Swedish retro thrashers F.K.Ü. — i.e., Freddy Krueger’s Underwear — cite “80′s horror flicks and old copies of Metal Forces magazine” as the band’s primary inspiration, and the band has spent over a decade now backing up that claim, encapsulating odes to Maniac Cop, Hellraiser, C.H.U.D., Motel Hell, and a bevy of other seminal horror splatterfests in sonic homages to Exodus, Nuclear Assault, and Overkill. This mash-up reaches its apotheosis on the zombie-themed 4: Rise of the Mosh Mongers, a hard-driving, exuberant sixteen track album that raises both F.K.Ü.’s sound and imagery to new heights without losing its gutter culture joie de vivre.
This morning, F.K.Ü. graciously provides us with a sneak peek of 4: Rise of the Mosh Mongers as well as this exclusive list of these uber-Krueger-philes fav Nightmare kills.
1. Painting the Ceiling Red — A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Tina (Amanda Wyss) is slashed in bed and pulled up the wall and across the ceiling of the bedroom, then falling back into bed with a bloody splash. Made in ’84 and still one of the coolest death scenes ever!
2. It’s A Bug’s Life — A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
Debbie (Brooke Theiss) is weightlifting when Freddy sneaks up from behind and pushes down on the weights, breaking her arms. Roach legs then sprout from the wounds and she slowly transforms into a roach, realizing she’s in Freddy’s hand, trapped inside a roach motel. Finally he crushes the box and disgusting goo leaks out. Pure classic!
According to their Facebook page, UK doom/Heavy Metal quartet Arkham Witch‘s personal interests include, “Ales, Histories, Wars, Invocations and Audible assaults. Drinking as fuck!” And their description of their sound is pretty much bang on too. “Old School Heavy Metal/Doom infused with Lovecraftian horror, tales of mighty Barbarians and festering evil superstitions!” What’s not to like there?
Featuring alumni of on-hold UK doom legends The Lamp of Thoth, Arkham Witch are a throwback to classic 70s hard rock, NWOBHM, and rough-cut early doom a la Vitus and co. This week the Deciblog caught up with the band’s founder, Simon Iff? (that’s probably not his real name, but a Crowleyian detective is exactly the sort of character who should front a band like Arkham Witch), and asked him about Lovecraft, The Lamp, and playing this year’s Live Evil Festival.
How did Arkham Witch get together?
Simon: We were just writing a shed load of songs and it was just really a side project to deal with the amount of songs we had, to find a way to record them and to put them out. The first demo that we recorded, in 2009, was well-received. We’re still selling copies of it today, which is brilliant for a £200 demo, so we decided to make it a full-time band. In Keighley, where we come from, we’ve got a lot of friends that we’ve been in bands with from years before, so it was easy just to go to them and ask them, “Do you want to play guitar? do you want to play bass?” And get the band up and running as a live band.
Could you put Arkham Witch and The Lamp of Thoth into context, musically? What would you do with The Lamp that you wouldn’t do with Arkham Witch?
Simon: That’s a good question, because when I came up with The Lamp of Thoth, when it was just me on my own, recording demos with my trusty drum machine, the idea I had in mind was a band like Trouble; you’ve got the doomy riffs, but that sort of metallic edge, that sledgehammer riff where they could take it up a notch if they wanted to. And I am thinking of the first two albums, the brilliant sound on those two albums. But a lot of the songs that I was writing were also really influenced by St. Vitus, which is a completely different sort of approach where it is sort of stripped down and slow punk, a bit messy, and the songs were [going] from one extreme to another. So when Randy Reaper joined, he had such a distinctive guitar sound, based on Dave Chandler of St. Vitus’, so certain songs worked and certain songs didn’t. The more metallic ones ended up being Arkham Witch songs, and the more doomy, laid-back slower ones were what The Lamp of Thoth did. We weren’t Reverend Bizarre slow, but the vibe of the band was more St. Vitus where Arkham Witch is more New Wave of British Heavy Metal with the doom element in it. The doom element was more to the fore in The Lamp of Thoth, driven by Randy Reaper’s guitar sound.
What has become of The Lamp? I heard you had a lot of material just waiting to be recorded.
Simon: One of the big problems with The Lamp of Thoth was we just had loads of material. Haha! Organising and recording it was a problem. It is the age old problem that affects most bands in the underground scene, where, to all intents and purposes, what you are doing is an expensive hobby, and everyone’s got a job. It’s time and money that restrict what you do. But when Arkham Witch took off a bit, Randy started playing with Solstice, and Solstice were one of his all-time favorite bands, and basically we just haven’t got around to doing anything else yet. We headed off in different directions and at the moment I can’t afford to be in two bands or spend the time rehearsing two bands, so we’ve just been doing the Arkham Witch thing.
So The Lamp is just really on-hold then?
Simon: I always intended to start it up again and record some new stuff; it’s just getting it together and organising it . . . But I am hoping that in the future I can come back to it because there is a lot of stuff that I have got recorded, demo-wise, that I would love to do with that band and that guitar sound.
It’s a good problem to have, though, surely: At least the ideas are there so you can bring the band back.
Simon: Well I hope so. That has always been the plan.
The demand has always been there. Does that surprise you?
Simon: Yeah, it does. It’s a nice surprise. I can’t listen to that album without listening to all the faults on it and the things I would do differently, but that was the first time we had been in a proper studio, and making that album was a proper experience because we recorded it in Germany. But it’s the same thing . . . I am fans of bands’ other albums and it’s what you see in it; when I hear it I just hear the mistakes, the out of tune vocals or whatever. People seemed to really like it, though, which is something I am really grateful for.
You’re always going to listen to your work differently from how we the audience do.
Simon: A good example for me is like St. Vitus. On stuff like “Clear Windowpane”, where the drums seem to go out of time but you love it because it’s so raw, unusual, and I hope that is what people see in The Lamp of Thoth, because it was our first album and in that session we recorded 17 songs which, looking back, was a bit ambitious, but we managed to come out of it with an album that people liked so . . .
With Arkham Witch, you have loads of catchy, hooky bits. Where did you get those influences from?
Simon: I think that comes from when I was a kid and I didn’t have much music. I had two cassettes of The Beatles; it was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Music album, Volume One, and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Music album, Volume Two. I listened to them relentlessly, and I think it’s that coupled with the St. Vitus vibe, the way that I write the songs (verse/chorus/verse/chorus/middle) is not like a Black Sabbath song where they don’t really have a chorus, but it’s kind of how I’ve always subconsciously structured the song. Plus, I’ve always had that love of NWOBHM, doom, rock and metal in general. It’s just the way that my songs come out, and if you look at the songs that I write, for some reason they all reach about six minutes. It’s amazing how many songs we have that are six minutes long. It’s some sort of subconscious pattern that are stuck in my head.
Does it surprise you how doom has evolved?
Simon: Well it’s the age old question: What is doom? Because the bands who originated this style weren’t consciously setting out to invent a genre that was all slow and all heavy and mournful. I mean a band like Pagan Altar, I don’t think they came out and set out to be doom. But then I think it is more about the underlying spirit of the music rather than the arrangements or tempo. I mean, a band like Pentagram are not slow, but they have that eerie vibe, and that’s what I look for in a doom band. I don’t just look for a band that’s really slow and mournful. I think I might have done in the 90s when I was younger, bands like Cathedral and the slower stuff from St. Vitus, but that kind of music, like any kind of music, any kind of metal, it got taken to the extreme, and I think what’s happened in the past is that they’ve taken it in all these new directions, sludge and death-doom etc, and now I think there’s nowhere for anyone to go. People can pick and choose the style that they love.
Nowhere to go in terms of extremes, but no matter the genre, good songwriting is rewarded. There can still be originality so long as the personality shines through and the songs are strong enough.
Simon: Yeah, but I think it’s the underlying spirit of the music; some songs are just DOOM. It’s actually amazing how up-tempo St. Vitus are as a doom band. I once figured out a cover of “Mystic Lady” and I thought I’d try and do something a bit different with it; so I played it as a sort of punk song, but when I listened to the original it wasn’t that much faster. With music, with regards to tempo, it can be like time-travel; a song like Reverend Bizzare’s “Cirith Ungol”, which is 21 minutes long? It doesn’t feel like that when you are listening to it because of the way it’s arranged. I think you are right: the songwriting and the structure is the most important thing.
Tell us a bit about Keighley. It has got a lot of doom history, has it not?
Simon: Well, The Lamp of Thoth, the idea for the band started when I discovered a local legend of a secret society that operated in Keighley in the late 19th century, who were so popular that the Golden Dawn and the Rosicrucians felt threatened by them, so they publicly denounced them as black magicians. They probably weren’t, but the idea of that, and knowing the town I come from . . . It’s a small town, they are proud of their heritage, of being a small town, and there’s an element of that hardness of an insular community. It just seemed natural that, of course, this secret society indulged in black magic because they are from Keighley, and they probably would do that. Living near the moor, near all the old pagan monoliths, it just seeps into your subconscious, no matter what genre of music you are into. There is just something about living in this part of the world.
And reading about the secret societies probably just confirmed your suspicions that there was some clandestine force, some society pulling the strings.
Simon: Yeah, some underground forces or society. I don’t know if you know, but Wurthering Heights, that was written near Keighley, and that has a lot of violent subconscious drive in it. Maybe it is the landscape, but it’s that sort of connection with Arkham Witch and the town of Arkham; we read about the town of Arkham in H.P. Lovecraft and have sort of identified with that, knowing what Keighley’s like, y’know!
You’re playing Live Evil in October. What do you make of the other bands on the bill?
Simon: When we looked at the bill, yeah, it suited us and our style of music down to the ground. We jumped on the chance to play it. We’re just excited to be playing with bands like Satan and Midnight, and we’re really interested to check out Deathhammer. But it’s just a really coolly constructed bill. This year I have spent most of my holiday on gigs. We’re doing a little tour of England with our good friends Iron Void from Wakefield, a brilliant, brilliant doom band, and Hooded Priest from Belgium. That’ll be in October, and we’ve got a few dates in Europe centred around Doom Over Vienna. This year’s a bit different for us, it’s the most gigs that I have ever done in a band. We were going to take some time out to record the third album but instead of going into the studio we can play the new songs in front of a live audience and maybe that’ll change the way we decide which songs are on the album, or hopefully make them more dynamic when we do record them.
Which is a luxury you’ve not had before.
Simon: For me, personally the best part about playing in a band is the studio. Playing live is cool and all, but I am impatient to get all of these songs recorded.
Right, last question: What would top your Lovecraft essential reading list?
Simon: The essential reading in a critical sense would be the Call of Chtulu, which is not just a brilliant piece of pulp fiction in the old fantastical style but a very carefully constructed literary tale with real literary merit. My other favorite, is The Shadow Over Innsmouth, which people may recognise from Shadows of the Deep, and “Dagon’s Bell”, and that’s just a really cool horror story. I won’t say it’s terrifying, but it just proves what a brilliant imagination the guy had. Brilliant revelation at the end; it’s just a brilliant piece of pulp horror fiction, and there was a good film made of it. I don’t know if you’d seen Stuart Gordon’s Dagon, that’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and it’s quite faithful to the story except he sets it in Spain in the present day. There are a few dodgy digital effects in it but if you over look that it’s a really good adaptation. So I’d probably say those two stories are, for me, essential reading, if that’s all you’re going to read of H.P. Lovecraft. Personally, I’m drawn to his pulpy side, and the way that these gods and archetypical scientific hero become tropes in modern horror, where you can just mention them or invoke them and it’ll put some in someone’s head. He did have a pulpy, frivolous side that the critics dismissed.
**Arkham Witch on Facebook
**For more on Live Evil Festival 2013 click here
The consensus seems to be “Amorphis is back.” Was process to create Circle any different from previous albums? The energy is palatable. Tomi Koivusaari: We started to think before recording this album that maybe we should change the process of making album this time, as the last four albums we did at same studio with almost same crew all the time. We needed change, not only to have something new to our sound, but to keep ourselves inspired. So, we went to the countryside to record, mainly because we wanted a peaceful place where nobody is hurrying home or anything, but staying at same place for 24 hours for week or so. That’s how we did our four very first albums back in the day. Recording all separated felt too clinical this time. Recording in middle of nowhere with nature was at the same time very inspiring and let us concentrate on music. I think it created a sort of atmosphere. We’ve been working hard and intensive in the last years, so I don’t know about the “Amorphis is back” thing. Sound-wise probably, yes. This is our heaviest album since ‘90s!
Did Peter Tägtgren coming on board as producer and mixer have any effect on the outcome of the music? Maybe more in presentation than composition. Tomi Koivusaari: Peter didn’t intervene on the arrangements or composition that much. I think his biggest effort was producing vocals and [his] sound policy. And how to record, for example, guitars, re-amping and stuff. So, he definitely brought heaviness with him. We have known Peter for decades. The first time we got to know him was when we toured together and shared a tour bus with Hypocrisy back in ‘94-‘95. We have seen him once in a while on tours, festivals, and so on. Many times, he also suggested that he could produce/mix our record. This time we needed a change as well, and when we started to think about producer, Peter was one of our first ideas. It was definitely the right choice. It was relaxed to work with him, and results sound awesome. We are sharing the same experiences from the scene, and we can respect him as producer, as I think he respects our ideas and ways to work. We had good fun together. He contributed his knowledge about guitar sounds and overall heavier sounds. We were looking for a heavier and darker sound for this album, and we’ve got it.
The guitars are more upfront in the mix. Was that intentional? Tomi Koivusaari: That maybe wasn’t our goal when we started. I think one thing is that now we really got great sounding and heavy guitars on tape, so that brings them up naturally anyway. We were little bit confused at first when we heard the first mixes, because, as you said, the guitars were much louder than we excepted and keyboards were more in the background, but after a while it started to sound great. Basically, because it was damned heavy! That is Peter’s way to mix. It’s different from our previous albums, but that’s what we were looking for. A change.
There’s a fair bit of the Elegy vibe on Circle. Did you go back and listen to or take elements from Elegy? Tomi Koivusaari: No, we are focusing more forward than looking backward. But naturally everything we’ve done is affecting what we do today. Elegy is one of my personal favorites from our back catalog, so I wouldn’t mind if there were some similarities.
Then again, it’s pretty dark. Was that a pre-planned thing or did the darker material come naturally? Tomi Koivusaari: I think we had some kind of vision that these songs need to sound dark and heavy. But when we were composing the songs it wasn’t on purpose, as that is happening very naturally without any thinking of which direction we should go. Maybe we’ve had dark times in our lives lately. Anyway, I don’t like happy music. It should be dark and melancholic. That gives me more personally. It’s almost meditative.
The material seems to split down the middle of the album. Right at “Hopeless Days.” Was the sequencing meant to bisect the album into traditional Amorphis and “newer” Amorphis? Tomi Koivusaari: Not really. When we were thinking about the track listing, we, as usual, were imagining the album in an old-school way. Like on vinyl, having an A-side and B-side. Then, we just tried to put the songs to an order that would give it a good flow and would stay interesting. I think it’s a good order, as there are new elements coming through each song. We recorded 14 songs, so we dropped five songs from the album. We wanted it to be more compact and racy. Those “leftovers” will be bonuses on different formats.
The folk elements on “Mission” and “Narrowpath” are pronounced. Guess you’ll never escape the folk music influence, right? Tomi Koivusaari: I feel those elements have become a big part of our sound. Those folky melodies are sort of timeless, and we can arrange and mix those with whatever we feel like. We used to listen quite a lot folk music from different countries—ethnic and oriental stuff, too—when we formed the band, so those things are quite deep in our spines when we are creating music.
The intermission on “Nightbird’s Song” is pretty magical. How does the flute piece play into the song’s more death metal attributes? Tomi Koivusaari: Perfectly, in my opinion. I like big contrasts in a song. After the flute, the heavier parts sound even more heavy. Also, it goes nicely with the lyrics and story of that song.
Did the lack of Kalevala material affect how the music matched Pekka Kainulainen’s lyrics? Tomi Koivusaari: It started to feel that we’d need some kind of break from methods of the last four albums. On The Beginning…, the story was about Väinämöinen, probably biggest character from Kalevala, so we figured out that would be hard to top. Anyway, some of the same stories have been circling around in our albums, so it felt cool to try something else. The story itself could be taken from Kalevala though, the atmosphere and style. Pekka wanted to hear our new stuff from the demo when he started to work with the lyrics, so probably he got some inspiration out of that. We’ve been working with Pekka for the last three albums, so it was easy to continue with him. None of us are too excited about writing lyrics.
Tomi Joutsen said the album represents “integrity.” What did he mean by that? Tomi Koivusaari: In the story the main character is sort of an outcast, and he is finding himself and his identity from his own roots and tradition. So, it is kind of a survival story.
Circle is your eleventh album. What do you make of Amorphis lasting this long? I’m sure your teenage selves would’ve never imagined making albums in 2013. Tomi Koivusaari: [Laughs] You’re right! When we formed the band we were about 17-years old, and at that age even 25-years old felt very old. If someone would’ve told me back then that we’d still be together after 23 years I would’ve laughed. But hey, if someone would’ve told us that bands like Iron Maiden, WASP, Accept, Saxon, etc. would as well exist in 2013, I wouldn’t have imagined that either. We are still doing this because we just love this, making music, touring… having few beers at work. [Laughs] This is our full-time thing, so we can just concentrate on doing this. Time will tell how long. At least, we don’t need diapers on stage!
Do you have plans for a U.S. tour? Tomi Koivusaari: There have been some plans and discussion about that, but nothing’s confirmed yet. I’d love to, as it’s been a long time since we last time did a proper tour over there. It’s not going to happen this year, as after the summer festivals we are fully booked to tour Europe, Japan, South America, Australia, Russia, and Finland. But it could happen early next year. Let’s hope. It all really matters how the response to Circle album will be there. So, buy the record and we’ll be there!
** Amorphis’ new album, Circle, is out April 30th on Nuclear Blast Records. Pre-orders are available HERE. And, why not get the Tales of Hall of Fame induction issue [dB #72] since you’re in a festive free-my-wallet mood? Click HERE.
Although we wish it was that easy, we didn’t just snap our fingers and make Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death, Immolation, three rotating support acts and eight regional openers materialize for the 2013 Decibel Magazine Tour. It takes careful consideration, foresight, finagling… and a touch of good old fashioned dumb luck to bring you the most explosive metal tour of the year.
Go deep behind the scenes in our June cover story, and learn how this death and grind behemoth was painstakingly assembled for your ‘banging pleasure. And subscribers will enjoy the bloody cherry on top: Cannibal Corpse’s Flexi Series debut, a live rendition of “Make Them Suffer.” In the midst of all this deathly bedlam, don’t forget your tickets, still available right here.
Because every day another band records another song. Because 83% of those songs are unlistenable and you can’t be bothered to sift through the dreck. Because metal is about not giving a shit and waking your own personal storm. Because music is universal, expression is boundless, and even indie labels (whatever that means these days) don’t know everything, Decibel brings you Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack.
If you word associate “Giza” with “immense, iconic structures of ancient origin”, you’re in the right place. This Giza has been ripped out of the sweltering African Northeast, however, and transplanted in the gloomy American Northwest. The instrumental psych-doom trio stretches and warps a near-Pelican style into a trippy-drippy, voluminous thrumming that is sure to satisfy the grumpy bliss-beast in all of us. The guys were happy to talk about their record, Future Ruins, which you can hear (and buy) at their Bandcamp page. Git yo’ Giza on, multiple times, and you’ll be glad you did. The more we listen to this, the further down the rabbit hole we go. It’s dark down here. And warm. We’re never coming up again.
The Pacific NW has a famously expansive music scene. What is your experience in the area?
Steve - Well, the Pacific NW is full of bands of every genre but it seems as of late our area has become a hotbed of metal. That alone is encouraging.
Trent - Pretty much all of my friends are in bands, and we all support each other. I don’t have any other music scene to compare it to, but I feel pretty lucky to be involved with such a dedicated and talented group of people. Its definitely encouraging, and I’ve been very lucky to play with some of my favorite bands in recent years.
Rich - Living in Seattle gives us the opportunity to play at sweet venues and clubs with good sound, play with interesting bands of all genres, see national acts, and work with great studios and producers all in our back yard. I mean we aren’t even the only heavy instrumental band in town which is kind of eye opening as to how big of an audience there is locally for loud music. The downside is sometimes there’s great shows on the same night that you can’t get to… that’s a good problem to have.
Your bio states that your goal was to write “loud instrumental music”. Were you drawn to not having vocals for a particular reason, or are you just as happy to be playing instrumental music because it sounds great that way?
Steve - To me the main issue is that finding the proper vocals for any band is really hard if not impossible to do. Then you add another human to any equation that has to gel with everyone else and the task becomes quite daunting. It’s not as if we’re opposed to vocals, in fact we’d love to have some, but we’d only do it under the proper circumstances.
Trent - I’m a big fan of instrumental music, and have had bad experiences with singers in previous bands so I tend to gravitate more towards that style but I’m definitely not opposed to vocals at all. Just would need the perfect person.
Rich - I listen to a lot of instrumental music both heavy and not, so it wasn’t a real leap for me. Vocals are a really important, polarizing part of music that can direct how a listener reacts to your music without taking the time to absorb what you really sound like, and with our song ideas being so big it just seemed to work with leaving the listener some space to hear the song rather than freak out over whether the singer was “too black metal” or “too cookie monster” or whatever reason people are using not to like music these days.
Giza is a very young project (formed just last year). What other music have the members been involved with before Giza?
Steve - I was is the band Bronze Fawn most recently.
Trent - Besides Giza, I’m currently in a band called Grenades and another band with Rich called X Suns. Before that, I was in a lot of bands that aren’t worth mentioning.
Rich - I hadn’t been in a band for a long time before we started Giza.
How did you get hooked up with Matt Bayles for the recordings sessions?
Steve - I recorded a record with him before. I basically just asked him if he’d be interested in recording a new project I was in, and he seemed pretty stoked so we scheduled the time. It was a simple story.
Rich - In addition to Steve working with Matt before, he’s from Seattle which made the logistics easy. We talked a lot about what we wanted to do before working with Matt… When you’re in a band and you go to the studio initially its sort of like looking into the mirror for the first time. That’s really when you can hear clearly how you sound, as well as get some in depth feedback from an outsider. It was rewarding to work with someone as professional as Matt from the start of this project, but who also gets what we’re doing. We didn’t want to record with someone who was really talented but would be like “why are you guys playing that same thing for 10 minutes?” and have to explain why we think droney feedback parts are cool, and we are all big fans of the records he makes.
Have you been playing shows to support the album? What is Giza’s live experience like?
Steve - Yeah, we’ve been playing out to support the album and working in new material. Hmmm, our live experience is LOUD! Not that shrill high pitched loud, but a shit your pants earth-shaking tremor machine. I’m sure we could set off car alarms.
Trent - So far its been pretty much local shows, but we hope to get out and do a lot more very soon.
Rich - A good friend of mine describes Giza as an “amp band”. We have a treasure trove of equipment we haul in for a Giza show. Right now Steve is playing through a 2×15 and an 8×10, and I am playing 2 cranked full stacks. Trent’s got some gigantic drums and cymbals and hits really hard, so it’s a loud experience similar to standing next to a 747 prior to takeoff.
If you were to put Giza on the best touring bill you can imagine, who would be on that tour?
Steve - Damn, that’s a loaded question…….Four Band bill: Sleep, Electric Wizard, YOB, GIZA………hell, there’s literally a thousand of those sorts of bills I could think of…….that’s the first one I thought of that sounded awesome.
Trent - Electric Wizard, Sleep, and Bongripper.
Rich - I’d have to agree with Steve, and also with Trent.
What non-musical lives to Giza members lead?
Steve - I’m a bookkeeper by trade. Nothing glamorous at all.
Trent - Soul-crushing daily wage-slavery. Occasional good relationships and numerous break-ups. Mixed with a poor diet, minimal sleep, alcoholism and daily THC consumption.
What comes next for Giza?
Trent - Sacrificing Virgins to the Tone Gods.
Steve - We are actually discussing details with Threshold of Pain Records about a very special limited edition vinyl release, that’s all we can say until it’s all figured out. We’re also ramping up to go back into the studio in the late summer/early fall with Matt Bayles again to record our follow-up to Future Ruins. We hope to have that out by the end of the year.
Rich - In addition to seeing Future Ruins on wax and recording a new record, some new T-shirts and other merch will be available in the near future from Giza. Thanks to everyone who picked up a shirt or poster from our first batch.
The news that rabid, unhinged, original wave thrashers, Soothsayer have returned may not mean much to anyone under the age of 35 who lived outside of southern Ontario or the band’s home province of Quebec, but they’re back and I for one am rather pleased at the news. Initially reconvening to play an old-school Quebec metal fest a few years back, the fire was re-lit under their old-school asses, new material was written, a new path embarked upon and a new album, Troops of Hate, was recently unleashed upon the unsuspecting world. And unlike a good number of reforming bands, Soothsayer has managed to balance modernity with the sound of their crazier youth as the album drips with as much reckless, violent smiling psychosis as the band’s To Be a Real Terrorist demo (which was re-released in 2007) and Have a Nice Day album did. Let vocalist Stephan Whitton tell you about things in greater detail.
After you got back together in 2007 for the re-release of To Be a Real Terrorist was there a plan to write new material?
No, there was no initial plan to write new material. The initial plan was to reform to do that gig in Montreal at the “25 ans du metal Quebecois,” a three night event of Quebec bands from the 80′s and 90′s produced by Maurice Richard (ex-Voïvod manager). The night we played, Piggy (R.I.P.) was introduced to the “Pantheon of Metal Quebecois.” During that period, Eric (of Galy Records) came with the idea of re-releasing the To Be a Real Terrorist demo, the timing was perfect for the event. As for new materials, back when we started rehearsing for the show, we had a lot of fun playing together again after a hiatus of 17 years. The morning after the show, we got back home and that’s when we decided to keep going and write down new stuff. I think [guitarist] Martin Cyr had this idea in his head for a while ‘cos he was the first one to talk about doing a new album.
How long had some of the songs that ended up on Troops of Hate been sitting around?
Except for the two revisited songs on the album (“Anatomy Is Dead Sickness” and “Narrow Minded”) that have been sitting around for about 25 years, all the other songs were written between 2008 and 2011. When I say 2011, I mean it ‘cos I can remember the last one “Enough,” myself getting to the studio with no lyrics and no ideasof what will be this song was going to sound like. This was a new experience for Soothsayer ‘cos we used to enter the studio with everything ready and sharp. I still remember the recording of TBART live in studio; doing my vocals in three hours, recording with music in my ears and screaming like a man caught in a trap. And all I can remember is these three kids Martin, [drummer] Daniel [Clavet] and [bassist] Simon [Genest] looking at me like it’s the first time they finally can figure out my lyrics in this noise and laughing at me so loud that I could hardly concentrate!
What was the process like in writing and recording this album in light of everyone being grown-ups with grown-up lives to juggle?
For the writing, it’s been a long and hard process ‘cos we can’t put all the time and energy like we used to do 25 years ago. Back in those days, we used to rehearsal three to five times a week. It was our life. There were many friends attending our rehearsal space every fuckin’ night, sometimes we got 40 people out for a rehearsal. I think this gave us a lot of fuel; I can’t imagine what we would have done without Soothsayer. Now, we have to deal with jobs, families, children and the lack of time. It’s a miracle if we can get together once a week for rehearsal. Sometimes we have compromise with families, but they understand. For the recording, it’s been a long process too. We first got in the studio in August 2009 to record six songs. Then, the second session came in September 2011 where we recorded four songs and we did the final mix, mastering and publishing. After all this, then it was the terrible time of waiting for the release of the album.
How was the music, material and studio time approached differently than it would have been 20+ years ago?
Not so different, we’re still exciting about recording, playing live and writing new material. We still build songs the way we used to do it. First, Martin comes with the guitar riffs. The only difference is that we don’t have to wait for a four-track tape that’s gonna sound crappy anyway. With the magic of MP3 and internet, we get it at home with nice effect and compressed sound. Second, we get together to build the songs with drums and bass arrangements and sometimes a little groaning from myself because you can’t even tell the difference between verse and chorus! Third, it’s a very long process of writing lyrics and I find it very hard. Before I used to read the papers to get the news and I’d come up with an idea. Now I try to find something special, maybe too special, and that’s why it take so long. For the studio, it’s been a brand new experience with digital technology and music software. We tried to record as much live as we can ‘cos it’s always been our goal to deliver the songs as true as it is live. But with this new technology, there is no limit but we didn’t want to have that perfect product that is so clean! We tried to use it as much as we can without getting to excess ‘cos Soothsayer has to sound like Soothsayer.
The title of the album references older material and there are re-recorded versions of “Narrow Minded” and “Anatomy is Dead Sickness.” How much of a foot would you say Soothsayer has stuck in the past?
The title Troops of Hate refers to a song on the TBART demo, but it’s also the motto on the back of our first t-shirt. It’s kind of our trademark and we feel like we have to give it a second life. As for myself, I think it really represents Soothsayer and what I feel when I scream like hell. “Narrow Minded” and “Anatomy Is Dead Sickness” were never officially recorded except on the live part of the TBART demo re-release, so these two songs are for our older fans. Soothsayer are trying to see further, trying to look at the future and that’s what we try to reproduced with this album. We’re aware that our sound isn’t like what you heard today from new bands coming around…but that’s our signature.
Is the goal to appeal mostly to older fans of the band who remember the name and those songs and your style?
Not necessarily, but we are aware that this may help to reach them. The goal is to create the new stuff while we can because we’re not getting younger! We hope to get the new generation to listen to our music, but I think the die is cast and they will find out soon. I sometimes try to figure out what got Soothsayer popular 25 years ago, but I’m still left with no answer. For sure we try to stay as close to our style as possible but we don’t want to get trapped in it, so we do what we feel right and good for Soothsayer and I hope the fans will feel it too.
How has the reaction been to the new album? How have you found reaction from newer generations of thrash/hardcore fans when compared to older fans?
Reactions to the new album have been very positive. For the newer generations we have to give them time because I think their ears have to acclimate to it. After all, I think they would appreciate our sound, vibe and energy. Our music’s got abrupt changes inside the same song; we sometimes laugh at it saying we could have done four different songs with this one, but that’s the way we do it and feel it. The older fans are kind of crazy; I have even got bitten by one of them – I hope he was vaccinated against rabies – at a show in Jonquiere where there were only a few of them; one fan was knocking his head on the stage and suddenly bites my Converse shoes. That’s when I found out why Martin was wearing construction shoes.
Is there a plan that you guys have as far as gigs and touring goes?
For sure, there’s a plan for gigs that we are working on. Right now, the scene in Quebec seems to run slowly and we are waiting for the right gig at the right time. In the past we would have said yes to any gig and things were also easier because there weren’t as many bands as now. I think we’re gonna have to reinvent ourselves, do something different, more surprising! We’ve been throwing a lot of ideas around that, but we’re still sleeping on them. For a touring plan it’s a little more complicated ‘cos of the jobs and families but we are open to any opportunities, again.
If you knew now what you know about this crazy business, would you go back and change anything about the way you did things in the 80s? Any regrets?
No regrets, except that we split up in 1992, one step from our goal. I don’t think that we could have lived off our music, so the split was probably the best thing to do to keep our future bright. To Be a Real Terrorist was probably the greatest impact we had on the metal scene so far. The album, Have a Good Time came out too late; two years of waiting after the master tapes were send to the record company. Sure, some critics give it a 10/10, but the fans were not there anymore, grunge was all over the place. Metal wasn’t the “flavor of the month” and we were going in different directions and exploring new sound. I think that’s what killed us. Add to this that we got no support from the record company and no promo copies at all. Years later, I bought mine at a discount pharmacy in Toronto; it’s still intact and so my ego is. The joke is that we got our promotional copies of the album 20 years later when New Renaissance Records re-released the album as a limited edition in 2008. So, here we are just for the fans and the love of doing it, like it was in the old days. I hope that future will give us a second chance.
One of my favorite albums so far this year, Woe‘s Withdrawal, drops on Tuesday. To mark the occasion, guitarist Ben Brand sent along the following playlist that I’m pretty sure only he could adequately describe: “In honor of the transition into Spring, I want you all to start thinking about getting that garden growing. Inch by inch, row by row. Here is a sonic checklist that should turn your thumb green and your hearts black.” In fact, we liked his theme so much that we’ve thrown aside our usual format to give his playlist its full effect. Besides the YouTube clips below, however, you can still listen along here.
First off, a good location is the key to support healthy growth. The environment must house all of the key ingredients for a successful garden. Mineral content in the soil is an important aspect to making even the shortest plants stand out.
Now that you’ve got your plot of land, you need a hole. You may need to pick up discarded yogurt containers that flew around during the great Firestorm in the ’90s. When digging, varying depths are based on what is going in the ground.
Maximizing your garden’s potential can be achieved many ways. The addition of nutrient rich products can produce plants that will have your transient neighbors taking two-steps closer to admire your crusty patch (of land).
Proper watering is crucial to all inhabitants of your garden. Utilizing a rain catch system can help immensely. If you have the space, I recommend a 36 chamber holding tank.
The majority of plant life requires sunlight to carry out photosynthesis. As spring shifts to summer, daylight becomes progressively intense.
Too much light can destroy a garden but not enough will cause your plants to get fat, never marry, submit useless comments on message boards, wither and die alone.
A successful garden will be based on your ability to monitor your handiwork and cater to individuals that may need extra care. Tragedy can be averted by a keen eye.
You’ve toiled endlessly nurturing and respecting the majesty you created and now it is time to reap what you have sewn. Take this step with a grain of salt.
Be forewarned, some of nature’s most beautiful creations have evolved to grow defense mechanisms. If you get pricked, stop and think that maybe the universe is reestablishing balance.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor and take some time to stop and smell the…
Or, spend your chump change and buy from a specialist.
May 10 – The Acheron, Brooklyn, NY (with Mutilation Rites, Mortals)
May 11 – Democracy Center, Boston, MA
May 12 – The Railroad Tavern, Keene, NH (with Falls of Rauros, Obsidian Tongue, Barren Oak, Dark Was The Night)
May 13 – Nectars, Burlington, VT (with Vaporizer, Gorcrow)
May 14 – Pandora’s Box, Quebec, Canada (with Devil Drowned, Cyanide)
May 15 – DEATHOUSE, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (with Ensorcelor, Velvet Glacier)
May 16 – Mavericks, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (with Alaskan, Occult Burial, Stay Here)
May 17 – Hard Luck Bar, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (with Ischemic, The Sustained Low ‘C’ of Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra”)
May 18 – Rancho Huevos, Chicago, IL (with Black September, Hedlok, Arahant, Bailout)
May 19 – Cincy by the Slice, Cincinnati, OH (with Merkaba, Highgave, Pusdrainer)
May 20 – Ultra-Dive, Pittsburgh, PA (with Glorior Belli, Wolvhammer, Anciients, Dendritic Arbor)
***We update one Spotify playlist for each new Decibrity entry, so feel free to subscribe to that here. Past entries include:
If you spend enough time on the Internet you begin to think that most readers visit sites just to stir the proverbial shit pot. But occasionally the Web will serve up something so delightful and unexpected that it validates the whole premise of connecting the world and equipping the population with tools to allow them to take a shot at amateur journalism (and art, fiction, poetry, politics, music…)
One of those goodies this week comes from a close connection. I’ve known Sean Palmerston for years and spent some quality time with him at Decibel’s birthday bash. The dude drove down from Canada with Decibel writer Kevin Stewart-Panko to attend the festivities. He’s been a bedrock of the Canadian metal scene for years and is a stand-up guy.
But I never knew until this week that Sean had dinner with black metal legend Quorthon and later held a massive leak while interviewing him. He’s graciously allowed dB to excerpt from his story, published on his metal site Hellbound this week. An abridged version follows but I highly recommend you check out the full story (and bookmark his site). –jmn
A Toronto metal scene guy named Dragan “Ed” Balog was running North American operations for a Swedish metal label called Black Mark Productions. Balog had been around the scene since the late 80s. He played bass in a local thrash band called Downfall and had his own company called Utopian Vision Music that had put out some compilations. He was, and still is, a great guy. Whenever he had one of his European acts come to North America for press junkets, it usually started out in Toronto before going onto NYC or LA.
Early in 1996 Dragan gave me a call and said Quorthon of Bathory was coming to Toronto. He wanted to know if I would have Quorthon on my radio show, that I could have a living legend of underground black metal in the studio. Of course, there was a new Bathory release about to come out, the excellent Blood On Ice album, and that was the whole point of the visit, but he did assure me that Quorthon would be willing to discuss the history of his band.
Really, how could I say no?
Vintage Sean Palmerston, circa mid-90s
It was arranged that I would meet up with Mr. Balog, Mr. Quorthon (who told me to call him Ace) and the owner of Black Mark, who went by the name of Boss, and that we would go out to dinner at a local restaurant, the Pickle Barrel, before doing the show. Now, we all know these days that Boss was actually Ace’s dad, and that he basically started Black Mark to put out releases by his son’s band, but at no time did Ace or Boss ever come across during the six hours we spent together as being related.
Boss looked like a fifty-something Swedish father with white hair and a beard. You knew right away that Quorthon was a rocker. He just didn’t look like what you thought the guy that penned “Equimanthorn,” “Through Blood By Thunder” and “A Fine Day To Die” would look like – unless he also had also been a member of the Cold Lake lineup of Celtic Frost. Quorthon looked a lot more like a hair metal dude than one of the forefathers of black metal – cowboy boots, ironed jeans and a black muscle shirt. I think after years of seeing him standing in a pentagram in that famous press picture I just didn’t expect him to be a sort of funny guy, who really liked to call almost everybody by the same name: Frank.
Quorthon and I ate the same thing at the Pickle Barrel: quarter chicken dinners. I was hoping he’d have a bloody rare steak, but it was BBQ chicken for the both of us. Shortly after we finished, we ran across the street to the HMV Superstore. Quorthon and Boss looked around while Dragan and I met up with some of my friends that would regularly hang out with us down in the basement studios at Ryerson University. The crew that evening included Kevin Stewart-Panko, Chris Gramlich and his then band-mate in the Toronto band Tchort, bassist Nick Sewell.
The group went over to CKLN and down into the basement dungeon, er, studio, to do the show. I cannot comment if the two-hour radio show that evening was a good one. It flew by pretty fast as I was not only interviewing but also running the mixing board. Quorthon, his dad and Mr. Balog were in the studio for the entire 120 minutes. We played a lot of the then still-unreleased Blood On Ice along with lots of other great metal (mostly from the 80s although I did play some Emperor for Quorthon, which he seemed to kinda dismiss).
Quorthon was adamant that I could not play anything on the radio off the first three Bathory albums. I had brought all of my Bathory albums, which was basically everything up until Requiem, and he didn’t let me to play anything off the first three albums. He said they made him feel uncomfortable, that the people of Canada would be much better served if a song from The Beatles or the classical composer Wagner was played instead of anything from Bathory, The Return or Under The Sign Of the Black Mark.
He would not sign any of the first four Bathory albums. He was happy to sign Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods, on which he wrote “To Sean From Quorthon” with an ink pen (he wouldn’t use a silver sharpie), but when I asked to get the ones before those signed he had decided that was enough. and said “sorry Frank, I don’t want to sign anymore right now.”
I also came to a point in the show where I really had to go to the bathroom. I guess the beer from dinner had caught up with me, because I had to take a piss. I asked Kevin if he would take over and ask Quorthon a few questions while I ran to the bathroom, but much to my surprise Boss was having no part of it. He said to me very diplomatically that he really liked me and thought that I was doing a wonderful job interviewing Quorthon about Bathory and that to have someone else jump in would be a great injustice.
Kevin and I have talked about this over the years and we don’t know if they didn’t want Kevin to do it because he is half-black or if they just wanted me to continue doing it, but it was pretty weird for a few minutes. I ended up just playing an extra long song so I could run and wee and then continue the interview.
I heard from a few friends over the next few days that it was a pretty good interview, but to this day I have still never heard any of it. I am hoping that someone out there recorded it, but for now the interview seems lost forever and, sadly, Ace Forsberg has left this world for some other place.
By: shane.mehling Posted in: featuredOn: Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
The best high school house party of all time disguised as an experimental rock band, Helms Alee is trying to Kickstart funds so they can record, package and self-release their third album, Sleepwalking Sailors. But the ladies and dude are coming at it from a different angle — they’re selling you the pre-sale of their third album, which simply hasn’t been recorded yet.
Having already Kickstarted their brilliantly ludicrous “8/16″ music video, the power trio is looking to hit their goal of $5,000 and they’re a mere… oh, they actually hit it. In fact, they’re almost 900 bucks over the goal already. So why the fuck are they asking for more money? Well, here’s Guitarsmith/Vocalician Ben Verellen:
Originally, we didn’t want to shoot for an outrageous amount of money and we knew we could get creative to record and press our new record for $5000. But realizing that “creative” might mean my crappy handwriting on a manila envelope for packaging, we’re hoping to pre-sell more copies. Turns out scratch and sniff is expensive!
There are only a few days left to drop 30 bucks and get a record that should be done and ready for your milky soft hands by November (along with digital download), and extra cash gets you more and more goodies. I wish I could vouch for the music itself, but the Kickstarter video above should show you how serious they are about dominating your every orifice; and if the album sucks, I’ll tell you where they live.
By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listenOn: Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
If you were to ask us what the acronym S.O.D.O.M. means, we’d have to be honest with you. We don’t know. Storm of Death of Metal? If Sodom were Czech, it might work. Sacrifice of Dead on Mars? Maybe Giorgio Tsoukalos were involved in the song’s conception, then we’d give it a 86.5% match. Or, perhaps it just is the word “sodom” capitalized and punctuated in an unconventional way. It’s possible.
We do know Sodom have returned after a two-year break on new album, Epitome of Torture. Decibel detailed previous effort, In War and Pieces, in great detail (HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE), so it’s no wonder the powers behind Germany’s greatest thrash act (OK, Kreator and Destruction count, too) have come to us to present the group’s latest barn-burner, “S.O.D.O.M.”
Typically, we don’t get into arguments about is new Sodom better than old Sodom or mid-era Sodom. Old Sodom rules, in fact. There are at least two Hall of Fame-worthy albums in ’80s era Ripper and co. But we can’t live forever on “Brandish the Sceptre,” “Persecution Mania,” and “Ausgebombt” before feeling, well, ausgebombt. So, we look and listen forward. Take Tapping the Vein or the self-titled. Or, better yet Epitome of Torture. Heshers with a sore spot for German thrash can’t go wrong with “S.O.D.O.M.” or “Stigmatized” or the title track.
For now, here’s the uncompromising “S.O.D.O.M.”
** Sodom’s new album, Epitome of Torture, is out May 7th on Steamhammer/SPV. You can get it HERE or stick your finger where the sun don’t shine. See what we did there? Self-sodomy. What a concept.