STREAMING: Azure Emote “Puppet Deities”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Monday, January 7th, 2013

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If you’re well-heeled in the arts of underground death metal—is there another kind, actually?—the name Mike Hrubovcak should ring a bell. Right. Hrubovcak, not to be confused with his brother J.J., is sort of a Renaissance Man. The frontman’s throated for Vile and Monstrosity, as well as his own weighty projects in Divine Rapture and Azure Emote. Apart from telling tales of colossal death via some seriously powerful growls, Hrubovcak’s also a cover artist. He’s penned rad covers for Sinister, Grave, Rumpelstiltskin Grinder, Inhume, and a bunch of other perverts who delight in (mostly) spread eagle dead chicks as art (aka “sweat pants death metal”).

But today we’re not talking about the many things on Hrubovcak’s CV. No, today is singularly devoted to Azure Emote. Started in 2003, Azure Emote issued its debut long-player in 2007 (Chronicles of an Aging Mammal), took a little break, and is back in avant-garde death metal action with the 2013 release of sophomore effort The Gravity Of Impermanence. While label details are currently being “sorted”, Azure Emote isn’t just of note for its wayward, left-of-center death but also for the people Hrubovcak’s brought on-board to flesh out his hair-brained ideas.

Check out this list: Mike Heller (Fear Factory, System Divide, Malignancy), Ryan Moll (Rumpelstiltskin Grinder, Total Fucking Destruction), Kelly Conlon (Death, Monstrosity), Pete Johansen (Tristania, Sins of Thy Beloved, Sirenia), Sandra Laureano, Melissa Ferlaak Koch (Visions of Atlantis), plus Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), Jonah Weingarten, J.J. Hurbovcak (Hate Eternal, Vile, Diving Rapture), and Jason Ian Vaughn Eckert (Aurora Borealis). That’s right. Like Mike, his session ensemble aren’t slouches at their respective professions. And, yes, that’s Hrubovcak cover. Sweet, no?

So, sit back, click the arrow, and be prepared to be transported to places of pulchritude and mortal desistance, aka Monday morning in America.

** Azure Emote’s new album, The Gravity Of Impermanence, is out mid-2013 on an as-yet-unnamed label. But for now nab debut album, Chronicles of an Aging Mammal, as a digital download on Bandcamp or iTunes for a fair price. Get it ’cause it rules!

Tales From the Metalnomicon: Dustin LaValley

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, interviews, lists On: Friday, January 4th, 2013

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

Gonzo dark fiction author, screenwriter, martial arts sensei, serious connoisseur of heavy metal and hardcore — there’s a lot thrown into the mix when it comes to the literary force of nature that is Dustin LaValley. Dip even a toe into his ever-growing oeuvre, however, and you’ll quickly begin to see how the Hiram Grange Award-winning author weaves these disparate elements together to create an atmosphere of startlingly idiosyncratic, exquisitely harrowing (semi-controlled) chaos.

Below LaValley gives Tales From the Metalnomicon the lowdown on the inspirations behind/soundtracks to three of his greatest hits…


Lowlife Underdogs

“And I know this ghost — I have seen it before” — Converge, “The Saddest Day”

Lowlife Underdogs is my first published collection of short fiction. Weird horror would make a good summation. The stories, ranging from social commentary on the foster care system (“Baby Crane Adoption Agency”) to religious fanaticism (“Bologna Jesus Phenomena”), to misunderstandings of philosophical texts (“Tampton Clark”), to surrealist horror and straight-up human-derived horror in the title story, were written over a span of two or three years and then collected.

I always write while listening to music — almost always something fast and heavy or slow and heavy… But I also like to throw in some blues, like Robert Johnson, the man who sold his soul to the devil for his guitar skills. There would be no hardcore, doom, sludge or stoner metal without true blues or jazz.

It’s hard to pin down a specific record or band I listened to while writing these stories. I was on a rotation of Nailbomb, North Side Kings, One King Down, Unsane, Helmet, Snapcase, Mr. Bungle, and Acid Bath among others. Looking back, I’d have to say that the overall chaotic tone of Lowlife Underdogs was largely influenced by Converge — how epic is “The Saddest Day”!? Their ability switch between the polyrhythmic sound and slower tempo, of being balls-out and then suddenly, bringing in a note of slow, beautiful sing-song is reflective of the composition.



Spinner

“You would look so magnificent – Crawling on those bloodied knees” — Isis, “Poison Eggs”

Subscribe to Decibel, get the new Cathedral flexi disc

By: mr ed Posted in: featured, flexi disc On: Friday, January 4th, 2013

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Coventry’s mighty Cathedral are retiring in style this spring, following the release of swansong The Last Spire. And your friends at Decibel have the first new music from Lee Dorrian’s doom institution in nearly three years, debuting via our Flexi Series!

It’s unclear if “Vengeance of the Blind Dead” is a nod to the cult Amando de Ossorio film series we’ve profiled in the magazine, but we can tell you that the song–which will not appear on The Last Spire–is the recording debut of none other than Repulsion veteran Scott Carlson on bass. “Vengeance of the Blind Dead” will be served cold, metallic gold on black. If you’re not already a subscriber, achieve equilibrium by signing up here by 9 a.m. on Tuesday to ensure your flexi goldmine begins with this unearthly delight.

Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack: Black Table

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, free, interviews, listen On: Friday, January 4th, 2013

BT Band Pic (better)

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.

The rumors are true.  All band names have been snapped up, and now we’re left with odd word combo leftovers.  Today we bring your attention to Black Table, a terrifyingly bleak and not easily classifiable gut-punch out of New York and New Jersey.  Not Black Altar, or even Black Meal Staging Surface (okay, yeah, that’s worse…), but Black Table.  Far be it from me to make fun – my best recent shot at a new band name was Interminable Whaleslap – but a band with music this stirring and well executed should at least have a moniker that gets out of the kitchen.

Black Table have released their new EP, Sentinel, at their Bandcamp page, and boy is it a broiler.  Do you like any of metal’s trends of the past decade (other than shitty slamcore)?  Blackened rasps, sky-scraping post metal, doomy paces, technically inspired arrangements…  Black Table offer all this and more in Sentinel’s 25 rousing minutes.  The quartet graciously took some time to talk about their background and forward momentum with Decibel, so while you bang your bod to the EP’s title track, scroll further to get the skinny on this Northeastern crew with a simple furniture fixation.

Who are Black Table?  How did the band come to be?

Mers: We are a four piece experimental metal band that started in 2010 from NY and NJ. I’m the vocalist and one of two of the guitars. It began with Ryan and I but, eventually Mike joined, then Matt in the winter of 2011.  I convinced Ryan to sit down and play guitar with me one night and we came up with a few songs over a short time. We programmed the drums and I laid down vocals. It wasn’t there but we could see potential. Mike was our ideal choice for a drummer, but we had to wait for him to be available because he was in multiple projects at the time. Once he joined us, everything started coming together really quickly. We decided to look for a bassist after we had 3 songs written and Mike suggested Matt, who was down to do it, lucky for us. Ryan was in Randall Flagg for about a decade until they broke up in 2010. Mike has been in multiple projects like Mabus, Randall Flagg, and Ryan and Mike have another band called Empier. Matt was in Mabus for ten years right til the end. I’m a student but I’m taking time off to focus on the band. I’m working towards a degree in cultural anthropology. Mike teaches private drum/piano lessons and also performs in several jazz groups. Ryan is graphic designer in NYC. Matt does graphic design in the Hudson Valley as well as some electrical work on the side.

What does the music on Sentinel represent to you?  What did you hope to convey with it?

Mers: Sentinel for me is handful of vignettes of historical events, existentialism and looking back to nature and our pasts to understand our relationships and process as organisms. Each song is thematic, has landscapes and tells a story. I’m really into myths, science and history – I love to research shit. The EP tells the story of Joan of Arc who was burned twice and thrown into the Seine and the hypocrisy of Christianity and politics, Jesse James taking the American Dream and holding it in a mirror to the people, life on earth originating from a dead star and the naturalness of death.    

Mike: Sentinel is a very important release for me, especially since it’s the first professional recording I’ve done in about 5 years. I really wanted to go all out on this record, and show all of our individual strengths and how we have all matured as musicians. All of us like completely different styles, genres, and sub-genres, which creates this melting pot of ideas. We never sat down and said, “Let’s do a black metal section, then a mathy section,” instead, it just all came out naturally. I really believe that Sentinel represents all of four us in different ways. The musicians we have become derive from the music each of us listen to and appreciate, and it comes out in our playing. Ultimately, the EP represents all of our separate musical quests into one cohesive vision, and I was hoping to convey the idea of genre freedom on this record, by tastefully sampling from different metal sub-genres.

Ryan: This recording was exactly what I wanted to do. I’ve been in a few bands, and I think for the first time I can say, I really didn’t filter myself. I did everything I creatively wanted and didn’t worry about how it would be perceived. It’s an amazing and scary feeling all at the same time. I think as a whole we became aware quickly that what we were doing was pretty unusual. We knew we were onto something when people would ask what genre we were and we really couldn’t figure it out. We still don’t really know haha. We have so many influences among us it’s hard to say which have the biggest effects on the songs. The one thing I love is we don’t have any formula we really just write and work on songs until the songs are done. We just like writing stuff that’s interesting to us and then we hope other people will enjoy it. That’s the scary part.

How does songwriting work for the band?  Are songs written by individuals or with the group banging out parts together?

Ryan: Mers and I would tag team the initial writing process. One of us would disappear with the computer and write and record a section. Then the other would listen, give it the thumbs up or down, and we’d discuss (fight) what we think should happen next, themes, concepts and then the other would record a complimentary part or a new section, and it would go back and forth like that for a few days, maybe weeks, maybe longer continually revising and refining.

Mers: Months haha. Yeah, I prefer to write and refine parts alone in our office. I need that space to focus.

Ryan: Our writing process takes a long time, we want things to be right, we try not to rush it.

Mike: After Mers and Ryan have the skeleton, we jam it out a little at practice to help Matt and I develop our parts. Then all four of us would go home, work on our ideas, and bring them to practice next time. We worked really hard on demoing all 4 songs before we went into the studio to record “Sentinel.” There were countless nights where Ryan and I would sit at his computer and program the drums/clicks, often times ripping our hair out trying to decipher what pulse and time signature we were in for certain sections. This painstakingly slow process helped us get the song forms solidified so practices could be more efficient, especially since half of us live in the Hudson Valley, and the other half live 90 miles away in Jersey City.

Do you have the support of a music scene?  Seems like your location is right in the middle of some great doomy/black stuff.  Are you connected with other area bands doing similar work?

Mers: We have had generous support from CT and NY. The CT Black Metal community really welcomed us which was humbling. Lord Vial of The Legion booked us for the Winter is Coming Festival 2012 before we had done a show live yet, just based on our demo song “Heist”. One of the nicest guys I’ve ever met and solid supporter of the scene, really intimidating to look upon though, I would not fuck with him haha. Agalloch, Ritual, Evoken and Vattnet Viskar played that fest as well, that was a real honor. We reached out to Vattnet Viskar, who we really admire and Chris Alferie has done a lot to help us out in any way he can, he also does our PR via his company GrimSleeper. Chris Thompson of CT Battle Stag Records knew Mike from Empier and has supported us with shows at the Heirloom Arts Theatre and is releasing our EP on a 12″ vinyl in February. Precious Metal, curated by Curran Reynolds was our first show and we had the opportunity to play one of the last 4 shows Precious Metal will be doing after a successful 6 years.

Being in a band is a community effort; everything we get to do besides our music is due to other bands, bookers and fans who surprised us with such overwhelming support and friendship. I really didn’t expect that. All I envisaged was getting to play some live shows to 1 or 2 apathetic kids; I really thought no one would give a fuck. Haha.

As for bands doing something similar to us, we are a pretty weird band, but we have run across bands that are doing their own thing extremely well, like Swordmasters of Ginaz, Protolith, Torrential Downpour, Dead Empires, Meek is Murder, So Hideous and Ferocious Fucking Teeth.Ryan: I think the scene in the tristate area is amazing; it’s like a real family.

The thing that’s great is the scenes are now converging because of facebook,  bandcamp, etc. and I feel like bands in Europe are as close as the bands in my area. There are so many good fucking bands from all over making great albums right now: Sonance an experimental/noise/doom band from Bristol, C R O W N atmospheric/noise/doom from France, Falls of Rauros black metal from Maine, The Bell Witch doom from Seattle and Alaskan atmospheric post-metal from Ontario. I could really name 100 bands that I think are doing amazing stuff. I find new bands every day that I’m blown away by, I love the Internet.

Are there plans now for music beyond the EP?

Mers: Definitely. On tour I brought up an idea for a full concept album that we might do and if we get it right, it will be exciting and challenging and something we haven’t seen yet from anyone else. One of the things we are into is creating an experience with music and trying to find new ways to that. To create a world or a dimension that is more than just aural. We have a merch kit that we made called “DeepWell”; it’s a 20 minute track of ambient droning of guitars and distorted drums and bass that comes with a candle, mirror, incense and scroll with a spell on it for revealing a past life. It’s essentially a ritual that uses all the senses to put the subject into an altered state. I wasn’t sure anyone would be interested in it, but it’s our best seller and people ask for it specifically.

Ryan: Of course, this is just the beginning for us. We have ideas, plans, and secrets for future projects. The one thing we really want to do is keep things clever and interesting, I don’t think we’d be happy releasing another recording very similar to Sentinel. We want to challenge ourselves to make new and unique work.

Do you have any particular goals for the music or for the band over the next year?  Longer?

Mers: We would like to tour at least 2-3 times this year, with a handful of  weekend trips. We are aiming to go down to SXSW and book some shows outside the festival. It would be great to have our friends Swordmaster of Ginaz, So Hideous, Gradius or Dead Empires join us on that. I’d also like to do a few film projects for our songs as well.

Mike: Tours to Texas, Canada, and California are definitely short-term goals we would like to achieve this year. A more long-term goal for us is to make it overseas to Europe in 2014-2015. Personally, I would love to play some shows in France with the bands Crown and Cathedraal.

Is there any particular art/literature that’s influenced your musical direction?

Mers: Songs in “Sentinel” were written with landscapes and moods in mind at first with a visual and aural journey from start to end so lyrics I write last, kind of like a narrative on the music. Specific inspiration came from by H. P. Blavatsky’s order of the elements, Pythagoras, The Hávamál, and images of the old American West.

Have you been playing these songs live?  What has your stage/touring experience been like?

Mers: We have played 18 shows so far since August 2012.

Mike: Everywhere from Rhode Island to Nashville. At first we did a lot of local shows, then we graduated to weekend tours and finally our most recent east coast tour this past December. Our stage experience has been pretty interesting, considering we have 4 huge cabs and a pretty big drum set. I remember that it took us 45 minutes to set up at our first show, and we only played 3 songs (20 minutes) haha. Since then, we’ve eliminated some equipment and streamlined our set up to make it quicker. Touring for 9 days also helped us in that regard, and really tightened up our live show.

While booking our most recent tour (December 2012), I was truly shocked at how supportive and helpful everyone was. For instance, I stumbled on “The Owl Farm Collective,” and booked a show at their Hymen House venue in Nashville. Every band and person there was so positive and supportive, and we really had a great time. There was no cover or anything, but we made enough money on merch sales to pay for gas to our next show, 9 hours away! I’ve been in touring bands before, and we always had some sort of problem on the road, or we had to pay for most of the gas out of pocket. However, this past Black Table tour was so refreshing because every show went really well and we broke even, which is huge for us. We are all really grateful for all the people we met and their hospitality and we can’t wait to go back out on the road. 

Mers: Def. We are very careful about booking though, every show we do is because we feel it fits or makes sense and I think that guides us towards like-minded people and bands. This made booking a tour a little easier; as we had help from great people we met through the scene.

Ryan: Shows have been great. Nothing has blown up, been stolen, or barfed on yet haha. We’ve been really lucky to play with a ton of talented and interesting bands. We love playing with bands that have soul and really craft their work. A lot of the time they’re all sorts of genres like doom, emocore, experimental noise, technical death metal, instrumental punk, you name it. It’s all great! Good music is all that counts. I love playing a show with a band I don’t know and they’re awesome, then I buy their CD and shirt and come home telling everyone. It’s the best!

Mers: Yeah, we get a lot of band boners haha.

Seven Inches into the New Year, with Feral King and Lonely Ghost Parade

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, free, gnarly one-offs, listen, uncategorized On: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

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The Lord Herself knows Zao has kept it super-low on the spotlight front since the release of 2006′s The Fear is What Keeps Us Here. The promotional push for Awake? was zilch and the only “concrete” mentions of this supposed new album they have waiting in the wings for 2013 comes via Wikipedia and hardcore fans posting anticipatory messages on the band’s Facebook page. So, while the uncertainty ambles on, why not check out some Zao-related stuff?

Here, courtesy of Phil at Last Anthem Records, is a stream of a split 7″ due out soon, if it already isn’t available. This record features tracks from Feral King and Lonley Ghost Parade and you can read a little about who’s who below, and listen to your hearts’ content.

Tracks one and two: “Supraorbital” and “Scaenger” by Feral King (former members of Spitfire/The Takeover). www.feralking.bandcamp.com Recorded at Double O Studio (VA) with Tim Gault (Moutheater).

Track three: “Stand In The Fire” by Lonely Ghost Parade (former members of Zao) www.lonelyghostparade.com Recorded at the Treelady Studios (PA) with Dave Hidek and Garrett Haines.

For more info and ordering: www.lastanthemrecs.com

Decibrity Playlist: Rotten Sound

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

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Not only does Rotten Sound have a new EP coming out later this month, but the Finnish quartet is also celebrating its vicennial. So when bassist Kristian Toivainen suggested putting together a playlist with picks from a certain year, it took us back to a feature we used to have in the magazine. Back in the day (circa 2007), the Upfront portion used to have a section called “Will Consider Trading”. The concept was simple enough: a Decibel writer picked a year and put together a mix tape highlighting that twelve month period along with a brief intro and one sentence explanation for each pick. Apparently great/grind minds think alike, as what he sent along is in the spirit of our printed playlists. Check out Toivainen’s introduction and picks below and feel free to listen along here.

I think it would have been too boring to list the best grind albums or something like that, so I wanted to do something else. Because Rotten Sound is celebrating the band’s 20th anniversary this year, I decided to take a trip back to 1993, the year Keijo [Niinimaa, vocalist] and Mika [Aalto, guitarist] formed the band. I have no idea if they were listening to any of these albums in 1993 (and I was only 10 years old, haha), but I realized there were a bunch of classic albums that came out that year. So here’s what I picked.

Eyehategod’s “Blank” (from Take As Needed For Pain)
This is probably my favorite Eyehategod album. Really heavy and pissed off.

Sleep’s “Dragonaut” (from Sleep’s Holy Mountain)
Black Sabbath worship at its best.

Entombed’s “Wolverine Blues” (from Wolverine Blues)
All of the Entombed albums have their unique touch and this album really brought rock ‘n’ roll to death metal (well, of course there was also Xysma). All time favorite.

Carcass’s “Arbeit Macht Fleisch” (from Heartwork)
Heartwork was actually the first Carcass album I got my hands on. It still has a special place for me, although I listen to Symphonies of Sickness or Necroticism more often when I’m in the mood to blast Carcass. For me this is also the best melodic death metal album, together with Slaughter of the Soul.

Death’s “Overactive Imagination” (from Individual Thought Patterns)
I remember being really blown away by this album. It was the most technical stuff I had heard at that point.

Neurosis’s “Raze The Stray” (from Enemy Of The Sun)
On this album Neurosis was on their way to the perfection that they gained on Through Silver in Blood. Really atmospheric and dark stuff.

Dismember’s “Reborn In Blasphemy” (from Indecent & Obscene)
Can’t get enough Swedish death metal, so I am happy that this was released in 1993. Great songs, great sound and Matti Kärki is one of the best death metal vocalists ever.

Napalm Death’s “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” (from the Nazi Punks Fuck Off EP)
Every playlist has to contain something from Napalm Death, so here you go! I believe this is the only thing they released in 1993.

*Order a copy of Species At War here.

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

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)

Living In The Eighties: Metal Covers The Decade Of Pop

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, listen, lists On: Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

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Since the New Year is the time of self-reimagination (or big promises that aren’t kept) it’s a good day to look back into the storied skeleton closet.

While metal took over the planet in the 1980s via Metallica and Iron Maiden (after Black Sabbath set the stage for a decade) pop ruled the charts. You might have been spinning your brother’s copy of British Steel, if you were even alive, but the rest of the nation was listening to shitshows like Tony Basil’s “Mickey” and Juice Newton’s “Queen Of Hearts.” Nonetheless, there were plenty of interesting gems among 80s pop music later resurrected and given new life by metal artists.

There was a dark undercurrent to certain 80s pop perennials utilized in at least some of the following songs. On the top we offer the originals; on the bottom, the metal reworkings. There have to be more so please add them in the comments. Limp Bizkit (George Michael) and Marilyn Manson (Eurythmics/Depeche Mode) are disqualified. Happy New Year!

—–

Celtic Frost covers Wall Of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio”:
Tom Warrior was always an innovator, taking his music to places that seemed ill-advised if not foolhardy. Who the hell else would open an album with a metal cover of Wall Of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio” four years after the song charted in the United States? The real treat of Celtic Frost’s version is the way Warrior works in his trademark “uhh!” and the goofy voice that says “eating barbequed iguana!” Perhaps a reader can clear up if that’s Martin Ain or Warrior.


—–
Deftones cover Duran Duran’s “Night Boat” and “The Chauffeur”
Dig under the surface of the Deftones catalog and you will find a long-abiding love of the band that released “Wild Boys” and “Union Of The Snake.” Duran squared actually has a solid back catalog, including their influential goth-tinged debut and the chart-topping Rio. Deftones borrowed from both records. Their cover of “Night Boat” accentuates the song’s underlying ominous tone while the “Chauffeur” cover captures the sense of longing and futility oozing from the Duran original. Check out the rare footage of Deftones playing an old hole in the wall in Richmond, Virginia named Twisters.




—–

Fear Factory covers Gary Numan’s “Cars”
Fear Factory was criticized for this cover but could there be a better song for them to reimagine? Numan’s track is a dystopian rant about consumers who are so checked out that they live their entire lives in transit, safe with their air conditioners, radios and oversized coffee mugs. Fear Factory’s music at its best is about what happens when the consumer becomes consumed; man and machine unite and personality disintegrates. Watch The Matrix or read Baudrillard to explore this rabbit hole further. Even better, Numan trades vocals with Burton C. Bell, linking the song directly back to the past.


—–
A.C. covers the ‘Three’s Company’ theme:

Technically this show aired beginning in 1977 but it’s as much a product of the 80s as the 70s, especially with syndication. Also, the A.C. version is done in about 45 seconds. RIP, John Ritter and Seth Putnam. Perhaps they are chatting now on an apartment ottoman in the afterlife.


Say What? Not So Long Long Converge Quotes

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

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Often, there is a lot of left over content that doesn’t quite fit the narrative or direction of a story. Case in point #1: Converge for dB #96. Case in point #2: Throughout the interview process, the members of Converge had rad stories to tell, but somehow the quotes never quite made the cut. So, this is a little like looking back—on Converge’s newest album, All We Love We Leave Behind—and peering into the future—Converge will headline Decibel‘s 100th Issue Jubilee on January 19th—with one of the magazine’s favorite bands.

THE ROARING ’90s
Jacob Bannon: “I think we’re pretty under the radar. We’re a weird band to get into. We’re too punk for the hardcore kids. We’re too hardcore for the metal kids. We’re too weird for the punk kids. We don’t really get a typical audience. We challenge all those sub-genres. As people, we came up during a really inspiring time for independent and aggressive music. When we started this band—I was 12 or 13-years old—we had thrash occurring in its heyday, the Golden Age of hardcore, we were around for the rise of the second wave of black metal, the rise of contemporary punk, and the rise of indie music from bands like Slint and Sunny Day. We were there to see the later era Dischord bands—like Hoover—come around. We took it all in. The same day. I remember driving around in Kurt’s car. We’d listen to Fugazi, and I’d be like, ‘Oh hey, I got this album called Forest of Equilibrium.’ We’d drive around in his old station wagon listening to Cathedral, but I remember his tape deck was broken. It’d flip sides randomly. You couldn’t even tell it was a different song. [Laughs] Earache, at the time, was releasing their most important records. On any given day, we were listening to Cathedral, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, or Entombed. Our band is weird amalgamation of things. I don’t know if bands get that any more. There’s so music that’s derivative of other things. There’s not much out there that’s wholly inspired or truly unique. We don’t sound like a lot of bands because of that.”

WHAT’D HE SAY? EXTREME GLOSSOLALIA
Jacob Bannon: My vocal style—that I happen to like—is borrowed from bands like Rorschach, The Accüsed and Starkweather. These emotional, really abrasive vocalists. It’s kind of a rarity now. When we were coming up down there were tons of bands that had that same approach. Groundwork and Honeywell. I see criticism of our band, and it’s one of the things they comment on. Like ‘It could be great if I could understand the vocalist.’ I have to wonder if they really get aggressive music. When I was sitting in math class—pretending to pay attention—listening the first Deicide record I couldn’t understand anything except the “Dead by Dawn” chorus. [Laughs] I’m a massive fan of John Tardy. He made it an art form not to say anything. But it was beautiful. He made it this awesome thing. I remember being turned onto Diamanda Galás and more experimental music. They kind of opened my eyes on how vocals were treated. So, yeah, it’s either kind of cute or incredibly sad that people don’t get our band. It’s a little bit of both.

EVERY MORON HAS A VOICE
Jacob Bannon: The voice thing, I go back and forth on. I was watching this documentary the other day. They touched upon the fact that you used to go to a show or a festival and you were the audience. Now, it’s changed. The perception has changed. They go, they pay, but they’re the artist. They’re there to document their experience as an artist, and then reflect it as a critic or blogger. It’s not about your emotional outpouring or performance. It’s more about their perception of it and their recording of it. To me, that becomes a little strange. A sense of entitlement emerges. You’re not afforded that opportunity as an artist. Sure, you can go to their blog and see photos or read what they wrote, but you can’t be critical of it as an artist. The sheer volume of information is overwhelming. Everyone’s a journalist. And that’s where I draw the line a little. Not everyone should have a voice ’cause, let’s face it, not everyone has something really relevant to say. There are writers and bloggers out there that I read on a daily basis. I think they’re really interesting, but the sea of crap out there is overwhelming. That’s the main issue with the Internet. It’s this open forum for everything. What ends up weeding out people from the Internet is time. There aren’t many people willing to work on their own time for long periods of time. They’re not truly inspired. You see that a lot. Blogs three years ago will have 65 posts and slowly it’s less and less. Then, it’s like two posts in a year. Then, no activity. True artists, writers, or creators will stay dedicated to something for longer than a year. But this is just my opinion. I’m completely aware these are subjective opinions that I’m making. For example, I find music that’s offensive to my personal tastes all the time, but I don’t go to message boards and say, ‘God this is the worst thing! These people should have their vans flipped over, they should explore and their family should die.’ That doesn’t appeal to me. I change the record. I don’t like the hyper-critical aspect of specific sub-cultures. I don’t acknowledge it. I think truly creative people don’t have time for it. I have friends on a regular basis that are affected by these things. They say, ‘Have you read this?!’ A lot of times I just don’t care. It’s an opinion of your band or your art, but it doesn’t matter. What does matter if it brought you emotional or creative fulfillment when you created it. That’s it. I mean, once you release a record you lose ownership of it. For example, the day Led Zeppelin released Houses of the Holy, the songs were no longer wholly their own. The intention, the emotional content, how people will connect with them, how people will relate to those songs in their own lives are things you don’t have control over. You might as well not even reflect on it. Do I get pissed about somebody interpreting my music or art in the wrong way? No. I can’t spend the rest of my life correcting them or how my art should be perceived? No. That’s pretentious bullshit. I’d rather put out something, make it cut and dry as possible, and if I get something positive out of it, then great. That’s the measure of success. It’s not how many records you sell or how many people you connect with on social media. If you want to keep that as pure as possible, then it’s best to not acknowledge criticisms or praise of what you do.

ALWAYS PERSONAL
Jacob Bannon: All the subject matter is personal subject matter. I felt the need to get out there in an artistic way. Stuff I didn’t need in me anymore. I use art and music for that purpose. I mean, how many death metal records have celebratory titles? You don’t have Corpsegrinder Fisher writing about getting a new puppy. I think a lot of the trouble comes when you start channelizing music. Look at us or Cannibal Corpse or some random political-punk band A or B. They’re not wholly defined by what they put out there. That’s not their whole life. People will identify with you. People will identify with the darkness you’re feeling. A common bond can be established that way. As far as our titles and our art are concerned, the new title just felt really powerful to me. It summed up a lot of feelings in a small fragmented sentence. That’s why I wanted it to be the album title.

BANNON THE DESTROYER? OR BARBARIAN? YOU CHOOSE
Jacob Bannon: I co-own Deathwish. That takes a lot of time. I enjoy doing that immensely. It’s not an enormous cash machine like kids think it is. It’s a positive place for people. I create fine art. I do the band. I do solo work. I’m a licensed MMA judge in the state of Mass. Even though they’re all entrepreneurial efforts, I need them all to get by. It’s a typical middle-class American story. It’s relatively simple to become poor but incredibly hard to become rich. But it’s harder to stay in the middle. I didn’t come from money. I put myself through school. I just finished paying for school last year, and I graduated in ’98. Sometimes I think about what would I be like if I did this or that in 25 years? That’s hard, too. I’m so wrapped up in what interests and motivates me now. If I wanted I wanted to make money, I’d quit everything I’m doing and get a corporate design job. I’m definitely qualified for it. But I’d be so unhappy as a person. I don’t think I can work that way.

** Converge’s new album All We Love We Leave Behind is out now. Order it HERE. Converge is on the cover of dB #96. Order it HERE. Converge is playing Decibel‘s 100th Issue Jubilee on January 19th. Get tickets HERE.

INTERVIEW: Scott Ian speaks words about his “Speaking Words” tour

By: jonathan.horsley Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, December 31st, 2012

Scott Ian

Anthrax main-man Scott Ian isn’t about to quit metal and hit the after-dinner speaking circuit or anything, at least not just yet. But following a successful one-off spoken word show in London last November he has booked a 16-date spoken word tour of the UK. He’s calling it Speaking Words, because a spoken word tour sounds too “fancy pants”, and it’ll give him a chance to air some of the stories accrued over a 30-plus year career as a touring musician. Who knows: this could be the start of something big, Scott Ian as a stand-up comic or talk show host. Who knows But if not, well, it’ll be pretty cool to hear all about how Anthrax’s ordinarily inflappable riff-master ended up with a load of shit in his pants the first time he met Lemmy, and all that sort of thing.

Have you gone mad, public speaking is terrifying?
Scott Ian:
“Y’know it’s weird, I know a lot of people are terrified but I don’t find public speaking terrifying for some crazy reason. Maybe there is something wrong with me [laughs].

Is this something you’ve wanted to do for a while?
Scott Ian:
“Yeah, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve always been trying to figure out how can I do this, how would I ever make this possible. I’ve seen Rollins do it all these years; I saw Rollins, maybe on the first time he ever did a tour I went to see what it was going to be about. I mean, I am a huge fan of Rollins’ music and I had read all his books at the time, so I really knew that he had a point of view and something he needed to express and he did it really well. It’s something that I always wanted to do and I finally had the opportunity this year; doing this one-off show in London. I was approached by the band’s agent, who basically put it together, and asked, ‘Are you interested in doing this?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely. I’ve been kinda waiting for this to happen but I didn’t know how to kick-start it.’ I did the one show in London and I enjoyed myself so much, I had such a good time with it that I was like, ‘Can I do more of this? How do we do more of this?’ They came back and said, ‘There’s a lot of interest in it, do you wanna do a tour?’ I was like, ‘Sign me up! Let’s find a window when it works and go and do it.’”

Where did you get the material from? Was it something that you had sketched out in advance?
Scott Ian:
“No! I did absolutely zero rehearsal. I didn’t even know how to prepare for it, truthfully. The show was booked months in advance, and I had all these months to think about it, and think, ‘Okay, I’m going to put a whole show together . . . ‘ Because I am friends with a lot of stand-up comedians and a lot of writers, and I am a big fan of comedy and certainly live stand-up comedy. I’ve seen my friends do it and I think that it’s the most challenging thing in the world just to sit down, write jokes, get on stage and make people laugh. I mean, I think that’s the hardest thing in the entertainment industry. It doesn’t get any more raw than that, and I am certainly not a joke writer nor am I a stand-up comedian but I just feel that my life is in so many ways ridiculous. The last 32 years of my life spent in a metal band; I’ve got so many stories, whether it’s shit that I’ve done, people that I’ve met, stories that I know from other people . . . I’ve kinda been in this bubble for so long. I sit around in bars with my friends and I’ll get around to telling stories, as we all do, and most of my friends are in this industry or connected to it somehow, so we all have stories and we all sit down and tell stories to each other and crack each other up. I always felt that people need to hear this stuff. This shit is hilarious. It’s just a really fun thing for me to do, to relate to people on that level. That’s what it is. That’s what the material is; it’s shit that I have been through in my life.”

How much of it is biographical?
Scott Ian:
“I don’t go as far back as the whole, ‘I grew up in New York and this is what happened to me as a child . . .’ It’s not that. Maybe someday I’ll get into that but right now it’s just a lot of crazy stories and crazy shit, and just stuff to share that I think an audience of people who are a fans of my band would be interested in. In fact, you certainly don’t have to be a fan of my band or a metal fan because the stories are just so inherently ridiculous [laughs], and inherently funny, that it doesn’t matter if you listen to this kind of music. Some of it is about me meeting my heroes through the years . . . If you have any sense of humor at all I tend to think that you’ll find some humor in this.”

How did the London show go?
Scott Ian:
“At the London show, I did no rehearsal and I kept getting more and more stressed out about it as it got closer. I was really starting to stress out about it, like, ‘What the fuck am I gonna do? I don’t know how to do this. I have no fucking idea what I am doing. I gotta get on stage in a couple of days.’ And then my wife and I, and my son flew to London and got in about three days before the show. I got in a panic about two days before; I had really no clue. I had planned sharing some stories. I was going to invite my friends over and regale them with my witty tales: I never did any of that. My wife Pearl just said to me, ‘You know these stories. All this stuff is in your brain.’ And that totally calmed me down, ‘cos I do know ‘em, it’s not like I was going to walk on stage and forget everything that had happened to me over the last 30 years.”

And there was a Q&A, too, right?
Scott Ian:
“I winged it. I mean, I just walked on stage and an hour-and-a-half flew by. So I said, ‘All right, let’s do Q&A.’ And that added almost another hour on because people ask questions and those questions lead me down other paths and they open other doors to tell stories. And I had been pretty clear about it, people could ask me anything they want.”

Is that not a bit dangerous? Was there not something that you’d dread getting asked?
Scott Ian:
“No. I don’t care. If it’s something I don’t wanna answer I’ll say, ‘Sorry! I’m not answering that one.’ It’s hard for me to imagine what someone would ask that I would be afraid of answering.

Can you see this Speaking Words business taking your career to weird new places, like Rollins. Could you see yourself acting or writing?
Scott Ian:
“Well I pretty much write all the time. I think the actual impetus for me to start to stand up in front of people and do this was I started compiling a lot of these stories earlier this year, and like writing them out long-form, literally typing them out, because someday I will do a book so I might as well start now having all these stories and anecdotes and things like that . . . In case I ever forget. I’ll already have that part [of the book] done. And it was kinda during that that I thought it would be fun to share this with people, get on stage and talk to people about it but still not really having any idea of how to do that because . . . Well I guess I could have called my agent and said, ‘Hey, I want to do a spoken word show.’ And we could have worked it out. But it just seemed so out of the ballpark. It’s just weird how it worked out that my agent put on these three shows; they did one with me, one with Chris Jericho, and one with Duff McKagan. It was just his idea to do this, that all three of us had something to say, and I was like, ‘God, this is such perfect timing for you to come up with this idea. I’m always writing, and I already do write for DC Comics; I’ve got one series for them about Lobo and I am writing another one about The Demon, so I always get to write. As far as acting? That’s a whole different ball game. Of course, I would love to try it, but, [laughs] I’m not going to go out there and start going to acting classes, going on auditions. That’s not something that I am interested in at all. But if the producers of The Walking Dead called me and said, ‘We want you to be on the show’ I’d go do it and figure it out as I went but it’s not something I am actively pursuing or anything like that.”

Of course you’ve already appeared on The Walking Dead, albeit briefly.
Scott Ian:
“Yeah, but that’s pretty easy though! For me it was, anyway; I have been dreaming about that my whole life.”

**Scott Ian’s Speaking Words tour kicks off on 24 May 2013 at O2 Academy, Oxford
www.Scott-Ian.com**

Top 5 Funeral Doom Songs

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Monday, December 31st, 2012

cemetery_funeraldoom_decibel_2012

It is time to celebrate the death of 2012 with the Top 5 Funeral Doom Songs (of all time, perhaps). There is no rhyme or reason to this list, actually. Just five songs that always find their way home during the long cold nights of winter. If it’s not snowing or cold as a medieval cellar where you live, then move!


5. Esoteric – Beneath This Face
The Brits have long been at the business of making mind-altering, highly repetitive (a funeral doom weighting trait, I believe) despondent stuff since the mid ’90s, when they released a 2CD mind-fuck called Epistemological Despondency. And they’ve been on a slow roll since, releasing Paragon of Dissonance last year to much (about 10 people worldwide) acclaim and appreciation. “Beneath This Face” comes off the The Maniacal Vale effort. One word: vocals. Otherwordly menace. A song for Sauron’s funeral, perhaps?


4. Evoken – Descent Into Chaotic Dream
The Americans have been at it far longer than most Finns, which is a feat in and of itself. But Evoken have, it seems, aged gracefully. Regally, in fact. “Descent Into Chaotic Dream” is off Evoken’s Decibel-approved Atra Mors full-length. Part My Dying Bride, Part Monumentum, all Evoken, it’s the kind of song for late nights looking at stars or down at fresh graves. Either way, transcendental!


3. Shape of Despair – In The Mist Part 1
One of the newjack funeral doom outfits to come out of Thergothon, Skepticism and Unholy’s loins, Shape of Despair met with wild applause when they launched Shades of… in 2000. Fronted by funeral doom heir apparent Jarno Salomaa and sided by the ever-amazing Tomi Ullgrén, the Finns went on to produce three full-lengths before going dormant. They’re still active in a Finnish way. Anyway, this song is beautiful. It haunts every second. Like an undead waltz with some HP Lovecraft monster on vocals. Miika “Azhemin” Niemelä would only be on Shades off… sadly. He’s rumored to be living a life of solitude in Northern Finland. Now, that’s the lifestyle!


2. Colosseum – Towards The Infinite
I’m partial to “Saturnine Vastness” off debut Chapter 1: Delirium, but “Towards The Infinite” gets a nod for being the first funeral doom song with an official, label-sanctioned video. Short by Colosseum standards, the song, however, carries the Finnish funeral doom torch, but instead of being sparse and limited in scope, it’s wide open thanks to Juhani Palomäki’s (RIP, bro!) classical compositional touch. That it sounds like a Morbid Angel song (off Covenant, I think) slowed and throwed to near death is truly Finnish icing on the coffin. And again, the vocals. Palomäki abyssal growl is like no other. Full of emotion, hate, despair. Believe!


1. Thergothon – Who Rides The Astral Wings
The point of origin. The dark of darkness. The pit of space. Finns Thergothon (Hall of Famers if they’re to be found, I think) started it all. Well, Skepticism was there, too. But somehow Thergothon’s debut album, Stream from the Heavens, resonated and became a cult classic. An expensive one, too, before the reissues landed. It’s tough to argue which Thergothon track elicits the most funereal response, but “Who Rides The Astral Wings” is only song to repeatedly make feel like Scott Koerber’s basement has a hidden door to impossibly desolate realms. I know it’s there. I just can’t find it. Scott?!