Recently Anthropic Records — purveyors of excellence and, in their own apt formulation, “heart-breaking, chest-crushing noise and doomed psychic soundscapes” — unleashed Anthrosphere III, yet another fantastic (and free!) compilation of the latest gnashing and wailing coming out of the Philadelphia metal underground. To mark the occasion we invited Anthropic proprietress Shannon Marie to share a few tracks from the comp along with her thoughts on championing boundary-pushing indie metal in the Download Age.
Let’s talk about the first track you chose, “Integrite.”
Sadgiqacea literally blew me away the first time I saw them. It was actually Chris Grigg from Woe who told me, “You have to see this band, Sadgiqacea…” I felt like my heart was going to explode during their set. The power was overwhelming. I couldn’t believe they were a two-piece! This is the kind of band I want to work with. They care for their community, even if they are newer to the scene, and they…[have a] passion for spreading their psyche doom wherever they can.
How did you know it was time to pull another edition of Anthrosphere together?
Really, the scene dictated it for me this time. There is so much going on Philly right now. The bands on Anthro III have a lot of momentum and are working harder than I have seen bands work in awhile. There is a lot of positive energy flowing and a ton of community-minded bands and artists. People want to play and tour and be a part of something. A lot of the selected bands are releasing albums or splits now or within the year and having the comp as an “amuse bouche” of sorts is a good way to get people psyched for it.
What do you see as the evolution between the three volumes?
I’ve definitely moved my focus onto bands that have sludge, doom and atmospheric tendencies. I think that on Anthrosphere III, all of these elements shine through. I try to keep as much variety as possible throughout the comp from the genres currently prevalent in Philadelphia right now. Anthrosphere III is a testament to the evolution in the city. There are more bands to choose from. The pool of talent has only grown.
How did Hivelords end up on the comp?
Hivelords are a newer band I saw for the first time at the Trinity House in West Philly last summer. From the opening notes, their blend of latent-psyche and blackened-doom had my full and undivided attention. Singer Kevin North is in your face and his voice is cripplingly loud and sometimes even terrifying — in a good way. I spoke with the band at another show at Mojo13. They want to play, they want to tour, they want to make it happen. That is the exact attitude I want to work with.
As a proprietress of a fledgling label in the midst of the much-heralded digital apocalypse, are you a cynic or optimist about the future of independent music?
I would have to say I am an optimist. Although this may sound like I am in a state of denial about the digital undertow, listeners are returning to wanting emotional connections and physical mediums that excite them. It’s awesome how easy it is for people to obtain new music and find new bands but I also believe that there is something special about getting a new record and investing the time in listening to it from start to finish. The initial success I had with the Sadgiqacea/Grass split LP proves people want something tangible. CDs seem to be a thing of the past. Believe me I know — that is why Anthrosphere is free. In the near future I will be shifting my focus to vinyl with download cards and short-runs of CDs.
I think [independent music] is stronger and smarter than it ever has been. I am not going to sit here and say, “Back in my day I would go to Siren Records for hours at a time and listen to CDs and records…” Although that may be true — yes, I still do this and, yes, this is pretty much how I got into most of the music I listen to — dwelling on what was is a waste of energy. If you aren’t going to embrace what is going on, you will get lost in the shadow. A lot of people are hung-up on the seemingly emotionless approach to albums and music in general but just because the mediums in which we get the music changes, it doesn’t mean we have to feel any different about the actual music.
What are metalheads in other parts of the country/world missing out on by not living in Philadelphia?
Besides Philly drink specials? The biggest thing that stands out for me is the newfound sense of community that a lot of the new bands in Philadelphia have developed in the last couple years. In all my years working and being part of the Philly metal scene I have never experienced a stronger connection between musicians that have each other’s back in regards to setting up shows and supporting each other in their art. Having toured and been in bands, I would be hard pressed to cite another scene that has this level of kinship. I think websites like phillymetal are making the scene more connected in terms of promoting and sharing ideas. Right now in Philly there is more talent, good shows and more positive energy than I have ever experienced.
Also, PBR, a shot of whiskey and Govinda’s vegan cheesesteaks.
Okay, let’s talk Bubonic Bear…
Bubonic Bear are the only repeat band from Anthrosphere II. I promised myself I wouldn’t have repeats but promise-breaking is fun for me. I have gotten to know Bubear over the past couple years and I respect them dearly. They are hard-working guys with really good senses of humor. They tour a lot, they make connections and they keep it positive. Their music is ferociously brutal. Like Sadgiqacea, I am blown away by the amount of sound and depth that comes from just two people. Bubonic Bear has maintained a buzz about them since they started and there hasn’t been a show I have attended of theirs that wasn’t packed. They are fun-loving guys and I can see them doing this for a long, long time.
Woe appeared on the first comp and I see Chris Grigg mastered this one — do you feel a certain level of pride having worked with a guy who is writing and recording some of the most consequential extreme music out there these days?
I am extremely proud of what Chris is doing and am certainly proud to have him work on Anthropic releases. I hold a lot of love for the guy and I know that he will continue to wow us all more and more with his music and with his recording/engineering ventures. Chris is extremely talented and it seems that everything he touches ends up being awesome. Chris also recorded the split LP I released for Grass and Sadgiqacea this past August. He knows how to bring out the heavy-heavy and when you mix that with his perfectionist nature, it keeps me coming back to him. He recorded the tracks on Anthrosphere III for Bubonic Bear and Grass. So, it only made sense to have him master the comp too.
What effect has the Anthrosphere project had on the label?
Anthrosphere serves as a business card for all parties involved. In one comp, the label gets promo, the bands get promo, the artist — I always get a local artist to do the cover — gets promo, and the mastering engineer gets promo. It’s like one big, free shout-out for Philly metal. Its purpose has always been to showcase the bands that I think are most passionate about what they have to offer. That said, it also allows me to gauge a band’s commitment. When you hand a band a hundred free CDs, it’s what they do with them that tells me if I want to work with them in the future.
When you set out to do the first one did you have any idea there would be something more than a one-off?
The first volume was actually a joint effort with the now defunct, 8th Sphere Records. The response was really great and I knew that I wanted to continue the series. Anthro II I decided to do on my own and the response was equally strong. I promised myself I would focus only on the locals and it seems that the talent gets stronger and stronger every year in Philly. Anthro III is the most brutal of the three. I feel like I now have a certain stride about who to pick, who goes where in the lineup and how I think listeners are going to respond.
Have the comps expanded Anthropic’s your reach?
Definitely. There are nine bands on the comp which means nine bands to promote the release on tours, at shows, etc. I do believe it’s effective and I believe I will be doing it for a long time.
What’s next for Anthropic?
I have a few things churning right now. Atmospheric beard-doomers Ominous Black just finished recording their 7” with the mighty Steve Albini and that should be ready by Spring. I have to say, it sounds so good, it hurts my insides. I am releasing a full-length for Sadgiqacea in the fall and possibly another split LP or 7” in the middle. Running an independent record label is definitely sometimes like you’re constantly battling the odds that are against you but I’m staying positive and I truly believe in my mission and the bands that I am working with. This year will be my biggest release year and I couldn’t be more excited to keep spreading the love. Or hate, if you’re into that.