More Unwound Than You Can Shake a Stick At

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, gnarly one-offs, interviews, uncategorized, videos On: Thursday, October 10th, 2013

deciblog - unwound box

“The Unwound path crossed a lot of different scenes.” – Justin Trosper

“We took our music in a lot of different directions, though always staying very Unwound.” Sara Lund

The above quotes from Unwound guitarist/vocalist Trosper and drummer Lund basically explain and justify the appearance of the not-metal band this week on the ol’ Deciblog. Unwound originally came screaming out of the Pacific Northwest in the early 90s balancing on a tightrope between hardcore, punk, alt-rock, noise rock, math rock, post-all of that and screamo before the word got co-opted by swooped haircuts. They delivered six or seven albums and a stack of singles, 7″s and compilation appearances and toured the world by the skin of their teeth before calling it a day in 2002. They have since released a live album, Live Leaves, and gone on to influence countless numbers of bands that us Decibel-ers hold dear to our hearts like Botch, Young Widows, KEN Mode, Coliseum, Helms Alee and so on and so forth.

Available as of last Tuesday, Kid is Gone (pictured above) is the first in a series of reissues from reissue specialty label, Numero, who will be eventually unleashing the entire Unwound discography via four separate and exhaustive box sets. We caught up with Justin Trosper and Sara Lund who gabbed about the band’s history, legacy and the comprehensive reissue collections.

deciblog - unwound-j winterberg
photo by j. winterberg

Obvious first question: Are you back together as a band? Will you be playing shows or is this all about promoting the re-issue boxsets and keeping the legacy/name of the band alive for those who want it?
Sara Lund: You guessed it. This is about the legacy and not about reunions. We are supremely honored that Numero has offered to reissue all of our records and hope the old fans will like what they do with them.

At what point after dissolving did you begin to realise not only how much, but how wide, Unwound’s influence stretched?
Sara: I started realizing it only a few years ago when, living in Portland, I would walk into coffee shops where 20-something baristas would be listening to Unwound. I still don’t quite have a handle on how far or wide we stretch. I feel like half the people I meet have either heard of us and assume that I’m a wealthy rock star, and the other half have never heard of us and are all like, “Oh yeah I’m in a band, too.” Who isn’t?
Justin Trosper: After the band dissolved I was doing some recordings with other bands in Olympia, but stopped playing for the most part. I sold my part of our studio equipment and moved to LA in 2004. At this point I stopped doing music except for a recording project I did for artist Slater Bradley. I kind of stopped paying attention to the music world and was blissfully ignorant of Unwound’s influence or non-influence. I just didn’t want to be an Unwound dude for awhile.

Whose idea was it to cull and compile a four-part boxset? What are the details for this series of re-issues? The plan is to have your entire recorded works re-issues, correct? What about photos, liner notes and all that jazz?
Sara: This was primarily the brain child of the folks at Numero Group. The LPs are essentially being broken up into eras and released in boxes that represent them. The first one is everything that was recorded with the original drummer, Brandt Sandeno. Although he was only a part of Unwound for about a year (he was in Giant Henry with bassist Vern Rumsey and Justin before that. See the liner notes that come with first set for the whole story), a great deal of material was written and recorded; basically, three LPs worth! So, after that comes the first two LPs I was on: Fake Train and New Plastic Ideas with a third LP of extras… and so on and so forth until we’ve covered the whole catalog. Each box will contain at least one LP’s worth of extra material, be it 7″s, comp tracks, demos, unreleased, or live material. And each set will include very extensive liner notes, covering the era represented by the recordings. By the end, there will essentially have been a book written about us. We are lucky to have our old friend and roadie from our final tour, David Wilcox, on board as our liner note author. And yes, there will be photos. Have you ever seen Numero Group records? Those guys go all out! We are getting the full Numero treatment.
Justin: The Numero thing is sort of a serendipitous phenomenon that I think stems from us putting together the Unwound Archive website. The four part thing came about from conversations Ken Shipley from Numero and I had about trying to release our material in a digestible and interesting and sensible way. Instead of putting out every album with an additional disc of material it made more sense to put out “chunks” of stuff conceptually related by its era in the band’s timeline. So the first set is our first “demo” cassette and the self-titled LP with their related content. Each set will be two albums with a disc or two of extra stuff. It’s a sort of weird format, but let me explain a key concept. Each Unwound record is related (not by design exactly) in the sense that one record is a stepping stone to the next. So the self-titled record is the fully realized concept of the demo and New Plastic Ideas is the fully realized version of Fake Train and so on. It really is, if you listen closely to the music and production. Each set has it’s own direction.

Was this project easier to embark upon given that you had already had a head start of sorts with www.unwoundarchive.com? Did you find yourselves having more material than you knew what to do with or could include?
Sara: Yes, getting the project rolling was much easier since we’d already started trying to do a cheap web version before we were approached by Numero. I don’t think we had gone so far as to consider reissuing the records ourselves. That requires a great deal of capital, of which we have none. We still have a lot of material to dig through that we can include on the site and some stuff that will be exclusive to the box sets. For example, we are still trying to piece together a complete list of every live show and get as many flyers as we can up on the site. And we’d love to get more links to live videos and do some more story telling of our own. The archive sort of turned into a piece to support the release of the Live Leaves record and we hope it will act in a similar way as the Numero releases roll out. The www.unwoundarchive.com is a labour of love taken on by members of the band with very little money or technical abilities, so we ask visitors to be forgiving. We do intend to continue to offer t-shirts through the site and plan to reissue old shirts in conjunction with the reissues. Look for a shirt from the early tours sometime soon! We currently have two shirts available through the site. One is a reissue of a shirt from the Leaves Turn Inside You Tour to coincide with the Live Leaves release, and one is a brand new design based on the flyer for our last show.
Justin: The thing I can add is that the Numero releases are the sort of “cream of the crop” stuff but there will be more on the website–kind of informal. It’s just a different level and medium for information. And we hope people will keep sending us ephemera. It’s not about ego building (“look at what I did!”); it’s about preserving a little bit of history (“look at what happened”).

In going back, discovering and unearthing all this material, what struck you both most positively and negatively about Unwound? What do you recall being some of the most awesome moments of your time in the band?
Sara: Well, the most positive thing has got to be the music itself. And the experience of growing as players together as a unit. The musical connection that the three of us shared cannot be duplicated. It was a pretty special thing and I’m not sure how aware I was of it at the time. And, of course, getting to travel all over the world playing music. Well that’s just about the best thing ever. It’s still one of my favorite things to do, even though I don’t get to do it very often. Negatively speaking, we were so disorganized, self-sabotaging, shitty communicators… it is a true miracle we got as far as we did and accomplished as much as we accomplished. The music itself is the one thing that kept us together for so long. There were many awesome moments. Really, going on adventures and getting to play with some pretty great bands (as well as plenty of terrible ones). What else can I say? I got to spend my 20′s playing drums and touring the world!
Justin: I guess one thing that was both positive and negative was how fiercely independent we were. We took a lot of cues from the SST and Dischord playbook (through the Olympia/K/Kill Rock Stars lens) and just did it to death. We usually made decisions based on principle and not finances, which isn’t always a good idea. But I really have no regrets about how I was then, though I would be happy to help others learn from my mistakes. I consider myself a pretty successful twenty something–not very many people have lived the life I did then or since for that matter. I had a conversation with a professor that I had when I went back to school and expressed some lack of confidence in what I was doing at the time and he was like “Dude, you traveled the world in a van and played punk rock for a decade, that’s way more rewarding than an academic career, you are doing just fine.” I’m stoked for everything going on now even though it is a happy/sad bittersweet kind of deal.

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photo by ben clark

What did you learn, if anything, about yourselves in going back over your history for the purposes of these collections?
Sara: Working on these extensive liner notes with David Wilcox, I’m learning a lot about myself and ourselves. Just thinking about the experience in historical context puts a different spin on one’s life experiences. It’s pretty fascinating to have a third party dig into your life and turn it into a good read. Pretty therapeutic, in some ways. I think I have a clearer understanding of my band mates as people and our various motivations. The break up was tough on all of us and this has been pretty useful for coming to terms with a lot of shit. Plus, in terms of true historical context, looking back at the music scene we were a part of and our role – it is true that was a special time and place. Probably the most remarkable thing is that a lot happened over a very short period of time.
Justin: We all have terrible memories! Now I actually understand better how biographies and histories work. Some of what we remember is fiction/myth though it seems true and then after compiling and editing it all together it does become the “truth.” What I hope is that this snowballs into more 90′s underground history narratives. The Unwound path crossed a lot of different scenes. Once it is all put together people will not only understand the context of this particular band but will gain insight into the whole 90′s music thing—not the “Year Punk Broke” world but the subterranean ecosystem of Gravity, Troubleman, Kill Rock Stars and further beneath that. Everybody already knows the other story, so to me this should be exciting for music nerds, at least.

How do you think Unwound would be taken to by indie/punk/hardcore kids today had the band formed in the last year or two? What do you feel were the most significant differences between life as Unwound 20-some-odd years ago compared to what bands today deal with?
Justin: I think people would be stoked even though I don’t think the situation is really plausible based on what the world seems like now. I only mean that the band was conceptually derived from this 1980′s hardcore ethos and a particular geographical context that does not exist now. Unwound was a real band (a la the 80′s HC thing I refer to) and I find that rare even though I live in a hole in the woods and don’t know anything. We went out there, bootstrapped, and played the crap out of our instruments and took songwriting seriously and that resonated with the people who witnessed it. I still think that kind of “quality” is what music fans look for universally. I know it because the shows I have been playing with my new band uses the same general M.O. as Unwound and we get some of that same response. Give people the rock and they will appreciate it. It’s akin to when you hear about how old time people built their own cabins with an axe and struggled through the winter on salted meats and whiskey–not very many people do that anymore. Only a wimpy punk rock indy version.
Sara: Man, I have no idea what kids these days would think of us if we were contemporary. I sort of assume it wouldn’t go over. We were a good live band (most of the time), but we didn’t really put on a show and that seems to be a bigger thing these days. Then again, genres seem to matter less now and part of me thinks one of our problems in getting much recognition while we were a band is that we, dare I say it, defied genre. We took our music in a lot of different directions, though always staying very Unwound, and as much as that drew the people to us that it did, I think probably pushed others away. Nowadays, everyone knows about and listens to all kinds of music. As for being in a band now vs being in a band 20 years ago, it feels like night and day to me. The elephant in the room being the Internet, of course, but also the sheer number of bands there are now, and add to that the almost complete lack of labels. Indie rock has become so pro now, too. I know that house parties still happen, and that bands still pile into broken down vans and couch surf across the country. I know there is still an underground, or maybe there is one again. But there is also this very clearly laid track for how to become a professional “indie” rock star. Sponsorships, licensing, paying your dues, not by playing tiny clubs to no one, but by playing opening slots at giant festivals, to no one. The Internet is a great tool, if you know how to use it. But the amount of time and energy a band has to spend on self-promotion that takes away from the time and energy you should be spending making music… that part bums me out. I’m not even going to go into the “everything is free” part of it all. Figuring out how to be in a band in the 20-teens feels like a dark art to me. I bet you didn’t even know that I’ve had a band for six years now called Hungry Ghost and that we put out a record last year. Nope. Nobody does. Which is why I have to shamelessly plug it here.

How surprised are you that there’s enough interest in Unwound today that a complete re-issuing of your discography is something people actually care about? What do you attribute this to: the internet? Strong songs that stand the test of time? Selling your souls at the crossroads? Magic beans?
Justin: I figured/hoped at some point we would have some sort of narrative someday based on the volume of work we did; after all we had a relatively pretty long history for a punk band. This was, and is, the idea with the archive site. We were just going to do it ourselves. The Numero thing was not expected and it is rad, I must say. The internet helped me gauge a little of where we stood in the “history books” and it didn’t seem quite right. But hard work alone does not equal recognition. I think the thing I understand better now is that when you make music it takes on a life of it’s own and ultimately outlives you, especially if you have the opportunity to do something like this. I’m proud of what we did but there was a feeling of not really being done and now I know we can put this thing to bed. I kind of thought that I would be just living in a fishing village at age 67 and someone from MOJO would track me down for a half page blurb on the origins of screamo or something. Now I’m pretty sure I will at least be playing at the cafe in the fishing village and a maybe a festival here and there until I croak. I feel comfortable knowing that music will always be my companion, but not my only one
Sara: I’m pretty damned surprised. I remember thinking, sort of towards the end of Unwound, that my highest goal in terms of recognition would be to be like Mission of Burma (this was before they reunited, but it’s still relevant). A great band that mostly nobody knew about, but who were truly loved by the ones that did know about them. I feel like we reached that goal and that’s pretty satisfying to me. Granted, just because Numero is putting these records out, doesn’t mean anyone’s going to buy them. I mean, I sure as hell hope they do, but a big part of me is skeptical. But there does seem to be twinkling of 90′s nostalgia in the night skies and our generation is moving into positions of power. I keep thinking about how my dad was about my age when I was a young teen and how excited he was to teach me about the 60′s and how fascinating that time was to everyone. Well, it’s our turn to be the old farts, waxing nostalgic about how we were gonna change the world, man. And maybe Unwound gets to be like Karen Dalton or Emmit Rhodes, The Creation or Os Mutantes – totally obscure at the time but now on the soundtrack to every Wes Anderson movie or on Michael Cera’s infinite playlists (jesus, even my contemporary references are dated). But I’m not holding my breath.

www.unwoundarchive.com

www.numerogroup.com

STREAMING: Paradise Lost “Our Saviour 2013″

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Thursday, October 10th, 2013

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Paradise Lost have done a retrospective compilations before—The Singles Collection, Reflection, and more recently 2012′s Lost in Time—but none of them are as special as Tragic Illusion 25, a collection of old and re-worked tunes celebrating the Brits’ 25th year as a functioning, productive outfit. And by re-worked, we’re not talking something stupid like an “in dub” mix or something worse like Pitchshifter remixing “As I Die.” No, we’re talking Paradise Lost—specifically frontman Nick Holmes—going back to the earliest records and re-recording the classics with death metal vocals.

The thing about Tragic Illusion 25 is that it’s extremely limited. In the U.S. only three hundred (300) mint-green 10″ vinyls will be available for sale, and that includes the accompanying CD, so you don’t have to wreck your collector’s edition vinyl. Along with “Our Savior 2013,” Paradise Lost have also included an updated version of “Gothic” called “Gothic 2013.” But, hey, you can hear “Gothic 2013″ elsewhere. We got the juiciest of the classics with “Our Saviour 2013.” And, because we’re bros, we were able to nab Paradise Lost guitarist Gregor Mackintosh for an exclusive quote.

“‘Our Saviour’ was one of our present drummer’s favorite songs when he was a teenager,” says the axe-slinger, “so when we were deciding on a really early track to re-record, this was high up on the list. This version is not meant to be better or even comparable to the original, which was of a certain time when perfection was not the order of the day. It was a time when music had charm and innocence. This new version is simply an affectionate look back on that time, and hopefully we did it justice.”

From one Paradise Lost Painless to another, Gregor, you certainly did the original justice.

** Paradise Lost’s Tragic Illusion 25 is available in limited quantities on November 29th, 2013 on Century Media Records. Pre-order Tragic Illusion 25 HERE.

INTERVIEW: The Golden Grass

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews On: Thursday, October 10th, 2013

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The fact that I know anything about The Golden Grass happened by accident. Last month, I went to see Windhand with every intention of missing both opening bands. Unfortunately, my ability to time arrivals at shows–even when the venue announces set times in advance–is on par with Andy Reid’s clock management skills. So, not surprisingly, I showed up at Saint Vitus about five minutes into the first band’s set, only things ended up working out for the best as I walked in to hear a jammier version of the type of band you’d find on a Day After The Sabbath compilation. In other words, right up my alley. In fact, it was surprising to learn later that, as musically tight as The Golden Grass appeared to be, the show was actually the trio’s first ever. Needless to say, I’ll be checking them out again on Sunday when they open for Wolf People (okay, I was probably going to this anyway given how much I like Fain). But before I did so, I thought I’d ask drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney to tell the world more about The Golden Grass, which is set to release its debut 7″ on Electric Assault/Svart and play some East Coast shows very soon.


Can you take us through a brief history of the band—who’s in it, when you got started, where you’re from, etc?

The band was formed in early 2013. I had the initial musical vision and contacted guitarist Michael Rafalowich to see if he was interested. Michael and I had been fans of each other’s bands over the years (mine being La Otracina, his being Whooping Crane/Strange Haze). And we had even attempted playing together about four years ago; however that group quickly fizzled. Last fall (of 2012) I was living in Mendocino on a pot farm and one night I made some pot-infused oatmeal and got stoned out of my mind and decided to check out some of these archived tapes I had of the group with Michael. When I heard our rehearsal jams, I freaked out and I decided that as soon as I returned to NYC I’d hit Michael up and propose we start a new group. Right around Christmas-time I called him up and we spoke about it over the phone, got together about two weeks later and immediately knew we were onto something. At the time, La Otracina was without a proper lineup and feeling aimless, and Michael’s group (which at that time was known as) Strange Haze was just about disbanding as well. So it was the perfect moment for the two of us to begin with some excited new energy. We found our bassist Joseph Noval through an online advertisement. He was a complete shot in the dark, and I almost mistakenly blew him off, but the first time the three of us jammed together it was a very hip scene, and we had our lineup solid, Michael and I have both been living in NYC a long time, Joe had only recently moved to Brooklyn from Los Angeles. The timing and details of the formation of this group were incredibly auspicious.

Your debut 7″ is coming out this fall, but how much material have you written so far and what is that process generally like for you?
Oddly enough, we’ve never thrown any of our material away. All of the music we’ve written since day one is still part of our repertoire. Even though our music develops over time and we constantly revamp and improve our ideas. We usually generate very strong ideas. At this point we have about one-and-a-half albums written. Our first 7″ will contain two songs: “One More Time” and “Tornado”. It will be issued jointly between Electric Assault Records (in Brooklyn) and Svart Records (in Finland) in October. We’re ready to record the first LP right away, we just need to iron out the plan with the labels. And we’re sitting on an OCEAN of new ideas–we’ll probably have enough for three full lengths by the years’ end, haha! Our writing process is diverse. Some tunes take six months to write and some take three rehearsals! We all contribute equally to the music, which results in very diverse song writing, lyrical approaches and song structures. We’re literally DYING to write new material. We truly love our current set, which we’ve been writing/developing/practicing for eight months straight, but we can’t wait to write new music–it’s a very inspiring part of the process, very different from live performances. It’s a separate catharsis.

You recently played your first couple of shows–how would you say they went (there was quite a crowd at Saint Vitus)? Does your live show see you guys improvising or extending any material?
We were very happy with the responses and our performances at the first two concerts. Since the beginning of forming this group I wanted to take a long time to develop the material, and not to be concerned with live performances until months down the line. I think too many bands rush to play live before they have an identity or are even making good art, but I wanted to do this band right and debut with great energy and a fully realized sound. Yes, the Saint Vitus show was incredible, not bad to play our first gig in front of a packed house at a sold out show (which we can thank our friends in Ramming Speed and Windhand for)! I think our musical ideas completely translated to the audience, and everyone was in good spirits after we played, which is what we want most. About half of our music contains room for improvisation and “open” sections, and surely in the live setting is where it takes off the most! However, we’ll most likely change our set every show, change our song structures every few months, etc.–it’s an old idea that we borrow from The Grateful Dead.

The group is new but you each of has played in other bands, so what experiences have you taken with you going forward, whether with respect to the music, business or otherwise?
It is important for us to be good friends and hang out beyond playing music together, to be a real family, and we work hard to make this happen, especially in NYC which is great at tearing bands/friends/lovers apart! I think we just wanted to collectively make good art that feels good to play, and enjoy each others’ company, and with those things set in motion, good fortune will hopefully follow. We’re all hoping to grow from and avoid mistakes we’ve made in previous bands, and I think that has most to do with an agreement upon the goals of the group and the responsibilities of each member, and constantly communicating about any problems or issues. So far, we seem to be on the right path, and the maintenance and devotion is constant yet rewarding work.

What’s in store for The Golden Grass over the next six months or so?
Writing a new album, release of our “One More Time” 7″, embarking on US mini-tours in the Midwest in late October and New England in early November, recording our first LP in November (possibly?!) and eventual releasing it next Spring (we hope) along with an EU tour as well. We’re also trying to figure out how the hell to find a place for us to live outside NYC, we need more trees and mountains in our life, but we need to be somewhat close to the city, for the time being. We’re also working on a bunch of VERY cool merchandise.

What are some records you guys have been digging lately?
Adam: for older shit, The Move’s Shazam and Looking On, Truth & Janey’s No Rest for the Wicked, Stephen Stills/Manassas’ self-titled LP, Free’s BBC Sessions and Fire & Water, Marshall Tucker Band’s self-titled LP, The Pretty Things’ Freeway Madness, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Live at Winterland 1975, Mountain’s Climbing, John Mayall’s Blues from Laurel Canyon. For newesr stuff, the new Beastmilk material is very exciting, Skogen Brinner’s 1st, Metalleg’s Hit Of The Week, Anicon’s Demo MMXIII and Cheep Thrill’s demos. I saw Liquor Store recently and LOVED them.

Joe: The Move’s Looking On, Cactus’ One Way…Or Another, Night Sun’s Mournin’, May Blitz’s self-titled LP and Life’s Spring.

Michael: Chico Hamilton’s (w/ Archie Shepp and Larry Coryell) The Dealer, Bo Diddley’s Where It All Began, The Pretty Things’ More Electric Banana, Harvey Mandel’s The Snake and Freddie King’s Freddie King is a Blues Master.

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Tour dates:

10/13 at Mercury Lounge/Manhattan/NY w/ WOLF PEOPLE + GOLDEN ANIMALS
10/24 at Kungfu Necktie/Philadelphia/PA w/ Mike Donovan (of SIC ALPS)
10/25 at Howler’s/Pittsburg/PA w/ CAROUSEL + LOST REALMS
10/26 at Cincy Psych Fest/Cincinnati/OH w/ PURLING HISS + PLASTIC CRIMEWAVE SYNDICATE + more
10/27 at Beachland Ballroom/Cleveland/OH w/ ELECTRIC LUCIFER
11/8 at Geno’s/Portland/ME w/HESSIAN + IDIOT GENES

Sucker For Punishment: Same ordeal, new home

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

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When I took over the Headbang blog at MSN Music in August 2011, I was thinking of ways I could set it apart from the rest of the metal blogs out there. Everyone seems to only list the new releases every week, so why don’t I review as many as I can? It seemed easy enough, that is until you get to the 16th album and hearing another band of 20 year-olds playing arbitrarily arranged deathcore sends you off the deep end.

Along the way, though, this project became somewhat of A Thing, and I’d always hear back from people who were glad there was someone out there succinctly sorting through the dreck rather than giving token 7/10 scores to mediocre albums. When MSN laid off its entire entertainment freelance staff recently, the opportunity arose to take this ongoing project to the Deciblog, which I’m more than glad to do.

Something happens when you go through this much new music per week: the desire for great music increases – though that amounts to less than five percent of everything that comes out, if that – and middling music becomes completely unacceptable, which is how it should be. Of course, these reviews are from my perspective only, and in no way diminish the well-written reviews seen each month in Decibel magazine. So I hope you’ll drop by every Wednesday morning as I subject myself to auditory torture, and hopefully I can help make your record buying decisions a little easier, and help your wallet shed some excess weight.

Normally this space would be reserved for an “album of the week”, but last week was so unusually loaded with excellent releases – In Solitude, Atlantean Kodex, Fates Warning, Argus, Horisont, Within Temptation – that you still should be checking out any of those you might have missed seven days ago. In the meantime, though, here’s what this week has to offer:

Beaten To Death, Dødsfest! (Mas-Kina): The juxtaposition of wonky, clean guitar melodies with a grindcore rhythm section had me. It’s crazy enough to work. But then the burping vocal grunts kicked in, and lost me for good. What a waste.

Chron Goblin, Life For the Living (self-released): If you were left deflated after hearing the new Vista Chino album, then this is the record for you. Straight-up stoner/desert rock in the tradition of Kyuss, it’s plenty groovy, loaded with swaggering bluesy riffs, and featuring lead vocals that aren’t afraid to show a little flamboyance. Highly recommended. Stream and purchase it via Bandcamp.

Earthless, From The Ages (Tee Pee): Instrumental metal is an extremely difficult subgenre to master, with few bands able to take “expression” as far as they can without slipping into boring self-indulgence. San Diego trio Earthless has always been one of the better ones, but they’ve outdone themselves on their third full-length, on which guitarist Isaiah Mitchell lets loose solo after effects-laden solo atop extended groovy jams by bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba. While an even better instrumental album comes out next week (here’s a hint), guitar nerds should put away their Periphery albums and check this out. It’s a must-hear.

Herrschaft, Les 12 Vertiges (Code 666): Yet another band that bills itself as “experimental” and “cutting edge” but sounds like it came straight from 1995. Real experimental metal has a lot more breadth than simply aping Ministry and Atari Teenage Riot.

Kevin Hufnagel, Ashland (Nightfloat): Here’s something completely different. The guitarist for Dysrhythmia, Gorguts, and Vaura has released a solo album of baritone ukulele compositions of all things, and while it’s not exactly under the metal umbrella it’s nevertheless something that should interest those who admire his more “extreme” music. By manipulating the seemingly limiting instrument in various ways he actually creates something original, and even darkly surreal. Stream and purchase it via Bandcamp.

Korn, The Paradigm Shift (Prospect Park): It used to be so easy to lampoon Korn. After all, few bands have fallen so swiftly from “innovator” status to hilarious self-parody, their releases in the 2000s becoming sorrier and sorrier exercises. In the last couple years, though, the band has shown signs of something resembling a creative rebirth of sorts. 2011’s The Path of Totality married two patently obnoxious sounds – dubstep and nu-metal – falling right into Korn’s wheelhouse – that’s right, I kind of liked it – and their latest album, while not as adventurous, nevertheless continues that trend. While milking the same formula Korn’s been doing for 20 years, it actually has a decent, brace yourself, pop sensibility to it. It’s long past sounding cutting edge, but it’s nearly competent, and those who still think Follow the Leader is the greatest album ever will be happy with this one. Everyone else can keep listening to the new Earthless.

Mörkö, Itsensänimeävä (AAP): Oranssi Pazuzu is the one Finnish band that’s been getting the bulk of advance press, and for good reason, but if you’re looking for even freakier black metal, then this Lahti trio is well worth checking out. Oddly minimalist and atonal – it’s impossible not to hear Slint in the weird arrangements – it’s difficult music, and often accompanied by surreal Finnish narration, but it’s by no means impenetrable.

Running Wild, Resilient (SPV): While metal fans should be thankful to Rock ‘n’ Rolf Kasparek for such swashbucklingly fun albums as 1987’s Under Jolly Roger and 1988’s Port Royal, last year’s Shadowmaker was so awful, so past its best-before date that it made you embarrassed for the guy. Needless to say I was not looking forward to listening to Running Wild’s 15th album, but much to my great surprise they’ve come through with a likeable record. Nothing has changed at all in the band’s approach of course – simple, upbeat Teutonic heavy metal – but there’s a sense of passion that was sorely missing from the previous album. It’s goofy as hell, but if you can sit through the title track without cringing, then you’ll get a mild kick out of the rest of it.

Secrets Of The Sky, To Sail Black Waters (Kolony): I know these Oakland prog/doomers will say the contrast between clean and harsh vocals works, but Garett Gazay’s singing is so strong on this album that whenever he goes back to growling it feels like a regression. When that happens, it feels like the band is either not yet able to or too lazy to come up with twice as many compelling vocal melodies. Judging by the talent on display here, I’d go with the latter. Still, the arrangements are superb at times – “Decline” and “Black Waters” do the Opeth meets Isis thing very well – and this is a promising debut by a band that you figure will only get better.

Spiralarms, Freedom (SPV): In which Craig Locicero and his friends churn out sporadically pleasant but mostly unspectacular heavy rock in the vein of Kyuss and Stone Temple Pilots. Sure, there’s a faithful cover of Sabbath’s “Tomorrow’s Dream”, but then the title track kicks in, sounding like Buckcherry trying to sound like Lynyrd Skynyrd, and you just want the misery to end. Man, do I miss Forbidden.

Strangelight, 9 Days (Sacrament): Featuring members of Made Out of Babies, Red Sparowes, and Goes Cube, this six-song EP by the Brooklyn band channels their inner AmRep fan, but the worship isn’t overbearing. Instead, they bring in a melodic aspect that goes well with the grinding skronk, making for a surprisingly accessible noise record.

Ulver, Messe I.X-VI.X (Kscope): Two years removed from a startlingly straight-faced collectionof ‘60s psychedelic covers, Kristoffer Rygg and company pull the rug out from under their audience yet again, this time returning to the ambient, minimal sounds of 2007’s Shadows of the Sun. Only this album, commissioned by the Tromsø House of Culture and recorded with the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra, heads in a more neoclassical direction, toying with harmonies and cut-and paste experimentation. Baffling and oddly beautiful, it nevertheless ultimately falls short of Ulver’s creative high water mark, 2005’s Blood Inside.

The Vision Bleak, Witching Hour (Prophecy): At first the latest by the German band is more of the same, “Hey, look! We’re goth!” music that tries so hard to sound dark and evil that it overshoots its target and flies right into parody territory. When “Cannibal Witch” and the speed metal-ish “Hexenmeister” kick in you realize that at times they come closer to getting it right than initially thought, but that doesn’t make the rest of this comically blunt album any better.

Not Metal, But You Need This:

Teeth of the Sea, Master (Rocket Recordings): This was one of those random discoveries at Roadburn that I love. I’d learned of Teeth of the Sea only because they’re on the same UK label as Goat, and on the way from one festival venue to another, I walked in on this duo, who were creating a cool, intense combination of electronic, krautrock, and extreme music, and I stood there spellbound. Well, their second album is out this week, and it’s incredible how it refuses to limit itself to one particular genre. You hear Van Der Graaf Generator one minute, Giorgio Moroder the next, the searing intensity of Suicide a minute later, and even a touch of doom here and there. It’s “progressive”, it’s “extreme”, it has “indie cachet” all at once, yet feels far from scattershot, the foursome showing tremendous discipline in their songwriting. Master is, regardless of genre, one of the best, most inventive albums of the year,and this is one that can very much appeal to fans of heavy music. Stream and purchase it via Bandcamp.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

VIDEO PREMIERE: Meek Is Murder’s “In the Ground”

By: Jeff Treppel Posted in: featured, videos On: Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

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Leah Sottile already made the obvious Smiths joke in her post on these guys back in 2011, which totally ruins my planned lazy intro. So fine. Meek Is Murder are super into Botch and other music that makes your ears hurt, which is always a good thing. Of course, that’s only appropriate, considering that, in the year preceding the creation of Everything Is Awesome Nothing Matters, guitarist/vocalist Mike Keller went through a litany of disasters that would have an audience crying bullshit if you inflicted all of it on a character in a crappy melodrama: three deaths in the family, the dissolution of a long-term relationship, a destructive fire in his apartment, illness, and even a god damn injured dog. That would make anybody grumpy, but at least we got some killer music out of it.

They also made a video. It’s very purple. Take a minute and a half out of your day and check out our premiere of “In the Ground.”

***Everything Is Awesome Nothing Matters comes out on LP via Threshold of Pain records on October 22; order it here (eventually). Check out their bandcamp here for the digital download (eventually). Follow them on Facebook here.

A’s on Brink of ALCS Thanks to Pugilistic Metal-Loving Closer

By: andrew Posted in: baseball rules fuck soccer, featured On: Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

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Longtime readers are well aware that the editor in chief of this magazine is a Phillies lifer, whereas the managing editor (yours truly) is a Mets masochist. This year, both our beloved clubs gobbled bags of dicks, so we’re 100% backing the (yet again) ingeniously assembled Oakland A’s through October. For our annual baseball preview back in May, I was lucky enough to talk to four members of the “most metal bullpen in baseball”: setup man Sean Doolittle, hothead closer Grant Balfour,  Pat Neshek (DFA’d in August, sadly not on the playoff roster) and Travis Blackley (eventually traded to the Astros and then Rangers). Yesterday afternoon, the A’s pushed the juggernaut Detroit Tigers to the brink of elimination in the ALDS, and our main man Balfour inexplicably prompted a bench-clearing shoving match in the ninth. Notorious for swearing on the mound to fire himself up, Grant took exception to Tigers DH Victor Martinez staring him down after a foul ball. This was probably all just a big dumbass misunderstanding, but grown men shouted “fuck you, bitch” at one another (Deadspin has the hilarious audio) before Balfour shut the door, giving the A’s a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.

Anyway, if you read our preview, you know that Balfour comes out to the classic bridge to Metallica’s “One.” Or, at least, he does at home; today’s 5:07 p.m. contest is at Comerica Park, so if it’s close in the ninth, Balfour will enter to the sound that greeted every Metallica effort post-Black Album: MASSIVE DERISION. Either way, cheer for the A’s after work and in the interim, enjoy Matt Shelton’s radical Balfour entrance video that’s played when he appears at Oakland’s atrociously named O.co Coliseum.

(photo courtesy of Michael Zagaris)

Black Skies Over Denver

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, lists On: Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

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Professor Pizza of AXESLASHER fame stops in this morning to give us four reasons why attending Denver Black Sky is a moral imperative…

By Metalheads, For Metalheads

Denver Black Sky was masterminded by Skinless vocalist Sherwood Webber. From the start, his goal was to give a collection of hand-selected bands a full professional production and a show to remember for fans. Webber along with a handful of miscreants then recruited friends at Relapse Records, Black Sky Brewery, AEG, and Granite House Records to pool together and make something special.

When the groundwork was laid, each band answered quickly and enthusiastically, excited to be apart of a fest that’s guaranteed to be something special. Every band was chosen because they’ve made an impact on the crew making Denver Black Sky a reality. From old favorites like Dying Fetus and Exhumed to fresh-faced rippers like Power Trip and Speedwolf, there’s something for every metal mother fucker to raise the horns and lose their minds to.

The Mile High City

Last November Colorado passed the monumental Amendment 64 that makes the possession, sale, and cultivation of marijuana completely legal. While 100 percent legal pot shops aren’t slated to open until early 2014, knowing the cowboy attitude of Denver entrepreneurs first hand, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that a few would make the jump early. Maybe you’ll get lucky and come across the strain Cephalic Carnage was smoking when they wrote Misled by Certainty.

Mile High Tolerance

Denver’s high altitude doesn’t just give the Broncos an advantage over every other low-altitude dwelling team, it also decreases your drinking tolerance by several degrees. If you’re normally a six-pack-to-surly kind of person, you’ll want to take it slow the first few glasses unless you’re aiming to see the back seat of a Denver PD Cruiser. It doesn’t help that many of Colorado’s almost 200 breweries seem to flat-out refuse to release a brew under 8% ABV, a statement you can check for yourself at not one, but two metal themed brew-pubs: Black Sky Brewery, and Trve Brewing. Denver is a beerdrinker’s paradise, and Denver Black Sky will have more craft beer than a hall of battle-worn and thirsty vikings could ever drink.

Skinless is Back

Tickets are on sale now at AXS.com, Black Sky Brewery, or anywhere AEG tickets are sold. $25 gets you into the party, $50 gets you a VIP pass that includes a Relapse gift bag, VIP viewing area, beer from Black Sky Brewing, a DBS pint glass and a very special 7” released by Granite House Records featuring unreleased songs from Axeslasher and Call of the Void! VIP is almost sold out, so get your tickets quick! We’ll be there thrashing the round stage and VIP area, soaking everyone around us in pure filth.

MDF documentary Welcome To Deathfest launches website

By: jonathan.horsley Posted in: breaking newz, featured, live reviews On: Monday, October 7th, 2013

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Okay, so this week’s big metal in the movies news has been dominated by former thrashers turned FM rock-metal conglomerate Metallica, who have roped in the wee creepy guy from Chronicle to star as a citizen roadie on a mission across town during a miscellaneously apocalyptic event. Taking its title from one of the many filler tracks on the band’s dishwater-weak eponymous sell-out LP, Through the Never is showing in IMAX theaters worldwide, and has been rendered in stereoscopic 3D, y’know, just in case a fictionalized concert movie featuring Metallica was not a sufficiently awful way to spend your time and waste your money on.

But, dear esteemed Decibangers, hope is at hand for those of you yearning for a more sensible representation of metal on-screen. Welcome to Deathfest, the official behind-the-scenes story of America’s premier underground metal festival, Maryland Deathfest, is coming together apace—and the filmmakers, Pendragwn Productions, have just launched a website for you to keep abreast of all the latest developments in the film’s release, and check out trailers, photos, and interview clips.

Now, at one time or another we have all stuck Maryland Deathfest the Movie in the DVD player and headbanged in the frontroom—and who hasn’t had to discipline the family dog for some non-regulation Saturday night sidebanging to Bolt Thrower? But Welcome to Deathfest is shaping up to be a different beast, a more in-depth piece showing just how the festival is pieced together, and examining its impact on the underground metal scene, not just in the States, but worldwide, too.

There will be a wealth of interview material to complement the footage from MDF, and among those offering wise words will be Decibel’s esteemed editor-in-chief Albert Mudrian, and Sleep/High on Fire’s riff-master Matt Pike and Pig Destroyer’s Scott Hull.

And here is Magrudergrind’s Chris Moore talking about Infest

Be sure to sign up for their newsletter and keep a watchful eye out for screenings. So far, Welcome to Deathfest will be screening in D.C., Baltimore, Philadelpha, and the filmmakers hoping to secure a wider distribution that’ll see it aired in the West Coast and beyond in lieu of a DVD/Blu-ray release. Wish ‘em luck, folks.

**Point your mouse HERE to visit the Welcome to Deathfest website
**Poke Welcome to Deathfest on Facebook
**Follow Welcome to Deathfest on Twitter

Dan Swanö (Witherscape) interviewed

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, October 7th, 2013

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** My interview with Dan Swanö appeared in Decibel, but decided the long-form version of my chat with the omnipresent Swanö would best read out in its entirety. Why am I talking to Swanö? He’s the lead man (well, half) of new project Witherscape. The group’s new album is The Inheritance, which is available now on Century Media. Curious? Check out this lyric video for track “Dead for a Day” (click HERE).

When did you decide to get back into the musician’s life?
Dan Swanö: I have been a musician all the time, just not a very song-writing one for the past years. Around 2006 I decided to focus on becoming a better sound engineer and moved to a really small and cheap flat, so I could cut my day job hours by 50 percent and get back more seriously into the mixing game. During this time, I wrote a few riffs here and there, but it wasn’t until I ran into Ragnar [Widerberg] that I finally met someone that had a shit-load of excellent riffs just lying around. And by that time I had become the sound engineer that I always wanted to be, and the business was great, so I quit my day job, and that gave me more hours in the week for new adventures—and reviving the songwriter in me was the first thing that happened!

And what’s it like being back in the saddle, so to speak? The industry’s changed a bit since Edge of Sanity last released an album with you.
Dan Swanö: It’s great. Century Media is well-aware of the stuff you need to do to sell records in 2013, so I just do what they tell me! The internet is obviously the ‘battlefield’ these days, and things move a lot faster. But in the end, if you have a great album, you will prevail, and I really believe that Witherscape is the best thing I have done in the ‘metal world’ for a long time!

How’d you meet Ragnar?
Dan Swanö: He joined the staff at my day job, and I knew of him from before, since he played guitar in a Judas Priest tribute band called Swedish Steel, and that is a big plus in my book! So we started talking about stuff we liked and this and that, and since I knew he was co-writing stuff with Ronny Milianowicz (ex. Sinergy, Dionysus, Saint Deamon, etc.), I asked him if he had any unused ideas lying around, and he sure did! So, at first I thought it would be useful for new Nightingale stuff, but it was a bit too ‘metal’ for Nightingale. Instead I started to think about using Ragnar as a sidekick for writing a new solo album, but later on I decided to ask him if he’d be interested in joining me as a 50 percent creative force in a new band, and the rest is history!

I’m surprised you didn’t want to include your brother.
Dan Swanö: We already have Nightingale together, and he’s not really into the growling stuff.

Did you approach the music to Witherscape any differently from your previous musical pursuits?
Dan Swanö: I was a lot more careful, and made sure that nothing ‘boring’ passed my sharp scissors and made it onto the record. No passages are still in there ‘to make member X & Y happy.’ I listened to the pre-production back-to-back several times and made notes where I was not ‘feeling it’ 100 percent and that part had to be reworked or cut out. And by the time we started recording the actual album, all the boring stuff was gone and it was ‘Bam! Bam! Bam!’ with only the best stuff!

Is there a connection to Moontower or Edge of Sanity or Nightingale or Infestdead or Pan.Thy.Monium? Maybe it’s all and then some.
Dan Swanö: Well, as long as I am writing the riffs, there is a ‘Swanö kind-of-melody’ in there somewhere, and I have the same preference for what gets me going, independent of what project/band I write for. So I guess many listeners will hear traces of Moontower or my songs from Edge of Sanity, perhaps some Nightingale too—not that much Pan-Thy-Monium and Infestdead. [Laughs] I save that for the future!

You’ve described Witherscape as culmination of ‘70s prog, ‘80s heavy metal/hard rock, and death metal.
Dan Swanö: We wanted to make the perfect blend of “Sad Wings of Destiny/Sin after Sin/Moving Pictures/Nothingface/Moontower” and I think we came pretty close!!

How do you connect it all together? I mean, are transitions and emotions as important as jamming together ideas?
Dan Swanö: We actually rehearsed like a real band! I haven’t done that since the summer of ’92! It was great fun sitting behind the drum kit, sweating it out again. You are ‘in’ the music in a more physical way in the rehearsal room than you are at home with your computer drummer and ear-friendly levels. Certain parts that you would normally use for like four rounds just scream at you to go on longer and longer until the part becomes a different thing, and that new thing evolves into something complete different. And at the end, you might even cut out the riff that started this ‘evolution of sound.’ I have missed that kind of organic process a lot. But it’s easier when you’re only two. The ‘connection’ is a lot quicker than with four other members that should understand that brilliant new idea you just had!

There’s also some different things happening with your vocals. Was this the result of natural growth or did you have specific sounds in mind for specific parts in Witherscape?
Dan Swanö: I wanted to use three voices: (1) My normal ‘friendly’ clean voice (2) My kind of new ‘Dio’ voice that I used for the second Star One and a bit on some Nightingale stuff (3) And my growling. I am super-happy with the way the vocals turned out. I like the mixture of clean and growls on the same riff. Usually bands have ‘growl riffs’ and ‘clean riffs’—we have ‘universal’ riffs that work well with both growls and clean on top of them. The chorus for “Astrid Falls” has one round of growls and one round of clean—never did that before!!

There’s a pretty involved concept. Care to take us through the protags/antags? Sort of an Abigail theme, right?
Dan Swanö: Not really sure what Abigail is all about, but the short version goes: Late 1800. A young man sees his whole family die one by one in a mysterious disease, and when they’re all gone, the family lawyer comes around to their big house in Stockholm’s finer area and presents him with his inheritance. Among the things are the keys to a mansion somewhere in the north. He never heard of this property in his whole life and finds it odd that it’s been hidden from him his whole life. He finds his way there and the cover artwork is a snapshot through his eyes, what he sees when he finally sees the mansion for the first time. Then all kinds of stuff happens!

I hear the album has different mixes. Why is that?
Dan Swanö: Because of this stupid loudness war! I decided to mix the album without any thought of ‘adapting’ the sound to the insane levels of modern CDs, more to sound as good as can be, and let that be the version for the vinyl, where dynamics are still allowed! Once I had the mix ready, I started to experiment with getting the level up without damaging any of the balance between the elements. And even with the best limiters, there is something happening to the sound when you ‘kill’ the dynamics in order to make it louder. So, I used the vinyl-mix as a reference, and with the limited CD mix at the same lower output level, I started to add back some of the snap, crackle and pop that disappeared from the drums. Some of the soft parts were louder, because the loud parts where getting ‘smashed’ a bit. So, I spent quite a lot of time making sure, that when played-back on the same level, both mixes sounded as similar as possible. The same procedure for the MP3 version, that needed even more adjustments in the mix to sound like the vinyl version, but at even louder levels and MP3 conversion (that reduces the data with 75 percent or more!). But in the end, when played back at the same level as the vinyl-mix, it’s really hard to tell the difference.

At this point, is there a difference between mixing for vinyl, CD, and digital?
Dan Swanö: Most bands don’t seem to care. But since Witherscape is a showcase for me both musically and sonically, I wanted to be 100 percent sure that I did the best I could in both fields! Hopefully, more bands realize that their music would sound better if they dragged their asses out of the loudness war and let the music breathe a bit. Include a loud MP3 version as ROM on the CD, and let the CD become a dynamic medium again. Verdammt nochmal!

The cover kind of reminds me of Them mixed with Somberlain. Was that intentional?
Dan Swanö: The first versions were different. More of a sepia/black & white kind of vibe, but after some ‘what if we…?’ the whole vibe of the album came to life in the cover with this ‘Kristian Wåhlin blue/purple’ as we call it. Or perhaps ‘Somberlain blue.’ The Them similarities are completely unintentional. I love Mercyful Fate, but I never liked King Diamond. Don’t know why. Must have been Hank Sherman that ‘did it’ for me! We are not trying to reinvent the wheel with the concept of the album. Just creating some high quality entertainment. Travis Smith did a spectacular job at getting the images from our heads into Photoshop. It’s no miracle he is as popular as he is!

What are Witherscape’s next steps? I know you’ve been down on touring, but can fans expect to see Witherscape on stage?
Dan Swanö: Well, we’re stuck at some kind of catch 22 scenario. There is no time/money for us to get a band together and rehearse until some promoter says, “Hey dudes, here’s a shitload of cash, get up on that stage!”, and I am not sure they will do that before they will see what they get for their money. So for now, enjoy the album. It is the ultimate version of all the material. Some stuff might benefit from the rawness of a live set-up. The Inheritance, not so much.

And, finally, will Day Disyraah resurface at any time in the near future. He’s been pretty quiet.
Dan Swanö: Yeah. He’s been hanging out with Raagoonshinnaah in Amaraah for the last 20 years or so. I’ve been planning for his return for a song or two for an upcoming solo album, with brutal stuff! The idea is to let the songs have the ‘flavor’ of my past sins, like a few Edge of Sanity-style tracks, an Infestdead ‘groovy’ kind of track, a Pan-Thy-Monium ‘strange, doom, blast’-fest, some Bloodbath “So You Die”/”Eaten” kind of riffing—and there’s a couple of geese around the corner that sound just like the free-form saxophone jam at the end of “Sbrodj,” and every time I am walking the dog and hear them go bananas, I say to myself, “I gotta make another Karaboudjan track!”

** Witherscape’s new album, The Inheritance, is out now on Century Media. Order it HERE with a t-shirt or HERE without a t-shirt.

In the Silence Album Stream and Tour Dates

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, tours On: Friday, October 4th, 2013

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Muscular, mournful prog metal, anyone?

In the Silence are a pretty new find for me, but they don’t fit the Frickin’ Label Hack pattern because they’re sittin’ pretty with a label already.  Initially self-released, the band’s A Fair Dream Gone Mad saw a release through Sensory Records a few months back.  That’s cool, though.  I don’t need to find good stuff first, as long as I get to find it at all.  On the band’s debut album, seven swells of burly distortion beneath pretty, meandering melodies and clean-sung lyrical excursions are in store for you.  Seriously, they’re in stores, waiting for you to go get them.

Can’t wait?  That’s fine.  You can catch a listen of the whole album right here, along with an interview with the band’s vocalist/guitarist/creator Josh Burke about the band’s humble, rambling beginnings and how the album title’s quirky familiarity is entirely coincidence.

And if you missed the news last week, the band is starting a tour today with Secrets of the Sky out on the West Coast.  If you live near any of the venues listed, get your ass out to a show and let me know how it was.  Actually, don’t.  That’ll just make me jealous and pissy.  Have fun, though!

 

Who comprises In the Silence? What are the musical backgrounds and listening habits that have blended to create the band’s sound?

The band right now is me on lead vocals and lead guitar, Nathan Higgins on lead guitar, Niko Panagopoulos on drums, and Biagio Guadagnolo on keyboards, Dennis Davis on bass, and once in a while we have the luxury of having Jarek Tatarek perform with us on GuitarViol. And we hope he becomes more a part of the band as time goes on.

As far as listening habits go, we all have a wide variety of things we like, from metal to very un-metal stuff. Personally, I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration as far as creating atmosphere and sonic landscapes from listening to Opeth, Type O Negative, Katatonia, and bands like that. I also really love stuff like the Cure, Depeche Mode, Dead Can Dance, Sisters of Mercy, and old gothic stuff. Dennis and I have known each other for ages, and he introduced me to a lot of bands like Cradle of Filth, My Dying Bride, Tiamat, Samael, as well as goth stuff like Switchblade Symphony, and so on, when we were teenagers. When I first met him I pretty much just listened to Metallica, Guns N Roses, and Alice in Chains! We’ve grown quite a bit since then. Nate brings in some of the heavier riffs, like the breakdown in “Serenity”, and a lot of tasty melodic touches. I don’t know where he gets that stuff from, but it’s like the icing on our cake. Niko is a big Dream Theater fan, and is the least metal of all of us. Biagio actually used to be in a band called With Passion (Earache Records) and was really into black metal and more extreme stuff, but still melodic. These days he and I are pretty much locked in as far as what we like. We’ve just gotten really into Riverside, Skyharbor, Alcest, etc. Jarek used to be the lead guitarist and vocalist (I think) of the Polish thrash-metal band Astheroth. These days he has band called Arcane Dimension, with his wife Teresa. They’re a really cool kind of world-music, tribal dance type sound, and they perform with belly dancers. Jarek plays a custom built bowed guitar called a GuitarViol. It’s easy to mistake for violin or cello on a recording, but live it just looks so much cooler to watch him play it! With all of this put together, I anticipate some new sounds in the future, while maintaining the In the Silence essence, which I like to think of as just trying to make beautiful, heavy, progressive music. I write most of the songs by myself at home, and then bring them to the band and we tinker with them until everybody is satisfied with the final result. Sometimes it’s exactly what I wrote in my bedroom, other times I just have a skeleton of a song and the other guys bring a lot to the table to flesh it out. And lately, we’ve been jamming more and building songs starting from maybe a simple melody or riff. So while In the Silence has always been my creation and my vehicle for expression, everyone in the band has his influence on the final sound.

What were the band’s early years like, regarding writing music, playing live shows, recording, etc.?

Well I actually came up with the band name and first started writing songs way back in 2004 and got as far as jamming regularly with another bassist and drummer, but it didn’t pan out. At that time, I was looking for someone else to sing. I always thought of myself as just a guitar player, and wasn’t sure I could make it as a vocalist. The thought of singing in front of people terrified me, though I guess deep down I always wanted to do it! So anyway, that first lineup didn’t work out. I tried again in 2006, and got as far as doing a few shows, but the line-up just didn’t mesh the way it needed to then either I guess, because everyone quit! So, I shelved In the Silence for a year and tried to do something completely different. It was fall of 2006 and I was doing a lot of writing with the idea of doing a side-project with my friend Azeron, who happens to be an amazing singer and composer. He moved to Los Angeles with his brother Mike Grant, who had just signed a deal with Sony and was recording an album with his band Endeverafter. We were all sure we were gonna be huge rockstars! Well that didn’t work out either, and I came back to Sacramento and started In the Silence all over. But two of the songs that I had started writing for that project, “Endless Sea” and “All the Pieces”, ended up becoming In the Silence songs. And it was actually that same fall before I left for LA, when I was playing those old demos for a friend in the parking lot of a Denny’s after a night dancing at the goth/industrial club, that Niko walked up and asked what we were listening to. He mentioned he was a drummer, that he’d like to jam, and while at the time I wasn’t looking for a drummer, I remembered him. And as soon as I got back to Sacramento, I sought him out. Fortunately he wasn’t too hard to find! I ran into him at the same goth/industrial club we’d met at the year before. So that was really the beginning of In the Silence as it is now. We recruited Dennis about a year later after auditioning a number of people who just didn’t have the right chemistry. Having played in bands together since high-school, it just felt natural when Dennis and I finally started playing music together again. So, we got some songs down, recorded a couple demos, and started playing parties, and eventually some local bars as a three-piece. Once we got our feet wet, we decided to look for a second guitar player. Thanks to Craigslist, we found Nate in May of 2009. Next we added our friend Maureen Rhines on keyboards. She also had been in a previous band with Dennis and me, and we loved her playing style. We started gigging a lot, honing our sound and writing most of what would be A Fair Dream Gone Mad. Sadly, she Maureen ended up going down a very unfortunate path and left the band before we recorded the album. So we went on without a keyboard player until February of this year. We did the album at Fat Cat Recording studios here in Sacramento, with Jack Trammell as engineer and producer. He’s the best in the area, unquestionably, and working with him was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I can’t see us being in the position we’re in now if we hadn’t done that. It took close to a year, due to scheduling and the fact that I just couldn’t seem to come up with a vocal melody and lyrics that I was happy with for Serenity until the last possible minute! But we got it done and self-released the album in June of 2012.

I think the artwork done by Nacho Galacho really helped us get people interested in listening to the music, as well, and he actually did quite a bit of promotion for us, which left to a lot of positive reviews and eventually, to the folks at Intromental hearing about us. We signed with them in October 2012, and Claus Jensen got us the deal with Ken Golden at Laser’s Edge group, to re-release the album under Sensory records. Biagio joined the band in February of this year. We’d been acquaintances for years, and he and Dennis had been friends for a long time, but he and I didn’t really know each other, so much as know of each other. I saw him at a Gojira show and gave him a copy of the album…which he didn’t listen to! It was a few weeks later that Dennis invited him to hang out, for the first time in years actually, and he and Niko played the album for him. I guess he liked it, because he asked if we were looking for a keyboardist. Within a week of that he auditioned, the chemistry was great, and we did our first show with him after just two rehearsals. the rest of this year has just been a blast, as it finally feels like we have the lineup I always wanted. Biagio has become one of my best friends and we write really well together. The final piece was Jarek, who came out to ProgPower USA with us to perform “Beneath these Falling Leaves”. We had an amazing experience there, and at this point we all just can;t wait to get back out on the road and play for some new people!

What did you set out to do with A Fair Dream Gone Mad? Are the lyrics/music very personal or are they more about storytelling and exploring?

Well, it wasn’t really a concept album or anything, just 7 songs that we felt were the best material we had, and then “Close to Me” was something I felt was really pretty and I wanted to record it, even though we’d never played it as a band. It seemed like a nice break in the album. Some people think it’s a low point, but whatever. The lyrics are both personal, and esoteric in some ways. I like to write about concepts that I think are spiritually or conceptually interesting, and things related to the world we live in and how we can evolve out of fear and chaos and self-destruction to hopefully something better. “17 Shades”, for example, is about going within and finding your inner truth, and rejecting the lies and dis-information imposed on us by exterior forces who have a vested interest in what we all are thinking. “Endless Sea” is more of a cosmic love song…like going into the embrace of a lover and finding a sense of wonder and oneness that enables you to overcome fear of death and to be inspired about life’s possibilities. “Beneath These Falling Leaves”… pretty obviously is about Mother Earth. “Your Reward” is the one really personal song, which I wrote about my ex-girlfriend who had a problem with heroin. It was a really sad situation and writing that song helped me deal with it. I hear she’s doing much better now, but it was really painful to have to deal with at the time.

What was your recording experience like?

Well, it was all good honestly! It was time consuming, but it was just a lot of fun overall working with Jack (or Jay as we called him). The excitement of finally after so many years, getting to do a proper recording of our music and have it sound fantastic is one of the best things you can get to do as a band. And having Jarek come in to do “Beneath These Falling Leaves” was a lot of fun! I honestly can’t think of anything negative about the whole experience.

What differences do you see between the way you approached album recording and the way you approach live performances?

Well they’re two very different things. Recording an album is a very slow, deliberate, careful, and repetitious process, almost to the point of being tedious at times when you’re recording the same guitar part 4 times, exactly the same! Live is live, you go up there and just try not fuck anything up, and put as much energy into it as you can. It’s a very interactive thing because you’re feeding off of the energy of the crowd and using that to fuel your performance. In the studio, it’s just you and a microphone and the engineer in the other room. Also, live we can’t always do all the same things. We don’t have 5 guitar players to do all of the layers at the end of “Endless Sea”, or all the vocal harmonies. Right now I’m the only singer, but we’re working on that to hopefully be able to do the harmonies live at some point.

Is the album title a direct reference to Last Fair Deal Gone Down?

It’s kind of funny, but no. Not consciously anyway. Obviously I’ve heard of it, but in fact, that’s one of the Katatonia albums I still don’t even have…and I know it’s a good album! But for me, A Fair Dream Gone Mad is kind of about the state of things in our world…a beautiful world was dreamed up that has been twisted into something crazy and dark and on the edge of annihilation. The funny thing with Katatonia is, I would say there the one band whose style we’re closest to, but I didn’t even start really listening to them until Night is the New Day came out, by which point almost everything for A Fair Dream Gone Mad had been written. I’ve been a huge Opeth fan for a long time, and of course I’d heard Katatonia before, but I didn’t have any of their albums, and no one else in the band listened to them. Now I’d say they’re one of my favorite bands!

What other bands do you feel kinship with, either in sound or because you’ve worked with or toured with them?

Well we’re getting to know the guys from Secrets of the Sky, and I love what they’re doing. This is actually going to be our first tour. And, we also have to give a shout out to David Vincent of Morbid Angel! Dennis met him at Maryland Death Fest, gave him a pre-release copy of five songs from the album, and he actually listened to it, messaged me on Facebook, and bought the album on Amazon when it came out! He’s a really cool guy, and we got to have dinner with him when they came through Sacramento last year. So cheers to you Mr. Vincent if you happen to read this! I will say there are some bands we’d like to tour with, that I feel are amazing bands who fit our vibe either musically, lyrically or both: Opeth, Alcest, Gojira, Katatonia of course, Riverside, and many many more.

What is In the Silence looking forward to in the near future?

We’re doing this tour with Secrets of the Sky, and when we get back, we have a lot of new material to work on! I can’t wait for people to hear it actually. So hopefully we’ll be recording this winter and release something next summer or fall. We’ll see. And, I am sure we’ll be doing more touring. There’s nothing I can officially announce just yet…but I do have a secret that will be announced soon!

SOTS-ITS

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