Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack: Greece’s Rejection

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Friday, June 28th, 2013

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Because every day another band records another song. Because 83% of those songs are unlistenable and you can’t be bothered to sift through the dreck. Because metal is about not giving a shit and waking your own personal storm. Because music is universal, expression is boundless, and even indie labels (whatever that means these days) don’t know everything, Decibel brings you Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack.

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Extreme music fans can be fickle when it comes to groove. Maybe we associate it with mainstream rock and demand that our Christ-roasting, alien-hailing, face-necrotizing soundtracks eschew this most recognizable structure if it expects to rule with authority. After immersing hours/days/weeks of blinding putridity, though, a bit of injected groove can feel like the savior of all heavy music.

Greek ‘bangers Rejection most certainly sound like some of their influences (read below; though they didn’t mention Meshuggah, and it’s hard to believe the Swedes’ music didn’t play some role in this groove), but they’re good at it and deserve a little extra attention. Which they’re getting, now that they’ve done some touring outside of their native country and had a chance to experience crowds who had not yet heard their material.

Back in April, Rejection released their second full-length album, called Subject 43. Check out their single from that album, “This Crumbling World of Ours (Life as a Slave)”, and read up on the band’s past and future in the brief interview below. If you’re intrigued, go on to Rejection’s Facebook page, or check out this other tune they’ve got up at YouTube. Happy grooving!

When did Rejection get started? What brought you together to play this music?

We started this band in 2004, and the first few months we were playing covers. Me and Nontas (drummer) are the two remaining members from the original line-up. When we started this whole thing we were into bands like Korn, Slipknot, Mudvayne, Machine Head , Fear Factory, Sepultura and many others. In the beginning we tried to combine this kind of sound with a more experimental type of music.

How do you write songs? Do members write individually and bring them to the band, or do you work together on them?

Usually, everything starts with a guitar riff, we jam with this and we build the whole song. So guitar and drums are the driving force. Sometimes in the end the vocalist may need a few changes in order to place better his voice.

How would you compare the new album, Subject 43, to its predecessor, Hollow Prays?

Subject 43 is definitely heavier and more straightforward. Every song lasts almost three minutes. It was our goal to write a very heavy record, but catchy as well. Our first record was a combination of groove metal, with a more experimental touch (influenced mainly from Tool). Hollow Prays included 2-3 seven minute songs, and long interludes.

What does Subject 43 refer to? Is there a thematic thread running through the album?

Subject 43 is a concept, and refers to a guy who’s being a subject of experiment. So the songs describe this whole process that lead this guy to insanity.

How was your European tour this year? Were those shows very different from the shows you’ve played more locally?

It was a very cool experience. It was actually the first time we toured outside Greece. We played in some good clubs with local bands from every country. The best shows we played were in Romania, England and Germany. The crowd had energy and positive reaction to our songs. I think it’s a way different situation from the shows we play in Greece, because (especially) in local shows people know us. When you play outside your country you have to “win” the crowd.

Do you feel like you operate within a Greek heavy music scene?

Not really. We’re doing our own thing, and we hope for the best. I don’ feel that [there] exists a metal scene in Greece. There are some great bands, but everybody operates on [their] own interest and need.

You mentioned lots of member changes within the bands first few years of existence. How stable is the band membership right now?

I hope to be stable from now on. We’ve already changed bassist and vocalist, but now I think that the band is in the right direction.

What are your plans for Rejection in the near future?

We are now planning a Greek tour for September, and we hope to do a European tour next year. Also, we are currently looking for a label for worldwide distribution and management. If everything goes right, I hope to tour the U.S as well, sometime soon.

Northern Exposure: Sanktuary Interviewed

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Thursday, June 27th, 2013

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Sanktuary originally hail from Whitehorse, the capital city of Canada’s Yukon Territory. Look it up on a map and you’ll see why, for that fact alone, we wanted to track them down for a chinwag. To say that the Yukon is a little out of the way is like saying it probably gets a little cold up there come winter time. As a lifelong city slicker, yours truly is always curious when a band comes out of an unexpected woodwork a million miles away. The band is now based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is still pretty out of the way when one thinks of accessibility and touring routing, and have a new album out entitled Something Fierce, which they describe as “heavy metal for heavy metallers” and a track of which you can check out below. Bassist Cole Hume answers a few questions.

First things first (and most boring): can you give the history of Sanktuary in however many words you might need, or less?
We are Sanktuary. We hail from the land of the midnight sun. We like homemade liquor and we play homemade heavy metal. We’re four scoundrels that live fast, play fast and cum fast. There’s much to say, but nothing that confining to paper does justice so we will leave the mystery at that.

You’re originally from the Yukon. I’m very curious about the metal scene and infrastructure in the Yukon. Can you give us a detailed history of metal up in the Yukon? What other bands exist up there? How did you guys find each other? Are you all from Whitehorse originally? Blah, blah, blah…
We are all from Whitehorse. Born and raised. On the playground is where we spent most of our days. Until we found liquor and women. Then it was bootleggers and whore houses. Growing up we idolized and local band called Nemesis. They were the shit and they knew it. We knew it too. Local shows were absolutely nuts. We were young, dumb and moderately full of off-the-shelf cough syrup. It was fuckin’ great. There were a few bands on the scene and they ruled your ass. Don’t know what it was like down in the city, but up on the tundra, shit was flyin’.

How does metal get reacted to in the Yukon? Toronto’s Burning Love is going to play the Yukon on their present North American tour, but have many other bands toured up that far?
The Yukon loves all music. A few years back we had Bison BC and multiple trips from 3 Inches of Blood. It was fuckin’ awesome. Shows weren’t half bad either! Haha. The tough part is getting up there. Pretty much 10,000 miles from anywhere and gas is $5.00 per litre. So if you’re not making Led Zeppelin-sized guarantees, it’s hard to swallow those bills. But if you can, and if you can swing it, I can guarantee you will have one hell of a time.

Why did you decide to move to Halifax instead of a more centralised location like Toronto or Montreal? Or even a relatively closer one like Vancouver, Edmonton or Calgary?
We were thinking Toronto. Shit opened up in Nova Scotia, family farm, next to rent free. Being from a place where we don’t give half a shit, we said “what the hell!?” A farm? Maybe we can grow some heavy metal. Maybe, just maybe we can grow something real. Everything’s still close. Close for us anyways. Toronto – 20 hours in the skank tank? We couldn’t even get to butt fuck nowhere in 20 hours from Whitehorse. That’s an accomplishment. That’s movin’ on up in the world.

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Tell us about Something Fierce. How long did it take to write? What were you looking to achieve with it? What was the recording process like?
We spent a lot of time writing. We were shipped back up to Whitehorse to record. It took a while, but we ended up with a product that we were satisfied with and that’s what’s important. We recorded in a half-built studio that I was framing for the owner who we are both good friends with and also recorded our first two demos with. We think it sounds great. Excited to hear what the public has to say.

What did you learn on your previous recordings that you applied or avoided with Something Fierce?
Take your time. Don’t settle for anything else than the closest to perfection you can achieve. It’s not easy but when the goin’ gets tough, you gotta stick in there and just punch ‘em out.

How much touring have you done since moving to Nova Scotia? Did you tour much when you were based in the Yukon? Have you been back north as Sanktuary since moving?
We did a few tours out of the territory and, no lie, it was tough. It’s been much easier since we’ve been out east and we’ve tried to take advantage of that as much as possible. We did a single send-off show after recording before we toured back to Halifax and it was great. We had [guitarist] Glen [Edmond] back in the line-up on guitar after a few years of being absent and it really felt like we were a whole band again.

What’s next for the band now that the album is starting to make the rounds?
First and foremost is the release: July 2 on Spread the Metal Records. We’ll be supporting late August/early September with a tour through eastern Canada and also playing both STM festivals in Halifax and Toronto. Other than that, we’re just always looking at the next thing. Maybe branching out across borders? That would rule. Lots of work, but those of you who know us, know we are never afraid to put our nuts to the grindstone.

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Decibrity Playlist: Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity) (Part 2)

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, June 27th, 2013

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To continue our celebration of the recent release of Construct, we asked Dark Tranquillity vocalist Mikael Stanne–that’s him in front–to a pick a non-DT record that related in some way to each of his band’s ten full-length records (plus one hand-picked EP). Last week, Mikael’s entries took us from 1992′s A Moonclad Reflection EP up through and including 1999′s Projector, showing where his head was at musically, something that he was really into at the time or that represents the period for him. Now, starting with 2000′s Haven, we present the second half of his picks, which we’ve compiled into one comprehensive Spotify playlist.

Haven (2000) :: Depeche Mode’s Violator
With a new lineup and a permanent keyboardist, we were ready to embrace our love for electronic music and focus on songwriting in a different way. In the ’80s, when in our city there was a constant battle between the kids into metal and the kids into synth, I always found myself somewhere in between. I could go out and buy a Depeche Mode album at the same time that I picked up Bathory or the latest Helloween. For me, as long as it was not on the radio, it was all good.

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Damage Done (2002) :: Slipknot’s Iowa
I caught up rather late with this band, but once this album came out, my love for extreme music was somewhat reinvigorated. This was a fresh take on what I grew up listening to, and I felt there was great love for the death metal genre within this “new” metal record. This inspired me to increase the intensity, vocally, on Damage Done. I wanted to capture what it felt like standing on stage close to the audience, screaming right at them.

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Character (2005) :: Rush’s Counterparts
Rush is my favorite band, and Neil Peart’s lyrics are the first thing that come to mind when I talk about inspiration for our songs. This album came out of nowhere for me, and it showed off a new heavy side of the band that they have maintained up until now. Truly amazing songwriting, effortless musicianship and straightforward quirky, intellectual and thought-provoking lyrics. THE go to band for inspiration.

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Fiction (2007) :: Vader’s Black To The Blind
Vader has been with us since day one. I remember hearing their second demo Morbid Reich in late 1990, and I was blown away. This was all that was great about bands like Kreator and Sodom, in an even more extreme form. There was something so primal and infectious about their songs that caught me completely off-guard. And their music still inspires us. Not because they are a band who reinvents themselves, but rather distills and perfects their sound with each release. Black to the Blind is an instant party hit with us too. An album that makes beer evaporate!

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We Are The Void (2010) :: Enslaved’s Vertebrae
When we look for extreme bands among our favorites, Enslaved comes up a lot. The intense feeling of the black metal roots in their sound, and their favor for progressive sounds and melancholy melodies have inspired us in many ways. I can hear so many of my all time favorite bands within their songs.

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Construct (2013) :: Opeth’s Deliverance
Opeth go way back with us as well. Saw them the first time in the early ’90s when they were something of a black metal band. But I always got this willingness to be different from them, even in the early years. I love the unpredictable nature of their sound, and their total disregard for what is considered popular or “in” at the moment. And more than their music, I think that attitude has reinforced our belief that we can do anything, as long as it’s heartfelt and true.

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*Order a copy of Construct here.

**We update one Spotify playlist for each new Decibrity entry, so feel free to subscribe to that here. Past entries include:

Mouth Of The Architect
Howl
Kings Destroy
Zozobra
Call of the Void
Saint Vitus Bar
Coliseum
Woe
Anciients
Soilwork (Dirk Verbeuren) (Björn Strid)
Intronaut
BATILLUS
Inter Arma
Helen Money
Misery Index
Ancient VVisdom
Holy Grail
Rotten Sound
Ancestors (Part 1) (Part 2)
Kowloon Walled City (Part 1) (Part 2)
Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Early Graves
All That Remains
Bison B.C.
A Life Once Lost
Fight Amp
Witchcraft (Ola Henriksson) (Magnus Pelander)
Vision of Disorder
Grave
Anders Nyström (Katatonia) (Part 1) (Part 2)
“Best of” Rush (Part 1) (Part 2)
Dawnbringer
Ufomammut
Shadows Fall
Horseback
Greg Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Torche
“Best of” Meshuggah
Astra
Pallbearer
Barren Earth
Shane Embury (Napalm Death) (Part 1) (Part 2)

Strength Beyond Strength: The Midyear Report

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: diary, featured On: Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

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In January, we introduced readers to Jason Statts. The response to his story was overwhelming and generated quite the buzz in the world of the extremely extreme. We decided to check in with Jason a half-year later to see how he was doing, and if sharing his story changed anything. He was happy to oblige, and we’re happy to publish a follow to Strength Beyond Strength: The Jason Statts Story. June 28th is the fifth anniversary of the shooting that left Statts confined to a wheelchair. We’re happy to report that he’s better than ever. –jmn

Getting shot was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. That statement probably sounds harsh, but it is close to the truth. So many positive things have come from the shooting, as well as my long recovery. Things that I never would’ve thought possible; opportunities to make a difference, opportunities for me to better myself in almost every way, new friendships, and even a second chance at love.

My first story for Decibel, Strength Beyond Strength: The Jason Statts Story, turned out to be a gift (thanks, Decibel). I’ve received so much from it since its initial publication. Many people commented on the actual Deciblog entry, all positively. Many of the same people found me on Facebook and/or Twitter and have since become friends. It is difficult to believe that it was six months ago.

So much has happened in that span of time. I’ve gone from a guy with an unnoticed blog to a guy who writes for four well-respected sites/webzines: About.com Heavy Metal (US), Echoes and Dust (UK), CVLT Nation (US), and LOUD! Magazine (Portugal). I have done 35 to 40 album reviews so far, a couple of interviews, and some in-depth coverage of records that had a major impact on my life. I’ve started my own company for illustration, design, publishing, and music called Black Abyssal. Together with two new (but now very close) friends, I started a webzine devoted solely to underground metal called Violent Resonance (the site is under construction as I write this; it will be a great thing once it is up and running).

Last but definitely not least, John Baizley of Baroness asked me to do a collaborative art project that may or may not eventually become a t-shirt design. Nuts. Things have kind of blown up around me since the story was published. Life seems to be moving very fast, not that I’m complaining. It all seems to be headed in the right direction; the universe is unfolding as it should.

In fact, it seems to be going the way it should have gone 15 years ago. I’m doing more of what I want to do, and having a blast. I finally know what it is like to “do what you love.” It’s a great feeling. Once again, and quite literally, music has saved my life. As far as I’m concerned, things couldn’t get much better.

I also met an amazing girl. She sees past the chair. She read my story, was touched, and wrote me one of the sweetest, most endearing, most genuine letters I have ever read. I was completely blown away by what this person had to say to me; this total stranger. The strange part is that I never would have even known she existed had I not been shot and paralyzed. Out of six billion people, I met her. How insane is that? We have so much in common that I fear that we are the same person; split somehow over time and space. We are completely compatible on every level. She likes me for who I am, and vice versa. That, in itself, is an amazing feeling. She is brilliant. She is beautiful. She is far away, but that can be remedied.

A lot of people have written me about my situation. Most everyone has been extremely supportive and I appreciate every single person who has taken the time to offer me some sort of hope and/or happiness. This message went straight into my heart and has been there ever since.

All in all, the past six months have been an amazing experience. Doors have opened. Friendships and businesses have been built. I have a new relationship with the music I love, and the beginnings of a relationship with a new girl. Time has flown. If things keep moving at their current rate, I expect the next six months will go by just as quickly. Again, I’m not complaining. I am enjoying every busy second.

Thanks to everyone for giving me a chance to prove myself over the past few months. Appreciation doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the thanks I’d like to give. Thanks to all the Decibel readers as well. None of this would’ve been possible without all your support and kind words. If you’re ever in Savannah, give me a shout.

Connect with Jason Statts on Facebook
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Sharon Ehman (Toxic Vision) interviewed

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

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** Sharon Ehman is a Toronto, Canada-based clothing designer and sole proprietor of Toxic Vision, a unique label creating one-of-a-kind designs. New collections, based off her interest in and love for metal as well as the supernatural, are available every month at the Toxic Vision website. Ehman’s work has been seen on members of Watain, Turisas, Dimmu Borgir, Dave Ellefson, Behemoth, and more.

When did you start to take an interest in garments and garment making?
Sharon Ehman: It has always been this way—I grew up in a very creative environment. There isn’t really a defining moment when this all came to be, I have always loved to get my hands dirty even as a small child. There was no ‘what should I do with my life?’ It was just natural instinctive progression – the path was always very clear to me, the hunger was always there. It just so happens that construction of garments is the medium I have chosen to focus on…

Do you have formal training?
Sharon Ehman: I am completely self-taught. I have always believed that there is no right and wrong way of creating, it is whatever way works best for you. To be honest, I can’t imagine this beast existing in the way that it does had I gone to school, or had I been taught by someone else. To any artist who develops their skill-set on their own – it seems to be more pure, more distinguished, it is something that is instinctive—it cannot be taught, it comes from within. There is a certain strength in doing things in a more primal matter, and you develop a very strong sense of being in the process.

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What were the early days like? I’m sure a lot of trial and error, figuring out your, uh, vision.
Sharon Ehman: Sure, of course. Everything is a learning process, and I am still learning new techniques and skills every day. I have looked back on some of my older designs and I am surprised that they are still holding together, but it is quite empowering to see how far along things have come. There is a starting point for everything, and I would encourage everyone to explore whatever it is they desire to do. You don’t need a blueprint, you just need a spark. If you keep that flame burning, soon you will have an inferno on your hands…

At what point did it go from hobby to profession?
Sharon Ehman: Thinking of this as a hobby would be presuming that at one point, Toxic Vision was a side project and other things were focused on and this was never the case. This has always been my path. I started Toxic Vision when I was seventeen years old and it has always been all-in or nothing. When you don’t have a backup plan, you fight that much harder. It becomes who you are, not what you do.

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Where did the name Toxic Vision come from?
Sharon Ehman: There is no massive story behind the name ‘Toxic Vision’ At 17-years old, after some time of thinking about what words should come together to represent what I wanted to do… This is what was decided.

And you’re able to live off of your work, at this point?
Sharon Ehman: Yes, I have been completely self-sustaining and self-sufficient since day one, and every dime earned and invested has been from my own hand. Toxic Vision has always been a singular entity and always will be. However, let’s get one thing clear. Toxic Vision is not FOR profit. Yes, I make a profit but that is quite irrelevant to the bigger picture. To me, there is a much more important reason to all of this madness. This is the biggest middle finger I can give to the world we live in, and the life we are expected to lead. We are taught to follow the herd, we are told to take the most simplistic route through life. Every stadium has thousands of spectator seats and only a few engage in battle. This is my war and this is the fortress I have built.

Are your pieces or collections meant to be worn? I’m curious about function over form here.
Sharon Ehman: Absolutely. With everything I create, I approach it with function in mind. Through careful material selection and a good cut—everything is actually quite comfortable and practical. The ultimate challenge is creating stage gear because there are always many different elements to take in to consideration. For example, finding the right materials that will dry quickly in between stage shows, and can take a beating night after night on stage. Sometimes it is tricky but definitely achievable. Personally, I dislike anything that I wear to feel restricting or uncomfortable, so this carries through to all my designs.

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And the pieces you sell are sized to your specifications not, say, a customer’s. I’m talking more general public than musicians who commission work.
Sharon Ehman: For the most part—yes. Since Toxic Vision is formatted into a very fast-paced environment, it only makes sense to do things this way. On occasion I create collections offering all sizes, and as mentioned above- most everything I make has some amount of stretch—which allows for various sizes and body shapes to be able to wear my designs.

Is there a tipping point between your art and commerce?
Sharon Ehman: No. I have had many offers by larger companies to do large scale collections and other various cash-grab projects, all of which I have refused. I am well aware that I could just cash in my chips but money and fame are not what I am looking to achieve. I would rather take my dagger and thrust it into the earth, carving out a gash so deep that anyone who dare come near the edge will certainly fall in…

Speaking of commerce, a lot of your designs include album art or t-shirt art. Do you work with officially licensed merchandise or are you re-drawing things?
Sharon Ehman: All album art/band logos are officially licensed merchandise, purchased directly from the artist whenever possible. The band artwork/logos that I use are all bands that I listen to personally, and in many ways- these bands play a very large part in the inspiration process of Toxic Vision. Through doing this, I am able to use Toxic Vision as a platform to expose people to good music. I know it is just a small drop in the sea, but it pleases me to know that I am turning people on to the music that means so much to me – and in turn, I am hoping that it will inspire them just as it has for me. It brings a huge smile to my face when I receive letters from Toxic Vision supporters who are excited about a band they have discovered through my designs—and now they bought the band’s CD and went out to their shows and told all their friends. As they say, you just have to plant one small seed.

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Tell me how you got into making garments for musicians.
Sharon Ehman: I am not really sure there is a ‘how’. It just happened that way. My work is very inspired by the music I listen to, so it only seemed inevitable for it to end up on stage. My work is pretty obtrusive, an element very prevalent in rock ‘n’ roll—making it a good fit for the musicians who I am involved with.

Do musicians tell you specifics? What they want, look, feel, etc.?
Sharon Ehman: Every interaction is different, some projects have been more collaborative than others, but I will usually only choose to work with people who trust and respect my work as an artist – allowing for creative freedom. I am not simply a seamstress for hire – I feel nothing inspiring or exciting about just re-creating someone’s design or idea and will not take on that kind of project. I have had some very powerful interactions with some of the musicians I have worked with. Some visions just match up, not much really needs to be said or discussed..the creativity just flows freely and this often leads to the best result in the end.

What was the most rewarding musician-based project?
Sharon Ehman: Ah. This question is quite personal to me—possibly even too personal to fully shed light on.. there are some very powerful creative forces—that if joined together in a certain way, it can become very explosive and wreak some very terrible havoc on the rest of the world… take heed as this story unfolds.

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(Toxic Vision design for Erik Danielsson/Watain)

I understand you’re fairly selective on which musicians you work with. Why is that?
Sharon Ehman: My work is incredibly personal to me, and the careful selection of musicians I choose to work with rests on a feeling that another torch along my path will be lit. I have to feel something, I have to be able to close my eyes and feel that explosive energy needed to manifest something that did not previously exist—something that will elevate and define, for both parties involved…

You also do collections. Tell me about your latest collection and the inspiration behind it.
Sharon Ehman: As I write this, I am halfway through a fifteen day journey for Toxic Vision – an idea that has been brewing for quite some time. I have spent many months collecting shirts from each of Iron Maiden’s studio albums and I have been sewing one design a day—chronologically starting with their self-titled release and ending with The Final Frontier. While sewing each design, that particular album is played on repeat until the design is finished. Each day I photograph the piece and invite people to share their stories , memories and favorite songs attached to that particular album via Facebook. So far, the response has been overwhelming—over a thousand stories have been told and I have read each and every one, every morning before starting on the design for the day. At the end I will choose one person who has shared their Iron Maiden story and they will get to keep one of the designs and the rest of the collection will be released to the public on the same day. I have received emails from people who are following along the journey by also playing the same album throughout the day, and have been starting up discussions with their friends about Iron Maiden, revisiting old favorite tunes and digging deeper into the discography and finding something new. It has become quite a powerful project and a very inspiring journey, it is amazing to see such a bond that can be created from this band!

Your inspiration. Where does it come from?
Sharon Ehman: By now, it is pretty clear that the music I listen to plays a very important role in the inspiration process for Toxic Vision. But it is in a much more abstract way that you might think. The music I listen to pushes me into a creative trance, it makes the dull world around me become quite colorful. There are a handful of albums from various artists that are very defining to what I do. It is hard to fully explain so we will just leave it at that. There are also a lot of natural elements around all of us that I draw inspiration from and always a fascination with history, lore, ancient cultures and morbid curiosities.

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(Turisas in Toxic Vision)

You’re also fairly dedicated to your craft. How many hours in a week do you spend on Toxic Vision?
Sharon Ehman: The lines separating ‘work’ from whatever people do otherwise were erased a long time ago. Toxic Vision is not my job, I haven’t worked a day since I was 17 and there is no ‘off’ button. This is who I am. This beast never sleeps, it even haunts my dreams. I have to do this, sitting still in nothingness drives me crazy. I refuse to live a life to simply just exist.

Do you do mock-ups or drawings first or do you just go head-first into your work?
Sharon Ehman: My creative process is very fluid and primal. On occasion I will have very vivid dreams that get translated into my designs but for the most part—no sketching, no mock-ups. Drawing inspiration from the music that fills the room and abstract textures and natural elements talked about in previous questions, I just simply lay a pile of raw materials on the floor and let my scissors and mind run free. No patterns, no guides, no rules, no boundaries.

Death is a prominent feature in your work. What is fascinating about death and why do you choose to use it as a central theme?
Sharon Ehman: There is no escaping death, it is the absence of everything that we come to know on this earth, the ultimate void. It is a very focused part of a lot of cultures and allows you to explore and question the realms beyond.

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Has your style changed over the years? Curious of you’ve ever looked back on older pieces or collections.
Sharon Ehman: Certainly. I think that for any artist, there is always progression…nothing ever stays the same. There is always new territory to conquer and as your skill set becomes more developed and defined, so will your work. Inspiration is limitless, it wouldn’t make sense to put on a pair of blinders and never explore.

How often do new collections come out?
I usually release a new collection every two weeks, but this past year has brought about a lot of traveling and adventure, so sometimes this stretches to three to four weeks in between.

Your Facebook page is extremely active. Is the page more about marketing and brand awareness? I ask because you seem quite shy, but you’re also the model for the pieces and collections.
Sharon Ehman: Facebook is a great platform to display my work since the reach is rather widespread. I assume this shyness you mention, is from meeting me in person? [Yes, precisely---CD] I’ve never really thought of myself in this way, but it is true that I like to stay out of the spotlight for the most part. We live in a world where people are obsessed with the ‘individual’ and focus so much on this aspect that it completely overshadows the purpose of doing this sort of thing in the first place. Artistry is lost by this terrible obsession our society has with ‘celebrity’. My work is so incredibly important to me and I always want that to take the spotlight. Actually I would prefer to step away from that spotlight personally, what I have created is the true reflection of myself anyhow. It really is the double-edged sword because I model all of the designs myself, but there are many reasons for this. As I have mentioned before, every aspect of Toxic Vision is by my own hand, so it feels a bit odd or misrepresented when someone else wears these things initially. Perhaps it is because I have such a deep connection with the things that I make, it loses a bit of the magic if it were to be displayed on someone who doesn’t share those same feelings or the same vision. In remaining a bit ‘anonymous’ as I do when displaying my work (by means of cutting off my head in photos, etc.), it leads to Toxic Vision being represented by a mysterious figure. It agitates and confuses some, and lures others in.

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Where do you hope to see Toxic Vision in, say, 5 years?
Sharon Ehman: Can these things really be planned out? I don’t hope for anything. Hope is a desire for something to happen, hope means that you are letting other things control your path. There is something very terrible and dark and unstoppable that has latched on here. I am assembling an army and I will lead them into battle. This torch has been lit, and it is impossible to snuff it out.

** Visit Toxic Vision’s homepage by clicking HERE.

** Visit and LIKE Toxic Vision on Facebook by clicking HERE.

The Locrian Lowdown: Annihilation Edition

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, lists On: Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

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The new Locrian record Return to Annihilation is out today and — perhaps predictably — it’s fucking awesome and epic and enthralling and, yeah, maybe a little nutty. Go hear for yourself here, buy it here, and check out the band’s exclusive track-by-track listening guide below.

1. Eternal Return

We wanted to start out the record with something that was different and unexpected from what people might think they’d hear when they drop the needle or push play on the new record. We had this idea from listening to King Crimson’s album In the Wake of Poseidon that has those shorter pieces titled “Peace.” We wanted to challenge certain expectations and try and make something that was shorter and more melodic. Also thinking about The Cure’s Disintegration how it has a brief chiming intro before it just falls into this heavy opener. We knew it was the first track because of its melody, and brevity — plus it introduces the main themes of the record and acts as more of a literary forward for the entire record; which is that of humanity vanishing and the earth transforming itself into this inhospitable place. As for the song structure, we wanted to challenge ourselves by writing a song that was under four minutes but still capturing our sound and style of our song writing. It’s really different from anything else that we’ve done in the past — a statement that we’re evolving as musicians, as people, and as a group.

2. A Visitation from the Wrath of Heaven

This piece really takes the mood to another place; from the highs of “Eternal Return” the low end comes in, just a nice throb. In the narrative of the record we wanted there to have some stability established that then gets broken at the end. Steven did this really interesting thing with his snare, where he stacked a hi-hat cymbal and a small broken splash cymbal on his snare head and struck those, creating a kind of distorted synth drum effect, along with the tribalistic or industrial feel of the rhythm it really accentuate the overall feel, then it explodes into the end, which really is like the beginning of the cataclysm, with an ominous choir and all. There is a story being told here, and for the first two-thirds of the track it’s the calm before the storm, then everything changes and gets turned upside down.

It should be noted that this track would best be experienced through earphones. We did some strange random panning of the guitar on it and it gives the track a really strange unbalanced feel to it.

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EXCLUSIVE ALBUM PREMIERE AND TRACK-BY-TRACK PREVIEW: MUMAKIL “Flies Will Starve”

By: jonathan.horsley Posted in: featured, listen On: Monday, June 24th, 2013

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New week; new grind, folks. . . And this one’s a doozy, all the way from Switzerland and four years in the making. Courtesy of the good people at Relapse, we’ve got an exclusive premiere stream of Flies Will Starve from Mumakil.

It is kind of ironic for a band who made their name with hyper-intense “blastcore” grind that their follow-up to the savage Behold the Failure should have taken its sweet time. But taking four years? That’s like 21 years in grind-time, especially when you factor in Mumakil’s throw-and-go/DIY ethos. Well, there is no getting around the fact that lineup changes, touring and life all get in the way. No matter, in that time the world has been souring apace, creating the optimum conditions in which to birth an album like Flies Will Starve.

Most of you reading this should be familiar with the Mumakil canon already; you should know what you’re in for (24 tracks, all juiced by the familiar cocktail of panic and fury, all clocking in at 35 minutes and change), but here is guitarist Jéjé with a track-by-track run-through of what went down:

DEATH FROM BELOW
Okay! Track one has to punch you straight in the face, gravity-blasts do the job just well . . . Sounds like a machine gun, war on drones raging right now.

DAWN OF SLUGS
One of the oldest songs we wrote for this album, another optimistic view of our society. We realized we wrote too many lyrics for this song, so the end of the lyrics got crippled and replaced by “get the fuck off and die”. Haha! I love the idea that every frustration can be expressed by fuck off.

WAR THERAPIST
Kinda death-metallish intro, [the] groove changes a bit from the rest of the album. It’s talking about “democracy” and its consequences on other’s lives in other countries.

FUCKTARDS PARADE
The last song we wrote before recording. We just used an old riff for the central part, sounds a bit to me like thrash metal on speed. Talking about chemico-pharma corporations; these promising us a cleansed future.

BUILT OF LIES
A song with a kind of groove in the central part. I really like to play this on stage, people generally fly on this; the best way to share your beers with those carrying you for free.

SHIT REMINDERS
One of my favorite songs on this album. Played fast, it’s totally crushing, and we play it now way faster than on the record… [It] talks about fucks. They know who they are.

DESIGNED TO FAIL
The most Death Metal song on the album, fewer blastbeats at the beginning allows you maybe to breathe, and to bang your head slower. But, still, gravity blasts in the end makes it more spicy.

GET EXORCISED
Sounds a bit punkish. This song was supposed to be slower when we wrote it, but as always, faster is better. Lyrics about Geneva’s (Calvingrad’s) well-trained Protestants’ self confidence.

FRESH MEAT FOR THE GRINDER
Wow! A song with THREE different parts! what an effort…Love the “Yaaaaaarrrgggh” in the middle part. Lyrics [are] about butterflies breeding.

REPUDIATE
In my opinion, gravity blasts always work. This one sounds pretty brutal because of them. We had to record this one many times, due to power cuts in the building making us lose time…

ARMY OF FREAKS
I’m really into crawling riffs, lot of notes, everything played in chromatic scales; Like the central riff in there. Nice talk about the pig hidden in everyone here.

HAILING REGRESSION
This is one of the songs we already played on stage on tour with the Elton John addicts in Afgrund.
Seems like hard work. No tone of us has time to grab a beer during this one; that’s a major handicap.

COCKROACHES
Was initially named as a working title, “Francis Kuntz for President”, who is a major political figure in Groland, a small country near Switzerland. Contact him at groland.com

WRONG TURN
One of the only odd blastbeats on the album at the beginning of the song, and yeah, this one was once named “Mollusk” (why?).

LET THE WORLD BURN
Another weirdo rock ‘n’ roll” riff in the middle, blastbeats everywhere else; I love it that way.

PISS OFF (PART 2)
The “part 2″ is funny, as if we already pissed you off once. In fact we did! The part one was “Black Sheep” from Behold the Failure, in which we, as always, insulted people for free . . . And there’s a Big Lebowski quote hidden in this one!

WASTE BY DEFINITION
Seb, our former drummer (who played the drums in Flies will Starve), is a huge fan of Municipal waste, that was his way to tell them he wanted to join the band. Haha!

UNFAIR FOR WHOM?
The “A” riff reminds me a bit of Sayyadina, and I love Sayyadina. Should be a nice n’happy song.
No, in fact it’s an insult note (once again). But deep in our hearts, we’re not evil people. Keep it easy, Mom!

BRING THEM TO RUIN
At the beginning, this one was supposed to be called “Bring them to Rome” and talk about olive oil and sunshine, but someone of us came out at the rehearsal with a really fucked up mood, so we decided to play grindcore and change it to “Bring them to Ruin”

BEGGING FOR THE OBVIOUS
Did you hear that? there’s no guitar for about nine seconds in this one! Now you can hear the sweet sound of bass caressing you behind the ears. In this one, Thomas, our soprano experimentalist, explains you why you shouldn’t have listened to daddy.

REDLINE
Initially named “Porkchops”, the lyrics suit now quite well that working title. Yeah, the second odd riff of the album!

BLIND DISCIPLES
I like this first riff, quite a strange riff in fact, and one of the few backing vocals session on this album. We really have to try on stage with Benj screaming his guts out. We will, [it's] more brutal.

BETRAYER
Did you notice? The last three songs on this album begin with a B. That must be a sign.

BEHIND THE MASK
WOW! More than three riffs in a song! Huge performance, and a kinda rock ‘n’ roll plan in the middle of the song, finishing the album headbanging naked on the table while your whole neighbourhood is sending you the cops!

Umm, indeed. Right, without further ado . . . Ach, you know what to do: Affix the gum shield, press play and let the blasts take control.

**PRE-ORDER Flies Will Starve HERE.
**Mumakil on Facebook

Orphaned Land “All is One” Track-by-Track

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Monday, June 24th, 2013

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Orphaned Land doesn’t have it easy. As the ambassadors of metal in the Levant and its nearest neighbors, the Israel-based outfit are trying to bridge an incredible cultural, linguistic, religious, and think gap. Through five studio albums, the most recent of which is All is One, they’ve tried to represent both sides of the struggle between Jews and Arabs. Have they succeeded? In some ways, yes. They’re still here after 19 years, and they’re probably more visible—from a non-metal viewpoint—than ever before. That new album, All is One, speaks more to the populace—like on the ballad “Brother”—probably transcends anything in Orphaned Land’s impressive discography, and that includes debut stunner Sahara.

So, check out the track-by-track video (the audio link is HERE if you hate Youtube) and get ready for All is One, in stores and online June 25th.

Oh, here’s a little snippet from frontman Kobi Farhi about All is One: “We felt that we’ve done very complex albums in the past, we’ve proven that we know how to be the most complex band in the world if we want. But this time we had the feeling that, coming from a very complex region, it’s time to make an album that would be fun to do and fun for the fans to hear. A lot of the songs are very sad and tragic, but it’s a little easier to digest the messages in the lyrics. We wanted to make an album that’s easy for any metal fan to understand the lyrics from the very first listen.”

** Orphaned Land’s All is One is out June 25th on Century Media Records. It’s available HERE in various formats and bundles. Or, you can go HERE to find salvation. But you’ll need a diving tank unless you have gills, which is doubtful.

Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack: Lithuania’s AUTISM

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Friday, June 21st, 2013

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 Because every day another band records another song. Because 83% of those songs are unlistenable and you can’t be bothered to sift through the dreck. Because metal is about not giving a shit and waking your own personal storm. Because music is universal, expression is boundless, and even indie labels (whatever that means these days) don’t know everything, Decibel brings you Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack.

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 Long before extreme metal bent my ear, that ear heard the guitar ‘n’ synth wonder that was the Top Gun theme song. Steve Stevens dished up some leftover Van Halen solos with an extra helping of melted cheese, and I ate it up like so much cheesy Van Halen knock-off leftovers. At that moment, I wished for music where the guitars could define the emotional heart of an entire album without making room for a human voice peddling preordained prefrontal content. At that moment, I probably would have embraced the Kenny G equivalent of guitar music. When I finally found out that such instrumental music existed, I plowed through Dysrhythmia and Red Sparowes, and more locally Tone and Trephine, looking for the spiritual highs I was sure that lead guitars could provide.

I think Autism might have been the band I was looking for. The shimmery, torrential post-metal v. spoken word performance strikes an uncanny balance between meaty, anchoring narrative and amorphous, imaginative free-flight. Guitars take the lead role in the development of the music’s voice and the readings from Lovecraft augment the supernatural unease provided by the instruments. The album is a wide-eyed journey – not black, death, or thrash enough for some of you, but surely some are open to the light and shade offered by Autism.

Decibel caught up with the mind behind the project, and he graciously answered every invasive question. While you get caught up in The Crawling Chaos, read up on where the project came from and where its mastermind hopes to be headed.

 What got you started playing this kind of music? How did you decide when you had a cohesive album of material to record?

Since the age of 11 I was very into heavy metal music – all the traditional power, black, death metal stuff, but I was getting bored from all the same sounds that I was hearing. And approximately five years ago I rediscovered progressive metal / rock which led me to my experimental music journey. I was digging it all – 60s psychedelic rock bands, experimental jazz, later all the post metal and post rock stuff. At that time I’ve already had some musical projects and played in a local Lithuanian band, but as you know if the musical poison contaminates you – there is no limits for creativity. And that’s how AUTISM was born, a project under which title I could create and record music that I am very interested at the moment.

The Crawling Chaos, debut full AUTISM album came very naturally. I had some obscure ideas about a spoken vocal album, which came to me long time ago, when I heard THE DOORS “An American Prayer” and ENABLERS “End note” albums. I really loved how the combination of music and spoken vocal sounds, so that idea somehow turned into making a soundtrack for a H.P. LOVECRAFT’S “The Crawling Chaos” novel. I had some tracks already written before I decided to try the “soundtrack for a book” idea, but after few tries, it fit very well. So I decided to stick with it and just go with the flow. After a few weeks of trials and errors I finished the album, which I am really proud of. Each track for me has a perfect atmosphere and emphasizes the tension of the actual book.

To what extent do you think your surroundings in Lithuania play a role in the way you make music?

To be honest I have never received any inspiration from my surroundings. Maybe that’s because of the fact that I don’t really pay attention to what is going around me, or maybe I simply don’t really believe in the idea of nature’s influence in creativity. I still remember how black metal was heavily influenced by forests, mountains and stuff, which is a really cute story and the visual impact is quite nice, but I don’t buy it anymore. The only thing that comes to my mind while being somewhere in the Lithuanian forest – is to get the hell out of here, because mosquitoes will eat me alive hehe. The only surrounding that influences my creation process is my “room studio” where I record music. But it would not make any difference for me if I would be in Holland, South Africa or Lithuania.

What’s with the band name? Autism is kind of a hot button these days…

Hehe, I get asked this question quite a lot, and I received some quite negative comments about the title I’ve chosen. Anyhow, I’ve named this project because of pure fascination, excitement and admiration of autistic people. Since I saw Rain Man I was very fascinated by the human mind, and what little we know about it. People like Kim Peek, Derek Paravicini, Stephen Wiltshire or Daniel Tammet are only few of all the autistic people with incredible “powers”. And yes, I know that for the majority of people autism is a very scary and unpleasant disorder to talk or think about. But I find it quite inspirational, because I somehow feel, that each autist has something extraordinary and magical going on their mind that we cannot understand. To me , it somehow relates to the real life people with superpowers, which comes from the fantasy stories, movies or comics, although I know it sounds a bit strange.

 Is there any music, or non-music beyond the Lovecraft writing, that inspires the songs that rose out of you for The Crawling Chaos?

Since I discovered 60s psychedelic / progressive rock, I really enjoyed that strange, psychedelic atmosphere happening the music which was created because of drugs. And I did find the same feeling in The Crawling Chaos. It somehow fit my vision of what mood I want my album to have. Also, the mystical aura surrounding H.P. LOVECRAFT was always very tempting.

How intense was the recording process? Were you focused on getting certain movements perfect or was the recording itself an exploration?

As you say, it was more or less an exploration. The whole album came out very naturally and was recorded in quite a short period of time. Of course, there were some moments of frustration and lack of musical ideas, but a good rest was I all needed to get back on track. Yeah, I was trying to polish some parts to have the right atmosphere, but by polish I mean finding the right harmonies and moods, but not trying to perfect every note. That’s not how I record, if there is a little mistake – I leave it. I am kinda bored of all those perfect Pro Tools records, that sound like robots. So for me, these mistakes adds some human elements.

Is it true that Autism is a solo project? How do you write/record the material? In what order do you put the parts together?

Yes, AUTISM is a solo, or a studio project. There is nothing special about my recording sessions. I just sit by my laptop, where I have all the software, I take my guitars and start jamming. Some ideas are worth keeping, some are just pure rubbish. If I’m in good mood I can write and record a track in one day. Sometimes it takes a week or even more to finish a track. It also depends on how much free time I have to sit and play. As most of my music is more or less an improvisation, so it takes some time deciding which part to keep and which to throw away.

Is there any of your own catharsis/closure associated with the completion of this record?

I think I’ve accomplished my main goal with AUTISM when I’ve finished this album. It was to show myself that I can create that kind of music, and create it well. And I was very pleased that it got such positive reactions all over the “post” community in different places of the globe. Even doing this interview is a big thing for me, as it shows that the music I created is getting some attention, which means I did a decent job.

What other musical/artistic endeavors would you like to explore?

I would really love to create a soundtrack for a movie. And it would not matter, if it had to be somehow related to AUTISM project, as long as I had all the musical freedom. I really love how sounds and visualisations makes such a huge impact when combined together. Making a soundtrack for a whole movie would probably be my musical catharsis. And I really hope that this my dream will someday come true.

Check out the AUTISM Bandcamp site at http://autism.bandcamp.com/.

Tales From the Metalnomicon: Dean Swinford

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, lists On: Friday, June 21st, 2013

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Welcome to Tales From the Metalnomicon, a twice-monthly column delving into the surprisingly vast world of heavy metal-tinged/inspired literature and metalhead authors…

Dean Swinford is very likely the first and almost certainly the last author in the history of Western literature to pen an epigraph comprised of equal parts Shakespeare (“Is not lead a metal heavy, dull and slow?”) and Cathedral (“Angels have no pity/Their wings have turned to stone”), and the fact that he chooses to do so explains quite a bit about his very fine novel, Death Metal Epic (Book One: The Inverted Katabasis), a smart, funny tome following the (mis)adventures of an early nineties Florida death metal band called Valhalla that morphs into an experimental “mash-up of Thergothon and Dead Can Dance” after its debut album Thrones of Satanic Domination fails to catch fire.

Thankfully, when it comes to extreme music Swinford is knowledgable sophisticate, not a preening, condescending shock value tourist — which is to say, rest assured, if it existed, Death Metal Epic would carry the Metal Militia Seal of Approval.

“I wanted to write about Florida death metal in the early nineties because of its personal significance and I suppose out of a sense of nostalgia,” Swinford tells Decibel. “I’m from Miami and grew up listening to all of the bands that I mention in the book. As much as the book is about metal, it is also about the experience of growing up and looking back on the places you have lived. I have enough distance that I can look on that period more clearly; it’s far enough away, though, that writing about places where I used to live, like Miami and Gent, allows me to re-experience them.”

The Metalnomicon recently invited Swinford to discuss the aural inspirations and accompaniments to his death metal fantasy…

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The first part starts with a quote from Death’s “Symbolic.” That album is a little bit further into the nineties than the action of the book, but it’s something I listened to a lot while writing. I picked it for the book, though, because it seems like that song is talking about the same kind of period in life that I’m writing about — those late teen/early twenties years where things are changing so much, but they’re also not changing fast enough. Or you feel like you’ll never get to the place you really want to be. That’s kind of where David is at the beginning of the book. He is barely into his twenties, but he wonders if the best times have already passed him by.