Your Regional Openers for the 2014 Decibel Magazine Tour Are…

By: andrew Posted in: featured, the decibel magazine tour On: Friday, January 17th, 2014

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Carcass, the Black Dahlia Murder, Gorguts and Noisem aren’t nearly enough. Here are the regional openers who’ll kick off select dates of the 2014 Decibel Magazine Tour.

 

Maruta

Tues, March 18 / Orlando, FL @ The Beacham Theater

Founded in the swamplands of South Florida in 2005, Maruta have been blurring the lines between grindcore and technical death metal ever since. The band has released two full-lengths through Willowtip Records, 2008’s In Narcosis and 2011’s Forward Into Regression, to very positive reviews. Their forthcoming full-length and Relapse Records debut promises to follow their upward trajectory of extreme music innovation.

 

Gog

Mon, March 24 / Phoenix, AZ @ The Press Room

The state of Arizona is best known for its desert landscapes and grand canyons. Yet Gog mastermind Michael Bjella paints a very different picture of his native homeland with Ironworks. Recorded in a late 19th century blacksmith shop, where several members of his own close family toiled, Gog crafts a subversive ode to the death of the American dream using source sounds and atmosphere.

 

Bastard Feast (formerly Elitist)

Sun, March 30 / Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater

Portland, OR’s extreme metal/sludge powerhouse Bastard Feast have completed recording their new full-length. The album, the band’s second, will be released on Season of Mist’s Underground Activist Division in 2014. Regarding the new album, guitarist Taylor Robinson says, “The new record is a change in the path for us. We have dialed in our sound even more and sold our souls to Hell to channel more darkness.”

 

Vimana

Wed, April 02 / Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall

Vimana is comprised of former and current members of Cephalic Carnage, Vale of Pnath, To Be Eaten, Swashbuckle and Rainbowdragoneyes. Balancing brutal death metal, grindcore and technical/progressive death metal elements, the band turned heads with their 2012 debut EP, The Collapse (engineered by Dave Otero), and are in the process of writing their as-yet-untitled debut full-length, due out in 2014.

 

Murmur

Sat, April 05 / Chicago, IL @ House of Blues

Murmur started off in 2007 and immediately received underground recognition. With the release of their fierce and utterly disturbing debut album in 2010, more accolades followed before the band embarked on an even stranger but no less frightening musical journey on a split EP with Nachtmystium the next year. Their boundary-shattering, new, self-titled full-length follow-up will be released later this January.

 

Derkéta 

Mon, April 07 / Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE

Derkéta is a doom-influenced death metal band from Pittsburgh, PA. They are known to be the first all-female death metal band. The name Derkéta was taken from Stygian mythology; she was the goddess of death of a blood-drinking cult. The band was formed by Sharon Bascovsky (vocals/guitars) and Terri Heggen (drums) in late 1988. Derkéta turned heads with 2012’s debut full-length, In Death We Meet.

 

Die Choking

Sat, April 12 / Philadelphia, PA @ Trocadero Theatre

Philadelphia-based grind/punk three-piece Die Choking features current and former members of Total Fucking Destruction, Cop Problem, Burden and Dirty Tactics. Their self-titled, five-song debut EP (recorded with Dan O’Hare at Mark It Zero studios) was released this January. The band is comprised of bassist/vocalist Paul Herzog, drummer Joshua Cohen and guitarist Jeffrey Daniels.

 

Coke Bust

Sun, April 13 / Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore

Coke Bust are a straight-edge hardcore band from Washington, DC that started in 2006. Strongly influenced by the likes of Youth of Today and Heresy, the notoriously DIY quartet—comprised of vocalist Nick Tape, guitarist James Willett, bassist Daniel Jubert and drummer Chris Moore—has appeared on labels as diverse as Six Weeks, Third Party, Refuse, Grave Mistake and Drugged Conscience.

[Snap those tickets up HERE, ladies and germs]

BREWTAL TRUTH: Drink This Now!

By: adem Posted in: featured, liver failure On: Friday, January 17th, 2014

Photo by David Alvarez

Do not fear the can. The can is a beer drinker’s friend. Especially when the beer is coming all the way from Maui. It protects and helps keep the product inside cool (metal chills faster than glass) and fresh. The folks at Maui Brewing Co. would be foolish to package their product any other way, due to the inherent difficulties in getting it from a tropical environment to North America. And the reason we are doing this post now is that Maui’s canned products are starting to show up in more places in North America and are becoming more readily available to craft beer drinkers who have discovered that there are some kick-ass brews being made on the island. We chose to focus on their flagship Coconut Porter, mostly because it represents the Maui vibe. Well, and also because it’s a damn good beer. But we’ll also talk about a some other beers—collaborations with the likes of Lost Abbey, Dogfish Head and Jolly Pumpkin—they brew, as well.

COCONUT PORTER
Porter with Coconut
Maui
Lahaina, HI
6.0% ABV

As detailed in a previous Deciblog post, we had the opportunity to tour the Maui brewing facility (which has since grown), as well as its brewpub, located a few miles up the road, in 2012. Brewing beer in the tropics offers some challenges (heat! humidity!) that most mainland brewers don’t typically have to deal with. But Maui Brewing has embraced its island location and ingredients to the fullest and takes advantage of as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. This beer is made with coconut flakes that are toasted right there at the brewery.

Coconut is an interesting ingredient for beers in that you want to be able to taste it, but you don’t want it to dominate. Since it is a fairly subtle flavor to begin with, the best way to utilize it is to pair it alongside complimentary flavors, such as the rich chocolatey/coffee notes in a porter. Maui’s Coconut Porter is a perfectly balanced combination of (slightly) sweet, tropical and bitter notes. It has a enough ABV to give it the robustness a proper porter demands and dark roasted malt notes mingle well with the carmel/vanilla notes of the toasted coconut. It smells like a cup of delicious dark coffee, with a faint whiff of the beach with its swaying coconut palms in the background.

As mentioned above Maui has done some collaborations with mainland breweries that also spotlight local island ingredients. They teamed up with Lost Abbey to produce a bright, light and refreshing Lemongrass Saison, brewed with island lemongrass, of course. For their collab with Jolly Pumpkin they brewed Sobrehumana Palena’ole, a red ale with local liliko’i (aka passion fruit) and cherries from JP’s home state of Michigan. The Dogfish Head collab was Liquid Breadfruit, brewed with, you guessed it, Maui breadfruit.

All of these brews no doubt taste best on a Maui beach—mostly because of the ambiance, not because of freshness issues—but drinking a Maui Coconut Porter wherever you are is a pretty good way to get a true taste of Hawaii. It’s smooth, refreshing, tasty and super flavorful. Which stands in stark contrast to Marty Friedman’s Hawaii, as seen below.

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

STREAMING: French sludge-metallers DRAWERS new self-titled album

By: jonathan.horsley Posted in: featured, listen On: Friday, January 17th, 2014

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Ladies and germs, courtesy of the good people of Kaotoxin Records, it is our great honor to host this online premiere of Drawer’s self-tilted sophomore album.

Drawers are a five-piece outfit from Toulouse, France, who play sludge or a variant thereof; Drawers is really just big-riffed, amp-worshipping metal. This is sludgish metal.

Indeed, calling Drawers honest-to-God sludge kinda shows up the inadequacies of using genre to categorise a band’s métier. Sure, Drawers’ register is sludge but they go light on the meth, guns and junk that characterizes the slow-mo degeneracy of bands we recognize as sludge. Drawers eschew all that law-baiting nihilism in favor of some high-volume introspection. There are definitely clear echoes of Mastodon, Torche, and Baroness in Drawers’ sound—Baroness, in particular, with whom Drawers share a similarly melodic sensibility—but they’ve got enough range and sincerity to pay dues to such influences and court the ear of anyone whose pickle’s tickled by corpulent riffs and melodies stay on the right side of bittersweet.

Drawers drops on Feb 11th. You can pre-order it here. It is is a heavy album, weighty enough to compromise the lumbar but not quite enough to crush the spirit; shit, it’s heavy and gentle, a tender grizzly bear of a record, a gorilla on Prozac. Go on, click play below. It won’t bite.

Also, be sure to check out their 2011 debut, All is One, at Drawers’ BandCamp page.

**Drawers on BandCamp
**Poke Drawers on Facebook

Did You See Them Live? Sam Black Church Documentarian Duncan Wilder Johnson Interviewed

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: exclusive, featured, interviews On: Thursday, January 16th, 2014

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The email came in from Ol’ Man Mudrian a few days ago and it went, in part, like this: “Have you ever heard Sam Black Church? People from the New England area like to blow them incessantly, but people like me who “never saw them live” just think they accidentally invented nu metal. Either way, this is worth watching for what happens at the three-minute mark.”

Turns out the occasion is that long time mainstay of the Massachusetts/New England scene, Duncan Wilder Johnson is in the final stages of putting together a documentary on local heroes, Sam Black Church. Never heard of ‘em? They were a hardcore band that did hardcore a little bit differently by injecting a ton of linear groove and, depending on your tastes, an (in)appropriate high-pitched screech from the mouth of a man who liked to leap off PA speakers as much as he liked to sing.

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The documentary, Leave Behind a Groove in the Earth: the Story of San Black Church, has been in the works for eight years and is heading towards the finish line. To wit, producer/director/editor/everything, Johnson has embarked upon a Kickstarter campaign to help with the funds needed to finally put this thing in the can. There are only a few days left, so if you have a few bucks burning a hole in your pocket and you’re a ‘blowing Nor’easterner,’ a fan who even loved their cover of “Disco Inferno,” and/or have fond memories of vocalist Jet landing on the back of your neck from 20 feet up, check out the Kickstarter promo (and the shenanigans at 3:00) and the interview below.

You said you’ve been working on this doc-pic for eight years. What was the original impetus for embarking upon this project?
I made a record called Kill It All Away with Eman Pacheco and Tim Waltner. Jet from Sam Black Church sang on one of the tracks. At that recording session, Jet said, “You know what would be cool? If we got all the SBC guys in a studio and we drank beer and told stories.” Being a total Sam Black fan-boy, I thought it was an awesome idea. However, it didn’t seem like an audio recording would do the band justice; I thought it needed to be video. The more I thought about, the more I said it out loud, the more I just said, “Fuck it, I’m doing this.” I got a camera and started to interview the band. One thing lead to another and here are, almost done!

Is this your first foray into film-making? What did you know about the process going into this? What have been the most surprising aspects? The hardest? Have you been essentially learning as you’ve gone along? I guess this all culminates in my asking why it’s taken eight years and counting?
There are a variety of reasons why it’s taken me eight years to get this far. The biggest is that I have too many eggs in too many baskets. In the past eight years, I got engaged, released five records, played in three bands and two side projects, did comedy/spoken word, DJ-ed, took classes and played about 250 shows in a bunch of states all while holding down a full time job doing Photoshop and graphic design. When I was an art student at Mass Art in Boston, I made a few short videos and a couple of super-8 projects, but nothing of much significance. My background is in photography, media and performance. I already knew about storytelling, shooting, and using computers, but yes, I learned a lot about filmmaking as I’ve trudged through this project. The most surprising aspects are how willing people are to help out, be interviewed, contribute money and just be supportive of the project. The hardest is making an edit that really works and translates to other people. I’m working with my friend Megan who’s a pro TV producer. We’ll be cutting the final edit together.

Why Sam Black Church? What do you feel was their significance and impact on the northeast/MA scene and beyond?
As a kid, Sam Black Church (and many other incredible bands) played around me, constantly. I saw SBC probably 30 times. They were the most interesting, dynamic and infectious band that I saw during my teens and early 20’s. As time went on, I started doing my own shows and eventually worked for Wonderdrug Records from 2000-2003. Ken taught me everything I know about the music business and introduced me to everyone in the Boston scene at the time. That’s how I learned all of the back-story of Sam Black Church and always thought it was a compelling tale. Sam Black Church is a missing link between bands like Bad Brains, Slayer, and Cro-Mags and bands of today like Unearth, Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God. Many of those guys grew up in the New England hardcore scene and saw Sam Black Church, or they heard the records and found out about the band through ‘zines and tape-trading. Either way, SBC made a significant impact on people’s hearts and minds – the performances, the weird guitar sound, the strange vocal style, the unorthodox way of combining hardcore and metal at that time and in their particular way. I wanted to create a document, a reference, that showed that era, style, and music so people could celebrate it for years to come and in some cases learn about it for the first time.

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Has the film undergone many transformations in the time you’ve been working on it?
Yes, I’ve made about six or seven different versions of it as time has gone on.

At what point did you come up with the idea of a Kickstarter campaign? How’s it been working out?
I had the idea in the back of my mind for a while, but I didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag until I was really ready. I made sure that I had something good before I started blasting it out over the internet. Everything upped a notch when SBC agreed to play with the Bosstones at their 16th Hometown Throwdown. The band was excited to play and I knew that momentum would translate into the film. So, with a deadline in mind, we got to work and as of this writing we’re 77% towards our goal with nine days remaining. So, I’d say it’s working out really fucking well! THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO’S BACKED IT!

What happens to the film if you don’t reach your goal? I’m assuming you’re not going to shelve it, but I guess it means those who’re looking forward to it are going to have to wait that much longer?
I feel pretty confident that we’ll reach the goal. If we don’t make it, I will keep trying. I mean, eight years, I’m not going to give up easily? Where there’s a will, there’s a way and I’m very willing. I’m hoping this film drops in the fall of 2014, and yes, if we don’t reach the goal, then it will be a longer wait.

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In doing this and having the involvement of the band, have there been any rumblings of a reunion?
The band played on Dec. 29, 2013 at The House of Blues in Boston opening for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones as I mentioned before. They want to play again and they are talking about it, but nothing is confirmed as I write this.

Email interviews are convenient, but I always feel like I’m missing a million things. Feel free to mention anything you feel needs to be mentioned.
I’m one of those guys who could talk your ear off about hardcore, metal, bands, tour stories, art, comedy, photography, blah, blah, blah. I guess I’ll sum it up with this: I’m extremely thankful that I got to work on this project. I’m thrilled that I got to meet a lot of people that I have a deep respect for like Dr. Know from Bad Brains, Neil from Clutch, and Page from Helmet. I’m beyond blown away by the support that I’ve received in the past few weeks from people donating, tweeting, posting, and generally just talking about it. I’ll leave with a few links and just say THANK YOU KEVIN for the interview.

The Kickstarter: www.kickstarter.com/projects/943874932/sam-black-church-documentary

Duncan’s website: thrashachusetts.com

Sam Black Church on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Sam-Black-Church/22520271017

Live Review: Clutch

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, live reviews On: Thursday, January 16th, 2014

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The latest Clutch album may be the band’s best since 2005’s Robot Hive/Exodus, but the live setting is where these Marylanders have built their name over the years. So it was fitting that the quartet opened up its recent set in Port Chester, NY with “Earth Rocker”, a tune that in many ways sets forth the group’s mantra that if you’re gonna do it you’d better take it to the stage, or don’t do it at all.

Easy ledes aside, the group has always been confident in its new material, peppering and sometimes dousing its mid- to late-aughts sets in the boogified blues that pervaded 2007’s From Beale Street to Oblivion and 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West. So it wasn’t surprising to hear over half of Earth Rocker during the course of the group’s 80+ minute set, though just how well those new songs fit in with the band’s older material was a pleasant revelation. That may be due to the fact that I haven’t seen the band in over six years, a figure that expands to eight if we’re only talking headlining shows (and if you’re a band like Clutch opening for Coheed and Cambria, we probably should be).

In some ways, I guess you could say I’ve been chasing the Clutch dragon since late 2000. I’d still rank the band’s co-headlining show with Corrosion of Conformity that year in Philadelphia as one of the most unhinged and spellbinding shows I’ve ever seen. Sure, I’ve come to idealize the gig and yes, I’m imposing impossible standards here, but the band’s live shows during the Mick Schauer (who handled organs from 2005-2008) period never managed to fully recapture that magic for me. So I’m happy to report that I had a shit-eating grin on my face for pretty much the entire set, one which got the widest during “Texan Book of the Dead” and a jammed out version (courtesy of guitarist Tim Sult) of “The Soapmakers”. Plus, new tune “Cyborg Bette” is destined to be another of the group’s many live staples, an already catchy tune that gets a boost live from the groove laid down by bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster.

It wasn’t anywhere close to a packed house at the magnificent Capitol Theater–the show was a makeup from the fall when Fallon had to get surgery–but the sound was massive and the crowd, in the middle of which was at least a small pit for every song save “The Regulator”, engaged. After a second beer was thrown on stage early in the set, frontman Neil Fallon handled the situation like the veteran of the trade he is, telling the audience that anyone who wanted to buy him a drink was more than welcome to buy him all the drinks they wanted at the bar after the show. No one threw anything on stage after that.

The Sword provided immediate support, just as the quartet did for a bevy of Clutch shows last year. I’d planned to say that I’d now seen the Austinites at the beginning (2004) and end of their popularity bell curve, but the group was treated to an impressive groundswell of support in Westchester. I’m not sure much has changed in their live show over the past nine-plus years other than some spacey bass effects during “Freya”, which, to the band’s credit, wasn’t saved for last. While that’s not an indictment of the quartet by any means (god forbid I start another Sword-related shitstorm around here), I didn’t think the band offered much in the way of stage presence. For me, that was at the very least jarring (particularly given who they’ve opened for over the years) and, at the very worst, reminiscent of watching Megadeth (though at least I was spared the stage banter). Granted, you could say the same about three-quarters of Clutch at times, but that last quarter–in the form of Fallon–more than compensates. Then again, I wasn’t on the floor changing “Sword” in between songs, so maybe it just bothered me and my crotchety balcony brethren.

You can still catch the tour on the following dates:

1/16/2014 Jefferson Theatre Charlottesville, VA
1/18/2014 V Club Huntington, WV
1/19/2014 The Machine Shop Flint, MI

If you missed our Clutch cover story back in April, check it out here. Gaster is also featured in fellow scribe Adem Tepedelen’s wonderful book, The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers.

STREAMING: Godhunter’s “Brushfires”

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, listen On: Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

GODHUNTER_002_[photo_by_Andrew_Weiss]

For your streaming pleasure today we are premiering the track “Brushfires” from Arizona’s Godhunter, a nasty hybrid of thrash and sludge. Preorder the album City Of Dust here from The Compound. Some details on the track follow the stream.

Brushfires is an analogy for the divisiveness that embroils the political nature of mankind. In that political realm, when governments or corporations cause irreparable harm to the environment or to others, they fundamentally deny that anything is ultimately wrong. They will deny science, they will deny logic, in order to pursuit an agenda of profit and gain, regardless of cost.

In a land plagued with overpopulation and drought comes the ever-increasing threat of a devastating wildfire. The chances of these brushfires erupting increases annually as the effects of climate change, invasive species, and growing swaths of urban sprawl permanently alter our fragile ecosystem. These types of fires can erupt anytime, anywhere. They are a by-product of our excess. These fires purge that excess, whether we want them too or not.

This song is about the Yarnell Hill Fire that took the lives of 19 firefighters in Arizona in 2013, but it is also about the well being of our state. In recent years Arizona has been embroiled in divisive politics that have exposed not only exposed a deep seeded unrest, but also a denial of climate science, logic, and common decency. It is our hope that something positive will emerge from this and other related tragedies.

EXCLUSIVE: Danny Lilker Elaborates on Departure from Brutal Truth

By: admin Posted in: exclusive, featured, interviews On: Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

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On Friday, January 10, Brutal Truth bassist Danny Lilker announced via Facebook that he “will be retiring from being a full time recording and touring musician” on his forthcoming 50th birthday, October 18, 2014. The news flash resonated throughout the entire online extreme community, who, in the process, appears to have disregarded Lilker’s commitment to forge ahead in a variety of other bands. This morning, Lilker called our editor-in-chief Albert Mudrian to set the record straight.

The announcement went up early last week that you were retiring. Why don’t you let us know what brought this on and what exactly is going to happen?

DL: Well, what brought it on is I’ve been doing this for a very long time, the whole thing where you’re in a full-time band, the recording, the touring cycle and everything like that. And I’m just getting weary of what it takes to go travel and go play a whole bunch of places. Now, I mean, I have to phrase this very carefully because… people will be like, “Oh, boo-hoo, I have to have my regular job. You get paid to go play other places and now you don’t feel like doing it anymore. Oh, that must really suck, you know? It sucks to be you.”

But, you know, it is rigorous. And your body ages whether you like it or not. And I’ve found on tours recently, I’m just not getting enough sleep, I’m not eating right. Now, of course, it may be my fault since I decide to smoke a joint with the other guys at one in the morning, blah blah blah blah. But, you know, I’m not gonna not have fun either.

I just wanna ratchet things down a little bit, and that’s what it really is. So, that’s on to some of the misconceptions that have kind of floated around a little bit. I’m quite aware how the Internet works. You put one thing on one site that’s directed directly — if that doesn’t sound redundant — at people that you know will care, and then it gets copied and pasted all over the place, and then it’s like the old Telephone Game: it gets away from the source.

So, two things specifically I wanted to address was 1) I am not stopping playing music. I am merely stopping being — as I phrased it — a full-time recording and touring musician, which means Brutal Truth. I still play in two bands here in Rochester that you’re probably aware of anyway: Nokturnal Hellstorm and Blurring. I’m still in Venomous Concept. I’m still in NunFuckRitual. If I am asked to fill in on a Lock Up tour when Shane [Embury] can’t do it, like I’ve done before, I will still do that. What I’m doing is just ratcheting things down so it’s just more occasional, as far as traveling. You know, I had Blurring practice last night. I have Nokturnal Hellstorm practice tonight. We’re both working on new tunes. And we’ll both be thinking about recording soon, and both bands play out here in Rochester, so I realize that people in Chile for example won’t get to see my band play here in Rochester or something, but that’s one thing.

I think people don’t necessarily realize how many offers a band like Brutal Truth gets to play shows. And you guys take a lot of them. You do a lot of European tours where you’re gone for two weeks at a time, and it can really wear anybody down, traveling in that manner. This isn’t just like, “Hey, we’re gonna go do a few weekend dates.” And I know Brutal Truth doesn’t necessarily do the 30-date U.S. tour anymore, but that touring that you do is real and it’s a strain. So, I think it’s probably worth getting that point across: that even though Brutal Truth isn’t the band that’s out there touring six months out of the year, it’s still an excursion when you go out on tour.

DL: Well, yes. And, I mean, to put it in some perspective, I started out playing thrash. The first Anthrax album, back then I was like a peer with Metallica. You know? And I have chosen — I can’t even say “chosen” — I have followed my heart playing music, doing exactly what the fuck I want to, whether it’s lucrative or not. And, you know, hey, if I played fucking hard rock or whatever and went off in a big tour bus all the time, you know, maybe that would be easier, but that’s not realistic with the music that I play, so… whatever, tough shit on me.

Yeah, I don’t think it sounds like you’re feeling sorry for yourself or anything like that. And I know, like you said, you put something out on the Internet and people want to immediately interpret it in whatever they think it means to them. But I think it’s clear that basically what you’re saying is: This is pretty much the end of Brutal Truth.

DL: Right. The only other misconception, which is more minor, is that some people are going, “Oh, why does he feel the need to release a press statement about that?” Like I’m some egomaniac and the whole metal world must know that I’m stopping Brutal Truth. Once again, the statement was directed to people who I knew would care, and sure enough, by the end of that day there was like 500 well-wishers on the BT Facebook page. So, you know, it’s not like I put out some official press release that every metal site should pick up and the world has to know what I’m doing. I don’t think the whole metal world cares whether Brutal Truth continues or not. And it wasn’t my intention to release something to every blogosphere in the metal community. I don’t think I’m that important.

Does Brutal Truth have any dates scheduled yet? Are you guys lining up some shows right now before you close the bass case for good?

DL: Yeah, we are indeed doing that. But I don’t wanna say anything until stuff’s confirmed. And that should be real soon.

 

Sucker For Punishment: The New Wave of Moose Molten Metal

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

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I had an interesting conversation with a metal peer over coffee yesterday, and was asked what makes a “traditional” heavy metal album made in 2014 worth spending money on when all I have to do is listen to a Judas Priest album. I had to pause and consider that for a minute. For a writer like me, the appeal of old-school heavy metal revivalist bands boils down to three factors. First is nostalgia. I won’t lie about that one bit. Because my teen years were from 1983 to 1989, and because I followed metal with great meticulousness back then, there’s no question I romanticize that era, and prefer it greatly to any other in metal history from 1970 to the present.

But it’s not all about simply mimicking a certain style when it comes to traditional heavy metal, and that’s where the second factor comes in. A band doesn’t just have to have the moves down, it has to get it, to understand the aesthetic inside-out. It has to embrace the ludicrousness of heavy metal – because every single facet of heavy metal is inherently silly – but not act self-aware about it, and the ability to walk that tightrope between silliness and sincerity is what separates the good retro-minded bands from the pretenders. And of course, these bands have to know how to write good charismatic songs, ones that offer an even balance of fist-bangin’ riffs, shredding solos, and searing, arena-level vocal hooks. Cauldron gets it, as does Wolf. 3 Inches of Blood do. White Wizzard did, before they blew imploded. Holy Grail is a great hook or two away from nailing it. And Toronto band Skull Fist, after coming across as a joke on their previous album, can now be included.

I won’t deny it, the nostalgia factor is massive on Chasing the Dream, at least for yours truly. Back in the mid-‘80s there was a quirky trend among several Toronto area bands, where rampaging, speed-riddled, NWOBHM-derived heavy metal would be combined with the kind of upper-register singing that many would otherwise associate with glam metal. And with Toronto being the center (sorry, centre) of the Canadian media universe, an inordinate amount of attention was paid to these bands on TV, in print magazines like the revered Metallion, and on such major label-distributed demo compilations as Maple Metal and the two-volume Moose Molten Metal. Killer Dwarfs, Kid Wikkid (featuring a skinny kid named Sebastian Bach), Vigilants, Hateful Snake, Sye, Reckless, Warriors, Tzar…it wasn’t exactly groundbreaking but it was unique, comically oblivious to the bolder sounds emanating from the local underground scene like Slaughter, Razor, and Sacrifice, but as a 15 year-old I dug it.

Like Cauldron, who cite Reckless as a major influence, Skull Fist understands that melodic mid-‘80s Canadian sound, and Chasing the Dream is absolutely spot on. The songs are simple, devoutly formulaic and conventional, but loaded with biting, contagious riffs atop swaggering, swift tempos. The ace card, though, and the one thing that will either make or break this band for new listeners, is singer Jackie Slaughter, who comes through with an outlandish vocal performance, capturing that androgynous head voice perfectly on song after song. He’s one or two high-pitched screams away for hitting Nitro levels of ridiculousness, but holds back just enough to keep the songs from becoming too impenetrable. Still, this is one deliriously over the top record that captures a long-forgotten era with a sense of verve and joy, but skillfully avoids the “look at me” gimmickry of Steel Panther. It might have some who are used to the more extreme sounds of today wondering just what in the hell they’re listening to, but it makes this old headbanger smile. Sometimes a critic has to go with the heart instead of the head.

Chasing the Dream, which is out now on NoiseArt, is the easy choice for my album of the week, but if you have more of a hankering for the harder stuff, look no further than the terrific new Waldgeflüster album below.

Also out this week:

AC Angry, Newsletter (Dust On The Tracks): These Germans claim to be the next Turbonegro and Zodiac Mindwarp, but for all the references to booze, blow, and sex, the necessary obnoxiousness is nonexistent and the sleaze factor is nil. Hard rock isn’t supposed to sound this tepid.

Alkerdeel & Gnaw Their Tongues, Dyodyo Asema (Consouling Sounds): These two were made for each other. Belgian raw black metalers Alkerdeel and the prolific Dutch musician Mories – the mastermind behind the brilliant and twisted Gnaw Their Tongues – have joined forces for a phenomenal little collaborative effort. Simply a single 19-minute track, it’s a seamless blend of everything both sides do best, Alkerdeel with their primal take on black metal, Mories providing ambient touches that makes the music even more harrowing. With Alkerdeel benefiting from the added atmosphere and Gnaw Their Tongues benefiting from the structure of black metal, this is a partnership far too promising to limit itself to one small release.

Hexis, Abalam (Halo of Flies): As far as intensity goes, it’s easy to compare this Danish band to the likes of Celeste and Dragged Into Sunlight, but this album is a lot blunter, a continual barrage of harsh, mostly two-minute tracks that have no room for subtlety. It’s in and out in 26 minutes, leaving listeners wondering what the hell hit them. Stream and download (name your price) via Bandcamp.

The Isolation Process, The Isolation Process (Version Studio): The shadows of Tool, Paradise Lost, and Dredg loom large over this debut album by the Swedish band, who might have made a big impression on audiences had it come out 15 years ago. Now, though, it’s a pleasantly melodic yet ultimately dated-sounding effort masquerading as “prog”.

Magenta Harvest, Volatile Waters (Inverse): Mathias Lillmåns has taken a little break from playing forgettable folk metal with Finntroll to playing marginally better death metal. There’s actually some catchy stuff here (“Apparition of Ending”, “Limbo in Rime” in particular) but there’s hardly enough here to warrant purchasing the full album.

Serpent, Possessed By Night (High Roller): If you’re looking for primitively recorded NWOBHM revivalism, then this will scratch that itch nicely. The German duo’s 2012 demo has been re-released with a few new recordings tacked on, including a spirited cover of Picture’s “Heavy Metal Ears”, and although the singing needs some work, the songwriting is there and the energy is palpable. It’s a promising start.

Suicidal Angels, Divide and Conquer (NoiseArt): The Greek thrashers are back with two new members and a fifth album on which not a lick has changed in their approach. Rather than trying to be the next Kreator or Destruction, they take a decidedly American approach, faithfully mining the percussive sounds of Exodus, which has always worked very well in their favor in the past, and which does the same here. To their credit the band does mix it up a little, as on “Control the Twisted Mind”, a surprisingly ambitious seven-minute track that showcases some good progressive metal dexterity.

Waldgeflüster, Meine Fesseln (Bindrune): There’s such a strong Woods of Ypres vibe to this third album by the German project, it’s eerie. From the pagan-tinged black metal, to the heavy use of melancholy and melodrama, to the sly incorporation of doom and gothic elements, to the lower-register singing, you’d swear the late David Gold is behind this. But give singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Winterherz credit, he’s come through with a stirring, soulful, and atmospheric collection of black metal epics that easily transcend any language barrier. Arriving at a time when the new release landscape couldn’t seem bleaker, this is a welcome, rejuvenating discovery. Be careful, though, your corpsepaint will run like crazy once the tears flow during “Mit Welchen Fesseln”, which we premiered last week.

We All Die (Laughing), Thoughtscanning (Kaotoxin): This 33-minute track meanders the way you think an extended prog metal opus would, and then a clarinet solo pops in from out of nowhere. It’s pretty much the high point of the record.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

TRACK PREMIERE: Soreption’s “Engineering the Void”

By: Jeff Treppel Posted in: featured, listen On: Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

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I’m pretty sure “Soreption” is a made up word. I think maybe it’s a phonetic transcription of vocalist Fredrik Söderberg’s shrieks. These dudes play seriously gnarly technical death metal to the level where you might need a physics degree just to headbang to it. You can hear them constructing the framework of the abyss as Engineering the Void runs its course, culminating in the title track – at which point they push the button and the whole thing implodes. For a band on their second full-length, they’ve figured this sound out pretty well. The album comes out in a little less than a month. Until then, here’s the title track for you to decipher. I’m pretty sure there are messages from aliens in there.

***Engineering the Void will be unleashed on February 18 courtesy of Unique Leader. Preorder it here.

Systems Re-Overloaded: Exclusive Integrity Premiere!

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, listen On: Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

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A couple months back I was honored to usher the legendary 1995 Integrity album Systems Overload into the Decibel Hall of Fame and now, on the eve of a hell-freezes-over reunion at the A389 Recordings ten-year anniversary Bash in Baltimore, comes a new track from the Systems era line-up. Enjoy an exclusive stream of “7th Revelation: Beyond The Realm Of The VVitch” below then get ready to fight over the special 7-inch release it is a part of at the A389 show…

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