the 3:45 from Mumbai to New Delhi. Their latest album is called Tired and Furious and in issue #115 (which you can order here), you can read an engaging story penned by Adem Tepedelen investigating the perpetual issue the band has had in being too metal for the punks and too punk for the metal heads. The band has also been mentioned at various points on the blog as well: here, here and here.

It seems that slotting into neat categories hasn’t been the only problem that’s plagued the Reggio Emilia ragers. I’ve always maintained that Raw Power got the short end of the stick when it came to the business side of things and the following interview with vocalist Mauro Codeluppi, which was supposed to be a little chat promoting their upcoming east coast tour, only confirms the ongoing and frustrating reality that the band has dealt with since the mid-80s when the Screams from the Gutter and After Your Brain albums and the Wop Hour EP were selling five figures apiece. Read on and discover what’s really behind Tired and Furious’ jams like “Things are Bad,” “Stabbed in the Back,” “Enough is Enough” and, of course, the title track.

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OK, I’ve got a story for you. I’ve been a huge fan of the band since I was a kid, but had never seen you live. Last year, when you guys toured the American mid-west and were playing Detroit, I happened to be on tour myself. I was a few hours away, so I took a day off from the tour I was on to fly to Detroit where I made the questionable move of wandering around the city all day until the show, all so I could finally see you guys live.
[Seeming either totally nonplussed or scared shitless by my borderline stalking behaviour] Hmm, OK. Hopefully we weren’t that bad.

Nah, man. It was great and something to scratch off the bucket list. Throughout the 90s you toured the US pretty regularly, then there was a gap and now you’re back for a second time in two years…
Well, actually since my brother [original guitarist, Giuseppe Codeluppi] died in 2002, we’ve been back almost every year since 2004.

Oh, OK…Really? But most of those have been just a couple weeks, correct? Have you been looking to do longer tours?
Yeah, yeah, most of them have been two weeks, definitely less than 20 days. Probably the last seven or eight years, most of the tours we’ve done have been on the west coast, up and down between Seattle and San Diego. Sometimes we’ll get out to Reno, but it’s mostly up and down like this. Last year, we did the mid-west just because we were going into the studio in Wisconsin to record Tired and Furious and that was the first time we had done that in many years. This year, we’re pretty much only doing the east coast for a change. But between 2004 up until now we’ve probably been back every year, not that anybody knows, but we have been.

That was going to be my next question. I didn’t know you’d visited the states so regularly and I consider myself a big fan.
It’s mainly because between the bands that tour with us, the organisers of the shows and us, we’re all coming from the small-time world of organisation or whatever. We’ve done shows with the Pyrate Punx [a coalition of punks from different cities that have set-up a network to put on shows, events and tours]; they’ve done two or three tours for us and they’re spreading all over the states and are even in Europe where they have a base in a few cities in Germany and England. They’re going to be involved in a couple of the shows this year. They’ve been very good for us, but unless you’re one of their circle, it’s difficult to go into or find out about one of their places. So, it’s difficult for, say, “normal” people to know about those shows and they tend to have the same group of people going to their shows. Then, the other people who organise shows and tours are very small agencies and seem to have the sort of mentality where they have a year to organise something, but don’t actually start doing anything until two weeks before you get there, so most of the shows aren’t advertised and no one knows until it’s too late.

You’re doing this year’s tour with Wartorn again, right?
Yeah, this one should be good. Last year we toured with them and it went very well. [Wartorn vocalist] Eric is really good and there’s no messing around with him, so this year should be very good. On paper, it’s looking like it will be one of the best things we’ll have ever done in years.

Last year, part of the time you were over here was spent recording the new record. Are you doing something similar again?
No, this year the first show is on August the 2nd and the last is on the 16th and there are shows every day. This is just going to be a normal tour.

There’s a song on Mine to Kill – I can’t remember the title – where you sing about touring hazards like shitty cops, crappy clubs, shady promoters and so on. Are you still dealing with all the same stuff from that song these days?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know which song you mean, I can’t remember the title either [laughs]. Nothing’s really changed and things are more or less the same. It’s a bit better for us because years ago, until we met up with Wartorn, either we shared a van with another band or started renting vans and doing our own thing, stopping when we wanted to stop, drive when we wanted to drive. Last year was one of the first times we had somebody drive for us and everything was organised properly.

If the situation is still the same after so many years…
…Why do we do it? [laughs]

Well yeah, but also, how frustrated do you get in doing it? Maybe it’s because you’re only doing it a couple weeks a year and you’re not doing it enough that it’s going to piss you off too much? But if that sort of thing was going on eight months a year…
Ah, no. I wouldn’t do it then. A band like Wartorn does it all year; they tour all year around. Two weeks in a van is all right. Three weeks is stretching it. I couldn’t live like that. It’s not too frustrating because we already know that this is how it is going to be and nobody makes us do it. It’s not a job and it’s not like if we don’t do this, we’re not going to eat or whatever. To me, it’s a couple of weeks off work and instead of going away on holiday with the family, I go away and do what I want. We’ve gone past the time where we thought something big could ever happen with this band and the whole idea that maybe we’ll hit it this year. If it was going to happen, it would have happened 20 years ago, it’s not going to happen now. So now, it’s just time off and having fun for a couple of weeks.

Touring the states and Canada is notoriously difficult compared to a lot of Europe. Is touring and playing shows in Europe any different for you guys?
No, more or less it’s the same thing. The problem with Raw Power is that a lot of people will call us when they need a band with a “name” who will play for pretty cheap. Because we’ve been around for a long time, when someone does a festival with all these old timers they think about us because they can get us for a little money. That happens a lot in Europe and Italy and I guess that happens in the states as well. We keep going back to the states though, because I love it there. I like it more than Europe and Italy. Although, if you look at the money situation, it’d make more sense to stay in Italy because we don’t have to fly anywhere; we can drive four or five, eight hours at the most and make more money than going to the states or Europe. It’s the opposite here; there are hundreds of American bands that come to Europe because they get paid lots of money and they get treated a lot better. If you put it all together, the labels we’ve worked with have never invested any money because they didn’t have any money, and we couldn’t tour extensively because we didn’t have the money. It’s a combination of lots of things and we’ve never had the chance to put them all together properly. We’re just lucky people keep calling us back anyway.

Despite everything you’ve just told me, have you noticed an increase in interest in the band with 1) the internet and 2) people looking back and discovering the old-school and original bands?
Yes. With Facebook and the internet in general, we’ve been quite lucky. The 90s was probably the worst time for this kind of music. With the coming of the internet and in the last few years, bands like us have picked up and have almost been reborn. We still have all the old people – people who are like my age – who knew us already anyway, and they’re bringing their kids and their kids will bring their friends. Some other people find us on Facebook, see our videos on YouTube and get to know us that way. Technology has definitely been in our favour. We would have probably carried on playing shows here in Italy and the odd show here and there in Europe because they know us, but other opportunities have come up through the internet and changed things quite a lot. But that’s been in general; I’ve seen a lot of bands going down, down, down in popularity, then all of a sudden they’re back and selling out big shows. It if wasn’t for people being made aware they were still around, no one would know about it.

I know Fuck Off and Die Records has reissued the early demos and You are the Victim. I’ve heard a rumour they might be reissuing all of your albums. Is that the case?
All of them? I don’t know. They’ve done the early stuff and they started working on Screams from the Gutter, again and then they’ll be doing After Your Brain, which they just re-mastered and it sounds good. Very good! The original sounds like shit compared to it. There’s stuff on the new version that you couldn’t even hear on the original; it’s like they’ve brought back parts of the songs that have never been heard. For the other ones, I don’t know what they’re going to do, but they’re not going to work on the more recent stuff.

That’s funny they’re doing Screams from the Gutter and After Your Brain because it’s always been super-easy to find those two albums. On the flipside, I’ve never even seen Fight or Resuscitate anywhere.
It’s the same thing in Europe. There are people who are still stuck to the first two albums and don’t realise that’s not all we’ve done. They still think we have two or three albums, not 14 or 15 or whatever we have. Maybe we have too many and that’s the problem? [laughs]

One of the things I’ve always found most frustrating about being a Raw Power fan is watching all this awesome music and potential languish because you’ve never had a decent team working behind the scenes for you. Do you ever think about what might have been?
At the beginning, or maybe from about 1984-86, probably the main people to blame for not having done much were ourselves. If there’s someone to blame personally, it’s probably me out of everyone. In the first couple of years, we had a chance to move towards bigger things and for one reason or another, we didn’t. We had a label in New York asking us to sign up with them for a couple of years and we didn’t. That was because in 1984-85, I was doing everything for the band. Because I was the only one who could speak English, I was the tour manager, the driver, the translator and singing as well. But because we were there to have a good time anyway, everyone was always going off to party here, there and all over the place [laughs], and I was always the one to stay back and look after the interests of the band while everyone else pissed around. After a bit, if you’re not the official tour manager, you just get fed up being the band babysitter. So, a couple times we had meetings set up with a label in New York and no one wanted to go, so I didn’t go either and that was it, they signed someone else. That happened twice; you’re really lucky if it happens once and if it happens twice in the same place two years running, you can’t blame anyone else. I know that part of the problem was also that we were living quite well in Italy. It wasn’t like “we have no money, our life is shit, this is our big chance and we have to do this.” Our lives here were quite good and it wasn’t a live or die situation. Why should we stay in America for so long and eat burgers all day when, instead, I can be at home with my mom cooking pasta for me [laughs]. In the end, we put all these things together, we didn’t go to those meetings and here we still are now. After that, it was like, ‘oh well, let’s carry on and just have fun.’ Unless a miracle happens, this is how it is.

So Raw Power is the ultimate lifelong hobby?
Oh yeah, definitely. It was always like that anyway. In the beginning, it was a hobby; we were all young and if anything happened we’d figure out what to do at the time. In the last ten or so years, it’s had to be. When you look at how much we make, we have to look at it like a hobby-plus-holiday. If we’re lucky, we get to go to new places we haven’t been and it’s still cheaper than paying to go somewhere on purpose. Ultimately, we’re actually saving money.

Have you been to all the places you’re playing on this tour?
We have been to all of the cities, but some we haven’t been to in a long time and I don’t think we’ve been to any of the actual clubs. In 30 years we’ve done all the main cities, but there are places I can’t wait to get back to. For the first time in many years, we’re going to Austin and I can’t wait because it’s very lovely there. New York is another place we haven’t been in a long time. In the past, we’ve done well in these cities, but I don’t know what’s going to happen now.

Well, that’s about it. Thanks for taking the time to do this and good luck with the tour.
Well, thank you for calling. One day, I hope we play somewhere nearer to you so you don’t have to fly to see us again. We need more people like you.

Well, maybe, but I don’t know if the world does.
[Laughter]

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Raw Power homepage

Tombs’ Mike Hill: Hot Coffee Machine

By: mr ed Posted in: exclusive, featured, interviews On: Thursday, July 24th, 2014

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Because Tombs frontman Mike Hill loves work and HATES sleep, he recently started his own company, Savage Gold Coffee, in an effort to completely eradicate the latter from everyone’s life. Their inaugural brew, Savage Gold Prime, is available for order here now. While presumably starin’ at the walls, Hill gave us the scoop.

I’m guessing you are a daily coffee drinker, correct?

Mike Hill: Absolutely. Yeah, I’m a huge fan of coffee, and for most of my life I’ve been a huge fan of coffee. It’s sort of synonymous with a lot of the activities that I do, you know, as far as… I’ve always pounded coffee when we’re driving across the country, I’m always drinking coffee during band practice. To me, coffee always sort of is synonymous with our activity, so that’s where I guess the connection, I guess, started.

What do you look for, in particular, in a cup of coffee? I’m guessing that you’re a guy who’s into richer, darker blends, not the weak stuff.

No, I like it all, actually. Sometimes, I definitely like the bolder flavors, but also I like lighter coffee as well. I mean, if I’m in the sort of mood for a lighter coffee, I’ll go with that. I like a wide variety of different flavors: you know, espresso, you know, the South American beans vs. the African beans, all that sort of stuff. But specifically some of the things that I’m really interested in are organic and fair-trade and. And relying on consumption, I usually stay with those varieties of coffee.

So, tell me about the experience brewing coffee. I mean, had you had any experience with that up to a point, up to this point?

No, and like everything else in my life, I just jump in and try to do it.

How did you figure this out?

Actually, Jesse Daino, the guy who used to be the drummer with Ed Gein, he runs a coffee operation up in Syracuse. And he and I have been sort of consulting on this whole thing for like the last six months or so. He has been my guru in the coffee-roasting business, and he’s kind of helped me get a source of beans and, you know, pointed me in the right direction as far as doing things cost-effectively and yet still maintaining quality. So, he’s really been my point man on that, and I owe a lot to him for sharing his knowledge.

Are you physically involved in the roasting process? Or is he kind of handling the back-end stuff like that?

Yeah, actually Jesse’s handling the back end. He’s got four guys that he has under him who are roastmasters, and we specifically figured out what the roast profile is, and he’s been handling all of that to date. But down the line my future plan is to actually get my own roasting facility and start doing different beans, different varieties of coffee, but still keeping the Savage Gold Prime coming from Jesse.

So, how much preliminary work have you done on being able to get your own facilities and start that arm yourself?

Well, I’m actually looking at doing it, looking at what the requirements are, because you have a certain requirements for the machine, you have a certain gas requirement that you need for those things that run on gas. So, actually trying to find like a physical location in New York City is starting to become very difficult. And I’m looking actually up the Hudson for the possibility of relocating everything up there and opening up a facility.

Do you have any aspirations to do a retail coffee shop along with this, too?

I don’t see myself actually ever working behind the counter of a retail coffee establishment. [Laughs]

So, tell us about the Savage Gold Prime blend. It’s an Ethiopian coffee, right?

Well, it’s not a blend. It’s this whole… the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, and that, you know, it’s coming from a farmers’ co-op in Ethiopia, it’s harvested between 6,000 and 6,500 feet above sea level and it’s wet-processed, and that sort of cuts down on the mold and toxin content of the coffee. Because a lot of the sort of lower-quality coffee that you may run into will run the risk of having molds or toxins growing inside of them. So, that sort of angle is what I’ve been looking at, you know, trying to keep pure, organic, fair-trade… you know, that sort of trip is definitely part of my whole plan with the business.

What do you think of people who put cream and sugar in their coffee?

I think they’re not drinking coffee. I’m sort of against sugar in general. But, you know, you wanna put cream in your coffee, that’s your thing, man. I would never stand in anyone’s way of expressing themselves. So, I mean, if that’s how you want to express yourself, I say go for it. But you will never catch me putting cream or sugar in my coffee.

It’s a desperate moment. You’re on tour and there are only two coffee choices available to you: Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. Where are you going?

I would go with Starbucks. Though I never drink Starbucks at home, I oftentimes find myself in line at Starbucks on tour. Dunkin Donuts is just unacceptable to me.

You are a noted Henry Rollins enthusiast. Henry Rollins is a noted coffee enthusiast. Are you going to send him a bag of Savage Gold Prime or what?

You know, I thought… that sort of idea has been posed to me by a couple different people. I just feel like it’d be a little corny sending Henry Rollins a bag of coffee, you know? But then again, you never know.

There’s also a Savage Gold beer as a result of a collaboration with Tired Hands Brewing. Decibel hasn’t tasted it, so tell us about it.

Ben [Brand], our bass player, was really the point man on that.  He lives in Philadelphia, and Tired Hands is located in Ardmore, which is a neighborhood, I guess, in Philadelphia. And, you know, Ben is a beer enthusiast and knows a lot about that whole process, and he just talked to Jean [Broillet IV], the owner, and [Ben] was like, “Hey, you know, do you have any interest in doing a Tombs beer?” And Jean was like, “Yeah, that sounds like a great idea. You can all come out and it would be a really cool thing to do at the brewery here,” and then sort of independently, I guess, he’d been aware of the coffee company and, literally, as we speak during this interview, it’s less than a month since it’s been available, since I launched the website and the store and all that sort of stuff. So, Jean asked Ben if I would be interested in providing a pound of coffee for him to use, you know, extract into yet a second brew. So, there’s actually Savage Gold, and then there’s the Savage Gold Prime brew, which has coffee in it.

So, have you tried the beer?

Yeah, I have. I mean, I’m not a huge drinker, but I’ve sampled it, and it’s pretty tasty.

The alcohol content in it is pretty modest, which I think is cool. It’s not a beer that is gonna get you hammered after a couple sips. Do you generally prefer that kinda stuff when you have a beer?

I just like to go full-on, man. If I’m gonna drink a beer, I want something with a lot of alcohol in it.

So, we’ve got Savage Gold beer. We’ve got Savage Gold Prime coffee. When can we expect Savage Gold energy drink?

Never. That stuff is poison, honestly. There will definitely be more different types of beans available. There’ll be some more products on the site. I’m looking into do other nutrition and health-related stuff on the site. And also there’ll be some merchandise, some T-shirts and stuff like that. Mugs, you know, travel mugs, which are very useful. I find myself traveling a lot and I always like to bring my own coffee with me because I’m very particular about that sort of stuff, so having a nice travel mug with that killer Savage Gold emblem on it, I think, would be a cool travel accessory for a lot of people.

Decibrity Playlist: Misery Index

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, July 24th, 2014

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Misery Index is no stranger to these playlists. In fact, we were in the midst of winter 2013 when bassist/vocalist Jason Netherton regaled us with “bleak tunes that recall those snowbound blizzards from yesteryear.” This time around, guitarist Mark Kloeppel went in a totally different direction to get you in the know about “hard” jams. We’ll let him take things from here: “‘Hard’ is a special set of subtly nuanced cross-genre aesthetic characteristics within extreme music that may be a little elusive to the untrained ear. Basically, we are talking about ignorant, pounding grooves that might make you want to destroy a room or get in a street fight.” Still curious? Check out the 10 tunes below. Just know that Kloeppel’s not the first to make a Wendy’s reference around these parts — that’s how hard we roll at the Deciblog.

After perusing his selections, you can pick up a copy of Misery Index’s fifth full-length, The Killing Gods, here.

Rattenfänger’s “Clausae Patent” (from 2012′s Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum)
Hardest shit ever! Rattenfänger, a side project of our label mates Drudkh, is quintessentially “hard”. Being hard is a subtle thing, as the music evokes in the listener a notion that talented musicians are utilizing a kind of elective ignorance as a purposive composition method. Listen to how the “thrash” beat mid-song sounds just a little to slow. That would be a big no-no for a band attempting to use a beat like that for its original purpose. To play a fast style beat too slow, in this case, is purposive ignorance. Now that is hard!

Goatwhore’s “FBS” (from 2014′s Constricting Rage Of The Merciless)
Goatwhore? More like GoatwHARD. Bands have influences, and Goatwhore’s influence is Celtic Frost, unabashedly deathrolling Warrior after Warrior-style riff. [Guitarist] Sammy [Duet] just doesn’t give a F, and not giving a F is what being hard is all about. That’s not to say Sammy doesn’t have his own style. That dude has written the most rocking riffs I can remember, and his style is distinct. But the Frost is strong in this one, as is the Priest. I digress. On a song with a title like this, you might expect the meaning of the FBS acronym to be repeatedly rammed down your god-fearing throat. Nope. [Vocalist Ben] Falgoust only gives it to you one time mid-song. Hard!

Portal’s “Curtain” (from 2013′s Vexovoid)
Ah, Portal…the big “F you” to computer-perfect precise death metal. It’s almost as if the song was written for the video, which sets nice imagery to visually imagine their other songs. By totally ignoring any sort of trendy standard, these fellas put the clock faces and robes on and put the darkness in you…hard!

Hate Eternal’s “I, Monarch” (from 2005′s I, Monarch)
[Erik] Rutan [guitarist/vocalist] is no slouch. But what does one do when he’s already conquered the throne of the king of all kings? Punch you in the face with tyrannical, narcissistic rage, that’s what! Hate Eternal has put out great tunes before and since this record. For me, this one just happens to be the hardest!

Fulgora’s “Risen” (from 2013′s Risen/Artifice EP)
Better go to Wendy’s and get yourself a Frosty, because you’re going to need it after a track this hard! For me, it’s like VOD went deathgrind. I don’t include Fulgora because our drummer Adam [Jarvis] happens to be in the band. Rather, the riffs these dudes are churning out are next level. This is legit harshcore!

Xibalba’s “Cold” (from 2012′s Hasta La Muerte)
In a world of hipster-djenty-quirky-vegan-douchey “metal”, it’s refreshing to see a band slam liquor and pork chops and then bring the pound cakes. Thank you Xibalba…for being hard!

Dying Fetus’s “Subjected To A Beating” (from 2012′s Reign Supreme)
If you were to sit down with [vocalist/guitarist] John Gallagher for five minutes with a guitar, he would proceed to write more pummeling catchy riffs than you could in five years. This song and album is right up there with the “classic” material. And yeah, I did do some vocals on this track, but that’s not why it’s on the list. It’s on the list for riff número uno in the song. So hard!

Magrudergrind’s “Bridge Burner” (from 2009′s Magrudergrind)
I don’t think you can get much harder than “Bridge Burner”. The main riff is like getting curbed over and over again. I was a little bummed when [drummer] Chris [Moore] left this band. Those chops! That groove! That über-funked-in-the-pocket blast! I thought it was going to be all over. But the dudes pressed on strong, and still bring the pound cakes and the super grind…hard! Definitely your new favorite band, if they aren’t already.

Infestdead’s “JesuSatan” (from 1999′s JesuSatan)
The end of this song makes me want to punch every pony at the petting zoo. This is a drum machine project Dan Swanö used to figure out how to use a Mac to record for the first time. The riffs are spontaneous and pummeling. This is my absolute favorite record from Dan. Every single riff is catchy, rife with ignorance, and, most importantly…hard.

Machine Head’s “Davidian” (from 1994′s Burn My Eyes)
Don’t you even start to talk shit right now. I know, the same guy that was in Vio-lence could be seen sporting a scencester sideways cap and bandana like in some alternative monthly, and uniform code metal attire in your typical Euro metal mag in the same month. I know. Let’s not even begin to talk about the “Red” album or how this video looks for that matter. Victim of the times, victim of the times. This song, though…you cannot tell me, for one instant, that when you hear “Let freedom ring with a shotgun blast” that you don’t want to punch the person standing next you. Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s hard.

So, class, hopefully you have a better understanding of what “hard” is all about. Then again, maybe you don’t. Either way, go support your local record shop, and pick up some hard jams. Might I suggest Misery Index’s The Killing Gods be your first choice. Shameless plug. Go hard or go home.

*Photo by Alyssa Lorenzon

**Pick up a copy of The Killing Gods here

***For past Decibrity entries, click here

Die With Scars: Mike Hill On Fight Club

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, gnarly one-offs On: Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

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This week brought the news that a Fight Club sequel (in comic book form) is forthcoming. We aren’t sure if this will work out for the best but it seemed like an ideal time to revisit a book and movie that inspired many.

Mike Hill of Tombs has embraced the book’s underlying ideal: that you need to create something worth living outside of consumer culture. Hill is certainly doing that: he is the frontman of Tombs, who released the excellent album Savage Gold this summer; he recently started a coffee company of the same name (it’s delicious) and he practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai. Read his thoughts below.

I remember sitting in the theater in 1999 watching David Fincher’s Fight Club thinking that after a decade of acquiescing to the marginalization of many of the baser male qualities by our PC overlords, it was finally cool to be a guy again. In the film, men congregated in dark basements to beat each other up and live in a self-contained world attacking society. I reveled in the celebration of fighting, destruction and mayhem.

Prior to seeing the film, I worked security at a nightclub in Boston; the job entailed standing around all night with a mag light while drunk rich kids drank themselves into oblivion. It added to my cynical worldview. One of my coworkers mentioned a book called Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk and described it as a study in “bottoming out” — returning to a zero state so that society could be rebuilt.

Aside from being an entertaining, well-shot and well-acted piece of turn-of-the-millennium art, the film deals with regaining balance after living in a dehumanizing world whose ultimate goal is to reduce us to mindless consumers. In the opening scenes, we find our nameless protagonist working a modern office job, unable to sleep and sinking into depression and existential malaise. Director David Fincher does a great job illustrating the dull hammer of life in modern, urban culture; the idea that our lives are a meaningless string of events that put us on a rapidly accelerating path towards death without actually living. We empathize with the character and the grinding sameness of his life: try to sleep, go to work, consume, exist and ultimately perish. To compensate for the emptiness, he spends his time studying mail-order catalogs making impulse buys, becoming enslaved to the “IKEA nesting instinct.”

Enter Tyler Durden, the nameless protagonist’s alter ego. Initially, we are led to believe that he is a real person, someone that he met on one of his endless business trips — a “single-serving friend.” Tyler is everything the protagonist isn’t: strong, charismatic, confident and most importantly, free in a way that isn’t possible for him if he remains on his current trajectory. The famous Einstein quote “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” comes to mind. Tyler Durden is the extreme condition; the catalyst that forces true change.

Fighting is one of the most extreme, visceral things that you can engage in. The Buddhists speak about “being in the moment.” Fighting places you in the moment, every time, connected to the physical world. Connecting to the physical world, breaking away from the world of abstraction, is what the nameless protagonist needs. That first fight, on the first night is where the nameless protagonist faces his own limitations and transcends them. He forces change by blowing up his condo and all of his material possessions, including his DKNY shoes, CK shirts, AX ties and engages in a mission of bottoming out.

There are many references to “hitting bottom” and “letting go” in the film. During the Project Mayhem phase, the recruits are confined to a Spartan list of possessions, only what is absolutely necessary for their missions against property and the material world. The Buddhists hypothesize that one of the primary roots of suffering is attachment to the world of property; this concept is in direct conflict with consumer society. All of this letting go and bottoming out is the move to break away from possessions and gravitate toward a more balanced life. During one of the Tyler Durden’s monologues, he speaks about walking through the remains of our modern world and wearing leather clothes that will last for the rest of your life. There is the implication of a return to a hunter-gatherer based society, a move away from the unsustainable modern world.

Human physiology hasn’t changed since our days as nomadic hunter-gatherers. We are the same creatures that would walk miles a day, covering vast distances chasing down animals for survival. It was a life and death struggle. The onset of agriculture and the industrial revolution propelled us into the world of desk jobs, televisions and deep fried food. It is believed that much of the depression and neurotic behavior rampant in modern society is caused by chronic stress that arises from not exercising fight or flight instincts that are still very much part of our psyche. The nameless protagonist reflects on the early fights in a monologue and states that you weren’t alive like you were while fighting and nothing was solved after the conflicts. Fight Club was to recapture the hunter-gatherer nature, to break away from the roles that society placed us in.

The end game is Project Mayhem, a group of spiritual commandos whose ultimate goal is to manifest Tyler’s dream of bottoming out. Tyler’s objective is to bring down the financial institutions that hold our debts; the collapse of financial history or, as he puts it “one step closer to economic equilibrium.” Without debt, we can all explore the limitless possibility that is our birthright.

In the final scenes, there is the realization that Tyler Durden is just a reflection of the nameless protagonist; a necessary phantom that pushed him to change. The nameless protagonist shoots himself in the head to put closure on his former life, destroying the Tyler Durden manifestation and steps into a new phase of his existence.

Our day to day lives dictate that we log in a certain amount of time doing something that may or may not satisfy us so that a number increases in an account somewhere. Something like getting punched in the face is a real thing that is absolute. It exists. Everything else can be changed.

Black Anvil Joins Lineup for Decibel 10th Anniversary Show at Saint Vitus!

By: andrew Posted in: breaking newz, featured On: Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

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It’s like eight zillion degrees in Philly today, so in the spirit of delusional wishful thinking, we’re telling ourselves that October 18 is riiiiiiiiight around the corner. October 18, of course, being the date of our “Decibel Takes Manhattan (and Brooklyn)” 10th anniversary shows, in which we’ll be wearing light jackets and merrily thrashing our way through Manhattan’s Best Buy Theater (for Amon Amarth, Sabaton and Vallenfyre) and Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus Bar (for Evoken and Skeletonwitch).

If you’re sharing the same it’ll-be-frostbitten-soon fantasy, we just put a cherry on top. In addition to Evoken and Skeletonwitch, we’re pleased to announce that the mighty Black Anvil will be fucking shit up at Vitus as well! The hometown black/thrash merchants are one of the most ambitious subgenre-jugglers in the underground, and should fit perfectly between Evoken’s crushing doom hymns and Skeletonwitch’s runamok thrash.

Okay, enough fucking around. Get your Saint Vitus show tickets here, and Best Buy tickets here.

Sucker For Punishment: Le Doom

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

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It’s a fairly eventful week, thanks in large part to Season of Mist and Prosthetic using this week as a dumping ground for several new releases. Considering next week is a bit on the slower side, wouldn’t it have been a better idea to spread things around more? Give an album a chance to stand out more as opposed to simply being lost in the shuffle this week, perhaps? But if that’s how they want it, fine, let those albums be overshadowed by superb new records by a French doom band, veteran American thrashers, and a German dark folk act. Either way, the variety in this week’s stack of a dozen or so albums is fun. 

Bastard Feast, Osculum Infame (Season Of Mist): The Portland band formerly known as Elitist throws a little bit of everything at the listener on its tremendous second album – death, black, doom, hardcore – and it leaves an immediate, lasting impression too, as every aspect of that sound is given a chance to stand out. It’s eclectic, but not sloppy in the least, a very well constructed hybrid style that feels credible, somehow unique, and most importantly, makes you feel like running through a brick wall. Preview and purchase via Bandcamp.

Corrupt Moral Altar, Mechanical Tides (Season Of Mist): Specializing in the more coherent side of grindcore that Brutal Truth used to do so well, this Liverpool foursome tosses in aspects of sludge and straightforward hardcore into the mix as well, resulting in a sound that swings as mightily as it pulverizes. It’s a raucous debut by a band worth keeping your eye on.

Empyrium, The Turn of the Tides (Prophecy): The ‘90s-early-2000s output of the German dark folk duo was such a huge influence on the likes of Neige (Alcest) and Fursy Teyssier (Les Discrets) that not only did singer/multi-instrumentalist Markus Stock work with both musicians in the studio, but he included them as part of the supporting band at Empyrium’s first public performance in 2012. In turn, you can feel the influence of Neige and Teyssier on Empyrium’s first album in more than a decade, as waves of black metal offer a spellbinding contrast to the hushed, ornate sounds created by Stock and pianist Thomas Helm. In addition, this album was recorded completely on the fly, tracks laid down as soon as they were composed, so an unmistakable air of spontaneity breathes life into this music, which otherwise might have felt too rigid had the band put too much analysis into it. Featuring such beautifully melancholy tracks as “Dead Winter Ways” and “In the Gutter of the Spring” but ending on a refreshingly optimistic note on the title track, this album is a wonderful, pleasant surprise.

Fallujah, The Flesh Prevails (Unique Leader): Now that Origin has boldly backed away from the unbearably loud extreme metal production they helped popularized by working with Colin Marston, one of the best metal producers in the business, it now has me wishing that everyone else would take that tasteful approach to recording. Including Fallujah, who in more capable hands would have put out one of the year’s finest progressive metal albums, but instead have created a record with a sound so overbearingly brickwalled that all dynamics in the songwriting, of which there are plenty, are ruined. There’s no room for the music to breathe, thanks to a constant barrage of rattling kick beats and drum fills that overwhelm the music, which is often striking and creative. I’m usually pretty forgiving when it comes to album production, but this is one instance where a potentially excellent album is yet another victim to the loudness wars.

Fozzy, Do You Wanna Start A War (Century Media): When the best song on the album is a by-the-book cover of ABBA’s “SOS”, you’re in deep, deep trouble. WTF, Y2J?

King of Asgard, Karg (Metal Blade): Look, guys, Amon Amarth is the gold standard of Viking-themed death metal. If you’re going to do what Amon Amarth does, you had better be able to match the masters step for step instead of putting out a pale imitation like this.

Monarch, Sabbracadaver (Profound Lore): Ever since the Dead Men tell No Tales compilation showed up in my mailbox back in 2007, I’ve been oddly intrigued by this French band, whose take on the dronier side of doom has always been a little left of center. Led by vocalist Emilie Bresson and guitarist Shiran Kaïdine, Monarch has slowly evolved into a completely original entity on its last few albums, starting with 2010’s Sabbat Noir, through 2012’s remarkable Omens, and now with Sabbracadaver, which is arguably their strongest work to date. As usual, the pace is deliberately slow, allowing atmospheric ambient parts to work their hypnotic magic, but once the three songs do kick in, they display a knack for melody underneath the distortion and ferocity. At the forefront, as always, is Bresson, who turns in an astonishing, bipolar vocal performance, veering from whispered introspection, to tortured singing, to moments of blinding rage. This music envelops rather than assaults, and in the end its effect is far more lasting as a result. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Mutilation Rites, Harbinger (Prosthetic): The Brooklyn band gets a fair amount of press, being based in the epicenter of music hype and all, but while it’s easy for anyone who lives elsewhere to roll their eyes at yet another black metal band from Brooklyn attracting attention from the music media, you have to admit these guys deliver. It’s all fairly rote black metal, but what sets the band apart is the clear chemistry among the four members, as they lock themselves into some awfully wicked grooves, often stopping on a dime and shifting from black metal to rampaging, High on Fire-style fury. Dan Lake premiered the album here last week, and you should totally give it a listen.

Overkill, White Devil Armory (eOne): It’s not as if Overkill ever did anything but sound like Overkill, churning out their distinct brand of thrash metal for 30-odd years, but something’s happened to the Jersey veterans recently, as their last three albums have been among the fieriest of their long career. Album number 17 is especially strong, built around rampaging riffs, featuring D.D. Verni’s distinct bass sound, and of course highlighted by Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, whose trademark snarl sounds even more maniacal than usual. On an album loaded with tunes guaranteed to please longtime fans, “King of the Rat Bastards” ranks as the best, instantly hooky and full of piss and vinegar. It’s always great to have old standbys like Overkill around making consistently good music, but metal is a lot better off when they’re making great music, and this record is loaded with it.

Rage Nucleaire, Black Storm of Violence (Season Of Mist): The great Lord Worm is rivaled only by Atilla Csihar when it comes to making extreme metal vocals into a bizarre art form, and he is the driving force once again on Rage Nucleaire’s second album. Like 2012’s Unrelenting Fucking Hatred, Black Storm of Violence once again offers a throttling hybrid of black metal and industrial, the controlled chaos of which is an appropriate backdrop against which for Lord Worm to spew his mangled, twisted screams. Of course, the man is a master wordsmith, and his lyrics are as poetically depraved as ever: “Your screaming is music: sing to me; Sing your pain with funeral shrieks.” Beautiful.

Schammasch, Contradiction (Prosthetic): All this time I thought this band’s name was some silly way of making the word “smash” even more metal. SCHAMMASCH!!! But no, apparently there was a fella named Šamaš, who was a Babylonian sun god or something to that effect. Similarly, the music is less silly, and more serious and adventurous, a stirring combination of the massive-sounding, blasphemous gravity of Behemoth and the experimental tendencies of Deathspell Omega. Which is all well and good, but by the time you get into the second half of this double album, the sprawling ten-minute tracks start to lose their appeal. Though there are several strong moments – the title track, for one – a “less is more” approach would have made a much stronger impact.

Trudger, Dormiveglia (Church of Fuck): Straightforward yet excellently done sludge metal, this British band’s debut album has a way of sneaking up on you, sly melodies creeping into the music like a splash of color on a monochrome landscape. There are times where the guys are a little too derivative of Remission-era Mastodon, but a track like “Barren Grey” adds a welcome touch of doom and gloom reminiscent more of sooty Northern England than muggy Georgia. Preview and purchase via Bandcamp.

Not metal, but worth hearing:

The Raveonettes, Pe’ahi (The Beat Dies): The Danish duo doesn’t exactly have the kind of indie cachet they might have had more than a decade ago, which is unfortunate as they’ve been putting out some sterling albums as of late. Bolstered by the presence of Justin Meldal-Johnsen, one of the best producers working today, Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo sound even dreamier than ever, their hazy indie pop awash in luxurious waves of distortion. The Jesus & Mary Chain element is always present in the Raveonettes’ music, but there’s a strong modern touch similar to the swooning shoegazey modern rock of M83 – another of Meldal-Johnsen’s collaborators – and songs like “Z-boys”, “Killer in the Streets”, and “Summer’s End” gracefully explode, shimmering like the sun bouncing off the ocean.

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