Gruesome: Death-Loving Collective Untethers Slayer Cover

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The cast of Gruesome, the Schuldiner-hailing collective featuring members of Exhumed, Possessed, Malevolent Creation and Derketa, today untethers a very special cover of Slayer’s “Black Magic.” The band’s latest reconfiguration of the old-school appears on the deluxe digital edition of the band’s Savage Land full-length.

We chose our cover tunes the same way we tried to write the album,” relays guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey. “We just did what Chuck [Schuldiner] would have done. Death was never a band particularly known for their cover song repertoire, but they did occasionally close their set with a rendition of ‘Black Magic’ and it’s a cover that dates as far back as an old 1984 Death/Mantas rehearsal, so we felt it would be appropriate. We were considering ‘The Exorcist’ by Possessed, since Death started recording a cover of it during Individual Thought Patterns, but since [Gruesome guitarist] Dan [Gonzalez] is in Possessed, it was a bit weird. Again, we tried to approach the song as Death doing a Slayer cover, so… hopefully we came close to the mark.

Gruesome pays homage to the mainstream’s and non-death metal listeners’ most celebrated American acts, Death. As such, their debut full-length, Savage Land, released last month Relapse Records, is an addictively punishing exhibition of late-’80s/early-’90s Florida-styled death metal that keeps the true sound and spirit of Chuck Schuldiner and Death alive and well.

Gruesome was borne out of guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey (Exhumed) and drummer Gus Rios’ (Malevolent Creation) mutual involvement with the Death To All tours. After discarding the idea of putting together another incarnation of DTA to focus exclusively on Death’s first two albums, Harvey half-jokingly suggested writing their own songs in that vein. The idea gained traction, and the band had five songs written. Rios later recruited Possessed guitarist Daniel Gonzalez and Derketa bassist Robin Mazen to record the material in Florida. Savage Land was tracked by Rios and Gonzalez at Riversound Studios in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, mixed by Jarrett Pritchard at Mana Studios in St. Petersburg, Florida, and features a guest guitar solo on “Closed Casket” by James Murphy as well as cover art by legendary illustrator Ed Repka (Death, Megadeth, Massacre, Athiest et el).

Savage Land is out now via Relapse Records on CD, LP and all digital outlets. Physical orders are available now at THIS LOCATION, and digital orders HERE.

“This couldn’t come more highly recommended. Buy this and take a trip back to the ’80s when death metal wasn’t all about blast beats and gutturals.” – Stereokiller

“This isn’t your crusty, nasty, run-of-the-mill retro death metal. Hell no. This the advanced, dripping-rot-from-the-corners-of-a-coffin, putrid, vile death metal throwback that you’ve been waiting for. Observe.” – Metal Injection

“The enthusiasm alone on Savage Land is awe-inspiring… this is a fun romp through the rehearsal space of a bunch of longhairs who love a band so much it hurts. 8/10″ – Exclaim

“…just so goddamned fun.” — MetalSucks

“Metal needs more albums like Savage Land… The legacy and sound of Death lives on ever so faithfully through bands like Gruesome, and wherever he is, Chuck Schuldiner is undoubtedly windmilling ferociously and smirking ear to ear at the deathly sounds of Savage Land. 4/5″ – HeavyBlogIsHeavy

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Taco Bell Diablo Sauce

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Those of us who survive in the concrete jungle or the suburban desert live as we must, which often means foraging within the realms of junk food. This in turn means, because too much of junkfood is merely a conduit to “the beetus” or other early death, to have strong preferences for some junk food over other types. Many of us remain enthusiastic fans of Taco Bell because, despite the high salt content and imminent violent defecation, it remains relatively simple, unsullied and realistically-priced compared to the over-sugared varieties of junk food found at the burger joints. It also eschews the pomposity of “down home goodness” and “hippie health food wisdom” which mark, even in small doses, places like Chipotle and In-N-Out.

As part of its ill-advised campaign to be “more competitive,” which is scurrilous nonsense since it has already captured its self-selected target audience of drunks, college students, scat fetishists and budget-conscious consumers, Taco Bell has made tentative stepts toward expanding its menu to include more varied tastes. As a long time observer, I believe this contradicts business wisdom which would be to instead serve its existing constituency such that it expands, instead of trying to capture audiences from other businesses who are more adapted to what those groups expect. However, it has in addition to some hilarious missteps — the soggy Doritos-in-a-burrito was more than gastronomically dismal — this has brought a number of useful experiments, including the new Diablo sauce. From the beginning, this product faces a steady climb because those who really like hot sauce enough for it to be essential with a fast food meal probably have their preferred poison on hand, but it also may gain an audience of those heading past the sauce counter for some slightly new experiences. Much like the market for spicy sauces sold separately, it navigates a fine line between over-processed and sweetened sauces, and perennial favorites like Tabasco which balance spice with flavor such that one tastes more than spice or the sugar, aromatic spices and fruit extracts added to soften the blow or at least give it an ironic, contrarian or contradictory identity (“it’s a hot sauce, but unlike the others, it has fruits and flowers”).

The first taste of Diablo Sauce, as warned by our local Taco Bell proprietor, is of intense spice. A glance at the ingredients shows that it picks up from where Fire Sauce left off but uses a more intense pepper base, feeling like simultaneously more black pepper and a habanero or more concentrated jalapeno-serrano mix. The result, while warming and very useful to pick up the intensity, falls short on the spice-flavor balance: unlike Tabasco, it is more hot than flavorful and, while it avoids the odious boutique spice flavors that insist mixing mango and cloves with Scottish bonnet peppers somehow makes a “new” taste, it also fails to bring with it the optimized mix of flavors that fire sauce does. Perhaps this means that Taco Bell caved to the extremists — who might be conveniently visualized as drunk bearded men with bandoliers full of specially-bred spicy peppers — and forsook its commonplace wisdom as to what its audience desires, which can be summarized as “spicy Southwestern” since Taco Bell borrows more from Tex-Mex than Mex and more from California Tex-Mex than Tex-Tex-Mex.

The question always presented itself as to whether Taco Bell would make a more spicy Fire Sauce, or a spicy sauce, and the sense I get is that they aimed for the latter while guarding their flank with some inclusion of the former, which runs a risk of pleasing neither group. I suggest they defer to interface: mild, medium and fire are variants on the same flavor, and Diablo should be too on that basis, with the possibility of simply adding a “habanero sauce” (or equivalent, since a concentrated jalapeno-serrano or jalapeno-japones mix will achieve the same result) as an addition to the Diablo sauce. Perhaps this was the intent, since of the eight of us eating the three who appreciate spicy food the most ended up using a 2:1 mix of Fire:Diablo sauces to great effect. In any case, it was a joy to experiment with this new flavor and, while it may not be the end-all for spice fetishists, for those who have the time to mix it in with other sauces it makes for a powerful addition to the Taco Bell palette.

UnKured – Mutated Earth

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A riff-salad is often deemed to be intrinsically affiliated to music with no order and random ideas.  But the best use of this song-writing approach make use of different kinds relationships between one riff and the next, and between all riffs in the song. Given the superficial independence of motifs and patterns of different riffs, stylistic consistency is, above all, indispensable.

Advertised as Thrash, UnKured make schyzophrenic music materializing the worse riff-salad nightmares.  Not only does each new riff that comes do away with whatever the previous riff was saying, but influences from the most undefined and messy prog-speed albums like The Sound of Perseverance to almost deathcore-like breakdown rhythms and back to late 1980s barking death metal make an appearance.

Fans looking for the fun provided by Chuck Schuldiner’s naivete will enjoy this release even though this is less organized and more confusing for anyone trying to get an integral view of the music.

Interview with Terry Butler of Massacre

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Massacre carved a place for themselves in the death metal community years ago and with their foundational From Beyond, an album of tremolo-picked columnar death metal with big fuzzy production at a time when many death metal bands were still trying to emulate the muted-picked speed metal of the previous era.

Over two decades later, Massacre returns with Back From Beyond which sees release on April 1, 2014 via Century Media records. We were fortunate to be able to grab a few words with bassist Terry Butler, whose work with Massacre, Death, Six Feet Under and other Florida death metal bands has made him a towering legend in the community.

You’re about to unleash a new work, Back From Beyond. Since the title effectively compares it to your breakthrough album From Beyond, can you tell us: how are these albums different in approach, in style and in production?

In the case of From Beyond, the songs had been written five years prior, so when we signed to Earache, we just jumped in the studio and recorded them. We tried to keep the production simple and raw. The approach for Back From Beyond was “let’s not rush and re-hash songs for a quick release.” We took our time with the songwriting and production. It’s been 22 years, why rush? The production is better on Back From Beyond. Tim Vasquez did a great job!

What do you think Back From Beyond is adding to death metal, twenty plus years past its inception?

We are just playing Death Metal the way we like it. Heavy riffs, catchy in your face and brutal. I like rhythms I can remember. As far as adding something new, no one is adding something new these days. It’s all been done. We are just doing what we do.

You released an EP, Condemned to the Shadows, in 2012. How different is that material from what we’ll hear on Back From Beyond?

It’s musically in the same vein. More of the same basically. We re-recorded the two tracks from that EP. They are sonically different and production-wise sound different.

Can you tell us how Massacre assembled? I know it pre-dated Death, but after Death fragmented the members came together for From Beyond. Can you connect those dots for us?

Bill Andrews formed Massacre in ’84. At that stage it was mostly covers. Kam [Lee] joined in ’85 and a three-song demo was released. Rick [Rozz] joined in ’86 and a four-song demo was released. In early ’87, Rick, Bill, and I joined Death. After four years in Death, Bill and I contacted Rick, and Massacre was back together. We signed to Earache and put out From Beyond and Inhuman Condition. After several tours the band split up again. Now 22 years later, we are back. That’s the gist of it. In a nutshell.

At the time when From Beyond came out, most of Florida death metal was focusing on blasting and choppier, more muted strum percussive riffing. Massacre went for the full on fast-tremolo strum and big fuzzy burly warm sound guitar production. What made you take this different path?

That’s the Massacre sound and philosophy. Rick was in Mantas in ’83 writing this way and in Death in ’84 and ’85 writing this way. He wrote most of the material on From Beyond. He wrote half of Leprosy. I co-wrote four songs on Spiritual Healing. So what I’m trying to say is: this is our style. The songs on From Beyond were written in ’86. No disrespect to blasting, but the Massacre sound was cemented years before.

Do you think your different path helped ‘From Beyond’ achieve the cult status it has among death metal devotees?

Yes, in a way. The band didn’t at the time, no, but we were influencing the likes of Napalm Death, Carcass etc. Joining Death, then coming back and putting out From Beyond only helped the status of Massacre. The whole time I was in Six Feet Under, people kept asking about Massacre. For the band to still be relevant in 2014 speaks volumes about the music!

Was Bill Andrews unable to make the reunion? Is he still into death metal at all?

Unfortunately… no. He doesn’t play anymore and doesn’t listen to Death Metal. I still talk to him regularly though. He lives in Japan now.

Rick Rozz has an entirely unique guitar style marked by, among other things, “whammy bar abuse.” What influenced this style, and are we still going to hear the torturing of whammy bars?

The whammy bar is still in effect and deadlier than ever ha-ha… He draws a lot of influence from K.K. Downing and Kerry King, as far as the whammy goes. I personally think it’s a lost art these days.

What do you think determines whether a band is death metal or not? Is death metal the same genre it was back in 1992, or has it changed?

I think it’s mix of music and vocals. Obviously the first thing is vocals. If you put opera vocals over Cannibal Corpse songs it’s not Death Metal, and if you put Cannibal Corpse vocals over Journey songs it’s not Death Metal. Darker, heavier music with low brutal vocals is the formula for Death Metal. I believe Death Metal has changed since ’92, a bit. There are more off-shoots, such as Black Metal, Crust, and Grind, these days. I think Death Metal back then was more about riffs and grooves; now it’s about speed and fashion.

About what mix of old/new songs do you think you’ll play on tour? How are you preparing for the tour?

The mix will be about 50/50. We still have to play the hits ha-ha. We will practice as much as possible for the tour.

From Beyond featured mostly “mythological” lyrics, drawn from Lovecraft and horror movies. It wasn’t so much “social consciousness.” Do you think metal tends toward a mythological direction?

I think it’s a mix of both. Obliviously you have your satanic lyrics and religious themes, but a lot of bands do sing about current events. The satanic and mythological lyrics are kind of written for you already.

How do you all feel about launching a huge new album and tour two decades after you started out? Did you ever think Massacre would get this big?

I think it’s amazing and we are very excited about it. Like I said earlier , it says a lot about our music that we are still relevant after 22 years.

Massacre reveals track listing for Back From Beyond

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In March of this year, formative Florida death metal band Massacre will release their highly-anticipated followup to 1991’s From Beyond. On a Facebook post, the band released the following tracklist.

Track list:

  1. As We Wait To Die
  2. Ascension Of The Deceased
  3. Hunter’s Blood
  4. Darkness Fell
  5. False Revelation
  6. Succumb To Rapture
  7. Remnants Of Hatred
  8. Shield Of The Son
  9. The Evil Within
  10. Sands Of Time
  11. Beast Of Vengeance
  12. Back From Beyond
  13. Honor The Fallen

Composed of ex-Death personnel and musicians from nearby Florida death metal bands, Massacre in its From Beyond days was a unique animal in that it was straight-ahead death metal with an intelligent vibe. That is, these songs were well formed to deliver an intense emotional dose and thrill-seeker hairs on the back of your neck standing up at some of the riff combinations. It was like an adventure story through an unknown land.

What made it unusual for the time was that it threw out the chunky/bouncy riffing that most bands were choosing at the time in order to be closer to mainstream metal. Instead, Massacre used guitarist Rick Rozz’s immense tremolo skills and big burly fuzzy distortion to create a sound like thunder through the clouds. The tremolo riff enabled them to join together riffs and keep momentum flowing, rather than relying on the constant interruption-based expectation as chunky/bouncy riffing does, and thus the band was able to assemble simpler riffs into songs with malevolent grandeur.

It will be interesting to see what they cook up for Back From Beyond. Self-referential album titles can work out poorly for bands, although it worked just fine for AC/DC. The band released the Condemned From the Shadows EP last year to some acclaim, and from that work it appears the band may be heading in a more traditional heavy metal direction.