STREAMING: Grand Magus “Triumph and Power”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Thursday, December 5th, 2013

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Grand Magus grand magister JB Christoffersson said to us recently: “Well, in heavy metal the drums are extremely important, maybe more important than many people realize. There has been a tendency in “modern” metal to focus too much on a fat guitar sound, resulting in really weak sounding or fake sounding drums. In my experience, the fat guitar sound is a result of the combination of drums and bass guitar, rather than using all space/frequencies for the guitars. You have to have a really solid foundation to make things explode, hence the focus on the drums.”

You know what? Christoffersson’s absolutely right. Drums in heavy metal kind of suck, for the most part. They don’t resonate, communicate the primal activity of hitting wood to skin, resound naturally. Luckily for Grand Magus (and their fans), the drum production on new album, Triumph and Power, is killer. Like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden killer. We’re not just talking about Ludwig “Ludde” Witt’s ability to pro skin smash, but rather the sound of Witt banging the drums. From “On Hooves Of Gold” to “The Hammer Will Bite”, the drums rule as the guitars of Christoffersson and bass of Fox hit the head and the heart hard and fast.

We’re pretty chuffed to announce the premiere of “Triumph and Power”. Grand Magus is the best band you’ve not heard.

** Grand Magus’ new album, Triumph and Power, is out February 4th on Nuclear Blast. It’s available for pre-order HERE on CD and limited edition vinyl. Oh, sorry for the Euro link. We’ll replace with a US link as soon as listings are available.

KILLING IS MY BUSINESS: Licensing Specialists Jeff Gray & Sam James Velde

By: Etan Rosenbloom Posted in: featured, killing is my business On: Thursday, December 5th, 2013

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So, maybe your metal band ain’t destined for a multi-million dollar CGI family film. There are still opportunities to license your music for movies, TV and other audiovisual media. If you’re serious about it, you’ll need to cozy up to music supervisors (they’re paid to find the perfect music for a project) and licensing specialists (who pitch music for said project). For Decibel issue 111’s Killing Is My Business column, I interviewed Sam James Velde and Jeff Gray, two dudes with a lot of experience in both of those areas.

 

What exactly is your role in the whole licensing/supervising process?

Sam: In a nutshell, I music-supervise various projects. I just finished working on two films, one for Teton Gravity Research called Way of Life and one for Roger Gastman about the ’80s DC “go-go” scene called The Legend of Disco Dan. I also pitch independent music to music supervisors for all types of media (film, commercials, web, etc.). I helped create a licensing department for Fearless Records, so their music was out there and being actively pitched and recognized.

Jeff: My role is dependent on the needs of the production I work on/have worked on. For MTV and Fox Sports, my position is defined as Music Clearance/Licensing. The role is to support a music supervisor/producer or even an editor in acquiring the rights to the compositions and master recording (collectively, a “song”) for synchronization within a program. Many times these are referred to separately (and erroneously) as “master” and “synch,” but the composition rights and master recording rights are both synchronization (synch) rights, and “synch” is not a synonym for “composition.”

There are various instances where the master recording rights are not necessary to obtain, but the majority of uses require clearance of them. Sometimes, regardless of title, the roles get skewed or reversed. Many times I’m asked to participate in the creative process to identify a song that would fit a particular scene or to provide replacement suggestions for songs that may be unavailable for synchronization. Because many music supervisors do their own music clearances and music clearance persons often provide creative “music supervisor” work for productions, it’s adequate to unofficially declare one’s role is in music supervision if you are comfortable with it.

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Jeff Gray, repping the original trilogy… kind of

What sorts of licensing opportunities or types of A/V projects are most open to metal or extreme music acts? Which tend to be off-limits?

Sam: In most cases, anything involving high action… action sports and video games particularly. Most commercials want music that are very accessible and easy on the listener.

Jeff: What I’ve found are the typical, cliché projects someone familiar with the genre may notice: sports, extreme sports programs, heightened emotional scenes (e.g. anger) or even simple reference music (a featured person who is into metal music). Generally, metal and extreme music have a potential place anywhere there is aggressive footage/editing that benefits from the genre of music. It’s mostly male- dominated vocals (if any vocals are used). However, if a featured person in a video piece is female, most likely they will use a metal song with female vocals. Often the instrumental versions or sections of metal songs are most desirable. It’s important to have fully-mixed and mastered instrumental versions of your songs. It’s become an industry standard, and can at least double the potential that your music can be exploited for financial gain on your part.

What types of projects tend to be the most rewarding in terms of up-front (synch) fees? Can you give a ballpark range that you’ve seen for those types of projects?

Sam: In the case of pitching music, all placements are great, because you are essentially helping the artist become recognized. Having a high synch fee is great, too, of course, because everyone benefits monetarily. Video games have been the most rewarding for both aspects. The money changes from project to project. But let me say this: some can have BIG dollar signs attached.

Jeff: In the examples of Fox Sports and MTV, the promo use is always the most financially rewarding in regards to licensing fees. Think of promo uses as commercials for upcoming programs. Since the music used in the promo is integral to the promotion of the program, will be aired possibly dozens, hundreds or thousands of times and becomes associated with the advertisement, the synchronization fees will generally be higher than a synchronization in a program that uses lots of other music and doesn’t air as much.

The fees paid for promo use more critically depend on how the song will be used or associated, how long the promotional period is (because the amount of airings during the promo are unlimited) and where the promo will be broadcast (e.g. worldwide, only in the United States, only on local pay cable TV, etc.).

As a hypothetical example, let’s say a catalog song by a well-known artist, like “Hungry for Heaven” by Dio, is used in a promo for a high school wrestling program (the song was previously used in Vision Quest, a movie about a high school wrestler) and airs worldwide for three months. It would not be out of the ordinary for a total quote for the song to be $50-$100k. For a newer artist and song that has no association with a wrestling film, the fee may be something like $8-$20k.

Sam Velde, blackened for life

Sam James Velde, blackened for life

Are there reasons why a young band might want to accept a placement even if there’s little or no money up-front? Are there reasons why they might want to hold out?

Sam: If the exposure is so great they can’t pass it up, they should do it, but never devalue the worth of your song for it.

Jeff: Yes. If the network that airs the program has obtained performance licenses from the three American performing rights societies [PROs, covered in issue 110], then the use of your song will get recorded on a cue sheet and submitted to the PRO for potential performance income. The amount of potential performance income from the use will depend on the length of the use, type of use (vocals or no vocals), where it’s used (opening credits, background music, etc.), what time it airs, how many times it airs, and more.

There is of course always the potential of “exposure,” meaning people may discover the song from hearing it in a program and may enjoy it and be compelled to purchase it, find out about the band, see the band live if they are touring or buy merchandise from the band. Exposure is an immeasurable, volatile, arbitrary currency, so I don’t recommend banking on any income as a result [of exposure alone]. You should be comfortable with the use and have a desire to participate with a production that has little or no budget for music. My opinion is that if a production has money to buy donuts then they can provide at least some upfront fees for music licensing.

It used to be that bands considered getting their music placed to be unethical or “selling out.” Are things different now?

Sam: Depends on the artist, really, and what they want to endorse or have their songs represent.

What kinds of new licensing opportunities have emerged for extreme acts over the last decade?

Jeff: I think that extreme metal has certainly become more mainstream and accepted as a legitimate genre of music that “normal” people enjoy. Previously it was newer and scary and not as accepted. Comedians like Brian Posehn and professional sports players openly admit their love of metal and extreme metal, and that has also helped bring the music genre in to more mainstream commercial potential. Overall, there has been a huge place for extreme metal in the licensing world for video games, and A/V shows like Metalocalypse have opened doors for more extreme metal in television. While that show doesn’t license outside music (they compose it themselves), it certainly influences others who love the genre and know they can request commercially-available extreme metal for their programming.

For a young band, what’s the advantage of working with a professional licensing specialist vs. reaching out to music supervisors/project managers directly?

Sam: We have relationships with music supervisors that have been built up over time. They come to us looking for music. Otherwise you might just be another band in a sea of millions.

What’s the first step that a young, unsigned/unpublished band should take if they’re interested in pitching their stuff to film/TV?

Sam: Making contact, really. Otherwise, see the answer above. Ha.

Jeff: If you’re doing it yourself from scratch, try to identify every place that is already licensing extreme metal (check sports programming, especially alternative sports like X-Games) and see if you can find resources online or through connections on how to approach offering your music as available for licensing.

You have to approach it like any other marketing plan for releasing a record or promoting a tour. If any of the business stuff doesn’t appeal to you then you can try contacting music libraries that represent music on your behalf for a cut of fees/profits derived. Remember that the people you’ll be sending music to for consideration are receiving music from hundreds, if not thousands, of other sources. You may never get a response, they may never listen to your music, and that will happen to people submitting even the most mainstream commercial music. If they have a need for extreme metal you may hear back from them at some point.

Can you give me a couple specific success stories of extreme music placements that you’ve negotiated?

Sam: There’s a bit of confidentiality to all of it, but let’s just say there have been a handful of bands that have been able to put a down payment on a van or finance a recording from certain placements.

Jeff: I have a long history of working with Victory Records for licensing music. They send me everything they put out. I’ve done deals where we make the whole catalog available for licensing use to music supervisors, producers and editors. I heard extreme music (instrumentals) from their catalog used as background music in various shows I’ve worked on, so it is appealing and useful to at least a few.

I’m not 100% certain what qualifies as extreme metal right now (I know it when I hear it) but aside from Victory or Sumerian Records pitches, most of my experience in licensing is from older, influential acts. I have licensed various Pantera songs multiple times, Diamondhead’s “Am I Evil” (directly from the band multiple times), and lots of doom metal like the Sword, Monster Magnet, The Desert Sessions.

What’s your all-time favorite metal placement in a film/TV show?

Jeff: There have been quite a few but my favorite and the most recent I can recall would be the opening credits for the film Zombieland where they used Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. It’s an iconic song from my youth and most of the songs from their catalog prior to The Black Album are seldom if ever used in film and TV, so the impact from my perspective is huge on more than one level.

 

Sam James Velde specializes in freelance music supervision and licensing. He’s also in LA bands Night Horse and Obliterations.

Jeff Gray has licensed metal (and less-important genres of music) for Fox Sports and MTV.

Decibrity Playlist: Drugs of Faith

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, December 5th, 2013

DOF-NYC9.2012 [photo by Earsplit]

We presume they had some turkey and stuffing, but Drugs of Faith also celebrated Thanksgiving week by releasing the four-track EP Architectural Failures. The effort–the trio’s first since 2011’s Corroded full-length–is hopefully just a taste of what’s to come as the Virginians are set to drop their next LP in 2014. In the meantime, vocalist/guitarist Richard Johnson (who appeared with Pig Destroyer at our 100th issue show) told us about a “fistful of bands that have had an effect on Drugs of Faith’s development over the years.” Check them out below while you listen along here.

Bolt Thrower’s “Through The Eye Of Terror” (from 1989’s Realm of Chaos: Slaves To Darkness)
When Taryn joined the band on the bass guitar in 2003 and I was showing her the ropes, one of the records we listened to for pointers was Realm of Chaos. I’d point to the stereo and go, “See how Jo Bench is beating on those strings?”

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Voivod’s “Overreaction” (from 1987’s Killing Technology)
In the dB Hall of Fame interview for Heartwork, Jeff Walker from Carcass said that if you don’t try to sound like anyone else, then you won’t. Well, in Drugs of Faith we haven’t figured that one out in practice yet. We have our influences and Voivod is one of the obvious ones. I wouldn’t say we’re all that original, but I like to think that how we put together all of the pieces that make up our sound is what’s unique. But Voivod doesn’t stop moving, and that’s inspiring.

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Killing Joke’s “Endgame” (from 2010’s Absolute Dissent)
It was JR from Pig Destroyer that got me into Killing Joke by playing their 2003 self-titled on the car stereo on the way back from…I think it was seeing Cattle Press in Baltimore. I was hooked right then. Geordie Walker has a style all his own and it’s rubbed off on me big time. Also, our lyrics have gone from gripes about relationships to progressive politics over the years, and Killing Joke is a band that tackles vast, important topics, but handles them in a smart way. It’s important to stay aware to the extent that one can.

Napalm Death’s “Distorting The Medium” (from 1992’s Utopia Banished)
It was hard to pick out a song from this album. Napalm should be an obvious choice for anyone playing grindcore or grind as part of their sound in our case. Recently I set the iPod for “songs” and started playing them from the As, and being in the Ds now, all I can say is that I’ve got a lot of Napalm in my collection. I’ve had to throw riffs out because they sound too much like Napalm Death and I couldn’t figure out a way to change them and still make them sound decent.

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Opeth’s “The Drapery Falls” (from 2001’s Blackwater Park)
I don’t see how we can do anything on the level of these guys–hell, same goes for the rest of these bands–but we have written parts with them directly in mind, and hopefully it doesn’t come off as hamfisted. Both Taryn and I have listened to a ton of Opeth.

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Entombed’s “Say It In Slugs” (from 2000’s Uprising)
Entombed plays death ‘n’ roll, and we play grind ‘n’ roll, so they need to be included. We don’t have any songs that sound evil (and, as an aside, I think some of Entombed’s riffs have gotten more evil in later years, like on Uprising or Serpent Saints or Inferno, say). There have been times in the past where we were stuck when trying to arrange a song, and once our old drummer Shane said something like, “Entombed did it like this on Wolverine Blues, so let’s do it like that.”

Burnt By The Sun’s “Forlani” (from 2003’s The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good)
“Forlani” is here to represent Dave Witte’s work in Burnt By the Sun and Human Remains. Ed and I are huge Witte fans. At one of the many points in our history when we didn’t have a drummer, Dave was going to play on a 7″ that didn’t end up happening, but we kept a drum riff he wrote for one of the songs and we continued to refer to it as “the Dave Witte part”.

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*Photo by Dave Brenner

**Order Architectural Failures here.

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

Past entries include:

SubRosa (Part 1) (Part 2)
Vattnet Viskar
Skeletonwitch
Ihsahn
Earthless
Watain
Orange Goblin
God Is An Astronaut
Primitive Man
Gorguts
Exhumed
Ulcerate
Pelican
Scale The Summit
Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity) (Part 1) (Part 2)
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)

Low Fidelty: F*%ck The Halls

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: diary, featured, gnarly one-offs On: Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

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This summer, Neill Jameson wrote an article for us that more or less took over part of the Internet for a day and even got some love from the late Roger Ebert’s website. Neill — also the creator of one of our 100 best black metal records (for Krieg’s The Black House) has an open Deciblog invitation to post more record store tales as the spirit moves him. We’re happy to have him return with the latest installment of Low Fidelity.

Neill is working on a book of stories on record store life with Create And Destroy Press — we’ll share more details as we know them.

The holidays — every year this shit comes sooner. On November 1st, while children are giving themselves diabetes or pulling razors out of their candy, noble men and women in shopping establishments put up ornaments and decorations. The desperation gets more animalistic and inhumane the closer you get to whatever holiday it is you celebrate. The record store is not immune to this holiday cheer.

Your family may have some holiday traditions: the drunken uncle who shits himself during grace, the Mom that wears a slutty Santa suit for your father. The record store, too, has things that have become traditions. Let’s take a look at these, shall we?

Crap – even more of it: The other day, a woman came in with a stack of atrocious records that, had they not looked like an ice rink, wouldn’t have been worth bus fare. While I was trying to inform her that, no, these are not worth money, she started praying out loud: “Lord Jesus, let this man buy my records. Lord knows I need the help,” over and over.

Customers who need money for operations triples between mid November and late December. It’s the time when compassion dissolves because you already have 73 copies of the same Dan Fogelberg record in the backroom. There is serious misinformation being spread through “reality” shows which cause some people to hang their entire family’s holiday on selling unplayable records because they saw Honey Boo Boo get a new trailer from Santa doing the same thing.

Fossil soldiers: The elderly shopping for their younger family members provide the most frustrating and memorable conversations outside of a psych ward. They almost never have any idea what they want to buy. The lion’s share of random merchandise with a band’s logo on it is a direct reaction to the baffled octogenarian who knows their grandson likes KISS. Or was it Katy Perry?

Look, it doesn’t matter. This is where you will get the most grandiose speeches about how current music is shit. The fossil soldiers are grouchy, demanding, arrogant and somewhat odd smelling. And they are legion. My most recent experience yielded a (timely) conversation: “Do I have to go through every record myself to see if a song I want is on it? That’s a lot of work. Do you have ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’? It’s a Christmas song. I can’t believe you are going to make me look through every record.”

In other retail jobs, I was encouraged to work these people into overspending through encouraging the up sell and add on. I understand why our elders are like this: they’re targets of money hungry businesses and they fought in World War I. When you don’t have much time left every second is valuable.

I hope to one day spend it causing strangers to contemplate suicide as well.

Packages: Throughout the six weeks before Christmas, stores that utilize the wonders of Internet commerce fire out packages full of Christmas records that at any other time would be dirt cheap. Online transactions are quiet and uneventful until you get that one stamp collector. But also you get a lot of gratitude, people who want to make sure you are aware that what you’re sending is important and are courteous about it. It’s a constant dance.

Our greatest ally in this is the postal service, the reindeer to our Santa. The comparison is apt because we treat this government service like beasts of burden. At least it seems that way according to our mailman, who has outbursts when he sees the stack of boxes he has to haul. Considering it is the season of giving it’s good to remind him he makes three times your salary and that many gift exchanges end with “fuck you” or some other pleasantry.

Find out what your carrier’s preferred drink is and get them a bottle. Carrying a hundred packages sucks regardless of your pay scale.

Nostalgia and sentimentality are the biggest driving forces during the holiday season. The judges will also accept “guilt” and “materialism” but that’s cynical for a holiday piece. There are moments that make you remember that people have lives and souls, like watching a parent look for records for their child or someone hunting for a specific record that they know their significant other is dying to own.

People grab music that makes memories and traditions, the real reason the end of the year should be celebrated. Brick and mortar establishments have always been a part of this ritual. I often hope it still matters as much to others, not only because I’d need to find an adult job, but because there is still potential for these kinds of experiences. I’m told I come off negative but I do enjoy this time of year more than any other. My deep love for music and record store culture causes my Grinch sized heart to grow a few sizes. Until the next person who asks if I buy records comes in…

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Buy (digital) Krieg stuff here

Sucker For Punishment: Wait, the year’s not over yet?

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

abbatarium

If you haven’t noticed yet, the beginning of December has given way to the annual deluge of year-end lists, publication after publication, writer after writer offering their choices of the best albums of 2013. It’s completely overdone, but still something I relish to this day, as that perpetual desire to discover great new music never ceases.

However, it’s easy to forget there are still plenty of new releases coming out this month, including a few more than worthy of your attention and hard-earned cash, ones that are being ignored by genre tourists busy singing the praises of this year’s token “metal” album. But hey, to each their own. In the meantime, pardon me while I go scream junior high poetry petulantly over a Slowdive album and wait for the accolades to pour in.

Here’s some new, proper heavy metal well worth checking out:

Avatarium, Avatarium (Nuclear Blast): When it comes to stories of how bands started up, Avatarium’s has quickly become a favorite of mine. Candlemass head honcho Leif Edling was at his own birthday party, when Mikael Åkerfeldt drunkenly suggested they start a band together. Apparently Åkerfeldt does that all the time yet never actually goes through with it, but Edling took his word for it and immediately started writing songs with Åkerfeldt’s voice in mind. As it turned out, even though his Opeth buddy couldn’t commit to the project, the new material was so good Edling decided to see this project through with some more willing participants. Enter guitarist and former Candlemass fill-in Marcus Jidell, who in turn would convince his girlfriend Jennie-Ann Smith to try singing. The end result is a brilliant debut album that explores doom metal in a way Edling can’t do with Candlemass, broadening its reach into classic rock, psychedelic rock, and even pop. Smith’s persona works wonders, at times sounding as haunting and mysterious as Jex Thoth, but also capable of entrancing listeners with genuine soul rather than keeping them at an arm’s length. “Moonhorse”, “Boneflower”, and “Lady in the Lamp” all show incredible promise, and Edling is clearly relishing this new musical direction. His ongoing Candlemass gig might pay the bills, but it’s good to see him continuing to make vital music. This new band is a keeper.

Cult of Fire, मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान (Iron Bonehead): Yes, that’s Sanskrit, and no, I have no idea how it’s pronounced, nor what it means. If the guys in Cult of Fire do, then good for them. Musically this second album is an even balance of rote black metal orthodoxy and bold experimentation: melodic then atonal, structured then abstract, straightforward then mesmerizing. Another incredible discovery by German tastemaker Iron Bonehead. Stream and purchase it via Bandcamp.

Also out this week:

Ævangelist, Omen Ex Simulacra (Debemur Morti): If you want atmosphere in your death metal, Ævangelist have it up the wazoo. So much so, in fact, that it comes perilously close to overwhelming the actual music at hand, and the novelty wears off after half an hour. Yes, we get it; it’s the sonic equivalent of a descent into Hell. For what it’s worth, though, the actual music is capably done, the kind of death metal that would have some describing it as striking, others calling it arbitrary. I’m leaning towards the former. But only just.

Artillery, Legions (Metal Blade): The Danish veterans don’t exactly do anything particularly daring on their seventh album, and third since their comeback, but it’s a spirited collection of melodic thrash tunes, led by new singer Michael Bastholm Dahl, who makes a strong first impression.

Ashencult/Mesphorash, Opus Serpens (Unholy Anarchy): This is a very cool 10-inch split, featuring blistering new tracks by Philadelphia black metal band Ashencult and their like-minded brethren in Sweden’s Mesphorash. Both epic songs complement each other perfectly, firmly rooted in black metal tradition: savage, Satanic, and aptly atmospheric. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Black Sabbath, Live…Gathered In Their Masses (Vertigo): You release the most heavily anticipated metal album of the year, you launch an extremely successful world tour, and you cap off a stellar year with a live release. So what better way to thank the fans than by cutting five songs off the live album? Any Sabbath with half a brain who wants a memento of the 2013 tour is just going to buy the complete show on DVD, then just download an audio rip via torrent.

Circle, Incarnation (Ektro): Wait a sec. So Finnish band Circle has “loaned” their name to other bands while they name themselves Falcon and play soft rock. Whatever floats your boat, guys. Either way, the musicians who appear under the Circle moniker on this album take the brand headlong into straight-up death metal, and do an awfully good job of it, from the unrelenting proto-grind of “Bloodstreams”, to the lurching, primal “Transcending”, to the truly strange blend of death and motorik on “Burden”.

Deicide, In The Minds Of Evil (Century Media): Glen Benton and Deicide have been on a good roll in recent years, and this 11th album once again wastes no time giving the punters what they want: good, tight, catchy death metal songs that never stray longer than four minutes, and of course loaded with Benton’s perpetual blasphemy.

Ephel Duath, Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness (Agonia): Some hear “uncompromising”, I hear an unfocused racket featuring repellent, tone-deaf lead vocals.

Falcon (ex-Circle), Frontier (Ektro): Kudos to the guys in Circle for attempting to co-opt AOR, but as earnest as this album is, it’s nevertheless too awkward-sounding to work. It almost feels like this is genre tourism, a group of experimental musicians playing music that’s beneath them, sometimes sounding sincer, other times sounding condescending. Whether it’s the hooks, the surreal lead vocals, or the song titles (“Beer and Ribs”, “Miami Tits”) there’s always something disturbingly off about this record.

Generation Kill, We’re All Gonna Die (Nuclear Blast): Outspoken Exodus vocalist Rob Dukes is back with another Generation Kill album, which turns out to be a lot more diverse than the last record, playing up the American groove metal gimmick a lot more, blatantly following the lead of Pantera and Black Label Society. For all the sludgy grooves, ballads, and general what-the-fuckery (“Carny Love”) its best moments are still when Dukes and his mates focus more on the thrash side, like on “Friendly Fire”. Sadly, there’s nowhere near enough of that on this sloppy, pandering album, leaving you wondering why Dukes was given that much creative freedom in the first place.

Hell, Curse And Chapter (Nuclear Blast): The triumphant return of NWOBHM obscurities Hell was one of the more pleasant surprises of 2011, and their follow-up continues right where Human Remains left off, even expanding on the band’s distinct, theatrical sound. Kev Bower and Andy Sneap bring loads of melodic riffs and harmonies, while singer David Bower continues to embrace his role as frontman, charismatically selling the gleefully outlandish lyrics on such standouts as “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “A Vespertine Legacy”. Bonus points for somehow paraphrasing the Fifth Dimension and making it actually work.

I Exist, From Darkness (Prosthetic): The Australian band’s take on the sludge sound – equal parts Eyehategod and Kylesa – is capably done, but you keep waiting for the band’s own personality to surface, for this record to forge an identity of its own, only to never see it happen.

Immortal Bird, Akrasia (Closed Casket): 30 seconds into the debut EP by the Chicago trio, you think you have it pegged, but the blackened thrash quickly gives way to prog, noise, and grindcore, all performed with ferocity. As confident as the band sounds, they’re still feeling their way around, which is a frightening thought. When they hit their stride, look out. The Deciblog premiered the album yesterday, so go listen to it here.

Kuolemanlaakso, Musta aurinko nousee (Svart): Finnish for “death valley” – or says Google Translate, anyway – Kuolemanlaakso bring out the mournful melodies of countrymen Swallow the Sun, only with blunter force, on this new EP. And of course, it’s sung in Finnish, just to give it an air of mystery to the bulk of listeners who don’t understand the language.

Leaves Eyes, Symphonies Of The Night (Napalm): The latest from Liv Kristine and company stays the course, dutifully delivering more of the same folk-tinged symphonic metal, but too many of these new songs fall flat, sorely lacking the warmth and charisma of 2005’s Vinland Saga, which remains the band’s best work.

Profanatica, Thy Kingdom Cum (Hells Headbangers): The long-running band has churned out yet another album of attention-seeking profanity and blasphemy, but while the artwork more than holds up its end of the bargain, the music therein feels crude and half-assed in comparison.

Rhapsody of Fire, Dark Wings of Steel (AFM): When it comes to ridiculous Italian power metal, Rhapsody of Fire are the standard bearers, and they are in prime, bombastic, frilly-sleeved form on their tenth album. While Luca Turilli brought a level of shred-happy insanity as main songwriter prior to his 2011 departure, his absence makes room for a more straightforward compositional style, which suits this incarnation of the band nicely. While the production fails to elevate the music to the kind of insane grandiosity it deserves, the songs are nevertheless involving enough to give this album a pass.

Year Of No Light, Tocsin (Debemur Morti): At its worst, France’s Year of No Light can sound as tedious as any other “post-metal” band of the last decade, but at its best it transcends that boring tag entirely. After the 12-minute title track gets things off to a sleepy start, things finally get interesting with the racing “Géhenne”, the towering “Stella Rectrix”, and the motorik hypnosis of “Alamut”.

Not metal, but worth hearing:

Beastmilk, Climax (Svart): Had this come out 11 years ago, it would have been slobbered over by the indie rock press. But in their ignorance of trends outside their own genre, metal musicians can make them look horribly, charmingly passé. Needless to say there’s an instinctive feeling of “been there, done that” upon first hearing the new post-punk project by Matt “Kvohst” McNerney. After all, it’s all been done to death thanks to such bands as Interpol, Editors, Bloc Party, Maximo Park, The Futureheads, and on, and on, and on. Like metalcore, it’s hard to generate enthusiasm for a sound that was beaten to death in the mid-2000s. However, once you let the slavish worship of Joy Division, The Cure, and Siouxsie & the Banshees settle, the more you can sense Beastmilk setting itself apart from the rest of the sound-alikes thanks to a direct, harder-edged approach. Interpol’s strength was subtlety; Beastmilk’s is pure bombast. A strong Killing Joke/Sisters of Mercy vibe runs through the entire record, a sense of Kurt Ballou-produced abrasion and gothic theatricality that indie rock was never willing to fully embrace, as well as McNerney’s Andrew Eldritch-style baritone, which makes songs like “Death Reflects Us” and “Genocidal Crush” work so well. So typical of metal musicians, there’s no trace of subtlety here – it’s ham-fisted in places – and it’s not as daring and poetic as Vaura’s meshing of gothic rock and black metal, but that’s its strength, and on a simple, instinctive level it’s immensely satisfying.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

American Sharks Tour Diary: The Final Chapter

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: diary, featured On: Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

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Austin, Texas purveyors of kinetic riffage and uber-burly grooves American Sharks dropped a sick self-titled debut back in September — check out a stream here — and just finished up a tour with Clutch and The Sword.

Bassist/vocalist Mike Hardin checks in with this report…

Fri. Nov. 1st Memphis, TN

We arrive at Minglewood Hall a little late…as usual. Two grandpas come out to help load gear. The old timers have some great stories and surprising strength and stamina! I start getting our gear together and realize that I’m missing my cable bag. This bag has my pedals and everything in it. I start freaking out and getting in touch with everyone at the venue from the night before. Right as I feel I’m gonna burst Dave Grooman says I can borrow some of The Swords shit if need be and Bryan Richie(Bass The Sword) even takes his distortion pedal off of his pedal board. It’s nice but I’m realizing that I’m probably gonna need all new shit. My $20 a day wont cut it. Im gonna have to rob. I stand on the stage going through different robbing scenarios. I come to the conclusion that I simply have got what it takes to rob. Something would go wrong. I decide I’d shoot my own foot. Something I’m always afraid I’ll do when I hold a gun. Dave comes back with a bag and says I can use what’s in there. He starts pulling out all of MY shit! Ladies and gentlemen I have been punk’d. The show rules and after there is a show in the room next to the large hall and a band called Tanks plays and they rule!!

Sat. Nov. 2nd Oklahoma City

The venue we play this night is a true relic. An old huge dance hall that has seen the likes of Wanda Jackson, Buck Owens to Slayer and of course Clutch! It’s got a rocky parking lot with an old dog wandering around. I don’t dip. I start thinking this will be a problem. I want to tuck my hair into an old trucker cap and tuck in my flannel to fit in. The natives are polite so i loosen up a bit and we do a good show. It’s a pretty fun time but we mostly have home on our minds as we are heading to Austin for our day off tomorrow.

Sun. Nov. 3rd OFF

We pull into Austin around 6pm. This is a much needed break in the crazy shit that we have experienced so far on tour. My grass hasn’t grown. It’s cold. Things aren’t how I left them. My lil lady makes me pizza and Mac n cheese. I have a Dr. Pepper too. My dogs are super pumped and Cloud gets about as much love as she can handle. I sleep for 10 hours.

Mon. Nov. 4th Corpus Christi, TX

STREAMING: Immortal Bird’s “Akrasia”

By: Jeff Treppel Posted in: featured, listen On: Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

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As an avowed rodent partisan, I must confess to a certain dislike of our fine feathered friends – or, as I like to call them, sky vermin. And one that lives forever? Parrots already live for over a century; that’s quite long enough already (sorry, Waldo). Despite their questionable name, though, Immortal Bird – the band – are much more appealing than their airborne brethren… well, to a certain subset of the population, anyway. I’ve seen this described as black metal, but that only begins to cover it. Dark and twisting, Akrasia refuses to be pigeonholed. Often proggy, sometimes doomy, and other times quite beautiful, it offers surprises around every sudden corner. We are pleased to premiere the EP in its entirety below, just in time for the December gloom. It’s way better than the avian menace, that’s for sure.

***Akrasia is out today courtesy of Closed Casket. Purchase the CD, digital download, or T-shirt combo pack here. Follow Immortal Bird on Facebook here.

INTERVIEW: Craven Idol’s S. Vrath on taking the extremely extreme road towards eschaton

By: jonathan.horsley Posted in: featured, interviews, uncategorized On: Monday, December 2nd, 2013

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A few months ago we had the pleasure of hosting the online premiere of Craven Idol’s awesome debut LP, Towards Eschaton. And it really was a pleasure, ‘cos this slab of apocalyptica is a total 100 per cent doozy. Released through Dark Descent in October, Towards Eschaton is a record that marks the Londoners’ evolution from prodigious black-thrashers to genre-shredding heavyweights, and is fast becoming the go-to record for those long nights spent spitballing solutions to the Riddle of the Steel. Around that time we caught up with guitarist/vocalist S. Vrath to get the band’s story so far. You should of course do the sensible thing and find the choice cuts from this conversation in Decibel #110, but here is the interview in redux format.

When and how did you start the band?
“It started with me and Scourger, the other guitarist, at university. We went to some metal event, I don’t quite remember what it was but we just started talking and quite soon noticed that we had quite a lot in common when it comes to influences—the first wave of extreme metal, like before things started to become pigeonholed, especially the Teutonic thrash movement with Sodom and Poison, the German Poison. It was these type of bands—Possessed, also, and heavy metal like Manilla Road and Candlemass. Initially, I must admit that we just wanted to pay tribute to these old thrash bands and the Australian black-thrash movement, like Gospel of the Hordes, Destroyer 666, et cetera. We just jammed in the Commonwealth Halls [University of London], which had a drum kit and an amp. He played drums. I was on guitars. We just kept on jamming and pretty soon we had a three-track demo together, which we self-released on tape. We released 50 copies. It was only with the EP Ethereal Altars in 2010 that we put a full line-up together with our bassist, Suspiral, and J.C. Volgard, the drummer who I had been working in my other band, Scythian. Since 2010 we’ve been a live band. Our first gig was at the Armageddon Festival in 2010 and the reception was amazing. The crowd were chanting the band’s name before the band was on the stage and it was our first show—our EP wasn’t even out.”

When did you feel like your sound was going to change, that it was going to be something more than paying tribute?
“We are really big fans of heavy metal, and the more we wrote songs the less we could identify with this kind of pigeonholing. Something I don’t get a massive kick out of is those worship bands who just take a school of thought from one band and just try to replicate that. We don’t want to be that kind of band. It is almost damaging to us to be called a black thrash band at this point. It’s almost a dirty word these days, like everyone plays black-thrash, and I don’t think that the way that we write is just thinking about a thrash metal riff and putting some black metal elements to it. The melody? We don’t shy away from that, because that is something that is very prominent in heavy metal. Yeah, it’s pretty melodic. But if it fits the context of the song then we are not going to second-guess it because of any potential third party criticism, because that’s just not how we write music. When I listen to the album, at least from my perspective, I can hear a lot of different styles and ideas.”

Even within black metal, there was always melody in there, albeit disguised with the production and performance.
“Especially with the Second Wave; the melodies are such an important part of the music. Y’know, I would just like to call it extreme metal. There is lots of that Finno black metal melody [in Craven Idol]. The death metal aspect just comes from Possessed or even Slayer, who could be considered to be death metal in that era’s context. And Massacre, absolutely. It’s just like what I was saying about the lack of tags—everything molds together beautifully when you stop thinking about these things in the context of a tag. It is just all the music we love put into work. Me and Scourger just write music that we like ourselves; other people listen to it and that’s great, and I am really glad people like it, but how much can you think about that when you write music? I don’t do that at all.”

Maybe “Orgies” is the one track that stands out on Towards Eschaton as a more obvious product of your influences. It sounds, almost like a cover. How did that one come about?
“That is actually a rerecording from a demo track, so that’s probably our most black-thrash tune. I can see completely what you mean. Because it is a track rerecorded from our first demo, that is when you can really see we really focused on trying to sound like those Australian bands, a bit more punky even.”

How do you see your sound developing?
“I think, writing-wise, it has sort of been in the same vein as the opening track, “To Summon Maryion”, which to my mind is the most varied track with the melodies and the riffing. But we are very comfortable about where we are with Towards Eschaton. I think we have found something that, hopefully, doesn’t sound like absolutely everything else.”

How do you get into the mindset to write?
“Creativity, inspiration—it comes in waves, and you just get into a mindset where you can just write a song on the spot. Because Scourger lives in Witham, out in Essex, we usually write riffs for ourselves and then share them we meet up. There has always been this chemistry between us. When we are in a room together the songs just flow. It’s just that electric feeling you have when you are in the same room and the riffs just explode out of you. We have those sessions and that’s when we usually create song structures, then we perfect them on our own again, and then bring the drummer in and it all comes together. I think we just have a similar mindset. I wouldn’t say that anything goes, but with Craven Idol it is crystal clear in our minds what goes and what doesn’t. To get motivated you just listen to your old Mercyful Fate, or your old Candlemass and Manilla Road albums. For me, it is impossible to sit down and write a riff without any sort of background thought. I really need the lyrics to wave me on, or just the ethic of the band. I am in a few bands, and I would like to think that none of them sound the same because none of it has been created in the same mindset or based on the same ideas.”

What was the big epiphany for you in discovering metal?
“I come from quite a musical family, and my parents where always playing AC/DC and Black Sabbath. It is not an uncommon story. When I first discovered the Black Metal album from Venom it was just like, ‘Woah, there is a next step to this.’ And that seven-inch by the British NWOBHM band Satan, Kiss of Death. It was just realising this new dimension to it that changed me to the metal ethic for life, and then going from there.”

AC/DC to Venom is not such a big leap. It feels like the same language, rock ‘n’ roll still but a little darker.
“And it feels somehow achievable; you would hear this music, and more than just listening to it you want to start playing. After hearing Venom, I picked up a guitar and started playing. I had only been playing some acoustic before that but after I thought I must have an electric guitar, I must start a band. But also moving to London [had a big impact]. I lived in the south of France before that, where there is basically no metal. No one listened to metal. I only discovered all these records through the hard rock background of my parents—then I move to London and there are gigs, there are all these people here! I always felt very privileged and lucky that the north London scene for this kind of music is quite strong. We have bands like Grave Miasma . . . We are all really good friends with them. There is almost a scene but we don’t call it that because we are all just friends who just happen to play here. I don’t know how many gigs we have played with Grave Miasma now but it seems to me that we are always on the same bill.”

**Order Towards Eschaton here
**Craven Idol on Facebook

Cyber Monday Deal: Get a FREE issue of Decibel!

By: mr ed Posted in: featured, free On: Monday, December 2nd, 2013

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If you’re reading this, you’re a metal fan, which means you rarely leave the house except to terrify neighbors and co-workers. Hence, this special Cyber Monday promotion is for you, fellow misanthropic recluse. Today only, if you sign up for a 12-month or 24-month subscription  to Decibel, you’ll receive one extra issue for FREE. That’s right, one extra installment of North America’s premier monthly metal magazine is on us!

Bear in mind, this one-day sale ends at midnight tonight (EST). So, click here to order now!

KILLING IS MY BUSINESS: Pixar Exec Tom MacDougall Talks A/V Licensing

By: dB_admin Posted in: featured, killing is my business On: Monday, December 2nd, 2013

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by Etan Rosenbloom

500 words an issue is barely enough to spell my name, let alone introduce an entire sector of the music industry in the monthly Killing Is My Business column we introduced in Decibel issue 110. That’s why we’ll be posting occasional interviews and supplementary materials right here on the Deciblog. The idea is to explain how people that make money through metal do their thing – and maybe inspire you to do the same.

Issue 111’s KIMB column is all about audio/visual licensing. Finding the right music for a film, TV show, commercial or other A/V project can be a complex process involving the band, whoever’s buying the music, publishers, record labels and an intermediary – a music supervisor or licensing specialist.

Pixar & Walt Disney Animation SVP of Music (and closet metalhead) Tom MacDougall represents the “music buyer” side of the equation. Here’s my interview with him about how and why he licensed Mastodon’s “Island” for Pixar’s Monsters University

From a creative standpoint, why did the Pixar team select “Island” for that scene in Monsters University? Were there other songs in contention?

Animation is obviously a long process, but also a process where we experiment a lot, all geared towards us not committing to work that we’re gonna have to ultimately throw away. In live-action, where you might shoot a scene 10 different times, with different lighting and different takes and all that sort of thing, we go through a process of storyboarding which is our experimentation process, so that we don’t animate things that don’t get used, because animation’s expensive and time-consuming.

One of the things we do is we just throw up ideas in that free form, and see what sticks. I think it was the picture editor that put Mastodon in there, and it just worked. We wanted the polar opposite of that character, the music you would least expect her to be listening to. There’s just something about that scream that seems inaccessible, so far-reaching in terms of… what anyone would listen to, but certainly that character. It just felt like a perfect match.

So this was “temp” music.

Yeah. We tried on stuff, I pitched some other stuff, but it was almost like I did it [because of] what my job is – to come up with as many ideas as I can. But it wasn’t like I looked at it and thought, “We need other ideas.” It was like, “Oh, that’s amazing, and I’ll come up with some other ideas, but I’m not sure I’m ever gonna beat it.” Ultimately we didn’t.

I’ve read that Mastodon had originally been asked to write something original, but the filmmakers decided against it at the last minute. Do you know why that decision was made?

We temped [“Island”] in there, then we went to them [to ask for something new] almost for fun. It seemed like a fun way to have the band be more specifically involved. But as happens a lot of times in Hollywood, we hit this temp love thing, where the thing we had just worked so well. The guys were great, and the thing they came up with was great, and I think if it was in the movie no one would have noticed, but it was the type of thing where we were too close to it. But they couldn’t have been better about it. They said, “Whatever is the best thing for the movie, we’re on board.” It really worked out for the best.

Lay out how the negotiation goes once you decide, “Yes, we’re willing to work with you, Mastodon.” What kinds of rights do you have to negotiate?

It’s pretty straightforward – you need the right to use it in the movie. It’s a matter of how much it’s gonna cost. The bigger thing is to make sure the artist is interested in the idea. Obviously that moment in the movie is not like a big idea – it’s a big joke, it’s a laugh, but it’s not like we’re treading on their brand, or overreaching in terms of what we look to do with it. We just wanted it to play in that one moment. It usually just comes down to, “Is the artist a fan of Pixar? A fan of movies? A fan of us?” Whatever it is. And then if those things line up, there are industry practices that come into play of what those things cost. Once you get the first step, the second step’s pretty easy.

It seems like Pixar is so beloved universally that the label and the publisher are gonna want to work with you. It’s just a matter of working out a fee.

Yeah. And we tell them what we’re up to, what the scene is. There are some artists that don’t like to be associated with drug references, or something like that. Obviously not something that I run into here, but as an example, that’s the type of thing they may not want to be associated with in one context vs. another. At Pixar and Disney animation, it’s pretty straight-ahead. Most people are fans to some degree, some of the guys in the band have kids and all that sorta thing. To be able to come home and say, “Hey son! You might not like my record, but here it is in this new movie” is kinda cool as well.

Can you give a ballpark price range for a master + synch license for a placement in a feature film?

It depends. If there’s a connection, sometimes the artist won’t look for very much at all. It might be just a few thousand dollars. But then I remember back in the day, as an example, Guns N’ Roses was almost unlicenseable unless you really paid a lot  of money for it. Really, the ballpark would be anywhere from $5,000 to $250,000 dollars. So much is dependent on the use – how long is the use, how prominent is it, is it over the main titles, is it over the end titles, do the characters interact with it, are they singing along, are they dancing to it, are the lyrics reprinted… all those things factor into how much it’s gonna be.

TomMacDougall

How often do you get the opportunity to license metal or extreme music for a feature film?

We do try. I don’t know if you saw the movie Bolt, the Disney animated movie. The director’s one of my best friends, and we grew up listening to AC/DC and Judas Priest and all those guys. We had this one moment where there was a FedEx-type character who was doing his job, boxing things up… one of the story points in that movie was that the dog Bolt gets accidentally put into a box and shipped off to New York City. Part of the reason that happens is that the kid has a Walkman on, and was listening to music and not paying attention. So the director and I are like, “This is our moment! We should put something cool in there, something we like!” So, we actually put a Motörhead song in the headphones, and that’s what played. You can barely hear it – it’s a more obscure Motörhead song called “Dog Face Boy,” but we picked it as much for the title as we did for the music.

It’s one of those things, again, where we have to create everything in an animated movie. So, everything you see, everything you hear… we don’t have production sound, we don’t set up a camera in a room and the walls and everything are already there. We have to build it all. So, when you have those moments, we really think about them and decide what we want those moments to be. For a moment like that, for us to put Motörhead in there was a thrill. Lemmy was into it, we met him at one of his shows, and he thought it was funny… those are the little moments that really make it.

But then even the Disney animated film Wreck-It Ralph, we had Skrillex score a scene… for us it’s really about storytelling. If there’s an artist that fits in to what we’re doing, we’re gonna go for it. As much as people associate us with kids movies or family entertainment, we don’t look at it that way. We look at it in terms of these movies are for everybody, and if Mastodon has a place in a Pixar movie, we’re gonna put Mastodon in there. We could have created something like that ourselves for free and been done with it, but the Mastodon thing worked. So, we’re happy to be in business with those guys.

Are you mostly working with established artists, or at least people that have labels and publishers attached to them?

Yeah, for the most part. But that has more to do with experience than it does talent. We need to know that people know how to write a song, know how to make changes, know how to deal with certain things, as opposed to someone who might be brand new. If you don’t have a publisher, you’re probably pretty green. But again, we work with anyone that can bring us what we need in terms of making the movie better.

The Monsters University soundtrack album has Randy Newman’s score on it, but not the Mastodon song. Was it pretty clear that it wasn’t gonna make the cut from the beginning?

We talked about it. We didn’t want to upset the Mastodon fans. If we just put the music that was represented in the film, it would only be four seconds. So, we didn’t want to put a four-second Mastodon edit in there, and confuse people into buying it and not getting what they wanted. And then I think putting the full song on there would confuse people equally – they would not remember that from the movie. Again, it was really more about us not overreaching. We didn’t want to sell something that didn’t represent the film.

We’re fans of a lot of things. Movies, comics, video games, toys, but then also metal. We’re big AC/DC fans, Mastodon, whatever. Anything we can do to be aligned with those things, we’re thrilled about it too.