Interview with Paul Speckmann (Master, Deathstrike, Abomination)

paul_speckmann-master_abomination_deathstrike_funeral_bitch_speckmann_projectPaul Speckmann’s contributions to metal are often mentioned but rarely fully assessed. To scan metal history, we see Speckmann leaving War Cry in 1983 to go off and create something else and coming out with a punkish proto-death metal hybrid somewhere between in the early- to mid-1980s.

The criticial mass and terminal velocity was reached with Deathstrike’s Fuckin’ Death in its second and wider release, melding with Seven Churches, Abominations of Desolation, Divus de Mortuus, Bestial Devastation and Morbid Tales as part of the definition of a new genre. While formed of a proto-metal style that still showed the oil-on-water punk and heavy metal in a pre-emulsion state, Fuckin’ Death helped establish many of the songwriting conventions of the new hybrid.

Since that time, Speckmann has continued his work in metal with bands such as Master, Abomination, Funeral Bitch, Speckmann Project and numerous other collaborations. He was worked with musicians from Cynic and Krabathor and managed to keep his sound consistent across a dozen or more albums, many of which successively re-work earlier songs into more “death metal” versions.

We are very fortunate to be able to interview Mr. Speckmann again, having interviewed him before, as he’s one of our favorite metal personalities.

Your new album The Witchhunt builds on a huge legacy of past Master (and related Speckmann projects) work. How is it different, and how is it consistent with what you’ve done before?

Well that’s just it: I have been doing things the same way on every album since Faith is in Season. I write and record riffs on the acoustic guitar along with a micro-cassette recorder and when the time comes for a new album, I sift through the riffs and hopefully find half a dozen to work with. Most of the time I think that there is much junk on the recorder, but strangely enough sometimes I go back years later and find a killer set of riffs that I missed somehow.

So basically what I am trying to say here is that I did nothing different than before. The album was recorded very quickly after about a month of on and off rehearsals. Ervery time we go into the studio with the intention of making a great album, sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. As for consistency, every Speckmann album has this. If something isn’t broken, then there is no need to fix it!

Have there been any lineup changes since the last album?

Nejezchleba, Pradlovsky and myself have been recording together since the Spirit of the West.

Are your lyrics still as radical, less radical, or more radical than early Master releases?

The lyrics speak for themselves. I suppose you don’t have an actual copy of the CD in your hands. The world around us always dictates dictates the themes on all Master recordings. We as a people are living in turmoil as the power mongers continue to take control of the oil and all the wealth in the world. America the big bully is still at work trying to control all aspects of everyone’s lives across the globe. The world has become a quite more difficult place since the origins of Master so the latter proves true when it comes to the themes I suppose.

Some of us refer to early Master as “proto-death metal” because while it’s a lot like death metal, it has feet in other worlds as well. How do you think of your early music?

You know, when this all began we were merely experimenting with the styles we liked as a formula in our music. Today things really haven’t changed. I still listen to early Rock and Heavy Metal and this keeps my mind clear to write my own crazy musical renditions of what I want to hear. I still listen to GBH, the Exploited, MDC, Minor Threat and Discharge from time to time as they genuinely speak to me in tongues. Good one for sure. I certainly like the old Punk stuff. I have always composed the same way, watching murders on “48 Hours” and playing guitar along the way.

What are the roots of the death metal style? Does it have a core set of influences, or was it an idea?

I never considered Master to be a Death Metal band this tag came several years later. The original fellas and I were just playing Metal, period. After hearing bands like Venom, Slayer and Hellhammer as well as Venom, I left the Doom band as they have tagged it now and wanted to get heavier. Master and Deathstrike were much more aggressive and on the right track so too speak.

I was amazed by, despite lineup changes and some stylistic changes and many years, this album still sounds very much like a Speckmann album. How do you maintain your distinctive style?

The reason the album sounds like Speckmetal is that of course I wrote 10 of the 11 songs but more importantly the band Master always stays true to itself. We play to audiences for example of all sizes from 75-5000 people, and people always understand that we live for the music and you can feel this live as well as on the albums. Many of today’s originators only play for money; this is not the only motivation for Master. We genuinely enjoy touring and sharing the new as well as the old songs with audiences across the globe.

Will you tour the USA with this release, or are you Europe-based for now?

We will tour the USA once again from April 18th until May 9th; I am waiting for information on this very soon. This will once again be an American lineup.

The news says the USA is about to go to war with Syria. Do you have some words about that?

The bully is always ready to go for war; the American economy sucks and people need jobs. This sounds like a great time to bomb Syria. With all the arms, bullets, tanks, etc. the economy will certainly improve. The US likes to fight for sure. Loss of life is of no consequence in the end for the mighty USA. Soon the draft will start up again so you too can fight for your country.

When you started out, I believe, you were working a day job moving furniture and making metal at night, and seemed quite happy doing that.

Actually the day job moving furniture came after my day job selling marihuana was put to a stop by the police. I was forced to borrow money from a truckdriver friend and became a fulltime mover instead of ending up in jail. The band was barely alive in those days so I must have lied in an earlier interview or maybe our first one. Looking back, I do not miss the everyday shit of moving other assholes homesteads.

Now you’ve moved to the Czech Republic and music is your full-time gig. How has the transition been for you?

The transition was a natural thing, for the first few years I travelled the globe with Krabathor summers and then worked moving furniture from September to until March for the first several years. Then in 2004 I was offered a merch job for a German company called Bruchstein Tours and stayed in the Czech Republic permanently. I did this for several years until Master became too busy and this is where I am now, just playing shows.

If a fan listens to The Witchhunt and really likes it, what do you recommend that fan does in terms of exploring more Master material? Should he/she go find a copy of Fuckin’ Death or Speckmann Project or start with more recent material?

I think the entire back catalogue has something to offer and many of the original releases are being re-issued. Fans can contact me directly if need be.

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Interview: Paul Speckmann (Master, Deathstrike)

People who come into a genre after its foundation often spend a good deal of time trying to find its roots. Because descent is not linear, but more resembles the roots of a tree converging on something that could later branch, there’s often a cloud of contributors from which this clarity emerges. In the early days of death metal, around 1982-1985, Master and Deathstrike took one approach to metal that combined Motorhead-style road metal with the insurgent political antagonist of anarchist punk music. The themes developed there reappear in both death metal and life at large. Mastermind Paul Speckmann was kind enough to answer a few questions for us on death metal, politics, art and the future.

You formed MASTER back in 1983, at a time when death metal wasn’t defined in most people’s minds. What led you to this style of music and when did you start calling it death metal?

I was playing in a band called Warcry playing sort of a Doom, Sabbathy kind of Heavy Metal. It was certainly before all these categories ever were pegged. We were just trying to be heavy, and in the end guys like Lee Dorrian from Cathedral have acknowledged bands like Warcry and Trouble also from Chicago as a major influence. This is actually quite a cool thing.

The original guitarist in Warcry, Marty Fitzgerald, turned me onto a seven-inch from the band Venom. At the time I was just starting to follow Lemmy and the career of Motorhead, but Venom was even more brutal for me. At this time the original drummer Bill Schmidt and I were also listening to GBH, The Exploited, Discharge, MDC and Batallion of Saints. The aggression of this music was very important to us. We decided that it was time to create our own music along these lines.

The term Death Metal was coined by the critics. I really just thought it was aggressive Metal, I never really thought of it as Death Metal. The bands Master and Deathstrike played music really geared toward an anti-Government stance as well as anti-religion, of course. I have always thought that belief in oneself is the most important thing in life. To create your own path and strike your idols down are the main things to mention here. This is the ideology I have always pursued personally, but people will and always have been led to the slaughter sacrificing their own free will. I refuse to do this.

Although band names have changed (ABOMINATION, SPECKMANN PROJECT, DEATH STRIKE, MASTER) you have consistently anchored each band and shaped the style of music, even as personnel have changed. How do you maintain this consistency yet keep developing with each album?

This is a rather difficult question, but let’s just say that I just write songs from the heart and try and capture what’s happening at the time in society as a whole. I guess I preach in some songs, people might say, but really it’s just my belief and maybe my beliefs are bit extreme for some at times. I really try to capture what I am feeling at a particular moment. Let’s face it, every album is not a success, and I have really had many failures, but this is of course from the perspective of the critics.

I put all my effort in each and every song, it’s just that at times the feelings are captured differently. Sometimes the produtions are shit or the budget is rather miniscule. But, since moving to the Czech Republic I have found professional studios, mainly Shaark Studios in Bzenec, and the engineers are more professional than most, and the rates are reasonable compared to the outrageous prices in America for mediocre studios. I mean why would anyone spend more than a few days in a studio. Either you can capture the music quickly or it’s worthless.

We usually record the tracks for an album in a few days. Slaves To Society had the drums and bass tracks finished in 6 hours complete. It took a few days for the guitars, but this is normal as I really concentrate on the guitarist’s playing during the process.

Reverence begins in a deep understanding of human limitations; from this grows the capacity to be in awe of whatever we believe lies outside of our control — God, truth, justice, nature, even death. The capacity for awe, as it grows, brings with it the capacity for respecting fellow human beings, flaws and all. This in turn fosters the ability to be ashamed when we show moral flaws exceeding the normal human allotment.

– Paul Woodruff, Reverence: A Forgotten Virtue

What distinguishes great music from bad? Can it be distilled into technique, or is it something less easily defined?

Feeling is certainly more important, because some of the most talented musicians in the world release shitty music for sure. Many bands today focus on how many riffs can be played per second and it’s rather silly if you ask me. I would rather listen to Saxon or old Judas Priest than any of the “New School Of Metal.” Back to basics I say. Sabbath, Deep Purple and Saxon are what it’s about.

I mean of course Beethoven and Bach were among the greatest composers without a doubt, but this is Metal we are talking about here. I am the first to say that I am not a fantastic bassist compared to the entire genre, but I know how to write great melodies and lyrics that say something and for me this is more important than technique. Lemmy for example is also a great songwriter, but he’s really a guitarist, not a bassist. Now Geezer on the otherhand is great at all he does. I of course respect both these Gods to the fullest.

Jim Morrison (THE DOORS) sang and wrote repeatedly of a “frontier,” or a chaotic no man’s land where danger was everywhere, but it was also possible to get away from rules and fears. How does this apply to music like death metal, which seems to accept death and disease as a normal part of life?

I suppose what you said about Morrison is true for him: it was an escape and then death was the next escape. He was a great lyricist of course, but a weakling in the end, but opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.

Death and disease are a part of everyone’s life of course. This is normal to look death in the face as we all live to die. Disease ravages people and countries every day; this is great food for thought for a writer. We are living on a disease-ridden planet and people are dropping dead while scientists play gods and help over-populate this god forsaken planet. Birth control is the key I suppose.

Are there any plans to release WAR CRY material on CD?

Original singer Rich Rozek has done this already; you can find the CD at his website, even though it was remastered and the thunderous bass was basically removed from the recording. Also Rich has re-recorded several tracks for your listening pleasure. I heard a clip of the re-recordings on myspace and thought it sucked. He never spoke with the original members including myself about the project, but this is water under the bridge and I wish him the best with his endeavor.

I really wish we could all get together and do a tour of this original legendary material, but this will unfortunately never happen as everyone hates each other. But I have no hard feelings and would be more than willing to tour with these guys for a few weeks in Europe. I still speak with Marty and have heard from Steve as well, but I really have no contact with Rich except for an argument on Blabbermouth some time back. I really wish everyone the best, no hard feelings. I am as busy as ever and everyone else has pretty much given up in the professional sense.

You maintain a relentless touring schedule and put on professional shows, even when facing adversity like no money and disorganized promoters. How do you do it?

It was never about the money. I always like sharing my musical vision with the world and continually do so. We will begin a tour of Europe on Friday the 23rd of January and finish March 1st, I then will join the tour with Waco Jesus for 26 dates as their merchandiser. I like to stay busy and this also keeps me in touch with the general public. I joined a company called Kraft Evention about six years ago and this has taken me on numerous tours with bands like Vital Remains, Benediction, Jungle Rot and Dissection with Watain. So, needless to say, I am quite busy every year and this works for me and helps support my art and life in general.

MASTER’s music shows the influences of not only NWOBHM and punk, but later aggressive bands like MOTORHEAD and VENOM, but there also seems to be an underlying influence from more idealistic 1960s rock, like a little bit of protest music in the mix. How do you feel this meshes with the blood ‘n’ gore themes of death metal?

I really am not interested in the blood and gore as you described so well. I realise that the gore and blood bands are making much more money than I, but fantasy is better left for books and imagination. I prefer to bring the truth as I see it to the music. Satan is also a great money maker for brainless kids that haven’t any direction in life. Religion has always been a great seller, and more power to these bands. If they can make a decent living, which many do, then good luck.

It’s really apparent that we are all being controlled by governments and we are all Slaves To Society, and the sooner the youth of today take a stand against this control the better. Forget the devil and concentrate on the liberation of the people. I think this is more important than Satan or other religious shit. You have to wonder what kind of God would just overlook this.

The idiots in the Middle East continually use their false Gods to terrorize and torture innocent people in the region. They need to learn to get along and accept the different ideologies and learn to forgive each other, and get on with the peace process. All the hatred must be squashed or the world will end over the next few years. These terrorists like Putin hoarding the natural gas, as the Eastern Europeans freeze to death, just to show how powerful Russia has become from all their corruption and greed.

You have to smile as all the people are complaining about the Israeli conquest in Gaza, when anyone with half an ounce of intelligence knows that the USA supplies the weapons and cash to these fanatics. Hell, the USA supplied the weapons for Afghanistan to fight off the Russians in the past and wonder why the region is so fucked up. It’s called creating your own enemies.

Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it.

– William S. Burroughs, Cities of the Red Night

One thing that has always bowled me over about your outlook is that you never seem resentful — at all. You have spoken in the past about your contentment with day jobs, being glad to tour, and how to brush aside any things that went wrong in the past. Where do you get this inner strength and peace?

I believe in myself, and everyone knows that life is complicated for most and you just have to roll with the punches. Metal is not for everyone and I cherish the moments I have had over the years. It’s interesting to say the least that the band and I have been touring successfully since I moved to Europe in 2000. This was the best opportunity that ever arose for me. Now I am busy every year and Master has played more concerts in the last five years than we ever did before. I average roughly around 90 shows per year. Of course if we could play more I would, but you can only play the same regions so often unless you’re a supergroup, which is only a dream for most.

As for the day job, I work about an hour and a half per day about 8 hours per week when I’m not busy with the music, as an English conversationalist with some of the Directors of the biggest companies and their children in this region. This beats the hell out of moving furniture like in the past in the USA. It’s a bit funny as I am in demand and with all the touring the students are left wanting and anxious for my return to the lessons.

If sound is like paint, and we use different techniques and portray different things in our paintings, what does it say when a genre sounds similar and has similar topic matter and imagery? Can the genre be said to have a philosophy or culture of its own?

Yes, I suppose, there is no doubt that Metal is a culture within itself, and the governments of today could learn a few things from Metal-Heads. These people come from all backrounds, races, colors, creeds and get along fine at the concerts and festivals that are played every year across the globe. Only Metal matters at these festivals for example. One big family that eats, sleeps enjoys the music and shits together with only small problems like with any situation. Music is the main focus at these places and everyone leaves their problems behind them and looks to enjoy themselves. Isn’t this what life is about? Everyone needs an escape from the rigamorole of the every day grind, and what better way to escape then to go enjoy a great festival.

What do you think makes death metal separate from punk hardcore (THE EXPLOITED, DISCHARGE), heavy metal (IRON MAIDEN, MOTORHEAD) and speed metal (SLAYER, METALLICA)? Is it an entirely new genre, or an extension of previous genres?

Maybe this is true for some, but I personally try to incorporate many different aspects of these genres in my music. I like the different styles and try to be versatile in my writing. I would say this genre is just an extension of the original bands in my opinion. I rarely see anything new these days especially among the younger groups. I see nothing but rehashed riffs among the new generation, but I suppose it’s cool sometimes to recognise an old Slayer or Motorhead riff at a show played by someone else.

How did you approach learning to play the bass, and did you study music theory?

While in the band White Cross which was a cover band during my high school days I began to become fascinated with the bass and bought a cheap Epiphone, and taught myself to play it with long hours of practice. I began smoking more pot and ditching school in favor of practicing my bass in my bedroom. Finally my Dad said, “No School? Then it’s time to work; I want you pounding the pavement tomorrow morning!”

So after a few days of reading the paper, I began going back to bed after everyone left for school and work. Finally I found a shit job working for Chilton Research Services as a telephone interviwer, but this kept me around the house to practice more often. I had theory in school but after taking the class a second time because I was stoned the first time, I dropped out of school as I said earlier and really learned nothing about theory. Later I took a few lessons from a great bassist from the area called Jee Kapchek. After he couldn’t find the time to figure out the solo break in the song Killers, I figured it out myself that same day and said, I don’t need lessons, and the rest is history.

When the band HELLHAMMER said, “Only Death is Real,” it launched legions of death metal and grindcore bands who showed us through sickness, misery and sudden doom (in their lyrics) that life is short, manipulations are false, and we need to get back to reality. How do these themes influence your songwriting and imagery?

They are real, so these things influence the realities of song imagery, for myself and others to a great extent. There is nothing like the realities of life and death to stimulate the writing process.

A consistent theme in your lyrics has been how ideas like religion or politics can shape how we perceive the world and as a result can control us. What started you thinking along these lines?

When my grandmother died of cancer at the age of 72 and then my father died next of a brain tumor at 51, my eyes were opened. I wrote “Pay To Die” and “The Truth” shortly afterward. As for the governmental themes all anyone had to do was watch the news as I still do today to see how corrupt and hypocritical the world is. I remember standing next to my mother’s coffin a few years later as she died of cancer and the rest of my family was on the other side of the coffin as we didn’t agree on many issues about her death. I wrote “What Kind Of God” shortly after.

We have just returned the song to the set for the tour beginning this week, and it felt great to play this again at practice over this past weekend. It brought back many memories for me. I also remember watching Pastor Bartz arrive at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois, when my father used to make my brothers and I go, and he was in a beautiful white Cadillac dressed in his cowboy hat and I thought, “wow, he must be raking in the bucks.” This was from the followers of the church of course and then a few years later he also died of cancer rather quickly around his early fifties and I thought wow, this God acts in peculiar ways. This Pastor was struck down in the prime of his life due to his greed and corrupt values.

Your album Slaves to Society has just been re-released through John McEntee’s (INCANTATION) label Ibex Moon Records. What are you going to write about for your next album? How have people responded to Slaves to Society?

The album was reviewed and critically acclaimed in many magazines across the globe and sells still, so I am quite pleased about this. Ibex Moon has done a superb job with promoting the album and getting it to the right people, but as always sales could be better. But, with all the illegal downloading, it is hard to sell as many units as I did in the past.

The next CD will deal with the issues facing society at the particular moment I begin writing lyrics. At this moment I am busy throughout 2009 and will focus on this in the fall I suppose. I and guitarist Nejezchleba have fifteen tracks written already, so we will have to find the time to pick and choose later. For the moment the tours are the most important thing.

You recorded the first MASTER/DEATH STRIKE albums in 1985. The world has changed a lot since then. Has your vision changed? Has it needed to, or is the same process going on that was happening then, in the world?

Everything is still the same only worse in the world. I still write and create songs as in the past. I let the world dictate my writing. The tapestry of this planet is my muse.

A man who has blown all his options can’t afford the luxury of changing his ways. He has to capitalize on whatever he has left, and he can’t afford to admit — no matter how often he’s reminded of it — that every day of his life takes him farther and farther down a blind alley… Very few toads in this world are Prince Charmings in disguise. Most are simply toads… and they are going to stay that way… Toads don’t make laws or change any basic structures, but one or two rooty insights can work powerful changes in the way they get through life. A toad who believes he got a raw deal before he even knew who was dealing will usually be sympathetic to the mean, vindictive ignorance that colors the Hell’s Angels’ view of humanity. There is not much mental distance between a feeling of having been screwed and the ethic of total retaliation, or at least the random revenge that comes with outraging the public decency.

– Hunter S. Thompson, Hell’s Angels

You must have a ton of stories stockpiled. Any plans to write a book?

I already have: it’s called “Speck Mann: Surviving the Underground”, but I have yet to find a serious publisher.

You’re touring the world through 2009. What’s happening after that? Any plans to re-release more older MASTER and DEATH STRIKE albums?

The first two releases from Master were re-issued on Displeased Records Holland in 2008 with bonus DVDs and Collection of Souls will be re-issued in March. Deathstrike may be re-issued along with Funeral Bitch on Ibex Moon early summer. It’s a chance to bring the releases to next generation of Metal-Heads.

Although your music is of the death metal generation, you are of the same age as the METALLICA/MEGADETH generation. Do you think this gives you an outlook others in death metal did not have?

Probably, I am older and more experienced and have seen many more things happen than the newer kids.

The author Kurt Vonnegut famously referred to art as a canary in a coal mine, or a warning signal for society. Other artists have claimed that art serves a necessary role in celebration of life. Still others believe it should celebrate the artist. Which among these describe your music?

The celebration of life and death are more important I believe.

Who cares about the artist?

“Insanity twisted the mind of the pigeon, reality clouded the eyes of decision.” – Paul Speckmann (2000)

Most bands we’ve talked to recognize MASTER and DEATH STRIKE as early influences. What do you think are your most significant contributions to death metal?

I think the riffs on the albums and the lyrics speak for themselves and I am happy that I was a part of the inception of the genre even if the money never arrived. At least I can go to bed with a clear conscience at night knowing I was an originator not a follower or copycat as many of the success stories in this genre are.

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The danger of obscurity bias

terminal_death-terminal_death

Obscurity bias arises from our desire to discover hidden essential influences in the past. In metal, it is the search not only for concealed gems but for lost ancestors of our favorite music.

This thinking is a variation on our perpetual quest for more alternatives. We look at what’s there and think we want something better. This ignores the basic rule of life that usually what’s wrong is a lack of quality, not need for another alternative.

When we look back for historical alternatives, we are seeking to avoid the obvious historical truth: there are few ancestors because few necessary steps lie between 1969, when Black Sabbath recorded the first proto-metal record, and today.

Metal, punk and prog evolved in the 1968-1969 period in parallel, and since then have been trying to find a hybrid equilibrium that preserves the heavy worldview of metal, the intensity of punk and the complexity of prog without falling into the bluster, one-dimensionality and incomprehensibility that are the downfall of each respectively. With underground metal, arguably the last genres with any intelligence in metal, we ended up with metal riffing, punk strumming speed, and progressive rock song structures with underground metal, and that worked pretty well.

What happened after the initial invention was a hiccup. The music industry invented proto-glam by trying to make Deep Purple/Led Zeppelin bands “heavy” enough for the new Black Sabbath audience. What happened was that they made rock-metal, and while it was popular, it didn’t satisfy the core audience. After the hiccup metal retaliated with NWOBHM, most importantly Motorhead, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. The next generation combined those to make speed metal; the generation after that mixed in the punk that arose after Motorhead, hardcore punk, which was far more extreme and less musically related to rock music than anything which had come before.

In 1982, Discharge released Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing. The following year, all hell broke loose. Metallica unleashed their first album, starting speed metal. Slayer took off on a separate tangent. While both these bands were partially inspired by Venom, it was more in an aesthetic sense than a musical one, because if you remove the rough playing and bad production, Venom is basically Motley Crue. Slayer in particular took more from the punk side of things and made chromatic riffs and elaborate internal song structures where Metallica followed more of the rock format harmonically and used fairly standard song structures, except for their prog-influenced instrumentals.

Thus by 1985 we had Slayer, Hellhammer, Sepultura, Bathory and Sodom making proto-underground metal; by 1986, Morbid Angel had formalized the style. If anything, the Death and Deicide assault of the next two years brought death metal back toward the speed metal — Metallica, Exodus, Prong, Nuclear Assault, Overkill, Testament, Megadeth, Anthrax — of the previous five years. Death metal took on a life of its own when it escaped that with releases like the first Incantation, Massacre, Morpheus Descends, Massacra, Carnage and Pestilence releases with the turn of the decade. These brought metal back to its Slayer-Hellhammer-Bathory nexus, with tremolo strumming and labyrinthine song structures, and away from the more speed metal song structures of Death and Deicide. Black metal grew out of the melodic death metal bands who started structuring their songs using melodies, not riffs alone, and thus needed less of a drum-dominated approach. That brought them closer to the original punk sound, but kept the metal method of making riffs.

So what’s with the search for missing ancestors?

Black Sabbath creating proto-metal in 1969 was no accident. The band sought to find a new sound. They also realized the hippie movement was in the process of grossly selling itself out, having gone from a form of protest to a lifestyle of dissolution through mental obesity. It was time to kick over that false figurehead and do something new. Coming from a prog-tinged background, they invented something that sounded a lot like progressive rock, if it weren’t addicted to a dark and foreboding approach.

The message of Black Sabbath more than anything else was that truth is staring us in the face. People make a lot of noise to cover everything in flowers, sex and brotherhood, but really underneath it all a darker reality threatens. Most people are crazy. Most ideas form mass delusion of the herd. And these people have nuclear weapons, and control of economies, and other methods of taking these screwups to an exponential level. Every teen rock ‘n’ roll band sings about how the world is crazy, in part because it is crazy. Punk bands expanded upon this with an outlook of total nihilism at first, and later a kind of comfortable anarchism combined with genteel progressivism. These outlooks helped drive the evolution of genres to express a sound that was more rootless (punk) and more apocalyptic (metal) as time went on. This made it clear to each generation what the next would sound like.

The scary fact is that we can navigate metal based on a few nodal points. First, Black Sabbath, King Crimson and Iggy and the Stooges; next, after the proto-glam years, the NWOBHM triad of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Motorhead plus the punk music that simultaneously wracked the UK (Discharge, Amebix, The Exploited) and US (Cro-Mags, Black Flag). Death metal would have arisen from these alone, but Venom accelerated the process aesthetically, although took a step back musically toward the bad old days of proto-glam. It was natural that death metal bands would experiment more with melody, and so black metal was an obvious outgrowth of this.

All of that leads me to today’s topic: Terminal Death, whose 1985 demo and other recordings have been released as Terminal Death by Shadow Kingdom Records. Their press release states:

TERMINAL DEATH: One of the first DEATH METAL bands 1985!!!!!

When you talk about the earliest Death Metal bands, we think of SEPULTURA, DEATH, POSSESSED (all stemming from VENOM) right off the top, but there were a few ripping bands that quickly fell into obscurity and TERMINAL DEATH is one of those bands. This is not just an obscure band; they could have been a HUGE Death Metal band if they were signed to the right label back then. They certainly had all of the talent the aforementioned bands did. Their 1985 Demo tape screams with energy and intensity! This is a re-mastered collection of their complete and very short-lived career. The CD booklet is massive with a very in-depth and lengthy interview done by Laurent from Snakepit Magazine. There aren’t that many Death Metal bands can come close to how amazing these songs were. This collection is another snapshot of that amazing early Slayer-esque Death Metal. Co-founder Shaun Glass, whom also co-found SINDROME later joined the more well known classic Death Metal band BROKEN HOPE in the early 1990’s. Shadow Kingdom Records teamed up with Hells Headbangers Records to release this lost gem as a Double LP. If you’re into vinyl, keep your eyes peeled for it will be a glorified presentation.

Let’s look at this historically. By 1985, the big three of death metal — Slayer, Hellhammer and Bathory — had already recorded. Then we listen to Terminal Death. For the most part, this is simplified speed metal at a punk pace, more in common with early Sacrifice than the death metal to follow. Not only that, but Deathstrike had already beat it to the punk/metal hybrid of that era. OK, so what? I don’t consider that important, other than that it somewhat contradicts the marketing. Let’s look at the music. It’s not terrible, but it’s also not very inspired. Lots of chromatic riffs, drums kind of struggle to keep up, and heavy repetition with standard song form. There’s a reason this band took a back seat to the other influences on the rising death metal movement. It’s not bad, but it’s not great.

The DLP doesn’t look bad, but it’s unnecessary. It’s basically the 1985 demo plus three unreleased songs and several other versions of the demo songs. It might make more sense, since the album is appealing to people who want early proto-death metal, to release the 1985 demo with the three unreleased songs for a CD that presents this band at its best. Hopefully SK will do that in the future. But the question for metalheads now is why to buy this. Its historical significance is not really that great, and the music is not exceptional either. With that in mind, I’d say Terminal Death is something we can bypass.

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Codex Obscurum – Issue Three

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The third edition of contemporary old school print zine Codex Obscurum brings vast improvements to this already-promising zine. Under the guidance of editor Kevin Ord, Codex Obscurum has improved its readability, positioned its content for an in-depth view of the metal scene, become more consistent about its most important sections and added experimental content that expands what we think of metal zines.

The first thing a reader will notice is that readability is improved. This refers to the visual appearance of the text and how easy it is on our eyes. Since the 1980s, computer and printer technology for the average person have improved (all of this cool stuff was available then, you just couldn’t afford it). As a result, backgrounds and gradients are more likely to be used, as are complex fonts. The problem with that is that when the result is put out through a Xerox-like format, these fancy things can blur together or create contrast differences that apply torque to human optic nerves. This time around, the Codex Obscurum guys dialed back the fonts and went for more computer-y fonts on lighter backgrounds. Their best format remains the one they used for the Summoning, Disma and Nocturnal Deathstrike Records interviews, which is a white page with a border of hand-drawn art. Of course, this is the most expensive to create because it requires a human artist, but I wish the whole zine could be this way. It’s a killer look that is both like the old school and takes advantage of newer layout abilities. I also don’t mind if the whole zine is in Times New Roman and a good sans-serif font. That being said, however, readability is massively improved here and layouts mentioned above are positively gorgeous. It reminds me of the best of the 1980s zines that always seemed like little art books.

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In terms of content, Codex Obscurum was never a slouch. Previous issues included high profile acts like Incantation, Skepticism, Morpheus Descends and Rozz Williams. Issue #3 has chats with Saint Vitus, Mortuary Drape, Disma and Summoning among others, raising the Codex Obscurum profile even further. The zine has also stabilized its organization so that the vital content is present and in the roughly expected proportions. There are more record reviews and a solid block of interviews framed by show reports and features. In particular, having a big block of record reviews at the end is useful for the person who picks up a zine to figure out “what’s happening” in the metal world and might have a few minutes to scan for something fun to buy at the end of a long work-week. This “feels” more solid as a zine since the relevant content keeps coming and there’s no filler, with firm boundaries between sections such that none of them seem to be second-class citizens. In addition, Codex Obscurum has added experimental content in the form of stories and reflections. While some of this was indicated in the past, such as the surreal and passionate tribute to Slayer‘s Jeff Hanneman from the second issue, here there’s a crossover more like a bleed-in from a literary zine or chapbook. The result helps the end of the zine not trail off, but offer solid content of variegated types consistently throughout.

The result of all of the above is that the third issue of Codex Obscurum shows this zine picking up where the past left off, and going further. Not only that but it does so with high quality and in a way that gives this zine its own personality and brand. I’m looking forward to seeing more from Codex Obscurum as it races forward into the future …of the past.

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The Best of Underground Metal of 2013

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I used to loathe end-of-year lists. They struck me as a pointless chance to advertise what should have been obvious before. Over the years they have risen in my estimation as a way not only to mark the year, but to bring up the gold that gets lost in the chaos of everyday life. And yes, they’re also shopping lists for the metalhead in your life.

This year our list is surprising even to hardened cynics. At a time when metal is bragging up and down the Williamsburg alleys about how “innovative” and “ground-breaking” it is, that novelty turns out to be the remnants of the 1980s: emo, pop punk, shoegaze and indie. The real innovation is as always underground, because to get out of the hive mind one must first remove oneself from participation in normalcy.

Thus what you will find here is not what you will see in either (a) the big-label-financed slick magazines and web sites or (b) the majority of small zines and websites out there. That is because the genre as a whole has shifted from creation towards an idea to emulation of the past, or reaction to the past by trying to adulterate it with outside influences. Neither approach succeeds.

When a reviewer chooses an album, he should pick one that will last in your collection. Your time is limited, as is your money. Thus we look only for works that you can purchase and enjoy over the years, and can return to with a sense of wonder and discovery as new angles and nuances emerge. This standard seems high, so they call us elitists. What we really are is people who love metal and want it to be strengthened by its best, not weakened by accepting its worst.

The following albums are those that merit such a standard:

argus-beyond_the_martyrsArgus – Beyond The Martyrs

Rejecting the notion of newness in itself, Argus returns to fundamental influences from the 1980s and makes a band that sounds like a fusion between Mercyful Fate, Iron Maiden and Candlemass. Guitar riffery is designed to be inventive and interesting in its own right but is trimmed down to what fits the function of each song. As a result, these songs “sound like” the classics in more ways than one. They are thoughtful and deliberate, purposeful and driven. Classic heavy metal riffs merge with meandering leads that somehow pull it all together, under the mournful voice of a vocalist who clearly enjoys classic Candlemass both in vocal delivery and sense of melody. See full review / interview.

autopsy-the_headless_ritualAutopsy – The Headless Ritual

Autopsy are famous for their contributions to death metal which notably peaked in Mental Funeral where their chaotic tendencies got wrapped up in their sense of atmosphere and produced a dark ambling journey into the subconscious. Of their later works, The Headless Ritual gets close to such a balance although it aims for something more everyday. This is an album that wants to deliver classic death metal thrills, and it does so with moderately paced songs that balance melody and savage chromatic riffing. Chris Reifert’s drumming pirouttes and grapples through vicious tempo changes as riffs unlock a Lament Configuration that is equal parts nostalgia and invention.

birth_a_d-i_blame_youBirth A.D. – I Blame You

What happened to real thrash, like DRI and Cryptic Slaughter? In much the same vein as hardcore punk before it, thrash was so intense that it burned out after only four years of real presence. Birth A.D. wisely choose not to “bring it back” but rather to pick up as if thrash were a party and the next day, the hung over participants awaken among the ruins. They’ve sharpened its message, which merged the anarchy of punk with the search for societal purpose of metal, and given its riffs the S.O.D. speed metal infusion without unduly modernizing them. As a result, these two-minute songs hit hard and retreat into the jungle, leaving behind their sardonic lyrics mocking society for being so stupid. When the record stops playing, there is a sense of both having received too much information to process, and a sadness that there isn’t more. See full review.

black_sabbath-13Black Sabbath – 13

Realizing what Black Sabbath meant to fans not just as a named entity but as a phenomenon, Black Sabbath integrate the sounds of vocalist Ozzy Osbourne’s solo years into their later, more refined music, with citations to Master of Reality as well. The result is a powerful album that is more pop than their original works but, in a time when nu-metal rages on the radio, reclaims heavy metal as having a voice of its own. It also pushes controversy, affirming a presence of God in this world for good or ill at a time when most people want to get polemic one way or the other. A supporting cast of sprawling but hard-hitting songs make this a great immersive lesson and transition from regular rock to metal for new listeners. See full review.

blitzkrieg-back_from_hellBlitzkrieg – Back From Hell

This band shares members with Satan, who also re-entered the fray with an album of strong tunes. Like Satan, Blitzkrieg know how to simultaneously avoid “changing” for change’s sake (inevitably a lateral move to other contemporarily popular genres) and nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, making instead an album that fits into their catalogue but doesn’t deny the older, wiser status of its members. These are mostly straightforward songs with melodic choruses and driving, riff-centric verses, plus nimble-fingered and harmonically-aggressive soloing. See full review.

burzum-sol_austan_mani_vestanBurzum – Sôl Austan, Mâni Vestan

People said they wanted old Burzum back. The spirit of old Burzum comes back in this ambient album. It’s a bit more hasty and less refined by fanatical attention to detail than his previous works, but it creates the same world, only zoomed forward in time. It is both a practical and imaginative album. In style, it resembles a cross between Tangerine Dream, William Orbit and the Scandinavian folk music of Grieg, Hedningarna or Wardruna. Strongly ritualized, it unfolds like a descent through mythical worlds and finds its own balance. One of the best offerings in this field. See full review / interview.

centurian-contra_rationemCenturian – Contra Rationem

For years many of us have wanted this Dutch band to catch a break. They have written several albums of relentlessly pounding, rhythmically intense riffing that somehow doesn’t add up. First, writing the whole album at high speed means that soon it backgrounds itself; second, there was always a lack of melody or song structure to hold it together. Centurian have improved on the latter two and toned down the former to a great degree, such that this is no longer trying to be Krisiun but more like a more Angelcorpse/Fallen Christ approach to Consuming Impulse. The result showcases this band’s dexterity with riffcraft and creates an intense atmosphere of violence. See full review.

condor-nadiaCóndor – Nadia

This entry album by a new band shows a lot of promise in tackling the power metal format and trying to give it the balls of death metal and funeral doom metal. This contemplative, mostly mid-paced album shows a sense of atmosphere as manipulated by riff, in the death metal sense, given a somewhat upward curve and heroic spin in the best tradition of power metal. Although it’s a new act, and still organizing itself, Cóndor shows that life remains in true metal that can be explored by revisiting its motivations. See full review / interview.

derogatory-above_all_elseDerogatory – Above All Else

In the tradition of Vader, Mortuary and other fast phrasal death metal bands, Derogatory invoke the classic death metal form with an album of nicely interlocking riffs that reveal a basic but distinctive structure beneath each song. This album is not self-consciously “retro” so much as it is using the voice of the older style, and while it doesn’t expand stylistically, it has found a voice of its own. See full review/interview.

empyrium-into_the_pantheon-coverEmpyrium – Into the Pantheon

Combining funeral doom metal with European folk music creates for Empyrium a fertile style that is showcased here in a retrospective of the best of their career presented in a rare live setting. Expect plenty of use of silence and resonance to build up these songs, which start slowly and then become engaging before evaporating into more esoteric conclusions. While most funeral doom aims to be dark, Empyrium creates an emotional contrast like a Gothic band, with beauty arising from chaos only to be strangled by inevitability and fall again. See full review / interview.

graveland-thunderbolts_of_the_godsGraveland – Thunderbolts of the Gods

Following up on 2012’s Lord Wind release, Polish/Italian artist Rob Darken unleashes a new work under his black metal brand Graveland. Like the band’s second career-defining Memory and Destiny, this release features Bathory Hammerheart-style guitars which mix speed metal and black metal to produce rhythmic riffing as a backdrop for keyboards and vocals, now featuring also human female vocals and violin. The result is a collision between heavy metal, neofolk and epic movie soundtracks that evokes the glory of the ancient past.

master-the_witchhuntMaster – The Witchhunt

Paul Speckmann is a metal institution who has stayed with death metal from its genesis in the early 1980s through the presence. His latest, The Witchhunt, showcases the stable lineup he has used for recent releases but tones down the overall intensity to focus on songwriting. Fast riffs blend together with touches of melody and the classic Speckmann vocal patterns which resemble the struggles of daily life turned up to eleven. Where previous Master works of recent vintage tended to blend together, on this one each song is distinct. See full review / interview.

profanatica-thy_kingdom_cumProfanatica – Thy Kingdom Cum

Taking a hint from Necrovore and intensifying it through technical prowess, Profanatica step back from the longer melodic riffs of Profanatitas de Domonatia and instead write short, cyclic phrases within compact rhythms in the style of the ancient Texas death metal cult. The result is like a primitive album with complexity embedded in it as melodies expand within fixed riff forms, uniting savagery and beauty in the service of blasphemy. As with all Profanatica works, this is experimental to the extreme, but Thy Kingdom Cum ranks among their most listenable releases. See full review /interview.

rudra-rtaRudra – RTA

The Singaporean maniacs return with an album that uses more traditional melodic death metal riffing but retains its rhythmic structure based on speed metal and possibly the Hindu rituals described in its lyrics. As with most Rudra releases, RTA does not aim for the pop song idea of hitting a sweet spot and luring in your ears. It is the construction of an experience, in this case a dark descent that forges a resolve to continue through warfare and a martial stilling of the reckless personality through militant silence of the soul.

satan-life_sentenceSatan – Life Sentence

The rougher edge of NWOBHM that was a kissing cousin to speed metal emerges again in this highly musical album from Satan. Like their groundbreaking early 1980s works which presaged the debut of Metallica and birth of speed metal, Life Sentence features inventive riffs in classic song format in which melodic development in the vocals harmonizes riffs to bring songs to a conclusion. Shy of speed metal mostly because it relies on relatively fixed song format which emphasizes verse-chorus riff pairs, this album nonetheless reveals both the greatness of NWOBHM and its continuing relevance in a time of tuneless songs and random song structure. See full review / interview.

summoning-old_mornings_dawnSummoning – Old Mornings Dawn

After black metal fully constituted itself in the early 1990s in Scandinavia, people looked for the next development along these lines. Some went to dark ambient, but others like Summoning and Graveland instead explored longer melodies and more drawn-out, atmospheric songs. Summoning take a medieval and Tolkien-inspired approach in contrast to the more martial outlook of other bands, and produce as a result immersive waves of melody that evoke a more organic society. With Old Mornings Dawn, these Austrian metal maniacs build on the emotion of Oath Bound but exploit it in more compact and separable songs, making one of the more intense metal statements of the year. See full review.

von-dark_gods_seven_billion_slavesVon – Dark Gods, Seven Billion Slaves

Following up on Von’s early career material like Satanic Blood is not easy; in fact, it’s impossible. A band would either have to re-create that minimalist style and risk irrelevance, or embark on a campaign to dress it up as something it is not. Von has opted for something else entirely which is to create a minimalistic core within a rock opera style of black metal, producing one of the more puzzling but satisfying releases in the underground metal world this year. See full review.

wardruna-runaljod-yggdrasilWardruna – Runaljod – Yggdrasil

Combining folk music, world music, droning found noises and the type of ritualistic dark ambient that emerged from the end days of black metal, Wardruna is a black metal side project that offers a different vision of music. While earlier works seemed detached from the end listener, Runaljod – Yggdrasil embeds the listener within a wave of ceremonial sound that aims not to be forebrain listening as Western rock is, but a mentally ambient experience that overwhelms by addressing all of the senses and channeling that experience toward a realization.

warmaster-blood_dawnWar Master – Blood Dawn

Underground death metal continuation act War Master released a four-track EP, Blood Dawn, amidst personnel changes and other upheavals this year. Like the previous Pyramid of the Necropolis, Blood Dawn focuses on futuristic and yet ancient concepts, almost like Voivod taking on Robert E. Howard or Edgar Rice Burroughs. From this vast concept come songs that both grind their way to nihilism and implement the death metal method of matching riffs into an internal dialogue from which a conclusion emerges, creating a pocket of mystery which is filled with wonder and violence.

Album of the year:

imprecation-satane_tenebris_infinitaImprecation – Satanae Tenebris Infinita

There is no completely fair way to pick an album of the year from a list with this many strong contenders, but Imprecation win this one on both substance and situation. For substance, this is a solid album that combines a black metal sense of ritualistic song development with the death metal tendency to make abstract riffs into an organic whole. For situation, Satanae Tenebris Infinita sees a band that started in 1991 and is famous for releasing its discography of demos in 1995 finally reach a stage where it can release a full-length album independent of any past influences. In addition, Satanae Tenebris Infinita hits hard and does not relent. Each element serves a purpose toward creating a transition in moods, like a perpetual parallax as continents shift. If death metal was waiting for a direction forward, Imprecation have opened that gate to a new occult science and art of subversive metal. See full review / interview.

The following were considered, and then not so much considered:

  • Morbosidad – Muerte De Cristo En Golgota. This is like Krisiun or Impiety rendered in the style of Mystifier, or like any of the war metal bands that imitated Blasphemy but with a dose of downtuned Sarcofago. It’s not bad, but aside from high intensity rhythm, it doesn’t have much to offer. Thus think of it as Satanic death techno performed on muddy guitars.
  • Fates Warning – Darkness in a Different Light. Bands: don’t try to roll with the trends. You were good at something else for a reason. This album has strong smary indie rock influences on its vocals and the result is embarrassing to be caught listening to. Riffs are reasonable, but don’t particularly develop, and emphasize space and consistency more than something with a personality.
  • Grave Upheaval – Untitled. Not bad; mostly rumbling noises, very true to form. Unfortunately, also doesn’t go anywhere. It’s an atmosphere piece of one dimension.
  • Warlord – The Holy Empire. Some sort of rock-metal hybrid from back in the day, this form of power metal uses mostly lead riffing anchored by static open chording. The dominant instrument is the voice, more like Rush or Asia than most metal. It’s pleasant but lullabye and too close to rock music.
  • Hell – Curse and Chapter. Do you know how far I would have run to get away from this back in the 1980s? It’s NWOBHM/early power metal without much melodic movement in the riff, so there’s a lot of chugging and shifting but not much actual motion. Nor will you have much actual motion as you listen to this… in fact, you might find yourself immobile and snoring.
  • Battlecross – War of Will. This is traditional metal affected by metalcore aesthetics. The vocals follow the surge pattern of later hardcore, and the melodic riffs use rhythmic “chasing” to accelerate patterns older than Chuck Berry. The result is so distracting the band can’t compose a song, but instead write a riff pair and then leap into a blast beat to transition.
  • Enforcer – Death by Fire. Here we have another band from Scandinavia creating highly musically-literate, catchy and otherwise perfect music. The problems are twofold: (1) it is a clone of 1970s styles that are liked for their innocent pop cheeze (2) while it is emotive, and aesthetically appealing, it is also empty.
  • Queensryche – Queensryche. Since the band went legal on each other, there’s now two Queensryches… this one sounds like Coldplay. The same posi-pop vibe and expansive chorus feel drives this work, and it has a similar outlook on the world, which is a sort of pathological compulsion to make things beautiful instead of finding beauty where it is rare. Unsettling.
  • Leprous – Coal. If this Queen-slash-bad-indie band gets anywhere in metal, it’s time to bury the genre under warm ruminant feces. Power metal mixed with dramatic English pop. The result is bracingly twee with metal riffs batting about in the background.
  • Iggy and the Stooges – Ready to Die. Almost all reviews of this album will waffle, because it is good, but it’s not distinctive. It all kind of flows together, as if the band paid more attention to the aesthetics of sounding like themselves than whatever’s driving them. But how do you “be punk” when you have a paid up retirement plan and health insurance?
  • Abyssal – Novit Enim Dominus Qui Sunt Eius. This was the hip thing for a few weeks, but shows you that you cannot revive a genre by imitating it through outward form. These songs use all the right pieces, but in a random order, and thus create no mood except nostalgia. And I piss on nostalgia’s grave.
  • Tyrant’s Blood – Into the Kingdom of Graves. Great title, has a Blasphemy ex-member, can’t go wrong… right? There’s a lot to like about this, but it doesn’t hold together. It embraces the “hotel buffet” style of offering many different riff types in a single song that ends up distorting any coherence. Storming Perdition Temple-style fast metal explodes into melodic mid-paced riffs and then ends up chugging deathgrind, lost and adrift on the seas of making a point.
  • Cultes des Ghoules – Henbane. It’s ludicrous that so many in the underground were fooled by this comical album. It’s a lot of bad heavy metal riffs interrupted by “avantgarde” noise, samples, etc. — the usual cliches — so that you don’t notice it’s bog-standard. This is hipster incarnate.
  • Acerus – The Unreachable Salvation. Galloping uptempo yet mid-paced heavy metal with a lot of Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate. Not bad, but not particularly expansive to anything more than that aesthetic role.
  • Aosoth – IV: Arrow in Heart. This album, like Immolation, got credit because people expected it should. Its strong point is listenable songs with some technicality; its weakness is that they express nothing strong. It is Participation with an A+ for method and a B- for content.
  • Sodom – Epitome of Torture. This rather sentimental, somewhat modern-metal influenced take on a speed metal album is very catchy and represents Sodom’s most professional work, but also loses the unique perspective this band offered on the world around it. This is more like the heavy metal albums of their youths, heavy on emotion which makes their repetitive, chorus-heavy approach almost too saccharine.
  • Grave Miasma – Odori Sepulcorum. I have wallpaper. It’s named “It’s 1991 again and you can rediscover things you believed in once again.” It sounds like a mishmash of 1990s era death metal and yet, because it’s wallpaper, it never comes to a point. It just creates an atmosphere.
  • Týr – Valkyrja. Power metal of the newer stype seems to me it has a mystery ingredient, and that is devotional music. This sounds like church music, with sweeping choruses and whole-note cadences, and it has an admitted power, but it also loses much of what makes metal powerful: it’s not protest music, nor is it music that tries to cover ugliness with beauty, but music that finds beauty in what is considered ugly.
  • Onslaught – VI. Eager to effect a return to the music business, Onslaught speed up their punk/metal hybrid but adopt the vocal styles and constant driving mechanical rhythm of modern metal. The result is unrelenting but also disconnected and monolithic. The catchy choruses don’t help and seem almost to mock the rest of the music, which sounds like a pilotless threshing machine gone amok in a pumpkin patch…
  • Death Angel – The Dream Calls for Blood. In the 1980s, speed metal bands had a certain annoying rhythm where they tried to be as obnoxiously bouncy as possible while ranting as intensely as possible. With modern metal much of the internal rhythmic interplay has been eliminated, resulting in something that sounds like chanting Stalinist propaganda with guitars strobing in the background.
  • Bölzer – Aura. Like Oranssi Pazuzu, Bölzer experiment in disorganized slowed black/death/heavy metal with mixed-in weirdo alternative rock. Weirdo alternative rock has existed since early rock bands made a name for themselves by being odd. The problem is that it doesn’t connect to form an impression, only a sense of instrumentalism.
  • Coffins – The Fleshland. Doom-death with some quality riffing, Coffins nonetheless manage to inevitably get lost in each of their songs and fill the void with noodly pentatonic leads, distracted tributaries of non-essential riffs, and “atmospheric” repetition.
  • Metal Church – Generation Nothing. This shrill metal band has always struck me as more in the heavy metal camp than speed metal camp, and here it’s borne out. The riffs don’t have form like speed metal riffs do but are mostly static based on rhythmic repetition. Focus is on the voice, which wails. Not bad but annoying and kind of empty. Also, older guys trying to bond with the new generation is awkward when done this way.
  • Malthusian – MMXIII. Like many sonic experiments, this band relies on style to shape content because style is the substance of the experiment. The idea here is to combine the Incantation-clone death metal that is trendy with melodic progressive touches, including some sneakster modern metal influences. The result loses what could have been and fails to transition to what it wants to be.
  • Stratovarius – Nemesis. When did this band get so bad? The first track sounds like a rip of Heart’s “On My Own,” and the rest of the album proceeds in this fashion: combine classic metal riff archetype with classic 1980s vocal melody, add some flourishes and hope it’s good enough. I liked it better when this band was more speed metally and less pop.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmuHHGfUBEE

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Coffins / Noothgrush – Split

coffins-noothgrush-split2013 has been a big year for Coffins, with the release of their debut album The Fleshland for Relapse Records in July and the recent announcement of their upcoming appearance at Baltimore’s Maryland Deathfest in 2014. Coffins toured with Noothgrush in 2013 in Japan, thus it is not surprising that the two, who have gifted each other with fresh ideas, have decided to release a split EP on Southern Lord Records.

While Coffins have always had their fair share of sludge influence, the band up the ante by incorporating more stoner rock riffing and melody. The result is slower and stripped down, with less of an Autopsy and more inspiration from Eyehategod. The band still retain their core sound with mid-paced riffing hybridizing Coffins’ downpicked death metal chug and Noothgrush’s crawling musical ethic. Lead work, although sparse, brings a brightly colored spark. The drums straddle the line between D-beat infused percussion in the style of Deathstrike and the breakdowns that are archetypal to the sludge hybrid-genre. Inflected riffing pounds through both tracks in the stoner metal style, inserting absurd jauntiness into droning music.

Noothgrush on their half of the split apply characteristic sludge riffing accompanied by sample-infused soundscapes which provide abstract narratives pertaining to the song titles. The material retains an earthy, doomy sound without digitised production artifacts. “Jundland Wastes” samples the kick drum from “Tusken Raiders” amidst desert winds, reminiscent of the tripped out atmospherics of “Dystopia” but with a more concrete narrative function. “Thoth” follows in very much the same footsteps, with a sample-driven interlude halfway through — complete with layers of ear-piercing feedback and tasteful synth pads — provides a welcome break from the crushing, monolithic riffing.

Whilst Noothgrush ominously work their trademark, sample inflected sludge machine, Coffins’ foray into the sludgier side of the doom-influenced musical spectrum is somewhat generic; it feels lacklustre in comparison to Noothgrush’s experienced assault. Where Noothgrush manage to keep things interesting, if a bit mundane, Coffins’ offering for this split EP feels rushed and uninspired.

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Interview with Paul Speckmann as Master releases The Witchhunt

paul_speckmann-master_abomination_deathstrike_funeral_bitch_speckmann_projectAs the old joke in Hollywood goes, any time you say “This person needs no introduction,” you must immediately follow that with a lengthy introduction. So it is with Paul Speckmann, who both needs no introduction and also needs a more in-depth introduction because he’s done so much for metal that it’s easy to lose sight of it all.

We are fortunate to be able to interview Mr. Speckmann on the eve of his tenth album, The Witchhunt, which will see release later this year and is a faithful and sped-up version of Master’s characteristic style.

In this interview, we ask Mr. Speckmann about his songwriting style, the changes in master over the years, the meaning of his music and where Master fits in the death metal family tree. His answers are as always thoughtful and honest, with a few surprises that we could never have guessed were coming.

Please show your appreciation for Mr. Speckmann by reading and commenting with your favorite “Speckmann stories”: how you discovered Master et al., what influence it had on you, where you think it fits in metal, and how you think his art has changed the outlook of the extreme metal populace.

Here’s the interview. Ladies and gents, Mr. Paul Speckmann, of Master, Abomination, Deathstrike, Funeral Bitch, War Cry, Speckmann Project and many more!

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Interview with Abominant

abominant-onward_to_annihilationKentucky death metal band Abominant recently released its tenth studio album, Onward to Annihilation, in a style of death metal we don’t see much anymore: fast, melodic and yet riff-based and chaotic. This band is well-known in the underground, having released albums in the 1990s on feral label Wild Rags and toured across the country.

Onward to Annihilation shows Abominant nurturing the style that kept them going back in the 1990s, which uses fast riffs in complex patterns but always returns to a triumphant chorus which outlines the purpose of each song. The trademark Slayer-ish fast guitars and Dark Angel-styled drum breaks are also present.

You can hear Onward to Annihilation below in an exclusive live stream provided by Clawhammer PR and Abominant. It takes just a few seconds of your time to sample and explore this dark work of twisted death metal. (Your browser will show only the OGG files if Firefox, but both sets if Opera, Chrome or IE.)

In a time when the music industry is in upheaval, and most bands are changing styles and outlooks in order to chase the trends of the day, it’s gratifying to see some bands remain constant and constantly improving themselves. We were lucky to have a few moments with bassist Mike May, who was able to fill us in on all things Abominant, including the past and plans for the future.

Stream Abominant Onward to Annihilation here
MP3 OGG
1. We Are Coming
2. Conquerors of Dust
Left to Rot
Battlescarred
Onward to Annihilation
Hold Your Ground
Beside the Dying Flame
Legions of Hell

For starters, I had to do a double-take when I saw that Abominant is on your 10th album. How have you managed to stick together as a band, face adversity and still enjoy what you’re doing after all these years?

We just don’t know how to do anything else? We are all just fans and friends that love to play metal and love to do it together. Some guys work on cars or hunt or play fantasy sports. We write death metal songs, simple as that.

I don’t think anyone in the band has any delusions of being famous or changing the world musically. We just like to drink beer, have fun and play death metal.

Pretty much by choice we never miss a practice and if any of us do, our week just seems less fulfilled. Whether anyone likes us or not, or if we ever put out another CD, I think we’ll still be getting together to do what we do.

Can you tell us how Abominant formed and what your influences were at the time? In other words, what inspired you to become Abominant and
how did you come together?

From say 1990 to 1993 Tim and I were in a band called Sarcoma. Mike and Jim had a band called Cataclysm. Also ex-members Buck and Craig had a band called Effigy, which were all the death metal realm.

All of those bands eventually fell apart and the six of us were pretty much the diehards that wanted to keep it going.

Worked out for the best in the long run. Weed out the weak and whatnot…. I was a big fan of the other guys’ bands prior to hooking up with them as well.

Overall I’d say alot of our main influences are shared in the 1986-1990 transition from thrash metal to death metal. Bands like Possessed, DarkAngel, Sacrifice, Bloodfeast, Kreator and so on really were happening at the time most of us were learning to play and we all still listen to that stuff pretty religiously.

I will say that as time rolls on we still get influenced even up to today, and no secret that black metal has come into the fold much more since we got Jim in 2005. We all listen to alot of different styles of metal, and its not like we love EVERYTHING, but it is very cool to be have extended conversations about which era of Darkthrone is our favorite and ten minutes later we’re talking about the new Candlemass while we listen to old Scanner cds. Variety is the spice of life.

Is there a “Midwestern sound” to death metal?

As a fan, I’d almost relate it to the “Chicago” sound. Bands like Master, Cianide, Macabre, Deathstrike and some outside Chicago like Repulsion and Impetigo is what I think of when you talk about “Midwest” sound.

It seems kinda true that most metal comes more from the burbs and bored teenagers rebelling against the middle class life than coming from inner city areas where punk and hip hop seem to have deeper roots, so i guess maybe thats a factor.Both Mike and Jim are natives but I was raised in Denver and Tim was born in Thailand, so i think our location has very little to do with our sound.

Do you consider yourselves a death metal band, or have another take on it?

Personally, Yeah… I would call us death metal, although by “scene police” standards, we would be called more “black death” which is also fine. Since we started, it seems that the death metal name has been leaning more toward ultra brutal bands, which i think usually end up being heavy on the DEATH but light on the METAL, which is sad. But I mean younger bands were introduced to Cannibal Corpse/Suffocation as their starting point in the same way I evolved from KISS to Sabbath to Slayer, so i cant really even blame them, its a different time, you know? We were kind of using the term “Goat Metal” for the longest time to blur what exactly we were doing, but in the end as long as it includes the word METAL, I think we’re fine with whatever.

Your songs show wide-ranging influences from within the metal genre. Is this a deliberate attempt to include the whole genre, or is this the product of your many influences? How have those influences changed over the years?

As I said, we all go all over the map as far as listening to metal goes, and I feel that every genre has its merits, but it also seems every genre is cluttered with mediocrity too.

As far as writing different styles, we just don’t want all of our songs to be the same and variety is also one of the things that keep us going. Not everything always works but at least we try stuff and dont want to limit exactly how an Abominant song is supposed to sound.

If you’re talking mainly about “Hold your Ground” from the new album, we had been playing “The Mob Rules” live for about a year after Dio died and ended up recording it for “Battlescarred”. After having so much fun with it and feeling so natural about it, I think we all wanted to take a shot at a straight up “Heavy Metal” song. I think it came out terrific and think if we set our sights on it, we could do a whole album in that style.

We have a new song that is kinda similar although a little more Mercyful Fate in style and I love playing that one.

I will say that we all really love blasting and fast Slayer headbang parts so I dont see us playing traditional heavy metal full time, but it is alot of fun, especially live.

How do you like working with Evan and the DeathGasm Records crew? (Did you have to explain what a “DeathGasm” is to any family members…?)

Working with Evan has been great. He stepped up right after Wild Rags and I had known him long time before that. He’s always supported what we do. I think our first album together Ungodly (2000) was pretty “next level” both for us and for him as a label, and what a way to start out!

Evan has booked us shows in Marietta and we’ve stayed at his house, so it really is very much a friendship. He knows what we’re going for and even what other bands we like so we just really couldnt be much happier. I also like alot of the stuff he puts out like Nominon, Manticore, Avenger so its its a good fit for Abominant overall. We havent had alot of backlash from the label name…personally, I think it sounds cool.

When you recorded “Onward to Annihilation,” what technique did you use to get your guitar sound? Have you changed much in how you produce albums since the last nine?

I know most of the guitar was a PRS going through a brand new Peavey head, but aside from that , you’d have to ask Tim.

He gets new stuff just about every six months it seems, so I would be surprised if ANY of our albums used the exact same equipment.

After hooking up with Scott at Velocity things really have just become more laid back and also more practical for us. Scott is a death metal guy, a hell of a drummer and inspires to be a great studio guy, which I think he is.. but I imagine 10 years from now he will be a fucking guru. Nothing negative to say about working with him at all, wish he was doing this in 1996!

Are you going to tour for this album?

Naw, as we get older and have families, touring just doesn’t work for us. Responsibility is our downfall :)

I wanna say 2008 we did like 24 shows, and that was our most ever, but we normally like to play out only around 8 -10 times a year.

We are all kinda reclusive, and I personally hate hanging out in bars, so I don’t guess we’ll ever get to be road warriors, but I like to think we are pretty solid when we do play live.

If you’re fans of the old underground, does it still exist? Who’s keeping the flag flying these days? Bands, zines, labels, etc.

I like alot of the more METAL death metal bands like Sathanas, Gravehill, Ares Kingdom, Cardiac Arrest, Mausoleum and so on (old guys I guess!) but even locally I think most of black/death bands here are putting out releases in 2013 or just did in 2012. So there still is stuff going on, but I dont know if theres much of a fan base for it.

Some of my favorite records are the newest releases from Immolation, Asphyx, VoiVod , Absu, Darkthrone, Autopsy and so on, so I dont go by the “only stuff in early 90s” like some people do.

Hells headbangers seems to be doing quite well and releasing cool stuff, and I like most of what Dark Descent puts out as well.

Where do you think Abominant will be when album 15 rolls out?

We average about two years for a record, so I’m guessing we’ll all be pushing 55 by our 15th album!

As it seems now, doing this for another ten years seems pretty viable and realistic, and barring any tragedy and/or line up shifts, I for one am looking forward to it! You can purchase the album for $6.89 here!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC6feSmom3A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPwLppaGe04

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hn2Xo4t2iRM

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Interview: Mike Perun (Cianide)

Cianide are massive stalwarts of American death metal for whom little has changed in twenty years. Their impact is a bludgeoning and brute force one derived almost wholly from the genre’s progenitors; Slaughter (Canada), Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Slayer are touched with the plodding heavy metal of the previous generation to shore up their unwavering sound.

Interview originally from Heidenlarm e-zine #5.

When you formed Cianide, how did you describe the music you wanted to create?

Always was, is and will be: DEATH METAL. Granted we’re probably not the exact textbook definition of the genre, but that is what we’ve always set out to be. Could explain why we’ve managed to outlast a lot of more “popular” or “successful” of the bands that started around the same time we did. Our vision has always stayed the course and to play any other kind of music would just be stupid.

Of the artists who influenced you, which most directly affected your conception of the style of music you create with Cianide?

Of all of our influences the bands that immediately come to mind are FROST/HELLHAMMER (of course!), SLAUGHTER and MASTER/DEATHSTRIKE. Bands that incorporated various speeds/tempos as opposed to just speed for speed’s sake 100% of the time. Another band is POST MORTEM. “Coroner’s Office” is a fuckin’ classic!

The first Cianide album seemed to me to be more grinding than death metal, straying into the ambiguous and underexplored territory where Bolt Thrower, Blood and later Napalm Death wander. a) Do you think this perception is (semi-)accurate and b) what do you see as the differences emerging on later albums?

a. I guess you could say it’s accurate, though at the time we were just doing what we were able to do and not giving a fuck. Looking at the big picture, not a lot of bands call themselves Death Metal and play the sick, slow, dirgy stuff. I guess they call it gay “stoner” now. Remember when it used to be called DOOM METAL??

b. Well obviously we’ve picked up the pace a bit!! Theres only so many times you can hit an open E chord over a slow drum beat. Now were doing open E over faster beats!! Har Har! Seriously, slow heavy shit was just the order for that time for us. Mainly we got Andy on drums and he was more capable to handle faster stuff after Jeff left, so things just got faster from there. We haven’t completely abandoned our death-dirge roots though.

Over the course of development, Cianide has landed – for lack of a better phrase – into the category of “old school death metal,” joining luminaries such as Asphyx and Morpheus Descends. How do you think this music is different in its aim from other forms of death metal?

For us, we’re just playing the music that WE want to hear. If people call it “old school” well fuck, we are old school! I can’t speak for any other bands, but for us, this is the only way we know how to do it. It’s hard to pin down because nowadays bands like Cannibal and Morbid Angel are labeled “old school” but I think you must be referring to an actual “old school” sound. If that’s what you mean, you could say a band like CIANIDE is sort of a preservation of very early death metal. We’re not looking to break any new ground with this, nor do we have any aspirations for commercial success (though that would be nice if it came along!!), just trying to emulate the sound and style of the ancient GODS OF DEATH.

Someone once drew the distinction between hum-along metal like Motörhead or Venom, and “subversive metal,” meaning stuff that tries to be avantgarde, progressive or regressive. It seems to me that no band since Venom has captured the sense of popular and hum-along (really, is there a better term for this? songs that stay in your head and are relevant to aspects of everyday normal life) metal in the same way Cianide has, with bouncy, heavy, catchy songs hammering home simple ideas in smoothly integrated structures. How did you achieve this, and what are your thoughts on the accuracy of these statements? (I am no big fan of the hacked together terms like hum-along and subversive, but for now am not sure what I’d use in their place except extensive tedious descriptions)

I agree with the statement and take it as a compliment! Again we just write what we like and want to hear. Every riff we write has to fucking kill, no filler songs or parts with CIANIDE as far as I’m concerned. Bands with catchy choruses is the style of metal that we grew up with so it only makes sense that we would emulate that. Even stuff like early Death, Terrorizer, Repulsion, Massacre and even Morbid Angel had choruses that you could consider “catchy”. I can appreciate bands that play overly technical, but most of the time I prefer something that sticks in my head and kicks my ass.

Cianide seems to have stayed with no single label for more than an album. Is this true? Are there reasons the band had for doing this, or was this a product of what I call the “usual label chaos,” e.g. labels falling apart, dropping bands at random and going bankrupt?

Our first label, Grindcore merely changed their name to Red Light so our first two releases were basically on the same label. They went chapter 13, so we did DDD with Lost Horizon. That label was basically two friends of ours wanting to do a label. They were flipping the bill and nobody was asking us to dance at the time so we said, “what the fuck”. They went belly up also. Merciless re- released DDD on vinyl and did our latest, Divide and Conquer and are all set to our our forthcoming “The Age of Hell’s Rebirth”. So far so good.

Someone once told me I was not “open-minded” for automatically hating some band that attempted to merge alternative rock and metal; what do you think?

Liking different styles of music is actually just a matter of taste and really has nothing to do with having a so-called “open mind”, which has been such an over-used term ever since the 80’s that it is now pointless and irrelevant to label anybody as such (closed minded). What this egotistical person actually means is, ‘my opinion in music is much better than yours because I have no real convictions and simply like what is deemed “cool” by the mainstream, even though I think I’m hip and into new and crazy things just to impress ditzy college girls’.

Tell that person to stick his alternative/metal/rock/bastard hybrid up his open-minded ass.

Metal has changed in demographic since the so-called “glory (hole) days” of 1988-1994, with a broader and bigger audience now tuning in to even the most antisocial black metal. What changes do you think this demographic has caused to occur in the music itself?

From what I can see, when a band achieves some sort of success be it either underground or commercial, the band will try to write what it thinks is popular in an attempt to “keep up with the times” (ie. Entombed, Morgoth, Mayhem). On the other side of the coin, if a band is successful and stays true to their original ideals, they still will get dismissed by all the death-metal weenies and black metal trendies who are only into listening to shitty bands that YOU never heard of. So in essence, nothing has really changed.

Will you ever work to re-release the old Cianide albums?

There has been talk about re-releasing the first two on vinyl but nothing serious as of yet. We are planning on putting all our demos out on a double cd, with all kinds of extras and shit. Should rule.

A Descent Into Hell seems to me, sonically, to be one of the “heaviest” albums ever created, and not just through production – how did you achieve this, and what was your aim in creating that album? (see disclaimer above about hacked together terms again)

Again, we just do what we do. I think at that time we were tuned to like Z or something. We did all of those songs live, most only in one or two takes. The kicks and snare were sampled though. I remember after we got done doing the first song, the engineers came in and they were like, “everything sounds good guys but we do need more bass” we thought they were serious. Then they started laughing at us and they were like, “jeezzzzus, you guys are FUCKING HEAVY!!” “Decent…” is also a personal favorite of mine. I think it’s impossible to get that sound back again but who knows…………..

Has Cianide toured, or is it more of a band that you do when not leading a normal life?

Tour?? Shit, we’re lucky we play out once a year!! The time for touring is past. We’re smart enough to realize early on that playing underground metal, be it Black, Death or otherwise, wasn’t going to be a very lucrative career choice. Insecure “we’re truer than thou” hard-on’s would probably classify us as hobbyists, and they may be right. A hobby is defined as any activity that one enjoys in their spare time. Though I guarantee you this, we’ll still be doing what we do long after today’s hip-name-to-drops have changed their style/names/haircuts and end up in the washed up file cut-out bins.

To put it bluntly, what are you guys like in real life? Are you closer to maniacs who live out the lyrics to cianide songs, or artists who metaphorically describe what they perceive?

We’re just your above average beer swilling metalheads. What you see is what you get. No tattoos, no gay piercings. Dirty, Ugly, loud and proud!

One other thing about Cianide that is gratifying: a sense of humor. What do you see as the role of humor in “serious” metal? Do you consider Cianide a serious band? If not, what motivates you to have the standards you do in the creation of the music?

I’m not really into “joke” or “message” bands. Injecting humor into Metal can be tricky. It’s hard to do it correct without sounding lame. Obviously we’re not a joke band, but we like to inject some humor, like our thank you lists are always filled with jags. POST MORTEM were the originators of that. At least that’s who we stole it from!! I love who I am and love being a Metalhead. But there are some people out there who take this music and themselves way too seriously who are just rubbers. It’s just music after all. Who know’s though, I’m sure to some people it looks like I take it too seriously. The grass is always greener……………

If you could tour with any two death metal bands in history, which would they be?

Slaughter – original line-up
Master – original line-up

What do you think of the following:

1. Asphyx – I have “The Rack” on cassette…..good heavy death metal
2. Master – The early stuff is immortal…the new stuff ain’t so bad
either
3. Suffer (SWE) – never heard them
4. Kittie – never heard them
5. Carnage (SWE) – Entombed clones

Do you have any views on religion? How religion effects politics? How this affects us now?

Religion and politics are needed to keep the general population in line. I think they’re both brilliant. You can’t have people just running wild, doing what they want. It sounds good on paper and makes for a lot of cool lyrical ideas, be it Metal, Punk or otherwise, but when you return back to the real world the majority of people out there simply cannot handle the responsibility of being an individual, and I don’t want to deal with them. It’s not my job.

Religion, of course, does make some men better, and perhaps even many men. There can be no doubt of it. But making them better by filling their poor heads with grotesque nonsense is an irrational and wasteful process, and the harm it does greatly outweighs the good. If men could be made better — or even only happier — by teaching them that two and two make five there would be plenty of fools to advocate that method, but it would remain anti-social none the less. If the theologians could only agree on their doctrines their unanimity might have some evidential value, just as the agreement of all politicians that the first duty of the citizen is to obey them and admire them has some evidential value. It may not be true, but it is at least undisputed by all save a small fraction of heretics, which is certainly something. Fortunately for common sense, the theologians are never able to agree. Even within the sects, and under the more rigid discipline, there is constant wrangling, as, for example, between the Jesuits and the Dominicans. Thus the cocksureness of one outfit is cancelled out by the ribald denial of all the rest, and rational men are able to consign the whole gang to statistics and the Devil.

– Henry Louis Mencken

What are your views on wealth, and its ideal relationship to individual humans?

People who go around saying, “money isn’t everything” are usually already rich and never had to work hard to achieve their wealth/success. Give me enough money so I don’t ever have to work again in my life and I’ll show you one happy, fat little man!!!

Do you support or reject anti-bestiality laws?

Hey, whatever blows yer skirt up!

What in your view are the a) strengths and b) weaknesses that metal took on by going “underground” instead of attempting to be a mainstream genre?

For one thing, since all true metal is underground it is not scrutinized and kept in check by the politically correct mainstream. Bands can say and write whatever they feel without any pressure of pissing this one off or offending others. Imagine how lame your favorite metal bands would become if they had to kow-tow to the whole music industry just to create music. I have one word for people who may disagree with this: METALLICA!! I love the fact that metal is underground. The people who want it know where to get it. It sucks for the bands who I’m sure need to play to eat, but that’s not my problem.

What do you think of nu-metal? Can metal ever be in the mainstream, like it was with Black Sabbath?

Any band can get big if marketed properly and shoved down the masses throats. For instance, if MTV tells their audience that Christraping Black Metal is “cool” and says that the bandmembers are “cute”, all Black Metal bands would get huge and you would not like them anymore. Sabbath were/are huge, but in their day, they never got any radio airplay (except for “Paranoid” late at night), let alone videos. They just did it through word of mouth and constant touring. As for nu-metal, it’s just like the 80’s. Instead of big- hair you have buzz-cuts. Instead of eyeliner you have piercings. Instead of glamed out clothes you have tribal tattoos. The music is just a watered down, bastardized, marketed and hyped version of the real deal.

Does metal keep evolving, or is it cyclic?

Everything is the same, just different haircuts!!

What’s the next Cianide album going to be like?

Just like the last one, except HEAVIER!!

Will you ever do a live album?

Hopefully someday. Guess you need to play live to do that!!!

What is your stance on mp3 trading of rare materials?

It doesn’t affect me either way, if I hear something I’ll just go out and buy it.

I’m the same way, if I like something, I’ll go and buy it. I have other things to do on my computer than sitting there waiting for a song to download, like looking for porn!! I do think it’s good for people to hear what a band sounds like from their website etc before they go out and buy it. It’s just another medium.

Did Cianide have any demos? If so, what were they?

We did three official demo’s: “Funeral” in 1990, “Second Life” in 91′ and “Cianide Kills” in I think 1993. We also had 2 different three-song promos for DDD and Divide……, but those weren’t really for sale. Everything will probably be on a single release for CURSED PRODUCTIONS if we can get off our lazy asses and get started on it.

Are reactions to Cianide different in Europe and Asia versus the USA?

Reactions seem to be pretty much the same everywhere. We’re regarded as throwbacks from all over!!

Are there any metal zines or websites you read, and, if so, what makes them useful to you?

The only zines I’ll plug that come to mind are Metal Curse and Midwest Metal cuz they are cool!

Will metal survive the wave of hip-hop music in America?

It already is as far as I can tell. Rap is already regarded as a joke whose core audience is rich, white, suburban kids. Hip-hop and rap do provide a very important service to us Metal fans however for which I’m truly thankful: BY KEEPING A GREAT MAJORITY OF ALL MORONS, MEATHEADS AND FUCKUP’S OUT OF OUR SCENE!!!! Every time I happen to turn on some MTV special or video, I get a big smile and feel great inside. That’s right dummies, keep being spoon-fed your entertainment you mindless fools! Yo Dawg!!! Bling Bling!! Comedy!!

Does metal’s being different from jazz, blues, hip-hop make it a cultural or political statement?

The fact that underground metal is the only form of rock and roll that has yet to be turned into a marketable mainstream commodity surely says something. It almost happened to death metal in the early 90’s. Then Nirvana killed that, thankfully!! STAY UNDERGROUND!!!

Anything I forgot you’d care to add?

I think you covered it all my man!!

Thanks for the interview. Visit the official CIANIDE WEBSITE at www.cianide-metal.com

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