…Gaza fucking rule. The Salt Lake City ragers have a new album, entitled No Absolutes in Human Suffering, in the starting blocks and set to explode all over your faces on July 31st, courtesy Black Market Activities. Having just returned home last week from the opening slot on the Corrosion of Conformity/Torche/Black Cobra tour, the quartet is presently counting the heads on their walls and planning their next move, not for world domination, but to slay everyone in their wake with their “violent humanism,” harsh observations and sarcasm along with a wall of marrow crushing sludge/grind.
Thusly, we give you a sneak peek at a new track. Entitled “The Truth Weighs Nothing,” we’ve included vocalist Jon Parkin’s lyrics to give you an idea of what the song is about and why it’s obvious the band nicknamed it “Tebow.”
It sure was nice of Jesus to take time away from ignoring
Ethnic cleansing genocide and famine bloated children.
Or regrowing limbs for landmine victims
To help you score that touchdown
To help you find your keys
To help you land that promotion.
Is it that he can’t? Or is it that he won’t?
Wake up. Wake the fuck up.
The truth weighs nothing. Travel light. Be unburdened.
We spend a lot of time talking to artists—whether in blog posts or in each month’s issue—and rightfully so. After all, they put their blood, sweat and tears into making the music that brings us together. We haven’t necessarily dedicated a lot of space to the people actually putting out those releases, however, so we figured now was as good of a time as any to start finding out more about the minds behind some of our favorite record labels.
First up is Shelsmusic‘s Mehdi Safa. We first came across Safa’s main band *shels last year when their second full-length, Plains Of The Purple Buffalo, completely blew us away. We quickly discovered that not only is Safa a man of many talents—vocalist, guitarist, producer, artist, etc—but he runs a label that is home to a rather diverse roster, including Down I Go, Brother/Ghost and of course its namesake. So we sent Safa (who was also in the now defunct Mahumodo) ten questions that he was kind enough to answer, the first five of which you can find below. Stay tuned for part two next week.
What person/people are involved in the label and how did it get started?
I run the label out of my home in Temecula, CA with help from a lot of friends and family from around the world. I started Shelsmusic in 1998 to help release music for my own band Mahumodo. We had reached a point in 2001 when we were getting interest from major labels and some decent independents, but all the deals were terrible, not to mention extremely predatory. It was clear that all we needed from a label was money and help with PR and touring. At the time, I believed we could do it all ourselves, so we each chipped in and self-financed our first EP. When it sold out, the money went into our next record, and things slowly started to grow. I spent most of my time trying to get shows and reviews, and thanks to the help of a few good promoters and zines, we eventually had a bit of a break and things started moving forward. By 2003, I was set on growing the label and helping other bands get off the ground in the same way Mahumodo did. And at this point, I’ve built a good network of friends who are willing to help review our releases and help with shows.
While your band *shels has a home on the label that bears its name, how do you go about finding new acts to sign?
We receive CDs in the mail quite regularly and get lots of emails from bands looking for help. But our roster is comprised mostly of bands that I have been introduced to through friends, bands or touring. I listen to everything I get, no matter how long it takes me to get around to it. Oddly enough, I recently received an email from a French band looking for help with its debut album, and they’re incredible. We’re wrapping up an agreement this week and hopefully we’ll be able to announce them as our newest signing.
What effect(s) do you think being in a band has on how you deal with the artists on your label and approach the business in general?
It helps a ton—there’s more understanding and less pressure, and communication usually goes very smoothly. I understand exactly what the concerns of a musician are and should be, and I also understand that the show won’t go on unless you can pay to hire a tour van. You have to be a bit of a business hippy if you have long term visions, and that’s exactly what we are in it for, and what we devote to our bands is a long term goal and vision. We like working with bands who are in love with music and see themselves doing it as long as they are able. We’re not so keen on folks in it to be part of a trend, etc.
What have you found to be the most effective means of communicating and interacting with fans of the music that you put out?
Facebook has been the main one, but last.fm is another great way. We also have a mailing list that we use to interact with our friends and give away a lot of free shit. I mail out all the merch orders, and I remember the names of the folks who order and reorder from us, so it’s not difficult to figure out who our closest supporters are—many have been involved with us since the late ’90s and Mahumodo—and it’s super important to us that they get the best we can deliver in everything we do.
You just re-released *shels’ debut album in a limited edition vinyl pressing. Tell us a little bit about how that came about, what kind of work goes into a project like that and your views on vinyl as a medium to distribute/package your music. I’ve wanted to release vinyl since day one, but I’ve never understood how labels can do it without going bankrupt! Unfortunately, we’ve had to be patient and build our following over the years to the point where vinyl made sense financially without it being the end of the label. Our vinyl story started around 2008/2009 with Admiral Angry. They were working on a new EP and Daniel Kraus, who was Admiral’s frontman and main driving force—an incredible artist who did the artwork for Black Sheep Wall’s debut album—was very keen to have their new EP A Fire To Burn Down The World released on vinyl. It was financially impossible for us at the time, so we settled on doing limited edition hand screen printed digipaks. Unfortunately, he passed away before the band even got to record the EP—he was only 21 and had been struggling with cystic fibrosis. Since it was his wish for the EP to be on vinyl, we honored that and made sure that no matter what, we’d do it on vinyl. And that was our first vinyl release.
The next one was *shels’ Plains of the Purple Buffalo, which was a complete shocker and happened through Facebook. Fans started posting on our wall that they wanted a vinyl version, so we figured that we’d need at least 100 preorders to be able to afford it. And once we posted that, it took just over a week to get enough—pretty incredible really—and so we had the money in our account and pulled the trigger. That vinyl sold out in a few months. Our next one was for Down I Go, and since then it’s somehow been working out.
For Sea of the Dying Dhow, we had help from the good folks at Dead Chemists Records—a new label that at the time was a group of promoters based in Bristol, UK—who emailed us and said that the record and Waves “must be released on vinyl” and offered to help us make it happen. And so we rescanned all the original artwork from the CD version and custom tailored it for the vinyl release. We put a lot of love into the art and vinyl. I still haven’t seen it because I’ve been on tour with *shels, but I’m dying to get my hands on it [note: we have a copy and it's awesome]. We spared no expense with the packaging and vinyl, and I think there are only 100 or so copies left. It’s been selling pretty quick. It’s funny how we’re doing vinyl now. I absolutely love it since I think album art needs to be THAT big. Plus, nothing beats the ceremonial aspect of listening to music on vinyl and slowly building a collection. For us, the demand for vinyl has been growing steadily and we’re very stoked to be finally doing it. We have several vinyl projects on the horizon, including Ancients’ debut—check out the artwork [see below] and you will understand why that needs to be on a 12″ gatefold—and Black Sheep Wall’s debut.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week. In the meantime, be sure to check out Shelsmusic.com!
By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, listenOn: Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
The Dutch hardcore band Vitamin X has been at it for fifteen years. While that might not seem like a huge stretch compared to, say, Sick Of It All it’s still a nice run in a time of short lived bands and one-man projects started in your neighbor’s basement. Their fifth album About To Crack features an upgrade in pretty much every department, particularly production (Steve Albini) and art (John Dyer Baizley of Baroness — check out a first showing of the cool image below).
There’s also music, which dB has scored as well thanks to the fine folks at Tankcrimes. Streaming below for your listening pleasure is “Maelstrom,” roughly one minute of hardcore/crossover goodness. About To Crack will be released in early September; check the Tankcrimes website periodically for more details.
By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listenOn: Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
Grave. Twenty-four years young today. What keeps Swedish death metal bands alive—when by all rights they should be, uh, dead—for so long? Is it the bone-cold water? Dunno, but we’ve used the phrase before to cliched ends of sanity. Is it the clean crisp Scandinavian air? Yeah, used that cliche too. Maybe it’s the fetid Surströmming? Don’t think we’ve used that before. Whatever it is, the Swedes and their brutal death persevere in sound and vision decades after most bands bite the proverbial dust. And some get better with age.
Endless Procession of Souls is Grave’s 10th album. Hard to believe a band that reveled in extremely rotten flesh, dying satisfied, and the very real prospects about not seeing heaven can still belt out a burner like “Passion of the Weak”. That’s right, the Ola Lindgren—the only survivor from the olden days—steered Grave still have the unearthly fire. Looking forward to what the rest of Endless Procession of Souls will bring. Until then, Svensk Dödsmetal alltid!
Grave’s new album, Endless Procession of Souls, is out August 28th, 2012 on Century Media Records. We’re so advanced with this track, we don’t even have a pre-order link. But you can pick up some sick death metal by clicking HERE. Yeah, Into the Grave/Tremendous Pain demo on CD for $8. Worth it.
We knew there would be some Decibel dissenters when we bagged on 10 albums that we wouldn’t be celebrating the 30th anniversary of in 2012. And, sure enough, we were taken to task for, among others, including Y&T’s Black Tiger. Not surprisingly, 2012 rolls around and, lo and behold, there’s an app for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch that does what we were shunning. Behold the “Ye Olde Metal: Y&T’s Black Tiger” app.
We’re OK eating a little crow on this one, just because this app features the writing of metal author/expert Martin Popoff, whose dozens of books are essential reading. In fact, the genesis of this app sprung from his “Ye Olde Metal” series of tomes, where he does his own version of the Decibel Hall of Fame, interviewing band members about the making of classic hard rock and metal albums.
Popoff has taken that idea off the static pages of a book and turned it into an in-depth, multi-media exploration of a beloved record. The Black Tiger app includes extensive audio of guitarist/vocalist Dave Meniketti describing how the album was recorded and is enriched by photos from 1982, including pictures of the Black Tiger recording sessions from Meniketti’s personal archives.
Popoff gave us the details on how this app came about and what his involvement was.
What was your part in the development of the Black Tiger app?
This is all a buddy’s doing, Chris Pike in New Zealand. He put together a free app for Budgie’s Bandolier album, and he’s bought some of my books. Basically, I have a book series of five books so far called Ye Olde Metal, but I also have a couple dozen shelved, waiting essays or chapters, and Black Tiger was one of them. So I guess my part was supplying all the text, and then Chris took it from there, put together a cool little discography of the album, found a bunch of images, even contacted Dave [Meniketti] and [his wife] Jill. We’ve now got three more of these we’re trying. But yeah, I also wrote a fresh review of the album and even a weird little essay arguing how Y&T were honorary members of the NWOBHM.
Of all the classic metal albums and bands you’ve written about, why Y&T?
Y&T is near and dear to my heart as I bought the first album back in ‘76 as a new release and never looked back. [It was a] very heavy record for 1976; I was pleased. As well, it depends on having the interview footage, and Dave is a great guy and was obliging, forthcoming, patient, over the various interviews I’ve done with him, giving the stories on old songs and the making of some of these old albums. I’ve even got a chapter on the band’s second album, Struck Down, in Ye Olde Metal: 1978.
How would you describe the experience that this app offers fans?
Well, I’ve always been hesitant to call it an app. It’s really just a glorified short eBook, or even eChapter. However, there is a little bit of video footage, it is full-color, which, these days in heavy metal publishing, things in physical form are usually black and white. But I guess the main difference is there’s quite a bit of audio from my interview tapes with Dave. But like I say, I feel more comfortable calling this just some sort of tiny eBook, and that’s why the future ones we’re trying, we’re gonna skip any bells and whistles. I mean, there is no videogame component of this thing where members of Y&T try to shoot down wardrobe suggestions from record company fluffers.
If you had access to any band to do an app on their album, what would it be?
Top of the food chain for me, forever and a day, is Led Zeppelin. Depending on my mood, I often say that Physical Graffiti is the greatest album of all time, and yes, I’ve never interviewed Robert Plant or Jimmy Page, although I have managed to snag John Paul Jones a couple times. That, in fact, is the only book I’ve ever really considered seriously contacting those 33 1/3 people about doing one of those things. I also wouldn’t be adverse to the three surviving members of Queen giving me a call and talking about Jazz or the first album. Never talked to anybody from Queen. It’s now to the point that after so many years, I even get a thrill when Brian’s publicist writes me back and says no.
Have you started working on an app that turns Y&T’s horrible “Summertime Girls” into a good song?
That’s way beyond the technical abilities of my partner Chris Pike, let alone me, who doesn’t even have a cell phone yet, joined Facebook three months ago, and still hasn’t done Twitter. Nor can get his Skype to work properly. No, and that’s another cool thing about Dave Meniketti. He has the good sense and perspective to look at the later Y&T albums and realize that the band was jerked around, compromised, did things various record companies wanted them to do. Fact of the matter is, they were Van Halen before Van Halen, and could’ve been just as huge. Great drummer in Leonard (Vinnie, Bonham, Alex all in one), gravity-defying songs, especially on Struck Down and Earthshaker, killer vocals—Dave sounds a lot like Sammy Hagar, doesn’t he? Looked good, the whole package. Like King’s X or Love/Hate or Riot, another honorary NWOBHM band, Y&T shoulda had a career sorta like Priest.
No need to go overboard on the introduction here: Perdition of the Sublime, the upcoming full-length debut from German tech death metallers Sophicide, slays. Front to back, beginning to end, Perdition is a overflowing platter of nasty, bestial epics from which this morning we proudly serve an exclusive appetizer, “Within Darkness.”
“‘Within Darkness’ is a song about radical religion — more specifically radical islamists, people who are brought up to defy every form of sanity and reason and stop at nothing to live up to their hideous and inane beliefs,” Sophicide founder/mastermind Adam Laszlo tells Decibel. “Our society needs to overcome this insanity. It’s time to discard our gods and ‘holy scriptures’ and reach for intellectual enlightenment!”
Italian doom trio Ufomammut have released a video teaser for forthcoming album Opus Alter, out 18 September through Neurot.
Opus Alter is the second half of Ufomammut’s ORO series. Its predecessor, Opus Primum, dropped in April, and was a lush dizzying headtrip of psychedelic guitars, space rock ambience all darkened by the unspoken threat of conspiracy. Guitarist Poia told us to consider the two releases as “hetrozygous twins”, and described a narrative that sounded like the band had sought the counsel of fellow countryman Umberto Eco before they decided on the concept.
Loosely speaking, the two albums meditate on the dark magic of alchemy. “Surely it’s an alchemy the way we’ve transmuted a riff into ORO,” says bass/synth/vocals dude Urlo. Both Opus Primum and Opus Alter were recorded together at the same time last summer with Lorenzo Stecconi, sound engineer at Locomotore Recording Studio in Rome, and despite a five-month gap between them, both Opus Primum and Opus Alter are to be considered as one piece of music.
“Opus Alter is the continuation of Opus Primum,” says Urlo. “[Opus Alter ] is different because we’ve expanded and developed the music, and I think the mood is heavier in the second part.”
Fittingly for a band whose oeuvre is by design all about transcending the reality on whatever dimension you happen to be happening on, “Oroborus” is suitably hypnotic, a languid jaunt in search of your third eye. The visuals, so crucial to the Ufomammut live show, should agree with all you Monday afternoon psychonauts out there just waiting for an opportune moment to light one up or take a slug of that earthy mushroom tea.
By: Chris D. Posted in: listenOn: Monday, July 9th, 2012
Last year, Gilead Media nailed it—”it” being something tangibly awesome—by releasing the Untitled EP by Minnesota black metal jaw-droppers False. With two songs spanning 12-minutes each, Untitled had the length to explore early Emperor-ian majesty, with a little of Gehenna’s mid-period key-centric nastiness, and Tombs’ dark hardcore tendencies. Well, False fans, black metal from the North Star State has evolved. No, they’re not doing Kraftwerk covers or Swedish folk songs, but with a new epic, this time spanning a fjord-like 18-minutes, False are proving they’re the best black metal band on nobody’s radar.
“Heavy As A Church Tower” comes off False’s split with Louisiana’s Barghest. While Barghest languish in low-fi, raw-as-raw black, False’s musical disposition stands defiantly in opposition. Of course, like the Untitled EP before it, the split will be limited to 800 copies on 180 gram black vinyl.
** False’s “Heavy As A Church Tower” appears on the split with Barghest. Out August 2012 on Gilead Media. On vinyl only, of course. Click HERE to pre-order.
Lately, I’ve presented a few Borknagar gems that may make it seem like I’m partial to the Norwegian pagan/progressive/black-inspired metallers. I am, actually. OK, full disclosure: Borknagar’s been ruling my seven seas from the time when the then-unknown supergroup issued its debut album, Borknagar, and lead Borker Øystein G. Brun were penpals of sorts. The fact that both of us are still sailing masts-up after this long is a minor miracle, but that’s neither here nor there.
The first glimpse into a re-generated Borknagar was the premiere (not even worldwide) of new song, “Roots”. Classic Bork, with dual frontmen Vintersorg and Vortex opining heavily about the sorry state of Yggdrasil. That’s one way to hear it, anyway. The second treat was a digital fireside chat (think somewhere between the woods of Bergen and Schuylkill River, if you want to get picturesque) with Brun, wherein I try to pry detailed information about Urd—Borknagar’s new album—and deep philosophical stuff that’s already been answered by, at least, Scooby-Doo. Or was it Comte?
It appears the final Borknagar deluge arrives as a moving pictures-type gift. The premiere (yes, worldwide, even though it’s on YouTube) of “The Earthling” video. So, sit back, wish you were in Norwegian wood, and think not of this when Brun’s running afraid through a copse of spruce.
** Borknagar’s new album, Urd, is out now on Century Media Records. Order it HERE and get a free Viking drinking helmet. Actually, no, you won’t. You’ll just get killer music with a deep message. Or massage, depending on how you use the CD.
Welcome to The Lazarus Pit, a biweekly look at should-be classic metal records that don’t get nearly enough love; stuff that’s essential listening that you’ve probably never heard of; stuff that we’re too lazy to track down the band members to do a Hall Of Fame for. In celebration of our nation’s birthday (if you live in the US, anyway), this week we go all patriotic on your asses, crossover-style, with Uncle Slam’s Will Work for Food (Restless).
Our nation was founded on freedom, the freedom to do what you wanted with your life. If that freedom means being in a crossover thrash band well past that genre’s prime, so be it. If it means using a really bad pun as said band’s name, awesome. And if you want to pose on the back of the CD case thing like rejects from House of Pain, so much the better! By those criteria, Uncle Slam were the freest of any of us – and to their credit, they did all those things better than most.
Featuring former members of Suicidal Tendencies and, somewhat inexplicably, Warrior (who may be gracing these pages somewhere down the line), Uncle Slam began life as a politically-minded thrash act called The Brood. They released an album under that name, but there were like four other groups called The Brood, and none called Uncle Slam (wonder why), so they changed their name to the latter. After an okay debut (mostly notable for its cheesy cyborg muscleman Uncle Sam cover art) in 1988, they took a five-year break before returning with 1993′s Will Work for Food (and hired Ed Repka to do the album art this time around).
Their list of influences shouldn’t surprise anyone with a passing familiarity with this sort of thing – they pretty clearly listened to a bunch of Corrosion of Conformity and Testament (besides paying attention while on stage with Suicidal). Their appreciation for Testament’s legacy shows most apparently in the title track, which has echoes of that band’s “Practice What You Preach.” “Roadkill” hits as hard and direct as its name, while “Cold Fire” slows things down (relatively speaking) to give you some time to catch your breath in the pit that “Left for Dead” and “Dominant Submission” whipped up. Weirdly, their iconoclastic take on Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” is one of the record’s highlights, these guys turning that song’s proto-punk into actual punk.
Despite how much ass this thing kicked, there just wasn’t much of a market for kind of generic crossover thrash in 1993 (as evidenced by the stylistic changes their main influences went through around that time). They called it a day after one more record, 1996′s mediocre When God Dies. Still, they left a cutout bin classic behind, a blast of antigovernment aggression that you can proudly play by the rocket’s red glare.