Portal – Swarth

The mystery behind this Australian band as well as their approach to music making has been very appealing ever since they arrived at the scene with their demo back in 1998. The boiling cauldron of Lovecraftian aesthetics, ambient and death metal appears to be potent enough to completely reinvent the genre and this is something we secretly hope for with every Portal release… But it never happens. Well, not quite. There is always something that stands in the way of the pure demonic current: be it compositional flaws, production quality or artwork. The latest release is no exception here.

The servants of Chaos return with their third full-length effort. Following the pattern set by its predecessor, Outre (2007) the songs on Swarth take the muddy path of broken arrangements jumping in and out of focus constantly. The vocals are buried in the mix and thus enhance the overall blurry feel of this sound wall. The jagged, at times almost black metal-sounding guitar backdrop wails and waves over the skittering, jazzy drumming. The band manages to recreate the menacing sonic world of Immolation (an obvious influence here), yet where Immolation weaves their melodies and rhythms into some otherworldly math, Portal attempt at playing “ambient” death metal. These attempts often result in completely vague and non-inspired parts, a gray monotonous sound shimmer. The highlights of the album (“Omenknow”, “Marityme” and “Werships”, the latter being a re-recorded version of the track appeared on 2004’s Sweyy EP) feature some nice half-melodies, “inverted” riffing and conceivable – yet no less chaotic, – rhythm structure. Slowing things down a little definitely helps these Lovecraftian priests to get a better idea of their own conjuring and set up a good involving atmosphere.

An important note: Portal badly needs a good visual artist. With so much of their appeal coming from on-stage imagery, theatrics and general entourage it seems like the obvious Photoshop approach to their album artwork paired with some bad taste comic art doodles is extremely ill-advised. The band pictures are always appropriately evil though. Go see them live at MDF next year!

-The Eye in the Smoke-

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Sadist – Sadist

sadist-sadist

Many people, upon reading what we have posted here, assume we’re anti-progressive death metal. People note how much we squirt used nutrients all over Opeth, the latest Cynic or abortions of taste like Origin, and in order to justify their outrage, claim we don’t like prog metal. In fact, the opposite is true: we love prog metal, and go hog wild for bands like Atheist, Obliveon, Voivod, Gorguts and Pestilence. We even love classics of alternative progressive metal like Supuration. But what we don’t like is pose-prog, which is music that “sounds” progressive but is actually at blockhead levels of disorganization. Like Opeth. Like the new Cynic. Fake prog is bad prog, and because anyone who tries fake prog is probably a delusional and deceptive moron, is also usually bad music.

Today’s band isn’t death metal, and it’s “progressive lite” like Rush, in that there are difficult techniques and longer compositions at work, but not as much theoretical squirreling around key signature. From Italy, Sadist are a progressive death-ish metal band who love their keyboards, acoustic interludes and longer songs — just like Opeth. And like Cynic, they incorporate a ton of jazz-fusion technique, most notably in drums and bass.

On the whole, Sadist’s self-titled album is a lot like Obliveon’s Nemesis: beaucoups speed metal, some death metal, a lot of prog, some newer (“nu”) influences and then a sound all their own. What makes them different is that they are working in the genre split between speed metal and death metal where bands like Kreator, Destruction, Rigor Mortis and Slayer exist. Even more interesting is that by going progressive, they’ve approximated a sound halfway between older Sadus and newer Coroner.

The majority of the riffs on this CD are straight out of the speed metal canon, but on its rougher, more experimental edge, like those on Coroner’s “Grin,” and although they later merge with arpeggiated clean playing or lengthy keyboard interludes of a beauty not seen since Dimmu Borgir decided to rip off all that video game music for “Stormblast,” the songs follow a speed metal pattern like early Sadus: riff/chorus with divergences, but ultimately, returning to a fist-pumping foot-stomping chorus rhythm to complement the rhythms of drums and guitar.

The first track seems to me a fusion of the first and third Meshuggah albums, and that influences stretches throughout this album which made me at first want to avoid it, but the underlying music is of quality and fits in among other prog speed/death bands like Coroner, Sadus, Creepmime, later Voivod, etc. Vocals unfortunately show influence from nu-core (or more likely, Meshuggah), or all that metalcore-derived stuff (punk with speed metal pretensions and influences from metal, rock and jazz) that demands a ranting vocal rhythm that recurses every four syllables, causing out-of-the-closet assholes like me to wish we could make the vocal track Go Away for the remaining duration of a song.

These aesthetic concerns aside however, the music is quite good. What it isn’t is simplified enough in core, or theatrical enough, to stand out as well as the songs of, say, Atheist, so it’s less memorable. That isn’t to say less bad or less complex; in fact, it has more detail tied toward its core themes, but the core theme isn’t refracted throughout the details.

On the whole, this is a good album from an undernoticed band that has a better overall sense of metal going for it than its obvious competitive influences — Cynic, Meshuggah, Opeth, and Atheist are all influences here — with more of a sense of musicality than the newer “technical” bands that specialize in blockhead riffs at mind-bending speeds. It makes good rainy day listening, when the listener is already in a quiet state of mind and simply receptive, will find all the good this has to offer behind its somewhat cryptic aesthetic.

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Why record labels and stores are dying

Every time someone is bemoaning the dying state of the record industry, I get in trouble.

I get in trouble because I point out that it’s not just the record industry — it’s also the publishing industry and the movie industry.

What do these have in common? They’re entertainment. And also, since the 1980s and even more 1990s, they’ve become democratized. It’s easy for almost anyone to write a book, record an album, or make a movie.

And how well has that turned out for the industry, I ask. Did it make more Hemingways, Beethovens and Hitchcocks, or did it make more of a mid-1980s punk scene, where every fan had a band and none of them are good?

Because if it’s the latter, I tell people, you’re going to run out of money. You need real out of the ballpark smashes to make it in entertainment. You need a handful of names people can know, and buy, and always get quality. That’s how you build an audience.

If everything’s about as good as everything else, they’ll just download it, listen to the radio, or go without. Because there are no keepers. There are no names worth remembering. It’s sort of like a faucet, you turn it on and stuff comes out, and it’s about the same from one day to another, so it just serves a function. It doesn’t, you know, touch your soul or anything.

The usual suspects — hipsters, Democrats, religious fanatics, addicts of dangerous drugs, denial fiends, scenesters and emosexuals — turn on me at this point and say I’m being severe. No, they say. The reason the record industry is in deep doo-doo is file sharing.

O really? I say. Then what about the publishing industry? Everyone downloading their copies of The Lovely Bones now?

Of course they aren’t. Of course the usual suspects are wrong. Of course the most direct (not to be confused with “simplest”) answer is correct:

The industry is declining because it’s pumping out mediocre material.

…[H]ere are a few tidbits of information shared by publicist Ariel Hyatt about U.S. album sales in 2008: More than 115,000 albums were released, but only 110 sold more than 250,000 copies, a mere 1,500 topped 10,000 sales, and fewer than 6,000 cracked the 1,000 barrier — further evidence that sales of recorded music are not the way of the future for artists. Instead, it increasingly appears that recordings will be more like advertisements for opportunities that actually do make money: live performances, merchandise, licensing to movies, commercials and video games, ring tones, etc.

The Chicago Tribune

Yeah, somehow, I don’t think so. If it were that easy, they’d be doing just fine already.

More likely, they’re running into trouble selling their music, movies and books because they have been democratized: there are too many, and they’re too similar.

It works like this. In the old days, getting a script/book/album out is hard. That filters out most of the crap. Even more, you have editors and A&R guys to filter out more crap. Yeah, sometimes they get delusional with trends, but in general, they filter out most of the goo.

Then those go away.

So now anyone can make a record, book or film… so everyone does.

An upcoming artist looks at this and thinks: you know, whatever movie/book/record I make is going to get lost in the flood. I’m going to business school, getting into performance art, or participating in another type of art to make my name known. Because if I don’t make my name known, I starve.

And that’s the bottom line for artists: everyone you know is telling you you’re a moron for doing it, so you need to avoid starving or they’ll cluck “I told you so!” over your emaciated carcass. Having no ability to immediately separate yourself from the crowd and win on the basis of quality drives away quality artists, leaving the average ones. That means no great big awesome hits but lots of OK-not-great.

There are too many favorites of the day and not enough standouts of a lifetime, and that’s why the music, movie and publishing industries are choking themselves out.

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War Master – Chapel of Apocalypse (demo 2009)

War Master – Demo 2009 “Chapel of the Apocalypse”

For any career metalhead, it’s impossible to hear the name War Master without thinking of the classic Bolt Thrower album of the same name. Like that album, this demo is primitive and powerful grinding material; unlike the Bolt Thrower album, this material is less grindcore than old school death metal that grinds, and if you listen long enough, you can hear other classic death metal influences creeping in.

War Master takes the patterns of later Bolt Thrower, like For Victory… and IVth Crusade, and renders them in the simpler, messier and more rhythmic style of the first two Bolt Thrower releases. With three riffs per song on average, this music moves like a fighter and the riffs complement each other to make sense as a whole, which is the science of death metal. It borrows the best grind from Bolt Thrower and re-shapes it into metal songs like early Deicide or Morgoth.

Vocals are also more distinctively from a newer genre, influenced clearly by classic death metal as well as the newer *core styles, but they imitate the rhythms of old school Bolt Thrower. It’s gratifying and powerful, but these three songs give us only a glimpse. If War Master further develop their own style in which Bolt Thrower is an influence, and not the largest chunk of their template, their talent for creating rhythmically compelling music will take them far.

You can get this album from Torture Garden Picture Company distro for $4.

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Blessed are the Tales of the Sick

Many reissues of underground Metal CDs, especially onto the digipack format of packaging, have removed much of the experience of being immersed in the total artistic presentation that was part and parcel of the infernal sounds it contained on the disc. This is seemingly symptomatic of casual, background, mp3 listening, which feigns a disregard of anything external to the music itself, while at the same time a reduction of whatever’s being heard, to exactly that: ornament. There’s something to be said about the honest ritualism of setting time and space aside in this multi-tasking age of lifestreams and other such convergences of different faced distractions, in order to access deeper and darker worlds. Interesting cover art and a booklet complete with lyrics and liner notes all aid to this end.  Peaceville records reissued a large selection of their early 90′s back catalogue several years ago, with some classic albums missing lyrics or important liner notes. Roadrunner records’ budget ‘Two from the Vault’ series were even less impressive, with their dual-offering reducing the content that once accompanied each album to something of infomercial ‘Best of Country Music’ standards. Peaceville, to their credit, did include some interesting bonus material on their digipacked CDs of the first four Darkthrone albums. This was a series of interviews conducted by the Black Metallers themselves, reflecting on the circumstances surrounding each album.

The reissue we’re concerned with has captured the best of both worlds, heeding the traditional benefit of drawing a listener into the experience of the album with detailed and faithfully imported contents, as well as providing bonus material in the form of a full-length documentary about the Death Metal classic that is Morbid Angel’s ‘Blessed are the Sick’. This commemoration of the great work features a fold-out design that replaces the pages of a booklet with new and old artwork appearing more vibrantly than it would on glossy paper. Delville’s depiction especially, of Satan ensnaring fallen humanity, has not looked more powerful on any previous pressing. Demanding almost childlike interactivity, the digipack is an enjoyable format to get lost in Vincent’s amoral and blasphemous sermons more so than in-sleeve booklets. Full liner notes are included, and like those of the previous album, they intimately reveal more about the intentions and the attitude of these artists, even dedicating the entire work to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

One unavoidable sacrifice to the presentation is the lack of art or logo on the CD itself, because it’s not technically a CD, but a dual-layered CD/DVD. This brings us to ‘Tales of the Sick’, an hour-length documentary about the making of the album, the subsequent touring of the new tracks and its lasting legacy. Conversations with Morbid Angel are limited to insights from David Vincent, whose articulation isn’t quite enough to compensate for the lack of ‘Blessed are the Sick’s lead song-writer and sonic shaman, Trey Azagthoth. And although he doesn’t quite resemble the same blonde-haired Hessian that upheld the Nietzschean spirit of Death Metal since it’s golden age, Vincent provides an interesting commentary on why the album sounds like it does and the obstacles the band faced to achieve this sound. Further to Azagthoth’s tribute in the liner notes, Vincent goes on to describe ‘Blessed are the Sick’ as an attempt to approach Mozart’s compositional style through the lens of Death Metal. Tom Morris of the reknowned Morrissound studios reveals the more technical challenges in engineering one of the most astoundingly crisp and clear sounding Death Metal albums, despite its speed and complexity. Other interviews feature the following generation of Death Metal musicians such as Nile’s Karl Sanders, and a lot of memories from the tours are shared by former managers and sound technicians. As an additional bonus, Earache have included the official music video for ‘Blessed are the Sick/Leading the Rats’, though in it’s original 4:3 aspect ratio. This is a great supplement to an highly influential album, and any real fan of Morbid Angel would do well to add this reissue to their collection.

Written by ObscuraHessian

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Hellfires of the lands down under

Does it seem to you that the days are shorter
And does it seem to you that the nights seem so much longer
Well it does to me, and in time you will see
That the fate of the world is burning in fire

– Deströyer 666, Genesis to Genocide

In my visions of another age, Australia is a domain of rogues and devils, swept by sands and heat, a colony of fear. Aboriginals fight, mutated animals leap and grappling hooks are thrown from jeeps that speed with metallic roar across the wasteland. Humanity decays, but Australia preserves the instinct for survival, man against desert, taking pleasure in the primitive actions of hunting, fighting, lovemaking and getting drunk on bourbon. Nocturnal winds howl through the chasms, kangaroos leap over graves and tribal chants are raised amidst campfires as skull goblets are raised.

While I have never been to the country, the impressions of Australian black and death metal do nothing but strengthen the images of brutal frontier life. The sense of the wild is different, more internalized, almost Jack London -like, compared to the European romanticized walks in civilized Teutorburger woods or pure, silent Scandinavian nature. Australians are rebels who have tasted the whip of slavery and still remember it – with hate in their blood.

Every rock fan knows AC/DC and Nick Cave, the astonishing twin pillars that represent total opposites of image and style roleplay in hard rock. Both of them influenced heavy metal around the world, but a mainstream fan would be hard pressed to name any other Australian bands of note. I’m not going to dwell on the early 80′s, but mention some events that were triggered by the resurgent death and black metal ideas of Europe and the USA.

Australia is characterized by geographical distance from the Western pop culture trends and so, death metal didn’t happen early but it was marked by a serious intensity from the beginning. As a perfect example, we can take Armoured Angel, who with their late 80′s series of demos gradually developed from a heavy and grinding version of speed metal into a technical artillery of militantly precise death metal akin to Polish innovators VaderHobbs’ Angel of Death, due both to their cult reputation and connections to later more visceral bands, proved definitive with their self titled album in establishing the early death metal attitude and sound of bands like Destruction and Slayer in Down Under. Hobbs’ raw, molten hot solo bends and breaks were like burning gasoline leaking from a bullet torn hole in a fighter plane. Meanwhile, Sadistik Exekution initiated their campaign of abuse against every known musical principle, which continues up to this day.

Influenced by hardcore and speed metal, these madmen from Sydney proceeded to destroy the reputability of Australian metal with their on-stage and off-stage antics, almost becoming performance art with their macabre, sarcastic terror campaign of pure noise. Already “The Magus”, recorded in 1986, suggested that this band would dare to go where others would not, the subconscious realm of damnations and mutations, yet containing the elements within an underground death metal rhythm and riff based format. Their second and best album, “We Are Death… Fukk You!” was already something else – a noisy freakshow of an album, with the catatonic, desperate screams of Rok and nearly fusion jazz-y random blasts of violence from the strings of Rev Kriss Hades and Dave Slave. Sadly, their later albums mostly devolved into using the madness as a gimmick instead of a mode to express actual items of perception.

The next generation produced more self-contained music but it also showed the blooming of the world wide death metal presence, as we are talking about the days when death metal was at its commercial heights, ’91-’93. Many bands wanted to be like their big brethren in Florida, as a shameful but popular example let’s mention Mortification, who aped the thrashy sound of early Death with some of the complex rhythms of Obituary or Suffocation, yet infiltrating the standard gore text with reborn Christian propaganda, which had a widespread presence in Australian metal at large. Meanwhile, a band like Anatomy, whose elegant use of melody as texture, akin to Swedish bands like Grave or maybe even At the Gates, remained unknown to most death metal fans. Anatomy’s constructions weren’t altogether as brilliant, but as with many Norwegian early death metal bands, it was a breeding ground for musicians and ideas that would fully develop into a wave of satanic, intense war metal. And if you read the diSEMBOWELMENT review we published some time ago, you already know that they were able to built a transcendentally blissful temple of Zen-like tranced out death metal from the simple basis of combining British style grindcore with British style doom.

The acid, sex and Satan obsessed wave of barbaric war metal, ca. 1994, was again closer to the sardonic “fighting man’s black metal” attitude of BeheritBlasphemy and Impaled Nazarene, than Norwegian “top hat black metal”. This means that Bestial Warlust (“Vengeance War ’til Death”), Deströyer 666 (“Violence is the Prince of This World” and “Unchain the Wolves”) and Gospel of the Horns (“The Satanist’s Dream”) used Sarcofago and Destruction as templates to unleash a torrent of riffs which could have been untuned Motörhead on 45 rpm, emphasized by an artillery of ambient drumming to evoke images of blooddrenched hordes and endless streams of bombers. I remember how back in the day these bands were even widely detested in zines documenting the black metal phenomenon, but they proved crucial to bands which around the turn of the millennium clad in bullet belts and started wearing gas masks in “war metal” revival’s endless stream of clones.

All this might have you thinking that the Nordic and Romantic styles of black metal were obsolete in Australia, but this was not to be the case. Abyssic Hate (whose “Cleansing with an Ancient Race” was a perfect match for the Immortal related Det Hedenske Folk on their split album) intended to capture the harsh poetry of Burzum and Ildjarn. Later material was somewhat unsuccessful because of humanocentric (“suicidal”) terminology, despite ambient leanings in songwriting. Nazxul was the Australian counterpart to mysticist bands like Nåstrond or Osculum Infame, whose cloaked, symbolic stage presence was a source of controversy. Theatrical, esoteric and arrogant, Nazxul did not fail to clothe oblique satanism in suggestive and venomous fury, at times surprisingly cerebral – especially on the mini-album “Black Seed”. Samain‘s “Indomitus” recalled some of Enslaved‘s and Graveland‘s explorations in long songs influenced by folk and classical music, wandering through interludes and heavy, thunderous, emotional modes as if paralleling the documented trials of the ancient Indo-European tribes, whose mythological symbolism filled the lyrics.

Gradually, we can note the presence of all the international metal trends and hypes increasing in Australia, filling the continent with meaningless bands. It would be a lie to say that the random band you hear from Australia is up to anything good. But there’s some you might like to hear. Asphyxia is a young technical death metal band, influenced by Nile, Kataklysm and the rest of the champions of convoluted hyperspeed – they are bit in love with the Necrophagist digital treachery fashion but they have room to develop and the players definitely deserve applause for their instrumental excursion. Midnight Odyssey uses oceanic layers of slow melody to transform black metal to a landscape of dark clouds, using keyboards in the evocative manner familiar from Schulze and Summoning. The best of the epics on “Firmament” rediscover a youthful, hopeful beauty that hasn’t been too fashionable in the image and commodity oriented latter days of black and death metal. Nazxul, who sadly lost a vital member to a motorcycle accident, released in 2009 their possible magnum opus, the immense “Iconoclast” which has established itself as one of my top black metal choices of the year despite initial skepticism towards the more standard imagery and vocabulary employed on the surface. Suggestively classical and elegant, as Emperor and Avzhia did it, Nazxul praise the unliving and the unknown with a Bach-ian playful sonority, adding themes, keyboards and guitar leads to basically simple songs the same way an alchemist adds prime materials to his boiling tincture of salvation. It is all, and much more, than most of Funeral Mist (and their ilk) tried to achieve with their experimental norsecore.

The old horde is still going strong, of course, as I got the initial inspiration for this writeup when interviewing Deströyer 666 (now based in Netherlands and the UK) elsewhere. With their latest album “Defiance”, they continue to quote the metal history all the way back to Judas Priest and the NWOBHM and this was of course much enjoyed by this writer even though it would be false to say that they would have reinvented, or even surpassed, their old selves in any manner. The scene is still brimming with offshoots of Anatomy and Bestial Warlust, such as Ignivomous, who on “Death Transmutation” have definitely listened their Incantation and Immolation, not without streamlining them to a more generic barbaric noise approach though, and Razor of Occam, whose “Homage to Martyrs” updates the violence of Sodom and Kreator to a new generation yet again, as wolves surrounding the throne room of Absu who stumbled and diluted their ancient black thrash in favor of “progressive” stylings that mostly only pleases reviewers in Terrorizer.

I know that mortals’ ears are already bleeding, but it’s impossible to escape this topic without mentioning a few curiosities from Adelaide group of total nutcases, starting the cult old school death metal band Martire back in the early 90′s. The early demos and EP’s have been re-released multiple times. Since that, members who call themselves “The Great Righteous Destroyer” and “The Serpent Inquisitor” have continued to baffle the hapless headbangers with one after the other more indescribable and twisted songs. Stargazer‘s Lovecraftian, off-center and racing death metal is what I personally consider the flagship band, whereas Cauldron Black Ram grooves like a joint venture of Celtic Frost and Running Wild members (in concept also). Misery’s Omen paints a hyper-dramatic curtain of dreamy black metal resembling Samael and a krautrock band on an endless bad acid trip, describing “Desolate Winds of Mars”, “Antarctic Ice Chasms” and other spectacles of consciousness awaking to the immense possibilities offered by nature itself, impersonal, cold but beautiful.

Gather ’round all you fire-starters
Whirlwind reapers and comet riders
Come to our mountain hall
Come and heed the call

– Deströyer 666, The Calling

Written by Devamitra

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Interview: Mike Albert (Mike Albert Project)

When it came down the pipe that Mike Albert, former live guitarist with Megadeth and musician experienced throughout many layers of the hard rock and heavy metal worlds, was starting his own band for the sake of playing AC/DC-cum-Metallica style universal L.A. strip style heavy metal, we got in line early to ask him a few questions. We wanted to hear from an experienced hand who isn’t bitter about the nature of the music business, the state of heavy metal, and where he’s going to take his The Mike Albert Project as a musical experience.

How did you get involved in playing music?

My aunt had a beat up acoustic guitar that I picked up at 9 years old and never put down.

What got you into metal?

I’ve always liked the aggresiveness and attitude of Metal, “the end of the world” vibe. There is nothing like it. I’m very aggresive and it fits.

If you could identify your primary influences, what would those be?

Black Sabbath was a primary influence and a lot of early European Metal; UFO, etc… Hendrix was a big influence, and for Blues, Albert King!

Can you give us a run-down of your history playing heavy metal?

I was more of a hard rock fusion guitarist prior to Megadeth, and after working with Dave Mustaine I then stuck to that genre.

You were a guitarist for Megadeth on the Killing is My Business… And Business is Good tour. How did you get picked for that spot? What was that like?

Chris Poland had just left, and I was friends with him and Gar Samuelson. We had known each other through playing for years. I was the most logical choice. Speed Metal was exploding on the scene and Megadeth was at the forefront of it. It was great to be a part of it.

Would you do it again?

Financially it would be great, but once was enough, thank you!

Megadeth was rumored, at the time, to be an insane drug band that many musicians found difficult to survive. Were you able to ride the wave?

It was no rumor. It was a big part of the scene back then and I’m lucky to have lived through it! R.I.P. Gar Samuelson, my friend.

What other speed metal bands have you played with?

After playing with Megadeth I was offered a lot of gigs with other popular speed metal bands, but I refused. I needed my own band and didn’t want to be a sideman anymore!

You’ve now got your own album, Afterlife, coming out. How do you describe this style, and what do you hope the album will express?

Afterlife is out and getting quite a bit of airplay. I’m thankful for that. It’s a cross section of many genres of Metal; Old School and New, and Hard Rock influences.

Have the values and sound of metal music changed from the 1980s? How and why?

Metal got lost when Grunge exploded, but in the last few years especially, has fought its way back. The quality of musicians is definitely back!

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

Music is expression. To have technique is invaluable for the sake of good music. To use it in excess is always a problem, it creates self indulgence. To name a few examples of natural expression without over using technique would be; Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and the Stones.

They could not return to space. Their scant remaining store of roots represented an inflexible number of protector work-hours. They might refuel their cesium tanks, they might even build a plutonium-producing technology in the time they had left, but to find and reach another Pak-like world — no. And if they reached it, what gurantee had they that it would grow tree-of-life?

They had spent their last years building a laser beam powerful enough to pierce the dust clouds that hid them from the galatic core. They did not know that they had succeeded. They did not know what was wrong with the cop; they suspected the sparsity of a particular wave-length of starlight, or of starlight in general, though their experiments along those lines had produced nothing. They gave detailed information on the blood lines of their breeder passengers, in the hope that some of the lines might survive. And they asked for help.

Two and a half million years ago.

– Larry Niven, Protector (1973)

Did learning music theory help you or slow you down in achieving your musical goals?

Music theory is a necessity for every musician. Every band I’ve been in, and every session I’ve done, would have been a disaster without the knowledge of music theory. I’m still studying!

Some have said that rock music is about individualism, or escaping the rules of society and nature to do whatever the individual wants to do. However, some have also said that heavy metal breaks with that tradition with its “epic” and impersonal view of life. Where do you fit on the scale?

My album Afterlife, philosophically, is what it is. It’s not going to turn the music world upside down, it’s just a good Metal CD….that I’m proud of!

Is there a relationship between how an artist sees the world, and the type of music he or she will then make? Do people who see the world in similar ways make similar music?

You are a product of your environment. I think your question is quite viable.

Like in the late 1970s, metal feels to many people like it has lost direction and become hollow. Is a change in direction needed, and if so, will that come from within metal?

Just like in the late 70s, it’s getting formulated. If you don’t sound like other bands on the charts you won’t sell, bottom line! It’s a vicious cycle. It’s all about the money. Change is needed! Good luck!

What are your goals with Afterlife, and what’s in the near future for you? Tours, media blitz, some fun?

The goals with Afterlife are to tour and promote this album world wide in every way possible. It’s doing very well so far. It is available on CD Baby and all the usual internet sites. I invite you to check out: MySpace/MikeAlbertProject.

The properties of the rational soul: it is conscious of itself, it moulds itself, makes of itself whatever it will, the fruit of which it bears it gathers itself (whereas others gather the fruits of the field and what in animals corresponds to fruit), it achieves its proper end, wherever the clsoe of life comes upon it; if any interruption occur, its whole action is not rendered incomplete as is the case in the dance or a play and similar arts, but in every scene of life and wherever it may be overtaken, it makes what it proposed to itself complete and entire, so that it can say: ‘I have what is my own.’

Moreover, it goes over the whole Universe and the surrounding void and surveys its shape, reaches out into the boundless extent of time, embraces and ponders the periodic rebirth of the Whole and understands that those who come after us will behold nothing new nor did those who came before us behold anything greater, but in a way the way of forty years, if he have any understanding at all, has seen allt hat has been and that will be by reason of its uniformity. A property, too, of the rational soul is love of one’s neighbor, truth, self-reverence and to honour nothing more than itself; and this last is a property of law also, accordingly right principle and the principle of justice differ not at all.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (170)

Thank you for your thought provoking questions, more insightful than many other interviews I’ve done. Kudos!

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Interview: Lord Imperial (Krieg)

Krieg emerged at a time when few New World black metal bands had made a name for themselves, and none had come up with an iconic style to match the distinctively “Scandinavian” attributes of the founders. Raw and reckless, chaotic and vitriolic, early Krieg was like a fusion between primitive black metal and noise, but over time the band has matured and gotten closer to its shoegaze and drone-rock roots. Frontman Imperial gave us the skinny on life, the evolution of Krieg, and metal as an art form in this exclusive interview from his Western New Jersey headquarters, a former Nike missile site that’s now a converted studio and hydroponics lab.

How did you get involved in playing music?

When I was much younger I decided I didn’t really have the usual interests of cars, sports and television that the majority of American kids had so I started getting deeper and deeper into music. Both of my parents were very deeply into music and literature though neither of them played any sort of instrument that I know (they’re both dead so I can’t call and ask). I picked up the guitar around age 14, the same time death and black metal swiftly entered and controlled my life. I guess in the sense that the ’77 British movement said “if you think you can do better, start your own band” I had a similar mindset and started an early primitive project called Impaled which recorded a demo that would make Anal Cunt seem musical. After this I helped form Abominus which was a death metal band that with enough rehearsing could’ve sounded like Belial’s Never Again and Krieg’s first draft Imperial.

What got you into metal?

I always liked guitar oriented music and being a child in the 1980s it was either that or the tail end of the New Romantic movement which I didn’t like or understand. Deeper appreciation grew once I hit high school and discovered a college station that had a lot of harsher metal which opened a lot of doors for me mentally. I still vividly remember hearing Darkthrone and Samael for the first time through this show as a sophomore.

If you could identify your primary influences, what would those be?

It changes a lot. I soak up a lot of influence from the music I constantly listen to but I guess I’d say in the beginning it was mostly Beherit, Profanatica, Darkthrone, Forgotten Woods and the first few Demoncy records. These recordings still get a lot of play around my house. Judas Iscariot obviously became a strong reference point for me in the late 90s and since then I’ve added a lot of stuff like Black Flag, Public Image Ltd and The Velvet Underground into the writing.

Have the values and sound of metal music changed from the 1980s? How and why?

There seems to be more of an intellectual awakening amongst a majority of bands. The 1980s created the foundation and I guess stuff like Municipal Waste never really grew out of that. I want to say that something like the late 80s/early 90s indie and Sub Pop scene helped change a bit of that but a majority of metalheads abhor that stuff but you can clearly hear it in some of the newer bands that utilize more rock and roll or shoegaze soundscapes. Values have changed in that I feel a lot of the vapid ideas of the 1980s are disintegrating, people want more meaning out of their art and entertainment (though this is just a small grouping, this theory is obviously proved wrong via Hollywood, MTV and pop music which views art as commodity-an extension of the 1980s “Me Generation” that’s fucked things up for the rest of us). I personally think a lot of the US metal bands are starting to show this sort of introspection or are at least reaching for new heights with it.

Can you give us a run-down of your history as a musician?

I guess I’ll try to do it chronologically as best as I can: The early 1990s I spent failing at learning guitar and bass, which is obvious in my early records. I was a member of Abominus (94-97) Imperial/Krieg (95-current) Devotee (98-00) AngelKunt(00-02) Twilight (04-current) March Into the Sea (06-08) and N.i.l (06-current). These are all the projects I had something to do with the musical writing side of things. I’ve done lyrics and session work for several other bands as well.

Was early Krieg material actually improvised in the studio?

About 75% of it. The Imperial demo stuff was written beforehand but Rise of the Imperial Hordes we recorded without a drummer or a label. These were added later. Destruction Ritual, except for the older songs on the record, was all improvised in studio. Originally we did it because we didn’t know what to really do in a studio environment that wasn’t a 4 or 8 track. Destruction Ritual was just meant to be unlistenable and punishing.

Do you believe black metal is still a viable form of music?

Difficult question. With the advent of Myspace and computer recording you have a deluge of bullshit meaningless noise, moreso than the days of mp3.com and the initial CD-R craze. But there are still plenty of artists out there whom write and record with thoughtful intentions and sincerity, even if I don’t personally find their music interesting I still respect anyone dedicated truly to their art. You’ll always have throwaway bands who form clubs with other throwaway people and that exists in any genre of music. One man’s unlistenable derivative garbage is another’s kult ebay record. I don’t think black metal will ever be a shocking or culturally substantial form of expression to the multitudes since we have such a desensitized and moral society. Plus it’s still a fad to some kids who’ll move on to EBM or the Dave Mathews Band a few months later.

What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you in your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence– even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!”

Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: “You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.” If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, “Do you desire this once more, and innumerable times more?” would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?

– F.W. Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882)

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

Technique is for school and Dream Theater. Some people find that sort of “note note note note solo note etc” music to be the greatest thing since the Fleshlight but I define great music as something that emotionally moves me, captivates me and forces repeated attention. Anyone can learn to play well, not everyone can write something worth hearing. We all learn to read and write but not everyone is Charles Bukowski or Knut Hamsun. Same goes for all art form.

Can a heavy metal culture augment or express aspects of a parent culture (like say, “American culture”), and have you seen examples of this?

I don’t know. Metal is an outsider thing for the most part, only recently has black metal spread outside its confines and a lot of that has to do with ironic hipsters and curiosity seekers. It seems metal goes two ways: one is that it expresses the “American dream” if you will, of loud music, lots of girls, alcoholism and patriotism which is normal American behavior (loud music turns to loud Bruce Springsteen, girls to either being a dead beat dad or responsible parent, alcoholism to your uncle who gets smashed at Thanksgiving and hits on the 15 year olds, patriotism to a belief that goverment is always correct = American as fucking McDonalds) or the other way which is an absolute rejection of societal norms, creativity not taught or nurtured at (public) schools and, if stuck with, a lot of interesting ideas and art which could one day channel into a real movement for change.

Did you ever study music theory or take lessons? Did this help you or slow you down in achieving your musical goals?

I’m horrible with math so theory always confused me. I did try lessons when I was younger and long time listeners see how that went. I’m more of the idea that self teaching and free form idealizing without the aid of constriction breeds the most challenging and interesting art and could lead to innovation. It also leads to horrible Myspace bands so this is more of a personal experience for me.

Some have said that rock music is about individualism, or escaping the rules of society and nature to do whatever the individual wants to do. However, some have also said that heavy metal breaks with that tradition with its “epic” and impersonal view of life. Where do you fit on the scale?

No one is still swinging hammers at invaders inside their castle walls. I’m more of the philosophy implied by the 1970s rock critics like Griel Marcus or Lester Bangs that rock (which all metal is derived from) should be more of a personal introspective experience. This is why a band like Amebix will always greatly fascinate me more than say Crass (which is a weak example but the first to come to mind) in that it’s more personal than collective. I have enough mental problems that don’t see to be going away anytime soon regardless of what new medicine my doctor switches me to every few months to keep my writing process outside of the open sphere of religious icons and impending doom for a long time. This wasn’t always the case since Rise of the Imperial Hordes and my demos were more based on traditional war topics, but I was only fucking 17 at the time.

When 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. Where should the genre go from there?

I don’t think that’s a bad thing to be fixated on. Looking at the majority of philosophy books in any chain store and you’ll see this topic isn’t restricted to metal alone and is something that will never be answered. I’d like to see the genre go into more of a intelligent approach but certain subgenres don’t allow that. Plus a lot of people would be at a loss if they couldn’t sing about goats.

Is there a relationship between how an artist sees the world, and the type of music he or she will then make? Do people who see the world in similar ways make similar music?

I think some of it has to do with age. When you’re young you are more rebellious and questioning and angry. Whether this subsides once life lines up for you with a mate, employment and house can say a lot about if an artist will even continue to create. Now once you’ve got that out of the way (or if it never lined up for you in the first place) and you still have those emotions and see the world the same (or if your worldview has grown with you and disgusts you ever more once you know more about it) then it definitely affects the way you make music. Personally in my close circle of friends who see the world in a similar grey light, we all tend to gravitate towards the same kind of ideas and music hence Twilight’s reformation or my strong involvement with certain people. Is this universal? I’m not sure, isn’t it how scenes are created?

Your music seems to attempt to be ritual music, where a play or ceremony shapes the transitions in each song. Did you have a ceremony in mind?

Emotional disrupting. Even more so now that I’m working with different time changes and unexpected stop/starts. The ritual of discomfort.

Within the tiny space occupied by a note or a colour in the sound- or colour-continuum, which corresponds to the identity-card for the note or the colour, timbre or nuance introduce a sort of infinity, the indeterminacy of the harmonics within the frame determined by this identity. Nunance or timbre are the distress and despair of the exact division and thus the clear composition of sounds and colours according to graded scales and harmonic temperaments…The matter I’m talking about is ‘immaterial,’ anobjectable, because it can only ‘take place’ or find its occasion at the price of suspending these active powres of mind. I’d say that it suspends them for at least ‘an instant.’ However, this instant in turn cannot be counted, since in order to count this time, even the time of an instant, the mind must be active.

So we must suggest that there is a state of mind which is a prey to a ‘presence’ (a presence which is in no way present in the sense of here-and-now, i.e. like that which is designated by the deictics of presentation), a mindless state of mind, which is required of mind not for matter to be perceived or conceived, given or grasped, but so that there be some something. And I use ‘matter’ to designate this ‘that there is’, this quod, because this presence in the absence of the active mind is and is never other than timbre, tone, nuance in one or other of the dispositions of sensibility, in one or other of the sensoria, in one or other of the passibilities through which mind is accessible to the material event, can be ‘touched’ by it: a singular, incomparable quality – unforgettable and immediately forgotten – of the grain of a skin or a piece of wood, the fragrance of an aroma, the savour of a secretion or a piece of flesh, as well as a timbre or a nuance. All these terms are interchangeable. They designate the event of a passion, a passibility for whih the mind will not have been prepared, which will hvae unsettled it, and of which it conserves only the feeling – anguish and jubilation – of an obscure debt.

– Jean-François Lyotard, The Inhuman (1991)

When you write your music, how do you avoid repeating the past 15 years of black metal?

I just don’t pay attention to it. I experiment with riffs and keep what I feel represents me as a whole. If someone feels it’s derivative or cliché it’s not my problem and they can go listen to something else. I havent bought any new black metal in close to a year outside of the new Urfaust and Vohlahn.

When you write songs, do you start with a visual concept, or a riff, or something else?

Overall I start with a visual idea of how I want to feel through what I’m writing. Mostly colours which explains the last two album names. Sometimes I’ll have a phrase in mind and I try to put the emotion behind the phrase to use through the guitar and if that doesn’t work I’ve regressed to using my power electronics setup to try to create a background that I can build a suitable song structure through. If that doesn’t work I get up, smoke a cigarette and find some coffee, sit down and start over again. There have been times when I’ve dreamt of ideas and had to rush out of bed at 4 am down to my rehearsal area and put it to work. Lyrics are done in a similar fashion though I generally these days write pages and pages of lyrics then using the cut up method piece them together into some sort of abstraction that may not make sense to others but perfectly suits what I’m thinking.

How has Krieg changed over the years? You as an artist have changed as well — can you give us a rundown on your newer projects, and what you’re attempting to do with each?

There has been three phases of Krieg: 1995-2002 which was more of a primitive beginning forged into a noise ending ala Whitehouse if they were a black metal band. Patrick Bateman was the end of this phase in which I felt I could do no better with creating harsh sounds. 2002-05 which might have been the busiest time for me was when I figured I could write emotive pieces but my guitar skills were lacking so I employed friends to help bring these visions to light.

Riffwise not a lot changed between Destruction Ritual and Black House, it’s just that with a full band and decent recording the music became its own new form. My interests in other music like the 1970s NYC art scene came pouring in and I stopped limiting myself to traditional black metal topics and focused on what was important to me. By 2005 I was an emotional wreck, ruined my label and reputation and went out in a drink fueled bang at Under the Black Sun. 07-now is phase three which is a melding of ugliness and beauty so far. I’ve only recorded two songs, the track for the split with Caina and a cover of the 1980s noise/punk band Flipper. We plan to record in 2010 depending on when the label is ready to announce shit and get the ball rolling.

Other projects: The only active ones are N.i.l which just finished recording a 3-song MCD which we’re shopping to labels once it’s mixed. Our first record came out on Battle Kommand in 2007 and I think a lot of people missed the point that we were actively emulating Strid and My Bloody Valentine. Most people thought it was just too simple or monotonous but that was the intention: it was more of a trance record than something to play at parties. We did get to play live with Profanatica last year but sound problems fucked up a bit of the show. Ledney and Gelso dug it though and that was important.

I’ve also just finished vocals and a majority of the lyrics for the new Twilight record which is worlds beyond our first effort. This time it was done in a real studio and the writing was mostly Blake Judd, Wrest and myself musically and lyrically. Vocally I’ll be a pretentious asshole and say it’s the best I’ve ever done.

I’m also doing vocals for John Gelso’s project Royal Arche Blaspheme which I’ve done three songs for so far. I think I’m still involved with The Red Cathedral which is myself and Andrew from Caina plus some others but it’s sporadic at best. Should be interesting when it’s completed.

I’m also working on Apothecary.Sound.Lodge which is power electronics and black metal but it’s taking forever and due to finances being what they are probably will take even longer.

What are the goals of your art? Is there a goal to art itself?

To keep me from killing myself. Artists may say their goal is to improve humanity’s thoughts and ideas but the cynic in me thinks it’s because they want something of theirs to remain when they’re dead. True immortality.

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 don’t think a lot of people who sing about this subject really desire it to be a normal part of life because they wouldn’t know how to deal with it. Everyone desires security to some extent (though I can’t speak for everyone) and to have that taken away, I don’t know how they would handle it. Jim Morrison on the other hand obviously lived this and died for it, proving that there are people living this idea. Utopia is just a manmade idea to try to comfort you when you’re going to sleep. Only desperate people really live to experience this idea.

Like in the late 1970s, metal feels to many people like it has lost direction and become hollow. Is a change in direction needed, and if so, will that come from within metal?

The late 70s also brought the creation of punk, post punk and some interesting literature and art. But this is different now with things like MTV reality TV and other forms of cheap entertainment to keep people from growing and realizing what a fucked up world they live in. The recession might spur some change in ideas but I’m afraid that in Western culture we might be too deeply embedded in instant gratification and plastic living to really benefit from such a shift in life’s paradigm. I think much of the world thought with last year’s presidential election we’d have some kind of light shed on us telling us where to go but this shit takes time.

I read an interesting essay a few weeks back about how people who are unemployed or poverty stricken (just above lower middle class, this obviously won’t account for homeless people or those on social support) should take this time to do what they truly love in life, start painting or writing like they always dreamt. It’s a beautiful sentiment but we as a culture are so dependent on building our DVD collection and buying a fucking hi def TV that we’re more concerned with that outlook.

I’ve strayed a bit from topic; will metal help change this? It gives people an outlet to express their rage at things they cannot control at a constructive level rather than turning to the bottle or needle. It can also help them look at things from a different perspective. Christ that’s a lot of positivity from me.

It seems obvious to me, when all factors are added up, that our society is in decline. However, this opinion is not widely shared. Why do you think this is?

To keep the suicide rate down so the IRS can collect more money.

William Blake says, in perhaps his most memorable line, “The cut worm forgives the plow.” What does this mean to you?

Sounds like turning the other cheek to me. In 9 out of 10 cases this is a worthless idea. There’s some specific people who rightfully deserve to knock my teeth out and there’s a few who deserve it from me. Forgiveness is a mostly outdated idea unless in minor cases, like someone accidentally broke something minor of yours or got drunk and said something they regret. I see no virtue in forgiving someone who robbed you, fucked your wife or killed your animals.

How has Krieg changed over the years? Is interest still high, and in what era of your material? What’s next for you and Krieg?

It’s evolved like I have. My writing style is still very similar and my aesthetic visually hasn’t changed. Interest I suppose is still strong though I haven’t paid much attention. We’ve done about 8 shows since reforming and some have been amazingly excellent events like our shows in Brooklyn and Rhode Island this past winter, others have been poorly put together messes like the fest we did over the summer. It seems people either love Black House/Blue Miasma or hate that and only want to hear Destruction Ritual. After close to 15 years you can’t really please everyone and it’s not my intent to do so. I’ve always done Krieg because it’s something I’m driven to do and I don’t see that drive going away soon.

Besides the aforementioned split 7 inch with Caina we’ve recorded songs for splits with Gravecode Nebula, an excellent doom band, and Shining. There have been two unofficial LP releases of Black House and Blue Miasma but the official Blue Miasma with bonus tracks, original artwork and linear notes will come from Hammer of Hate (FI) and we’re signed for our next record The Isolationist though the official announcement hasn’t been released yet. We have some shows coming up in the US and maybe in 2010 we’ll go back to Europe. Since these splits will be the last split releases we’re able to do, I’ll probably concentrate on other projects during the downtime between albums.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

As always thanks for the support!

Making time public does not occur occasionally and subsequently. Rather, since Da-sein is always already disclosed as ecstatic and temporal and because understanding and interpretation belong to existence, time has also already made itself public in taking care. One orients oneself toward it, so that it must somehow be available for everyone.

– Martin Heidegger, Being and Time (1926)

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Interview: Omid (Fearless Iranians From Hell)

Some artists like to tell you what to think, and others make you meet them halfway. These provocateurs are both more artistic and more realistic than the others, who are usually using those bold political opinions to mask a lack of direction otherwise. Of the metal-influenced genres to exist, thrash (crossover between hardcore punk and metal) was the most playfull provocative, and of all the thrash bands, the Fearless Iranians From Hell were the arch-jesters of making people think. During their reign in the 1980s, America freshly smarting from the OPEC debacle of the 1970s was convinced its next big enemy was Islamic fundamentalism while at the same time becoming more politically fundamentalist itself; it took some balls to tweak that self-righteous outlook by the nose, and even more to do so by mocking the American vision of democracy, justice and history — by appearing to endorse Islamic fundamentalism from within America’s borders. We were fortunate enough to catch Omid (drums, guitar, art direction, producer, and co-writer of both music and lyrics) while he was cleaning his gold-plated AK-47 in San Antonio, Texas.

Rumor has it that members of the Fearless Iranians From Hell were in an early thrash band called The Marching Plague. Was your interest always in thrash and extreme hardcore, or did you get introduced to music through other genres?

Check out the Texas hardcore compilation that Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers) released in the 80’s called Cottage Cheese from the Lips of Death, and the harder-to-find punk compilation on Matako Mazuri Records that Jeff Smith (The Hickoids) released called Metal Moo Cow. You’ll find all of Fearless Iranians From Hell’s members previous bands there: The first Fearless Iranians From Hell line-up consisted of members of The Marching Plague and the future lead guitarist for the band Toejam (on bass). The Fearless Iranians From Hell line-up that recorded for Boner Records was comprised of ex-members of The Marching Plague, The Butthole Surfers, Prenatal Lust, and Toejam.

The members of Fearless Iranians From Hell grew up listening to all kinds of music: pop, punk, synth, industrial, avant-garde, reggae, rap, classical, and especially disco. Many a disco party was held at Fearless Iranians From Hell headquarters. In fact, Fearless Iranians From Hell recorded, but never officially released a disco record called Dance for Allah. It’s pretty hard to find, though there are a few warbly cassette copies of it floating around out there. Although Fearless Iranians From Hell’s guitars are loud and often out of tune, and the vocals are shouted, you can still hear that pop sensibility in the songs.

In politics, we usually hear about The Other of some form or another being a threat to our way of life. Rock music has traditionally grasped for “authenticity” by identifying itself with an other, whether African-Americans, drug users, gender-ambiguous individuals or criminality/gangsters. The Fearless Iranians From Hell seem to have inverted this formula, by embracing a larger-than-life vision of The Other in order to show us more about ourselves. How did you hit on this doubly ironic technique?

We were influenced by The Martial Arts. Seriously. It was a Judo strategy: Turning your enemies’ power against themselves.

How do you feel when you turn on CNN or your favorite news service, and see headlines that could well have come straight from Fearless Iranians From Hell lyrics?

Not suprised, unfortunately. While the band was still together, we had the ultimate punk PR man: The Ayatollah Khomeini. Every time you opened the paper, or turned on the news, there he was, stirring up the shit. World News doubled as advertisments for our band.

You were appearing to endorse the Ayatollah Khomeini, radical Islam and jihad against Americans during the Reagan 1980s in the heart of Texas. How did people react? Were there differences based on their alignment in the political spectrum? Do people still react the same way?

How do you think they reacted? Hahahaha! They HATED us. Especially in the South. The more intelligent people figured out it was political satire, and that what we were doing was ridiculously over-the-top. But we were banking on the more thick-headed ones getting it wrong, being offended, thus drawing more attention to the band. We were attacked by police, protesters, skinheads, right-wing radio hosts, left-wing college boy bands who were too caught up in their seriousness to get what we were doing, gangs, religious organizations, promoters…hell, Fearless Iranians From Hell album covers were even featured in PTA slide-shows portraying the evils of rock ‘n’ roll. Mission accomplished.

Political views varied between our band members, but Fearless Iranians From Hell didn’t have a specific political agenda. We did however have a common creative agenda. We purposefully garbled political rhetoric, so it was confusing to all ends of the spectrum. The band refused to do interviews at the time, which helped further the misinformation and confusion + there was no internet, so it was a lot harder for people to get the facts straight about who we were and where we were coming from.

We eventually went on tour, and did a few radio interviews in ’88 and ’89, and thought we had let the cat out of the bag. However, it appears many have remained uninformed. For instance, just a couple of years ago, some idiot posted a bounty on the heads of the band members on his web page. One of our lawyers had the site removed.

How did the fearless Iranians in your mythos (the world of characters created by your lyrics and cover art) end up being hash-smoking maniacs? Is this part of a satire of American artists who endorse drugs in their music?

The song “Iranian Hash” is a reference to Hassan-i Sabbah, who founded a group known as the Hashshashin. Hassan-i Sabbah was a Persian Nizari Isma’ili missionary who converted a northern Iran community in the late 11th century. Part of his indoctrination technique was to keep his young assassins stoned out of their minds on hashish. Of course, it’s also a jab at Reagan’s “War on Drugs”…a turn-of-the phrase, as the Hashshashin literally went to war on drugs.

You had four releases: a self-titled EP, the Die For Allah LP, Holy War LP and Foolish Americans LP. What were the differences between them, how did they “progress” if at all, and which is your favorite?

The 7″ EP was more mid-tempo punk. Lyrically, it was an almost rap-like introduction to the band, and featured the horrifyingly prophetic “Blow up the Embassy.” The first album, Die For Allah, was like a soundtrack to a movie. Much harder hitting, and faster-paced. The second album, Holy War, was the most raw and explosive. Having played live together for a couple of years at that point, the band were at the top of our game and were pushing everything to its extreme both musically and lyrically.

The third album was more studio-fied, verged on heavy metal at times, and along with the usual outrageous lyrics, contains some “serious” non-tongue-and cheek songs like “A Martyr in Every Home.” The band went into the recording studio knowing it was going to be our last album, planning to break up before we started repeating ourselves. Amir’s Farsi-spoken vocals on the last song, “Decade” were decidedly our final words to the world. No favorites. I look at all the albums as one single body of work, to be listened to in order.

Evolution of life, and the emergence of man, is a natural process in which chance, failure, waste, disorder and death will ultimately prevail. The entire destiny of the upsurge of life and all of its efforts have been enshrouded, from the beginning, by a cloak of “heat-death,” which, one day, will cut off the source of life — the sun. The very air we breathe is drawn from a thin film of atmosphere which hovers precariously over the seas and mountains and praises that have been pushed up for us to stand on.

– Raymond Nogar, The Lord of the Absurd (1966)

In an interview, you talked about an important concept — not “taking music at face value.” Face value, we assume, is what the music projects; are you saying that little in this world matches up to what it projects, or that its actual causes are different than what it tells you are its causes?

Americans, as a whole, have an underdeveloped sense of irony.

How did you get involved in playing and writing music?

We all came from different levels of musical appreciation and education. Our lead guitarist always had to tune our rhythm guitarist’s axe, because he never learned how. But that didn’t matter, because the music we were into at the time favored creative ideas over virtuousity. The Sex Pistols playing in our hometown, San Antonio, and the DIY punk aesthetic are what brought it all together.

How did the members of the Fearless Iranians From Hell meet?

Fearless Iranians From Hell’s first singer, Amir, moved to Texas with his family after the fall of the Shah of Iran, to flee the reign of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Amir made friends with the other outcasts in his American high-school, punk rockers who were in a band called The Plague. The Plague rotated lead vocalists a few times ( Amir may have even been the singer for a show or two ) before settling on a line-up and changing their name to The Marching Plague. The lead singer for The Marching Plague appeared as the voice of Anus Presley on the first Butthole Surfers EP ( the tracks “The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave” and “The Revenge of Anus Presley” ) and, after joking with Amir that he should have his own punk band, wrote the first Fearless Iranians From Hell songs.

The first Fearless Iranians From Hell line-up, comprised mainly of Marching Plague members, would wear ski masks to both enhance the terror-rock concept, and so they could open for The Marching Plague without the audience knowing they were watching the same band twice. This line-up recorded “Burn the Books” for the “Metal Moo Cow” compilation, with Amir on lead vocals. Around this time, The Marching Plague, having released an EP chock full of notorius, made-to-offend lyrics, took an about-face, and influenced by the more positive DC scene, headed in an emo direction. Shortly thereafter, the Marching Plague’s lead singer left the band, devoting his full attention to Fearless Iranians From Hell, calling on ex-members of Prenatal Lust and Toejam to fill out the roles of his ex-bandmates.

Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll magazine’s Tim Yohannan, who hated The Marching Plague’s un-PC lyrics, actually loved the live Fearless Iranians From Hell demo sent to him for review and recommended, “Get thee to a studio, or off with thy hands”. Fearless Iranians From Hell obliged, securing a record deal with the California label, Boner Records, home of Fang, The Melvins, Tales of Terror, etc. Before Fearless Iranians From Hell entered the studio, Amir suggested he be replaced by a more capable lead vocalist. Amir stayed on board as a songwriter, manager, information source, and spokesman. Amir also contributed vocals (the ones that were sung in Farsi) to the 1st and 3rd album. Before recording our debut album, the bassist who played on the Fearless Iranians From Hell 7″ was replaced by the Butthole Surfer’s first bass player.

How do you think our society uses icons like the Ayatollah Khomeini to make us live in fear, how does it benefit from that, and how does using those icons in over-the-top satire (like Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal) change how things are done?

It’s the age-old cult tactic of making people feel that they are in imminent danger. It’s an instrument of control, and an insult to our intelligence. The Ayatollah Khomeini was bad news. No doubt about it. But the danger is in mimicking his behavior in our own free country, villianizing an entire race, and simplifying complex issues into a battle between “good” and “evil.” I’m not quite sure if “A Modest Proposal” or Die For Allah actually changed anything, or if we were just preaching to, and entertaining, the choir. You’ll have to find some Fearless converts out there to answer that one.

Do you feel genre is important, and that specific genres have specific conventions that make them distinct from others? What genre would you identify as that which encloses the Fearless Iranians From Hell? Did you call yourselves skatethrash, thrash, crossover punk or punk hardcore, or something else?

Conforming to a particular genre can be a good starting point…taking advantage of a popular movement to get people’s initial attention, but from that point you have to carve out your own identity, and leave the genre behind. When Fearless Iranians From Hell emerged, the flavor-of-the-day was hardcore punk. It’s arguable that we were an art-rock band, but we definitely wouldn’t have classified ourselves as that at the time.

Though I didn’t consider us skatethrash, half of the band were actually skateboarders, and our record label worked out a deal with Thrasher Magazine where you’d get a free Fearless Iranians From Hell album when you bought a subscription. We thought that was pretty funny: Fearless Iranians coming to America, getting infected by capitalism and selling out. It added to the confusion.

Did thrash music, which is what I’m calling the metal/punk hybrids like DRI and CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER, have its own style and val, ues that were separate from its “ingredients,” both metal and punk?

Living in San Antonio, which is known as “The Heavy Metal Capital of the World”, there was no escaping the influence of Heavy Metal. Being fairly isolated, the Texas punks took whatever info we could get on punk rock and often played it using the Metal musical vocabulary we were raised on, quite often parodying metal at the same time ( as on the Marching Plague EP, “Rock and Roll Asshole”). So it was kind of a love-hate thing.

Early Fearless Iranians From Hell, much like early DRI (circa The Dirty Rotten EP) didn’t have as much an obvious metal influence, but the Judas Priest-style riffing is still there. At the outset of Texas punk, the Punks, the Jocks and the Metalheads were all opposed to each other. I’m not sure if the fusion of the two genres/audiences was a good or bad thing. Maybe a bit of both, as Crossover brought people together, but resulted in a generic, cookie-cutter playing style for many bands.

What distinguishes art from entertainment, and if they overlap, is there a difference in goals between the two?

Funny you should mention that. At the time of the band, I was getting my degree in fine art, and approached Fearless Iranians From Hell as a work of art, so here’s the party line: Art can be entertainment, and entertainment can be art, but ultimately, art serves a greater purpose…well, at least that’s what the artist will tell you!

Do you believe music should be mimetic, or reflect what’s found in life, or ludic, and show a playfulness with life that encourages us to experience it in depth? Do the two ever cross over?

All of the above. Music should have no boundries in purpose, style, or subject matter. No rules.

In one interview, you say your goal is to insult every last person and every nation on earth; what do you hope to achieve with this act?

We did it for our own amusement.

The modern propaganda of commodities and the good life has sanctioned impulse gratification and made it unncessary for the id to apologize for its wishes or disguise their grandiose proportions. But this same propaganda has made failure and loss unsupportable. When it finally occurs to the new Narcissus that he can “live not only without fame but without self, live and die without ever having had one’s fellows conscious of the microscopic space one occupies upon this planet,” he experiences this discovery not merely as a disappointment but as a shattering blow to his sense of selfhood. “The thought almost overcame me,” Exley writes, “and I could not dwell upon it without becoming unutterably depressed.

– Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism (1979)

Should people be less ready to get offended? Are you trying to innoculate them against being offended?

Good point. Maybe so. Perhaps people should become more aware of their “buttons,” and how easily they can be pushed, so they won’t be manipulated by the button pushers.

Do you think Muslims and Westerners share any values, and are they misunderstanding each other? Is fundamentalism more of a religion than the specific religion it inhabits, or is it just another way of saying “conservative interpretation”?

Though there are obvious differences, I think we share more values than we’re often led to believe, however, it is convenient for many, particularly those seeking some kind of power, to perpetuate our misunderstanding of each other.

Did you ever study music theory or take lessons? Did this help you or slow you down in achieving your musical goals?

Our lead guitarist was taking Music Theory in college at the time. I had some formal training on guitar, but was a self-taught drummer. Our singer had piano training. The rest of the band were 100% self-taught. Since Fearless Iranians From Hell had both trained and self-taught musicians, there was always a tug-of-war between being a bit brainy, and keeping it simple. I think that yielded interesting results. Our basic concept was that any kid who picked up a guitar for the first time should be able to bang out one of our songs. The idea being that if you could play one of our songs on your guitar, you instantly related to our band, and felt like an insider.

Some have said that rock music is about individualism, or escaping the rules of society and nature to do whatever the individual wants to do. However, some have also said that heavy metal breaks with that tradition with its “epic” and impersonal view of life. Where do you fit on the scale?

Our goal was to tip the scale over on both sides.

Will Fearless Iranians From Hell ever re-unite to play shows, tour or write more material?

Do we really need to re-unite? I’ve received emails from several modern punk groups with 100% Iranian-American membership who claim that we inspired them to start their own hardcore bands. Some of them even cover our songs. But, hey…you never know! We’ve been offered some pretty good money to re-unite, but at the moment, we really don’t need the money. We’ve become business owners (you’d NEVER guess which businesses), teachers (That’s right, PTA, the Fearless Iranians From Hell have now infiltrated your educational system and are directly influencing YOUR children), and doctors (hey, our lyrics still hold true: Your life IS in our hands!).

Personally, I’m not a big fan of reunions. Especially punk band reunions. Who wants to see a punk “oldies-but-goodies show”? To me, it’s a contradiction of the punk aesthetic. Reunions are for bands like The Eagles. Fearless Iranians From Hell are a band from a certain time of history, about a certain time of history, but as you hinted at earlier, history keeps repeating itself, so our albums are still relevant today. Maybe even moreso than when they came out. Also, even though they deal with serious subject matter, the records have a sense of humor, and that has kept fans coming back to them over the years, as well as creating new fans.

Are you going to release the Fearless Iranians From Hell EP as well? Will the compilation of the 3 LPs stay in print?

Although Boner Records has not been putting out any new albums by new artists, it has continued to re-issue several of its top-sellers, so our first three albums can still be purchased on CD. For how long? — I guess as long as they keep selling. All three albums and the Fearless Iranians From Hell EP can be purchased in MP3 format from iTunes, etc. Also an album of Fearless Iranians From Hell demos and outtakes called Peace Through Power has just been released, and is now available from CD Baby and iTunes. Although there’s no talk of writing or recording any new material at the moment, there have been discussions about starting up an official Fearless Iranians From Hell website and selling t-shirts and other merch online.

Any plans to write books or articles about your experiences as the Fearless Iranians From Hell?

We’re being approached more and more often these days about doing interviews and telling our story, so who knows, if there’s enough interest maybe someday there’ll be an “I Was a Fearless Iranian” tell-all book…available at Wal-Mart! Stranger things have happened.

Open your chest welcoming death in the path of God and utter your prayer seconds before you go to your target. Let your last words be, “There is no God but God and Mohammad is His messenger.” Then, inshallah, you will be in heavens.

– Osama bin Laden

We are grateful to the Fearless Iranians From Hell for this interview. From the internet archives, we’ve pulled fragments of other interviews to keep alive the spirit of this iconic band. The text of those interviews follows.

SOUNDS magazine April 23, 1988

“Sam King talks terrorism with hardcore fanatics, FEARLESS IRANIANS FROM HELL”

The pop prophets of Fleet Street, ever anxious for a true story, appear to have found a new bete noire.

Fearless Iranians From Hell, an aggressive American hardcore band from San Antonio, are the latest victims of the Street’s pop pundits, having tastefully titled their debut LP “Die For Allah” and released it just in time for the recent hijack.

The band aren’t doing themselves any favours. Song titles include the title track, ‘Ultraviolence’, and ‘Blow Up The Embassy’. Lyrically, too, it’s hot, with lines like, “You will see that terrorism is the key” and “I’m going to hijack a plane / Won’t do it for glory or fame / when they catch me they’ll say I’m insane.”

Are FIFH provocateurs or just plain insensitive? Amir Mamori, an Iranian exile and the band’s singer, explains

“We want to show the Americans just how foolish they are. They want to see Iranians in a specific way and we’re taking their bigotry and stupidity and spitting it back in their faces.

“We may inadvertently be doing a lot of harm to the image of ordinary Iranians, by sticking so closely to the American stereotypical vision of them, but I’m not that worried. I have higher goals to consider.”

Do you feel driven to this?

“Definitely, I’m driven in the sense that there are points which I have to make. The funny thing is that people seem to think that we’re not really serious. In fact, we could hardly be more serious. At the moment there’s no bigotry in America that comes close to their feelings about Iran. Americans can’t understand or cope with the Iranian fanaticism and so they’re afraid of it.”

What about lines like “Terrorism is the key”?

“I don’t think terrorism is the answer, but I would say that I think it goes on on both sides. Innocent people are killed all the time.

“But if all people believe that all Iranians are beasts, then we will give them their ridiculous stereotypes and sit back and watch them make fools of themselves.”

NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS magazine April 30, 1988

“Gulf Balls”

NME kinda wondered if there’s anything you can do to help us with regard to Mr Terry Waite’s continued captivity in the Lebanon?

“I suppose”, muses the slightly foreign accent across the transatlantic phone-static, “We could do a benefit gig for him…in Beirut.”

Whaaaat??

Something’s gone sadly awry here. I rang Amir (main mullah of San Antonio’s FEARLESS IRANIANS FROM HELL) fully expecting to be scorched by a Koran – crazed, hostage eating psycho-child of the Ayatollah – and now the bugger’s gurgling about bloody charity shows!…

The source of this confusion is the Fearless Iranians’ LP which Big Takeover Records have just released on an unsuspecting Europe. Its cover is dominated by the glowering features of the Khomeini-monster and the unambiguous command / title ‘Die For Allah’.

The record itself — a procession of hardcore grunges with names like ‘Deathwish’, ‘Iranians On Bikes’, ‘Ultraviolence’ and ‘Blow Up The Embassy’ — crystallizes the worst nightmares of Ronnie’s America; wave upon relentless wave of death-defying Iranians traversing the USA (on bikes and in “Turbo Trans-Ams”), exploding in a ceaseless orgy of fanatical hatred and terrorism. It’s both mad and hilarious.

Could these guys, I trembled after a single hearing, be serious? Amir, Iran-born but US-educated, hoses down my wilder imaginings:

“Our stuff is not to be taken at face value. It’s designed to let an audience react in the predictable ways, to make fools of themselves.”

So you’re not the mad-eyed blood-caked Yank-slayers suggested by the record? Not even a teeny bit?

“No, not at all. We love what we do, but we don’t take it too seriously.”

Other people, however, most certainly do. A brief over-the-phone recitation of some of some of the choicer Fearless Iranian lyrics ( “Nuke the people / Kill’em dead / Come on, Ronnie / Give me head !” ) elicited a frothing reaction from Tory MP Harry Greenway : “They’re sick!…It’s an obscenity!…We don’t want them spreading their filth in Britain…”

Same story with something called the National Movement Of The Iranian Resistance: “To find a so-called pop group promoting terrorism is just appalling and revolting. If they were ever allowed into this country, we’d seriously consider picketing concert venues.”

Amir sniggers sheepishly down the phone: “So it sticks up people’s ass – that’s good. We have trouble over here, too – Americans are just so stupid. The Marine-types think we’re insulting their country and their president: the liberals think we’re insulting Iranians!”

So what’s the point of it all?

“Our ultimate aim is to insult every last person, and nation, in the world.”

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