An Interview with This is Hardcore Fest Head Honcho, Joe “Hardcore” Mckay.

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, interviews, uncategorized On: Thursday, August 1st, 2013

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Next Thursday, the eighth annual This is Hardcore Festival kicks off at the Electric Factory in Decibel‘s spiritual hometown of Philadelphia. This year’s line up is probably the most diverse and judging by what we’ve seen in advance to the weekend, 2013 promises to be the biggest in the fest’s history. We caught up with organiser Joe “Hardcore” Mckay for a little history of, and behind the scenes look at, what’s become one of the most popular hardcore fests in America.

What was your original motivation in doing the This is Hardcore Fest?
Well, Posi Numbers Fest in Pennsylvania and Hellfest, which was in Syracuse and later was in New Jersey, had both fallen out in the year before the first This is Hardcore. So, there was an obvious gap and at the time Philadelphia was instrumental – specifically R5 Productions – in trying to keep some kind of thing going when Hellfest fell apart with shows at venues all over the city. I think that showed that Philadelphia could do a festival.

Did you go into doing the fest with promoting experience already under your belt?
I’d been booking shows since I was a teenager. I started booking smaller shows when I was 16 and by the time I was 18 I was booking bands like 25 Ta Life, All Out War, E-Town Concrete and some of the heavier stuff from the end of the 90s at halls in my own neighbourhood. By the time that came around, I had done five years of my own band’s tours, I had roadied for another band for a year, I’d booked US tours and had a pretty decent and active social network just from touring and from knowing people for a long time. It did make it easy when I started making phone calls. Locally, around 2004, I started getting more involved because I started touring a little less and booking more shows in the Philadelphia area. So, it kind of all converged. If there was still a Posi Numbers and Hellfest, it would have been something like where I felt something was already going on, but with neither one of them in place and me doing my thing, it all kind of came together.

In doing shows vs. fests, did you find the organizational and logistical side of things drastically different?
I was doing single shows and tours coming through, but the scary thing for me in jumping from one to the other was that, at the time, I didn’t want to label it with one specific genre in mind. Posi Numbers was all about positive stuff and Hellfest had its intent, but was around when metalcore started to get really huge. I wanted it to be more of an umbrella where more things fell underneath it and no, I didn’t know there was a pulp record called This is Hardcore [laughs]… The hard thing for me was calling it This is Hardcore, keeping it hardcore, but at the same time, not limiting it to one thing. Through the years, something I’ve tried to do is to keep it open to a lot of different bands.

I’m sure you also know there’s a Dutch electronic music film documentary called This is Hardcore.
Yeah, yeah! Someone showed me that, the Dutch rave thing. But the hardest thing in transitioning was in the first two years, the Saturday and Sunday shows were like 12 or 13 bands each and the Friday show was eight or nine bands, so it wasn’t that difficult. It was when I started realising that we needed to have things like extra food and catering, giving the people more things to do [on site] and that kind of stuff. Now, we’re at the point where not only do we have to book the fest, but we have to make sure there’s other stuff to do because kids come and they don’t necessarily want to watch all the bands. I’ve definitely gone from being a show promoter to someone who feels like they have a three-ring fucking circus on his hands [laughs].

At what point did it start to shift towards that three-ring circus?
The first time we had a sell out at This is Hardcore was the first Saturday of the first one. But in 2008, it got to where it was really super-packed most of the weekend. I had actually shifted the fest one weekend forward. A lot of people wrote me saying that they couldn’t come to the fest because of college and the fest coinciding with the first week of school. We moved it one weekend back and, boom, that was it, sell outs ever since. It also helped that we had two or three years of no problems and everybody loving it; we had increased the numbers of bands and had a positive name attached to the fest. Things started to align. The weekend was easier for people to attend, more bands wanted to be involved and we had established ourselves. Once we did that, and that was the year we had Sheer Terror, Ink & Dagger, Kid Dynamite and the Cro-Mags that was a slam dunk and since then it’s been crazy. This year is the most successful year I’ve had with not selling out so quickly that people can’t get tickets. That sounds like such a backwards mindset from what we’re supposed to do. At first, it was like, “We gotta sell this fucking thing out.” Now, we’re at the point where everybody swears it’s sold out, but we’ve released tickets in increments, we’ve done a lot in terms of moving the venue and adding a fourth day so more people can attend. At this point, I kinda miss when it would just sell out so I don’t have to worry about anything [laughs]. Ticket sales are really good this year. I’m not worried about it. But there’s that thought where you’re like, “Hmm, I wonder how tickets are selling?” But it also brings us back to our roots because now we’re going to flyer and all that stuff we never had to do once we would sell out in the first 36 hours.

Are you at all surprised at consistency of fest’s success?
Yeah, I’m overwhelmed. Next year I think we’ll only do three days. When we put together the line up with the kind of money we have and to get the bands we have, it’s kind of surreal to take it to this. But I’ve been around a long time and I’ve seen it where Hellfest went to having Public Enemy the year they imploded. You won’t see me reach for the stars like that. I have intentions of going back to three days. I was joking around with a friend who books Behemoth about having three days of hardcore and having Behemoth play on Thursday at a different venue, before it gets out of hand and we’re too big for our britches. I never intended for it to get to this. I’m really happy it’s got to be this way and a lot of it has to do with me not being greedy. There are a thousand ways festival promoters cut corners on taking care of bands…you see the stuff they do, whether it’s selling through merch stores or allowing bands to only sell merch for three hours or limiting the amount of merch they can sell or taking percentages. That’s another big thing: between 2008-2010, we spent on bands in 2009 what we spent on the entire fest in 2006. Incrementally, we’ve tried to put more money into paying the bands so we can get cooler stuff. This year’s the same thing; we take care of the bands as a first priority. Not just booking them, not just giving them guarantees, but feeding them, getting hotels, making sure bands that don’t get to play often get flown in and anything that can make the reunion stuff easier. For the older bands, I want to give them a reason to not say, “Why do I want to leave my house?” [laughs] It’s probably not the smartest business method on my end, but I want to try and treat everyone right. I’m getting tired of seeing ticket prices at what they are for the kids. If I was 18 years old, trying to come up with money for tickets…before it gets out of control, I’d rather slow it down, have it be solid and if we’re not the coolest, greatest, best thing that’s ever been created, then I’m sure someone else is. We sold tickets after only announcing 15 bands; people want to come because of what This is Hardcore has become. It’s been eight years and there are kids who don’t go to hardcore shows for more than two or three years anymore. I don’t ever think This is Hardcore is more than a vehicle for some bands to play in the summer, some labels to release records and for some kids to converge upon Philadelphia to hang out and see a lot of bands. I won’t use the term institution, but I just want to keep the goodness that we do going along. Like, this year, we’re giving away free pizza during Bane, we’re going to have a lot of fun shit to do outside during the fest for the kids who don’t want to see every band. I was literally on the phone with a guy who wanted to run a karaoke tent – I was like “What the fuck am I doing? This is crazy!” I just want everyone to enjoy themselves because there are fests in every major city.

Yeah, but I think sometimes what gets promoted as a fest is just a big show with a bunch of bands. There is a difference.
Yeah. Hardcore in Philly is big for a lot of people. The last fourteen tour dates and different tour packages I’ve done here, the Philly show has been the biggest show on the entire tours. We just did Comeback Kid’s ten-year anniversary in a room twice the size of what they normally do. We did the biggest show on the Nails tour. So, the local scene really supports here and we do have that on our side. I’ll talk to people and they’ll talk about a fest and having like 300 people there, whereas we have that once a month or more here at regular shows. But you need those sort of regional fests for the younger kids who can’t come into something like This is Hardcore. My intention was never to be bigger than anyone else. If you asked me the reason we moved to the Electric Factory, aside from having kids complain that we sold out too quickly, was that the venue we worked before with never seemed to be 1000% on board with us. It was always uncomfortable to be there all weekend with the heat and the crowds and we had to move somewhere. Electric Factory is not only a great room, but we didn’t want to go through Ticketmaster, we didn’t want a barricade and they were very easy to deal with. Every year around this time, I was always waiting for the Starlight Ballroom to call me and be like, “No fest. There’s a problem. We’re not having this.”

Do you have a day job outside of This is Hardcore and promoting shows?
I am a union cement mason and when I’m laid off from that, I work with George from Blacklisted and we rehabilitate houses. I wish to god in some way I could just do This is Hardcore, but I don’t think the stars will align that way, plus it would be a really fucking boring year. Emails and phone calls are cool, but I could never do that full time. It doesn’t seem to work for me as a person. Maybe one day; maybe we’ll get to be like Dynamo in Europe or something, but I would also never want to rely on This is Hardcore for my only income. If I’m trying to make money and book This is Hardcore I’d have to make some decisions I’d rather not have to make.

Last year you moved the fest from the Starland Ballroom to the Electric Factory. Was the switch pretty seamless?
Yeah, it was. You have locals are always like, “It can’t work. That’s the worst venue.” But then: it’s not a tunnel of hot, sticky doom; I don’t think I saw security grab anyone for moshing once; the stage is perfect; the bar was like in the whole balcony; it was air conditioned; last year we had seven food trucks, this year we’re going to have twelve, there’s a huge parking lot. It’s opened up a lot of opportunities and expands what we can do as a festival. It helps that it’s a venue; they have 200 shows a year and the guy who owns the place has been booking shows since the 1960s. They’re concert people. Their mentality isn’t “Hey, there’s a kid around the corner smoking weed, let’s kick them out” or something like that. They’re laid back and it was so much more fun to be there. Their biggest complaint last year was “You have 50 people on stage behind Gorilla Biscuits. You gotta watch that” [laughs]. It’s a completely different world.

Tell us about the This is Hardcore book?
Robbie Redcheeks is a friend and photographer from Philly and he worked on book with someone that never materialised. He said he wanted to do a This is Hardcore book and I was like, “Well, let’s do it, but not just with your pictures. If it’s about This is Hardcore, shouldn’t it be about everybody?” Robbie’s stuff is on the cover and he’s got some of the best pictures in there, but being inclusive and covering all six years from the first venue, it was important to have everyone involved. Then, I got my friend Tony, who works with Megawords Magazine and does a lot of artwork in Philadelphia, to lay it out and it was pretty retarded how quickly he did it. It took me longer to figure out who took what picture and what year it was from than it took him to knock it all out. And without the Kickstarter program, there wouldn’t have been a book. The investment money to do it just isn’t there because it was expensive, but it’s really fucking cool and it looks great. I collect hardcore books – I probably have over 50 at this point – and my favourites have awesome pictures, but they don’t really look that good; they’re smaller and a lot of the time it looks like a ‘zine made into a book. The one thing we did with the This is Hardcore photobook was to make the pictures stand out. There’s a very limited amount of text, a couple things from a couple different people and friends.

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Was it designed to be an overview of the entire history of the fest, or at least the first six years?
Having a book talking about how great This is Hardcore was/is wasn’t really what I wanted to do. Instead, I wanted to make a really cool photo book, something you could put on your table for your friends to check out when they’re over – something that people are going to look at and say, “Wow, that looks great!” The pictures make the fest look cooler and sells it a lot better than descriptions and people talking about their experiences.

It’s the total a picture is worth a 1000 words thing.
Oh man, especially with this generation now! Putting out a book about anything is a nightmare. If it’s not written in 140 characters, I wonder if anyone if going to pay attention. It was important to be visually stimulating. We’ve been using the same photographers for years and they’re a very big part of This is Hardcore and when you look at the pictures they’ve taken over the six years, it’s like, “Holy shit, that was as cool as I thought it was!”

Have you encountered any negative reactions to Gwar headlining one of the days this year?
A little bit, but I’m not concerned. When I was a kid, Gwar was directly related to the hardcore scene. Dave Brockie is in American Hardcore – not that kids are smart enough to know that Dave Brockie is the dude from Gwar. But a part of what is hardcore punk is being “Fuck you, I’ll get covered in blood and walk down the street after the show” and I think a lot of that is gone in hardcore today. The new generation is very aesthetically stuck in a commercialised world and is very about looking a certain way. It’s like www.yourscenesucks.com has come alive. At first that site was tongue-in-cheek, but it really is something that you see too often. You’ll have five or six different types of kids and no one wants to stick out, no one wants to be silly or have fun or smile. When Gwar plays to their usual crowd, the kids show up, shut up and have fun and I miss that. Gwar was literally one of the bands that got me excited about going to shows when I was a kid. It’s what me and my friends did; we’d all get together, wearing white shirts, and hop on the train together to go see them. Some people are going to be like “Holy crap, this is great!” and some others are going to be, “That’s not a hardcore band,” meanwhile they’re listening to stuff my 16-year-old daughter likes – pop punk bands that have mosh parts.

A couple years ago, there was a promo video that had a segment in it where you were acting out having flashbacks about pushing people off the stage and apparently that’s become one of those This is Hardcore “things.” What’s the story behind that?
The Starlight Ballroom had a very deep stage, but it wasn’t so wide. There’s a social etiquette that comes with getting on stage and if you’re from the sticks or somewhere, you probably don’t really understand that when you get on stage with a band, they’ve got microphones in their faces and cables across the stage and whatever. And what’s become the cool thing is stage moshing where a kid will get on stage, do his cool move, but get tangled in the cords. It’s like are you that fucking retarded that you get on stage and can’t see the microphone cables? So it became a matter of safety, but then people would ask me about physically throwing people off the stage and how safe is that? But it’s supposed to be ‘get on stage and get off,’ don’t just stand there and knock dude’s microphone into his face. As the bigger bands came to the fest, we ended up on stage, policing, keeping people from tripping and knocking shit over. And it was something people would film and people would make GIF’s of me kicking people and throwing kids off the stage. I can say I was a little high strung in those situations because I was a responsible if someone did something stupid, but that became one of the legacy things of This is Hardcore at the Starland Ballroom: Joe on stage throwing kids off, kicking people off.

Are you still involved in managing the stage in the same way?
I get on stage now and then. The cool thing about the Electric Factory is that there are a lot of different ways those guys work and as the production’s gotten bigger we have stage managers and all that. I just try to give the bands more room and space. I was on-stage for Gorilla Biscuits last year, but if things get out of control I’ll get on stage to keep things moving. I’ll be on stage this year handing out free pizza during Bane with a couple people dressed in costumes, it’s going to be fucking hilarious. That’s another thing: we’re giving away $500 worth of pizza during Bane and somebody’s going to complain that they won’t be able to mosh during their set. I can’t win, man [laughs].

Do you already have plans and aspirations for next year’s fest?
Absolutely. Now with Sound and Fury fest being RIP, I have this dream of not doing this in the dead of August anymore. It would be awesome to not do this at the hottest point of the year, but that might screw up everything. There are bands who couldn’t play this year who we’re working on for next year and bands we’re looking to confirm by September.

Who’s on your booking bucket list?
I’d love to do Hatebreed. We talk about that every year, but a lot of those “professional” bands like them and Sick of it All depend on being in Europe for the summer festival circuit and I get it. The days the stars align, Hatebreed will play. We were going to do Rancid this year, but with that French-Canadian fest, they decided not to do it. I had Flag confirmed, but they’re not going to do it now. I have a lot of dorky bands that no one else would give one single fuck about I’d love to see play. I love Starkweather, we had them play in 2009 and I’d love to have them again. The day will come that I’ll be on stage headbanging when Crowbar plays and if someone doesn’t think they’re hardcore or doesn’t like them, that’s their problem. They’re one of my favourite bands. Burn would be cool because younger kids missed out. Crumbsuckers would be cool because… how the hell does Europe love them but hardcore kids in America don’t? Then there’s stuff that’s not really big like No Innocent Victim, Disciple, Face Down…I’d love to do a Hellfest night. We joke around about getting Poison the Well to play, but have them only play old stuff. A dream band that can’t happen would have been Carnivore, but that can’t happen. They’re the band that got me into hardcore.

www.thisishardcore.com

For multi-camera videos of all the sets from TiH 2012, go to their Vimeo page here.

LIVE REVIEW: Dawnbringer

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, live reviews On: Thursday, August 1st, 2013

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It was only fitting that Dawnbringer’s first NYC show was at Saint Vitus. After all, the middle stop of a three-day stint that was “the closest thing to a Dawnbringer tour that has ever happened” brought a band whose last two outstanding records have given it some well deserved recognition to a joint that has helped raise the, um, bar for metal shows in the area. Unsure when I’d ever get a chance to see Chris Black and company up close and personal again, the decision to head out to Brooklyn was a no-brainer.

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The band’s set kicked off with “So Much For Sleep”, the leadoff track from 2010′s Nucleus. Given that Dawnbringer is basically a studio project, albeit a long-running one, the band–whose live show features Scott Hoffman and Matt Altieri on guitar, Ian Sugierski on drums and Black on bass/vocals–wasted no time finding its footing in a live setting. Sure, they’d played the night before, but this was also a group that until two years ago hadn’t played a show in over a decade (not to mention, unlike Hoffman, Sugierski and Altieri aren’t even in the “studio” lineup). My ears noticed no hiccups, just tight playing.

The show wasn’t sold out, but for a Friday night in NYC, the Chicagoans got a pretty decent crowd whose rabidity made up for the lack of sheer numbers. The hour-plus set was a mix of old and new, leaning a little heavier on more recent material early on when Black announced that they were about to play some songs from last year’s Into the Lair of the Sun God before playing “older songs you’ve likely never heard.” While “My Destiny Is Death” briefly got a pit going, “To Murder The Sun” was the highlight of the show for yours truly. One non-musical observation: from certain angles (none of which are reflected in my poor quality iPhone pictures), Chris Black can easily pass for Albert Mudrian, right down to certain facial gestures…now you know.

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Unfortunately, I completely missed openers Crypter and Polygamyst, but did manage to catch the last few songs of Kings Destroy’s set, who set the tone with the massive riffs and grooves that emanated from guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski. To make up for my unprofessionalism, I’d point out that I saw a Black Sabbath 1984 Born Again tour shirt, which was made even more remarkable by the fact that owners of two of the best patch jackets I’ve seen happened to be standing nearby. It was only fitting that the owners of said denim treasures appeared to have the time of their lives rocking out to a band that, even though may not play the live circuit anywhere close to regularly, aspires to uphold the musical tradition those jackets proudly display.

Here’s some video footage from a 2011 Dawnbringer show, which at the time happened to be the band’s first in 13 years:

Pick up a copy of Into the Lair of the Sun God over at Profound Lore.

Also, be sure to check out Brandon Stosuy’s in-depth piece on Saint Vitus over at Pitchfork here. You can also check out Chris Black’s Decbrity playlist from last year as well as Saint Vitus co-founder Arthur Shepherd’s after hours playlist.

STREAMING: New Gigan

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, listen On: Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

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We’re fans of musical nuttiness here at the Deciblog. And there’s nothing nuttier — or more impressive — than the colossal mindfuck that is Gigan.

We received an advance copy of their new album Multi-Dimensional Fractal Sorcery And Super-Science (due from Willowtip on October 15 — preorder details to be announced soon). We’re happy to premiere the new track “Electro-Simulated Hallucinatory Response.” Let us know what you think and get in touch with the band here.

STREAMING: Diamond Plate “Walking Backwards”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

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Diamond Plate couldn’t be more literal. In a few ways, actually. One, the band name refers to, well, a diamond plate or tread plate, as seen on truck covers, trailers, mud flaps, and restaurant floors. They’re “metal,” get it?! Two, when asked for a quote about the track we’re premiering they said, “No click track, no editing, you are hearing the second take of the song. Enjoy!” Meaning, there’s no Pro Tools pretending in the Diamond Plate camp. Just old-school, real-world playing/recording techniques. Three, well, we’ll leave that up to you.

So, yes, Diamond Plate returns with new album, Pulse. Gone is old throatman/four-stringer Jon Macak and in his stead is newcomer Matt Ares. Together, Diamond Plate sounds like the post-aggression period of thrash metal. When Testament went sophisticated on Practice What You Preach, when Death Angel wowed on Act III, and when Metal Church wrote an unsung classic in The Human Factor. Sure, there’s bark to Diamond Plate’s bite on Pulse, but it’s largely subservient to high conceptisms—wait until you hear “Still Dreaming”—and Neil Kernon’s sage-like production.

Prepare to mosh. In a library. In a professor’s study. In maturity.

** Diamond Plate’s new album, Pulse, is out August 20th on Earache Records. It’s available for pre-order HERE in a few different configurations. Do it now before they change their name to “Durbar floor plate.”

STREAMING: Hyrrokkin’s “Anacoluthon”

By: Jeff Treppel Posted in: featured, listen On: Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

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Kind of funny that the captcha when I downloaded Hyrrokkin’s Pristine Origin was “guitar player.” This power trio definitely has one of those, and he makes all sorts of crazy noises with his instrument. As does everyone else. A saxophone even shows up at one point. A little bit of Dysrhythmia, a little bit of Animals As Leaders, a little bit of Sonny Sharrock. If you’re into weird heavy avant-garde action with actual musicality attached, prepare to be art rocked. Plus, these guys get bonus points for finding one of the few remaining mythological monsters that hadn’t been used as a band name yet. Enjoy this exclusive premiere of “Anacoluthon.”

***Pristine Origin comes out in September on Sick Room records. You can order it here , follow them on Facebook here, and download their debut cassette, Astrionics, at their bandcamp page here

Punk Is Dead…Is Alive

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, interviews On: Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

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The above flyer for Punk Is Dead 2013 sufficiently testifies to the potential awesomeness of the inaugural edition of the upcoming Lancaster, California confab, but we decided to dig a little deeper anyway and asked organizer Zack Barrera about the vision behind his self-described “truly underground, DIY festival.”

Talk to me a little bit about the origins of Punk is Dead Fest.

There were a couple factors. I wanted to start something that would have a home here in the Antelope Valley. There’s not much going on here.Not to say that there is nothing but for music, sometimes up here in the High Desert it feels exactly like that: A desert. Second, I wanted to see if I could organize a festival comparable to the majority of heavy music festivals going today, but without the usual corporate sponsorship. I feel that has no place in punk/hardcore/metal and it always disturbs me when I see a smaller hardcore festival resorting to sponsorship from beer companies in order to make ends meet. I can understand why the larger fests may need corporate sponsorship in order to function, but it always makes me wonder when I see a smaller fest doing the same.

Have you ever done anything like this before?

I’ve been booking and promoting shows independently for four years now but this is by far the biggest thing I’ve ever attempted.

Why did you choose to call the fest Punk Is Dead?

The festival moniker comes from the Crass song of the same name. What I and the festival stand for is perfectly encapsulated by the message of that song. Which is that punk has been co-opted by the labels and corporations who could care less about its spirit and ethos and are only concerned with the lining of their own pockets through the hard work of the bands. There will always be the small core of true believers who through their own hard work keep the spirit alive but for the vast majority of “punks” all it means and all it ever will mean is T-shirts, pins, and patches.

Obviously you’ve got some really heavy hitters playing, but also a slew of newer, more obscure acts. How did you approach the booking?

John Dyer Baizley of Baroness on five life-changing album covers

By: jonathan.horsley Posted in: featured, interviews, lists On: Monday, July 29th, 2013

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“I could go on all day about Pink Floyd record covers,” says Baroness frontman/guitarist John Dyer Baizley. “I could go on all day about Neurosis record covers or Converge—Jacob Bannon is another great album cover artist.”

He really could. But we’re mean and we need five to compile an easily digestible list of cover art, all of which are of life-changing importance for Baizley. His artwork has graced albums by the likes of Kylesa, Skeletonwitch, Torche and Pig Destroyer, and now—fittingly seeing as he readily cites Pushead (Brian Schroeder) as an influence—Metallica t-shirts, too. Here is his list:

BLACK SABBATH BLACK SABBATH
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“I am not sure that I have a Top Five per se, but there are definitely records which from the visual aesthetic standpoint that have had a huge impact on my career, both in music and in art. Y’know, I’d have to say the first, the earliest memory I have of quote-unquote losing myself in an album cover was when I was very young. Just like everyone else in the original Baroness lineup, I grew up in a very small town in the country where there were no record stores dedicated to our tastes as young teenagers in search of heavy music. Naturally, we gravitated towards our parents’ record collections, and a friend of mine’s father had a huge record collection. I remember very vividly the first time I saw the first Black Sabbath record. That bizarre tinted vision of the girl in the woods had a profound effect on me because I didn’t understand it. It wasn’t like a tongue-in-cheek joke in the way that I was used to seeing record covers at the time. Y’know, it wasn’t Aerosmith Pump or something like that, where there’s two vehicles in the throes of passion. There was something very unobvious about it, and something that in my 11-year-old hands had some kind of mystique, some untenable qualities to it which mirrored themselves in the music. That was really my first entrance to the world of album art, and there lesson there being: The more obvious you are, the less engaging the record becomes on repeated listens—or repeated viewings. As I grew older my interests grew further and further into underground music and punk and hardcore.”

BLACK FLAG MY WAR
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“The second hammer to the face moment for me was when I got the Black Flag My War album. Again, taken out of context, [the cover] almost doesn’t have anything to do with the record, but when paired with the music on the disc it seems to enrich the music, or seems to give the music a little bit more, a little bit of a broader life. I always loved the gut impact of the Black Flag covers, and of Raymond’s [Pettibon] art, which never encroached upon being obvious or literal. I find this is something that pops up again and again in my own work, which is hinting at the music, or responding to the music, rather than literally narrating something. That is definitely a favorite of mine.”

YES RELAYER
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One of my favorite all-time covers by one of my least favorite bands is Yes Relayer, which is in so many ways better than the album itself. I am a self-professed huge Roger Dean fan. I think that he is a total maverick when it comes to marrying the visual with the sonic in a convincing, enriching and interesting way that never deletes from the music—it’s only an additive quality. So, Yes, the Relayer cover . . . I almost wish the music wasn’t there because it’s so good, and it maybe that’s the exception to the rule.

DAMAD BURNING COLD
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“Further and further down the wormhole I went, the more underground music that I became enamoured with and entrenched in. As a teenager, I was a fan of Metallica and I loved the Pushead stuff, but as I delved deeper into the world of mail order and the DIY punk underground, I found out that Pushead was much more than The Guy That Did Metallica T-Shirts. So there is no conversation about album art that I could have that didn’t include Pushead. Quite easily, my favorite work that he has done is any of the stuff that he has done for the Savannah, Georgia, band Damad; the seven-inch that he did for them, and especially the full-length Burning Cold . . . Just fantastic, fantastic art, that totally reached me as the angst-y, angry teenager that I was. It was something that reflected some of the ugliness and some of the beauty of the record itself, but furthermore from an artist and a draftsman’s perspective it is a beautiful cover. I often find myself emulating something of that style, and that sort of goes without saying but here I am saying it. Right, that’s four records . . . Just to round it off and pull myself out of the underground a little bit . . . ”

JESUS LIZARD LIAR
jesus-lizard-liar
“One of my favorite records of all time, one of my favorite record covers of all time. It’s a totally crazy album cover and a totally crazy record. The two work hand in hand in such a unique and special way. I think it is another one of those pinnacle records for me. The record itself had a certain time and place and quality in my life; it taught me, it definitely moulded me into the music that I am, and gave me an outlook on music that I wouldn’t have as deeply as I do now without it. And furthermore the album cover, which I don’t know if you’ll remember it but it’s the one with the Spanish royalty painting but all the heads of the royals are cats. It is, as an image, very striking, very non-literal. I’m not sure how the two relate other than the fact that I sense that they do, and I think sometimes that is good enough.

“The point of playing this music, the point of making this artwork is to create some sort of challenge, or offer some sort of alternative or opinion. Or, just to get a little weird. And that’ll break people from the norm and the norm, of course, being this over-compressed tripe that we call pop music. Whether that battle is purely against pop or somehow finding a new line within it that is interesting and engaging, or whether its apolitical, political, religious, semi-spiritual, just plain fun or weird for the sake of weird, it doesn’t matter as long as you’ve got an individual voice both on paper and on record. I think it’s important that we all continue to do what we do. Even though our canvas has somehow worked its way from 12-inches by 12-inches down to 100 pixels by 100 pixels I still believe in the LP format as a presentation of artwork.”

**Visit A Perfect Monster to learn more about John Dyer Baizley’s art
**Click HERE to order Baroness Live at Maida Vale

STREAMING: Gorguts “Colored Sands”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Monday, July 29th, 2013

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Spoiler alert! The new Gorguts album, Colored Sands, rules. But you knew that already. The band that put Canadian death metal on the map—with Considered Dead and Erosion of Sanity—and then sent death metal into fits of spiral rage on 1998′s Obscura and 2001′s From Wisdom to Hate have returned, with class, chops, and curveballs intact. What’s funny is that few liked the “new” Gorguts in the late ’90s. Few understood leader Luc Lemay’s atonal song structures. Few reacted violently to what they didn’t understand. Almost Schönberg-like, if you will. Then again, several acknowledged the music behind the math and the meditative qualities of chaos, praising it, hailing it as an advancement, a quantum leap.

In 2013, Gorguts returns! With an all-star American lineup oddly enough. Enlisting drummer John Longstreth (Origin), Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia), and Colin Marston bassist (Behold the Arctopus, Krallice), Lemay solidified Gorguts as next-level next level death. “The collaboration with John, Colin and Kevin was awesome! They made this project very stimulating for me. They’re very creative, intelligent people, amazing Artists, great individuals, and great instrumentalists,” said Lemay in a recent Invisible Oranges interview. A clap of hands to that!

Even in times when complicated, busy death metal is accepted (more now than ever before), Gorguts floors everything on Colored Sands. They just think differently than most, refusing to ape their peers (and themselves) when ideas run dry. Take, for example, the title track, “Colored Sands.” There’s space, a sense of economy, of unbridled chaos opening up for brief moments to allow for introspection. And then it comes. The quirky, skronky movements. The chug of chugs behind serpentine riffs. In short, it’s challenging—mentally and instrumentally—but superb example of death metal living and breathing, thinking.

“The song “Colored Sands” tells the story about the intricate, poetic, mystic ritual of drawing sand mandalas,” says Lemay. “Tibetan pilgrims can walk for months, sometime a whole year, prostrating face to the ground every tree footsteps until they reach the place where the mandala will be executed. Once the mandala completed, the monks will dismantle the mandala, and take the sands to the closest stream of water. This stream will bring the sands to the river, the river to the immensity of the ocean to spread the mandala’s peace and beauty to the planet. The single harmonic, in the beginning of the song, pictures a single grain of sand hitting the ground…then with the pattern in 5 slowly appearing, illustrates the five elements in the Tibetan philosophy such as: air, water, fire, earth and space which are embodied in the mandala through their specific colors. From there the mandala slowly takes form in the music.”

** Gorguts new album, Colored Sands, is out August 30th on Season of Mist Records. It’s available HERE for pre-order on CD, LP (various colors), and as a t-shirt pack. Limitless options for eggheads and physicists alike!

For Those About to Squawk: Waldo’s Pecks of the Week

By: andrew Posted in: a fucking parrot previewing new releases, featured On: Monday, July 29th, 2013

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The dog days of August are certainly here, and boy howdy, there’s at least ONE release that I’m super-stoked on. Let’s get into it, shall we?

The masters of Gore Metal are back at it. EXHUMED release Necrocracy, and this thing rips. This gore-soaked platter has grooves, blasts, hooks and, well, plenty of gore. At times, this record is downright catchy and doesn’t suffer from any loss of extremity. See “Coins Upon the Eyes” or “The Carrion Call” for examples. The riffs stick to your ribs like a good VERY RARE steak. This is an amazing follow-up to last year’s barn-burner All Guts, No Glory, and just as good in a different way. The production is a little warm and could use a little more beak for my taste, but you know what? The songwriting is stellar, so pick this up. 8 Fucking Pecks.

Whatever happened to NORMA JEAN? I’m not too sure; maybe they were hanging out with Norma Stitz. Anyway, Wrongdoers is coming out, and golly are these boys pissed. You know how some bands tend to lose the anger and vitriol of their earlier recordings? Well, not Norma Jean. Often lumped in with metalcore, this is definitely a hardcore band with metallic leanings, so you know there are chugs and breakdowns and a little of that “wheedly-wheedly” stuff, so if that’s not your thing, you won’t dig this. But it’s pretty good; it’s mean, and doesn’t sound dated like that late ’90s/early ’00s hardcore that was huge back in the day. This sort of stuff isn’t really my cup of seeds, but a good solid record is a good solid record, and this is one. 7 Fucking Pecks.

WHOA, did it just get stale as peck up in here? Did someone open a bag of week old bagels? NEWSTED releases Heavy Metal Music, and it SUCKS. Not that anyone expected much, but really. It’s heavy metal all right, at times the riffs sounding like a watered down Motorhead, and Newsted’s vocals sound like a cross between Chuck Billy and Hetfield. Hopefully he has fun with this, because he doesn’t need the money. And don’t get me wrong: This is nowhere NEAR as bad as any Metallica albums post-Justice, but one wonders what’s the point? The riffs themselves are pedantic and go absolutely nowhere, and it seems that Newsted is forcing his ideas and trying to write “metal” topics. This is bland, boring and completely unnecessary. Not even good enough to be a joke. How about writing a good record INSTEAD, Mr. Newsted? 1 Fucking Peck.

STREAMING: Fyrnask “Vigil”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Monday, July 29th, 2013

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As summer reaches her cruel arms into August (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), the days elongate (not scientifically), the sun burns hotter, and time stands still. The Dog Star blazes the night sky. These are, my friends, Canicular Days. But what if long-dead winter—his biting cold and piercing winds—suddenly came into view. A brief respite from dogs going mad and seas boiling over. Would you welcome his Majesty? Let’s find out.

For Germany’s Fyrnask, it’s always winter. Not superficially. Whether it’s the plains of northern Germany or the great Black Forest of the south, it’s perpetually cold in Fyrnask’s world. Formed by a single multi-instrumentalist Fyrnd (don’t Google Translate the name, please) a mere five years ago, Fyrnask has already issued one album, 2011′s Bluostar—new full-length Eldir Nótt arrives this September—to a blizzard of rave reviews.

Decibel was lucky to get an early glimpse of the eerie cold by premiering new Fyrnask track, “Vigil,” in all its 9-minute snow-draped glory. Welcome his Majesty. It’s OK, he (frost) bites.

** Fyrnask’s new album, Eldir Nótt, is out September 23rd, 2013 on Temple of Torturous. It’s not available for pre-order yet, but you can LIKE Temple of Torturous’ Facebook page for updates. Click HERE to Like.