Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Here Comes Dragon Con : Interview with Loss'John 'Ichabod' Anderson

Recently caught up with my friend John " Ichabod" Anderson the bass player for Loss, to talk about this year's Horror Track at Dragon-con, his band and the horror genre.

Wil: How did you become involved with Dragon Con?

Ichabod:  My involvement with Dragon Con began when I met Derek Tatum, Director of Dragon Con’s Horror Track, at a concert many years ago. We realized that we not only knew a lot of the same bands in the U.S. scene, but that we also saw eye to eye on a lot of movies, books, shows, and especially music. It was to be his first year as director, so he recruited me for the staff -- mostly to cover music, at first, but I would later become Assistant Director. This will be our 10th year representing the dark side of the convention.

Wil: This is the second year of the Horror Track after splitting off from Dark Fantasy, what can we expect this year? 

Ichabod:  Yes, the track has gone through several names over the years, in an effort to describe the particular niche of dark culture and art that we like to cover. Ultimately, “dark fantasy,” much like the term “goth,” had started to mean too many things to too many people, making the scope of the track unwieldy. Thus, the track was split into Horror, which tends to be taken the right way, and a whole new track called Urban Fantasy. Having said that, the Horror Track still covers properties that would be considered ‘dark fantasy,’ as well as bands from the goth/industrial scene.

This year, we’re covering current shows like “Hannibal,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “American Horror Story,” and the final season of “True Blood,” which I’ll be discussing with some of the actors over the weekend. We’ll also be covering classic shows like “The Twilight Zone” and my all time favorite, “Twin Peaks,” to mark the anniversary of Laura Palmer’s famous “I’ll see you again in 25 years” scene. In the area of film, we’ll be talking with Tom Savini about his years of monster-making, Cary Elwes about the darker side of his career, and William Stout about his many screen creations.  We’ve got a battery of excellent current authors, in addition to coverage of icons like Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, and Anne Rice. Plus, we have panels with many of this year’s bands, experts on a range of dark subject matter, and much more. You can see the full schedule at, but make sure to check this year’s Dragon Con App for the latest details, as things can shift.

Wil: The “State of the Goth Scene” panel is splitting into two parts this year, one for rock and another for edm,  what is the reason for this? 

Ichabod:  Initially, we had planned for “The State of the Goth Scene” to be our only music panel this year, but as we approached the convention, more bands than we could fit into a single hour were booked. Rather than leave any bands out of what has become a signature panel for us, we decided to turn it into two hours and spread it out a bit. Dividing the bands between the more electronic and the more organic isn’t an exact science, since many bands take from both sides, but given how the overall goth/industrial scene seems to have split along a similar line recently, it made sense. 

Wil: You are also very involved in the goth scene in your home town, how's the scene there, and how has your involvement progressed? 

Ichabod:  Nashville has seen a lot of growth recently – both in popularity and in population -- and that’s been great for the music scene in general. Things are happening here now that would not have been possible even a few years ago. We just passed the one year anniversary of my current club night, Fascination Street, and the response to what we’re doing has far surpassed what I thought we could accomplish with such a focused night. It’s primarily a guitar-driven post-punk, deathrock, darkwave, and traditional goth night, which is where my heart is, but those are styles that had been relegated to the background in the goth/industrial scene for more than 10 years. We’re also spinning a lot of the current bands, not just the icons or the obscurities, which is something that previously couldn’t find a steady club-audience here, so I’m very glad to see people getting into it now. I’ve wanted this for years. The future is looking good.

If anyone is in the Nashville area, check us out:

Wil: What do you feel caused the recent boom in horror television? 

Ichabod:  I believe that everything is cyclical, really, so it was time for horror to make a comeback on the small screen, but I wouldn’t limit the reasons to that.  There have been some wildly popular horror shows in recent years, and the success of the few opens doors for the many.  When a show like “The Walking Dead” is sweeping the ratings, the industry has to recognize that as a vote for what people want. Also, thanks to innovation and risk-taking over the past couple of decades (I’ll nod my cap to “Twin Peaks” again), coupled with a shift in technology and the way people absorb their entertainment (internet streaming, DVRs, binge-watching), television is no longer the lesser sibling of film. It is no longer a step down for a respected film actor to cross over into television. What we’re seeing now is some great talent telling stories that don’t have to end in two hours, and that appeals to today’s obsessive viewer.  

Wil: Is Classic Universal Horror being represented this year? 

Ichabod:  Not in particular, but I’m sure the topic will come up in panels like “Dracula Rises from the Grave... Again,” which will chronicle the perennial popularity of the most widely-recognized vampire in western culture. I’m sure Bela and company will not be left out of such a discussion.

Wil: You also play bass in the doom metal band Loss, when is your follow up to your last album "Despond" coming out? And will we ever see metal having more of a presence at Dragon-con? 

Ichabod:  We (Loss) are currently in the writing stages for the follow-up to “Despond.” It’s too early to set a release date, but we already have several songs in the works, and we’ve been hammering out details like the album’s title, concepts for the artwork, how /where it will be recorded, and all of the arrangements with Profound Lore, who will be releasing the new album, of course. For anyone who hasn’t heard it, we released a split with Hooded Menace this summer on Doomentia, entitled “A View from the Rope. “ It contains our first new song since “Despond,” which we hope will tide people over until the new album is finished.

We’re all metal fans at the Horror Track, naturally, so the presence of metal at Dragon Con has certainly been a topic of conversation for us. We’d like to do more with metal, but as with everything we cover, it all depends on the guests and speakers that are available to us. Dragon Con did book a ‘symphonic metal’ band, Anaria, this year, so that could be an indication of things to come, but I’m not holding out for someone like (our dream metal guest) King Diamond to appear – although GWAR has played in the past, and we’ve had the distinct honor of getting Alice Cooper as a speaker, so who knows?

 I should note that most people don’t realize how bands get booked for Dragon Con. Basically, all bands have to apply to perform or they’re not considered, and they generally don’t get paid a guarantee. That rules out bands of a lot of genres and sizes. On top of that, performers also have to fit the culture and the vibe of the convention -- which, incidentally, is why Loss wouldn’t fit at DC (since many have asked). I should also note that the track directors don’t have any say over what bands get booked. The convention has their own department for that.

Wil: What's your favorite horror movie so far this year? 

Ichabod:  For 2014, it’s hard to say. There are so many promising films that I haven’t been able to take in yet. “Only Lovers Left Alive” looks like it should be amazing, so I hope that it will live up to the hype. Looking back on last year’s crop, though, I absolutely loved “Byzantium.” I thought it was a great return-to-form for Neil Jordan. Also, while not a perfect film, “Kiss of the Damned” stuck with me as well, with an atmosphere reminiscent of “Daughters of Darkness” or “The Hunger.”

Wil: Hollywood seems to be overly dependent on vampires, zombies and were-wolves. What other monsters do you feel need more screen time? 

Ichabod:  It’s funny you should say that, as I just praised two vampire films, but I actually agree about the dependence. The reason I loved those two films is because they captured what I love about a good vampire film, either by ignoring current trends, or working against them. Overall, Hollywood loves to take whatever is popular and absolutely run it into the ground, but I always leave room for a well-done piece of work from any sub-genre. The success of “The Walking Dead” really pushed the zombie trend over the shark, but that hasn’t ruined zombie stories for me. I just have to wade through a larger crop to find the good ones. There’s always somebody out there with enough passion for a genre to make it work again. As for monsters that need more screen time? Original monsters, I would say. It’s great to play with the archetypes, but I’d love to see more people trying to create their own iconic creatures and characters.

Wil: Any pre-con rituals the week of? 

Ichabod:  So many rituals, so little time. After a decade of doing Dragon Con, I’ve built up several traditions – some official, some unofficial. On the official side, I spend a good bit of time doing research on the guests I’ll be working with and writing out far more questions than I will need. I like to be prepared for whatever might happen. It just makes for a better show.

On the unofficial side of the fence, I’m known for handing out a free compilation CD of current dark music, and this year is no exception. The 2014 “Out ov the Coffin: Compilation for the Dead” is in production as we speak, featuring a long list of great post-punk, goth, deathrock, industrial, darkwave, and related bands. It’s my way of giving something back to the scene, and also a taste of what my podcast (“Out ov the Coffin”) is like. Speaking of which, I’ll be recording the “Road to Dragon Con” bonus edition of that podcast tonight, which spotlights the year’s convention line-up from the goth-nerd perspective. You can find more info on that at

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ill Omen : "Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence"

If you can get past the poor production, which harkens back to the kvlt as hell days of black metal then you will find a gem here. This album is really dark and moody , not just spitting a bunch of blast beasts in your face, but adorning the music with an appropriate amount of the standard black metal trappings. This Australian  band released this album on Nuclear War Now.

All of the songs are numbered rather than named. The third one is particularly scathing and should satisfy even the heaviest of souls.The vocals are interesting as they are screamed , but with a rasp that sounds more like a ring wraith than I have ever heard the human voice convey. These guys are bent on creating dark and evil sounding music and have done themselves proud. I would expect something like this to more likely come out of France.The fourth song almost takes on a more traditional metal feel, if it were not for the ring wraith screaming from the tomb.

The ambiance of tremolo picked guitar works even better when the vocals dip down into more guttural places. I have read comparisons to Ash Borer and I don't hear it as there is very little leanings towards post -rock though they capture some interesting guitar tones. There is a Circle of  Ouroborus feel as the album progresses , at other times it feels like Burzum here and there, with the lingering sensation of Depressed suicidal black metal.The 8th songs features the vocals shifting into more of a chant and the metal meter picking up on the guitars.

They clang into a more blaze in the northern noise on the 8th song. The drums are really the main hindrance with the over all sound as the cymbals sound dead and make static sounds when the crash rides out. At the slower speed of the tenth song this problem is not as noticeable. In fact I like there overall sound at the slower pace you can take your time and hear how different this web they have woven is. They darkly build the slower section, til I am waiting for the blast, and I have grown tired of blast beats. They of course show up in the song's final three moments.

On the ninth song there is the moan of clean vocals. The cavernous lower ones are pretty haunting. This song is more build up than not as they drone on with this for the first three minutes of the song. Normally these guys don't go as crazy as some in making the songs sprawl out. The more sung or bellowed vocals is really unique even when they are defaulting to a more typical blasting drone.

It's hard to say if I would like this better with better production and if better production would hurt the ambiance of the sound they have created. By the end of the album it is not as much of an issue with me as I accept it like I did early Burzm.I'll give this album a 9 and room to grwo on me, if production doesn't botter you and you want a weirder take on the cvlt sound check this out.

Hod : "Book of the Worm"

Members of this blackened Texas metal band have played for GG Allin, so they have plenty of cred. They churn out a blackened brand of metal not unlike newer Inquisition, but with less of the epic Immortal moments. The singer's raps also is not as frog like in it's croak. They are rooted in old school metal as the hook to the chorus of the album's opener proves. They have also listened to a reasonable amount of Morbid Angel. Song's like "Den of Wolves" sound more like death metal to me.. and iI just got finished reviewing the new Cannibal Corpse so I know what I am hearing here.

The vocals take on an interesting gurgle, but they are coherent enough to under stand the lyrics of songs' like "I am Destroyer" , which spits out the post chorus like something Glen Benton would do.There is also a touch of "Fall From Grace" to that one. The drummer is one of the stars of the show here as his double bass rules songs like"Through the Gates".  At this point in the album, while they do vie for the black metal label more incessantly, I can hear both Lemmy and Cronos in the vocals.

In times where black metal bands are releasing four song albums with ten minute songs, these guys are more to the point and by result more in your face. They are trying to rock you not lull you into some sort of ritualistic trance.There is a nasty gallop to "Death Whores" , which is as close to a love song as these guys are going to come.

They are generally pretty straight forward, the mood seems to be singular in purpose of aggression, which lends itself to feeling more like a death metal album, they get plenty blast on songs like "Where Are the Demons". The do lack the dissonance that normally creates what I think of as the black metal sounds when it comes to guitar voicings, opting for more of a thrash approach in this area.The album rides out on the powerful gallop of "Beneath the Mountains of the Scorpion".

I'll give this one an 8, it's stuck with me, if you like really old school blackened death metal with a dirty coat of crust on it then check this one out.

Cannibal Corpse : "A Skeletal Domain"

It's easy to  think these guys came from Tampa with all the other death metal bands from this era of the 80's , but these guys were from New York.They are a band whose name has to come to mind when you think of death metal. This is their 13th album, so they have a good grasp on what they are doing .If you are like me and latched onto the Chris Barnes years, never giving  Corpsegrinder  a chance , despite his being the inspiration for Nathan Explosion, then the numbers do the talking as Barnes only has four albums with the band vs George's 9.... so he is Cannibal Corpse. His approach here remains  is very straight forward , he relies on using punching phrasing to fist fuck your corpse.

Lyrically you know what you are getting here, it doesn't sound like they are getting as vile as the Tomb of the Mutilated. Production is a problem that seems to have been solved for them over the years.The drums don't have that flat snare sound that used to plague the earlier albums. Right out of the gate the crisp guitars are in your face solos and all. The bass is very audible and rumbles in a manner similar to old Deicide.

The songs do begin to sound the same by "Sadistic Embodiment" though the accents hit you from another angle. "Kill or Become" also sets it self apart before going into more of blast that returns to a groove. The chant of "fire up the chainsaw. Has a nice gore shout out to horror movies that certainly fits going into October.

These songs are all pretty fast wham blam defile you mam in length, with the five minute "The Murderer's Pact" as the album's most sprawling. The title track posses one of the album's most powerful chugs. This album is pretty brutal, but if you moved on to darker rawer death metal like the whole Incantation school death metal, this might come across as mall metal to you. Some of the more straight forward moments like 'Headlong into Carnage" don't do much for me despite the flawlessness of the execution.

The velocity of "Murder's Pact" gets my attention. Then it loses me when it seems they are taking the easy way out, but I have to remember these guys are like Ac/Dc and Motorhead in that regard.It just begins to boil down to not all chugs are created equal, it's the ones that really lock on here that make or break these songs. Sure there are solos that are surprisingly tasteful in the Deathklock sort of way.With that said the chugs on "Funeral Cremation" are pretty rewarding. "Vector of Cruelty" is also pretty solid and stands out from the pack."Bloodstained Cement" digs its feet into the chug pretty heavily as well. The Slayer influence on the genre peeks out slightly on " Asphyxiate to Resuscitate"  The closer "Hallowed Bodies" pretty much sums the album up with the fury of it's chug.

This album is pretty solid as far as straight forward death metal goes, the songwriting has matured and I think I am finally ready to pass the mantle over to George now ,as it sounds as if he is worthy. I am going to give this album an 8, but if you are a fan of the band then this is obviously what you want so round it up to a 9.


Imogen Heap : "Sparks"

It's been five years since her last album, so the first that catches my ear is  voice is lower and sounds like she has been smoking. She eventually proves you can back up there as the song swells. The problem she has been facing since she released 2005 "Speak For Yourself" is the bar has been set incredibly high. I know some people who prefer her work with Frou Frou, so I don't feel so bad about being stuck on that album.

She drifts on a lazy cloud of electronic bleeps and blips, not unlike the backing of "Speak For Yourself" and much safer than the subsequent follow up "Eclipse". The tight ethereal harmonies are here, but she is trying to no appear as dependent on them, leaving the song "Entanglement" to work better for her than the hushed tones of the albums opener.

Her style still works even though this kinda of pop has been hi-jacked by the likes of St Vincent and Zola Jesus. Those two singers might not be able to pull of the rather Basia styled gymnastics on a song like "the Listening Chair" that feels like a children's song by way of Peter Gabriel.. The Oriental intervals of the "Cycle Song" sound more organic and really wears the Kate Bush influence on it's sleeve. While playful it doesn't really feel like it is more than an interlude.

The collaboration with deadmau5 is less edm infused than I expected for this coupling. He melodies flip back and forth in the manner I enjoy from her as the backing track just simmers .While a good song this dosen't work as well as the song with Vishal-Shekhar.

 She does darken up and become more introspective on "Lifeline". The hook at the chorus on this one is very strong and helps propel the song. To call this pop music doesn't feel accurate as most of the songs have to fine a coating of quirk to them for radio play, nor can I hear them sitting against Kesha. The spoken word intro to "Neglected Space" isn't among my favorite moments, angelic melodies do offer a call and response, but this and the building synth line are too little too late almost.

One thing I really like about this album is how it infuses world music into it. This allows her to branch her singing out into all kinds of exotic intervals not commonly used in western music.Are also songs like "Me the Machine" that remind me of 80's new wave.One of my favorite songs on the album is the simple , but very dancey "Run-Time".This does look back into the brand of edm most influenced by the 80's .

Despite it's title "the Beast" has a lot of tender ambiance to it."Xizi She Knows" jumps back into the quirky dance pop she is known, lyrical smart as most of the album is. The themes seem to use technology as a metaphor for a breakdown in relationships.The album closes with the dreamily sedate "Propeller Seeds" that dips its toes in subtle jazz inflection bathed in edm. This album is a step in the right direction for her, even if it's not well... you know. I'll give it a 9.5.

Equilibrium: "Erdentempel"

We recently started D&D nights on Sunday at our house, and of course the fitting soundtrack is to put Last Fm on "folk metal" radio. Last night my girlfriend rediscovered this band, so I decided to give their latest album a shot. It's much more symphonic than I expected almost like Night Wish without the female vocals. The Folk metal scale tends to be very major and happy so that is one thing the genre normally has going against it for me.

These ale swigging Germans have been pumping out this sort of thing since 2001. They know what they are doing and all the songs flow very smoothly. The 3rd song "Karawane" is the first song on the album that strikes me as being heavy, the frolicking is in full effect early on. The first two songs employ things like speedy almost power metal like gallops and growled vocals, the rousing clean vocals are sparser than expected. They do join in on the chorus like movements. The Celtic like instrumentation rolls along the same lines as the Night Wish riffs. Composition is one of this band's strong suits as the songs are relativly catchy and pieced together in almost movements, so the chorus are more like a dynamic melody that swings in rather than the typical arrangement.

Some of the album's happier moments would annoy me if I wasn't at Dragon Con.From time they dip into a more rock n roll, at others they are more symphonic death metal, so there is a lot going on here. Some of the more progressive elements offset the happy vibe and take it to a more Jethro Tull place. "Freiflug" is another of the album's strong points, it is epic but still has some balls and aggression it, while not forsaking melody. However "Heavy Chill" defaults back into the more power metal mode.

"Wirtshaus Gaudi" brings the heavy back, surprisingly in the days where everything is trying to be black something or another, they do not , instead as the album moves forward the delve in quirky bits of gypsy polka.There are some moments when they hit all the same classic ride into battle glory moments all the other bands of this ilk indulge in, but their song writing generally sets them apart. The seems to be key as "Wellengang" works in the context in which is is used , by taking what could have been a power ballad melody and chugging over it.

They do take more twists and turns on "Apokalypse", which is one of the album's heavier moments.They close on a proggy note with "Unknown Episode" and it's very 80's sounding keyboards.The vocals get even more guttural to offset this with mixed results.Overall I enjoyed this album for what it is, not sure how much mileage aside from Dragon Con I will get out of this , but if this sort of high fanstasy metal is your thing round it up from the 8 I am giving it to a 9.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Funerary : "Starless Aeon"

This band from Pheonix crashes in with some sludge infused doom. When we listened to Yob's new one it led us to the place where we were asking what is doom? What is the difference between doom and sludge? It seemed darkness and dispair are the elements that weave together doom, even if you go back to Black Sabbath's earlier monolithic moments creating the genre and well... metal as we know it.

Like most extreme metal album if they hit you hard enough the first song finds you trying to catch your breath and get you bearings as if you have been punched. The finer points of song writing can get bull dozed under by sheer power. Rather than trying to replicate the beating they start off with the rest of the album finds moments of atmosphere, while keeping things at a gurgling dark crawl, from the vocals to the oppressive guitars, that can shed the thick distortion when needed. Songs like "Atonement" are the perfect display here, with the guitar almost flirting with a post rock sound at times. Even though this song is largely instrumental with the low gasp of vocals creating a haunting under current of atmospheric this sound is so original until it works for me. When "Beneath the Black Veil" takes this and elevates it the result is pretty uncanny.

Some of the wild spastic vocal patterns take on a similar assualt to your ears as say Eyehategod. Not relly comprehensible, the reckless nature of punk giving the place where melody would normally surface more of a gritty coat. The grind chug stirs like a rabid beast awakening to a hang over on "Depressor". The lyrics are null at this point, as the screaming rants out from the dense mix.  Bands like Buzz Oven come to mind with the low end throb these guys dish out. They win me over because they are as heavy sonically as they are metal.

While this is one of those albums I can just leave on and let throb in the background, I still feel like I need to round it down to a 9.5, as the fact the sonic brutality of this often compensates for where the drone doesn't always make the most perfect songwriting, effective...yes...perfect no. The haphazard vocal approach plays into this, I get most of the vocals are just for texture, but a ten would be to say this stands up against Sabbath or Acid Bath who bring a broader dynamic to what they do, not to say these guys don't excel at what they have done and this isn't one of the best doom metal albums out now.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bastard Sapling:"Instinct is Forever"

The Virginia band is back and this time slightly less black, but no less hard hitting.They hint more heavily at grind core and death metal on this one, though not to say this exercise in aggression is devoid of moods other than scathing. "Subterranean Rivers of Blood" is a flurry of blasty mc nasty, sometimes there need for speed blurs into death metal, though this one is much closer to the black side.

 The rumbling bass of "Opal Chamber' starts off slowing things down and the song rebels against it going into more of a sweeping black metal like pulse.They catch a galloping groove here as the chords find more ambiance. This ambiance is taken even further on the clean guitar based interlude called "Elder". This gives way to a more rock n rollish "Killer in Us All" that finds it's black metal wings soon enough. They build into some powerful groove that beat you down head banging.

They display how their song writing has matured on "Splintering Ouroboros" , with weird dissonant clean break down that step up the dynamic level of the band. The vocals are largely one sided in their snarl, that stays mid range.The drummer is by far the star of this show, but with this kind of metal, should it be any other way?  The songs are more concise on this one with the longest winded being the ten minute " Lantern at the End of Time", that also features weird layered clean vocals at the beginning over an otherwise thrash like charge, this is a totally unexpected sorry no spoiler alert. The song takes another dynamic twist at the three minute mark with another step into clean vocals over strummed guitar, to create a rather Pink Floyd like feeling.

"Every Life Thrown to the Eclipse" launches off as a brutal sonic fist fuck. This is one of the albums heaviest starting points, though some of the songs do get more intense as they progress. The thrash vibe haunts the double bass. The vocals also get a little more fiendish in their more Immortal like rasp.The album closes out with the slightly more mournful "Forbidden Sorrow" , which has more darkness and texture in it's gallop.It does fall back slightly on some of the more conventional methods to approach black metal.

It's evident these guys have stepped up their game. I like the broader range of sounds , this is how metal should be done. I'll give it a 9.5, some of the falling back into the blast is what keeps it from being a perfect album, but hey 10 is flawless and never ending listen, so it's a lot to aim for. This is the best album you might fail to check out this year.


Earth:"Primitive and Deadly"

This Seattle band's founder Dylan Carlson reportedly bought the gun that Kurt Cobain used to kill himself. This marks their 7th full length and my first foray into their world.   Earth's appeal really depends on how slow you like your drone rock. They capture the sounds well and have some cool riffs, but often never develop past , well here's a cool riff into an actual song. To the point that Mark Laneggan's vocals on "There is a Serpent Coming" sounds like he is just improvising in the studio rather than trying to create a song. The vocals of Rose Widow's Rabia Qazi do tend to work better on the more drifting "From the Zodiacal Light".

By the third song I do get that this is there thing to just pick a riff and ride it out, so I can stop waiting for any sort of dynamic variance So that leaves me going into the rest of the album fully aware this is not going to be my thing. I like slow and I like drone to an extinct as i love funeral doom, but that is much more layered and dynamic than what goes on here. They do wander into more of a blues based thing on "Even Hell Has it's Heroes". They drench it in elements of psychedelia and have a really go guitar tone through out the album, in fact compared to the bit's a pieces I have heard of this band previously this is a much more metal album , at least in terms of guitar tone. The phrasing in the some times very David Gilmore like solos is pretty remarkable.

"Rooks Across the Gate" floats long similar Obscured by Couds like wave, this time Lanegan's vocals fall between the cracks with more assurance.The album ends on the longest song , the twelve plus minute"Badger's Bane". This song is slightly more doomy , but doesn't really go anywhere new. At the five minute mark it starts to fade out into drums and noise, it does build back up in the first display of dynamics I have heard on this album.

I know these guys are cult favorites and maybe this is the band taking a turn in a different direction and I should check out the first album, But guitars aside I don't think some of the other elements like the minimal drums are ever really going to catch on with me.Sure they are backed by guys from Sunn o and Built to Spill on this one , but it still doesn't grab me. I will give it a 6 because it sounds great and they succeeded in what they set out to do it just isn't my thing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wormreich: Wormcult Revelations EP

Neither Tennessee or Alabama is the first places that comes to mind when you think of where the darkest black metal coming from America this yet might be spewed from, but that is what has happened. It's American black metal that doesn't sound like it's from America, so all the post- rock hipster trappings are no where to be found. These guys do capture a creepy sonic element to what they do. Not unlike what some of the Depressive Suicidal Black metal bands used to do, while Xasthur and Leviathan can be at times reference points, they reside on a layer of the abyss closer to Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega, who they do cover here.

The first revelation is more of a intro than a song, it sets the mood well. "Revelation II : Serpents of the Choronzon" is a work of art. These guys don't lean on blast beats in the traditional sense. The drumming is powerful and dynamic,  yet tasteful and acting as a conductor for the winding movements. The have a wonderful dissonance to them. The chords ring out with that beautifully evil ambiance I adore. There are some cool chants spaced out in odd bridges here and there as well.

"Shaare Maveth" is basically an interlude that serves more as an intro for the third revelation entitled "Devotion's Final War".  The is weaves around a more tightly coiled riff that flirts with a similar undulating chaos at it's core. Little more of a blasty mcnasty feel here. The vocals stay in a choked rasp with torturous undertones, sometimes leaning more towards the croak. Around the four minute mark the song delves into a cool melodic section with keyboards layering it. The following revelation is a little more straight forward and in your face. At times this draws them a little closer to saw old Watain territory, just with out some of those thrashier grooves. It has to grow on me more than the first two songs.

The "Codex Luciferivm" is a synth based instermental that also feels like an interlude leading into the cover of Deathspell Omega's "Malign Paradigm" , off the French band's "Si monvmentvm reqvires,circircvmspice" album. This song was written by Deathspell Omega as a tribute to the Swedish black metal band Malign and their song "Ashes and Bloodstench". Stylistically is deviates as what you recognize as Wormreich's sound taking a more traditional metal approach for the first two and a half minutes of the song before it turns into a swathe of sound effects.

I will round this one up to a 9. These guys show lots of potential, the only problem with this being an ep is just that it's a very abbreviated version of what these guys do and I want to hear more of what they excel at some of the interludes eat up time that I feel might have given me a deeper glimpse into that place, so it leaves me eagerly awaiting the next full length where this will be displayed, hopefully sooner than later. If you are looking for some dark grim black metal draped in atmosphere but no less mean for it then this is worth your time.  

Zola Jesus: "Taiga"

The wait is over. A new album of all new songs and not just stringed re-interpretations. The title track that opens the album is also one of the albums darker and more experimental moment. The ice woman facade melts leaving what is  her take on pop music. Her music has always been electronic and in some ways pop, but it came from a darker place popular music from the 80's came out of. The melodies of songs like "Dangerous Days" which is also the lead single of the album come from a no less emotional place just a less desperate and brooding place.

The mood shifts slightly back into the old witch house/ goth roots with a smooth coat of r&b over it on "Dust", the song resonates with me more than "Dangerous Days" which is still trying to grow on me. The backing track is sparser and darker here. The songs have more breathing room, even in the dynamic builds. One reason for this is she has said  in recent interview that she wrote these songs around her voice ,  rather than crating sound capes and singing on top of them.  This is very obvious on the song "Nail" which lays her voice out nakedly.

The synths that open "Hunger" caught me off guard as they were a little brighter , but this songs turns into one of the albums more intense moments, and captures the emotion I want from her. Like Morrissey or Robert Smith, Zola now has put herself into a place where we don't her to be happy, yet she paints with a broader emotional capacity here. "I've got a hunger in my veins/ I won't surrender until it takes me away/" doesn't come across like she is talking about addiction, it seems hopeful likes its more about recovery.

Vocally her strongest moment is "Go (Blank Sea)" , she abandons her trademark belting on the verses and allows her voice some room to sing. There are also some darker synths haunting the background on this one. What has changed is there is less noise and harsh experimentation , this is sometimes missed more than others, as the weirdness that does color the songs works with them rather than against them. So you might be disappointed it that was your favorite thing about her earlier work.

Lyrically the big difference is the clarity of the soul searching. The recovery theme is not unfounded when she sings lines like "From first step to last /  I'm rising from the ashes " on "Ego". So the sobering mood is some what brighter relying on the subtle shadows of songs like the vast "Lawless". Some of this recovery might not be from substance , but from the urban environment she previously wrote in as this album was written from a remote island of the Washington coast.

Her songs have traditionally grown on me, the ones that initially catch my ear like "Long Way Down" don't mean they will always be the most endearing in the long run.The hook as less subtle here, so I am not sure if they will still work like creeper weed on this one, as sugary as pop is it normally sticks more at first, but if anyone is going to break that rule it would be her.  There are some songs with a dynamic range like "Hollow" that can't be denied even upon first listen, as they are rather breath taking . This is where the more mature song writing approach is most evident.

The album ends with ethereal musing of  "It's Not Over"  , where I think old Zola and New Zola are best blended. It's the darker feel I want married to the crisper song writing and production. Like I said she tends to grow on me so I am working off first impressions of the handful of times I have listened to this album, once it's loaded in the iPod and I see what type of soundtrack it provides to daily life I will be able to more fully digest it. I new a change in how things worked for her was going to happen, and though this is poppier it's a far cry from Lorde or Pink so she hasn't sold out on us so breathe another sigh of relief.  I'll go ahead and give this one a 10, though if you know me that's not going to come as much of a surprise. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Report to the Dance Floor: Vision the Kid 's "Somewhere in a Dark City"

The problem with most of what is passing as hip hop today is not only do they have nothing to say but they don't even assemble their nonsense in a manner displaying any attempt to make music.Vision the Kid separates himself from this crow Love Past Midnight has a pretty infectious hook on the melody, that convinces me these guys are committed to writing actual songs rather than just bloated egos rambling Naming dropping Ronnie James Dio on the song "Devil" even though it doesn't seem to fir in the lyrical context still earns points in my book.

 While Kayne West is obviously an influence on what is being done , there are rock elements like real guitar being layered over the beats. The lyrical scheme at times also brings Yelawolf to mind, with the lyrical content fluctuation between social issues and being ghetto fabulous. The melodic side of what he does re-surfaces with the blues by way of Everlast swagger of "Lucky You" , which has the trailer park similar to Re-hab. The mention of rapping on stage high like Hunter S Thompson, earns him just as many points as the Dio reference. This tells me he cultural scope of his consciousness is not as myopic as most rappers.

There is a similar relaxed flow on "Sunday Morning". He reps the Midwest and glorifies his wake and bake, which runs closer to par for the course. The slower tempo continues on "Somewhere in the Dark" , where Ben Burell handles the smooth Frank Ocean like hook on the chorus. This one hold the smooth trippy funk of "Atleins" era Outkast. So even on "All Goes Away" which takes this psychedelic element a step further , the wheel isn't being re-invented, but he is showing a broader range of styles than most rappers of this decade have dared this side of Aesop Rock. Lizzie Fontaine's r&b inflected backing vocals are the only element that keeps it's toe in the stream.

He takes his flow to a more edm beat on "Roll Call". His cadence takes on more of a Ludacris element.The roll call of guest rappers don't bring as much to the song as the way the backing track undulates beneath them. The effects of hot boxing the studio continues to show on "Room # 9". His phrasing returns to the Kayne feel, but every thing else he drapes the song in takes the focus from this."Red Eye" follows a more conventional funk groove in his ode to lost love. Lydia Liza's sultry alto give the hook more of an edge. The turn into smoothness closes out this album with "Wires and Knives". There is still an abundance of cool almost sci-fi ambiance coating the background.  

I listen to significantly less rap than I did as the art form became more about marketing... and I quit smoking pot. While I do not plan to pick up my old ways today, it would be more tempting if there were more artists like this guy coming out. If you like hip hop that does something different without leaving you in the lurch with no point of reference this album is a must.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pallbearer : "Foundations of Burden"

It's always a good thing when an album  I was scouring for on the inner webs all summer finally lives up to the exceptions and anticipation. After the first few listens I can say it's not as heavy as the first album, but no sophomore slump as they have grown in a sonic sense. The production is much improved, the density has given way to a lushness not heard often in metal.

The hardest riff on the opener "Worlds Apart" doesn't hit until the 7 minute mark. At times the vocals and vibe remind me of "Into the Mirror Black" era Sanctuary. They use a smart amount of restraint and hit you with the crushing blows as needed, but serving the songs first. "Foundations" the doom like weight comes down harder. They take more of pound to things, yet the vocals laze beautifully behind and mournfully create atmosphere. Singer Brett Campbell's voice has matured, his range now extended into lower passages though not quite baritone in their timbre. At eight minutes "Foundations" is the least sprawling of the album , the three minute "Ashes" serving as more of an interlude.

The first song that really strikes me as having a dark element is the aptly titled "Watcher in the Dark". There is an almost transcendent sense of hope so some of the other songs, that is different than what you expect from funeral doom. This album sees that band not adhering to that label or sub genre. It is more doomy than say the new Yob, but not in the same ball park as Mournful Congregation or Evoken. They do get mean three minutes into "Watcher.."and get rather gloomy in the final four minutes, but even there the atmosphere keeps it in shades of gray. They adhere to being doom without a prevalent Sabbath influence. The first solo that catches my ear is on this song as well. The solo turns into a major part of the song as they jam out on it for some time.

The pound of  "Ghost I Used To Be" is new melodic ground for the band. The atmosphere coat the chug when it comes and encompasses a new dynamic scope for the band , while oddly still retaining their trademark.In some ways it's a path not unlike the one Katatonia has taken, but far less geared toward any radio rock elements. The vocals do have classic 80's metal elements, not a full scale yodel, but somewhat like say Fates Warning's more reflective moments. At the four minute mark of "Ghost..." they take on a rock feel, as the riff catches a groove. The new drummer add much more nuance as well, which I think figures into some of the clever punches they weave into the riffs.

They still use the trick of breaking things down do the bare twang of clean guitar and building it back up.On some songs it is more gradual than others. "Ashes" is the more interlude like song that I mentioned before, it steps out of the confines of being metal altogether in a very tender moment, which may or may not fly with some metal heads. This is where the album starts to drift into post-rock and even shoe-gaze elements. Doom-gaze is what could be applied to certain section of the album, that would not sound out of place of  a Alcest album.

They end with the longest song " Vanished". this one returns to the lingering tempo of traditional doom , while flirting with this whole new doom-gaze thing they have going on. The vocals take on a eerie chant like quality. There is a very cool time change that is one of the albums' more metal moments at the six minute mark and when the vocals come back in Campbell really employs some of his most creative melodies yet. Some of the vocal hook are far more subtle than the melodies on "Sorrow and Extinction".

Like it's predecessor this is an album I can put on an just let play.It has fit my mood today and going into the fall, so I am not hesitating at all to give this one a 10.  I can see this one having some staying power with me and look forward to hearing how these songs transition live. If you are wondering where funeral doom could go next here's your answer.

Interview : James Moore CEO of Independent Music Promotions

 We talk to a lot of people here at Abysmal Hymns who create, but without the few people in the business who actually care about the quality of creativity and taking it to the masses like James Moore the CEO of Independent Music Promotions and author of the book "Your Music is a Virus". So I took some time to talk with James about the state of the music industry and what independent artists can do to stay afloat. 

Wil - What inspired you take the leap into music promotions/ p/r  ?

James - A negative motivator; I saw a lot of companies in the business not really respecting the artists and following through on what they say, so there was an opportunity to fill a simple niche for independent musicians; delivering press without the riff raff. Also, I saw it as an opportunity to use the company as a passion project, an extension of my own musical passions for underground music.

Wil- What are the most valuable tools , that you think an artist can have in today's market?

James - Take a risk. I know that many artists want to get in line to record the next potential indie iTunes commercial jingle, but approaching music that way usually leads to mediocre, safe results. If it seems risky, you should do it. Say something. Project something. After all, it's supposed to be art. Be relentless and passionate. Feathers need to be ruffled!

Wil - What do you look for when considering to take on a new client?

James - They need to fit with I.M.P's "music with depth" ethos. We accept most genres, but typically say no to demo-level material, Idol pop/contest type artists, and unoriginal club/mainstream music. If your signature lyric is "poppin' bottles in the club" or you sound like Nickelback, we're probably not interested. To put it simply, I love music done for the love of itself, not created as a business move.

Wil- Since your conception in 2010 what changes have you seen come about in the state of the music business?

James - Well, we've seen more and more of a shift to online, both in media and in music discovery. Popularity is the most valuable currency, and the artists who haven;t figured this out tend to suffer for it. Streaming services like Radio are becoming a much bigger part of our listening habits, and this is a good thing too. Many are suggesting that singles are now the way to go, but I'd advise anyone not to listen to those folks. They're usually referencing pop music, which is more of a singles game. Art should be released however it's meant to according to the project at hand. Could you imagine "The Wall" released as a series of singles?

Wil - Do you feel marketing varies from genre to genre?

James - Absolutely, although there are many similarities. Rock music still has a stronger music review culture around it, whereas EDM/electronic is completely the Soundcloud link and listen. Right down to business!

Wil - Which platform do you feel is the most useful Bandcamp or Soundcloud?

James - They're both excellent. I prefer Bandcamp's look, especially for album listening, but many blogs, including all the Hype Machine blogs, only work with Soundcloud widgets, so Soundcloud has to be the main streaming link when you're working on PR.

Wil - The past decade saw Mtv transition  from music videos to reality tv,so what value do you see music videos for today's artists ?

James - They're extremely valuable, but everything has shifted online. Youtube is the new MTV. People are always going to be interested in what artists are expressing visually. As long as there are creative ideas, music videos will be a huge part of the industry.

Wil - Do you feel that Youtube sensations negatively impact the public's perception of music ?

James - I think the public's perception of music was likely very low in the first place. Look at the countless reality shows and singing contest shows like The Voice or American Idol where they host incredibly awkward karaoke competitions, and the millions of viewers would much rather follow these kids then even look into an actual artist who is writing music, recording and releasing it on their own. If you think about it, that's a very significant thing and it really represents where we're at.
Youtube sensations are another mutation of the same phenomenon, really!

Wil - What musical trends of the past decade do feel are here to stay and what trends do you feel Andy Warhol's clock is ticking away on?

James - Unfortunately, I do think that edgy music will not be coming back to mainstream awareness any time soon. The mainstream, for the past 15 years or so, has focused heavily on very commercialized indie pop, indie folk, rehashed modern Americana groups, and mainstream EDM, with the general mood being cute and cuddly. Must to take to Grandma's house, and this is here to stay. The music that's popular now often sounds like jingles, which makes sense given the current music licensing landscape. Artists are trying to create music that sounds like a jingle.

Wil -  In a world where illegal downloading has become the norm, what is the best avenue for someone looking to make a living playing music?

James - Remove the band mentality and take on the restaurant mentality. You'll notice a significant shift right away. Musicians often get muddled up in ideas of getting discovered/found, deserving exposure, etc, as well as ideas that promotion should be free. Business owners don't have this perspective, and they don't have any luxuries either.

Artists who want to make a living playing music should learn about marketing/business, read Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, etc. They should advertise in a hyper-targeted way to their niche audience and take responsibility for building their following. They will need to invest money in themselves just like every other business on the planet does. But once you decide on this direct-to-fan approach, it's very freeing and there are many more options available than if you take the perspective of being a needy band.

Wil - What limitations do you feel social media has ?

James - Social media is a good thing for direct advertising and fan communication/updates, but artists who think it's the be-all-end-all are sorely missing out on real social proof, such as press where someone else is talking about you. This is critical. You can't tweet your way to success. You need to be doing other things.

Wil -  How do you feel blogging effects mainstream media ?

 James - In many genres, more people get their information from blogs (for better or worse) than from traditional sources, so they have a huge effect. Often the effect can be a malicious one when gossip and rumors hit the forefront, with the mainstream following their lead.

Wil- What are the most common mistakes artists make in terms of self promotion?

James -They misunderstand the process. Artists often think that all a promotion company does is send their music out to a contact list, so they figure if they email all the music blogs on Hype Machine that their promotion efforts will be equivalent. There's one major difference though, and that's cold calling. You're essentially reaching out to hundreds of people who you have no relationship with and can do very little for as far as cross-promotion.

This is why, if you decide to do your promotion yourself, it's ideal to personalize and reach out to as many contributors/individuals as possible as opposed to always going through the main channels. You'll have better results this way. It will be slower, but you'll get more press.

Wil - With the Internet do you feel regional success is still necessary ?

James -The beauty of the internet is that regional success isn't as necessary. You can generate interest from tastemaker or national publications, and often this helps regional stragglers catch on after the fact.

Wil -  How do feel the European music market varies from the American?

James - Europeans are still very passionate and interested in rock and metal as art forms, which is good to see. In the States, you barely ever see a rock artist at a music festival. The focus is indie and electronic almost completely.

Wil -  Is blog buzz the new radio play?

James - It's very important, but it's not a complete replacement for radio. Streaming services are a huge part of the culture now, as is Youtube.

Wil- How important is image ?

James - Image is extremely important. You dress a certain way for your sister's wedding because it's important. You should convey the emotion of your music through your image, and if you don't care to do that, you're projecting how unimportant you feel it is.

Wil - What was the last album you bought?

James -The new Shabazz Palaces album. It's excellent.

Wil- What is it that gives Metal it's staying power as a genre?
James - It's constantly evolving, and although in my opinion most metal artists choose to be unoriginal by following the patterns of their subgenre, it really does benefit metal to have so many arms and legs of creative expression. You look at bands like Behemoth, Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon, Meshuggah, Gojira, Opeth, etc, and they're all extremely creative and extremely different.

The other thing I love about metal is that it allows the expression of the human experience without repression. Screaming is not necessarily something scary or unacceptable; when used correctly it conveys deep emotion.

Wil - What does the future of I.M.P look like going into 2015 ?

James - We're continuing on our path of promoting music we love, as well as heavily promoting the company, so I'm really excited for what the future has in store. Thanks for having me!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Interview: Louis of Goatwhore Part 2

At this years' Summer  Slaughter I talked to Goatwhore's lead singer for almost two hours so , our epic conversation was broken in two more digestible portions, here's the second part of that...

Wil- What do you think it is about the sounth that makes such good metal ?

Louis - I really don't know if you look at New Orleans , there's a lot of variation in it from bands like Down, Crowbar, to Eyehategod,  to what we do, we don't share in similarities at all , there is a lot of variation.  You are brought up in a town or state , where blues and jazz are big that maybe be a more subconscious influence. You grew up in it , it's instilled in your mind. I don't know if it's something in the water.

Wil - or cultural

Louis- yea, cultural, its one of those things , like we were saying before, when you look back in the day at the whole death metal thing coming out of Tampa Or the thrash metal scene in the Bay area in the 80's. It was the culmination of what was going on there. How everything was working, New Orleans , has that element now. It's chemistry all the gears a re working. it's  one of those things like when you get with somebody in a relationship and you know it works well. When you get with four or five individuals in a band and every thing falls into place. Of course it's chaos when you get on the road. You find out ...well when it's five dudes trapped in a little van, for two months , it becomes a point of compromise just like in a relationship.The compromise is bigger in a band because you have five individuals..

Wil - What would you say about the influences and chemistry on the new album.

Louis- We did the new album on two inch analog, which is becoming a very obscure thing for sure. Lucky enough Eric Rutan , the guy we have been recording with has a two inch analog machine, that tape machine has a lot of history to it he bought it from Morrisound, where all the classic death metal albums were recorded.they used to put two of the machine together. The machine is twenty four tracks. They old Morbid Angel records there, Obituary, Suffocation. It's got a lot of nostalgia to it. I told Rutan he needed to make a video about the history. There is one company that makes tape but they don't have the process right, so we used old tape. It can also be a crap shoot as well, we stressed three weeks recording hoping tape didn't break and then we dropped it into pro-tools. So yes, we dropped it into pro-tools , but when you put it on tape that sound doesn't change at all.Digital media hasn't really caught up to the sound, that was recorded on tape. Just like vinyl, a lot of vinyl sounds better than cd. A lot of people are all about  vinyl now and eve cassettes , so why not record it on tape. t goes hand in hand. the thing about it is money it's more expensive. Digital is cheaper. Bands budgets are small these days. We went out of our own pocket. We really want to do the next album on tape . Rutan has got knowledge of it , we already have this old school feel to going to tape would be more natural. People say I like Goatwhore live, on album it sounds different. But you know we can never capture that , all we can do is record it and present it and then come to the live show and experience.

Wil- There's that energy exchange...

Louis- Like old black Sabbath, they got ton's of bad reviews, and then look what happened. I like things with longevity. You get a lot of bands that peak and then you are like who was that . Then there are bands whose riffs just stick in your mind, like Judas Priest, some times in the van one of those riffs will pop into my mind and i'll just start humming it.

Wil-  What was the songwriting process for the new album ? 

Louis- The Goatwhore writing process, we have tons of riff on tape that go all the way back to the first record. We use to have them on a jam box from where Sammi would just sit and hit record. Tons of riffs on tape , the 21st century rolled around and we started thinking maybe we should throw it on computer. We never throw anything away, just cause a riff doesn't fit in a song it doesn't mean it's bad. We could have a song from the new record that has a riff going all the way back to the first album. it's Unique because it keeps the element of Goatwhore in that cycle. We don't' change our style that much, because we have these   old riffs we are pulling out a hat. Lyrics are the same way, sometimes I'll write something fresh, other times it will be picked together pieces. Sometimes we will write a song , the go back the next practice and listen and say nope and tear it apart . Some times those riffs split off into three songs. We recycle riffs I guess. I don't know if riffs are piling up some where destroying the environment. Then we will put some kind drums on , it then every one will come in and start adding there parts til it falls into place

On "Blood for the Master",  the song "Deathless Tradition" we wrote that song in two days, but then another song took two weeks. When we play it live we want to be like alright lets rock and roll this shit rather than here we go another day at the factory. This what we came for.  Some times we are like where did that riff come from, shit like seven years ago. The only thing that had changed is the technology. It's like go fishing , now on a computer you can piece them together quicker. overall a a band we have matured as musician on how we perceived things and lay things out.

Interview : Ben of Fallujah

I got the opprotunity at this year's Summer Slaughter Tour to catch you with Ben of Fallujah and here is what he had to say.

Wil - So How is the tour going so far ? 

Ben - Non stop fun. The touring experience is undeniable. Drive ten hours , load in at ten a.m. and lay for twenty minutes kinda suck. But playing short sets forces you to hone in on our momentum and end big.

Wil - I can see with Summer Slaughter there are some progressive bands like the FAceless , you have some common ground with , so how is that working for you?

Ben-  It's been  more about who we already have relationships with Origin, Goatwhore, Dying Fetus ,Decrepit Birth.

Wil - What was the songwriting process like on "When Flesh Prevails" ? 

Ben- Long, Laborious , lots of coffee.. listening to lots of parts on loops, as we don't really jam we write everything on computer. Prefect writing takes lots of time.

Wil- What was your greatest influence during this album's conception? 

Ben- Pete's Coffee. Soundtracks Blade Runner and the Lord of the Rings , which was constantly playing in the background. Tried to infuse a lot more  atmospheric element and elctronic elements, reprising certain moments of a song,rather than writing parts for the sake of parts. The question that gets thrown around a lot when we are writing is how does this part make you feel. If you put these four chord in one order it can make you feel differently than if you ake these four chords and put them in a different order. Your album is likea hammer and sickle , you are trying to mine emotions from people. Death metal is not known for a range of emotion.

Wil - Its often one dimensional and just aggressive.

Ben- Yeah it's like trying to eat a giant plate of hamburger patties, it's not bad , it sucks after it's just after nine songs of hamburger patties you need something

Wil - You need condiments, So what's next in terms of touring?

Ben - We go to Europe this winter for six weeks.

Wil - Who are you going out with ?

Ben- Dying Fetus, Goatwhore, hitting tons of new territory. We are going to Spain, Bulgaria, Portugul, Finland, Sweden, the U.k. Last time we went to Finland I had never felt so ugly in my entire life. They speak better English than we do to.

Wil- They drink a lot of there.

Ben- Yeah, they have the liquorise charcoal shots of whatever. I'll take my German beer and Jager. I had some shots of nasty stuff last time I was in Finland. Some girl was just buying me shots, trying to lower my inhibitions. They were three shots of flavor profile, I did not know existed. Liquified charcoal, with a terrible finish of cheap well whiskey.

Wil- With this album you set the bar pretty high for yourselves, so how do think this will change or even not change your direction going forward.

Ben - The album is ony as good as our mentality when we are writing it is, so I can't say what kind of headspace we are going to be in two years from now. Years on the road can really change people, I know it has changed me. We were twenty one twenty two writing "When Flesh Prevails" so who knows what I'll be like two years from now after travelling a shit ton. I think there has been a lot of incessantly good press for when flesh prevails , which is cool, but our fan base is going to change and they aren't going to wnat another when flesh prevails and we aren't going to give it to them.

Wil- How do you see the road has changed you from the 18 to 20 days?

Ben- Changes prespective, your view and priorites. It makes you less emotional and more realistic. You are less dreamy about the whole idea of touring and making a living playing music. All of us have jobs at home and we can make more working prt time doing that. You really begin to under stand what you want to do. I remeber the idea of going on tour use to be so cool and now it's like it will be cool if I can pay rent when I get home. Even if you weren't touring you would naturally change a lot during that time. it's gotten my head down to earth . I am a much more blunt person now. I did alot of travelling as a kid but nothing the scale of what you can acheive touring with a band, my whole world view changed from touring. Being in Europe and having to communicate something differently every where you go from city to city, changes your prespective and makes you more cultured.

Wil- American's world view can seem  mioptic

Ben- There just as many ho bunk idiots here as there are there, after the last tour I stayed in Europe and i had this idea about what Europeans though about Americans, what there world view was. Germany for example go to berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, those people have a pretty level headed view of what Americans are about, you go to some smaller german towns and they are more close minded. Same thing in almost every country, I travelled as Canadian every where I went because that is what is on my passport. I realize Europeans have a more realistic view of Americans, than Americans do of Europeans. They tend not to hate Americans that much. They tend to hate the English more than Americans. I was not anticipating that.  The advantage Europeans have in their world view is they have a system that allows for more travelling. So there are a lot more Europeans that prioritze travel, while America is more like the wild west, with people just trying to get by. But even there thats a vast gerneralzation.

Wil - How do you see the Eurpean attitude toward metal vs Americans

Ben - Its harder for them to tour.They are blunt. If a guitar player fucks up on stage. Franz will come up to you and be like perhaps your rythmn player will be better next time. I'll come see you next time and hopefully you will be better. They don't like to buy thsirts that don't have tour dates, we learned a lot of hard cold facts about merch over their. Eurpoeans tend to not come out as early, it's way easier for Americans to go over there than Europeans to come over here. America is a low expectation place when it comes to place on tour.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Interview: Mike of Yob

I managed to catch up with Yob's front-man Mike Scheidt and talking about the band's new album "Clearing Path to Ascend" and here is what he had to say.

Wil - So the songs on your new album are pretty long epic pieces what was the writing process like for that ?

Mike- I had been writing it for almost two years. I wanted it to make sense, with the whole tension release vibe and the atmosphere in all the songs that are played with a lot of raw emotion. So I wanted to keep that raw emotion while the music made intellectual sense, so there was a lot of juggling, which was difficult.

Wil - So for this album to be a challenge on the writing in what challenges did this present from a production stand point when you recorded it.

Mike- We spent a lot of time in rehearsal. So from a playing stand point the music was well rehearsed going into the studio. The biggest challenge was laying down the vocals as  I tend to write vocal parts that are just outside of my ability so I have step up and push. We had demoed a lot of the stuff in rehearsal, but that's not the same as hearing it come off the board. So we would go back in a listen for flow and for tone and for any mistakes that we needed to go back in and fix. When songs are 18 to 19 minutes long , you tend to lose perspective. So going back and listening to songs of that length for those things was strenuous, but that's the corner we backed ourselves into.

Wil - This album is heavy not just in a metal sense , but more in a sonic sense. What inspired that direction?

 Mike - The emotion and the vibration were more important than distortion and volume. Distortion and volume doesn't mean that that is it going to be heavy.

 Wil- Yeah, Swans are not a metal band , but heavier than most metal bands.

Mike- in the same way John Van Zandt, creates some of the heaviest moments I have heard in a song from an emotional perspective. Both he and the Swans are artists I hold in the highest regard. 

Wil - What are some of the album's lyrical themes? 

 Mike - I try to not get too specific. Some folks might be interested in that, but I don't want to add to or take away to some one's experience and finding their own meaning. I was going through some deep personal difficulties and it was very healing. I have always had an interest in the eastern side of mysticism, the transcendental side that pushes through the emotions captured be it depression , anger, love and joy. It's being in that moment, to truly be in all those states.

 Wil - the trancey nature of drone can create a meditative environment.

 Mike- Sure, it can also serve as a scalpel that can open you up, digs in and allows you to be in the moment.

 Wil- What are your plans as far as touring to support this album?

 Mike- Leaving in to do a chunk of dates in Europe. We are taking Pallbearer with us. Taking a chunk of the winter off and then doing a full u.s tour in March, though a few select album release shows and start working on the new Vhol album in November. 

Wil-  What did you learn from touring with Tool?

 Mike - They provided us witha unique platform, it is much bigger than anything we had done or ever will do again. They exist in a world of their own, but they work as artists first. We had 30 minutes to play ever night, there were not decibel limits, we even got to use our own soundboard. They allowed us to be ourselves, so there was this weird doom metal band playing in an arena environment. It has made every thing we have done since easier, we now know how to function in a larger environment which has come in handy playing festivals like Hell Fest. It was cool too from a fan perspective seeing them every night and most nights they would watch us from the side of the stage too.

 Wil - This is your first album on Neurot records, what is it like working with a label  run by artists?

 Mike- On a personal level it's an honor as we are hug Neurosis fans. It's humbling and inspiring to collaborate with artist you hold in such high regard. They know what it's like to have been on a big label, they have experienced it all inside and out. We have been lucky to have made good choices along the way. But it's cool knowing every one at the label is an artist themselves.

 Wil - Almost 20 years later have your influences shifted ?

 Mike- Well ,when Yob first started being doom we began incorporating other elements almost right away. From Hard core , punk to King Crimson and Floyd. We have just become over the years more embolden to incorporate it. Metal being very human has many sides, experimental sides, epic sides. I know a lot of metal artists that are hug into classic rock, so that has grown into it. If it flows with us nothing is off the table. All these sub-genre tags are just a sign post as to here is what you are going to get.Stoner tag came out and we got that one , what is that supposed to mean? The best bands always defy the labels.

Wil - How has the evolution of your clean vocals come about ? 

 Mike-  the biggest difference is I broke down and got a vocal coach. I found Wolf Carr in Portland. He worked on the Zen of Screaming. But he is from Berklee School of music so he is classically trained but understands death growl and screams and metal metal singers put themselves through. His mother is a professor at Berklee as well, so he comes from that world. On tour some night might not be so great, come off stage and you are hoarse. So to learn on a technical level has made me such a better singer. I have always been a student of great singers, every one from Cat Stevens to Joni Mitchell to Bruce Dickinson to Dio. It gives me more tool and more colors. So in the studio I am able to pull it off for multiple takes and pick and choose, I think I have only begun to scratch the surface as to my potential vocally.

Report to the Dance Floor : Voices of Terror's "Rock - Rap Dynasty"

This rap project from New Jersey mixes a more varied array of elements than expected. You can hear how they are aiming for the same bar set by the likes of Death Grips. The difference being a matter of  there are significantly less organic elements. Right from the opening track it sounds as if a guitar  I find myself having to take a more careful listen to the guitar as it's  hard to tell if it's a guitar or a synth pretending to be a guitar , though the cadence of the drums here feels like it is a guy behind a kit.

 The synth lines make this much darker than most rap that comes my way.They do not adhere to the need to emulate the types of grooves popular in hip-hop today.The flow of the projects spokesman Mike Walker, has an aggressive delivery, though at times his style reminds me of Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda. When his co-conspirator Zero takes the mic the results are less intimidating.

The synth like guitar sound works well on "Lethal Weapon" almost like the organ Deep Purple employed, when John Lord ran a Hammond through a Marshall stack with the gain up. The strings dominate the mix here and the rapping weaves underneath, there are some well placed punches making this one of the albums more meticulously arranged songs, and where the project shows it's true potential at blending sounds.

 On the "The Old Gods"  which from it's title made me hope for something Lovecraftian, instead its Walker looking at his place in the rap game where his stakes his claim  that he was born in the 90's so if you are bringing real lyrics to the table get behind him. He does shout out to the who's who of classic rap Krs-one, Tu-Pac, Easy-E, Dre and others. Adhering to my rule that artists should know the roots of their craft, it's almost like having to know the rules before you break them. I think these guys are armed with that knowledge so would like to hear more rule breaking from them. So if his claims that the fate of rap depends on him then he should start breaking new ground with the quickness.

"Insane Lyricist" hits Stuck Mojo. The drum interplay here is much stronger and when they launch into the hook at the chorus there is more energy behind it, the Krs-one vibe here is pretty strong here as well. "Warrior" and "Problems" are both high energy and use their momentum to run together as a one two punch, both being more straight forward than some of their more experimental moments. "Dynasty" makes more use out of drumming to create a fun house ride of neck jerking syncopation.

The album's final moments find "Save Me" collecting all the elements that have worked on this album and refining them into one song, I think this song is as strong as the album's lead single "Warning" (featured below) . "Voiceless" is an instrumental piece these guys should consider making a back track out of to throw raps on or a remix of it, I think it would do the music and their voices justice, standing on it's own.. well it's not progressive rock, but has a strong sense melody that they should consider making the most of.

This is the first album by these guys who are still pretty young at 21 and 25, so I think this marks the duo being off to a good start. We have already heard groups like Issues claiming to be a come back of new metal , which is a band wagon these guys could hop aboard if that come to fruition. I think a more experimental direction and reaching further into some of the electronic elements would also be a good move, when was the last time Death Grips made some as cohesive as a traditional song?  Their inspiration from the classic taught them song structure, but  they have displayed the rules are learned. The theme to the album seems to be how rap is stale and this brand of it they are trying on for size will be redemptive to the art form, that maybe, so would like to see them reach beyond their means next time and with better production they might full fill those claims.                    

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Yob: "Clearing the Path to Ascend"

With the sample of "time to wake up" the quiet before the storm begins to stir as we enter the 16 minute "In Our Blood". This feel more like apocalyptic sludge to me than doom. Why isn't this doom? Well we shall explore this as we tunnel deeper into this album. Most artists hate getting pigeon holed by genre labels any way so I doubt Yob cares if this is doom or not. The ghostly clean vocals that start this off are more effective than if they had started off with the roar from the get go. This Oregon band has been around since 1996 and 'Clearing the Path To Ascend " is their 7th album and first for Neurot. So from the way this flows alone it's evident these guys have now nailed down what they want to do. By the end of the opener it's clear to me they have achieved the sweet spot of being as heavy sonically as they are metal.

There is a denser tribal pound boiling on "Nothing to Win". This will feel more familiar to traditional metal heads, while the song maintains it's sonic integrity. When you are writing 16 minute epics, you have more than enough to stretch out your legs a bit in terms of dynamics.The hooks feel a little sharper on this album. At the six and a half minute moment the song roars out of the riffs it has been droning on to create a sludge tinged storm.

Even in the darker moments of "Unmask the Spectre" this album feels more sludge to me than doom.They use the drone well balancing enough eerie melody in the guitar lines to keep you under hypnosis. The chug they bring down like a hammer is dirty with plenty of heft.The vocals are largely harshly screamed , though well placed and accented. Around the seven and a half minute mark, the vocals become more sung though still coated with rasp.It's when the female vocals come in over the lumbering riff in the song's third act that the song really shines. If you are going to bring an album to a close it should be big or go home, so they saved the longest yarn for the last.

"Marrow" clocks in at over 18 minutes, it drifts in on a cloud of post- rock wandering before distortion is stepped on to make this thing soar more. The clean almost feminine tone to the vocals work well, I thought it might be the chick from Devils Blood at first , until I saw no other credits for vocals aside from Mike.The song rise in a constant build before they let the bottom fall out of it at the 11 minute mark. They let it sail out into a dreamy sea. It's this song that answers the questions we raised earlier as to why this isn't doom. The answer is while this album has a range of emotion to it, none of it has a mourning or depressive quality to it. There is still always a sliver of hope even in the roar of the tempest.

These songs are long and this album is not just music to put on for a trip to the liquor store, unless your closest liquor store is on top of a mountain.It is a big bite to digest. I am going to give it a 9 as it continues to grow on me. It really has not fault, but I am not sure due to the sprawling nature if it is something that I will get a ton of mileage out of unless I have the time to devote to taking in the whole album as it deserves to be heard.