Interview with techno-slam-deathcore band Cuff

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The metal scene is not a static thing. It goes on, and you either participate or accept it as is. For this reason, many of us are looking into newer styles of metal.

Cuff combine Cryptopsy-inspired deathcore with slam and a Voivod-inspired technological fascination. Comprised of only two guys, Bob Shaw (vocals) and Zach Smith (all instruments), this band has bashed out an incredible number of albums.

Zach Smith took the time between beard agriculture and research of tortures to answer our questions:

You’re a two-person band with one person doing all vocals and the other doing all instrumentals. How does that work out? Do you collaborate on the songwriting or contribute roles as you can?

Mostly the songs are written by me, with input from Bob as to where or how the song structures should be. I think it works well the way we do things, at least it’s worked for the last 8 years We both write the lyrics , so it’s pretty equal what we do as a band.

As a Canadian band, you have a rich history to live up to… including both Cryptopsy, for your general musicality, and Voivod or Dead Brain Cells perhaps for the sci-fi lyrics. What made you choose to go in this direction?

It was an obvious choice to us to go with the sci-fi stuff, it felt like it matched the music and tone of the band perfectly.

The French metal scene is amazing, we made a trip out to Montreal last year and were met with open arms by some of the coolest fans/bands on the planet.

As for our influences I think we borrow more from American brutal death metal than anything Canadian, but Cryptopsy is an obvious candidate for an influence.

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Inevitably your album will be compared with West Coast technical gore-grind but other influences seem to be there. I hear Cannibal Corpse, and notice at least one of y’all wearing a Dying Fetus tshirt. Can you tell us what your other influences were?

My influences vary between styles of music, anything from Zeppelin to the Beatles and back to Devourment. It’s a whole mish-mash of interesting things indeed! Bob’s influences include of course Dying Fetus along with Wormed and Jenovavirus.

Transient Suffering Through the Ergosphere is your third album. What were the other two like? Is there a continuing storyline between them? If so, what part does this third album tell?

Well actually it’s our 8th full length and 24th release in total!

The album is a continuation from our last album from Gore House Productions called Forced Human Sacrifice to the New Gods of Earth. We have plans for a third album in the storyline somewhere down the road but try and keep that between us!

With only two men in the band, it doesn’t seem like you would have the advantage of being able to jam on this material. How do you compose? Are mathematical formulas, laser pointers and graph paper involved?

Lots of riffs and demos in the recording process, and we rehearse with our drum machine named Montgomery a few times a month. We’ve played live with a lot of bands as well over the years. Almost played with the legendary Anal Cunt but Seth had to kick the bucket right before the show was drawing near!

How do you describe the music you make?

Our music, to me, is organized chaos. It has a real dark vibe to it that stands out among other little things like sound design and song structure. We’re heavily influenced by Jenovavirus, Dying Fetus and Devourment mostly for their ‘slam’ elements.

Can you tell us about recording this album? Was it a challenge, where did you do it, and did you achieve the sound you wanted? Were there any production hacks necessary to make that come about?

We recorded it in a little building down the street from our houses with a good friend of ours Ken Coul.

The studio is called Black Cloud Recording Studio and we did get the sound we were looking for and more. It’s our best sounding album to date with the most crushing slams and fastest grinds we’ve written. No frilly production was used other than amp presets and some reverb. It’s all natural!

What’s next for Cuff?

An EP, a new full length, new merch and definitely a tour are sometime in the near future. We really need to get out there to our friends across the world (and also to please our label GHP! Haha).

All in all, we’re keeping busy and that’s what matters.

You can check us out on Facebook and our Bigcartel sites.

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Parable of the poseur

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One day, a man decided he wanted to be a lion, so he went to a local costume store and bought a lion suit complete with a mask and gloves that looked like lion’s paws.

The man then went out into the city telling everyone that he was a lion. One citizen approached him and told him that he wasn’t a lion, but a man in a lion’s costume. The man responded in protest: “I am so a lion! I have the paws of a lion, I have the face and body of a lion, and I can roar like a lion too!” The man then let out a roar that attracted pedestrians to the two debaters.

Eleven of the onlookers saw how much attention the man-lion was receiving, and they wanted to be lions too. So, they went to the local costume store and bought lion outfits and masks for themselves. The skeptical citizen was severely annoyed, and issued a challenge to the man-lions: “If you truly are lions, go then and live with them in the wild. Join a pride of them and we shall see who the lions are.”

The man-lions accepted the challenge, and the twelve of them went into the wilderness to live with the lions. They found a pride and wandered towards them on all-fours, imitating lion behavior, but the wild lions snarled at them. One of the man-lions got too close, and was struck by a lions claw. The wounded man-lion ran away, throwing his lion mask into the air as he dashed off. The remaining man-lions approached with caution, but were halted by a whistle a quarter-mile behind them.

The skeptical citizen had been watching them the whole time. He approaches them and reaches behind his head, unzipping and removing his human costume, revealing that he was a lion. He walks over to his pride and is greeted warmly. The eleven man-lions stared wide-eyed at the returning lion as he says:

“I heard word of a lion in the city, so investigated in disguise. I was annoyed to discover this ‘lion’ was a pretender and that others are following in this deception. You are not lions, you are men in lion suits made by men, and you are not welcome here.”

If you are a false, do not entry!

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Metal documentary The Distorted Island release planned for December 18, 2014

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Heavy metal documentary The Distorted Island: Heavy Metal Music and Community in Puerto Rico will see release on December 18, 2014, at an unveiling at the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico in Santurce. Tickets are limited to 300, but free of charge, and can be acquired from the organizers.

The Distorted Island: Heavy Metal Music and Community in Puerto Rico explores the birth and growth of the metal scene in Puerto Rico, zooming on on how local bands have survived for three decades thanks to strong strong community ties, while highlighting the cultural and historical challenges faced along the way. The film is the brainchild of Dr. Nelson Varas-Díaz, professor and director of the Puerto Rico Heavy Metal Studies program, and fellow academics Osvaldo González-Sepúlveda, Eliut Rivera-Segarra and Sigrid Mendoza.

Local artist Kadriel Betsen will release a new promotional poster each week until the film’s release, with each image showcasing a different angle of approach to the topic matter. These posters will familiarize the public with some of the individuals interviewed for the film and set the mood for an appreciation of Puerto Rican metal. For updates, see the Puerto Rican Heavy Metal Studies Facebook page.

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Rigor Mortis – Slaves to the Grave

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The job of a record reviewer embraces nihilism in a way most people will never experience. Much must be removed — nostalgia for the musicians who shaped much of your teen years, sympathy for a musician who died far too young, desire for metal to awaken from its slumber — in order to clearly analyze the music and answer the basic question all reviewers should ask themselves: if I were a casual to moderately involved fan, on a limited budget, would I buy this record?

With Slaves to the Grave, Rigor Mortis returns after a challenging history. The only speed metal band with death metal influences to get signed to a major label, the band unleashed Rigor Mortis after which band politics forced out the vocalist almost all sources agree was their best, Bruce Corbitt. The band surged forward and released its instrumentally most exciting material on the Freaks EP, but completely lost direction with Rigor Mortis vs. The Earth, which reflected the band members pursuing their individual directions and losing a cohesive sound.

Now after band members have spent time in Ministry, Warbeast, and Gwar, Rigor Mortis re-form to re-take the stage and carry on where they might have picked up after that first album. Stunned by the lugubrious death of guitarist Mike Scaccia, the band soldiered on with this crowd-funded album release, still facing its greatest struggle which is that “its strength is its weakness,” and having many strong individual performers means finding direction and balance is a challenge. Slaves to the Grave takes the fast tremolo speed metal approach of Rigor Mortis and slows it down to give it the rhythmic approach of bands like Kreator, Sodom and Destruction which makes it very catchy. Into this, the band members drop varied influences from other music of the period and contemporary metal. This is not really a followup to the first album; more likely, it is an attempt to do what Rigor Mortis vs. The Earth tried to — modernize its sound and find balance between technicality and rhythmic hook choruses — but with the original lineup.

The problem with Rigor Mortis vs. The Earth is that, while it contained some of the greatest songwriting to emerge from this band, it was completely disordered, both as an album and as individual songs. Band members seemed to wander on stage to contribute their specialties, then vanish into the background as the band zeroed to a mean in order to preserve the integration of each song. With Slaves to the Grave, Rigor Mortis assert much more control over their work, but try hard to include all of their strengths. Vocalist Bruce Corbitt writes hook-heavy choruses that are highly motivational, where Mike Scaccia specializes in melodic guitar. Those two are in tension because guitar jams like to expand, where rhythmic hooks require keeping flying speed and then hitting it with dramatic tempo changes. On this new work, the band separate the instrumental bits from the song itself, creating a kind of “oasis” within the song arrangement where the guitar can unleash itself.

Slaves to the Grave takes on a number of influences. From modern metal, it inherits the trope vocals that chant in cadence with the guitars and drums in the style that Pantera (nice guys, but the death of speed metal through norming) picked up on and metalcore really took to the wall, but luckily this does not happen at full intensity very frequently. The band uses its classic technique of overloading verses so that they have two parts, a simple placeholder and a texturally more intense second half that prepares for the chorus. This gives the music more of a theater and lets the hook of the chorus integrate more with the song as a whole. Unfortunately, someone decided that mid-1980s German speed metal drums would be essential here, so most of the percussion emulates this style which not only becomes overbearing but is too simple for this music. A little Dave Lombardo influence here would improve things quite a bit. These songs fit together tightly like ancient walls and there are no random, rambling or irrelevant discursive bits, which shows the professionalism of this band.

If we went searching for a spirit animal for this album, it would probably be mid-1980s Iron Maiden. Many of these chord progressions and the general rhythms used resemble those from the speed metal years of Iron Maiden, but also, the arrangements of these songs mirror the tendencies that the NWOBHM band developed. Songs blast through verse-chorus pairs, work themselves up to a break, reprise their main theme and then launch into instrumental cool-downs. This balance allowed Iron Maiden to stay hookish but also work in the depth they knew would keep their albums from being essentially aggro-pop, and it worked for them for many years, so it is intelligent of Rigor Mortis to pick up this vein. Other influences are Testament and earlier Rigor Mortis itself, which is cited through similar but distinctively altered chord progressions and melodies. “The Infected” for example shadows “Die in Pain,” “Poltergeist” shadows the break return in “Revelations” by Iron Maiden, and other fragments show up repurposed as new riffs. Unlike earlier works, the melody in Slaves to the Grave is built into the chord progressions, giving the songs more harmonic space. Scaccia takes advantage of this with numerous instrumental passages. These show a greater study of tone than earlier works, but lack the frenetic architectures of his lead guitar on Freaks and drifts closer to the rock, metal and jazz influences of Rigor Mortis vs. The Earth. This allows songs to slow down, expand a bit, and become more distinctive because they release less on pure rhythm and more on melody.

This album offers well-composed songs that straddle the line between the raw fury of early Rigor Mortis and the instrumentally-advanced but compositionally disintegrated material of its later works. The most death metal track, “Curse of the Draugr,” and the first half the album deliver the greatest punch. The concluding ten-minute instrumental on the topic of Roman gladiators could perhaps be left off without damaging the album at all, since it is sparse in context and driven by vocals instead of guitar composition. The instrumental track sounds like the instrumentals from the later years of Death, but with less focus on pure theory and more on an emotional side to the music; metal fans will be lucky if future metal-jazz hybrids heed this direction. On the whole, Slaves to the Grave shows Rigor Mortis at its healthiest point in two and a half decades. For those who want the first album done again, it will not satisfy, but this will be more of a hit with melodic speed metal and technical metal fans.

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Skepticism to record new album Ordeal live in Turku, Finland

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Funeral doom innovators Skepticism plan to record their fifth album, Ordeal, live at Klubi in Turku, Finland on January 24, 2015. This marks a departure from their normal process of recording in studio but enables the band to record the album and video simultaneously for release on their new label, Svart Records, having transferred from Red Stream Records.

Visitors to the live show will also receive a re-issue of the first Skepticism 7″ EP originally released in 1992, which will be unavailable to the public. Skepticism formed in 1991, and recorded through the 1990s before unleashing their first full-length, Stormcrowfleet, in 1995.

Attracting fans for their ability to merge melody, theatrical song structures in the Celtic Frost style and abrasive slow and ponderous riffing in the best doom-death style, Skepticism took doom metal to the next level of slow and grinding music creating a pervasive sense of dread and resistance.

With their 1995 album Stormcrowfleet, Skepticism defined the funeral doom genre as entirely separate from the warmed-over rock of stoner and mainstream doom and, along with Winter, showed an entirely different direction for the future of that style. Since that time, Skepticism have released four full-length albums and two EPs to enthusiastic response by a dedicated fanbase.

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Metalhead massacred by methed-out Christian zealot

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Heavy metal fan Jacob Andrew Crockett was nearly beheaded by Christian zealot Isaiah Zoar Martin after the latter engaged in a binge of drug use and watching Christian-themed videos on YouTube, resulting in the untimely death of Crockett and police detention for Martin.

According to local sources, Martin felt religious inspiration inspired the killing:

The defendant’s brother also told police “Isaiah had been watching YouTube videos related to his Christian beliefs and the Book of Matthew” earlier.

During Isaiah Marin’s 911 call, “the caller began rambling about sacrificing and magic,” according to the affidavit. “Asked how … he murdered someone, Isaiah stated, ‘I hacked them to death with a machete.’”

In August, on one of his Facebook pages, Isaiah Marin wrote, “Tried to take on a demon and God had to help me through the tough parts. Got to be careful with my words and pay closer attention to my emotions. Need to figure out how to keep on speaking when I’m with the presence of the Lord God.”

Murder victim Crockett spent his time in local bands Dungeön and Toxic Injection before they fragmented late last year, and was a fan of widely varied metal bands including Dying Fetus and Mayhem. He apparently had feuded with Martin in the past over Crockett’s ongoing experimentation in various occult beliefs, a practice presumed related to his heavy metal fandom.

As the brother of the killer related, religion formed the basis of the tension in this case:

He says Isaiah followed him, trying to calm him down and “would explain why he killed Jacob from letters he would write while he was in prison.”

Samuel told police Crockett and Isaiah had disagreements in the past.

He said Jacob Crockett and his brother, Jesse, “were practicing witchcraft and Isaiah had strong Christian beliefs.”

For many years, Hessians have received zero protection from persecution or violence by those of other faiths. According to many metalheads, heavy metal is its own religion. While right now people might view this beheading and other anti-metalhead violence as the case of isolated extremists picking on someone else for a lifestyle choice, it is more accurate to view it as a clash between members of competing faiths. From persecution of metalheads in Muslim lands to Christian demands for censorship in the USA and now this violent assault, the tension rises.

I can only imagine the media response will not be so muted if heavy metal fans decide to start defending themselves by beheading Christians who seem likely to commit crimes out of religious antagonism. According to the articles above, Martin prepared for his crime by watching YouTube videos with Christian themes. Perhaps metalheads should be extra wary when members of other religions are nearby watching videos… and arm themselves for the inevitable clash.

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Disentomb – Misery

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Contemporary brutal death metal fills its world with feces and dismembered women in lieu of content. While that repugnant stench has kept the critical listeners away, the less-discerning still inhale the fumes, but now a band from Australia threatens to unite the audiences on a newer and more advanced form of the genre.

Attempting to deviate from the soulless average that has infested the genre, Disentomb with Misery unleash a work of complex but stripped-down death metal. Like the energetic offspring of Immolation and Disgorge, this album creates dark and dissonant brutal death metal yet still stays true to the frenetic riff-salad recipe that is inherent to the brutal death metal artistic voice. On Misery, the internal dialogue of these riffs projects the type of landscape we might find in a dystopic wasteland, tearing songwriting down to its bare, primal foundations in a method evocative of early Suffocation.

Misery exudes chaos, depravity, and most importantly, direction. While their contemporaries languish in a pool of defecation and flat-bills, Disentomb dream bigger and help steer brutal death metal toward a new direction. In particular, songwriting returns in a sense other than boxy variations on standard pop/rock song form. Songs vary from the brooding mid-paced drone of darker material to the bright and abrasive aggression of fast and chaotic tracks and use each other for contrast so the album as a whole highlights a range of emotions. The result is a complete package of death metal brutality and intensity that aims for an artistically alert audience.

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Cuff – “Spastic Craniotomy” from Transient Suffering Through the Ergosphere

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As mentioned in our review of Cuff Transient Suffering Through the Ergosphere, this Canadian two-piece tries to combine the extreme aggression of Deeds of Flesh style technical gore-grind with the musical experimentation of later Cryptopsy. The band creates sci-fi themed albums with catchy, energetic and mind-abradingly simple riffs in droning brutal arrangements.

In an attempt to have their music reach the old school death metal audience, the band and its label Gore House Productions have allowed us to stream a track from Transient Suffering Through the Ergosphere named “Spastic Craniotomy.” Give it a listen and see what you think of this pummeling gore-grind with modern technical death metal influences:

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Cuff – Transient Suffering Through the Ergosphere

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Joining the crowded field of late model death metal that tries to tie together the influences of the last decade of chaotic metal hybrids, Cuff introduces a style that aims for a hybrid of Cryptopsy-styled brutal death metal and recent West Coast brutal death/tech-death/gore-grind hybrids like Deeds of Flesh. This album delivers basic linear riffs with compelling rhythm while sneaking back in some of the technicality and lead-guitar melody of older death metal, in addition to imaginative Voivod-style sci-fi lyrics.

Transient Suffering Through the Ergosphere — the ergosphere is the liminal region just outside the event horizon of a black hole where energy can be sampled from the rotation of the field — brings out the intensity through raw technique of these genres but stops short of a new style. It uses the brutal percussive death metal late genre addition of vocals in trope with drums and guitars, creating an almost GWAR-style comical insanity, alongside more of the styles of explosive grinding popularized by Cannibal Corpse. While much of this follows the late grindcore model of technicality, touches of musical creativity hide in many details and niches.

As with many things in life, this genre of recent brutal gore-grind mashup will not be for everyone. To those outside the genre, it seems to be ludicrously simple and repetitive. Within the genre, fans enjoy the duality of material that is both catchier than a Taylor Swift album and more extreme than early Napalm Death in terms of sheer rage-venting riffs mated to pounding, transgressive drums. Cuff intensify these aspects and, while not inventing anything new, push the sub-genre closer to the musicality of later Cryptopsy.

    Tracklist:

  1. Spastic Craniotomy
  2. Malignant
  3. Transfusion of Bodily Fluids
  4. Gorging the Sacred Carrion
  5. The Transcendence of Mankind
  6. Sub-sonic Impacts
  7. Through the Ergosphere
  8. Breeding Diverse Entities (Re-recorded)
  9. Supreme Genital Goddess (CBT COVER)
    Personnel:

  • Zach Smith (Guitar, Bass, Drums)
  • Bob Shaw (Vocals)

Transient Suffering Through the Ergosphere will be released November 18, 2014 on Gore House Productions. For more information, see the band website.

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