Mercyful Fate – Melissa is 30 years old today

mercyful_fate-melissaReleased on October 30, 1983, the first album from Denmark’s Mercyful Fate proved to be a decisive one for metal. While the band never ventured behind a NWOBHM-speed metal hybrid comparable to Blitzkrieg/Satan, Tank or Diamond Head, the uniquely operatic vocals of King Diamond and the band’s ability to write compelling heavy metal that also had a touch of the otherworldly quickly made Mercyful Fate an important band.

While many have written about their influence on black metal, it’s important to mention that this is not a black metal band, or album. Expect heavy metal, with the type of muted-strum riffs that later made speed metal capture the attention of metalheads worldwide, but with a greater focus on dynamics and pacing. On the surface, it sounds like many other bands from the era, but Mercyful Fate gave the music a unique spin and pushed quality over the top.

As a result, the band, fronted by the legendary King Diamond in his Alice Cooper-inspired face paint, became a staple of the “below-mainstream” metal crowd and quickly won a place on every metal record store’s walls. Through a series of early albums such as Melissa and Don’t Break the Oath, the band gradually shaped metal’s underground away from repetitive intensity and more toward the type of operatic variation in intensity that marked the influences on King Diamond’s vocals.

30 years have passed since this album first detonated car stereos and home units, but its influence is vast and hard to estimate. First, it shaped bands like Metallica toward more imaginative and melodic songwriting; next, it shaped black metal as a melodic, dynamic, motif-driven genre. Finally, the band’s outright flirtation with Satanism as a form of successor philosophy to the genteel benevolence of the society at the time influenced the metal to follow in non-musical as well as musical ways.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGQFdv6ayHY

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Ildjarn – Seven Harmonies of Unknown Truths

ildjarn-seven_harmonies_of_unknown_truthsOriginally shunned by most of the “new and wise” black metal community in the post-1995 era, Ildjarn emerged shrouded in mystery, and its renown has increased over the past almost two decades through the appreciation of writers and fellow musicians.

Seven Harmonies of Unknown Truths packages an early Ildjarn demo by the same name into a CD/LP release that showcases this band’s potent sound that mixed black metal, oi, drone and primitive folk music. The album has been released on Eisenwald Records and can be ordered here.

While those who have heard early Ildjarn will note the similarity to both the self-titled release and the material on the Ildjarn-Nidhogg compilation, but like other Ildjarn EP-length material Seven Harmonies of Unknown Truths presents a slower and more atmospheric vision of this band.

Structured as seven numbered tracks plus the archetypal Ildjarn song “Death Dynamics,” Seven Harmonies of Unknown Truths is like most Ildjarn releases an ambient composition as a whole where songs serve as motifs. Varying between the doomy and the faster edge of mid-paced, these songs return us to the lawless forest where the spirit of Ildjarn resides.

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Queensrÿche releases documentary about new album, mini movie

queensryche-2013_lineup

Queensrÿche began their reign as an Iron Maiden-inspired band that blended American west coast hard rock and progressive guitar rock with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

The result peaked in their most famous release, Operation: Mindcrime, which showed equal parts influences from Yes, Led Zeppelin and The Number of the Beast. The result plus passionate songwriting and intensely theatrical vocals proved a hit with fans and critics alike.

Currently, Queensrÿche are preparing a mini movie that uses tracks from their current self-titled album to tell a ten-minute story. The film, Queensrÿche: Ad Lucem, is expected to be released later this month with the followed embedded Queensrÿche songs: “Spore” “Midnight Lullaby” “A World Without” and “X2.”

Queensrÿche: Ad Lucem was created by Veva Entertainment in coordination with Queensrÿche and is directed by Daniel Andres Gomez Bagby and produced by Marco De Molina. It was filmed last month on location at Central City Stages in Los Angeles.

    Queensrÿche is:

  • Todd La Torre (vocals)
  • Michael Wilton (guitars)
  • Parker Lundgren (guitars)
  • Eddie Jackson (bass)
  • Scott Rockenfield (drums)

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Interview with Chewy Correa of Organic

organic-band_photo

Many years ago, when I was desperately buying up any and all death metal to feed the voracious ears of the listeners of an underground metal radio program, I stumbled upon an album by a band called Organic Infest. The cover used unusual covers, but was dripping in gore-imagery, so I gave it a listen.

Organic Infest is now Organic, and we were lucky to be able to speak with Chewy Correa, bassist and driving force behind this long-standing underground metal band.

Click here for the full interview with Chewy Correa of Organic (formerly Organic Infest).

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Interview: Chewy Correa of Organic

organic-band_photo

Many years ago, when I was desperately buying up any and all death metal to feed the voracious ears of the listeners of an underground metal radio program, I stumbled upon an album by a band called Organic Infest. The cover used unusual covers, but was dripping in gore-imagery, so I gave it a listen.

I quickly found what was in my estimation one of the undiscovered high points of that fertile period, which was a band that creatively merged the American heavy death metal sound with a European sensibility and its own articulation. Like many of those early bands, Organic Infest wrote their music from a viewpoint that was their own, and thus they made convincing music despite struggles with production and distribution.

Two decades later and very few bands achieve this ability to write from their own viewpoint. Many are able to adopt the musical language of others; this can turn out well, but usually does not. Some come up with their own perspective, but it doesn’t correlate to their actual inner feelings or the outward order of the world, so it’s of little relevance to anyone but themselves.

Organic Infest (now Organic) has kept up their own unique and relevant work during this time. To many of us, their uncompromising spirit and clarity of vision makes them an undercover standout to this day. For that reason, it is with great pleasure that I introduce bassist “Chewy” Correa from Organic.

I understand that some years ago you changed the name of the band from Organic Infest to Organic. Why did you make this change, and do you think it reflects a change in how metal bands are naming themselves and seeing themselves at this point?

We decided to make the change of the name in 2005 after our original guitarist left the band. The main reasons for Juan my drummer, and I to make the change on the name were that we wanted a new beginning for the band and also the lyrics. The lyrics were gore type in the beginning so the name Organic Infest was good then, but I started to write in a more diverse way so the name Organic gives us more freedom in terms of themes for songs. Well, we think that the name of the band is a thing not to be taken lightly. After all it is what will represent the band worldwide and the name in our opinion should be like the main theme for the band. I know many bands these days that use a name just because it sounds “cool,” and when you read their lyrics they have nothing or very little to do in relation with the name.

As I recall, you’re a bassist and Organic lost a guitarist, so you began using a higher-tuned piccolo bass instead of guitars. How has this worked out? Has it changed the way you write songs?

After a lot of experimenting, I finally have the sound that I wanted. This piccolo thing came out as a solution to our problem. When our original guitarist left and we changed the name to Organic we found an incredible guitarist ED Díaz, but after one year and nine months he left the band too. So one day my drummer Juan told me, “man put some distortion to your bass and let’s just play.” At first we were joking about it but then the idea became real after I listened to a fusion bassist named Brian Bromberg who uses a piccolo bass like a guitar on his album “Metal,” so I said to myself if he does that in fusion I will do that in metal. About the songwriting it did not change for me because all the material I wrote when there were guitarists in the band I wrote with the bass. The process stayed the same with the addition of me doing the guitar parts on my piccolo bass.

Back when you were Organic Infest, you put out the album Penitence way back in 1993. In fact, it’s been 20 years recently and you commemorated this by streaming all your albums on your website. What do you think of Penitence looking back at it now?

Well, in my opinion it is the work of young and inexperienced musicians playing what they liked the most at that time. I am not saying that the music is bad, but obviously we could have done something way better at least on the production side of things. If you read all the reviews for that album they all agree on the same, cool music with very bad production.

How do you think metal has changed since that time? Does the underground still exist?

Metal has changed a lot since that time in many ways. Those times were really difficult for everything, from promotion to recording. Nowadays, promotion is a breeze with the internet thing, and recording has become the easiest thing with more and more bands being able to have their own home studios. On the other side, nowadays is also difficult in terms of competition. There are thousands of metal bands now everywhere, all wanting to have their shot at being the best. The underground still exists, and will exist forever because there are always underground bands playing those obscure gigs that the more established bands don’t want or like to play because they are not good for exposure.

Many were critical of the production on Penitence and other recordings you have released. Do you think they’re right, or is this a “the production (medium) fits the message” argument like certain black metal bands have advanced?

Yes, I totally agree that the production on Penitence is probably one of the worst metal productions in existence but it was the result of what I mentioned before: our total lack of experience and a recording engineer who just wanted the money and practically ripped us off. The production on the Agony EP, was a bit better but it was recorded on a moderate home studio so we could not really do more than we did. With The Way To Temptation album the production I think is a decent one; it could have been better but the guitarist was the only one attending the mixing sessions so Juan and I had almost no input on the mix at all. We expect that our new recordings will finally have a good overall production that our fans can enjoy.

Do you feel you have had an inverse relationship to trends in metal? For example, they go black metal, and you head toward percussive choppy death metal; they go death metal again, and you come up with more tremolo picked material.

Definitely! I hate trends, whenever there was a trend growing I would always go the opposite way, and still do it like that. For example, our new material is completely different, while many bands are heading for a more modern stuff while we are delving deep in our influences and musical roots.

What do you view as your influences? What genre(s) do you feel you combine or create within?

The three of us have many different influences. For instance, for me Metal is my religion and main musical genre, but I also like and listen to classical, fusion, and flamenco. As far as metal bands go we listen to everything we like from bands like Iron Maiden to Cannibal Corpse and everything in between. Genres that we combine… everything metal. We have doom, speed, power, thrash, death, and black metal, all combined in our style and sound.

Elsewhere, you mention that Coroner is your main influence. How does that manifest in your music?

Yes, for me Coroner is the biggest influence along with King Diamond, Candlemass, and Death. I have their influence and it reflects in my songwriting, but I always try not to sound too obvious or like a copy. It manifests mainly on our mid-tempo riffs, and on the more technical stuff.

Can you tell us what the status is of Organic at this time — do you have more releases coming up, and will we see you on tour in Puerto Rico or the mainland?

Our status at this time is very good and focused one. Yes, there will be more releases coming up and many good things and shows for the band in Puerto Rico and internationally. I definitely think that this next 2014 is going to be a great year for us.

How do you compose songs? What do you start with (an image, an idea, a riff, a scale)? Has this changed with the departure of your guitarist?

The process of composing for me is different every time. Sometimes I come up with complete lyrics and how to sing them and everything, then I add the music and bring it to rehearsals and we arrange the song. Also there could be times when we come up with something good jamming on a rehearsal and later I compose around it and bring the finished material to a practice session, and then I add the lyrics. The scales that I use for composing the most are the Harmonic Minor, and the Half/Whole version of the diminished scale, along with the Aeolian and Locrian modes.

I know there’s a metal conference coming up which is designed to discover the roots of metal as a community. Will you be offering your view there? What is “community” in metal?

The conference will be a great event. We will definitely be present at the conference, because we are part of the history of our metal scene. “Community” in metal refers to everyone from the bands to the fans that attend to the shows and events that deal with the music we all share as our form of expression. Also refers to the cultural aspects that represent what we are in our social environment.

Organic Infest had a hiatus between 1993 and 2001, if I’m reading these other interviews correctly. What made you decide to come back? Are those reasons still going strong?

That hiatus happened because our original guitarist left the band for the first time to move to the United States after he got married, looking for a better life. He decided to return to Puerto Rico and in 2000 we got together again because we wanted to continue with what we like to do the most, play Metal!!! Definitely those reasons are still going strong, and will be until I die!

Are there any plans to re-issue your former works?

Personally, I have always wished to know what Penitence would sound like with better production. Even though that is not the style we play anymore, and I might do it one day, maybe even sooner than many people think. Maybe not only Penitence, but also some of the older material like the song Organic Infest from our “Drown In Blood” demo.

Well Brett Stevens and Death Metal Underground, on behalf of Tony (bass), Juan (drums) and myself (Chewy, piccolo bass and vocals) thanks a lot for the great interview and your support to the band. We will keep you informed on the bands new releases and important shows so people can follow up through your excellent website. Hails!!!

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Blaspherian recording new 7″ entitled Upon the Throne of Eternal Blasphemous Death

blaspherian_liveTexas rolling destruction death metal band Blaspherian will enter Big Door Studios in Webster, TX on November 24th to finish recording two tracks for an upcoming 7″ entitled Upon the Throne of Eternal Blasphemous Death.

The new recording will be released through Iron Bonehead recordings, following a split 7″ between Blaspherian and Texas death metal legends Imprecation which will be released on Dark Descent Records.

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Empyrium releases Dead Winter Days before live appearance

empyrium-dead_winter_waysSomewhat reclusive epic folk/funeral doom band Empyrium will be playing live in Berlin on November 22, 2013, and in advance of this are releasing Dead Winter Days on 12″ EP.

Dead Winter Days is described as a preview of Empyrium’s 2014 return to form, The Turn of the Tides, following their successful Into the Pantheon live DVD/CD release.

The band will be performing with a high-profile lineup in addition to the two regular band members, including Konstanz (The Vision Bleak), Neige (Alcest), Eviga (Dornenreich), Fursy Teyssier (Les Discrets), Aline Deinert (Neun Welten) and Christoph Kutzer (Remember Twilight).

According to Prophecy Productions, the band’s record label, the live set will involve a grand piano as well as other folk instrumentation and a new selection of classic songs for an intense performance.

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Warmaster – The End of Humanity

warmaster-the_end_of_humanityBrace yourselves: there are two masters of war. One, War Master (with a space), is from Texas and make old school death metal. The other, Warmaster (no space), are from The Netherlands and make grind-infused old school death metal.

The End of Humanity begins with one of the few Discharge-inspired apocalypse intros that are worth hearing and suggests to me a long lineage in grind. What follows is death metal in the American style with influences from Terrorizer and Blood.

Since they’re Dutch, and will get compared to Dutch bands anyway, it is worth mentioning that there is a passing similarity to the first album from Sinister, perhaps infused with something that uses a bit more rhythmic fluidity as opposed to internal conflict, more like an American heavy death metal band like Malevolent Creation.

Thick luscious vocals growl alongside the beat, injecting something almost like groove except for its offsetting contrast to the mood. Riffs, while bludgeoning streams of power chords, show a high degree of internal tempo change that gives them texture, and occasional melody. This marches forward on functional drumming that knows when to stay out of the limelight and accent guitars to build a greater surge of mood.

Allusions to Blood dot the album, from the abrupt tempo changes to the rhythmic position of vocals in respect to the snare. However, there’s a whole host of other allusions too from the classic death metal world, but none are lifts. They are similar ideas, applied in new ways.

While The End of Humanity tapers off into songs that are slightly more experimental and more sparse and drawn out, the intense roiling wave of power from the first half carries through and makes the whole an enjoyable experience. Like the bands it honors with its style, Warmaster is going its own way, driven by its own quest, and the result exceeds what any emulation could achieve.

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Warbeast to play Housecore Horror Film Festival on Friday, October 25

warbeast-texas

Those of you who have read our coverage of the Housecore Horror Film Festival know that it’s a music/movies event starting today in Austin, TX that will feature a number of prominent metal bands.

Among those, Warbeast stands out as a unique hybrid between past and future. Comprised of members from classic Texas speed/death metal bands like Rotting Corpse, Gammacide and Rigor Mortis, Warbeast presents a modernized version of the speed metal classics of the 1980s with faster tempo changes, more abrupt riffing and more chaotic transitions.

Frontman Bruce Corbitt is the guy everyone wanted to emulate back in 1989. While other bands were lumping their way through yet another tedious song about social justice and how you shouldn’t take drugs, Bruce tore up the stage casually singing about murder, occultism and terror: With five easy slices, you’re in six lovely pieces / Bodily dismemberment as passion increases.

In his current role with Warbeast, he’s revitalizing a new scene and will do it live in front of you at Emo’s in Austin just before 9pm this Friday night. In the meantime, Bruce gives us the rundown on Warbeast and how they came to play a horror movie and metal music festival.

Warbeast released a new album this year, entitled Destroy, which seems to have turned up the volume. What’s different on Destroy versus the first album?

It started with the writing… Scott Shelby wrote the majority of the music and I wrote the majority of the lyrics. Once he had the music part of the songs down with the rest of the musicians in the band… I would add the lyrics later. For some songs he would have a general idea for what he had in mind for what the lyrics should be about. For the other songs, I would get a feel for what the music reminded me of before I came up with the subject to write about. So we had a good system going when we were preparing these songs to record in the studio. Plus we already knew what it was like to work with Philip Anselmo as our Producer. So the chemistry was even better when we recorded this album.

On the first album we were still a relatively new band coming up with our first originals. Some of those songs came from material that was written before Warbeast. I guess what I’m saying is that by the time we started writing for Destroy… we were more aware of what we wanted the band to sound like. I’m proud of both albums and love the fact that they’re different… but they both sound like Warbeast.

How do you think Warbeast will develop in the future? Are you working on new material now?

We intend to keep progressing and improving as a band in all areas. If we can continue to top our last effort on each new album… I would be happy with that. Hopefully we can keep a busy tour schedule like we have in recent years. Yes, we’ve recently started the early stages of writing for a third full-length Warbeast album. So we plan to enter the studio and record it sometime in 2014.

You’ll be playing the Housecore Horror Film Festival in Austin on October 24-27. What are you looking forward to with this performance?

I’m really honored and I feel very fortunate to just be part of this. This will hopefully become an annual event that fans of Horror and Metal will look forward to every year. So it’s really cool to play at the inaugural HHFF! This is one of those highlights from all these years in bands that I know I will be proud of for the rest of my life.

Just the fact that there is going to be such a huge gathering or Horror and Metal fans all assembled for one big weekend will make this a special show for Warbeast. So I’m sure we will be fired up and ready to have some fun when we perform on Friday night.

I understand you have a longstanding relationship with horror films. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

It goes back to when I was a little kid. I always loved Halloween, Haunted Houses, monster movies etc. I loved TV shows like The Munsters and The Addams Family. As far as movies… at first it was the classic Universal Monsters (Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Dracula etc) and also the Godzilla movies that I would try to catch on TV. Once I started going to see movies at the theaters… it was always the Horror Movies I wanted to see.

Then when VCRs came around in the 80s.. I was always in the Horror section when I went to rent or buy movies. Of course I started recording and collecting movies and my Horror Movie collection became immense. Then when I joined Rigor Mortis in 1986 and they already had the Horror and Gore image and theme going… I fit right in with that shit. It was cool to sing about some of our favorite Horror movies. Even on the upcoming Rigor Mortis album Slaves To The Grave and also on the Warbeast album Destroy I’m still singing songs about Horror movies or stories.

Finally, for those who are new to Warbeast, what should they expect at a Warbeast show, and why should they make sure to come see Warbeast if they’re at HHFF?

They should be prepared for an old-school dose of Texas Thrash Metal, a non-stop jolt of energy coming from every member of the band and an adrenaline rush that could wake up the dead. We want it to feel like Godzilla has entered the building! We want to get the crowd warmed up for Goblin and Down… so we will be ready, serious and focused to do just that…

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Rigor Mortis to release Slaves to the Grave in 2014

mike_scaccia-rigor_mortis

Influential Texas speed-death band Rigor Mortis will return with a new album entitled Slaves to the Grave sometime in 2014.

Recorded with their 1988 lineup including now-deceased guitarist Mike Scaccia, Slaves to the Grave was recorded during February 2012 at 13th Planet Studios in El Paso, Texas.

According to the band, this will be the final Rigor Mortis release and a “swan song” to Scaccia, who died on December 23, 2012 while performing at the Rail Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

    Tracklist:

  1. Poltergeist
  2. Rain Of Ruin
  3. Flesh For Flies
  4. The Infected
  5. Blood Bath
  6. Ancient Horror
  7. Fragrance Of Corpse
  8. Curse Of The Draugr
  9. Sacramentum Gladiatorum (Scaccia Instrumental)
  10. Ludus Magnus (Guest Vocal appearance by Al Jourgensen)
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