VIBRATIONS OF DOOM MAGAZINE
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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'
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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..."
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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.
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
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 -
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
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
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
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
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.