Earthen Grave signs to Ripple Music for debut album

earthen_grave-earthen_graveTraditional and yet untraditional, doom metal band Earthen Grave plan to unleash their first album, Earthen Grave, on Ripple Music for worldwide release on July 9, 2013.

Featuring ex-Trouble member Ron Holzner and classical virtuoso Rachel Barton Pine, Earthen Grave craft 1970s style doom with the addition of progressive touches and Pine’s elegant but savage violin fretwork. On top of this, the band modernize their sound with a throbbing intensity that is unique to their interpretation of metal.

Originally released in 2012, Earthen Grave was originally released on Claude + Elmo music (and can still be purchased here) but sees re-release with four new tracks and a cover of Dio’s “Stargazer,” complete with the violin talents of Pine, who plays a new type of violin-like instrument called “the Viper.”

In addition to the new album, Earthen Grave launches on a US tour with the following dates in addition to others soon to come:

Pathogen – Miscreants of Bloodlusting Aberrations

pathogen-miscreants_of_blood_lusting_aberrationsIf you were to combine the full military power approach of bands like Krisiun or Angelcorpse with the catchy and slightly dissonant songwriting of Master, the result might be like Pathogen. This band has its own personality however which comes out in this battle-force release.

Miscreants of Bloodlusting Aberrations aims to be rhythmically compelling and to add some additional interest in its tendency to massage a maze of related riffs out of the midst of a riff salad so dense it would defy mapping. The result is like urban exploration: entering a building late at night through a forgotten basement window, and wandering in the dark with a flashlight and .45, until you find that one room that takes your breath away.

Pathogen hustle through songs that are a mix of death metal, heavy metal and war metal riffs driving toward a culmination in dissonance and chaos. Drums are mostly influenced by the speed metal bands of the mid-1980s, but vocals come from the recent school of high-speed rasp punctuated by deep gutturals. The result is very much a hybrid, but true to the spirit of its many influences and the genre.

Where this album gets confusing is that it is a riff-maze of familiar patterns and repeated types of themes, so it is best listened to as a kind of concept album formed of a snapshot in time when all of these different songs overlaid each other in concept and overlap in music. Infectious and warlike, Miscreants of Bloodlusting Aberrations captures the spirit of high-speed metal and gives it a unique spin.

A Transylvanian Funeral – Gorgos Goetia streaming from Forbidden Records

Forbidden Records has begun streaming the new A Transylvanian Hunger album, Gorgos Goetia, from their bandcamp website.

Combining the traditions of early-era Darkthrone and the melodic tracks from Gorgoroth, Gorgos Goetia represents a descent into the dark and restless mentality of black metal, and shows no mercy to the newer traditions which have usurped an honorable lineage.

Divine Eve debuts new track “Sword Called Fate”

divine_eve-iconAfter three years of radio silence since their last EP, Vengeful & Obstinate, Divine Eve are returning with a new full-length to be out on Dark Descent Records in 2013.

This Texas band rocketed to influence in the early 1990s by releasing a Swedish-tinged doom/death masterpiece, As the Angels Weep, which showed a band with potential among the many confused offerings created as death metal bloomed.

Equal parts raging death metal and raging roadhouse heavy metal with a darker Motorhead flair, the music of Divine Eve emphasizes both dark places and an uncanny energy emerging from confrontation with them.

Vengeful & Obstinate shows the band refining their songwriting and picking up some new themes, using this added proficiency to make the tunes have more momentum and be more memorable.

While no date has yet been set for the release of the finished product, the release of this sample track is a tantalizing hint of what is to come for all fans of doom-death and related music.

Centurian – Contra Rationem (Listenable Records, 2013)

centurian-contra_rationemAfter some time absent from making music, Centurian returns with another album of ripping music made in the style of later Morbid Angel infused with the type of battering riffing that made Master’s On the Seventh Day… such an underground favorite.

This is precise high energy playing in that rhythmic but phrase-based style innovated by Morbid Angel, Vader, Mortuary and Massacra. Its strength is its intensity, but its weakness has in the past been knowing when to tone it down for a bit of variation. On this album, the band use more variation and melody to break up the unrelenting intensity of this approach.

Contra Rationem develops through an inner conflict based on the collision of extremely violent riffs, and the doubts and ambiguities of this situation revealed by changes in the intensity. This saves it from being a blowhard full-ahead band in which turning everything up to “11” makes that the norm, and by so doing removes its power. Centurian break up their forward assault with guitar solos, use of melody, dirge riffs and most importantly, abrupt shifts in direction. The result is that these songs negotiate internally and develop, instead of being presented as a final state that must be pounded into your head.

The most obvious influence here is Morbid Angel, especially the post-Covenant era, but the chant-heavy choruses and ripping speed riffs in many ways recall the best days of Destruction. There are no broken beats or trudging progressions because this album prefers to stack riffs against one another and then reach a natural conclusion at which point a total break from the expected occurs. The result naturally merges the listenability of speed metal (Destruction) with the power of the unexpected in death metal (Morbid Angel).

Centurian’s strength is their sheer momentum and pounding frenetic energy. Their weakness is the converse of this, which is that sometimes songs come across as hasty exercises in all-ahead-go, and as a result are less memorable than the finely-sculpted classics of death metal which removed extraneous complexity to create unbreakable moods. However, this is a small weakness, since this album shows great creativity in riffcraft which results in songs that shape themselves as distinct from one another.

For those who want a death metal album of the warlike style that made Morbid Angel and Vader such perennial favorites, Contra Rationem is a good place to begin the search. It avoids both the newer style of “carnival music” that has infested death metal and the faux retro style that insists on playing everything so fast the audience falls asleep, and uncovers in this band a more developed musicality and sense of mood.

Satan – Life Sentence

satan-life_sentenceBack in the 1980s, the wisdom was that Satan had something to do with the founding of speed metal, along with Blitzkrieg and a few others who got into the choppier, more muted strum side of NWOBHM.

Having two members go on to avant-progressive speed metal act Skyclad did not hurt the legend. Thirty years later, Satan return with Life Sentence, an album that is musical enough for power metallers but uses the same efficient mix of speed and classic riffing that made Judas Priests’s Painkiller such an enduring favorite.

In addition, this band has internal quality control, which is something that seemed to go out the window with the rise of MP3s. This album fits together as an album, not as a concept album but as enough and varied interpretations of a style to make a consistent but not repetitive package.

Riffs on Life Sentence are of known general types but are not recognizably derived from anything else, and while they are generally used in pop-style song structures, tend to illustrate the theme of each song in sound. In addition, Satan use riffs as archetypes and vary them for fills or changes in song direction. This distinguishes them from many of the more template-based heavy metal bands.

The strong underpinning of riffs supports a subtly jazz-influenced percussion that mimics the guitar while trying to stay as much in the background as possible until it is time for a strategically interesting fill, at which point it explodes. Over this the melodic vocals of Brian Ross, who also sang in Blitzkrieg, surge in both full operatic style and a more surly half-chant.

Lead guitar fireworks are minimized but like everything else on this album, appear when it helps push the song along. However, songwriting on its own is strong, with each song having a clear theme that is played out in the tension between verse and chorus riffs. Nothing sounds hasty or ill-thought; it all fits together and moves as one.

For metalheads who like musicality but might want something more aggressive than your average power metal band, Satan offer a powerful competitor that does not fall into excesses, but keeps its own spirit alive. Life Sentence does not sound like it came out in the 1980s, but also, evokes much of the strength and beauty of the music of that era. This should be a major contender for the thinking metalhead vote in 2013.

Interview with Shane and Amy Bugbee (Milwaukee Metalfest, The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America)

the_suffering_and_celebration_of_life_in_america-shane_and_amy_bugbeeShane Bugbee and Amy Bugbee, who wrote The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America which featured interviews with Possessed, Averse Sefira and Gene Hoglan, answered our interview request with a flotilla of good information.

These are the two writer-artist-metalheads who hopped into a decade-old Suburban with $200 and drove across America, spending a year touring the USA to figure out what Americans actually believe and where the soul of America rests.

During the process, they interviewed Possessed’s Jeff Becerra twice, Gene Hoglan, Ian Mackaye, Averse Sefira and many other underground figures who have featured prominently in the evolution of metal.

They also caught the spirit of metal in their critique of society and its tendency toward herdlike conformity, along with a refusal to join in. The resulting adventures were insightful and humorous, and you can read them in the book. But for now, the interview…

I’m here in Tampa, Florida questioning Shane Bugbee and Amy Bugbee about their new book, The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America. We are most definitely not firing shotguns, drinking whisky and listening to old Sarcofago bootlegs. Let’s see what they say when I whip out this list of questions written on an old receipt for ammonium nitrate and fuel oil…

AMY: Hi Brett, thank you for asking questions, glad to answer them, thanks so much!

When did you first become a metalhead? Why? I assume it would have been easier to get into AOR or country.

AMY: I have been a metalhead since I was little girl, and when I think back to where it began, I must have been in 3rd Grade. I had a sister 5 years older than me, and we grew up in a working class community on the industrial South Side of Chicago. We would pool our allowance ($3 a week each) and buy an album — AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest. The first time I heard Black Sabbath I was hooked. I can remember when Ozzy left Sabbath, I remember when Bon Scott died, I was 9 or 10 and I was devastated. 

We had a record store in downtown Hammond, Indiana that we walked to almost every Saturday, called Hegewisch Records. They used to put album art on black t-shirts with hundreds of bands, I started wearing them in 4th grade. That place was like a secret world, I loved it. (The owner was murdered in 1991 – shot five times, never solved – but that’s how it is where I grew up!)

SHANE: my uncle was digging on sabbath, led zeppelin, ac/dc & zz top when I was a wee lad, so, that was a start… the first 45 I was given as a gift was elvis, the first full record, kiss destroyer and, the first cassette, van halen/fair warning… seems like my uncle liking hard rock bands helped to influence and guide me, that and the clan-ish war beat of heavy metal/hard rock that naturally attracted me…. I think the metalhead is a lost culture/clan that is split up through kings or natural catastrophe… we find each other through the music… my earliest metal memories are listening to the radio in a chicago suburb and wanting the first ozzy solo record so bad I said out loud I’d sell my soul to the devil for it… I wound up with a copy the next week… kiss on TV, I can’t recall exactly, but maybe when kiss appeared on mainstream, prime time tv, I think is was CBS who aired phantom of the park… buying a bootleg led zeppelin record from the classified ads in rolling stone – these are some of my early metal memories.

What were your favorite metal bands? What made you like these more than others?

AMY: As I mentioned I really loved Black Sabbath, and a lot of what I would now call “Hard Rock” bands. At 14, I was introduced to Metallica, Slayer, and that whole second generation of metal through a crew of friends I’d begun running with. I thought Metallica, Motorhead, and all those bands were  great, but my real loves were Venom and Slayer. I remember running to the record store the day Slayer’s Hell Awaits came out. I was working my first job at a Dairy Queen in Harvey IL, and I got myself a decent stereo and bought albums with most of my paychecks that summer. I would immediately record the albums onto cassette tapes and I took them everywhere. I was the person everyone turned to for music after a while.

So much great music then — Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, Exodus’ Bonded by Blood.  I am lyrically inclined, so Venom was something I was really drawn to. Today, there is a lot of really good and a ton of really bad metal out there, as always probably. 

Sad to say, since I lost my entire music collection I have been less inclined to buy music, and listen instead to a lot of internet metal radio and even our local community station. 

SHANE: it’s impossible for me to make a list of favorites as they will move and change, sometimes daily… here’s a quick retrospective and some of those I’ve loved through-out the years…

  • van halen
  • ozzy ozbourne
  • deicide
  • obituary
  • slayer
  • ac/dc
  • black sabbath
  • king diamond
  • destroyer 666
  • dark funeral
  • electric wizard
  • sepultura w/max only.

that’s a hard thing for me to put a reason on taste… I’d say the overall thing that sticks with me through all art is aggression and honesty… be it a painting or a song. there is of course my influences as a child, influence from peers.

seems like my uncle liking hard rock bands helped to influence and guide me, that and the clan-ish war beat of heavy metal/hard rock that naturally attracted me…. I think the metalhead is a lost culture/clan that is split up through kings or natural catastrophe… we find each other through the music…

Shane, I remember that you were involved with the Milwaukee Metalfest. I don’t think metal fans today remember how important that event was, but it was like the industry conference for metal fans (not the metal industry, which didn’t exist). How did you get involved, and what did you take away from the experience?

SHANE:
the metalfest was quite the gathering point, wasn’t it. boy, those were the days… I got involved because I had a zine (Naked Aggression) and was trying to sell jack koshick (metal fest founder) some ads, I told him I could help with sales and wanted to sell vendors tables and publish a program book I could sell ads in… I felt they could profit off of the show without all the ticket buys (pay to play) they made low end, un-signed bands take part in… I really hated the pay-to-play deal and wanted to help make the fest better… it was cool, I made enough money to live off of for six months a year but the metal fest only crumbled due to too many pay-to-plays and the fest became less and less about the music and all about the money… funny thing is, I quit because so many brothers in metal came up to me during my final metal fest, they would yell and scream about the shitty pay to play bands and the schedule, telling me they’d never play the show again, so I quit thinking I’d give up the 6 months worth of payment working on the metal fest and I’d start a fest for all those bands that would never play the metal fest again… I was going to do it for the ‘scene’ !!! hehehe, yea, right… the scene!!! the second we put together the expo of the extreme, the scene turned its back on our show and each and every band that said they’d NEVER play the metal fest, RAN to play the metal fest, and if you told the promoter of the metal fest that you were going to play my show it became the fastest way for a band to not only get booked, you’d also get paid and a decent stage time on the metal fest stage… so, the biggest take away was the ‘scene’ or ‘art’ within the metal community had gone away – it became a business and was striving to be an above ground and exploitable job vs. a pure expression… I should have just continued to play along, fighting against it all was personally satisfying, but it didn’t help my bottom line and I lost a lot of friends over that war of principles.

the black metal underground gave me hope for a bit, and on the net I’ve re-found the metal underground, so it didn’t die, it just stays in the cave.

For “The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America,” which has one of the most metal titles of any book I’ve read recently, you interviewed a number of underground metal legends, including Jeff Becerra, Gene Hoglan and Averse Sefira. How did you manage to meet so many fascinating people? Why do you think they granted interviews to you as opposed to the rest of the metal press?

SHANE: we simply asked trusted sources, friends of friends… a lot of luck went into whomever we eventually spoke to… traveling with no $$$ meant that we would find work, then a place to crash, then a gas station, then the highway. if we were lucky an interview we planned from the beginning of the trip might fit in…

as far as the interviews with us VS the metal press??? I don’t see us as metal press, just press. The metal press talks metal, so they are by their nature, predictable… and about the business of their industry… me, us, our trip was something different and exciting and I think top tiered metal heads are always looking for excitement vs. business.

AMY: I think, as with everyone we spoke to on our road trip, we were coming at things from a unique angle or perspective. We were not asking about their latest record or whatever BS they hear all the time so they were interested in being represented in a different way maybe.

I had interviewed Jeff Becerra on my defunct radio show some time back, and Gene Hoglan we’d met while living briefly in LA after our “shunning” – I’d invited him to a porn party via myspace, he said he wouldn’t know anyone, I said we just moved here so we don’t know anyone either, and he actually stopped by. Turns out a bunch of metal guys were at the party, I remember one guy falling to his knees to praise him when he walked in. Averse Sefira was a recommendation from a wise internet friend, as I was unfamiliar with their work before that. They turned out to be one of our favorite interviews.

Amy, you started out as a teenage metalhead and still proudly wear the Possessed shirts of your youth. How did your friends and family react to you being a metalhead? Can people cope with it these days at all?

AMY: To be honest, I have nothing left from my youth, my t-shirts and my record collection were lost while on the road, Jeff gave me that shirt when we stayed with him, but I get what you are saying…

As I said my sister got me into metal, our crowd was metal. We were the hardest of the hardcore in our town, but not for metal, more for drugs and mayhem and stuff. Our crew included druggies, thieves, pimps, prostitutes, guys who worked for the biker gangs and other criminal syndicates. Most of them are dead or in prison nowadays.

Ironically, the very friends who got us into Slayer and that whole wave of metal hated it when my sister and I started going to lots of shows in Chicago – to see bands like Possessed, Dark Angel, and even some hardcore bands.  They said that was just noise — Silly boys, just could not handle we were more metal than they were!  In reality, getting deeper into metal and spending less time with those people in Calumet City probably saved my life.

As far as family reaction, I was raised Atheist in a Catholic community so we were always outside of society. I’ve never been baptized, read the bible, or attended church. My parents were logic minded, they were spiritual but not Christian. I was told I was going to hell for attending public school and biting my nails by the Catholic kids on my block.  In public school, when everyone was preparing to do communion or whatever they do in second grade, and kids realized I didn’t attend any of the local churches, I was called a devil and a witch, and they stopped talking to me, so I was never part of society. If you always live outside what is “the Norm” it has no meaning to you.

You two launched yourself out on the road with what, an old Suburban and $200? Were you afraid? I think most of us are afraid to leave the morphine drip of our paychecks and grocery stores. What motivated you to do this?

SHANE: when I look back I can see a lot of feelings… but I cannot feel those feelings. I’m not above being afraid, just don’t think of it that way… this was a reverberation, a creative reaction to an aggressive action against my family… so our expression to that aggressive action was survival and revenge all rolled up into one. so, the motivation was to stay sponsored as I had been with my newspapers and creative enterprises, while at the same time finding creative ways to enact revenge on the town of ely, but responsible revenge… I wanted the world to know about ely… I wanted the world to think about ely. not the town, but the mindlessness of the collective mind. I also felt it was time our art became understood, the stuff amy & I had been doing was so-misunderstood it was easy for the other side to paint us into a corner… my friendship with Dr. LaVey, the obscene books I published, the angry, pro violent art… for me, the nucleus of what I did has always politics, I have always seen stuff like my association with the church of satan to be an artistic and political movement and NOT a belief or a religion, more of a political expression… everything I express is based in politics… so one of the major reasons I wanted to do the trip was to let our politics/art speak for themselves and, not in such an abstract way as art sometimes expresses itself, I wanted our misunderstood expression to be communicated through visceral, real life, in the flesh action… so, it was time to hit the streets and meet the enemy.

AMY:  We were terrified! But even more terrifying was the thought of canceling after months of planning, and being failures. We already felt we had so much to prove, we’d just been shunned and run out of a town, we were sleeping on my in-laws basement floor. When our sponsor pulled out and left us every reason to cancel, the alternative of having to eat crow, and find shitty jobs, and get a shitty apartment, and be stuck in some awful suburb of Chicago while the in-laws gave us the “I told ya so” speech daily was more than we could deal with, if we died on the road that was just as well. Better to go and die than stay and be failures.

Plus, when we were tipped off Adam Curry was going to take our idea and replace us with some of his contract podcasters as soon as we signed the contract (he had it in the fine print thinking we would not read it), there was no way we were going to let that false metal loser do that to us.

I understand that you were involved in a community, and were accepted and valued there, until people found out that you’d written — not worshiped, written about — the dark lord himself. They ran you out of town. Oprah wants to know “How do you feel about that?” but I want to know how you think this reflects on the nature of religion and dogma. Does it make us into monsters, or does it take one monster to turn a town against people?

SHANE: one of the main questions we asked of americans was “is there a difference between religion and spirituality?”

I felt strongly that it was the religious, not the spiritual who were the flock of blind and ignorant followers who are ultimately soldiers for corporate buffoonery… maybe a simple question, big deal, the years leading up to our road trip and this question I assumed any and all religious/spiritual believers were harmful to the future of human evolution, but at that point in my life I had met a handful of decent christians and others who were spiritual and unshakable in their beliefs and it was always these kind of spiritual folks who would have no problem hanging out with amy & myself, but the religious… beyond fearful, so afraid, they didn’t want to know.

so, our trip and the “is there a difference between religion and spirituality” question, along with all of the great answers confirmed my thoughts that religion is for weak minded scared little sheep, but, now I was able to add to my philosophy a compassionate thought about the spiritual, those who find and define a personal spirituality are thoughtful, they think, they work at it, they listen to others, the exact opposite of the closed off religious. as far as the human animal being a monster, well, the human can be scary, and if enough of us humans get together with an idea to control and manipulate people we can certainly create a monster or two for use as a tool of fear, but you need blind followers to give a monster life, so I’d say it takes a manmade monster and a whole lot of ignorant followers to turn a town against people.

AMY: It did not matter that we’d moved to the northern Minnesota wilderness because my father, who had retired up there some 15 years earlier, had had a stroke.  Everyone in my family wanted to put him in a home or stick him in their basement, and I knew either choice would kill him, the only chance he had to recover was to be where he loved to be – in his home near Ely, MN. We gave up a lot to be there for him, we had just sold our house and were planning to move to NYC. This was the total opposite of that plan, but Shane made it work, he came up with a gourmet Blueberry soda pop and soon we were bringing in semi-trucks of it. It was really taking off.

Then, we decided it was weird a tourist town had not updated their visitor’s website in over three years, so we made our own, and that expanded to doing a podcast — the first one in the Northwoods, we started an arts paper. We didn’t make a dime off that website or paper, we did it to help.

We donated a pallet of soda to help the hockey team keep their ice maintained all season, and we were trying to save the school’s art program with an event for the movie A Christmas Story when the shunning began.  

None of those good deeds mattered to anyone. Those good Christians cared not for our deeds that they could see right in front of them, or the positive relationships we had built in the community. They decided we were bad based on online work we’d done, websites in the virtual world, interviews Shane had done, some a decade old.

Even the so-called artists and thinking people of the community turned on us because they did not want the finger pointed at them. 

It all came down to an anonymous letter that three or four people were behind, it called us devil worshippers. Because of it, stores pulled our soda from shelves, I was unhired from a new job, not because people even thought what was in the letter was true really, but because they did not want to go against the grain. 

We really did not have a chance. The worst part of all was leaving my dad. 

It has had terrible long lasting effects for us. I’ve still lost jobs over this stuff, it really follows you, it scares people, and it makes us seem paranoid.

A few years back I read that more than half of the kids in “gifted programs” listen to metal, and maybe that is just it, even metal it seeks its own level, there is metal for the not-too-bright, and there is metal for the kids who are too smart for the world they were born into. I think many kids who are super smart are pretty cynical about things, and if you are sensitive or compassionate the suffering of the world is crushing.

That being said, why do you think it is that metal is fascinated with evil, Satan, murder, war, sodomy, disease, power, control and torture? It sounds like the musings of either an abused child or a child abuser. Is there any connection to how our society chooses to organize itself?

SHANE: our tribe/clan may have been broken up by war or natural catastrophe, maybe metal is a base and visceral sound for the underclass tribe/clan we all seem to belong. … or maybe metal is the sound of war and those who are attracted to metal are either natural warriors or those individuals that have stepped into a mind for war based on circumstances beyond their control… I’ve always seen metal as a life force, a clannish beat that has once again brought us together by empowering the used and abused. so maybe you have a point, I’m not sure, for me, metal is in my earliest memories… it seemed natural to me and I was abused as a child and as I recall, the early metal shows did seem to be a place where all the abused and lost met up… either that or the punk rock shows, though, it’s always seemed to me punks have very different politics vs. metalheads so, maybe it’s not the abuse, or the warmth of a parent, or the lack of attention from a teacher that drove us to leather, spikes and denim, maybe it was our natural politics of might makes right/survival of the fittest that has brought us together.

AMY: That is just who we are as metal heads, we are the people from the wrong side of the tracks, we’ve seen too much too soon, and no one in society holds out any hope for us.  We are the throwaways.  

Bands sing about what they know and where they are from, and they sing to kids who know the same. If death and destruction is what you experience, that is what you will be attracted to musically. 

I never liked pop music, it just meant nothing to me. AC/DC’s ‘Problem Child’, now THAT I could relate to. A happy kid from a nice community is not gonna want to listen to Venom. 

A few years back I read that more than half of the kids in “gifted programs” listen to metal, and maybe that is just it, even metal it seeks its own level, there is metal for the not-too-bright, and there is metal for the kids who are too smart for the world they were born into. I think many kids who are super smart are pretty cynical about things, and if you are sensitive or compassionate the suffering of the world is crushing. You got to get that out somehow, and aggressive music is as good a way as any.

I started going to a lot of metal and hardcore shows when I was in high school in the mid to late 1980s, the scene then was really small, and everyone knew everyone. There was a kinship there because we were all messed up.  In those days, if you fell in the pit someone always picked you up. There was a unity in the metal scene, it felt safe. I can remember the most outrageous hardcore people being worried if we would get home okay, driving an hour out of their way to take me home, or offering a place to stay. 

Sure there are exceptions to every rule, but I would say most metal heads are smarter than their opportunities in life provide for, and that creates frustration. Not only are they smart, but they are sensitive, maybe more sensitive than most, kind of like how tribes can pick out the kids who will become the shaman, they have that added ability to feel the world around them, I think metal heads are a lot like that. Perhaps that is where the connection comes from.

If you had any advice for teenage metalheads, based on your successes and failures (we’ve all had them), what would it be?

SHANE: dream, but do the work to manifest the dream.

through out my time producing and publishing, a lot of folks will meet me and it seems they look me up and down and try to understand how I, a person they automatically discounted could, let’s say, own his own soda company or, publish books, and the big difference between me and them, I work long hours at it, I’m totally dedicated, and when the project no longer becomes fun, I continue to struggle through it and I work even harder.

as far as my failures go, they all stem from childhood issues that took me far too long to figure out, so I would advise the metal youth to understand themselves and the reasons they are angry and then work on re-directing those energies into something creative or at the very least productive… depression is for the food of the world, don’t be food.

AMY: The best advice Shane and I got on the road – “You don’t have to be what people say you are”. That came from an 88 year old lady who really knew about the world. It may be the best advice ever.

The world is vast, and the teen years matter so little once you get out of them. If your life sucks read a lot, learn how to manage your money, and plan your escape. The kids I knew who had no goals are mostly dead.

Don’t let yourself be trapped in stagnation from fear, we are all scared.  Standing still is way scarier than moving forward if you are on a tightrope, just keep moving forward. 

And, you know that saying “You got to have something to fall back on if ___ doesn’t work out?” It’s a lie. If you have something to fall back on you will. Give your true passion 100% then if it fails, and you have exhausted all possibilities, that is when you work on plan B.

Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance (reconsidered)

darkthrone-the_underground_resistanceA few days ago, we published a controversial review of the new Darkthrone album, The Underground Resistance. Wherever this has been mentioned, it has generated quite a backlash from people who want to assure us that they indeed do not find it so devoid of benefit, and want to remind us that we’re simply dour sourpusses who hate anything except the avantgarde.

I am aware that human beings specialize in denial, and that our method of handling denial is transference and projection, by which we invert accountability and place it on those who do not conform to social expectations, which is a vast tolerance of everything and anything that some living breathing human has put out. As a result, I don’t expect much from the first wave of reviews anywhere, but I’m also not the kind of jerkoff editor who will cut his writers off at the knees.

This left only one solution: listen to The Underground Resistance myself.

This is more difficult than it seems. I do not believe youth is the sweetest time of life; in fact, I hate nostalgia. But when I was developing (or clarifying) the most important ideas and truths I have found in this life, it was a reasonable guess that Darkthrone might have been on the stereo (back then, we used big hulking stereo amplifiers with CD players to reproduce sound from a primitive form of MP3 file stored on a physical medium with reflective bits). In fact, I can remember a number of important discoveries in which Darkthrone featured prominently by being the soundtrack to some dark and some light realizations, and at least one Darkthrone tape (ah yes, youngsters; unless you were rich, you had a “cassette tape player” in your car, to which you dubbed CDs using your big hulking stereo, and then played primitive analogues of MP3 files using magnetic flipped bits on chromium dioxide-covered plastic tape) that lived in my car during a dark era when I drove many miles at night under the threat of an uncertain future.

When I had triumphs, I threw on Transilvanian Hunger, which was a cry to war for a generation. When I studied late at night, Soulside Journey was often on the stereo (low volume, using an anachronistic physical volume knob — crazy shit, man). I remember first “getting” the black metal ideal when listening to Under a Funeral Moon, and realizing this was the revenge of the naturalists. It wasn’t bad production; it was organic sound, a blaze of it, in which the message hid like a signal/noise ratio refinement experiment. It was deliberately obscured, esoteric music in which one could hide the truths that a dying society could no longer face. I loved it, and still do, but I really hate nostalgia. Nostalgia says the best days were past; that’s nonsense, since we learn every day and constantly get better at being who we are. That last sentence contained the main point of this article.

The context in which Darkthrone exists for its longtime listeners is hard to express, however. It’s somewhere aligned with worship and built on trust. We entrusted our hopes, fears, terrors and anger to Darkthrone back in the day, and in exchange vested in them a belief in them as musicians and people. They were no longer just a bunch of guys bashing on guitars, but sages, deliverers of wisdom. Maybe this is wrong, but black metal is a somewhat messianic genre to which children run when they start to realize that the modern world is not a train to Utopia, but a train wreck of false illusions and trends which the majority of people are too zombie-drugged on consumerism and ideology to notice. We the children of this dead world were seeking some reason to keep going and to thrive, and Darkthrone gave us those reasons among other black metal sages.

As a result, it’s impossible (think of Heisenberg) to simply listen to a Darkthrone album. Too much comes with it: history, context, emotion. For many artists, this is good. For example, Robert Fripp and Brian Eno are still making ambient music and their faithful buy up each one and revel in the new space discovered. Some bands find niches and are able to keep improving. Others flatten out, having lost the point of what they were doing, and instead try to become inclusive and patch together all their influences and all the stuff they know makes people happy to listen to their songs. The result is like a hotel room, in that it fits everyone’s specifications but no one’s needs.

When I first listened to The Underground Resistance, I was tempted to consider Jon Wild’s piece inaccurate. Darkthrone have made an album of pleasant music that is equal parts Iron Maiden, Celtic Frost and random death metal and speed metal era influences. I caught Slayer references, something that sounded like a Destruction cadence, and many riff types from the last four decades of metal. I doubt any of this is wholly and completely lifted, but I could be wrong. The fact is that they’re of the same archetypes. However, that has no bearing on whether the album is good or not. If someone were to assemble songs of classic riffs, and give those riffs new life by putting them together in a song which was evocative of some emotion or concept, then that would be a victory. Originality doesn’t matter, because no matter what you’re doing, Haydn did it four centuries ago, or Mozart slightly later. That’s the great farce of music. It’s not about discovering some new theory about making music, but about making music, and much as you’d write a story or sculpt a figurine, using those skills to shape raw material into something which reminds us of something truthful in life. The best art becomes “classic” because it did that better than anyone else.

However, as time went on, I realized Jon is both far off — and dead on. The problem with this album is not the recycled riffs, or the style, or the goofy vocals. It’s that it has nothing to express except that a metal band made an album out of things they knew would work. We know Fenriz and Nocturno Culto can put together a great catchy album in their sleep, and have it humming it all year if they want. Here, they seem exhausted, a couple of old buddies who got together on the weekend to jam and when it was done, cut the tape and mailed it off. This tendency is most clear in the fills that connect riffs to one another. They are obvious in the sense of being very basically musically, not adapted to the song, not possessed of grace. They just tie together some riffs and do an adequate job, and that’s apparently all that’s required.

Remember above how I said the main point of the article was encoded in a sentence about nostalgia? We should always be growing in knowledge and power, and moving toward being better at what we do. Darkthrone still have this in them; for some reason, they’re tired of exercising it. In doing so, they’ve become a cult of their own entropy. There’s nothing wrong with this album except that it has nothing to recommend it. It is competent; it’s fun to listen to; I never want to hear it again. It is people who gave up on their own future and now are doing what the world expects of them, just like going to a job. Our world is broken and failed indeed if it has condemned such talented people to such a fate, but I hope they pull out of this tailspin because they as people and Darkthrone as a concept are worth doing better than this.

Stratovarius release new track “Halcyon Days”

stratovarius-nemesisLong ago, back when people mailed out physical promos of albums, I got an album in the mail from Stratovarius. I could tell from looking at it that it was power metal. I put it on the shelf behind the grindcore.

Power metal is interesting. Musically, it’s essentially speed metal (just like most “thrash metal”). The difference is that there’s some death metal technique, borrowed from Judas Priest’s Painkiller, that gives it some heft. However, there’s something else about it.

The music uses vocals designed to inspire and take people through a range of emotions rather quickly. It’s more like traditional heavy metal, but much more emotional, like Queensryche turned up to 11. There’s also something else, and it took me many years to recognize it.

In the American south, we have many gospel music traditions. Gospel music is what happens when you take hymns and treat them like 1920s jazz. They lose the classical music feel, and get more emotional and have a bit more of that “inspirational” feeling.

I’m not saying this is an influence on power metal, only that it sounds that way. This is not new for metal. Early gospel music influences include “War Pigs” from Black Sabbath, which fits the song format nearly perfectly. It’s worship music.

As a result of this realization, I had never really been a power metal person. I liked Helstar, sure, because Nosferatu is just a killer album no matter how you slice it. The Maiden/Slayer mix on that makes for almost an ideal form of metal. But when you add operatic vocals…

Stratovarius changed some things for me. For starters, I thought that musically it was quite adept and spirited. I also liked the way its focus on epic topics was in a metal tradition that stretches from Voivod through Atheist. Interesting stuff.

In any case, Stratovarius has released a new single in video form. Generally, their stuff is better than the average for power metal, or for metal at this point, and it’s epic enough to fit with the death metal vibe. So check this out, and see what you think.

March of the Cadavers 2013 Tour: Deceased and Gravehill on the road

deceased_gravehill-march_of_the_cadavers_2013_tourDeath metal early adopters Deceased begin their 2013 tour with special guests Gravehill on the “March of the Cadavers 2013 Tour” tomorrow in Albuquerque, NM.

Long-supportive of both the death metal scene and the primal horror-based heavy metal that went before it, Deceased are famous for being one of the first death metal bands to have recognizable technical prowess at a time when most people thought of death metal as violent incompetents with loud guitars.

Since those hazy early days, Deceased has continued releasing material and has mutated into a crossover between side-projects (October 31, Doomstone) and the band itself, ending up as a classic heavy metal band with death metal technique and horror-inspired, literate and funny lyrics.

Gravehill are middle-of-the-road, ear-friendly high-energy death metal that has made converts of people looking for music to party to — preferably with the dead — across the globe. 2011’s When All Roads Lead to Hell, on Dark Descent Records, won them fans and acclaim in both aboveground and underground metal.

March of the Cadavers 2013 Tour Dates:

Saturday March 9th @ Hooligans – Albuquerque, NM
Sunday March 10th @ Rocky Point Cantina – Phoenix, AZ
Monday March 11th @ Slidebar – Fullerton, CA
Tuesday March 12th @ Los Globos – Los Angeles, CA
Wednesday March 13th @ Elbo Room – San Francisco, CA
Thursday March 14th @ Burt’s Tiki Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT
Friday March 15th @ Aqualung – Denver, CO
Saturday March 16th @ Cheyenne Saloon – Las Vegas, NV.** (w/ AVENGER OF BLOOD & SPUN IN DARKNESS)

** no DECEASED