The Decibel Top 40 Lives! In the King Diamond Issue!

By: andrew Posted in: featured On: Friday, November 15th, 2013

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Unassailable living heavy metal legend. Close personal friend of Anton LaVey (R.I.P.). Internationally certified lab assistant? Believe it or not, all describe the immortal King Diamond, who finally graces the cover of Decibel this month.

The thankfully newly healthy Mercyful Fate/King Diamond ringleader let J. Bennett into his inner occult circle — in the Dallas suburbs, of all places — for a fascinating career retrospective. Ever candid and compelling, the still hungry proto-corpsepainted icon links his historic past to a bright, unwritten future.

Diamond’s visions headline the annual Top 40 Albums of the Year issue, our always controversial rankings of the year’s finest in extreme music. There were plenty of exceptional candidates for the top spot — In Solitude, Gorguts, Inquisition, Carcass, SubRosa — but you’d better hit the webstore to find out before your friends spoil the whole damn thing. And bonus: you’ll want to hear that ripping Toxic Holocaust flexi, too.

STREAMING: Sandrider’s “Champions”

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, listen, tours On: Friday, November 15th, 2013

Sandrider-9 © Kelly O_web

It’s been a busy week of streaming action at the Deciblog and we’re closing it out with yet another premiere.

We’re happy to present the track “Champions” off Sandrider’s forthcoming album Godhead (out November 19). Check out Facebook to learn more about an upcoming appearance on KEXP and get tour dates.

Here’s guitarist and vocalist Jon Weisnewski’s take on the track:

The starting riff on is one that was stuck in my head for weeks before I ever actually even picked up a guitar to play it. It was probably planted in there from listening to Wipers or Drive Like Jehu.

The second chunk of the song where it opens up and goes into the solo was kind of a natural part that materialized as I was playing with the first section. The last section of the song took a while to solidify. The first incarnation was pretty complex, had some weird timing, and unnatural chord changes that you kind of had to force your hands to do. It was a cool progression but once we tried to play it together it felt forced and unintuitive, completely opposite of the rest of the song. So we stripped it way down to its core and I think it was a good call. The song flows much better now.

The song is about those self destructive impulses we all get like: “What if I just punch this guy right now?” or “What if I jump out that window?” The idea hit me while driving over the I-90 bridge, when I had that sudden impulse to just crank the wheel and go into Lake Washington. I’m not depressed or suicidal at all, but those thoughts just hit you out of nowhere all the time. The lyrics are kind of saying that if we all knew someone actually did it based on that split second impulse they’d probably go down in history as some kind of urban legend champion.

Preorder Godhead from Good To Die Records.

BREWTAL TRUTH: Drink Real Ale…Or Not

By: adem Posted in: featured, liver failure On: Friday, November 15th, 2013

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We know, we know, this Trooper beer is old news. You’ve seen a bazillion blog posts on every metal website in the internetiverse about it and maybe, if it’s available where you live, you’ve even tried it. It’s an Iron Maiden beer, so of course you have. But it’s actually more than a typical “big-name band slaps logo on piss-colored fizz water lager and calls it good.” This is, in fact, the measured opposite (at least in some regards) of that. First of all, it’s an ale—so big ups for that, at least—and that separates it from Motörhead and AC/DC’s own predictable pale lagers.

The English have an interesting relationship with beer in general. On the plus side of the ledger, many iconic styles—pale ale, India pale ale, porter and stout—were created there centuries ago. On the minus side, for much of the last several decades bland, pale lagers have been the beer of choice in England. We went to a traditional pub in London in the late ’90s and were horrified to find most people in the bar holding a bottle of Budweiser. The popular infatuation with pale lagers became so great it threatened to wipe out the English brewing tradition of real ale (also known as cask ale).

So, what the hell is real ale? It sounds like a term Manowar might come up with, but it’s meant to indicate an ale—and it can be pretty well any style of ale—that is brewed and served in a really traditional way. Two of the characteristics—a lack of big carbonation and a less-than-frigid serving temp—can be off-putting to us North Americans who insist all beer should be ice cold and really fizzy. Basically a real ale is brewed, put into a cask (a keg) without being filtered and pasteurized, and then a dose of yeast (and sometimes sugar) is added to start a secondary fermentation that creates all the carbonation the beer will have. Since no added gas (carbon dioxide or nitrogen) is used to fizz it up and propel it through a draft line, casks can be set up on bars and tapped so that gravity does the work of getting it out of the cask, or it can be drawn up (if the cask is stored away) with a hand pump. And, yes, the “proper” English way to serve this brew is at cellar temp, which isn’t room temp, but it isn’t “chilled” either.

The benefits of cask beer or real ale are that it is beer in its more unprocessed and “natural” form and thus tastier. When beer is filtered and pasteurized, a good bit of the flavor is wiped out. It’s basically no longer alive. Bringing this all back to Iron Maiden’s Trooper beer—which real ale fan Bruce Dickinson apparently helped develop—if you were to find this beer on draft in a pub in England, it would be cask ale and it would probably taste markedly different than this bottled version, which has definitely been filtered and likely pasteurized so that no unwanted secondary fermentation occurred. Secondary fermentation is good when it’s intentional, but not so good when it happens because an unfiltered beer wasn’t kept cool and the yeast comes to life again in an unexpected way.

The bottled Trooper beer looks nice, smells decent—floral, citrus and grainy malt notes—and tastes fairly innocuous to our North American palate. Style-wise it’s probably closest to an ESB, but it is quite light bodied. For a band that makes music that’s complex, intricate and deep, this is rather pedestrian. Certainly not bad, like that AC/DC beer that was foisted on the Canadian market, but just a bit lacking in intensity and depth. Though we’re not the biggest fan of real ale—again, probably a cultural thing—we can’t help but think that Trooper in a cask would rock a little harder.

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

Year of No Light: Full Album Stream!

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, listen On: Friday, November 15th, 2013

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In just two weeks, French sexies… uh… sextet Year of No Light will release their 3rd official full-length record, Tocsin, through Debemur Morti Productions.  Caught somewhere between bludgeoning metal bluster and chamber orchestra sound sculpture, Tocsin arrives three-and-a-half years after the band’s last official studio album, Ausserwelt (though only a few months after their soundtrack project Vampyr).  There’s a lot of doom here, both in pacing, tonality and instrumentation, but sweeter sides exist as well.  This is instrumental music meant to carry you to other worlds within yourself, and it leaves all torturous virtuosity for somebody else’s band.

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But why wait two weeks?  You can get a full stream of the album now through DMP’s Bandcamp site, and after checking it out, you can pre-order your own copy here at www.eitrin.com.  And beneath the album stream, you can check out the band’s track-by-track explanation of their most recent work.

Enjoy your Friday!  Enjoy Year of No Light’s Tocsin!

Tocsin (words by Pierre): A sepulchral incantation seeking for vengeance with a majestic and mournful vibe. The heavy monolithic riffing strengthens the ritual aspect of the narration. It’s also the first song we wrote when we started to work on the album. We wanted something heavy and crushing with a funeral doom atavism. The last portion of the track is also an unintended tribute to a band we all cherish.

Géhenne (words by Jérôme): A simple, melodic and straightforward song, very similar to its demo version. A noisy yet melodic maelstrom highlighting some of our influences:  raw punk rock (MC5 & Stooges), primitive black metal (Darkthrone) and  abrasive noise (Deity Guns, Sonic Youth). In three words: intensity, trance and climax.

Désolation (words by Jérôme): Géhenne’s antithesis, with a lot of attention paid to arrangements and sustained by the use of brass instruments. Désolation is a topic example of the band’s bipolarity. It is like a canticle closing the first part of the record, with an introspective and epic vibe.

Stella Rectrix (words by Mathieu): To my ears, it’s like if 4AD had released a doom record in the mid-80’s. And it’s like a music-lover’s dream… All the bass foundation is played on a minimoog and the lead on a sickened string machine. So, it’s pretty much a perverted electronic track. Something we wanted to experiment on this record.

Alamüt (words by Pierre & Jérôme):  An involuntary anticosmic anthem. This fucking track haunted us for months and almost drove us mad. It also proceeds from one of the most destructured writing process we ever faced. Alamüt went through a lot of incarnations, but we had to burn them. This was chaotic, painful and absurd. It’s probably the most destabilizing song of the album, where droning/neurasthenic krautrock meets over harmonized climax and salutary chorus. The last portion of the track is like…well…think of a bunch of retards with insane minds playing some György Ligeti.

STREAMING: Puig Destroyer’s “First To Third”

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, listen On: Thursday, November 14th, 2013

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Any devoted reader of Decibel and the Deciblog knows that most of the folks here are passionate about grindcore and baseball. So there’s no better way to mourn the end of the season and prepare for the long wait for spring training than a new Puig Destroyer track.

Stream “First To Third” below — it will take you about as long as running to first base.

The album Wait For Spring will be released digitally on November 19. You can get a copy here.

While you are it make sure to check out the their first seven-inch, available on vinyl.

An Interview with Obelyskkh (In Which We Only Bug Them About Their Band Name on One Occasion)

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, interviews, uncategorized On: Thursday, November 14th, 2013

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Germany’s Obelyskkh may have one of the oddest monikers in extreme music today, but just as their choice of band name tests all parts of your pronunciation apparatus, so does their music cover all bases in the world of psychedelic, stoner, sludge, doom rock and metal on new record, Hymn to Pan out on Exile on Mainstream Records. They’ve even thrown in a little bit of influence from the likes of Tragedy and From Ashes Rise, with the latter’s Brad Boatright doing the mastering for this, the band’s third album. What follows is an email interview conducted with guitarist/synth player Stuart “The WhizKid” West, which is about as Teutonic sounding a name if there ever was one, eh?

When you first started, it was reported that you were getting all kinds of hassle from the stoner/doom/sludge community for taking three years to release your debut (that the stoner/doom community is giving anyone shit about being late or taking their time is hilariously ironic). Since then, you’ve issued three albums in three years. What has flicked the prolific switch for you?
Well, we are not in a hurry, but we are easily bored. We get bored playing the same shit at every rehearsal. It’s much more fun to create new songs and atmospheres compare to act like a robot and practice the same lame riff over and over and over again. We’ve already finished three new songs for our fourth unnamed album. We have also alot ideas for a EP …. not regular songs more like something connected to Pink Floyds Ummagumma album. Let´s see whats happens in the next few years.

Seriously, could you have picked a more difficult band name to spell or pronounce? For those of us too lazy to look it up (i.e. probably the stoner/doom community), what does the band name refer to? I’m thinking it’s a made up word, but what do I know? Do you find people negatively reacting to it?
First there was the simple idea to call the band Acid Obelisk – yes, this was a very dumb generic idea. Then, we tried to create something “unique” and suddenly there was the name OBELYSKKH born. Sniffin’ glue is the key to the fountain of strange ideas. The name Obelyskkh stands for monolithic hymns; the freedom of creativity. We try create your own microcosmos of heavy tunes. By the way, we don’t give a shit how people reacting to our style, name or ideas. If we like our ideas, then is everything ok. I hope I don’t disappoint all the lovers of anticosmic and occult music too much with my lame stories.

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What were you looking to achieve/do different on Hymn to Pan than past albums? Do you feel you achieved your goal? How would you characterise the new album compared to your others?
There is no goal, there is only a flow, and Hymn to Pan has got the flow. If this album would be food, it would taste like a mix between raw, ground meat and whipped cream. The first album, Mount Nysa was full of stoner and retro stereotypes; it was more naive compare to the harsh and heavy White Lightnin’ album. White Lightnin’ was loud – Hymn to Pan is more dynamic. “Less weed more speed” like J.Mascis said.

What, if any, non-musical influences went into the new album’s song writing and/or recording process? Did you find that playing live and touring impacted your song writing in any way?
Woitek, our singer/guitar player, stays a lot at home and read books. He is inspired by Ginsberg, Burroughs, Bukowski and personalities like Manson, Crowley, Albert Hoffmann, Jesco White, Jodorowsky….. Steve, our drummer, is a very neutral person he likes everything and nothing that means totally no inspirations, but he can drum like a machine. Dirty Dave is a loner. He finds his inspiration when he spend weeks alone somewhere in the Franconian mountains in a small cabin. I´m possessed by vintage wrestling and old movies from the seventies. Touring and live situations have totally no influence on our song writing. If you listen to live clips of us, every time we play the ground structure of the song, but all the details are improvised – freedom and chaos. That’s the key to writing songs. We hate scene dogmas.

Was the writing process for the new album any different than the past? If so, were you at all worried about stepping away from a routine and having the result not be up to par? On the same note, if the process was the same as the past, have you ever wanted to shake things up to see what might come out of the band when writing?
Our style to write songs is still the same; one band member comes with a idea/riff and everybody hates this idea – haha! Then, we start to give the riff structure, make it better and zaaaaaaaap there is suddenly a new song born. That’s real witchcraft!!!!

deciblog - obelyskkh orgy

Hymn to Pan has a crustier feel than I remember you having in the past. Do you think that was in any part due to your working with Brad Boatright? Or is it because of your wealth of American influences that you seem to have more of than your peers? What did Brad bring to the new album that you were both expecting and not expecting?
Well, Brad wasn’t the only one involved in this album. He the did the mastering. Our friend Andi Naucke did the mix. The combination Naucke/Boatright is also planned for the future. Both guys understand our sound. We are our own inspiration; we don’t need producers or bullshit like this. All ideas, sounds came from us. We are not copycats, it´s so lame to be a ripoff of some occult/post/whatever beard/hipster bullshit. By the way, the work with Brad/Audiosiege was killer. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

Is the artwork you use directed by you guys or do you give the artist free reign to go nuts and do whatever (s)he wants? What have the reactions been like to the chosen art, especially the new cover and the orgy scene?
The artwork was made by the great and unique Sebastian Feld/Marginal Ink. He is a wizard. His work fit perfectly to our music. We gave him the artwork and only a few buzzwords like “Pan,” “Orgy,” “Wood,” “Decay.” We trust him a lot and this is the second time that we’ve worked with him. He is more like a fifth band member.

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Decibrity Playlist: SubRosa (Part 1)

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Subrosa Photo 2 (Color) – DSC_5542-5 comp

I live a mere 2,200 miles due east of Salt Lake City, so needless to say I’m not too familiar with many musical happenings there (other than Gaza, RIP). Fortunately, Rebecca Vernon and the rest of SubRosa were more than happy to educate me about their hometown via the quintet’s SLC music playlist. I’ll let the guitarist/vocalist take it from here: “SubRosa is a product of the Salt Lake music scene and we like to take any opportunity we can to brag about our friends. There is no way to list all the bands and songs fomented from Utah’s dark, moist spawning grounds which inspire us (Red Bennies, Settle Down, Night Sweats, Puri-Do, Spork (who I used to drum for), Eagle Twin (Southern Lord), Gaza (Black Market Activities), Dwellers (Small Stone), Iota (Small Stone), Visigoth (Metal Blade), Ether (Extreme – the same label that puts out Merzbow), Moths, and the list goes on and on), but here are a few tracks from some of our favorite currently active Salt Lake City bands. Each member of SubRosa picked one to a few tracks and wrote about them. It should be noted that the songs we ended up choosing are almost all from albums that our drummer Andy Patterson (also SLC’s most prolific producer) happened to record and produce (except Lindsay Heath’s, recorded by Mike Sassich, and Cult Leader’s, recorded by Wes Johnson).” In fact, the band gave us so many picks that we’re going to spread the SLC love over two weeks.

I have no idea what kind of top 40 list Albert and company have cooked up this year, but for what it’s worth, SubRosa’s More Constant Than The Gods is my favorite album of the year, so please check it out below–you can pick up a copy here. You can also still help the band recover from a devastating robbery by bidding on this Profound Lore eBay auction.

Cicadas’ “There Is No Way Out” (from 2013’s upcoming There Is No Way Out EP)
Cicadas is the project of SubRosa violinist Kim Pack. Although recordings will not be available to the public until later this year, everything Kim does with Cicadas is incredible. Heavy, technical music coming from a violin may be an odd thought until you hear it the way Kim and Anson Bischoff do. They blend breakdowns as heard in hardcore songs with ambient drone and technical metal riffs that make you bang your head off. Two very talented people.–Christian Creek

Cult Leader’s “Mongrel” (from 2013’s upcoming TBA)
Cult Leader is composed of former members of Gaza (Anthony Lucero, Michael Mason, Casey Hansen) with Sam Richards on bass. This video is from their first performance at Shred Shed in Salt Lake City (with Full of Hell, Seven Sister of Sleep and Rile) and it captures Anthony’s raw, emotional vocal delivery with lyrics that evoke animosity, poetic sorrow and modern punk rage. Jagged, unrelenting riffs bludgeon like a meat tenderizer, providing an unruly foundation to the hypnotic destruction.–Rebecca Vernon

Day Hymns’ “Track 1″ (from 2013’s upcoming TBA EP)
Day Hymns has former members of Gaza, Parallax, Iota and Bird Eater. Tapping into a ’90s post-hardcore mindset, Day Hymns is all about the riff, the groove and the message. This is the first track of the new yet-to-be released EP.–Andy Patterson

Gravecode Nebula’s “Abhorrent Absorbent” (from 2013’s Sempiternal Void)
Gravecode Nebula makes other doom metal bands sound like kids with SpongeBob band-aids on their skinned knees, crying in a sandbox. Invoking an unholy atmosphere of swirling guitar and bass that sound as large as the caverns of the bell jar, they ratchet up the blackness at the 6:12 mark of “Abhorrent Absorbent” with some seriously almighty shredding. Gravecode Nebula has been a pillar of the Salt Lake metal scene for many years and played the Denver Doomfest this October alongside Evoken, The Skull, Fister and many others.–R.V.

Huldra’s “Twisted Tongues And Gnarled Roots” (from 2013’s Monuments, Monoliths)
Channeling the thoughtful post-rock/metal leanings of ISIS and Neurosis and maybe a dash of Red Sparowes, “Twisted Tongues and Gnarled Roots” is a good example of Huldra’s ability to cover the gamut dynamically, slowly shapeshifting and building from beautiful guitar-picking and mournful and strangely soothing chanting to all-out urgent yearnings of heavier riffing, silky snare work and growls starting around the 5:50 mark. This song takes me across icy shining tundras to ember-filled hearths in 800s Greenland.–R.V.

INVDRS’ “Worship” (from 2010’s Electric Church)
INVDRS have long held the title of loudest band in Salt Lake City. To see them perform live is to be obliterated and reborn, physically and mentally. INVDRS is Phil White (vocals), Dave Moss (guitar), Gavin Hoffman (drums) and Julie Stutznegger (bass). Julie is a former member of SubRosa, and she and Rebecca played together in all-female SLC punk project Stiletto. Each of the four members are friends of mine, have been in many bands and are SLC music legends in their individual rights. They have honed their craft into an aural missile that seeks the heat in your soul.–Sarah Pendleton

*Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

**Photo by Brandon Garcia

***Order More Constant Than The Gods here.

****Past entries include:

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

STREAMING: Monster Magnet bonus track “One Dead Moon”

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, listen, tours On: Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

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One of the downsides of the staggering amount of album formats these days is finding all the extra tracks. Fortunately, our friends in Hall Of Fame certified Monster Magnet (Dopes for Infinity) are sharing some of the extra goodies on their new album Last Patrol.

Here’s Dave Wyndorf on the bonus track “One Dead Moon,” streaming below: “One Dead Moon is a break-up song, plain and simple. Bittersweet with more than a hint of some unresolved issues. Ah, ain’t love grand?”

Check out Monster Magnet on tour when they come to your town. Connect with the band on Facebook.

11/14: Grand Rapids, MI @ Intersection

11/15: Detroit, MI @ St. Andrews

11/16: Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge

11/17: Minneapolis, MN @ Mill City Nights

11/19: Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater

11/20: Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge

11/22: Seattle, WA @ Neumos

11/23: Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theater

11/24: Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater

11/26: San Francisco, CA @ The Independent

11/27: Los Angeles, CA @ House of Blues

11/29: Tempe, AZ @ Club Red

11/30: Albuquerque, NM @ Launch Pad

12/2: Austin, TX @ Red 7

12/3: Houston, TX @ Fitzgeralds

12/4: Dallas, TX @ Trees

12/6: Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade

12/7: Charlotte, NC @ Amos Southend

12/8: Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Sound Stage

12/10: Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace

12/12: Boston, MA @ Sinclair

12/13: West Chester, PA @ The Note

12/14: New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom

Sucker For Punishment: Go big, or GTFO

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

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This past week I was lucky enough to have young Baltimore thrash phenoms Noisem roll through my part of the world, and while I was already an admirer of the band – Agony Defined is the best thrash album of the year – I was curious to see how their intense yet riffy brand of thrash translated live. The poor folks gathered on the floor of the club, they didn’t know what hit them. They arrived early to see Skeletonwitch and the Black Dahlia Murder, and found themselves face to face with a crazed singer who broke the fourth wall in total hardcore fashion, pacing back and forth on the floor, screaming in people’s faces. There’s none of that in metal, that’s a hardcore thing, I thought derisively, but egads did it have an effect. A few startled people drifted away, but more were drawn by the psychotic spectacle and drifted closer to the stage to experience this band’s blistering music head-on. For a 25-minute opening set it was enormously impressive that a band could summon that much energy and rage at 8:00 in front of 30 people, but Noisem did so in convincing fashion. These kids are for real.

Sadly there’s no thrash this week that even comes close to the quality of Agony Defined, but there are a few good new releases this week, highlighted by the one album that’s been climbing my year-end list the more I hear it.

This week’s essential album:

Vaura, The Missing (Profound Lore): By now everyone should be well aware of the continuing, strangely symbiotic relationship between black metal and post-punk. Either you love it, or you’re sick to death of it. If you’re of the former opinion, Vaura’s second album will blow you away. Led by singer/guitarist Joshua Strawn (formerly of the excellent and woefully misunderstood goth band Blacklist) and written in collaboration with guitarist Kevin Hufnagel (who’s played on an incredible number of great albums in the last couple years), Vaura finds a remarkable middle ground between the two musical styles and combines them in a way that hasn’t done since the dearly missed Amesoeurs did on their first and only album. And incredibly, there’s no compromise on either side: the black metal passages go big, and the gothic melodies, which Strawn has a real gift for, go big. These aren’t shy, melancholy goth hooks like early Cure; there’s some serious, full-blown, Sisters of Mercy/Simple Minds/Gene Loves Jezebel melodrama going on here. We’re talking high-gloss 1986-’87. Gigantic melodies, which, when mixed with the metallic undercurrent, Strawn’s rich singing voice, and his propensity for provocative lyrics, makes for gloomily majestic crescendos you just want to drown in, as on “Incomplete Burning” and “Mare of the Snake”. Because it’s so black and white, so unabashedly devoted to a less “cool” period of post-punk a lot of listeners might ignore, it could be a challenging listen, but like the best metal bands, Vaura does it big, and that daring grandiosity – right down to the gorgeous art design – makes it an enigmatic yet beguiling experience.

Also out this week:

Astrakhan, The Pillarist (self-released): Western Canada is in the midst of quite a metal boom as of late, especially Vancouver, and Astrakhan is the latest to attract attention. Cut from the same cloth as Kylesa, the foursome serves up a confident combination of sludge, prog, and garage rock on this two-song EP, swaggering and throttling one minute, capable of cool psychedelia the next. A very promising band.  Stream and download (name your price) via Bandcamp.

Brutal Truth/Bastard Noise, Axiom of Post Inhumanity (Relapse): If you want to make a record of nothing but racket, just make sure the racket gives listeners the impression that it’s going somewhere. Otherwise you’re just dicking around. With all respect to Bastard Noise and Brutal Truth, whose stature in extreme music is fully deserved, this unbelievably long split CD is 98% dicking around. “Preemptive Epitaph For the Living” is kind of creepy and cool, but that’s it. If you’re a completist for either band, then go ahead buy it, but if not, don’t be a sucker. It’s one of the worst albums of 2013.

Cronian, Erathems (Season Of Mist): The guy from Borknagar teams up with the guy from Vintersorg for a collaboration that should have Viking metal fans salivating, but it turns out to be a compositional mess. Songs feel arbitrarily arranged, unimaginative melodic passages pop in at random moments, with lots and lots of instrumental melodrama and histrionics happening. From the band name, to the artwork, to the music therein, this is utterly, hopelessly forgettable.

Demonical, Darkness Unbound (Metal Blade): We metal writers lit to toss around adjectives like “relentless” and “merciless” willy-nilly, using the words in a positive light, but this is one example where an album is far too relentless for its own good. Severely lacking variety and boasting some truly obnoxious production, the latest by the Swedish death metal band exhausts one’s ears.

Endstille, Kapitulation 2013 (Season Of Mist): When a cover of Sodom’s “Blasphemer” is the only remotely memorable track on your new album, you’ve got a problem.

Epica, Retrospect (Nuclear Blast): It was cool of Epica to stage a lavish, three-hour 10th anniversary concert for their fans, but not surprisingly, as a live album/DVD this is one draining listen. Musically the Dutch band is still very much a work in progress, capable of first-class symphonic metal one minute and agonizingly tedious operatic epics the next, so hearing them plumb the depths of their inconsistent early career gets a bit arduous. Still, when they’re great – yes, Decibel readers, this music can be great – Epica can be tremendous, and tracks like “Unleashed”, “Chasing the Dragon”, and “Storm the Sorrow”, with Simons backed up by a full-blown orchestra, showcase the band at their best.

Exivious, Liminal (Season of Mist): Pretentious, meandering Dutch instrumental prog of the wankeriffic variety that might intrigue technicians but is torturous to the casual listener. With a name like that you’d expect a nod to the old arcade game music, but nope.

Glorior Belli, Gators Rumble, Chaos Unfurls (Agonia): I’m normally not a fan at all of European bands that make obvious attempts at sounding American. We have enough bands over here trying to milk that Southern sound, so why even bother? Just be yourselves. Yet time and again French band Glorior Belli prove to be so good at melding New Orleans-style sludge and black metal, that I find myself begrudgingly making an exception for them time and again. Their fifth album is no different, a furious, entertaining collection of songs that’ll have your head bobbing in no time. Sure, they work that shtick a little too obviously at times (one song references alligators, another crocodiles…pick one, guys), but do so convincingly.

Heart Of A Coward, Severance (Century Media): The second those Meshuggah rip-off riffs kicked in, I was ready to shut this thing off. But the more I let it play, the more I realized the English band brings enough musicality to their brand of deathcore to at least stand slightly above the rest of their sorry-sounding peers. Touches of Deftones creep into the music, they show decent restraint in the aggressive parts, and in the end is a good balance of heavy and melodic. Not too shabby at all.

Lamb Of God, As The Palaces Burn (Razor & Tie): While just falling short of classic status, Lamb of God’s second album remains their best work, one that’s very near and dear to their fans. However, there’s no denying it always sounded a bit odd compared to everything else that came out in 2003, and the reasons why are explained in great detail on the bonus DVD that comes along with this terrific 10th anniversary reissue. Painstakingly restoring and remixing the original tracks, which were severely affected originally transferred from the original hard drive a decade ago, new life has been breathed into this album: drum triggers replaced by Chris Adler’s original recordings, while the guitars and bass have been beefed up significantly. It’s a much more muscular sound – and while the band hates it there’s something to be said about the weird, thinner original mix – but at the same time it doesn’t take away from such Lamb of God masterpieces as “Ruin”, “11th Hour”, and “Vigil”.

Man Must Die, Peace Was Never An Option (Lifeforce): This band’s combination of grindcore vocals, pulverizing Dying Fetus-style death, and melodic death metal always strikes me as disjointed. It’s nimbly performed, but always leaves me feeling the music would be a lot better served if they chose either path instead of both at the same time.

Nocturnal Graves, From The Bloodline Of Cain (Hells Headbangers): The Australians deliver a searing hybrid of thrash, death, and black metal, but it’s all smartly done, mindful of dynamics rather than full-on blasting and shredding non-stop. Consequently, those moments where they do shred – of which there are many – have an even more devastating effect. This is a real gem from Hell’s Headbangers.

Obliteration, Black Death Horizon (Relapse): Here’s the best death metal album of the week. Blasphemous and filthy, yet well arranged and brilliantly paced, with a very strong melodic sensibility underscoring the Norwegian band’s ragged primitivism, which is a bit of a red (pickled) herring in the end. It’s murky, reverb-drenched classicist death metal, bringing absolutely nothing new to the table but showing more passion and vitality than most of their peers do. A fetid pleasure.

Pestilence, Obsideo (Candlelight): You had to think Pestilence’s mediocre 2011 album would be a mere aberration, and that’s indeed the case, as the Dutch death metal veterans have stepped things up considerably on the follow-up. Not only are the songs crisper and surprisingly hooky, but Patrick Mameli brings in small hints of the jazz sound that his band became known for. No, it’s not an opus on the level of Surgical Steel or Colored Sands, but it’s nevertheless a welcome return to form by a respected band..

Satan’s Wrath, Aeons Of Satan’s Reign (Metal Blade): The Greek band arrived with a fair amount of hype a year ago, but to this day I remain cautious about their music. All the ingredients are appealing – plenty of Venom, Bathory, and Mercyful Fate influences can be spotted, and the cartoonish Satanism is a delight – but just like the last album I keep waiting for the songs to grab me like those three aforementioned bands always did, and that’s just not happening often enough. However, “Only Satan is Lord” and “Die White Witch Die” again hint at the potential of very good things to come.

Valkyrja, The Antagonist’s Fire (WTC): Valkyrja’s latest album sneaks in under the radar this week, a far cry from the hype machine of their former Metal Blade, but it’s totally worth looking for, more of the good, straightforward Swedish black metal they excel at.

Vastum, Patricidal Lust (20 Buck Spin): I’m a huge fan of metal bands that actually make an effort to explore lyrical themes that buck convention, and Vastum do just that, delving into sexuality and eroticism in a way that outclasses most ham-handed metal lyricists. The trouble is, we writers, whose job is to assess the music fairly, are always provided with only the music, rarely if ever given the lyrics. So while Patricidal Lust is described as exploring “the anguish and confusion associated with sexual abuse and incest and the blurry area where eroticism and madness vaporize into an unrecognizable fog of horror,” all I can hear is unintelligible death metal grunting and glurping. Musically, this follow-up to 2011’s Carnal Law is excellent, a fairly minimal, almost primitive exploration of the genre with a good balance of melody and murky physicality, but with this band that’s only part of the equation. While I’d like to say the lyrics are provocative and creative, sadly I have no way of knowing. Stream and purchase it via Bandcamp.

Weekend Nachos, Still (Relapse): Hearing an album like this makes you realize just how few hardcore bands there are that create a truly palpable sense of rage in their music. Stylistically Weekend Nachos don’t do anything new at all – the songwriting is actually quite rote – but oh my, does this fourth album ever make a listener want to run through a brick wall.

YOB, Catharsis (Profound Lore): I’m often conflicted about which YOB album is best. I’ve always leaned a little more towards 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, but Profound Lore’s new reissue of the 2003 breakthrough Catharsis just might have convinced me once and for all. Newly remastered and sounding better than it ever has, Catharsis was the moment Mike Scheidt’s brand of doom took a turn towards the towering and the mystical, a multihued, three-song journey through not only doom, but the blues and Asian themes as well. At times it rivals Sleep’s epochal Dopesmoker, but with much more thought-provoking lyrical themes, and accentuated by Scheidt’s soulful, Hendrixian solos. This album has long been out of print, but not only is it important for metal fans who haven’t heard it to get their hands on it, but longtime fans will love how this classic album has been made even better.

Not metal, but worth hearing:

Wooden Shjips, Back to Land (Thrill Jockey): There’s a lot for metal fans to like in Wooden Shjips, especially those who have a weakness for the more psychedelic side of rock. Musically they’re a cross between the Velvet Underground and Can, the simple, hypnotic yet insistent drum beats coming across as motorik as played by Moe Tucker, and always underscored by a steady drone. That backdrop sets a terrific foundation for some wonderfully lugubrious guitar improvisation, not to mention the hazy, mumbled vocals by Ripley Johnson, which have an unmistakable Michael Karoli vibe to them. If Wooden Shjips have a fault, it’s that they don’t make more of an effort to experiment like the Velvets or Can did 45 years ago, but as complacent as they are to just rehash that kaleidoscopic sound, they do it very well, and it’s fun to get temporarily lost in those warm, fuzzy grooves.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

EARTHLESS: “From the Ages” Track-by-Track Breakdown

By: Jeff Treppel Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Photo by C. Saufley

If you haven’t heard Earthless’s From the Ages yet, you are missing out on the best instrumental psych jam album of the year. These guys don’t NEED a vocalist; any singer would just get left behind, abandoned to float off in space forever. The members of the band were kind enough to give a track by track breakdown for us (which, admittedly, wasn’t too hard, considering that there are only four songs), each written by the guy who named the song. So if you haven’t purchased the record yet, this will tell you what you’re missing; if you have, it’ll give you some new insight into the awesomeness. Just to give you a taste, I’ve included the stream of the first tune, but you’ll have to buy it if you want the rest. And you totally should.

 

Track 1: “Violence of the Red Sea” (by Mike Eginton)

“The writing process of “Violence of the Red Sea” began during a time period when the band was not very active. The bass riffs were the outline for the structured portions of the song, which were inspired by a variety of influences ranging from heavy funk tracks to UK/Euro prog-psych bands such as T2, Amon Duul II, and IL Balleto Di Bronzo, among others. The open portion of the song, or the “jam” part rolls along with a more laid back groove, not so much on the attack compared to the first part. The final part of the song is something we’ve had in the vaults for almost 10 years. A simple progression ending up in a sort of “rave up”. We thought it worked well as a cap to the song and also like that it added a little tension at the end. The song was pieced together by Mike and Mario which left Isaiah free range to pretty much do whatever he wished with his guitar. The title of the song reflects the different tempos and riffs colliding together like an angry sea. Also a little ode to Cream’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses”.

Track 2: “Uluru Rock” (by Isaiah Mitchell)

“Uluru Rock was conceived at our Tym Guitars in-store in Brisbane Australia in December of 2012. Mike and I were waiting for Mario to come out of the bathroom and we were just standing up there, staring at each other and at the audience. To break the awkwardness I started playing a riff (now titled Uluru Rock). Mario got on the drums, I told Mike what key I was in and we started off our set with this new jam. We have opened every show since with Uluru Rock. The song was conceived in Australia so it should get a proper Australian name. The name comes from the sacred Aboriginal site also known as Ayers Rock. We honor the natives by calling it Uluru. “

Track 3: “Equus October” (by Mario Rubalcaba)

“This stemmed out of a jam from a few years ago. It originally went into some other parts that were never fully realized. But Mike & I would always still mess around with this bass line when just the both of us would jam. I’m not sure if we were totally planning to use this for the LP or not but we just thought to give it a go to at least have it on tape & to add some stuff onto it. Once Isaiah put some layers & stuff over it, it really started to take on some personality. To me it had this really strong & majestic yet mournful vibe to it. It felt like a death sentence or a sacrifice to something was being handed out. When I discovered the ritual of the “October Horse” and that it was a sacrifice to Mars, it took on the feeling I had about the jam & how it just completely comes crashing down so abruptly at the end.

Track 4: “From the Ages” (by Mario Rubalcaba)

“This has to be our most structured piece that we have ever done IMO. At the time when it was being written (2008) I was listening to a lot of Captain Beyond (or anything Bobby Caldwell), Cactus & Discharge.

To me this giant slice o’ pie has all the toppings. A supreme psycho-delic buffet served up with all the sour Kraut, all the freshest sushi Japan has to offer & what not. The more we would jam it, the more things would get added onto it & we would just keep going back to this repetitive riff that would make us laugh because it was just so “hammer over the head” how long we would drag it out. There’s a little bit of punkness in there too that would really accelerate Isaiah’s leads. The feel of the song had this pre-historic, caveman, dry & mysterious wasteland feel to it… I felt it was “from the ages” so that was what I proposed to name it. I feel that Alan Forbes’ artwork captures it to a T!”

***From the Ages is out now courtesy of Teepee. Visit their Facebook page here. Grab the CD here or double LP here.