Interview with Paul Speckmann as Master releases The Witchhunt

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

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

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

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

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

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Glorious Times team releases Nuclear Death profile

glorious_times_coverThe book Glorious Times portrayed the experience of being involved in the early metal underground in a way that no one else has attempted before or since. It awakened in many of us a desire for such times again, when truth mattered more than commerce and popularity.

Despite being initially scoffed at by publishers, Glorious Times exceeded all expectations and became a metal institution. The publishers, Alan Moses and Brian Pattison, have stayed active in the underground by promoting shows, writing reviews, and pushing forward bands that seem to have that sense of connection to reality that defined the early underground.

As part of their continued activity, Moses and Pattison have released a profile of longstanding band Nuclear Death. According to Pattison, the material had been slated to be part of the first printing of Glorious Times, but for scheduling reasons was never part of that issue.

Instead, it’s now available for free download thanks to the Glorious Times team wanting to update Facebook friends with a reward for their loyalty and continued attention to both Glorious Times and the underground.

This multi-page spread features a unique story by Lori Bravo of Nuclear Death, previously undiscovered pictures from the era, and the classic zine-style layout which made Glorious Times a hit with the oldschooler crowd as well as new generations looking for an alternative to corporate media.

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Jill Funerus diagnosed with heart attack

jill_funerusJill Funerus, wife and bandmate of Ibex Moon label head and Incantation guitarist John McEntee, and composer of songs for Funerus along with McEntee and Sam Inzerra on drums, has been diagnosed with a heart attack in response to recent health problems.

Funerus began in the early 1990s in Pennsylvania as a Swedish death metal-influenced doom-death band. Jill Daily, who uses the stage name Jill Funerus, went on to become the bassist for this band influenced by Entombed, Bolt Thrower, Obituary and Carcass.

After terminating in 1994, the band resurrected itself with a new line-up in the early 2000s, and with the help of John McEntee (Ibex Moon/Incantation), rose again in a new form and began gigging. The band are known for being professional and easy-going at the same time, in addition to making crushing grinding doomy music.

Our thoughts are will Jill, John and their family and friends at this time.

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The origin of all underground metal

discharge-hear_nothing_see_nothing_say_nothingSuppose that you’re a dying society (“the human race was dying out / no one left to scream and shout” – the Doors) and that you decide to give it one last hurrah. To try honesty instead of manipulation.

You might come up with punk music. It strips out everything that reeks of manipulation. The good production, gone; the complex chords, gone; any pretense of musicianship, out the window.

But then people realize that you’re going about it backward. You can’t change your methods to change your goal. You have to change your goal. That means you’re thinking about composing music in a new way, not just how you’re going to play differently with something rather familiar.

This lets loose the dogs of war.

No longer is music carved from a known pattern; the song is the pattern, and it obeys no rule other than its content. Face value is made secondary to internal value. Like it is in human, whether we have souls or not.

This is what Discharge did to the world of punk — and later, to metal:

Musically, punk’s first wave hadn’t been all that far removed from regular rock’n’roll. “God Save the Queen,” with its hummable melody and simplistic chord changes, is clearly a relation, albeit distant, of Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones. The difference is in the attitude, in Johnny Rotten’s adenoidal snarl.

Discharge’s revamped version of punk bore little resemblance to anything that had come before. It was faster, harsher, and often almost entirely lacking in melody. The riffs were generally three-chord affairs, but they were played at warp speed, accompanied by a rumbling bass and a merciless, galloping drumbeat. The songs rarely topped the two-minute mark. As Garry Maloney, who drummed on some of the band’s best recordings, explained to a ‘zine called Trakmarx, “We just embraced speed—the concept—not the drug—took it to its logical limit.”

Away went the blues scale, playing in uniform musical measures, and having pop song format work for you. Instead, the new vision was the lawless chromatic scale, a lack of key and thus of soaring bridge and chorus, or even any fixed song format. It was repetition made into its own undoing, a type of ambient music made from noise.

Rock ‘n’ roll died with Discharge. Others, like Amebix and The Exploited, followed. On US shores the Cro-Mags and thrash (DRI, COC, Cryptic Slaughter, Dead Horse, Fearless Iranians From Hell) further put metal into punk. With metal’s phrasal riffs and punk’s lack of structure, music got closer to ancient times.

Suddenly, the melody determined the song, and since the songs were topical, the melody was determined by the idea. Like ancient Greek dramas, where the chorus sang poetry as the story was acted out on stage, the new punk-metal hybrid entered the world of motifs and mimetic meaning, where art imitates life to tell the story of a journey or adventure and how it changed those who sallied forth.

The end of the second song, nearly eight minutes in, elicited a weak cheer, a few claps, and a robust chant of “D.R.I.”—a local thrash band on the rise, which had played earlier that night.

This was the new legion, thrash and underground metal (death metal and black metal), and it ushered in a new era. Where music was plain-spoken like punk, but mythological like metal. Where it took metal’s criticism of human behavior and used that to explain punk’s extreme political dissidence. Where people started looking at what they’d die for instead of what they’d live for.

Since that time, metal and punk have both gone through many generations. None have gotten very far from those originals who broke free however. They had to destroy before they could create and, when the dust of destruction and subsequent self-destruction finally settles, creation will begin anew.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DmSbqmJaig

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Interview with Abominant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there a “Midwestern sound” to death metal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you going to tour for this album?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gorguts – Colored Sands

gorguts-colored_sandsTwo of the worst fates in the world: to not know why people like what you do, and to get thrown into the big bin marked “not bad” that contains 99% of human endeavors which are quickly forgotten.

Colored Sands, which sees release today, attempts to recapture the magic of Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate. On the surface, one would see these as a collection of techniques: off-time riffs, odd chord voicings, “deep” lyrics and an affinity for classical music.

Unfortunately, that’s all Gorguts took from their back catalog.

As said above, this reviews damns this CD with the faint praise of “not bad.” It’s much better than the rest of the tek-deth genre, but that’s sort of like saying that chainsaw dismemberment is better than Evola. The real problem with Colored Sands is that it’s transparent.

You can imagine a group of guys sitting in a room thinking, “How do we make a death metal album edgy?” For starters, they throw in the list of techniques I mentioned. But then they use very similar rhythms, song structures, riff types and even sequence of chord voicings.

We could call this “the Opeth effect”: for an instant audience, make music that sounds difficult but in fact is moron-simple and predictable, because it allows people to pose at being elite. It’s in full effect here, as bad as on the second Cynic album. It’s progressive music for pop fans.

Most of us had higher expectations because Gorguts traditionally held themselves to a higher standard. But what’s here is 50% traditional death metal and 50% tech-deth dressed up as prog, and it’s boring. The best part is the brief classical piece in the style of the Russians, which is both populist and not all that exciting in the convention of that style.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igkV8F4-fc0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALRfZPBj4iY

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

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWe8gkBRiJM

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Slayer launches five-week North American tour

slayer-2013-north-american-tourLegendary moshers Slayer, who combined NWOBHM and hardcore punk to invent their own style of music which bridged speed metal and the nascent death metal movement, along with Hellhammer and Bathory creating the sound of underground metal, are back on tour.

Slayer‘s five-week North American tour shows the band with replacement musicians — guitarist Gary Holt and drummer Paul Bostaph — replacing musicians Jeff Hanneman and Dave Lombardo, respectively. The band was shaken by Hanneman’s untimely death earlier this year and have been struggling to return to routine.

This is Slayer‘s first North American tour in two years and will include the band’s previously announced return to New York’s Theatre at Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Palladium, venues the band hasn’t performed at in 25 years.

Tickets for all dates on Slayer‘s U.S. tour, go on sale beginning this Friday, September 6. Click here for complete on-sale dates and ticketing information.

OCTOBER
22 Sullivan Sports Arena, Anchorage, AK
25 The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
28 Hollywood Palladium, Hollywood, CA
30 Events Center @ San Jose State, San Jose, CA

NOVEMBER
1WAMU Center, Seattle, WA
3Stampede Corrall, Calgary, AB
4Shaw Center, Edmonton, AB
5Praireland Park Center, Saskatoon, SK
7MTS Center, Winnipeg, MB
8 Myth, Minneapolis, MN
10 FunFunFun Fest, Austin, TX
12 Bayou Music Center, Houston, TX
13 South Side Ballroom, Dallas, TX
15 Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL
16 The Fillmore, Detroit, MI
17 LC Pavilion, Columbus, OH
19 The Fillmore, Washington, D.C.
20 Stage AE, Pittsburgh, PA
21Ricoh Colibsum, Toronto, ON
23CEPSUM/University of Montreal, Montreal, QC
24Pavilion de la Jeunesse, Quebec, QC
26 Oakdale Theatre, Wallingford, CT
27 Theatre @ MSG, New York, NY
29 Susquehanna Bank Center, Camden, NJ
30 Tsongas Arena, Boston, MA

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Scalpel releases Sorrow and Skin on September 3

scalpel-sorrow_and_skinBoston death metal band Scalpel release their debut full-length, Sorrow and Skin, tomorrow (September 3rd) via Sevared Records. To mark the occasion, SCALPEL teamed up with DeathMetal.org for the premiere of album track “The Black Juices.” Stream the tune at this location.

Creating brutal percussive death metal in the style pioneered by Suffocation, Scalpel integrate West Coast influences (Deeds of Flesh) with their traditional East Coast approach and mix in dissonant melody and more frenetic song structures. To hear more of their music, watch videos on the Scalpel official YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/scalpelofficial.

To celebrate the release of Sorrow and Skin, Scalpel will perform with the mighty GORGUTS on September 8th at The Palladium in Worcester, Mass.. The band will follow that gig with another blockbuster opening for MORBID ANGEL on November 10th at The Middle East in Cambridge, Mass. To order your copy of Sorrow and Skin, visit the band’s store at www.scalpel.bigcartel.com.

clawhammer

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Master – The Witchhunt

master-the_witchhuntUntil you succeed, you face a threat from competition. Once you succeed, you may face a worse threat, which is competition from yourself.

The history of Master may be divided into roughly two parts, those albums before …And On the Seventh Day God Created and after it. Before, Master was a proto-death metal with a punk and old school rock vibe; after, it was tight and rigid high intensity death metal.

The Witchhunt picks up on that style and adds a bit more melody and riffcraft, but returns to the classic punk-style open percussion that Master used on its earlier albums, but sped up. As a result, there’s less stop-start and more raging fast lead-picked riffs.

Other than that, not much has changed. Speckmann is still the primary songwriter and builds songs around a vocal rhythm and bassline, which his band cohorts fill with guitar riffs and drum patterns. The current lineup seems to have effected positive change in his sense of tempo and change.

Intensely consistent, Master sound like themselves on this album and thanks to some modernization of sound are competitive with the more intense bands out there. What might be great is if they expanded to use more riffing and less verse-chorus construction such that the band fully moved into the death metal era.

Speckmann’s vocals are both strained and emotional and gruff and functional at the same time, creating a type of voice of authority which channels the music between its extremities and coherence. Percussion is reminiscent of early Vader or Sinister.

While some will argue that this album offers nothing more than what Master has done in the past, The Witchhunt may surprise them. Songs are more distinctive in rhythm, riff and aesthetics, and the uptempo change has forced more efficiency in songwriting.

In other words, this is not “just another Master album,” but a steady improvement that is consistent both with the second era of Master and the general direction of the first. This makes it a complement to the near present and distant past.

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Sammath Godless Arrogance to be released February 3, 2014

sammath-godless_arroganceHammerheart Records has set a release date for the fifth Sammath album, Godless Arrogance, which will see worldwide release by the Dutch label on February 3, 2014.

You can hear a sample track in high definition at the Hammerheart Records Sammath Godless Arrogance page for “Fear Upon Them”. This track showcases not only the songwriting of the new album but the production you’ll hear which improves upon past Sammath releases.

Creating music in the style of fast ripping death metal with the underlying melody and moodiness of black metal, Sammath deliver a blast of fury and beauty that resembles the second Immortal album crossed with Fallen Christ. Godless Arrogance may help renovate metal in 2014.

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