Interview with techno-slam-deathcore band Cuff

cuff-live

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.

cuff-band_members

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.

cuff-band

38 Comments

Tags: , , ,

Sadistic Metal Reviews: Mellow Destruction of Inferior Semi-Technical Trivialities

These random, gimped releases are held in high regard by high-pitched “metal” critics and core pogo stickers. The Death Metal Underground staff takes it upon themselves to scorn and defile them in the name of all that is good in the metal genre.

(more…)

28 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sadistic Metal Reviews: Catch of the Day

(more…)

14 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Maryland Deathfest 2013

bolt_thrower

With over 70 bands playing four stages in total, Maryland Deathfest has become one of the biggest meetings of metalheads in the US, and it will only get bigger from here on, as the organizers possibly look to cash in on years of service. One only hopes they don’t sacrifice quality in the choice of bands to achieve it, though this year is touch and go. Giving relative unknowns a chance is one thing, promoting mega-bands past their prime or not worth your time is another, though overall it’s a worthwhile four day fest for those who enjoy metal and musicality.

Thursday May 23

The almighty Bolt Thrower was the only reason why the first day of the festival was sold out months in advance. This reviewer also caught sight of Abigail, who one astute festival-goer described as a sideshow Venom/Bathory rip off, though they’re more honest than Cobalt, who play an uncomfortable mix of styles from metalcore to prog-metal to post-metal while attempting to borrow a black metal feel and atmosphere.

Bolt Thrower

Bolt Thrower rarely disappoints, in your CD player or in concert, hence the hivemind excitement and anticipation generated for what to worn eyes must be just another routine appearance in the United States. What is standard is the playlist offered, which is a mix favoring their more ear/crowd pleasing but less inspired later albums. The intent for passion in live performance is still there, only unrelenting socioeconomic pressures get in the way of conveying a totality in epic experience. What we get instead is war metal presented as a theme, with half of the set songs embodying the essence of war more forcefully than the rest. Bolt Thrower up to For Victory… is a progressive evolution from classic grindcore to a peak in the unique and balanced style that stands as testament to the band’s contribution to metal. This is the half that works, and works well, especially in the enclosed “metal tent” setting preferred by these UK legends. After that album they went wayward into non-threatening, passthe-time music, so while it helps to have party music for a live show, the experience is diluted, i.e. not “pure,” but still invigorating and appreciated.

Friday May 24

Credit the organizers for knowing their grindcore and knowing their customers, giving them on day two a mini grind feast that gets the blood pumping and ready for infusion with gore and horror.

repulsion

Repulsion

A comedian vocalist and groupies on stage were employed to keep us entertained between songs as Repulsion, a pair of “fucking old” dudes and a drummer from Criton, ripped through a set of the original™ grindcore that helped define the genre. In truth, this band set the tone and standard for the festival, showing the usual pretenders and prospectives the meaning of grind and the spirit of metal. What is not mentioned often enough in metal is that it is a smashing of ego, which includes all posturing, to see the details of reality for what they are, gory as they may be. This for me is what Repulsion’s seminal 1986 offering Horrified represents and exemplifies, and what this performance more or less achieves, peering at an extra layer of detail that even thrash couldn’t stomach, exploring it in closer to death metal riff form. As an expressive effect of the songs themselves, the physicality of performance (while in a manner appearing more punk-hardcore than grindcore) is a burst of energy that is age defiant while maintaining that nonchalant approach to technicality (though technically sound). To boot, this trio appear as clean-cut, overgrown miscreant types and of note is the popularity of this band, pulling almost as big a crowd as Carcass later this evening. Also played was a cover of Schizo from all time veteran purveyors of satanic imagery Venom.

Pig Destroyer

Right out the starting blocks these fellows made a huge noise appropriate to stir up chaos in the pit, playing a boil of randomness that has its moments but is overall a mess, veering more to deathcore or newer Cryptopsy than early Brutal Truth. Adding depth of timbre to the metalcore vocals won’t hurt.

Righteous Pigs

Mitch Harris from Napalm Death is the standout performer for this quartet who are equal parts speed and grind. His trademark scrowl is matched by intensity in characterization, facial figures of torment and black eyes serving as portals to the abyss. A thoroughly enjoyable set from one of those late 80s/early 90s bands that showed promise but then lost momentum and faded.

carcass

Carcass

When a band comes out of retirement, there should be a community of independently like-minded individuals who question their motivations, forcing the band members themselves to introspect honestly, instead of only appearing to do so. Not many people will admit that after Symphonies of Sickness this band’s career took a drastic trip south in quality in terms of existential seriousness, in fact becoming a milquetoast series of affairs. The mixing engineer did these veterans no favours, but they were doomed from the start to show a huge audience a good time with what turned out to be a performance bereft of soul and even shaky technique as Jeff Walker struggles through his more demanding vocal sections. Personally, this reviewer enjoys on a musical level a great deal of this cheesy porridge, but evidence of this showing is that the forthcoming release will not be worth the time for anyone looking for engagement with any offering containing artistic integrity.

“Suck a new dick.” -Scott Carlson, Repulsion

Regrettably missed: Benediction, Convulse

Saturday May 25

antaeus

Antaeus

As if wary of burn out, Antaeus temper the reckless excess of past live appearances while still managing to engender a metonymy of Satanic Khaos. The serpent, headed by venomous MkM, terminated by the tail-whip of ceremonial percussion, disseminating hateful sermons of sin and sacrifice unto the gathered black mass of devotees who subsume it gladly into bodily rite like wicked creatures unsatisfied with humble supplication. An incarnation of the underworld serving as liminal barrier to the state of silence left when furious life expires. Impressive as ever, frontman MkM refuses to allow stage presence to slip into merely sufficient professionalism, augmenting the latter with evocations of genuine misanthropic disdain. The next hope for this band is that they take this approach to the studio and make something with the same attitude that gave us their 2000 full-length debut.

Regrettably missed: Anhedonist, Aosoth

MkM with Aosoth

Sunday May 26

Cruciamentum

One of the few post-2005 black death metal bands who know how to build mood intensity while maintaining a firm grasp on structure, what I love about this band is that like the best metal of the 80s and 90s songs sound like the subject matter described in the lyrics, and these point to a will to higher forms of life.

Manilla Road

These guys kick off the heavy metal fare for the final day of the fest with probably the most musically aware performance in comparison to the “sludgers” and “stoners” on show like Sleep. This is probably power metal at its best, though it could also be Iron Maiden/Angel Witch rip-off with touches of early speed metal.

pentagram

Pentagram

If you’re looking for doom metal you’ll have more luck with Saint Vitus or Black Sabbath, while the stage antics from decrepit scarecrow Bobby Liebling are entertaining all the same. I must be wrong as this heavy metal crew are widely credited as forerunners to the style, but their contribution above Sabbath seems to be more focus on playing lower in the register while chord/note progression is still “safe”. It just ain’t that heavy in an existential sense, songs are about doom but don’t sound like doom, relegating this band to historical/academic interest.

Regrettably missed: Venom, Carpathian Forest (canceled)

All pictures courtesy Sabrina Ellis and Jaqueline Meraz.

aosoth

4 Comments

Tags: , , ,

Son of Metal FAIL

When we let rip with our “Metal FAILs — Volume I,” people were pissed — mainly because we didn’t include their favorite fails. So in the grand tradition of whoring ourselves for populist acclaim, and thus perhaps thousands of grubby fingers clicking on the same links, we’ve brought you the sequel: “More Metal FAILs” or “Son of Metal FAIL,” depending on what you want to call it. We just call it not letting this abundant bushel of failure slip the noose. So without much further ado, here’s another heaping helping of metal FAIL:

10. Celtic Frost – Cold Lake

Years of being a metalhead will condition a bowel release when you see this album. Celtic Frost is one of the handful of bands who created a completely unique take on metal, and this album represents their moment of exhaustion with life and its deeper questions. “Screw it all, we’ll be a hair metal band!” While this record is clearly a fail, it’s a minor fail because while the music is dressed up as glam, the compositions would have fit seamlessly onto “Into the Pandemonium” without the vocals.

9. Death – Individual Thought Patterns

As in life, in music the time when you are most likely to screw up is right before your final victory. Death clawed their way up the ranks and after the superlative “Human,” appeared poised to take over metal entirely. Then out came this throwback to the pretentious, glammy, art-metal of the late 1980s. It’s basically reboiled Queensryche and Shok Paris, given a death metal edge, but under the skin pure heavy metal. Now the only people who like this album are drunk masturbators on guitar has-been forums.

8. Massacre – Promise

Alcoholism is probably to blame for this weepy, whiny, and downright creepy rendition of Massacre. Their first album was great brainless hard-driving death metal, and then they tried to get all emo on us, ending up simultaneously smug and as brain-bleachingly confessional as Facebook at its worst. This album was so bad it would bring an easy chair and a newspaper whenever it arrived in a used CD rack, knowing it would be there for a while… a long while.

7. Atrocity – Blut

Their first album was good cryptic death metal, and their second a feast of technical death metal that could compete with the American bands. Next logical move? Why, go Goth metal, of course, probably because after the 11th beer what record label execs say almost seems sensible. So Atrocity excreted this poppy, dance-friendly piece of crap, and now the only people who buy it are Germans, out of misplaced national loyalty. (True story: I found one at a garage sale in the distant suburbs two months ago, proving just how far metalheads will drive to drop off this furry turd.)

6. Cryptopsy – Whisper Supremacy

Riding high on “None So vile,” Cryptopsy was a sure winner… until this. Wanting to be both death metal and “different,” as their label probably kept whining for them to be, Cryptopsy invented proto-deathcore with this disconnected, jaunty, chaotic album. The same people who love Marilyn Manson and Slipknot think it’s pretty cool. I repeat… well, you get the point.

5. Terrorizer – Darker Days Ahead

Legendary band makes comeback album almost twenty years later. Quick, what’s the first thought that pops into your head? Legendary fail? That’s correct! Unlike the first Terrorizer album, which had balls and distinct songs, this collection of riffs sounds like these guys working around their drug habits, appointments for car repair, ex-wives and beer guts. Uninspired and wandering, this album will stun you into a stupor.

4. Sepultura – Chaos AD

How do you follow up to an album as classic as “Beneath the Remains”? You make a watered-down but more musical version, Arise. One of the ten billion things you did to that record was include a few seconds of tribal beats… so that’s your new direction, obviously. It wasn’t the quality songwriting, the epic riffs, or the powerful atmosphere: it was that tribal beat. So start making standard nu-metal with a tribal beat and hey, you’ve got your niche! Even though this album pre-dated nu-metal, the (Mordred) writing was already on the wall that this was how mainstream rock would take over underground metal.

3. Carcass – Heartwork

Famous for making gutter-level grindcore, you decide to make a frilly speed metal album like your older brother (you know, the one on methadone) might have liked. Most fans don’t know this, but this album is a collection of recycled riffs and cliches from the power metal bands of the late 1980s who didn’t make it. Just a few years later, Carcass decided to re-envision all that old stuff with their trademark vocals intact. The result is as painfully blockheaded as speed metal, and as inept as grindcore bands without a good topic to write on. Fail and forget.

2. At the Gates – Slaughter of the Soul

Wait, he must be crazy; that’s their most popular album! Yep, but if you made a graph of its popularity since release, you’d see it’s a steady downward curve. That’s because unlike everything else this band did, “Slaughter of the Soul” is an attempt to sound like other bands who made it big, just — you know — Swedishy instead. So it’s recycled 1980s speed metal with death metal flavor, like soda pop’s flavor is inspired by something that once tasted sort of organic. Now that we have dozens of melodic death metal bands, this FAIL just seems ordinarily bad.

1. Atheist – Elements

The number one dropping on our second list of bulging, greenish, corn-studded, mucus-sheathed turds is this raging FAIL from Atheist. This band is clearly one of the best in metal, and their first two albums are top notch. Then there’s this thing. Sounding like a Phish ripoff with occasional metal riffs, it fails like all progressive music does, mainly by being so busy jamming on cool stuff, man, that it fails to concentrate and write songs. So instead you get the kitchen sink: a little funk, a lotta jazz, some rock riffs, some metal, and then back again. Add the extra pretense of a prog metal album and you have a turd with an English accent, an emo livejournal, and a disorganized snobbery even us prog-metal fanatics cannot stand.

BandFAILs

Now, as an added bonus track to this blog posting, you’ll get more — BANDFAILS: bands who should never have existed or if they had to exist, should have stayed underground in mom’s cellar until suicide was the better option.

10. Weapon

We get it — all those years of black metal getting beyond its roots were too hard to re-do, so you’re going back to the roots as you see ’em, which is Venom. Nevermind that Venom sounds like clumsy NWOBHM, not black metal. Let’s re-live that past one more time!

9. In Flames

If you’re a Dissection clone, and the Dissection guy shoots himself, do you do it too? Might not be a bad idea. From their first derivative album, which sucked in comparison to everything else out at the time, to their recent awkward contortions in order to stay “hip,” this band have been like AIDS at a swinger party.

8. Origin

This comical deathcore band make really goofy songs, to the point that you think someone would say, “Hey, didn’t I hear that melody on a commercial for a 24-hour law firm?” But people seem to not want to notice, because someone in a magazine somewhere told them this band is the future of metal. If so, I hope the sun swallows us first.

7. Meshuggah

During your first year of guitar lessons, this band just seems killer. Man, listen to those rhythms. Then as time goes on you realize that (a) not much goes on in Meshuggah songs and (b) past the rhythmic technique, nothing they’re doing is particularly hard. So you’re listening to faux prog that really has more in common with a bad Exhorder or Vio-lence clone. Errr… I’ll pass.

6. Cannibal Corpse

This band makes experienced musicians weep through their laughter. A large musical joke, Cannibal Corpse depends on fans being stoned enough to think irony means pretending you like something really dumb because, you know, dumb is funny. That lets the band keep touring and buying the quality weed. When they “compose,” they buy the cheap weed. Repeat the same blunt-shaped metal riff and chanting vocal, then split for fast guitar and a breakdown, then repeat. This music demands nothing of its fans except they think it’s pretty funny, when you’re high. In fact, you have to be wasted on something to even tolerate it.

5. Opeth

Over a breakfast of fish eyes in milk one morning, Mikael said to his friends, “You know, metalheads have low self-esteem and like simple music. If we make simple music that sounds like it is complicated, it will make the metalheads feel smart, and we will be able to afford all the spandex we want!” So Opeth was formed, causing progressive rock fans everywhere to weep. The riffs don’t add up. The fans don’t care. They’re too busy thinking about how smart they are.

4. Cradle of Filth

If someone paid me, I could not design a bigger metal failure than Cradle of Filth. If a new metal genre comes about, try to make it as boring as possible by repeating the same old formula with the new vocals and faster drumming. Then again, if they hadn’t, we’d think they were just another piss-poor Iron Maiden clone.

3. Mortician

While just about no one remembers this band now, for some time they were the future of metal: basic riffs, no key changes, simple rhythms and a drum machine doing kickbeat drums at dirge pace. It’s as if Spock rushed back into the engine room, screamed “Set phasers for dumb!” and then let the ship’s computer write an album.

2. Necrophagist

Like Opeth and Cynic, this band survives by convincing people with little experience of music that they’re experts. Overnight, they become sophisticated aficionados of the difficult, obscure and brainier-than-thou art of technical death metal. But when you peel back the hype, you find very simple songs wrapped in layers of sweep, chug, squeal, repeat. Confusing this with quality metal is like admiring a painter who can paint cars really well, but sucks at painting anything else, so he makes who pastoral scenes out of Hyundais talking to Lamborghinis.

1. Pantera

This is it, friends… the metal doofus epicenter of the universe: Pantera. They started as a hair band, then were a Metallica/Alice in Chains crossover that hit MTB big time with “Cemetery Gates,” and then suddenly they became the metal equivalent of hip-hop. Songs about the hard life on the streets: Check. Marijuana songs: check. Violent, swaggering attitude: check. Songs based mostly on rhythm with occasional random melodic fragments: check. If these guys were more honest, they would have just been a Public Enemy tribute band called We Rule the Burbs.

For whiners

Yes, we know: you hate us, you hate them, you hate something, you’re bubbling over with rage at how someone on the intertard can be so wrong. Either that or you were reading ANUS once, came upon a word you didn’t recognize and instead of growing a pair, tip-toeing your fingers to dictionary.com and rising to the occasion, you wimped out with the chorus all failed people like to repeat: “It’s not my fault, you’re an elitist, it’s not fair!”

To all such people we say: Go whine up a rope, because the only people who like that kind of mealymouthed rambling are other failures. You can all go fail together somewhere. And maybe touch each other, but in the grand tradition of being in denial so you can fail more efficiently, you’ll insist you’re not gay… it has nothing to do with what Uncle Ted did to your peenor after he’d been drinking. If you’ve failed at life, it’s because you’re disorganized and cannot man up and face reality. Don’t blame us for your weakness; fix it. (Listening to the albums on this list will not help.)

People get bent out of shape about our opinions, but somehow it’s only the people who have nothing better going on. Humans of that type enter any situation with the goal of making it “safe” for themselves, meaning that they don’t want to hear about how some fail and some are great, only that we’re all accepted. We’re all the same and we’re all OK. That kind of bullshit, of course, converts thriving metal scenes into big circle-jerks where everyone accepts everyone else but ten years later, you look back and realize finally that all the music was thinly-disguised FAIL with smugness for bling.

No Comments