VIBRATIONS OF DOOM MAGAZINE
You all should now the drill by now. Mailing address:
Vibrations Of Doom Magazine/DOOM RADIO
c/o Steven Cannon
P.O. Box 1258
Suwanee, GA 30024-0963 USA
Yes, that's right, we're now officially adding DOOM RADIO to the list of
musical activities here at the magazine! Every sunday a new show, and it has
REALLY helped us out as far as label support. Now if we could just convince
Century Media to jump on board, we'll be set! Interviews should get more
numerous as time goes on as well, as more labels are more willing to promote
better when their bands are featured in two separate, but distinct, media
outlets! And the radio show is gaining lots of support, so far you've heard
radio promo spots from Sons Of Otis, Agalloch, Voivod, Fireball Ministry,
Legend, and of course the biggest support from Cannibal Corpse!
APIARY "Lost In Focus" (Metal Blade) SCORE: 25/100
Man oh man does this album title ever FIT this band! Their instrumentation is
all over the place, and annoying! The worst thing about this record is the most
horrid guitar work, which at times is very spastic. Each song can be 500 shades
of slow and fast, made all the more worse by the fact that the few shining
moments on any track don't last very long. It's hardcore folks, so your lead
screamer is adequate for the job, though against the grating backdrop of near
out of tune sounding leads, he sounds very weak. If this is termed as math
core, then I'm definitely not on board. I wonder how this guy would sound if he
were fronting a heavier band. I hear some moments of good thrashy guitar work,
like on tracks 'Fading Imprint' and 'Forced To Breathe,' but for the most part
I'm cringing at this. Many songs are either in the 2 or 3 minute range, though
CD ender 'Finding A Way Back' DEFINITELY pushes my buttons not only with the
ridiculously lengthy 6 minutes, but with lots of spoken word mumbo jumbo amidst
the grating feedback. WHY these guys chose this route is beyond me; further
still, why Metal Blade signed this. The drumming is to be commended, however,
as this guy has the skills which are very evident on how easily he changes
speeds and tempos. Even the heavier moments are missing something, maybe the
production is too clean or the heavier guitar work doesn't have the punch, but
overall this is just really bad. Not one track would I EVER want to revisit,
though I'm sure others disagree. I'm not saying I don't like hardcore, but I
definitely don't like THIS kind of hardcore.
Contact: Metal Blade Records.
ASGUARD "Wikka" (This Dark Reign) SCORE: 86/100
Right off the bat, I can tell you with certainity that this "album" is really
nothing more than what I would term a "career retrospective" compilation.
The first 4 tracks, while seemingly new, are actually pulled from their 2000
demo "Summis Desiderantes Effectibus." Something the CD fails to tell you but
might be more readily apparent by reading that these songs were recorded in
1999 and remastered in 2003, not even explaining why these songs are STILL over
2 years old. Irregardless of that fact, there are 3 songs out of order and FIVE
MORE songs that are untitled and you have no clue as to what they're called OR
even when they were recorded, as the booklet nor the official label's website
bothers to mention they even exist. Despite that fact, this band who hails from
Belarus has quite an interesting take on the black metal genre, especially in
the guitar work, and nothing is more evident than CD opener 'Wikka,' which is a
HIGHLY entertaining instrumental. NWOBHM riffs abound, and it's a very eye
opening mixture. 'The Vision Of Dream' continues things on and the vocals,
which are usually a mixture of death and black metal (two vocalists or one that
records in layers?), are quite sick and aggressive, often giving many of the
songs an extra edge. 'The Black Wandering Of Death' (visions 1 and 2, both
being separate tracks) keeps the interest high, throwing in some thrashier
guitar work, and the whole thing works surprisingly well. There's lots of great
lead solo work, especially given that it's so high ended and more in tune with
the greatest NWOBHM leads from the late 70's to early 80's. The rather lengthy
spoken word piece I could have done without, though even the vocals on THAT are
sick, and the acoustic guitars work well. The 'Bonus' tracks are from a
different time period altogether, and it does show, as this encompasses more of
a death metal feel than anything else. The Priest cover 'Leather Rebel' was
quite interesting despite the lack of blackened shrieks, though some of the
"untitled" tracks (there are 5 of them) have a tendency to show this band in a
rather inferior form, and I'm guessing they're some of the oldest tracks
Asguard have ever done. Almost a complete mess to follow (thank god for a lyric
sheet), nevertheless this is a most unusual and interesting combination, and I
for one would love to hear a followup. Just please, GIVE US SONG TITLES and put
the songs in the proper order!!!
Contact: This Dark Reign Recordings.
CANDLEMASS "Candlemass" (Nuclear Blast) SCORE: 87/100
I always wondered why Metal Blade didn't resign Candlemass, especially now that
one of M.B.'s earliest conditions had been met: the rejoining of not only lead
vocalist Messiah Marcolin, but the ENTIRE 80's lineup. Be that as it may, the
first thing that hits you square in the face is the fact that 'Black Dwarf' is
FAST. For a Candlemass song anyway, and along with 'Born In A Tank' (complete
with catchy, headbanging atmosphere) and bonus track 'Mars & Volcanoes,' the
songwriting has taken on a new twist. A FEW new twists actually, as this record
is without a doubt featuring the darkest and HEAVIEST guitar riffs in
Candlemass history. There's hardly any flaws where the guitar work is
concerned. Messiah's vocal performances are spot on too, though he does try a
few new singing techniques that sound quite odd. For example, on 'Assassin Of
The Light,' his higher ranges on the choruses are a bit off. His different
style of singing on 'The Day And The Night' and 'Copernicus' left me feeling
like those parts could have been rewritten. The chorus on the latter song as
well could have been written better, the lower sung vocal part where he sings
the name of the song was very weak. A few tracks here definitely seem to go on
a bit too long, 'Spellbreaker' has two different parts that make for diversity
in the song, but they're repeated a bit too much for the 7 minutes in length
this tune carries. CD ender 'The Day And The Night' is nearly 9 minutes long,
and overutilizes some parts that I didn't care for. It seems like I'm doing a
LOT of nitpicking, though I must say if you want the epic Candlemass song, then
'Seven Silver Keys' is the closest you'll get to the epic and majestic style of
writing found on "Nightfall." These guitar riffs absolutely CRUSH, and you'll
recognize a bit of reworking of heavy riffs found on "Epicus Doomicus
Metallicus" on tracks like 'Seven Silver Keys' (meaner riffs reworked from the
classic song 'Solitude'), and 'Witches' (bearing the meaner side of the best
riffs found on the tune 'Black Stone Wielder.') 'Born In A Tank' is the track
that gets lots of radio play at WREK FM, 91.1 in Atlanta, and it is definitely
a headbanger's feast, which is a surprise to trained Candlemass ears. Those
crushingly dark and heavy riffs are simply monstrous, simply listen to the
choruses of 'Assassin Of The Light' and tell me those aren't the nastiest and
sickest riffs Candlemass has ever crushed you with. Candlemass wrote an album
that tried really hard to prove they could be heavier than the competition in
the Y2K era, and for the most part they succeeded, though not without some
glaring errors. Regardless, it is another gem in the crown of Doom metal's
longest reigning kings, and they don't seem to be ready to call it quits
Contact: Nuclear Blast Records.
CHAIN COLLECTOR "The Masquerade" (Sound Riot) SCORE: 91/100
The Gothenberg thing has been done to death, some people say. And the guitar
work on this record will end up being somewhat suspect, especially since the
heavy and fast beginnings of MANY songs remind one of Soilwork or even Dark
Tranquillity in spots. If you harp on that, however, you're missing the bigger
picture. There's at least 3 vocal styles on this record, suffice it to say that
the almost deathlike vocals (which seem to have slight blackened tendencies to
them) are predominant on the disc and are a bit different, almost retaining a
closed throat-like quality to them (to the point that this guy almost sounds
like he's going hoarse) but still retaining a sick quality I find redeeming.
The surprise of this album comes from Kjetil's amazingly clean sung vocals,
which tend to make the choruses more memorable and a LOT more melodic. If the
clean vocals sound familiar, it's because Kjetil's main band is Green
Carnation! It makes the tune 'Crucifixion' stand out like a sore thumb,
especially when the acoustic guitars start this off, and this DEFINITELY sounds
more like a Green Carnation song than a Chain Collector one. That is, until the
instrumentation SLOWLY works it's way up to heavier guitars and finally the
sick, deathlike vocals we've been awaiting! The sung vocals have a tendency to
be a bit off, especially on 'Tapping The Vein' where they're more yelled than
sung, and in a faster pace don't work too well. The sung vocals didn't mix well
with the death vocals either (though everywhere else I'm digging the fact that
clean sung and death vocals are utilized at the same time!) on the song 'Winter
Princess,' ending the album on somewhat of a weaker note. There's plenty of
heaviness to go around, however, and if you think this stuff can become boring,
a track like 'Neverwhere,' besides being one of my favorites, keeps the
aggression factor cranked up and the sickness blasting right in your face.
The CD opener 'Hierarchy Of Murder' is a perfect example of a track that not
only varies speeds and tempo changes, but blends melodic material with fast
paced, crushing and almost thrashy heaviness, making for a unique mixture.
Consider there's members from Carpathian Forest, Green Carnation, Trail Of
Tears AND Dismal Euphony, and consider that many influences combined to create
a good record.
Contact: Sound Riot Records.
DARXTAR "We Came Too Late" (Nasoni) SCORE: 31/100
Actually, I think this CD came TOO EARLY. It's obviously a VERY discombobulated
effort, as they can't seem to decide not only whether to play pseudo ballad or
heavy psychedelic/space rock (though many of the tracks have sporadic spacey
synth work, as if to TRY and retain what little is left of the original Darxtar
sound), but they can't even decide which vocalist works better where! There's
at least three different vocalists used on the album, though even the welcoming
voice of K. Soren (who's been the main voice in this band from day one) can't
save this one. The CD starts off mostly as a tribute to the ballad, with only
the choruses (like on tracks 'Pitiful Whining,' an aptly named CD title rather
than a song title, as that's what you get through most of this mess, and 'We
Came Too Late,' which is about three shades below a GOOD song) being the ONE
saving grace for this band. The CD starts out with 'Pitiful Whining' giving a
three second nod to the spacey synth work, but is all but forgotten by the
song's end. The last 5 or 6 tracks are more on the heavier side, but the guitar
work is ALL out of whack for the most part. 'Take It' ends the CD as a ballad
like once again, and fruity lyrics are found in many places, further adding to
the cringing factor ('You've Got flowers in your hair' from 'We Came Too Late,'
for example). And what the hell was up with 'Zero?' This track is some kind of
joke, right? PLEASE tell me this band is just kidding with this! Yeah, okay,
the guitar work is heavy but the vocals downright SUCK. 'Another Kind Of Vibe'
doesn't make things any better, as they FINALLY compose a song made up of
spacey synths, and they end up just clashing with the wierd lead guitars and
just as wierd dark acoustics. Oh and the vocals again! It's obvious this IS NOT
K.Soren again. The ONE saving grace, besides the heavier and catchy choruses on
a few tracks, is 'Greed.' The heavier vocal work (are these vocals electronic
affected?) and the heavier instrumentation are the closest thing you'll get to
a complete track you can hear all the way through (also closer to an actual
Darxtar like sound). Don't get me wrong, tracks like 'Secrets' and 'It All
Happens Here' aren't terrible, but nothing I'd go out of my way to listen to
again. SO much mediocrity and so many bad songs, this makes "Sju" look like a
masterpiece (a record we gave a 51 to, see issue #13 for details on that!) As
much as I had looked forward to getting this; apprehensive though I was at
first, I must say this is THE most disappointing record I've gotten this year.
And THIS band was the reason I contacted Nasoni in the first place! (Thank he
who can not be named that Nasoni has MUCH better bands I actually enjoy!)
Contact: Nasoni Records.
DEMIRICOUS "One" (Metal Blade) SCORE: 94/100
I was reading an interview with Slayer in Metal Maniacs recently, and Kerry
King mentioned this band. He said, and I quote, "One of my favorite new bands
is Demiricous and they sound JUST like us. I love those guys." Tom Araya then
went on to ask if they could be sued for copyright infringement because they
apparently, to his ears, sound "too much like Slayer." Yes, folks, it's thrashy
as fuck, and sickly heavy, but let's get things in perspective. The vocals,
first off, are a bit more death metal oriented with a hardcore slant thrown in
to boot, but there's some higher ended death work. If you ever thought Slayer
needed more aggressive vocals, then you are starting to realize the different
slant Demiricous puts on this. The record is aggressive and, well, to quote a
famous band from the past: "FUCKING hostile." From track one until the end, the
intensity and thrashy aggression NEVER lets up. No fucking ballads, no love
songs, just hate, aggression and much pit worthy material. In fact, I'm looking
forward to seeing them live in October with Vital Remains, Grave, and Dismember
and they won't be out of place there! But I'm getting ahead of myself. Kerry
King's influence is heard ALL over the blazing lead solos found damn near
everywhere, but moments when they prove they can break out of the Slayer camp
are found, like the lead solos found on 'To Serve Is To Destroy' and 'Vagrant
Idol,' the latter song reminiscent of more Gothenberg type lead riffing. And
not to take anything away from Dave Lombardo, but THIS guy can definitely give
Dave a run for his money! On 'Ironsides' especially, there's a few seconds of
JUST drum work where skin crusher Chris Cruz proves he's more than capable of
driving the bludgeoning rhythym behind this sick assault. And you'll find many
eras of Slayer represented, or PREsented, musically. There's the 'Reign In
Blood' lead solo that's almost like the buildup to the final few lines of the
original song on 'Beyond Obscene,' and the slower, more "Hell Awaits" type
riffing found on 'Withdrawal Divine.' Yeah, and CD opener 'Repentagram...'
Well, you can just hear the lyrics from 'War Ensemble' matching the furious
instrumentation here without much effort. Obviously they should have been
thanking Slayer in the liner notes to their album, but suffice it to say I DO
hear MANY differences, and the way they put this all together is good. Like I
said, if you thought Slayer would sound sick as fuck with more aggressive
vocals then you'll see this as blood boiling, ready to fight and kill driving
sounds that stand up for a new era. In fact, when Slayer decides to abdicate
the throne of thrash, Demiricous is one of few bands around who could fill
their shoes admirably. And Tom, it's NOT a rip off band!!!
Contact: Metal Blade Records.
DETONATION "Portals To Uphobia" (Osmose) SCORE: 93/100
This is quite a monster of a record. Melodic leads are ALL over the place, and
quite skilled and catchy at that. What sets this apart from most other
energetic death metal bands and makes it not just another screamer/growler with
the atypical "Gothenberg" sound, is the fact that there's oftentimes heavier
and thrashier guitars inlaid over the high ended riffing. 'Into Sulphur I
Descend' starts the CD off nicely and keeps the pace almost throughout the
entire disc. The title track is nice too, and the song structures are highly
catchy from track to track. I must say the drumming is simply insane, I'm
hearing tons of double bass work throughout the disc! The instrumentation is
not always insanely fast paced, and the slower parts of songs (most notably
on tunes like 'End Of Sight, End Of Fears' and 'Chaos Banished') work well
when the heavier guitar work becomes more prominent. I couldn't get into the
instrumental 'Lost Euphoria Part III' (seems the band was running a little
short on song titles by this point) though I recognize the skill of the
Spanish styled acoustic guitar work. The track 'Solitude Reflected,' however,
had a nice acoustic intro that lasts for about a minute before the heavier
stuff kicks in, and the songs ends with it as well. Only 'Beyond The Margin'
was difficult to deal with, as the guitar work was quite odd and hard to deal
with; sounds like they ran out of steam by this point. The vocal work is quite
sick and there's some long winded screams, in fact the heavier leads and the
vocal work provide most of the driving punishment of this disc. The more
melodic leads are mainly background structures, but this works so well it
almost sounds like a band playing with two dimensions to their sound, which is
definitely alright by me.
Contact: Osmose Productions.
DISSECTION "Reinkaos" (The End) SCORE: 95/100
I am quite frankly pissed at all the biased and misinformed reviews of the
latest, and sadly last, album Dissection has done. First off, the mainly
negative scores of press comes mainly from the so-called black metal diehards
that can't see their way past the production values of the 90's. These same
people wouldn't be caught dead listening to anything other than Norweigan
"true" black metal. Let's get one motherfucking thing straight right now:
THERE ARE BLACK METAL ELEMENTS IN THIS MUSIC. Maybe not in the actual guitars-
slash-bass-slash-drums, but listen to the venomous vocals, man! That's black
FUCKING metal through and through! Lyric wise? Yep, songs about the true
bringer of light and other "otherworldly" themes that signify blackened
rebellion at it's heart. So this music qualifies as black metal on those two
points alone. Musically? Sorry, this is as far removed from "melodic death
metal" as you can get. Listen to the first "song" 'Beyond The Horizon.' What's
that? DO I detect some thrashy, choppy guitar riffs? Why, yes! Yes I do.
Thunderous drumwork? Yep, quite pounding actually. Melodic death metal? Let's
see if we can define "melodic death metal..." Think INSOMNIUM "In The Halls Of
Awaiting" or WITHERING "Gospel Of Madness." TIAMAT'S earlier stuff, like
"Clouds" or even to some degree "The Astral Sleep" maybe. But this stuff? Okay,
I know what it is... It's the somewhat Gothenberg based guitar work, some of
the more catchy, high ended guitar work like on 'God Of Forbidden Light,' or
even the high ended leads on 'Black Dragon.' Still, I can't see how in the
WORLD this can POSSIBLY be mislabelled 'melodic death metal,' since there's not
one iota of death metal vocal style ANYWHERE on this record. Okay, that all
aside, I do have to question why they'd put THREE instrumentals on one record,
despite the interesting 'Reinkaos' which gets heavier and darker as the song
progresses. The two fastest songs 'Xeper-I-Set' and 'Internal Fire' do resemble
one another a bit in the instrumentation department, though 'Internal Fire's'
guitar work is a bit less melodic than the former. 'Maha Kali' is one of my
favorite tunes, especially with the catchy choruses and unusual lyrical
content, though I do take a bit of an issue with the female vocal work as it
just seems a bit out of place. The lead solos are well done, and the material
is highly infectious and catchy at the same time. Who ever said black metal
couldn't "rock?" 'Dark Mother Divine' seems to have rather simplistic riffage,
though I'm not a guitar player nor even remotely an expert, but the simple
riffs WORK. Maybe this is what people are complaining about when they say the
guitar work is boring. Personally, I think it drives the point home and makes a
nice space for the vocals to breathe. The vocals keep a furious energy and
sick, venomous pace, full of rage and anger, and dare I say it, passion...
Yeah, passion for what Jon believes in and lives for. PASSION in the music. If
you want an album that can kick your ass and prove to be a mature (dare I say
that word to a "true" black metaller) yet artistically skilled and crafted
vision, you'll like this. The rest of you can go back to your Darkthrone and
Gorgoroth albums (earliest is best I guess) and ignore progression and
maturity. And I've talked to three people who HAVE the first two Dissection
albums and they ALL think this is different but still kick ass... Add another
one to that list. (You'll READ one of those artists' comments in THIS ISSUE).
Contact: The End Records.
EARLY MAN "Closing In" (Matador) SCORE: 32/100
I remember getting stuff from Matador back in the days of my fascination with
everything and ANYTHING pressed into CD format, when I was willing to chance my
ears, and my readers, with alternative and punk rock. So years later, when I
finally am reunited with this label, I find that they've signed "a metal band."
And I use that term rather loosely, since vocal wise this thing not only annoys
the HELL out of me, but reminds me of one of those whiny alternative bands that
employs a rather nails on the chalkboard approach singer. The sad thing is, the
instrumentation and songwriting I feel is not up to par either, especially from
the get go. My friend Chris said I should check this band out due to the cool
"one hit wonder" song 'Death Is The Answer,' and surprisingly, the vocals are
done almost COMPLETELY different on this track from 85% of the album. THIS one
track is more of a Sabbathy, almost stoner rock track, complete with cool
choppy lead guitars and a more controlled tone of singing. The other cool song
that I might come back to once in a great while is 'Thrill Of The Kill,' which,
you might have guessed is the other slower paced, more Sabbath like number,
though the vocals still annoy me but not nearly as much. And the craziest thing
of all? The song 'Evil Is' which has the vocals done in a more aggressive
manner and unlike ANYTHING ELSE on the CD. This track is the faster, heavier
one, though it's nothing great. So you really have what amounts to two and a
half songs out of 11 and a few decent instrumental passages strewn throughout
the disc. On 'Contra,' hell the vocals were even worse, but sounded like a
completely different singer until the choruses came in. These guys just can't
lock anything down, they're ALL over the place not only vocal wise, but
instrumentation wise too. Ending track 'Raped And Pillaged' had some decent
guitar work to start (again, nothing overtly interesting, but at least they
weren't making me wince) but by the end of the song, scraping guitars and
wierd solos were the piss take of the day. And what's with the rather bad
static on some guitar notes? This happened in several places on the disc!
A rather NWOBHM'ish tone is found on opening guitar riffs on 'War Eagle,' but
overall I'm so annoyed by the vocal work it took me quite a few spins to find
ANYTHING noteworthy in the songs, even with the overabundance of lackluster
Contact: Matador Records.
FALL OF THE LEAFE "Vantage" (Firebox) SCORE: 95/100
"Fermina" was the only album I had remembered from their days with Icarus
Records, and personally I didn't find it all that appealing, though I had to
admit there were good moments. Because of doing the radio show I remembered
having their first album "Evanescent, Everfading" which surprised me as to the
blackened styled vocals, and so once they signed to Firebox Records I was
wondering just what they'd have up their sleeves this time! I wasn't
disappointed to say the least. To call this a gothic metal band would be a
SEVERE mislabelling of the band, because from track one 'The Fresco' the first
thing that's readily apparent is that this band just flat out ROCKS! The vocal
work, while at times melodic and emotional, definitely builds up to heavier
passages within many of the frameworks of many songs. Drums are a bit more hard
hitting and the basslines are even a bit more dominant than what you might be
used to if your mind is set on "gothic metal." 'Morning Works' continues things
on in fine fashion, hell there's MANY tracks here worth repeated listens. I DO
think that maybe 12 songs was a bit much, especially since many songs hit the
4 and 5 minute mark with just basic verse, chorus, verse, chorus (sometimes
with a nice prechorus build however); however don't let that stop you because
Fall Of The Leafe actually knows how to write catchy choruses and song
structures that you'll remember after only a few spins. As I progressed through
the album, I kept wondering where the lead solos were, and it wasn't until
track 9 'Quiet Citizen' that I really heard them. They are quite simplistic for
the most part and you won't catch the guitarists blazing away at 100 miles per
hour: quite simply, the music doesn't call for it. Slower and faster melodies
abound in every song, it's what makes the music interesting besides the fact
you're going "damn, a slice of gothic metal with songs that just flat out
ROCK!" 'Off The Map, Under The Sun' probably has the least amount of heavier
instrumentation and guitar work than any of the other tracks, but then they
turn around one song later (that being 'Receiver') and do the exact opposite of
what they did on 'Off The Map...' Incidentally, the vocals have a tendency to
get more aggressive at times, reminding us that this singer does indeed have a
somewhat death metal range (you'll hear this on 'The Fresco' and 'In The
Silence Of The Sand,' for example) proving their diversity. Fall Of The Leafe
doesn't sound like anyone else, and the vocals definitely soar when they need
to soar and dip low when aggression is needed, which is more frequently than
you think. A great album, surprising to ears that have heard their earlier
Contact: Firebox Records.
FIREBALL MINISTRY "Their Rock Is Not Our Rock" (Liquor And Poker) SCORE: 85/100
I remember a stray appearance on compilation CD's before a small EP on Small
Stone, which I really didn't pay much attention to. THEN I saw the video for
their song 'Sundown' off this album, and holy shit if my ears weren't fired up!
So, upon getting this record, I was a bit let down. Yep, you guessed it, the
hit single slash video is indeed the best cut on the record. BUT, I of course
did hear a few other songs I liked. Fireball Ministry has some wicked guitar
riffs interspersed amongst the more straightforward rock passages. The problem
is that at times you wanna hear more venom and ass kicking going on. The vocal
work has a very unusual tendency to vary from mellow and very good Ozzy styled
singing to rough and heavy Lemmy from Motorhead tones. This makes some of the
heavier parts of Fireball Ministry sound heavier, while the more melodic side
of Fireball Ministry gives you catchy choruses and lines you'll be singing
along to in no time. 'It Flies Again' starts the CD off in somewhat heavy
fashion, only to be let down terribly by lackluster choruses: a damn shame
since there's kick ass rough edged vocal delivery coupled with some HEAVY and
rockin' riffs. 'The Broken' is a good tune, though a tad slower edged, with
some killer vocal work once again. It's catchy, which you probably want if you
are going to listen to more straightforward styled rock music. This band can't
totally be lumped in the stoner rock category, even though these guys are
SERIOUSLY only three steps away from the slow, plodding doom metal I usually
review in this magazine. 'Two Tears' has to be the weakest song here,
especially with the more generic and straightforward rock sound that fails to
raise even one eyebrow. 'Under The Thunder' has some rather, well, excuse the
pun, "thunderous" percussion, and Emily proves she can get some heavy, meaty
riffs out of that custom guitar she uses! Some of her riffage is quite mean,
which further drives home the point that F.M. DEFINITELY has the potential to
be much heavier than they are. Further proof that Motorhead was an influence on
this band? CD ender 'Save The Saved' could have been on at least half a dozen
80's era Motorhead records, especially with the faster paced structure, coupled
with Lemmy styled rough edged vocals, and Emily even throws a curveball to ya
by use of rather psychedelic, swirling guitar riffs. 'Rising From The Deep' is
another super heavy one that rivals the mighty track 'Sundown' in power, though
for the most part you're getting some heavy rock that's catchy. A good release,
but I'm still hoping to hear F.M. crank out the heaviness and really blaze a
trail leaving a scorched congregation in their wake, something that would truly
befit their name and leave them as the undisputed kings in the heavy rock AND
stoner rock scene. For now, though, I'll still keep singing 'The Broken' and
'Sundown,' oh yeah and the melodic 'Hellspeak' with it's emotionally powerful
sung vocals and great atmosphere. Listen to it more than a few times to truly
take in all this band has to offer.
Contact: Liquor And Poker Music.
FUNGOID STREAM "Celaenus Fragments" (Furias) SCORE: 91/100
Another band who is obviously influenced by H.P. Lovecraft, these songs are
rather simplistic in style, though they convey great atmosphere. It's obvious
that their music has some limitations, especially noting the preprogrammed
drums and the guitar work which sounds a tad artificial, however they do a
great job with what they have. One strange odyssey about this 5 song affair:
EVERY song clocks in at the 8 minute mark. Be it opener 'The Book' at 8:57 or
CD ender 'The Window' at 8:34, I wonder what their fascination with the number
8 is. Maybe I need to read more Lovecraft... The instrumentation takes on a
very solitary and lonely existence, oftentimes you'll find that when the
guitar work or the synth work is going, that's all you get, besides the harsh
almost death metal like vocals. I say "almost" because just about EVERYTHING
here sounds processed and totally UNTYPICAL, even if you are a fan of doom,
or even funeral/doom/death. The vocal work gets it's heaviest on tracks like
'The Book' and 'The Howler.' Surprise track 'Celaenus Fragments' shows that
these Argentinians aren't going to limit themselves even within their own
genre, for this track is synth and multivocal chants only (though some of the
angelic female multivocal work sounds almost entirely synth based. You'll even
hear some nice piano notations on many parts, and each 8 minute song is drawn
out but with enough diversity that you hear a lot for the simplistic nature of
the musical structures. One of the limitations of this band seems to be in it's
overt simplicity, making the last track drag on a bit towards the ending,
especially with the rather repetitive spoken word parts, and too, on 'The Key,'
where the instrumentation starts out sounding a bit off. Regardless of that
fact, it's obvious that the biggest thing going for Fungoid Stream is
atmosphere and a cosmic essence, which they have done very well. Can't wait to
Contact: Furias Records.
HEAVY LORD "From Cosmos To Chaos" (Solitude) SCORE: 63/100
This is unusual for me, as most Russian labels I know concentrate only on bands
from within their own region. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as
quite frankly if all you know about the Russian scene is Nokturnal Mortum and a
long forgotten industrial band named Stiff Miners, then there's obviously a LOT
of work left to be done to promote Russian musical endeavours. However, this
particular 4 piece hails from The Netherlands, and has a sound reminiscent of
not only Down, but Crowbar, nods to Pantera, and sludgy doom/death bands like
Eyehategod and others. This CD has the basics down as far as heavy, downtuned
stoner rock with doom/death elements and the almost southern feel of vocals and
instrumentation like Down and Crowbar, but for a 5 song affair, there's quite a
bit going on that definitely distracts one from enjoying the entire affair.
Track one, 'Elephaunt,' starts the CD off nicely, and this is the track that
will remind many of Down and Pantera to a degree, just slowed down quite a bit.
As for vocals, there's the low toned sung kind, and then there's the almost
black metal screeching which was not totally uncommon to hear Phil Anselmo do
from time to time. The only thing that got me on this song was the somewhat
strained, sung vocals which sounded almost off key. The Sleep like solo
instrumentation was nice to hear tho! 'Scorpion Sting' was what I would HAVE to
consider THE best song on the album. (Well, when you consider 5 songs an
"album," that is, despite the 40 minutes in length of the CD). The stoner rock
vibe comes full force on this one, especially with the rough sung vocals and
the sick screams once again. Then we move onto 'The Ego Has Landed,' an 8
minute affair they should have ended in at least half the time. One great note
about this track is the way the low toned vocals morph into an almost inhuman
death metal like sequence, without trying to sound demonic or anything. Even
the sung vocals are done at a bit higher of a tone, and for some reason this
doesn't detract from the overall vibe of the song (at least, not yet anyway).
There's definitely lots of sludgy guitar work coming on for ya, though what
ruins the second half of this song is the chaotic, speedy pace of the
instrumentation, especially when the lead guitars get slightly off key for my
tastes. So your ending is basically hard to sit through. 'One Is A Billion'
continues the annoyance factor, once again giving you bad stuff with good
stuff. The good: low toned sung vocals that give an extra dimension to the
sound, though the bad: wierd lead riffing and odd instrumentation throughout.
Some heavier riffs that go at a slower pace are good, and for the most part
they KNOW how to write decent song structures. They just refuse to do it for
the CD's length. CD ender 'While Empires Burn' seems unnecessarily too long
for it's 11 minutes in length, and the cool vocals now take on a wierd vibe,
especially considering the music is very minimal and quite strange. You have to
wait about 3 minutes before things get heavy again, only to drop right back
down to minimal instrumentation and odd sung vocals that are almost nerve
grating. The backbone of this project is sound, but there's definitely many
cracks that threaten to weaken the entire structure. Good stuff abounds, but so
does bad stuff.
Contact: Solitude Productions.
HUMAN FACTOR "Unleashed" (Mausoleum) SCORE: 80/100
How unusual that the label responsible for putting out more 80's metal than
damn near ANY other label in the world is STILL at it, over 20 years later!
This latest offering is coming to us from 5 amazing musicians hailing, of all
places, from Chile! Power metal with an emphasis on POWER, as CD opener 'Sky
Warning' kicks off into high gear with some heavy riffing! There's even a
female guitar player, and I'd LOVE to know if she's doing the 100 miles per
hour solos or the thrash, skull crushing riffing! The drumming is amazingly
tight, and you'll hear some very fast double bass work, especially on the first
opening minutes of the CD. This is DEFINITELY a lead solo lover's dream, as
often you'll find the lead solos go on for quite some time in many songs. What
keeps the endless barrage of soloing from being dull is the amazing power and
force of the thrashy and heavier guitar work, oftentimes RIGHT in the
background! 'Inside Hell' is more like a straightforward power metal number,
and Dan Elbelman can dip into a low range when the instrumentation calls for
it. 'Human Factor' (the song) has a nice way of building up to the soaring
vocal work of the choruses, a trick indeed since the song starts out (as do
most on this record, you'll find) fast, hard and heavy. 'We Are More' and
'Fire' continue this impressive mix of thrashy and power, until track 6, 'Be
The Hero.' The sung vocals and the slower than normal pace for these guys (and
gal) didn't work very well, and even the choruses are weak. 'Living In
Darkness' continues the annoyances, with the choruses being one of the main
(and sometimes only) highlights. The writing is even hit or miss on the solos,
something that to this point was very impressive. The band seems to run out of
steam, as the two tracks 'Time Traveller I' and 'Time Traveller II' (even on
song titles they were running out of ideas!?) are among the weakest cuts here,
with even the choruses sounding weak, and on 'T.T.I.' only the heavier
instrumentation is noteworthy. 'T.T.II.' isn't worse than 'I,' but the mainline
vocal/instrumentation mix is quite weak, with the choruses providing SOME
saving grace. By that time, someone must have said something to the band to
tighten it up, as 'See The Light' is a very good song complete with soaring
vocal work and nice structure changes, not nearly as dominating with the
heaviness as earlier tracks. Weaker choruses harm CD ender 'Faster' a bit,
though your mainline vocal/instrumentation mix is done well. Incidentally, the
vocals remind me a bit of Bruce Hall from Agent Steel, and when this guy is on,
he's spot on and full of power, but the odder moments of a tune don't help his
delivery any. Some weak spots but definitely a good bit of enjoyable tunes, a
CD that caught me a bit off guard. Not what USUALLY comes out of South America,
but enjoyable nonetheless (but not perfect).
Contact: Mausoleum Records.
IMPALED NAZARENE "Pro Patria Finlandia" (Osmose) SCORE: 93/100
Damn this is one SICK fucking record! The Finnish crew are drawing yet more
controversy, which is all good when an album this sick hits. THIS is the kinda
speed fest I can really dig, as the guitar riffs are just fucking sick!
Crushing tunes that really pump the rage into high gear, and with lyrics about
killing your neighbors ('Neighbourcide'), the usual sick goat stuff ('Goat
Sodomy,' which I might add is the sickest and most insane track on the record),
and the usual rants and raves against stupid society types and idiot people
that we all run into every day ('I Wage War' and 'Kut') I must say there's
something here for everyone needing to get frustrations out. Many of the songs
are fast paced, nearly all the way through the record, so to an extent this
album might seem a little long winded with 13 tracks. The album, however, only
clocks in at a mere 38 minutes, NO song goes over the 4 minute mark, so these
sick fucks get in, do the most possible damage, and get out. The lead solo work
is all over the place, almost sounding like a speedy power metal band but the
riffing on these solos is absolutely insane. In fact, the whole damn band
sounds like they just drank tons of alcohol, did tons of drugs, and got pissed
and frustrated to the point they were about ready to explode in fiery rage, and
channeled it all into this album. Mika's vocals are just as sick as ever, with
that black metal scream that nearly borders on power metal screaming, complete
with the death vocals. On the absolute best I.N. song ever, 'Goat Sodomy,' I
find it hard to believe Mika can be THAT long winded on the end of this track!
They even do a Macabre (the band) like death riff on this song! 'Psykosis' I
thought wasn't one of their better tracks, being a basic speed fest, and the
instrumentation/vocal mix at the end of 'Contempt' was a bit unnerving, but you
can't get this out of control and expect a perfect record. This is a damn good
record to put on when you feel pissed at the world, your job, the government,
or that fucking bitch who won't leave you alone! Grab a gun, 'cause in the
words of Mika: "This is the harvest of hate... So let's fucking die!!!" If you
like Impaled Nazarene then you're a goddamn fool for not owning this album.
Contact: Osmose Productions.
MOURNING BELOVETH "A Murderous Circus" (Grau) SCORE: 93/100
The Irish doom/death juggernaut strikes again, this time with a record that
definitely builds on the strength and heaviness of the more deathlike elements
of their game. This record by far accentuates the monstrous vocal work, which
probably makes this one of their heaviest yet. Be forewarned though. As heavy
as this is, it is also by far their LONGEST set of songs to date, as only
'Elemental Nausea" clocks in at under 14 minutes. The longest piece, clocking
in at an astonishingly 19 minutes and 42 seconds, could DEFINITELY have used
about 4 or 5 minutes on the cutting board, as they utilized the lone bass notes
and "walking" sounds, similar to what My Dying Bride did to one of their tracks
on their "Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light" album, and it definitely seems out
of place. There's a few other problems that crop up in a few other spots as
well, like the sudden, almost "rushed" transition on 'The Crashing Wave' from a
sort of sorrowful ambience to a sudden heaviness, complete with 4 death growls
that really weren't set up well. Those points aside, I thought that 'Elemental
Nausea' could have had a bit more variety, especially for the length here! Be
that as it may, there's still plenty to enjoy about this record, especially
since the acoustical passages are still here, and the singing vocals, minimal
though they are (kinda like the last record), still hold a nice change of pace
from what are mostly sick, twisted death metal vocals of a punishing caliber.
One of the best songs here is CD ender '...Yet Everything,' especially in the
sorroful doomy guitars close to the end of the track. The spoken vocals pop up
quite a bit too, but on 'Elemental Nausea' they're kinda pushed too far in the
background and difficult to pick up. If you liked their previous effort "The
Sullen Sulcus" (reviewed last issue) then there's no reason to let this album
fall by the wayside, as it's still very enjoyable and seems to be a bit more
in your face than their last release, while still holding your interest for
about an hour and 15 minutes, spread out over 5 songs.
Contact: Grau Records.
OBTEST "Is Kartos I Karta" (Ledo Takas) SCORE: 94/100
I REALLY like this band! The Lithuanian metal crew comes through yet again with
another winner of an album. To be perfectly honest, this record doesn't have an
overwhelming track like their previous record "Auka Seniems Dievams" (via the
title track from said album) but damn if this isn't one well written release.
First thing that jumps out at you? The guitar work. It's ALL over the place,
with majestic, high ended leads that convey almost a folkish atmosphere. Nearly
all the tracks presented here are fast paced, a tiny bit of a drawback to the
record (especially since the song 'Audronasa' is so overwhelmingly fast, it
chokes the life out of the vocals and instrumentation, leaving it one of the
weakest cuts on the album), but nonetheless a minor drawback. The lyrics, once
again like previous record "Auka Seniems Dievams," are sung entirely in
Lithuanian, but it really doesn't matter, does it? The coolest thing about the
vocalist is that he gets aggressive without ever getting all death metal style,
so those who have a problems with the growling will still think this is heavy.
Some might reminisce to the Gothenberg days on the guitar work, but let me
assure you, it's NOTHING like the 'Goth style! My favorite tracks are
'Is Kartos I Karta,' which is a lot of fun to hear, and 'Burtai,' which has a
definite folkish feel to it, even with the faster paced guitar work. They do
manage a few new twists to this record, things which I thought they should have
developed more. I don't have full packaging so I have NO idea who did this, but
the track 'Burtai' has some SICK black metal vocals on a few lines in the song,
never to be heard from again (sadly). CD ender has a nice multivocal chanting
thing going on to end the track, and the CD. Nice touches! I would love to hear
them develop this stuff more! Also, there's a LOT of lead solo work on damn
near every track, but these solos are crafted so well that you forget they're
actually not blazing away at 100 miles per hour. No, these are midpaced solos
that convey a LOT of atmosphere and emotions. A CD that was worth the wait, and
proving once again GREAT music can be found in other more remote corners of the
world besides Norway, Sweden or Finland.
Contact: Ledo Takas Records.
OLD SEASON "Volume One" (Alderwood) SCORE: 92/100
This was a pretty amazing find. Old Season hails from Ireland and plays metal
with an Irish/folk edge, somewhat reminiscent of Primordial. However, you won't
find ANY death or black metal vocals here, just a singer who soars with emotion
and passion. A greater shock to me was when I learned that the singer for Old
Season is ALSO the SAME singer for Mourning Beloveth!! I'm not sure which set
of vocals Frank Brennan does for Mourning, but it would fascinate me even more
if he was responsible for the death styled vocals! The band definitely shot
themselves in the foot by the song order, as CD opener 'And Sands She Turned
For Time' should have been the CD ender. This is one of the most amazing and
emotional tunes I've heard in awhile, and the synths drive the power of this
music home, along with the soaring vocal work. The synthesized passages, by the
way, sound rich and fully orchestrated, which leads me to believe they are
layered. No matter. Heavy guitars start off 'Mortals Of Mettle,' and it will
definitely remind one of Primordial, including some headbanging riffs that
prove this is more than just another folk/metal/Irish combination. The piano
notes were a nice touch, and especially on CD ender 'A Dwindling Seed' they
serve to accentuate the vocals nicely when the song decides to change
structure on you (a few of these tunes are, after all, 7 minutes in length).
'A Divine Plague' and 'The Sky Burns' are definitely darker in scope, and
the traditional metal instrumentation sometimes overpowers the singer to the
extent that sometimes you wish the tracks in question weren't quite as dark.
It seems they haven't quite perfected the darker, more metal oriented passages
in their sound, but the soaring vocal work more than makes up for some of these
shortcomings. I thought I heard violins on 'The Claw,' and once again I might
add that the sound is rich and layered with the guitars knowing when to step
into the background a bit. Varied and diverse is the work found within, and it
seems like the Primordial influence is only one small facet of the body of work
presented here. Irish bands that tout their heritage and musical roots are VERY
few and far between, and it seems like Old Season has become one more band to
boast about in the somewhat small but growing Irish music scene.
Contact: Old Season.
SATURNUS "Veronica Decides To Die" (Firebox) SCORE: 99/100
Just about anything getting released on Firebox these days is DAMN good
quality, and this is a band I have known NOTHING about except this is their
third or fourth release (depending on how you rank one of their EP's which
contains music found on a few other releases). I absolutely eat up doom metal
here, no doubt about that. THIS Danish band however offers a bit different fare
from what many are used to. For proof of this, check the track 'Pretend' with
the balls-out rockin' guitar work, bordering on stoner rock at times, and
presenting vocals that are a bit hardcore oriented but still otherwise quite
different! In fact, you'll find the vocal work throughout is diverse and
different from start to finish. You have clean spoken vocals (almost a
narrative, remembering that these lyrics are based on a book by the same name),
death metal styled vocals that are quite unique (and that's hard to do), and of
course the aforementioned hardcore styled vocals. 'I Long' is the 10 minute
track that starts the record off, with serene and melodic piano notes leading
into sorrowful and heavier guitar work. The synth notes here are definitely
reminiscent of more recent My Dying Bride, offering one link to their chosen
genre. One thing that annoyed me here was the rather fruity lyrics on a few of
the spoken word passages (though they're almost forgiveable, since they don't
make a constant appearance) but you cannot deny the impact of such strong and
masterful song writing! 'Rain Wash Me' will crush your soul with such emotional
weight, especially in the opening piano notations and ultimately giving way to
violins playing the same notes, and ultimately the heavier guitar work. This is
an amazing piece of work to say the least! 'Embraced By Darkness' and 'To The
Dreams' continue the CD on in a rather slow, doom/death fashion, but enhanced
and diversified by the unusually melodic approach. In this CD, the heavier and
darker passages are more an afterthought to the "beautiful sadness" and
melancholy and make for a different listen though still firmly entrenched in
the doom metal genre (dare I say doom/death?) The CD ender 'Murky Waters' shows
that once again these Danes aren't afraid to break the mold, as the catchy and
more rockin' guitars tread along different waters. This is simply an amazing CD
that will make you FEEL something. Something different and good, and I most
DEFINITELY want to track down their back catalog!
Contact: Firebox Records.
SATYRICON "Now, Diabolical" (Century Media) SCORE: 94/100
Surprised to see a Century Media release reviewed here? Well, thanks go out to
Greg from WREK FM here in Atlanta for providing me with an album I had been
eagerly awaiting. This is a pretty diverse piece of black metal, and once again
the "Kvlt and troo" assholes are making this to be a failure of an album, when
they need a kick square in the nuts. First off, this is black metal of a sick
and vicious nature, ESPECIALLY where the vocals are concerned. Satyr turns in
one of the most vicious and dealy venomous assaults I've ever heard from him,
and I think I know why. Many of these songs are a tad bit slower in scope, and
you get to hear the full range of depth and range of his sickened screams.
Think about it for a minute: if you don't have to sing 100 lines in the breadth
of a 3 minute song (due to rapid fire, speedier instrumentation) then you're
able to put more range and lungpower into each and every syllable. I should
know, as a vocalist myself (and one that appreciated the more subtle moments of
being in Hallows Eve). That being said, there's something downright creepy and
evil about some of the slower passages here, just dripping with a sick aura
that I definitely appreciated. The title track starts the CD off in fine
fashion, with some high energy lead riffs that are a bit more "rock" based, but
definitely kick ass. Not too fast but still keeps up a headbanging tempo.
'K.I.N.G.' was the surprise of the CD, as the guitar riffs, once again not too
fast, provide an almost stoner rock like quality, but in a more kick ass
fashion (think more like bludgeoning stoner rock like Rite or heavier moments
of Honcho, if that helps, not the dreamy, almost stoned out quality of many
other bands). It helps that the choruses to these songs are very catchy and
will stick in your head. What's wrong with writing black metal that is
memorable? 'The Pentagram Burns' continues the sick pace, with the more rock
like (and I really use that term loosely) riffs. 'The Rite Of War Cross' does
indicate where the rest of the CD is headed, as this track utilizes more of the
doomier styled instrumentation, especially with the wierder, almost dark
acoustic like guitars. Even the very sparse synths sound like apocalyptic
trumpets blowing! The doomier passages continue on in 'Delirium,' however this
song suffers a bit from them and really doesn't pique my interest until the
sung vocals and choruses, as there's a LOT of solo instrumentation. 'To The
Mountains' is an interesting tune, though a tad bit too long at over 8 minutes.
This track has the really sick, dark and doomy passages opening up, and my
biggest gripe with this (which seemingly is only noticeable on this song) is
the intense double bass drumming. When it occurs on the slower passages, it hit
me that the drums could have been louder, or more upfront in the mix (I'm not a
drum expert, so I don't know which), but there's no denying the skill and
variation Frost brings to the table. The ending of this particular song is
lengthened a bit, with basically a few dark and evil apocalyptic trumpet
blasts, and a repetition of the choruses, but it's an ending I will gladly sit
through. Finally, the bonus track (for the U.S. market at least) 'Storm' is
the shortest track here, and is an insanely fast more traditional black metal
piece. But sick vocals abound, folks, and some of the most diabolical and well
written instrumentation I've heard in a while. Good jobs at varying tempos, and
this still oozes darkness and some really sick evil fucking vibes.
Contact: Century Media Records.
SIENA ROOT "Kaleidoscope" (Nasoni) SCORE: 86/100
I absolutely LOVE this kind of stuff... Nasoni Records is still somewhat of an
enigma to me, as I was under the impression they focused on psychedelic/space
rock and maybe some 60's type stuff, but after the heavy as hell Samavayo, I'm
getting more and more impressed with the diversity of this label! Siena Root
hails from a very unlikely place (well, when you FIRST hear where they're from)
but it all makes sense as I'll explain later. First off, the music sounds like
very trippy psychedelic garage rock (at first) with very catchy melodies.
Opener 'Good And Bad' Has some NICE lead guitar work that invokes both Stevie
Ray Vaughn AND the god himself Jimi Hendrix... Yes, this man can SHRED! This
track hints at stoner rock but with the Hammon sounding organ you know this is
mainly aimed at a triipy, acid laced 60's vibe. (Isn't that where the stoner
rock scene evolved from ANYWAY!?). Lead vocalist Sanya turns in a VERY powerful
and energetic performance, and the only person I could really compare her to is
the late, great Janis Joplin, not just in sheer vocal expression, but the
powerful and awe inspiring performance she gives. My favorite track on the
record HAS to be the dark title 'Nightstalker,' and it's a great, rockin' tune!
Catchy choruses, psychedelic guitars and a touch of Caribbean sounding
percussion PROVES that you're in for quite a ride. 'Blues 276' is exactly what
it sounds like, a rather slow, bluesy like tune. Not sticking to strictly blues
however, this tune soon branches out into a nice improv jam with trippy guitar
effects and all in a 3:45 timeframe! Wow! MAJOR points off for the Indian/Hindu
'Bhairavi Dhun,' though, as this is nearly a complete waste of 9 minutes of the
album's time. The sitar and wierd guitar riffs were unbearable, even if there
were a few minutes of heavy guitar riffs. Points off to the first half of
'Crossing The Stratosphere' as well, as it was almost like a minimal noise
piece, dark though it was, that made me hit the fast forward button. Stick
around though, as the melodic Pink Floyd like atmosphere creates some of the
most beautiful melodies on the record. 'There And Back Again' goes back to what
this band does EXTREMELY well: ROCK! You even get a killer keyboard solo! And
dark instrumentation in spots! You want straight ahead biker rock? Well, Siena
Root does that too, with 'Ridin' Slow.' And of course they do nice jam sessions
which gives you the most etherial atmosphere one can create with guitars and
keyboards. CD ender 'Reverberations' is definitely worth the 11 minutes, as
they go full on into heavy jams and melodic passages, and the nice thing about
this track is the sounds and atmosphere are seemingly devoid of any REAL
guitars! Bass guitar, drums, keyboards and the occasional flute (which really
sounds more like a recorder to me [see your high school marching class if you
don't know what a reed-based recorder is]) alternate quite frequently between
heavy rockin' jams and melodic, mellow atmosphere, and it's definitely a
surreal experience! They do kinda ruin the ending of the song by trying to play
a chaotic, fast, noisy and destructive ending, but overall, there's not only
some BEAUTIFUL moments to be had, they can straight up ROCK your ass off! MUCH
diversity from a band I'd LOVE to hear more from! Oh, yeah, and here's the
final kicker... They're from Scandinavia!! SCANDINAVIA! Not the U.S. or the
U.K. like one would think. Surprised? Well, think about what great musicians
those Scandinavians are, and think back on the last 5 overseas bands you really
enjoyed. Amon Amarth? Swedish. Mayhem, Darkthrone, Enslaved, Immortal? Norway.
Even the stoner rock bands that come out of Scandinavia are of excellent
quality (Satellite Circle, Honcho & Gate 9 from Norway...)
Contact: Nasoni Records.
SUMMONING "Oath Bound" (Napalm) SCORE: 99/100
This is one of the most amazing bands in history, and EVERY Summoning album
I've ever heard (and I have a lot of them, going back as far as "Minas Morgul,"
"Lugburz," and even "Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame" and "Stronghold.") is
top notch, amazing quality. There's an interview with Agalloch this issue about
the definition of post rock, and I think Summoning has a bit of an element of
post rock in their sound (defining post rock as using traditional instruments
in untraditional ways), defined by the guitars not only being a bit more
upfront at times, but being utilized almost like synthesizers in ambient music
in that they create atmospheric landscapes that coincide with the majestic,
bombastic and epic synth work. There's even talk that they actually used a REAL
FLUTE on the CD ender 'Land Of The Dead.' Another first for Summoning, which
occurs on 'Land Of The Dead:' SUNG vocals! The last 4 or 5 minutes of this song
contains many male, multivocal styled choruses that sound almost unearthly, or
even otherworldly, you have to hear it to believe it! Leave it to Summoning to
wait until the near end of this 12 minute epic to unleash the choruses! That
being said, the CD opener 'Bauglir' starts things off with nice flutes, which I
think MUST be real, and a small spoken word sample. This track is a mere 2:58
and is the LAST track under 8 minutes you'll hear on this record. And some may
have a problem with the fact that the majority of the songs here are 8 minutes
in length, with one over 10 and the CD ender at 12, but the soundscapes and
cohesiveness of the formula works so well you've forgotten how much time has
passed. The vocals are still black metal based, nothing's really changed there,
and it's amazing how similar some of the structures sound to a few other songs
they've done but you get so lost in each overall song, you forget what else is
going on! Musically, this entire body of the band's work should have been the
official soundtrack to the Lord Of The Rings movies, but I can hammer that
point home all day. The vocal samples are almost completely absent, save for a
few tracks, instead concentrating on the music and vocals (maybe there wasn't
enough out there to fit the storyline, which I don't think was taken from the
Lord Of The Rings series). The guitar work may not start off each and every
track, but they make an appearance shortly after the synths and percussion,
which I might add said percussion is still a very unique mix of tribal and
militaristic. 'Mirdautas Vras' is the most interesting song here as it contains
lyrics sung entirely in the ancient language of the Orcs from Middle Earth, and
the very essence of this song has you conjuring up images of a huge Orc army
storming the landscape in a march to war. (The song title is said to mean, in
the Orcish language, 'A Good Day To Kill.') I could go on and on about this
record, but suffice it to say if you're thinking there's no original bands left
anymore, or no band that does something that is entirely different from what
the rest of the world is doing, you need to pick up on what Summoning's been
doing for the last 10 years or so now. A masterpiece in a genre that Summoning
created and rules all their own.
Contact: Napalm Records.
THE ABSENCE "From Your Grave" (Metal Blade) SCORE: 92/100
How shocked I was to find out that this was produced by Erik Rutan! To be 100
percent honest, I have liked NOTHING Eric has put his hands on, from his own
mess of a death metal band Hate Eternal, to Dim Mak, even up to his odd vocal
work and guitar parts on one of Morbid Angel's last ("Gateways To Annihilation"
I believe it was). This is the first thing I can think of that he did right.
Vocal wise, this is very sick and vicious, and will remind some of the
unavoidable comparisons to bands like Soilwork, Dark Tranquility and At The
Gates, but it seems to have a bit of black metal bite as well. The most
amazing thing about this record is the guitar work! There's shredding all over
the place, and more sweet melodic guitar leads than you can shake a G-string
at! Riffing usually couples heavy, almost thrashy/choppy riffs with the
melodic leads, though the more melodic guitar work is always in the forefront.
The songs for the most part are fast paced, and one of my biggest complaints is
the fact that many songs have similar guitar structures, especially when songs
like 'From Your Grave' and 'My Ruin' almost have interchangeable parts. Sure,
it's all incredibly varied solo wise, especially when the leads are allowed to
run by themselves. 'Necropolis' and 'From Your Grave' are very catchy, and
'I, Deceiver' is just fucking sick! This track has a bad ass set of heavy
riffs unline many other songs which start out with a melodic base. This is
probably the most psychotic song on the CD, especially since the singer is
seemingly so out of control and just raging! 'Heaven Ablaze' I thought was one
of the weaker tracks here, simply due to the rather weak choruses, and a
feeling that the guitar work is simply TOO melodic for this demon of a singer.
Hailing from Tampa, Florida of all places, this is a band that has a decidely
European sound and edge, and is highly worth checking out. Trust me, the skill
of the guitarists shine through making many of the weaker points take a
backseat, and there's enough intensity and fury to make a mosh pit fucking
MOVE! Even CD ender 'Seven Demons' had a most interesting use of loudly sung
vocals, which were hard to get used to at first, but added an interesting
twist to an otherwise VERY interesting CD. I really HATED the fact that they
couldn't show up for their gig in Spartanburg, where Vader, Kataklysm,
Destruction, Graveworm and Speed Kill Hate all kicked ass.
Contact: Metal Blade Records.
THE WIZAR'D "Follow The Wizard" (Rusty Axe) SCORE: 94/100
A nice 5 song EP that's a bit too short, in my opinion, despite the fact that
two songs are close to the 9 minute range. 'The Devil In The Woods' starts off
with a vocal sample from what sounds to me like a Doctor Who episode (more on
THAT later), especially given the accents on the dialogue. This is a nice, slow
and doomy piece, and the guitars have a rather unique sound to them, which
helps create the dark and doomy atmosphere. Lead vocals are rather low toned
and help add to the oppressive atmosphere. There's good lead solo work as well,
and besides doom metal this Australian group cites some NWOBHM bands as their
main influences. 'The Goblin Washes His Feet' was a nice, but short, 1 minute
acoustic instrumental, though nothing like the rest of the album, and one
wishes for a bit more of a "song" since there's only 5 tracks here. 'Life
Eternal' has very cool lead guitar work; this one's more a midtempo pace and
the leads are nice and high toned, somewhat lending to a doomier NWOBHM vibe.
Nice lead solos abound here as well, and the "oh yeah!" chant near the end
lends itself to doomy Sabbath worship. The vocal work on 'The Doom That Came To
Devil's End' took some getting used to, as they're a bit higher toned and seem
more shouted or yelled than sung, but interesting notes about the lyrics, they
seem to describe a very cool Dr. Who episode The Daemons quite well, on down to
mentioning The Master, The Vicar, and of course the entity he eventually
summoned Azal. And 'Funeral Circle' ends the CD off nicely, going back to the
low toned vocals and very sinister overtones. I'd definitely love to hear more
from this band, as it's a damn good release!
Contact: Rusty Axe Records.
VENOM "Metal Black" (Sanctuary) SCORE: 91/100
This record is not quite as lethal a followup as "Resurrection," but it's still
a damn good record from a band who has delivered the goods, for the most part,
since the early, EARLY 1980's. 'Antechrist' starts the CD off rather
explosively, and Cronos and company don't waste any time fucking around. They
give you the heavy shit in spades, though the production is a bit muddier this
time around than the crisper, clearer production we heard on their last full
length. It's mainly the drums that suffer a bit from the production, as some of
the double bass riffs seem to get a bit lost, but everything else is in pretty
good shape. Cronos' voice is still as sick and lethal as ever, though the
majority of points taken off this record are for some of the more awkward sung
parts, which sounds like he's trying too hard to sing loudly. Take 'House Of
Pain,' for instance, where the choruses are cool but the rest of the song I'm
not comfortable with. And what's with that fast spoken delivery on the title
track? And 'Rege Satanas' had wierd choruses as well, annoying me still was the
overrepetitive singing of 'Satanas' for the last minute or so through the
fadeout of the song. The lead guitar work is quite skilled, I even heard some
Middle Eastern sounding riffs on tunes like 'Hours Of Darkness' and
'Maleficarum,' the latter song most noteworthy as it has sung vocals that DO
work, along with a lengthy 6 minutes that has quite a lot going on to keep it
interesting. Speaking of, the tempos vary from raging speed to a rather slower
pace than you usually hear from Venom (well, except for stuff like 'Raise The
Dead,' tracks like that), and are never the focal point of any one song for too
long. Variety is the name of the game, even if many of the songs are structured
around the same guitar riffs. 'Darkest Realm' reminded me a bit of the song
'Pandemonium' from "Resurrection," complete with the lyrical themes and heavy
riffs intact. Pounding percussion mixes with the thrashier riffs quite nicely,
and adds an extra edge of heaviness to songs that Venom has been capable of
writing for years. 'Lucifer Rising' is probably the only OTHER song on a 14
track affair I'd have to skip over (those choruses are simply ridiculous) and
that's a pretty good bet, despite all the other little distractions here and
there. Venom fans should go and pick this up... Hell, even non Venom fans
should give it a spin.
VOIVOD "Katorz" (The End) SCORE: 88/100
I was most definitely disappointed with Voivod's first album for The End after
Jason Newsted first joined, but all doubts and fears have been put to rest. As
many of you already know, many of the guitar parts were written by Piggy
shortly before his death, and the rest of the band did a masterful job putting
everything together to make one enjoyable record. To be sure, Voivod STILL does
the quirky stuff that at times makes me cringe, like the overrepetitive
choruses on 'Odds & Frauds,' and some of the wierd guitar work and odd
multivocal pieces on 'Mr. Clean.' And I must say I wasn't crazy about 'No
Angel,' especially with those overrepetitive "nah-nah-nah's" thrown in at the
end. But that's Voivod, and not everything they envision is going to be
agreeable. SUch is their charm. However, they are mostly spot on, as even the
aforementioned tracks have enough heaviness and Voivod uniqueness that it all
comes together eventually. Like the best example would be 'Red My Mind,' where
I'm not sure about hearing the odd guitar work and the oddly sung vocals, but
once the song picks up, everything comes into focus, like putting on glasses to
finally make out what seems strange at first. The CD starts off very well, with
'The Getaway' being a furious thrash fest, and the sneering, almost snotty
vocals that are unique to Snake and Snake alone! Headbangers can rejoice and
crank this up LOUDLY, as 'Dognation' comes into play with some dark guitar work
and low toned, sneering vocals. And of course the almost thrashy, start/stop
riffs work their magic when done Voivod style. The sung vocals are composed a
LOT better here than on the previous record, and for the most part this is a
damn good record. Don't expect perfection, but it's a record Piggy could
definitely be proud of, were he here today. A monumental tribute to his memory,
and a well done effort by the rest of the band.
Contact: The End Records.
YYRKOON "Unhealthy Opera" (Osmose) SCORE: 89/100
Every time I think there's very little left in the death metal genre for me to
enjoy, along comes a band like this that reopens the doors for me. Hailing from
France, my curiosity was already piqued due to their fascination with H.P.
Lovecraft's world. That's as good a starting point as any. The brutal death
metal vocals mix with the pounding percussion quite well and really drive this
thing through your head! The thrashy guitar work also helps things along, and
the entire presentation is very fucking brutal death metal. I also detected
some slight black metal tendencies on the vocals in many spots. After the short
intro, 'Unhealthy Opera' (the title track that is) starts things off fast and
vicious, which is what you get a good "unhealthy" dose of for the majority of
this disc. These vocals are sick and quite monstrous, folks, no lying! 'From
The Depths' continues things on, and one thing I take a slight annoyance with
is some of the lead solo work in spots (starting with this track) that didn't
do much for me. 'Abnormal Intrusion' sees a few more lead solos that could have
been thought out better, and on 'The Book,' I'm not too happy with a few main
leads opening up the song and continuing throughout. Don't get me wrong, though
because these guys can definitely play, in fact for every quirk on a few tracks
there's a 'Horror From The Sea' where you'll find quite a bit of soloing that
really catches you. 'Injecting Dementia' throws in sick thrashy guitar work all
the way through, and even the bonus track is quite intense. My favorite tracks
are 'Avatar Ceremony,' not least of which because there's catchy chorus work
all around, and 'Of Madness,' with it's 500 tempo changes in one song! There
are, by the way, slower passages in these songs, it's not all a blazing speed
fest, though I do prefer the structure changes and diversity to an all out
speed fest in the vein of, say, 'The Book.' CD bonus track 'Signs' is
DEFINITELY no throwaway track either, surprising as it is the only tune to
feature nice, clean sung vocals and harsh vocals more akin to black metal (not
sure WHERE in their history this seemingly out of place tune fits). Two
instrumentals also break the pace a bit, but you'll find that these are very
dark and eerie acoustic passages that do a good job of conjuring up images of
far off shores. Not the most original sound on the block, but a damn brutal one
that will have you wanting to take an interest in the career of crushing French
Contact: Osmose Productions.
AGALLOCH. Interview with Don Anderson.
When a new Agalloch record comes it, it deserves and demands immediate
attention! Being called everything from the Pink Floyd of black metal, to
creating one of the most important albums in music's history, Agalloch is
indeed, without a doubt one of the most important bands in music's history.
EVERY album they've EVER done has consistently scored a 95 or above, and their
newest masterpiece "Ashes Against The Grain" is set to do so yet again. We
interviewed the vocalist many issues ago, but this interview with the main
guitar writer was equally as important; especially since much of the amazing
and uplifting atmospheres were created by him and him alone.
This new record "Ashes Against The Grain" is absolutely amazing:
unfortunately I don't have any of the lyrics so maybe you can tell me what's
going on in the songs. I'm not sure if you write any of the lyrics or not.
I don't do any of the lyric writing. We're continuing to evolve the major
themes, conceptually speaking, that Agalloch deals with. Like as the loss and
desperation of hope, and of course melancholia and the struggle between mankind
and nature. I think with this album we wanted to end on a much more nihilistic,
hopeless note. "The Mantle" definitely ends on a hopeful note, 'Desolation
Song' is sort of an afterthought, but the album ends on a more uplifting
thought. The recording of this album was plagued by a lot of terrible, terrible
things. During the recording I was going through a divorce, and my father was
succumbing to cancer. After recording it, my friend Florian from Escape The Day
commited suicide. And so the entire album was produced under a lot of stress
that we all suffered from, existential melancholy. That's why the album ends on
'The Grain' which is really catastrophic. And despite being a noisy piece, it
definitely has a melody underneath it. The lyrics; basically it's all one story
and I'm really happy with John's lyric writing, because he's taken a more
abstract, allegorical edge. A bit more simplified, not quite as gory as the
older stuff. As far as any singular meaning, there really is no singular
meaning; we like to leave things open to multiple meanings.
A LOT of bands write like that nowadays, it's like no one really
wants to be tagged as too preach with their lyrics. Unless you're strictly in
an old school black metal band (laughs)
And it's too cliche to be in a metal band and write about depressing things,
so the best thing to do is to continue to write about depressing, dark things.
But the more ambiguous you get with it, the less cheesy your cliche comes
across. I feel like these songs are thinly veiled in some way. It's not just
another band singing about depression and darkness.
What's the deal with your keyboardist, I read that Shane Breyer is
on "sabbatical" due to lack of interest in music, has that issue been resolved
Well, Breyer's role has always been there. He doesn't really play keyboards in
the band, but he's always composed the orchestral synth pieces, like 'The
Misshapen Steed' and 'A Poem By Yeats.' I've always loved his work, both with
Agalloch and his other projects. Shane has gone on to containment school, and
is finishing his doctorate's degree. It's something I can relate to as I am
also pursuing a doctorate's degree and it's a lot of work; sometimes music has
to take a back seat. Shane's not really a trained musician, but he is a
brilliant keyboardist and composer and we all sorely miss his work. We've been
trying to convince him and we think he's getting more motivated to finish
things up in school to do a Susurrus Inanis album. There's really no difference
between Susurrus Inanis and the pieces he's written for Agalloch; that's kind
of his thing. It's not impossible, it's just that he's had to shift focus to
other areas of his life.
I'm curious about the fact that after "The Mantle" was released,
you went through this phase where you were just releasing EP's in 2003 and
2004, and I'm wondering if these were experimental pieces (as I've heard that
most of the material here is mainly instrumental), or just songs that didn't
quite fit the concepts of Agalloch.
It was definitely pieces we were experimenting with. You can sort of see that
album "The Mantle" as a point where we were going "oh god, what are we going to
do, let's try incorporating different styles." And I think "The Mantle" is just
us trying on different hats, musically. I said it before, I think it's somewhat
of a confused album, though I love it, but it seems really unfocused because we
were bringing in new things and trying new influences.
I love this album as well.
We looked at the small releases like the 10 inch split and the "Gray" EP, even
the "Tomorrow Never Comes" 7 inch, as a way to produce a minor statement that
won't necessarily be configured as part of our "major" material. They're
limited releases, so they shouldn't be taken as major points in our musical
development. The "Gray" EP is sort of that pure, post rock approach, and the 10
inch is almost pure folk. We were just trying to find ourselves, and the great
thing about doing these one offs, experimental pieces, is it really helped us
compose and produce "Ashes Against The Grain." Because through all that
experimentation we finally really found our voice and felt more comfortable
with making a singular, musical statement. I think "Ashes..." is a more focused
"Mantle," but had we not gone through these one off releases, I don't think we
could have done such a strong album.
With "The Mantle" there were a lot more singing vocals, and this
record goes back to having a majority of blackened vocals. I gotta be honest
with you, the track 'Bloodbirds' is one of the most amazing Agalloch songs I've
ever heard, and I love all three records. (laughs) This is going to sound wierd
but it almost sounds like an instrumental jam session for the first few
minutes, kinda like a Greatful Dead slash Pink Floyd thing.
Yeah, yeah. Some of my guitar work on 'Bloodbirds' and also 'Our Fortress Is
Burning,' a lot of that stuff is improvised and it's just one of those magical
moments you get in one take, and it just fits right. I LOVE David Gilmoure and
Pink Floyd, and he's very economical. I really try to space out my notes... I
can't remember who said it, but one great guitarist, maybe Stevie Ray Vaughn or
David Gilmoure, made the comment that you should imagine that each note is
really expensive. You have to be really economical and make them matter. I try
to take that approach, especially with that song in particular.
That song is absolutely amazing, the notes on that... If you don't
feel something when you hear that song, then you're quite simply not fucking
alive. That's one of the most amazing set of emotional passages I've ever
Thank you. And not to get too metaphysical with the music, but I was going
through a lot of difficulty; and that was one of those one take things. I had
just gone through the divorce papers and dealt with a lot of terrible things.
That guitar solo, that was coming straight through the heart.
People are going to say instrumentation wise, there's not a whole
lot in common with black metal, but vocal wise, there IS of course. What was
your take on trying to combine the harsher, colder black metal style with other
influences that aren't so readily apparent in music today. I'm guessing you're
one of the main songwriters.
Yeah. Me and John basically collaborate 50/50 back and forth through the song
writing. And then Jason as well, comes up with his own bass playing. We all
kind of write our own parts. It's just a matter of rearranging and rewriting,
and what not, a lot of negotiations. It's a productive relationship. But we all
grew up on Norweigan black metal, like Enslaved, Ulver, Burzum, Darkthrone.
All these bands mean a great deal to us. Around the period of "The Mantle" John
and I were really interested in trying to combine the sound of a band like
Godspeed! You Black Emperor and that whole post rock scene with black metal. If
you listen to it, the guitar picking, the melody lines; everything is very
similar. The double picking you find in post rock is identical to what you find
in Norweigan black metal... a lot of the single notes. We didn't think it was
that far of a leap to go between the two genres. Like the song 'Limbs,' the
very last part following the acoustic breakdown, it's difficult to tell if this
is post rock or black metal because the guitar riffs are kind of mediating
between the two. All the genres that we try to represent we find them all to be
incredibly complementary, whether it's neo-folk, post rock or black metal. It's
all dark music. What my right hand does picking wise, it's very close. We were
very shocked when we recorded 'Limbs,' that first part we recorded when John's
vocals comes in, to me it just sounds like total Enslaved. It was totally
unexpected, that just kinda happened, but that was the first song we tracked.
So we were like 'let's make sure the foundation IS cold, grim, Norweigan black
metal.' Because that's what we love. But let's still negotiate these other
It's funny to me to hear you mention "post rock," because I've
heard Godspeed! You Black Emperor mentioned even amongst a few friends in my
area. And I'm kind of embarassed to admit that I have NO idea what post rock
is, you know me being the music magazine editor and writer with 15 years of
music experience. I haven't heard the band yet however.
But you're not alone, and you have to be suspicious of ANYTHING that uses that
prefix 'post.' Because when you put "post" in front of anything , it has the
strange effect of making something old seem new.
Like post modern...
Exactly. To me post rock, if I had to pick the ultimate band, it would be
something like Sonic Youth. Rock bands that use traditional imstruments in
non traditional ways, which really has it's genesis in the modern classical
music. So when guitars are scraping the strings, doing odd tunings or whatever,
making a lot of noise with the guitar... That's not terribly new, but it's new
for rock music... I guess you could think of post rock as where the guitars
are taking on the role of a keyboard, more ambient rather than playing a
I guess Voivod could be kind of considered in that vein. I know
they did somewhat spacecy things with their guitars, especially all the way
back to "Killing Technology."
Oh yeah, again, it's just whenever traditional rock instruments are used non
traditionally. That warrants the prefix "post." And Voivod DEFINITELY, in terms
of tonality, were way ahead of what else was going on. So you can draw a good
parallel between Sonic Youth and Voivod.
I remember the interview I did with John awhile ago.. I remember
meeting him in person, as his girlfriend lived in Suwanee at the time. I do
recall him saying that you weren't planning on being a touring band, it was
more of the label's thing and you were just content to make music and kind of
distance yourself from the metal scene. Now I see that you guys are preparing
to do shows and tours. So I'm wondering what changed between that time and now.
The first thing was, we started out as a studio band. And there were two
reasons for that, one was because John did both drums and guitars AND vocals.
So there was no way to play live because we didn't have a drummer. Then the
second thing was, we never think to ourselves, "how can we reproduce this thing
live?" We would rather have complete freedom in the studio to make the most
layered and interesting album without the burden of going "how are we going to
reproduce this live?" So those are two obstacles besides just having a job and
that sort of thing. And then we found Chris, and The End Records was pressuring
us to play live. We weren't anti live, or even anti metal or anything. But with
Chris we tried rehearsing and we rewrote a lot of songs and rearranged a lot of
things for the live set. And we had a wonderful time, it was a lot of fun going
out on tour with Virgin Black and Antimatter. It's wonderful to rearrange the
songs so they sound a bit different live; we're a different band live.
There was a lot of talk about your few appearances live; people
have said, especially referring to the Day Of The Equinox festival, that seeing
an Agalloch show live had transcended anything they had ever seen in live music
It's nice to hear, because we're a rock band live. We can't reproduce a lot
live because there's too many guitars. So we rewrite a lot.
What is Chris's band The Waking Cold like?
The Waking Cold is similar to what Jason does with his band Nothing. It's dark
electronics, ambience, noisy stuff. It's very good. Chris actually wrote 'The
Grain,' and 'This White Mountain On Which You Will Die.' I think he has a
myspace page where you can hear his stuff.
Speaking of webpages, I see where you finally got a webpage up and
running for Agalloch!
It's taken a long time; we just wanted to find the right person and the right
time. We just want everything we do to be of the utmost highest quality we can
achieve. And neither one of us are webdesigners. A guy who was a big fan
offered to do it.
I know it's probably too soon, but maybe you guys have started
thinking about the next record and what it entails?
We have definitely thought about it. This is the first time where the slate is
completely wiped clean. It's nice. Because we always have riffs sort of laying
around, songs laying around even AFTER we've recorded an album. But this time
we're completely blank, and I know we're interested in going sort of more a,
well... I don't want to say "technical," but we're trying to get a little more
progressive. I always joke around with John that we're like a darker, more
slower Ramones! (laughs). We don't use many more than three or four chords a
lot of times. I think the changes with Agalloch will be like trying other keys,
chart minor or something. Different key signatures, different riffs... We're
kinda tired of the pining, Katatonia type riffs. I don't really want to say
technical, because then people think of like Atheist and Death. That's not what
That's so wierd when you say you use only three or four chords,
because it seems like a mind's trick; like you're doing so much with so little.
These passages are just so deep and emotional. I'm not a guitar player so I
don't know the technicality of these things.
There's a lot of layering, you know? The way it works is that John will record
like a really basic demo, one or two guitars. And then he'll mail it to me and
I'll get it and fill in some of the spaces: the chords, the harmonies. There's
a lot of layering: doing a lot with so little. People compare us to Opeth a lot
and that's always perplexing to me because we're nowhere near as technical as
them. I think we're trying to move into a more technical area because we
haven't explored that yet. That's what lies ahead.
Have you seen a lot of press for this album yet? I've seen a lot of
positive reviews, but I'm curious what you've read.
I've seen a lot of warm comments from listeners, and I've seen one review from
progarchives.com which was probably one of the best reviews I've ever
seen; not just because it's positive and well written but it's REALLY
analytical. I really appreciate that because we put so much time into making an
album that when I see a journalist really take their time with it it's really
Was there any bad press you saw; things that really stood out for
I've heard some people say it was boring (I have to laugh here - Ed.) and to me
boring is just... you need to take time to get into it.
I find that hard to believe; I got into it right away, and I love
music. I love music that really hits you on so many different levels, and I
think the whole explanation of layering makes things a bit more clear to me.
And I've had some people say it's happier, which I can't see at all.
Now I DEFINITELY can't see that! Still though, when someone says
"mature" about a band, you kinda wonder sometimes. Does that mean they're
saying the band has abandoned their roots in favor of other sounds, or does it
mean that the band has really tapped in and captured the very essence of what
the band is really all about. You know what I mean?
Oh yeah, absolutely. This album is more uptempo and I think people confuse that
with "upbeat." But we're still the same Agalloch. Early on we made a comment on
The End Records' website about how this record would be more rock based. But
what we really meant was exactly what 'Falling Snow' sounds like. It's more
uptempo, it's more rockin' but it's still dark, it doesn't mean it's any less
What's really funny is the people that I play this record to;
people that at least have SOME musical knowledge of like black metal
especially. The first thing I hear is "Where in Europe are these guys from?"
(Laughs.) Even the pictures in the booklets, song titles, and what not; people
REALLY think you guys are from Norway, and I'm like, "No, they're from Oregon!"
And I get people calling me a liar, calling me all kinds of names, swearing up
and down you people CAN'T be from the U.S.! It's SO hilarious!
But Oregon, especially the environment here, it's just as beautiful and
picturesque as the Norweigan landscapes. We've tried to have what we kinda term
as Northwest Pride, so to speak. ALL our photography is either from Portland,
Oregon or somewhere in the Northwest. You know, like the Shining lodge. We try
to reference American writers and American filmmakers. And we're REALLY into
American culture, "The Mantle" was really influenced by that film "Dead Man."
Rather than quoting someone like Nietzsche on our albums, we'd rather quote
someone like Walt Whitman, or Henry David Thoreau. Those sort of writers are
important to us.
It's funny to me talking about influences and definitions: I don't
know if you've ever been to my site but in the classic albums section I have
close to 900 (as of this interview) 80's metal albums you can listen to in
their entirety, and to me it's like, yeah, I'm an American, but when people
tell me there's not a site like mine ANYWHERE in the world, I'm like, but you
know, this REALLY is a site that you should think comes from Europe, not the
United States. The Europeans' dedication to 80's metal is absolutely astounding
and I kinda have people react in the same way about me sometimes.
Well, Metallica is a good example of being influenced by the British stuff. Me
too, I mean I grew up on Iron Maiden and that has a lot to do with the way I
write music and the way I come up with melodies.
I heard there's a tour coming up, is this an extensive tour going
across the States or what?
Not a sustained tour. The problem with us is that I live about 4 hours north
from the band, so it's very hard to stay rehearsed. Right now the guys are
rehearsing on their own, and then I kinda come down when I can and rehearse
with them. And then Jason has a year old daughter and a wife; it's really hard
for him to take more than a week off. So those sort of problems combine;
responsibilities get in the way of doing a sustained tour, so we try to do
scattered shows here and there. If we get some offers to come out east and it
fits with our life schedules we would. We love playing live, we wish we could
take a month off and just tour the States. I teach for a living and I can't
take time off from school, because then my students would have to take a month
You don't get summers off?
I do get summers off, but it's too late for a summer tour. Maybe next summer,
that would be great.
I was looking through your discography and I noticed a demo called
"From Which Of This Oak," and I'm curious about this since it predates your
first album by about 3 years. I'd love to hear it, how does it sound?
I met John for the first time not long before that demo. He heard me play
guitar and he asked if I could cut some solos on this demo for a band he just
came up with (Agalloch). And I just play the solos on that, I didn't do any
rhythym guitars. But it sounds VERY New Wave Of Swedish Heavy Metal, like early
Dark Tranquillity, early In Flames. Both John and I are into that but John was
REALLY into that. The only song we resurrected was 'As Embers Dressed The Sky.'
That sounds the most Agallochian. We kept that song but the other two songs,
'The Wilderness' and 'This Old Cabin,' they sound WAY too Swedish death metal.
You should rerelease that, maybe along with the 1998 promo. I've
talked to some people who would REALLY like to hear that.
We've talked about that too, that's definitely a possibility for the future.
I think as Agalloch gets more popular, people will be really interested in
hearing what were our origins.
I know The End has done a lot of stuff for you guys. I remember
their very first release was the first Mental Home Record, and I originally
thought that The End was just a U.S. base to distribute Russian bands to a U.S.
market. I remember working with Andreas and now he seems to have moved on, is
he still involved with the label?
He still is the owner, but what's funny is that he's hired a lot of people. I
was in one of the first bands signed to The End Records, and that's Sculptured.
Which is my main band, I guess you could say. It was Mental Home, Nokturnal
Mortum, and Sculptured. I met Andreas back in '98 just as he was beginning to
start up the label. It's amazing how quickly it has grown. And early on, none
of the bands played live, so it's even more amazing how it grew despite that.
I've never been on any other label, he's just fantastic. Very generous, very
family oriented. He went to Jason's wedding even! He goes on tour with us, he
sleeps on the floor (laughs). He buys us lunch and stuff; there's no better
label. And we have complete creative control.
I'm going to ask quite a few bands about this, but I'm sure you get
all the latest releases from The End. Something I'm curious about, have you
ever heard the earliest Dissection stuff, and what do you think about the new
Dissection record? So many people have ragged on the new record, of course,
it's mainly the "cult and true" black metal "elite." I'm surprised at how many
people say they don't like it, I thought it was a great release.
I used to do a fanzine back in 1995. And I got to hear Dissection for the first
time with "The Somberlain." So I was able to follow them from the very
beginning. When "Storm Of The Light's Bane" came out my friends and I thought
"This is the new Reign In Blood." That album was SO landmark, it was snowing
outside when I got it, it was a wonderful feeling and is easily one of most
favorite metal albums of all time: nothing else tops it. And I actually
interviewed Nodveidt back in 1995-1996, this was before he got taken to jail. A
lot happens in 11 years. What was so stellar about Dissection was that they
were able to cohesively combine German speed metal with Scandinavian black
metal and the Gothenberg sound. All three styles are DEFINITELY in there,
sometimes in the same song! Sometimes you'd hear Kreator, In Flames and then At
The Gates, but then you'd hear Emperor. It's beautiful. The new album, I can
say that I DO like it, but it definitely doesn't have that same combination.
But the songwriting is absolutely incredible (on the new record). I really
like the new Dissection!
Anything else you want to say before we wrap this up?
We filmed a video for 'Not Unlike The Waves,' which is supposed to be on MTV,
Headbanger's Ball at some point.
That should be interesting; of course Headbanger's Ball is said to
not be like it was back in the day. I don't have cable, so I have yet to see
Well, I do see them playing like Crisis, which is an End Records band. There's
other video channels we're supposed to be on. The video is definitely
representative of our favorite filmmakers. I can see the influence of Ingmar
Bergman definitely. I've only seen the raw footage though.
CANNIBAL CORPSE. Interview with Alex Webster via phone.
You wanna talk a little bit about your new record?
The album is entitled "Kill" and it's our tenth studio album. It was produced
by Eric Rutan and recorded in St. Petersburg.
I thought it rather interesting you decided to use Eric as a
producer. That's a different change for you guys.
It was the first time we used Eric, but it's only the third different studio we
ever did an album in. It was different for us because the studio was rather new
and gear was still being bought for it, whereas most other studios we worked in
were already established for a long time. But we had more than enough gear for
what we needed to do. Eric did a really good job; everything turned out really
good I think. He has a background as a death metal guitar player, which added a
different perspective on it; especially since he's worked with a lot of death
Well, to be honest (at the time of this writing) I had only heard a
few tracks on the local Atlanta radio station I sometimes guest host at...
Tell that radio station I appreciate it!
One thing I've ALWAYS been curious about, and I've read lots of
interviews but I've never seen it mentioned anywhere... I'm guessing that for
maybe your first four albums, the artwork to me reminds me of the comic book
Deadworld that I read several years ago, is that the same artist, because it
looks strikingly similar.
It's the same guy, he did all of our stuff for the most part. He didn't do the
cover of the new album but he did the interior. It's actually underneath the
disc. But that's how we found out about him was by reading Deadworld comics.
We thought it would be really appropriate for our band. In the beginning we
were trying to figure out what we wanted to do with the band, and of course the
band name being Cannibal Corpse. So we got him to do the first album cover and
we were so pleased with it that we've had him do every one ever since.
Have you ever had anyone ask you this question? I know you've done
countless numbers of interviews over the years...
No, usually they know about Vince through us, more than they know about the
Deadworld comic. That's the first time somebody wasn't sure about him, because
usually they find out about Vince through us, and they do a little research on
him and then find out he did Deadworld, not the other way around.
His artwork is very striking, especially those zombies with the
ribs sticking out, and they're usually very violent and bloody creatures!
He's definitely into the really lanky looking type of zombies. Almost
Now I know you guys have been with Corpsegrinder for awhile; I
remember reading an interview with Lamentations Of The Flame Princess where he
made a quote that Monstrosity was like the farm team for Cannibal Corpse (in
referring to Corpsegrinder coming to Cannibal directly from Monstrosity).
Oh, man... I'm sure that's definitely not how they would like to be seen. I
know George had to be joking when he said that.
How are you viewing death metal these days, because for awhile
there with the advent of Norweigan black metal, death metal seemed to become a
thing of the past. Of course I know that black metal was supposedly the answer
to death metal becoming soft. But of course over those years you had the
pioneers who kept death metal going, like Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower, and of
course you guys. And what's even more amazing is that no matter WHAT genre of
music took hold in the world, mainly the U.S., Cannibal Corpse was ALWAYS and
still is hugely popular.
We were always able to explore any kind of upswing or downswing in the death
metal scene, and we've been pretty strong throughout. I dunno, I think people
are always looking for something new and that's maybe where the black metal
thing came from. Of course, black metal and death metal have the same roots
anyway. But after awhile, you're just going to eventually end up listening to
whats good. I think the quality level in the death metal scene will keep
increasing and that's not gonna stop. I think it's a genre of music where
musicians will want to keep pushing themselves. And because they're constantly
pushing themselves they're going to keep getting better. It's a bit competitive
because everybody wants to play faster and write the heaviest songs. A little
bit of that competition is actually healthy for the scene.
You've been credited as the main songwriter since day one; do you
ever get to a point where some of those older songs, you go, "Ah, I'd rather
play newer stuff or other songs," are there some songs you hate playing live or
get tired of playing? I know people still scream for tracks like 'Skull Full Of
Not so much really, I think ALL of them we enjoy playing live, mainly because
of how the crowd reacts. Of course, the older songs, the audience will keep
that stuff interesting. Like playing 'Hammer Smashed Face' for the 2000th time,
the people go totally apeshit during those songs!
For quite a long time, whenever you played Germany, I know you were
unable to play ANYTHING live from the first three records. I heard recently
that during a more recent trek to Europe, you actually pulled off a song or two
from one of those records. Has anything changed lately?
Yeah, it did! We were able to just play anything we wanted to! And that just
changed recently. The guys from Metal Blade Europe came over a few months ago.
They stopped by the studio while we were recording the new album and they told
us that they had made some progress, that we should be able to play anything
from those first albums. So we said, "Okay, we'll play them until somebody
tells us to stop!"
And I don't know what it is about Germany, in particular, but I am
assuming it's because of what happened in the World War, and the Nazism in
their past. And maybe they feel a responsibility to their citizens, probably
more so than any other country on Earth.
They probably have some sort of extra high sensitivity to violence in
entertainment because they don't want to be seen as a violent country. I can't
imagine what it would be like to have that kind of past in the United States.
I mean think about it, they're people just like us and they want to be proud of
their country as they're growing up; to have something like that in your past
is not good. So they're ultra sensitive to it and they're actually censoring
things that don't need to be censored.
And not just you guys, but I know other bands have had problems too
I remember Samael started having problems, I mean I can understand them fucking
around with us a little bit because our stuff is really, REALLY graphically
What are you writing about on this new record, because I don't have
the full version yet. I know people say, "yeah, Cannibal Corpse they write
about zombies eating people, murdering and killing" but I know you write about
other stuff that touches you as well.
Well, there is an awful lot of people being murdered and killed once again
(laughs). But like 'Murder Worship' is a song about a religious cult where they
kill people to try and summon their deity forth. All the songs have their own
People have said this is one of the heaviest Cannibal Corpse
records ever made, but by the time you've put out 9 or 10 albums, is there
anything you do to make sure that A. you're not repeating yourselves, or B.
you're trying to make the best possible record you can?
It's pretty much a little bit of both, we're trying not to repeat ourselves but
we're trying to do better than we've done. We look at what we did before and
make sure we don't repeat it; we also try to make it as heavy as we can. We try
to make songs that are catchy too, and we're still learning that. You're always
learning when it comes to writing songs. The difficulty of writing songs is
UNDERRATED. When people talk about their favorite bands, especially in death
metal, they'll say stuff like 'this band's the best because their drummer is
the best,' or 'their guitar parts are the most complicated.' They gotta at
least be good musicians: you can't have a bunch of hacks up there. As long as
they're good and they're writing great songs, that's the most important thing.
And I don't mean songs that are great because they're heavy as fuck and brutal.
I'd like to think we succeed in that goal. We're all decent musicians and we
can all play relatively technical stuff, but that's not our main focus. Our
main focus is writing killer catchy material.
One thing I've noticed, usually when like Atlanta gets black metal
bands coming over here from Europe or whatever, usually black metal bands like
Mayhem or Dark Funeral, they usually end up opening up for you guys. And even
though these bands have been around for over 10 years, their first trip to the
States the promoters are probably wondering if they can draw a crowd! So that's
gotta be kinda impressive, maybe you guys are like the American kings of
underground metal. Like your headlining slot actually guarantees a financial
Well, Marduk came over here with Deicide, and we only did a few shows with
Mayhem that I remember. We also did a tour with Dimmu Borgir as well though,
with them opening for us. It seems like the whole black metal thing took off a
bit more in Europe than it did in America. But it does do pretty well in
Yeah, NOW it does, with Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth playing
I'm not sure why it is, it might be a cultural difference where America is
known more for the extreme death metal bands. The bands from America that made
an impact on the extreme scene are bands like Morbid Angel, us, Deicide,
Obituary at the time, Death of course. There's not a black metal band from
America that's made a massive impact. I'm not saying there's no good American
black metal bands, but none have made an impact on the international scene the
way the death metal bands have. And most of the other black metal bands didn't
It's funny because in the mid 90's there was really only two
capitals for death metal in the world: one was Sweden, especially the
Gothenberg scene, even bands like Dismember, Grave, and even Dark Tranquillity
and In Flames. And then there was Tampa, home to Death, Morbid Angel and the
like. But you guys aren't even from there and you've lasted about the longest!
We're from Buffalo! We already had 4 albums out! I'm down in Tampa now though.
I'm not sure why that is. Any band who hooks up with the right bunch of people,
they can make it, it doesn't matter where they are from. Look at Slipknot!
They're from Iowa! They're like one of the biggest bands in the American metal
scene! Cannibal played a show in Iowa awhile back, there was like 80 or 90
Your popularity really seemed to pick up right after you did the
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective movie. Would you say that was when your popularity
really peaked then?
Well, we did hit a pretty good upswing for awhile after that. A lot of people
bought the album that didn't really know much about death metal. "The Bleeding"
album came out about the same time as that movie, and those two things happened
at about the same time. It was kind of a lucky chance that things happened that
way. Even to this day, "The Bleeding" is still one of our best sellers, despite
all the albums we'd done.
And how do you feel about that album today, even though Chris
Barnes is in another band? I've heard that the slower parts of that record were
inspired by Chris Barnes, that it was kinda his idea to write slower parts for
He liked the slower stuff, but he never had that much to do with the music. The
lyrics, yeah, the lyrics were all his for the second, third and fourth album.
We were always in charge of the music. I remember Jack wrote 'The Bleeding,'
though, and Chris made the suggestion that we do 'Zero The Hero' (a cover tune)
which is a very basic, simple song. I mean if you didn't know how to play bass
or guitar and you wanted to learn that song, it would only take a couple of
weeks. Chris LOVED that song and it ended up being a real big success. When
we'd play live people would yell for that song. I like our own fast songs
better, but Chris really loved the slow stuff and he got Six Feet Under
together to play that particular style of death metal. It's all like super
And it's obvious, especially after what you said, that Chris didn't
write all the music, because I'm sorry to say this, but I have YET to be able
to enjoy a Six Feet Under album to this day. And I just assumed that after the
brilliant (and my personal favorite) album "The Bleeding" that this would be
I'm not into the music, but that's beside the point. He's a singer and he's
only going to be as good as the band he's fronting. If the band he's singing in
wants to write a bunch of simple songs that's what he's going to be stuck
writing lyrics to.
What do you think of his new project Torture Killer?
Yeah, I heard a bit of it, it sounds a little bit like Six Feet Under, but
maybe a little bit more involved.
DETONATION. Interview with Koen via email.
I didn't get a chance to hear your previous album "An Epic
Defiance" or your "Lost Euphoria" EP from 1999, how would you describe those
albums to someone who has heard your easier to find album? I've seen it noted
that in your earliest days you were more death/thrash oriented. How did you
distribute the "Epic Defiance" album?
Our debut album "An Epic Defiance" has more or less the same vibe as our new
album, although "Portals..." is a bit more mature and just a bit better in all
aspects I guess. "Lost Euphoria" is a bit different. We recorded those 4 songs
in 1999, when we were still searching for our style and our direction, which is
obvious when you listen to the EP. All songs are completely different from each
other, ranging from Black to Death to Doom metal. Itís basically a mixture of
all metal genres we liked at the time haha. But to set things straight, "An
Epic Defiance" was also released by Osmose, it was our 1st album on their
roster, but we released it by ourselves at first back in 2002, before we got
signed. But I think "Portals to Uphobia" is by far the best album to start with
if youíre a new listener, itís basically a perfect combination of everything
weíve done in the past.
Speaking of those two earlier releases, are there any plans to
reissue them properly through Osmose or any other label? How do you feel about
those earlier works? And while on the subject of Osmose, what bands on the
label do you like?
Well, "Epic" was released by Osmose in 2003, but the EP never got a proper
release. We did think about it in the past, and maybe there will be a time in
the near future to do this, but not yet. We want a new album first ;) The
biggest problem is probably that the whole production needs to be done all over
again, because the sound quality is too crappy. But I still kind of like it for
how we were as a band back then. But it's total crap compared to our later
releases of course haha. Epic alone is a huge progress if you compare the two
albums. But we also had a budget for that album, coming from Osmose. There are
actually not that many bands on our record companyís roster I really like,
except for Yyrkoon, who are absolutely great I think, and Melechesh.
Have you had much contact with The End Records here in the States?
I don't know how much press and publicity they've done for you, like setting up
interviews and press and what not. They started out small but have definitely
built up a larger presence over the years.
Hhm, I actually didn't have any contact at all with them! I've only dealt with
Osmose thus far, and they are in touch with The End. Hopefully this will
change, because there's still a lot of territory for us to explore on your
continent! As far as I know, The End only take care of our distribution in the
U.S., and nothing else.
One thing that's a bit confusing on "Portals To Uphobia" is the
track 'Lost Euphoria Part III," I know there was a part II on "An Epic
Defiance," and the EP is entitled "Lost Euphoria," maybe you can clue us all
Hehe, a lot of people wonder where they can find part I ! The secret is...there
is no part I. The EP "Lost Euphoria" can be seen as the first chapter. When we
wrote an instrumental song for Epic, we got stuck when looking for a title. We
all felt that this song had a connection with some of the older stuff we had
done in the past, so we decided to make a connection with our EP by giving it
the name "Lost Euphoria Part II". Benefit from this was that people suddenly
became interested in our EP, because of that title hehe. Sorry about the
I am pretty amazed by the guitar work on "Portals To Uphobia," as
the lead guitar work is all over the place with the higher ended strings, very
melodic and quite skilled and diverse, yet the other leads are pretty heavy!
Some are ready to lump you into the Gothenberg category but the MAIN difference
I see is that Gothenberg based bands utilize mainly the death styled vocals to
give off the heaviness, but you actually use heavier guitar work ALONGSIDE the
more melodic chords. Gotta get your opinion on this, am I pretty close or too
far off the mark?
Thanks a lot dude, always nice to hear! And yeah, you're close as well! Let me
tell you first that we never decided or wanted to be a Gothenburg sounding
band, we just like melodic yet extreme metal. But the main difference is indeed
that we basically combine every style that we like, this includes influences
from Thrash and Black and sometimes even heavy or power metal, it doesn't
matter. As long as we get excited while playing a riff or part, we'll use it no
matter what style it is.
How has Osmose been as a label for you? It seems like they jumped
in there rather quickly after an EP and a full length. I have to admit I have
heard some horror stories from bands like Marduk and Immortal who have since
left Osmose. What sort of recording contract do you have with them?
We've released 2 albums by Osmose, and there's 1 more to go. Which will be
recorded before the end of this year by the way, so we'll be contract free soon
Osmose signed us in 2003, after we released "An Epic Defiance" by ourselves in
October 2002. They re-released it in June 2003, and I must say they did a
pretty good job with our debut album. We sold quite some albums, got the
opportunity to tour a couple of times, and got good exposure in the magazines,
etc. With "Portals" things went different, but that wasn't really the fault of
Osmose, they did their best, but we just had all odds against us with that
album in the beginning. Tours went bad, the release got delayed, we had
injuries in the band... In the end I must admit we're pretty happy with the way
Osmose treats us, of course there is always room for improvement, but they
aren't that big as a company, so looking at that they do a good job. But
luckily "Portals" also got released in the U.S. now, which is a new beginning
for us. Hopefully this will lead to cool new things for the band in the future!
The album title itself is rather interesting, as it seems to
combine Utopia and Phobia, almost seemingly creating a new word which leads me
to understand it as a fear of a utopian society. Care to comment? Maybe I'm off
base once again. :) Maybe you could relate lyrically what's going on in some of
the songs, perhaps a track entitled 'Loss Of Motion Control' describes how
we're losing our grip on what is now a fast paced society.
You could see the title that way, but my explanation is a bit different. I
wanted the title to reflect the main theme of the lyrics. All the lyrics deal
with topics such as living with fears and phobias, striving for a better place,
or utopia if you will, and the everlasting search for euphoria. From these
topics I created the word Uphobia, as a sort of fictional place in our minds
where all these things come together. The word 'portals' is to reflect the
choices or possibilities we have in life, the main concept of the album is all
about the decisions we make as individuals, and the often dramatic consequences
that follow. But your view on the title also has some connections with the
whole idea behind "Portals to Uphobia", since we always write lyrics about
social issues. 'The Loss of Motion Control' is indeed a good example for the
whole album I guess. You almost got it right, it's absolutely about losing grip
and about trying to keep control over our actions and decisions when we
encounter difficult situations. As with most of the lyrics, you can see them in
different ways, we also like to keep them open to people's own interpretation.
Speaking of fast paced society, I don't know how things are in The
Netherlands, but over here it seems like people just don't have time to
socialize and make friends or hang out, we're all driven to work long hours to
make money to pay for food and a place to live.
I make sure to create time for friends and fun, you'll never catch me saying I
don't have enough time for something fun. A lot of people I know almost seem to
live their life to be able to work, but we should be working to able to live.
You simply need spare time in your daily life to have fun and do the things you
really like. For me, that's one of the most important things. The Netherlands
is a very busy country overall, and it's sometimes tough to stay focused on
your own ideals, but until now I'm doing just fine ;) It sucks that Iím still
dependant on working 4 days a week to be able to pay for my house, food etc,
but I'm not giving up on music until I'm able to quit my regular job haha.
So what's next for the Detonation camp? I see on your site there's
a third album underway, any chance you can tell us song titles, album title or
maybe a general lyrical theme running through the album?
Yep, album 3 is on it's way! This is going to be a special album for us for
several reasons, it will be our last for Osmose probably, and we're also trying
a different producer and studio this time. The song material is without doubt
the grooviest we've done so far. It has elements from all our previous work,
but the songs are more dynamic and rhythmic. We also want to experiment even
further with influences, there are again some Spanish guitars to be recorded as
well, so I'm very curious to hear the reaction from the fans when this new
piece is done! I'm very looking forward to it, that's for sure! We don't have a
title yet, but some working title's (songs? - Ed.) are 'Drained', 'Futile in
Delight', 'Infected' and 'The Festering'. No final decisions made just yet, but
progress is on the way!
Any chance Detonation might be coming to the States? Would love to
know who you have played out live with and where, and of course if you have any
really funny and cool tour stories to share with us, that would be awesome.
Life on a tour bus can get crazy sometimes!
No plans yet to come overseas; we need more exposure first and sell shitloads
more records haha! I've said it before, if we tour the US we want it to be
good, we've heard so many horror tour stories from bands we know. And since we
have had several tours that already went shit for us, we're extra careful when
it comes to touring the U.S., we don't want to do these crappy tours anymore.
So if we come over, it's going to be a killer tour with cool bands and a
special show. So far, we've done European tours with Dimension Zero,
Decapitated, Gorerotted and a few others. The bands were all great to be on the
road with, although touring with the Brits of Gorerotted is not to be compared
with any other band whatsoever haha, these guys are exceptionally crazy, but
very cool individuals nevertheless. We also recently did a UK tour with support
from our Dutch friends Fuelblooded, a very talented melodic Death band. This
was a DIY tour, which means we arranged everything ourselves without dealing
with a booking agency or whatever. We drove ourselves, arranged our own
sleeping places etc. These kinds of tours are definitely perfect for a band
like ours, and to me it's a sensation of freedom you miss when being on an
actual 'nightliner' tour. But we've had hilarious tour experiences in the past,
despite of the things that went bad. There are a couple of tour reports on our
website www.detonation.nl, check them out!
So what's The Netherlands like these days? I know marijuana is
legal there, so I'm sure you partake quite regularly! I must say I don't know
too much about The Netherlands except for the bands that come from there, do
you still refer to the country as Holland at any time? How are things
politically, and do people in your country tend to look at Americans as brash,
arrogant and sticking their nose in other countries' business? (Don't be afraid
to tell your true feelings here, I'm not happy with the current political
system here in my country).
Right now, it's smoking hot here! We're experiencing one of the hottest summers
ever registered, it's crazy. Dutch people are not used to extreme temperatures.
But you were talking about the country itself. Yeah, Marijuana is still legal
here, as is prostitution in certain areas ;) Boring as we are, none of the
Detonation members smoke weed or hash haha. I've smoked a couple of years when
I was younger, but I got sick of it. I don't need that stuff or any drug to
live my life. I'm not 16 anymore you know, the years start taking their toll!
So no drugs for me, I just enjoy my usual beer or two when going out or doing
shows. But overall seen, I still like living here. The country is small, people
are usually down to earth, and things are generally well taken care of and
arranged in The Netherlands. I prefer to call it The Netherlands or 'Nederland'
as we call it. I donít like saying 'Holland', that's what the Germans call us
haha, but it's simply put just a different name for the same country. People
here in general have nothing against Americans or the USA as a country, but
most Dutch people don't like Bush and American politics. But I try to keep away
from as much politic stuff as I can, I just want to enjoy my time here on earth
and make the best out of it.
Anything else you want to talk about at length, that we missed,
feel free to do so here. Thanks again!
Thanks for this interview, cheers! Keep your eyes open for the new Detonation
album, which will probably see the light of day somewhere in the beginning of
2007. Keep on rocking!
FIREBALL MINISTRY. Interview with the "Reverend" James A. Rota via phone.
A band I have kinda given sideways glances to for most of my knowledge of them,
I first heard this band with their excellent cover of The Misfits and Aerosmith
via tribute albums, albeit obscure ones. Then came the EP for Small Stone
Records, but still I wasn't paying full attention. One day I saw the video for
'Sundown' and I was blown away. NOW I am paying FULL attention to a band who
has gone through three labels, done many tours and shows, and is now signed to
Liquor and Poker music, one of the coolest names for a label in the world. A
high energy record full of passionate and kick ass guitar playing by the lovely
and talented Emily, this band is going places, and has already BEEN places. So
enjoy the review, the sound files, and the damn interview already!!!
I remember the first time I heard of you guys, you did a Misfits
tribute CD through Firebird Records, and I wasn't crazy about the original song
but I really liked your version of it.
Well, when we were asked to do that; how we are doesn't really lend itself to
the Misfits' style of music, even though we all love them. So we tried to pick
a song that was maybe a little less known and a bit more experimental
musically. We're not really a punk band and we thought it would sound silly to
try and play a song like that.
I then next received the EP through Small Stone Records, and I was
wondering why you didn't stay with them? You had a good sound, and I was really
pleased that when Man's Ruin folded, Small Stone picked up all the cool stoner
rock bands that I really enjoyed.
It was basically because Small Stone didn't have a budget to do tour support
and things that we had grown into needing. It was only out of necessity that
When you look at the newest record "Their Rock Is Not Our Rock" and
you compare it to the Small Stone EP, what do you see are the main fundamental
differences between 2001 and 2005 as far as the Fireball Ministry style?
Well, in 1999 we put out our first record "Ou 'Est La Rock."
Oh yeah, I didn't get that record unfortunately.
I think from then to now, fundamentally we're more of a band since we've done
so much touring and playing lately. When the band first started we were weak at
best and now it's more like a well oiled machine.
The funniest thing was to see you with an album on Nuclear Blast:
amidst all the death and black metal, and the occasional power metal, there you
are! That had to be strange.
They thought it would be a good idea to try to branch out but it really didn't
work out so well.
Relapse Records did that too, with them picking up High On Fire and
Alabama Thunderpussy. Even Metal Blade did that with Yob, so I'm curious to get
your thoughts on these labels signing "stoner rock," even if nowadays that's
such a generic term.
It's a little wierd. I think there's a lot of music these days that
concentrates on things that aren't really that important... To me. The most
important thing to me is just writing good songs. The albums that end up
staying with you forever and ever are the albums that have great songs on them.
It just seems like the current trend is for somebody to get into something for
eight or nine months and then they're over it. A lot of bands these days I
think are based on being a "thing" rather than being a band. They don't have
very strong songs behind them and all of a sudden they're gone. I doubt that
any label is signing any of our bands because they think the music's good. I
think bands like us and High On Fire are signed because they think people are
into it for that time period. No label is really interested in developing an
artist; they're just interested in turning a quick buck.
And it's funny how labels are screaming that music sales are down.
You'll no longer have bands like The Beatles and Pink Floyd where they're
signed to a record label and they put out 12 or 13 records and they have a
career. And you can't blame filesharing either really because people are to the
point where, I'm sorry, but the one video or hit single doesn't really
exemplify the entire album to me anymore. And people are just fed up!
Nobody is going to spend money on garbage when there's so many other things to
spend their money on. Like video games, DVD's and what not. Why buy some crappy
album that's good for maybe two times listening through. It's not "Appetite For
Destruction." (I had to laugh at this, but he explains) To me, that's like the
last album that came out that is a great album that transcends ALL genres.
It's funny you mention that album, because THAT album spawned AT
LEAST four or five hit songs.
It established a career of careers.
Speaking of "The hit single," (I'm laughing here) I had lost track
of you guys after the EP, and then I saw the video for 'Sundown,' and thought,
holy shit, what a great track! Did you think that maybe the video/hit single
pigeonholed you and had people thinking that was the best song you guys could
come up with?
That was NOT my first choice, my first choice would have been "The Broken" that
ended up on the WWE Smackdown game. THAT song ended up getting us more press
and more people liking the band than any radio or MTV play.
That's sad that a video game gives you more support than MTV, who
is supposed to be featuring music videos to people.
Video games are where people listen to new music now. It's the truth.
I do feel that 'Sundown' was the best track on the record, but I do
like many other songs, like 'Under The Thunder,' 'Rising From The Deep,' hell,
'In The End' was a pretty kick ass track.
You put your best foot forward every time, it should always be that way. I'm
not trying to sound like a jerk or anything, but I don't think we've ever
written a bad song. We never put a song on a record that we felt didn't belong
I know a lot of bands like Orange Goblin changed their entire sound
simply because of the lazy journalists lumping them into the stoner rock genre.
How do you feel Fireball Ministry fits into that, do you even consider
yourselves stoner rock or maybe just heavy rock even?
I dunno, I think we're a hard rock band. We've played with everybody from CKY
to Opeth, to HIM. And for some reason we always seem to do okay and pull it
off. Call it whatever you want as long as you call it something.
I had sometimes thought that maybe some of these songs could have
been heavier or faster, have you ever thought about branching out, or maybe
you're doing a new record with new sounds?
I dunno, we just kinda do what we do, you know? It's there to be liked or
hated. We're about to start working ona new record, probably working with Doug
again who did our first record. We'll just have to see what comes out this
It's interesting that you're with Liquor And Poker, and they're not
exactly an independent label or even brand new. Obviously they've given you
tour support. I'm not sure how your contract is structured.
We're doing the next record with them, they just signed Fu Manchu. They're
actually a division of Century Media, so you kinda have that, uh, Century Media
push behind it. (laughs).
Yeah, I kinda forgot about that.
Yeah, I mean whatever that may be (laughs).
Century Media seems to me like one of the biggest independent
labels around, and they've been around AT LEAST 15 years. When I first started
my magazine about that long ago, they were JUST starting up a U.S. office, so
they've been around a LONG time.
They're good people, and they've done right by us, so we can't complain.
I want to talk about lyrics a bit, I mean you have songs like
'Spill The Demons' and 'Hellspeak,' sounds like you've got metal oriented
topics in there.
I dunno, metal, or whatever is. There's always a 'Night Prowler' or 'Hell's
Bells,' you know? (laughs). You write about what you know, and those are the
things we kinda like. There's way too many bands preaching a message that they
don't stand behind these days. One of our goals is to not be full of shit.
I really like the name Fireball Ministry, it sounds like you kinda
have a ministry of your own with your music, it's a cool name.
It worked out really well. It is a very hard thing to come up with a band name.
I didn't get the lyrics to the record, but I'm curious about a song
called 'The Broken,' and I wanted to get a bit more insight into the lyrics.
I was reading this Conan The Barbarian book and I just wrote a song based on
that stuff. I read a lot of Conan books.
I remember the cover songs you did, and I have always wondered how
that goes. I know that the 'Cough/Cool' song came out through Firebird Records,
and the Aerosmith cover came out through Small Stone. Say you write a cover
song for a label, is it harder to get the rights to that song and put it on one
of your full lengths, do you own the rights totally, or what?
Licensing stuff is all handled through the labels. As far as covers and
throwing them on records; when the publishing money goes out, ASCAP or BMI or
whoever it's registered to is going to be the one who pays that out. It's not
us. You don't have to have rights, you just have to make sure people get paid.
As long as I've been doing this magazine, there's STILL many
aspects of the music industry, the business side, I know nothing about.
Oh yeah, well, I didn't know that either until we started doing those (laughs).
The whole covers thing seems to work really well for you guys.
It's just fun to do, take the bands you love and cover them. It's done more for
fun than anything.
How was that CKY show you guys did here in Atlanta?
They're great kids, those are REAL kids, that are there to have fun, not just
stand there and look cool. They're just kids looking forward to going to a show
and having a good time.
LEGEND. Interview with Fred Melilo.
What can I say about one of THE best albums in the classic albums section! If
this doesn't get number one of all 1,000 albums in my classic albums section,
it's EASILY in the top three. Legend (U.S.) made a fantastic album entitled
"From The Fjords," a piece of vinyl which is not only vastly superior to nearly
ANYTHING else that came out that year, but also is one of the rarest and most
expensive pieces of vinyl you will ever find. Despite a CD reissue which STILL
has yet to see the light of day ANYWHERE, and almost NO information about ANY
of the band members, somehow we were contacted from the original bass player to
obtain a good copy of his one and only record. This masterpiece was recorded in
1979 and was light years, fuck, seemingly hundreds of years ahead of it's time,
especially when you consider it's a U.S. band playing up the Viking and
mythological imagery in the lyrics; something that the Scandinavian folk and
viking metal community wouldn't fully embrace AT LEAST until 1988/1990 when
Bathory's "Blood, Fire Death" and two years later "Hammerheart" would mold into
recognition. This is one amazing interview, and not only will you learn many
things about this band that NO ONE ever knew, it comes over 25 years later.
I would consider this THE most important interview of my entire career. It is
my honor and extreme priveledge to share with you one of the music industry's
most amazing secrets, the timeless and godlike LEGEND....
First off, it is an amazing honor to me to be doing this interview.
"From The Fjords" is like one of my most favorite records of all time.
That's amazing to me how a record that was privately released, very few in
number, made it as far as it did. I get emails and phone calls from ALL over
Have you done any interviews lately?
I did one interview with a guy, Perry who is in a band called Falcon. I did the
interview I think like 6 months ago. Perry Grayson.
Yeah, a couple of those guys were in a band called Cirith Ungol.
I don't know what ever came of that interview, if it came to print.
It took me over a week to clean and remaster this. The three copies
I got were so scratchy it was hard work.
Now I know it's been bootlegged. I only have one copy and it's in very poor
Well, the thing is way over 20 years old; I would be very surprised
if ANY original copies are in good shape!
See, I have two kids and I'd love to be able to leave each kid a record. I've
been all over the internet trying to find a record... It's unbelievable how
scarce they are, and when you do find one, how much they're asking!
As much as I hate to admit it, that record is well worth the asking
price. I can't find ANY information on the internet ANYWHERE, so I have to ask
the standard questions about the members in the band, and who was in the band
previously. Nobody knows who ANY of the members are!
Really? (laughs). Well, we're all from the New Haven, Connecticut area. It was
really Kevin Nugent, the guitarist, he was literally the brains behind the
whole thing. Kevin and I met when we were very young, we were about 15 years
old or so and were attending this arts/music school. It was this school where
all the towns in the area participated in it, and the kids were students of
music, arts, drama, literature, sculpture, that sort of thing. You had to
audition or do a portfolio of some sorts, and it was called the Educational
Center For The Arts. We'd go to our regular high school for math and english
and what not, and then we'd hop on the bus and go down to the art school. It
was tremendous, and that's where Kevin and I first met. We hit it off
immediately as we met a lot of kids. We had been really good friends and hung
out quite a bit before Legend. A couple of years later, after we graduated high
school, we actually played in a band together called Edge.
What year was that?
Edge would have had to happen 1977-78. That sounds like a long time ago,
doesn't it? (laughs). We were doing rock and roll, it would be considered
classic rock now, but it was fresh new stuff back then. You know, stuff like
ZZ Top, Pink Floyd, Skynyrd. We were doing okay for young kids. We'd play all
over New England, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont; the whole upper States area.
After Edge ran it's course, we went our separate ways for a little while, and
Kevin started the original Legend with the drummer Ray Frigon, who was the
drummer on the album, and a different bass player. Technically, I was NOT the
original bass player. That fellow did not work out and Kevin immediately called
me and that's how I got into the band. I was very happy to get that call!
What about the singer?
Kevin was the singer. He played lead guitar and did vocals. The drummer Ray
Frigon did some vocals, mostly backing vocals though.
His vocals on that album are absolutely amazing to me, especially
with all that was going on at the time.
There wasn't a lot of metal going on at the time. I mean there was Deep Purple,
Black Sabbath of course, but there was a different kind of metal.
I'm curious about something, because for the last year and a half
Monster Records was supposed to be reissuing "From The Fjords" on CD but it's
never happened. Did they contact you or did they just decide to do it on their
own thinking the guys couldn't be found, or what?
They DID contact me. I did talk to the guy at Monster Records, and bottom line
is, the band broke up a long time ago. The drummer basically found religion and
didn't want to do the rock and roll thing anymore. That's pretty much the
reason why Legend at that state broke up. We did try to find another drummer,
it was pretty hard and it just never worked out. Then Kevin went on to start a
band called Mercenary. They put out a couple of singles; nothing major, and
they were starting to play around. At that point, Kevin and I were talking
about getting back together, doing something in Mercenary or something else.
And right around that time, very shortly after that Kevin passed away.
(This came as quite a shock to me at this point) Damn, that's such
It was, it was a great loss; he was such a good friend, such a monster
musician and great guitar player. Truly saddened me, I was devastated by it.
I got the phone call early in the morning from his brother. But getting back
to your question about Monster Records (which at this point I had almost
totally forgotten about, so distressed was I at this news - Ed.), I guess his
brother pretty much owns the right right now. Personally, I personally feel it
should stay where it is, a collector's item, I don't think it should be
reissued. That's just my thought, Kevin's no longer here, there's no way we
could say "Hey, let's put the band back together, and make another recording or
go on tour" or something. My feeling is let's leave it for what it is. There's
a core group, a cult following that desire it and know about it, and I think
that's really cool. That's my stance on it.
That sounds like an attitude of a guy who's heavily into cult,
underground metal, which is more prevalent in the black metal scene. Personally
I think people DESERVE to hear that record, I mean I have over 1,000 titles in
the classic albums section. If you ask me what was in the top 3 I would say
Legend would be either number one or number two. And people I have talked to
say by listening to the production values they could tell it was recorded in
the 70's, but I have such an amazingly hard time believing that something like
this was recorded so long ago. It's so ahead of it's time, WAY ahead of it's
time, not just lyrically, but musically, vocally and everything else! You even
predate the Viking rock era by AT LEAST 4 or 5 years.
That's pretty interesting. Ray Frigon probably had the most influence on the
lyrics WITH Kevin. Have you ever heard of the artist Ioannes? (Spelling?) He's
a Greek fellow who has done well for himself; he did covers for Rick Wakeman,
Fates Warning, even an Art Of Noise video. He was part of our clique of friends
and he did the artwork on the Legend album cover. That's why it has that
fantasy vibe there, the Viking overtones.
What year did Kevin pass away, what were the details behind that?
I think it was '83 or '84 and it was very sad. He was a tremendous guitarist.
I've yet to meet anyone like him.
So he wrote the lyrics?
Ray and Kevin both wrote the lyrics, but musically it was nearly all Kevin. The
tunes were pretty well all polished by the time I joined the band.
That's a very original sound you had. When I think of grandiose,
epic, majestic metal; songs full of emotion and passion, 1979 was when it all
seemed to start with your record for me.
It's not that we were really trying to go for anything, it's just what came
out. It's just what happened. Kevin and I definitely loved rock but we were
also very jazz influenced believe it or not. Especially from the school we
attended. We weren't just total metalheads and stuck in that genre of music.
We considered ourselves serious music students; to this day I still consider
myself a student, I'm constantly learning and still taking lessons and trying
to improve myself. As well as try to be a teacher and in everything else that
I do. That's the greatest thing about music, is you can NEVER know it all. You
can never say "I'm done, I'm a master now." A lot of people don't realize that
we were jazzers too. Jazz, funk, everything! If it sounded good, we liked it.
That's how I am at the magazine, I review and play metal,
industrial, gothic, techno, punk, hardcore, I don't care!
No, I'm the same way, as long as the piece has some depth to it. As far as I'm
concerned. And I'm not talking about the stuff you hear on the radio these
days, gee, a guy with a sampler will steal a piece of a Led Zeppelin song, and
that's a hit now! And none of the kids today KNOW where that came from. But
guys like us do. Back then we had to LEARN how to play our instruments. People
go out and buy a sampler and a computer and call themselves musicians! We
didn't have that, we had to learn how to play! You had to learn how to play
WELL because there were a lot of other guys who wanted that spot! You either
worked really hard at getting adept at your instruments or you were replaced.
I don't even see that today, even in a lot of the kids I try to teach. You
can't get anybody to practice! Back then we loved it, you couldn't get us OFF
our instruments. Our mothers used to (laughs hard) have to kick us out of the
house, you know "Go outside!" I'd sit there with my record player, trying to
figure out licks.
Now, back to the Monster Records reissue; there are supposed to be
bonus tracks for the reissue, were there any other songs Legend did that were
Not as Legend. I'm sure the bonus tracks that he's referring to are the
I was under the assumption that you were working on another record
or more material.
There were other songs in the works, but they never came to fruition and they
were never recorded to tape. The only other thing that I can think of that
Monster is referring to is the Mercenary tapes.
So what was the deal with those tapes, were they going to be
released as maybe a Mercenary album?
I actually released it. Kevin was in the process of doing the recording and
that was at the point where we were talking about getting back together,
working in the studio and playing. That was around '82 or '83. Then he passed
away and a little time went by. I was always in touch with (Kevin's) brother, and
I called up his brother and said I'd really love to finish that stuff up as a
tribute to Kevin, he was working so hard on it. There were 4 tunes, and I went
into the studio and took his rough tracks. A lot of the rough tracks were
intended to be scratched over and redone. You know how it is, you record your
drums, and then the guitarist and bassist will play scratch tracks along with
the drummer just so they can get his part down. So what I tried to do is leave
as much of Kevin's scratch tracks on there as possible. It's not perfect,
there's a lot of flaws, but that's the point.
There's such sketchy information on that actual album, but I'm
under the impression that the 1979 pressing is indeed the original pressing.
Am I right about that or is that wrong?
No, that sounds right. Kevin was pretty much the businessman too. As far as I
know, there were only 500 of those made. Now I know there's a lot of bogus
bootlegs out there because in my quest to find one I got ahold of this guy in
Germany who supposedly had one. I sent him a check and as soon as I opened it
up I knew it was NOT an original.
How did you know?
Ah, you could tell, it was a scanned cover. It was obvious!
How was the sound quality?
I never even played it. Not to mention that when I took the vinyl record out of
the jacket... Have you seen an original?
(MUCH laughter here) No, I never have... I doubt I ever will!
If you have an original or you SEE an original, you'll KNOW it's original
because the label that's on the center of the vinyl has one of those Viking
logos on it. So besides the fact that the cover was scanned, it had a white
label with the printed songs and I knew right away it wasn't real. The other
tip is, there's an insert. There's a paper insert with ALL the lyrics on it.
Aw, man, I'd LOVE to have a scanned copy of that!
I'll get you a copy of that. And also on that insert besides the lyrics there's
a dedication to Kevin's mother and my mother. Because my mother died when we
were recording the Legend album, and Kevin's mother died a few years before
that. That's just little tips to know if you're looking at an authentic album
or not. The guy did give me my money back but I was SO angry! I think he may
have thought it was authentic but I said, no you don't understand. I PLAYED in
this band! (laughing) I KNOW what one looks like!
How much did he charge for that?
A hundred bucks. Which was probably another tipoff (laughs).
They say the original pressing commands AT LEAST 5 or 6 hundred
I've seen it go for 2 grand.
Yeah, I saw it go for that once.
There's this guy out in California, Aeon Records, I think. HE'S got one. And I
usually google like "From The Fjords" to see what's coming out, that's how I
found you! I've been searching EVERYWHERE. It really is amazing how many people
still dig that stuff.
When I listen to that record, I STILL enjoy it today. If that album
had been recorded even two years ago it still would have been a great album.
It's a masterpiece that not only transcends the test of time, but STANDS it as
well. I don't think you really understand JUST how coveted that record is for
I do now! For the last 10 years I've been trying to find one, I never realized
how many people know about us. I talk to people from EVERYWHERE!
I've had that album played on the radio station here in Atlanta. I
know when I gave a copy to Bob, he played that song 'The Iron Horse,' and like
4 or 5 people called in wanting to know who that drummer was!
That was the drum solo. That's pretty cool, Ray was a fantastic drummer. It's
just one of those things that WORKED. Playing together with the three of us was
so easy. Being a musician, you know how it is when musicians just click. But
you also know when it DOESN'T too, like when you bring people in for auditions,
and even if they're really good players, it just may not work.
It's all about chemistry.
You're right, it is. All the pieces have to be in place for everything to fit.
I know if I ever get my band together, we're DEFINITELY doing a
cover of 'The Destroyer.'
I guess if I had to choose favorite songs from that album, 'The Destroyer' of
course is definitely a favorite. The instrumental 'Confrontation,' I think that
is the last song on the first side. I love that kind of playing; it's fast and
hard with power and ambition. And of course, 'From The Fjords' is a great tune
One of my favorite tracks is 'The Golden Bell,' it's not
necessarily because of the great musicianship, but one thing that gets me is
the multivocal Viking styled chants. That's the ONE thing that really stood
out for it's time, a U.S. band in 1979 doing the Viking themes and doing it
RIGHT. It's AMAZING.
It's funny that you mentioned 'The Golden Bell,' because you know that whole
solo thing, where the drums and bass are kinda kicking it a little bit? We
sorta did that on the fly. That wasn't the intended way it was supposed to be.
Right after the vocals, the bassline brings in the solo stuff. The drummer and
I just started hitting together, and that was NOT planned.
What really gets me too is that song 'From The Fjords,' it's got
some really dark and heavy instrumental passages, I mean this particular part
just CRUSHED me when I heard it! It's not really even metal but it's so damn
heavy! Was that improvised as well?
That was just basic, dimished scales. That part was written, and of course we
bring in that heavy line again at the end. I used a few different types of
instruments on that too, I also played fretless bass, and we were using effects
as well. To get those heavier bass sounds I used a flanger and an octave
How did you guys do those bell sounds? I know nowadays you want a
golden bell sound, or a gong, you just push a keyboard button. But I'm sure it
wasn't like that back in 1979.
Wow, I wish I had a picture to send you of Ray Frigon's drum kit. (we since
have seen this drum set, and it was MASSIVE! Go to the metal-archives.com
site and look up the band Legend). He had gongs, bells, glocks. If it could be
hit, he had it in his track kit. His father had to build him a structure to
hang the gongs from! He looks so young on here too. You could see most of Ray's
drum kit on the back of the album. If you've never seen the back cover of the
album cover, there's a picture of Kevin, Ray and myself. His drums are
impressive here just looking at them, but the way the artwork looks, the way it
mists into the album, it's kinda hard to see. Timpanis, bells, anything
percussive, he had it.
Did you guys ever do any interviews in press or anything back then?
Did you ever see any reviews for your album?
Not in print. We had a couple of the local college stations here that were
pretty good to us, they liked us and tried to help us out. Music back then,
you gotta remember was... (pauses) disco.
Oh, god, don't remind me!! (laughing).
That's what we were fighting with. There wasn't a lot of kids that were
listening to even Deep Purple or Black Sabbath back then.
Or Uriah Heep.
I LOVE Uriah Heep! Well, I love the first two or three albums of Heep.
That's what a lot of people say.
The very first Heep album I thought was phenomenal. And then they turned into
that... Well, I guess the record companies had something to do with that. Oh,
you wanna get paid so you follow suit. We had a hard time. We had followers up
here but it was difficult.
And that's sad, because any label that had ANY sense would have
signed you guys right away. It's strange that you didn't get SOME label
attention. Of course, things aren't like they are nowadays.
We were talking to lawyers and stuff. There was a lawyer that was interested in
us. I think it was just too new, and too heavy. Nobody was digging it then.
Besides disco, it was that "pretty boy rock." Happy arena rock. The other
person that was coming up back then was Michael Bolton. His
signature now is the power ballad.
(laughs). That's what I hated about 80's metal, you had these guys
kick ass, practically screaming and then they come out with the chick ballad.
That used to PISS me off.
There must be something in the contract from the labels, because the record
companies aren't there as supporting partners, they're there to make money. If
you can vomit onstage and sell it, they will buy it! (MUCH laughter here - Ed).
Now that I think about it, did you have any knowledge of that New
Wave Of British Heavy Metal? Because those bands started coming out around
1978, right up until about 1984.
Oh yeah, definitely. We were well aware of that. We liked the British metal.
Black Sabbath of course, the ultimate British metal band. To this day I still
love that stuff. The original stuff, WITH OZZY. The first four albums. When
they got Dio it just wasn't that anymore. Dio's great, what a voice on the guy,
but it just didn't work for Sabbath. Again it's the chemistry thing. As far as
the punky new wave stuff, though, I just hated it.
The good heavy punk I like, but the pop punk stuff, I couldn't
stand it. I liked the REAL punk.
Some of that punky new wave stuff, open chord stuff slam it as loud as you can,
and drumming fast. As far as I'm concerned there's no musicality to it. I mean,
my sister could do this! Most of what I do now is fusion/jazz/funk. I'm an old
guy now, I just don't fit into that anymore.
What was a Legend live show like? Did you ever open for any bigger
We really only played live with ourselves. We never had the opportunity to open
a big arena show. We came close but it never happened. I thought our live shows
were great. We used to really kick ass. One of the things we used to do live,
because of Ray's humongous drum kit; during the instrumental 'The Iron Horse,'
we all used to jump on drums! We'd have drums off to the side for us. And we
would compliment him, in our "limited" drumming abilities. (laughs). It was
more for the visual effect. Another thing we used to do, Kevin had that double
necked guitar; the top neck being the 12 string, and the bottom neck being the
6. And I would stand behind him on this milk crate and play the top neck. And
again, more for visual than musical. We had the guy doing the flash pots with
the pyro. In fact, one night this guy put a little bit too much flash powder
in the pot, burned the hell out of me! Matter of fact, the shirt that I was
wearing ON the Legend album back cover... He destroyed it! I got a little too
close to the flash pot, and I was wearing kind of a silky shirt. It looked like
I was shot! That same night, one of the fire pots blew out a window in the bar.
We never got asked to play there again! (laughs).
Finally, are you working on any other musical projects?
I'm all over the place! (laughs). I'm working with a fellow named Ronnie, the
website is www.nocheez.com. We do just a little bit of everything. Kinda
Zappa'esque, we do jazz, funk... I am also a bass instructor, I tune pianos,
and I also do some audio engineering. I'm still well involved in all this
stuff, and making a new journey into microtone music. Ronnie is a great
guitarist, and we just bought microtone guitars and basses.
Okay, I have never heard of microtone before, can you explain
In a nutshell, the music that we listen to is tempered. And by that I mean a
true musical scale as it appears in nature cannot be tuned to, say, a piano.
It all boils down to mathematics and the ratios of the tones. The fretless
instruments, you can hit all the notes between the notes, of course. Like a
violin, a fretless bass, a cello, or even a brass instrument like a trumpet or
trombone. A true major third is a much different sound than a TEMPERED major
third. Go to microtones.com, there's a fellow we bought our guitars from. What
they do is add a bunch of frets where the true notes would be on your fretted
instrument. So you can still hit the regular 12 tone tempered notes on your
guitar; you just have an extra 12 frets. It's awesome stuff!
Oh yeah, and before I forget. I know technology as it existed back
in 1979 is vastly different to what it is today. If you had the chance to go
and redo the entire album, maybe give it beefier production, using today's
technology, would you re-record it differently?
Well, I'm sure that the technology that we had back then isn't even available
today; we used an 8 track reel-to-reel. You don't even see this equipment
anymore. What would we do differently? Probably not much. All we did back then
wwas basically capture the live sound, that's the way we sounded. Remember,
there weren't a lot of effects back then. We had some pedals. Especially in the
studio environment we were in; we were in a low budget area studio. This wasn't
done at Warner Brothers or Electric Ladyland. It was all about throwing up a
few mikes and getting a level that didn't distort. Because we had enough
distortion on our own! (laughs).
Okay, for real this time, final words:
It certainly is exciting that this thing is still alive, that there's still so
much interest in it from so long ago. It still amazes me how many people are
aware of it. It's just too bad that we all still aren't here to put it out and
go play, make more of it.
SIENA ROOT. Interview with Sam, Love, and KG West via email.
When you think of Scandinavia, music wise, it's a realm of death, black and
power metal, usually of the highest quality. But even the stoner rock scene is
represented, with bands like Honcho, Gate 9, The Satellite Circle and even
Sparzanza (many of whom we've interviewed) gracing the e-pages of this
magazine. Now comes a band who represents the best sounds and styles of the
60's; be it through underground acid/garage rock, psychedelia or traces of
stoner rock (via the 90's and today) and it is our pleasure to present multiple
viewpoints from several members of Siena Root, who have their first full length
out on German based Nasoni Records, a label who is fast becoming one of my
The new album "Kaleidoscope" is quite an interesting mixture of
styles, though it's hard for me to pin down whether this is just 60's styled
psychedelic/garage rock, or even touches of stoner rock. I'm curious how you
would describe your sound or style to someone who would ask what Siena Root
Sam: We usually describe our music as "Dynamic Root Rock" or just "Root Rock".
I wouldn't call it a stoner influence but rather a sort of heavy riffin'
influence, and of course those two are pretty close to each other anyhow.
It's amazing to me to see that you hail from Scandinavia, it was
quite shocking at first, especially since vocal wise there's a resemblance to
maybe a Janis Joplin, and the whole psychedelic 60's thing was bigger in
America. Of course, some of the best musical groups nowadays come out of
Scandinavia, especially in the field of metal, so deep down I suppose itís not
that much of a shock.
Love: Maybe this type of music first evolved in America. Rock music has a
long tradition were we come from, but of cause many people have been influenced
by the American psychedelic 60's thing. The thing is that in a small country
you have to be even more receptive and open minded to what happens abroad.
However, this culture was evolving simultaneously across the world in the late
60s, but with slight geographical differences.
Sam: I would say that there's quite some resemblance with the British blues
rock explosion as well, a movement that expanded throughout Europe and America
very heavily back in the late 60's. I also find it very interesting and
flattering that you're mainly mentioning the 60's influence, most European
reviewers talk about the 70's when they write about Siena Root.
If you didn't mention it above, what would you say is the main
influence on HOW this band sounds? And by main influences, I'm mainly talking
about bands, musical groups, time period, etc.
Sam: I would definitely say that the era of time can say more about this than
mentioning any bands and I would say that 1967-1973 where very important years
for me even though I wasn't born yet.
Love: as I see it, the production sound of Siena Root is mostly influenced
by late 60's and early 70's rock music. It is purely analogue and something we
all like very much. When it comes to musical influences it is more diverse. It
ranges from Western and Indian classical music to heavy rock, to folk music.
The four of us contributes with different ideas. I like to see it as concepts.
The idea of a music piece is as much art as the actual recorded piece. Or as
Sam says: "As long as there is a riff there is a song".
Speaking of the 60's if you're old enough to remember or know of
people's stories, how did people in your home country react to the "peace and
love" era of the 1960's? Were people influenced musically or politically (or
otherwise) by what was happening in America?
Love: in my point of view, it was not only an American thing. The whole western
world was changing in the 60's. In Stockholm, where we come from, the prime
minister was walking the streets in anti-war demonstrations. Music festivals in
the spirit of peace and love took place, but not in the size of Woodstock of
course. There was surely a lot going on at that time, but we were not around
Sam: That was a very strong era over here as well and you can really tell that
from older people's memories. In Sweden like everywhere else trends are very
strong nowadays, and with this sort of 80's thing going on over here a lot of
young people laugh at the peace & love era as if it was silly and so on. But
trends have way of changing fast and strongly, like for example 10 years ago
the peace & love fashion was THE thing over here. Good thing is that I'm sure
it's coming back, sooner and stronger than ever!
It was nice to hear organ sounds on the album in addition to the
cool guitar sound effects.
Sam: We are all organ lovers in this band and we all saw it as a very important
element to include when we got this band together.
I know the year you played the Burg Herzberg festival, you shared
the same stage with Ozric Tentacles, Ten Years After, and Space Ritual; had you
ever attended that festival before? For those not in the know, tell us what the
festival is all about, how maybe it compares to Woodstock, and how your
performance went down.
KG: There was an incident in Berlin the night before involving a broken
door handle to our hotel: we simply couldn't get in, so we entered the stage at
Burg Herzberg without having slept any... There was a comment by a journalist
saying that I looked like "a lost guitar roadie from the 70's". Hehe... Anyway,
it's always like, when we start playing, we come back to life. We did have some
great jams on stage that day!
Love: Which Woodstock do you refer to [laughing]? We played a great hippie
festival in southern Germany this year called Woodstock. Both this festival and
Burg Herzberg are very inspired by the original Woodstock in 1969. If you get
the opportunity you should go there some time. It is a great happening,
something we need more of these days. It was our first time at Burg Herzberg
festival and the third concert together with Sanya. (their vocalist - Ed.)
I'm curious if you've started working on a new record yet, maybe
you might have some song titles, themes or ideas you want to tell us about.
Love: Yes, we are working on a new release, but it is too early for us to know
what it will sound like in the end.
KG: We've got tons of great riffs on a secret tape in our rehearsal studio. I
think the next album will be very much riff oriented rock. But you never know
how it will turn out.
So how did you come to work with Nasoni and how is your record deal
structured? Do they help support you with tours and interviews/press and
getting ads in magazines? I don't know much about them being from the United
States, so I'm wondering what kind of presence they have over in Europe.
Love: Nasoni is a good independent label, something the music industry needs
more of, I think. They are a rather big actor on the German psychedelic retro
scene and they have managed to sign bands from the Americas too.
Speaking of the new record, one of the things that surprised me was
the instrumental CD ender 'Reverberations,' it was amazing how much this song
jammed and for the most part seemed a bit devoid of any guitars; it was mainly
keyboards, drums, a bass guitar and some flutes! The keyboards gave off this
amazing heaviness you don't usually get from a keyboard. I'm curious also to
know what kind of synths (I believe they're referred to here as an organ) you
used? I'm a big fan of the Hammond Organ, and I know Hacienda from Germany uses
them quite well in their electronic music.
KG: Yes, "Reverberations" doesn't have any guitars at all! And, yet it's my
favourite track of the album. There are no synths either, it's a Hammond L100
through a tube amp and a leslie cabinet you're hearing. In the songs "Crossing
The Stratosphere" and "There And Back Again" I also use another hammond organ
with a pitch control through a distorted marshall stack with some chorus. This
sounds very much like an analogue synthesizer in my opinion.
Sam: I always been fascinated by songs/sounds that are very heavy without the
use of electric guitar and that made me want to record one of course.
"Reverberations" was only a bunch of riffs that married well, combined with
jams in between, very unstructured but yet my favourite. On top of this
riff-jam we added two good old friends of ours that also appears on our first
album called "A new Day Dawning", Tšngman who plays electric Hurdy Gurdy with
a wah pedal (not really a hurdy gurdy but a Swedish medieval instrument that is
very similar to one) and Anna Sandberg playing two different sort of medieval
flutes. The sound of this distorted Hurdy Gurdy like instrument pushed trough a
tube amp with a wah-pedal can also be some of the sounds that appears to be
'Ridin' Slow' was an interesting tune as well, almost like a
Biker's anthem, any motorcycle riders in the band? Here in the States, bikers
are looked at (some of them) as mean, rough and kick ass road warriors, is
there a big biker community in Sweden and how are they viewed over there? (We
have movies like 'Easy Rider' and things like that that usually portray a
meaner, rougher side of these people's lifestyle).
Love: They showed Easy Rider recently on TV over here. None of us are into
biker culture and it wasn't our intention to make a biker anthem on the record.
It is more like a tribute to our old VW-bus, which unfortunately got stolen and
trashed. The engine you hear in the end of the song, is simply a VW boxer
engine, not very strong in horse powers but very hippie-like, made in 1974.
I'm curious if you are surprised to be featured in a primarily
metal music magazine? I don't know how far reaching Nasoni's press is, but I'm
wondering if you have been featured in other magazines, and do any of the
members of the band like metal at all? How do you view the genre of stoner
Love: To me, stoner rock is old style riffs with a contemporary production.
Siena Root have a bit in common with stoner rock but almost nothing in common
with metal. However, I was raised with metal like Megadeath, Anthrax and Iron
Maiden, but I quit playing it a long time ago.
Sam: Prior to signing to Nasoni we released "A New Day Dawning" on a British
metal label called Rage of Achilles." This label was pure metal, no stoner or
heavy rock at all. So with this in mind it seems like metal fans are quite into
Siena Root as well.
Finally, what do you think it is that makes Scandinavia THE country
that consistently releases some of the world's best music? Whenever I think
about top notch death metal, doom metal, even stoner rock and psychedelic/space
rock, many of my favourite bands are from there! I know the government supports
musicians, unlike the U.S., but maybe you have another take on it?
Love: Well, the academic explanation to it is called "clusters" among human
geographers. Where there are good musicians, others come to join. Stockholm has
become a place where musicians meet and form bands in a constructive and
fortunate way. It is the same thing about film industry in Los Angeles for
Sam: Yes, I agree, it's not about certain people coming from a certain place
it's about certain people going to or finding a certain place. Seattle is a
good example of that I think. Other cities have had their "golden years" as
well, New York, San Francisco and so on. In Europe it's the same thing,
Berlin's been hot after the fall of the Berlin wall etc. As a citizen of
Stockholm it is hard for me to see it as a top notch musical city, I'm probably
blinded by being used to the city. But I do know that it's one of the European
cities that houses the largest numbers of bands at the moment.
THE WIZAR'D. Interview with Will via email.
The EP is pretty cool, but looking over your discography, I noticed
that EP's and singles are about all you've put out so far! Any particular
reason a full length hasn't surfaced yet? I noticed you're really into the
NWOBHM genre of metal, maybe you felt it easier to concentrate on just a few
songs rather than spread yourselves thin over a 9 or 10 song affair.
There is no real reason why we haven't done a full length yet, I guess I just
find it easier to work on a few songs. One day there will be a full length and
it will be a crushing slab of doom!
You mentioned you were working on a full length release, any chance
we can get some song titles, an album title or working themes for the new
Hahaha, actually we aren't currently working on a full length. We do have a
single imminent called "Smouldering Sinners" which is kind of DEATH SS/MANILLA
ROAD influenced affair. It will be an awesome release right down to the fucking
magnificent cover art. We are however working on another EP but its early days
at the moment. I will say that it will have more variation in the tempos and
should have more crushing production than any of our releases so far.
There seems to be a small theme running on a few tracks of this EP,
especially with the opening intro sample on 'The Devil In The Woods,' and of
course lyrics to 'The Doom That Came To Devil's End,' I could swear by the
lyrics that this particular song deals with the Jon Pertwee Dr. Who Episode
"The Daemons," since that was one of my favorite Who episodes. (and I DO know
the details of the story, since your tune mentioned Azal, The Vicar, and even
Wow, you are the first person to get the Doctor Who reference in that song, it
is definitely about the classic Pertwee episode "The Daemons" which is probably
my favourite Doctor Who story. The rest of the tracks on the album are all
based around various horror/Lovecraft themes (especially 'Funeral Circle') and
occult shit, but they don't have a continuous story or anything like that. I'm
truly impressed that you picked the Doctor Who reference, good work.
'The Goblin Washes His Feet' was interesting, as mostly an acoustic
number and seems a bit different from the rest of the album.
Yeah, it was just a bit of a tribute to LED ZEP and works well as an interlude
between 'The Devil In The Woods' and 'Life Eternal.'
Tell us a bit about Rusty Axe Records, as I hadn't heard of them
before I got your CD. Do you have a contract with them for a certain number of
albums? What other cool details are involved in your signing with them?
Rusty Axe mainly releases black/thrash/death albums, but Andy is a legend and
is a fan of many types of metal including doom obviously. We haven't signed a
contract or anything, or even discussed that type of thing they just release
our music, they also had some T-Shirts done for us which look fucking amazing.
And while we're on the subject of the label, I noticed on the
inside of your CD you mentioned hating Norse Core Black Metal Kids, is that due
to their insistent nature of not wanting black metal to evolve? Just curious if
you liked black metal or not? I know some of those black metal "elite" seem a
bit ridiculous, especially in their hateful comments about new albums from
Dissection and Satyricon.
We put that on the sleeve because black metal kids are part of the new age
disease that seems to have infected heavy metal. These kids aren't interested
in true heritage metal and their music lacks substance and most importantly
balls, it's beyond me how anyone can like this let alone call it metal! How can
something that sounds like someone playing the spoons with a washing machine in
the background be called metal? These kids are the type of people who think
traditional heavy metal is something to be laughed at, or the type of people
who claim to be into metal but keep it at arms length because they don't want
to be associated with it. I do like some black metal bands like GRAND BELIAL'S
KEY, SABBAT (Jpn), MASTER'S HAMMER, ROOT etc. real black metal, not goth black
nail paint bullshit. All I know is I'd rather listen to Manowar than Dark
What's up with doom-metal.com? Why your hatred of an internet
resource? I did notice when I tried to search their pages your band wasn't
Doom-"metal".com are a pack of revisionist leach swines. Firstly they preach
ridiculous lies teaching a generation of people a load of bullshit. Also they
leach from bands, they don't add bands to their list (which they claim they
want to try so hard to fill) unless they are given a free CD. Obviously they
don't care about the bands, they just want free shit.
Coming from Australia, do you see bands from there having a
difficult time making an impact on the world music scene? I'm assuming being so
isolated makes it difficult to play live around the world (maybe your label
would be willing to offer tour support)?
Well actually I think we have made more of an impact internationally than we
have locally. I've had far more feedback from people in Europe than Australia.
It seems few people in Australia are interested in this sort of music,
especially in the immediate local scene (Tasmania) I think we have sold less
than 10 copies in Tassie! We have pretty much no support here. We don't play
live in The Wizar'd but if we did you are right, it would make it extremely
difficult to play anywhere out of Australia or even Tasmania.
Let's talk a bit about the album. I have seen a few reviews where
writers have mentioned that the guitars should have been more upfront in the
mix, but there's something about the production that adds an oppressive weight
and eerie darkness to the album's vibe.
I tend to agree that the guitar tone is perhaps a bit muddy, but considering it
wasn't recorded in a studio I thought it sounded pretty good. I'm glad you
think it adds to the dark atmosphere of the EP. The coming releases will have a
brighter guitar tone but it won't be completely removed from what was on the
How do you see the album's mixing of influences, as you're
obviously as influenced by NWOBHM sounds as true, old school doom? Did you feel
some songs needed more of the dynamic, catchy riffing as opposed to the
downright evil and dark guitar riffs we've heard at the hands of Sabbath?
I think the best doom bands old and new have a strong traditional heavy metal
influence and we wanted to capture that as well. We are definitely influenced
by classic heavy metal bands like ANGEL WITCH, MANILLA ROAD, early IRON MAIDEN
etc. but we also worship stuff like WARNING, SAINT VITUS, SABBATH, PENTAGRAM
and so on. Our influences are vast but we aren't one of those bands that claim
to open minded to shit like electronica and hip hop to reel in more people. We
are a doom metal band pure and simple.
Tell me a bit about some of your favorite bands from the NWOBHM
genre. Personally, I felt there were more great bands that just had a 7 inch or
two out and then faded into obscurity. Bands like China Doll, Triarchy,
Hellrazer and Goldsmith had at least one great song that truly represented what
the spirit of the NWOBHM movement was all about. And there's still so many more
NWOBHM bands I haven't even discovered yet!
The NWOBHM is great because there were so many (awesome) bands from that period
of time, and you are right in that there are always more to discover. Some of
my favourites are PAGAN ALTAR, HELL, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, ANGEL WITCH, TRESPASS
+ many more, there are too many to list really.
Tell us a bit about the lineup of the band, because upon reading
your liner notes in the EP, you had a drummer, but according to the
metal-archives.com site, he's now a former member? How hard has it been to find
musicians in the Australia area who share your vision?
It is hard to find people who are into this sort of thing in Australia,
particularly in Tasmania, which makes it difficult as Tassie is isolated from
the rest of the country. The current line up includes me on Guitar and Vocals,
Blackie (bass guitar) who is a violent madman who constantly goes missing, and
now a shady character called Iron Tyrant on Drums. Pirate of Days had to leave
the band because his heart wasn't in heavy metal, you'd probably find him
listening to Mozart rather than PENTAGRAM. We also had a brief stint with a guy
called Cameron the Barbarian who is a fucking great drummer but is involved
with too many other bands and projects to commit to the Wizar'd, which is a
shame because he hits almost as hard as Scott Columbus.
Just curious if you have any opinions on some of the greatest bands
to come out of Australia; some of my favorite 80's metal bands like Hobbs Angel
Of Death, Mortal Sin and Armoured Angel? It's good to see some of them coming
back and doing something, even if it's just the occasional one off show.
They are indeed great bands, and it's good to see them still at it. I think if
we are talking great Australian bands RAVEN BLACK NIGHT definitely needs a
mention as they are my favourite Australian band, fucking killer epic
heavy/doom metal. Australia also has cool bands like CAULDRON BLACK RAM,
DESTROYER 666, DESTRUKTOR, GOSPEL OF THE HORNS, VOMITOR etc unfortunately not
much in the way of traditional metal apart from RBN.
How do you see doom metal of the past, and where do you think it's
headed in the future? Bands like My Dying Bride and November's Doom are like
the figureheads to me who are usually looked upon to lead the future, while
younger more unknown bands like Shape Of Despair, Tyranny, Saturnus, Doom:Vs,
Mourning Beloveth and the like are trying to create something new from an ages
Obviously I love doom metal from the past but only bands playing in the
traditional way. I have never liked bands like MDB etc and I never will. I
don't think any of those bands will lead anyone anywhere. I think the true
leaders in doom metal are bands like THE GATES OF SLUMBER, WARNING, ORODRUIN,
WHILE HEAVEN WEPT, and of course now that they are active again PAGAN ALTAR!
One final question, I've been really curious about one of your side
projects that I'd LOVE to hear someday, and that is Space Raven. Anything you
care to tell us about that band? I know there is an EP out, what makes this
band different from The Wizar'd?
Space Raven is the other band I play in. It's still doom but its definitely
different to The Wiz'; Space Raven is more raw, taking a strong influence from
VENOM especially with the vocals. I'd say we sound like a cross between VENOM
and SAINT VITUS with a bit of CIRITH UNGOL in there perhaps. We have an EP out
which is okay but we are planning on recording something else soon which will
be much better.
VOIVOD. Interview with Snake.
The death of Denis D'Amour, AKA Piggy, has left many shocked and dismayed, in
an era when many of our greatest metal heroes are leaving this world in record
numbers. One thing that makes Voivod's newest record great is the material that
Piggy left the rest of the band to work with. "Katorz" is one hell of a record,
a right kick in the ass that SHOULD have been their first self titled release
for The End, but all has been reconciled and a great album (one we KNEW the
band was capable of, despite my suspicions that Jason Newstead had ruined the
vibe and sound of Voivod on his arrival) has been left as a testament and a
rememberance of what Voivod, and especially Piggy, was capable of. Snake tells
all, in our second interview ever with the Canadian pioneers of heavy metal
that encompasses a sound all it's own.
When you went into the mindset of recording "Katorz," did you feel
like you wanted a heavier sound; maybe going back to your roots while trying to
progress forward at the same time?
It really came from circumstances, because we didn't choose to have the guitar
tracks on Piggy's laptop. We just reamped the guitar. As for the bass, once
again the bass tracks were on Piggy's laptop as Jason went to Piggy's place for
awhile. Michel and I redid our parts, but it's all a matter of circumstances:
Jason had an operation on his shoulder. There's still 13 other songs waiting to
be recorded, and around 2007 we'll probably be in the studio again to continue.
I'm a huge fan of Voivod, and have been since the early 80's. My
first Voivod record ever was "Killing Technology," and the first time I heard
it I didn't even know if I liked it, but after awhile I heard the brilliance of
this record! And I've been a fan to this day.
That's cool to hear. Everytime we release something we never compromise our
music for any trend. But we always worry everytime we release (a record)
because you know it's gonna surprise people, whether in a good way or a bad
way. It's not like (we're) a band that has a certain formula. But that's cool
to hear, especially with the new record. There's a really cool vibe in people's
reaction, but I don't know if it's because of Piggy's passing. I think this
record means something for a lot of people.
One thing I do have to ask though; when Jason first came into the
band, I am curious how much input he had on the writing, recording and actually
the shape of the sound of the self titled album (the one that came out before
Jason had a great impact, because we ended up at The Chophouse. It was cool
because we had all the facilities in the world to do music for 5, 6 and even 7
hours a day, sometimes even more. So we were into one room jamming, really
focused on our thing. The band had a lot of attention from the media with Jason
joining the band, and that helped us be more present in mass media. It was like
a boot camp somehow! (laughs). We'd eat breakfast, talk about music, jam for an
hour, eat lunch, go back to the music, and what not. We gave Jason a lot of
room; he's allowed to do whatever he wants with us. He knows what we're all
I'll go ahead and reveal my motives for asking this. I have to say
that personally I was pretty disappointed with that record. And my
understanding was that maybe you guys with Jason hadn't meshed together as a
band and maybe Jason was coming in fresh off the newer Metallica stuff which
most people weren't crazy about. But this record is good, the vocals were quite
good, somewhat a back to form for Voivod.
It was a new start for me. It's true that everything was new, and even I was
just coming back into the band. Sometimes I was worried if I still had it or
not on the record. It takes time to feel more comfortable with everything.
Other than that I think we did good.
How do you feel about the fact that there were longtime Voivod fans
that didn't take to the first album recorded with Jason? I hate to say I'm in
that category but I didn't totally write you guys off. "Katorz" is the album
that exceeds all my expectations, definitely.
You have your opinion, and everyone has their own favorite album. To tell you
the truth, it's hard for me to have an objective point of view because we try
to do the best we can with what we have. We're dealing with different
situations every time, and it's not always perfect and not meant to be that
way. Look at the first record, it has a lot of energy, but we had poor
equipment and no budget at all, but the vibe was there. It's really a matter of
who you trust behind the board and doing it the best you can. It's always a
different situation. Sometimes we make a move, like when we made "Angel Rat," I
know people were disappointed because they were expecting another "Nothingface"
or something. Blackie left at that time, and we had a producer that was a bit
old fashioned, and we didn't get the same vibe, the same sound. But that
doesn't mean the songs aren't cool.
How do you feel about "Negatron," because that was the first album
that didn't feature your vocals. Personally, I thought Eric Forrester did a
pretty good job on that and his vocals were heavy.
Eric was good on both records, "Phobos" was great too. The first time I
listened to it it was kinda wierd! (laughs). I was kinda shocked and also
pleased in another way; I didn't know what to think! The more I listened to it,
I really started getting into it. As I got deeper into it, I forgot everything
else. I closed my eyes, and thought of this as just another band. I was able to
let go, and thought "Oh my god, this is great!" It was really dark too! It was
a different vibe. It was a great experience.
I read that Voivod did an Ozzfest appearance, how was that for you
guys? I'm also curious about your setlist, did you play new stuff and old stuff
or just primarily new stuff?
Unfortunately, we didn't have much time, just 40 minutes. The set was more
concentrated on new stuff. We're a new band at that point. It didn't really
matter to us at that point, because we knew that people weren't really familiar
with us, they were just discovering us at that time. It was a great experience
though, playing with bands like Korn, Marilyn Manson... It was cool.
Just to reach a larger audience, though, not that you listen to
those bands, right? (laughing)
Yeah. When I joined the band I played with Motorhead, and that was like the
first gig I did. My first gig with Lemmy, it's like "Wow, four days with
Lemmy!" So it kinda felt like jumping back in the boat again.
The story with Korgull The Exterminator spanned like 4 albums I
think. Are there any plans to reintroduce that character or expand his
Sometimes I fool around with the characters, but now I concentrate on being
more direct. You can talk about science fiction as a part of reality, but I
feel like there's so much more of an emergency; it's so ridiculous that
humanity is going to hell. I don't feel like writing poetry right now, I feel
like waking people up, screaming in their faces.
Do you think musicians have more of a vehicle to reach people with
a message than these politicians that get all this air time? I think kids are
to the point now where kids are sick of all the lies and all the politicians
crap. Some of the songs from "Killing Technology" like 'Order Of The
Blackguards" reminds me of some of the politics, even in a futuristic society.
It's always a new surrounding but it's always the same problems. There's always
a conspiracy somewhere. I was watching the 911 conspiracy on TV, going "Oh
my god, is this real?" And you start thinking about "maybe it's just one of
those internet things" where people are trying to make you believe things
happened or didn't happen.
The nice thing about the conspiracy theories is that, whether they
actually happened or didn't happen; it's nice that we have a forum where people
are allowed to view their opinions. There are countries where you can't even
think about speaking out against the government...
Yeah, or you might have two guys showing up at your door! Making sure that
you're not goint to say anything wrong.
Out of your first four albums, which one would you say is one of
Well, "War And Pain" was our first album out, it was our baby so to speak.
There's always another kind of relationship to it. "Killing Technology" was
cool too, it was kind of a turning point. Instead of going "we're going to be
the fastest, loudest, heaviest," whatever; we decided to be more technical and
original. That kind of innovation in the band certainly marked the way we were
going to be in the future.
A record like that you don't pick up right away, and I think
that's the mark of a good record. I listened to "Killing Technology" last week
and that song 'Tornado' is a brutal song! (Snake laughs). No really, it is, I
mean even in the framework of such a brutal song, you can sense this slow
tension that's starting to build up, and then with the loud vocals, it's like
an actual tornado! You see it in the distance, and then BAM! it's right on you
creating havoc and destruction.
I agree, songs like 'Overreaction,' 'Order Of The Blackguards,' it's really
heavy stuff. "Nothingface" was cool, and then "Dimension Hatross" was REALLY
out there. It was when we wanted to do something that was really OUT of
everything that was done before.
I'm curious about your mindset when lyrics were written for
"Katorz," especially a song like 'Polaroid,' which is an unusual title for a
'Polaroid' was a song inspired by something I saw, a movie made about a guy on
an expedition to Antarctica. His boat got crushed by the ice, and I think there
was 40 people on the boat. They survived for like 4 or 5 years on the ice and
they didn't lose one person. It was something that inspired me to describe
Voivod's strength to survive.
One last thing: whenever there's any tape trading of shows from the
80's, one of the most legendary shows was when Celtic Frost and Voivod toured
together around 1986. Just curious to get your thoughts on that, if you had any
interesting tour stories or anything.
It was a wierd experience, because I know America is a tough place, and it's
hard for bands to keep going on the road and not losing any money. Even if you
sell the show, you run up a lot of expenses. The tours started out with big
hotels, big tour buses and what not. We knew we were going into a bankrupt
situation, because as the tour went on, we were staying in cheaper hotels and
using cheaper transportation. Otherwise we had fun, because Celtic Frost were
just discovering America and so were we. Like one day we could play in front of
1500 people and the next day we could play in a shitty venue for barely 100
This thing's late... again... THIS time around there's a few more CD reviews
than in a few past issues, and this time I wanted to make sure things went
right, which meant I purposely delayed this issue by at least a few weeks.
Many people don't understand how I do CD reviews for the magazine, but suffice
it to say if you say a song title to me, I can pretty much picture how it goes
in my head. If you're going to dissect a band's work, you should at least have
a visual memory of each and every song. Now I know it's difficult to do that
considering how much stuff I get and how much time I have, but I do as thorough
a job as I can. Some people have yet again asked me why I don't have a lot of
negative reviews in the magazine, and this particular issue isn't going to
change anything! Let's just say that I am open minded, and believe me when I
say that there's a WHOLE lot of CD's that didn't make this issue that I didn't
care for much at all. Truth be told, it's a lot harder to spend more time on
awful CD's than for really good ones, as I'm MUCH more critical than you think
of the CD's that are really good. Maybe I should spend more time on CD's that
aren't so great, but the fact of the matter is, I STILL love music. I still
enjoy getting excited over a brand new band I've never heard before, and I
still love listening to that LEGEND album "From The Fjords" from 1979!
Speaking of LEGEND'S "From The Fjords," make sure you really digest that
interview, because not only does it reveal information to the entire WORLD that
has never been made public before, but it reveals a LOT about this legendary
and amazing band from 1979 that released an album AT LEAST 5 or 10 years ahead
of it's time. And I have to say it is one of the highlight interviews of my
entire career. Many people have no idea how much this record means to me,
despite the fact that I've only had it for a few years or so. One of the best
and most incredible recordings EVER MADE in the history of recorded music.
The lineup for next year's Heathen Crusade festival only has three bands
announced, but so far things look promising: Vreid, Manegarm and one of my
favorites: Skyforger! We're hoping to make the 1200 mile trek in January of
next year. Let's hope there's a new issue out by then.
One more thing I gotta mention, though I haven't been a fan of Cannibal Corpse,
or of Six Feet Under for that matter for quite a long time; it IS quite
interesting that BOTH bands have been bitten by the incestuous member swapping
so prevalent and common in the Scandinavian music scene! New releases by
Torture Killer and Paths Of Possession, featuring both Chris Barnes AND George
"Corpsegrinder" Fisher on vocals respectively, are both releases where I
thought each respective singer belongs, in my honest opinion. And you know how
so many members of bands over in Scandinavia end up in other people's bands.
That wasn't a staple of American musicians until now. I just found that very
interesting. BOTH CD's didn't make deadline, but hopefully they both will be
featured next issue.
On a different note, we've added quite a few new labels to our roster, we will
be welcoming new releases by I Hate Records and Wraith Productions, who have
provided us with quite a bit of new material to digest. Sanctuary Records also
stepped in and helped us with a TON of new stuff we had been missing, and it
looks like we're back on track with Napalm Records, thanks to Marty and Tammy,
both from two different labels, now joining forces to help Napalm become maybe
a bigger player in the American music market? Only time will tell...
Thanks for sticking with us for so long, and through so many delays! We try our
best to keep things going and it seems like this is becoming an every 4 month
publication instead of every 3. Thanks as always to all the labels that support
me, especially now that DOOM Radio is up and running and is now a PERMANENT
part of the body of activites here at Vibrations Of Doom. Until next issue...
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