the underground music magazine    

issue #14 July, 2003

 


Untitled Document

Dear readers,

Sometimes I wonder if I haven’t turned into John Cusack’s character from the movie “High Fidelity.”

It’s been something to face more and more over the years. Sometimes I explain what it is I do with Maelstrom with people who “like everything” (read: they listen to the radio). They don’t really get my explanation, so to keep from feeling left out, they ask me if I’m “like that guy from that movie.”

Except instead of being a total geek about pop bands that no one could ever be a proper geek about, I’m a geek about bands with illegible logos.

And it’s just going to get worse...

We’ve got another whopper for you. Twelve interviews, 140 album reviews, some shows.

And just like a band, a revolving door of personnel. ~Eternus~ has decided that this will be the last issue that he will contribute his thoughts on black metal. Thanks for participating!

In his place, we’ve found a cool new writer, Nikita. She’s so cool we think we have a crush on her.

Also,

Abhishek Chatterjee’s Picks of the Issue:

1. Fuck...I’m Dead/ Engorged - split
2. Avulsed - Yearning for the Grotesque
3. Carnal Lust - Whore of Violence

As good as we think this issue is, be prepared for what’s going to happen next time.... It'll be earth shattering, we promise.

- Roberto Martinelli (right, with members of Morbosidad)

letters:

From: ogive brutaldeath <grindingsatanic@yahoo.com>
To: Maelstrom Zine <maelstromdescent@rediffmail.com>

Subject: Bloody humongous!

hail to..all at Maelstrom,

here ogive from Indonesia, I have read all your zine on website great review for album..I satisfied for it....but would you send me Free magazine for sample.i'm just a One Man Brutal Lover...I have group but dont release the album...

ok thanks for attention...

OGIVE Dishomofilia
JL.TLOGOMAS GG.VIII - RT.V/V-#22
MALANG - 65144
EAST JAVA - INDONESIA

Dear Ogive,

Thanks for your letter. Really.

- Roberto Martinelli

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

He’s arrogant; he’s charismatic; he’s funny; he’s talented. He’s very German. He’s Michael Weikath, the guitarist of Helloween, the most important power metal band ever to come out of Europe. His band has just released one of their best albums (certainly their best in the post-Michael Kiske era) in the very curiously titled Rabbit don’t Come Easy. I chatted with Weikath about this weird name, but also about SUVs and being a square.

Maelstrom: You can totally take advantage of me, Michael. It’s 8 am and I just woke up. I’ve been sitting here, trying to shake away the cobwebs.

Michael Weikath: I can relate to that big time, because that’s usually the way I run things, so I understand you 100 percent. Don’t worry about anything, we’re going to give each other a very nice interview.

Maelstrom: Ok, thank you very much.

Michael Weikath: Take a coffee, or something. Have a smoke.

Maelstrom: Well, I’d have to go get it.

Michael Weikath: Have someone bring it to you.

Maelstrom: Hihihi... Well, this new record, man... I just love it. But it has a weird title. I’m sure a lot of people will say, “rabbit...don’t come easy”?

Michael Weikath: Yeah, and why not? What else would they want? I’ve read on Helloween message boards that they wanted “dragon don’t come easy.” But the thing is, you don’t pull dragons out of a hat.

We called it that way as we had a few too many difficulties going on. You know those days when your get hooked to the doorknob with the sleeve of your jacket? That’s what’s been happening to us. Our rehearsal room got flooded by heavy rains so we had to move. Cars broke down; you’d leave the room and not know where you left your car. Mark (Cross, drums) was standing there in the rain saying, “where did I put my fucking car?” (Laugh) You wanted to call each other, but the telephone didn’t work, or someone lost his telephone, or the card was empty. And that’s why rabbits don’t come easy in our case.

You are of Italian descent, I presume?

Maelstrom: Yes.

Michael Weikath: See, those are the people who add the chaos to the United States. That’s why the States won’t ever make it.

Maelstrom: (laugh) Thank you, I think.

Michael Weikath: Hehehehehe.

Maelstrom: You mentioned that people wanted dragons in the title. I think it’s remarkable that you’ve been in so many ways this template for countless other bands, but your lyrics are not cookie cutter. In fact, I can’t even think about a Helloween song that’s about killing dragons.

Michael Weikath: Exactly. Yeah, fuck, killing dragons has already been done. There are legends and myths about it. That’s been conveyed by someone else. We have such a view to always be "o-ri-gi-nal!" We did Master of the Rings and people would come up and say, “does it go with ‘Lord of the Rings’?” NOOO! It doesn’t go with “Lord of the Rings,” because somebody already wrote a book about it.

It’s like this: you’re ornamenting yourself with someone else’s laurels, as you say in German. Stealing someone’s laurels in when you take the success of someone else and claim to be the one to have come up with the basic idea for it. To me, that’s always been the basic problem of it. Why would I have to take “Lord of the Rings” and write something about it?

Maelstrom: I don’t know why. I think there are enough bands that do that already.

Michael Weikath: They do. And it’s ok, because you can say, ok, you’ve read the full book and you’ve been making yourself busy, and now you want to tell us something about it. That’s cool. But that’s not the way I do things. I want to be myself. I’m pretty arrogant on a few issues. I can’t read all the German philosophers, Schiller and Goethe. I always felt I wanted to come up with my own thoughts. I’ve always felt that if I read all these people, there won’t be space in my brain for my own thoughts.

Maelstrom: What do you think about being this template for other bands?

Michael Weikath: Ya, it’s honoring us. On the other hand, I can say I’m not sure if all the active members of those bands really have that much of a musical background. If they mention Helloween that much, that’s ok for us. Maybe they’re in awe. But where we’re coming from, that’s like ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘50s (music); we know those old artists: we know Perry Como, we know Elwis Presley.... ElVIs...

We know not to make that old German mistake of pronouncing every thing with a “v” as a “w.” I never commit that mistake. I don’t know why I just said Elwis just now. Sorry. I hate it. It sounds so fucking unprofessional.

Maelstrom: Wow.

Michael Weikath: It does! We had “Beauty and the Beast” on TV in Germany with, what’s her name? The girl who was in Terminator, Sarah Connor...

Maelstrom: Linda Hamilton.

Michael Weikath: Right. Her. In the German dub, she’s always saying, “Wince! Wince! Come help me! Wince!” There was “wince” all over the whole thing, and it’s not supposed to be “wince,” it’s “Vince.” It killed me, I tell you. (Laugh)

Maelstrom: You know what’s really funny, Michael? I’ve found that European metallers tend to be better speakers than European non-metallers.

Michael Weikath: Did you just say “shpeakers”? (laugh)

Maelstrom: (laugh) ...No, I don’t think so, but it’s 8 o’clock in the morning.

Michael Weikath: The Swedes and the Danish don’t have an accent. When they speak American, they speak American. I couldn’t make myself acquire a particular dialect. It gives me goose bumps if I’m sounding too American.

Maelstrom: Oh, no, it’s charming when you have an accent. The only accents that aren’t charming are American ones (in other languages).

Michael Weikath: Yeah, I don’t like it. You actually speak a nice American, that doesn’t give me shivers. There’s those New Jersey ones... what I hate most are the Los Angeles people who want to give everything a French touch. God damn it! Like Priscilla Presley. The way she speaks English, it gives me the twigs. I’m like “aaagh!” I couldn’t be with her if she spoke like that all the time. But she’s so cute.

And getting into the car is against the law! I don’t like that.

Maelstrom: Right, getting into the car is against the war.

Michael Weikath: No, not the war. The law. The lauuww.

Maelstrom: I thought you were talking about it being against the war. We have the whole tiff about the SUVs (sport utility vehicles).

Michael Weikath: Yeah, it’s those things for the army, right?

Maelstrom: Yeah, but we have them all over the place. Anyway, there was a movement that said if you drive SUVs, it’s anti-American and that you’re supporting terrorism. Basically, it’s because SUVs take up more gas.

Michael Weikath: ..... So then Bush is supporting terrorism as well, because he’s using more gas.

Maelstrom: It’s pretty hare brained.

Michael Weikath: That’s what it is. To me, what’s being done now by so many people in the States is not far from being Nazi. You just impose different things on other people, and make other issues, but it’s the same fucking behavior. The people who do that seem to feel backed up by their democracy, but only because they’re citizens. I once referred to them like shitizens. I keep inventing these catch words.

Maelstrom: And you can get away with it because you can say it’s your accent.

Michael Weikath: Yeah, yeah. All over the States I would say things like this. But as long as I don’t sound like a stereotypical German, I’m ok.

Maelstrom: Speaking of English and German, English is the traditional language of rock and of metal, to a great extent.

Michael Weikath: Yeah.

Maelstrom: All of your songs have always been in English, except for “Laudate Dominum” on Better than Raw. Is writing in English ever a challenge? Have you ever wanted to just write in German?

Michael Weikath: No. To me it comes along quite naturally. I’ve been speaking English since I was 12. I’m still not 100 percent fluent. How could I? I’m pretty sad that I couldn’t get raised in an environment that would have give me more idioms I could have needed to bring across my lyrics in a better way. On the other hand, they come across kind of square. Like, yeah, your grandma would have talked like that. It’s not cool. There are so many American bands who use those square idioms. Why? Because it’s cool? No, it’s not cool. Even to me, it’s not cool. I know where they get it from. They want to appear so super jovial about things like, “ah, you know, where we come from, we know how to talk.”

It’s like the Scorpions when they go, “in the zoo...ba-baba...we’re in New York...42nd Street.” Oh, you’ve been there? Wow!!! Wow, that impresses me a great deal. You’ve been to New York. You must be a great band. Some of those bands had American song writers. And what did they do, they put in all those fucking freaky idioms that made the German bands appear like dicks. There were a few [such] lyrics of Bonfire or Warlock; how would the singers deliver this?

There are song writers behind this. Ok, possibly the song writer has short hair. *He’s* a fucking square. Why have bands sing that? Where’s the metal connection? Where’s the rock? It’s not real. It’s forced.

What we certainly don’t do is write lyrics in German and then translate them. I always postpone doing the lyrics. If I do a really bad mistake, I’d rather hide somewhere in the dark than admit to my mistake. But it happens and I’m not particularly glad about it.

Maelstrom: What’s been your fondest memory so far associated with Helloween?

Michael Weikath: Those must be things like the Monsters of Rock in ‘87, when we played for 110,000 people. Or you go to Poland and play that Spodek, that bowl that looks like a UFO has landed. Spodek means like, bowl or saucer. At the time, we still had the Iron Curtain, and to see a fan cry in the middle of a solo because he likes it so much.

Or at Donnington, not getting any shit but then seeing Guns ‘n’ Roses, who went up after us, get the shit. That was fun. We only got the occasional bottle of piss, but it was closed. We got some dirt. The people saw us when we did the sound check, in ‘87. We were doing “Eagle Fly Free.” We woke a few people up in their tents because it was 10 in the morning. We were given sound check because people were so nice. Because we were Helloween. We had a lot of fun with it. People already knew us from the sound check. They sure didn’t know Guns ‘n’ Roses when they went on stage. We were lucky. We only got two bottles of piss, and that was it. You should have seen when Guns ‘n’ Roses entered the stage. You could barely see them.

Or you play Japan and the promoters say how big a response you got and how they want to build a huge tent for 10,000 more people.

Maelstrom: And you know how much those people pay to get in? It’s legendary.

Michael Weikath: It’s around $110. And the first rows are a lot more expensive.

Maelstrom: Yeah, I lived there, and even going to local shows is so much money.

Michael Weikath: Wow, you’re kind of...how’s that magazine called for the modern woman?

Maelstrom: (laugh) Cosmopolitan?

Michael Weikath: Yeah, you’re a cosmopolitan.

Maelstrom: Yeah, maybe. I really like Better than Raw quite a lot.

Michael Weikath: It’s one of the best records we’ve done. I’m really proud of it. It went down really well. I can’t remember a better production than that one.

Maelstrom: I think that one’s your best one so far. The new one is comparable.

Michael Weikath: It is. We had as much of a good time coming up with the material. Master of the Rings was a lot of fun. We were laughing a lot, but we were under a lot of pressure to record something and hope the fans would like it.

Maelstrom: How about Time of the Oath?

Michael Weikath: It was a solid thing. We had just come back from tour, and Helloween knew what Helloween was. A little sad aspect was when I left a few parts open on “Mission Motherland” for the band to interact and do some teamwork. Later it was said that “Weiky was too lazy and didn’t finish his stuff.” When I heard that I was sad. It added to things I saved up in my mind that led to the firing of Uli and Roland later on.

Maelstrom: That’s quite a bit later.

Michael Weikath: Yeah, so it shows you how many chances I give to people. Me being the fucking dictator of Helloween, as people say. Me being the arrogant dick, I give people three years before I finally fire them.

Maelstrom: A big deal has been made about the two records after Keepers. What do you think about Chameleon? It has a few nice songs.

Michael Weikath: There’s many things on Chameleon that I like.

Maelstrom: I like the “Windmills” song.

Michael Weikath: Yeah, but it’s too much of a country thing. I wanted it to be like “The Long and Winding Road” of the Beatles. But that’s not the way it is. Michael (Kiske) was getting very consumed coming up with classical things. I think what he wanted to come across was that he was the classical guy with all the knowledge, and Weiky possibly not. So I went boneheaded and said, ok, ok, have your fucking orchestra. There’s an mp3 on the Helloween site of me when I was 20 doing a piece with an orchestra, so I don’t need proof to show I know how to do it the right way.

Maelstrom: You brought up Michael Kiske. There’s been a lot of mud slinging between the two of you through the media in the past few years.

Michael Weikath: ...though I didn’t really say much.

Maelstrom: Really? Well, anyway, do you think you could ever be friends?

Michael Weikath: I don’t mind at all. If he stops bashing me all the time for things I’ve never done. I’ve hurt his pride somehow, and I don’t know how. On the other hand, I’m not easily dealt with. It takes a lot of humor. I’m serious and I’m honest about a lot of things.

I read a thing that a fan wrote on the Helloween message board that I thought was mega sensitive. He said, “Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske are pilgrims. They’re very good musicians, but they were not good enough for Helloween. They are still on their way; pursuing, looking.” I would never had called those people pilgrims, but I was impressed with what the fan said.

Maelstrom: What do you think about Gamma Ray (Hansen’s band)?

Michael Weikath: Gamma Ray is a good thing, but to me sometimes there’s a strong aspect of under achievement.

Maelstrom: Not to put words in your mouth at all, but I don’t get what the big deal is about Gamma Ray. It sounds like music from other bands...

Michael Weikath: YES!

Maelstrom: ..sewn together. It’s blatant. People don’t seem to get this point.

Michael Weikath: That’s been the main issue between Kai Hansen and me. I didn’t want to do anything like that. I’m rather like the original entertainer. You’re not putting words into my mouth, but if you say it, we have to talk about it, and Kai Hansen has to deal with it when you mention something like that. There’s young people who don’t see it.

I listened to Powerplant of Gamma Ray. There were people who said it was the most genius thing they’ve ever done. I thought, God damn it, what else, then?

What I’m not so proud of with “Nothing to Say “ (the last song on Rabbit don’t Come Easy) is those similarities I put in there. I thought I could then do something like “Nothing to Say.” The fact is there wasn’t enough time left for this. I enjoy playing that shit, but the riff is very near to “Black Dog” or “Still of the Night,” but it’s my own riff.

Maelstrom: Now, you’re talking about the song that has the reggae bit in it?

Michael Weikath: Yep. It’s a complimentary thing. You have to do it the right way, but I have no clue. This is what I thought would be good to deliver. A real reggae composer might say, “you don’t know what kind of crap you did.”

Maelstrom: There’s been a real surge in popularity of European power metal. We’ve got that Prog Power festival, where bands who have never played in the US before are coming and people like it. Generally, the stuff has been perceived as too “gay” to be able to take off here.

Michael Weikath: Did you say “gay”?

Maelstrom: Yeah.

Michael Weikath: That’s a nice way of putting things. I think so, too. I’ve watched a show of a major power metal band (which will not be named here - Roberto) that went on before us at (a major festival, also not to be named here - Roberto). I was there with my girlfriend at the time. She was so cute. She came up to me and said, “you know what? I couldn’t fuck to this.”

Maelstrom: Have you heard Kiske’s new band, Supared?

Michael Weikath: I’ve only heard two tracks. I’m waiting for Nuclear Blast to send me my copy.

Maelstrom: How about Masterplan?

Michael Weikath: I’ve heard the record. There are a few things I like and a few things I don’t like. The better things are written by Uli. I already know them because those things are on his demos for The Dark Ride. They didn’t make the record so now they’re on Masterplan. I’m pretty curious to see what they come up with on the next record.

Maelstrom: How about Stratovarius?

Michael Weikath: I’m not firm on the subject, but I like most of the melodies they come up with. To me, personally, they are sometimes a little too exact and cold, maybe, but someone in there really knows how to write good melodies. I can appreciate Stratovarius quite a lot, but the bad thing is when I do something like “Salvation,” not listening closely to the records Stratovarius has put out, and Roland tells me that the melody is like “Father Time” of Stratovarius. Then I get angry. I didn’t listen to that song; I didn’t know it. When those template bands come up with something real good I could have written, I get angry. It’s still my work, and I didn’t know “Father Time.” I have to change my melody a little bit because of that. If they read this they might cheer up and say, “ha, got you!” But to me it’s not much of a pleasant thing.

Maelstrom: I want to talk to you about the remasters Sanctuary Records put out.

Michael Weikath: What about it?

Maelstrom: I imagine that it doesn’t have much to do with you, but on the re-releases of Master of the Rings forward, they put a sticker on the front that says, “remastered, bonus tracks, new artwork.” And all three claims are wrong. I don’t know how much you had to do with it, but it’s pretty outrageous.

Michael Weikath: Nothing. Nothing. That’s treacherous. That’s lame. The “tastefully restored artwork and remastering,” that’s crap, because the masters we had were already digital and already as good as can be. It’s not that those records have been done in the ‘60s or ‘50s. They’ve been done by Ian Cooper at Metropolis Studios. He’s one of the best mastering guys around. That sticker is mere crap.

I didn’t know about [that particular case], but there was a similar [situation] when Pink Bubbles... got “remastered.” No, nothing’s been remastered. That’s a mere lie.

Maelstrom: Tell us about your next tour.

Michael Weikath: We’re going to do 8-10 dates in the States. We’re also going to go to Canada and Asia. And now look at the SARS thing. We’re supposed to play in Hong Kong! I want to play in Hong Kong! And Shanghai as well. And look at the shit. We probably won’t go there.

Maelstrom: Alright, Michael, thanks for your time.

Michael Weikath. Ya. Bah-baaiiii.....

Michael Wikath (right) with singer Andi Deris

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Cradle of Filth has been the bullseye for the ire of all self-proclaimed “true” black metallers for years now. It just keeps getting worse for the “true” camp, especially since now Cradle has signed to Epic Records, a division of Sony, which is of course, like, the biggest company imaginable. But that’s been Cradle of Filth’s goal all along, and for that, we must congratulate them as being the first “extreme” metal band to make it on a major. Just don’t think of them as black metal. They’re not. But they are good. Really good. This is a discussion with guitarist Paul Allender.

Maelstrom: It’s kind of like when people ask you on your birthday how it feels to be a year older. It’s funny to ask you how you feel to be on a major label, but, how does it feel?

Paul Allender: It’s pretty cool. To be brutally honest, it doesn’t feel any different. We’ve always worked hard at what we do, no matter what sort of label it was. Obviously, we’ve got a bigger budget now, which makes what we do sound a lot better, and the imagery and videos look better.

Maelstrom: I saw you play in Chicago in 2001 when you were touring with Nile and God Forbid. The show had a dancer and a large, opera singing woman. Apparently, now you’re going to have an even bigger stage show.

Paul Allender: Yes. It’s got various sizes of ramps and differently positioned lights under the ramps. We’ve got platforms.

Maelstrom: Ramps? Are you going to have vehicles running up them?

Paul Allender: (laugh) Not quite like that. We just came back from Europe. The set had staircases coming from the back of the stage, so when we walked on, we walked over a big riser and down various connecting ramps to the front of the stage. Adrian (Erlandsson, drums) and Martin (back up vocals) had their own risers. So it’s pretty cool. We had big projection screen on the side of the stage, showing artwork and animated footage.

Maelstrom: What’s the biggest crowd you’ve played so far?

Paul Allender: The Ozzfest in Donnington.

Maelstrom: That’s generally 100,000 people at those things, right?

Paul Allender: Basically.

Maelstrom: There seems to be this Anathema/ Cradle of Filth connection in terms of members of both bands coming and going over the years.

Paul Allender: Yeah!

Maelstrom: You’ve got Dave Pybus (from Anathema) on bass, and you had the keyboarder...

Paul Allender: From My Dying Bride...

Maelstrom: ...right. The bands are so different. What’s this connection?

Paul Allender: I don’t know. I think the member thing was a pure fluke. We’ve known the Anathema guys for years. We toured with them when we were a demo band.

Maelstrom: Paul, you were on the first record, and then you left for some years. Then you’ve been back since Midian. Where did you go?

Paul Allender: I just fancied a change, to tell you the truth. We did Principle... and we wrote Dusk... when I was in the band. Originally, Vampire... was part of Dusk... It was just one record. And then what happened was that I wanted to try different stuff. I wanted to say, look, I’ve actually worked 9-5, you know?

Maelstrom: And that’s what you did?

Paul Allender: Yeah. Every bit of normality. I was in other bands, too, ‘cause I wanted to play different styles of music as well.

Maelstrom: How different did it get?

Paul Allender: There’s a band we formed called The Blood Divine.

Maelstrom: Oh, yeah, sure! You’re on Peaceville. (See our review here)

Paul Allender: That’s done now. I fancied a bit more of a change than that, so I was in a band called Primary Slave. We used hardcore techno samples mixed with music like Strapping Young Lad, Fear Factory stuff. I left Cradle for four years, and then out of the blue Dan called up and said someone had been sacked and asked if I wanted to give it a bash. I was just about to sign a deal with Primary Slave. Literally, he called the day before I was going to go sign the contract. The other Primary Slave guys still signed. They watered the stuff right down. The demos we had done were really heavy, and really extreme. When the album came out, I was quite disappointed. It sounded limp-wristed. It was unbelievable. So, that’s basically it. The only Cradle stuff I didn’t have a part in is From Cradle to Enslave and Cruelty and the Beast.

Maelstrom: This new one is your best yet. Production wise, it’s really great. But you’ve got so much! You’ve got 17 tracks over 77 minutes. I don’t want to say it’s exhausting, but it’s nearly that. To get a grasp of all the tracks takes some time.

Paul Allender: We didn’t intend it to be quite that long.

Maelstrom: Not that you should have, but you could have spread this over two records.

Paul Allender: There were so many rumors going around about how we sold out just because we signed to Sony. This is before people had even heard any of our stuff. I felt deep down we had a bit of a point to prove. Then before we knew it, we had tracks being turned out left, right and center. Originally, it was all of us writing. And then we realized that we had too much. There were like, two songs that couldn’t go on there. And two others had to be cut down. We thought about making it a double CD, but the label said it would cost too much... So we found the maximum we could put on the disk. We wanted to give the fans a) quality music, and b) to prove we hadn’t sold out from the top music we are. I know there are a few people that are winjed about how long it is, and that Dusk and Her Embrace is so much better and all that bollocks. But at the end of the day, if a band doesn’t move forward and write music, you ain’t going to have a band anymore.

Maelstrom: Let’s talk about the utilization of the choir and orchestra from Budapest. Those parts of super. Did you have any interaction with them?

Paul Allender: We didn’t meet them. There was no interaction there at all. We scored the orchestra and choir pieces. They’re written on the keyboard. We’ve got a guy from the states named Dan Presley...

Maelstrom: Yeah, I was going to ask you about him. Who is that?

Paul Allender: To tell you the truth, I don’t know. I do know him, but I don’t know his background. He scores stuff for bands; he really adds a lot to them. He says which bits will work and which won’t, just to make it sound more film score. He wrote out all the choir and orchestral sections on notation, went over to Budapest and gave it to the chaps over there and said, “right, this is what you’ve gotta do.” They spent about two days and did the whole lot.

Maelstrom: It always sparks my imagination when you have these type of musical crossovers. I wonder if these classical musicians listen to metal - I imagine they don’t, but maybe they do - saying, “oh, what are we doing here? Cradle of Filth...” I wonder what they think when they hear the final product.

Paul Allender: They probably think we’re a bunch of freaks. Martin (Cradle’s keyboarder) is classically trained. He’s got a few notches under his belt. For the riffs, though, we just play what sounds good. Nine time out of 10, that’s usually what works. Sometimes we’ll write stuff and Martin will say, “oh, you can’t do that.” And we’ll say, “but it sounds great. We’re keepin’ it.”

Maelstrom: Hehehe. “You can’t do that.” “Well, I just did.”

I read an interview with you in which you said, “live music is dying really fast.”

Paul Allender: It is.

Maelstrom: What do you mean?

Paul Allender: What’s really dying fast is actual record sales of people who actually, physically play their instruments. That’s really dying fast. You’ve got all these record company generated bands - even in the rock’n’roll scene. What the hell is going on? And the internet as well is killing music. Eventually, what you’ll see happen is all these kids wanting all this free music. One person buys an album and before you know it you can download it on your computer.

Maelstrom: But you don’t get the artwork. That’s important for a lot of people.

Paul Allender: Granted. But there is a lot of people that don’t give a fuck about the artwork. Some of the stuff you can download now has got quite good quality, and that’s really worrying. Eventually, there isn’t going to be any record companies. There isn’t going to be enough money turnover for bands to be able to go back into the studio and record new stuff. I reckon in about 10 or 20 years time, it’ll really hit the fan.

Maelstrom: I visited your site. There’s a Sony-sponsored, drag down menu that has a list of bands. There’s J. Lo, Desiree, Kelly Rowland...and Cradle of Filth!

Paul Allender: (Laugh) To tell you the truth, I haven’t gone on the site.

Maelstrom: It’s really quite nice. Do you think you’ll be reaching out to people who like J. Lo?

Paul Allender: No, I can’t see it myself. But stranger things have happened.

Maelstrom: What is the best memory you have of Cradle of Filth so far?

Paul Allender: Going and recording the first album, 10 years ago. It was magical. It really was. We were in northern England, crashing in a really cold house on the floor, ‘cause we couldn’t afford beds. The whole scene kicked off from there. The young hunger for everything was new; the whole mystical aspect of the scene and record companies and seeing the artwork for the first time.

Maelstrom: How about the worst memory?

Paul Allender: I think Dan’s underpants on the tour bus.

Maelstrom: (laugh) What kind of underpants does Dani wear?

Paul Allender: I’d really not like to go into it.

Maelstrom: Last question. What’s the craziest fan-related story you can tell us about?

Paul Allender: Somebody throwing a wooden leg on stage. And the wooden leg was signed and thrown back.

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Without Darkthrone, there would be no necro black metal genre. Simple as that. So it was a treat to be able to officially interview Fenriz, half of the driving force behind this seminal Norwegian group.

For those who haven't met the man, Fenriz is known for being as goofy as his image is supposed to be evil. He’s into electronica and the Simpsons. Start talking to him about either and you’re in. Don’t ask him about why his band doesn’t play live though, hear?

Fenriz: mmmmMMMMMMMMMMhello!

Maelstrom: Hi, Fenriz.

Fenriz: Hi, Roberto.

Maelstrom: How’s it going?

Fenriz: Not bad. Drinking cider in the office.

Maelstrom: Nice. It was a really fun experience traveling through Oslo and meeting you at the Elm Street bar. My impression of you is that you really enjoy having all these people come up and give you adulation.

Fenriz: Hehehahaha! He, well, ok, maybe I was cheery that day. It depends on how many beers I had thrown down.

Maelstrom: You were showing me your lyrics, which I think were from Ravishing Grimness, or maybe they were from one of your Isengard records.

Fenriz: Probably not. Probably Ravishing Grimness.

Maelstrom: I was reading on your website that those lyrics scared you. What do you mean?

Fenriz: Well, it’s even more scary on this one. Then again, it’s not supposed to be a pleasant thing to read my lyrics, be it anyone, Satanists, Christians or myself. I kick in all directions, and I kick myself most of all.

Maelstrom: I have to say that I like the lyrics on Hate Them even more than I like the music.

Fenriz: Hahaha!

Maelstrom: And by that I mean that I like the lyrics a lot.

Fenriz: It’s good to know that someone cares; I put so much work into it. I’m still not talking about what they mean, or anything. If I met Tom G. Warrior, I’d never ask him, “what do you mean with this line?”

Maelstrom: Well, I wonder if I could ask you this one, then?

Fenriz: Ok. Drum roll! Brrrrrrrrrrrrr...bom!

Maelstrom: You mention black metal a few times on the record. Do you think that black metal still has to be justified?

Fenriz: Did it ever?

Maelstrom: You tell me.

Fenriz: Well, maybe I have to justify that black metal can sound like us to people who are new to this whole black metal thing, and they think that black metal is something symphonic or folkish. Apart from that, what do I care? I just care about black metal. I don’t care about trying to justify it so much. It was right then and there to do those lines.

Maelstrom: A couple artists have come though your area and have done some work with you. One was Peter Beste, who took some photos of you (check out our interview with Beste here). And Aaron Aites did a documentary about black metal, largely featuring you.

Fenriz: Aaron and Audrey, yeah.

Maelstrom: What was that like? Have you seen the film?

Fenriz: You know, I really don’t like to watch myself on camera. When I’m on national TV, I just go to the bar and wait till it’s over.

Maelstrom: Hahahaha! How often are you on national TV?

Fenriz: Not that often, but when I am, it’s like, I don’t want to see. It’s bothersome for interviewers because they’re always asking about it, and I’m going, “I didn’t even fucking see it.” And they’re like, “duuhhh!” Hahaha. Too fucking bad! What, do they think I just think about myself all the time?

Maelstrom: But I would think that you quite like being the center of attention at the bar. People know where to find you, and you’re there.

Fenriz: I think you’ve got that all wrong. Yesterday, when I was in the forest, I told the person I was with that in the next life, I’m going to choose not to have a career. Only just have a job. It’s taking its toll, man! It’s just gonna get worse! Haha! You talk to anyone in my position and they’ll say the same thing, I guess.

Maelstrom: How do you mean, it’s going to get worse?

Fenriz: Just look at John Cleese, who said that when something is recognized, at first it’s nice, but then it starts to kill itself. It turns on ya! Everyone knows going into the gate that you sell a little bit of yourself.

Maelstrom: Do you think it’s started to kill itself already?

Fenriz: I think it’s been doing that for a long time.

I’m just amazed that you had that point of view that I gave you that time.

Maelstrom: Well, yeah. You were a real pleasant guy. You were really funny, and I enjoyed talking to you.

Fenriz: You know, when people come up to you and start talking, and then #2 comes up and starts talking, and they just focus on the one person they want to talk to? (My record is having four people talking to me at once) Number four didn’t understand that there were three people talking to me already. You know how annoying that is? It’s unbelievable, man! I can only listen to one or two persons at the same time. And half of the people just want to know why I don’t play live. Let’s say a sober estimate of how many times I’ve been asked that question is 2,500 times. And that, dear sir, is really starting to take its toll.

Maelstrom: The new record is called Hate Them. Who’s them?

Fenriz: Oh, *them*? Yeah. Well, who do you hate?

Maelstrom: Not that many people, really.

Fenriz: You see? No one wants to come out. I have a list:

I hate the people that make the long sleeves that look like they were made by an eight year old designer. Like, the logo eight times down the sleeve. You know what I’m saying? Who the fuck...? How old are these people? It’s like what you did when you sat in school and just wrote “Kiss, Kiss, Kiss.”

I hate the people that designed the subways that we have in Oslo. They want people to sit and face each other. I wonder how that would be if it happened in New York?

Basically, what I can say is, everyone knows that I hate the driving factory in extreme metal.

Maelstrom: Is “fun” still a dirty word in Norwegian black metal?

Fenriz: There is a time and place for everything, but the music and the lyrics will have to have some sort of standard and aesthetic to come across as anything serious. So you can’t have “fun” in that aspect. But I can still have fun in interviews, ‘cause it’s a dirty job and I’m not going to have a bad time doing it. I do a steady job and I do even more work when I do interviews.

Maelstrom: It’s remarkable that for a long time you weren’t doing interviews, and then you did hundreds and hundreds. Was there anything that changed within you?

Fenriz: Well, one rather reflective view on that is, there were so many rumors from ‘92 to ‘98. Darkthrone started living its own life, with all the rumors. So then we had a chance to put things straight, give people the low down on what we think and what our intentions are, rather than some weirdo guy writing about us on the net, and we can’t have any voice at all.

People are misunderstanding everything that’s extreme. Just look at what happened to punk. The same thing happened with black metal. It starts to be a fashion thing. People can just buy into the package; they don’t have to think for themselves. “Ok, that’s how I want to look. That’s what I want my life to be from now on.” It can change in a day. Sweet, huh? Hahahahaha! That’s Satan, man! The all-mighty dollar!

Maelstrom: One of my favorite quotes from interviews that you’ve done is that you’re “like Rain Man.”

Fenriz: I need a maze. If I’m out of my maze, I feel really bad. If don’t like to leave Oslo. I’m a bit autistic when it comes to habits. You know, I’m not a fucking idiot, either. We’ve had 12 consistent years of networking in the Oslo rock scene, you end up having a certain social intelligence.

Maelstrom: You’re like a rat.

Fenriz: Yeah. Like Cartman (does Cartman impression). I’m out looking for that piece of cheese, man.

Maelstrom: What’s the piece of cheese?

Fenriz: It could be anything. It could be the cider I’m drinking now. It’s not fame. The piece of cheese could be something like what the band Dead Moon has: it’s called “credibility.”

Maelstrom: Do you think you’ll ever release a techno record?

Fenriz: No. When you start playing metal (and I’ve been listening to metal since I was three and listening to a Uriah Heep record. When I was five, I was looking at Mick Box on the cover. He had lots of belts. I made belts out of paper and stood in front of the record player listening to that. I never found anything as heavy as that until “The Thing that Should not Be” of Metallica, and that was 12 years later.) You sort of think, “how the hell do they play this shit? How do they get this sound?” Then you start playing metal yourself, and you start to lose the magic. It’s gone.

I started getting into techno in ‘92, all that Chicago house stuff. Then I thought, “this is gonna be huge.” After three years, I was still into it. I thought, “ok, I’m not gonna ruin this magic as well.” I learned just how to work the turntables.

Maelstrom: Wow. I can totally connect with what you’re saying about ruining the magic. It reminds me of some thing I read once about a little boy being able to run along the edge of a fence only because he didn’t understand the principle of gravity.

I remember you getting animated over how there’s a techno underground and how people don’t understand that.

Fenriz: Yeah, when I say to metal people that I listen to techno, they go, “oh, yeah! I really like Gabba!” It has no soul in it. They don’t understand at all. I don’t blame them, though.

Maelstrom: So what are you talking about, then? Tell us about stuff you really like. There is some good techno out there. I don’t know if it’s correct to consider Aphex Twin techno, or if it’s really good, but I think it is.

Fenriz: Yeah, well, you have to call them techno, but he’s really left field, what we call that style. I listen to fifteen of the sub-genres of what we’ll call techno, but that also includes house. When I DJ, I play between 20-25 styles.

Maelstrom: So who are the coolest artists?

Fenriz: That’s too many to mention. I’ve been listening to it for 11 years. But I’ve got a Plastic Man tattoo - Richie Halton. Everyone should know who that guy is.

Maelstrom: I remember that you had quite a few cut marks on your arms. Do you still cut yourself?

Fenriz: Well....I’d sure like to, but I don’t listen to that much of the classic black metal now. I started listening to some of the stuff I didn’t get around to listening to in the ‘80s.

Maelstrom: Like what?

Fenriz: Necrovore, Volcano from South America. The first Onslaught album, goddammit.

Maelstrom: Yeah, the cover has a demon coming out of a pentagram.

Fenriz: Yeah, what a wet teenage dream! Hahahahah!

Maelstrom: So you’re saying that the whole cutting thing was when you were listening to a specific type of music?

Fenriz: No, specific parts of songs are great. Instead of people dancing to a particular song, you would cut yourself to a particular riff. Like one riff from Tormentor, several parts of Bathory.

Maelstrom: Did that heighten the experience for you?

Fenriz: I don’t know. It was just something I had to do. Then it started to become a trend.

Maelstrom: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say.

Fenriz: People probably have different reasons. With musical styles, people have different outlooks on what the whole aesthetic is all about.

Maelstrom: I read on your site that you already have two songs for your next record, called Sardonic Wrath.

Fenriz: Yeah, how 80s is that title, huh? It’s sardonic. Get your head around it. It’s a pretty nifty word. Haha!

Maelstrom: It’s remarkable that you’ve become sort of a machine with your records, whereas for a while, as you know, the rumor was that Darkthrone was done.

Fenriz: You know what? Nocturno Culto is on top of things, man. He’s the one wearing the “TCB” (taking care of business) on his buckle belt, know what I’m saying. He’s been amazing in the last five years. He’s an eager beaver when it comes to song writing, as he is with playing his instrument. He likes playing it. I hate playing mine.

Maelstrom: So, why do you do it?

Fenriz: ....well, why do you go to work? Huhuhuh.

Maelstrom: Well, because you need the money.

Fenriz: I go to work to listen to music. I hate EVERYTHING in this entire fucking process, except writing lyrics. Being in the studio is a nerve wracking experience. Getting the final product together, that’s what it’s all about.

Maelstrom: And that’s what you like.

Fenriz: Yeah. I don’t especially admire people who enjoy playing their instruments. What the hell is that? That’s like a fucking sweet holiday for them; for me, it’s fucking terror.

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Enslaved just keep getting better and better and better. Finally, it seems as if the undisputed rulers of the Viking metal genre have leveled off to a place where their output remains at a consistent state of great. After a year of searching, I managed to get guitarist Ivar Peersen on the phone to discuss his band’s latest triumph and the movements in the Enslaved camp. (Also be sure to check out Peersen’s thoughts and feelings on porn here)

Maelstrom: I’m sure the first thing on fans’ minds is Roy Kronheim and Dirge Rep leaving. There was a bit on the press release about you all getting together and Kronheim also deciding that he wanted to leave. Is there much of a story behind this?

Ivar Peersen: Yeah. After we finished Monumension, we saw that we reached into a lot of different directions at the same time. There was a strong need in the band to focus and choose a somewhat narrower path. This led to an exposure of different opinions from Kronheim, as opposed to the rest of us. We wanted to go in a darker, more negative direction, while Roy wanted to go more rock ‘n’ roll, stoner kind of direction. This simply didn’t compute.

It was obvious that we could have compromised, but it would have led to bickering and we would have eventually had to break up in a more hostile way. We managed to split and remain friends. Bergen is a little town.

Maelstrom: What about the drummer?

Ivar Peersen: That was a different story. He was more unhappy with the album and I guess what Enslaved was doing. He wanted to go back underground, so to speak. He has this other band called Orcustus that is more old school black metal. He didn’t like the part of being part of Enslaved playing live and recording stuff.

Maelstrom: I got that DVD that you put out. Have you seen it?

Ivar Peersen: Yes. Hehe.

Maelstrom: There’s a really terrible interview on there.

Ivar Peersen: Yeah.

Maelstrom: It’s really funny. They have all these jumpy, awkward camera angles. And there are quick cuts of him looking very, very annoyed.

Ivar Peersen: Maybe that’s the issue that put him over the edge.

Maelstrom: Otherwise, it’s a very nice DVD. You’ll have to tell me about your experience. It’s the third DVD that I’ve seen shot in that same club in Poland. What’s the story with the audience? Why does it seem staged? Was it just a regular show?

Ivar Peersen: It was intended to be a DVD show. I think they could have skipped all the shots of the audience. The show was good, but the audience thing was lame. There were like three other bands that day (making DVDs), making different kinds of music. If we could do the same show with the same setup and equipment, say, back here in Norway, or somewhere else where it was more announced as an Enslaved gig, the whole interaction with the audience would have been better.

Maelstrom: That’s what I thought, too. The other DVDs from I’ve seen filmed from that venue has an audience in which three people up front love it, and there’s this huge gap between the front and the back. It doesn’t seem like a metal show at all.

Ivar Peersen: It’s a bit like a car accident. A lot of people want to see it but don’t necessarily want to get involved.

Maelstrom: Hehe. I noticed you didn’t play any songs off of Eld. By the way, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life was when you played the Double Door in Chicago in 2001 with Debris and Electric Wizard. You didn’t play any stuff off of Eld then, either. Do you not like to play any of that material?

Ivar Peersen: We do, but the live show varies with the lineup. For the DVD, we had to try and represent as much possible variety. We wanted this DVD not only to be a DVD release, but to coincide with the release of the new album. We wanted to make this experiment of recording these songs live before they were recorded in the studio. This meant we had to make the selection of other songs fit in. I guess also Dirge was not too big a fan of the Eld stuff.

Now we’re using this session drummer whose style is much more comparable to the drumming on Eld.

Maelstrom: Who’s the new drummer? Might we know him?

Ivar Peersen: His name is Kato. He used to play in Red Harvest. He’s been in the Portuguese band Sirius.

Maelstrom: I noticed there’s nothing off of Blodhemn, either. That’s your fastest, angriest record. Do you not like to play stuff off that record, either? Is it the same answer?

Ivar Peersen: It’s the same, but different. We used to do “Ansuz Astral” off that album. It’s one of the best Enslaved songs. But it wasn’t on that DVD. I don’t know why. It will surface again for sure.

Maelstrom: Let’s talk about the new record. You went from having all Norwegian lyrics with English translations, to having English lyrics; and now you have no lyrics in the booklet. The lyrics are online. Was there a conscious decision to this?

Ivar Peersen: It just happened. We learned to trust the people we work with more and more. This time we left everything up to this two man team. They made the booklet. They said the lyrics were great, but found a style for the booklet. They wanted to have a theme a lot like the front cover: a kind of silent atmosphere. They asked us if it were possible to just have key words from the lyrics in the booklet, in order to keep it quiet that way. The lyrics would make it noisy and spoil the tension. But we still wanted to have the lyrics available, so we put them on the web (at http://www.enslaved.no/belowthelights)

Maelstrom: There’s one song in particular I wanted to ask you about: The first song, “And Fire Swept Clean the Earth.” It’s quite a romantic and sad song, with the opening and closing keyboard. The lyrics, too: “...nothing left to strangle...Would the mothers be crying if they saw torches in our hands?...kisses placed upon my cheek and all color came back/ melting in solid blue tune.” What is this about? I feel a bit of a Ragnarok theme, but at the same time there’s more. What’s the bit about strangling about?

Ivar Peersen: The feeling I had when I wrote it was very positive. Very calm, so to speak. It has this Ragnarok quality to it. I was lucky enough to experience one second of not wishing or wanting anything. Just feeling like this was a good moment. It was pretty absurd. I felt that for instance, this would be a good moment for everything to end. It came out for me as a really beautiful thing.

I think the particular line you mentioned, “nothing left to strangle,” is a way to look at the world sometimes. It’s this race to find something alive and organic to strangle. Something to oppress or mechanize or automate.

Maelstrom: What does the title Below the Lights mean?

Ivar Peersen: It’s more or less a tribute to the idea of these darker places - these sub-worlds - that come along with all existences, so to speak. Our consciousness being coupled with a sub-consciousness. In mythology, you have the gods and beneath the gods, you’ll have trolls or dark creatures that lurk. It’s kind of an acknowledgement that in a lot of cases these dark places are where life or ideas spring from. To make it the most basic metaphor: where human life comes from - the womb - is not a light or nice place. It’s pretty grotesque and dark. It’s the same with the soil. Stuff dies and decomposes, and up comes something nice. It’s not a negative and positive in the tradition of light/dark. It’s more some thoughts on seeing that they’re both there.

Maelstrom: Here’s another set of words: Omnipotent eternal Pagan. Explain the choice of those words.

Ivar Peersen: That’s our little haiku. I think it describes, obviously, Paganistic philosophy. It’s something that will always be there, the acknowledgement of history, of organic life, of nature, of the universe and of uncertainty. When you embrace all of these, it’s something powerful.

Maelstrom: What do you think of all these intolerant bands that align themselves under the Pagan label?

Ivar Peersen: I think it contradicts itself. I think the whole idea of Paganism is beyond segregation. That would be like using religion to decide which kind of music is best. It’s different, that’s the whole point. As I see it, You’re free to prefer whatever you want. As Crowley said - he’s in many ways the ultimate modern Pagan - “do what thou wilt,” but in that sense allowing others to do what they want.

Of course you will find all kinds of intolerant people in any political or religious groups. Just because there are racists within the Pagan movement, it doesn’t make the movement racist. I think it’s great when you ask the question. Enslaved always does things straightforward. We never tread silent. We don’t want to whisper all this stuff: our pride and the culture. If people misunderstand, that’s sad, but in a way it’s good, too, because it’ll provoke somebody to actually confront us. And we can answer them, and we’ll have told another person what we mean. I think the real destructive thing is the apathy; that people might say, “this might be intolerant.” And they don’t do anything about it.

Maelstrom: You’re involved with Bergen Music (http://www.bergenmusic.no) Is that a new venture?

Ivar Peersen: Hehe. No, Bergen Music is a name for something that serves as a gathering point for all my various musical projects. We also book some gigs. We have some theme nights at pubs.

Maelstrom: I was wondering if that’s why you dropped your stage name (Bjornson) for this record.

Ivar Peersen: Beyond a personal thing - Bjornson would have been the way I would have been named in the Pagan tradition - using Peersen from time to time is a comment that we’re revivalitsts and at the same time want to be part of what’s going on now. I think both names are equally true. Well, to be honest, I think the whole name thing is overrated, anyway.

Maelstrom: There’s a guest musician on Below the Lights by the name of Inge Rypdal. Is he any relation to Terje Rypdal?

Ivar Peersen: Yes! Wow! I want to tell him that [you asked that]. We’ve had some comments outside the metal world, but you’re the first metal journalist to ask that. Inge’s father is Terje Rypdal’s cousin. He sounds a little bit like him, doesn’t he?

Maelstrom: Yes. I was also reading about how you love Star Trek. Are you a full geek, a half geek or a closet geek?

Ivar Peersen: I think a half geek would be right. I’m into it and totally enjoy it, but at the same time I wouldn’t say it has the answers to all questions in life, although it poses a lot of good ones. I’m not a geek in religious terms, like other people are.

Maelstrom: You have a keyboardist now. You never had a live keyboardist before, that I’m aware of. Will you have a full time player from now on?

Ivar Peersen: We’re going to have a keyboard player, but a different one. The guy you saw on the DVD is good, (laugh) but he’s so incredibly lazy that it’s impossible to have him in the band.

Maelstrom: It’s funny, because he has the smallest job in the music.

Ivar Peersen: Oh, yeah, but in terms of having to actually put the keyboard up on stage and plug in all the cords...it’s a lot of stuff to carry around. It’s too much for him, so we found another guy.

Maelstrom: What do you think of the production of Below the Lights?

Ivar Peersen: I think it’s great. I’m really happy with it. It’s got this sort of Enslaved rawness. How do you say, a live feeling? It’s not something that would win us the high fidelity award, but at the same time it’s our sound, and we’re getting closer to this Enslaved sound we’ve been trying to chase around. It’s partly because we have no idea what we’re doing technically; we’re more kind of, “give it more punch!” And the engineer will say, “what the fuck do you mean, ‘give it more punch’?”

And he’ll turn something and we’ll say, “stop, now it sounds good.” We see that we have a long way to go before we reach what we want with the sound.

Maelstrom: Is Pytten still the main guy? There’s a whole lot of credits for who produced and engineered the record.

Ivar Peersen: We split it up between the drums and guitars. Pytten did the bass, vocals and keyboards. He’s really good with this old school stuff. Especially the bass. He’s a great bass player.

Maelstrom: Ivar, that’s all I have for you. Thanks for calling.

Ivar Peersen: Thanks for the interview, man.

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

I'm in the passenger seat of this beat up, old, white van parked in a dark alley. Sitting next to me is a large, intimidating black man whose reputation as a pit fighter precedes him. You know what kind of fighting I’m talking about. Have you seen the movie “The Fight Club”? Like that. At any moment this man could reach over and snuff me out like nothing.

What the fuck am I doing here?

The guy in the driver’s seat is Eugene Robinson, lover, fighter, erudite, journalist. Robinson is nearly 41 years old, but his looks and energy would make you guess late twenties.

I've braved the shadows and unknown to interview Robinson in his capacity as the front man for Oxbow, the best art-rock band that no one will ever hear about. Oxbow has been around since 1989, and had released its sixth record, An Evil Heat, on Neurot Recordings a year before this interview, which took place in 2003. Since then, a gradually increasing amount of worrisome tales of public nudity, duct-taped ears, uncontrollable drooling and strangled concert goers (all stemming from Robinson's being in the band) had both frightened and intrigued me. But mostly intrigued me.

But it turns out Robinson has done a lot more than challenged people's concept of the relationship between audience and band. He’s been editor in chief for major trade magazines and has written for such publications as GQ and Hustler, leading him to interview such celebrities as Anton LaVey, Halle Berry, Henry Rollins and Matt Groening of the Simpsons. He’s also run his own label, CFY records, since 1982, putting out Stigmata’s debut album as well as the premier spoken word record, “The Birth of Tragedy's Spoken Word/Graven Image Compilation,” featuring Allen Ginsberg and Charles Manson.

What was to follow was the most interesting and funny interview I have ever done. In Robinson’s words, “it’s so funny you might start crying.”

Maelstrom: So, how’s the fighting career going?

Eugene Robinson: I have an amazing record - knock on wood. I’ve never lost. I keep telling myself it’s because I’m fighting guys who are no good.

Maelstrom: Maybe you’re just amazing. How did you get into that? What I think is fascinating about you is this duality of ferality and intellectuality. You come across as a very well-spoken man in person, but on stage, I’m afraid to get too close for fear that you’ll strangle me.

Eugene Robinson: Somebody asked me about this very issue. It’s a whole continuing discussion about whether it’s a contrivance or not. Like whether the guy walking around, seeming nice and personable, is the guy; or whether the guy on stage is the guy. I feel more of my own, being a contrarian, on stage. I think they’re equally accessible personalities. The issue is that San Franciscans have gotten into this cool complacency spot in which they think they have an understanding of how these personalities work. But I don’t think they do, really.

Non participation doesn’t necessarily mean that you will not be participating. It’s a very careful calculus that comes into play vis-a-vis personalities and their emergence. This is a long standing family trait. I’ve seen this kind of mercurial thing in old women in my family.

Clearly, I find myself making sane decisions more frequently than I make insane decisions, but you have to understand, when we play these shows on these stages, things happen, and not necessarily of our making. These clubs don’t provide any security. They don’t care about the band. There’s gotta be some sort of police function happening.

Maelstrom: And that’s you. It’s funny to see the other guys in the band’s personalities on stage in contrast to yours.

Eugene Robinson: All that stuff is deceiving. Niko (Wenner, guitar) actually had boxing lessons, which most people don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Niko, in the 19 years I’ve known him, throw a punch in anger, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to do it. But in the greater scheme of insignificant issues, I do what I do clearly because it amuses me.

But what interests me more is getting through the show without interruption. Like with what happened in Bradford, England: the night fueled by Dutch courage: two guy in the audience decided to “have a little fun” and interact with the band. They wanted to be part of the show.

Maelstrom: So, what happened to those guys?

Eugene Robinson: You can go to the website (www.theoxbow.com). There’s a clip from the documentary.

Maelstrom: Did they get their ass kicked?

Eugene Robinson: Yes. Choked into unconsciousness would be a phrase that covers it.

Maelstrom: Do you ever beat the shit out of people who are just watching your show?

Eugene Robinson: No. Nonononono. It’s like the AC/DC song. “I never shot anybody who didn’t carry a gun.” These guys, on a certain level, made a decision to be part of the show. And I decided to accomodate their interest. I can’t make believe that they don’t exist. Both of the guys came up to me afterward and said the same thing: “I was just having a little fun.” To which I said, “so was I.” Both guys said I had hurt them. I told them both the same thing: “If I had wanted to hurt you, this would have been a very different conversation.” Hahaha. “There wouldn’t have been a conversation, you would have still been lying on the ground, and I would be loading equipment.”

My friend Andy used to say, “Jim Morrison comes in packages now.” People have gotten so used to the Jack-in-the-Box school or rock ‘n’ roll performance/ art type stuff, that when something seems to pierce the veil of art and artifice, there are only a couple of responses. I’m not saying that there’s a correct response, but after having played 1,000 shows, people either get it (or they get it and don’t believe it), or they don’t get it and find out the hard way.

Maelstrom: I really don’t mean to seem rude about this, Eugene, but I’m fascinated about why you like to take your clothes off on stage.

Eugene Robinson: I think that has got rock journalized out of proportion. I told somebody the other day, and they didn’t believe me. “Because it’s hot!” Very seriously. When you go on tour, you can’t pack everything. If I’ve got one pair of pants that I need to last three weeks because we don’t have time to stop at a laundromat, the second the sweat starts pouring down my legs, you have to realize that if I do not take those pants off, I’ve got to spend the two hours after the show sitting around in wet pants. It’s like sitting around in a wet diaper. No fun.

Maelstrom: But it is totally part of your performance, isn’t it?

Eugene Robinson: Well, it is in that I get hot every show. But the show the other night at the Hemlock (review here), I didn’t reach the requisite level of hotness. I believe I left my pants on. It is not like some guy who reviewed one of our shows recently said, “ah, the usual striptease!” But when we played in Turin, nothing came off. It was freezing in the club. Sometimes the simplest explanations don’t serve anyone’s interest.

The second show of the ‘95 tour, I tore a medial collateral ligament in my knee.

Maelstrom: How did you do that?

Eugene Robinson: It was when I was 265 (pounds - 120 kilos), and I was jumpin’ around, and I wasn’t stretched. I heard it pop, and that was it. For the rest of the tour I had to duct tape my knee to get through the show. After a long drive, I’d have to hop after I got out of the van. The interviews after that, people were trying to say: “Does the black duct tape that you use on your knee signify your being shackled by society?” I go, “no, man. I hurt my knee.” Sometimes a cigar is a cigar.

But it seems to me that you’re getting at the question that if I’m aware of the fact that by removing my pants, I’m creating a semi-significant situation that makes people uncomfortable. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t aware of that. But it’s an interesting uncomfortability. If you would say to the average person, “why don’t you take off your clothes and walk downtown?” The average person would say, “I don’t want to do that because people would point at me and laugh.” I’ve actually been naked in public, and not necessarily on stage. Me and a bud decided to try it and see what would happen. At first people have that instinct to laugh. But when they see that you’re not laughing and that there’s nothing really explicitly funny about you choosing not to have clothes on... It’s like that great Raymond Pettibon epigram: “Will I turn you on, or will I turn on you?”

But the underwear staying on or coming off goes beyond the heat issue, and that ties in very much to our lyrical landscape.

Maelstrom: I like that quote of yours in Terrorizer magazine, “I’d never leave the house unless it was to fuck.” So it means a lot that you showed up for the interview, by the way. But there’s a lot of centeredness on your penis. On the press clippings on your website; whether or not An Evil Heat is the only album that has such themes (as Robinson claimed - Roberto), you have an album called Fuckfest. The center of your show is a lot about what’s happening around your groin area. It’s a big part of your energy and what you’re pushing.

Eugene Robinson: Not to get all Eastern and mystical on you, but that’s where the most powerful of the seven shakras of power, the one in the groin area, is. But how it applies to us, not to simplify it at all - it’s not as simple as the legend I’m about to offer - it’s clearly about a struggle between the flesh and the soul.

Maelstrom: How’s the struggle going?

Eugene Robinson: What do you think? You read the lyrics on An Evil Heat.

Maelstrom: I read a lot of stuff about sex and the priesthood. I wanted to ask you about the song “Sweetheart.” That’s the one that grabbed me the most.

Eugene Robinson: What about it grabbed you?

Maelstrom: The lyrics about “and I cinch until you dream” and then it says “and night lasts until I sleep/ with your eyes hot on me/ thinking kill him or flee/ kill him or flee...” It has a sexual connotation, but also a fighting element. Then there’s the part about “and you cry that you love me/ like God/ and like God/ I say whatever it is/ you want to hear.” There’s a major sordid feeling throughout this record.

Eugene Robinson: (chuckles) Yeah...

Maelstrom: I don’t know who wrote the commentary on the back of the CD about the music being “like walking in on a sex crime against humanity,” but it fits perfectly.

Eugene Robinson: Scott Sterling, a writer friend of mine from L.A. If I had to offer an explanation as to what’s going on, that’s it exactly.

Maelstrom: Is “Sweetheart” a great example of a sex crime against humanity? The title and the content are quite at odds with each other.

Eugene Robinson: Well, the title would imply a certain love song. I’ve become a sort of Manichaeist. (to read about this doctrine, please visit this site
http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~sbriggs/Britannica/manichaeism.htm - Roberto) I’ve got competing urges and desires and issues. Whether it’s as simple as love versus sex or God versus the Devil, or body versus the soul, I think that “Sweetheart” is a prime example of the extended process of liberation. It’s a song of joy and freedom. On the surface you might distill it into some kind of prosaic, San Franciscan, BDSM type of trip. I see it as much more elemental as that.

Maelstrom: You’ve got a sunwheel tattoo. What’s the significance of that?

Eugene Robinson: You’re being very gracious. I would call it a swatzstika.

Maelstrom: Well, as Quorthon of Bathory said to me, it’s unfortunate that a terrible twelve-year period in one country’s history has made this ancient symbol a negative one. So if I’m going to ask about it, I’ll take that course first rather than immediately assuming it’s a Nazi sign. But in your case, is it simply a swatzstika? What is the meaning to you and why is it there?

Eugene Robinson: The swatzstika is clearly co-joined with the devil (on Robinson’s arm). But nobody sees that. It probably speaks of the power of the symbol. Again, some things appear simple that are in fact complex and vice versa. This is one of those things that might appear complex but in actual fact is very simple. It has to do with my obsession with Manechaeism. The joining of opposites. If you follow the lyrics from the beginning - from the first record - the lyrical sub-texts could have been struggled. What marks An Evil Heat as being a wholly different lyrical piece of work is that it’s much less about struggle than any of the other records and much more about surrender and embrace.

Maelstrom: On the back of An Evil Heat is another description about the music, described as a “drug addled” and “dark, narcotic.” I’d like to ask you again about the use of substance in your act. I remember after the Hemlock show, you said you weren’t in a position to be able to drive. You were getting off your high from the show. What do you do to whip yourself into that state?

Eugene Robinson: Sometimes everything; sometimes nothing.

Maelstrom: I’d be surprised if you used recreational drugs to do that. You take care of your body and work out a lot.

Eugene Robinson: It’s like Travis Bickle! (From “Taxi Driver” - Roberto) A guy says to him: “You’re a walking contradiction! You’re like that Kris Kristofferson song! ‘Partly truth, partly fiction!” And Bickle says, “I’ve never been a pusher.” (Laugh) It’s a movie I enjoy.

Yeah, I’m a health fanatic.

Maelstrom: Yeah, I’d be surprised if someone like you took heroin before a show.

Eugene Robinson: Well, I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive. (Laugh) Chemicals that are consumed that are widely perceived as problems by 90 percent of the population are only problems if 90 percent of the population has problems with them. What’s much more an earmark of my personality is obsessive behaviors, not addictive behaviors.

Maelstrom: You’re in another place when you’re up there on stage.

Eugene Robinson: Oxbow has been around for 13 years. I stopped drinking in 1978. But one time we played a show in Lyon. I was sitting there and really enjoying myself and someone offered me some wine. And I thought it was ridiculous with me sitting in France and not having any French wine. And then around ‘96-97 they had all those articles about the health benefits of red wine. But I can’t even finish one glass without getting kind of tipsy.

But up until that point, it was six or seven years I had been doing the show that we do using only as a touchstone my insoluble emotional difficulties. And I enjoyed the red wine experience so much I decided to open things up a bit. If a substance is used, it’s from the point of view of me finding it amusing.

Maelstrom: How about at Hemlock?

Eugene Robinson: I think it was ketamine (read about it at http://www.dancesafe.org/documents/druginfo/ketamine.php) If you go to the Oxbow website, I give an itemized list of what was consumed during the recording on An Evil Heat.

Maelstrom: But you always duct tape your ears. Is that symbolic or is it primitive earplugs?

Eugene Robinson: You got it with the latter guess. I gotta keep my ears intact.

Maelstrom: Why don’t you just wear earplugs?

Eugene Robinson: I do wear earplugs. The duct tape is to keep them in. I start to sweat and they won’t stay in without the tape. You’re uncovering all the great secrets. These are things that people thought were laden with symbolism.

      

Maelstrom: How did you develop your vocal style?

Eugene Robinson: One time, when I was 16, I was brushing my teeth. I started to scream and make noises - animal and angry - into the toothbrush and riding this manic ride into a whole and total cacophony of noise, being mindful all the while that I was going far, far and farther away. Eventually I found myself on the floor, wrapped around the toilet. There I was, looking at the space behind the toilet and then finally having the thought as I squirmed on the floor, "One of these days I just might not come back from here." I managed to get myself up and back to normal. Some people don’t.

And so it is, every time, we do what we do: I'm highly aware of moving just a little beyond the time before. And depending on what your world view is I'm either pushing the boundaries (and therefore my luck) or expanding my consciousness. I'm not sure which but that sound out of my mouth is definitely a way to get somewhere like in here (points to head).

Maelstrom: Why weren’t the lyrics from your first two records, Fuckfest and King of the Jews, printed in the booklets?

Eugene Robinson: At the time I was interested in the purity of musical experience. I had serious questions about why you would print lyrics. Is it the idea that people can sit and sing along to your music? The level of articulation that lyrics provide is not one that you get in any other venue. You don’t get it live, certainly. You wouldn’t even get it listening to the music!

But I eventually made sense of it. It’s like an opera. At the time, they had just had Wagner at the San Francisco opera house. There was the controversial use of supertitles. I paid attention to arguments on both sides and decided that *if* you were interested, you should be able to have access to the lyrics. On Let Me Be a Woman, we decided to do one better and not only provide those underpinnings, you should also have the music! So we also printed some of the musical notation. It of course caused reviews like Les Scurry from KFJC and Your Flesh to call it pompous. But pompous is as pompous does. I don’t mind pomposity as an indicator. I think what we were doing is questioning the validity of all these various forms of expression. With Serenade in Red, it was pretty necessary. It turned out that people would frequently come up to us and say, “we had no idea what you were singing about!”

Maelstrom: You were really keen on my reading the lyrics for Serenade in Red. You didn’t mention Let Me Be a Woman or Balls in the Meat Grinder. Obviously, the Serenade... ones are the most representative or pivotal ones in your work.

Eugene Robinson: They represent the pre-change and the post-change.

Maelstrom: Yeah. I noticed that.

Eugene Robinson: For want of a better phrase, Serenade in Red completely explains how I got here. It’s the death of love and its simultaneous rebirth.

Maelstrom: Yes. The song “Babydoll” is the one where the speaker strangles a woman. When you talk about the death of love, I’m reminded of that song.

Eugene Robinson: Right. That’s sort of what it’s about. Ruby is a character in a book I wrote. I’ve written two. The second one ended up at Random House and then at Penguin Putnam. It’s called The Long, Slow Screw. It’s a crime saga. It was a way for me to fictionalize all the thuggery stuff I had been doing.

Maelstrom: You’re a thug, Eugene?

Eugene Robinson: (laugh) I’m a lover. I had a character in the story called Ruby Red, who became this catch all character for this woman who was the prime mover for the Oxbow experience. Obviously...(laugh) I mean obviously there was someone other than ME who was responsible for all those records, all that bad insanity, and all of that gun-in-mouth stuff. Hahahah!

Maelstrom: I wonder if it was because she was the first.

Eugene Robinson: You mean the first relationship that I had that was like that? Well, no. She was SPECIAL, haha. Of course EVERYONE thinks THEIRS is special because everyone’s got one of those relationships. The kind of relationship where it seems murder--hers, yours, or someone else’s -- is the only reasonable way out. This one was mine. It’s like that book, The Gypsy’s Curse by Harry Crews, where the curse of the title is “may you find a cunt that fits you.”

She was a dangerous woman. And when combined with me, it was possibly a highly volatile situation in a very sublime but no less dangerous way. But much like callouses on your hand from lifting weights, you evolve into a different creature as a result of actually living through this.

In the Jungian sense, though, she was anima, really. And like any anima unchecked, she was a destroyer in every way you could imagine. Really bright and fun to be around; really sexy. And as insane as me. She ended up, in a very expected, totally unsurprising way, being a Nietzsche scholar at Wake Forest University. And in a totally comical reversal she ended up teaching a class in ethics, which always amused me. Or at least amused me as much as Hitler teaching a class in humanities would. But if I had to inscribe a legend for her, it would be “kill or be killed,” since it was my sense that she was committed to, as a life mission, undoing me as completely as possible. But I realized that although she was a formidable opponent, she was no match for time. I started thinking, what she’s going to be able to offer me is really limited, because we’re all fucking dying!

Maelstrom: There’s no way that I can fully understand what’s going on in each of the songs. But I can get a sense of the energy of each album. Like you were saying, Serenade in Red strikes me more as coming from a position of being frustrated at not having what you want and being unable to feel comfortable with what you really want. An Evil Heat is the point where embracing the core desire, regardless of its nature, is achieved.

Eugene Robinson: Right. The change came about. The phraseology that marked my change was “the quiet embrace of self.” It dawned on me that there were these kind of Road to Damascus figures whose lives were changed by a single incident - an incident in which they were able to see more clearly than ever before and embrace who it is that they were.

I remember interviewing Anton LaVey of the Church of Satan. He said, “popularity has killed more people than anything.” At a certain point you have to be willing to relinquish any popularity in order to be sane. That’s what happened. It also reminds me of the artist Raymond Petitbon, the guy who did the Black Flag covers. He had this legend of a hand putting bullets into a gun. The legend read, “I’ve been good too long.”

Maelstrom: That’s what An Evil Heat sounds like.

Eugene Robinson: That’s exactly it. Two things are happening here. I’m a creature of basic desires and I believe they are transcended desires. I’ve comfortably embraced who I am, and society be damned.

In Palo Alto, where I live, there’s a garbage service called P.A.S.C.O. Sam. Their logo is this winking construction worker sort of guy with a pencil thin mustache. The legend next to his head reads, “why not?” It’s amazingly abstract for a garbage collection company, but I can’t answer that question to any degree of certainty. If I had to draw any lines, it would be at my sense of fair play. I’ve never enjoyed being a bully. There’s something about it I’ve always found to be distasteful.

Maelstrom: You often talk about “the Oxbow world.” Can you explain what you mean?

Eugene Robinson: I had a friend who was really into ice mountain climbing. I told him that climbing a mountain, first of all, seemed scary, but climbing a mountain of ice... And he said, “Eugene, you just gotta remember one thing: You can’t fall off a mountain.”

Maelstrom: What?

Eugene Robinson: You can’t fall off a mountain. You can fall off your *place* in the mountain and end up somewhere *else* on the mountain. It was kind of a Zen, paradoxical thing. It’s like not being able to fall off the Earth. I shared the story with a female friend of mine who asked, “I don’t get that story; is that supposed to be reassuring?” And I said, “no.” In typical Oxbow fashion, it’s supposed to be anything BUT reassuring.

The punch line to the story is that the guy who told me that subsequently slipped down a hundred foot ice crevasse and was never heard from again. That’s the Oxbow world view, right there.

If you come home early, you might find your girlfriend with a cock where you think it shouldn’t be, but guess what? The cock is always where it should be: in the hole. It just happens that it’s not your cock, man. You gotta let go of all that stuff. Life will fuck you in the ass if it can. In the ancient Greek they would talk about a variety of religious experience; the rough translation is to be “a hilarious giver” -- one that gives freely and willingly. That’s one of the things that people often miss with Oxbow: there’s a great deal of hilarity to it. This shit is funny, man. It’s so funny you might start crying.

I think we have to reconfigure our relationship to tragedy. I think there’s not much that’s tragic in life except for debilitating illness and being sexually abused as a child. Those people have problems. Everyone else has difficulties. You come home and your wife is sucking the milkman’s cock: that’s fun and games. You just gotta get your head around it, ‘cause you never should have trusted her to begin with. Or, you should have trusted her totally. I had a girlfriend once who was constantly lying to me. I went to a friend and asked, “how many times did your girlfriend have to lie to you before it was enough?” And he said, “once!” And I go, “ha! That’s the wrong answer...” HAHAHA! The right answer is that she should be able to lie to you 10,000 times - lie to you so much that it ceases to be important if she lies to you. There are certain people that, even when they lie, they tell the truth, as Tony Montano said. In other words, your essential elemental nature will always out. Why struggle against it? That’s what An Evil Heat is all about.

Maelstrom: Have you got any new material in the works?

Eugene Robinson: Yes. Our next record is going to be called The Narcotics Story. The lyrics are already written and done. We’re working on the music. By the time it comes out, it’ll probably be two years from now!

Maelstrom: Tell us about your label, CFY Records. Is that an Oxbow only vehicle?

Eugene Robinson: No, no. We put out stuff that’s non Oxbow. You might have heard of that band Stigmata, from New York. They’re still around. We were the first ones to put them out. Their demo tape sounded like early Metallica with Henry Rollins singing. We put out Whipping Boy stuff... Our biggest seller of all time was of course Birth of Tragedy: the Spoken Word Record. I used to do this magazine called the Birth of Tragedy, and this record took the people I interviewed and put them on tape. We had Anton LaVey, Charles Manson, Lydia Lunch, Nick Cave, Allen Ginsburgh, Henry Rollins, the guys from Survival Research Labs... They all did something. It actually made so much money, I felt guilty about it and paid people royalties.

Maelstrom: Are you putting out more stuff?

Eugene Robinson: No, man. Record labels suck.

Maelstrom: What does CFY stand for?

Eugene Robinson: It stands for Control for Youth. But of course, I’m not a youth anymore.

Maelstrom: How long have you had this label?

Eugene Robinson: Since 1980. The first band I was in was called Al and the Xs. I played saxophone. I started CFY to sell our demo tapes. ...Hey! There’s a PASCO Sam truck! “Why not?” Exactly. I love this guy...

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interveiw by: Roberto Martinelli

Of the new breed of black metal, Aborym is leading he charge. Melding electronica with the scathing sounds of black metal speed, this Italian band’s second album, Fire Walk with Us, took the Maelstrom camp by storm. Now Aborym has released an even more slick and sinister album, 2003's With no Human Intervention. The following are two separate dialogues with quintessential frontman Attila Csihar and guitarist Sethlans Teitan 131.

Maelstrom: Attila, I’d like to hear you talk about your performance with Sunn at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in England.

Attila Csihar: It was a pretty interesting experiment. I like moving in all kinds of extreme scenes. We knew Stephen (O’Malley, of Sunn) since ‘95. I recorded a track for the upcoming album (White 2). The track is pretty long - about 25 minutes. I did some weird vox in Sanskrit about the Kali Yuga.

It was also interesting because we played alongside some electronic bands. It was not metal stuff. But the people liked it. (pictured below)

                         

Maelstrom: But you’ve always been interested in electronic stuff.

Attila Csihar: Well, I feel it’s not far from some stuff I’ve done. Have you heard of Plasma Pool?

Maelstrom: Yes.

Attila Csihar: That happened around 1993. At the time I was really into the electronic stuff, but it was more in the occult, Pagan wing. We stopped the band when I joined Mayhem. So I like the electronic stuff and the ambient stuff, like old Current 93 and old Coil, the old Psychic TV stuff. So it was interesting to enter into the ambient doom thing with Sunn.

Maelstrom: Let’s talk about the vocals that you did on With No Human Intervention. They’re excellent as usual, but I have to tell you that it was disappointing that they don’t really sound like you. It sounds a bit more generic to me. What do you think about that?

Attila Csihar: Yes, you are right. I changed a little bit this time. I didn’t want to use again the low voice. When I played with Tormentor, my first band, I sang more like this; in a screamy way. But with Plasma Pool and Mayhem I started to do the low voice. So I wanted to refresh a bit and do the scream thing.

Maelstrom: You’ll have to tell me, but it seems that the screams would be more difficult to pull off. At any rate, they’re excellent.

Attila Csihar: Thank you.

Maelstrom: To this day, Fire Walk with Us is still my favorite Aborym record.

Attila Csihar: Ahh, cool, cool. Yeah, the screams are pretty difficult sometimes. It takes physical concentration to do it. It’s a breathing technique.

Maelstrom: What breathing technique? Does this have to do with your taking opera lessons?

Attila Csihar: YEAH! Yeah, I did some opera lessons before and again recently. I like when they talk about breathing technique. It’s a little bit like breathing for yoga meditation. You have to take the breath down and build it up and use it. It’s the same thing with the eastern fighting things, like the kung fu or wu shu. I practiced kung fu before.

I like opera vocals sometimes - not all. It’s interesting for me to think how they can do that. I like classical music. But the technique is hard to explain as you have to use muscles that you don’t use in everyday life. After a while your body becomes like an instrument and you can play it.

Maelstrom: When you go to these classes, do you tell them what you’re going to be using the technique for?

Attila Csihar: Hahahahaha! No, man, no. I was expecting this question. Last time my teacher said, “ah! You are pretty ok. You could sing some jazz and stuff like that. Why don’t we learn some songs?” I said, “well...” Also, when they ask me to sing something, they say, “ok, sing some folk songs.” Like anyone knows. Sometimes it’s pretty uncomfortable. But they don’t know about [Aborym]. It would be pretty crazy to show the albums to this old woman.

I tell you the true thing about how I found this teacher. Someone asked me to be an extra in a “Jesus Christ Superstar” production here. I was really surprised, but these guys were young and cool. They were also bikers.

Maelstrom: Bikers doing “Jesus Christ Superstar”?

Attila Csihar: Yeah. At first I thought I wasn’t interested, but they told me I would be Caiaphas, who crucifies Jesus in the end. A real negative hero. And he sings in a very low voice. I had the track “Jesus Must Die.” So it said, “ok, let’s do.” I went to practice and met classical musicians. They heard about my art but found it very strange. But it was cool, because the girls of the strings were very young and were interested in my stuff. It was a big crew: about 50 persons. A lot of young people.

I had some plans to one day do a black metal opera; to get together with other people from the scene and do a corpsepainted, big band with strings and trumpets.

Maelstrom: Do you know about Chaostar?

Attila Csihar: No.

Maelstrom: They’re from Greece. Do you know about Septic Flesh?

Attila Csihar: ....

Maelstrom: I’ll send you an email about it. There are some really cool metal opera bands, like Hammers of Misfortune (check out our review and interview). Of course it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your own.

I think it’s remarkable that you started all these bands so long ago, and you’re from Hungary. Hungary has a few bands I can think of off the top of my head, but the scene isn’t so strong like it is in the Czech Republic. How did you think to start doing vocals like this?

Attila Csihar: It started from my childhood when I would listen to Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. I was always practicing by myself at home, to be a vocalist.

Then, when I was in middle school, when I was 14, I played water polo. There was a guy on the team who told me about a guitarist. So we met and we formed Tormentor. Around that time came the black metal movement, in ‘86. We decided to play black metal because it was very new and we wanted to be very, very extreme. We were inspired by the old Bathory, Destruction... but that movement was different from today’s: the genres weren’t so seperated. There were just a few bands. Venom was different from Bathory or Celtic Frost, but it was still the same movement, and we wanted to join it.

We applied to a competition in Hungary. We had two songs and we went to play them among other bands. Some of them were really famous. We were really young. We went to the stage and made some chaos. It was our first show and we played in front of a lot of people. But at the end of the day when they said who was winner, the third one was Tormentor by audience vote. Not by the judges, of course. (Laugh) So! So, it was a fucking surprise. We were all like, “no....” So we went to the next round, which wasn’t only metal, but all kinds of musical bands. It was really strange for us to play. But we failed in the next round because some stupid pop band won.

But after, we were asked to play again. So we put together some tracks as fast as we could and we made some covers. It was a really a fast way up. We were underground, but people heard about us. There was always fighting at the show and the big chaos as more and more people started to come. We played that way continuously until ‘89.

Maelstrom: But now Tormentor is on hold?

Attila Csihar: I would like to start a label and re-release the old stuff. We had plans to do a new album. We will do it one day. I don’t want to stop. Tormentor is a very strange band. The last album came after a 10 year silence. I want to be a bit faster with the next one. The lineup isn’t fixed yet. It could be the original one, or a new one.

Maelstrom: If you can look back at yourself and look at the vocalist you’ve become, how many people you’ve influenced and how many bands use vocals that sound like Attila, what does that mean to you? You’re on what is maybe the most important black metal record ever.

Attila Csihar: In a way, it’s really strange for me to see, but in another way, I feel it in my veins. As you can see, it’s been like this for me from the beginning. It’s really coming from somewhere inside. Sometimes, when I’m rehearsing, I feel this strange energy. Sometimes even I am surprised by my voice.

I have some gift, or something. I can thank fate also. I can’t say it was always positive. I had some very negative turns.

Maelstrom: What was the most negative thing that happened to you?

Attila Csihar: When we came out with the first Tormentor album, in ‘88, it was never released. The guy who paid for the studio for Anno Domini, he lost money on another band and was not able to release our album. It was really one of the best in the world of the genre, really. We know that now.

And then came the Mayhem story, which ended up, well, you know how. At the same time, Plasma Pool had to stop when the keyboard player was robbed by the mafia. He went into some bad stuff, so one day some people came to his home with some guns and took his instruments. But I’m proud of my voice and I’m proud of my art. But I’m very happy that I could influence others.

Maelstrom: Even with your immediate peers: you sang on Mick Kenney’s new Anaal Nathrakh record. Kenney’s project Frost is like Mayhem, and the guy sounds like Attila. It’s a great band, and it’s in honor of you.

Attila Csihar: Yes. Euronymous got in touch with me in ‘91. As I know now, it was because they liked Tormentor. It’s a bit strange, as my name in my band was Mayhem. So it was a weird sign for me. When I heard the music, I said, wow. I remember that at first I couldn’t believe the drums. It was like the double of the usual rhythms.

But I was very sad when I heard the news (about Euronymous’ death).

Maelstrom: There was a rumor about a year ago that you would rejoin Mayhem.

Attila Csihar: Yes... sometimes we are talking about this. Sometimes Maniac feels like quitting. If he quits the band, probably I will be the next vocalist. I’ll have to see what happens, but basically I’m interested.

Maelstrom: Would you still be Aborym’s vocalist?

Attila Csihar: I don’t think it would be any problem to play the old songs. For the new ones, I should learn something.

Maelstrom: What kind of guy is Sethlans Teitan? Give us a funny story about him.

Attila Csihar: (laugh) He is like my brother. We very much like and appreciate each other. He’s a very good guitarist too. He’s got fucking strong wrists. In Aborym, he does the more heavy riffs, and Nysrok does the more complicated stuff. They complement each other well.

Maelstrom: I read in the Gnosis Zine interview about how you recorded De Misteriis Dom Sathanas. You said you were behind a curtain in blackness, and candles all around.

Attila Csihar: Yeah. I had very little time. We had just a couple of days for the vocals. I was very nervous. It was strange that we only had one track to do. So if I made a mistake, it was not possible to do different versions and pick the best one.

Grieghallen is a cool studio. I remember we stole the big gong from the classical department.

Maelstrom: What has been the most important or best experience you’ve had so far in your musical career?

Attila Csihar: The last one was the show with Sunn. Here in Hungary, I was fucked by the police at the border. I missed my airplane. Because of the delay, they changed the schedule of the show. They put us before Aphex Twin. We were supposed to open the party. We replaced Earth. So instead of Earth, it was Sunn. It was like 3,000 people. I heard afterwards that BBC 1 broadcast the show. That was a pretty cool thing.

I also like the period when we recorded the Fire Walk with Us album. It was a great time in Rome.

The Mayhem period was very nice. It was cool to play with Mayhem. I played with them once in Milan. Aborym had just recorded Kali Yuga Bizarre. Maybe you heard it on the live record.

Maelstrom: “Attila! Come on the stage! Attila!” That’s awesome.

Attila Csihar: Yeah! That was after a very hard period of drug use. I was coming out of the depths of that. I was pretty sick. But I turned it into my performance.

I loved also the Plasma Pool gigs that we did from ‘90-93. At the time, very few bands played electronic music. There were no computers like today. It was very hard to put together the stuff. It was a big challenge.

Maelstrom: You may be sick and tired of this, but I wanted to know if you’d care to comment on your arrest recently in Italy on drug possession charges.

Attila Csihar: Shit happens. I was in Naples and I had some stuff on me. It took a month to clean myself up, and they released me finally. I was fucked up with this. For me, drugs aren’t the first thing in life.

Maelstrom: But drugs are an important part of your creating things?

Attila Csihar: Sometimes, yes. When I was young, I liked to experiment. Taking drugs wasn’t only about going out and laughing at stupid things; sometimes I took drugs when I was alone and listened to music and meditated. It was really interesting. I won’t say that all people need drugs. For some people it would be really dangerous, while for others it could be necessary to cover up some parts of the brain. Now, for instance, I use very few drugs. It’s not worth it anymore.

Maelstrom: When was the first time you used drugs?

Attila Csihar: When I was in Plasma Pool. For a time, I had some problems, but that was five, six years ago. I know what it is when you go too far and can’t find your way back. But in a way, it can make you strong. You can lose your personality or make it stronger. What do you think? Do you use any drugs?

Maelstrom: No. But I don’t judge people if they use or not. I think it’s funny that people are making a big deal about your arrest. For me, it’s not such a big deal because artists have been using before Jesus Christ. So it’s nothing new.

                   

(l-r: Attila Csihar, Nysrok Infernalien, Sethlans Teitan 131, Malfeitor Fabban)

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Why does Sethlans Teitan have the number 131 in his stage name? Amongst other things, it has to do with Pan. No, not the cooking utensil. You can read up about it here: http://www.panikon.com/phurba/old/131.html

Maelstrom: The biggest news about Aborym lately has been the arrest of Attila Csihar on drug possession charges. Would you care to comment on that?

Sethlans Teitan 131: What happened is very simple: he has a curse and we have a curse. During and after the making of With No Human Interviention, so many bizarre shit happened. I don’t really want to talk about the details. In short, Attila got arrested in a drug sting. They found some stuff on him. He was jailed for a month, released and came here to Rome with me and the other Aborym guys. They were hard times but we all learned from it. Shit, that happens if one lives an extreme life anyway. It’s a bit strange to see the fuss about such a minor thing. It was even in the Italian newspapers.

There is a free newspaper when you take the underground in Rome. And there it was, “Attila of the black metal band Aborym, arrested.”

Maelstrom: On the front page?

Sethlans Teitan 131: No, in a small column, but it was there. There were many people that I knew since I was a small kid that thought I was a drug dealer. It was pretty fun. The only problem is that all the webzines started to write untrue things, without asking us anything.

Anyway, much worse has happened in black metal. I’m not here to justify it.

Maelstrom: Well, since the beginning of art and music, musicians have been doing drugs...

Sethlans Teitan 131: Think about what Black Sabbath was doing in the ‘70s. They were spending $1,000 a day for cocaine. I don’t know what the issue is about some ecstasy pills.

People who are into metal are supposed to be a bit more open minded than others, but it seems that in this kind of music there are a lot of people who are like 50 years old. Of course, it’s not that one has to take drugs if one is into black metal, but that doesn’t mean that you should judge like you’re a priest.

Maelstrom: The vocals on the new album don’t really sound like Attila. Was this a conscious decision, do you think?

Sethlans Teitan 131: It was a very spontaneous process. He sculptured his vocals to the music. What came out is very different from the De Misteriis... style. You are right about that. But, if you follow his career from Tormentor to Plasma Pool to Mayhem to Aborym, he never uses the same vocals. With Mayhem, he invented a new vocal style. That’s why they wanted him. I read the letter that Euronymous wrote him. They wanted him in Mayhem because they thought his vocals were like nobody else’s. They didn’t want the usual screaming stuff.

Maelstrom: The new record is improved in every way, in a technical and production sense. The record is much denser. You also have many more people contributing to this record. But for a while, Hellhammer was supposed to lend his drum skills, but he ended up not. What happened?

Sethlans Teitan 131: Hellhammer liked Fire Walk with Us ver much. We sent him some rough recordings of the new material. He liked it and was glad to do it. The shit was that he had to go with Mayhem to Australia for two weeks. That was in the only period we could work with him. But we thought the drum machine was already programmed and just fine. And it’s not like if we don’t do it now, we’ll never do it.

Anyway, there are only three drummers I would ever let play on Aborym. Hellhammer, Frost and Faust. When [Faust] comes back and Dissection releases a new album, they will set stuff straight. I’m also awaiting the return of Mysticum. (Sethlans Teitan with Bard "Faust" Eithun, below)

                       

Maelstrom: Yeah, I see quite a few similarities in what both bands do.

Sethlans Teitan 131: Yes. I can say that Mysticum was the first to do the black industrial thing. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard their demos, but they were unique even back in ‘92. They were one of the bands that influenced me sound-wise. It’s always an honor when we are compared to them. I’m very proud we’re doing our own black industrial thing. I really hope they come back. I heard they recorded an album, but it seems they throw it away and re-record. But let’s hope they return and set some new standards in this fucked up scene. It’s pretty lacking in individual and unique acts.

Maelstrom: It seems that there’s an international brotherhood forming between you and Anaal Nathrakh, Thorns and Carpathian Forest and some other bands. A newer breed of these higher tech bands.

Sethlans Teitan 131: I can say that something new is coming out. You mentioned Anaal Nathrakh. They are much more on the brutal side. Attila and I guested on their new EP. Irrumator (of Anaal Nathrakh) is a very good friend. You are right to talk about brotherhood, but it is apart from the musical thing. There are a handful of bands that I share ideas and visions about a lot of things. That forms a union. For instance, bands like Diabolicum, Carpathian Forest, Arkhon Infaustus from France...we share many views.

Maelstrom: Right off the bat, even before I heard Fire Walk with Us, I picked up on the obvious “Twin Peaks” references. Going back even farther to Kali Yuga Bizarre (the first album), on the last track there’s a melody that’s lifted from “Twin Peaks.”

Sethlans Teitan 131: Yeah, when we were kids we all saw the TV series, and after we saw all of Lynch’s movies.

Maelstrom: It’s a totally cool thing to put in there.

Sethlans Teitan 131: Of course the music is excellent. Angelo Badalamenti (“Twin Peaks” composer) is one of the musicians I respect the most. But it’s more than that. In Lynch’s movies there is this kind of morbid and bizarre aura. There is the unspoken, the splendor of the underworld that he portrays in his work. Much of the energy I feel when I watch his movies is the same one that we spread with Aborym. I think I will send him all the albums. I don’t know if he’ll ever answer. But he did put Rammstein on the “Lost Highway” soundtrack, so he’s not alien to this kind of music.

Maelstrom: Windham Hell is another band that just sounds like “Twin Peaks” for me.

Sethlans Teitan 131: I agree. There’s an ethereal aura about them. They are very much a spiritual band. I like feeling this in music.

Maelstrom: Have you ever heard of Bohren Und Der Club of Gore? (If you haven’t, check out our interview here)

Sethlans Teitan 131: No.

Maelstrom: It sounds like the alternate music from “Twin Peaks” or from the Black Lodge.

Sethlans Teitan 131: Ahhh!! The Black Lodge!

Maelstrom: They’re a lounge band from Germany.

Sethlans Teitan 131: They’re kind of jazz?

Maelstrom: Sort of. But it’s really slooooooow.

Sethlans Teitan 131: I love it. Some nights I have listening sessions with “Twin Peaks” stuff. I would like to live in the Black Lodge, actually.

Maelstrom: On the new album, the clip at the beginning with the girl talking about “my dark desire” is so cool.

Sethlans Teitan 131: Many people thought it was a girl. It’s a sample from a not so good movie called “The Calling.” It’s a sort of remake of “The Omen.” There’s a small kid who’s supposed to be the anti-Christ talking. But what’s interesting is that sentence is a quote from Mac Beth. It’s about killing the king; the force that wants to slay the status quo. That’s why it’s in the beginning of the album.

Maelstrom: Why is your first album called Kali Yuga Bizarre?

Sethlans Teitan 131: The kali yuga means “the black age” in Hindi. The Hindu religion divides time in cycles. Each yuga is an amount of years. The kali yuga is the last of the ages. If you take the Hindu perspective, we’re living the kali yuga now. It’s the last phase, the one where everything corrupts. Adding “bizarre” was the idea of our first singer.

Maelstrom: Looking at the progression of Aborym: forget the new record, the progression from Kali Yuga... to Fire Walk... is such a huge progression. Kali Yuga... had some unique things about it, like Attila’s vocals. But it’s still quite derivative of other things. But then you made this huge step forward. What happened?

Sethlans Teitan 131: The Kali Yuga... songs were written between 1994-97 and recorded in 1998. I still really like that album, but it was done over a long period of time. It’s not one big trip. The thing the album lacks is union. I have to tell you that Samoth of Emperor liked that album a lot. We were supposed to go with his label, Nocturnal Art, for Fire Walk with Us, but we were signed for two albums with fucking shit Scarlet Records from Italy.

Maelstrom: I’ve heard bad stories about that label. You’re not the first person.

Sethlans Teitan 131: They are a label that doesn’t care about the music. They only care to release 10 albums a year of all kinds of different crap music, from shit power metal to Gothic metal, to black metal. They didn’t like that we wanted to break the contract and go with Nocturnal Art, so they didn’t do promotion for Fire Walk... at all. In a way they boycotted it. Well, we are away from it. I don’t trust labels anymore. I really hope we will release our music on our own next time.

Maelstrom: What’s Attila like?

Sethlans Teitan 131: He’s a very strong man and kind of a magical individual. I appreciate his strength. He did black metal back in ‘86 with Tormentor in Budapest when there was the Iron Curtain. They couldn’t buy records. And then the shit happened with Mayhem, but he always kept on over 15 years. He never gave up. He has a strong will and cannot stop expressing himself through his art. Either we are artists or criminals.

We summon something pretty big; we are hallowed by the trust between us and the current I use to worship. When I do music, it’s not that I take the guitar and do the song. I play guitar always, but I can’t force myself to write something. For the last album, the music was sort of like taking dictation. It was a magical thing. We usually write separately. I did half of the With No Human Intervention and Nysrok (the other guitarist) the other half. We both had this kind of impulse. That’s why it was so true. I don’t mean true in the “true black metal” sense. I was never so satisfied with something I did. Fire Walk with Us was also like this.

Maelstrom: The marriage of electronic music and black metal. You know that some fans have a problem with it, but it seems to be taking off. What’s your commentary about this?

Sethlans Teitan 131: I will tell you. Something very strange for me is when I hear these young guys talking about electronic music - which is of course a pretty wide term. But the shit is that electronic music is actually older than black metal. I can’t really understand when people refer to electronic music as a new thing. NON (Boyd Rice) was playing industrial music in 1969. Venom hadn’t recorded yet. I say Venom because for me that’s when black metal started.

People might criticize the mix when they see bands like The Kovenant, and I can agree to an extent, because I don’t really like their style, especially the last album. But we don’t sound like this. It’s clear it’s music done with the intention to hurt and harass and shock the listener. We use techno beats at high speed, and we did manage to meld the most extreme black metal spirituality with different brands of electronic music. No one has achieved what we have with our last two records. If people don’t like it or aren’t ready, that’s their problem.

Maelstrom: What do you think of stuff like Aphex Twin?

Sethlans Teitan 131: He’s a genius. You can hear that we like this kind of Aphex Twin and Warp style in the song “Does not Compute,” which was written by the band Void. We really like these kinds of sounds and moods. In the end, being a guitarist, I’m more into metal than electronica. But at the same time I appreciate different kinds of music.

                                       

                                   

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interview by: Larissa Parson

The Glaswegian band Aereogramme has been on tour in support of their last album, Sleep and Release (review here). I had the chance to ask the band’s singer, Craig B, some questions via email:

Maelstrom: I just read your diaries from the last American tour. After a few trips Stateside, what's the band's impression of America/Americans?

Craig B: We get slightly annoyed when people automatically diss America and Americans really, because there are idiots in every country and America just seems like it is filled with idiots because it’s so huge. But this is the same country that introduced me to Bill Hicks, David Lynch, Fugazi etc... so we have as much respect for America as we do fearing it as well (especially the closer you get to Alabama).

Maelstrom: How does your European tour compare to the US one?

Craig B: Mainland Europe (excluding the U.K.) is a joy to play as the venues will always treat you with an incredible amount of respect and the organisation is amazing. This is not to say that the U.S doesn’t but there is just a more relaxed atmosphere when we play in Europe. People actually come out to see us there as well which probably affects my opinion of it as well.

Maelstrom: You thank Jaegermeister on your website. What's your favorite drink?

Craig B: My drink of choice would be a straight whisky and coke, but the whole band favour Jaegermeister if we are going for a proper night out. Shit, this stuff is incredible. Our normally quiet drummer turns into an monster after a few shots. You just fill him up and watch him take off!

Maelstrom: Worst alcohol/touring tale?

Craig B: I guess my worst alcohol/touring tale would have to be our last night in New York at the end of the last tour where I was seemingly stuck in the elevator, fast asleep, with the elevator doors opening and shutting on my head before Martin dragged me by the foot into the room. Not that I remember any of it, sadly enough.

                  

Maelstrom: I've found that, as you've said before, it's hard to explain your music in terms of fitting into one category or another. That's part of what makes Aereogramme so appealing to people (like me) who grew up on punk and now listen to your labelmates on Chemikal Underground. What led you to stick with both the heavy and the gentler sounds? What do you think of attempts to define your music - has anyone really succeeded?

Craig B: The only thing that lead me to stick with the heavy and gentle sounds is purely the music I listen to myself. I love extremes and I get as excited listening to Converge or Neurosis as I do listening to Stars of the lid or Red House Painters, so it makes perfect sense to me that they would both influence the music that I make. I understand people trying to define our music but I don’t think there is a specific title that describes what we do as a whole - although you could easily describe specific parts of what we do.

What I do not understand though is when we are described as "emo" or worse still, "Mogwai." These tags do not take into consideration our heaviest parts and if you are going to try and describe what we do you need to take into consideration ALL the parts that we do.

Maelstrom: What do you have to say about metal? What do you find most interesting about the music? Favorite bands?

Craig B: Underground metal has some of the most interesting bands around right now for me. Converge's last album, Jane Doe, is one of the most exciting and passionate albums I have ever heard. Neurosis are an inspiration artistically and musically. There is no one like them. Will Haven were one of the most honest and brutal bands I had ever heard until they split up.

It guess it’s the emotion that these bands spit out. It’s†nothing like the MTV type metal that is pushed forward. This music is honest and passionate to me and makes me feel like I was 16 again, standing in front of the mirror pretending to sing into a deodorant can. Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that......

Maelstrom: What else are you listening to these days?

Craig B: The last few albums I bought were the new Four Tet album, which is beautiful. The new Tomahawk album, Aphex Twin, Poison the Well.

Maelstrom: What album should everybody own a copy of?

Craig B: An album that everyone should own is Mercury by American Music Club because it has great lyrics, songs of happiness and songs of darkness and, for me, one of the greatest songs ever written, titled "I’ve Been a Mess," which uses the biblical story of Lazarus to describe a love for someone else. Genius.

Maelstrom: Can you say a few words about the tracks on the upcoming "Liver and Lungs" EP? What sort of sonic direction are they moving in? And what does an Aereogramme cover of "Thriller" sound like?

Craig B: Well, two of them were recorded in various hotel rooms in Canada and America and the other two were recorded in Glasgow so I guess they do feel and sound quite different. The EP was approached as a means to experiment, so I think it reflects that quite well. It’s quite eclectic.

"Thriller" sounds mental in so many ways. Iain wrote [a] score heavily influenced by all the horror films we watch and I had to make a scary voice for the Vincent Price part but I ended up sounding like Gollum from “Lord of the Rings.” Yes, its pretty weird but I hope Jacko hears it.

Maelstrom: What was the most interesting interpretation of your lyrics that you've heard?

Craig B: We have recently had an interpretation of "Post Tour Pre Judgement" from someone who suffers from schizophrenia. I think it was very honest of the guy and very brave to put it into words what the lyrics have meant to him. It still amazes me that a song can become such a personal encounter for individuals. We also get people’s ideas of what they think I’m singing and they are wildly wrong but actually far more interesting than what I’m actually singing !

Maelstrom: Most bizarre fan encounter?

Craig B: Probably the German transvestite who walked up to us in a dress and thanked us in a voice deeper than Barry White. I’ve never seen the whole band speechless before.

Maelstrom: Will you guys ever give up your beards?

Craig B: Not me anyway. Campbell sported an amazing handlebar Moustache on one tour but that’s as far as the trimming has gone. Maybe we will "do a KISS" and take the beards of as a publicity stunt. Watch us rock the music world with that one.

Maelstrom: Anything you'd like to add?

Craig B: Thanks for getting in touch. I need to get home now. I’m playing Silent Hill 3 with my girlfriend and it’s sick. Brilliant but sick. Also, don’t go and see the “Matrix Reloaded.” It’s a waste of energy / talent / money / etc.......

Maelstrom: I haven't seen “Matrix Reloaded” yet, and am not planning on it... but you should absolutely check out “X-Men 2.” It was great.

Craig B: Saw “X-Men 2" and yeah, it was great. Smart and exciting. Everything the “Matrix 2" was not.

Maelstrom: Do you have a favorite DVD or video game, after all that time you all spent playing them?

Craig B: I guess our video game of the tour was “Monkey Bowling” from “Monkey Ball” on the Nintendo Gameboy. When you are stuck in a van for a minimum of five hours a day for a whole month you need something to pass the time and this helped SO much. Campbell even made up his own monkey ball theme tune which became the running joke of the tour for us. Sad, really.

I guess "Waiting for Guffman" and the Neurosis DVD were the films that kept us going until Iain’s laptop heated up too much and we had to give it a rest.

Maelstrom: Did you all do a song called “Lid of the Star” at some point? anything to do with the Stars of the Lid?

Craig B: "Lid of the Stars" was a Ganger song. (an old band I was in) And, yeah it was heavily influenced by Stars of the Lid who I still love and listen to very much. (Check out our review, interview and live review of Stars of the Lid - Roberto)

                

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

(band photo by Asgeir Mickelson)

Is Solefald trying to show off their amazing intellects, or is their art a natural effort? I talked to lyricist Cornelius to try to get to the bottom of this. Armed with what little I had in terms of Norwegian obscurity, I began.

Maelstrom: I learned a new word in Norwegian that I’m really quite pleased about: “utburd.”

Cornelius: I’m afraid I don’t know the word...

Maelstrom: Wow! *I* can teach YOU something in Norwegian! Hihihi!

Cornelius: It sounds like a table outside.

Maelstrom: Apparently, if you take a baby to the woods to die, the ghost is an utburd.

Cornelius: Ah! Utburd! Yes, I thought you were talking about a table.

Maelstrom: Well, it’s my shitty accent. I have no idea what I’m saying.

Cornelius: That’s a very rare word. Congratulations. I wonder who taught you that.

Maelstrom: Yeah, it’s part of the perks of being a metal journalist. I learned it from Madder Mortem. Have you heard of them?

Cornelius: I think all the people in that band were put out in the forest to die when they were kids, but they made their way back.

Maelstrom: It seems that each successive release of Solefald is even more hifalutin and even more elitist than the last. In this one, you’ve got references to Münch, Shakespeare, Odin and Greek mythology. Wow.

Cornelius: I appreciate your reaction. Many of the reactions I’ve read from listeners have been quite overwhelmed as well. To me, that fact is quite surprising, really. As the lyricist of the band, these things are part of my every day life. I don’t think of them as elitist. Reading literature and discussing, that’s pretty much what my life is about. To me it isn’t elitist. If I try to be in the place of someone else, I might feel that way. But the question is, is it too much? I would hope the answer is no. As Shakespeare has great dramatic potential, as does the Greek and Norse literatures. Where did you find Shakespeare on the record?

Maelstrom: The song “Dionysify this Night of Spring” made me think of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Cornelius: Ah. The spring theme may be very present in Shakespeare, but we actually didn’t do that song with Shakespeare in mind.

Maelstrom: Ok. I wanted to talk about Edvard Münch. I’m only familiar with his art. (You can take a look at it and read up on Münch here http://art.enchantingsites.com - Roberto) He of course did the drawings of sick, twisted, near corpse drawings of people. There’s this band called Rachel’s. Have you heard of them?

Cornelius: No.

Maelstrom: They’re a sort of instrumental, new classical music band. They did a tribute to Münch a few years ago. The have a little bio of Münch in the booklet, but it doesn’t touch on why his drawing are so fucked up. What really appealed to you about his art, and why did you want to dedicate one of your songs to him?

Cornelius: I was in Oslo three days ago. I went back into the Münch museum. We do have quite a lot of things in common. Norway’s history is much more related to anything that is craft and industry, rather than art. Münch lived abroad in Germany and France. He traveled to Italy and the UK. He wrote stuff in German. He had mental problems. He drank a lot. He must have been experimenting with drugs, as well. I think he was a very sensitive person. What appeals to me in his paintings and what connects him to Solefald is his expressionism. Our music could be caused expressionist without any big mistakes being made.

The question is, is that what Münch saw, or are the paintings the way he makes people - the way what comes from inside him projects onto the world. I think we do the same with music.

Maelstrom: Are you saying that you want your music to illicit some of the same responses as looking at a Münch painting?

Cornelius: I think I might, yes.

Maelstrom: (The paintings) are quite disgusting.

Cornelius: You find them disgusting? Most people just find them displeasing.

Maelstrom: Right. I didn’t mean that as a value judgement. I was thinking more in terms of how they make me feel.

Cornelius: Yes, kind of disquieting.

Maelstrom: It makes me think of (what I’ve read about) World War I. I associate a lot of emotions of the two.

Cornelius: Most of his paintings were painted just before.

Maelstrom: That’s right. I was reading about that. It was amazing, because I would think they would have come after.

Cornelius: But, you know, it means that the whole zeitgeist and attitude of the time must have been pretty disturbing.

Maelstrom: There’s a lyric on your previous record (Pills Against the Ageles Ills) that goes, “hate yourself like Kate Moss.” What do you mean?

Cornelius: It’s pretty much my fist going back to where [the inspiration for the lyric] comes from. To me, talking shit about fashion icons is a way of lyrical self-defense. I think that as a consumer, I often feel myself quite humiliated. I often feel underestimated both as a customer and an intellectual.

Calvin Klein, or Coco Chanel, I find their way of selling me their project extremely arrogant. One of the only ways I can respond to that is by having fun with them. There’s this old tradition: you talk about the high with the words of the low; you try to ridiculize it. Hate yourself like Kate Moss. You read all these stories about Kate Moss and others: she had a joint the other day or the other year... what everybody else does becomes big press when one of these people do it. I find that whole circus to be so ridiculous. Does Kate Moss hate herself? I don’t know, but when I wrote that lyric, that was pretty much my feeling.

Maelstrom: Let’s talk about the song “Buy My Sperm.” There’s a lyric that goes, “credit card accepted for 5,000 seed. The A bomb was a product of excellent sperm. Next genocide courtesy of my firm.” What’s that song about?

Cornelius: It’s pretty related to the lyrics of Pills Against the Ageless Ills and Neonism. It has this sort of sarcastic and contemporary tone to it. There’s a lot of humor in the song. In some sense, I enjoy myself a lot more when I write this sort of lyrics - much more than when I write the sort of sentimental ones.

The “Buy My Sperm” song is discussing the scenario where your genetic material has a price. The better it is considered, obviously, the more expensive it is. Sperm banks must have been around for thirty years. IN the future, especially when writing the lyric, I had the feeling that the attention paid to who you are in terms of your DNA code will increase. It can be both a liberating and disturbing thought that I might be discriminated against based on my DNA. I’m not anti-science at all, but I see the potential dangers of the commercialization of genes.

Maelstrom: (please bear with me for a moment as I put Cornelius’ French skills to the test) Je vois que vous écrivez maintenant dans quatre langues differentes.

Cornelius: Oui.

Maelstrom: Vous pourriez faire cette entrevue en français?

Cornelius: Pas mal. Vous parlez français aussi?

Maelstrom: Oui, je suis bilingue.

Cornelius: Ah, bon? Vous avez des parents?

Maelstrom: Mon père est moitié italien et moitié français. J’essaye d’à nouveau de parler l’italien comme je le parlais quand j’étais enfant. Je parle aussi japonais et espagnol, donc je suis un peu comme vous. C’est vraimant épatant que vous parlez tellement de langues si bien.

Anyway, I’m going to go back to English. Or else no one is going to understand! So you’re writing in four different languages now. Are you trying to connect with the broadest possible audience or are you just showing off?

Cornelius: We expected such a question. I’m happy to hear it. You’ve got the right to be critical. Simply where this comes from is 1) my everyday life (but that’s not really interesting). I live in Paris and I speak usually several languages each day. Two, due to the extreme importance that the English language has, I feel that being given the opportunity to promote some other languages (which also happen to be languages that I know. I’d like to do a song in Arabic, but I don’t know the language)...

Maelstrom: I always think it’s cool when bands sing in their own language.

Cornelius: That being said, singing in Norwegian is something that I think is really nice. We enjoy singing in our mother tongue because in that sense we send something back to our country. It’s also the language we speak the best.

When it comes to German, it’s the language that has, for a variety of reasons, been made taboo over the last six years. I like the sound of the language. It fits extremely well with everything that is metal. It’s very sharp and harsh. By using all these languages, we are making a gesture in favor of those languages and countries that are considered to be less important. If at the same time we are able to attract positive attention, I’m very happy. But that is not the main drive. Neither is showing off, although I’m prepared for the accusations.

Maelstrom: What’s it like writing and singing in different languages? What are the challenges and flavors that come through?

Cornelius: Interesting. French is very much...this is where all the clichés come out... When doing the French stuff, like the “Fraternité de la grande lumière,” it’s very Mediterranean sounding. The other one is the Münch song, which is very melodic and mellow sounding. French is very much an ambient language, adapted to more emotional communication.

The German song is really one of my favorites on the album. It has this very weird, menacing tone. It’s something you might expect in a Grimm fairy tale.

Singing in Norwegian is a bit ceremonial, almost.

Maelstrom: What are you doing in Paris?

Cornelius: I’ve been studying for some years now. I’m also trying to establish myself as a writer. For exile, Paris is a good place to be.

Maelstrom: Hehehe. Please continue about singing in Norwegian.

Cornelius: Being in exile, I’d like to put Norwegian on the map, to expose the language to people. I think that’s a good thing. People who are into meaning - there are very few - but in the sense of digging...

Maelstrom: Are you talking about metal people reading metal lyrics?

Cornelius: I know there are a fair amount of intelligent people who are into our music. I’ve received emails from people who see things into our music that I’ve haven’t seen. The thing is, most people don’t pay attention to what is being sung, it gives you more freedom in general.

Maelstrom: There’s a quote on your website about “staying out of the stinking, ideological swamp of black metal.” Maybe you talk a little about that.

Cornelius: Yes, I can. I’ve actually written an entire essay on the subject.

Maelstrom: Wow! Where can we read it?

Cornelius: Well, the problem is that at the moment it’s entirely in Norwegian. It’ll probably be published in Norway in a sort of political review publication.

The “stinking ideological swamp” of black metal what I consider to be the extremely totalitarian symbols, the aesthetics and phrases of that particular style is extremely uniform given the number of bands participating.

Maelstrom: Especially considering they’re all over the world.

Cornelius: Exactly. At some points you’ve even had Hungarians singing in Norwegian with topless women with Norwegian flags on them. At some point the whole thing becomes parody. What we try to do with Solefald is (besides enjoying ourselves and making listenable music) trying to lift ourselves up from that swamp.

That being said, I don’t like to moralize too much. If people want to write about Satanic topics, I don’t mind at all. I recognize Satanism as a philosophy among many others. That’s not the issue. The problem is that there are too many followers in metal. It’s the old imperative of “know thyself and thou shalt know the gods.” It’s simply about finding your own path, so to speak. The swamp is where you actually get stuck.

Maelstrom: What was the most important event that got you interested in playing music?

Cornelius: That was Angus Young of AC/DC. I think it was when I was 11 years old. I used to listen to Pet Shop Boys and George Harrison. Pretty much pop music. I watched this TV program and saw the “Heatseeker” video, with Angus Young crashing through a wall in a rocket. The rocket opens and he stands there playing guitar. That’s the moment that I decided I wanted to become a guitar player. I was awestruck. I didn’t have any choice.

Maelstrom: On your first record you had these screechy, raspy vocals. You sort of have those on the new record, but they’re more full and low. What’s the meaning of these raspy, croaky vocals of yours?

Cornelius: Thank you for noticing the change. That has something to do with maturity. The screechy vocals are something that I practiced a lot more before. When I do them, my voice tends to crack more often. How they sound while recorded really depends on the day. When using my vocal chords (which I don’t, when I scream) I’m able to control the lyrics much more. What I say becomes more audible. We also had pretty good microphones this time.

Maelstrom: Is it not very loud when you do it?

Cornelius: This time around, it’s maybe a bit louder than when I speak on the telephone (Cornelius has a pretty relaxed, moderate voice - Roberto). On the first album, they were really like someone was screaming.

Maelstrom: The first record is still my favorite, Cornelius.

Cornelius: It is? Good. I’m happy to hear it. Why?

Maelstrom: I like the melodies on it, and I think the clean singing is the prettiest. Those fucked up vocals are the most fucked up. The first two songs in particular are quite good.

I wonder if you’ve heard of that band Dornenreich? They’re from Austria.

Cornelius: No, I don’t know them.

Maelstrom: Well, I guess that question ends there. Anyway, there’s something about your first record that reminds me of their latest record (Her Von Welken Nächten). (also check out the interview with Dornenreich in this issue).

Cornelius: Is it after or before?

Maelstrom: After. Their last one came out two or three years ago.

Cornelius: What label are they on?

Maelstrom: Prophecy. The singer reminds me a bit of you. He’s very intellectual and well-spoken. It’s fascinating to contrast people like you with the opposites in the metal world, the stereotypes who say, “fuck yeah! Bang your head, drink beer and get laid!”

Cornelius: Yeah, well, you know, which are perfectly respectable things.

Maelstrom: Oh, yeah! Getting laid is great! (Laugh)

Cornelius: And so is drinking beer. (Laugh)

Maelstrom: But, seriously, I know you get this question a lot, but, like, why are you playing metal if you’re so intellectual? In a sense, it’s a pretty stupid question, but in another sense, it has its validity.

Cornelius: So, are you asking the question?

Maelstrom: Um... I’d like to hear about what you have to say about that.

Cornelius: At the moment, I’m preparing a solo project called Sturmgeist.

Maelstrom: That’s the German thrash project with the countryside image.

Cornelius: Yeah, exactly. It’s going to be more of a winter sports kind of thing with a 19th century visual side. The music will be very rudimentary, groovy thrash music. No bells, no bagpipes. (Laugh)

Maelstrom: Is it a sort of outlet?

Cornelius: Sometimes.

Maelstrom: Or a way to say, “hey, I can be totally metal, too!”

Cornelius: Maybe both. Maybe a way of tracing roots that I don’t get access to through Solefald. You know, that’s one of my responses to your question about why we would play metal if we are that intellectual.

Another response would be, yeah, I’ve asked myself that question.

Maelstrom: I think that people who don’t listen to metal would write you off because they think metal is stupid, and people who do listen to metal might wonder what you’re doing.

Cornelius: I think people who ask themselves that question do have a point. We’ve been around seven years and produced four albums. The name of the band is getting to know the name of the band. There are people aware that we are trying to do something different. Whether they like our music and buy our album is something else entirely. At least we are there and people are getting to know us. We’re going to stay around for another few years...maybe much, much longer, we don’t know. Metal is what both of us grew up with. That’s what we know. That’s why we’re playing metal.

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Martin LaCroix has had some HUGE shoes to fill taking over for Mike DiSalvo in the premier technical death band in the galaxy, Cryptopsy. Well, DiSalvo had his work cut out for him when he replaced Lord Worm, so LaCroix may be able to turn the trick, too. Here’s my conversation with him.

Maelstrom: I have to say that the sound on the live record is a little flat. What do you think?

Martin LaCroix: Maybe we lost some of the high frequencies. But it’s a live album, so we don’t want to work on it too much and make it sound like a studio album. We didn’t do any touch ups. We just mixed it a little bit and that’s it.

Maelstrom: I got to see you play when you came with Dimmu Borgir and Krisiun. That was your first tour. Has it been big shoes to fill? How do you feel about that?

Martin LaCroix: Oh, yeah, yeah. For me, yeah. I’m a big auto critic.

Maelstrom: I see on this recording (the only thing so far we can judge you by) that you’re sticking to the styles of the two previous singers in those singers’ respective songs. We’ll have to see what you’re going to do on your new record. How is that going?

Martin LaCroix: About half of it is made. About five songs are written. We’re making a concept album.

Maelstrom: I have to say that there’s no encore track on the record. You play your set and leave.

Martin LaCroix: We have some talking between the songs. Sometimes on a live album, you don’t want to hear all of that shit, you know? The two encore songs are “Defenestration” and “Slit Your Guts.”

Maelstrom: Oh! Those are the encores! I like the talking on live albums, but I do think, like you said, that it’s a delicate thing where to cut stuff out.

Martin LaCroix: We kept a little talking but cut out most of it.

Maelstrom: Can you talk about what your vocals are going to like on the new record, or talk about the concept you were mentioning?

Martin LaCroix: For the vocals, I want to go further than just death metal. I want to create a new thing. Before Cryptopsy, I was jamming with a death metal band. When I quit, I tried to join some other bands that told me, “your vocals are too heavy. Can you slow down a little bit?” They wanted vocals more like Pantera or something like this. When I took the gig with Cryptopsy, I felt, yeah, I can do anything I want and they’re never going to tell me it’s too heavy.

Maelstrom: What was the tryout like? Were there many others trying out? Was it a nervous experience? How did you prepare? Why do you think they picked you?

Martin LaCroix: I saw on the net one day that Mike DiSalvo quit. So I sent them my name with a bit of background. I got there a good four or five hours before the tryout. I know that this is a lifestyle and those guys have been working on Cryptopsy for 10 years. They tried me for three weeks. I thought, are they going to tell me something?

Maelstrom: You live in the same city, right?

Martin LaCroix: Yeah. It’s not too far away. They told me they were going to do a European tour with Vader and Dying Fetus. After that we’re going to Japan, and after that we’ll decide whether we’ll take you or not.

Maelstrom: Oh, wow! But that was when they were going on tour with Mike.

Martin LaCroix: No....

Maelstrom: They took you on all those tours and then decided whether they would keep you?

Martin LaCroix: Yeah. But that’s cool, because on tour, you’re with the guys for a good month. You almost sleep together. It’s a good way to know the other ones.

Maelstrom: Now that it’s over and done, can you tell us if there were any well-known vocalists that tried out for Cryptopsy and didn’t make it?

Martin LaCroix: There was the guy from Unhuman. They’re from Quebec City. He’s a great vocalist, but he has a (criminal) record. He got caught with some weed and can’t travel into the US.

Maelstrom: Anyone outside of Quebec?

Martin LaCroix: There was one guy from Istanbul who called.

Maelstrom: Oh, my god... did he show up?

Martin LaCroix: (In weird, sinister, chipmunk voice) “I wanna play in Cryptopsy!” Ok, if you want to play, you have to pay for your ticket. They received a lot of emails. But, from Istanbul, come on...

Maelstrom: So, no one from the US?

Martin LaCroix: No. Only from around Montreal.

Maelstrom: What is more challenging or different or fun about doing vocals in Cryptopsy than in your previous band, Spasme?

Martin LaCroix: What’s fun is that I can express myself in a way that wasn’t possible with Spasme.

Maelstrom: Could you tell us a little about Spasme? I’m not sure how many people are familiar with it.

Martin LaCroix: It was a bit like Opeth, but more brutal.

What’s hard about Cryptopsy is the lyrics. I want to compose very intelligent lyrics. But the tours are fun. They’re good guys. We have a very good friendship going so far.

Maelstrom: What’s tough about doing your vocals?

Martin LaCroix: After a show, your heart is going (does rapid heart thumping noise).

Maelstrom: When I saw you on stage, you spin your head around just about as fast as anybody I’ve ever seen. I want to ask you about that, too.

Martin LaCroix: I go crazy, man. I have to be as extreme as the music. I don’t have a guitar, it’s just me. So I have to be extreme. Lord Worm ate worms on stage. I don’t want to do that! (Laugh) So this is my way.

Maelstrom: Seriously, I frankly want to know how you can spin your head around that fast, a), and then, b), manage to stand up after doing it?

Martin LaCroix: Uhh... (laugh) Maybe it’s the adrenaline. (Laugh) You know, I played about 30 shows with Spasme in four years. With Cryptopsy, I did about 30 shows in a month. I didn’t know how my vocals would be. Maybe my throat would fall off after a week. I took care of myself - didn’t smoke too much. Hehe. But it was alright.

Maelstrom: Were you a big fan of this band for a while?

Martin LaCroix: Well, Cryptopsy is well known in Montreal. I’ve known about Cryptopsy since their first demo. I thought it was crazy. None so Vile was gross. With all the (does snorty growling), it was gross. At that time I was more into Opeth - not too much into the grind style, with snare and bass drum all the way.

Just before I took the gig with Cryptopsy, I bought <And so You’ll Beg> and I was amazed. Then I took the gig.

Maelstrom: There’s another band from your area called Martyr. I LOVE Martyr.

Martin LaCroix: They are really great.

Maelstrom: Have you heard the live record?

Martin LaCroix: No, no.

Maelstrom: That’s the best live album I can imagine, to the point where it’s so great that I got into Martyr because I heard the live record. I always think of live records as the other way around: you buy them because you already like a band.

Martin LaCroix: They’re really tight and technical. Daniel Mongrain, the guitarist, he’s amazing!

Maelstrom: The reason I’m asking is that I don’t understand why they’re not more popular.

Martin LaCroix: We have a lot of great bands in Montreal. I think that if these bands were from California or New York, there would be a lot more opportunity. Just because we are Quebec-ers, we have to work a lot more to impress.

Maelstrom: I don’t know, Montreal has a great reputation for death.

Martin LaCroix: Even all the bands that come through here say it’s the best. Morbid Angel, Opeth say that. We have a good fan base, that’s for sure.

Maelstrom: I understand Lord Worm is an English as a second language teacher.

Martin LaCroix: Yeah, he is.

Maelstrom: What do you do?

Martin LaCroix: What?

Maelstrom: Like, do you have a *real* job, like Superman?

Martin LaCroix: HAHAHAHAhahaha. Other than working at Daily Planet, I’m a tattoo artist.

Maelstrom: Oh, right. The things I remember about you are, 1) you spin your head around really fast, and 2) you have this tattoo on your left arm that’s... a plant. A pot leaf, maybe?

Martin LaCroix: Hehehe... It’s going to be covered soon. It was one of my first ones. I’m not proud enough to wear it on my arm.

Maelstrom: How many tattoos do you have?

Martin LaCroix: Eight.

Maelstrom: I didn’t notice so many.

Martin LaCroix: They’re on my legs. I’m doing my own tattoos.

Maelstrom: You tattoo yourself?

Martin LaCroix: Yeah, yeah. That’s why they’re on my legs. I’m doing airbrush stuff, too, on leather jackets, t-shirts, gas tanks, whatever. Everyone has to have a job.

Maelstrom: Do you have a timetable for the new record?

Martin LaCroix: It’s going to come out early 2004.

Maelstrom: So, what’s the concept you mentioned?

Martin LaCroix: uuhhh...yeah.....

Maelstrom: Is that top secret?

Martin LaCroix: I don’t want to talk about it too much. (Laugh)

Maelstrom: Haha. I could see that you were being evasive. I asked you twice and realized, “he still hasn’t answered my question!”

Martin LaCroix: Just yesterday, we got together and decided we weren’t going to talk about the concept. The whole thing isn’t decided yet. We don’t want to say too much before it’s done. We like to surprise people.

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli with assistance by Tom Orgad

Even though they’ve been together for six years and three studio albums, today is the third date on Agalloch’s first tour ever. I met up with bassist Jason Walton (who’s also in a bunch of other bands like Sculptured and Nothing) in the deli next door to the club in which his band would play to talk about Agalloch’s love of wood, acoustic guitars and cafés au lait.

Maelstrom: Would you like some M&Ms? Or a croissant? Or....a café au lait?

Jason Walton: ......I just got the reference. I didn’t think anyone would even get that far in the record (the hidden “track” at the end of Of Stone, Wind and Pillor - Roberto), much less understand what was being said.

Maelstrom: What is that line from?

Jason Walton: It’s a stuffed fox that John has. If you squeeze it, it says something like, “my name is Fabian Fox, would you like a café au lait?” We thought it was something kind of fun and not very recognizable. We wanted something to prevent it from being all black and dreary. It’s mainly self-amusement.

Maelstrom: The last two songs on Of Stone, Wind and Pillor are super good. In fact, I was so impressed by your cover version of “Kneel to the Cross” that I went to find the original, Sol Invictus version. Well, the cover blows it away. The vocals on the original are...a little iffy.

Jason Walton: Yeah. Everyone that I’ve talked to really liked the cover a lot and checked out the original. That was kind of our purpose. Personally, I don’t like Sol Invictus.

Maelstrom: Why not?

Jason Walton: I don’t like the vocals. They’re really crappy.

Maelstrom: I agree with that.

Jason Walton: I think the musicianship is dodgy at best. They have their moments and a huge catalog to choose from. But John and Don are huge fans.

Maelstrom: Did you ask them what they like about it?

Jason Walton: Yeah, and I don’t know. It’s a sound of music that I can’t get into: a lot of the neo-folk, World Serpent stuff.

Maelstrom: How is that different from what you do in Agalloch? It’s really common for people to call you “folky.” You have acoustic guitars that go (does generic, monotonous chord impression.) “Oh! It’s folky!”

Jason Walton: Exactly. That’s the only reason we’re considered folk. With those other bands, it’s more Euro-centric - there’s a lot of European pride involved. I’m very happy the way our cover turned out.

Maelstrom: Yes. It’s remarkable how you decided to keep the “Summer is a coming, arise, arise” lyric so many times, like the original. It has a weird string of effects. While listening, at first you’re like, “ok.” Then it gets to a point where it gets annoying. Then when it gets past the annoying point, it becomes like an instrument.

Jason Walton: Yeah, it’s hypnotic. Agalloch hasn’t covered anything else, but we have covered things in Sculptured. We do covers completely different from the originals. That’s always been our intent: to bring something new. But we didn’t want to change “Kneel to the Cross.”

Maelstrom: Am I correct that this will be your third show, ever?

Jason Walton: ...this’ll be our sixth show. Although we’ve been around for six, seven years, we’d never played live. It was never a priority for us, and we never had the personnel. So when Andreas (of The End Records) put this tour together, we had to go out and find a drummer.

Maelstrom: Who normally plays drums?

Jason Walton: John does.

Maelstrom: Your debut album, Pale Folklore, has some good points. However, I think the bad points have to do with the vocals. I think the harsh vocals are watered down, and the clean vocals, well... But then you had those two songs, it really put a lot forward in the progression. With The Mantle, the vocals are about as good. They’re actually kind of Brit pop.

Jason Walton: Yeah, I can see that. All the vocals are done by John. It’s something he’s really had to work at - especially the clean stuff.

Maelstrom: He’s come a long way.

Jason Walton: In terms of the Brit pop, it kind of makes sense. Don had started to listen to a lot of Brit pop, like Pulp. We’re all huge Morrisey fans. We’ve been thinking about covering one of their songs for a long time. I’ve only heard good things about the vocals on Pale Folklore. You’re the first person to tell me that they’re a bit off.

Maelstrom: Yeah. They’re the least good thing about that record. I have a friend who likes the record too. Her opinion was that you would build a really great mood, and then ruin it with an awkward clean vocal. She felt the same way with Of Stone... But you’ve tightened it up a lot on The Mantle. Do you think that it would be in your best interests, not to be commercially successful, to ditch the harsh vocals?

Jason Walton: No, I don’t think so. I think that it’s a pitfall. Bands do stuff for a long time and then think, “we need to progress.” The first thing they do is ditch the harsh vocals. With some bands, it works. Katatonia I love from front to end. Progression through clean vocals makes no sense. Harsh vocals is just another way of expression. I think people have a bad idea of what harsh vocals are and it limits them.

Maelstrom: I was looking at the merch stand. There’s a shirt that says “heathen pride.” Is that your shirt?

Jason Walton: Yeah. It’s our tour shirt.

Maelstrom: Heathen and Pagan are almost dirty words, especially in the metal context.

Jason Walton: They are. Basically we didn’t think about it too much. “Heathen pride” is a lyric from “In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion.” It’s something that John could answer better as he wrote the lyrics, but whether it makes sense or not, “heathen pride” became a slogan of ours. It seems to fit, especially with the deer symbol.

Maelstrom: Yeah, the one on the shirt looks a lot like Jaegermeister.

Jason Walton: ...I was hoping you wouldn’t notice that. That was a mistake. It’s not intentional. We didn’t want to use Pagan. At first we were concerned as being construed as being Nazis, as a lot of our imagery can be similar to that. Like the deer shield on it.

Maelstrom: I was reading how you’re all into electronica and were thinking about moving more in that direction.

Jason Walton: Electronica is a bad word. We are all getting influenced by electronic music more and more. What was meant is that we want to incorporate the more into the next Agalloch. It’s not like the next album is going to be house music. I’ve been listening to electronic music for a while - not dance music, by any means - and you’ll see that more in the future. Nothing like the new Ulver...well, maybe a little.

Maelstrom: Speaking of Ulver, on some parts of The Mantle there’s a major page taken out of Ulver’s Bergtatt album. The intro to (I think it’s) track four, and that same sparse percussive sound, like stone on stone. Obviously you love this record, but isn’t it a little close in a certain parts?

Jason Walton: Maybe to some people. My first two thoughts would be, one, this is more the case in Pale Folklore. Two, even if it is a little close, we have no problem with that. If there are two bands that we all agree on and live by, it’s Ulver and Katatonia. The drum intro you were talking about is more of a tribute to Emperor’s “I Am the Black Wizards,” but I see what you mean. That’s something we like to do, without making it too obvious: we like to have stuff that sounds like another band, but just change it a little bit so it sounds like them but it’s our own too. It’s a way of acknowledging our influences. On Pale Folklore there’s a lot of parts where Brave Murder Day is really in the guitars. We love it. I don’t see there’s any reason to apologize for it.

The percussive thing you were talking about is from Death in June. The clicking is from John striking a deer skull.

Maelstrom: I was reading up about agallochium, the wood that you derive your name from. Is this a common tree in Oregon?

Jason Walton: I think we found it in a store once. I believe it comes from India. It’s hard to find. It’s very fragrant and woody. There are rumors that the first version of the Bible was written on that. Agalloch is actually from Montana, where John and I are from. It fit with the mood rather than it growing on the street.

Maelstrom: The mood...like, fragrant music?

Jason Walton: Well, it’s changed over time, but around the Pale Folklore days, we liked to think of it as being around the campfire, Incense, cold, snowy mountains...

Maelstrom: But not petchuli.

Jason Walton: Not petchuli. But the theme fit. And we like the word, too.

Maelstrom: Our writer Tom Orgad asks about “the transition from the lugubrious pessimism of Pale Folklore to the optimistic fragments appearing on The Mantle. While on the first, the nature is presented as reflecting the sorrowful mind of the speaker, on the latter it seems that he is encouraged by some pantheistic notion.” He cites this lyric as an example: “‘If this grand panorama before me is what you call God, then God is not dead.’ He finds an essential positive value in life beyond his aching heart and soul. Does this progression emanate from a change in you guys’ views of life? A sort of maturity, perhaps? How have you evolved since the release of The Mantle and what should we expect next?”

Jason Walton: Pale Folklore has just as much positive as The Mantle does. Pale Folklore’s is a positivity that isn’t outright. It’s positive in a release way. It’s one of those beauty in sorrow type of things. A lot of the things on Pale Folklore are dark and depressive, but it’s an empowering way of looking at those things. I don’t think our ideologies or themes have changed that much.

Maelstrom: Another one from Tom: “Don Anderson (who also plays in Sculptured) exploring musical ideas and possibilities in distant parts of the world, starting in Malaysia. Did he reach any worthy result?” (Laugh)

Jason Walton: (smiles) Ah, the only result that he found is that people take him way too seriously. Obviously, he was not in Malaysia. He wasn’t looking for note “h,” or anything like that.

Sculptured has been on the back burner for a while. Agalloch has taken up a lot of out time. We’ve gotten a lot better response than we anticipated. But we do have a couple new Sculptured tracks. So it’s there, it’s just slow.

Maelstrom: I saw this ad in Wormgear about this side project of yours, like...”panda sloth,” or something. Are you in that?

Jason Walton: Yeah, that’s just me. It’s Especially Likely Sloth. The record is called Panda Rescue.

Maelstrom: The ad said something like, “if you like good music, don’t buy this.”

Jason Walton: Yeah, “if you like good music, you’ll hate this.”

Maelstrom: I thought about buying it because of the Agalloch connection, but I was kind of scared. What’s the deal with that?

Jason Walton: It’s my longest running project.

Maelstrom: Longer than Nothing?

Jason Walton: Yeah, way longer than Nothing.

Maelstrom: Nothing’s gone back as far as ‘89, hasn’t it?

Jason Walton: No, no.

Maelstrom: What about the Windham Hell split cassette?

Jason Walton: That was ‘97. That was a cassette, but it was after Windham Hell had done demos. I’ve been doing Sloth since ‘95. It’s an outlet for my love of Mike Patton, Naked City, Mr. Bungle, John Zorn, The Residents. A lot of people don’t like Sloth, but the funny thing is that a lot of people do. My bandmates say that it’s the best stuff I’ve ever done. I’m really proud of it. It’s really cut and paste.

Maelstrom: Why is it called Especially Likely Sloth?

Jason Walton: My friend said something one day, I don’t know what really, but that’s what I heard him say. I thought, “what a great name.” Panda Rescue is going to be released with three new tracks by a label run by Einar of Beyond Dawn and Origami Galactica. It’ll be rereleased in July.

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Since first hearing Dornenreich’s latest album, Her Von Welken Nächten, two years ago, it has gradually grown to be one of my favorites. The avant-garde artistry and passion, not to mention the creepy, wacky vocals and courageous use of lengthy loud/soft songs, make it an eternal lock.

There’s so much about Dornenreich that I wanted to know about, so I contacted band leader Eviga to find out. It turns out that Dornenreich is, like the old Ulver, in a sense the epitome of black metal: sensitive and thoughtful, the group draws strength from the awesome stretches of natural wilderness around them, which also leads to dark and intense music.

Maelstrom: I finally got your first two albums. I like them both. Her Von Welken Nächten is by far the most original. In fact, there's quite a lot going on conceptually in Her Von Welken Nächten. I wish I could speak German. What does the title mean and what are the ideas in the album?

Eviga: My lyrics for Dornenreich aren't gloomy in themselves. The thing is that they are presented in a rather dark, creepy or even threatening way to affect our listeners directly, but all in all the entire atmosphere of both the music and the lyrics is meant to be a strengthening whole. But why not go into detail in this case? For Her Von Welken Nächten (From Faded Nights) I chose a dreamy and gloomy forest/night scenario. It's a fictitious and fierce romantic background for an individually philosophical journey of a human being who awakes in the midst of this scenario. The human being is confronted with its own original loneliness within its unique thoughts, emotions and perceptional abilities. It starts to reflect about archaic and elemental states of human nature; States such as emotional raggedness, transit or solitude. Furthermore I deal with topics such as willpower and intuition. To be brief, it's a process of getting familiar with one's inner self. It's a development of personally emotional sincerity, a contradictory attempt to make friends with one's own unique nature, which I believe is of the most importance; for dealing with one's inner self is the secret to earthly relationships and offers a possibility to approach death - in time.

The title "Her von welken Nächten" consists of regular German words, though the specific context is quite expressively poetic here ... Even when it comes to grammar, "Her von welken Nächten" is based on a very individual interpretation of my mother tongue. Nevertheless one can't claim that my lyrics are cryptic, coz I focus on the use of very simple and usual words; but after all I like to combine them in a very extraordinary and ambiguous way without lacking a clear message. Moreover I truly adore poetry (and even prose) that relies on phases that on the one hand build a big common message and on the other hand unveil catchy and significant statements on their own.

Maelstrom: Her von welken Nächten...thanks for telling me what it means. I've asked German friends about it - they didn't know what it meant. Is it German? What do the titles of your other two albums mean?

Eviga: Well, Nicht um zu sterben could be translated to English as "Not in order to die," which gets across a rather pig-headed, youthful and probably naive and priggish uproar against this earthly transitoriness, which we're all bound to. Bitter ist's dem Tod zu dienen means something like "Bitter it is - serving death" approximately, which reveals a far more introverted and reflective core. And in spite of the fact that this album-title sounds resignative I can assure you that the final message of the lyrics isn't resignative. Thus, the basic content of this album is the slow process of learning how to deal with the fact of death, about experiencing how to approach the topic "transitoriness" without despair.

Maelstrom: Wow. A self-help black metal album. Then again, Dornenreich seems to be about being unconventional.

I understand that "Dornenreich" means "empire of thorns." Is there any special significance to this, or did you just think it was a cool name?

Eviga: The term "Dornenreich" ("Empire of Thorns") has always meant a challenge to our creativity, because of the fact that this term offers a widespread range of associations and interpretations.

Maelstrom: What's your favorite association and interpretation?

Eviga: Stades such as emotional ragged-ness, transitoriness or solitude. Furthermore I deal with topics such as will-power and intuition.

Maelstrom: Let's talk about the development of Dornenreich. First and foremost, you have those unique, whisper vocals. They're so weird and cool! Maybe it's a dumb question, but how did you discover doing these vocals?

Eviga: My "vocal-stunts" are the result of both the lyrics and of my general artistic horizon, that is, the varied and demanding character of the lyrics urged me to pull my voice to its utter and most contrasting limits - in order to get justice to all the nuances and different emotions within the lyrics; and furthermore I love to vary the vocals in a very theatrical way, which - in my opinion - leads to a far more vivid, authentic and passionate expression.

I love to vary the vocals in a very theatrical way, which - in my opinion - leads to a far more vivid, authentic and passionate expression.

Maelstrom: I agree. I hope to hear more of this on the next record. Are you working on anything?

Eviga: At the moment we focus on the recordings of Hexenwind exclusively. We're totally into this band, thus we're not able to state anything when it comes to Dornenreich.

Maelstrom: Ok. I'm a little confused by this answer. Is Hexenwind the next Dornenreich album, or a different band? How much is done? Can you answer that?

Eviga: Actually Hexenwind („Witches’ Wind“) is a different band, but there are doubtlessly countless similiarities to Dornenreich. I mean, it’s Valnes an me, who create this thing, so...

To me Hexenwind is a more weird, mystic and magic Dornenreich. “So why don’t they simply record this material as new Dornenreich-album?“ you’ll probably ask. Well, Hexenwind - without any doubt - relies much more on (Norwegian) Black Metal than Dornenreich ever did, so we felt the urge to create a term which reminds of Dornenreich in a way, but which comprises a more mystic aura. In fact, we’re still keen on recording the Hexenwind double album. Unfortunately, it’ll take many months to finish the recordings...

Maelstrom: You've moved through some stages over your three albums: from more standard corpsepaint (Nicht um zu sterben) and Abigor-influenced music, to no corpsepaint (Bitter ist's dem Tod zu dienen) and sort of Dimmu Borgir influenced stuff to this really cool and arty entity that exists now. Can you comment on this development?

Eviga: I guess with Her von welken Nächten we reached a highly individual stade of artistic expression. Of course it took us years (and albums) to grow from a vision inside our hearts and brains to its absolutely consequent realization. But it's a fact that Her von welken Nächten was the first album, which were were enabled by the label to spend enough studio-time on. Our previous two albums had to be recorded within a week from building up the drums to the mastering. However - I appreciate every single album a lot, coz I know that each album represents the best which we could achieve according to our inner and to the outer circumstances during those specific times.

Maelstrom: I see that you live in Tirol. I'd like to hear more about that. That's in Austria, near Italy, right? What is life like there? I have to tell you I visited Austria this past summer and I loved it. I really wanted to go to a place called Halstatt but I couldn't because of the floods.

Eviga: I've to say that I truly love my live in the midst of the Alps, here in Tyrol. The landscape can be compared with Scandinavian landscapes as for the gigantic mountains, the vast woods and as for the presence of Mother Nature in general. Therefore it's simple or even natural for me to live this special "Black Metal Emotion." In my opinion there's existing a strong spiritual cycle among "Black Metal" - as I interpret this term - and nature. So, over the years I've developed and discovered my very own life-style which takes place far off this daily society as far as it's possible. I'm an outsider indeed. To be brief: the local society dwells - nature breathes.

Maelstrom: Those are interesting topics. I wish I could read about them. Do you find that through your music you've learned more about the topics that you write about?

Eviga: Totally. Via writing down all my thoughts I'm getting familiar with my self, I'm geeting familiar with my individual way of perceivig this world and myself; and due to the fact that I deal with archaic topcis and stades of mind I'm able to establish a sorta "core-attidtude" to - in my eyes - extremely important topics such as transitoriness and individuality. I face my fears; I'm trying to grow into myself and into the world consciously. So far.

Moreover, I truly adore poetry (and even prose) that relies on phases that on the one hand build a big common message and on the other hand unveil catchy and significant statements on their own.

Maelstrom: Please tell us about some poetry you really like.

Eviga: Expressionistic Poetry has always meant very much to me. Genius minds such as Trakl and Benn simply created their unique use of vocabulary and grammar, which encouraged me to establish my individual use of my mother tongue by means of - let's say - "syllable-adventures." Apart from that, I'm into Romantic Literature such as Brentano, Novalis and Tiek; and I've always been fascinated with Fantastic Literature for instance provided by Blackwood, Lovecraft, Poe, Tolkien, Barker, Rice and many unknown authors.

Maelstrom: I'm fascinated by an artist like you, one who is totally in the metal world, and yet who strongly challenges the stereotype of being a blundering idiot. Indeed, your music conveys your sensitive and mindful nature. It's quite a feminine energy. Would you agree? What do you think of your place in this genre of music?

Eviga: Yes, I agree absolutely with your allusion to my quite present anima. When talking about a genre of music I've to admit that I only witness the creation of neverending diffusion with art in general. So, my intention is to concentrate my spiritual creativity on elements I feel deeply familiar with within. Well, Hexenwind will solve this cryptic riddle for sure.

Maelstrom: You write all your lyrics in German. Certainly this is not because your English is lacking. What advantages do you feel expressing yourself in German has?

Eviga: It’s only natural that I’m most familiar with my mother tongue, which is German in my case. Thus, writing in German means to me that I’m able to express myself in a more authentic, deep and individual way, which is also very important for my vocals, coz my very personal lyrics challenge my vocals extremely. I guess I reach a higher grade of identification when expressing myself via my mother tongue. And that, in turn, results in passionate and intimate vocals.

Moreover, I’m of the opinion that the harsh and rhythmic character of the German language is absolutely apt as for my special artistic intentions.

Of course I experimented alot with different languages - and especially with English - but after all I still base my lyrics on the German language.
Nevertheless with albums to come I intend to spread English translations via our homepage.

Maelstrom: How old are you now?

Eviga: I’m 22 years young.

Maelstrom: What was the single most important event that led you to being a musician and/or starting Dornenreich?

Eviga: Discovering my mother’s acoustic guitar in our living room a decade ago was a magical experience in my life. I choked terrible tunes out of the poor instrument during that very aftenoon, but I was so delighted by the incredible fact that - all of a sudden - I could communicate with myself and the world in a new and most fascinating way...

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Marrying Journey with Candlemass with Heart on a record may seem like a bad idea, but it works for American doom metal band While Heaven Wept. The result is something that will appeal to epic doom metal fans as well as those who don’t know the first thing about it. I contacted guitarist and singer Tom Phillips to discuss his long-running project.

Maelstrom: I think the thing that I really respect about this record is the wide spectrum of influences that you openly pay homage to. You've got Heart and Enya mixed in with Mayhem and Immortal. I think that this broad appreciation of music has led to Of Empires Forlorn's success. Where so many metal bands limit themselves by looking down on non-metal bands (at least publicly), you guys play it up.

Tom Phillips: As a musician, having a diversity of influences is instrumental in developing a unique sound. It’s like giving an artist more colors to paint with, thus offering so many more options as far as the precision and beauty of expression is concerned. Having said that, metal is still the most prominent element of our sound, and I am indeed a longtime defender of the faith, but I am certainly open-minded about incorporating non-metallic elements, particularly if that helps to convey a specific mood or aids in the realization of what I hear in my head. I understand the school of thought of staying true to the old ideals, but While Heaven Wept is staying true to our foundations, which have always been diverse and progressive.

I definitely think that bands limit themselves by not implementing other elements but sometimes that works well (for example, when the music is delivered with conviction). However, most often I find that close-minded bands end up sounding uninspired and derivative. I am far more likely to break out an old Maiden or Cirith Ungol album that the latest power metal offering.

Maelstrom: Yeah, Cirith Ungol. What a funny band. I have one of their records. I like it...but the vocals are pretty absurd.

Tom Phillips: Well, they certainly are unique at any rate, which I appreciate in this day and age of derivative, “cookie-cutter” bands. I’d have to say that songs like “I’m Alive” and “Frost And Fire” are just classics. Cirith Ungol definitely had more of a doomy vibe than most of their contemporaries, and you can’t ever go wrong with the classical influences either.

Maelstrom: Hmmm.... how available are your other albums?

Tom Phillips: All of the old releases are completely out of print at this time with the exception of The Drowning Years 7” and the Chapter One: 1989-1999 double LP anthology (both released in 2002), besides of course the Of Empires Forlorn CD. The entire recorded output from the first decade of While Heaven Wept is compiled together on the “Chapter One” collection, but even that is extremely limited to 500 copies worldwide, and I can’t imagine that there are that many left for sale at this point in time, considering it was released last summer. We will be re-recording the previous album, Sorrow of the Angels, in the near future, so that will be available within the next year, but none of the original versions of anything released prior to Empires... will ever be re-pressed again, so once Chapter One is sold out, they will be gone forever.

Maelstrom: The thing that I love so much about Of Empires Forlorn is the vocals. They're really pretty and are mixed ideally according to their delivery. The melodies on track three have been happily living in my head for two weeks. It's remarkable that you've managed to make this objectively soft and accessible yet not wimpy. It is unmistakably doom metal.

Tom Phillips: Thanks, Roberto, I definitely worked hard on the vocals for this album. There was no planned approach to their delivery; I really just did what I felt each song required, and in some cases that meant a softer delivery, whereas in other instances something as aggressive as black metal style screams made the most sense. At first we were all taken aback by the vocals, as they were noticeably similar (at times) to bands like Styx or Journey (which makes total sense being that I grew up with that music on the radio), yet our previous efforts featured a more dramatic and operatic vocal approach (ala Candlemass).

When all is said and done, I not only feel that have I progressed significantly as a vocalist, the Empires... recording is also the first While Heaven Wept release that I am actually reasonably pleased with vocally. The most important thing is that the vocals are sincere, but I really do enjoy the way the harmonized melodic layers create a lush atmosphere above the crushing epic doom metal riffs. This certainly further contributes to our unique sound in my opinion.

Maelstrom: The material in the record dates from as far back as 1994. What has been happening since that time?

Tom Phillips: Being that it’s nearly been a decade since, quite a bit has transpired. While Heaven Wept formed in 1989, but did not release anything officially until 1994. Since then there have been numerous line-up changes (I am the sole founding member remaining), a number of releases (3 CD’s, 3 7”s, one demo, and one double LP Anthology), and a handful of memorable live performances (due to the personal nature of the material, While Heaven Wept only performs live on special occasions). We’re currently preparing material for the next all-new album. There are also a couple vinyl releases coming in the near future, one being a split with Sweden’s The Doomsday Cult, the other another single from the Empires... album, which will be released on vinyl itself inevitably as well.

Maelstrom: Cool. Are you one to look back at your past work and enjoy it?

Tom Phillips: Not particularly. I still feel as strong of a connection to the material as I always have, but I’ve never been pleased with the productions or performances on anything prior to the Empires... album, hence the numerous re-recordings of older songs. I think we have the right line-up now, the ideal engineer, and a studio that will allow us to produce recordings of extremely high quality, so this dissatisfaction should soon be a thing of the past. Although, considering I am a maniacal perfectionist you never know (laughing). I think that once we re-record the Sorrow... album, we’ll only be releasing all-new material.

Maelstrom: I get the impression that When Heaven Wept has a long and twisted odyssey. So much heart comes through in your music, sort of like some goal has finally been reached. While the music is melancholic, there are strong feelings of hope as well. It seems that Of Empires Forlorn is indeed a catharsis. This is further expressed in the liner notes in which you apologize to many people you have treated poorly. What does this album mean to you?

Tom Phillips: Empires... represents our transition into the second chapter of While Heaven Wept, in that we’ve now firmly established our own unique sound. This is also the first release that has completely and successfully realized everything I’d always set out to do with this band in terms of musical arrangements, production, and performance. I would have to say that all of our releases are cathartic and successful to that end; every song we’ve ever done has been based entirely upon events in my life and they’ve allowed me to express feelings that I could not release otherwise. <Empires> is exudes both a sense of triumph and tragedy, often simultaneously, and therefore is an aural paradox which can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, depending upon the listener. In my opinion, this album is the most powerful While Heaven Wept release so far, for all of the aforementioned reasons.

Maelstrom: I was focusing on the lyrcs of "The Drowning Years." Are we to take the line "I drank myself away" as a literal connection to alcoholism? There is also a reference to waste and drink in the song "Soulsadness": "Drinking away this lonely life." Does this have to do with the apology you make to loved ones in the liner notes? It also seems there are lyrics in this song not printed in the booklet. It sounds like there are parts where you say "take my..." and then maybe "soul...away"?

Tom Phillips: I'd rather not give anything away about "Soulsadness" as it actually contains numerous dualities within its lyrics, much like the rest of the album, so I'd prefer to leave that open to interpretation. "The Drowning Years" on the other hand absolutely refers to alcoholism specifically, and like all the songs of While Heaven Wept is 100% autobiographical. For most of the first decade my lyrical focus was on the demise of a particular relationship - the songs on the Empires... album begin to discuss other events, circumstances, and relationships that transpired in the succeeding years. All of the primary lyrics are always included in the booklets of our albums, but just like in the live setting, there are some improvised lines as well. As for the relation between the apology in my liner notes and the lyrics, initially I was going to say that there was no correlation, but after thinking about it for a moment, most of the indiscretions I was apologizing for were indeed the result of my consumption, but that isn't necessarily what I was writing about in the lyrics.

Maelstrom: You do a song called "Epistle 81," which all classic doom fans should be familiar with from Candlemass' ”Ancient Dreams” record. I, for one, didn't realize that it's not original Candlemass. Please tell us more about this song. It seems that the lyrics are the same as the Candlemass version. Where does this piece come from? Why did you choose to do it? Was it meant as a cover of a cover?

Tom Phillips: “Epistle No.81” is a Carl Michael Bellman composition that has been interpreted by quite a few artists actually. Bellman was Sweden’s national poet (their equivalent to Shakespeare), and our version was done with the utmost respect for his stature in their society. I’ve always thought it to be one of the most beautiful elegies ever composed, and have wanted to do my own interpretation of it for years (since the release of Ancient Dreams, in fact). Being that Candlemass was one of our primary inspirations in the beginning (and even now), I wanted to cover one of their songs, but opted for something less obvious than “Solitude” or “Under The Oak,” primarily because I could totally identify with the composition. It should be noted that there is actually a 4th verse in the original composition, but it has been omitted in both our version and the Candlemass rendition.

Maelstrom: In the booklet, there's a picture of you with a Solstice (UK) shirt on. Solstice, of course, having released what is arguably the best heavy metal doom album ever, New Dark Age. A friend mentioned that you have had some dealings with Solstice, and either you did sing for them or were. Can you clear this up?

Tom Phillips: I was introduced to the music of Solstice through my good friend John Perez of Solitude Aeternus, who along with many other people at the time had said we sounded like the American version of them, which I did not believe until I heard their album (I was as confused as everyone else by all the different Solstices’ active at this time). Needless to say, Lamentations completely blew me away with its incredibly memorable choruses and heavy riffing, so I immediately contacted Solstice mastermind Rich Walker. During a tour of cathedrals in the UK with my college choir in 1995, I met up with the band and we got on extremely well. Shortly before returning to the US, singer Simon Matravers left the group (having just recorded the <Halcyon> MCD), and Rich asked if I would be interested in taking his place, which is exactly what I did.

I moved over to the UK at the beginning of 1996, where upon my arrival we began preparing for live performances, as well as writing new material (which would eventually be included on New Dark Age). During this time we did not have a label supporting us, yet another line-up change ensued, and I eventually had to return to the States again. They continued working on new material, whilst I began rehearsals for the recording of the second While Heaven Wept CD, Sorrow of the Angels (for a second time). Eventually, it was mutually decided that it would be in the best interest of both bands if they acquired a singer locally, so that both bands could proceed with their own plans. It was unfortunate, as we never realized the full potential of that line-up, but still for the best.

We’ve always been extremely supportive of each other over the years, and are indeed brethren to this day, so when Rich decided to reform Solstice after the band dissolved, I was asked once again to sing for the band, and as before, I accepted the offer. The new line-up is essentially an underground super-group comprised of members of While Heaven Wept, Twisted Tower Dire, and The Lord Weird Slough Feg, with Rich Walker still at the helm. Work will commence on the next recording entitled To Sol A Thane once Rich has completed work on his NWOBHM-inspired battle metal project Isen Torr.

Maelstrom: Ohhh, man, Tom, you made my day! Solstice is back? Funny, I interviewed Mike Scalzi of Slough Feg not two weeks ago and he was under the impression that Solstice had broken up definitively. Considering he's in Slough Feg....what members of his band are in Solstice? It's kind of bittersweet that you will be the new singer. Although your vocals are technically better than the "New Dark Age" guy, he was the Solstice guy, you know? Mr. Rrrrrollly "r"s.

Tom Phillips: Well, it is true that Rich dissolved the band that had been playing gigs in support of the New Dark Age album, but after a few months he decided to regroup with musicians who took Solstice seriously, and were committed enough to deliver another bastard heavy Epic Doom Metal release. Greg Haa from Slough Feg will be handling the drums on that recording, but no official press release has been made regarding the line-up at this point in time, so that may explain why Mike is not aware of this, or he’s keeping his peace at Rich’s request.

Regarding the vocals, there was a time when Simon, the singer on Lamentations and I were often compared, so if anything, it will be a return to the original Epic Doom Metal sound of the first Solstice album. Nothing against Moz, as he is a top lad, but he only took my place because of circumstances to begin with. I am sure that I could roll a few “r’s” for you if need be (laughing).

Maelstrom: I think your style of doom is a neglected art in metal. Then again, that may be a good thing. Who are the greats of this genre today (I recently learned Solstice broke up. The best ones do...)?

Tom Phillips: There are very few bands performing epic doom metal, and there have never been more than a handful to begin with. Obviously, the biggest news of the last year was the reformation of Candlemass, but whether or not they record a new album remains to be seen.

Maelstrom: That's a funny topic. I mean, they released that From the 13th Sun record, which is arguably their best - certainly the least cheesy. Then they do a "reunion." What happened to all the ...13th Sun members? I find it highly doubtful that they'll make any older style albums anymore. I've read interviews with Leif Edling saying how he doesn't like solos and how he hates the fantasy metal thing now.

Tom Phillips: Not really sure what happened to all of the 13th Sun members, but the vocalist, Mats Leven appears on Leif Edling’s Abstrakt Algebra project, which is not that far removed from the Candlemass II sound. Generally speaking though, most of us preferred the Epic era of Candlemass, although I appreciated the more recent albums for what they were.

Nevertheless, I’d say the second most important event in recent times is indeed the aforementioned rebirth of Solstice. Most of our other old colleagues have either disbanded (Millarca, Forlorn - who are apparently resurfacing this year under the moniker Isole), evolved into some other hybrid of doom (Solitude Aeternus), or really always were more like doomy power metal to begin with (Memory Garden, Sorceror, Doomsword). So, this kind of leaves While Heaven Wept standing nearly alone at this point in time, but I am aware of some up and coming new bands like Icefall and Doomshine who are very much epic doom metal. We’ll continue to hold the banner of epic doom metal high, but intend to push the boundaries even further in the future.

Maelstrom: Right on about Memory Garden! I sometimes think that as derivative as it is, it actually out Candlemasses Candlemass. I wonder what they're up to?

Tom Phillips: From what I understand they have some new tracks floating around in mp3 form, but I can’t say I’ve really kept up with their activities; both of our first CD’s came out about the same time, and they never took the time to respond to my letters, so I pretty much gave up on them. I thought their last album was the best thing they’d done in years, but still nothing new.

Maelstrom: Your guitar player is Scott Loose. Wasn't he in that band Arise from Thorns?

Tom Phillips: Yes, as a matter of fact both Scott and I played guitar in Arise from Thorns, and his sister Michelle, who also performs with While Heaven Wept live was the singer/keyboardist. They released two self-financed albums, Arise from Thorns and Before an Audience of Stars, the latter of which was re-released on the Dark Symphonies label.

I joined the band in the middle of the recording of Before an Audience of Stars, and contributed a few guitar and keyboard tracks, as well as some ideas for the arrangements of a few songs. When we actually started writing music together, Arise from Thorns evolved into a new band called Brave. I contributed heavily to the debut Brave release, the Waist Deep in Dark Waters MCD, which was another self-financed affair, and also co-wrote a couple songs that ended up on their Dark Symphonies debut, Searching for the Sun, but I parted ways with them in early 2001. Scott has long been associated with While Heaven Wept, as he was a member of an earlier line-up around 1994-95, so it was a natural choice to invite him back into the band in 1998 for the live shows supporting the Sorrow of the Angels album. We make a great guitar team and a great writing team, although we have not actually written anything together since the Brave days, but you can hear the chemistry on both Of Empires Forlorn, and Waist Deep in Dark Waters.

Maelstrom: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.

Tom Phillips: Thank you for the opportunity to express myself Roberto, it's always appreciated. I'd just like to remind everyone that the Of Empires Forlorn album will be released in an unlimited capacity by Rage Of Achilles in September 2003, and a European tour will follow in the Spring of 2004. For more information on While Heaven Wept, please see the info below. Thanks to everyone who has supported us over the last 14 years. Doom Onward.

While Heaven Wept
c/o Tom Phillips
4809 Lockwood Lane
Dale City, Va. 22193
USA
plomerus@hotmail.com
www.whileheavenwept.net
www.mp3.com/whw

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6/10 Samaki
 

BRAVE SAINT SATURN - The Light of Things Hoped For... - CD - Tooth and Nail Records

review by: Samaki Dorsey

Brave Saint Saturn is a love child of Goo Goo Dolls, Semisonic, (or insert catchy alterna pop band here) and Michael W. Smith. They use various samples from space travel transmissions and other interesting spoken recordings that help segue songs together quite well.

The lyrics are kinda corny, though, and some are filled with very obvious religious analogies and references, which if you're into that type of thing, you'll enjoy.

They use some interesting sounds and keyboard samples, which I think added a cool factor to this album. There are a few tracks on this album, such as the first song, "The Sun Also Rises," that lean toward the beer commercial jingle vibe. If you can get over that, then I think this record might be up your alley. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Abhi
 

ABSOLUTE DEFIANCE - Systematic Terror Decimation - CD - Beyond

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This is absolutely brutal stuff! Impeccably played and savage death-grind, with a little extra emphasis on the death part, this Indonesian band (formerly known as VILE) is another name that should make the metalheads of their country proud.

If you own old Dying Fetus and Fleshgrind albums, you’re beginning to have and idea how these guys sound. But I am a sucker for brutal death metal, especially when it is played in such a tight and professional manner.

The first 10 songs have been released on tape before, and the last three songs are bonus tracks for this CD. I am guessing that these bonus tracks are the most recent of the lot. The vocals on these tracks are pretty different, almost akin to Matti Way's (ex-Disgorge, Cinerary) gurgling style. There are a lot more twists and turns in these songs and the production is also a bit rawer.

If you have been into brutal death metal for years and years then I don't think you need to spend money on this, but those of you who are just starting out with this style of music, you might find this to be a nice little piece of brutality coming from a place where you thought only jungles existed. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.9/10 Jason
 

ACCEPTANCE - Black Lines to Battlefields EP - CD - The Militia Group

review by: Jason Thornberry

Heavy metal framework and emotional, “proper” vocals put Acceptance in the position of being groundbreaking - briefly. While it is uplifting (especially on “Seeing Is Believing”) at first, Black Lines... becomes a smidge formulaic by the time they reach the two live numbers at the end of this seven-song mini-album, both of which retain the energy of moments like the title track, but with added spectator enthusiasm.

Perfect for fans of the newer Cave In, and those who don’t care what their friends think as they rock out to lines about being broken down or peed on by evil ex-girlfriends. (5.9/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Roberto
 

ACHERON - Tribute to the Devil’s Music - CD - Black Lotus Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This latest Acheron album is a compilation of every studio recorded cover song the band has ever done. The songs range from classic black metal (Venom and Bathory) to classic heavy metal (Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest).

The previous paragraph should be all you need to figure out what to expect on this album. Yep, the songs that are supposed to be sung cleanly sound awkward, and the ones intended to have rough vocals sound ok. The guitar soloing is very nice, and the production is always good, but often lacking a certain aggressive energy that made the originals (like Bathory’s “Raise the Dead”) cult.

So what it boils down to is that no one need get this record. While there is a modicum of interest to hear the drumming of Tony Laureano or Richard Christy back before they were metal household names, people who are more or less indifferent to Acheron won’t even get one listen out of this, and those who LOVE Acheron will probably have all these covers on various recordings anyway. Ironically, the best performance on here is the re-recording of an old Acheron song. Instead of getting this, let’s see what the new Acheron album (coming soon) will yield. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
9.2/10 Roberto
 

AGENT STEEL - Order of the Illuminati - CD - http://www.agentsteelonline.com

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Agent Steel’s latest album is a thrilling mix of a bit of Iron Maiden, a bit of Judas Priest, and a whole lot of Forbidden. In fact, I’ll go on record and say that Order of the Illuminati is just as good as Forbidden’s classic Twisted into Form; and for all the same reasons.

Like Forbidden, Agent Steel is a killer mix of the best of thrash and American power metal (with Agent Steel being heavier on the power metal side). So you’ll get a lot of tasty, aggro drum chops and riffs, and soaring vocals. And the vocals are fabulous. But even the vocals and rhythm chops aren’t as good as the guitar leads, which are as good as any you’ll have heard this year. Seriously.

But good songs take more than just musical skill (take for example some of the power metal bands reviewed in this issue who can play but can’t write an engaging song to save their lives). And Order of the Illuminati has 10 great songs. That’s 100 percent of the track list, by the way.

In fact, the songs even seem to get better and better. And Agent Steel know better than to stick in some vomit inducing, sappy ballad like about all the power metal bands from Europe (or even the US) do. These ballads are almost always embarassingly terrible: so far away from anything remotely metal, the songs break up the pace of the album that was built by the equally cookie cutter fast songs. After you become familiar with some of these records, you listen to them knowing that just around the corner the singer is going to talk about autumn leaves falling over music with little to no drums. And you dread it.

And Agent Steel doesn’t commit the error of just making everything fast, either. No, the songs have a variety of pace and urgency, but the underlying trait is that they all rule. They make you look forward to the next song. And when the album is over, you look forward to hearing all the tracks over again. In order. Without skipping. Don’t you dare skip over this disk. (9.2/10) 

 

 

 

 
8/10 Condor
 

AGONY SCENE, THE - The Agony Scene - CD - Solid State Records

review by: The Condor

Ah, Solid State. Every black-hearted metalhead’s conundrum. It is heavy, and punishing, and brutal. But it is also Christian. And not exactly subtly so. A quick look at the booklet reveals many thanks to The Savior Our Lord Jesus Christ, God, etc. And lyrically, it's tough not to notice references to HIM and salvation and all that. But you know what? So fucking what!?

This record, like a handful of Solid State releases before it, is really awesome. Not hugely original, but very little is these days. This is In Flames worship of the highest order. The New Wave Of Melodic Swedish Death Metal as played by a band of Midwestern boys, which seems like it should be an actual genre at this point. NWOSDMAPBABOMB or something.

Super produced, crisp, chugging guitars, shrieked black metal vocals, churning, downtuned riffs, all add up to brutal pounding, stop-start metalcore/ death metal/ new wave of American metal-core.

Minus a few slips into bad nu-metal, and lame emo, Solid State is turning into one of the most consistent "metal" labels around. And if you do have to hear the "word," better it comes wrapped in thick slabs of skull crushing guitars and head rattling blast beats, right? (8/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Jason
 

AMAZOMBIES - Bitches & Stitches - CD - Go Kart Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

The Amazombies aren’t a group of extra tall Misfits fans, but actually a trio that utilizes segregated dressing rooms when they get can them (two girls + one guy, and, yeah, he plays the drums).

It’s not easy being the sole penis owner in a band like this, with the lyrics of the bassist and guitarist so snotty and full of tough, no-nonsense, liberated-chick spittle - even their cover of “Riot in Cell Block #9” feels like a male-bashing outburst - so the poor drummer needs time to himself occasionally.

In that lonely pre-show cubicle he doesn’t feel the slap of lyrics like “leave me alone!” or “when are you gonna let me be free?!”, but the formula behind those emotions has already grown weary long before Bitches & Stitches, and The Amazombies don’t appreciate how repeatedly it has already been done. (4/10) 

 

 

 

 
7/10 Jez
 

ANARCHŸ X - The Queensrÿche Tribute - CD - http://www.anarchy-x.it

review by: Jez Andrews

Never having paid much attention to Queensrÿche, I will have to simply trust that this is a collection of covers that are faithful to the originals, and look at the musical merits. I certainly have a soft spot for rock covers bands, if they do the job well. True, only a small handful in the whole world have gone beyond the clubs, bars and token festival appearances, but I have spent many great evenings in Newcastle venues watching some very talented individuals celebrate the work of others.

Anyway, to business. Anarchÿ-X seem to know just what they're doing. The production is nicely tailored to the songs, and the songs themselves are very entertaining. Opening track “Walk in the Shadows” is the strongest of the seven songs, but there isn't really anything on this CD that I’d skip through.

I can well imagine them making a very accomplished live act, and they have obviously put a hell of a lot of work into the recording, whether trying to get the songs as close to the originals as possible, or putting their own spin on the proceedings. Whatever it is, it's worked very well indeed. What else can I say? Go check 'em out. (7/10) 

 

 

 

 
6/10 Tom
 

ANTARCTICA - Unleash the Dogs of War - CD - http://home.no/antarctica

review by: Tom Orgad

Applying principles of various extreme metal genres, Antarctica depict a human world ruled by militant values. According to the group of Norse metallers, humanity’s attempts of establishing firm moral foundations to base its existence upon has failed miserably. The viral, parasitical mechanism of war effortlessly invades every realm of our perception, relentlessly surrenders us to its mischievous, innate inertial progression. It enslaves and mutilates every primeval, optimistic idea of natural affinity or rationally-achieved, fruitful cooperative being.

These ideas are represented by the distinctive, uncompromising drumming. While the melodic and atmospheric entities in the group, embodied mostly by guitar parts, feature the distant presence of eternity, every attempt of liberated, creative expression is swiftly captured and mutated by the enslaving narrative of the stifled marching drumwork. It shatters all hope, aggressively and unopposedly abolishing every glimmer of positive ideological freedom.

Compared to their previous work (review here), Antarctica’s latest seems to aim for a larger crowd. The songs on their current demo has become more concise and focused. Previously featuring a palatable amalgamation of death, thrash and black metal, the band has obviously decided to try and join a defined, focused sub-genre, choosing death metal, thus losing some of the epic and atmospheric lushness as well as harmonic diversity their music had in the past.

The production has notably taken a flatter, thinner approach, putting a proper emphasis on the somehow improved, tighter instrumental performance of the band. The main drawback is that while giving much attention to aesthetics, the band has neglected the compositional aspect, as the album lacks any fresh, innovative ideas - a forgivable notion, though, considering the fact that the band has so far released nothing but demos.

Overall, even if yet to be improved, a worthy release that leaves us awaiting the debut LP by the band. (6/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
Erasing Mankind (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
7/10 Larissa
 

ANTIMATTER - Lights Out - CD - The End Records

review by: Larissa Parson

This is a gorgeous album, filled with the sorts of noises that leave open the possibility of departure from the merely terrestrial to escape to a different mind than the one used for dealing with such mundane matters as taxes. Nevertheless, the lyrics are for the most part trite, and the vocals have no particularly compelling force - Mick Moss’s voice seems better suited for something louder than ambient soundscapes; while Hayley Windsor and Michelle Richfield have lovely voices, they do not strike this reviewer as anything startling.

The strongest songs on the album, “The Art of a Soft Landing,” and the album’s closer, “Terminal,” keep the vocalization to a minimum and allow the music to speak for itself, throwing in the occasional electro-glitch touch. “The Art of a Soft Landing,” in particular, builds up from meandering to shuddering guitar, an technique better performed by Sigur Rós, but still effective here.

If you’re looking for something dark to play in the background, something ultimately forgettable but at least pleasurable, put this on. Just don’t listen too hard, and don’t try to peer into the depths of the lyrics - “some truths are harder to perceive,” yes, but in this case they seem pretty obvious. (7/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
Saviour (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
7.3/10 Roberto
 

AS I LAY DYING - Frail Words Collapse - CD - Metal Blade Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

If you’re a fan of the brutal metalcore coming out of Germany, you’re going to want to give As I Lay Dying a listen. This American group takes its influences a bit from the Swedish death metal sound and slightly less from Bolt Thrower and Slayer like its German counterparts, but the result is largely the same: intense metalcore rumbling with scathing, high-pitched shrieks. Check it out. (7.3/10) 

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Roberto
 

AT VANCE - The Evil in You - CD - AFM Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This is about as common a power metal record as you can get. Bands like At Vance are a dime a dozen. The people in the groups can all play well, but in a very homogenous manner.

You don’t need to hear this record, even for free.

If you’ve heard 100+ power metal records in your listening life, you’ll already know what the songs are like. There’s too much good power metal out there to listen to The Evil in You. Hell, just listen to all the records you already have. Your bank account will thank you and you’ll be doing the power metal scene a service by avoiding this and getting quality albums like the new Agent Steel instead. (4.5/10) 

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

AVARUS - 267 Lattajaa - CD - hhaahti@dlc.fi

review by: Roberto Martinelli

We were supposed to review this MCD by Acid Mother’s Temple, who are, I’m told, like, THE shit as far as cult psychedelic music is concerned. But the album we got our hands on was SO boring, and, according to our man Dave McGonigle, not at all representative of how good AMT can be. It was a 20 minute long drone raga. It sucked.

The Avarus album reviewed here is what that Acid Mother’s Temple album should have been. I’m calling the Avarus “267 Lattajaa” only because it’s my best guess as to what it’s actually titled. For all I know, it could be an address.

This is one of those DIY CDRs that come in a piece of paper folded in two with a plastic baggie holding it all together. The artwork is pretty cool, like the Beatles got together and did some finger painting. And the paint was actually *applied* to each cover. That’s cult cool.

But it’s all about the music.

Like that Acid Mother’s Temple CD, the Avarus disk is one track that lasts around 20 minutes. It’s drony and somewhat raga-like, with soothing, buzzy guitars that fade in. The overall effect is like a flow of clouds moving swiftly overhead with the drumming providing the undercurrent that gives them motion.

In terms of the band’s progression, it’s cool to see that since the last recording we reviewed (here), Avarus has found a sound that’s entirely different from another one of our favorite Finnish psyche bands, Kemialliset Ystävät. A very, very nice piece of musical obscurity. (8/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
Horuksen Keskimmäisen Silmän Mysteerikoulu (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
8.1/10 Abhi
 

AVULSED - Yearning For The Grotesque - CD - Avantgarde Music

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This CD is a trap. If you listen to it, you are hooked. There's no way around it. Even if at first listen you think it's not all that great, you are still going to get hooked. Which is exactly what happened to me.

These bloodthirsty Spaniards take a big step forward from where Stabwound Orgasm (review here) left off, bringing us an album filled with heavy riffs and melodic interludes that take nothing away from the overall brutality.

But whereas I really got into Stabwound Orgasm the first time I heard it, it started to wear off really fast, exactly the opposite happened with Yearning for the Grotesque. The exotic melodies are more pronounced this time around. Check out the intro to "Pale Red Blood" and the awesome guitar lines contained within.

Dave's growls sound absolutely great, and some killer chorus lines like on "Daddy Stew" and "Devourer of the Dead" really help Avulsed's cause. There's no dearth of riffs that make you headbang either. Don't believe me? Check out "Cadaver Decapitado" and "Sick Sick Sex" for further proof. I just wish they had chosen a better way to finish the album. "Decrepit Sigh" is wayyy too slow and ends the album on a dragging note. But, it still hasn't stopped from nominating this as my Pick Of The Issue #2. (8.1/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Stabwound Orgasm (issue No 5)  

 

 

 
8.2/10 Matt
 

BARATRO/ ENTITY/ UNDEAD - Blood Beyond the Sand - CD - Goregore Records

review by: Matt Smith

This was my favorite CD this time around. Goregore Records has quite a trio on its hands here, and has put out a first release with lots of promise. As long as the label keeps up this kind of quality, it’s destined for great things.

The three bands blend very well, and they all have a clean, hard style I really enjoy.

Baratro may just be the first Italian death metal group I’ve ever heard, and they do not disappoint. They’ve got some hard, accurate grooves and deep growling that you can’t help but get into.

Entity has a similar sound: completely precise and full of things to jump around to.

Undead is also totally enjoyable, with precise, grinding guitars and a drummer who just can’t do wrong. This album is thoroughly enjoyable. I expect I’ll be listening to it quite a bit in the coming weeks. (8.2/10) 

 

 

 

 
1/10 Jason
 

BETTY BLOWTORCH - Last Call - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Jason Thornberry

“Rock My World” begins this CD as the band gets ready to rock an audience: “We’re Betty Blowtorrrch! And we’re from Hollywood! And We…Don’t…Give…A…FUUUUUCK!!!”

The late Bianca Butthole’s epitaph is now deposited into a rarities collection known as Last Call, begging for you pass over it in the record shop on your way to something more original.

What ever set this haggard, heavily tattooed, all-girl biker punk band apart from L7, Babes In Toyland, or Cycle Sluts From Hell? Only they could have told you.

On this final release, Ms. Butthole sings about masturbation and diarrhea, with songs like “Shut Up and Fuck” and “Party ‘Til Ya Puke,”, as well as some cra-zay radio interviews even eleven-year-old boys won’t find worthy of a second listen. (1/10) 

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

BLACK DALIA MURDER, THE - Unhallowed - CD - Metal Blade Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Swedish metal needs a shot in the arm. Don’t get me wrong, the Swedes can fucking play. It’s just that the generic formula that about 85 percent of the metal bands from that country got tired about three years after At the Gates released Slaughter of the Soul. Ever since then, it’s been the same riffs, the same vocals, the same production, the same rhythms. All good, but all the same.

The Black Dalia Murder is that shot in the arm. The only problem is, the band is from Michigan. Oh, well.

This band isn’t the first to have taken all the good stuff from the Swedish school and thrown in more American flavors. And they won’t be the last. But they do it really well. Blistering drums and dual vox (with the screamy high one being the predominant voice) are delivered as well as the slick guitars and whammy solos. If only the songs didn’t all sound the same, you’d have one of the best records of the year. Still, too shabby it is not. (7/10) 

 

 

 

 
8.3/10 Laurent
 

BLACK LABEL SOCIETY - The Blessed Hellride - CD - Spitfire Records

review by: Laurent Martini

Black Label Society is Zakk Wylde’s solo band, so what do you expect? The guitars are amazing. Each riff is so razor sharp it could cut you and the rhythm guitars (Wylde also) precise on every beat. Zakk’s voice sounds like a deeper version of Ozzy, whom he’s played with for years.

The self proclaimed "Prince of Fucking Darkness" himself makes an appearance on “Stillborn,” one of the album’s standout tracks in which Ozzy and Zakk’s voices complement each other so well. “Destruction Overdrive” and “Funeral Bell” are also hard and heavy.

The only time the album drags is when Zakk does the expected ballad, which doesn’t fit his guitar playing style at all. Zakk knows how to rock and rock he should do entirely. If you’re into Ozzy’s sound for the past 12 years then you’ll love Black Label Society. (8.3/10) 

 

 

 

 
8/10 Jason
 

BLACK ON BLACK - A Tribute to Black Flag - CD - Initial Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

Black on Black gives abundant motivation to find the original versions of these tracks, which were revised by The Hope Conspiracy, Coalesce, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and several other prominent metallic hardcore bands. The cast stays faithful to these songs, but add perspectives of their own amongst the convulsive drumming, singing, guitars, or all three happening at once.

The only song lacking the power of its predecessor was “Annihilate this Week,” with Converge surrounding the chords in unwarranted screams and boring blast beats on a cheap, poorly tuned snare drum.

The strongest cuts here were “Life of Pain” by Anodyne, and Burnt By the Sun’s version of “Drinking and Driving,” which was fantastic for its break down of the chorus, and the screamadelic reading of Henry Rollins’ lyrics, making this tribute illustrate Black Flag’s imprint on the DNA of American hardcore bands. Black on Black was originally issued on a series of limited edition seven-inch records, and is essential listening for when you get home from a punk show and wonder how it all began. (8/10) 

 

 

 

 
7/10 Tom
 

BLACKDEATH - Fucking Fullmoon Mysticism - CD - ISO 666

review by: Tom Orgad

Blackdeath may be Jean-Paul Sartre and Alber Camus’ worst nightmare.

Wielding harsh black metal in the veins of the glorified Norse tradition, the Russian duo expresses the views of the rebellious, moralistically unbound man. Stripping the world of the illusive veil of its invalid values, fearlessly staring into the gaping abyss of their inner self (one of the members calls himself Abysslooker), they absorb the prevailing void, fully realizing its meaning.

Unlike numerous human beings reaching such stage, Blackdeath don’t let themselves remain submerged in a state of trembling angst. They acknowledge their rank in the non-existing cosmic hierarchy, pragmatically adopt it and declare their own featured manifest: a rebellion against God.

The music on Fucking Fullmoon Foundation largely features two different manners of composition: on the simpler level, the listener is presented with rather distinctive, harmonically meager riffs played in up tempo rhythm. This relatively narrow view seems to symbolize an aggressive local revolt against the moralistic, popular Judeo-Christian god and its institutional enslaving servants.

Then, occasionally, the shutter of global perception is widened: the playing is suddenly imbued with notable motives of disharmony and atmospheric, dissonant chords. Now the uprising is not the shallower, social one; it is turned against the abstract, all-encompassing infinite god. It rises against him, exploiting him to justify a declaration of endless Nihilistic liberty and independence, rendering the aforementioned justification the last logically-necessary one, opening the gates of an everlasting Dionysian whirlwind in front of the intoxicated mutineers.

Traditional, grim black metal doesn’t require high musicianship skills - a fortunate notion for Blackdeath, who don’t posses such. The scientific precision of the drum machine accentuates their difficulty in maintaining steady rhythmical playing, while the vocals, noticeably of undisguised Russian accent, are most remindful of a part in an animated production of the Baba Yaga saga.

However, these few deficiencies are well-covered by the atmospherical qualities of openly strummed, disharmonic chords and high level of distortion. Joined by the satisfactory originality of compositional ideas, not offering any revolution analogical to the one presented on the conceptual level yet still managing to remain far from being labeled as cloning, efficiently conveying the main ideological themes and compelling upon the listener the required emotional involvement, this sums up to be an undoubtedly worthy release. Fans of the genre: obtain. French intellectuals: know your enemy. (7/10) 

 

 

 

 
6/10 Larissa
 

BLAZING ETERNITY - A World to Drown in - CD - Prophecy Productions

review by: Larissa Parson

If you like dark, moody atmospherics with strafing metal accents, this is worth checking out. The opening track is heavy, but not indicative of the whole disc. There are some slightly more broody moments, lyrics that easily fit into the "Goth" genre, and some Cure-like moments of guitar crossover.

Overall, the album flows together well, a long ride of emotional responses, to the very end. The Danes rock when they want, drive one to despair when they so desire. Not a style I find myself drawn to anymore, but when I was a young Gothite, this would have been a great find. (6/10) 

 

 

 

 
4.7/10 Tom
 

BLUE SEASON, THE - Cold - CD - http://www.theblueseason.com

review by: Tom Orgad

For some reason, more and more fans of the increasingly popular and rapidly commercializing metal oriented music seem to embrace the use of the term “Gothic.” Even without currently explaining the core of the Gothica term, one may claim, or should I say protest, the permissive use of this monstrously broadening category, even if only for legitimizing the inclusion of numerous distortion-driven pop/rock acts within the realms of the genre and pushing it towards new, unprecedented levels of popularity.

The Blue Season is a fine example of such a band. Measuring it in the standards usually applied among critics sympathetic of the phenomenon, I believe they prove to be professional and worthy. However, when reviewing the band from the perspective of a wider, comprehensive context, their polished, smoothed product leaves me far from satisfied.

An initial, brief encounter with the first notes of the album immediately reveals most of the virtues of the band: their sound is impeccably produced and engineered, featuring a tastefully, well balanced equilibrium between impressive female and average male vocals, clean and plentifully distorted guitars, well-combined bass and drums, and a refreshing addition of rather dominant percussion and conga parts.

The instrumental abilities of the band are quite impressive: while it is questionable whether the guitarist would be able to impress denuded of his high quality vintage multi-effect, the rest of the players (especially the drummer) are undeniably of the highest classes, typical to first rate session players.

These luxurious ingredients are integrated in order to form a set of catchy, sweeping themes of varying tempo, bearing the common features of a charismatic conveyance of a simplistic, invigorating idea, summing up to an overall total.

However, attempting to delve deeper and thoroughly analyze the album to its epitome, some less complimenting attributes fail to evade the perception of the serious critic. The Blue Season lyrics deal, like numerous other acts, mostly with a sense of gloomy sadness, desperation and estrangement. And just like the plentitude of comparable artists, they also do it on the most superficial level imaginable. The texts deliver a bunch of monotonous, repetitive emotions, expressed in an uninteresting, childishly abstract manner. While there is nothing wrong with honest simplicity, the measure of the band’s shallowness is fully exposed when comparing their verbal expressive dimension with the audible one. While both are everything but complicated and multi-layered, they still noticeably fail to match.

The compositions and arrangements herald nothing of the “coldness” and pessimistic view of the world the texts pretend to, thus leaving the final outcome deprived of any sort of reliability. This is a symbol of a generation that, while bearing a distinct awareness of the contradiction present at the foundation of its existence, doesn’t bother to pause and contemplate it. Alternatively, induced by a never-ending plethora of thrilling technological opulence and electronic stimulations, it chooses to swiftly scrabble a bunch of (hopefully) grammatically legible sentences, and rush into the studio in order to have some fun with the latest features in modern equipment, producing a musical creation matching the lyrical one only in its shallowness, without making the slightest attempt of achieving any genuine, intriguing thematic correspondence.

But, truthfully, who am I to complain?

The target crowd for such a release as this is representative of a similar conceptual poverty. They deserve each other. (4.7/10) 

 

 

 

 
7/10 Nikita
 

BONG - Bong - CD - Knumbskull Records

review by: Nikita

A note to BONG and their unsolicited CD - Tokes!

You bad boys did a great job on this CD. It's shocking and coarse, yet diligent enough to give it authentic style. One sure thing babe, “you ain't got no Hollow Bones? your bones got soul.”

Great Zippy style comic artwork on the cover. Then on the liner notes we see some unique diversity with StonerDude and the gigantic burnin' BONG front center. DynoMutt and his merry band of Bong Boys capture the essence of “Rowdy Skank.”

This CD is a call to bonehead action. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Jez
 

BRICK BATH - Rebuilt - CD - Crash Music

review by: Jez Andrews

As much as I try to get into Brick Bath's sludgy brand of new millennium thrash, there are just too many hardcore elements to the whole thing, and riffing that occasionally drifts too close to nu-metal for comfort.

There are some nice lead breaks thrown in, and musically, it does have its charms from time to time. But while you could do a lot worse in this field, you could still do a lot better. I am not casting any doubt whatsoever on the talent of these individuals, which is there for all to hear, but Rebuilt just doesn't hold anything special for me. The production, though well executed, needs a lot more balls to it, and despite the good ideas, I can still hear those knuckles dragging across the floor.

Not heavily recommended. (5/10) 

 

 

 

 
9/10 Roberto
 

BULLETHOLE - Incarceration - CD - Black Lotus Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Just turned off Bullethole’s Incarceration in order to write this review, but I’m having a hard time as I’m still thrashing around to the music left over in my head from this quintessential metalcore record.

This is one fabulous record, folks. While it doesn’t sound so much like Sepultura musically, I can’t help but be reminded of that band’s energy during its output from 1987-91. The hunger, the unbridled angst, the genuinely angry, focused vocals, the confident, effortless musicianship.

Bullethole does it all. It kicks your ass with its heavy guitar, making sure it’s impossible for you to sit still with its rhythm section and massive drums. And then, somewhere in the middle of the CD, guitarist Andreas Pat will bust out a totally unexpected, brilliant guitar solo. And unlike even Sepultura’s best albums, no song on Incarceration is filler. In fact, they just keep getting better and better.

The final track, with its bongo drums and tribal bassline, might make you think that the flavor of intensity on this record must be from Brazil, it turns out Bullethole is Greek. You *will* get this album. You *will* rock hard.

As perfect as a metalcore record can get. Mighty fucking hails. (9/10)

 

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

BURMESE - A Mere Shadow and Reminiscence of Humanity - CD - tUMULt Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The first Burmese was one of the most intense, noisy, frightening slabs of violent, blasting sludge ever. Play it in a dark room and it would even scare the most cult of black metallers.

Now Burmese, for Burmese, has gotten soft. The new album is much slower, with only a part or two that goes for spittle emitting, blasting parts. But the intensity is still there. You’ll still hear the freakish screams and howls and tortured whimperings mixed in with sounds that can only be from a farm full of animals on an electric fence.

You might be reading along and figure Burmese is a grind band. It’s not. Or a noise band. Not that either. Or maybe a sludge band. Wrong. It’s one of those between-the-cracks, whacked out bands that tUMULt specializes in. Is A Mere Shadow and Reminiscence of Humanity Burmese’s best album? No. You should definitely get the first one first, but freaks of the fucked and flayed will enjoy the second offering, too. (6/10)

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Burmese (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
6.5/10 Jason
 

CAMAROSMITH - Camarosmith - CD - Dead Teenager Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

Next time you feel the urge for dirge, or just want to forget the eighties even happened, this good-humored debut will tide you over with a few arrangements Soundgarden may have forgotten about in their garage days.

The guitar riffs on Camarosmith sound like moss is hanging from them, and their delivery evokes five guys with hours spent on couches passing a bong, and "Planet of the Apes" on the telly. A healthy debut. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 

 
7.3/10 Abhi
 

CAPHARNAUM - Demo - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

It's bands like this that make life hell for a reviewer. How the hell does one describe something like this? I'll make the job easier for myself and call them as an amalgam of death and thrash with some progressive touches. These guys are technically quite proficient, with each instrument getting a chance to stand out here and there.

The first two songs are thrashy in nature, though not overtly aggressive. The second song, "Icon of Malice," reminds me of a lighter sounding Nevermore, but just as soon as that thought enters my mind these guys shift to a death metallish riff.

"Refusal," an instrumental track, has some really cool Alice in Hell-era Annihilator vibes. The guitars really shine out in this track with some nice soloing.

The next song, "Plague of Spirits," starts out with a riff that could have come from Grave's first album, and then the song progresses into complex time signature territory. It's the drummer’s time to shine out in this track, which is instrumental as well.

The last song sees the blastbeat appear for the first time. Again, the riffs are superb and there is a nice long melodic solo in this song. I had never heard of these guys before I received this demo, but now I'm off to check out for more info about them on the web. This stuff is really good. (7.3/10) 

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Roberto
 

CEREMONIUM - No Longer Silent - CD - Destro Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The debut by both the band Ceremonium and its label, Destro Records, is a quality one. Ceremonium blends the death and black metal styles well, leaning more heavily to one side sometimes and then more to the other.

You’ll hear fast picked riffing with little harmonic melodies that lick out from underneath like the flames of a gas range turned up high under a pot. Then you’ll have the kind of double bass riff more common to the less brutal styles of death metal, and vocals to boot. Sometimes Ceremonium gets lost in its compositions, but that should be something that is improved on in releases to come.

The sound of No Longer Silent is clear and forceful, but doesn’t go for that choking, full throttle production. So it’s a rather laid back album for the style. It rages, but at the same time develops slowly. It’s a pretty good CD. (6.5/10) 

 

 

 

 
9.5/10 Roberto
 

CHARGER - Confessions of a Man (Mad Enough to Live Amongst Beasts) - CD - Peaceville

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Confessions of a Man... starts off rather innocently enough with some peppy hardcore music. But gradually, things start to slow down and become more sinister. You might not even notice it happening, but then there you are amidst crushing doom sludge riffs as good as any band has ever made.

Charger starts to absorb itself in the doom cocoon that it has woven, quieting down into its recesses. The descent is a ruse, as Charger re-emerges with doubled fury. Effects appear here and again that make the vocals coming out of the left speaker sound like “kssshhhkrkrksszzzzz”; the drums become more awe-inspiringly deliberate as the riffs slow to a crawl that would even scare the likes of Skepticism.

In its entirety, Confessions of a Man (Mad Enought to Live Amongst Beasts is like a struggle between these two forces of up tempo music and excruciating doom.

The up tempo stuff loses.

It tries hard to make comebacks, appearing in smaller and smaller doses as the record progresses. By the album’s end, however, there is no trace of it. Rather, the record gets slower and slower and more terrifying, culminating in the 10+ minute final track of soul shaking despair.

The journey is what makes Charger so good. For example, the vocals aren’t uniformly brutal or intense. There is a specific part ‘round the middle of the CD where the vocals scathe more than in other parts. Such is the case with the music. By the album’s end, the relatively bouncy energy of the beginning seems like a distant memory of a ray of sunshine. Hooray for abyss doom. Utterly essential. (9.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.7/10 Jez
 

CHILDREN OF BODOM - Hate Crew Deathroll - CD - Spinefarm

review by: Jez Andrews

After a slight Children Of Bodom overdose around the time of 1999's Hatebreeder, I began to tire of the seemingly formulaic songs. They were always impressive, but sometimes you can just have too much of a good thing. However, it would appear that with this offering, Alexi Laiho and company have returned with renewed fury. They just have more of everything; more crunch, more squeals, heavier drums, more varied synth accompaniment...and yet at the same time, more melodic sections, and some parts that just aren't the Children of Bodom I knew before. To put it bluntly, I would have to call this their best album left.

Mr. “Wildchild” has definitely put more thought into each display of fretboard virtuosity, opting more for the shorter, concentrated blasts of Malmsteen-esque showcase. The use of rhythm has also developed since I last heard them. Of course, there are some tracks that are undoubtedly better than others. Opener “Needled 24/7" for example is one of the finest pieces I've heard from the band in a long time, and indeed the same could be said of “Sixpounder” and “Chokehold (Cocked 'N' Loaded).”

Almost every track has a certain something about it that sticks out in the memory, be it the slow, nod-along stomp of “Angels don't Kill” (reminds me a little of latter-day Hypocrisy) or the gorgeous double bass drum snaps of “Hate Crew Deathroll.”

Despite these admirable qualities, there are still blatant comparisons to be made with In Flames, Nightwish, and the mellower moments of Dimmu Borgir. In that sense, Hate Crew Deathroll is best listened to only every once in a while to preserve its value within whatever genre you wish to place it. (7.7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Follow the Reaper (issue No 2)  

 

 

 
2/10 Roberto
 

CHINCHILLA - Madtropolis - CD - Metal Blade Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I’m getting visions of the Wacken Open Air festival at its worst. A field full of drunk Germans, staggering about the beaten grass, tripping over the even more drunk Germans strewn about. Can you see it too? Can you hear the kind of band playing? It’s the kind of insufferably generic metal crap that works for you if you’re a German metalhead stereotype. As long as it’s got those obvious, deliberate bass kicks and that style of heavy riff, all is well.

Unfortunately, take away the alcohol and festival atmosphere and all is not well. Not with Chinchilla, anyway. You might hope that a band with a name as anti-metal as this would be something original or at least fun, but it’s not. It’s well produced and hard hitting tedium of a genre that’s so burnt out it’s ashen. Even the new Grave Digger beats this. (2/10)

 

 

 

 

 
9.2/10 Roberto
 

CIRCLE OF DEAD CHILDREN - Human Harvest - CD - Marty Music Group

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Now, just hold on a minute. Before you run down to the record store with a wad of cash all crumpled up in your grubby hand to buy the new Dying Fetus, you’d better read about the new Circle of Dead Children. So just wait, ok?

Human Harvest is a huge breakthrough album. And we’re really emphasizing the word “huge.”Let’s write it in capitals from now on. The sound of this album is like this constant assault of rapid fire sludge that is done in a way that upholds the designs of the band and yet is groundbreaking and artistic. And HUGE.

Checking out the last, hidden track, a three minute long, hair-raisingly captivating, concentrated dose of the brilliant, impossible, pig-like vocals on display, one can’t help but be reminded of a very similar hidden track on Today is the Day’s latest record. And sure enough, visionary producer Steve Austin is behind this one, too. He’s really to thank just as much as the band playing on this record.

It’s a perfect marriage. Austin’s craft is well matched with the intelligent grindcore that Circle of Dead Children create. From the get go, pummeling compositions meld with one another, showcasing furious riffs, engaging and varied extreme vocals, and wild drums. The pingy snare sound gets so crazy that often times it seems like a steel drum. And all this sonic adventurousness gets high marks in my book. It should in yours, too. So, buy your Dying Fetus if you will, but think about having a few less beers this weekend and pick up this godly disk. (9.2/10) 

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

CIRCLE II CIRCLE - Circle II Circle - CD - AFM Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

While it *is* better than Savatage’s last album, Poets and Madmen (review here), former Savatage singer Zak Stevens’ new band, Circle II Circle, is nothing most of you should spend money on.

ONLY if you are one of the unknown few who actually liked the last Savatage should you get this. Circle II Circle has one or maybe two good songs, a bunch of parts that sound like Queen, some heavy parts, and a lot of bleh. At least it’s not generic, but it’s not urgent or hungry either. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Jason
 

DARKEST HOUR - Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation - CD - Victory Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

If Dark Angel had a hardcore side project it would sound exactly like Darkest Hour, whose sheer speed and eighties thrash framework evokes a deceased era.

On their newest album, Darkest Hour’s guitars, like the ones that begin tracks like “The Patriot Virus,” are so viscous and dense there’s no need for a bass guitar to ever join them. When it does though, and the drummer comes in on his undersized kit, everything in the room is reduced to splintery particles and frayed wires.

The singer says something about “the best blood money can buy” in a voice that could keep a team of throat doctors busy for months, and again makes you wonder if he hasn’t got a dog-eared copy of Dubya’s Best BBQ Sauce Stained Speeches.

Putting this on in my car I made the guy next to me at red light drop his coffee into his crotch yesterday, but I didn’t turn this down to hear him scream - that’s just sadistic. (8.5/10) 

 

 

 

 
8/10 Condor
 

DATACLAST vs. THE EARWIGS - Split - CD - Crucial Blast Industries

review by: The Condor

This is fucked up. Really fucked up. And I mean that in a good way.

A grinding, splattery, growling, low-end, chopped up mess. Huge, chugging, ultra processed guitars, chopped and cut and pasted to make super precise, jagged stops and starts. Like Carcass being played on a malfuntioning laptop.

Growling vocals, spazzy new-wave, fuzzed out synths, pounding, mayhemic programmed drums. Think Pig Destroyer, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, but more lo-fi, and kind of murky, and then screwed with endlessly. Really amazing. Folks who dig The Locust should check this out, although it's way more intense and less goofy than The Locust. And that's just the Dataclast side of the equation.

The last six tracks are by the Earwigs, and are way more abstract than the Datclast stuff. Still noisy and crushing, but more sort of freeform and droning. Somewhere between the whitenoise blur of Merzbow and the glacial sludge of Earth. Throbbing pulses of lowend fuzz, underneath swirling feedback, tweeter-shredding screech, and all sorts of peculiar sounds. I sort of prefer the Dataclast stuff, but the Earwigs is perfect in its own way, a strangely soothing half hour to wind down from the preceding 29 tracks of spastic freakout. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
retarded genius?/10 Roberto
 

DAWNFALL - Drei Räume - CD - Nazgul’s Eyrie

review by: Roberto Martinelli

In the sort-of proud annals of metal retardation, Dawnfall’s Drei Räume may stand supreme. And, yes, we’re even including albums such as Andras Das Schwert unserer Ahnen (review here) and anything by Benighted Leams, albums that previously seemed un-dethronable from the lofty pinnacle of cult idiocy.

There’s a guy in another room practicing various double bass metal beats. Now the snare’s on two and four. Now it’s on one and three. Back and forth. Meanwhile, in the room with the microphones set to "record," is a dude watching TV on mute and fiddling around with his guitar. Every so often he presses a note with his big toe on a keyboard at his feet. Wacky shrieks and vocalizations occur to him, perhaps in response to commercials he sees.

But we’re just getting started.

Tracks 1-3 are like this. But then the record gets into what can only be described as recordings of a German child’s answering machine messages, sped up and played backwards. The answering machine stops every now and then, and this slightly slowed down voice comes on. You know those information/ propaganda shorts they had in the 1950s? Can you hear the tone of the narrator’s voice? Make him speak German and there you go. The tracks duel between zippy child and lethargic, admonishing adult, and with no clear victor.

This album is so weird, it makes Bethlehem seem like Plain Jane in comparison. And it’s as weird as the photography in the booklet that depicts creepily charming attics is good. Attention, Benighted Leams: the gauntlet has been thrown down. (retarded genius?/10) 

 

 

 

 
7.8/10 Jason
 

DEAD TO FALL - Everything I Touch Falls to Pieces - CD - Victory Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

On Dead to Fall’s debut, “Let’s take our Chicago metal-core through the Stockholm death-metal thrash wringer” is a thing on Dead To Fall’s “to do” list. Breeding the two styles so well that it’s hard to feel them coming from either region by the end of these eleven songs.

Their Swedish death-metal has remnants of the British punk band Discharge in their genetic makeup, while Chicago’s harsh vibes incorporate everything from straight-edge to raw street punk. Everything... has a drum sound that flew in first class from any Metallica record produced in the 1980’s, while the grief-stricken vocals spell “Mayhem” in dark letters, making this compulsory for sleepless nights. (7.8/10) 

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

DEEDS OF FLESH - Reduced to Ashes - CD - Unique Leader

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Reduced to Ashes is a death metal clinic of sorts. On this, their fifth album, Deeds of Flesh show all the whippersnappers in the scene how to construct an effective (albeit by the book), modern death metal record. Everything is crystal clear, and the musicianship just leaves you shaking your head in disbelief the whole way through.

Swarming riffs, razor sharp guitar and impossible drums abound...maybe too much. Like Vital Remains’ Dechristianize (review here), the undeniably incredible drums get a little numbing after a while with their near constant double bass tempo. And much like the drums, the eight songs don’t really have parts that stick out any more than any other. It’s all the same level of lightning quick death that only begins to separate after multiple listens.

While this record may not be a universally essential metal purchase like the new Dying Fetus or Circle of Dead Children (reviews in this issue), Reduced to Ashes is definitely one to get for death metal junkies. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

DENY LIFE - Soundtrack to a Mass Riot - CD - guillotpierre@hotmail.com

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Every hardcore/ punk/ screamo/ metal fan out there will be happy to know that Soundtrack to a Mass Riot is one of those demos that is DIY and even better because of it. The heart, the energy, the aggressive ‘tude... it all leaps out at you in songs featuring mania-inducing riffing, heavy, furious grooves, and rough and powerful vocals.

If there is one criticism to be made, it’s that a couple of Deny Life’s songs are too short, ending before the listener gets a proper chance to start thrashing around again. But it is a small price to pay. Fans of His Hero is Gone and Napalm Death will go for this. (8/10) 

 

 

 

 
7/10 Abhi
 

DESPONDENCY - Womb of Shit - CD - deadilm@web.de

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Despondency are definitely one of the sickest and most brutal bands I have heard from Germany so far. This promo CD contains just three tracks, which is definitely insufficient to judge a band on its basis.

But enough information can be gleaned from this CDR: these guys are in love with brutal American death metal, they do know a thing or two about their instruments (well, enough to sound pretty tight) and that their full length CD might decapitate you instantly.

The songs hover around the four minute mark and are quite unapologetic about all the influences culled from the band called Suffocation. However this stuff is not just mindless Suffo-worship. I can hear various other influences, like for example the Disgorge style of drumming.

The second song, "9 mm Headfuck," is an absolute brute, mixing up moshing madness with skin peeling blastbeats. The last minute of this song somehow reminds me of Excommunion when they are at their fastest. Make no mistake about it, a lot of people are going to call this as derivative and generic. In the end it all comes down to whether you have your head screwed on straight and are able to recognize talent where it does exist. Support this band and get in touch with them now. (7/10) 

 

 

 

 
6/10 Stv
 

DISMAL - Rubino Liquido three scarlet drops - CD - Dream Cell 11/ Code 666

review by: Steppenvvolf

Rubino Liquido... is another attempt to bring together classical music and metal. Dismal manages to do this just as well as every other band that has ever took on the same task, and like those projects, stumble at the same steppingstones.

Opera-like assembly of songs in groups meant to represent certain stages of a plot, is something virtually incomprehensible if you do not have the synopsis. The classical orchestra involved is brilliant, but if you`ve got a passion for classical music you will recognize one or the other motive as a variation from other composers.

If I am not mistaken, the introductory part is slightly reminiscent of Rachmaninov’s or Saint-Saens’ works. Other than that, the alternating singing quickly wears thin, since most of the time the singers tend to simply rest their voices on the underlying chords with not much variety from the 1-note-1-beat-1-syllable pattern. Add to that a sedating drum line and sleep is not far away.

Honestly, I found it hard to write these harsh words, because the production is brilliant, the compositions are well above average, there are no cheap orchestra synthies and the singers in this band are definitely competent. But the result is just not as ingenious as synergies from two genres would make one hope for.

It might be as brutally simple to conclude that it’s too metal to be classic and too classic to be metal.

Maybe less would just be more. Take Nightwish, who simply add a classical trained voice to a pure metal line-up. Or maybe My Dying Bride, with their unforgetable violins. Only if you have all those bands’ albums and still feel hungry for more should you check this out. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Abhi
 

DIVINE EMPIRE - Nostradamus - CD - Olympic Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

It's very easy to be misled about the type of music these guys play if you haven't already heard of them. Especially with an album name like that. Nostradamus??? What did Nostradamus ever have to do with brutal blasting death metal? I guess I'll save that question for an interview later so lets see what the music has to offer here.

Remember the straight-for-the-throat approach of the last few Malevolent Creation releases? And remember the way the riffs from the new Vital Remains stick in your head, refusing to let go? Be ready to get a sense of deja-vu while you listen to this pillaging carnage that has been unleashed from the depths of the once revered Floridian scene.

Duane Timlin (Judas Iscariot, Forest of Impaled) has now been added to the existing line-up of ex-Malevolent Creation member Jason Blachowicz and ex-Paingod guitarist J.P. Soars. I haven't heard either of their previous two albums, but according to the band write-up this effort is more in line with the first album, Redemption, due to its "fast, furious and extremely brutal" approach.

I think the word "simple and catchy" can also be added to the above description without altering the original meaning.

Timlin's drumming has to be given special mention since he (very cleverly) refrains from using the constantly running double bass pattern that many drummers of this genre do so frequently. Overall, this is a very enjoyable album if you are fond of death metal with a strong emphasis on the basics. (7/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
Doomed to Inherit (issue No 3)  

 

 

 
6.5/10 Jez
 

DOMINATE - Burst Out - CD - fabiodominate@hotmail.com

review by: Jez Andrews

I had no idea what to expect from Dominate. What I got was pretty quality thrashy power metal with what sounded hauntingly like Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers on vocals.

This 5-track demonstration of their wares was more heavily influenced by traditional thrash than any other power metal band I have ever heard. The style seemed to be quite agile as well (some very nice double bass drum work scattered about).

For some reason, of all the power metal bands who have come and gone, this one reminded me most of Iron Maiden. The songs are put together in quite a solid fashion, and for a demo, Dominate have done incredibly well. All I can really say is that next time I hear that name, I'll be all ears. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
0/10 Matt
 

DUST TO DUST - Sick - CD - Psyclone Records

review by: Matt Smith

Yuck.

The band name and album title are certainly oozing with cliché, and the music certainly isn’t any better. Mind-numbing, simplistic guitars ride on top of a similar drumming style. Way too repetitive. And then there are the vocals. Rob Traynor’s singing isn’t anything he should be flaunting. Nor are his lyric-writing abilities. Yet they’re all over this album. He tries to be super-dramatic in his delivery, but the problem is that every word is understandable. It’s like a soap opera that way. A tired script read with unconvincing conviction just can’t keep my attention for very long.

At least he has some social insight.

“I touch on a lot of fucked up things in this world that really piss me off,” Traynor says so eloquently in his press release. “…like ‘Pusher’, which is basically about defiance in the face of organized religions that preach and push their so called ‘spiritual superiority.’ This whole world is screwed because of religion … Like the lyrics in ‘Pusher’ read: ‘Dealers of hope and dealers of dope sell you false promises to help you cope - but guess who’s tugging at the end of the rope you’ll be hanging from.’”

Gee, I’m glad someone finally decided to show those religious types! And with a song called “Pusher.” How very … thoughtful and original. *gag* I can’t tell if this guy’s been listening to too much Steppenwolf or too little. (0/10) 

 

 

 

 
9.1/10 Roberto
 

DYING FETUS - Stop at Nothing - CD - Relapse Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Dare I press play? What might Dying Fetus have become? It seemed the downward spiral that the band was going down would ruin it for good. It all began with the departure of bassist Jason Netherton and continued with the eventual ignominious dismissal of the rest of the crew that put together one of the finest death metal records EVER, Destroy the Opposition. Things seemed to reach their lowest when witnessing Dying Fetus, reduced to having one guitarist, play a shoddy set at Wacken 2002.

But after having listened to Stop at Nothing (and also sampling the rather forgettable Misery Index, made up of the Dying Fetus cast offs), it turns out that all Dying Fetus really needs is guitarist John Gallagher. We probably should have more faith in him. After all, he formed the band and writes the bulk of the music. Seeing he used to also be the drummer way back when, it seems reasonable that he could just kick everyone else out and go it alone.

Stop at Nothing is nearly better than Destroy the Opposition. It’s more or less the same album: the same amount of tracks, the same running time... Except what hooks and signatures that were so great before have been improved on. There are some fantastic swarming riffs and wonderfully placed and executed solos. As always, Gallagher’s sense of using riffs and rhythmic choices to give each track memorability is excellent. Gallagher’s vocals are still largely comical, but undeniably recognizable.

Certainly the new supporting cast is an worthy bunch, but could you honestly expect anyone to fill drummer Kevin Talley’s shoes? Were he in any other band, new man Erik Sayenga’s performance would go without any criticism. However, Sayenga isn’t as fluid or smooth as Talley, and because of this, the album isn’t quite what it could be had egos been put given a secondary importance to the good of the music. Regardless, you’ve got a wholehearted Maelstrom “ok” to go out and spend your money on this worthy record. Dig it. (9.1/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
Destroy the Opposition (issue No 3)  

 

 

 
8/10 Abhi
 

DYSPRAXIA - Restablishing the Equilibrium - CD - www.dyspraxia-extreme.com

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Those of you who have heard Conflicting Theories from India will immediately notice the similarities in the riffing. Bizarre, unorthodox and hyperfuckingspeed. Though the riffing here is not as fast as Conflicting Theories', what sets Dyspraxia apart is the drumming.
It’s almost, if not as much, complicated as the riffing, with jazz style beats and weird time signatures.

The second song, "Real Woman," is the most accessible song with a definite rhythm to it. The bassist kicks some serious butt, too. He is all over the place, slapping away like a madman swatting at flies. They maintain constant tempo variations in almost all the songs, thus giving the listener a thorough concentration workout.

There is a video track of "Warloot" on this CD, which my computer couldn't play for some dumb fucking reason. But anyway, had this MCD come with a few more songs Dyspraxia might well have been on my top three list for this issue. Let’s wait for the next offering by these technical monsters. (8/10) 

 

 

 

 
1/10 Jason
ditto/10 Roberto
 

DYSRHYTHMIA - Pretest - CD - Relapse Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

I could tell within a few seconds that, yes, checking the CD insert, Steve Albini, the producer of Nirvana’s final full-length album, had lent his signature sound to this Philadelphia four piece. They’re in for it now, and you can hear “it” in the dehydration of the drums, and actually in the room itself whenever the instruments paused a moment to let their own everything reverberate and fade. It’s a good thing Dysrythmia is an instrumental group, since any vocalist would be flummoxed to find a spot to anywhere drop a verse that’s free from overindulgence and testicle sweat.

I waited for more than three minutes for at least a “Yeah!” to tell me that ”Bastard” was a stretched-out intro. That opening track was similar to a rock orchestra warming up, but, like most attempts at making rock palatable to jazz heads, Pretest never went anywhere. This was ultimately an expen$ive rehearsal tape, and that’s my problem with Albini: everything he does is so stripped-down and bare that the songs lack momentum. Imagine a Jeep stuck in the mud with this on the stereo.

Look, just because a band noodles about for nearly an hour doesn’t mean that they’re “jazzy.” I saw that term mentioned a few times in Dysrhythmia’s press kit, and it’s offensive to anyone who plays or has ever played jazz music. While jazz is often about the abstract and painting with sound, Pretest subscribes to the format of fucking around aimlessly like stoned, talented twats who can’t find a singer. Fodder for guys who work at Guitar Center and practice with the hand grip gel device on their lunch break so they can show you arpeggios when you only fucking want guitar strings. Guys like that love this crap.

Pretest is 53:08 of the drummer and his chops, which he’s more than happy to show off to the rest of the band, who follow him in tired circles. I got up, made dinner, came back and listened to it again an hour later, and had already forgotten almost everything. Is that what you want from an album? If it is, then sell everything you’ve got and purchase just this one. (1/10)

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I like jerking off, but watching other guys do it is somehow not the same thing... (ditto/10) 

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

EDGUY - Burning Down the Opera / Live - CD - AFM Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

So, has anybody figured out yet why Edguy is called Edguy? Like the X-Files, the truth is out there, but not knowing makes the story more interesting, or, in this case, amusing.

The truth in this case is that a whole bunch of French people love Edguy. Either that or the band has got the power metal equivalent of a laugh track. This 2CD album, recorded live in Paris, showcases this goofy five-piece and the people that love them.

Pompous, only-in-metal stage interactions with the crowd and sing along interludes go hand-in-hand with power metal speed and sap to form this 100+ minute live set. And if you’re an Edguy dork, then you’ll like the big and live sound. But if you haven’t yet, don’t expect to discover the truth through this record. The search continues... (5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Tom
 

ELEND - Winds Devouring Men - CD - Prophecy Productions

review by: Tom Orgad

The return of Elend is perhaps one of the more significant current events in the world of underground music. This Austrian/ French group previously left its mark on the dark orchestral genre when it issued a highly regarded trilogy of albums inspired by Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” This time, they claim to be influenced by a French poem about the Odyssey (unfortunately, no further details are given by the band, nor was there any possibility of my obtaining the lyrics). The creative result provokes a hopeful ripple of expectations amongst those of us who crave for creations of intoxicating, impending gloom.

Elend gradually attempt to synchronize the listener’s view of the world with theirs. Considering the initial gap existing between the different perspectives, they begin by confronting him with rather simple conceptual challenges, guiding him through quite an obvious path, allowing him to slowly accustom and adjust to their emotional world. Then, when the unity is achieved, he is pushed to make the irresistible plunge.

The aforementioned simple introductory part occupies quite a large part of the album. The opening pieces are temptations: they feature a monotonous conceptual drone, bearing a prevailing sense of certain vesper, expressed in repetitive melodic lines of male vocals. After the basic motive is exposed, it is usually amplified by various aesthetic measures of growing sonic lushness and an increasing number of timbres and sounds (including viloins, harpsichord and female operatic vocals, as well some modern, quasi-industrial sounds). Most notably, there is a vast use of resonance, both technologically (the vocals are reinforced by a strong echo effect) and thematically (the described repetitions), imparting the music with a conspicuous similarity to religious hymns. The general feeling is of a compulsive conveyance of a static, unchanging emotional message, not ascending above the relatively shallow ambient level, providing little conceptual richness accompanied by the comforting possibility of indulgence in the high quality of aesthetics.

The goal is achieved as the listener is influenced by his tactfully structured conduction into the allegedly stagnant mood of the artist. The truth is exposed: suddenly, the industrial element is put in the front, leaving aside the hypnotizing threads of gentle melancholy; the observer finds himself helplessly swept away into unexpected, sinister vistas enshrouded in an ominous mist of bewilderment, uncertainty and cognitive dissonance. As if the composer strikes him with the truth: so far he has been merely observing his world from the outside; now, as he has chosen to enter his inner realms, he is forced to realize the seemingly moody, dismal tranquility actually conceals an unraveling demonic kernel.

Luckily, Elend are merciful enough to extricate the listener out of the medley they submerged him in. The final part of the album features an abatement, bringing him back to a partially external view of the represented ideological entity. However, one can’t ignore the journey he has gone through. Indeed, a certain synthesis is reached: under the returning peaceful parts there hides an occasional discordant note, a lurking factor of eeriness, reminding us that things are not as they seem to be on the surface; that every superficial sadness is derived by far greater, more intense, terrifying motives. Be careful with your careless explorations, lest your next seducing host offer less humane consideration. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
10/10 Roberto
 

END - End - CD - ISO 666

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This could be the best black metal album to come out of Greece ever. We’re pretty confident about this. And we’re including great albums such as Rotting Christ’s Non Serviam, too.

Up until this year, Greek extreme metal has almost always seemed half-baked. Like it’s doughy. Like, it has its own identity, but it lacked. I’m thinking of Varathron, Necromantia, Astarte, etc... End falls under none of those descriptions. It certainly doesn’t sound like a Greek band.

Reading a description of what End’s music is like would seem like the majority of other albums. But here’s what End feels like: It’s one of those albums that conveys the ultimate power in despondent solitude through thick, fast, buzzing, raging parts, and then sudden drop offs into quiet, classy sonic territories. The band builds up a mood, then spring off it, only to swoop down on you. The process repeats itself until the album fades out and ends. Cult through and through, you need this album. (10/10) 

 

 

 

 
8.4/10 Roberto
 

ENSHADOWED - Intensity - CD - Black Lotus Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This issue is turning out to be the “viva Greece” one. So many great bands from the Hellenic nation have been coming through, and boy are we happy to tell you about them.

Enshadowed succeed in making a pummeling, dark metal album replete with visceral energy. The music sometimes sounds like Antaeus’ second album, but technical; a bit like Cryptopsy here and there, if Cryptopsy were darker; and has quite a few riffs and moods much like the kind of stuff Aeturnus has been putting together since their Shadows of Old record. The album is split up in two chapters, and indeed it seems that the rapturously chaotic stuff is on part one, and the smoother, more melodic stuff is on part two.

Fear cascades down again and again like a malevolent waterfall to then get broken up by jagged, rumbling blasts. The pace (on the first half of the album in particular) is frenetic yet succeeds in that paradoxical sense of being chaos in total control. The producers of Intensity did their best to uphold this with a polished but bestial sound. If you’ve heard the feeling conveyed by the sound of Excommunion’s Superion (review here), or Lost Soul’s Scream of the Mourning Star (review here), you’ll know what to expect.

Above all, the aptly titled Intensity succeeds on the simplest of levels in terms of grabbing your attention and keeping it there by means of ferocity and conviction. Apart from a couple pretty bad synth interludes at the end of the record, this disk is a really good one.

 

 

 

 

 
9.2/10 Roberto
 

ENSLAVED - Below the Lights - CD - The End Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Frost is Enslaved’s best record. Umm...Mardraum is Enslaved’s best record. No, wait, Monumension is Enslaved’s best record. No wait...

What a great dilemma for all concerned that Enslaved just kept topping themselves. With the release of the latest one, Below the Lights, it seems now that things may have leveled off a bit. The band has lost guitarist Roy Kronheim and come in substantially from left field, where Enslaved was going deeper and deeper into on Monumension, with its trippy, Pink Floyd meets the Doors parts.

The unconventionality is still present, this time in the form of a delicately trilling flute intro so removed from metal, its inclusion is genius. The track that it’s attached to, “Queen of Night,” has some of the best arrangements on the disk, with simply catchy parts that become fresher each time you listen to them.

But there’s still Viking pride in droves, like the chanted intro and theme to “Havenless,” which is guaranteed to never leave you once you hear it.

Album opener “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” is a melancholic and romantic one with the keyboard theme that begins and ends it. Later on in the album, on the track “Ridicule Swarm,” Enslaved lays it on thick in the blasting department. In between you have, as we’ve come to expect from this most essential of metal bands, all points in between of tasteful riff progressions and compositions.

Grutle Kjellson’s vocals are as stunning as always. So is the fascinating way Ivar Peersen goes from riff to riff, throwing in a classy, tasty solo when you least expect it.

If you get your hands on this CD, listen to it on different stereos. I was convinced the album was mediocre after hearing it a couple of times in the car. But on my higher quality system at home, it was much better. It’s true that the sound is a little gray - sort of like pocket lint. In the interview in this issue, Ivar Peersen says he loves the production. He describes it as being a live sound. Maybe, but closer to when you have your earplugs in at a show to save your ears. It is an improvement over the last, bass heavy record, but there still is some room to improve.

So the final verdict is that once again, Enslaved has made one of the top records of the year. Below the Lights is their most endearing album yet, and yes, their best. Until next time. (9.2/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
Mardraum (issue No 2)  
Monumension (issue No 7)  
Live Retaliation (issue No 14)  

 

 

 
7.5/10 Roberto
 

ENSLAVED - Live Retaliation - DVD - Metal Mind

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Just like the other two DVDs that we’ve reviewed shot in this Polish club - the others being Vader (here) and Behemoth (here) - so does the Enslaved production benefit and suffer. And like the other two, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

One of the best shows ever witnessed in this reviewers life was when Enslaved played the Double Door in Chicago in 2001. So expectations were high. Most importantly, the sound on the DVD is great. Really, really great. But the same atmosphere has not been recreated.

Of course that’s a stupid thing to say. The Double Door is a club on the small end, and that show was seen in person. This is a big, video production, with mobile, aerial cameras and lights through the floor. But that’s the beginning of what seems goofy here as it did on the other DVDs: it just doesn’t really seem like a metal show. The audience doesn’t seem real (hear what Enslaved guitarist Ivar Peersen had to say about this in our interview with him in this issue): some are into it, and a whole bunch in the back aren’t.

But the sound is beyond reproach. And no matter what the crowd, Enslaved put on a really good show. Grutle Kjellson’s vocals are so powerful - even more so than on studio albums. The band is very tight and plays songs from most of their albums, with Eld and Blodhemn unfortunately being left out. The camera shots are good, too, although some more creative ones of the drummer would have been nice.

Speaking of camera angles and the (now ex) drummer Dirge Rep, one of the bonus features on the DVD is this truly atrocious interview. It’s bad enough that the person asking the most generic questions possible seems none too interested himself, but there are these hilariously amateur camera shots and production work.

Perhaps sensing that the interview was less interesting than re-organizing your record collection in reverse alphabetical order, the producers decided to have the short attention span camera jump around in two second bursts from a full shot of the three members being interviewed, to a black and white shot of a hand holding a cigarette to an extreme closeup of a nostril... not necessarily of the person talking. In a sense it’s unintentionally entertaining, sort of in the way watching Dirge Rep’s overwhelming expressions of silent annoyance. But nothing can stop anything with the Enslaved name on it from being a worthy acquisition. (7.5/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
Mardraum (issue No 2)  
Monumension (issue No 7)  
Below the Lights (issue No 14)  

 

 

 
seems good/10 Jez
 

ERED - Darkmageddon 3.0 - CD - http://www.geocities.com/ered666

review by: Jez Andrews

This is simply a two-track sampler of the new Ered album, but thus far I like what I hear. Black metal with a lot of anger in it. Suitably grim screaming vocals, heavy guitars, and some real feeling to the whole thing. I shall endeavour to reserve judgement until I get to hear the full album, so watch this space I guess... (seems good/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

EVERY TIME I DIE - Hot Damn! - CD - Ferret Music

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I’ve learned recently that the shows that have the most enthusiasm and energy both on stage and off are the metalcore ones. The scene is young, fresh and spirited. There is a genuine love between the bands and fans and each group feeds off each other. People FLY off the stage and prop up their beloved bands’ vocalists as they too launch themselves headlong into the audience, delivering lyrics the whole way. The shows are powerful and clear, free from any triggered drum fuckery that ruins more metal shows than it helps.

Seeing Every Time I Die play the Pound (review in our pages) permanently solidified the notion that for a good time, these were the shows to see. And listening to Every Time I Die’s Hot Damn! brings me back to that show and its wonderful energy.

Aggressive riffing mixes with very tasty licks to form a record that’s wholeheartedly aggressive yet lighthearted at the same time. The band is committed to what they do but clearly aren’t on some negative head trip. If you don’t get caught by this music, then you and this genre better just move on.

The sound is big and beautifully clear, accentuating the fact that this is guitar and drum driven music. The vocals are atypical, having a certain Southern jive, Oxbow quality to them.

Hot Damn! is a fine album, a nice, compact, 27-minute pocket of metalcore brilliance with aggression that has some sense of humor. Top to bottom, it’s well put together and certainly a worthy acquisition for any fan of this exciting scene. (7/10) 

 

 

 

 
5.8/10 Roberto
 

EWIGES REICH - Thron aus Eis - CD - Perverted Taste

review by: Roberto Martinelli

My new favorite word is “Schlagzeug.” It’s German. I think it means “drums” or “battery.” Whatever its actual definition might be, the images it conjures of savage aesthetics and pitiless energy seems like a great sound to describe the music of Ewiges Reich.

This German black metal band’s last album, Zeit des Erwachens, was a whoppingly awesome thing sure to make the top list of stuff we’ve heard this year. (The first album is pretty damn good, too). And so Thron aus Eis was WAAAY up on our anticipation list.

The beginning section of a booming horn - that, were it to be heard by our mere mortal souls on the field of battle, would certainly make us soil ourselves - sets the stage for another great collection of speed and rough black metal brutality. Indeed, while Ewiges Reich has stuck to this formula musically, there’s a very curious problem.

For after the horn of boom, the subsequent music played by the actual band Ewiges Reich falls off the sonic cliff. It sounds like the band is playing in your back pants' pocket. You keep waiting for the music to kick in the way the previous record does, but it doesn’t - until the horn returns to end the album.

So that’s frustrating. And bewildering. Although in parts, Ewiges Reich is playing faster and more savagely than ever, the sound initially makes it seem as if they slowed down. So in a sense it still is good ol’ Ewiges Reich, but the absence of the audial aspect that made their last record as much of a success as anything else unfortunately makes this one a disappointment. (5.8/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Zeit des Erwachens (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
7.6/10 Condor
 

FROSTMOON ECLIPSE - Death Is Coming - CD - ISO 666

review by: The Condor

It's getting harder and harder to review records that don't necessarily break new ground but that are just really good black metal records, or really good metalcore records. How many times can you say something sounds grim and primitive and talk about blazing blast beats and all that?

Frostmoon Eclipse is a great Italian black metal band that comes to us via the always reliable ISO666 label. Everything you want is here, grim, howled vocals, Satanic lyrics, buzzing riffs and blasting beats.

Where Frostmoon Eclipse really shine is their perfect arrangements and knack for melody. These songs are really catchy, unlike 99% of black metal. Guitars weave and sway, rhythms careen wildly from hyperspeed 4/4 to seasick waltzes, but never to just sound “crazy” or different, but because the song dictates those changes and so that the melodies will fit snugly amidst all this chaos.

Most songs also feature warm and dreamy acoustic breakdowns, with finger-picked acoustic guitars and burbling, underwater fretless bass, adding even more melody to the buzzing grim bleakscape. (7.6/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Gathering the Dark (issue No 7)  

 

 

 
Fuck... I'm Dead 9.5/10 Engorged 8.5/10 Abhi
 

FUCK... I'M DEAD/ ENGORGED - Split CD - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Ohhh, yeah!! I couldn't wait to get home from work the day this arrived in the mail. Those who have read my earlier review of Fuck... I'm Dead's full length (here) will know that this band drives me absolutely nuts.

They start off here with a slow riff, and I kept expecting the barrage of superfast drums to explode out of the speakers at any moment but ahem, the whole intro turned out to be one minute of uncharacteristic slowness.

But all doubts I had regarding the direction of their new material was put to rest the moment "Anal Abattoir" started. The same drum machine thunder, razor sharp riffs and the unique speeded up vocals of Jay: it's all intact and more tight and focused than before.

But the biggest improvement is the sound of the drum machine. This time it sounds more like a real drum set, and does not try to drown out the rest of the instruments. So this CD has eight new songs of Fuck... I'm Dead, and all of them kill! The structures are much better, it's not a complete speed-fest, and the beating is served out in small doses.

And as for Engorged, the last stuff I had heard of theirs was the Death Metal Attack 2 record on Razorback. They had released a self titled CD after that which I had missed out on. As far as I remember DMA2 was a crazy mixture of thrash, death and grind, all thrown into the blender.

Engorged have five songs on this CD and they seem to be continuing with the same style. Thrashing, grinding and death metal-ing away, these guys are definitely not scared of mixing different influences into their music. Hell, Death Metal Attack 2000 even has some hardcore vocals in it. Still fast and catchy, their music is perfect for the time when you get tired of all the gore and just want to listen to some stripped down grind. This CD gets over far too quick, damn it!!! My Pick Of The Issue #1. (Fuck... I'm Dead 9.5/10 Engorged 8.5/10) 

 

 

 

 
7.2/10 Jez
 

FUNERIS NOCTURNUM - Code 666: Religion Syndrome Deceased - CD - Woodcut Records - 2003

review by: Jez Andrews

An intense beginning to an album and no mistake. I have always taken a liking to the kinds of albums that just take no prisoners from the moment you press play.

What we have here are some death/black metallers who mean business. Blasting away for all they're worth and finding the time to add a pinch of old school Emperor melody in there. The sound is pretty clean cut, but citing the death metal influence can get them out of that one. This is a departure from the early Funeris Nocturnum material, then compared to Marduk and Dark Funeral, though I confess this is the first taste I have had.

The moments of cyber shit are worrying, but the songs in general are just so well executed that I’d be willing to forgive them the odd misdemeanor (though I struggled to do so during “Yet All Perished”). I have to admire them for their almost seamless link between death and black metal, and I can imagine most of the songs translating wonderfully into a live setting.

I do feel that occasionally they overuse the keyboards, but there are also tracks like “The Walls Breed Larvae” that have just the perfect balance. Funeris Nocturnum are a very original and creative force in the field of extreme metal and despite the stints of space age samples, they seem to have their heads screwed on the right way. (7.2/10) 

 

 

 

 
8/10 Laurent
 

GEMINUS SECT, THE - Gemination - CD - Sin Klub

review by: Laurent Martini

This is hopefully the future and if it is the music industry is about to get interesting again. Geminus Sect’s sound is a cross between Nine Inch Nails and the programming loops and beats of Pet Shop Boys. Sounds strange but man, this is a great marriage.

Heavy guitars with a beat you can dance your skinny tweed tie and mesh skirt to. The vocals are delivered a little too monotone (by either Xevin or Xayne, as both are credited with vocals) but that’s not enough to ruin a great album. I hope this mix of music catches on soon and rules the radio waves. It’s new, it’s unique and it’s great. (8/10) 

 

 

 

 
5/10 Laurent
 

GENEROUS MARIA - Command of the New Rock - CD - Abstract Sounds

review by: Laurent Martini

Command of the New Rock is not a bad album; but it’s not great, either. It’s a little like tapioca. Sure, it’s dessert, but it’s not really amazing. It fills you up but it’s bland and that basically describes the listening experience you get with Command of the New Rock.

Not a bad listen, but when it was over I had no particular desire to listen to it again or remembered any particular standout part. The music is good enough for me to try to listen to other albums by Generous Maria but Command of the New Rock is not a masterpiece. (5/10)

 

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Abhi
 

GOOD DAY FOR KILLING, A - AssAsSin Demo - CD - http://www.thai.net/agdfk/

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

It's a shame that this demo has a bad sound, coz I can detect some powerful riffing lurking beneath the murky depths of this Thai band’s demo.

The riffing style seems to be quite similar to Lacerate, another Thai band. Unfortunately, not much can be heard of the drums other than the cymbal crashing. Ekkachai provides some deep growling that goes down well with the music.

"Deathgate Opened" has the catchiest riff in this four song demo, while the other songs are almost entirely composed of very fast string chugging. There's a little part in the last song, "Ghoul," where the guitars stop and you can finally hear the blasting drums in all their glory. A Good Day For Killing are certainly on the right track, and if they can gather enough resources for a decent recording, they should try for a split with Lacerate. Now that would be kick ass. (5.5/10) 

 

 

 

 
1/10 Laurent
2/10 Roberto
 

GRAVE DIGGER - Rheingold - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Laurent Martini

Is it wrong to call your band Grave Digger and have the first song off your album sound like an out take from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Phantom of the Opera”? Yes, it is.

Is it a good idea to base your album on Wagner’s “Ring of the Nibelungs”? No, it’s not.

Is it right to name your songs “Giants,” “Sword,” “Dragon” or “Murderer”? No, it’s mildly retarded.

Perhaps Grave Digger will have a long career playing the Ren Fairs or D&D conventions but don’t be fooled by how cool that sounds! The music is mindless and uninspired and the background chants on most songs won’t please anyone else.

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Seriously, now, folks. What is up with this band Grave Digger? Like, it’s one of the longest running German metal bands. So how can it suck this much? And what the fuck is up with those vocals? It’s like the whiny, poor man’s Udo Dirkschneider. Is that shit for real? And what’s up with the one guy who’s always dressed up for Halloween? 

 

Related reviews:
 
The Grave Digger (issue No 7)  

 

 

 
8/10 Jason
6.5/10 Jez
 

HATESPHERE - Bloodred Hatred - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

What is considered a “next wave” by their record label is actually superb old school thrash with dense double-tracked guitars, bass, and technical drumming that instantly raises anyone’s blood pressure. The vocals of Jacob Bredahl are a tad overwrought at times though, but Morten Toft (drums) and his four feet made up for it, as did the instrumental bits - which I loved. Bloodred Hatred will grow on you. (8/10)

review by: Jez Andrews

Hatesphere, despite playing very honest and hard hitting music, hold a great mystery for me. Moments of blandness that practically merge with shouty hardcore, and yet moments of brilliance, well written and well thought out. The vocals of Jacob Bredahl frustrate me greatly. His style of preference seems to be halfway between a thrashy growl and the hardcore cries of Earth Crisis, but when he plummets into his lower register of death metal, his grasp on it is just fantastic.

Each band member is given the chance to show off their panache. I can't help but notice the influence of Swedish death metal's melodic side seeping out between the churning riffs. The guitar harmonies, the almost misplaced solos, and the sweeping yet subtle keyboard tracks thrown in here and there for good measure, it all helps to give the music some individuality.

The Haunted may have the more memorable qualities, but the inventiveness of Hatesphere just can't be denied. I just wish they hadn't let that hardcore influence infect them. It's the wrong side of Obituary to make it sound dark and crushing, and the skillfully executed metal that weaves in and out isn't always enough to balance it all out. That apart, here is yet another quality Danish export. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Nikita
 

HELICOPTER HELICOPTER - Wild Dogs with X Ray Eyes - CD - Initial Records

review by: Nikita

It’s actually good to know that some things don’t change much. Pop music being one of them. Why is it that we instinctually can identify the structure of pop music? Whether you love it or rebel against it is personal taste. But really, it begs the question -- What’s not to like?

Actually, this four-piece band does have an edge, talking about getting drunk and other angst-ridden, enigmatic concerns. Now I am only hearing the CD and not seeing the show, but this Boston based band seems like a Blondie meets Dave Matthews arrangement with the core of the band being a boy, girl pop team.

Chris Zerby is kind of a scrappy dude, where his female counterpart, Julie Chadwick, is quite elegant in a flippy blonde sort of way. They do seem to bring out the best in each other. Hell, I think it’s a match. People that can share attention and stage in the studio like this could also survive in a studio apartment.

The rhythm section is big and tight and the songs are short and sweet. Why they called this collection Wild Dogs with X-Ray Eyes is pretty esoteric, as is the name of the band, Helicopter Helicopter. I can’t say it conjures a unified kind of package that accurately represents the music I am listening to.

I keep staring at the photo of them crouched between a collection of pinwheels. Are these the Helicopters? It suggests levity and fun, even. Yet the cover graphic of the rabid dogs circling each other Jack London style, looks menacing and desperate. With only the CD and the cover to guide me, I fail to get the connection or the larger irony between the bubbly hooks and often grim, subject matter.

When all is said and done, and the CD is spinnin’, the music certainly does grow on you.

They work hard on layering and power popping those major triads. The arrangements are dynamic, luscious and formula filled. Zerby and Chadwick work closely together in their harmony and instrumental parts, sharing that virtual studio apartment like a charm. The Wild Dogs... CD is a formidable body of fine pop songs. When I listen to the hooks, I want to be bouncing around on my tippy toes. When I listen to the lyrics I want to go back to bed and cover my head with a pillow. Let’s see... (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Stv
8/10 Roberto
 

HELLOWEEN - Rabbit don`t Come Easy - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Steppenvvolf

Funny that a Helloween album reminded me of one of the most decisive postwar events in German history.

In June 1961, asked by a western journalist if it was the intention to "create" a state border at the famous "Brandenburger Tor," (the place where later Kennedy gave his unforgettable "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech) the East German head of state Walter Ulbricht responded with a couple of long-winded sentences, closing with the legendary statement: "No one has the intention of building a wall."

Only...the journalist didn`t ask about a wall...

The fourth track on Rabbit Don’t Come Easy, "Never Be a Star," was similarly revealing. Without being asked, Helloween intones a four-minute "We are who we are, we`ll never be a star."

Boys, what have you become? That`s so cheesy.

But there are more than enough fantastic songs to make up for the odd dodgy one. The CD starts with a real rocker, “Just a Little Sign,” that has the potential to send a bunch of fans unconscious during concerts.

All in all, the production is perfect, with the whole album being more upbeat than the previous ones.

Yes, it`s so perfect that you should ask yourself if you really need this Helloween CD if you have all the others. Sixty minutes of perfect, happy metal.

Perfect....yes...

Perfect.....mmmhh....

Defect.....yes, that`s it! Be a defector from Helloween’s land of rehashing their own heritage. And remember: Steppenvvolf would die for the happy moments his first Helloween CD gave him. (7/10)

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Dear reader,

Please excuse Steppenvvolf if he’s gone a little haywire. He’s been under a lot of stress lately. Honestly.

What he means to say is that the new Helloween *is* a perfect album, but it’s perfect in the sense that it’s rehashing what they’ve done a bunch of times already. So you might want to beware of it.

With that said, I can’t seem to stop listening to the first three songs on Rabbit Don’t Come Easy, all the while picturing a World Cup stadium filled filled with fans waving gigantic flags of metal to and fro. They’re three of the best power metal tunes this year. And, yeah, some of the slower songs are goofy (and worse, skippable), just like on previous Andi Deris-fronted Helloween, but I know *I* paid for the full version of this album (with bonus track) when I got the promo for free. And that’s saying a hell of a lot, don’t you think? (8/10)

 

 

 

 
1/10 Tom
 

HOLY MARTYR - Hatred and Warlust - CD - http://www.holy-martyr.com

review by: Tom Orgad

In my opinion, any review of a creation related to the power metal genre should be accompanied with an uncompromisingly explicative reminder regarding the structural fallacies of the genre. This movement of great popularity and commercial success holds an essential clash of values on its basic principal/ conceptual level, constantly transmitting echoes of its disturbing presence, permeating and making itself notable on the upper spheres of the aesthetic experience.

As a result, many despise this genre, calling it “boring” to “gay”; some simply choose to ignore it - others worship it. An unfortunate property common to most members of all power metal groups, I dare say, is the lack of awareness to the actual motive generating their distinctive inclination, whatever it may be, regarding this phenomenon of majestic glory and pompous fury.

Usually power metal, and especially its epic branches, sets itself a goal, of providing a musical expression of the sense and dynamics of a raging onslaught, the march of devoted, indomitable soldiers to the defence of a great boasted nation or ideology. There is no fear of death or defeat, only complete, impeccable identification and loyalty to the transcendental, sublime concepts, diminishing the existential value of the singular subject, being shadowed by the glorification of the totality. The common method of representing the vitality of a march into battle usually involves an intense rhythm section, over which hovers the eloquent dramatic, melodic singing of the vocalist, symbolizing the presence of superior, nearly divine idea, mitigating the horrors of war, usually to the point of complete representational absence. (And then come the guitar solos, which are logically supposed to stand as a form of personal expression, childishly shattering the inner coherence, but this criticism shall be left aside for now.)

More importantly, the theme of voluntary individual enslavement to a greater whole is also notable in the general structure of the discussed movement: most artists sound amazingly alike, flaunt the same imagery and compositional approaches, and feature very little originality whatsoever.

Indeed, experts of the field will surely be able to define several sub-genres, but any further individual division within these will be practically impossible. Just like the symbolized essence of its output, power metal stands as an army marching forward, promoting recurrent elementary aesthetics and artistic perception, not attempting to alter or evolve, simply asking its order of members to serve a higher purpose.

And here surfaces the eternal intrinsic dialectic: unlike certain bands that represent actual militant movements, featuring moralistic ideologies, corresponding with significant underground scenes outside the realms of aesthetic musical expression, those playing power metal are obviously detached of such. They are not authentic militants, simply fans of epic tales. Hereby, their legitimacy of repetitiveness and lack of innovation is lost; they are left stranded in a ridiculous position, viewed as servants subordinated to a non-existent ideology; as if someone would seriously idolize, say, a Tolkien epos. So, the few who do, usually end up being power metal fans. The rest, even those who are able to enjoy it from time to time, often behold it with a certain sense of contempt.

As for Holy Matryr? Definitely a bunch of slaves to the style. Aesthetically, they are a part of the epic torrent, offering dynamically evolving structures, unoriginal, amazingly lengthy lead guitar solos, reasonable vocals, and both guitarist and drummer whose playing is very fast, yet not equally technical (probably as a result of a lack of rhythmical etudes). Their compositions are standard, occasionally delivering a short segment of originality, usually in the shape of an interesting folky guitar-harmonized melody or a seldom heard before riff, which may somehow render this release a bit more then rudimentary for fans of the genre. However, flourishing their biography with statements of renouncement to the power metal scene, while bearing the exact attributes of it, depicts them as embarrassingly tragic/ comical figures. Finishing it with a statement as “support or hate us,” they simply don’t leave me much choice. (1/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Matt
5.5/10 Jason
 

HOODS - Pray for Death - CD - Victory Records

review by: Matt Smith

I remember reviewing these guys’ last album for my campus radio station. I don’t remember what it sounded like, but do remember I was less than impressed, to say the least. Pray for Death failed to awe me, as well, though I don’t think it failed quite as drastically.

They’ve got a hardcore-mixed-with-death-grooves feel to them, and they do have a good, unified sound. But they aren’t exactly technical, despite what their promotional materials would lead me to believe. I could see these guys putting on an energetic show and really being a hit with a varied audience. However, their album is too repetitive to bring much entertainment.

Ben Garcia is always screaming about the mysterious “you” who must be out to get him.

“You” makes him sick and lies to him.

“You” sure has it coming when Ben finds him.

That’s about all I gather from the combined lyrics of all the songs. Oh, that and how the world sucks. Yeah, I’d have to say the album gets old in a hurry. (5/10)

review by: Jason Thornberry

If Sacramento, California’s Hoods had chosen more modest cover art for Pray For Death it might have made the fourteen brief hardcore/ metal tracks easier to take seriously - an illustration of dentally challenged clowns moshing only reinforces the opinions of people who grew up, over, and out of punk decades ago.

Sick of It All, and shouty, chant-chorus hardcore fans will love this, except when vocalist Benito Garcia goes cod thespian, like on “John And Kitty”’s double-tracked “I HATE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART, YOU MOTHERFUCKERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!”

On the other hand, “By My Side” had an almost dub-reggae quality to the vocals not present in most hardcore albums of the past, who all relied on minimal production. Pray... also uses samples from “Repo Man” and scenes from a few other midnight movies to set up a despondent mood that is in harmony with the songs, but it’s all so campy and over-the-top that listening without a smirk isn’t possible. Pray For Death takes itself much more seriously than even the old concept albums of the 1970s, and that makes it tough to recommend. (5.5/10) 

 

 

 

 
0.6/10 Jez
 

HYPNOSIS - Evilution - CD - http://www.hypnosismetal.fr.st

review by: Jez Andrews

Many of us, I'm sure, have been through the same experience of listening to a metal album for the first time and being confronted with elements of industrial/dance music, or even entire remixes in such styles. I went through such an ordeal with Vader's Kingdom CD, but subsequently forgave them, given the supreme quality of their other material.

Hypnosis symbolise to me that which is unforgivable: metal that is given a treatment of dance music from start to finish. It's not an intriguing combination of styles, it's the cold blooded murder of one to the smug satisfaction of the other. Here is the top and bottom of it: Dance music belongs in the clubs that spawned it, along with the hair gel, the gold chains and the shiny shirts. Keep it away from metal with heavy artillery. (0.6/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Roberto
 

I.C.E. - I.C.E. - CD - http://www.imperialice.com

review by: Roberto Martinelli

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That’s an old adage that is reinforced by writing for Maelstrom. It certainly applies to I.C.E. and their three song demo MCD.

So the album may look totally gay, like the reincarnation of Crimson Glory in what could be even stupider costumes and with far worse color schemes - but it in fact rules. Just like Crimson Glory. But unlike that rather obscure 80s power metal group, the music doesn’t fit at all with the imagery. (And I won’t even tell you what I.C.E. stands for. Yeah, it’s lame.)

What you do get is without doubt the best imaginable, speed crazed black metal. The kind that exemplifies the word “impossible.” The kind that bands like Keep of Kalessin plays, but even faster and more technical. The kind that mutually benefits from being at light speed and by having juicy riffs played by clear instruments that haven’t been fiddled with by stupid effects or triggers. The kind you play over and over and over.

Even though the styles are different, I can’t help but think of Aurora Borealis and its latest album (review here). It’s an unlikely connection: both albums have similarly terrible visual presentation, and both feature musicians who can play the living daylights out of their instruments. Like, they can actually play to a higher degree of precision and speed than you can even *imagine* playing.

Marduk fans will SO love this. And then they’ll put on their Marduk CDs and find that they’ve become strangely inadequate. Why, oh, why does this album have to be just 11 and a half minutes long? Oh, well, I guess it’s time to play it again for the eighth time. (9/10) 

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Dave
 

IRAN - The Moon Boys - CD - tUMULt Records

review by: Dave McGonigle

Sometimes bands give you a nod and a wink, and you know what to expect.

Not here.

Listening to Iran’s sophomore effort (ohmygod I’ve been in this country too long) for the first time produced a state of confusion in my being akin to that from a 24hr C-SPAN marathon. Yet confusion isn’t necessarily a bad thing: I have no idea what this band wants to be when it grows up, but I’m in no hurry to speed the process.

Lo-fi pop heaven is the order of the day here, spiced with a number of bizarre kicks. Opening track “Tee Hee” is about as normal as it gets, a short ‘n’ sweet sea shanty with guitars that sound like cats and vocals about “hands around your throat.” Nice.

Then it gets really strange. “Four-Armed Star” consists of a forlornly picked melody on guitar, backed with epileptic electrical arcing noises. The track finishes with the kind of bizarre buzzing that anyone with a $50 amp and a burned hand knows only too well.

The bizarre path tread by the band gets stranger as the record progresses. Jazzy guitar riffs go hand in hand with half-spoken vocals that sound as though they were recorded in another room; maybe another house.

I was a little disappointed to learn that their track “Wuthering Heights” wasn’t a cover of the Kate Bush song (next time, maybe?); however, Iran’s version features clarinet, trumpet, and almost a tune.

Elsewhere, languid Vini Reilly-type guitar phrases get hit over the head with frantic riffing; if there’s a theme to this album, it’s the triumph of imagination over economy, with every weird hiss and squeak of equipment press-ganged into service of the greater good.

To wax nostalgically for a moment: in the early eighties the Jesus and Mary Chain bought a broken wah-wah pedal and pop was never the same. I doubt Iran will have that kind of impact; nevertheless, here’s a band who have a sound all of their own, who wrap sweet melodies in layers of weirdness, and write songs that make you wonder what Pavement would have sounded like if they’d only kept that weird drummer dude and had all their equipment stolen. Very, very good. (7.5/10) 

 

 

 

 
9.1/10 Larissa
 

IRON AND WINE - The Creek Drank the Cradle - CD - Sub Pop Records

review by: Larissa Parson

I would unequivocally recommend this album to everyone and anyone, but I suspect that there are those to whom the quiet but creepy six-string strummings of Floridian Sam Beam will seem boring. That would be unfortunate, since this album - recorded in Beam’s bedroom last year - has a sensibility most easily compared to Nick Drake, a consistency that lends itself to quiet Sunday afternoons spent doing not much. This is not hard-drinkin’ music ala Sixteen Horsepower, but swingin’ on the porch music. Buy it now. (9.1/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Abhi
 

JASAD - Witness of Perfect Torture - CD - Rottrevore Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Brutal Indonesian Death Metal again. The production is not the best, and thus it doesn't sound as brutal as Absolute Defiance (above). It's the pig vocals out here that give it a sicker sound, though. This reminds me quite a bit of Devourment, especially when they get those break downs going.

The rest of the time they try to be Suffocation. The playing time is quite short, clocking in at just under 24 minutes, so I guess this could be considered an MCD. The riffing is good but leads up to predictable chuga-chugga parts more often than required.

My favorite songs on this are "Diamation" and "Ripping the Pregnant." When you listen to as much brutal death as I do, you need something that punches you right in the face as soon as you press PLAY. This doesn't yet unfortunately. What’s up with the song titled "Ejaculate on Rottrevore"? Haha, cheeky. And, what’s up with the "The sales of this CD only for Waco killers" notice on the cover? Kiddish. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

KALMAH - Swampsong - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Kalmah is one of those bands that you think should rule their scene. They have killer melodies, dynamics, and fun songs. Then you remember that they basically sound like Children of Bodom.

Not that it mattered. Kalmah’s last album, They Will Return (review here) featured more than a few tunes that blew away anything Children of Bodom has done since their second, untoppable album. Better vocals, more memorably noodly, wanky keyboard and guitar solos, blast beats. But Kalmah still sounded like Children of Bodom.

On Swampsong, Kalmah has taken a big step out from under Bodom’s shadow. The melodies are far less cotton candy, but still very solidly Scandinavian melodic death. Less fun and more metal. But less fun.

And while there isn’t one song better than the great ones in They Will Return, Swampsong is a much more attractive album overall. The slower songs work better than ever, and the production is the best yet. The triggered snare still does sound a little weird now and again, like the drummer is playing too fast for the computer to keep up with its application of the full, programmed sound. But that’s cool.

So returning fans will dig Swampsong. It’s a safely progressive step for Kalmah. And yeah, it is their best album yet. Check it out. (8/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
Swamplord (issue No 6)  
They Will Return (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
6.5/10 Tom
 

KARMAKANIC - Into the Spectra - CD - Regain Records

review by: Tom Orgad

First, some advice to the members, promoters and record company of Karmakanic, a progressive rock/ metal supergroup led by bassist Jonas Reingold of The Flower Kings: A minute-long narration at the beginning of the disk does not alone render it a concept album. Nor is a single track titled “Cyberdust From Mars” a sufficient cause for its consideration as a futuristic, year 3000 affair. Bestowing a thematically anemic album with the pretentious “concept” adjective may be an efficient marketing gimmick, but it might make those who buy this record frustrated at the slick salesmen who shrewdly deceived him into buying it.

Now let’s focus on the actual content of the album. Musically, Karmakanic dwell on the seam between modern progressive rock and progressive metal. Expectedly, they don’t seem to transcend above the principal, innate deficiencies of both genres: on one hand, the arcane aura surrounding the concept of prog rock, being incessantly criticized for not making any actual progression since 1976, and on the other, the (utterly justified) accusations being turned towards progressive metal, whose majority of creations merely consist as an excuse for high-skilled musicians to irritatingly prove their technical merits, delivering an endless array of self-indulging, futile lead solos, expecting the crowd to wait patiently throughout and cheer at the end.

However, judging in standards of the genre, it seems that Karmakanic deliver the required goods in quite a satisfying manner. The most interesting notion of their music is the peculiar amalgamation of experimentation and embarrassing unoriginality. Most of the pieces of the album do not feature a cohesive core, a sage development of idea, recurrence of motive or construction of climaxes, but a linear axis of sonic experimentation: combining different sounds, structures and elements of varied sounds and styles, from jazz, through Latin, metal and fusion to AOR and pomp rock, they present a sequence of flawlessly performed, slickly conveyed aesthetically pleasing combinations, interspersed with the mandatory, superficial virtuoso leads, appearing occasionally, regardless of any intelligible concept.

Nevertheless, although most of the experimental interweavings are somehow unique, none of them sounds unfamiliar and original. Being most notable on the vocal melodies, but also apparent on most of the instrumental parts, the dominating impression is that every musical phrase heard on the album had already been recorded, released and gained recognition by other groups and is now being shamelessly, overtly adapted. As far as I despise name-dropping comparisons, just let me note most obvious influences of Queen, Genesis, Yes, Rush, Beatles, King Crimson, Dream Theater, Police, and endless bands of the 80’s and 90’s neo and progressive rock movements.

Therefore, the music of Karmakanic is actually stated upon a paradox: it is experimental and literally progressive, yet simultaneously catchy, banal and embedded with an everlasting stock of blatant, worn cliches. Thus, the listener enjoys the thrill of exploration, together with the comforting feel of familiarity and nostalgia. Surely, the lack of originality deprives the album of its value as serious piece of art; However, it is already bereft of it as soon as the listener realizes the alleged-concept fraud. Then, it is possible to lay back, remove the analytical, explicating mask, and experience a hour of light, careless musical entertainment. Definitely nothing more, probably not much less. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Nikita
 

KING'S X - Black Like Sunday - CD - Metal Blade Records

review by: Nikita

This CD is a newly recorded collection of the band’s “best of” from before this power trio had signed their first record deal in 1988.

I see some of you shudder - “eeek!, the 80’s?”

Fact of the matter is these tunes are totally contemporary in every way. With musicians of this caliber, a collection like this only benefits from the bands continued experience and the kind of advances that have been made in studio recording. When you listen to this, you also get a sense of their history.

It’s clear that King’s X was creating a sound without the imposing baton of a record company manager looking for a tried and true formula. The Kings are not shy of the 64 bar guitar solo, quirky song structure or the occasional boomerang backbeat. They capture and fascinate with good songs and creative arrangements. The cuts are very individual and easily identifiable pieces that speak for themselves and not from the harness of a whimsical record label.

Beautiful, thick sound and a talented studio engineer highlight the already fabulous sound that these guys demonstrate even in live performance. (see live review in this issue) Their vocal harmonies are remarkable, really. I’m pretty much convinced that it’s Doug Pinnick, that stylicious bass player, that drives the harmony genius.

This CD is a must for any guitar tone enthusiast. Ty Tabor is a master of his tone and the endless palate of effects available to the adventurous guitarist. He goes confidently from the standard Stratocaster Marshal stack noodling to the esoteric reverse delay flange module. Always, it is balanced, a perfectly mixed wash of electricity and intrigue.

What I *would* do is put a cap on that promo shot I got in the mail with the CD. Who needs a BORING picture like this when the photos on the slick, thick liner notes are so good. No band should be in the harsh light around an empty table the morning after a gig. Does anybody want this photo before I throw it out? (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Jez
 

KONKHRA - Reality Check - CD - Code 666

review by: Jez Andrews

Listening to this makes me realise that at least one member of Machine Head wanted to continue playing gutsy music after Burn My Eyes. Mr. Kontos may have only stuck around for 1997's Weed out the Weak, but that alone cemented Konkhra's place in history.

Reality Check is both heavy and solid in its composure. I would have been overjoyed if Sepultura had taken to a sound like this after Chaos A.D.

The weight and might of this album simply cannot be disputed, and it's nice to remind ourselves that there is yet another band out there who can do a damn good job of fusing thrash and death metal, especially with “Hellhound on My Trail” and “Day of the Dog.” The short staccato blasts of rhythm guitar are very reminiscent of the technique employed by The Haunted and Dew Scented, but Konkhra have been recording for about a decade now, and I don't think they can be thought of as following in anyone's footsteps. One thing I noted with interest was the answerphone message preceding “Lowlife” that described one of the.....er...joys of living in Oakland, California.

The only thing that slightly disappointed me was that the closing guitar instrumental “The Blackest of Dawns” didn't break into a nice shuffling death metal lament of some kind. That apart, I have far better things to do with my time that searching for weaknesses that just aren't there. Konkhra get my vote. (8.5/10) 

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Dave
 

KOPERNIK - Kopernik - CD - Eastern Developments

review by: Dave McGonigle

Sometimes, a record’s first track grabs you by the balls and squeezes so hard that you spend the rest of the album wanting to return to the beatific pain of that first encounter.

Kopernik’s self-titled album manages to keep that trick going all the way through such that, by the time the disk finishes, you don’t know whether you should grab some ice or hit the replay button. Personally, I did both.

It’s an ambitious disc that manages to marry traditionally played stringed instruments with contemporary electronica and avoid the cardinal sin of sounding like the soundtrack to a Toyota advert, and Kopernik pull it off beautifully and then some.

There are two people listed on the album cover as playing in Kopernik, with three additional musicians, but you’d swear you were listening to a full orchestra on almost every track. Part of the effect is achieved through having both cello and double bass (not drums in this case, but the stringed instrument - Roberto) placed very high in the mix; there’s a heavy reliance on classical forms here, but instead of joining the masses giving props to late 20th century composers like Gorecki and Pärt, Kopernik reach further back to the late romantic period.

There’s a track called “Kopernistan” where the mix of stately strings and ethnic percussion remind one of the intentions of Debussy’s “First and Second Arabesques,” although the sounds of the two pieces couldn’t be more different. Elsewhere the prominence of the cello brings Elgar and Vaughn Williams sweeping melodies to mind. It’s a disc that takes a fresh approach to linking the modern and the antique, and for the most part its wholly successful. Go and buy it if the idea of a soundclash between bearded men with cellos and bearded men with computers excites you - and it should. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 (for a live album) Roberto
 

KREATOR - Live Kreation - CD - Steamhammer

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I’ve always been pretty ambivalent about Kreator. German thrash geniuses, no doubt, but I have always been aware while listening to their classic stuff of myself saying, “this is Kreator. I’m supposed to like this.”

So with that in mind, you can get a good idea of how good Live Kreation is when I bestow upon it my (early) pick for live metal album of the year.

And it is really great. The sound of the guitars and drums and vocals is powerful and clear. It’s nearly like listening to a studio album played in front of thousands of lunatic fans. A studio album played with boundless energy, and synergy to boot.

The 2CD, 24 song live set could go off as a seamless, gargantuan marathon of metal passion, but then you realize that frontman Mille Petrozza is addressing the crowd in different languages. So it seems that disk one is from Korea. Disk two jumps from France to Germany to Brazil and back to France again. But if you were a Mongolian Kreator fan who spoke no English you wouldn’t be able to tell.

Also present on this wonderful album are some clips of the upcoming DVD companion release, which we hope to be able to tell you about in the future. In the meantime, pick this up and go mad. (8.5/10 -- as always, on a live album scale)

 

Related reviews:
 
Violent Revolution (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
9/10 Roberto
 

KSK - Diminishing Spiritus - CD - http://www.zirkelloch.com

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I’m not sure how many people will have heard about this project based on familiarity with the name Kibosh Sibyl Kismet. At any rate, the once disbanded group has reformed under the abbreviated KSK.

Regardless of whether you’ve heard of this Singaporean outfit or not, Diminishing Spiritus is an excellent album. It has a lot of the same qualities as Anaal Nathrakh’s The Codex Necro in its electronically flailing vocals, overdrive drum machine and general feeling of thick, seething miasma. But KSK leans much more heavily to an electronica/ industrial side, and to wonderful effect.

Strange whistling, sinister techno beats and hisses mix with blazing guitar evil to give the aura of being in Azzazzel’s night club. The mixture of paces works very well. One track will be a full on, fuzzed out fuckfest, and the next will feature a repetitive, minimal, hypnotic, icy keyboard melody that’s as clear as a bell.

It is totally DIY, but Diminishing Spiritus is without question one of the best things I’ve heard in this issue. Get it. (9/10) 

 

 

 

 
8/10 Matt
 

LABRAT - Ruining it for Everyone - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Matt Smith

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like Labrat. These guys are pretty brutal, yet with song titles like “Diary of a Piss Drinker,” “Two Pigs Fucking,” and “Clint Eastwood is Very Hard, Innit,” it is clear they don’t take themselves too seriously.

They’ve got a hardcore edge, but timing most hardcore bands can’t even dream of. High, distorted guitars, grating vocals and intense drumming come together and stay together from start to finish. They might slow down (in perfect unison) for a second every once in a while, but then it’s back to the insane speeds they started with. They’ve got some interesting melodies and rhythms, and are essentially an eight out of ten on the “hardness scale.” Good stuff. (8/10) 

 

 

 

 
3.8/10 Laurent
 

LEADFOOT - We Drink for Free - CD - Abstract Sounds

review by: Laurent Martini

You all remember a band called Junkyard? Of course not. And in five years you won’t remember Leadfoot, either. It’s country hillbilly rock and roll worthy of “The Man Show” and anyone who thinks segregation was a good idea (at least Nashville Pussy is a cool name.)

You’ll like this band if:

a) you live in a trailer park

b) you can name every Dairy Queen flavor, or

c) you’ve traveled every mile of the Mason Dixie line.

If you’re looking for a good band, buy Worthless United (see review in this issue) or get yourself Lynyrd Skynyrd’s greatest hits and see how this genre is done right. (3.8/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Jason
 

LOCUST, THE - Plague Soundscapes - CD - Anti Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

On Plague Soundscapes The Locust successfully mix Swedish, Greek, Arabic, Pig Latin and Chinese, which is to say they obtain elements of different styles and take tiny, blurred snapshots of each one crashing into itself. “Japanoisy thrash/ punk grindcore carnival disco” is the section this would be filed under, with the Minutemen, and John Zorn’s Naked City the only tiny comparisons.

Imagine a large car accident happening inside Disneyland just prior to a 747 landing on the Haunted House there. The security guards are frantic, so they all begin to pummel one another while speaking in tongues, as bloodied, half-burnt old men play keyboards and masturbate with their free hands. It all becomes a noxious, charred circle jerk, but out come songs like “The Half-Eaten Sausage Would Like to See You in His Office,” as well as nearly two dozen other gems your pastor would love to hear. Twenty-one minutes later it’s over, and the only trouble with Plague... was how difficult it was to stop listening to it. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Larissa
 

LUCERIN BLUE - Tales of the Knife - CD - Tooth and Nail Records

review by: Larissa Parson

The press release from Tooth and Nail opens, “Every generation has their own music, the specific soundtrack for their lives.” And then goes on to mention Nirvana, the so-called “grunge” scene, the late Nineties and “what came out of that can be heard in bands like Linkin Park, the Foo Fighters, and Tooth and Nail’s Lucerin Blue.” For one, Dave Grohl’s been making music since before these kids heard of it.

Besides, who would willingly compare themselves to Linkin Park?

I’m willing to give anything a try, at least once. Sadly, these sweet Christian boys are just that - sweet boys with guitars and a love of god. They have worked hard, but, as Ryan Turner, the drummer, notes on the band’s website, I’m one of those people whose job it is “to review a band, and criticize things they see wrong with a record not make new friends.” And while the music is almost catchy and even has a positive message, it’s certainly not something my CD player will be making friends with anytime soon. Sorry, boys. (4.5/10) 

 

 

 

 
7.6/10 Jez
 

MALIGNANCE - Regina Umbrae Mortis - CD - BTOD

review by: Jez Andrews

Malignance is a very proficient black metal outfit from Italy. The bass-heavy sound of this, their first full length album, is mostly down to the occasional death/thrash influence, but the overall style is definitely a venemous brand of black metal. The vocals are superb, wandering between screams, roars, and something similar to the clean vocals of Enslaved.

One thing I love about Regina Umbrae Mortis is the almost constant roll of thunder created by the drums and the pulverising low end on the guitars. It's always good to find a black metal band who can perfectly well create atmosphere without the assistance of keyboards and such, which Malignance certainly can. Just the right mix of brutality and reverb...and image of course. They generously pile on the corpsepaint, grab their leather, spikes and nails, and they're ready to go. And dammnit, that's the way it should be.

I think the most shining moment on this album is the raging “Horror Vacui,” and just like every other track it should be turned up VERY loud for best effect.

I like the way Malignance manage to avoid being pinned down to comparison with specific bands. Playing a fairly traditional form of black metal, there are certain musical traits they are bound to share with others, but it seems they've pretty much stood out on their own. I wouldn't say that they're at the top of their league, but the potenitial is there... (7.6/10)

 

 

 

 
10/10 Stv
 

MANES - Vilosophe - CD - Code 666

review by: Steppenvvolf

Sometimes bands issue concept albums, but most of those concepts are, if at all, only perceptible by the names of the songs. But Manes has managed to bring out an album that is not only a colorful work, but that also sheds light on a dark and often neglected part of your soul.

The introductory part of Vilosophe is marked by slow, ambient keyboard sounds to which a thin voice is fitted in. With time progressing, the speed of the tracks advances in waves, with the drum lines mutating from virtually non-existent or hollow and deep sounds, to aggressive breakbeat passages ala Prodigy.

Full and broad guitar sounds accompany and support the upheaval in rhythm and strength. Each time a new wave has broken, and we`re speaking of time in minutes, it feels like the music is reclining from its advances to gather new strength.

The fragile voice is taking those surges surprisingly well, gaining its suggestive momentum from singing in a very accusatory manner.

Remarkable is the final track, which is basically only a narrative in German, the content of which I shall not reveal here, but it does develop from the atmosphere created by the music tracks before naturally. Both in style and content it is like breaking the last wave and leaving it to die on a misty shore.

This is an album you should definetly not miss. My pick of this issue, if not one of this year`s favourites. (10/10)

 

 

 

 
10/10 Dave
 

MATHIEU, STEPHAN & EHLERS, EKKEHARD - Heroin - CD - Orthlong Musork

review by: Dave McGonigle

Seagulls turn into fireworks, half-heard jazz standards gurgle from the bottom of the sea, and pure sine waves rock gently from one ear to the other. Yup, it’s business as usual for Ekkehard Ehlers, obscure master of the minimalist, pilgrim at the altar of ‘more is less.’

Like his previous series of EPs, Ekkehard Ehlers Plays…, Heroin is best heard late at night with the lights turned down low, the stereo turned up high, and a glass or two of whatever tickles yer synapses close to hand. From the beginning to the end of the album, Mathieu and Ehlers create music that travels the full gamut of ‘ambient’ - in effect, a cook’s tour of what’s hip ‘n’ happening in electronica, a CD made by an older sibling whose rarefied tastes you hunger to acquire.

However (as is sometimes the case in ambient music), the cardinal sin of quantity over quality is never committed. Far from being a simple mélange of muddled music, there’s a hell of a lot to like and admire on this double-disc set, released in the US by SF’s very own Orthlong Musork label (for the most part, the high-watermark for all that’s good in glitch). For your hard-earned greenbacks, you get the main album plus a second CD of remixes; a nice touch, but hardly essential. Regard the mix CD as a grateful present from a doddering aunt, smile in appreciation, and concentrate instead on the first album.

And what an album it is. Everything from Aphex Twin-like ambient to glitch and Eno-esque organic drones reminiscent of Ambient IV. And, baby - it’s all good. Not a foot is put wrong throughout this collection, it’s challenging, it’s soothing, it’s slightly menacing; it’s all that. At times, you’ll believe that you’re William Hurt in a flotation tank, trying to go "all the way back"; at others, you’re on a beach at night with your friends, there’s a celebration somewhere, and you’re simply happy to be there.

However, Mathieu and Ehlers understand that it’s as important to bring people home as it is to take them on a journey. And so the disc opens and closes with an achingly beautiful combination of organ music and field-recordings of fireworks that will make you cry. If it doesn’t, tell me, and I’ll come round to your house and we’ll cut onions while the CD plays. Dude, I mean it. (10/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Laurent
 

MICHAELS, BRET - Songs of Life - CD - Poor Boy Records Inc.

review by: Laurent Martini

This one’s tough. I love Poison. I really, really like Poison and I really wanted to like Songs for Life. The music is not what stopped me, as the sound is similar to what you’d find on Flesh and Blood, but sometimes you just have to stop singing about sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Mick Jagger said he never wanted to sing “Street Fighting Man” when he was 40 yet he sounds good singing it at 55, but Bret Michael is not Mick Jagger.

The songs on the album come out either sounding ridiculous, i.e. “Bret, you’re old now, stop singing about the same things”; or fake, i.e. “I just don’t buy you singing about deep philosophical subjects.” It’s a no win situation, but when you’re a party band for 10 years it’s hard to shed the image.

The fact that the album jacket, photos and inside booklet look like they were printed on my crappy home computer and printer doesn’t help, either. As much as I love Poison, Bret can’t capture that sound and magic alone some 18 years after his big heyday. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
8.6/10 Abhi
 

MINCING FURY AND GUTTURAL CLAMOUR OF QUEER DECAY - Lamentations - CD - Bizarre Leprous Productions

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Talk about weird band names. Anyway, this is yet another great grind assault from the great Czech Republic. This album was Bizarre Leprous Productions’ 32nd release, and as with almost all the other releases of B.L.P that I have heard, this absolutely kicks ass!

There are two vocalists in the band, one providing the screams (which sound very similar to Pigsty) and the other provides some guttural grunts. The music is brutal devastating grind with a killer sound.

Mara (drums) performs such a furious assault on the skins that it's hard to imagine him maintaining this speed and tightness while playing live.

There is a cover song of Last Days of Humanity and Mincing Fury and Guttural Clamour of Queer Decay show that they are good at the groove style of grind too.

These guys have a wacky sense of humour as can be seen from some of the song titles and intros, and evidently this sense of humour also extends to putting pictures of a guy showing his asshole and dick in the inside of the cd booklet. Maybe they are trying to reach out to a wider audience? Who knows? who cares? As long as they killer songs like this. (8.6/10)

 

 

 

 
5.6/10 Condor
 

MINUS - Halldor Laxness - CD - Victory Records

review by: The Condor

What a massive let down. I tried to like this. I really wanted to.

The last Minus record, Jesus Christ Bobby, was one of my favorite records of 2001. A noisy, thrashy, chaotic and OUT THERE surprise. Bought solely on the basis of seeing the amazing and creepy artwork, with two sexless, all-white beings, sort of like aliens on the cover, and all hunkered down on the back cover. Creepy. And the music totally lived up to my unfounded expectations based on how cool the cover art was. Sort of metalcore, but with all sorts of electronic fuckery, courtesy of Curver, another Icelandic artist, who lent the proceedings a damaged, high tech sheen. There was even an emo-acoustic number dropped right in the middle of the melee. But somehow it just worked.

They sound almost like a completely different band here. There are still some metalcore moments, it's still heavy, and the guitar sounds chunky, and some of the riffs are pretty good. But the sound now is a weird hybrid of modern MTV rock, almost nu-metal Marilyn Manson, even The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The biggest change has to be the vocals, which no longer howl and screech, but instead, sound like Queens Of The Stone Age or Anthony Kiedis, sort of a melodic, stoner rock, emotive wail. Not a change for the better. And the clearer vocals also reveal some of the most insipid lyrics ever ("You make me dance into the fire, into the fire" repeated as infinitum) I admit, it has grown on me a bit since the first massively disappointing listen. It is way more poppy and accessible. But still sort of falls short.

The best track on the record has to be the final track, “Last Leaf on the Tree,” a creepy, loping PJ Harvey-ish dirge, that features Katiejane Garside from Queen Adreena and Daisy Chainsaw. If the whole record had sounded like the final track, this very well could've been a whole other ballgame. Too bad. (5.6/10)

 

 

 

 
7.6/10 Roberto
 

MISERY’S OMEN - Misery’s Omen - CD - Bindrune Recordings

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The sophomore jinx is in fact quite the opposite for Bindrune Recordings and its second release, Misery’s Omen’s eponymous album.

This Australian band mixes elements of Bethlehem and more blazing black metal chaos. The vocals in particular are very much like an overview of the Bethlehem discography, complete with orcish grunts, wails, and anything else that comes to mind that would sound even remotely depraved. In any other kind of music, it would be talentless. Full stop. But here, it’s sick.

And that’s what’s so cool about good extreme metal: It’s not cool.

The tracks on Misery’s Omen separate themselves to the listener quite well after two or three listens. Miasmatic washes of black metal buzzing make way for sporadic bursts of melodic flourishes, to good effect. The only real complaint with this CD is that it ends abruptly and far too soon. Let’s hope for more. Definitely for fans of Bethlehem and Silencer. (7.6/10)

 

 

 

 
-1/10 Jason
 

M.O.D. - The Rebel You Love to Hate - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

M.O.D.’s singer and mainstay Billy Milano labored mightily for two full years, hoping to create a masterpiece. Instead, he’s produced The Rebel You Love to Hate, the musical equivalent of a knock-knock joke.

I couldn’t handle more than a couple of obligatory listens to Billy's mean-spirited gags about white rappers (“Wigga”), other cultures (“Ass-ghanistan”), or musicians more successful than he (“Rage Against The Mac Machine”), and it’s doubtful that even the most venomous person alive would find Rebel interesting enough to purchase. (-1/10)

 

 

 

 
10/10 Dave
 

MOGWAI - Happy Songs for Happy People - CD - Matador Records

review by: Dave McGonigle

Once upon a time there was a band called The Pixies. The Pixies recorded three or four of the most thrillingly elemental guitar albums of all time, argued a bit and then split up, leaving discerning music fans the world over to mourn their passing. (And I do mean the world over. I once met a guy from Tehran who spoke only a little English but knew the lyrics to every song on Doolittle. Waves of mutilation, indeed).

Part of what made the Pixies so special was their righteous grasp of dynamics: early in their career, they sold their souls to the devil in exchange for the “quiet verse-LOUD CHORUS-quiet verse” trick, and gleefully used it on almost everything they wrote. As soul-swapping tricks go, it was pretty good: imagine “Debaser,” Gigantic” et al without the mad rush that comes when the band crash-lands into the chorus (in the process giving a generation of indie kids whiplash as they tried to emulate the trick with their necks).

But on to Mogwai. Mogwai used to have a trick, too, and, superficially, it was a little like the Pixies’. Mogwai’s trick went quiet-LOUD-quiet-LOUD-quiet-LOUD-etc, but, as their songs lasted an average of nine minutes to the Pixies’ three, the trick could get a little old rather quickly. It sustained them through their excellent debut album, Young Team, but from thereon in each successive Mogwai album has shown diminishing returns.

While the band has gradually lessened their reliance on encasing their songs in effects pedal-laden storms, their song writing just didn’t evolve fast enough to ensure that what was left was actually worth caring about.

Which is what makes Happy Songs for Happy People a rebirth to rival Lazarus’. This album must rank as one of the most consistent in the post-rock canon: from the initial cascading guitar lines of “Hunted by a Freak” to the final bizarre cartoon sample at the end of “Stop Coming to My House,” everything’s essential, nothing’s wasted.

There are long tracks with extended guitar workouts (“Ratts of the Capital”), shorter, pensive tracks that shine with gorgeous combinations of guitars and keyboards (“Kids Will be Skeletons”), even a couple of moments that reach the hairs-standing-up-on-the-back-of-the-neck feeling of the best Eno (the opening of “Boring Machines Disturb Sleep” mines the same spacey melodiousness that made “An Ending (Ascent)” so great).

It’s one of those albums were every second matters - there’s none of the meandering tunelessness that cropped up in Come on Die Young and Rock Action.

With this album, Mogwai sound as lean and committed as they did on Young Team, but older, wiser, and just plain better. Unless I receive a large bribe (hint, hint, gentle record companies) or Jimi Hendrix rises from the dead, I predict this will be one of my albums of the year. (10/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
My Father My King (issue No 9)  

 

 

 
7.5/10 Roberto
 

MORBOSIDAD - Morbosidad (reissue) - CD - Evil Morgue Entertainment

review by: Roberto Martinelli

And now, with the reissue of its full length album, all is well with Morbosidad. We wrote about this album in last issue, finding criticism only in the terrible, terrible cover art. But now, all that’s been fixed. You also get the four track 1994 demo as a bonus. Excellent. Here’s what we had to say about this album last time:

“Morbosidad has triumphed in the live setting due to the incessant, almost droning vibe of their old school, rough and fast as hell music. One would hope that this same energy could be ported over in the recording studio, and luckily it has.

Morbosidad is total war cult metal. Don't ask me how any of their songs go; I haven't got a clue. It's not about that, though. It's about the darkness and barbarity of their relentless attack. Morbosidad wears their adoration for Bathory on their sleeves, (or, rather on their chests) and so much of the vibe in their music is influenced by old, OLD Bathory, but sped up and more rumbling. The sound of the music is right on, and the possessed, morbid vocals are the perfect match.

Listening to this band is all about the vibe. It's a lot like putting on an ambient record. It rumbles and satisfies in it being so monotonous in its speed and incoherence. Cool stuff. Hail.” (7.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Morbosidad (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
3/10 Jason
 

MORELAND AUDIO - Turbogold - CD - Wrest, 404 Ashbury St. #2, San Francisco, CA 94117

review by: Jason Thornberry

Doesn’t it just get on your tits when a band fucks around tweaking strings and tapping the ride cymbal before beginning a song properly? Well, 248 seconds into “Fistolero” nothing substantial has happened, just tuneless jamming, and no one’s singing yet.

As much as I hate to seem indifferent or hostile toward bands swaying from Godspeed’s stretched nipples, I have to ask: Whathefuck? Are you guys just too deep for a singer? Rock n Roll’s not like a good Beethoven jam at the local community college. Post-punk without vocals is like chocolate without peanut butter, and tonight someone just forfeited their integrity. Who was it that said 98% of everything was shit? I usually disagree, but not after seven minutes of “Stuntcop.” (3/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

MORS PRINCIPIUM EST - Inhumanity - CD - Listenable Records

by: Roberto Martinelli

The more time and repeated listens pass, the greater Dark Tranquillity’s Damage Done gets. Certainly, Maelstrom is not the only one to have noticed. There is a growing bunch of bands - mostly coming out of Finland - that have embraced the goodness of Damage Done and incorporated it into their sound.

In Mors Principium Est’s case, sometimes it gets a little TOO close to the original for comfort. Such is the case on the opening of “Eternity’s Child,” which sounds all too much like Dark Tranquillity’s “Single Part of Two.” But after the first few tracks on Inhumanity, Mors Principium Est starts to show a bit more of their own sound. However, to give you the best idea of this album overall, imagine Damage Done played faster and with more excellent, show-off solos.

Ok, so it’s not THE most original album, but it *is* totally great. The interest never dies down, even on the time or two when very nice clean singing is used or when the band plays slow (on the final track “Into Illusion”). And that’s more than we can say for the slow songs Children of Bodom has been writing the past couple of albums.

Inhumanity is chock full of attention grabbing, really fun songs that spring off the recorded medium to engross the melodic death metal enthusiast. Way, WAY better than the crappy cover art or clumsy band name would lead you to believe. Definitely recommended to fans of Dark Tranquillity and Omnium Gatherum. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
?/10 Tom
 

MYSTERIUM - Soulwards - CD - Prophecy Productions

review by: Tom Orgad

Modern thought bring us the notion that every form of expression is subjective. Therefore, certain compromises have to be made, the educated audience remaining constantly aware of the lack of ability of experiencing the essence of an artifact exactly as the artist has intended.

However, with musical albums such as Mysterium’s latest, it seems that the interpersonal gap is too wide to reconcile. It certainly testifies to the braveness of the band, as well as of the record company willing to release and support such creation. It also leaves the listener in quite an entangled position.

The music of Mysterium describes a journey into the depths of inner self. As apparent on the lyrics, and well-reflected in the music, the band doesn’t attempt to convey any presupposed feeling or paint any predetermined emotional landscape. On the contrary, they seem to trod through an endless expansion of latent mist, at times contemplative, at times sorrowful, occasionally bumping into an emotional landmine, letting loose the contents of a Pandora’s Box of repressed guilt, frustration and mourn.

This starting point stands in blunt contradiction to their musical genre: although praiseworthy for not limiting their musical output to a given stylistic frame, it may be best described as atmospheric, symphonic extreme metal.

Now, the implementation of atmospheric elements, including calm landscapes, lengthy interludes, declaimed vocal parts, contrasting aggressive outbursts etc... assumes the presence of an intrinsic core around which the moody layers are intertwined. Featuring nothing more concrete then an ambiguous sense of oscillating wandering, brooding gloominess, sudden enrapture and self-indulgence in pools of existential sorrow, Mysterium shape an acoustic environment that attempts to statically capture a sense of dynamics.

As intriguing as it may be, here they find themselves ensnared within their own certain conceptual boundaries: while featuring fluid, unobliging song structures, within the realms of each given part they (although at times deviating towards undeniably interesting experiments of harmony and discordance) usually maintain faithfulness towards traditional rhythmic and harmonic conventions. And thus they take a great risk. By failing to bring the listener to a state of absolute identification and unity with their point of view, the external consumer just might consider their most guttural authentic expression as a simple form of cliché.

This leads us to a greater, much more complicated question: how can one thoroughly mold his innermost tendencies of heart and soul into the cold patterns of traditional western harmonics and beat? Such grandiose challenge, even when fulfilled in an act of heavenly personal grandeur, is most likely to never be realized by any other being separate of the artist; the few successful attempts of such universal unity are usually glorified and incessantly praised throughout the centuries.

In conclusion, the best critics for self-exploring albums such as the one in question are no others then the artists themselves. As a detached observer, I can testify that a rather significant part of Soulwards is aesthetically interesting; both clean and growled vocals and instrumental abilities are reasonable; and the conflict stemming from the attempt of applying the atmospheric descriptive method to describe an affair of dynamic movement renders this an interesting release altogether. Is it brilliant, seminal, adorable, or simply worthy? For the band, most likely it is. For the reader - there is only one way to find out. (?/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Jez
 

MYSTIC PROPHECY - Regressus - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Jez Andrews

I can see why Nuclear Blast were excited about this album, though why they chose to advertise it as "the best power metal debut since Hammerfall's Glory To The Brave," I can't quite understand. To begin with, Mystic Prophecy's debut was 2001's Vengeance album, and secondly it would be nearer the truth to say that they leave Hammerfall trailing in the dust.

Regressus is a magnificent combination of thrash and power metal. Meaty riffs, great lead work, and the production makes it everything that power metal should be. I'm not saying that it's never been done before, but with so many bands compromising their style for the sake of beauty and sensitivity, Mystic Prophecy have certainly done something special with their talents.

It seems that Germany has always been a breeding ground for such bands. Just take a look at Running Wild, Helloween, Grave Digger, Blind Guardian, and Iron Saviour to name but a few. True, Blind Guardian have added a fair portion of melody and complexity here and there, but you get the idea. They're the kinds of bands who need no prompting to make their music heavy, as was intended. If you're prepared to devote an album to lamenting the loss of love in every cheesey way possible, just get a haircut, matching Gucci tops, and brush up on your choreography. Mystic Prophecy, thankfully, are all about the metal.

The chugging guitars lying neatly atop the double bass drum chops give the recording a modern Testament feel, especially on “Lords of Pain” and “In Your Sins,” and Gus G's lead soloing throughout is truly remarkable.

Anyone looking for pounding heavy metal this summer would do well to check out these guys. Now here's hoping they put in a festival appearance or two... (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9.1/10 Roberto
 

NAPALM DEATH - Punishment in Capitals - DVD - Snapper Music

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This is a DVD that will make anyone even remotely a fan of Napalm Death extremely happy. The 28 songs that this quintessential grind institution blaze through benefit from amazingly good sound and a performance to match. And unlike the DVDs shot in Poland from Metal Mind, the crowd is truly behind the band playing.

So you get to see not only Barney Greenway’s hilarious runnings about on stage, but fans reacting to their favorite grinds. It’s mayhem, it’s breathtaking, it’s energizing, it’s great.

Also great is the mini-documentary/ interviews of the band members in the hours preceding the show (which was a benefit for animal rights). Most of the members get a good amount of screen time (with drummer Danny Herrera being afraid of the camera) and actually give quite a few interesting answers. You also get to see what Napalm Death is like in the minutes leading up to the show and the jitters that they always have. You also get to walk to the stage with the band through a maze of corridors and staircases exactly like the scene in “This is Spinal Tap.”

Oh, yeah, and there’s also bonus bootleg footage from shows in Chile (a mad, mad one from 1997) and Japan (1996). Unlike other bootleg stuff often found on DVDs, this stuff is pretty watchable. There’s also a video clip from the early 90s of a song from Harmony Corruption. It’s all very cool. The goodies just don’t stop coming. Definitely a DVD to get. (9.1/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Enemy of the Music Business (issue No 2)  
Order of the Leech (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
8.5/10 Tom
 

NAVICON TORTURE TECHNOLOGIES - I Fucking Hate You All and I Hope You All Fucking Die - CD - Eibon Records

review by: Tom Orgad

Compelling upon the listener soundscpaes of superimposed aesthetic elements, combining filtered, processed forms of human speech with varied sonic incarnations, Navicon Torture Technologies paint an image of the world as perceived by the post-modern distressed individual: emotionally maimed, collapsed under the burden of sterilizing yet sterilized existential depression, all manipulated by self-manifested unattainable ideals of exhibitionistic flatness.

The inhabitants of this world have already left the realms of activism; all they can do is wallow in their own turbid pool of unresolvable frustration, and engage themselves in the unsatisfying act of hopeless lamenting.

NTT’s music usually features a multi-layered scene of languid repetitiveness. The human articulated part is represented by either loops of movie samples of excited expression, or their own composed lyrics, in which the speaker mourns the eternal emptiness he is imparted with, his inability to capture any sense of present, unmediated genuine emotional experience.

Here is revealed the great tragedy of the individual of our age: he is aware of his own suffering, yet unable to acknowledge it and indulge in the heroic intoxication of pure being, be it of pleasure or pain. This notion shapes the music creation of NTT: every human part is always screened by a veil of static, distorted sounds, usually electronic riffs of synthesized instrument, representing the unbearable separation created between the subject’s assumed innermost core and his own feelings and present existence, remaining an eternal detached beholder, anguishly trapped in his pit of numbness, yearning for a refined experience of any sort.

However, such will never be achieved: the idealized feelings longed for are nothing more then imaginary, cynical conditioning ingrained within our collective consciousness by the relentless mechanism of our nowadays commercial, plastic society. The individual is doomed to remain in the state of everlasting frustration, never to ascend his excruciating inner mental entropy. Moreover, as this impossible state continues to exist, the frustration grows into indifference and carelessness; we simply lose interest in humanity. Therefore, the distant movie quotations: our selective hearing no longer gives any preference to other human beings; they are absorbed in the same level as any form of random, static white noise.

Personally, I don’t know much about the genre of dark ambient noise. Listening to a CD of this eclectic musical genre raises some questions about the advantages and necessity of expression of such intellectual contents in such an aesthetic environment, but I do not consider this the proper time and place to be engaged in such discussion. Regardless of my own doubts, I’m quite convinced that fans of the genre getting this well-executed album are in for a treat. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Matt
 

NDE - End of Trust - CD - Crash Music

review by: Matt Smith

“Are you talking - Are you done yet? I’m fed up with your bullshit. All you’ve said are lies. Had me hypnotized. It was no surprise. You were in disguise.”

It doesn’t get any better from there. NDE is mindlessly aggressive, and not even in a good way. Fifteen-year-old nu metal fans would love to feel like bad-asses to this uninteresting, simplistic music. Something cheesy and uncomplicated. NDE is listenable, but that’s their downfall with me. One or two guitar grooves run the length of each song, and then the monotone yelling comes in.

Not that the album was all bad. There is something to be said for simplistic, easy-to-listen-to music, but usually when I’m in the mood for something of that description, metal doesn’t come to mind. NDE got my head nodding, at least, but that’s about all they’re good for. This album was far too predictable and mediocre as a whole. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
5.9/10 Jason
 

NOISE RATCHET - Noise Ratchet EP - CD - The Militia Group

review by: Jason Thornberry

Noise Ratchet’s mechanized stop-start-stop rhythms are an example of what happens when a group of musicians grow and move away from the intermittent shock value of actual textbook noise - their sound weary of both speed and anger - while retaining a heavy side.

The songs themselves contain the impulsiveness of a kid with five cans of sodas in him. The music jerks about and careens off of itself nicely, but the only problem with Noise Ratchet’s self-titled EP is the similarity Joel Hosler brings to the songs, no matter how different each actually is. Maybe it’s because he sings in the same key and producer Ben Moore mixed his voice too high, so that the instant he starts to sing he walks all over each song.

“A Way to the Heart,” something they might have knocked off at practice, has acoustic guitars, and even some sweet girl cooing, to give you the feeling they’re in the room with you when this is on the stereo at 2 AM. But this bumpy, short release peaks there. (5.9/10)

 

 

 

 
6.8/10 Jez
 

NUCLEAR ASSAULT - Alive Again - CD - Steamhammer

review by: Jez Andrews

Ah, the thrash titans return.

There has always been something of a pronounced punk element to Nuclear Assault's material that isn't really my thing, but no doubt about it, they do have a good live sound. I can remember seeing them on the old “Hard ‘n’ Heavy” video series alongside Sacred Reich, Testament, Anthrax and the like, and not being too impressed. Then again, when a band is given a five minute slot with promo vid clips and interviews, it's difficult to really show the people what you've got.

Recorded on their recent European tour, Alive Again isn't a bad effort as comebacks go. The sound itself is crystal clear and really brings out the spirit of old in the music, with new vigour at the same time. I am not a fan of John Connelly's slightly strained vocals, but it's only a minor drawback when you hear that magical riffing once again. I've never put them as high in the rankings as Testament, Death, or Sodom, but songs like “Critical Mass,” “Radiation Sickness” and, er, "Buttfuck" have stood them in good stead.

Not my favourites, but Nuclear Assault are representative enough of a golden age that is coming back in force. (6.8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Jason
 

ON BROKEN WINGS - Some of Us May Never See the World - CD - Eulogy Recordings

review by: Jason Thornberry

On Broken Wings is one of the few hardcore bands to take advantage of sampling, and it serves them well. Andrew Schneider’s slanted production is typically suited toward weird, experimental groups, but his tastes and those of this Boston band work so well he could be a seventh member.

That’s right, this weird, experimental sludgy, metallic hardcore band with keyboards and samples has six members, sort of like a hardcore Isley Brothers or The Association, only the Isley’s producers never ping-ponged worried human growls between the speakers or got the kind a leaden thickness to the guitars on “Some People” that sounds as though they’ve been at the bottom of the deepest body of water anywhere on this planet.

With their sudden U-turns and cinematic song writing, On Broken Wings have turned Some of Us May Never See the World into a superb hardcore concept album -- probably the first of its kind. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.1/10 Jez
 

ORION - Illusory Existence - CD - http://www.orionmetal.8k.com

review by: Jez Andrews

Oh dear. Here we have what sounds very much like a tribute to Dark Tranquillity. I am not for a moment saying that Orion are a band without charm, as the riffing is quite fantastic in places, but much of it has been done many times before.

There are hints of power metal amongst the melodic death and the violin sections are quite interesting, I'll give them that. Otherwise, I’m afraid it's just not doing much for me. Doubtless it would go over a storm at mainland European festivals. But then again, so did Crematory... (5.1/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Tom
 

PASSENGER - Passenger - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Tom Orgad

Passenger is a side project of In Flames’ Anders Friden. Unlike his main band, which still pretends to represent a certain approach of extremity, Passenger blatantly and shamelessly flaunts its commercial orientation. Thus, by demonstrating the natural, seamless functioning of Swedish death metallers in an overtly popular environment, and by doing so quite well, they manage to present a satisfying commercial product, while intentionally parodying their own roots.

The album features an array of decisive, concise musical clips. Following a fixed, efficient formula, each of the pieces is based upon an axis composed of a catchy vocal melody, a simple instrumental motive - usually a metallic guitar riff and an occasional flourish, such as a clean guitar passage, electro beat, synthesized voice etc... at times overlain by screaming vocals as well the clean melodic ones. These are unified together by a polished, focused production, successfully applying the potential of the latest measures to create deep and multi-layered sound, while maintaining the required outwards simplicity and accessibility.

The final outcome is a bunch of conceptually shallow yet somehow addictive songs - a description not contingently remindful of most of the albums of the famous rebellious and impious Swedish death metal idols.

Indeed, by proving their natural harmonic orientation in the fields of the admitted commercial superficiality of the near-mainstream music market, in addition to the obvious conceptual similarity to their influential origins, a pitiable exposure is condacted: one may easily note that the essential intrinsic essence conveyed by bands such as In Flames, Dark Tranquillity or Soilwork (several Passenger songs sound especially similar in spirit to the latest album of the latter) may be easily delivered in an absolutely cultured, non-insidious manner.

Moreover, at times the listener may also hear the relief in the careless playing of Passenger, the unburdening sense of being able to put aside the raging wrap. Bereft of the brutal image, its pointless maintenance amongst numerous metal bands seems more ridiculous then ever - which is probably the most significant notion bound to this release. Besides, it may be a worthy excuse for a pop-yearning metaller teenager, still enslaved to his impending self-defining identity, to conscientiously enjoy a Bon Jovi supplement, or, for any music fan whatsoever, to experience a short break, relieving of entertainment for the masses. That, as long as he doesn’t mind being one of them. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Laurent
 

PB ARMY - Inebriates Equivocators and Mockers of the Devil Himself - CD - Sin Klub

review by: Laurent Martini

OK, cool title. Not “For Her Majesties Satanic Requests,” but cool nonetheless.

The PB Army should look up all of the remaining Ramones and kiss their ass. The band is loud, fast and dangerous, and although their songs are longer than two minutes and they use more than a three chord change they owe a lot to Joey and co.

Imagine the Ramones on speed with a greater vocal range and better harmonies. Does that sound nice? It sure does and I highly recommend The PB Army. The band even manages to do some great "message" songs and make it sound cool. Check out “Circle the Wagons”: "kiss the ass of a god who’s not listening. Kiss it twice and you’ll feel better..." Nice! (8/10)

 

 

 

 
4.1/10 Jason
 

RISE AGAINST - Revolutions Per Minute - CD - Fat Wreck Chords

review by: Jason Thornberry

Rise Against screwed the pooch when they covered Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” at the very end of Revolutions Per Minute, playing it with an “aren’t we being cute?” mockery suggesting we all live in a big box somewhere in Alaska with no newspapers, TV, or magazines to inform us that eighties worship has come and fucking gone. Get over it, boys. This is a song that would have sounded lame on your demo four years ago.

Having said that, I guess the rest of the album’s okaaay.

Revolutions Per Minute is fast as fuck, and the drummer’s busy on the snare. He loves that thing. The bass guitar is semi high-pitched, just like label boss Fat Mike’s always is, so when the band decides to go "chugga" heavy the result is an army of dancers waving Pennywise shirts over their heads and shouting “Pump that treble!”

This album has the pancake production style that Fat Wreck Chords is famous for churning out, and it seems like I could just as easily hear these songs during Super Bowl halftime on a Chevy commercial. A truck the size of two aircraft carriers pulls up to the sand as seven-thousand Alabamanian refugees pile out to erect a volleyball net and smear tanning lotion up the cracks of their girlfriend’s asses.

Revolutions didn’t suck so much as that, and I’m positive it’ll appeal to an audience that thoroughly does. Rise Against can high-five themselves between these songs and sleep well tonight knowing that jock-core is protected. (4.1/10)

 

 

 

 
4.7/10 Matt
 

SCARLET - Something to Lust About - CD - Ferret Music

review by: Matt Smith

Twelve minutes of hardcore. There’s no other way to say it, as far as I know. Scarlet is pretty unremarkable as far as hardcore bands go (or any bands, for that matter). They’re not bad, but there’s nothing new in Something to Lust About.

I wonder if that title is supposed to be a Bonnie Raitt spin-off. I don’t even think one can “lust about” something. But even if I could, it wouldn’t be this. Distorted, treble-heavy guitars mix with harsh screaming and simple drums to make, well, something I probably won’t be listening to again. (4.7/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

SEVERED SAVIOR - Brutality is Law - CD - Unique Leader

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Try this: Hold your breath. Now get up and run around your couch. Stop! Now brusquely jump up and down. Now throw yourself down the stairs...in a *precise* manner, please! No time to check for injuries. Are you still holding your breath? Good. Now run up the stairs and flail about in the most violent and random way imaginable. 58...59...three minutes! Ok. Breathe. Be sure to get enough air in because we’re doing it all again in a few seconds.

This is what the songs on Severed Savior’s Brutality is Law sound like. They’re all about three minutes, precisely played, completely frenetic, and totally random. Each of the first nine tracks sums up our little death metal calisthenic experience, ‘cept maybe the exercises are in a different order. But then Severed Savior gets all soft and pretty on the last track, a memorial to a departed friend of theirs. The intention is all fine and good, but the difference between parts 1-9 and part 10 is bafflingly incongruous.

The drums sound really weird. Have someone hold out a piece of paper taut for you with two hands. Now flick the paper with your finger. That’s what the drums sound like. But in the world of modern death metal and all its twisted sonic values, you just have to accept. The only thing is, the sound, mixed with the oxygen deprived compositions, makes the record sound more spastic than brutal. But it’s high-speed, honed, precise spastic-ness, and that’s what the band wants. There are more than a bunch of you out there that’ll dig this. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
7.7/10 Jez
 

SINISTER - Savage or Grace - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Jez Andrews

I have known the name Sinister for quite a while, but only now after over a decade of releases, have I actually given them a spin on my stereo. There are some impressive elements to this Dutch death metal mob, but none more so than the vocalist, Rachel Heyzer, whose guttural roar would not be out of place on a Morbid Angel record. Trust me, Arch Enemy's Angela Gossow doesn't come close...

Speaking of Morbid Angel, there seems to be a distinct flavour of theirs woven amongest the tracks of Savage or Grace, but then again there seems to be a lot of other old-school influence as well, Sinister having been an old school act, and it's all good stuff. “The Age of Murder” is like a hark back to the early days of Deicide.

One track I found particularly appealing was”'Conception of Sin,” which had me up on my feet, air guitar in hand, grimace on face. There's definitely something to be said for having this band in your collection. It grinds, it blasts, it's quality death metal. And whatever my seal of approval is worth, Savage or Grace gets it. (7.7/10)

 

 

 

 
9.5/10 Jason
 

SKINLESS - From Sacrifice to Survival - CD - Relapse Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

The hardcore-slash-grindcore-and-spazzcore authorities calling the shots as Skinless do so without regard for the hypothetical obligation of these varieties of music to stoop to a single master or style, so From Sacrifice To Survival thrives as it’s own entity - being loyal only to itself - while carrying the contents of the listeners’ expectations to the proverbial window.

Skinless do slow down for a moment on the succinct “Deathwish,” but catch their breath for the title track, and mix their blast beats with a respect for the ride cymbal that can only be compared to progressive jazz. From Sacrifice to Survival places them in the middle of nowhere, with any contemporaries out of the line of eyesight. (9.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Foreshadowing Our Demise (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
7/10 Dave
 

SKULLFLOWER - Exquisite Fucking Boredom - CD - tUMULt Records

review by: Dave McGonigle

Oh dear. Journalistic protocol dictates that, upon receiving a CD called “Exquisite Fucking Boredom” to review, it may be a good idea to consult the calendar. As editors are well-known for their great senses of humor (usually directed at the poor, struggling minions that they oversee), the smart freelancer must always be on their guard against prankery.

For example, if you receive a CD which is, for want of a better word, “dodgy” in appearance, sound, packaging, or title (see above), it’s always useful to see if today’s date corresponds to a global day of tomfoolery and/or foppishness. Is it April 1st? Halloween? The day of the dead? “Annoy Bald Scottish People Day”? All of the above? Forewarned, my dear people, is definitely forearmed.

This time I was mistaken. I received the Skullflower CD on a day in June that was remarkable only for its mundaneness. However, my guard remained up when the first track was revealed to consist of a single sludgy riff that went on, it seemed, forever.

Ditto the second.

And the third.

But, true professional that I am, I listened.

When the CD stopped, I pressed play again. By the time it had stopped for the second time I’d placed it on repeat, poured myself some expensive alcohol, and realized that, well, if the emperor had no clothes here, and I was the victim of a cruel conceptual joke by an uncaring world, I may as well buckle up and enjoy the ride.

The album consists of six tracks, four of which make up an extended piece called “Celestial Highway (I-IV).” It’s this piece that really is the album. On the surface, it’s a droney, repetitive riff copped out of a Hendrix fakebook, backed with a meat ‘n’ potatoes drum pattern and a basic 4/4 bass.

But that’s really like saying that the Mona Lisa is a sketch of some chick in a bad mood.

Sure, both are accurate descriptions, but both transcend their humble beginnings, too. The devil is in the details, and the more you listen to Exquisite Fucking Boredom, the more shit you notice. Like the almost subliminal key change about eight minutes into the first part of “Celestial Highway”: blink, and you’ll miss it. The weird way that you can almost hear voices in the background hum of “Celestial Highway II”’s chirping, squeaking feedback. The way that the whole album slowly gets shortened and more intense the more that you listen to it…instead of tapping your fingers and bemoaning the lack of variety, you begin to notice tiny surface details in each track as your perceptions are subtly changed.

The British sci-fi writer JG Ballard once wrote a short story about men whose perception of the physical world began to shrink upon being subjects in an experiment in sleep deprivation; Skullflower achieve a similar aim through a direct line to the dark, primitive whisperings of the limbic brain. Play this record and feel exquisitely trepanned. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Tom
 

SLAUGHTER OF SOULS - Death Rock 666 - CD - www.slaughterofsouls.com

review by: Tom Orgad

The most interesting notion about the latest demo by Slaughter Of Souls, a UK thrashy death metal band, is their ability to impress. This in spite of their somehow rudimentary attributes. Having to offer little more then a technical drummer and a charismatic vocalist, they still manage, by focusing on cohesiveness, coherence and uniformity, to provide the listener with a whole surpassing by far the sum of its parts.

There are no innovations or originality on the Death Rock 666 EP. Also, Slaughter of Souls don’t appear to deliver much on the ideological level either: although their lyrics are unavailable and difficult to decipher, the little I was able to understand doesn’t show much maturity, not to mention any poetic or thematic pretense.

Pleasingly, it seems that the band members were imparted with a sufficient subtlety of self-awareness, allowing them to recognize their disadvantages, shaping their goals and aims accordingly. Therefore, their compositions feature merely the most simplistic instrumental parts Thus, the more favorable characteristics of the band are given the maximal space in order to stand out and mold the final outcome in their own shape, decreasing the notability of the multiple lesser features.

The fine, technical, cleverly composed and creatively timed double bass drumming achieves, together with the rhythm section, a sense of dark, sinister, impelling dynamics, imbuing the music with quite an original feel of relentless progression.

However, the instrumental output of Slaughter of the Souls is merely secondary. In order to forge their basic ideas and ascend them to the level of unified, crystalized agenda, the band applies the mightiest weapon of their arsenal: the vocalist.

Belching grunts of numerous characters, from various forms of shrieking to guttural growls, the vocalist decks the off-hand, mechanical banality of the compositions, bestowing them with the entertaining, erosive sense of rhetorical theatricality. In most extreme metal creations, many listeners would rather have the vocals simply omitted (and therefore tend to repress and ignore them), However, on Death Rock 666, it seems that the group’s activity comes to serve the aggressive, expressive, delicate cynical brutality of the man in the front. He collects an aggregation of trite, recycled phrases and, aroused by the lively drum work, conveys them with a legible agenda.

It is all for mere entertainment. However, it is definitely enjoyable, a merit to be appreciated among the unbearable masses of exhausting boredom each of us has to deal with in the nowadays metal scene. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Larissa
 

SLOW COMING DAY - Farewell to the Familiar - CD - Tooth and Nail Records

review by: Larissa Parson

There is a genre of music out there, sometimes called alt rock, which has no alt to it. California band Slow Coming Day is a fine example of the genre. The band members are perfectly compentent musicians, and as far as the boundaries of nu-metal, post-punk pop will allow them to go, they go.]

In fact, the first 40 seconds of the disc are fantastic; then the vocals come in, and you realize that once again, you are confronted with a post-Seattle invasion carbon-copy.

The boundaries of this genre are small, and no matter how many killer guitar licks and intriguing structural changes you hear, the songs all essentially sound like something you might hear on the ‘alternative’-flavored version of ClearChannel radio. In other words, simplistic, and loud enough to appeal to 14-year old boys, with not enough to satisfy under the surface. Nevertheless, if you have a guilty pleasure knob, Slow Coming Day is certainly one to turn to. Not supremely hooky, just straight up rock, inoffensive and unmemorable. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Matt
 

SOUL TAKERS - Through the Silence of Words - CD - www.soultakers.net

review by: Matt Smith

Soul Takers has quite an interesting sound, though I can’t say I’m crazy about the band. Their vocalist sounds like he got his start on Broadway, singing parts for the likes of “Phantom” or “Les Miserables.” Dramatic vibratos mixed with slow guitars and drums in the background, pretty much. Nothing too interesting, though not terrible.

Their sound is refined, but it’s not particularly great. Everything is quite smooth and slow, but there isn’t much to keep a listener’s attention.

“Overdramatic” is the final word.

The vocals almost always take the spotlight, mainly because the instrumentation is particularly lackluster. I am again reminded of a musical. A band is playing in the background, but they’re not really doing anything cool. Nor are they supposed to. Lyrics are meant to carry one’s interest. But, in this case, they unfortunately do not.

It’s very pretty sounding, and I am impressed by the use of actual stringed instruments (Cradle of Filth-style synthesized violins always grate on my nerves). The transitions between hard and soft sections are also seamless and don’t seem forced. However, no part of the whole when taken by itself is much to write home about. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Jason
 

SPITALFIELD - Remember Right Now - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Jason Thornberry

Just because their singer isn’t carrying on like his nuts are in a vice doesn’t mean that Spitalfield qualifies as an emo band. For one, the drummer’s superhuman hustle and agility around his kit defies the aforementioned genre’s clichéd thud, and a single droning guitar has yet to show itself over the course of these 10 songs. Remember... is a perfect 37 minute testimonial to the transitory information age we live in now. Right now. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
Squash Bowels 8.5/10 Disgorge 6/10 Abhi
 

SQUASH BOWELS/ DISGORGE - Grind Your Fucking Head - CD - Bizarre Leprous Productions

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This split was originally released on vinyl in 1998. This is the reissue on CD with a few bonus songs by both bands. The first half of this split belongs to Polish band Squash Bowels. Even before the second song starts you know that you are listening to a band who know how grindcore is supposed to be played.

Most of the songs are short, tight and really intense. I especially love the drumming here as he mixes up things very well and comes up with patterns that differ from song to song, which is something that most grind drummers seem to lack.

There are seven bonus tracks taken from a split with Birdflesh and though these tracks were recorded at near about the same time as the tracks that appeared on the original vinyl version of this CD, they somehow sound more aggressive and raging. They finish their half with a song from Promo 2002, called "Vulture Ritual." This song totally destroys! A great sound, which almost feels like you are listening to the band live, and it's not too tough to visualize these guys as being totally into what they are doing.

Now onto the second band on this split, the cult Mexican band, Disgorge. As this dates back to '98, you can be sure to expect some of the gore style that Disgorge used to specialize in (until recently). But surprisingly it doesn't sound as ultra sick as their full length Forensick.

They have five songs on offer here, two of which appeared on the original vinyl, and three cover songs . The two original tracks have a pretty clear sound compared to whatever else they have released prior to 2001. The cover of "Shredded Humans" by Cannibal Corpse sounds botched up to me. They have played it much faster and it just doesn't sound right that way. The Regurgitate cover sounds much better and the Anarchus cover song is a pretty good way to wrap up this CD - one that is sure to grind your fucking head. (Squash Bowels 8.5/10 Disgorge 6/10)

 

 

 

 
8.2/10 Dave
 

STARFLYER 59 - Old - CD - Tooth and Nail Records

review by: Dave McGonigle

It’s easy to get depressed in the lonely, maudlin world of music criticism. Before you know it, your entire day consists of sitting in pajamas in your front room, eating Cap’n Crunch with one hand while you spellcheck “mellifluous” with the other. Meanwhile, your mailbox is filling up with brown envelopes of CDs like a bad scene from “Fantasia,” your neighbors are waiting outside your door with pitchforks due to the noise pollution, and you can’t remember the last time you spoke to another living soul. Ho-hum….

So it’s great when a band acknowledges that you actually exist, and tries to assist you through the long night of soul that is the review process. For example, take the title of Starflyer 59’s new disc, Old. It’s pun-tastic! It almost writes the copy itself - just imagine the conversations up and down the land: “Yeah, I really liked the new Starflyer album, but it got ‘Old’ real quick.”

Or perhaps “Dude! Can I get a copy of the new Starflyer 59 album, Old?”

Jah, even “I liked their old stuff, but not the stuff on Old.”

Bad jokes aside (and believe me, I spared you the worst ones), this is yet another minor rock masterpiece from SF59. The band has been churning out good records to a spectacularly non-interested public since their self-titled debut in the early nineties.

From the early shoegazer stylings of Silver to their last, the 60s’-influenced Leave Here a Stranger, SF59 have often sounded like a band unsure exactly what they’re meant to sound like. Taken as a series, their records read like the indie version of the punctuated equilibrium theory of evolution - sudden, violent shifts in style for every disc, dinosaurs turning into birds without checking if it’ll give people headaches a few billion years down the line.

The one thing that has been constant in their sound has been frontman Jason Martin’s seemingly effortless way with a classic pop tune. His gradual maturation as a songwriter has made each new SF59 album worth checking out, even though it’s even money whether the actual sound will resemble My Bloody Valentine, New Order, or even Brian Wilson (pre-sandbox version).

On Old, Martin has dipped deep into his musical time-machine again, and this time the controls are set for the heart of the 70s; the 70s of FM radio, hand claps on choruses and analog synths. He’s also resurrected that ancient 70s chestnut the concept album - y’see, the album’s called Old, right, with song titles like “Underneath,” “Old,” “First Heart Attack” (Do you get it? The titles are related to the Album title! Dude…)

Thankfully, it’s pretty good. Album opener “Underneath” features clean arpeggiated picking that blossoms into crunching fuzz on the chorus, Martin intoning, “just when you feel alive, you go underneath” as the band forces the song to become a weird honky-tonk cover version of itself. It’s a great opener, a dark, driving song that shows that Martin can make almost anything sound worthy of our attention, no matter how clichéd it might be (“Major Awards” has him shrugging his shoulders, admitting, “there’s no big time coming, I think the secret’s out”).

It all chugs along pleasantly until the final cut, “First Heart Attack,” which finishes with a weird sample of someone discussing their blood pressure until the band cuts out with a frenzied “stop!” On the strength of this album, I really hope they don’t. (8.2/10)

 

 

 

 
2.5/10 Roberto
 

STEELGLORY - Wayward Sons of the Beast - CD - hauntedmelody@hotmail.com

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Singaporean Steelglory are a throwback band in both style and substance to the tape trading days of the 80s. And their demo album, Wayward Sons of the Beast, is metal. VERY metal.

The downside to this, however, is that being metal doesn’t necessarily mean being good. As nice as it was for the guest singer to have “taken time off from family and work” to do this project, and as metal as his style is, he just isn’t very good. His lack of talent is actually made worse in the way his vocals are multi-tracked.

The rest of the band are ok. There are some decent riffs. Mostly, think of the kind of material on Helloween’s Walls of Jericho, slow it down a fair amount, keep the straining (but much worse) vocals, take away a bunch of musical proficiency, and there you go.

Perhaps you have heard the Candlemass reissues with bonus disks. One of them (I think it’s A Tale of Creation) has demos of Candlemass from way before their first album, when Leif Edling had a cast of very amateur musicians, a singer with the heart but not the voice, and not the best recording tools at his disposal. Objectively, the demos pretty much suck, but from a historical point of view, there’s a certain nostalgic charm to them, considering what Candlemass later became. Well, Wayward Sons of the Beast is a lot like those demos, except Steelglory hasn’t developed yet. Maybe they will. (2.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

TERROR OF THE TREES - Devil Worship - CD - Destro Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

His Excellence the Wicked may be a total goofball. He may also, based on his bio, be an antisocial dick. But he can play some mean black metal guitar.

And while it might seem like a really crappy album, digging a little deeper shows that Devil Worship is a pretty cool MCD. His Excellence got the help of Danny Lilker (who has been in more than a few very important bands for a LONG time) with the production. Surgical guitar is complemented by a well-chosen drum machine with a result that has a strong dose of that old Bathory feel, but clearer mixed in with more modern fast picking, rapidly scuttling riffs. Cult and metal. Check it out. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.8/10 Roberto
 

THUNDERBOLT - The Burning Deed of Deceit - CD - ISO 666

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I’ve noticed quite a few similarities between national socialist and Christian music. Both are so wrapped up in their mission that the actual compositions take a back seat to the message. Like, rows and rows back. So if you’re less than fervently converted, it can be very distasteful, not to mention weak and tedious.

But there are always exceptions. These tend to be the ones who understand that using a collection of music as a proselytizing pedestal does not a good album make. Thunderbolt’s The Burning Deed of Deceit is one of those exceptions.

This is the best material Thunderbolt has done. It has far more dimensions than Sons of the Darkness (review here) and the split with Kataxu (review here). On The Burning Deed..., Thunderbolt sounds a good deal like Nightside Eclipse Emperor, but with a polished sound, mixed with a few current day Enslaved riffs here and there.

The vocals are as hateful as can be, matching the intense music well. The riffs and are multi layered in appropriately buzzing fashion, revealing some cool intricacies and melodies.

However, there is still something missing that keeps this album from being a clearly essential one. It’s dynamics, mostly in the rhythm department. The drums are impressive but boring in a superhumanly played, numbing sort of way. Consider also that the songs are pretty long, being in the 6-7+ minute mark. That’s all good, but a little more variety might do wonders.

Regardless of these relatively minor shortcomings, black metal fans with a bone to pick with the world will dig this. The Burning Deed of Deceit is a well put together album, but Thunderbolt can do even better. (7.8/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Sons of the Darkness (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
5.5/10 Jez
 

THYRANE - Hypnotic - CD - Spikefarm / Century Media Records

review by: Jez Andrews

I must admit that until I heard Hypnotic, I had not yet so much as heard the name Thyrane. One thing for which I must give them credit to begin with is the punchy groove and catchy chorus of opening track “Human Weed,” which will doubtless have crowds singing along for years to come. That apart, it's only marginally preferable to listening to The Kovenant. Okay, that's a little harsh, but not far off. There is very little else that actually sticks in the memory, even after a few tries.

Thyrane are yet another band who imagine that dancey keyboard tracks can strengthen the metal elements. A tragic mistake made by a tragically large number of bands. To their credit, they do have some fairly strong acoustic drum tracks, resisting the temptation to use loops instead. The vocals are a little like those of Galder (Old Man's Child), but not always in a good way.

But what can I really say about this album? There are a few nice ideas from time to time, but it doesn't stand up to repeated listens past the first track. But I can imagine the appeal to a fair number of Goth types. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
both bands 6/10 Abhi
 

TORSOFUCK / LYMPHATIC PHLEGM - Split - CD - Bizarre Leprous Productions

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Torsofuck is all about standard goregrind riffs, hyperspeed blasting and long, drawn out pig vocals. The guitar sound is pretty muddy but the double bass sound is great. It's pretty evident that these are programmed drums.

The cover could have been pretty gruesome had the Photoshop editing been done properly.

This stuff struck me as pretty fantastic the first time I heard it, but now I realize it was probably the rush of the superfast drums.

As I listen to it now again, I feel that their stuff is good, but not anything great. In fact, if you want a good example of a two-man attack with programmed drums, check out Retch. Torsofuck comes in second.

Let’s move on to the Lymphatic Phlegm part of the split. Some people really love this Brazilian band, and while I do not claim to be their biggest fan, I can certainly appreciate the fact that they make for interesting listening. What you get here are 11 songs with medical mumbo-jumbo song titles, programmed drums, growling vocals that are buried in the mix, and a guitar sound like no other band.

The guitarist uses a hell of a lot of reverb and ultimately it sounds as if they are playing in a huge hall. This is as far removed from mainstream goregrind as it is from mainstream commercial music. The riffs sound strangely melodic and it is basically the drums that are instrumental in bringing a "grind" feel to the proceedings. Well, overall, this is my least favorite Bizarre Leprous release so far. (both bands 6/10)

 

 

 

 
8.6/10 Abhi
 

TU CARNE - ...Me Quedo Con Tu Dolor! - CD - Bizarre Leprous Productions

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Tu Carne haven't strayed an inch from the path they charted out with their awesome debut, Antologia Del Horror Extremo (review here). All the song titles and lyrics are still in Spanish, the bulldozer-groove parts are still present and once again I find myself listening to countless samples taken from Spanish movies.

However, there are two things that are noticeably different from the debut. The production is the first; this time around the guitarist is probably going to be a lot happier with the sound. Thick and meaty, the riffs alternate between a Cock and Ball Torture kind of groove treatment and faster sections, always maintaining some kind of balance between the two so that boredom never sets in.

But on the other hand, they seemed to have calmed down just that little bit. On Antologia… one was never sure when a slow section would suddenly disintegrate into furious blasting madness. On this time around, they squeeze all the juice they can out of the mosh sections before reverting to the blast-till-death approach. Still, I have not considered that as a negative point because Tu Carne are equally menacing when playing at a slower pace, and that bulldozer sound does help a lot.

The band line-up mentions two guitarists, but I guess they are just doubling each other as I can’t hear anything which indicates otherwise. Kojo is still the main growler in the band, and there are backing vocals provided by the drummer and bassist.

All in all, Tu Carne are doing a great job of developing a sound unique to themselves and in the process are also churning out totally enjoyable albums like this one. (8.6/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Antologia Del Horror Extremo (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
9.4/10 Jez
 

TYPE O NEGATIVE - Life Is Killing Me - CD - Roadrunner Records

review by: Jez Andrews

Okay, I'll admit it, this is a very biased review. For the past five years or so, I've been a huge Type O Negative fan. Having said that, I'd be quite ready to admit it if I thought this album was sub-standard. But it isn't. It's still the gloomy masterpiece that I would expect from them, and at the same time Life Is Killing Me is so much more. It shows changes in pace that I haven't heard since Bloody Kisses and bizarre changes in mood. And all the while, they're getting away with things that other bands just couldn't.

For instance, at the age of seven or eight, I used to listen to the Beatles on a regular basis. By the age of ten, I despised them. The number of depressing indie pop acts who have tried following in their footsteps has only increased my hatred of them. But when I hear “Less Than Zero,” Type O's take on the psychedelic Beatles sound (sitar and all!), it just sounds so perfect to me. Because it's THEM.

Because, unlike the Beatles, they have Kenny Hickey's uniquely crushing guitar sound and Pete Steele's deep and mournful vocals. And on top of that, they just do it a hundred times better anyway.

The almost punk-ish and darkly humourous view of homosexuality on “I Like Goils” is the one part of the album that does actually stick out like a sore thumb in its mannerism. The title track is a heartfelt shot in the head of the medical profession, and testimony that Steele always puts real personal meaning and emotion into his lyrics.

Type O Negative have reached a point where creating dark yet beautiful, gloomy yet uplifting, and in my opinion flawless metal seems like a matter of second nature. By the time of Bloody Kisses, their music was filling dancefloors with metallers, seduced by both the music and the scantily clad Goth chicks who often led the way. October Rustwas a true masterpiece of melancholy, and so damn catchy in places that I often caught myself humming or whistling the odd little melody from it.

World Coming Down explored deeper and darker avenues of existence, and the time it took me to really get into it allowed me to appreciate it all the more on repeated listens.

And now, Life Is Killing Me just goes straight for the soul. Heavy, quirky and so absorbing it'll swallow you whole. Not to mention great value for money. Fifteen quality tracks and a bonus disc containing previously unreleased material and re-mixes, all well worth killing for. (9.4/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Dave
 

ULTIMATE FAKEBOOK - Before We Spark - CD - Initial Records

review by: Dave McGonigle

Crap. I really, really, really wanted to write some nasty reviews for this issue. I’d been swotting up on my knowledge of The Devil’s Dictionary, I’d made a pilgrimage to the Algonquin Hotel in New York to try to absorb some of the poison-tipped quippery of Mrs. Parker; I practiced my poses in the mirror, mimed along with “Bad to the Bone.” Oh yeah, cower in your little jewel boxes, CDs, it will do ye no good.

However, pickings had been pretty slim recently - I’d been handed good CD after good CD. Eventually, I hit on a plan. I’d find a nice ripe indie band, invite their virginal album home to my CD player, and indulge my newly sharpened and fang-ed wit. I searched high and low through the Maelstrom offices until I located my victim: Ultimate Fakebook’s new EP/mini-LP, Before We Spark. I felt like Brad Pitt in “Interview with the Vampire”: sure, I hated myself for my need for blood, but what was I going to do?

But even with the best of intentions, I lucked out again. Turns out that Before We Spark is actually pretty good (goddamn it!).

The first track throws a curveball by starting with a glacially Gothy keyboard riff, until the guitars go "kerrunch" and we’re in powerpop land.

There’s no new territory being mapped here, but that’s hardly the point: this style of music hasn’t changed much since Cheap Trick et al were playing it in the 70s, and Ultimate Fakebook know that if it ain’t broke, don’t mess with it.

Basically, you get some great, catchy songs played well, with enough hooks and weird sonic touches (the bar chimes on “We’ll Go Dancing,” for example) to hold your attention until the Posies get their fingers out of their asses and record a new record (erm, how about it, actually, Mr. Posie, sir?).

Actually, that’s doing these guys a bit of a disservice - while a couple of tracks could pass for Weezer b-sides in a dark alley, the rest of the EP is distinctive and well-recorded enough to merit your attention. However, and I do mean this - if you rip off the album art to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless ever again, gentlemen, I won’t be responsible for my actions. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Matt
 

VILE - Stench of the Deceased - CD - Listenable Records

review by: Matt Smith

I could tell from the cover what these guys were going to sound like to some degree. Most of the words on it and they guy in the Cannibal Corpse T-Shirt were a dead giveaway. Oh, and the cover art of a woman’s cadaver being molested by demonic alien-looking thingies added to the general aura.

Overly deep growls. Heavy, low guitar distortion and the occasional whining, high-pitched solo. Drums that go “thud.”

Oh, yeah. That’s the death metal I like.

Vile is pretty straightforward in their style. They reek of Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Nile and the like. They stay together and create some excellent grooves. Stench of the Deceased just doesn’t let up, either. It’s good-ass metal front to back, though not especially innovative. They’ve got some live clips in there, too, which are always enjoyable. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but it’s a good one to add to the “mean and evil death metal” collection you’ve got built up. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Tom
 

VIRGIN BLACK - Sombre Romantic - CD - The End Records

review by: Tom Orgad

At times, technological progression, and its tidings of unlimited multi-channeled spaces and endless possibilities of sonic experimentation may be a bane as big as dullness and poverty. Applying its overwhelming, dazzling lushness in order to shock the foundations the gentle balance between measures and mean, the modern age is tilting towards putting a sadly strengthening emphasis upon aesthetics, at times leaving essence aside, neglected, longing for proper cultivation. Virgin Black’s debut is another unfortunate case in which the method of expression had been disproportionally nurtured, sparing little resources to be dedicated to the development of artistic essence, resulting in an album of superficial extravaganza, unripe grandeur, and, most regrettably, a notable reservoir of unfulfilled potential.

Judging by its lyrics, Sombre Romantic deals with one of the most intimate subjects in man’s perception: his personal relation to god. The text conveys the gloomy, resonating feeling of the dark shadow of primordial sin, imparting the speaking individual with a fundamental sense of detachment from the infinite creator. He submits himself, eagerly willing to throw himself into the arms of the absolute, but realistically recognizes the fact that he is most likely, and perhaps irreversibly, not to be embraced.

Naturally, one is probably to expect the artisitic incarnation of such foreboding emotional stance to feature an expressive elegy of genuine intrinsic mourn. Such elements are indeed present, represented in most of the pieces of the album by simple acoustic, clean instrumental lines accompanying the rich, excruciated male vocal performance. An interesting aesthetic recurrent motive is the use of quasi-Gregorian choirs, perhaps attempting to conjure the medieval atmosphere of an external, relentless, ominous god, furiously subjugating his meager, minute worshipers. However, the relatively simple, concise melodic lines and neo-classical chanting are joined by an excessive plethora of exaggerated orchestral parts, screens of distorted guitars, evil, shrieking vocals, opera singers, electro-industrial beats, guitar lead solos (which are, by the way, even if technically passable, completely unfit and out of context) and more.

It sounds as if the band members, or perhaps its producers, have determined the shallowest aesthetic level to be at the top of their priorities, compressing nearly unbearable, over-the-top instrumental and productional diversity into the modest frame of a mere album.

Indeed, ideological justification for each and every aforementioned element may be found: the industrial beat comes to represent the mechanical, estranged nature of the unforgiving Christian god; the violins simply function as a sort emotional amplifier; the metal parts are a symbol of the inner raging demon, being unleashed by the sense of banishment from holiness, and so on.

Had the album presented an array of complete, thorough creation, the burdensome would may have been forgivable. Nevertheless, the most significant shortcoming is yet to be stated: it seems that the great invesment in the production didn’t come in addition to a caring, devoted compositional work, but instead of it. Most of the tracks feature monotonous, similar melodic lines, non-cohesive, unintentionally bewildering and rather boring inner structure, and a nearly absolute lack of tasteful development and expansion of musical ideas. Morover - even when the aesthetical experimentation and shallow compositional efforts produce local worthy outcomes - an occurrence which, actually, may be observed on numerous parts of the album, even if only on the micro level - it is soon forgotten and obscured by the haze of redundant profusion.

We are left with a creation of decent lyrics, aesthetical potency, comically opulent production - and an immature, forsaken epitome. A sorrowful waste. (4/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Elegant...and Dying (issue No 14)  

 

 

 
5/10 Tom
 

VIRGIN BLACK - Elegant...and Dying - CD - The End Records

review by: Tom Orgad

Virgin Black’s debut album raised quite a few questions regarding their following release. After obviously proving their mastery of a variety of aesthetic measures, in a compulsive exhibitionisitic sort of way, it was left to see whether the band members and producers would harness their megalomaniac impulses of demonstrating outwards splendor and rather focus on the improvement of their skills of construction and composition, hopefully robing their promising existentialistic-religious manifest in a milder cloak.

Satisfyingly, an improvement is definitely notable, providing the listener with quite an interesting, surely more bearable album. However, its partiality ironically emphasizes the disadvantages of the previous one, and furthermore, puts under an ominous doubt the band’s ability to produce a truly great creation in the visible future.

The great irony stems from the notion that no conspicuous improvement is apparent on any of the band’s foundational skills and attributes. The melodic lines are still simplistic and undeveloping; the choir parts remain shoaly, not being able to synthetically integrate within the structure of the compositions; the guitar solos are yet impertinent; and the electronic touches fail to reach any inspiring effect. However, the great change emanates from a notable reduction in the dosage of most of the above elements. While the previous release insisted on compelling the listener to confront and deal with an endless sequel of brief, shallow apparitions of a multitude of sonic prototypes, on the current release their frequency is critically decreased. So, even if the musical expression methods of the leading concepts featured by the band (still dealing with the futility of our experienced existence, man’s irrational strife to infinity and its consequent uncompromising devotion) do not yet manage to delve deeply enough in order to sheerly reflect hidden aspects of the human spirit as they intend to, the lightning in the numbing productional overflow of the band allows us to absorb some of the more complimenting facets of the band.

As the aesthetic vocabulary and its outraging utilization is moderated, one may clearly note the framed, allegoric entity of the different instruments and parts, be it the heavy walls of distorted guitars, representing the sizzling, brooding earthly darkness, and the well-drawn contrast between it the calm, desperate partitures of innocent personal hope and longing; the modified segments of guitar harmonies, succesfully transmitting a sense of an overbearing, profound emotional state, or the languid, laggard drumming, constantly reminding the beholder of the feeble, helpless being which the music deals with.

Elegant…and Dying proves Virgin Black’s virtue of self criticism and willingless to renovation, and a certain trend of maturity in their approach to creation. However, its essential innovative dullness, especially excruciating due to the exceeded length of the album (75 minutes), is alarming: the stagnancy of ideas nearly justifies its definition as nothing more then an atmospheric ambient album, surely contradicting the band’s pretentious ambitions. I fear to conclude that, after leashing their previous farcical productional tendencies, the band has reached its unsatisfactory peak of talent and ability: an album of nothing more then partly compelling atmosphere. (5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Sombre Romantic (issue No 14)  

 

 

 
4/10 Tom
 

WINGED SERPENT MASTER - Serpent Sigil - CD - www.expage.com/wingedserpentmaster

review by: Tom Orgad

Adhab Al-Farhan (aka Lord Nefarious), the person behind the Winged Serpent Master one-man-project (as well as Inner Decay, Metanemfrost and more) was granted with the ability of composing passable phrases of primitive, raw black metal (with obvious death and thrash influences). However, even when benevolently forgiving the low-tech production, problematic sound, his basic guitar playing skills and artificial drum-machine parts, the sympathetic listener will still have to face a profound, essential conceptual problem about his latest release, perhaps too significant to ignore.

While many one-man-projects feature an output of total negating Nihilism and its derivatives, “Winged Serpent Master” takes a somehow affirmative musical approach. Although superficially exclaiming in his biography and interviews that his music deals with denying god, revenge, destruction and death, without supporting any concrete alternative ideology, its actual expression clearly contradicts his declarations.

Being composed of alternating circular patterns of rather simple metal riffs and unsophisticated, entrancing harmonically-unfettered melodies, his sonic product sounds most reminiscent of efforts of a proud, nationalistic orientation. Being a half-Kuwaiti, half-Philipino residing in the US, and considering his past renunciations of relation to such approaches, I find it hard to believe that Al-Farhan is a supporter of any militant militia. Therefore, by playing music of nearly-fascistic appeal without being actually affiliated with any emanating, motivating utopic idea, he practically commits an act of conceptual suicide: when artistically abolishing the value of the individual, (i.e. himself) without suggesting any preferable essential supplement, he has to confront the nullifying implications of his own product. Solely giving birth to a paradoxical epos, bereft of a theme or a hero, a hollow, impending power of no sentiments nor reliable content takes over of his own presence, sipping his spiritual marrow, leaving him blank and hollow.

So, Serpent Sigil is a creation a thorough conceptual analysis of which will lead the beholder towards an ominous space of logically inevitable void. Concerning its aesthetic bearableness on one hand, yet its absolute lack of innovativeness or renewal on the other, it may merely be treated as a most unintellectual, shallow hobby of the artist, an exclusively, probably “cult” aesthetic source of entertainment for collectors and exceedingly dedicated fans of old-school extremities, or, perhaps, a bizarre sort of retreat for highly-pragmatic, weirdly escapist supporters of sorts of totalitarian underground movements. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Jez
 

WITHERED EARTH - Of Which They Bleed - CD - Olympic Records

review by: Jez Andrews

It's very refreshing to hear a death metal band who can show the world how relevant the old school style can still be. Back in the day, when the likes of Morbid Angel, Pestilence, and Malevolent Creation were second to none, there were bands and fans alike who would vow to keep the fire blazing. Withered Earth are a shining example. Originally formed by members of Disgorged, and now with three full-length albums under their belts, Withered Earth are a force to be reckoned with. Undiluted, guttural, and totally uncompromising, Of Which They Bleed is a fucking class listen.

I like to think that there is a fairly even balance of death metal giants on each side of the Atlantic. Where Europe has Vader, Lost Soul, Vomitory, and The Crown, America has Nile, Morbid Angel, Deicide, and Cannibal Corpse (just to pick a few examples on both sides mind you). After one listen to Withered Earth's latest, however, I couldn't help thinking that the New Yorkers have tipped the scales.

Every track is a roar from a dark and dangerous place. I'd be here until doomsday if I tried to pick a favourite. Of Which They Bleed has a certain rarity value to it, in the sense that I took something different away with each playing of it. One thing's for sure, it MUST be played at ear-splitting volume. Plain and simple, this planet NEEDS bands like Withered Earth. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Laurent
 

WORTHLESS UNITED - A Nation Under - CD - Now or Never Records

review by: Laurent Martini

From punk to punk to ska with a little anger and a whole lot of cigarettes. Sid Vicious would like that and he would love Worthless United. This band has the sound of the Pistols, the ska breaks of the Clash, and Dave Colantoni’s vocals are amazing (gravely and deep, a perfect fit for this type of genre.)

“That Song” is perhaps the best on the album. It sounds like a Social D b-side with great harmonies (which sound like they were lifted from Izzy Stralin’s “Shuffle It All,” a great underrated song and album) and will make your head bop for days to come. The rest of the album sounds too good for a punk band, a bit too overproduced, but lets you know that Worthless United would blow you away live. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Abhi
 

CARNAL LUST - Whore of Violence - CD - Diamond Productions

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Jerome of Diamond Productions seems to be doing a great job of finding the right gems to release on his label. Kabbal was the first one, and now it's Carnal Lust.

There's nothing like listening to some thrashing yet brutal death metal after an extended session of exposure to goregrind. Especially when the band in question churns up tunes that make me wanna grab hold of my guitar and swing it around like a battle axe while headbanging at the same time. And every song has moments that make me wish that my imaginary battle axe could connect with the head of some hapless homosapien.

The guitars refrain from introducing any saccharinated melodies into the music, and the drums stay faithful to the basic layout of the songs: providing ample double bass and blast beats wherever required. As for the vocals, they use twin vocals, with one guy providing the growls and another guy giving some high pitched snarling and thus have added some variation in a department where some death metal bands fail due to excessive monotonousness.

Standout tracks have to be "Psychotic Dementia," "Messiah" and "Infectious Mind." There is not a single weak track here and thus Whore of Violence gets my vote as Pick Of The Month #3.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot to mention something. One small drawback of this CD - the printing inside the booklet is absolutely horrible. Not a single line of lyric can be read without causing extreme stress on the eyes. Other than that, what are you waiting for? (8/10) 

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 ~Eternus~
 

FUELED BY HATE - Filled with Rage - CD - Resistance Records

review by: ~Eternus~

I was pleasantly surprised when I put this CD on. Being on Resistance Records, I assumed that this would be oi or hatecore music, which generally I`m not a big fan of. However, Fueled by Hate play thrashy metal with gruff death metal style vocals.

The first thing to point out is the excellent production with a really meaty guitar sound and some great heavy riffs. The drums are played with a high amount of talent. Tracks vary in length from the excellent opener "Die Liste" to the slightly punky sounding track "Killing Spree."

Now, despite having little to grumble about regarding this CD it seems to lack something. Perhaps I`m just more used to hearing bands with a similar ideological approach who play within a black metal musical framework, or take a more epic, proud approach. Bands such as Graveland, Iuvenes, Pantheon, Veles and Honor seem to do more for me.

If you’re a fan of death and thrash metal, I suggest that you track this down though, as you could do far worse. Fueled by Hate are a talented band who to the right ears will be greatly appreciated, for me they just lack memorability. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.2/10 Samaki
 

GHOST ORGY - Ghost Orgy - CD - http://www.ghostorgy.com

review by: Samaki Dorsey

Ghost orgy is dissonant and disturbing. Goth meets metal-rock. I'm not sure what to make of this EP. Its overly dramatic at times and the music jumps around just enough so that you can't really get into it. They'll start out with a good riff and then a drastic switch-up that's not for the better.

The singer's voice is deep and strong, bringing to mind the vocal stylings of 4 Non-Blondes, Concrete Blonde or L7. Yet on the flip side, her voice can be shrill and with the meandering melodies she's creating, I really couldn't get into it. I think they do have potential, hopefully their full length will showcase some better material. (5.2/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 ~Eternus~
 

HONOR - W Plomienach Wschodzacej Sily - CD - Strong Survive

review by: ~Eternus~

Having already heard and loved the Polish version of this album (which came with an unpronounceable Polish title), I looked forward to hearing the English version, which along with vocals sung entirely in English, had the lyrics all printed in English too.

I wondered if the gruff Polish vocals would work well sung in English, or whether they would be irritating and ruin the overall atmosphere. I can safely say after listening to this and the Polish version many times now that the English version are much more appealing: the lyrics are well written and although at times you need to listen *very* carefully to make out what the vocalist is shouting – the majority of the time it’s not too difficult. Go and pick this up, if you can’t track down the Polish version, and even if you have the Polish version already – this one is still worth getting. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
5.8/10 Samaki
 

LAST SEASON - There Is No Time Like Now - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Samaki Dorsey

There is No Time Like Now has an interesting sound. At times, they sound like a beer commercial, in that generic punk rock kinda way. Then there are other times when they get a cool emo or hardcore jam going and you forget that moments ago you were chugging a Bud. I'm not overly impressed with the vocals, although his scratchy screamo voice

grows on you a little bit by the end of the CD. I think this is the type of band you need to see live to appreciate what they are doing in the studio. My favorite track is "The Fall". Its an aggressive track with a mixed time signature, which adds some complexity to otherwise straightforward tracks of on the EP. (5.8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 ~Eternus~
 

TEMNOZOR - Sorcery of Fragments - CD - Hakenkreuz Productions

review by: ~Eternus~

Having heard the band name mentioned several times, mostly by other bands from Poland, Ukraine, Russia and the NSBM scene in general, a number of people compared Temnozor to Nokturnal Mortum. I was instantly amazed by this release from the second I put the CD on.

Sorcery of Fragments is not an album as such but rather a CD version of their Sorcery is Strengthening the Black Glory of Rus demo tape and four exclusive new tracks, The majority of tracks on this CD have very folk-like melodies, displayed by both guitar riffs and synth as well as some genuine instruments ( I think I heard a flute in there somewhere). At times the black metal turns into ambient and the general atmosphere varies a great deal, covering a lot of ground from ethereal, occasionally creepy ambient passages and sombre acoustic sections to the straight out aggressive black metal with vocals generally being performed in a raspy black metal style, which works really well.

Clean vocals are also to be found, but unlike the clean vocals of, say, Enslaved or Kampfar, which tend to bring to mind proud and noble Viking warriors, the clean vocals of Temnozor tend to be more dramatic, and although I think they are great and certainly very original, blending in with the music and overall atmosphere, I’m sure many people will be put off by them.

I’d say that if you have enjoyed the folk melodies of Nokturnal Mortum, the etherealness of Kataxu and you appreciate some ambient music, then you should like Temnozor. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

FORBIDDEN - Twisted into Form - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Forbidden has got to be one of the most underrated and overlooked thrash bands ever. Prodigies of the famous Bay Area Thrash scene, Forbidden released two kick ass albums around the turn of the ‘90s, but Twisted into Form is without a doubt their finest hour.

Everything is top notch: Russ Anderson displays excellent vocal talent with a lot of range. Man, can he hit high notes when he wants to! (And if you already love Forbidden, be sure to read our interview with Russ Anderson here)

The rhythm and lead guitars are superb, and the bass guitar is nice, too.

Last, but certainly not least are the godly drums, played by Paul Bostaph (also ex-Slayer). Bostaph is something of a legend: stories have been told of how hard he would hit his drums and how he would practice everyday before shows by putting ankle weights on and playing double bass for hours.

Bostaph and co. give Twisted into Form an infectious rhythm from beginning to end. Check out “R.I.P.” and the title track, two of my favorite thrash songs ever.

Acoustic guitar is present, and is placed and used well. The lyrics are thoughtful and interesting, being in the “outraged by the evil of humanity vein.

All the elements are helped by a crisp and punchy production, which sounds especially so on the re-mastered reissue on Century Media Records. This version also comes with two quality bonus, live tracks of songs from the first record.

A word of warning, though: Forbidden went in the tank after this album, so if you get this and dig it, I wouldn’t recommend you seeking out their later stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

HELLOWEEN - Pink Bubbles Go Ape - 1991 - CD - Essential Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

That’s right. We’re giving our highest nostalgic recommendations to Helloween’s Pink Bubbles Go Ape. The supposed worst album in Helloween’s discography. The one we’re *all* supposed to hate.

The one with the song “Heavy Metal Hamsters.”

Yeah. That one. It’s one of the best albums the band will EVER record. Didn’t you know? I’ll go on record and say that overall, it’s better than Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II.

Let me say that again. Pink Bubbles Go Ape is better overall than Keepers II. How’s that for controversy?

I, like many other fans (including Maelstrom’s own Steppenvvolf - who also loves the record now that he’s actually LISTENED to it), avoided Pink Bubbles... like the plague. It was supposed to be Helloween’s sell out record; an attempt to be more commercial after the huge success of the Keeper series.

They ditched the pumpkin symbol. And sure, the cover art and album title are ridiculous. A picture of a woman in a dress holding a fish aloft, a guy in a hallway in a bed/bathtub, and people with fried eggs over their eyes would make any true metal fan balk. But that’s the point. It was meant as a challenge to the metal world; as a sort of statement that Helloween could not be painted into a corner in terms of style or image. The song “Pink Bubbles Go Ape,” a 35-second acoustic guitar piece that begins the album, goes, “Some people are much too smart. They know everything before it starts.”

“Well,” the band seems to say, “Pink Bubbles Go Ape! What do you think of that?”

What’s really remarkable, in spite of all this apparent stylistic change, is that Pink Bubbles... isn’t all that different from the music on the Keeper series. It’s a bit less hard, but still undeniably metal, with power metal drums and solos. And the vocals. Man, those vocals.

It’s impossible that any record with Michael Kiske on vocals is bad. Not with what is perhaps the greatest voice in metal or even rock ever. And while, yes, Keeper II has a few all-time best songs, some of the other tracks on that album are, well, not so great.

While on Pink Bubbles Go Ape, all the tracks are wonderful. Ok, “Heavy Metal Hamsters” is borderline, but accept what it’s called, get the joke and move on.

I get chills every time I hear the chorus to “Mankind,” and am compelled to sing along with “Kids of the Century” and just about every other beautifully crafted song on here. I’ve wanted to listen to little else lately. Give this album a chance and you’ll think so too.

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

OXBOW / PORCH / CAESURA
May 20th 2003 - Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, California, USA

review by: Dave McGonigle

Going to see bands live can be a dangerous business, yet, until now, I’d always managed to avoid any actual, real, flesh-mashing, cartilage-ripping violence. My clean scorecard seemed threatened, however, when I was “requested” to review Oxbow at Bottom of the Hill.

The name of the band sounded vaguely familiar; I fancied that I’d heard rumors, none of them particularly good, mostly concerning the frightening regularity with which writhing, screaming violence seemed to erupt at Oxbow shows. I really, really, really didn’t feel like joining the likes of Nick Kent et al as yet another journo chain-whipped for my art.

But I showed up. I took notes on the two opening acts, Porch and Caesura - both fine, angular (if a little anonymous) noise bands, certainly worth looking out for in future. Apart from the sunglasses sported by the lead singer of Caesura, though, nothing really made me want to run from the concert screaming. Well, things could change, I told myself. As Caesura played their last note, I mentally and physically prepared myself for Oxbow’s onslaught. I also memorized the positions of all nearby exits, even the over-wing ones.

Bizarrely, however, Oxbow had launched into their first song before I’d even noticed that they’d taken the stage. It just wasn’t the "Sturm und Drang" opening I’d been expecting: no blood, no corpses, and no bats.

Just three guys with guitar, bass and drums

...and, of course, Eugene.

As I turned to face the band, my eyes were immediately drawn to singer Eugene Robinson: prowling the center stage, eyes looking everywhere and nowhere, hands alternating between the microphone and his crotch, Robinson seemed to warp space around him, making it difficult to focus on anything else while he was in the room.

Behind him, the three musicians were cooking up a bitches’ brew of jazz, blues, metal and volume, with the bizarre arithmetical precision of the music belying its incredible, organ-destroying physicality (seriously, folks - I peed blood after this show). The rhythm section of Dan Adams (bass) and Greg Davis (drums) played with preternatural precision and power, hammering out complex time signatures for guitarist Niko Wenner to play on top of. Wenner’s shards of jagged, molten guitar really gave the band’s live sound an edge, proceeding from deranged flamenco riffs one minute to Pat Metheny-like experiments in terror the next.

But, live, most of the audience is fixated on Robinson. At times he appears as though he’s invaded his own stage, stumbling, spitting out howling lyrics, face perpetually bemused; at others, he stands and stares at the crowd, a picture of complete confidence and power, truly frightening in his intensity.

While much has been made of Robinson’s interactions with the crowd (i.e. “hey, go see Oxbow and watch the lead singer strangle a guy and then skullfuck him”), there seems to be little to no affectation in Robinson’s performances. Instead, his interactions with the crowd cast him as the anti-Bono: instead of having to goad his audience into being involved, into interaction, Robinson gives the impression that he’d rather you just sat down and STFU (that’s “shut the fuck up,” methinks - Roberto).

It’s his space, and he’ll do what he wants - which, often, involves removing most of his clothes. It suits the confessional nature of most of Oxbow’s lyrics, too; while I get the feeling that Robinson requires the audience to be present on some level (probably on the “making sure the band gets paid for this gig” level, if nothing else), watching the band gives one a creepy feeling of eavesdropping on half-heard conversations that you really wouldn’t want to fully understand.

It’s this intangible fear, the uncomfortable feeling of being privy to real life in all its horrible and mundane details, that makes the Oxbow live experience not a little frightening (yet also immensely enjoyable). But don’t forget: if you do go and see this band (and you should - in a bay area drowning in musical mediocrity, forget the latest and greatest and go and see a band that matters) - always read the safety instructions. And always, always, know where the nearest exit is.

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FISHBONE / KING'S X
June 3, 2003 - Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, California, USA

review by: Nikita

This is my lucky night. It's been on my calendar for a couple of months now and I’ve been dreaming about it. I even bought a new camera and a bulk supply of earplugs. It’s a double bill at the Avalon Ballroom with King’s X and Fishbone. Here are two bands with a track record.

King’s X is a perfect trio - the Head, the Body and the Grinder.

Massive, fat succulent arrangements for three guys that know how to fill space with big, driving, chunky sound, while still keeping frequencies separate, clean and listenable. Guitarist Ty Tabor seems like the head of the beast. Less the showman and more the divining rod, this guy breathes cohesion and confidence. With a remarkable purple hardwood guitar and armed with a great voice, he¹s got a silent guiding touch with the rest of the band.

Tabor’s guitar work is well developed and flawlessly executed - like a good pool shot. And like a good pool player, his ego is never in the way. It’s about the shot, not his perception of himself making the shot. Do you know what I mean?

I can actually decipher enough of the lyrics to know this is a group of aware, experienced, smart guys. They also never ever trade in their raging testosterone for just their smarts. Where the guitar man-o is “the calm,” the bass player is doubtlessly “the storm.” He is definitely a snack on the loose. Nothing like a 1/2 clad, strikingly ripped and fully eccentric bass player that effortlessly anchors a band and plays his instrument way down low over the groin. My, oh my.

They can all sing too - harmony like it takes splicing and dicing in the studio till dawn for other bands. This is live and it makes the hair on my arms stand up. Rather than the more predictable, pedestrian concept of harmony, I think these guys are surreptitiously working with the Platonic system of sacred harmonics or something. They don¹t go for the obvious but move together with ease to create satisfying and unique harmonic relationships.

Now, this bass player, Doug Pinnick, has a scream on him that makes you turn from the bar to breathlessly ponder his lung capacity. WOW. This is truly an art form ? to call up this kind of intensity in a scream and not fry your vocal chords in a single show. This guy knows what he is doing. You are also going to love this drummer, Jerry Gaskill.

                                 

Gaskill is a backbone, the grinder, leader and follower all at the same time. He is not pulling the cart, he is pushing it and the band just magically morphs with him. I was struck by his good looks and his relentless jaw work. I hate to say it but this guy is going to need a dental guard before long. When they all harmonize and grind that slower, sexy groove I start screaming too. I can’t help it. It’s raw, it’s full, it’s flamboyant and best of all, it’s got brains.

The crowd is in their sway, facing forward, watching the show? demographically they are heavily male in big black shoes. You won¹t ever find a better reason to dance or throb around than right here, with King’s X. I’m doing it down low like the tart I am, imitating the bass player. My extrasensory crowd detector tells me that the audience here will give themselves up before the show is over. We all wanted them to play the encore BAD? and they gave us a serious hit rocker called “Black like Sunday.” Ty Tabor’s compelling voice takes wing here and creates a haunting story. By the end of the show, it was clear that there were more fans made than had originally come to the show. As the Kings made their exit, many in the crowd were motivated to approach the stage to show their devout appreciation with a handshake or the affirmative two thumbs up. This show rocked all my senses. And the bass player ? well, I hope it was me he was watching fire up on his fierce groove.

“What’s the wildest band you’ve ever seen?”

Fishbone,” I said.

When I was in a gigging band, the biggest shows we ever played were with Fishbone (who opened FOR Niki. She can’t say it but *I* can - Roberto). They were, hands down, my favorite band. I would sit backstage awe-struck at their musical might. They mesmerized the crowds and rocked the house down to its knees. It would actually rain down sweat on the hoards of dancing maniacs.

Fishbone had their own language and came from their own planet. If you can even imagine, this band just gets better. The fish are still reeling the hammer, slamming funkadelic vibes with a New Orleans twist in an unforgettable amalgamation of category defying virtuosity.

             

Where many performers are physically obstructed by their inner chaos, this lead singer is a Buddha. His ego is fully released and he freely channels the voodoo spirit. His energy blows and flows like steam under pressure escaping into the ether. Watching him is a treat for any theatrical enthusiast. His body, his hands, his feet, everything speaks and explodes with his own unique, unfettered chaos.

Although very different fish in the sea, every one in this band is a rock solid player ? synchronistic like a cloud of sardines. They are a constant spectacle. The lead singer, Angelo Chistopher Moore (the Tuna), comes out on stage dressed like a lawn jockey. Complete with suit, tux shirt and derby. He goes from playing a tiny soprano saxophone to playing the largest saxophone you have EVER seen. He goes from fully clothed to barely clothed and he is sweating like I remember.

By the time he pulls out that bass sax, the sweat is running off the bottom of the instrument and unto his shoes. With the fluids this guy loses, I hope he watches out for his kidneys.

The trumpet player, Walter Adam Kibby II (the Sea Turtle), goes from playing a big beautiful gold coronet to a trumpet, literally the size of a peashooter. Every time I look and then look back ? it’s a different raging scene.

Now I¹ve been holding out on the bass player. I have to digress to describe this. John Norwood Fisher (the Angler Fish) really inspires rampant postulation. How does he manage with this projecting bobbing twist of natty dread? Is there a coat hanger in there? Does he pin it up at night? Does he tickle his girlfriends belly with it or hypnotize the bank teller? He’s in the dazzling authentic outer robes of a Catholic priest. If you’ve seen these things ? they are absolutely open on the sides and he is absolutely naked underneath. (I believe this to be a political statement) The amazing thing is how he manages, poker faced, to seriously drive this band in this balls-out outfit.

                       

Thank god for the guitarist, Spacey T (the Sting Ray), and the drummer, John Steward (The Shark King). They are totally integrated and ripping in their own rite. Still, it’s kind of a relief to know there are stable points in the voodoo nut-house. This is a fabulous, eye-popping show in a morass of all too many grungy, dress-down bands. This is a full tilt aquarium.

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VADER/ SHWORCHTSECHAYE/ AZAZEL
June 4, 2003 - Hangar 24, Rishon Lezion, Israel

review by: Tom Orgad

A visitor entering the Hanger 24, Rishon Le'zion (a suburb of Tel-Aviv), on the night of Vader’s show, could see a well-reflecting microcosm of the Israeli metal scene, or, to be more precise, its actual non-existence.

The crowd was composed mostly of young men in their mid-teens, lingering and loitering on the floor of a rather bizarre venue for such a malicious act, featuring a lush cocktail bar, and complex, multi cornered architecture. Weird ceiling decorations, including no less then two disco-balls, further added testimony to its originality.

Although aptly following the metal dressing code, there is no scent of underground in the air, no atomsphere of insidious movement or rebellious vitality; more of walking around, telling stale jokes and talking about everyday issues such as the latest developments in politics, the upcoming military service or bothersome school teachers. After all, in a country surrounded by ravishing foes, in which any non-patriotic act is considered blasphemous, and under the impending shadow of reaching the age of 18, lawfully cutting your hair and joyously jaunting to the army recruitment base, the existence of a scene loyal to the principles of Nihilism is nearly impracticable. The only possible nests of turbulence emanate from the rather dominant presence of Russian immigrants.

The opening band, Azazel, appeared to congruously fit the casual atmosphere. Playing quite a predictable brand of epic black metal, featuring simple fairly simple, usually harmonious riffs and catchy power metal-ish, clean vocal choruses, they seemed to please the crowd quite a bit, sweeping many of the viewers to cheerful session of slam dancing. However, as immense as the enjoyment of the masses had been, it surely didn’t near the satisfaction levels demonstrated by the members of the band.

Although some of Azazel are rather experienced performers, they seemed to be exalted by the presence of the attentive masses, imparting the stage with a jolly aura of gleeful euphoria.

Next came on Shworchtsechaye (don’t even try to pronounce it, unless you find uttering Yiddish words a worthy challenge). Unlike their predecessors, these fellows somehow seemed to actually take themselves seriously, trying to incite aggresion amongst the viewers wielding some crunchy, thrashy death metal phrases . Although delivering some surprisingly original material, including (probably unintended) refreshing hints of death n’ roll, old fashioned black metal and palatably dissonant chords, all played professionally and smoothly, they didn’t manage to achieve a strong impact over the crowd.

Indeed, many of the present kids came mainly to bang their heads; but for that purpose we have Vader.

While Azazel satisfied certain light-headed, humorous needs of the masses, Shworchtsechaye, being an appetizer too similar in essence to the main course, were put in the shade of the upcoming main act, failing to transcend the status of a superfluous intermediary course... not to mention their incoherent session of political protest, dedicating a song titled “Fuck You” to the newly elected orthodox mayor of Jerusalem. None of the audience was impressed.

Finally, before Vader came on, the true stars of the evening played their part: the security men. Fearing the dangerously spreading mosh pit, they didn’t stop at merely threatening to cancel the show if there was any disorder, but also threatened to “break some bones.” Unfortunately, they kept their word: a squad of five admonishing bullies treated the crowd of youngsters with ruthless violence throughout the whole evening, reaching unbearable peaks of vulgarity just before and during the final act.

Which brings us to the headline of the evening: Vader, Polish gods of death metal. Actually, there isn’t much to say about their show, as no deviation of its absolute forseeability was apparent: the band churned with accurate aggression an array of numbers, all sounding quite identical, ending with a Slayer cover. There weren’t many nuances or subtleties; Vader simply delivered the goods flawlessly, doing nothing more, or less, then they were expected to.

A special praise should be given to the rhythm section, especially the drummer: while many bands get carried away and fail to keep the beat on reasonable speed while performing live, reaching an up-tempo in which the maintainance of tight playing is rendered simply impossible, Vader’s drummer had diluted his outbursting rage with mild
sensibilty, rarely gliding to unleashed blast beating. Furthermore, on the few times that he did slip, he was swiftly and efficiently harnessed by the attentive bassist and rhythm guitarist.

Vader’s interaction with the crowd was fantastic. I would say that this is the ideal band for Israeli metalists: They smilingly growl, indulge themselves in chatting with the crowd, stammering Hebrew words, speaking Russian at times (thus raising themselves to the level of true idols amongst many of the immigrants) taking short breaks, perfectly matching the overall feel.

Just like the members of the crowd, they don’t seem to absorb their metal creation as a life philosophy, but as an extreme manner of entertainment, offering an intense multi-dimensional experience of raging power and aggression, not leaving room for any form of ideology, interpretation or other intellectual explication, satisfyingly fulfilling the simple wish of the masses. However, as I mentioned earlier, their correspondence with the fans was constantly screened by the regime of bald, exhorting devils seperating the floor from the stage.

At one point an intro of Gregorian chants was played, and the spotlights were directed from the dark stage towards the viewers, leaving only the silhouettes of the three front men visible. For a moment the stage looked as a sacred ground, populated by three long-haired figures (captured princesses?), watched over by a group of mighty swollen gargoyles.

Finally, a sole moment of genuine, consequential atmosphere adorning Vader’s engineered, unspontaneous presence. High point of the evening? Perhaps. I stood at the back.

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EXTRA ACTION MARCHING BAND/ OXBOW/ THE VANISHING/ WAYCROSS
May 29, 2003 - The Eagle Tavern, San Francisco, California, USA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Do you remember the “Police Academy” movies? Do you remember the eternal gag when Mahoney and his gang would trick the mean-o cops into going to that gay bar, The Blue Oyster? You know, where yoked gay dudes would force them to dance the tango? Well, The Eagle Tavern *is* that bar.

So normally, I might be downright scared to set foot in such a place, regardless of how many metal armbands with nails coming out of them I have on. But on this night it was cool, because The Eagle Tavern was one of the featured venues of the Mission Creek Music Festival, and I was in the company of three very cute and very straight young women who would jump to my defense - or so I hoped.

At least Eugene Robinson would be there. To laugh at me.

It turned out that The Eagle is a pretty cool venue to have a smallish, intimate gig. But by the time the headlining band overtook the room with its, like, EIGHTEEN members, making the only place one could breathe in either the outside patio or maybe the nook between the pinball machine and the neighboring, retaining wall, we were all kind of hoping the show had been scheduled for Slim’s.

Waycross, in retrospect, was the perfect opening band for an evening that just got more lasciviously intense as the show went on. Waycross were quiet and pretty. Kind of country, kind of folk. Not much to actually look at - strangely enough, the best enjoyment of the set was watching the band on live TV next to the bar.

The Vanishing were a nearly gripping spectacle of Goth crashing into electronica and with an almost cool, sort of fascist militant vibe. The band was made up of three members. One guy on a Mini Moog, making those noises that only the diminutive, cult keyboard can make. The physical absence of a bass player made the prominent basslines that seemed to come out of nowhere all the more bizarre.

You have to admire The Vanishing for playing music with constant dancy beats but using a real drummer. Playing beats that would normally be handled by a drum machine and keeping them even is hard, man, but the guy did a great job.

The Vanishing’s Singer has a delivery a lot like the B-52's frontman, except she also whips out a saxophone and plays frightening tunes with it held way up to the mic.

From there, the intensity jumped up even higher once Oxbow got started, slowly at first, but then as the sweat started pouring and the clothes came off, higher and higher and more crazy and higher.

        

Woe be the young, attractive woman who got too close. One woman, who wasn’t paying too much attention to her surroundings, ventured too close to the lip of the stage. She was scooped up by frontman Eugene Robinson and given a big, nasty kiss. She screamed, but I think she liked it.

I’m not sure how much another woman who got up close to take pictures liked the sweaty smooch on her cheek that she received.

But all I could think of was the poor person who had to use the mic after it spent a third of a set stuck in Robinson’s undies.

                        

Meanwhile, the audience, including yours truly, was thrashing around to the heavy, odd time grooves the band was furiously laying down. It was an Oxbow show. It kicked ass.

   

And so it seemed that he night couldn’t get any crazier, but The Extra Action Marching Band had numbers on their side. This band is indeed that: the kind of thing that you see in parades and halftime shows - a group of people with tubas and snare drums and trombones and whistles and dancers. Except this band was made up of women and gay men.

             

The crowd loved it. They even loved Extreme Elvis, the local, semi-mythical fat guy who dresses up like Elvis Presley and does all kinds of gross out stuff on stage. On that night, it was limited to taking off all the clothing he had on and jumping around on the bar, much to the disgusted fascination of the audience.

                 

Extra Action had exhibitionists male and female and moved the audience so that it began to become difficult to see the separation between performers and audience. Everywhere you looked, there were members of the marching band. There, on the bar, were women dancing; here, on the pinball machine, a trombone player with a plastic devil tail.

                  

The Extra Action Marching band played some marching tunes as well as a couple of Black Sabbath covers, which were a big hit. It was a perfect bill. Exhausting, but perfect.

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VIRGIN BLACK / AGALLOCH / ANTIMASTER
May 20, 2003 - Lucifer’s Hammer, San Francisco, California, USA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This was a bit of a pleasant aberration. A tour featuring foreign bands that came a long way to perform, on a tour that began AND ended in the western part of the United States. We westerners are normally used to great shows featuring bands like Enslaved that go east to west and peter out around Chicago.

So, good for us this time that The End Records put together this set featuring the first tour ever by Agalloch, who ironically had to travel the least distance of the three bands.

First up was Antimatter. The English band, consisting of an acoustic guitarist/ main vocalist, a bassist, and a female vocalist, started their sound check about 20 minutes before their scheduled set time. But since their sound check consisted of playing their set, and considering that the level of energy of their music is very low, it was impossible to tell when the show actually started, aside from hearing the same song twice - sounding the same both times.

The tour organizers said that Antimatter (below) refused to go on after any hard and heavy band. And with good reason. To those who enjoyed them, they were mellow. To far many others, they were as unobtrusive as a song playing on a radio in the background. The trio sat in chairs the whole way through, and the woman looked quite uncomfortable and sort of lost. It was a curious thing to have them on this bill. An adventurous decision, but one that ultimately interested very few this night.

        

Clearly, most people came to see Agalloch. Setting the stage with incense to set a well-chosen mood, the quartet from Oregon began with a booming drum solo by guitarist/ vocalist John Haughm that segued into their slowly developing, lengthy songs. People were thrilled the whole way through at the rare opportunity to be able to see this band, who, aside from an often clumsy performance by the obviously frustrated session drummer, were wonderful.

                            

               

Virgin Black were the most together group of musicians on this night. The Australian group was smooth and polished, but their music was a little awkward at times. They had more than a couple entire songs that sounded like intros to other songs, but they weren’t. The uncertainty of when one song ended and another began, plus the issues of some of their material just being rather unappealing in a live setting detracted from the show. However, the musicianship was spot on, and the keyboard work and sound was much better than what you can expect from most metal bands. It was also cool to see a woman guitarist (below).

         

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TIDAL WAVE 2003
June 16, 2003 - MacLaren Park, San Francisco, California, USA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Wacken? Bay Area metallers don’t need no stinkin’ Wacken. Why, we’ve got our own outdoor metal festival, Tidal Wave.

Ok, so it’s a far, far, FAR cry from Wacken. But there are similarities.

Like, it’s outdoors! And...

You get to sit on the grass! And drink beer!

And it’s over the course of two days!

Ok, so Wacken kills this in both quality and quantity. But at least Tidal Wave is free. That is, unless a mixture of pity and coercion leads you to buy one of the official Tidal Wave t-shirts for $17.

   

Also, after being metalled-out, you can just go back to your comfy home and not have to worry about some drunk guy tripping over your tent wires.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of day one of the fest. I came to see Morbosidad. Here’s what else happened on day two:

Marching up the hill of the park’s south entrance, I didn’t need to do a lot of searching... just let the familiar sounds of fast, downtuned guitars and harsh vocals lead the way. I got there to check out Soultorn’s set of thrashy death metal. The group came up from Southern California to play here, and they were good.

Kuru (below) were next. The music seemed like it was strangely lacking in vocals. Indeed, the bassist mentioned that the regular vocalist couldn’t make it, or something. Seemed plausible. But checking out the insert of Kuru’s CD showed that they didn’t have a main vocalist on that, either.

              

Whether he truly exists or not Kuru desperately needed a frontman on this day. Or at least someone who can talk to the crowd on stage. The bassist’s attempt to explain to the crowd what the name of his band meant came off as someone botching the lead up to a joke’s punchline. And in this case, the punchline had guitar feedback all over it.

Kuru also needs to write music that is less hazy and more interesting. The fellow festival goers around me agreed.

Depressor was next. I’d heard about this band trying to get off the ground a year or two ago, and it’s cool that they’ve found their personnel. Their mix of punk and black metal was good.

It’s curious how Morbosidad and Kuru essentially play the same genre of monotonous, rumbling metal. Curious because while Kuru’s version is boring, Morbosidad’s is great.

I believe that Morboso’s set had the best, most pronounced bass guitar sound I think I may ever hear at an extreme metal concert. It was clear as a bell, and perhaps even more important than the guitar sound. It was a nice change of pace.

   

Tomaso Stench’s vocals and performance were as morbid as ever, something that mirrored the stage props and get ups well. The best set for last, as it should be.

                 

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OXBOW
May 23, 2003 - Aquarius Records, San Francisco, California, USA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Aquarius Records is the coolest record store I’ve ever been to. I have a feeling it’ll remain that way, too. It’s small and homey: the floors are worn and uneven, and the sun seems to always be trickling in the single room of the mom ‘n’ pop store in a way that makes it all the more comfortable. Take a Hippie atmosphere and subtract the stinky smarminess and you’re starting to get the picture. Whenever I leave, I always feel I know something more about music than when I came in.

Aquarius is such a nice place to shop for records that even the smell of rotten Kentucky Fried Chicken from across the street has become pleasantly associated with the whole experience. And that’s saying a lot.

AQ, as it is often known, frequently puts on free shows of some of their favorite artists. This particular time featured an acoustic set by Maelstrom favorite Oxbow. No doubt the set left the audience spellbound, but at the same time the experience was almost a waste for anyone seeing this four piece for the first time.

Oxbow, in its usual live setting, is a feral, visceral, nearly interactive experience. The band builds up a fearsome tide that you can feel will swell to engulfing proportions even as the first notes are played. But not on this day at Aquarius Records. No, Oxbow were charming and calm and soothing... and just as effective.

   

The drums were stripped down to a two piece, and Greg Davis played them in creative ways that the absence of the distorted noise from his band mates allowed. Davis shook his hi hat stand with his hand, played the bass drum with a stick, and tried really hard to play a seemingly random beat on a small gong. Another delicious percussive moment came when a long, necklace-like string of bells was produced to a delightfully warm, organic effect.

For a moment, front man Eugene Robinson looked even more naked without a mic in his hand than he ever does with his clothes off on stage. But Robinson found his place and delivered a performance appropriate to his bandmates’.

   

It was an invaluable experience for all in attendance to be able to hear this underappreciated group show off talents not normally on display - and all this without having to use earplugs, either.

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THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG/ HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE
June 2, 2003 - John Cobbett’s warehouse home, San Francisco, California, USA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

It must be kind of cool to live in a warehouse. Even cooler if that warehouse not only doubles as your practice space, but that if you also happen to be in two of the best metal bands not only in the San Francisco Bay Area, but the entire universe. I mean, you open your door onto the central living area/ mosh pit, and you can jam up a storm until you’re blue in the face.

This particular warehouse on 3rd Street in San Francisco happens to be the practice space of Hammers of Misfortune and The Lord Weird Slough Feg’s John Cobbett. Cobbett likes to invite his closest circle of supporters every now and again and have a free concert.

Hammers of Misfortune were first. Since their debut album under that name, Hammers have lost their bass player/vocalist Janis Tanaka to the pop band Pink. The elfishly pretty female bass player that they’ve replaced Tanaka with can hang. They’ve also added a full time keyboardist, a tall, striking, Scandinavian looking woman.

 

Hammers of Misfortune played large chunks of their The Bastard album, and a song or two from when they were known as Unholy Cadaver. If there was anything less than perfect, it was that the vocals weren’t loud enough. But in a sense, even that was great, because you could really get swept up in the beautiful, charging music and its harmonies.

           

I left the comfy computer chair that I commandeered to watch the set to take a look around the common area in which rows of couches were set up like a staircase. Behind the area where the band played was the kind of bar that you would imagine being in one of those hut/ outdoor clubs that you see in movies that take place in Hawaii. Beers were a couple bucks.

Strangely, some of the crowd had gone by the time The Lord Weird Slough Feg took center floor. Whatever. As great as Hammers were, Slough Feg were even better. The set just kept improving with each song, again in spite of not being able to hear the unique voice of Mike Scalzi all that well. Still, it didn’t keep the true faithful from singing along to such favorites as “Warriors Dawn.” As always, the band delighted the audience as much with its songs (including tracks from the brand new album, Traveller) as it did with covers of band such as Metal Lucifer.

   

The audience would not let Slough Feg leave, demanding more every time Scalzi said the set was over. The fervent faithful managed to get three encores out of the band, who were clearly delighted to oblige. Why can’t every show be as great as this?

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