Another late issue... Ah, don't ya LOVE these delays... We hope everyone's enjoying the new RealAudio format, as now the soundfiles are bumped up to 5 minutes in length and sound better than they EVER have. SO: If you're reading a review about a band you might like, GO LISTEN TO THE SOUNDFILES! There's at least 4 or 5 tunes for every review. And of course I don't have to mention the classic albums section.

TWENTY YEARS!!! 20 years since Vibrations Of Doom Magazine first started making issues... How do we celebrate? What do we do? Any suggestions? Comments? Obviously, we'd LOVE to throw a big music festival. Bring some bands down south that you don't normally see here in the States. Agent Steel. Hirax. Vesperian Sorrow. Joe Stump's Reign Of Terror. Solitude Aeturnus. R.A.F. (read about them this issue, they've actually agreed to be part of a music fest if we can make it worth their while). Agalloch. Manilla Road. A good mixture of 80's metal and the bands of today, and many great ones live right here in the U.S.

Anyway, that probably should have been saved for the editorial notations column I think. Here's the address and what not:

Vibrations of Doom Magazine/DOOM Radio
c/o Steven Cannon
P.O. Box 1258
Suwanee, GA 3024-0963 USA


ACID WITCH "Stoned" (Hell's Headbangers) SCORE: 87/100

Ever wonder what music would have been like had metal been around back in the 60's? That seems to me the question Acid Witch have answered very well with their latest release "Stoned." The trippy psychedelic keyboards are sprinkled all over the place, and definitely give an acid drenched atmosphere to the proceedings. The guitar work is dripping with sludge and distortion, hammering home the point that this is death metal of the sickest order. Vocal wise, the guttural, inhuman death styled vocals prove this point even further, while the higher ended guitar work definitely reminds you of 80's metal bands and even NWOBHM influences as well. The CD starts off with a spoken word intro about the "children of satan," though to be honest the overt repetition of certain phrases tends to annoy a bit. Once the opening "song" 'Witchfynder Finder' drops in, you're in for a wild ride. The lead solos too are quite skilled and insane, and it's not all slow tempos. 'Trick Or Treat' starts off with the horror themed organ notes, and what makes this song so catchy is the dual attack of sick, death metal downtuned guitars and amazing high end lead guitar notes. It definitely contains an air of doom metal, though those high end lead notes keep this from being a total doom fest. 'Thundering Hooves' was a great "instrumental," if you will, full of movie vocal samples and some killer heavy guitar work. 'Whispers In The Dark' was rather pointless to me, though the "jewelry box" notes and synths were interesting. 'Stoned To The Grave' contains LOTS of the acid/psychedelic synths amidst the sick guitar and growled vocals, while 'Metal Movie Marijuana Massacre Meltdown' was just plain goofy, and the guitar riffs sounded exactly like some riffs heard above. 'Sabbath Of The Undead' was one of their sickest and heaviest; that coupled with the synth notes gave this one an interesting vibe, especially hearing an organ solo AND some crazed leads. This CD definitely has something different going for it; I mean it's not every day a band who plays death metal tries to create a real stoner rock vibe, and an acid/psychedelic theme straight out of the 1960's. It may not win awards for overt creativity, but the disc is FUN, and the way different styles are blended together has the tendency to MAKE it sound different. Fire up a joint and have fun with this one.
Contact: Hells Headbangers Records.

ALKONOST "On The Wings Of The Call" (Einheit) SCORE: 52/100

It's been 9 years since I first heard of Alkonost through Ketzer Records, which was an excellent release and one that showed Russian folkish black metal with pride. Fast forward to 2010 and a TON of full lengths in the interim, and I'm left scratching my head, wondering WHERE the hell Alkonost went?!? Let's start at the beginning: 'Bird-Ship' starts things off nicely with some rather interesting male and female sung folkish vocals, and the first thing you notice right off the bat are the synthesizers. No big deal, Alkonost had them utilized a bit on their "Songs Of The Eternal Oak" release (all the tracks from this and their 2001 demo appeared on that 2002 self titled compilation, reviewed by us some time ago). The blackened vocal work is quite sick and intense I might add, seemingly a bit more so than I remembered from early days. And the female vocals, nothing out of place there (going back to the beginning days again). It is probably one of their best tunes. The foreshadowing comes before this track ends, and it's with a different set of female vocals. Next cut 'Chilly Fire Of The Night.' THIS is where I realize something is VERY wrong. The opening guitar work is fast picked, high end notations which I always enjoyed from Alkonost. And then the death knell: those annoying high pitched operatic female vocals! They're not bad here, but you start to see the nosedive: the blackened vocals share almost equal time with the operatic ones. And the goth atmosphere REALLY shines through on the keys, which become more dominant as time goes on. Next stop is 'Thought-Trees,' and man there's WAY too much of the opera singing. The few blackened vocals here (VERY few) get buried in the opera. I'll pass. Next up, yep, it's opera time, and here the 5:32 length of 'Ineffable Light' seems a bit too much to take, especially since the female vocals seem to go on and on like a droning boring conversation. Hear the syrupy keyboards? You still with me? A light shines for a bit with the female vocals of a different sort, and these are MUCH better sung. They're not overtly annoying. Still, that being said, the blackened vocals (which are few), are kinda drowned with some odd male sung vocals. And the almost 7 minute length is a chore to sit through. By track 6 'Fire Bloom Charm,' I'm going "Damn, didn't I hear these guitar patterns before?" VERY few blackened vocals, though the NON operatic female vocals are a bit odd. 'Princess' Lament.' Now if THIS song title doesn't sum up PERFECTLY what this band's genre of music should be called. Yes, more annoying operatic vocals, and the opening synths are HEAVILY light and "airy." The few heavier guitar pieces sound VERY forced, as if they were saying "Oh, shit! We forgot to add something from the extreme metal genre in here!" And folks, say good bye to the blackened vocals for the rest of the album, because it seems like Alkonost was trying to slowly trick you into thinking that this was an extreme metal album. 'New Unknown Lands' was nice, though all female sung vocals (as mentioned above), they never annoyed, and the guitar work reminded me STRONGLY of the 2002 compilation. I really think Alkonost's next album is going to probably remove ALL traces of blackened vocal work, since they did such a good job at subtly and covertly removing the blackened influence from this album. A few decent tracks but nothing I'd EVER want to revisit. If you haven't heard Alkonost's earliest days, AND you can tolerate those operatic high toned female vocals, you MAY enjoy this, though for me there's little substance, save for some nice guitar work. More goth than metal.
Contact: Einheit Produktionen.

ANGEL WITCH "As Above, So Below" (Metal Blade) SCORE: 84/100

There are a few bands in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal Movement I never got around to listening. Unfortunately, one of the most influential bands of the genre is also one of the ones I am completely unfamiliar with. SO, that in hand I went and started listening to their earlier works (though I was definitely knowledgeable about the song 'Extermination Day,' which graced many compilation albums dealing with NWOBHM), since it's said some of their earliest penned tunes influenced speed metal. I can say this latest release took me by surprise, as I hadn't really heard anything from them within the last few years. Let me say right off the bat this album has some dark and sinister overtones, yet despite this manages to be amazingly melodic, especially where the higher ended guitars and soaring vocal work is concerned. Right off the bat you get 'Dead Sea Scrolls,' a fantastic piece to start the album. Dark guitar work abounds, though there's something strangely melodic and almost doom metal oriented to the cut. It's not really a speedy tune either. The lead guitars on this cut (as well as practically the entire album) are quite moving as well. 'Into The Dark' has those "almost" NWOBHM leads though sounds a bit more modern that being a Nee-Wobum rehash. There's some really nice stuff going on here; that is until the rather strange and odd guitar work and repeating of the name of the song near the end, which really ruined the ending for me. Moving on, the cut 'Gebura' suffers DRASTICALLY from the same fate, making the entire song one I cannot deal with. I think the overtly darker instrumentation and darker sung vocals didn't mesh well together at all. Definitely one of the worst tracks on the album. And to be fair, 'Upon This Cord' also comes close to suffering from the same fate: it's INCREDIBLY dark and sinister, probably the most ominous cut on the record, while still remaining at a midtempo pace. But THIS track works so well; I can see why others would have problems with it but I enjoy it. The dark acoustic guitar work was an interesting touch. 'The Horla' was a seven and a half minute track that starts off with some nice moody acoustic guitar work; though when the kick ass heavy and sinister guitars come in, the vocals REALLY rise to the occasion. 'Witching Hour' is EASILY one of my favorite tunes, especially those choruses which add more melodic touches despite the almost thrash riffs. And 'Guillotine' has FANTASTIC NWWOBHM fuzzed out guitar riffs, proceeding to add the dark touch yet again, while adding a SHIT TON of great solos. CD ender 'Brainwashed' definitely raises some eyebrows with the lyrical matter and rather scary instrumentation; you can almost picture the zombie look on a brainwashed person's face once taking this track in. That being said, however, this 7 minute cut has almost too much solo instrumentation going on; realistically this song could have been cut a few minutes and would have been better (especially with the rather odd lead solos and strange guitar rumbling). This is a damn fine effort from someone (Kevin Heyborne) who has held this band together since the EARLY 80's, and though it bears very little in common with the actual NWOBHM sound, touches of early Angel Witch abound here and there while proving that a band from the 80's STILL has relevance today and is able to, over 30 years later, still make great music. Kudos to Metal Blade for picking this up for the U.S., since Metal Blade is to 80's U.S. metal what the NWOWBHM was to 80's British Metal.
Contact: Metal Blade Records.

ANKHAGRAM "Where Are You Now" (Silent Time Noise) SCORE: 99/100

It's becoming quite obvious to me that the people at Silent Time Noise Records, which is a subdivision of Satanarsa Records, REALLY have an ear for great doom metal. Especially of the extreme variety. Let me just say right off the bat that if you loved Shape Of Despair, especially the "Shades Of..." album and "Angels Of Distress," and also really dig the music of The Howling Void, then there's probably no reason for you to HAVE to read this review, I would suggest going out and getting this album RIGHT NOW... The Shape Of Despair influences are extrenely obvious, though Ankhagram is no mere clone of the band. The CD starts off with the cut 'Life's Ocean,' and from the opening landscape styled atmospheric synths, I am reminded of The Howling Void in the way they utilized the synthesizers to create ambient landscapes within their framework. Like most in the funeral doom/death genre, your first three tracks of this 6 song affair will clock in at over 32 minutes. (That comes from two 11 minute pieces and one 10 1/2 track). The vocal work is all along similar lines, the inhuman sounding death vocals that were prevalent in the Shape of Despair album "Shades Of..." complete with a howling wind effect tacked on. Relegated to mostly the background, I sense that the vocals were meant to blend in with the rest of the atmospherics rather than to stand out. This makes them difficult to understand, and a minor complaint was the many spoken word passages that, while repeated and echo effected, made them frustrating when they were obviously trying to enunciate certain words clearly. This is most common on the song 'Trees Of Feelings.' 'The Mistress' starts things off with piano notes and synths, reminding me of the track 'Woundheir' from the aforementioned "Shades Of..." And here the synths take on the shape of violins, though with this track, and it's 10 and a half minute length, it seems like the first half is all instrumental until the death vocals kick in at around 5:23. They only last a minute or two before they're gone from this track forever. The biggest change comes in at track 4, 'Shade You' (obvious play on S.O.D.'s album title "Shades Of?"); here opening up you have some nice almost angelic female chanted style vocals and piano notes.That's it for the first few minutes. Death metal vocals and heavier instrumentation come in at about 3:26 and simply add to what's there, which was a nice touch. Then it's instrumentation only to end out the cut with just synths and piano notes. Instrumentation on this disc is seemingly way more prevalent than vocals. 'K.O.D.,' which stands for 'Kingdom Of Darkness,' contains the heaviest and darkest instrumentation on the disc, the synths dual layering to contain some medieval and epic sounding passages, and I could easily see this as background music in some movie for some very epic and dark scenes. Finally, if you want a shock, watch a brilliant cover of the MGMT song 'Kids' to close this disc out. Probably the opposite, some of the most melodic and beautiful synth work rounds this disc out, and I never thought I'd hear a pop song covered so expertly in the doom metal realm. One small annoyance though was noticeable mostly on the last few tracks, a small buzzing noise was heard, and on 'Kids,' it's most noticeable when the vocals are going on. It may take some who aren't reading this review awhile to notice that however. A mastering error or something amiss on my particular copy of the CD? It doesn't matter, because every track here is a fatal masterpiece of a band who merely takes influence from Shape Of Despair and runs with it (if you notice some synths sound like horns or trumpets, like on 'Kids' and 'The Mistress,' you can also say we've heard horn sounds from Colosseum and maybe one or two other doom bands). Silent Time Noise Records is on it's way to becoming as masterful and noteworthy as Solitude Productions. Funny how both labels are from Russia!
Contact: Silent Time Noise Records.

ATOLAH "Relics" (PsycheDOOMelic) SCORE: 89/100

This CD is a bit old, but fuck it, it's cool and that's what matters. I recently got back in touch with PsycheDOOMelic after many years (I think the last release we covered was Voodooshock's self titled release in 2002 (DAMN, 9 years ago or so!) so I was glad to get some stuff from them. This 5 track EP came out in 2009, so only a few years old. Right off the bat, I'll tell ya this: There ain't no vocals on it. It's a kinda sludgy mixture of stoner rock, doom metal and bottom FUCKING end heavy. I mean, the bass guitar gets more up front and in your face than the guitars (they're a three piece), and it's MEANT to be recorded that way. These songs are SO fucking heavy... The most you get out of each song is one, maybe TWO structure/tempo changes though, and some of them are kinda subtle that you don't notice it at the first few listens. I gotta say I LOVE the opening vocal sample (is it from a movie?) where the guy goes "I Just shot somebody and I did it on purpose!!!" The songs here aren't extremely long, you've got a 4 minute song, two 5 minute songs, a 6 and a half song and a 7 minute song, but though the instrumentation is rather simplistic, the longer songs are fleshed out WELL... And kudos goes to one of the coolest song titles EVER in 'Weedy Gonzales.' This track in particular has a slammin', almost headbanging tempo with cool ass bass lines, and unlike most songs, your major structure change comes about after only 2 minutes. There's kind of a "desert rock" sound in the guitar riffs if you listen closely for it. CD ender 'El Duce' has a really menacing sound to it, though I HATED the way they white noise the ending, kinda ending in a blur of noise after they started speeding up and is indeed the fastest instrumentation on the disc. It's heavy duty stoner rock, with very heavy bottom end doomy touches (in fact, the opening instrumentation on 'Down It Or Leave It' is quite eerie, especially with the echoed acoustic opening). It won't win points for originality and most people can't do instrumental music, but basic though it is it's damn infectious. Grab your most potent weed and be prepared to zone out to some heavy, HEAVY tunes.
Contact: PsycheDOOMelic Records.

COLOSSEUM "Chapter 3: Parasomnia" (Firebox) SCORE: 97/100

I had this CD for a long time before I could even bring myself to listen to it, let alone review it. Juhani Palomaki passed away before he could bring this album to fruition, and I certainly didn't want to taint the memory of a man who had been so supportive and helpful to me with my publication. That being said, I can happily and safely say that this CD is an impressive and emotional monument to Juhani's creative genius. Some nagging questions arise however: How much of this CD did Juhani write and ultimately finish? My greatest complaint about the CD varies here and there with the final scoring, and that is this: there are three songs ('Parasomnia,' 'Dilapidation And Death,' and 'On The Strand Of Nightmares') that have black metal styled vocals in a few spots. The thing I have a problem with is I was under the assumption that maybe Juhani hadn't finished ALL the vocals, necessitating the need for another vocalist. However, upon closer inspection, the blackened vocals are layered ON TOP OF Juhani's death vocals. This isn't a problem for the majority of the disc, but it kills about 2 or 3 minutes of the CD opener 'Dilapidation And Death,' and that's mostly due to the rather jarring nature of the backing guitar work. I thought for Mr. Palomaki's final testament, his vocals should have been left ALONE. Anyway, while on the subject of the CD opener, a 21 minute length could not have been more appropriate; this song being almost split in two with the last 6 minutes featuring some beautiful multivocal choir like chanting and great ambient synths. Even the synthesized passages brought back the trumpet and horn sounds from the "Numquam" album. The 'Questioning Existence' track was the shortest here, though my least favorite. At almost 4 minutes, it's ambient synths and the almost organ like soundscape was interesting at first, but the high ended guitar leads sounded a bit odd. And skip it I usually do. 'Passage To Eternity' starts off with Juhani's deep growls, and of course most noteworthy about this 15 minute piece is the soaring and overtly emotional lead guitar passages near the end that just absolutely drown you. The song overall is pretty straightforward for the most part with slight variations here and there that you don't really notice unless you're paying attention. The interesting little bell notes here and there, plus the ending instrumentation, showcases a lighter and more melodic side that isn't usually a highlight on Colosseum CD's, but it's beautiful nonetheless. 'On The Strand Of Nightmares' definitely starts off slow and dirgy, and here the use of multivocal clean sung passages should have been utilized more often I thought! There's about 5 people involved in some of these choirs, and they are used to great effect though as I stated, not often enough. The blackened vocals mix better with Juhani's vocals here but as stated before, I think Juhani should have been given more prominence. The music here does take on a nightmarish composition, especially near the end with the very dark and eerie synths. 'Parasomnia' closes the album out in fine fashion, and here the blackened vocals mix VERY WELL with Juhani's voice, adding a rather angry atmosphere to the sadness permeated throughout the track. This track has about 2 minutes and 50 seconds of very minimal instrumentation before the vocals kick in, adding ambient synths to what is obviously a sad closing to a great doom metal album. Juhani has helped craft a legacy of amazing doom metal, and we are deeply saddened by his loss. By the time you read this, we will probably have already re-broadcast the Juhani Palomaki tribute show we did back in 2010, PLEASE email me if you have a desire to hear it again after it leaves our site. R.I.P. my friend.
Contact: Firebox Records.

CRUSHER "Endless Torment" (Metal Scrap) SCORE: 96/100

I thoroughly enjoyed the FUCK outta this little gem of a record from the Ukraine! Thrash metal might be in a "revival" stage right now, but this three piece plays this stuff fast and furious like there's no tomorrow! The first "proper" song (more on that later), 'On The Needle,' starts the record off with a bang (after a rather useless spoken word intro, hoever) and it's a blazing speed fest from the get go. The tempo here is aggressive and fast paced from the album's opening track to the last one, though many songs slow things down right around the choruses (and VERY flawlessly and effortlessly too I might add; it's obvious to me the band is VERY tight, controlled and has quite a few years of experience). The vocal work is quite aggressive, almost a Mille of Kreator mixed with maybe the guy from Canada's Sacrifice (best description I've heard yet). 'Den Of Iniquity' has some kick ass start/stop riffing, while 'Politishit' is just a funny song title. This tune probably contains the most slower, more "groove" oriented instrumentation, and while not their best tune, definitely isn't one to pass on. The title track rages all to hell, though it's Crusher's M.O. to start things off a tad slow instrumentation wise before cranking the speed PAST overdrive. The simplistic choruses will stick in your head as well, and the lead solos are some of the most insane on the disc! Speaking of solos, they're here in full force, and quite well done (well, save for a few odd moments on 'Living For...' You gotta love 'S(k)atanic Ride' as well; this was a video made for the thrashers who still love to skateboard! The Slayer cover 'Jesus Saves' sounds JUST like the original, save for the vocal work, and it's nice to see a Slayer song that hasn't been covered to death. CD ender 'Thrasher In Hell' contains some pounding percussion and sick thrash riffs, it's aggressive as fuck like everything else. I guarantee you, if you aren't convinced this is the real deal, check out the soundfiles. It's amazing to me also that for all the vicious and furious speed, every song seems to have an identity of it's own, what with all the crushing thrash riffs and the insane vocal work. If you decide to headbang to this entire album, you do so at your own risk, as many a neck is surely to be snapped. Vicious and raging thrash album from beginning to end, man what a ride!
Contact: Metal Scrap Records.

DAMMERFARBEN "Im Abendrot" (Northern Silence) SCORE: 99/100

Fuck, you know I should PROBABLY give this damn thing a 100... This CD works on SO many different levels... It's folkish, dreamy, melancholic, and vicious black metal as well. That being said, I've listened to this CD over 20 times from start to finish and I DARE say I STILL haven't fully digested this thing yet! Usually I write a brief synopsis of most of the songs; here, if I did that, then I would probably need two or three pages JUST to describe all that's going on! The intro 'Wandernd' was pretty nice as far as intros go, with the bird and wind sounds, and then my ears picked up at the violin/cello sounds! Yep, those are in there. One thing that did kinda bother me, NOT on a musical "note," but the song names are REALLY difficult to read on the back of the CD sleeve. Weird font they use. ANYway, dark solitary acoustic guitars start off 'Nebel Und Regen,' and one thing noticeable right off the bat is the INCREDIBLE attention paid to the mixing and production of this disc, as the acoustic guitars are just as loud, if not louder in most cases, than the distorted riffs. Adding cello and violin sounds to the mix definitely made for a nice folk feel. This is a 7 minute track, and the sick and LOUD blackened vocals don't pop up until about 3:51! This is important to note, because oftentimes the vocals are seemingly secondary to the musical landscapes. And folks, these songs are SO full of structure changes that to list them individually would take another half an issue! 'Graues Land' has a rather festive folkish atmosphere, and the almost thrash like riffing was interesting. 'Oktobersturm' had some spoken vocals near the end, which I still don't know about; I mean you often have 7 and 8 minute songs with no more than a few minutes of vocals, why put spoken word in there? The blackened vocals are VERY harsh, and very up front and in your face. Blackened riffs abound, oftentimes reminding me of Forefather, but sometimes played at tremendous speed. The song with the most amount of vocal work would have to be 'Regen In Der Dammerung:' incidentally, this is one of the most vicious tunes on the record, and it has the most sinister atmosphere of any cut on the record: YES, it stands out a bit. I REALLY enjoyed so many of the tracks; other highlights were the nice dual acoustic guitars playing for a bit on 'Nachtgedanken,' man they were beautiful! CD ender 'Hinauf In Die Nacht' had some nice piano notes starting out, and a few post-rock moments utilizing a distorted guitar note (yes, one note) being held as if it were a synth ambient landscape. The careful monitoring of sound levels and production DEFINITELY come into play here, and though a beautiful tune, it is the most straightforward song on the disc, which may throw you off QUITE a bit when you're dealing with 5, 7 and 8 minute songs with more tempo and structure changes than you've probably ever heard. The instrumentation is dynamic, epic, melancholic, beautiful, and downright vicious all at once, and it's amazing that so much is done SO well when SO many different things are being thrown into the blender all at once. Dizzying and a fucking masterpiece, and I dare you to get through 5 or 10 listens without STILL discovering things you hadn't heard yet. Northern Silence stands for high quality, and this German band is the cream of the crop.
Contact: Northern Silence Productions.

DEMONIC DEATH JUDGE "The Descent" (Inverse) SCORE: 97/100

This is one of those CD's that the minute you pop it in, you're like "Unholy Hell!" The crushing combination of sludgy stoner/doom and unbelievably sick acid scraped blackened vocals is just too overwhelming!! This is the first thing I heard from this label out of Finland, and hopefully their other bands are of great quality (though their artists vary widely by metal genres). The CD starts out with some sick and heavy riffing, and I daresay if you thought Iron Monkey was heavy and insane, this crushes ALL... The band hails from Finland as well, and it was interesting to hear a song title like 'Churchburner.' Hmmm... They do tend to add a few death metal like vocals as well, though they're very few and far between. The title track is 14 and a half minutes, though it starts out kinda distant and mellow. There's some dark riffing in here. One thing that took a point off was the odd solo guitar notes towards the end of the track, right around the 10:20 mark; hell they could have cut the song right here (especially since the beginning didn't really have a long instrumental passage before everything else kicked in). There's a TON of killer riffs on this cut, which is obviously essential for an almost 15 minute piece. Yes, many of the songs are long, which might detract for some, but man that vocal/guitar combination is just SO damn heavy! 'Stick That In Your Pipe And Smoke It' is the instrumental that clocks in at a mere 3:41, and is VERY mellow. There's even a video for this song, but it will mislead many into thinking the rest of the album is like that mellow track (what a mindfuck they'll have when the realize NONE of the rest of the album is like the video!) 'Green Totem,' obviously another tribute to the green leaf, and you realize that the choruses here are very simple, usually just repeating the song's name. There's doom metal elements here, and there's also a LOT of cool lead solos; they obviously borrow elements from psychedelia as well as stoner rock. 'Four' was one of my favorites too; especially the 'We Ride!' thematic running throughout. A few spoken word samples grace this cut (as well as on 'Green Totem'), though they were almost inaudible in many places. CD ender 'Shitgiant,' besides having one of the coolest song titles ever, had some really CRUNCHY guitar work opening up the track. There's still melodic guitar work but overall this cut crushes! I've always talked about how sick blackened doom metal could be, but Demonic Death Judge just hands down nails it to the wall. I wonder if the singer ever fronted any other bands; folks his performance is just skull crushing mad!!! The highlight of the issue.
Contact: Inverse Records.

DESOLATE SHRINE "Tenebrous Towers" (Hammer Of Hate) SCORE: 84/100

I am REALLY starting to enjoy the stuff coming from our newest partners over in Finland. Some of the sickest mixtures of black and death metal I've heard in a long time. Desolate Shrine is very unique in that it's rooted in old school death metal by way of the instrumentation, with sludgy, horror filled dark and evil guitar work, ALMOST in a doom metal vein due to their slow nature. I say ALMOST because they can still crank out mostly midpaced to faster riffage. They employ dual vocal styles, one is this disgustingly inhuman death growl that has that "howling wind" effect to them (similar to what Morgoth utilized on their first two releases back in the early 90's), while the other is a sick blackened rasp, almost with a slight hardcore shout laced in there. 'The Smell Of Blood And Iron' starts things off with a blast, though soon settling in to some crushing slow riffage. THIS is one of the reasons that my favorite Cannibal Corpse album is still "The Bleeding" to this day: slow, evil, eerie and creating such a malevolent atmosphere. 'No Place For A Human' follows up with more sick midtempo guitar work. Most of the speed of this track is near the end however, and the vocal work is the monstrous highlight here. 'Crushing Darkness' showed a slight tendency to add some riffs that weren't quite to my liking; though at 7:39, you'd be forgiven for thinking this cut strayed right into doom metal's long and entrenched history. The eerie riffing and sick vocal work creates an atmosphere that can't be denied. 'The Brightest Night' somewhat confused me, though, as it seems to be trying to create something a bit different; it's still slow and eerie, but the opening riffs didn't sit well with me. They weren't bad, just kinda "okay, they're there." I did enjoy the more melancholic guitar work that still had an eerie atmosphere to them, and shocked was I upon hearing some of the darkest acoustical guitar work known to man ending this cut. 'Chaos And Wrath' was another blistering track that had great interaction on the "choruses," and was like a hammer to the skull. 'Born To Lose One's Way' followed and promptly added some more dark acoustics, utilizing many structure and tempo changes, proving that Desolate Shrine isn't just a one trick pony. That being said, some more odd riffs made their way into the song. 'Burning Devotion' ends the CD much the way it started, adding a rather catchy headbanging set of riffs amidst what at first appeared to be another fast track. Hints of early Swedish death with that eerie, creepy dark feeling; I mean REALLY dark and utterly oppressive. Sickest blackened death of evil quality, though at times you get lost amongst the long song lengths, after some of the instrumentation loses me for a bit, those inhuman vocals and that sick oppressive atmosphere are what keeps this going. Hails to the Hated Hammer Cult!
Contact: Hammer Of Hate Records.

DRACONIAN "A Rose For The Apocalypse" (Napalm) SCORE: 98/100

In retrospect, I have rated the first two Draconian albums quite highly. Where I was simply blown away by the debut album "Where Lovers Mourn," looking back today it probably shouldn't have ranked the same score as "Arcane Rain Fell," STILL the best Draconian album of all time. Where "Turning Season Within" failed to blow me away, "Rose..." definitely righted the ship. The one noticeable thing about this album I must admit is balance. Even though it seems like Lisa's female vocals are utilized to a greater degree, they are still not the most dominant force on the album. The emphasis is still on the death metal vocals, in fact you won't hear any clean sung male vocals. That being said, the gothic elements aren't overblown, though the heavy and darker passages (bordering on sick) are mostly relegated to the album's latter half. The crazed instrumentation/vocal mix that you heard in a few spots on a few select tracks on "Arcane Rain Fell" (like the midway point on the song 'The Apostasy Canticle') is presented here also, but in just as short supply (IE: 'The Death Of Hours' and 'Deadlight.') Starting off the album 'The Drowning Age' brings about the faster instrumentation that used to be a somewhat rarity for Draconian, but as I said you'll hear a bit more of that here. And of course what Draconian anthem would be complete without a bit of anti-christian vocals on this cut where he screams "Let's bring our gods to the gallows." Followup 'The Last Hour Of Ancient Sunlight' even spawned a video, and here you glimpse the atmospheric synths, which play less prominent roles on this album than they have in the past. 'End Of The Rope' had a tendency to throw in a few odd guitar riffs, but still is damn solid. 'Elysian Night' is the standout hit; the emotional content of the soaring female vocals, the tear inducing instrumentation and the lyrical pull make this one of the most amazing cuts on the record. 'Deadlight' shows them adding some vinyl noises to give a feeling of an older era; in fact this is used to amazing effect on the cut 'The Quiet Storm,' my other most favorite track on the disc. The female vocals and solitary notes make this sound like it could have been recorded in the 50's, maybe even earlier, kudos to adding the old time radio effect to Lisa's already enchanting vocals. The way they build up the instrumentation and the lone solo instrumentation really gives the effect of the calm before the storm. 'The Death Of Hours' starts off with doom metal openings that could have come from the Draconian side project Doom:VS, though the addition of higher ended leads and the etherial sounds of Lisa's voice soon put this in a different direction. Finally, CD ender 'Wall Of Sighs' goes back to Draconian's very beginnings; the only cut on the disc that does NOT have Lisa singing and probably some of the album's darkest and heaviest instrumentation ALMOST from start to finish (not to mention doomy), though midway through you hear what sounded like saxophones kicking in, quite beautifully done I might add. Still, as great as this album is, it's still a few points shy of being the seminal masterpiece that "Arcane Rain Fell," was, though this album comes very close. There are a few tunes near the end (especially the instrumentation near the choruses of the CD ender 'Wall Of Sighs' that sound "recycled") that have riffs sounding similar to earlier cuts, but for the most part Draconian managed to craft songs that are different and still full of heaviness, emotion, and just a great overall balance from a band that knows what their core elements and strengths are, and utilizes them to great effect.
Contact: Napalm Records.

INQUISITION "Ominous Doctrines Of The Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm" (Hell's Headbangers)
SCORE: 98/100

I love the quote I saw from a reviewer on the Encyclopaedia Metallum: "I would NEVER play Scrabble against Inquisition!" Be that as it may, this is one scorcher of a disc, from the Colombian black styled metal band that has since relocated to the U.S. When their debut release "Into The Infernal Regions Of The Ancient Cult" came out (see? Scrabble? They'd kick your ass!), it was one hell of a disc, and very unique and original. Some people compare the vocals to that of Abbath from Immortal, but the truth is, they are a bit higher toned on THIS particular album than they were on the debut. And right off the bat, the band proves how different and diverse they are with opening cut 'Astral Path To Supreme Majesties.' The vicious riffing cannot either be called death or black metal, but manages to combine elements of both due to the dual guitar work. And here and there the nice, almost medieval styled acoustic like guitars found within all the riffery. The guitar work is masterful, and BOTH guitars are playing some incredible riffs. The movie samples are sprinkled throughout, the greatest quote is the line where that evil lady says "Lucifer, punish your enemies oh lord of the night! Destroy them all!" Slower riffs abound in the next cut 'Command Of The Dark Crown,' and it was amazing to me to hear some slower riffing that bordered on doom metal. More amazing still was the 7 minute piece 'Desolate Funeral Chant,' because this WAS like a very slow, hypnotic doom metal track. And here the vocals tend to take on a lower tone than we've heard thus far, which reminded me MORE of the vocal work on "Into The Infernal Regions..." (Do I have to type the WHOLE thing again?) Even the 56 second instrumental 'Conjuration' was nice, and it was weird to hear much of the guitar work from that cut end the followup track 'Upon The Fire Winged Demon." THAT track REALLY made me stand up and notice the drumming, because the percussion sounds like a fucking WALL of thunder that never lets up! The title track definitely caught most people's ears, and mine as well, because there's a slight icy tone borrowed ever so mildly from the Norwegians, and the high ended guitar work here is particularly epic. I REALLY enjoy the guitar work on this album, and it's a highlight damn near EVERYWHERE. 'Crepuscular Battle Hymn' is obviously the sickest track on the record, and I LOVE those solos thrashy guitar riffs! It was cool to hear the vocal sample of the man turning pages in a book reading about the different demons that supposedly rule the lower regions of hell. 'Hymn For A Dead Star' has some sick leads, and every once in a great while some of those bended lead notes will sound a bit odd, but mostly it's eerie in the right places. The tempo and song structures on this and the CD ender change up so much that on 'Hymn...' the faster parts tend to lose out a bit, but the surprise to end cut 'Across The Abyss Ancient Horns Bray' was the straightforward brutal death metal styled vocals! Was this a guest vocalist or what? I don't have the full version so I don't know, but suffice it to say there's a HUGE reason why this album is on many year end best of lists, and if you can make it past the utterly inhuman, croaking and this time NOT so monotone vocals that sound like all the emotions are sucked out of them, then this album will please you to no end. Many have had complaints about the vocals but as far as I'm concerned, they are not only quite original, but hypnotic and even present another darker side to the music besides what was already there. This album is utterly amazing, folks, and I dare say it's going to be extremely difficult for Inquisition to make an album that tops either "Into The Infernal Regions..." OR this one. Hell has come from across the nether regions of outer space.
Contact: Hells Headbangers Records.

JAG PANZER "The Scourge Of The Light" (SPV/Steamhammer) SCORE: 46/100

I never really listened to any Jag Panzer growing up. Never even knew what the 80's era sounded like until I grabbed a copy of "Ample Destruction." I had a few cardboard sleeves of them from Century Media back in the day, but I never listened to them. When I first heard this album, I absolutely HATED it. All the damn whiny ass singing, the choruses that were just so damn wimpy, and the overall NON CATCHINESS of the songs... They're just kinda there, rather lifeless and sterile. The high ended guitar work is nice, but once the main body of the song gets going, it seemingly goes nowhere. And this is how the first cut 'Condemned To Fight' starts us out. The choruses suck the life out of this song; that and the fact that for all the guitar wizardry, the songs JUST AIN'T HAPPENING for me. And this makes the fast/slow/fast/slow passages become tedious and overrepetitive. Next up: 'The Setting Of The Sun.' The choruses here were kinda cool; nothing else was. Thanksfully there's lots of sung choruses. 'Bringing The End...' Still nothing for me. A plodding tune that doesn't really SUCK as much as it just sits there. I'm digging the nice high ended guitar work on followup 'Call To Arms,' but the choruses are INCREDIBLY watered down. Nothing epic, moving or catchy here, time to move on. FINALLY I hear a heavy tune in 'Cycles,' which somewhat reminds me of a HEAVY metal band. The heavier guitar work and the rough edge to the sung vocals, YES!! And then, CRASH. the horrid multivocal sung choruses REALLY disappointed me, reminding me WHY I hated this album so much upon first listen. Another dull tune follows. The choruses REALLY blew it big time here ('Overlord'). I mean this is a song about a tyrant ruling the seven seas, and he's crooning throughout the track. We get another taste of heaviness with 'Let It Out,' one song that reminds me a bit of Primal Fear and is probably the second best cut on the disc. The anthemic 'Union' worked well as a melodic tune, proving that yes, Harry Conklin CAN indeed sing. Not a terrible tune by any means, but I long for heavier. And I get it with followup 'Burn,' but the damn choruses drag this down AGAIN! The mainlines of the song remind me a bit of Painkiller era Priest, complete with aggressive higher ended singing. And finally, the BEST track on the disc: catchy, filled with emotional content and a rather epic storyline. You'll be singing the choruses on this cut for DAYS. I'd rather hear this 8 minute piece 6 times in a row than listen to most of these tracks ONCE. The operatic multivocal parts reminded me a bit of Therion, and the whole song is just what I would LOVE to hear more of from Jag Panzer. If the whole album had been written like this, I would definitely have enjoyed this greatly, but alas, this is a sad commentary on a legendary vocalist. Oh well, at least we've still got the 80's era titles and of course, Harry's other project Satan's Host. What a fucking shame...
Contact: SPV/Steamhammer Records.

MAAX "Unholy Rock & Roll" (Abyss) SCORE: 86/100

I really dig this thing... The title kinda says it all, there's a lot of blasphemy, PLENTY of "fuck" growls being thrown around; once again heavy metal is FUCKING dangerous and full of fury! Blackened heavy metal is a good way to describe this, though there's some low ended death metal growling going on too. The disc starts off with 'Coldest Steel,' which takes a few minutes to really get anywhere. One of the problems with this disc is the sometime directionless speed and fury; when they lock in and really tighten things up it works VERY well. The slower instrumentation on this track worked well, but this cut was quite confusing. The power metal styled yell opening up 'Fight With Fire' was cool, funny even, but this track cranks up the speed and viciousness. The blur of speed works well here, the simplistic choruses will stick in your head. Then the title track REALLY hammers home what makes Maax (pronouned "May-axe") great: that "sick rock and roll" feeling. It kinda reminds me of Motorhead meets Venom, and you can REALLY hear the bass guitars pound away on the entire album! The track switches structure towards the end, and those crazed gang chant vocals; man you can tell these guys really don't give a fuck!! 'Do What Thou Wilt,' their "ode to suicide" so to speak... Their opening guitars sound similar to the Running Wild school of riffery off their 1986 debut album "Gates To Purgatory!" TRUE blackened heavy metal, this is one of the most kick ass cuts on the record. Even the lead solos sound like Running Wild's old guitarist Preacher is in the house. Then you got a 3 minute Venom meets Motorhead alcohol fueled rip fest in 'Maax,' followed by 'Rot 'N' Roll,' which takes the Running Wild influence even FURTHER by playing, NOTE FOR NOTE, the exact same guitar riffs that R.W. used to END the cut 'Satan' from their "Gates To Purgatory" album. Gang chants and more amazing lead solo work makes for a great track. The 2 minute instrumental piece 'Purge Of Depravity' was a little odd, NICE lead guitar work towards the end though. 'Overthrone' was one of the most evil pieces on the disc, though the blur of speed at the beginning and most of the speed riffs threatened to bog this down. Unholy riffs and demonic fury really hammer the point home; within this tune lies Maax's greatest strengths and some glaring weaknesses. 'Black Thrash 'Em All,' cool song title though it was, definitely suffered from some odd riff work. That being said, the surprise cut was 'Deliverer,' in the middle of all the crushing low end were some slow and rather melancholic guitar leads! Intense drum work as well made this a highlight, and CD ender 'One More Time' had the great rockin' guitar work that I greatly appreciate. A rockin' track filled with fantastic and catchy high end lead guitar riffs and solos, Maax is at their GREATEST when they combine the catchy rock and roll/heavy metal with sick devastating blackened vocal work. Not a perfect disc, but one that will bludgeon you down before you can get a handle on what's going on.
Contact: Abyss Records.

MELIAH RAGE "Dead To The World" (Metal On Metal) SCORE: 34/100

Meliah Rage is another one of those 80's thrash bands I had hopes for with their latest release, and unfortunately, they let me down COMPLETELY. First of all, gone are the vocals of Mike Munro, whose work on "Kill To Survive" really made that album a true classic. Yes, Meliah Rage has always flirted with power metal tinged thrash, but the main thing they forgot was how to write catchy material. These songs are ALL over the place, and oftentimes sound very tired and uninspired. The biggest detraction is with Paul Souza, who unfortunately sounds like a barking drill instructor, and often drags these songs down into the abyss with his weird barking yells, sounding even worse when he tries to yell and hit higher notes he really shouldn't be hitting. The worst infraction here is the cut 'Cold Cruel Fate,' listen to that and tell me these vocals aren't up to par. 'Up In Flames' starts things off with some weird electronic noises, and the hard hitting thrash comes too little, too late. 'Valley Of The Shadowless Souls' continues; oh, now he's gonna whisper at us? The opening guitar work is quite goofy, something you see a LOT of as the album progresses. It's obvious the band has skills, as you hear some decent lead solo work. The not even a minute instrumental 'Skin And Bones' was kinda useless, it merely serves as a framework for the longer followup instrumental 'Absolute Obedience.' There's some nice thrash work going on here, better still that the only vocals are what sounds like historic vocal samples from famous military or war leaders. The megaphone'd in vocals on 'Where Nothing Ever Grows' served to piss me off even more; even more horrid guitar work to follow and WAY too long a track at over 6 minutes. The alternative styled "singing" continues on with 'Never From Me,' and there are hints at a decent track here, but they're just not doing anything for me. Emotionless music so far for the most part. And of course I've already mentioned 'Cold Cruel Fate,' where the vocals overshadow GREATLY the thrashier parts. Halfway decent is the next cut 'Time Won't Let Me Breathe,' and with the melodic alternative ballad like singing, this is definitely radio friendly. (so was 'Valley Of The Shadowless Souls,' now that I think about it). Nothing I wanna hear, but at least if they fail as a thrash slash power metal band, they can always try for the alternative rock crowd. Here's a shocker: LAST cut on the disc 'Awaken Sorrow' REALLY surprised the hell out of me! Ripping thrash guitar work and the loud aggressive vocals actually WORKED here! Of course, they have to throw it down quite a few times by singing and bringing the aggressive vibe down, as if they have to prove to everyone that they're "diverse." But sadly, if they had written more tracks like this one, the album would have been a FUCKING HELL of a lot better. Folks, just because you're skilled doesn't mean you can write songs. Songs that grab you, songs that make you FEEL something. Lose the singer and learn how to write some real material, and this band MIGHT have a chance. If past Meliah Rage albums with Paul sound anything like this, then I have absolutely no reason to check out their back catalog of albums put out after "Kill To Survive."
Contact: Metal On Metal Records.

MIDNIGHT CHASER "Rough And Tough" (Heavy Artillery) SCORE: 88/100

Man, this CD comes right out swinging! Great sung vocals (which seem to be back on the rise nowadays) and killer axe work makes this a pretty damn memorable CD. 'Awesome Party' starts this metal festival off right away, the guitar notes are pretty kick ass, and the memorable catchy choruses... Folks, if you're gonna write a great memorable song; THIS is how you do it! I see this being a definite party pleaser. It sounds like on these 9 songs that the guys are just having fun and making cool music; nothing pretentious or overblown about the band, except for the "being a badass" lyrics, which makes this that much cooler. 'Out On Your Shield' seems to be written as a somewhat metal anthem for the warriors, and the choppy on/off again riffs work well here. Instrumentation wise it has a different vibe from the opener but conveys the message in fine fashion. 'Rough And Tough,' the title track. Fuck man, one of the best songs on the album; the band UNDERSTANDS how to properly sell a title track. The soaring vocals are great here, and hearing the bass chugg along solo for once, letting the skill of the bassist shine through. You'll be singing these choruses for quite some time. 'Swords For Hire' is another kick ass jam with great catchy chorus work. 'Cougar'd' shows the bands serious sense of humor, as we all know about this term slapped onto "older women." The guitar work is quite cool as well, though I've noticed from most songs that the guitar solos seem extremely reserved. The skill is there but it seems like the dude is just holding back, either due to the way the solos are mixed or the fact that the guitar player doesn't want to overshadow the vibe these songs are putting off. 'Hotshot' was one of their fastest tunes and still kicks ass, however 'Dynamite' was where they lost me. Mostly drum oriented, during the main line vocals you only hear drums and a few one note guitar parts. The choruses didn't really strike me either, and after this tune the last two songs, while good, don't have the same intensity that the rest of the album has. 'Earthquake' was a midpaced rocker with nicce vocal melodies, and CD closer 'Who Dares Wins' takes a more mainline approach; however the ending of this track is cool with the multivocal "gang chant" vocals on the choruses, crowd cheering noises and the vocalist displaying some of his HIGHEST ranges (holding that high note for length at the end garnered additional points from me). A very good effort from a band that really understands how to write catchy, energetic and kick ass traditional metal without sounding retro and dated while still reminding everyone what was so great about traditional metal in the 80's.
Contact: Heavy Artillery Records.

OBSEQUIAE "Suspended In The Brume Of Eos" (Bindrune) SCORE: 92/100

Bindrune was nice enough to send me some really killer CD's in the mail, and what REALLY grabs your attention about this label is how "different" their acts are compared to what many other labels are doing. They've got Nechowchen, which is a very interesting mix of musical styles attributed to the Native American Indians, and then there's Forest Of The Soul, which is more folkish/acoustical but still a decent record. The first thing you'll notice about this record is the amazing high ended duelling lead guitars, which are ALL over the place! The vocal work is your typical vicious rasp, and adds a secondary dimension to the oftentimes majestic and epic guitar work. 'Altars Of Moss' opens the disc up very nicely, giving that epic feeling and varying the structures and tempos more times than you can count the many black metal members in Scandinavia involved in multiple bands! The faster instrumentation here reminded me a bit of English heathen metal masters Forefather, which is a reference I think I have made far too often. Followup 'Sidhe' was a nice acoustic instrumental, and quite short: in fact you'll find four of these throughout the album, sometimes giving a nice change of pace from some of the more blistering instrumentation. The title track has probably the most catchiest and amazing guitar work on the album, especially all the higher ended and slower passages. Unfortunately, the cut 'The Wounded Fox' didn't sit all too well with me. I thought the opening guitar work was rather bland and unfortunately you hear a bit more of it than you'd like. There's about a 2 minute wait before you hear any vocals; and while there are some decent guitar parts found within this cut, they do revert back to those opening patterns. After another mellow acoustic cut, you have two blazing fast tracks in 'Arrows' and 'The Starlit Shore.' 'Arrows' is DAMN quick, not even hitting the 3 minute mark, but the atmosphere seems a bit lost due to all the overt speed. 'The Starlit Shore,' however, spotlights the all over the damn place instrumentation varying in speed, tempo and structure. The one acoustic cut 'Boreas' did seem a little aimless at times, though it's only 2:18. CD ender 'Cabin Lights' was the only instrumental to feature heavier instrumentation, and though it had the dizzying tempo and structure changes, by the time this cut ends you've definitely heard guitar parts from earlier songs. It's not perfect folks, but Obsequiae KNOWS how to create atmosphere within a black metal framework, and those guitar riffs, man they must have spent weeks crafting so many amazing guitar passages. Bindrune Recordings definitely deals with quality.
Contact: Bindrune Recordings.

ORCHID "Capricorn" (The Church Within) SCORE: 99/100

This is the first CD I reviewed for this issue... Took me totally by surprise as well, some might say right off the bat this is total Black Sabbath worship. I mean the song 'Down Into The Earth,' those solo guitar riffs you could actually SING the lyrics to 'Into The Void' by Sabbath and they'd fit! That being said, these are some of the catchiest, doomiest and psychedelic tunes you'll ever hear. Stoner rock, doom metal, psychedelia and Sabbath worship. Oh and if you ever wondered what Black Sabbath would sound like if Blackie Lawless from WASP was fronting them, check out when Theo Mindell screams 'Kill the future' on the cut 'Masters Of It All.' Theo's vocals are perfect, they have that vicious metal bite to them. He kinda reminds me of a cross between Eric Wagner from Trouble and of course Blackie Lawless. 'Eyes Behind The Wall' starts things off nicely, and one thing you'll notice right off the bat, these guys KNOW how to write catchy material. The title track is probably the catchiest tune on the disc, a fantastic piece that still has a heavy edge to it and I dare say if they plan on making a video, they might want to consider this cut for it. 'Black Funeral' brings a really dark and doomy feeling to the instrumentation, especially nice is it to hear those ominous bass guitar rumblings! You can DEFINITELY hear the Sabbath influence, and though the choruses are a bit more, say, "uplifting" (for lack of a better word), it does remind me a bit of Sabbath's 'N.I.B.' 'He Who Walks Alone' has a really nice catchy chorus to it, and the stompin' heavy doom riffs drive it all home. 'Electric Father' was eyebrow raising simply for the lyrical content (in a sense, questioning God's existence or so it would seem), though the radio chatter sounds at the beginning could have been cut, as the rather silly multi vocal laughing lines in the middle. By the way, these songs usually head over the 6 minute mark, though true to their credit, they DO manage to keep the songs interesting AND avoid the whole verse-chorus-verse-chorus and repeat again thing. Like on 'Masters Of It All,' when the guy is doing crazy lead solos WHILE the vocals are going on! And many songs turn into mini jam sessions for a few minutes, but not too long. CD ender 'Albatross' I have to admit I didn't get into at first: it's almost like a doomy ballad with acoustic guitars (and NICE wacky effects on those as well), though the "metal edged" vocals keep things in check, and the BEAUTIFUL spacey synths make this track well worth the price of admission. Folks, there ain't a bad song on the disc, mark my words, this is a MASSIVELY kick ass disc where I could go from start to finish and be pleased with EACH and EVERY song. The 15 to 20 times I've spun this disc from start to finish says that Orchid, though late I am in discovering them, DAMN well better be on doom metal afficionado's year end lists and if I have anything to say about it, THEY WILL BE.
Contact: The Church Within Records.

PRIMORDIAL "Redemption At The Puritan's Hand" (Metal Blade) SCORE: 94/100

It seems like Primordial just keeps getting better and better. I've REALLY enjoyed the last 3 or 4 records this Irish band has put out. The songs, once again, are a bit long like the last few full lengths, though there are a few 6 minute tracks amidst the 8 and 9 minute ones. This is a dark record, folks, no doubt about it, but there's also a bit of an epicness about it. And the lyrics, damn I don't think I've paid so much attention to lyrical matter in this day and age of digital downloads that have little to no info about the songs themselves, let alone actual lyrics. The opening track 'No Grave Deep Enough' starts off with some rather fast paced instrumentation, and the sick blackened vocals are in full force here, though they're not the dominant vocal style. Nemtheaga still sings with passion and fire, from first track to last, even striking notes of sorrow and discord (most notably on cuts like 'The Mouth Of Judas' and 'The Puritan's Hand'). The percussion is quite thunderous, and often takes hints of tribal and folkish atmospheres. Followup 'Lain With The Wolf' was an interesting cut as well, and for your first 4 tracks there's a TON of solo instrumentation before the vocal work even gets started (usually about a minute and a half tho). The folkish acoustics will have you swinging your mug of mead in tune with the band's pointed speeches on the cut 'Bloodied Yet Unbowed,' and by this time I'm almost convinced that Nemtheaga is rallying the troops to arms! 'God's Old Snake' is the track many were waiting for, in fact this cut has not only the vicious blackened instrumentation, but the most black metal styled vocals of any track here. The almost ritualistic chanted vocals were a nice touch, though one complaint was the spoken vocals were almost inaudible; in fact, on my LEAST favorite track 'The Black Hundred,' they go on for a bit too long, and the instrumentation isn't up to par despite being of a more blackened sort. This track is ALSO misleading because you'd think that for all the biting viciousness there would be blackened vocal work but none to be found on this cut. That being said, 'The Black Hundred' isn't a terrible cut by any means. More insightful lyrics grace the CD ender 'Death Of The Gods,' and a TON of references seem to be made to the old Roman Empire (noted by the characters spoken of being Zeus, Atlas, Mars the god of war and the mention of the "death of the republic.") 'The Puritan's Hand' showcased Nemtheaga's penchant for sorrowful tales, and you can hear and feel the sadness in his voice, proving that he is indeed a master of emotional vocal work. This cut is almost doom like in it's approach, and the sick blackened scream leading up to faster and more intense instrumentation proves that Primordial still has a few surprising nasty tricks up their sleeves to keep you interested. DEFINITELY a highlight disc of 2011, damnit Metal Blade, NOW is the time to bring Primordial over Stateside for a proper headlining tour!!
Contact: Metal Blade Records.

QUO VADIS "Infernal Chaos" (Metal Scrap) SCORE: 60/100

One of the first releases we received was this Polish band with a rather LONG history of albums. This was such a confusing album to review, simply because there was a LOT of things going on in this record, and what worked for some songs didn't for others, and the exact opposite became true over repeated listens. First off, they shot themselves in the foot with their choice of vocal stylings; the sung vocals are quite rough and don't always work well within certain contexts. One thing that CAN be agreed upon from start to finish: these guys know how to write some crunchy and KILLER thrashy riffs! Damn, where to start. How about the beginning, opener 'Caducus' starts us out with very odd spoken word pieces that are obviously indecipherable. Fast thrash is the order of the song, and though the intensity level is high, the slower sung vocals are a bit hard to take. I spent the majority of the first few listens almost hating the vocal work. By track 2, 'Blood For Oil,' I started wondering if this could be Islam's first extreme metal band? The way those sung vocals are phrased, and of course the whole description of what seems to be American warfare for oil. The choppy guitars make their appearance, but the choruses are so wrongly phrased and quite overrepetitive. EVen by saying 'oil for blood' in the choruses, it's still obvious that they aren't grasping the concept properly. Finally, track 3, 'Bomb And Fire.' VERY simplistic but the catchiest and most vicious track on the album. This song is either praise for Allah, or a rather tongue in cheek satirical blow at Islam's "terrorists." That being said, once again the sung vocals are odd, though you can't help by the way they are done that you're seeing some Middle Eastern garment wearing, long bearded Islam practitioner kneeling down to pray and muttering these very words. Choruses are quite strong, and when the vocals are sung loudly they are the best. 'Black Horizon' had rough edged sung choruses, and the mainline vocals were quite cool. Worst song here, hands down, is 'Evil Dad.' Listen to the lyrics, man, they are the WORST! Especially the kinda creepy sung vocal work starting this out. And I had to laugh at the opening guitar work on 'Dreams,' can anyone tell me that this Polish group had never heard the Megadeth song 'Symphony Of Destruction?' Once again, the rough sung vocals REALLY betray the fact that English is NOT the singer's strong suit. And some of the best riffs on the album are heard on the cut 'Chaos,' though this time the weird guitar work threatens this mightily. The slower sung choruses weren't bad, but this tune SHOULD have been so much better constructed. 'Cross Of Gold,' 'East Vs. West' and 'Mimue' all prove that the dedication and the ideas are there, but the band just couldn't execute the endings properly. The band definitely has some good ideas, but they need to start by examining in great detail the way they put all these elements together. The thrashy guitar work is the main highlight, and the sound is thunderous and tight, but poorly executed. I also think a change in singer might be warranted, or at least cut back on some of the sung elements. I am interested to hear how earlier albums from them sound, as their back catalog goes all the way to 1991!
Contact: Metal Scrap Records.

RAUHNACHT "Vorweltschweigen" (Sturmklang) SCORE: 91/100

I recently had to track this down after hearing that Steinklang Records was involved in the signing of this band. Now, for those not in the know, Steinklang Records is involved in a genre of music known as Alpine folk, or neofolk if you will... Most of what I have heard from the label is more akin to folk music with vocals sung in different languages, and so when I heard this band, I had to realize that Sturmklang is a side label of Steinklang dedicated to more metal oriented music. The band hails from Austria, and sings completely in German. (At least, it seems to me like German, as I can't differentiate between Austrian and German). And their lyrical matter is firmly entrenched in the Alpine traditions and folklore. But folks, this ain't no peaceful and happy forest, no; these lyrics and musical presentation deal with some eerie and haunting, sinister happenings! Right off the bat, 'Auf Den Schwingen Der Sturme' brings about a rather slow but sinister vibe. It seems to me like the instrumentation on this track is made to sound rather dreary in an atmospheric sense, and as a result, ends up not being one of my favorite tracks. Not horrible, mind you, but not the best way to start the album. A structure change at around the 3 minute mark and some nice multivocal chanting pieces did turn things around a little. The following tune, which is the title track, aptly represents this album, and the dark acoustics added to the heavier guitar notes gave a very occultish feeling to this one. I always said that industrial bands sound the best when they sing in harsh German lyrics, and Rauhnacht definitely takes advantage of this tactic. Clean chanted vocals make their rounds as well, and you have to love the slow pace of this cut. Speaking of the pace, not one song here is shorter than 5 minutes, though the varying track lengths keep it from becoming stale. The folk atmosphere will surprise you by the track's end! Ambient and dark is how 'Dem Schicksalsfeld Entgegen' starts out. Desolate and cold are the vocals here, definitely borrowing a page from the coldest of Norway's elite black metal forces. THIS track alone conveys perfectly the darkest and eeriest depths of the Alpine forests. And followup 'Auf Zur Schlacht' will shock you right off the bat with opening horns, I thought they sounded like medieval trumpets but they may be authentic Alpine "hunter's horns." The upbeat melodies and very active synths make for a very different listening experience, though the harsh and sick blackened vocals are still in effect. I did have to find annoyance at the sudden inclusion of more darker and heavier guitar work, though; not that I mind the diversity within one track, just that some of the lead work fell flat in this instance. The faster blackened guitars near the end, however, reminded me STRONGLY of Forefather and were very well done. The wall crumbling sounds and solitary tribal/militaristic/folk like percussion were a highlight of 'Untersberg,' and the whispered vocals mixed with the blackened ones added a rather icy and dangerous touch to an already vicious vocal style. CD ender 'Das Letzte Licht' was surprising too with it's extremely melancholy atmosphere, proving that all is not darkness, haunting and eerie vibes in the Alpine woods. This track had amazing atmosphere within the synthesized passages, and it seems like there was a sense of mourning and loss within the final 9 minutes of this disc. The synthesized violin sounds were well done, and I daresay that this band came out of nowhere and has crafted a very atmospheric disc, one that should surely get people talking. It is a shame that the opening track brought off quite a few points, but the fact remains that Rauhnacht is a band I am eagerly interested in watching to see what tricks are going to appear on album number two!
Contact: Steinklang Records.

RAVENTALE "After" (BadMoodMan) SCORE: 96/100

We've been following Raventale ever since we received their second full length (and first for the BadMoodMan/Solitude Productions label). We have kinda missed the boat as far as these late issue releases, which unfortunately meant we had to skip their third release "Mortal Aspirations" (hint: it's a great kick ass album as well) and jump to their "After" release, which was put out in 2010. They since have a new album out as of 2011, and we hope to get on to that next issue. This album is really more like an EP, and an experimental one at that, with it's five tracks clocking in at a mere 34 minutes! The "album" starts off with some slow, dark & solitary guitar work, and it's not until about the minute mark that we hear the torturous, blackened vocal work. It's some heavy blackened doom! This song is 10 minutes, and true to form Raventale surprises us from start to finish with what they present. Once the halfway mark of this 10 minute piece hits, we're treated to some solitary ambient synths, giving way to the more melodic side of this cut; in fact, this really seems like two separate songs! The more melodic side gives way to round out the track, and the vocals effectively cease once the midway point is reached. The title trak follows, and it's interesting to hear the more solitary heavier axe work mesh with some acoustic guitars. The vocals don't show up until about the 2:15 mark, no big deal except THIS track is only 5 minutes long! It has a somewhat doomy atmosphere but the instrumentation is a bit on the faster side. 'Youth' follows up with some doomy guitar work, and the synthesized passages are really noteworthy here. This is strictly an instrumental, folks, though the music flows beautifully from beginning to end, and you can feel the connection from first note to last. 'Flames' is the last song "listed" on the album, and it starts out with nice guitar and synth interaction. It's another awesome tune; most noteworthy is the only blazing lead solo I think I heard on the entire disc, and it's not just cranking out notes at 100 miles per hour, either. It carries emotion and weight. Not quite a doomy piece but you can definitely hear the atmosphere. Finally, the "hidden" 5th track, and it is a sick, crushing affair! Easily the darkest and heaviest cut on the disc, even the acoustic guitar work is eerily dark! The vocals REALLY take on an inhuman tone, and the synthesized passages, usually creating ambience and atmosphere (most of the time on the "lighter" side), REALLY cater to the darkness and almost malevolent atmosphere. Though there are a few moments of lighter instrumentation, they soon sink back into the darkness that permeated the opener of this track. I will say this: Raventale has kept things interesting and they KNOW how to craft songs, whether 5 minutes or 10. An EP this may be but it is a very welcome addition to the Raventale catalog, and I most assuredly can't wait to get around to the followup "Bringer Of Heartsore."
Contact: BadMoodMan Music via Solitude Productions.

ROYAL HUNT "Show Me How To Live" (Frontiers) SCORE: 90/100

I've followed Royal Hunt for awhile now, though my first exposure to them was with their 1999 release "Fear," which was their first full length album to feature the ungodly vocals of John West, a singer who blew me away with his performance... This is important, because singing for them now is D.C. Cooper, who I have had limited exposure to. Cooper has a good voice, and indeed fits this band well, but I still miss West. All that aside, the album (for those who aren't familiar with Royal Hunt) is a mixture of HEAVY and epic symphonics (some could even say "royal" instrumentation) mixed with crazed and blazing guitar work and vocals that reach heights. Some might call it melodic progressive metal (Encyclopedia Metallum's entry does) but this is really a bit too heavy for that. And at the same time, the lighter aspects of this band are just as easily apparent... No folks, this band has a unique sound, and that is a slight problem here, as quite a bit of the synth notations on the opening cut 'One More Day' and CD ender 'Angel's Gone' remind me STRONGLY of cuts 'Faces Of War' and 'Lies' (respectively) from the "Fear" album. That being said, the battle sounds on the opening cut surprised me, but Royal Hunt has always seemed to like the war theme (especially on the cut 'Another Man Down'). The epic synths coupled with heavy folk like war march percussion proves just how versatile this band is. There's SO much to like here, and the multivocals all throughout the disc add another highlight. The female vocals even bring themselves to the foreground on the cut 'Another Man Down' (though the opening telephone ringing and woman speaking "intro" was kinda goofy). The choruses are quite catchy from start to finish; oftentimes providing most of the heaviness on tunes like 'Hard Rain's Coming' and 'Half Past Loneliness.' I didn't much care for 'An Empty Shell;' to be sure it was a heavy tune, but the heaviness sounded VERY forced, and didn't seem to match up well overall. The familiar synths rear their heads as well. Still, MAJOR points have to be given for the 10 minute title track. From 4 minutes until about 8:14, the symphonics take over and provide great builds and epic landscapes; even more so when the dynamic multivocal male and female chanted vocals kick in. There's not a whole lot of lyrics on this cut but the solo instrumentation is SO impressive; it's worth the price of admission for this cut alone. CD ender 'Angel's Gone' has the trademark thunderous percussion and was quite a heavy cut; this one worked better than 'An Empty Shell,' mostly due to the catchier choruses and the somewhat familiar synth and guitar structures. There's a lot of good stuff here, though it's a slight throwback to the "Fear" album, which got VERY high marks and is still a great album to sing along to. This one continues the "royal" treatment from a band who has 11 full length albums and TWENTY YEARS under their belts. A band I'm glad to allow space on my CD shelf.
Contact: Frontiers Records.

SPEEDWOLF "Ride With Death" (Hell's Headbangers) SCORE: 92/100

12 songs, clocking in at a mere 41 minutes. These songs are fast, get in and get out, raging punk addled speed thrashers mixed with some of the most unusual NWOBHM styled lead riffs you'll ever hear. When people look back to the Y2k era of music they'll see that the big thing in metal was combining different genres and styles into one mean and nasty blend. Toxic Holocaust did this well with the punk fueled blackened thrash and Speedwolf does it too. The longest cut here is the opener 'Speedwolf' and mainly because it does a few minutes of slow building instrumentation before it explodes into a raging thrasher with a longwinded blackened scream. From there, it's all downhill, and you will find NO more slower instrumentation. Normally this would make for a limiting album, all speedy songs, but the GUITAR work, man! Cuts like 'Out On Bail' and 'The Reaper' have some of the most unusual NWOBHM high ended guitar leads you'll EVER hear on a record, and the fact that they're played at almost TWICE the speed makes this record a must hear. Vocally, you'll be reminded of a somewhat higher ended Motorhead, but on ONE lone track 'Death Ripper,' vocalist Reed does a sick blackened vocal layout that I wish he had done more of on the record (besides the one lone scream starting off the disc). The choruses are very simplistic, though, but that means these short tunes will stick in your head longer. 'I Can't Die' was another killer cut that slows things down just a tad at the end, and the way the solo instrumentation builds back up to the viciousness was a nice touch. Plus, you'll wanna scream "I Can't Fuckin' Die" just like they do to end the track. This band KNOWS the power of builds, though I'm probably over analyzing this entire record. Rumbling bass guitar notes can be heard at the opening of 'Death Ripper' as well, and they get some solo time on the followup 'The Reaper.' 'Denver 666' ends the disc quite well, and is the shortest cut here, despite stopping midway making you think the song's over only to rip right back into it. The title track was decent though the leads midway sounded kinda blurred together, and I thought the title track should have been a bit stronger than it was. All in all, though, you can start the disc anywhere you want to; hell, shuffle the songs even and you'll get a damn rockin' experience. Nothing overtly complicated or ground breaking (unless you count those unusual speedy take on NWOBHM high ended guitar riffs), this disc is sure to please the punks, thrashers, headbangers and whoever else likes Motorhead, black metal, thrash. NWOBHM and/or just good hard driving metal... Pit fanatics beware, you'll either cause massive damage at a show or be seriously injured!
Contact: Hell's Headbangers Records.

TETHRIPPON "Tethrippon" (Steinklang) SCORE: 88/100

This label sent me a ton of stuff some time ago, most of it firmly entrenched in the Alpine folk genre, which was totally unfamiliar to me. The only bands signed to this label I WAS familiar with was Vinterriket, who are now considered part of this genre. This genre so far hasn't provided me with any bands that I really enjoyed, though Tethrippon doesn't fall into the Alpine category. Hailing from Greece, they utilize the VERY ancient Hellenic language in every song, a language that has been dead for over 2300 years! This entire CD has a very militaristic feeling to it; many songs are replete with epic synths and some ancient instrumentation. The ancient Greek pride bursts forth with every note! The CD starts off with an intro, and then goes right into 'Mother Nature's Humn.' The dark strings starting this out are quite deceptive, though they do pop up again later on (and unfortunately, not always to good effect). There are a lot of lyrics presented to you before you get to the choruses of many songs, though choruses here are catchy and display a bit of an industrial club feeling. The percussion is very dominant though, and in some songs ('The Brave' and 'Dominant Of Senses') has a very ancient and tribal feel to it. 'A Prayer To The Sun' gives off some very beautiful and mellow instrumentation; the bell notes were a nice touch. Female chanted vocals were quite exotic and sounded Greek. What sounded like a mandolin and a bagpipe (I know they call this variation of bagpipes something else, though the description escapes me) created an old world feeling, and this dual instrument pairing is repeated again on the track 'Dominant Of Senses.' MAJOR points came off for the cut 'Dedicated To The "Alike"': The dark and sinister synth notes didn't work well here AT ALL and were at odds with the male sung vocals, which at times ventured into odd territory, especially at the end. These problems only occurred once more; on CD ender 'We Won,' the dark instrumentation once again was at odds with the sung voices. The dark epice instrumentation was better HERE, but once again didn't sit well with me. That being said, the 6 minute piece was actually split in half; the latter 3 minutes of this piece was a nice way to cap off the CD, with VERY militant industrial percussion and GREAT soaring multivocal work, combined with very nice synth work. That being said, even though most of the songs are quite nice, by tracks 9 and 10 a familiarity starts to creep into the vocal and musical arrangements. The songs are straightforward without much variation (save for maybe key elements of the track 'Dominant Of Senses') but they pack a lot into what they have. One interesting note: on the cut 'Internal Rising - Awakening,' the opening synths sounded like they were ripped right out of a Summoning song! (But which album!) I'm surprised Tethrippon doesn't have some of these tracks in movies; in fact the dark and eerie solo synth work on 'Corruption's Burial' (one of very few places the rather dark and eerie vibe works well with epic feeling) could very easily serve a great intro for a live band before they hit the stage. The musical mastermind behind this group KNOWS what they are doing instrumentation wise, so if you want to check out something different, give this a spin. All lyrics are in Ancient Greek though, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying a type of music that doesn't come across my desk everyday.
Contact: Steinklang Records.

THE FLIGHT OF SLEIPNIR "Lore" (No Colours) SCORE: 95/100

First off, it does seem a little odd to see a band like this on a label more known for it's death and black metal bands. This band is said to contain elements of doom metal, stoner rock and folk music, and I can definitely agree with at least the last statement. The disc opens up with the cut 'Legends,' and right off the bat those almost twangy leads that are somewhat blackened remind me of the American Old West in sound, which was a very unusual blend! You'd have to hear the guitar work to really take it in. The clean sung vocals on this cut give the feeling of a solitary rider travelling across the distant, dusty plains. The sliding bluesy guitars also add that old American folk feel to them. Now folks, they ARE from Colorado, but what makes this band even MORE intriguing is their insistent Nordic lyrical themes! Tracks like 'Asgardreid' and 'Fenrisulfur' should tell you all you need to know. Incidentally, the percussion on this album has a very tribal feel to it as well. Check out those wild guitar effects closing out 'Of Words And Ravens!' There seems to be less an emphasis on vocal work for the majority of tracks, and the disc even throws in two instrumentals to hammer the point home. It's a disc loaded with acoustical numbers on damn near every track. 'Asgardreid' and 'Winter Nocturne' are both loaded with some mellow and rich acoustic instrumentation. Still, one wonders why the insistence on two instrumentals on a disc that doesn't quite reach the 45 minute mark. No matter. 'Fenrisulfur' surprised me with the rather beautiful acoustic guitars opening it up, especially considering the subject matter. That being said, the instrumentation is mostly of a slower pace, though I dare say I wouldn't call it doom metal. 'Black Swans' was a rather short track that didn't sit well with me totally, as those heavy guitars slowly fade in and then just stop, to give way to some rather odd acoustic picking. The clean vocals on this were a bit off too on some spots, though this 3 minute piece picks up greatly by the song's end. CD ender 'Let Us Drink Till We Die' ALSO threw me for a loop, as I wasn't really expecting this to be mostly female vocal driven (and given the subject matter and lyrics, it's odder still that these kinds of words would be voiced by a woman). Be that as it may, I got used to the idea, and it's a nice mellow way to end the disc. The Flight Of Sleipnir only has a few 7 minute tracks, and they don't throw a ton of tempo and structure changes in every song (like, say, Dammerfarben), but then again they DO build atmosphere and mood, so the instrumentation works well. The track 'No Man Will Spare Another' is probably the most vicious cut on the disc, and the speedier instrumentation towards the end is the closest you're gonna get to a rip roaring Norwegian blackened shred fest. It's a rather interesting combination, and one I've had in my MP3 player for quite awhile now, that diverse combination of folkish/American old west melancholy and atmosphere mixed with some VICIOUS black metal touches. I dare say this album, or it's followup "Essence Of Nine," will probably make some year end lists somewhere.
Contact: No Colours Records.

THE MISFITS "The Devil's Rain" (um...) SCORE: 44/100

Folks, I can get pretty verbose when it comes to reviews. You've all read the interviews, I am NOT going to get into Jerry said/did this, Michael and Danzig that. It comes down to the music first and foremost. I appreciate Jerry sticking it out, and I DEFINITELY appreciate what Michael Graves did for the Misfits. Can Jerry sing is the first question right off the bat, since he is essentially, for all practical intents and purposes, fronting the Misfits. If that comes as a shock to many of you, you've obviously never been to a 'Fits show post-Danzig. Even when Michael was singing, Jerry still had to sing all the older songs. His voice sounds just fine, in fact strangely he has a rather low toned 50's quality that is neither Graves nor Danzig. The BIGGEST problem I have with MANY of the songs is that they aren't that great. They're not all terrible either, but the fact is that they're kinda "soft." By that I mean that they COULD get radio play, they're WAAY too accessible and the heaviness and aggressiveness that defines punk rock is all but lost here. The title track starts off things nicely however, and the catchy "whooah's" are here along with good vocal lines and catchy choruses. Folks, I WILL say this. Many songs that don't stick with me at all WILL at least have some memorable choruses that I still sing long after I forget all the other words to said songs. They got THAT going for them. 'Vivid Red,' an okay tune with a pounding percussion and fast pace. Not too "radio friendly," or "family oriented" - as Jerry so wierdly stated in an interview. 'The Black Hole' and 'Twilight Of The Dead,' well, they are kinda dead. 'Black Hole' didn't have much on substance. And it's a shame that 'The Mummy's Hand' was so overrepetitive and bland, because the Egyptian theme ALWAYS rings home. In fact, most of the lyrics are interesting and varied enough to make me wanna check into the lyrics. 'Cold In Hell' was a weak cut simply due to the weak pop influenced "whooah's" and overrepetitive choruses. That being said, the choruses had cool lyrics IN them. 'Unexplained' was yet another weak track. And then there's what I call the "trio," which is three REALLY bad songs in a row. These three tracks are a bit experimentative, and all really should have been left off the album (it's 16 tracks, folks.) 'Monkey's Paw' has the WORST pop watered down choruses on the record. Now, like I said, this album is pretty weak compared to how "soft" it has become, but this is just bad. The choruses are one of the best things on this album, and they're almost "crooned," which makes them even worse. 'Where Do They Go,' with the very weak and bland female vocals (I still cringe when I hear her do the patented "whoah's") and I'm going, What The FUCK. The dual vocal work (male and female) on the choruses just makes things more confusing. And finally, the last train wreck of this trio in 'Sleepwalking...' This ain't the Misfits gone Folk slash western slash blues is it? Hearing Jerry put that southern low toned drawl at the opening is great for a few sad laughs. Even the last two tracks on the record did nothing for me, and 'Death Ray' had some stupid lyrics on the choruses. Not to mention the minute and a half of useless laser sound effects. Now onto the good stuff, which won't take long in an already lengthy review. 'The Ripper.' Hands down the most surprising cut here, in a heavy and dark NWOBHM vein that TOTALLY came out of left field. And even THAT was ruined in spots by the extremely overt repetition in the "choruses." "Where you gonna go, what you gonna do" repeated about 8 times in the SAME chorus. Then "Now you're mind, now you're mine" over and over at the end! Damn, you mean to tell me this man who has crafted a BUNCH of different lyrical topics over the course of 16 songs couldn't find more words to fit in there? And 'Dark Shadows' REALLY surprised me as to how much I liked it, even though it's kinda mellow it just somehow FITS. And the vampire tune 'Father' was interesting lyric wise. That's it though, this album not being a total disaster but there's too much I'm hitting the skip button for. Listen to the sound files yourself, there's good and bad cuts represented for your listening pleasure, but this album feels rushed, too "safe" and it doesn't REALLY represent much about the Misfits from ANY era. I hope future albums don't follow along these lines. Jerry CERTAINLY can do better, after all, the choruses on most tracks are pretty damn catchy.

TOXIC HOLOCAUST "Conjure And Command" (Relapse) SCORE: 98/100

Blackened thrash of the highest order! I was quite impressed with their previous release "An Overdose Of Death," however this effort blows that one out of the water! The album contains 10 tracks, and the entire album is done at about 32 minutes! Some are saying the "Reign In Blood" of blackened thrash, and this wouldn't be a totally inappropriate thing to say. Especially since the blazing thrash on CD opener 'Judgement Awaits You' tends to remind me a bit of the cut 'Altar Of Sacrifice' from Slayer's monumental "Reign In Blood." Joel even throws in some Kerry King like guitar soloing to hammer that point home. Followup 'Agony Of The Damned,' however, starts off with some rather slow and haunting instrumentation before ripping right into things. If you haven't heard Toxic Holocaust's vocal work before, it's not exactly black metal but it is a very acid tinged, rough style of extreme vocals that brings about memories of gravely hardcore punk mixed with the extreme vocal work. You can't really call it black or death metal vocals, and it's all unique to Joel. The variation of tempos and structures on 'Agony...' proves The Holocaust isn't a one trick pony. Followup 'Bitch' is one of the best cuts on the record, and great live as well. A pounding percussion assault starts this off, and it rages like all hell! Catchy choruses and ripping headbanging thrash riffs make this a fun and kick ass affair. Lyrically, it's about witches being burned at the stake by our wonderful early incarnation of christianity. 'Red Winter' has the slower, more death metal oriented thing going, actually reminding me a LOT of Bolt Thrower, especially in the lyrical content (see the interview this issue for more on that). Another favorite of mine was 'Nowhere To Run,' although the solo leads midway were kinda awkward. 'I Am Disease' was the slowest tune here, though there's no lack of vicious thrashy riffing. Folks, these guys make MAJOR use of hellacious thrash riffing in every damn song. You can feel the creeping dread of "the disease" overtaking you throughout this song, which clocks in at 4:23 and is the longest cut on the disc! They get in, slay quickly and get out before anyone can notice! 'The Liars Are Burning' was a cool track, most noted for the dirty, more "rock" oriented guitar work, and quite kick ass. 'Revelations' deals with the end of the world and prophets, being a vicious ripping shred fest, while CD closer 'Sound The Charge' was a rather anthemic tune, lyrically reminding me of a cross between war lyrics like Bolt Thrower and the battle of metalheads in a song like Onslaught's 'Metal Forces.' vicious from start to finish, and rockin' your ass all the way to hell, this diabolical CD is definitely one of the highlights of 2011, and I wonder how they will top this energetic force of aggression with their next full length!
Contact: Relapse Records.

WHITE ORANGE "White Orange" (Made In China) SCORE: 08/100

That's no misprint folks, it's an EIGHT out of 100. Talk about FALSE truth in advertising! The reason I wanted to check this out is because, and I will read you the sticker: For fans of Nebula, The Sword, Deep Purple, Mastodon. "...Like a sludgy Sabbath or Kyuss." Folks, let me tell ya right off the bat: NONE of these bands have ANYTHING whatsoever to do with this train wreck. Okay, yeah, there's a kinda fuzzy and slightly heavy sound to the guitar work. Big deal, anyone can buy a fuzz amp (Orange/Green amp?) and utilize a fucking effects pedal. Hell, I can't even play guitar and I bet I could come up with better sounding riffs than this! The guitars suck (like they're made annoying on purpose), the vocals are like that whiny alternative shit that those with no taste like... The first two songs have annoying riffs all the way through the damn song. And there's not much variation on many tracks at all, so if you hate the riffs right off the bat, guess what? You're stuck with them... Through the whole damn song. The vocal work changes with the third track 'Middle Of The Riddle,' and he mutters something about incense and peppermints. The stop/start guitar work was interesting for a minute, but the higher ranged singing definitely doesn't help. And 'Dinosaur Bones' reveals EXACTLY what this band is: Just lousy alternative styled heavy rock, nothing more... Except for the few spacey sounds thrown down here and there to say "hey, we know something about stoner rock and maybe Hawkwind." Yeah, and CD ender 'Sigourney Weaver..." Lemme just say right now that Sigourney would be PISSED. She was a kick ass woman in the Alien movies, and to hear this electro acoustical whining??? She should do a number on these guys. The 8 points? The track 'Kill The Kids,' which had this dude doing some pretty wicked screams at points, and the whole track was NOTHING like the rest of the album; kinda like a dark (VERY dark) punk attitude morphing into attempts at metal. Of course, the whiny sung vocals ruined the whole credibility of the thing, but said singer should try something a LOT heavier and less alternative. The drummer definitely has skills, it's obvious during some of the solo instrumentation on 'Middle Of The Riddle.' And you mean to tell me with their lack of variety I have to endure a SEVEN minute song? ('Save Me.') TRUE torture in hell is forcing people to endure the entire 7 minutes! Folks, I LOVE stoner rock to death, but there's nothing catchy or energetic about these songs. It's like drugged out alternative, and you know what else? Some of the world's greatest music was written under the influence of certain kinds of drugs, but trust me when I say that there are indeed some REALLY "wrong" drugs these kids are taking. It ain't pot, L.S.D. and opium, it's probably more like week old coffee, two month old mold on macaroni and cheese, and maybe some meth and elmer's glue mixed in... Sadly, the cover art is truly a wonder to behold, especially with the fiery red and orange colors and the middle eastern vibe throughout this VERY colorful piece of art. (The album cover, NOT the album.)
Contact: Made In China Records.

WHO DIES IN SIBERIAN SLUSH "Bitterness Of The Years That Are Lost" (Solitude)
SCORE: 67/100

When this came out a year or so back, I kinda put it aside. I had this image that Solitude Productions could do no wrong as far as doom metal goes, and of course I can't get to EVERY single CD sent to me. SO, this CD is from a Russian band who had previously put three demos out, and once obtaining a full lineup, showed us that the album would sound markedly different from the earliest of their demo days. That being said, I will say this band has quite a bit of work to do to perfect their sound. First of all, the CD starts off with 'Leave Me,' and right off the bat the piano notes are a bit too light to go with the heavier instrumentation. Some nice lead guitar work is found within, but at times the guitar notes will sound odd. This track features heavier instrumentation towards the end of the CD, and the lack of piano notes here makes me think they weren't sure how to direct the song. Followup 'The Woman We Are Looking For' seems to go a bit overboard with the higher ended lead guitar notes, though the odd spoken vocals threw me a bit. While on the subject of vocals, though the death metal vocals are somewhat standard, they are a bit too "gurgly" for my tastes. This isn't a HUGE problem, though, but it really gets noticed when the instrumentation is minimal. That being said, the piano notes work well on this particular piece, and there's a good doomy vibe presented. 'Mobius Ring' has nice use of sweeping acoustic effects, and the melodic guitar opening up the song worked well. Once again, though, you'll find a few odd leads inside. I questioned the 4 minute piano only instrumental 'Interlude,' though, especially since there's not much variety from start to finish AND there were some really jangly piano notes found within. 'Testament Of Gumilev' is the ONLY song with Russian lyrics, and oddly the best cut on the album. The synth choir voices were quite nice, and the slow funeral doom instrumentation is great. The piano notes here mixed in quite well with the heavier music, so at least here they got everything right. There's not much variation on this almost 9 minute piece, but the slightly faster tempo on later passages made for an interesting listen. The short instrumental 'An Old Road Through The Snow' was a far better cut than 'Interlude,' utilizing varying structures of acoustic guitar notes. You don't often hear an acoustic instrumental on a funeral doom record! Finally, the CD ender is the title track, and it's mostly a musical affair, clocking in at nine minutes. Slow doomy and heavy is how this starts off, and unfortunately the spoken word passages are more numerous here, though a bit better than what was heard earlier on. There's tons of solo instrumentation going on here, and once again a few odd leads. Altogether, this isn't a terrible record, but they definitely need to tighten things up and improve on many fronts. This isn't really the pinnacle of quality doom I expect from Solitude, but being their first full length release we will wait and see what the future holds.
Contact: Solitude Productions.

WOODS OF DESOLATION "Torn Beyond Reason" (Northern Silence) SCORE: 93/100

Another damn fine release on German based Northern Silence Productions. The band is based out of Australia, and apparently contains members of the band Austere. Neither band am I familiar with, but what I WILL say is that this 6 track affair was a very interesting listen! The total running time of the CD is 37 minutes, which is rather unusual when you consider the material and length of some of the songs. The title track starts things off, and the post rock influences are definitely there, with the most amazingly emotional and majestic high end riffs from start to finish. There's not a whole lot of variation on this track, in fact as the CD goes on just about every song will have you saying that many of the riffs are different variations on the same pattern. Still, the guitar notes do seem a blur at times, mimicking more a rather ambient landscape type of thing rather than just being notes picked in a certain order. The vocals, damn, they're echoed, distorted and very harsh, adding that extra dimension to the music. 'Darker Days' adds clean sung vocals to the mix, though I only counted about 3 different places where they're contained. The drumming is all over the place, and oftentimes it's the percussion that gives the tracks their tempo "appearance." That being said, the longest cut here 'The Inevitable End' which clocks in at 9 minutes, most resembles a doom metal piece, right up until near the end when the pace picks up considerably. There's even some synths here folks, though you will probably not catch this on the first few listens. I liked the stringed instrument they emulate on 'An Unbroken Moment' though; it's during a break in the song which reminded me of either a cello or violin. This particular passages comes three songs in, proving that it's not all the same sequence from song to song. The 2:44 instrumental 'November' almost seemed unnecessary, especially since there's only 6 tracks, but the nice post rock sounding acoustic like guitar work lended a nice buildup back to heavier instrumentation. CD closer 'Somehow' definitely ended the CD nicely, and it had a rather sad atmosphere to it, as if saying it's the last song and it doesn't want to go. The guitar work here does seem a bit different, though since it utilizes the same high end pattern, there is definitely a familiarity to it all. You'll hear probably the most clean sung vocals this disc has to offer on this track. Melancholic and epic post rock styled black metal, it's highly enjoyable, and even though it sounds a bit familiar from track to track, the fact is this record is almost an EP, but still one of the most interesting releases in the realm of black metal for 2011. Instrumentation wise, it seems a bit too "bright" to be labeled depressive black metal.
Contact: Northern Silence Productions.


These guys impressed the hell out of me. From Finland. Stoner rock. Black metal vocals. Trippy guitar work. Sick and crushing as hell. All checked out and all on one of our newest partners, Inverse Records. How do they do it? WHAT do they do? Read on...

  • So right off the bat, everyone seems to be digging the latest full length "The Descent." How does your new album differ from the two EP's you released? (Which I have yet to hear, unfortunately, save for a video clip for one of the songs I think it was 'Kneel?')

    Saku: I don't know if the actual songs differ that much. But in the recording process we made some things different. On those EP's we wrote the songs quite quickly and recorded them the same way. In the moment, more improvised effects and stuff. Now we spend more time rehearsing and jamming, arranging the tunes. And as we try to do everything ourselves, we learn as we go, and evolve at the same time, naturally.

  • As far as I know, you guys are one of the first bands I would LOOSELY consider a member of the stoner rock genre from Finland. Are there any other Finnish bands playing this style? Most of what I know coming out of Finland are bands in the doom/death genre, especially those signed to Firebox Records (also out of Finland). Of course, Thergothon is considered one of the pioneers of the doom/death sound...

    Lauri: You should check out bands like Xysma or Mannhai. Xysma is considered to be the pioneers of rock and roll here in Finland. Also Saku's and Pasi's band Kaihoro kneels before the goddess of Rock.

  • Are you familiar with any of the bands from Sweden like Dozer, Sparzanza, or The Satellite Circle that are in the stoner rock genre? There's also a few cool bands from Norway playing this style like Honcho and Gate 9.

    Lauri: Dozer is the gem out of that pile. Great rocking band!

  • How did you come to choose the band name Demonic Death Judge? I think your band name itself will easily identify you to those who don't know you that "Hey! We ARE a metal band."

    Pasi: It was a jokingly made name for our doom project. First it was supposed to be Demonic Death Slug, like somekind of gigantic and mystic space snail, haha! I believe it was Jaakko who came up with Demonic Death Judge.
    Jaakko: Yea I can't really remember how it all got started but I think beer had an awful lot to do with it.

  • Stoner rock usually has some heavy and trippy guitar work, but one of the heaviest bands besides you guys I ever heard was a band from Canada called Sons Of Otis. Have you heard them? They are quite spacey and angry 'n' heavy!!

    Saku: The name sounds familiar, maybe i´ve stumpled on it on youtube or something.
    Pasi: I´ve heard of them. They´re great! Really like their sound.

  • The vocals are absolutely sick man. They do remind me a bit of some of the Scandinavian black metal bands. Are there any other bands any of the other members have played in?

    Saku: We are all members of a death metal band called Total Devastation.
    Pasi: We are also in another "stoner rock" band with Saku called Kaihoro. The band has released a few albums in the past. As a matter of fact, the band is right now in studio for a new album to be released soon, I hope.
    Saku: And don´t forget our newest effort Kreyskull! Yet another 70's style Sabbathy riff based jam band! Heh, too many bands! But the DDJ is our main focus.

  • If there was a band I would compare you guys to, mainly vocal wise, I'd say probably Iron Monkey. It's a shame Johnny Morrow passed away, I've heard that guy was a real madman!

    Jaakko: Yeah, Johnny Morrow is a hero of mine. There's just something so insane and strangely compelling about those vocals. They're just unreal. It's a real shame the guy passed away on a such an early age. But he's still alive on my stereo every week!

  • I'm curious as to why you chose the song 'Stick That In Your Pipe And Smoke It' to do a video for? Is this an official video or just something you made for youtube; I know that underwater footage is cool.

    Lauri: We got great plans for a video including mountain climbing, hunting animals and other sort of wildlife stuff. But we had the budget of zero euros, so we had to steal footage from real masters like Cousteau. I think nowadays bands make their videos just for youtube. Who wants to show this kind stuff on TV? We have a new video under works, we will see how it turns out.

  • Imagine people's shock when they hear that one instrumental, thinking the whole album is like that, and then they get the shock of such heaviness!!

    Saku: That's actually a cool thing. I think it's funny.
    Pasi: That mellow side is a big part of our band anyways, so why hide it? I think those trippy sounds go well with the otherwise aggressive atmosphere of the album.

  • What sort of equipment do you utilize to get those guitar and bass sounds? The bass guitars were pretty heavy, and I know a lot of stoner rock bands love the Green and Orange amps; some do prefer to utilize the Sunn amps however.

    Pasi: The bass on the album was recorded using two sansamp pedals in stereo. One with a fuzz and the other with only its own distortion. This may come as a surprise because I know most stoner groups swear in the name of big amp stacks. With the guitars we did use Orange amps with Marshall cabinets. And all sorts of secret fuzz and delay boxes.
    Saku: Nah, no secrets there except I think we used a bass bigmuff on the main guitar tracks.

  • With a song title like 'Churchburner,' it seems to me like you don't have a problem with the arsons and the general mayhem the early Norwegian black metal scene caused. I myself LOVE Norwegian black metal; it's one of my favorite styles of music and I daresay doom metal and stoner rock should be mixed with black metal more often!!!

    Jaakko: That's right, we have no problem with arsons what so ever. The song title came about when I read something about Varg Vikerness of Burzum getting out of jail, and thought to myself what a cool guy he is, wasn't he connected with church burning and of course a murder. I used to listen to loads of Norwegian black metal so this song is a bit of a homage to the whole thing.

  • I heard a couple of spoken word passages; mainly on the cuts 'Green Totem' and on the title track I think. Where did those come from? I don't have lyrics yet, so I was curious to your lyrical input. 'Green Totem...' that's kinda obvious.

    Jaakko: There aren't any on the title track, or is there? Don't know, but the 'Green Totem' spoken words were done by our friend Manne Pihlaja. The song is about doing some substances in the desert and I read some stuff about growing and using of peyote, printed the stuff out and made Manne read it out loud. There are some samples from Ghostbusters 2 on the 'Four' track, mind you...

  • So what are the marijuana laws like in Finland? Here in the States, it's a pretty hefty criminal offense, mainly for large amounts, and they nail you pretty hard when a moving vehicle is involved. I know Europe seems to be a lot more tolerant when it comes to the great recreational drug than our asshole lawmakers here in the U.S.

    Lauri: I think the laws are pretty much the same here in Finland. The gravity of the punishment depends on the amount of the forbidden fruit.

  • So how do the long Finnish winters affect you? A lot of Finnish bands seem to tap into the darkness very well, especially where doom metal is concerned...

    Lauri: I enjoy winter, as long the temperature is reasonable. Thank god we don't have -27 degrees anymore in February... I hope. I think we are more creative when there's nothing else to do than sit on our asses and jam out.

  • Man's Ruin was a great record label here in the States. There were so many great heavy stoner laced bands on there; Sons Of Otis, Dozer, Natas, Acid King, etc. Then the label folded, and of course other labels have come and gone, like Water Dragon Records out of France, The Music Cartel distributed some of the Rise Above titles and they all folded. I wonder why some of these great labels don't last long?

    Lauri: Nowadays it isn’t enough that you make/release good music. Maybe you need the stars to be aligned the right way or you should sell your soul to the Devil to prosper as a label or a band.

  • Inverse is kind of a new label, what sort of record deal did they give you (IE, number of albums, tour support, merchandise deals, etc)?

    Lauri: We signed only a distribution deal with Inverse. So basically we're still an unsigned band.

  • Finally, any plans for a new album? Song titles, themes, lyrical content, anything you can tell us...

    Saku: New album is on the way! We have most of the songs figured out already and probably will hit the studio by summer.
    Lauri: That's right! In fact I reserved a studio for us for the whole of June. So we have all the time in the world to make a groovy psychedelic monster mammoth jam album. We don't have any releasing plans yet. Maybe somebody could release it for us!?

    MIDNIGHT CHASER. Email interview with Stephen Lauck.

  • I just read somewhere that you were one of seven bands to be hand picked to perform at Gary Holt's wedding party! That must have been some honor, how did that go? I'm curious about the other bands that were asked to play, was that like a day long concert or something? How long did the bands get to play and what were some of the highlights?

    Yeah, we were asked by Gary to play his wedding party/show. This was an all day event where the wedding happened earlier in the day, then all the bands showed up to the venue and we each had like 30 minutes to jam a set in honor of the occasion. There were so many good bands that day, and was really fucking awesome being part of the whole thing. Death Angel and Exodus killed it that night. Nothing beats a huge party/show with all your friends. We are really lucky to be part of the Bay Area scene, and lucky that there are so many great bands from here.

  • The album "Rough And Tough" DEFINITELY has some kick ass tracks on it. I especially love the opener, 'Rough And Tough,' 'Swords For Hire' and 'Hot Shot.' What did you envision the sound of this album to be like; I know you guys are definitely NWOBHM afficionados!

    It's funny because I never really envisioned Midnight Chaser as a NWOBHM band. I think it's more about the sounds of 2 guitars, bass, drums and someone singing, playing hard rock or metal tunes. The natural sound of our band is pretty bare bones so it has that early Metal feel of NWOBHM. We like to keep the gear/sound basic and concentrate on song writing and it just comes out that way haha. I've found myself really listening to a lot of NWOBHM in the past though because of this raw basic rock sound that I like so much. It's really not that hard to re-create either, but it seems not a lot of people really concentrate on being singers anymore, which is key to the sound. I feel lucky we have Scott there singing.

  • I haven't heard the EP but I know there was a Tank cover on there. 'Turn Your Head Around' is a great song; I know the first Tank album I ever heard was "Honor And Blood," which I think has some of the best Tank songs ever written. Especially the title track, 'When All Hell Freezes Over' and 'The War Drags Ever On.' What are your favorite tank songs/albums?

    My favorite is still 'Filth Hounds From Hades,' but 'Honor And Blood' is also really good. Tank just wrote some really catchy stuff and I feel they were totally overlooked when bands who were listening to them back in the day (like Metallica) ended up getting so huge so fast they overshadowed their influences and so in a way bands like Tank never really got the exposure they deserved. But for a band like us, they have so many good songs that just sound great when we cover them. Sometimes I feel like why try and write a new song when there are some songs by great older bands that really hit the exact sound I'm looking for. NWOBHM is really a treasure trove of great not very well known metal material. It's fun to drop a cover or 2 in our set and see if anyone notices. I don't even think most people realized 'Turn Your Head' and 'Too Wild To Tame' weren't our songs.

  • How do you feel about the latest Tank release "War Machine?" I was impressed by the singer's amazing ability to emulate the Saxon man (Biff Byford), however I felt that the songwriting wasn't as strong as it should have been and the vocalist mix just didn't sit well with me.

    Yeah I agree, I like their old material. They were an amazing power trio.

  • I love a lot of the rarer, more unknown bands in the NWOBHM genre, like China Doll, Triarchy, Arc, and Battleaxe. What are some NWOWBHM bands you really dig, maybe some rarities you might own or know about you'd recommend to people?

    I love bands like Savage, Tokyo Blade, Praying Mantis (not all of it though!!!), Buffalo, Cobra, Riff Raff, Jaguar... man too many to name, that was just off the top of my head. I just said that, but that's a weird list. There are so many bands that are good. I'm not even sure the genre of NWOBHM is a good description anymore when you go further back into the late 70's, which I also like the sound of.

  • I know it's been awhile since the "Rough And Tough" album came out, have you started working on new songs or a new album? Any details, album or song titles or anything?

    We've been really working hard on new material with our new lead guitarist Sven (Mercenary SF, Mordred, Heathen) and I'm really excited about the new songs. Sven adds a whole new element to the leads and I'm really trying to showcase his playing with the new songs. We also are sounding a bit more post NWOBHM with the twin guitars. TONS more leads! I have about 9 new songs ready to go, so hopefully we'll get in the studio this year, 2012 should be fun.

  • The songs seem to be varied in range as far as topics go. I love the CD opener 'Awesome Party,' sounds like a great way to start a weekend! Had any "awesome parties" happen lately?

    Ugh, my liver sent me an email saying we should probably cut down haha. Sometimes it's hard to keep up the reputation!

  • So we know you're into traditional and NWOBHM metal, are you fans of, say, doom metal or even the Norwegian styled black metal?

    Back in more of the mid to late 90's I was more into Scandinavian metal when it was a little fresher. I was always a big Emperor fan, and all the melodic swedish death metal bands. I've also been know to play in a few D-Beat bands (Wrathcobra, Old Crow ) which shows what a huge swedish metal fan I am of bands like WolfBrigade, Skit System or bands like DOOM or say Inepsy from Montreal. I'm a not so secret Power Metal fan too haha, so is Scott the singer, we joke around sometimes and call our band Shadowfang and play power metal.

  • I recently heard you went through a lineup change. New drummer I think? How are things between the rest of the guys in the band?

    We've been through some lineup changes, we changed bassists last year and lost founding member Texas Josh, he went back to Texas. Gained Zack Ohren on bass (Zack is a recording engineer with Castle Ultimate ) and Sven Soderlund on lead guitar. Right now we are transitioning to a new drummer and working on the new material. I'm not sure if the new fill in drummer Doug Moore is full time yet, so we'll keep everyone posted. He did a great job jumping in quick and helping us with shows when we played with Sacred Reich and Death Angel recently, so I'd like to keep him.

  • The song 'Cougar...' Damn, that's a funny track... Of course, we're all getting older ourselves, so I am curious if the details of that song happened to anyone in the band in particular...

    Let's just say that song is based on true events. One does not simply enter Craigslist's casual encounters and not get scratched.

  • I saw where you played a show with Death Angel, Hammers Of Misfortune and Anvil Chorus of all bands awhile back! I have that Anvil Chorus single "Blondes In Black" on my website, how were they? I Know they're planning on re-recording some of their older songs and doing a new CD...

    Anvil Chorus sounded awesome that night. Those are some experienced guys. Like I said before, there are so many old and new bands in the Bay Area that we're lucky to either be friends with or share a show with, kind of mind boggling. I'm not sure about their plans for recording, I'd have to ask Sven, he knows them personally a lot better from back in the day.

  • So what would you say is your weakest track on this latest full length? I wasn't aware that 'Dynamite' was a Scorpions cover, but that would probably be my least favorite on the disc...

    I thought 'Earthquake' was the weakest track, but a lot of people say it's their favorite??? That song didn't have as much time to mature as some of the others, but it was a first step toward how some of our new material sounds in terms of feeling.

  • So what's the metal scene like in San Fransisco? I know thrash metal is somewhat in a revival stage, and lots of these 80's metal bands are playing shows and releasing albums.

    Yeah, and a lot of new bands are grabbing up guys from older bands and vice-versa. San Francisco is a huge city, so on any given night there is a ton of shit going on. There IS a giant metal scene here though, and people are really die hard about metal in the Bay. Metal is not a fad in the Bay Area, there are a lot of long time fans and it's more like a huge family than in a lot of cities. We've been really lucky in terms of a lot of the older metal scene adopting us as one of their own.

  • One last question: Vinyl seems to be making a comeback these days, any thoughts on that? There's still people out there who say vinyl sounds better than CD, and of course there's TONS of cool colored vinyl options, especially multi colored and splatter/marble colored!

    Keep an eye out for yellow vinyl of "Rough and Tough." I've been wanting to do another 'demo' series recording too on vinyl. I love vinyl and like the size of the art when you get a record. We design all our covers and art to be on a 12" record cover, (it) just seems more fun that way.

  • Anything else you wanna talk about that we missed?

    Thanks! it was great talking with you guys. Keep an eye out for our new material, or if you're in the Bay Area come check us out!!!

    MYTHIC. Interview with Dana Duffey...

  • A lot of people may not consider Mythic when speaking of the earliest mixtures of doom and death metal, but I believe Mythic was one of the first American entities to mix doom and death metal; especially the 'Mourning In The Winter Solstice' EP title alone would suggest desolate wintery landscapes most like what the Scandinavian doom/death bands were doing. And if not one of the first American doom/death bands, CERTAINLY one of the first all female death metal bands from the States.

    Our common influences were mainly death metal, doom and thrash so it was a combination of what we all liked. Mary was into a lot of punk and I was into black metal and I actually began writing some of the tracks before we formed. It's just where the sound ended up. It was the slow, down tuned, sludgy material we all liked. I don't think we were trying to create a new sound, we just wanted to play HEAVY.

  • Ironically, Winter is ALSO one of the first American styled doom/death bands, and BOTH of you were signed to Relapse Records. Were no other record labels interested in your band back in the early 90's? I noticed that a rehearsal tape AND a demo were released before the EP was signed to Relapse.

    Well, Mythic's lifespan was extremely short; about a year and a half so the time between recordings wasn't long. And you remember how things worked back then, you didn't e-mail MP3's - you had to literally shop labels by sending press kits with demo tapes, bio and photos, etc. It wasn't long before Relapse offered us the deal for the EP. At that time we did not have any other offers and what they were presenting sounded good. They were putting out a lot of great stuff at the time like Repulsion, Amorphis, Mortician and Incantation plus they were getting ready to get distribution through Nuclear Blast so we were glad to be included.

  • What sort of deal did Relapse give you when you signed with them? I thought it a little unusual that your first release would be an EP rather than a full length album. I always wondered why Mythic didn't record any more material with Relapse?

    I wish I still had the contract so I could tell you but I remember it simply being a percentage of the pressing... maybe 15% which was fine for us. They did the same thing when they printed t-shirts. There never were royalties involved. The reason we didn't record any more material is because we split up relatively soon after it was released. We played a final show at the Milwaukee Metal Fest in 1992 and in fact by that time Terri had been kicked out of the band and we had a session drummer from the band Gehenna fill in. It was actually after we played that show that Mary and I decided to call it quits and my vision for Demonic Christ came to be.

  • You mentioned that the other two women you were involved with didn't even want the "Anthology" CD to come out, even going so far as to involve lawyers in the whole deal? What happened exactly that Mythic broke up, and why are they so hostile towards releasing all the Mythic material?

    It was not a friendly end. I had kicked out Terri because she refused to rehearse and it was really affecting our live performances. I didn't feel she was giving it 100% and Mary and I both were. Mary and Terri were friends before I ever came along and were in Derketa together so they had a bond. Mary reluctantly stayed a while after Terri was gone. We got through the MMF and that was it. There always was an issue with the lyrics I wrote, we did not see eye to eye on many things and it was just no longer workable. I was OK with that. As for the Anthology... I was approached to release it again for a percentage of the pressing. I offered to give them some of those and they communicated to me through the label that was to release it. They wanted to approve the booklet, that was fine. They changed their photos - again fine... then they wanted to have a sticker on the CD with a disclaimer that they did not support my beliefs and their portion of the proceeds would go to the anti racist fund. OK no way that was happening. So the label told them I refused that portion in which the label was threatened if they released it that they would be sued because not all artists represented agreed to the terms of the release. It was very petty and also unfortunate since there are many people who would love to have this release. I did get the tray cards and booklets from the label - they did have them printed before the lawyer threat so I made CDR's and gave them away, traded them and offered them on my website for FREE with paid shipping. One way to get around it! As for why they do not want to release it I saw later that they were offering free downloads of all the music and demo covers etc for anyone and that they didn't believe people should have to pay for it. Well, I was not trying to get rich off it, lol I just wanted all the material on one disc which would be easier for fans.

  • So besides Demonic Christ, are you still involved with music in any way? It seems like even Demonic Christ hasn't released anything in quite some time.

    I recorded two new tracks in 2007 but they were never released, discussing that with some labels at the moment actually. I have since then written new material but nothing else recorded. Besides Demonic Christ I recorded some ambient tracks simply called Satania. They were never released either and there is talk of that as well. Besides that I have worked on some collaboration efforts, to be released. I'll always be involved in music... it's just a matter of recording that is the real issue.

  • So tell us about your earliest days with metal. I know I discovered a LOT of bands just by reading various music magazines and buying albums just by looking at the album covers and reading the song titles! I didn't have a whole lot of people to help me and hear different underground bands, so I'm curious if you had people or musicians you hung out with "back when."

    Well I think the first metal I got into was Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, King Diamond, Dio that sort of thing when I was about 12. Soon after that I found more of the thrash albums like Slayer, Testament, Dark Angel, Possessed, Exodus and from there Obituary, Sepultura, Celtic Frost, Bathory, Venom, Death, Pestilence and the flood gates opened. I didn't really have a ton of people to hang out with in the early days. I spent time up in the Cleveland area so: Embalmer, Decrepit, Sin Eater, Blood Of Christ. Then once I moved to Pittsburgh I would hang out with members of Sathanas, Lethal Prayer, Nunslaughter, Cannibal Corpse, Baphomet, Incantation, Bathym, and Gehenna.

  • I'm sure it was difficult being a woman and being into extreme metal at that time; there weren't very many female musicians of the extreme variety performing in the early 80's to mid 90's here in the States. Did you ever find that most men were intimidated by you, or didn't know how to approach you? I know I dated a few women who were into extreme metal and most guys I know were quite afraid of them, it was rather funny at the time...

    It wasn't difficult at all, it was just natural. I just loved music and loved playing guitar. I started writing material and knew it was something I wanted to take to the next level. When I read about Derketa in a 'zine I thought it was awesome there was an all female death metal band and noticed they only had one guitar player so I contacted them since I was moving to Pittsburgh to go to school and asked if they needed a second guitarist. They wrote back saying they had just parted ways with their guitarist so I sent some tracks, they liked my material so off we went. As we began rehearsing I asked if they had any idea who would do vocals they said they hoped I would. Hmmm never thought of that but sure I would give it a try. Yes a lot of men were and still are intimidated by me. It's really interesting. But there was always respect. I mean there were a few choice assholes who thought women had no place in the scene, especially playing music but the majority have been a great support throughout the years.

  • "Mourning In The Winter Solstice" is still one of my favorite releases from back then, in fact I still own the blue marble colored vinyl version that Relapse put out! I'm curious what your mindset was when writing the lyrics and music to this album; what were your influences and had you heard any examples of extreme doom metal at the time?

    That's great you list it as a favorite. Back then I was listening to a lot of Bolt Thrower, Napalm Death, Grave, Carcass, Deicide. As for doom influences I liked Witchfinder General, Pentagram, Candlemass, Saint Vitus stuff like that but I think Katatonia was the one band that really got me going on doom. If I had to sight another main influence of doom around the time I wrote that material it would be Paradise Lost. The "Gothic" album really was amazing. Lyrically I just wrote what I was feeling and thinking. I didn't sit down with an idea or a vision.

  • Lyrically, a lot of people would assume you're into extreme anti- christian, satanic or occult ideologies. I know personally, I was heavily into philosophies in all three realms early on, however I did evolve away from true satanic origins and delved more into spiritual realms, which I find much more self-enlightening as opposed to a "religion" that oftentimes is nothing more than an inversion of christianity; something I find to be rather alien to my nature, and one that is hard to authenticate. How were your early years dealing with religion and what not; I know it's hard to go anywhere in the States, especially down south, and not run into almost fanatical christian entities.

    My upbringing was actually with very little religion. My parents never made me go to church and we rarely discussed religion within the family. I only went with one grandmother and only on a rare occasion. I think it was actually the lack of religion that got my mind going. It was my own curiosity and the analytical way I look at EVERYTHING that got me wondering. We did have a copy of the bible in the house so I began reading it at age 12 to find out for myself. I cannot say I read it page by page but I read enough to think to myself "this is crazy" and (that) was confirmation for me that the ideals so many people held high were based on a work of fiction. After that I headed to the bookstore and purchased a copy of the Satanic Bible. Ahhh now this made much more sense to me. Did I agree with everything LaVey had to say? No... but this ideology made a lot more sense to me than christianity. I went on to read the Quran where I found some interesting things... Again not quite right for me but I was able to take some things from it. I began getting interested in Witchcraft, Demonology and Luciferianism and reading everything I could on the Occult. I even got a job at the book store when I was 16 to support my habit and it also allowed me access to order rare and out of print books. Don't think I ever took home a paycheck, haha. I haven't stopped since. As for my lyrics yes they are very anti-christian and Satanic. I did in fact consider myself a Satanist for a good number of years not based on LaVey but my own rendition of my spirituality and what I considered Satanism to be. Religion in general to me is a negative since I think the connection to and relationship with the Divine is extremely personal and no one else can lead you to that. It comes from within. So my lyrics range from simple blasphemies against christianity to dreamscapes of unending nightmares to witchcraft to strong emotions of being stabbed in the back by someone you considered a brother to actual rituals. You can kind of follow the timeline of my thinking.

    I too find more comfort in spirituality than religion, I always have. The main difference of my early lyrics for Demonic Christ on the "Deceiving The Heavens" demo to the latest material I have recorded is that back then I was in angst and sickened so much with religion I wanted to do all I could to destroy it and blaspheme it. I learned that speaking against things takes as much energy to be pro whatever so I have refocused that energy into my own beliefs instead of giving to that which I loathe more power. Makes sense to me. I no longer worry about what other people believe and have no interest in awakening them, offending them or otherwise. My energy is for my workings.

  • So how do you see your evolution from the early days of your youth? I know you're heavily into black metal, and I find it interesting that many of the first wave of black metal bands now prefer to deal with subject matter that considers their past, their heritage and ancestry, even going so far to praise their landscape and all it's wonder and majesty. Here I find myself being pulled more and more towards the Nordic landscapes myself, heavily into Viking culture, lore, legends, and mythology, though I was born and raised here in the U.S. It's a rather profoud revelation.

    I have always been interested in my ancestry and was always drawn to beautiful ancient landscapes. I have never quite felt that this current life suits me. Always longing for something familiar, something which feels like comfort. I've been to Norway on more than one occasion and this is a place I cried when I had to leave, it's so beautiful and has a certain old world feel to it, something familiar. It's my goal to do a lot of traveling in the future. So for me it's not a change to be interested in my past, my heritage etc... I think the older I have gotten the more I appreciate beauty in the world, I see it with a different set of eyes but that again has more to do with looking inwards and directing my energy for my own use. I have always been interested in those things and they have been a part of me from the beginning.

  • Did you ever envision a time when the style and sound of Mythic would have reached it's point when progression was no longer possible? I know some bands have folded because they saw their music as limited, or just didn't want to rehash the same ideas over and over; they felt that they could take the style and sound of the band no further. I did still hear hints of doom even on the later material, especially a song like 'Scarred For Life.'

    Mythic never had the chance to progress. Looking back had we stayed together I am sure it would have progressed into more of a death metal sound, at least I believe that's where all the members would have wanted it to go and naturally that's more than likely what would have happened. 'Scarred For Life' was the second song I wrote and that was actually on the rehearsal tape released in 1991 before "Mourning In The Winter Solstice."

  • While on that question, I had wondered if you ever had an idea of what a Mythic full length would be like: song titles, themes, sound, album titles, etc. I can only assume from the last demo Mythic recorded that there were more ideas in the works.

    Actually we did not progress past the EP with ideas or anything. We wrote 2 more songs I think and were never released and the lyrics I was writing were getting shot down... it was hard to stay on neutral ground lyrically; I really wanted to go more extreme and express myself. But we hadn't even discussed a full length album. Things fell apart rather quickly unfortunately before we could reach that stage.

  • Are you a fan of doom metal at all? Do you keep up with bands from around the globe? I know there's some great doom metal labels like Firebox out of Finland, I Hate Records from Sweden, and Russia has an AMAZING doom/death scene with labels like Solitude Productions, Silent Time Noise and the like...

    I still like doom yes, but pretty much old doom, the stuff that influenced me and I grew up on. I really don't listen to much new music at all. I am always going back to my old favorites. Though I like a wide variety of music. Love some Viking Metal like Heidevolk and Ensiferum, love some Johnny Cash, Rob Zombie, folk and pagan music alone with the classic rock and metal of old. Black metal and early death metal will always have a special place in my heart.

  • How do you see the metal scene nowadays? You've probably been involved in tape trading and the like in the early days like many of us, of course now it's even easier with the internet to connect and discover bands from all around the globe; even to download albums in a flash instead of waiting for the albums to be mailed or to pick them up from a record store.

    I don't really see a scene anymore. I think the tape trading was extremely important to what the underground scene was. I don't think that sending MP3 files is remotely similar. Sure it's convenient but part of the excitement and an element that made it "underground" was the fact that no one else you knew had heard it and the actual waiting for the package to arrive, all the fliers inside, the personal correspondence... I mean waiting 3 months for a demo from Poland was something really special. Checking the mailbox each day and not having a clue what it was going to sound like until the moment you put it in your cassette player, that anticipation was amazing. I mean now you can download a song in a few seconds... almost any song no matter how obscure and anyone can download it. A lot has been lost, and it has forever impacted and changed any so called scene there is. I gave up on things ever being like that long ago. I occasionally still go out to a show but the underground music scene from the 90's was something I consider dead and I am very glad I was a part of and was able to actually contribute to it.

  • Finally, as we wrap this up, I was curious as us metal fans get older, do you think the younger generation will be interested in keeping these bands and their music alive? I know it's scary and kind of sad to see more and more of our heroes dying every day; we've already lost Paul Baloff from Exodus, we've lost Dio, Peter Steele from Type O Negative and a host of others. I just wonder what metal will be like long after we're gone...

    I think the spirit of metal will always be alive, There are a lot of us from the first wave that have teenagers now me included and I think we are all doing our part to raise them with some knowledge because we ourselves hold the banner high. So I do think it will live on. It will never revert to what it once was but a torch will be held. Yeah we have lost a lot of musicians and there have been some that have encountered some pretty scary things but pulled through. As to what metal will be like after we're gone, presuming we live a natal lifespan... I think it's going to be a good thing we are gone because it's already morphed into something almost unrecognizable as a genre.

    ORCHID. Interview with Mark...

    Not like I need to introduce EVERY band I am interviewing this issue. BUT... This band out of San Fransisco, California, has REALLY captured my attention! Releasing one hell of a record on the overseas label The Church Within, they blew me away with their kick ass vocalist and killer Sabbath inspired instrumentation. And I mean, there are songs where you recognize... THE RIFF... Massive cuts that will kick your ass to the floor and make you snicker as you go "Hah! I remember the Sabbath songs those came from." Okay, 'nuff talk... Go read, and like, listen, or something...

  • Obviously, the album "Capricorn" has been out for awhile. The cover looks nice, and of course you can never go wrong with a goat on the cover!

    The artwork is pretty much all Theo's vision. He's a really good artist and he has done all the artwork for us so far. I know he pretty much painted the album cover, acrylic on canvas. He actually has that on a big canvas in his room.

  • So you said you recently got back from touring overseas? How did that go?

    Yeah, we went to Europe and played I think 10 shows in 11 days... It was really fun; the first time we'd been over there. The shows were all great; we didn't know what to expect because we were the headliners and it was our first tour. We didn't know how many people knew about us or were gonna come out. Every night was fun, and even the worst attended shows there were at least 50 or 60 people there.

  • That's pretty impressive for a U.S. band that doesn't have a lot of years of history; you did an EP and one full length for a small label (Church Within Records). Did the label foot the bill for all this?

    That's all completely the label. Olli took care of everything; he paid for everything and brought us over, put the tour together. Originally the third band on the tour was supposed to be Lord Of The Grave, which is another band that was on Church Within, but they couldn't get their album out in time and make it out, so Serpent Venom came out with us, which turned out to be really awesome. Those guys were really cool; I dig them a lot. It was a really good experience; we're going back in April to play the Roadburn festival and there is another festival just outside of London we're doing before Roadburn. And probably another 10 shows besides those. We're going out with Lord vicar. And I'm sure with them headlining it'll put us in some different venues than we played last time out when we headlined. They're a bit more known than us, especially in Europe. Sagiriya is going out with us as well, and those guys used to be Acrimony, who are an incredible band.

  • I remember when Acrimony was on Godhead Records out of Italy. I always wondered what happened to that band.

    Their album just came out on Church Within as well. If you like Acrimony at all you should check them out. They've got more of a stoner vibe, not necessarily doom metal. They're a 4 piece now. It's not too different, maybe not as spacey as Acrimony as was at times. More direct and rockin'!

    But anyway, I don't know how much money that tour made; I know he lost money on that but that's kinda considered the cost of doing promotion. It's not different than spending a couple of grand on an ad in Terrorizer. He spends a couple of grand sending his bands out on tour and sells a bunch of CD's. And I know for a fact orders were up really high after the tour and he sold a lot of merchandise. And it was a great experience for everybody.

  • Well, maybe he's got the right idea! I mean the model was that you take out ads in major magazines; you send out free promos to labels, magazines and what not. It sounds like he's doing things a little differently. I've talked to a few bands that signed to a small label... Cruz Del Sur. They said that THAT is a great small label to work with; they signed a contract for one album and each album you renew the contract. And if both parties are happy then you resign the album. I remember the major labels used to sign bands for like 6 or 7 albums, and if you didn't deliver or whatever you ended up owing the labels all this money locked into these contracts. I think the smaller labels and even the bigger ones have realized that they need to do things differently nowadays.

    Yeah, we definitely go album to album; in fact I think all his bands go album to album. His contract is really simple, it's a really fair deal and he's a very trustworthy guy in my opinion. He's taken very good care of us. We do well for him as well as underground, indie labels go. There are a few bands on his label that move a lot of physical CD's for a label that size. For instance, we're getting ready to go through our third pressing for "Capricorn." And "Through The Devil's Doorway" is in it's second printing so it's probably sold at least 1500 copies. And sure, a lot of them are promo or wholesale to distros and stuff like that, but it's a lot of units to move for a band on our level. It's mostly a European thing though, I don't think people over here in the States are excited about it as they are in Europe.

  • Well, that seems to have always been the case with doom metal. I know many people have compared you to Black Sabbath in a way, which is both fortunate and unfortunate. You know, with the Black Sabbath reunion and them doing an album in 2012, and quite possibly a U.S. tour (NOTE: This interview was done BEFORE all the drama with drummer Bill Ward not entering into the contract and not being included in recording plans). I'm wwondering what you think that might do for doom metal in general and bands of that type.

    Yeah, I mean it seems like it couldn't hurt I think! (laughs). And us being compared to Sabbath a lot, it's pretty obvious. It's not that were trying to "rip off" Sabbath, as much as we're trying to play that style of music and do it as good as we can, but with our own style. I don't know how to describe it. Theo's voice is a bit different than Ozzy's; he phrases differently and he's very influenced by The Beatles when he was young, like Ozzy was. And he's always trying to fit Beatles melodies and vocals over this style of music.

  • I tell you what really floors me the most about Theo's vocals. He reminds me a LOT of a cross between Blackie Lawless from WASP and Eric Wagner from Trouble. You get where I'm going with that? Because you can have melodic singing with that but he has a great range and he's aggressive to a degree so it adds an extra heaviness to the sound of the album. Vocals are a lot of times what I focus on; being a vocalist myself. But couple that with the guitar riffs and it's an incredible album.

    Yeah, there's been a couple of other people that said that. Which is cool to hear! Although I was never a hardcore WASP fan and I don't think Theo was either. Still, it's a band that was pretty cool; they had their moments and I like some WASP stuff! I know he was kinda tripped out, but when he first saw someone say he sounds like Blackie Lawless, he goes "Oh! That's wierd, I never heard that one before, but that's kinda cool, I'll take that!" (laughs). It's definitely a more aggressive vocal style than Ozzy. And there were a few really reviews that mentioned Trouble and Eric Wagner. Nothing wrong with that at all!

  • Well, "Capricorn" is one of my favorite records of 2011, especially if I had to say "top 5, top 10" of the year... It's hard for me to do that because I don't get to hear everything; I mean a lot of record labels have cut back on sending out promos. We don't make very much money doing magazines; we do it to support the music scene. And the one good perk, free CD's, are even being taken away.

    I don't disagree. You can listen to a good amount of a band's material online, whether at youtube or other places: we even have our whole album streaming from the bandcamp page. You can listen to an album online without downloading it and decide whether you want to spend money on it or not. That's one thing that's definitely different about the old days. I miss all the physical stuff; going to record stores and being excited about holding a record for the first time when it came out. That's the kind of feeling you really miss from when I was a teenager. You were like "Ah fuck, the new Dio's gonna be in today! Let's go look at it!"

  • I wonder what's really going on with the music business today. I am kinda forced into the downloading thing today, and it's okay. But you know, there are still labels like Solitude Prodctions in Russia. They're making like gold CD's, doing etchings into the disc itself. They're not doing the whole vinyl packagings much anymore, but they really have it down. It doesn't really cost much to send out CD's (especially here in the States), but they will send me like 6 or 7 CD's and wrap all the CD's in cellophane, then they'll take all the booklets and wrap all those in cellophane, then wrap all the backsleeves in cellophane. So without the jewel cases, you've cut down on a lot of weight and a lot of packaging sizes, and this is a Russian record label mailing out promos to a magazine here in the Atlanta area!

    I dunno. As for a label I can't answer. I would love for you to check out some of the other bands on this label, like Serpent Venom, Lord Vicar and Sagiriya.

  • I wanted to ask you: The EP I never got to hear "The Devil's Doorway," how different does that sound from your full length?

    It sounds a lot different, which is surprising to me because it wasn't really recorded in a different time or under different circumstances. It was just 4 songs that we had already done while we were working on the album, and I wanted to release an EP before the end of that year. So I asked Ollie if he wanted to do an EP and then do an album later on after we had finished it. He was into that. I just kinda picked those 4 songs. I think the mixing was a bit different, intentionally. I think Theo wanted kind of a rawer, more low fi sound; to me they're a lot darker and a little bit heavier sounding than "Capricorn" (WOW - Ed.) "Capricorn" to me is a little bit more polished, more produced. You know, different guitar tones stacked on top of each other here and there and things coming in and out, stuff like that. You know, you can go online and check that out too! (laughs).

  • Now are you guys working on another full length right now?

    We cut the basics for 7 songs a few months back, and we're just chipping away and finishing them up. We're almost done with 6 out of those 7, and we're going to track about 5 more songs after the first of the year. We'll pick the best 9 for the album. There's a couple of songs we've been playing live now, 'Saviors Of The Blind' and 'Mouths Of Madness.' We played those on most of the European shows and I know they go down real well. The new material is probably a little more... I wanna say it's not so derivative of Black Sabbath, it's a little bit more "ourselves" in my opinion. But I know there's a couple of songs on there, when everybody hears it they're gonna go "ah fuck, it's Black Sabbath all over again!" (I'm laughing here - Ed.) Everything on "Capricorn" had been written for a while, so it was more genesis in 2007 and 2008. It's all the first group of songs we learned for the first couple of years we were together as a band. We recorded just about everything we had. The stuff that's going on the next album is a lot of stuff that was more fresh and had been written since we were a tight 4 piece band; all guys that knew each other well, liked each other well, and worked together as a unit. The recording of "Capricorn" was that transformation for us; we learned to be a band and learned how to work together while we were doing it. The next one is going to be a LOT better.

  • It's funny you say that; a lot of bands don't realize that. I know when I used to have band rehearsals with Hallows Eve for like 8 and 10 hours a day, we'd all sit down and eat dinner together as a family, we'd hang out and kinda kept in touch with each other off and on... I guess really to be a functioning band unit, you really need to be more than just... Because otherwise I guess it's like "Well, fuck, I guess I'm just punching a goddamn time clock again."

    You know, there's a lot of dynamics for even being together as long as we have. Like 4 solid years now. And Theo and I have been doing this and writing all this shit together for 5 years now. We started in 2006 and then we had this lineup together by the end of 2007. So it took 6 months, 8 months of jamming with a lot of different people, trying to find the right combination of people that could play the style of music and sound good doing it you know? People that were really into it. And the pressure of doing an album, you know, and shit happening in the industry... Even the small time that is was with the label, it was like "Fuck, we told them we'd have this 2 months ago, we're not done yet! We gotta do this." (laughs). It really forces you apart or together, and for us, it really tightened everything up. Going on tour, being together for 2 weeks straight, you know? That's like REALLY hard to find at this age, finding 4 guys around 40 years old that are headed in the same direction, and into doing the same thing? And willing to commit time to it, all the time? 'Cause there ain't that much money in it, you know that! (laughs)

  • Oh yeah! You're pretty much preaching to the choir man!

    You better be doing it because you like it! 'Cause you're gonna be SPENDING money on it, not the other way around.

  • Well, I'm sure somewhere down at the end of the line there's gotta be that big payoff, that big thing... Like I'm sure Slayer's going "Damn, we've been together for 30 years, we've got that whole "Reign In Blood" being considered one of the best thrash albums, etc, I'm sure there's milestones that Orchid would like to achieve, maybe you know what those are; maybe you're not even there yet, you know what I mean?

    Yeah. Well, it's hard to say. We're definitely going to finish another album, and I can see another one after that, for sure. And who knows? You really gotta be pretty big to do this for a living. I don't know how many thousands, or what size place you'd have to be able to play, but I would think you'd have to be able to pack like at least a 500 to 1,000 seater in whatever city you played in. You'd have to take in at least $5, $6, maybe 10 grand a night as a band to do it seriously as a living. You gotta be big to do that! St. Vitus maybe? They do it for a living I think.

  • I know we were gonna talk about lyrics, and I remember reading the lyrics to 'Electric Father' and thinking... I'm a... Damn I feel like I say this in every fucking interview. I know when I first got into metal I was extremely anti christian, almost to the point of bitter hatred. And now it's to the understanding that if it brings people true comfort and it's not just people going "well, if I don't go to church, this invisible being is going to burn me in hell," or whatever... I mean how could an invisible being that's supposed to be this loving god condemn someone to death or eternal torment? How could you live for a mere 70 years and burn for eternity in hell. Where's the justice in that?

    To me it's all pretty silly, fairy tales, and millions of people fight and die over it, and the world is shaped by it. I'm not into religion, I'm into morals and living with respect, and letting other people getting on with their thing. As long as it's within the boundaries of what's acceptable within society. And I don't want anybody influencing anything on me, I don't worry about heaven and hell and other things like that. I just try to live a good life; I have a wife and two little kids, and the most important thing in life is love.

  • Well, I like the spiritual path myself, because it's the first thing I've found in 30 years that gives self empowerment and makes sense. Like a lot of religions, you sit, stand, kneel, pray, and you hope maybe the preacher's little 15 minute sermon has something to do with your life. The religions of this world were man made anyway, and it seems like all they really want you to do is conform to the herd mentality. If music was like religion, every fucking band would have the same lyrical ideas, and they would all sound the same. Because that's what religion is like for me, you go to church and conform to their total ideas. There's really no room for the individual growth and reflection. And a lot of the spiritual teachers I study from, they're like "Hey, this is how you make your life better, this is how you overcome your obstacles and fears." It's more about self growth, and it's not like they're sitting there preaching at you. It's like "Hey, here's some help..." (laughing here).

    Yeah, I hear ya. There's a lot of interesting not only spiritual things in the world but also supernatural; all kinds of crazy shit going on. To think that any humans have the answers or knows what happens or how much is out there, I don't know if I buy that; everybody's searching you know? Everyone's just trying to figure out how it works.

  • Damn, we got WAY off track, I was talking about the song 'Electric Father.' (laughs). It's different from everything else.

    That was the last song that got finished up for "Capricorn." That and 'Albatross.' Those were the last two; they're a bit different, a lot more synthy and trippy.

  • That's where the stoner rock vibe came in.

    Yeah, it was definitely a vibe we wanted to get into the album somehow. That was a big part of what we wanted to do when we formed the band, we wanted to have some things that were synthed out, kinda spacey and more psych like that. I don't know where we go from here, because I haven't been playing any synth or doing any keyboards for a couple of years, so I have no idea if any of that stuff is going to make it to the next album.

  • Do you do keyboards live?

    Nah, we don't do it live, we just play with a lot of heavy bottom. We don't play those songs live; the set's geared more towards keeping high energy and then having the slow heavy songs mixed in there. It's too much to have to worry about all that. It was a pain in the ass setting that up, having to set up a guitar amp and keyboard rig while everyone's waiting for ya. Going "Dude, we're supposed to be starting dude, come on man!" Well, I gotta make sure this keyboard's working, making sure all the settings are right, jesus, hold on! I just want to worry about guitar.

  • I guess live should be different. That's always been my thing. If you wanna hear the album, then you can sit home and listen to the album. When you go to see a band live, you kinda want a different experience. There should always be something special about seeing a band live; whether they're running all over the stage, there's a lot of headbanging, maybe some visuals or pyrotechnics, highly energetic, whatever. You're gonna spend about three times the amount of money you paid for the CD, in some cases, to see a band live: it needs to be special.

    I couldn't agree more (both of us laughing here - Ed). I really think it's something that's sorely lacking in the world today. But I'm out of touch with what's popular, that everybody likes that gives you that feeling you're talking about. It doesn't seem like there's that many bands that light me on fire that are contemporaries or anything like that.

  • I guess maybe NOW we can talk about the lyrical concept behind 'Electric Father' (WAAAY off track have we gotten!)

    I didn't write it but I think it's safe to say it's a tale much like Judas Priest's 'Electric Eye.' I think it's Theo's concept about a satellite up in space that's spying on everybody and recording people's conversations; spying on them and reporting them to Big Brother.

  • 'Cosmonaut Of Three' was an interesting concept. Because unless my definitions are off, I was under the impression that a cosmonaut was what the Russians called their astronauts. I don't know if that means something different nowadays, but it's definitely a cool song title.

    Once again, I don't write the lyrics, but it's definitely a trippy song. (laughs).

  • Has Theo mentioned anything about lyrical thematics at all?

    Yeah, I pretty much know what's going on. 'Cosmonaut Of Three' is about a personal drug experience Theo had, so he's writing from sort of a psychedelic point of view. I don't know if I want to get into explaining that! (laughs).

  • The lyrics on 'Down Into The Earth' were very cool, when I first heard that song, it was like "Oh man, it's the exact same guitar riffs on 'Into The Void.' (laughing). A little different I guess in a way.

    Ha! That's the Nazi sci-fi theme song. It was interesting when we played in Nuremburg, Germany, because we ended up opening up with that and then we were laughing about that afterwards because it wasn't intentional. We were like "oh, we played the Nazi sci-fi song first in Nuremburg, Germany.

  • So finally, have you guys done a lot of interviews, a lot of press? What were some of your most notable interviews and reviews going out?

    It's always exciting when you get something in, like one of the bigger magazines. Like Rock Hard Germany is a great magazine over in Europe. It's like 70,000 a month is their circulation, which is really big for the European magazines. It's twice as big as Terrorizer, and twice as big as Decibel is here in the U.S. It was really wierd to get like a 2 page interview story with a big 'ol picture in there. And then reading a review in Metal Hammer Norway that was 9 out of 10, and had a picture and took up a sixth of a page or something. We got a lot of great reviews, but just to see it in a magazine is so cool. When we were in Germany, someone brought us an Italian version of Rock Hard, and there was an interview in there spread over 2 pages. I don't really think we've ever got any American press that I can think of, like Decibel or any other magazines that cater to underground music. I don't think America knows much about us.

  • When you were doing those interviews over in Europe, did you just do them by phone, or did they fly you out when you were in Europe? I was always curious about that. Like if you're in the U.S. and some magazine out in Norway for instance. I'm wondering if you fly out there and they set you up in a little forest scene with a professional photographer taking pictures (he's laughing at me here). And then you sitting down with some Norwegian guy who has a tape recorder in one hand and a microphone in the other. I always kinda wondered about that kinda stuff you know?

    Actually, the only time I've ever done a non-email interview... Actually, there was two, we actually did a few video tape interviews. We did one for our local San Fransisco music webzine or something like that, web channel. And when we were in Europe, doing the Hammer Of Doom festival at the end of October, Theo and I did a live interview with the editor of Rock Hard. That was just set up in one of the backstage areas and we had a video guy and talked for a few minutes. I think that's gonna come out on a DVD in the magazine, a cover mount to the next issue? We'll probably put it on youtube or something. 90 percent of the interviews we do are done by email, so this is the only phone one I've done.

  • WOW, I feel priveleged!! No really, I do.

    Well, it seems like it would be fun, it leads to other topics and B/S'ing and stuff.

  • Well, everybody and their mother could say "Oh, what guitar strings do you use," I mean all the technical stuff is nice, but you know? I'm sure people wonder what goes on in the minds of musicians. I've been doing this thing for like 20 years and I want to give people a REASON to WANT to read the interview. I mean I could go "Oh, what did you listen to growing up," or "What was the music scene like?" But I mean, do you sit around and spout off questions like that?" (laughing).

    Ha ha! No because you already KNOW all that shit about your friends, right?

    R.A.F. Interview with guitarist/vocalist Matthew Miles.

    Say what you will about blogspots and free music downloaded on the 'net, but if it wasn't for Strappado's blog, I might have never found out about R.A.F. - no relation to the Italian band R.A.F. (Royal Air Force), ALSO in the classic albums section. And this man's story is so amazing that it HAD to be told. In fact, it's a very unusual thing, how virtually unknown here in the U.S., FROM the U.S. to be hailed as the biggest metal band in the world on another continent. Matthew has GREAT stories to tell, something I ALWAYS want to hear about (as my former band mate in Hallows Eve, Tommy Stewart, always had TONS of great stories about the 80's era of heavy metal). Sit back and watch this fascinating tale unfold...

  • I know you have the one 80's metal album "Hammered To The Wall..."

    There is actually another "sort of" R.A.F. album, which is kind of a funny story. When we were doing the second tour that we were on in South America, we did a number of T.V. shows. And I may have just found some of the footage from that; I will reveal that at the right time. The lady who was the host of a show we were on twice, her name is Yola Polastry and she is a well known children's show host in Peru. She was trying to launch her career anew with a more adult appeal. She asked us if we would play on some backing tracks for her, and we were ready to do anything that was exciting. We wound up recording half of an album with her and her backing musicians. On that album was a performance of us doing Led Zeppelin's 'Rock And Roll,' which was our band entirely; just us, Don Alby singing and everything. And I didn't even know that that stuff ever actually got used until youtube was up and I just googled her one day and there is all this stuff with me playing guitar on it (laughing).

    So I finally got a copy; a guy who's down in Peru scrounged up a copy of the album for me on cassette... Charged me $50 for it I might add... At least I've got it and it is interesting to hear. It's not really an R.A.F. album, but it's got us playing. I arranged most of that stuff for her; she wanted to do medlies of things so I put together a Beatles medley for her, and a Stones medley and a 50's medley, playing it all with this cranked up Marshall 25th Anniversary amp, the Appetite For Destruction Slash amp. Not really my favorite Marshall; it's a little thin compared to some of the other ones I think. Still, it was pretty rockin' by the standards of Peru in 1988.

  • It's kinda funny to think about that album. I didn't learn about your "Hammered To The Wall" album until late last year. A lot of 80's metal bands here in the States really didn't get their due. I know I was involved with Hallows Eve, probably one of the first metal bands in Georgia to get signed. And Tommy Stewart had NO idea that there were legions of fans in Europe who still remember Hallows Eve. There were a lot of bands from the 80's who got a LOT more attention overseas than in their hometown.

    God, you coulda knocked me over with a feather when I found out what people were paying for copies of that album! And I don't know if it's really true, like a lot of the collector types say that there were 100 copies on vinyl. Maybe yes, maybe no, I won't confirm or deny that. They mostly sold those things on cassette down in Peru anyway, most people who bought it bought a cassette. I do actually have one of those vinyl copies; not a promo but an actual store copy. I went into the store and bought it; I thought it was fun to go in and buy my own album, and the clerk actually recognized me and he thought it was pretty funny too (laughing).

  • Now you actually did a tour of Peru; how was that actually put together? Did you have a promoter that paid for that, was the label involved or what?

    Well, I'll tell you what... I'll actually tell you the true story, and you can decide for yourself how much of it to use. We were playing at a club here in Indianapolis, and R.A.F. was started as a club band, you know we played 3 to 4 sets a night, 3 hours a night. We played a few of our original songs and we played a lot of 70's hard rock stuff: Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Aerosmith. We did Judas Priest, Quiet Riot, a little Metallica, the Sex Pistols, and you know we did kinda some less-cool stuff too, because we were in it for the money. So we played The Hooters, Mellencamp, and I can't remember what all else. We didn't let being cool keep us from getting jobs, but I think you would have enjoyed most of what we did. We did hair metal too; Cinderella, Bon Jovi, etc.

    We were in a five nighter club here in Indianapolis called The Enterprise, which was a jumpin' joint back in that era, you know the 80's to early 90's. And there was a guy there who was a friend of a friend... Again, we're all a lot older and smarter now but back in that day and age, the whole thing about R.A.F. was we were a party band and we partied really, REALLY hard. So this guy is from Peru, and he's got plenty of coke on him sure enough, so we're happy to make his acquaintance (laughing). And while we were having the festivities, he said "I really like your band, would you consider coming and doing a tour in Peru?" You know, he's putting out the lines, so we'll agree to do almost anything. We didn't expect to actually hear anything about it again, but about a month later he gets my number from the usual friend and gives me a call and says "Okay, it's all set, do you guys have your passports yet?"

  • (laughing here...) WOW.

    And I said "What?" He said, "you know, the tour we talked about. It's all set: we've got blah blah number of dates..." And I'm thinking you know we really didn't take this too seriously. So we had a quick meeting. And we had 6 guys in the band at the time; we also had a keyboard player who wasn't in the band by the time the album came out. Although he's still a good friend today. He was still in college at the time, and I don't know how he found the time to do that with all the travelling we were already doing, but he said, "I can't be gone for a month." So the other 5 of us thought you know, we may never get a chance to do something like this again... Not that R.A.F. was an unsuccessful band, but we were a club band playing mostly in Indiana with some trips to Ohio and Kentucky. And it was fun. In 1986 which was the year that we met T.K., we played around 150 shows, there was a ton of work for live music in those days. So we went to Chicago and got our passports the same day and got on the plane a few days later. We didn't really know much about Peru and the music there; most of the musicians were salsa type players and the ones that did rock did stuff like The Cure and that kinda thing. But the kids... were... DYING to see a good heavy metal/hard rock band. We went down there and we just blew people out of their seats. You know, even now I'm telling you this and you're probably thinking "you're lying." And you can see some of the pictures on our R.A.F. facebook site if you haven't looked at them.

  • ...

    After the word got out, we played to some HUGE crowds! We headlined shows that had some of the biggest acts in South America and we blew those people off the stage. We started riots, girls were ripping our clothes off our bodies. And two weeks before we were playing some small clubs in Alexandria, Indianna or Ashland College in Ohio, that kind of thing. And we're enjoying it, don't get me wrong, but all of a sudden people are treating me like I'm Jimmy Page or something! And we got home, we're telling people about it and NO BODY believed us! Even as recently as we pooled all our pictures together and put up a website, and even my mom said "Oh, I thought maybe you boys were exaggerating a little." But they see us playing in front of 8,000 people.

  • Well, I know kinda what the metal world was like in South America; I mean Brazil took the metal world by storm with Sepultura, but that was the late 80's/early 90's before that started. So I can understand; I've heard of bands like Psychic Possessor and Sarcofago from South America. They were isolated culturally and musically. There's places all over the world like that though. Like even in Russia, when Communism finally fell, and kids were finally overexposed with music. Kids in those areas were isolated and HUNGRY for this kind of stuff. Starving for stuff like that, so what you tell me is not a far fetched possibility really. I can completely understand how that can be, but for you guys it must have been like "here comes the twilight zone!" (laughing).

    Honestly, we knew we were a good band and that we were cool. Another thing about R.A.F., and you can go back and look at the pictures and judge for yourself, but we were a really good looking bunch of guys. So girls really always liked that band, where with a lot of hard rock bands they're not that into them, but we had a lot of good young eye candy (laughs). It was just a great experience for us not just because of the reception and the kind of gigs we got to play; it was an ungodly party and I'm really surprised, in retrospect, that nobody died. Again, you can decide how much of this the public need to know but people were giving us film cans full of coke for free, and this would have cost $400 in the U.S. for that and people gave this stuff to us FOR... FREE... (laughing).

  • I always wondered the meaning behind the band name: I'm not sure if you're aware of this but there was another 80's metal band from Italy named R.A.F. I think they're abbreviated as Royal Air Force though.

    In our case, it's not actually Royal Air Force per se, and of course we didn't know about the Italian guys until just the last few years with youtube and everything. The reason for that is our band was originally known as Scoundrel. And I absolutely HATED that name. It's kinda like "Oh, we're so bad!" It's like gay guys trying to act tough or something. And I wasn't having it, so eventually we had to sort through some people and get rid of the guys who weren't good enough. And when we had the right people together we changed the name to R.A.F. which I suggested, not to be Royal Air Force per se, but just because all my heroes were British, except for Kiss and maybe Aerosmith. But the Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Who, Yardbirds, Clapton, Led Zeppelin, all that. I just thought the English bands were cooler and they had more style. And with a few exceptions they brought a lot more to the party than the American bands did. And I just wanted to have that British iconography. I would much rather have been Judas Priest than Blue Oyster Cult, if you see what I mean.

  • Well, a lot of what metal has owes themselves to, obviously Black Sabbath but also that HUGE New Wave Of British Heavy Metal era that happened from like 1979 to 1984. The metal world owes England a HUGE debt of gratitude, and I don't know if you keep up with newer bands, but today with black metal and the hybrid styles of doom and death metal, it seems like Scandinavia has kinda taken over as the hotbed for metal. It seems like 80 to 85 percent of the newer bands that I REALLY enjoy come out of either Norway, Sweden or Finland.

    Those Swedish guys really throw down (laughs). You go on to like the Strappado website, I guess you know about him (considering that is where I got the R.A.F. album - yea! - Ed.), a lot of that stuff that he puts on, the newer guys they throw down at levels that even ten years ago nobody would have believed possible. And I don't know if there's any place else to go with this after that! (laughs).

  • Are you into any Norwegian black metal, or doom metal at all?

    Nah, you know I enjoy it in little bits and pieces, but I'm 50 years old this year. And I'm kinda starting to get to be like a lot of people get at a certain age, which is, I like the stuff that I like. I still really love Kiss, the 60's stuff I grew up listening to like The Beatles, The Stones, The Who and what not. I still like the 80's thing a lot; everything from Metallica to Cinderella and all that; Ratt I'm still a big fan of... Into the 90's you know, like Testament. And then it kinda gets... I enjoy some of it; I like Godsmack when they come on the radio but I don't buy any of their albums if you know what I mean. I do like it but I don't really... collect it like I did the old stuff. I like a lot of stuff too unlike some people who are known for playing metal. I've played everything from Carol King styled ballad music to funky stuff; I've been in a jazz band. I play in a band right now that does hyper, amped up versions of 60's and 70's stuff; we do Rush and Progressive things. I was a big Punk guys too, like The Sex Pistols and The Clash. Still to this day whenever I hear the Pistols and the Clash I'm ready to go man the barricades and kick ass! (laughs).

  • I got into punk stuff too in my high school days. I got into metal during high school and I skateboarded back then as well, and of course I lived on the East Coast so there was a bit of surfing involved. So I did the surf punk thing as well. The REAL punk they had back then, not this pop punk crap they have now like Green Day and Blink 182. You know, I'm talking about the real, nitty gritty violent and aggressive... As much of a metalhead I am, still one of the best shows I ever saw live was the three times in my life I saw Fear...

    Oh, I love Fear so much! The first time I heard their first album back in 1983 when I was playing in a punk band called the Fixtures. Which, if you like hardcore, that band lasted forever. They were still together as far as 2007 and they put out like 5 albums. I didn't play on any of their albums but there are some songs on their records, even up to 1999 that I co-wrote. Not that I got paid for it or anything, don't get me wrong. But those guys played Fear, their first album for me the record, when they were still pretty much unknown and I almost killed myself laughing. And there are two kinds of people in this world: the ones who think Fear is funny and the ones who JUST DON'T FUCKIN' GET IT.

  • They have songs that can tend to get a tad obnoxious at times, but they definitely bring it live. Lee Ving, the last time I saw Fear live, he was probably in his late 50's or early 60's at the time, and you'd never know, because he was up there kicking ass. I've seen more fights at a Fear show than anything else.

    Oh yeah, I'm sure!

  • Well, let's talk about the record a little bit, because I guess it was a Peruvian record label and they actually spelled the album title wrong, because it says "Hammer To The Wall" on the record.

    Yeah, funny enough, that was actually the fault of the guy here in Indianapolis who is one of my best friends then and now actually. He is a professional commercial artist, and when we talked about it on the phone he heard it as "Hammer" rather than "Hammered." So when he presented me with the drawing and it said "Hammer" on there, and it was at the point where we had to have it right then and we were just like "fuck it, we'll just go with it."

    The whole thing about that album was, after we got back from that first tour in Peru, we kinda had split into two factions in that band, and in my opinion the best version of R.A.F. EVER was the one that went to Peru the first time. With Scott Huff playing drums and Matt Frost playing bass. And Matt Frost was also a really, REALLY good singer and his second vocals were just awesome. Those guys wanted to do something slightly different than what we were doing, and again R.A.F. was a club band back here, and Duke, Don and I were willing to do what we had to do to a certain extent to work. And I didn't mind playing a few Tom Petty songs; I like everything. Their attitude was "well, we just wanna be like Metallica" or something. Now I love Metallica, don't get me wrong but it just really wasn't us. Our thing is you can hear from listening to it; it's more like Kiss, Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin with modern guitar sounds and that sort of thing.

  • That's one thing I like about the album; it's different. There's a couple of songs on the album that I feel aren't quite up to par. I mean the title track is definitely GREAT. 'Pay The Piper' is a great song, 'Tired Of Being Your Fool' even, 'Search And Destroy' is a great song title regardless. Of course, I ALWAYS griped at 80's metal bands that had the heavy sounds and music and then they go and put the ballad on the album, so, I'm sure you know to which song I'm referring in that case (laughing). But even that song isn't a "ballad" in the traditional sense.

    That song started off as a blues song actually ('So Many Lonely Nights' - Ed.) and it just kinda turned softer and sweeter over time, but I actually like that song a lot. The other guitar player and song writer in R.A.F. Duke Timbs wrote that song and he was and is my best friend. We've been friends for like 40 years almost. We actually were playing THAT song in a band when we were 19 years old. And that band wasn't very good but we were still learning then. Anyway, we got back from that tour and played for another couple of months, and those guys decided to leave and form something else, which turned into something else and something else. Still good friends with Scott, the drummer who left, but I haven't seen Matt Frost, the bass player, in a long time. Nobody has, he's like in hiding or something. But he's a great guy; I don't want to make those guys sound like villains or anything.
    But we took a couple of months off and we found Donny Roth and Craig Otto, both also really nice guys and good players, and we got the offer to have an album financed. So we took a couple of months and worked on a couple of originals that made the cut from one to two if you see what I mean. Then we wrote some more. Four of those songs 'Pay The Piper,' 'Hammered To The Wall,' 'Search And Destroy' and 'Fist Of God' were all pretty much custom made for THAT particular version of the band. Because those guys were like British, New Wave Of British Heavy Metal guys. So we made stuff for them to feel comfortable with and then some of our stuff from before. And then, you know 'In Heat' which is kinda like a Kiss song. That's actually my favorite song on the album. (laughs.)

  • I had forgotten about that song, that's actually a good song as well.

    Yeah, you know it's loud, three chords and lots of fast, flashy guitar solos, and I'm just a sucker for that kind of thing.

  • Well, it definitely shows, I mean those riffs from the title track DEFINITELY stick in your head, you know that "Duh-nuh-nuh..." They're kinda simplistic in a way, but simplistic in a way that GRABS you. There's nothing like a good strong song, something that's catchy that just GRABS you. It doesn't have to have 4 million guitar solos or screamed vocals. And the vocals on that album were pretty original I thought; there's not too many people that sounded like the guy you were using.

    Yeah, Don. Well, not everyone can do that high of a metal voice. I dunno, there are a couple of songs on that album, that if we had the opportunity to do them again, we would have done them slightly different.

  • Like what?

    Uh, 'Tired Of Being Your Fool' and 'She's Got What It Takes' are songs that we played on stage for years. And we changed them a little bit to make them fit more with the new material. And afterwards we decided that was a mistake: we wish we had left those songs like we had done them before, where Don was singing in a lower register.

  • Huh. Because I kinda like 'She's Got What It Takes;' It's kind of a rocker's tune for females I guess.

    Well, I like it, but I liked it a little better the way we did it before. And 'Tired Of Being Your Fool' I liked a LOT better the way we did it before. It kinda lost something in the transition. I still enjoy it. Now the guitar solo that Duke does on 'Tired Of Being Your Fool' is a classic.

  • Now I'm curious about lyrical input. Because obviously, metal does get a bad rap lyric wise. Unfortunately I don't have a lyric sheet, but I'm looking at a song like 'Fist Of God,' and I am wondering... That could be seen in a number of ways. I don't know if you had anything to do with the lyrical input or anything.

    Oh yeah, I wrote that song entirely! The thing about 'Fist Of God' was it was one of the ones that was custom written for Don to sing. So I tried to, rather than expressing my feelings about the world per se, I was trying to come up with something that Don could get behind. And if you're playing heavy metal, what's more fun than doom? So it's kinda written more to be a fun song than a thoughtful song. Gloomy with a sense of fun. You shouldn't take it too serious. You listen to the music, and it's kinda my tribute to Led Zeppelin. You know, like the main riff to the song is the chord progression from 'Dazed And Confused' set to the rhythm of 'The Immigrant Song.' And I also stole the main theme from 'Kashmir' which you'll hear is a linking bit in there too. That song is mostly intended to be fun, and I was kinda disappointed that more people didn't seem to like it (laughs).

  • Well, you know metal did kinda get a bad rap. I remember that whole Geraldo Rivera exposure, satanism in metal. Of course nowadays, it's like "Pff! That was all done in the 80's," I mean black metal bands are even more extreme lyric wise than when Venom first came out with "Welcome To Hell" and "Black Metal" in the 80's.

    There's a thing on that whole album where we were kinda making fun of people's reactions to that. Not like making a statement, but making a statement about people being so freaked out about it. They sorta entirely missed the aspect about it being done because kids just want to be cool and have fun. Above all else, that band was about having a good time. And we didn't take ourselves that seriously as people; we took ourselves seriously as tunesmiths and guitarists. But if you've seen that band live, it was a total party with Don jumping up on tables running around, us trolling for chicks and everything. It was totally about us having a good time.

  • One thing that always upset me, there's a site called the Encyclopedia Metallum. They have very strict guidelines about what bands are metal and what bands aren't. You guys aren't up there.. Back in the 80's the lines between metal and hard rock were extremely blurred. In fact, some bands that were considered hard rock I always thought were more metal tinged. Where do you guys stand on that, are you a true heavy metal band, or maybe metal with hard rock, or just a hard rock band. There's so much division between people as to what is and what isn't metal.

    That kinda depends on WHO in R.A.F. you were talking to (laughs). We're not to this day all agreed as to whether we were officially metal or not. I say we more or less were by that point.

  • I agree.

    Earlier on, we were more of a general purpose hard rock band. By the time we recorded that album, we kinda metamorphosized into more or less a pure metal band; partly because of Donny and Craig. They were basically metal guys. It's not like they were unable to play other things, but they just weren't that interested in it, and it wasn't their best... Side if you know what I mean.

  • Right, I totally agree... Metal band all the way! (laughs)

    Earlier, it would have been different, and you know we had other material dating from earlier times that we experimented with. Had we used that stuff, you would have said "oh, this is like a hard rock band that does a few metal songs." But by the time we put that album out it was like "oh, this is a metal band that has a few different sides." But if you talk to Duke, he would say "oh this is a hard rock band that did some metal stuff." He was probably the least comfortable person in the band associating himself with metal, because at heart he was more of a blues guy. Later on in our next band The Buzz, I think he got more comfortable with the fact that whatever you want to be, it may not be what you really are. I mean, I grew up wanting to be John Lennon, but I just don't have that kind of singing voice and I don't have that commanding presence. So what it turns out I was really good at was playing hard rock and metal guitar. And at a certain point in time, you just kinda say "I'm not that, I'm this." And I ought to be what I am and just enjoy it.

    SARCOFAGUS. Interview with Kimmo Kuusniemi via email...

    In issue #49, we did an interview with one of the first Finnish doom metal bands, Spiritus Mortis. NOW, We present to you a band who we have TWO of their albums in our classic albums section: Sarcofagus, one of the first heavy metal bands out of Finland. Unbeknownst to me, the band in one form or another (they also did a stint as the Kimmo Kuusnieme Band, setting a Finnish record ONCE AGAIN for being the first metal band to sing in Finnish) has ALWAYS been hard at work, even recently doing stuff! We love history and when it meets our other love, metal, it's spot on. Kimmo has been a warrior of the true faith, and it's high time he got his due in these pages... Flaming guitars rule!!

  • I looked up your discography, and it's amazing that your first release, a single, goes ALL the way back to 1979, but what was even more amazing was the live in the studio 1979 release! I'm curious as to the origins of some of these songs, as I've not heard the live album. Just how old are some of these songs, and were they changed for their later album releases? Thanks man! In hindsight it seems in 1979-82 I must have been in some kind of creative fever; we made lots of music, gigging and recording, while holding on to full time jobs! I know now that I suffer - and benefit - from Hyperactivity, and can get a lot done in a short time, when I put my mind into it. All the music of Sarcofagus is based on my ideas and guitar riffs, of course other band members have put their mark on the music and the original singer Hannu Leiden was responsible for some of the singing tunes and some lyrics... Sarcofagus started playing together (in) 1977, but the some of the first tracks must go back to 1975-76. I played in many different bands before Sarcofagus. And curiously, the "Live In Studio 1979" tracks didn't feature much in later releases: 'Go To Hell' became the first single. Only 'Back To Black' and 'Here I Am' were released later on vinyl and didn't change much from the original versions. Others were never used again - I get bored very easy :)

  • Some bands take a long time to record a followup album, but you released TWO albums in the same year, full lengths even! This is pretty amazing even considering the fact that many of these songs weren't on the single OR the live 1979 release!

    I believed in Sarcofagus and was very determined to make it a success. And you don't even mention that after the single 'Go To Hell/All Those Lies,' "Live In Studio" tape and albums "Cycle Of Life" and "Envoy Of Death" I continued with the album and full album length rock video called "Moottorilinnut" (Motorbirds). The band changed its name into Kimmo Kuusniemi Band, but should have been in all fairness still called Sarcofagus... since keyboard player Esa Kotilainen and bass player Juha Kiminki were still on board. The band name was only changed because of ugly record company politics. Moottorilinnut's Album and video came out in 1982.

  • Out of the two 80's metal releases, which one do you prefer? As for me I'm rather undecided as to which one I like better; I do hear a bit more metal oriented material on "Envoy Of Death," and what's weird is it seems that the vocals are different from "Cycle Of Life."

    There is a clear development in the music of Sarcofagus from the early proto metal days into more heavier and doomier metal music. Vocals are different because the singers change on every album! Me and singer Hannu parted ways after the first "Cycle Of Life" album, it's Jukka Homi who sings on "Envoy Of Death." "Moottorilinnut" (1982), which is my clear favourite of the early recordings, has three different singers: the famous Kirka Babitzin, his sister Muska Babitzin (one of the first female metal singers in the world) and Jukka Ritari, who is still part of the Sarcofagus family! Unfortunately Kirka passed away a few years ago. We spent much more time making "Moottorilinnut" and the production was much better: Upi Sorvali was an excellent drummer, and the whole album still sounds good. The earlier two recordings were done in a few days, onto an 8 track, so the results were uneven, to say the least... But that "original" sound is of course appreciated and even copied by many.

  • Back in the mid to late 70's, and even the early 80's, it seems like for many the lines between hard rock and heavy metal were very blurry, and as I haven't had the chance to hear the earliest stuff, I'm curious how much like heavy metal you considered the 80's era albums and what stuff was more in the vein of hard rock. What bands and musicians influenced you as far as metal goes: I know in the late 70's you mostly had groups like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden to some small degree, though they wouldn't really flourish until a few years later.

    Yeah, you've got to understand that heavy metal wasn't invented yet! Heavy metal was only being born! And it came from the genres of rock, progressive rock, experimental music, even jazz... The music we played was then called heavy rock; we even have old band pins from that time that say "Sarcofagus - Heavy Rock". The word Metal wasn't used yet. About influences... I've always made my own music and didn't seek for influences, I have tried to be as original and true to my own taste as possible. Some of the bands that I listened in 70's were Edgar Broughton Band, Lucifer's Friend, Uriah Heep... And Richie Blackmore from Deep Purple was someone I admired as a guitarist.

  • Of course, in the song 'Insane Rebels' you mention your love for 'heavy rock,' and it's interesting to hear metal fans talking about bands that "rock," or even sometimes referring to heavy rocking music.

    Well, referring to the earlier answer: the word Metal was not used yet! 'Insane Rebels' is a good track that we still perform, it's dedicated to a bass player friend who also briefly played with Sarcofagus, and was kicked to death by an insane gang... A sad and unfortunately true story.

  • After the two 80's metal albums, it seems like you were inactive for quite a long period of time, in fact your next release wouldn't be until 2004, and then mainly as a Finnish release with a different band name. Why the long period of inactivity? Did it have to do with your work as producer and director?

    Inactive is a word unknown in my vocabulary! As a serious case with ADHD it's hard for me to relax. I have made hundreds of films and film music sound tracks since, I've made more film music than band music... and Sarcofagus is also back together.

    My film making career took off as a result of directing the 1981 "Moottorilinnut" full album length music video. After releasing 3 albums in a short period of time and realising that - at that time - I had done all I could for the band and still getting nowhere fast, I was pretty fed up with the music industry. Making Sarcofagus international was impossible, there was no know how about exporting Finnish music, and the market in Finland was too limited (there's only 5 million Finns). The 'Moottorilinnut' video was ahead of its time; there were no channels for music videos and people didn't even own VCR's yet, and music critics didn't see the point in making videos! Hah, the sweet role of a pioneer... But making the video was a great experience and I thought: Hey, I could do this!

  • It was interesting to see you doing work with TV commercials and music videos, how did you get started doing that? Was it through your musicianship skills with Sarcofagus?

    Yes, the 'Moottorilinnut' video lead into an international film making career; I've been an independent film maker ever since with my partner Tanja Katinka Karttunen. In 1992 we moved to England and have travelled the world making films and music. We also visited the Sarcofagus roots by making a HD TV documentary called "Promised Land Of Heavy Metal" about the current crazy mainstream metal phenomenon in Finland - the film was produced in co operation with Finnish TV YLE, is now in international TV distribution and comes out this month on DVD by the German Cyclone Empire, with metal CD extras and language versions. The documentary is done in English and features most of the Finnish metal greats and many international stars.

  • Sarcofagus is credited as being one of the first heavy metal bands in Finland, that has to be a very proud achievement. I also got the opportunity to interview the first Finnish doom metal band Spiritus Mortis. I don't know what it is about Finland and my music magazine, but that's a rather interesting bit of info for you. Were there any other metal bands coming up in Finland around the time you guys were playing?

    We are now credited of being the Grandfathers of Finnish metal, it was lonely work but somebody had to do it. Other metal or hard rock bands came later; they started at the time I was choosing other paths... Such early bands like Tarot and Zero Nine represented the next wave. Now there are hundreds of great bands emerging from Finland and I'm glad about the attention they are getting internationally.

  • Are you guys fans of doom or black metal? I know metal has morphed and "mutated" if you will from it's earliest days, I do enjoy lots of the doom and black metal bands hailing from Finland like Alghazanth, Ablaze In Hatred, Insomnium, and Withering.

    I tend to like a wide variety of metal, as long as it's done well and is as dark as possible. It's good to hear that you appreciate the Finnish darkness! We have already worked on a song which is my take of Black Metal with the singer Sister Wrath from a legendary Finnish Black Metal band Enochian Crescent. Black Metal is more in line with my Metal Philosophy than the more mainstream metal bands...

  • Did you ever get into the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, and if so what impact did it have on you? Did you ever try to obtain many of the rare 7 inch singles and albums that came out between 1978 and 1984?

    I don't much look at the labels or the origins; I listen to good music and don't care where it comes from! Also I've never been a collector of music, I don't have any rare recordings (unless the early Sarcofagus recordings are considered such). We have also moved around a lot, priorities have shifted from possessions into experiences.

  • Reading some of the lyrics to the song 'Envoy Of Death,' it's obvious by the lyrics and even the album cover that Egyptian themes were a coveted lyrical topic. Of course, there's also other everyday life topics that deal with death in it's many forms as well. The title track in particular reminds me of a passage I read in the Egyptian Book Of The Dead about the afterlife ritual of weighing the soul of a man on scales...

    Old Egyptian culture has always been close to my heart, and I took inspiration from those themes. The album cover of "Envoy Of Death" is exactly the Egyptian scene where the souls are weighed, against the feather.

  • On the "Cycle Of Life" album, there's a few themes that are somewhat occult, or mystical in nature, especially the cuts 'Astral Flyer' and 'Clairvoyant.' Have you any experience with either Astral Projections or Clairvoyance? I know personally I consider the occult as, put by a friend of mine in the band Bloodstorm, "undiscovered science." Or even unexplained science, even herbal medicine which is more common nowadays would have been considered somewhat of an occult oriented practice.

    The A side of the "Cycle Of Life" is another Egyptian influenced story about a guy who thinks he is Horus and kills himself to become a God again but ends up as an Astral Flyer trying to escape rebirth. I've always been interested in the unexplained and occult - the world would be a dreary place if we knew everything. And the more you follow actual science, the more mystical the world seems to get! As for my own experiences: I believe that everyone has had weird incidents in their life, it's then up to you to disregard or welcome them, or follow your intuition... I do own some nice Quartz Crystal Skulls...

  • The last track on "Cycle Of Life," entitled 'You're Talkin' Too Much...' I gotta ask, who was that directed to? Keep in mind I don't have lyrics to this particular record, so lyrical themes were hard to come by.

    I think that's a snipe directed at me, by the singer Hannu Leiden! As a very hyper young man I could have driven some people up the wall... And our personalities didn't match, our ways parted after the first album. Hannu went ahead to form Havana Black, a heavy rock band that was the first Finnish rock group to get an American contract - they are still playing! After many years we've met again, are friends again, and Hannu has also guest starred at Sarcofagus gigs. Somehow the early arguments seem very trivial now! Too many big egos in one band! Now the men are bigger, and the egos have shrunk considerably.

  • There's been a lot of talk in recent years about the origins of black metal, especially now that Varg Vikernes is released from prison and making albums again with his band Burzum. Even though you reside in Finland and not Norway, how do you see all this? Granted, the murders and the church burnings have subsided quite a bit, and the band members moving on to more, shall we say, evolved musical directions and lyrical thematics, but the fact remains that to many in Scandinavia, christianity is probably still considered an alien religion that invaded and tried to destroy a heritage, culture and mythology that had a long lifespan.

    I have to say I am not an expert of the Norwegian metal scene, so it's hard for me to comment on it in depth... Clearly there things went a bit too far. But one has to understand that the extreme satanic black metal scene is a very very small one, and yet tends to dominate in the media. It's also true that all the Scandinavian countries are quite strictly Evangelic Lutheran, protestant countries, and many metal musicians protest against the dominance of the church. In Finland the scene has completely flipped and the Lutheran church organises metal masses, church masses with metal music, a phenomenon that we also cover in our "Promised Land Of Heavy Metal" documentary. This I do not get. The church has always been the biggest critic of heavy metal, in all its forms - how is it suddenly acceptable to play it in the church?

  • Are there any plans for Sarcofagus to release any other albums? Maybe even do some touring, or is the band pretty much laid to rest.

    There's no rest for the old Sarcofagus: In 2007 we released our latest album "Core Values," we've re-recorded some of the old tracks with our original singer Hannu Leiden (new versions of 'Astral Flyer' and 'Go To Hell') and toured Finland last year with Sarcofagus Back from the Dead tour. Most of the original band is on board again. We recorded a new Live at Studio album, 13 tracks in one day, which I'm currently mixing; it will be released with the full album length DVD. More tour dates to come next year and plans to take the band abroad as well... Finally! All the old albums are also being re-released by SVART Records, "Live At Studio 1979" and "Cycle Of Life" are already out as luxury vinyl editions.

  • I heard some stories about some of the wild and legendary stage shows that Sarcofagus played back in the early 80's, even hearing talk about a flaming guitar and interesting stage outfits. What bands did you play with back then, and did you ever get the opportunity to tour or play shows outside of Finland? Any funny tour stories or interesting festival events would be cool to hear about.

    (The) Flame throwing guitar is still in use and the good news is that the gas bottles are now better than ever; the flames are double the size! The stage show was an integral part of our band, smoke and fire and all that... Nowadays we can also use our knowhow of films and images as part of the stage act, so the show can go on. From the old days one incident comes to mind: We were playing at the same summer festival with a British band called Bad Manners, and were allowed to use their back line. The flame thrower guitar leaked some extra gas onto the stage, which gloriously caught on fire... Looked amazing! No harm done since the gas burns away in seconds - but we properly scared the shit out of the Bad Manners' road crew!

  • I noticed those 80's metal albums were released on JP Musiikki, which I have to believe was your own label since no other bands released anything else on the label. Were there ever any plans to turn the record label into something bigger, maybe signing and releasing other bands' music?

    Some misinformation there: JP was a record company that gave us our first break and I also ended up working for, I did their sales follow up, PR, album covers, videos... And was able to use their facilities for Sarcofagus at off peak hours. JP had dozens of artists, but Sarcofagus was the only heavy metal group. JP is actually still alive, the same guy runs the company, now with the name Poptori.

  • While speaking of labels, it's interesting to see just how much the recording industry has changed over the last 30 years, when bands in the earliest days recorded demos and sent them around the world, while today you can sit down at a computer and download a flawless copy of a band's entire discography in less than 5 minutes. Also, bands are easier to reach nowadays and the record labels are almost becoming obsolete. What are your thoughts on all this?

    The change in all media has been dramatic, in music, film, personal communications... It's been a real revolution. And it has its sides, in good and bad. 30 years ago there was less shit out there, and it was easier to stand out and get noticed. Now the new technology makes your life so much easier but at the same time it's easy to drown in all that shit out there! Bands and Music Industry need to adapt to the new world order! That's what Sarcofagus is doing, just check out our iPhone App. I have always been using the latest technology so I am very happy with how things are going...

  • Finally, as we wrap this up, if you could talk to young musicians nowadays, what advice would you give them? Do you believe that heavy metal artists can achieve success and fame even in this day and time?

    I'm in constant contact with lots of young musicians, through facebook and skype and internet... I'm happy to have a chat about metal issues whenever I have time. Some young bands will succeed, of course. I believe that the time of super metal bands, such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, are over. There is simply too much competition out there. But if you are willing to work hard and do a lot of that work yourself, as I have always done and doing still with Sarcofagus, you can still make a living and have some sort of success. Use all the social media that is out there for your benefit. Get savvy with the internet, and do lots of self promotion. Some trickery and originality are a must. And never, never give up! Metal forever! That is the only way.

    SPEEDWOLF. Interview with Richie (drummer), and Reed (vocalist) at the 529 Club.

    Another kick ass band on Hell's Headbangers Records. Definitely a parallel with the band Toxic Holocaust in that they mix everything up to create a different experience record wise. Live, we saw them play a sort of "after party" following up Alcest from France, and their set was SO short, barely 5 or 6 songs (which included TWO covers, one being Venom's 'Witching Hour'), but the energy and intensity were SO intense that a longer set would have killed everyone! The interview, like the live set, was short as well, but here ya go. Keep on the lookout for the Denver crushing machine.

  • It's really weird that you guys came all the way from Denver for this one show. Was this a one off show with Alcest, or are you on a tour?

    Reed: We're on tour for a whole month.
    Richie: Pretty much the whole east coast.

  • With Alcest?

    Richie: No, just by ourselves.
    Reed: We did three days in Florida, and we're going to Tennessee tomorrow.
    Richie: We've played only one show with Alcest so far, but we've kinda been following each other around.

  • I'm sure when you've been doing other shows you've played longer sets?

    Reed: Oh yeah, we kinda mix it up every night. We basically try to keep it around 30 minutes.

  • Like the album? (laughing here).

    Reed: Like the album! There ya go.

  • It just seems like, you travel such a long way just to play like half an hour, but I dunno man. From the show tonight it seems like people would be dead after 30 or 45 minutes! (laughing). I'm pretty much drained.

    Richie: We just come in and get to the point, play like 8 or 9 songs in that 30 minutes, and try to load out as fast as possible for the next band.

  • So how has the tour been so far?

    Reed: Great. We're really surprised.
    Richie: Everything's been really awesome. We were really surprised with the turnouts and the fan reactions.

  • Now you guys are on Hell's Headbanger Records, and they put out tons and tons of good records. What's your contract with them like? I know a lot of indie labels and bands are like "Let's just do one album, see how it goes, after the album we renegotiate" and it seems to be better for labels and bands. Especially with the way the economy is, both bands and labels have realized that the contracts have to be in both parties' interests.

    Reed: We basically are a really new band, so we didn't get an awesome, incredible deal. They offered to make us an album and give us copies of the album to sell on our own time. That's really all I can say without saying numbers or anything. (laughs).
    Richie: They helped us with the artwork and helped us out out the album and distribute it, and then gave us a certain percentage of the records.
    Reed: Distribution is the main big help from the label.

  • So I suppose you're financing this tour yourself?

    Reed: It's all us.
    Richie: They helped out with our distro: they gave us the Hell's Headbangers distro, a bunch of the CD's that are in there (for merchandise at the shows - Ed.)
    Reed: They sent us like 300 CD's and we get a percentage of that.

  • So what bands on Hell's Headbangers do you like? We just interviewed Crucified Mortals about an issue or so ago; those guys are really killer.

    Richie: Midnight's really good.
    Reed: We love Midnight. I guess because we kinda play the same style. Jamie rules from that band. Nunslaughter is awesome. They just signed Inquisition, I love that band.

  • "Ride With Death," I have the album; that's pretty much all you have out right now am I correct?

    Reed: We did a cassette demo with four songs and two 7 inches, and then the full length.
    Richie: We did a split 7 inch too, but that's already sold out.
    Reed: We had a split that came out right before we came out on tour; it's with the band Necrofilth. That just has one brand new song.

  • I really dig the album a lot, especially songs like 'I Can't Die...' 'Death Ripper' was interesting to me; I know you have the black metal vocals on there but you don't really do a whole lot of those on the record. I was curious as to why, 'cause they're pretty sick, especially that opening scream on the record, that's fucking awesome!

    Reed: Thanks. That was the first song we wrote as a band; we were still putting things together. That songs kinda stands on it's own. Some people think it's weird; they're all like "ah, who's that a guest vocalist?" (laughs). Nah, it's me...

  • We just got done seeing Toxic Holocaust the previous weekend, and it seems the punks and the thrashers are getting along JUST fine these days! I definitely hear the Discharge, you got the Motorhead thing in there, and the thrash. So I'm just wondering what all you're throwing in that melting pot, 'cause there's a LOT of stuff going on in there!

    Richie: I dunno, we take influence from all that punk stuff and what not. We don't like to be in a specific scene, so it's kinda cool to unify all that stuff. We're all inspired by punk and thrash, we just put it all together.

  • Are you guys working on a new record right now? Anything you can tell us about song titles, influences or anything?

    Richie: We have about 6 new songs that we're working on right now at the moment, and then when we get home from the tour we'll probably write some more for the next album. We played a brand new song tonight that we have called 'Vegan.' That'll be out sometime on the next record. We have 6 pretty good songs to start off the new one already.

  • One final question: The song 'Out On Bail,' that song has some of the most unusual riffs that I've heard in a song. And THAT song reminds me a bit of the song 'Jailbreak' by AC/DC but it also has a bit of that New Wave Of British Heavy Metal in there.

    Reed: Chris our guitar player writes all our riffs, and then we all just organize them. He comes up with some pretty rock and roll influence like the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal stuff.

  • There were some amazing bands in that scene, like "Hey, we're Goldsmith, we put out one single" and BAM! They're done. Two songs.

    Reed: And it's like 400 bucks to buy it on ebay 20 years later! (all laughing here). No, we love all those old singles and old NWOBHM bands, we take a HUGE influence from that.
    Richie: Chris is just one of those guys, he never writes a riff that doesn't BLOW our minds. (Reed and Richie laughing here). It's some of the wierdest stuff I've ever heard, but it just works for some reason.

    TOXIC HOLOCAUST. Interview with Joel at the Drunken Unicorn.

  • The last time I saw you guys was at the Scion Rock Fest. There was a ton of bands on that bill, what do you remember about that?

    That was kind of a blur. It was awesome, there was a lot of people. They flew us in to Atlanta night before, we hung out for a bit and then played a show. We met a lot of cool bands.

  • What got me was it was a free show, so how did they make sure the bands got compensated; there were SO many bands on that bill.

    It's a car company, man. They have a lot of money. They're doing it to promote their cars. It's kind of a unique thing, and they helped out a lot of bands big and small. They've worked with bands as big as Morbid Angel to bands just starting out, like Evil Army.

  • I wanna talk about the latest album "Conjure And Command." I hate to use the comparison, but the 30 minute length, the thrash influence. I'm sure people have been calling it the blackened thrash of "Reign In Blood." One thing that struck me though, a song like 'Red Winter' and the end track 'Sound The Charge.' Maybe I'm the only one that's noticed this, but the slower, kinda heavier sound, it seems like there's some Bolt Thrower in there.

    Oh yeah. It wasn't intentional but Bolt Thrower is a band I listen to a lot. I wasn't THINKING Bolt Thrower but it has that almost crustier, punk vibe that Bolt Thrower was a part of before they went into Death Metal. I think that's a lot of where that comes from. Discharge of course, Slayer like you said with the "Reign In Blood" thing, Venom, Bathory, bands in that vein.

  • Now, you've been with Relapse for some time, does that seem to be working out pretty good?

    Yeah, we got a good deal and stuff, absolutely.

  • Now your last album "Overdose Of Death," which actually was the first album I ever heard... There was a lady, I don't remember exactly her name but she goes by Halseycaust on myspace. She did the artwork on the record, are you guys still in touch at all?

    Yeah, she lives in Portland now. She's actually my ex-girlfriend. (laughter here). It's kind of a funny little tidbit but we're still friends. I still see her once in awhile. She still does art for me, and just recently I was talking to her about doing some artwork.

  • Now, who did artwork for the new album? Because the cover kinda has that Impaled Nazarene, "Ugra-Karma" thing going on. You can tell it's not Halsey's style.

    It's a friend of mine named Daniel Shaw from Houston. I've been a big fan of his artwork for a long time, I really like his style. It's like super detailed: It's very simple, lots of dots. I had seen a few record he did: Insect Warfare, Chaos Horde, a bunch of stuff. He's done a lot of underground stuff.

  • This show with The Casualties, I thought it was kinda weird having a black/thrash band and a punk band on the bill at first. Lately it kinda reminds me of the 80's with that whole crossover thing coming back in. The punks and the thrashers: no problem whatsoever.

    That's kinda where we come from. I grew up listening to punk as well as metal. At the time sometimes it wasn't always so heard of for that to happen. This is the kind of tour that, when I was starting a band, I would want to see.

  • I wanna talk about the track 'Bitch'...

    A lot of people ask me if that's about an ex-girlfriend...

  • It sounds to me like the whole witch burning thing that was going on with the church. I personally like the Nordic path myself, and I wanted to get your thoughts on that. In the earlier days, it's like Anti christianity and Satanism, but now it's more of like, "well, how far can you take that?" And your lyrics seem to be all over the place. So I was wondering your stance on that... It seems like the witch burnings were kind of an unfortunate side effect of christianity.

    All my lyrics I do as kind of a history lesson. It's not necessarily saying that I believe in a lot of the stuff that happened, it's kinda like "It DID happen," it existed. It's no different than what's going on today, it's just a passing stream. People are getting picked out today for believing certain things. To me, I think if it doesn't infringe on anyone else, you have the right to believe in it.

  • SO how do you feel about black metal today? I know there was a lot of backlash from Eronymous' murder, and of course the whole church burning thing. It's no different from what the christians did to the Vikings early on. In a way I'm kind of against it, but Vincent Crowley from Acheron made a good point about that, he said "You know, if you REALLY want to make a statement, make sure the churches are full when you light them on fire!

    Yeah! (laughing). To me, I get why it was done, and throughout history Christianity has been doing a lot of major injustices to people who didn't believe what they believe. But, at the same time, I'm not sure that's exactly the right way to go about it; there's other ways that you can "stick it to 'em." I think people are more open minded too, and I think that's the key, the knowledge aspect; people realizing just how screwed up it is.

  • I'm more spiritual based than religious based anyway. I've seen things that made me realize that this whole Christianity/Jesus thing, maybe it's not really what it was intended to be. Like this English band Meads Of Asphodel from England, they did this WHOLE album called The Murder Of Jesus The Jew. And he (Metatron) thinks that Jesus probably existed, that he was just a healer, a simple man. And then they took this man and glorified him and made this cult out of it.

    They used the name to do a lot of injustices that they think they can stand by because people believed in it so much. If he was a man or not, I mean if he was I'm sure that's not the way he ould want his name to be taken. I think that no one should believe in anything but themselves. If you're worshipping something else, then that means that you're lacking something in your life.

  • How is your deal with Relapse structured? Do they bring out tour support, are you doing a few more albums with them?

    They do it the way any label would be run pretty much. You sign for a couple of records. If you need to borrow money from them to go on tour, then you can do that. Fortunately for us we don't have to borrow money to go on tour. That's the best way to be, because then you're never in debt to anyone.

  • A lot of labels like Cruz Del Sur, and a couple of other indies... I think it was a band I interviewed, Crescent Shield... They said we go album by album. At the end of the album the parties re-negotiate, there's not all this crazy "Oh, you're locked in for 7 records, and if you drop out at 6 then you owe us for X more." And there's people that are saying downloads are killing the music industry and this and that, but I think it's done a lot of good: I think it's forced the playing field to become more level. And that can only be a good thing.

    Oh, I agree. And the thing is, a lot of people complain "Oh, I got a shitty record deal" or whatever... No one forced you to sign it. It just depends on how desperate you are to "make it." (he's doing the two finger quote sign - Ed). When we were offered the deal with Relapse, I wasn't even ready to sign with a label. The deal that they sent us first, it was pretty good, but then I had some critiques on it, and they brought it back and it benefitted us as much as it benefits them. It seems like it made sense. I wasn't trying to "make it" or whatever. People always ask me on tour "how do you get signed?" and stuff like that. And I'm like, that should be the LAST thing on your mind. Just go out there and make fans, play good shows. Getting signed comes, IF you want it.

  • You kinda remind me of Quorthon of Bathory, because you've been doing this thing solo for so long, and "Conjure And Command," from what I've been told, is your first record with a full stable lineup. And I'm like "cool," you know! Because it must suck to have to hire musicians to come out every time you want to tour.

    It gets a little bit tedious, it's better now. It makes me be able to focus on music, instead of dealing with, like, the logistics of getting people to practice and stuff.

  • One last thing, I was on ebay lately and there is a TON of colored vinyl from you out there. Which is cool. There's that whole argument about how virgin unplayed vinyl is still better quality than CD, blah, blah, blah. And I think it's good you guys are still doing the vinyl thing. And a lot of labels are doing it again, but I don't think many people have picked up on that yet. Like nobody uses reel-to-reel and 8-track anymore, and vinyl went the way of cassettes but it's making a comeback again, and that's cool.

    That's a VERY important thing to me, to have our releases put out on vinyl. I collect records, and I wouldn't be satisfied having a record put out that... If it was just in files or something I just wouldn't be satisfied. I gotta have it! Bigger artwork, better sound, all of that. It's like a ritual!!


    Another late issue... This time it was a bit difficult to get things sorted out, interviews are always time consuming just to get set up, let alone seeing them come back, but we soldier on. TWENTY YEARS in 2012 is what we're most proud of. Of course, rarely ever seeing CD's turn up in the mailbox anymore has become a HUGE letdown; it's as if the only other reward for doing this music magazine has fallen by the wayside... Let's face it folks: 20 years is a LONG, LONG time to do ANYTHING to still be receiving little to no monetary compensation and very little fanfare or feedback... That being said, I think it is quite obvious that those record labels that actually SEND us CD's will ALWAYS get priority coverage. That's the way it is and will continue to be in the pages of Vibrations of Doom. Those labels that actually SEND ME STUFF, who I'd like to personally thank here in this space: Metal Scrap Records from the Ukraine, Solitude Productions/Bad Mood Man Music/Slo Burn out of Russia, Firebox out of Finland, Northern Silence Productions out of Germany, LADLO Productions, Hell's Headbangers Records from right here in the States... That's pretty much it folks (and this comes off the top of my head, so I may have forgotten one or two of you), so as you see I prioritize those labels that actually SEND me something...

    Now, one interesting thing you might notice about the labels listed above. All but ONE are located overseas! That's right, we're a U.S. publication, but we don't get actual product from U.S. labels! And yeah, before you start chiming in about how digital promo pools are cheaper, postage saved and whatever you spent on those CD packages, think about what WE get. This is a one man show here, folks. Never been able to get labels to do ads (banner, print or otherwise), never been able to get monetary support from those labels who want us to do reviews and interviews with their bands. Folks, let me reiterate that I've been at this for TWENTY YEARS. And yet, I started up this music magazine when Century Media FIRST set up a U.S. office here! Still, I get no support from Century Media WHATSOEVER. I was around before the internet even remotely looked like what it is today. I recognized the electronic medium before people were even setting up music magazines online. CHECK THE HISTORY, FOLKS. Check dates on my earliest publications, reference that with the dates these albums I reviewed WAY back when were released. Still, apparently, my relevancy is always in question... Even when Wikipedia deleted the Vibrations Of Doom entry some nice gentleman set up. (Though how he knew most of that stuff about my publication is beyond me). Anyway, all that being said, I still appreciate the time and attention these labels take for their bands, and to answer my queries. I usually don't bug the labels too much for things, but they help where and when they can. Who knows, maybe labels will realize that people still enjoy going down to the mailbox and actually getting a physical product that they'll appreciate more than just quickly downloading it and maybe even seeing the umpteenth file sitting on a hard drive gathering dust along with the 30 or 40 other non interesting looking albums they downloaded last week...

    So, on the live front, making a lengthy rant even longer, we got to witness Alcest and their first ever U.S. appearance. Quite a performance, and seeing Speedwolf rip faces off and playing a mere 5 or 6 songs in a short 20 minute length was exhausting! Kudos to the 529 venue for keeping the concert rolling until 3 AM, allowing I think it was local Atlanta thrashers Sadistic Ritual to further pummel us into submission. It was this show that the Speedwolf interview came from. And then to see Toxic Holocaust absolutely rip shit up at the Drunken Unicorn alongside the punk band The Casualties, that was a sight to behold. They played quite a few cuts from their newest release "Conjure And Command," and when they finally played one of my favorite cuts 'Bitch," I was right onstage screaming into the microphone beside Joel. (Again, where the interview comes from for this issue). Also noteworthy shows were the Paganfest, featuring Arkona (who blew me away, that female lead singer was whirling her hair and very aggressive as a frontwoman), Huntress (who sounded a LOT better live than on record), Alestorm (as the crowd was arm to shoulder about 10 deep when Alestorm played 'To The End Of Our Days'), and of course Turisas, who keep encouraging me to pick up some of their older albums as well (cuts like 'One More' and the encore cut 'Battle Metal' stood well alongside newer tracks like 'Stand Up And Fight' and 'Hunting Pirates.')

    Well, not much else to say now. Probably will be checking out more shows and hopefully interviews will follow. I have tried to do at least more in person chats (whether by phone or live at the venue), as they tend to be more interesting to me than email interviews. Also, while my A.D.D. addled mind is still thinking about it, PLEASE check out the RealAudio encodings we did on the soundfiles section. There's a HELL of a lot of audio, so if you want to hear what these new bands' songs sound like, 5 minute clips are the way to go. And they sound better than they ever have before. We put a HELL of a lot of work into these folks, I guarantee there's more hours of audio on our site than 10 or 20 other metal websites combined... EASILY!! So thanks for staying with us and we hope to have the next issue out even faster. And if you have any great ideas as to how we can celebrate our 20th anniversary, PLEASE let us know. The 25th might be even greater!

    Special thanks go out to all the labels that still stick it out with us, also VERY special thanks to Francis Sumner, who has been constant support and love, and also helped out with several of the interviews you're reading this issue.