Sunday, October 28, 2012

Interview With Dave Felton Of Sludgy Groovers, Kriadiaz!

Image

Image

Kriadiaz

Country of origin:
United States
Location:
Cleveland, Ohio
Status:
Active
Active since:
N/A

Genre:
Sludge/Southern/Groove Metal
Lyrical themes:
N/A
Current label:
Shark Sausage Records

Members

Bryan Trembley: Bass
See also: ex-Spawn
Emery Ceo: Drums
See also: Ritual of Torment, ex-Arenah, ex-Ritual, ex-Torment, ex-Tormentor, ex-Dark Arena
Dave Felton: Guitars
See also: Hatrix, ex-Centurion, ex-Purgatory, ex-216, ex-Mushroomhead, ex-S.O.S
Mike Ruz: Vocals

THE INTERVIEW

1. I'm sure that you guys get this a lot, but what exactly does the name "Kriadiaz" mean? Who came up with it?

I suggested it to the band when we were throwing names around. It came from the bizarre foods show on travel channel. It's bull's balls when served as a food item. We just changed the spelling to look more metal and not like something off a menu.

2. Explain the recording process for your self-titled album. What was it like? What was the most difficult part of that process?

Recording was awesome!! It was actually very simple. The engineer( Joe Husak) really knows what's up and was able get us the raw, violent, old school vibe we were looking for.

3. Many people don't even know that you were in undoubtedly one of my favorite metal bands of all time, Mushroomhead. I still catch myself listening to the band's early albums, (particularly Xx, M3 and Superbuick) it's the stuff I cut my teeth on when it came to metal. But even though you guys were lumped into the Nu-Metal category, I've certainly considered your early material to be undoubtedly metal, even hinging on death metal in some areas. What was it like working in Mushroomhead? Who were you in the band, and what are some great experiences that you had while in the band? What was it like working with J Mann and Nothing? What songs are you most notable for?

Gravy was my stage name in MRH. It was great to be able to do Ozzfest in the states and Europe. Got to share the stage with some legendary band(slayer,down,Meshuggah,...etc.) I'm grateful to have been able to experience that. Recording with those guys was cool. Very professional.

4. Explain the ridiculous battle with Slipknot. You were in the band during the time, and I myself heard little about it.

The rivalry was stupid. It started before I was in MRH. I never really gave a shit cuz I wasn't an original member.

5. Explain why you were kicked out of the band. You told me that there was some ridiculous reasoning behind it. I'm also curious as to whether or not the band was ever pressured by the label to move towards a certain style of music. XIII and Savior Sorrow had some incredibly stark differences. I still think Savior Sorrow is probably the worst disc that I've ever heard from the group. I'd never have thought they'd go that poppy.

It's something that took years to build up to. MRH is more a dictatorship than a band. It's based on ego and entitlement, and although I was the new guy back in 2000 I was left with the majority of the writing. That's why the style changed. believe me, I tried to bring some honesty and integrity to those records. If you don't like em' blame the producer. So after years of things not being up to snuff I started speaking my mind. Some people just don't like having a mirror held up in front of em'. That's basically why I'm out.

6. Finally, have you heard the band's newest album, "Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children?" And if so, what did you think of it?

I think bsfuc could have been a great album...if it was finished. I did a lot on that cd and that's where the frustration boiled to a head. Like I said before, ego and entitlement.

7.So in MRH, you were left to write most of XIII, Savior Sorrow and Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children? I really feel that the latter album had a lot of potential.

Well, savior sorrow and beautiful stories were recorded and produced at the filthy hands studio. To me there's always been sound issues there and whenever I brought them up I was told that I was negative and wasn't happy with anything. So needless to say I didn't have much to do with the production on those records. So producing the Kriadiaz cd was very liberating to me. And if you like as much as you say you do then you know what could have been. Guess I just have different standards when it comes to sound.

8. Fast forward to 2012. You've got a new band, a new album and a brand new sound. What do you want people to know about Kriadiaz? How did the idea come about to do a southern thrash band with stoner elements?

Nothing new about it, I'm myself in this band. In MRH I wrote for MRH. In KRIADIAZ I'm doing what comes naturally.l

9. Pantera is obviously a large influence on the band. Have you gotten this album out to any of the former members of Pantera yet? If so, what have they said? What other bands are influential to the sound of Kriadiaz?

Haven't got it out to any of the Pantera guys, but it would be cool to hear what they had to say about it. As far as influences go ya, we (Kria & Pantera) all come from the same era of music so that's why we have a similar sound (Van Halen, Sabbath,..etc).

10. Your label is called Shark Sausage Records. Is this is a real, legit label? (According to metal-archives it is) Do you plan to sign anymore bands onto it?

Ha! no, it's not a real label. It's just a silly thing I came up with when I released my demo. I have made SSR shirts though for a select few who want to be part of it, And some friends have even put the logo on their cd's as well.

11. What bands inspire you these days? What do you think of the music industry as a whole? Do you have any words for those who want to be famous "rock stars" in the recording industry?

I think the industry is hurtin' big time cuz of the free downloading. It is promotion though so there is a trade off...I guess. To all aspiring musicians out there, good luck!

12. Alright, what is your take on the shows "American Idol, X-Factor, The Voice, exc." Is there anything that you think people should know before signing the dotted line on a big time recording contract? Also, what is your take on these child music stars? It seems like any 16 year old can have a million dollar song if they do something on youtube.(Carly Ray Jepsen, Justin Bieber for example.) Do you think this is exploitation?

I have no idea, I don't watch any of those shows. I would say to them before signing a contract though not to give up their publishing.

13. Election season is afoot, and this country's never been in a worse turmoil. What are your expectations in the coming election? Are you going to vote? And do you think it will make any difference?

I'm not getting into political stuff. I just hope whoever gets in does the right thing.

14. Finally, imagine that you can look into the future ten or twenty years down the road. What do you see?

Dinosaurs!!!

Thanks for your answers, and for making one of the best southern thrash albums since Pantera's "Far Beyond Driven." I definitely hope to hear more from you guys soon.

THE REVIEW (REPOST)

Image

Kriadiaz - Kriadiaz (2012) - What starts up with a little of acoustic in the beginning, soon becomes a plate of southern fried heaviness with Kriadiaz's debut self-titled debut. Though the disc has it's raw quality, this is the best stab I've heard at Pantera in a long time. "Bloodline 4:01" reminds me a hell of a lot of "Fucking Hostile" and it's complete with a definitely "Dime-Approved" solo.

But these guys don't just do Pantera, they redefine Pantera. Each and every track in here offers something different, but it's all just as dirty, gritty and sludgy as Pantera were at their heaviest. One could even say that this band filled in what might have been that next Pantera record that none of us ever got to hear because of an enraged football player. The solos are massive, making their presence widely known in the drumming that favors Vinnie, and the vocals which sound very close to, if not damn near the same as Phil Anselmo's bark.

Truth be told, there's not a bad track on this disc. Everything comes out hevay in way or another, but like The Great Southern Trendkill, the band is not afraid to experiment with their dirty southern thrash. For those who thought the new Down album was good, but not near as heavy as it should've been, these guys bring that heaviness ten-fold with tracks like "The Rebuilding 3:34", "Soul Chaser 4:02" and "Torching The Earth 3:53." But don't forget that those songs also come with a healthy dose of once again, "Dime- Approved" solos.

Somebody has got to get this one down to Phil or Vinnie. It's really that fucking good, and I think it would really bring back that sense of nostalgia that these guys had when they were playing this shit back in the day. If this some kind of goddamned Pantera tribute album, then it's the best that I've heard in fucking years. Make that, it's the best Pantera tribute album that I've ever heard in my life, or since ever hearing fucking Pantera.

The disc even ends on an instrumental that I could only assume was written as a tribute to Dime's memory. It's called "Stoner Funeral 4:36" and it might even bring a tear or two to your eye, when you listen to this one and remember how much of a pioneer he was, and what a great all around person he was.

But that's the kind of message that Kriadiaz want to make, and even though you can't fucking pronounce their name now, you're going to fight with yourself to get that name right when you're recommending them to other people. Because you will - yes, you will; be recommending them to other people.

The best Pantera album I've ever heard, since the real Pantera. An absolute must for the year. If you don't have this album, then you need to GET this album. Check them out on Shark Sausage Records. You'll be glad you did.

(14 Tracks, 48:00)

10/10

Grab The Record Here:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/kriadiaz

Interview With Arkansas Psychedelic Black Metal Masterwork, Pulsar Colony!



Image
Image
Pulsar Colony

Location

Arkansas, United States

Genre

Psychedlic/Experimental Black Metal

Members

Charles Sabo - all instruments, vocals, drum programming, songwriting, production.

THE INTERVIEW

1. Charles, you've been working on this material for a long time. A very long time. Could you go into detail and explain to us the process in creating not just one, but two separate and unique metal albums?

All my music always starts with just guitar, usually unplugged. The riffs come first, and are what the songs are built from. So Pulsar Colony is essentially rhythm guitar-based. Of course, it evolves into somewhat of an avant-garde metal sound when the various instruments and layers are added, but the foundation is completely guitar-oriented. It’s a metal project, so I guess that goes without saying. Some of the riffs are from years back, that I’ve had written down but never used. I think the earliest musical ideas date back to 2005/2006. Others are from more recent, 2008/2009. (we’re mainly talking Snowball Earth here) A lot of the Snowball Earth riffs were written outdoors on the beach of Lake Huron. That is something I’ve often done in the past, getting out there and finding a good “setting” to compose in. It provides that extra aura of stimulation that fuels creativity. The songwriting process for The Deep Sleep was more organized and concentrated in a more specific time frame, so I think the songs on that album flowed better and the album had more of a distinct sound. The drum tracks are programmed using an Alesis SR-16 and are tested extensively with guitar and revised until I’m happy with them. When it’s time to record, the drum machine is plugged in and recorded directly as an audio track, no MIDI. After that, guitar tones and effects are worked out. The mellow sections get a lot of effects treatment, which I think is what has led some people to consider Pulsar Colony “psychedelic black metal,” as I heavily get into using stuff like phasers, chorus, delay, and what not. On Snowball Earth, I double-tracked everything direct-in, and on The Deep Sleep I triple-tracked the guitars using amps. The Deep Sleep has a little more in the way of guitar-layering and dual-guitar stuff; on Snowball Earth it was mostly one guitar riff, except for the solo parts. After that barrage of guitar tracks, the bass and keyboards come next, both of which have a huge influence on the sound. These parts are written as they are recorded, song-by-song. Most of the bass lines are your (more or less) standard bass tone (the heavy parts have a very chorused-out bass, which I noticed one reviewer described as sounding “acoustic”), but I do like throwing in bass effects and chords. For example, the beginning of “The Flock” has a bass synth, and around the 7:50 point in “Why You Shouldn’t Feed Bears,” I created this weird, swirling modulation sound (yes, that’s actually bass). Those are just two examples. As far as keyboards, I try to go beyond the choirs and strings that are often found in black metal. I love using synthesizers to add kind of a new wave/80’s flavor, which contributes to the futuristic vibe that I was aiming for with these albums. You’ll find a few other instruments here and there… sitar, mandolin, hand drum… too much to describe without getting long-winded and boring the reader to death… To sum it up, the songs in their very embryonic stage are 8-10 minute journeys through guitar riffs of all metal subgenres… black, death, doom, thrash, intertwined with trippy clean parts. The other instruments are then composed and added, which kind of “grows” the Pulsar Colony sound as the recording process progresses. It’s interesting how the end result turns out. I try (or end up?) giving the music, especially those clean parts, a very primal feel, a very mind-warping feel. But it’s definitely not forced; it’s a very natural and even laid-back process.

2. What equipment are you using to create these distinct masterpieces, and what goes into each and every track?

Well on Snowball Earth there was a left guitar track and a right guitar track, one of which made use of a Gibson Les Paul Standard, the other an Aria Pro II guitar (not sure of the model, but it kind of resembles a Les Paul). All those tones you hear come from the Boss GT-6… distortion, chorus, wah, it all comes from that multi-effects unit. The guitars on that album were all plugged directly into the Pro Tools MBox2 Mini, with Pro Tools LE on an Apple laptop. The acoustic was direct-in as well. I used an Ibanez Soundgear 6-string bass, which was run through a Boss ME-50, a unit that not only shaped the typical bass tones, but also the effects, which gave certain bass lines a very distinct atmosphere. As a result, the bass can be pretty uncanny sometimes, occasionally sounding like keyboards or a modulated guitar, or something strange like that. A Yamaha PSR-1000 took care of all of the keyboard tones, as well as a few of the electronic/tribal percussion parts (the Alesis SR-16 produced most of these). I used an Applause acoustic-electric on both albums, but on The Deep Sleep I layered it with a Martin D-18. An Audix I5 was used for the vocals on Snowball Earth, but when The Deep Sleep was recorded I had a pair of MXL condensers that really improved the vocal sound, as well as the acoustic instruments. The other main difference on The Deep Sleep was that the electric guitars were played through an actual amplifier, which was placed in a bathroom to give it some natural reverb and ambience. A very useful technique. The amp was a small, inexpensive Peavey, but it did its job. On Snowball Earth I used my Alvarez mandolin in a couple of spots, and I play my sitar on both albums in a few places. In Pro Tools, the sounds are further shaped using compressors and EQ’s. The vocals on The Deep Sleep made use of Pro Tools reverb, which turned out to be very effective. I try to give each instrument its own place in the mix, taking into account panning positions and frequency separation (for example, more high end on the vocals, more mid-range on the heavy guitars, etc.). For mastering, I used a Slate Digital mastering suite.

3. What bands/musicians inspired you to create your own music? What bands/musicians are you currently into right now?

So many… some of my main metal influences are Emperor, Opeth, early Metallica, Megadeth, Blind Guardian, Nevermore, Morbid Angel, Suffocation, Katatonia, My Dying Bride, Arcturus, Borknagar, Meshuggah, Mastodon… in recent years I’ve gotten heavily into Enslaved and Gojira which I think have significantly influenced the Pulsar Colony sound. But those are just the tip of the iceberg. There are several metal bands from all subgenres that have inspired me. Overall, the black metal genre has probably had the most influence. The non-metal influences are equally important in shaping Pulsar Colony’s sound… Jethro Tull, Soundgarden, Tears for Fears, Yes, Sonic Youth, Tool, Mars Volta, world music… those of course are bands that most would not associate with metal, much less extreme metal, but their influence provides those key intangibles that make Pulsar Colony unique. Some stuff I’ve been listening to recently… Neurosis, Tesseract, Veil of Maya, Crowbar, Exodus, Alcest, Fen, Les Discrets, A Forest of Stars, the Chili Peppers, Spawn of Possession, Obscura, Led Zeppelin, Smashing Pumpkins, Flaming Lips, Queens of the Stone Age, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead… I’m pretty diverse. I think everything I listen to influences Pulsar Colony in some small way.

4. Can you explain the whole concept for the first album "Snowball Earth - 2011" not just lyrically, but also musically. What was your aim for this album? Did it end up sounding like you had originally envisioned and are you proud of the final mix?

Well the first three songs kind of tie together in that they are somewhat inspired by the changing climate, atmosphere, weather patterns during recent times, and the evolution of the planet and universe and how it affects the whole system of life. “Wounded Animal of the Four Elements” was originally told from the perspective of Planet Earth taking revenge on humanity for throwing all this pollution into the atmosphere, but it evolved to include kind of a personal perspective about anger and vengeful feelings in general. A lot of my lyrics are like that – they include multiple perspectives, multiple storylines, and thus can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The title track “Snowball Earth” is about polar bears losing their sea ice and losing their habitat – hence the lines “all I see is water and the horizon / no habitat within reach.” Snowball Earth is thought to be a stage in the Earth’s geological phase in which the entire planet was covered in snow and ice, so I used that as a metaphorical device to represent a re-gaining of elements the planet is losing, or the antithesis of global warming. “Absolute Zero” deals with the habitat of us humans. It’s actually inspired by a book I read – “Hyperspace” by Michio Kaku. He discusses the expansion of the universe and how that will make the universe to grow colder and eventually destroy any form of habitat for life in general, and then goes on to suggest the possibility of humans traveling to parallel universes, as this current universe will no longer be friendly to humans. The song is pretty pessimistic – it’s told from the mindset of having nowhere to go, and anticipating the inevitable destruction of civilization, whether it’s by a huge catastrophe, or humans destroying each other, or by some deity messing with us. That’s about as conceptual as the album gets, the rest of the songs are about a variety of themes and emotions. As for the musical concept – well, Pulsar Colony is very trippy but also very explosive, overall it’s very feeling-driven. Imagine being in a dystopian/futuristic environment, or just an all-around shitty environment, for example those found in Battlestar Galactica, Brave New World, Bladerunner, Slaughterhouse Five, the Russian novel “We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin… or a very tense environment in shows like 24 or Prison Break, where the walls are closing in and every second is filled with tension and constantly being forced to stay an inch ahead of painful death and entrapment. As I’m typing this, I realize that Pulsar Colony has kind of a “survival” theme, which also ties into the individualistic element strongly present in the music and lyrics. An individual trying to stand on his or her own amongst a bunch of unfriendly and threatening forces. That’s pretty much what the music feels like. It’s also very outer-spacish, hence cover artwork. I won’t go on and on describing all the various images and sensations that these riffs play in my head, but I would say that for any metalhead or open-minded music fan, the end result of Pulsar Colony would likely come across as the imagistic, picturesque, surreal/abstract type of metal, although it is indeed very, VERY intense at times. Overall I am proud of the way it turned out. As an amateur producer/engineer with inexpensive equipment, I think the mix and sound quality holds its own. Each instrument (there are many) has managed to carve out its own space in each song, and the album as a whole has managed to achieve a colorful atmosphere, with lots of coherence in the instrumentation.

5. Can you explain the whole concept for the second album "The Deep Sleep - 2012" not just lyrically, but also musically. The disc certainly seems like a progression. I noticed some clean approaches on the disc that I was at first apprehensive about, but as I listened further, I saw how they intertwine with the scowls. I've also noticed that this album is a great deal more trippy than your last album. Did this album end up sounding like you had envisioned originally, and are you proud of the final mix?

As far as my original vision goes, as I’ve indicated above, a Pulsar Colony’s album’s sound kind of shapes itself as the recording process moves along, but both albums did end up roughly sounding like what I had in mind. I think I did a good job of giving The Deep Sleep a very different tone and production style than Snowball Earth. It’s a little colder, more clinical, and it’s slightly more brutal and modern. It’s got a very dirty, harsh, biting guitar sound, which I think adds more emotional depth and savagery to the album that certainly wasn’t lacking on Snowball Earth, but was definitely a quality that needed to be explored in more detail. In retrospect, one main drawback of the album’s sound is that sometimes the keyboards cancel out the guitar. In other words, you have to listen to the keyboards to ascertain the melody and atmosphere because the guitar is a bit unclear. I’m not sure why, it must have been the way those instruments were EQ’d, but it is what it is and I think the “overall picture” is a brutal, yet atmospheric experimental metal album. These albums were the first attempts I’ve ever made at seriously recording, mixing, and mastering to the fullest of my capabilities, so in that regard, yes I am proud of the final mix. I did feel that clean vocals were an ingredient that needed to be introduced. Another 100% scowl album would have been redundant, in my opinion. They may not always be exactly on key, but in “The Flock,” for example, they are meant to have kind of a schizophrenic, twisted vibe, as if sung by someone in mental turmoil, and I think I successfully created that sound. So the vibe the vocals create is often more important than perfect pitch. The increased trippyness is probably a result of my continued exploration of different guitar effects, bass effects, synthesizer patches, and in the songwriting phase trying out melodies, chord shapes, and arpeggios that probably don’t make a whole lot of sense in music theory, but at the same time have a way of capturing the listener and creating a unique sonic dimension. Maybe Pulsar Colony could be labeled “zoning out metal”? The lyrics… so much going on… personal emotions, literature-inspired, TV-inspired… I think my lyrics have an over-arching personal quality, even if they start off being inspired by a specific book or movie or whatever. There’s a lot of negativity being channeled through these lyrics, but on both The Deep Sleep and Snowball Earth I think there’s also an undercurrent of triumph and overcoming adversity that runs throughout the albums.

6. What messages lay behind these albums. Some of the concepts I find very interesting, like "Reptilian Complex", "Power In The Void", "Ancestral Recall", and the oddly hilarious, "Why You Shouldn't Feed Bears." Could you explain these lyrical ideas further, especially the oddly titled, "Why You Shouldn't Feed Bears?"

Well I’ll start off with “Why You Shouldn’t Feed Bears,” an odd title indeed… it starts off being about the territorial nature of bears and wild animals in general, then it goes into some themes from Hawthorne’s “The House of Seven Gables”, then it talks about looking deep within one’s self and facing inner demons, and then the last couple verses or so attempt to tie all those themes together in a coherent, over-arching message. Overall, the song is about indulging one’s weaknesses, guilty pleasures, and vices to the point where they devour the person. Hence the lines “you are the inverted face I see in the shadows at night / I can’t stop chasing you, so I continue feeding the bears”… so the bears are a metaphor for those consuming characteristics that may at first bring a person great amounts of pleasure, but in the end cause the person to rot from the inside. You may have read “The House of Seven Gables”, but one of its basic themes is stripping others of what’s rightfully theirs for your own personal gain. So like other PC songs, this song has a vengeance/retaliation/bad karma component. “Reptilian Complex” takes its name from the concept of the territorial, aggressive, dominating aspect of man. The lyrics toy with this concept, and hypothesize man degenerating into a more animalistic, reptilian state, in opposition to the sophisticated, philosophical, technologically-savvy brains of the 20-21st centuries. Reptiles are very simple creatures; they spend long hours basking in the sun, they camp out in the water to catch what food comes their way, and the larger species are remnants from the dinosaur age and are apex predators, so they don’t have much use for the drama and ambition of human life. So maybe it’s an animal lover song? I am very fascinated by bears and alligators… “Power in the Void” is one of my more personal songs… the lyrics contain a wide variety of metaphorical devices, such as lying in a lab connected to life-support equipment, dying and getting buried, standing in the path of a tornado, but overall this song is about embracing emptiness and nothingness. I mentioned that it’s personal, but it’s also a major recurrent theme of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, which is what introduced me to the concept. A lot of people have read it, but I’ll go ahead and explain… basically, in a distressing situation, the main hero is taught to “channel the void” using a mental technique that consists of visualizing a tiny flame, and then feeding all of his emotions into that flame, then moving the flame off to a far corner in his mind. When this state of mind is achieved, all worries and problems seem far off and distant. This increases concentration and capacity for analytical thought, thus increasing the chance of survival and defeating the enemy, and as paradoxical as it seems, it can sometimes create a “euphoria” of emptiness and non-emotion. It’s a practice that I sometimes find useful in my own life when undertaking strenuous tasks and just living in general. “Ancestral Recall” actually changed its title to “Ancestral Dream”… read James Dickey’s “Deliverance” novel or watch the movie to find out what it’s about. I will say that it’s got a very Darwinian, kill-or-be-killed theme. So just by explaining those songs, you can see that Pulsar Colony lyrics are a combination of personal emotions, literary themes, abstract philosophical musings… one of my favorites is “Pillars of Creation.” The line “my mind wanders light years away / in this cold, dirty alleyway” is perhaps the best PC lyrical moment, for me personally anyways. It just cuts so deep, hits so close to home… it perfectly conveys a sense of isolation and escapism and fits fucking perfectly with the riff it’s shouted over. Then there’s the lines “nothing to lose / lose nothing” which come from a very disturbing dream I had back in 2004, I believe it was. I was in a building that I could walk in, and that other people were in, and yet seemed to be falling apart or in disarray. I was walking in a hallway, and there was this huge hole that tore through the entire wall. In that hole, you could see parts of two different floors. In the above floor, some authority figure-type lady was sitting at a desk, looking at me and acting as if everything’s perfectly normal, when I could tell something was obviously wrong. The words “nothing to lose” were written on the wall, and then when I looked down at the floor (the floor also contained a hole that showed pieces of several floors below) I could see the words “lose nothing.” To this day, I can’t fathom exactly what that dream meant, or even what those words were supposed to mean, but that whole situation and whole sense of “wrongness” in that dream fits perfectly in Pulsar Colony’s tense, schizo-ominous atmosphere.

7. What does the project name, "Pulsar Colony" mean? Where did you discover it, and how is it a vessel for your message?

There was a time when I became very interested in astronomy and cosmology, so I read up on various related topics and aspects related to the universe. Pulsars are rotating neutron stars that emit large amounts of radiation. There are actually a few planets found orbiting these unique stars, but due to the radiation, could not harbor life. So a “Pulsar Colony” couldn’t exist, therefore it’s kind of a metaphor for the bizarre, the strange. Just thinking about the phrase “Pulsar Colony” makes you wonder where else in the universe life does exist, besides Earth. And that in turn makes you think about what other areas deep within the universe look like, and what goes on in and around them. Of course, we have amazing pictures of nebulas, galaxies, moons, etc., but there’s this adventurous spirit in humans that for some reason just isn’t content with life on this world, during this very short time frame. You’ll see this spirit manifest itself in my lyrics from time to time, for example in “Power in the Void”: “I probe the depths of my psyche / and see my reptilian roots / But once again, I also see / an undying thirst / for knowledge of the cosmos.” And the song “Proxima Centauri” is pretty much about this longing for “what lies beyond.” This doesn’t just apply to the material, physical world, but also the imagination. The last few lines of the song are “We are the lifeless matter / we are the paradox / drawing nebulas in the sky with our eyes.” In other words, it’s physically and technologically impossible to go out there in deep space, but we can use our imagination to project ourselves out there. So I guess the name “Pulsar Colony” encompasses the material world, the imagination, the universe, the scientific/analytical powers of the brain, the creative powers of the brain… all in one guy’s metal project haha. It’s a vessel for adventurous music. What we can’t achieve in real life, we can create representations of through art.

8. What are you reading and watching that has inspired you? Do you study the occult and or practice metaphysics? Is there any wisdom that you can share with us? ( I also might recommend a book called "The Nature Of Personal Reality: A Seth Book" (1972) to you. It is a profoundly interesting work, albeit thick.)

Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ve dabbled with meditation. I wish I had more time for it, but the times I have tried it have been very fulfilling. I’ve done what I’m assuming is the traditional style… sitting up, back straight, or lying down, emptying my head of all thoughts, and focusing on the “inner light” (yeah I know it sounds corny, but that’s basically what it is). The interesting thing about Eastern religions and philosophy is that they in a sense downplay the ideas of “knowledge” and “wisdom”, and encourage one to achieve a feeling of there being a single moment and single entity rather than focusing on a bunch of separate moments and “things” that make up the universe. I’m not by any means an expert on this subject, but it is something that I’ve read a little about and find to be another useful tool as far as living day-to-day and just being human. I will say that the times I have meditated, I have been able to achieve something that resembles the “stream of life” or “unity of consciousness” or whatever you want to call it. Life seems more vibrant, the mind seems clearer, and situations seem easier to deal with… very basic wisdom, and maybe not much help when it comes to traumatic situations or even the BS of everyday life, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to set aside some time and meditate every now and then, if for no other reason than relaxation. I mentioned Michio Kaku’s “Hyperspace” book earlier, but also “The Tao of Physics” by Fritjof Capra was a very interesting read. He successfully explains the similarities between Eastern mysticism and physics, in that they both attempt to explain the interrelation of all things. On the physics side, there’s quantum theory, which deals with these little interactions of matter and energy that form the basis for everything we stand on, and on the spiritual side, there’s the deep meditative states the Eastern mystics could achieve, in which they feel the oneness of reality. How does this relate to Pulsar Colony? Those mellow trippy parts, and even some of the heavier parts have kind of a droning, “meditational” sound. I like to think that the droning trippy parts are my artistic representations of the “oneness”, whatever that is… or maybe musical representations of 4-dimensional space or something like that. I’ve watched a lot of stuff, but some examples of inspirational shows/movies I’ve seen in recent years: the Swedish adaptations of the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.), Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek (the original series), tornado videos, sea ice/polar bear videos, other wild animal videos.

9. You live in the same country as I do, so let's not beat around the bush. We've got one hell of an election this year, (and to be honest, I'd rather not have either of them in office) and people are really getting fearful of their own government. What are thoughts towards this election year? On politics in general?

I’ve never been a politically-oriented person, and I’m bad when it comes to keeping up with current events (I get distracted by music), but I’ve never agreed with the Republican philosophy. Especially recently, they’ve seemed to become quite unreasonable and radical. But I hope that whoever does get elected can come up with acceptable ideas for improving certain things, such as relations with other countries, how much money to spend and where to spend it, what to do about this job/economic crisis, etc. There’s no easy way of changing the system we all rely on, but finding some way of inexpensively putting into play the various ideas for environmental-friendly technology would be nice. Not that I’m in the least optimistic about any of this stuff.

10. What do you do when you're not working on music? Any hobbies in particular that you think we should know about?

I like to occasionally go hiking and driving through the country, which are very inspirational for the music. The videos for “Calypso” and “Snowball Earth” are made entirely of photos from hiking expeditions. As you can probably tell, reading is a huge part of my life, especially fantasy and Russian stuff. I would play my xBox 360 more if I had time, just too much music… Mass Effect and Halo Reach are pretty Pulsar Colony-esque.

11. Are there any plans for a third Pulsar Colony release? Are you currently working on it right now? What can you tell us about it?

Actually yes, we’re working on it. My long-time comrade Matthew Friend (http://www.palantirofficial.com) is playing drums, producing, and engineering it. He is very competent when it comes to mic positions, and working with EQs, compressors, reverbs, etc., so this is shaping up to be by far the most professional-sounding Pulsar Colony album thus far. Musically, it’s got plenty of experimentation, but overall it plays more like a traditional metal album. There are not as many clean parts, and the songs are shorter. There’s much more traditional black metal influence, but don’t get me wrong, it definitely keeps the weirdness in tact.

12. What is the biggest thing that you could hope for this project? What do you have to say to fans of the material?

Well in the immediate future, I’m hoping just to sell a few copies of these albums that I’ve finally got around to releasing. I know a lot of fans have an unmastered version of Snowball Earth (it was offered for free on bandcamp for a while and made its way onto a bunch of file-sharing websites), so I would encourage them to buy this newer, much more sonically improved version. I myself don’t illegally download, but it goes without saying that these albums will end up on file-sharing websites eventually. In some ways that’s good, as it creates more exposure, and Pulsar Colony has very little exposure at this point, so every little bit helps. Other than that, it would be cool to eventually get on a label that supports my musical vision and that I won’t end up owing shitloads of money to. I guess that’s my biggest thing I could hope for. And of course I would like to thank anyone who has taken the time to listen to Pulsar Colony, and who have discussed Pulsar Colony on forums.

13. Imagine you could see ten, twenty years into the future. Tell us what you see for the planet, society, and humanity in general.

Will the United States still be a superpower, or will it be a third world country? We already seem to have almost a third world subculture with the huge divide between wealthy and poor, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. And I’m interested to see how climate change will continue to affect the weather patterns. Here in Fayetteville we’ve been having extreme highs and lows… we had no snow last winter, but the two winters before that we had temperatures as low as -20. Then a couple summers ago, we had several 105-115 days. So 10-20 years from now there will probably be even more tornado outbreaks and heat waves. And will an all-out war break out between the US and middle east? Let’s face it, that place is never going to stabilize. I’m also interested in how the space program shapes up, if they’re somehow able to fulfill their pipe dreams of going to Mars and/or the moon, or an asteroid… but as long as there continues to be articles about interesting findings and cool pictures I’m content. Also, will they still be working with the Large Hadron Collider trying to find the “god particle”, and will string theory finally be a proven fact rather than just a theory? So there are some things to like about this world, but a hell of a lot of bleak stuff as well, stuff that I can’t really do anything about, so for my part I’ll continue to try making Pulsar Colony the best it can be.

14. What are some ways that we could fix the mess we've made as human beings? Do you think that there's a "hidden hand" of sorts manipulating events? If so, how do you think we could stop them in order to restore balance back to our planet?

I think that a lot of people have the wrong idea when it comes to spirituality, following a dogma and that their dogma is “right”. I think humanity could fix itself by getting rid of fundamentalism. It does absolutely nothing for this life, but rather focuses on some kind of illusion for the “next life.” I think that spirituality should be something personal, something that improves your perception of things and daily life, rather than a set of rules and rituals that some people think should be practiced by every single human being on the planet, and that only make the here-and-now worse. Personally I believe in some sort of spiritual realm, but I have no idea whether it comes from an outside force, or if it’s something internal to humanity, and I don’t think anyone has any way of knowing, so it’s pointless to bicker over religion. So that’s one thing we could fix, but then again people aren’t going to want to question their own mindsets or break out of their old habits, so it’s a pipe dream. I’d say people themselves are the “hidden hand”… there’s always going to be conflicts over resources, ideology, territory. Too many people, too little stuff. It starts at the bottom… every man tries to earn a little more money so they can afford slightly nicer living conditions, slightly nicer cars, indulge their hobbies more, etc., it’s what we all do. It’s rational self-interest. Then as people move up the ladder, some are content where they are, but some keep going and going until they become I don’t know, say, the President of the United States or a CEO. They’re the ones in control, but do they really care about you, and if they do help you, is it only out of rational self-interest? The same goes for personal relationships… who is a true friend and who’s just using you? Sometimes it seems like very few people actually “care” about each other. And rational self-interest of course gets in the way of the desire to fix humanity and the planet. I’m starting to ramble, I’m not sure what I’m getting at or if I’m answering the question, but with such an over-populated world and with the very nature of mankind, I’m kind of at a loss to think of ways to restore balance to the planet. You could say that compromises will have to be made between every political party, every country, every group of people, etc. in order to make everyone somewhat happy and hopefully enter one of those Pax Romana-type periods, but with so many people disenfranchised (people in America, Europe, Africa, China, you name it) and with such disparities in the philosophies and ideologies between various governments, countries, religious groups, etc.; and so many economic and environmental issues, I don’t see balance happening anytime soon… and even if compromises and treaties are made, will there be enough resources to go around to take care of the various peoples in various countries with various ideologies? Or will it end up being a global communist society, like Soviet Russia? I think that’s the best I can answer these questions…

Thank you so much for your answers, and for such a unique and interesting metal project.

And thank you so much for such an enjoyable interview, and for your curiosity about Pulsar Colony. Horns!

I would humbly invite all fans of experimental and unique black metal to check out the project at it's pages:

http://pulsarcolony.bandcamp.com
http://www.pulsarcolony.com
http://www.youtube.com/user/PulsarColony
THE REVIEW 


Pulsar Colony - The Deep Sleep (2012) - Pulsar Colony's second opus is much different then their first record, (which I will have a review for later, I've just been very busy) in the fact that it takes the style of experimental black metal made famous in "Snowball Earth" and continues to evolve it with psychedelic and doom influence in certain areas. A bit of clean vocal is used here, but it's much darker and usually goes back up into a scowl. The drum machine is certainly powerful and he's got a good handle on it. Even though some of you might not like the idea that he's using programmed drums, you need to keep in mind that this is a one man project and he knows what he's doing. The riffs are filled with prog and a sense of melody at the same time - sometimes they even sound otherworldly, which helps to bring the atmosphere that each track attempts to create. Though this isn't necessarily classified as "atmospheric black metal" it's certainly got some of the tendencies of the genre. Every track on the album sounds quite different from the last and incorporates something new. It is not out of the ordinary to hear world instruments on this disc in addition to the meat of metal, and this album truly is a journey in most aspects. Occasionally acoustics and whispers will also find their way on the album, but even though those things are present; remember that this is still very much black metal and carries the proper soundscape of it. It's got a slightly raw, yet slightly produced quality that should appeal to most, if not a vast majority of black metal fans and the singles released from the first disc have already garnered some great praise from the metal community. This is because the man is truly dedicated to his music and his messages, (if you haven't been able to tell from the review) and I really do feel that this project has the tendency to become something of a mainstay in the worldwide metal community, worthy of magazines and blogs alike (that's one reason why it's here.)

If you felt that the last Enslaved album didn't feature enough black metal and didn't need clean vocals, well perhaps this album from one man who came out of the woodwork might help to fill the void. I truly urge fans of black metal and psychedelic music in any form to check out this project. It is truly something original, just like Agalloch when they, like many other great bands - came out of nowhere. Though these recordings are still a little rough, two phenomenal musicians will be featured on the next Pulsar Colony, and that could be their breakout into the scene. I very much hope so, as this material is just too damned good for the metal scene to ignore, especially with all the bells and whistles that makeup current black metal these days. This guy does by himself, what usually takes many musicians to do. That's a feat in of itself.

Definitely go check this out. If you don't, you're only hurting yourself.

9/10

Monday, October 22, 2012

Interview With Experimental British Metallers, Monsterworks!

Image

Image

Monsterworks

Country of origin:
New Zealand
Location:
Palmerston North, Manawatu-Wanganui
Status:
Active
Active since:
1996

Genre:
Thrash Metal, Death Metal, Heavy Metal
Lyrical themes:
N/A
Current label:
Casket Music

THE INTERVIEW

Monsterworks: Interview with Jon (with the other guys chipping in where noted!)

1. Let me start out this review by saying that you four gentlemen have made some of the most interesting metal that I've heard in recent memory. The fact that you don't play by genre rules and manage to unleash some superb music in spite of it is awe inspiring. What do you feel about these genre rules that many other bands follow, and explain more of the concept, "Image Is Nothing; Metal Is Everything."

First of all, thanks very much for saying so! It is very cool when we get an “awe inspiring” comment.
They say “rules are made to be broken” but that would imply that we go out of our way to break those “genre rules” you mention; I don’t think we do. Monsterworks has always been about doing what feels right at the time, and rolling with it. We like a wide range of metal and see no reason why that diversity can’t be applied to our own music. If other bands want to follow a particular formula for themselves or their audience they probably have good reasons to do it. I know from the feedback we get that some people just can’t handle thinking outside the box; which is puzzling because you would think metalheads are open-minded to some extent.

“Image is Nothing; Metal is Everything”: comes from the fact that I realised we didn’t have much of a distinctive image the way other bands do and we didn’t care for one. The metal “culture” has quite a visual aspect to it and once upon a time I used to have long hair and a wardrobe full of black band t-shirts…but I just grew apart from that as other things in my life moved on. However, I never grew apart from the metal; the music always stayed a constant. The other guys basically share that view.
However, possibly because we don’t conform to a particular appearance associated with whatever sub-genre, we aren’t restricted by what goes into the music either.

That said, the lack of image is probably a hindrance to really capturing the attention of the wider world if I am honest about it. The problem is we never wanted to portray ourselves as anything that we weren’t genuine about. I think it’s highly likely that many bands do enjoy dressing up to play live etc. It is all part of the theatre…but we never really felt that way.

But, if we had the budget I don’t actually mind the idea of putting on a more visually striking stage show by wearing armour and using pyro(!). It would be a fun experience.


2. Describe the recording process for both "Man Instincts" and "Man Intrinsic."

Both are taken from the same recording sessions for “Album of Man”. It was essentially a marketing decision to release the parts separately. Eventually, when all the material is out, it will make sense as a complete, coherent, album.

The basic tracks (drums, guitar, bass) are laid down to tape, using an old reel-to-reel machine. This lends a somewhat “vintage” sound to what we do as it’s a completely traditional setup – acoustic drums, amps turned up loud etc; as opposed to amp modelling software and triggered drums. After initial tracking everything is dumped into Cubase for vocals and extra guitars to be added. For that second stage, it is simply a more time and cost efficient way to work since PC-based editing is so much faster than the analogue alternative.

The 10 song set was recorded in 5 days at Earth Terminal Studios in Hampshire. It is a studio with room for us to stay over and inhabit the recording space for the full five days. Mixing is done in a separate 4 day session a few months later.


3. It is interesting that you prefer an analog approach to the music, like the classic albums that you grew up with. Do you guys hate the idea of over-polished music completely? Are there any bands that you've liked in the past that you no longer enjoy because of the production value?

I quite like modern metal music and production, but since we started using the old-school tape machine a few years ago it just felt like we were transported back in time. Everyone in the band enjoyed that vibe.

Some bands need the polished sound because it fits the precision of the music. I just think we sound better “gritty”. Mind you, I have no comparison; meaning no one has ever offered to remix any of our albums and polish it up by replacing all the drums with samples etc. Ha.

I should clarify that I am not some “lo-fi” freak that revels in crap production, like it was recorded on a cassette player in a dungeon. It just seems to me that if you go back to the late 60s and early 70s the sound quality of those records is actually better. It breathes well. Granted that might be partly due to the fact that the music was simpler and modern metal is very loud and busy. It is like comparing apples and oranges but that (capturing the vintage spirit) is just my justification for why we do the things the way we do.

I wouldn’t say there are any bands that I got turned off of because of production. The music underneath the production should be the deciding factor…although maybe in some cases the music gets more lame at the same time they make bad production choices….but I can’t think of any examples right now.


4. Talk to me about your instruments. What equipment do you guys use, how long have you all been playing and how much do you practice?

Recently I have gone back to using my old Gibson SG special, because I installed some BareKnuckles “Aftermath” pick-ups which are great; they gave it a new lease of life. I first started playing seriously/properly when I got that guitar about 16 years ago. I think I used a BC Rich Warlock on the latest release with EMGs but I can’t remember for certain.

My amp is a Diezel Herbert through a Mesa rectifier cab and I have some analog pedals to experiment with during recording sessions. For home demo recording I use a POD X3 Live, or more recently this clever little BOSS DR-80 which is basically a multi-track recorder, drum machine and amp modeller in a box the size of an old Walkman.

I play guitar a couple of times a week but we don’t practice as a band until we have something specific coming up, like a gig or recording sessions. Even then we only get together a few times. The guys in the band are good at what they do and get on with it based on the home demos I produce. Recording is usually pretty smooth.

I asked the other guys for their feedback to this question so here it is:
Hugo: OLP MM22 bass (cheap Musicman copy!); Markbass LMKII; Ashdown MAG410. Been playing 20 years. Practice at home a few times a week, usually.

James: I use Tama Starclassic Performer drums. They have a lot more punch so it’s perfect for cutting through all those noisy guitars! I also use Ludwig snare drums and DW hardware including their 5000 series double pedals. Cymbals are a mix of Sabian and Zildjian and I use carbon fibre CarboSticks as I play very hard in MW and these are the only sticks that can take the abuse!!

I’ve been playing for about 15 years now and if I'm not gigging or teaching drums I'm usually splitting my time between eating, sleeping and practising. I wouldn't call it personal practise as I'm usually practising songs for recording, working on pieces for teaching or rehearsing through songs for upcoming gigs! Personal practise is sadly rare these days.

Marcus: I have loved the Dean ML shape from the moment I saw it on Pantera's 'Cowboys from Hell' Album, managed to find a second hand one when I was in Uni (not really studying much) and now have a few of them :) My pride and joy is the Dean that I now use which is quite special (50/100 of the lost 100). I also always have my old Ibanez RG around (which I used for The God Album) in case of emergency. My sound is quite basic really, just a Metal Muff pedal going straight into the back of a Marshall EL 100/100 Power amp, with just a Memory Boy pedal (for delay) and Dime'o'wah for when I need them.

I did 2-3 years of classical guitar and basic school band stuff from aged 9-13, but then really started playing at 15 when I heard Iron Man for the first time (didn't stop playing that riff for a week!!). Practice nowadays is not always as regular as I would like, but in the beginning it was easily 5-7 hours a day, just banging around and making noise. Now I will try to do a couple of hours a day in the months leading up to a recording or gig. I definitely would like to do more live shows as I feel that they are the best practice!!


5. Let's talk about the concepts of the two albums. What is the nature of Man Instincts and Man Intrinsic to you? What messages are you trying to get out with these albums?

As mentioned previously, the underlying theme was set by the overall “Album of Man” sessions. This followed on from “The God Album” released last year (2011). That one was about religion (a trusty old topic for heavy metal songs) whereas this one is about, well, “man”. I guess it is humanistic in flavour.
The original concept idea behind the record was a “birth-to-death” scenario, just following the kinds of experiences even the most mundane people go through: conception, childhood, loss, self-awareness, the illusion of free will and, finally, thoughts on facing death. It is a free-fall lyrical jam on all these subjects.

The digital releases through Mortal Music, “Instinct” and “Intrinsic” got named after the fact, based on the songs that were chosen to fill them. Somehow each is deep and meaningful….but I am not exactly sure in what way! Both have some kind of reference to the inherent nature of man but that interpretation only comes by reading into the lyrics I already wrote based on the above subjects.
The “message” is supposed to be a positive one. Thinking for yourself is at the heart of most of what we do and everything else just builds around that.

Exploring the general topic of “why are we here?” is something that can drive you insane. Sometimes I imagine a long pull out camera shot (I think they did something like it in the film: Men In Black?) from me, to the city I live in, to the Earth to the stars, into the Universe and it messes with your head to consider just how small we are.

But so far as we know, we are also a miraculous achievement of natural forces. Mankind might be the only sentient beings in a vast Universe that spontaneously appeared from nothing 13.7 billion years ago. We also might not be alone…but it’s worth taking the time on an album thinking about it.


6. Are there any plans for another full length LP?

It might surprise you to learn that Monsterworks has two unreleased albums in the wings after “Album of Man” and a third in preparation. The next two take the “birth-to-death” concept and apply it to Earth and the Universe respectively. This is a band that doesn’t stand still for long.
Our new catch phase is “The Most Prolific Band You Never Heard Of”.


7. Do you guys play any shows in London or elsewhere? If so, who have you guys shared the stage with?

We played a gig this last weekend in London. It was with two bands from Sweden: Doomsayer and Panic Area. I don’t know what it is about Sweden and metal…. These are two relatively unknown bands but they are excellent, as is most stuff that comes out of Sweden.

Other than the odd show here and there, we don’t tour because it is rarely financially viable. Just once I would maybe like to do a European or US tour that would double as a road trip and adventure. But the logistics are such, it is unlikely.


8. What are some bands/musicians that you're currently into right now? What bands/musicians helped to inspire the band in it's genesis, and which bands/musicians are inspiring the band's current sound?

My most recent listening trends have involved the earliest Pink Floyd albums and, in the last few weeks, Animals as Leaders. The vibe of Pink Floyd might end up being an influence on music I am writing at the moment, but I doubt Animals as Leaders will. That stuff is too virtuoso; but there was something about it I found fresh to listen to and enjoy. However, I am not about to go out and get an 8 string guitar.

The key bands in the beginning for us were probably things like Carcass and Obituary. I still love these bands and some of the modern tech-death, even if that is not what I can (or want to) play myself. The trifecta of bands that was the foundation of my youth was AC/DC, Judas Priest and Queen. The spirit of these is ever-present in everything I do.

In terms of current sound…I like the post-metal bands like Isis and Neurosis. That kind of stuff has filtered the death and thrash influences that were more present on earlier material. Vocally I keep trying to broaden the range of styles….which is probably the core polarizing aspect of Monsterworks. I doubt the “genre switching” label would be applied to us so regularly if it were based on the music alone. It’s the vocals which really confuse people.

James: Bands I'm into right now might not be very relevant for MW apart from Decapitated, Converge and Meshuggah and their new albums. I'm enjoying Queens of the Stone Age, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Dub Trio too.

Hugo: Baroness, Kvelertak.

Marcus: When it came to inspirations, I have always said that Tony Iommi made me pick up the guitar [in the first place], and Dimebag Darrell never let me put it down. Other bands [that inspired me] were The Beatles (first band I became a fan of), Pink Floyd, Sound Garden, Sepultura, Hendrix, Led Zep, etc. Generally I like the older stuff I guess. Nowadays the most interesting and fresh band in my opinion is Mastodon, I love the rich sound they get from only two guitars and I guess I have that in my mind when listening to Jono's demos for an album.


9. What do you all do when you're not playing metal music? What other hobbies do you have?

I used to lift weights quite a lot. Not so much now but I try to keep fit and eat well (meaning “eat good food, and plenty of it”. I am not into starvation). I have a daughter who’s nearly three years old so family oriented things take up the rest of my free time.

James: I guess my hobbies are Downhill Mountain biking, planning cool holidays/adventures and relaxing with friends and my girlfriend when I get the chance! In the latter, I usually just join the masses and watch TV.

Hugo: Editing books (work); Cycling, taking pictures, other music stuff (hobbies).

Marcus: I have recently started archery, so when I am not playing I am usually with friends or practicing that.

10. Are there any good films or books that you could recommend? Something to help us understand the lyrical concept of your material better?

That is a good question. Most of the Album of Man material was written based on personal experience and trying to discover exactly what my philosophy about life is. So there wasn’t that much external influence on that specifically. However, when I am preparing for writing album lyrics I tend to get side-tracked by Wikipedia a lot, on a variety of subjects.

The anti-religion aspect that rears its head in Album of Man is influenced by books like The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins) and End of Faith (Sam Harris). The latter particularly is quite a confrontational book and I’m not sure I completely agree with its approach, even if the content is fairly well presented. But there’s no harm in reading these things. I take from it what I need.

One of the songs (“It’s Alive”) was based on The Philosophical Baby (Alison Gopnik) which I was reading around the time of expecting my daughter to be born. The basic premise is that babies and children are a lot more aware and switched on than we generally think. I am intrigued by the wide-eyed wonder that children must feel and a little envious. Although, for myself I think I have always been keen not to get too jaded by the world. In other words, I have never grown up.

At around the time of this album I probably saw the Zeitgeist series of films. I am not sure if I can actually recommend them because the first one is the ramblings of a conspiracy theory nut, but the second one is a little better. However, given the filmmakers’ credibility is already blown from the first instalment you have to wonder how accurate it is with regard to the portrayal of the US monetary system. The third Zeitgeist film is the most interesting in my opinion. It’s not necessarily a very realistic solution to a utopian future (they kind of lost me when describing a giant tube across the Atlantic for a Mag Lev train to travel through – imagine the resources it would take to build that!) but there is plenty in it which is worthwhile food for thought. The central theme is that mankind has to be sustainable in its relationship with the environment if we are to survive. That is the truth.


11. We're currently in the middle of an election year that people are literally shitting themselves in fear over. With massive unemployment and our social security and right to bear weapons being threatened, people are going insane. How do you feel about this election year in our country, and how does it affect you overseas?

I keep up to date with the US election and maybe have more of an interest than most in the UK, but I am still distanced so we tend not to think about any actual long term effects on ourselves, probably at our peril. Mind you, your fate is in the hands of American voters so there’s nothing I can do about it.
Every generation goes through some form of “shitting themselves in fear” moment (I am not sure that is literal as I haven’t heard any reports of mass defecation!) so this generation doesn’t have a special claim to feeling threatened. Unemployment has been worse, as has the social security situation (if there was any in the dark past) and the rest of the civilised world has always been baffled by the “right to bear weapons” debate.

Most outsiders see a correlation between the number of gun deaths in the US being hundreds of times higher than other countries and the constitutional right to bear arms (i.e. resulting in a high proportion of gun ownership). I understand the point of it, i.e. to be prepared to topple a tyrannical government but, in practice, it just seems to lead to an arms race within society and a climate of fear. Escalating violence rarely leads to a positive outcome. But what do I know?

I have no particular fondness for either Presidential candidate as they are both indebted to big business interests that manipulate policy to transfer more wealth toward those that already have it. It is the reality of a two party system that is either centre-right or right-right.

Romney is a Mormon which, by definition, makes him bat-shit crazy and Obama has been systematically broadening executive power in alarming ways. It still amazes me that a president can order a hit squad into a foreign country (that, at least on paper, is an ally) to assassinate somebody and get away with it….and the reaction at home is people partying in the streets. The murder of Osama bin Laden (there was no compelling evidence that they tried to capture him alive) is a disgrace. It doesn’t matter how evil or dangerous an enemy is, any Government must allow that person their day in court; if that Government wants to project itself as morally righteous. America simply sends the message “we will do what we want and damn the rest” and, probably, a significant proportion of Americans agree with that stance.

Most of the rest of the world sees America as a bully. Obama might have successfully smoothed over some of that image after the Bush years but there is no genuine change in foreign policy.
But, again, what do I know? Opinions are like arse-holes.


12. This country is obsessed with reality shows. I know that you're aware of Pop Idol and Britain's Got Talent, but they were exported over here as American Idol and America's Got Talent, as well as The X-Factor. What is your honest opinion of this crap and how do you think it can be detrimental to people, or their children? I've seen people on that show that say they want to do nothing else, but to become a pop star. Some of them don't even have jobs, because they're so obsessed with fame. Is it the same way over there in London? Or are we even worse? I also want to talk about "icon" Simon Cowell. Many in America don't really know, but I'm sure that you in Britain are aware that he paid bail for a man who sexually assaulted five young boys, back in 2001.

I remember having lunch a while back with a colleague who was quite enraged after having seen X-Factor or something like that. This colleague is a smart man, very well read and can probably provide a more reasoned and comprehensive response to the previous question about US politics than I can, but yet it really got to him. I found it funny that he could be so upset by a reality TV show, so I just said “well, turn it off then”.

I am happy to agree with you that it is crap, but it is only there because people watch it. Over time I think the public will see through the fa├žade and they start to get bored or realise they’ve been duped into watching something with no entertainment (or otherwise) value. Big Brother slowly got less and less ratings in the UK and was canned. I think it might be back but it’s totally off my radar.
What you describe about people being obsessed with fame in the US is not that different to what I come across on TV in the UK. I never directly watch the “got talent” shows but I do like comedy; and ripping the piss out of people that have no talent is a British national pass time which makes its way onto a lot of comedy panel shows. On some of these panel shows they sometimes have the hapless victims of fame….and said victim probably knows they are going to be crucified but they can’t help themselves because it’s a TV appearance!

Having a dream of being a pop star isn’t a problem in itself. I used to stand on my bed playing a tennis racquet pretending to be Dave Mustaine. The TV shows just often try to find the saddest of these dreamers to exploit in the name of entertainment.
But…don’t get angry, just switch it off.

I didn’t know about the allegation against Simon Cowell. It is the sort of thing that would be big news here but maybe I was asleep that week. He is a figure that is universally demonised in pretty much every reference that is ever made to him on UK television (at least what I watch). However, that is his angle “the man they love to hate”. He has built an entire industry out of loving to hate people. It’s not healthy, so switch it off.


13. Finally, what do you think are some things that we as people could do to fix the problems in society, or the world in general?

Wow. You pretty much just exposed what I was planning the next Monsterworks album to be about. Specifically, rather than bitching and moaning about how bad things are I think it is more useful to look at ways we might actually be able to change things for the better. So I wanted to explore that on the next record and make a few suggestions….but I am only just starting this journey and don’t have the answers yet (and maybe never will).

The main thing all people can do is to open their eyes and become aware. Unfortunately, the general masses, even in the “civilised” world are too tied up in a treadmill of work, sleep, consume, repeat that we lose sight of what really matters…which in my opinion is being happy (and not at the expense of someone else). It is pretty simple really.

My present assessment is that, at the heart of all our problems, is wealth inequality; which is why as many people as possible need to realise what a divisive force that is. Money doesn’t make you happier, nor does the endless pursuit of it. Anyone that says otherwise is a dick. And there are plenty of those….which is why it is not an easy task to overturn the present mindset.

However, the research seems to show that the “happiest” countries, like in Scandinavia, are those with the flattest societal structure, i.e. the narrowest gap between the rich and poor. Also, these countries have a consistently excellent standard of heavy metal so there must be a correlation between metal and safe, happy countries! (an ironic statement, perhaps, to some people – but not to me since I am a happy person that thinks metal is awesome).

The wealth inequality issue is something I have been aware of for some time but I recently read a book, 99 to 1 (Chuck Collins), which crystallised some of the ideas. It talks about the forces for social change and how that is happening in the world today, e.g. via “Occupy” movements etc. There is still hope.
Unsurprisingly, the solution to these problems is governments having the balls to legislate for a redistribution of wealth. Using the present economic framework that means higher taxes for the rich resulting in better social services for the poor. There are plenty of people, especially in materialistic societies like America, that say “I work hard for my money and those poor people just don’t try hard enough!” That is bullshit because everybody gets a helping hand somewhere. No one should be more “entitled” by an accident of birth than anyone else to a prosperous life.

On a related note, multi-national corporations now routinely avoid as much tax as possible through any means necessary (usually offshore tax havens) and it is not illegal in most cases. It is just immoral because so many corporations specialise in bleeding money and resources out of a society (like education systems that provide them employees) and only give back the bare minimum they can get away with.

A good example I read about recently was Facebook’s operations in the UK which paid about £240,000 in UK tax but the actual declared profits were £20 million. This is because it routes its UK profits through business operations in Ireland. It is legal; I am not disputing that. However, one government opposition minister commented along the lines that a massive investment has been made by the UK government into the internet infrastructure in all kinds of ways, which is funded by tax revenue. Facebook is completely reliant on that infrastructure but contributes almost nothing to it. They are parasites.

http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2012/10/11/facebook-condemned-over-tax-avoidance

Apple, Amazon, Starbucks …. There is a long list of global companies that try very hard to give as little back as possible to the countries in which they operate in terms of cold hard tax dollars. The excuse they plead is that they have a responsibility to shareholders to give the most efficient tax regime possible. It is true enough. But the shareholders are predominantly people who already have enough money. Kids go hungry while someone else increases their already significant wealth.
I realise this starts to sound a bit of a “boo hoo” whinge, but everyone should be aware of these things when they are deciding whether to buy a particular product from a particular source. These global companies are able to undercut local businesses because they can organise massive tax benefits and don’t give a shit about the local community.

I think we are all to blame for this happening because we as consumers often go with the lowest price. My own awareness is causing me to change consumption habits. Every little bit helps (which ironically is a catch phrase for UK supermarket giant, Tesco – a known “tax avoider” in the present context).
A critical second issue is the environment. Another book I recommend, The Great Disruption (Paul Gilding) explores inevitable social/environmental collapse, and is a real eye-opener. But incredibly, even this book has a positive spin! In other words, these problems are surmountable.
We live in interesting times certainly. The take home message is this:

There is, even now, enough food production capacity in the world to feed everybody. There are enough resources to educate everybody (which results quite quickly in a stable population as women realise they are not just baby factories) and to provide a roof over everyone’s head. The only thing that stands in the way is power brokers that wish to maintain an unbalanced political and economic system for their own ends; but they are the minority. Their way is unsustainable, has failed, and it’s time to move on.


14. Is there anything else that you want to add, or think that we should know about the band or its message?

Jeez. I think the above is extensive enough! After all that it is important to remind your dear readers that Monsterworks is first and foremost a metal band. We play heavy metal and that is more important than any political leanings I might have.

Thank you very much for your answers, gentlemen. I hope that you continue to make the groundbreaking music that you have, free of genre tags or stereotypes.

THE REVIEW

Image

Monsterworks - Man: Intrinsic (PR2012) - Monsterworks has done it again with their second EP, fifteen minutes well spent in the company of a progressive, melodic, and extreme form of expression. This is not unlike their older EP, Man: Instincts, but I feel that I like it much more. The first track, "Unconditional Lie 4:40" starts the disc out with a raw (but audible) production value that opens with a beautiful melody and a high pitch vocal that soon duets with a death growl. While this sort of thing has been done before, no band has done this kind of material quite like these guys. They aren't afraid to add slight acoustic and light-hearted moments, nor mix a slightly doomier/sludgier style in with "Taste Of Doom 3:36." As usual with these guys, the whole process sounds organic and just fucking works. Of course, the best moment on this disc is the closer "Air 7:26" which is not only breathtaking, but showcases some truly epic moments. Rest assured, all the time on this track is used to effectiveness, and for that matter, all of the time on this disc is used effectively. Not only is the disc catchy, but the music is done well. There are also some fantastic solos, but in a package done so well, it's all just icing on the cake. Monsterworks still have their very best days ahead of them, and I'm literally pining to hear a new full-length. The band who has no boundaries has once again sold me with just fifteen minutes of original material. One of the best EP's of the year, for sure.

Highlights: All (3 Tracks, 15:00)

10/10

Week 65 (October 22nd, 2012)

THE GRIM LORD'S REVIEWS:
WEEK 65

(GRIM REVIEWS AND RANTS SINCE 2010)

It's that time again, when there's only a few releases at the end of last month and we haven't yet reached that October torrent of albums that usually release right before the holidays. The latter part of this month is brimming with new discs from major bands, but November looks to be a dry month, with very few major releases. Of course, we all know how December is. That's when I'm going to do my short list - yes, it's coming back - where I review every fucking thing that I wasn't able to get to before with just one paragraph per disc!

I'm also going to be taking a break after I get all the big October releases finished. I hoped to begin the editing process of my third novel in November, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen, which means that it will probably not be releasing until next year. Even so, the novella will also release - and I'll be writing much shorter books after that. 

(www.amazon.com/author/ericmay)


Image

Incantation - Vanquish In Vengeance (PR2012) - There's really not much I can say in the way of recommending this to fans of people other than those who like brutal and brooding death metal, so I won't even try to. The band puts on a furious display of bravado throughout most of the disc, with drums on constant blast, foreboding melodies and the vocal gravel that you'd expect. While it's fast and unrelenting in some portions, it also encapsulates the greatness of bands like Father Befouled, as a sense of dread lurks throughout the recording. "Transcend Into Absolute Dissolution 6:51" is one of these such songs that completely strips the ferocity of the band, making it sound like the sort of music one might hear in some dank fortress of the damned. "Profound Loathing 8:13" also continues this trend, but adds some melodies which are well warranted. The band really tried to make both a death metal disc with all sorts of little guitar tweaks, as well as brooding death album with the same types of guitar tweaks. The disc is almost and hour long, and between the two extremes, you'll hear the same amount of brutal death metal as you will hear "brooding death metal." Which really should be a sub-genre of death metal, since brooding and brutal as essentially different sides of the same coin. Getting back to the album, I'll definitely need to mention the closer, "Legion Of Dis 11:34" in which some interesting takes are brought into the brooding death metal sense of the track. At about the five minute mark, we're hearing very little riffs, some definite amp fizz, (which helps to carry the atmosphere somehow? It's almost like a death-drone) which might be tough to get into, especially for people who don't like drone - but at least they're fucking trying to innovate. Later on in the track, you'll hear some chanting and what not as the drums do a little tribal number to keep atmosphere, and who the fuck knows what was being summoned. But more or less, probably nothing.

At first listen, I was going to give this disc a low score. But as I went back through it and gave these tracks some time to congeal, I noticed that the band really worked hard to create two extremes on one disc and has succeeded in doing so. I might even recommend this one more than the new Father Befouled disc, as it contains more than just a sense of dread and follows along with battering storms of carnage. The production quality on the album is good, but I don't particularly care for the album art. The colors are right, but I think it would be better if there was a scene of a dank crypt where living skeletons threaten to break free from their shackles. In the center would be warlord with blood-splattered armor and he'd be sitting on a throne, staring at you from the cover. Not only that, there would also be a large mace at his feet. Maybe even the decapitated head of a young wizard on the floor, separated just a few feet from his body. In the warlord's hand, would be an ancient grimiore of some sort, and it would be engraved with some sort of long dead, archaic language. That's what the cover should have looked like, because that's what listening to this album made me think of while listening to it. It's essentially putting you in the position of one of those reanimated skeletons, still struggling to break free of their imprisonment, damned to their fate by an arcane spell. Or one could say... Incantation.

(Interview coming soon)

Highlights: Invoked Infinity, Haruspex, Profound Loathing, Legion of Dis (10 Tracks, 53:00)

8.5/10

Image

Execration - The Acceptance Of Zero Existence (PR2012) - One of many bands of the same title, Execration is an American death metal band with very little left to prove. They clearly know what they're doing and most of the members have played in everything from Trivum to Dismemberment. Being that these are all seasoned musicians, it's safe to say that there's a worthy exercise in death metal to expect here. But is it enough? In spurts, perhaps. I think that the "portal" tracks, while adding to the mystique of the album are a bit nonsensical, especially the waste of time they called, "Falling Through The Portal 1:59." This track literally sounds like what an MP3 would, if it could skip. I literally thought that I had a bad copy of the track or something, but it appears that it was just the track itself. While opener "Awake The Darkened 2:23" has little to like that we haven't already heard from the death metal genre, the title track comes in right after it with a full assault of might. "The Acceptance Of Zero Existence 6:06" has all the trimmings of a modern death metal track complete with technicality, brutality and what-not, but there's also some changes in tempo that help to really breathe the foreboding sense of dread into the music. Which is really what makes death metal, death metal. "Serpentine Changeling 3:43" also borrows from the slower Morbid Angel style, making it different from much of the over-the-top technicality that most of this disc is. It literally is a "big, dark mess of riffs, drums and growls" but there are some people that like that and I think it's done much better than other bands who've done this sort of thing in the genre. Of course, there are far better bands and I've certainly reviewed them - but these guys definitely make a mark with this disc. However, despite the 38 minutes of music on this one, I'm still left a little unsatisfied. It's heavy enough, but I've certainly heard better. Nonetheless, these guys DO have promise and you ought to check them out.

Let's see... dark, brutal, brooding, technical, chaotic... and sometimes sounds like you're going through a portal - That's pretty much the gist of it. If they removed that one track that sounds like an utter shitstorm of failure, I might have given this a slightly higher score.

Highlights: Serpentine Changeling, The Stars Will Make Known My Rage, The Great Fall (11 Tracks, 38:00)

7/10

Image

Maelstrom - It Was Predestined (PR2012) - The praise just keeps coming in for Maelstrom. According to my press sheet, I'm seeing numerous metal sites, metal blogs and metal zines praising the living hell out of this thing. Terrorizer magazine even considered them 2009 Demo Of The Year. But what makes these pagan/Viking thrash metallers from Long Island, New York so breathtaking? Unfortunately, I'm still trying to figure that out. There's something here, that's for sure. But I'm torn between the vocals. Gary Vosganian's vocal sounds like it would if Ezio from Assassin's Creed was on vocals, but of course I'd be a fool to deny the power of axeman, Joey Lodes. So named because he's literally got "lodes" of riffs and melodies on this disc, his guitar playing prowess will literally shake you out of your seat. This guy can play so well that it will make your head spin. As this is a demo, there are only three tracks on it, but the production is good and the band has more than definite promise. I would certainly like this album more if Gary hadn't been under the impression that he can sing, because he can't. In all honesty, I want to say that there's a bit of a early Skyclad/Sabbat approach on the vocal style that Gary attempts and I can certainly hear it, but Martin Walkieyer's work is unparalleled and not just anyone can copy it. But he can scream, growl and everything in between. I'm sure if the guy takes a "don't sing at all" approach on the next album and just sticks to harsh vocals, combined with Joey's riffs and Daniel Kleffmann's drums; this band could really make an unprecedented dent in next year's metal flood. Because you know it's coming, and you've got to be good to ride the wave. Despite all the praise that this release got, I'm a bit skeptical and not so sure if the band can "ride the wave" of next year's metal onslaught. But as is the title of Therion's very first LP, Time Will Tell...

(3 Tracks 18:00)

7/10

Image

Sicadis - Blood Of A Thousand Hearts (PR2012) - At first glimpse, Sicadis might sound like your standard era deathcore band with groove elements similar to As I Lay Dying or Lamb Of God. But its upon further examination of the material that I'm hearing something with a little more structure. Not that Lamb Of God ever lacked structure, as I've always respected their work - but this album sounds like just the same sort of material that really takes the death and adds it to core. Take "Voice Of A Martytr 5:00" and one might even be reminded a little of At the Gates. But it's not the groove or chug, it's the melodies that really bring out the uniqueness in this passion. Let me also say that these guys aren't afraid of structure, drum theatrics and some solo work that really comes out of nowhere in most places. Yes, there are still breakdowns - but the playing really makes up for that fact and is really stellar. Trust me folks, when I say that something is stellar, that means that it's worth hearing. The axeman here can really shred and what would have been formulaic deathcore is given form and shape, made into something of a modern melodic deathcore. One thing that seperates these guys from Between The Buried And Me, is the fact that the deathcore portions of this album are actually backed up with riffs that sound more than bland, (instead of chugga chugga chugga chugga) and this band isn't afraid to even break completely into death metal "Soldiers Of Damnation 4:16" shedding the core behind completely. Though there are some metalcore moments, "My Redemption 4:52", "Through These Eyes 3:31" there's definitely more spite in these harsh vocals than on anything I've ever heard from As I Lay Dying.

The bottom line is that these guys definitely show potential, and enough to revolutionize what's become a rather stale metalcore scene. I'm glad that I'm hearing some real guitar playing, wonderful solos and definite moments of death metal. Definitely chalk this up for the future of core.

Highlights: Voice Of A Martyr, Soldiers Of Damnation, No Sympathy, A Fading Light, My Redemption, Through These Eyes, Beneath The Swarm, Slaying The Masses (10 Tracks, 34:00)

8/10

Image

Skeletal Remains - Beyond The Flesh (PR2012) - If you like early Death, specifically the debut, "Scream Bloody Gore" and were hoping for more material like it, then you're definitely in luck. These guys have the sound, the energy and the vocal style that made that album so unique. This really does sound like death metal in it's inception, and it does so effortlessly. The drums beat furiously through the songs, the riffs crunch and thrash with the sounds of early death metal, and the guitar solos come out fierce and vibrant. As I said, the vocals certainly remind me of Chuck's earlier years, before Death even touched a bit of prog. But you still might hear a technical thing here and there. The production quality is also as you would expect, just as raw as fits this kind of music. With the front man's manic screams, the blood-drenched guitars and the well structured assault of the drums, backed with awesome solo work - yes, I'll mention it again - you can't go wrong. It doesn't matter what track you pick on this one, as they're all fantastically brutal in the vein of death metal, even back before I remember it!

Definitely, Definitely, DEFINITELY, make sure that you check out Skeletal Remains. You old heads really need to give this a spin particularly, so that you can get a feel of the gooey primordial ooze that later became death metal. And these guys do that ooze justice, with each and every fucking riff.

By the way, the disc also features a cover for Gorguts' "Disincarnated 4:15." So make sure to check that out. If there's anyone that could do the majesty of Gorguts justice, it's these guys.

Highlights: All (37:00)

10/10

Image

Enslaved - RIITIIR (2012) - From one journey to another, we're certainly the kind of blog that focuses on taking trips when it comes to music; and that's always been something that I've likened listening to music to, so this new album from Enslaved is just the ticket you need to visit ancient Nordic lands, or even the palaces of the Gods themselves. The word "ritual" is literally built into the album's title, and it most certainly sounds ritualistic. But for the most part, the new Enslaved album seems to definitely feature of more the band's black metal roots than past releases have. Yet you'll still have your prog, so don't complain there. As a matter of fact, it's awfully interesting that many people have completely skipped over this one. I have quite a lot of friends into black and prog metal, but I haven't heard many of them praise this one - which is odd, since it managed to pop a 9.0/10 on the Metal Storm website, and I'll say it myself; those guys are cruel. With this kind of album, I'm gonna have to break format and do a song by song. I knew it was coming, but there's really no other way to do this; especially when it consists of many songs within songs.

"Thoughts Like Hammers 9:30" is a great opener, just as good as the opener for the band's last album, Axioma Ethica Odini" which was "Ethica Odini." The disc features plenty harsh black metal vocals over top of melancholy riffs, definite prog injections and some great clean vocal lines / choruses. There is also an excellent solo portion and other bits of structure that help to make this song an absolute epic. The harsh vocal chorus is also great towards the end, where the rums blast as drone fills the air in a ritualistic fashion. I'm not crazy about the ending, it sounds like it could have gone out with a choral reiteration, not some odd drone piece tacked onto the end. Although some of you may feel different.

"Death In The Eyes Of Dawn 8:16" starts out with gurgling vocals overtop of prog riffs, (It's not even close to black metal) and it's not until the clean vocals come in that I start giving a shit. Then the scowls come back into play and work well with the melodies. But what that shit was before, I don't even know. Another thing I'm noticing about this one, is that there are multiple choruses on these songs. What kills this track for me, is this deep gurgling portion where I'm being read a story. But if you're going to read me a story, don't gurgle it to me. Great, saved by the solo. But why is it even here? They just threw one in for the heck of it? Then we're thrown into a portion that embraces more heaviness and black metal scowls, until the damn gurgling comes back in. Who's idea was that? Clean chorus comes in. I have a feeling I might like this song more if I could read the lyrics, because it sounds like a story with different character parts, but I can't really understand all the gurgles on here, so they need to make a video for it, so that I can grasp this concept.

"Veilburner 6:45" starts with heavier riffing, but has brief pause in the riff structure that some may find interesting, other pretentious. I also like the drum play here, and the song really hasn't even warmed up yet. But when it does the riffs do resemble black metal, complete with scowls - but the clean chorus vocals are done during a bit faster set of riffs then you would expect. Yet it works out. But is this the chorus or pre-chorus? because shortly after that I'm hearing something that sounds like a full chorus, a duet between clean and harsh and yes, it works. Slowdown time comes in, complete with a few cymbal taps and then what I thought was a pre-chorus comes in during the faster part of the track. Apparently it's not any sort of chorus, but the duet section is the chorus. See, the music of Enslaved is so complex that you really do have to map it out. Then the song throws the riffs that started it, back into the mix and decides to throw the opening harsh vocal riffs back near the end of the track and for some reason, ends it there with the sound of a fan spinning. This leads right into -

"Roots Of The Mountain 9:16" which is the one I'm going to recommend to the fans looking for both a metal onslaught and some really killer clean vocals overtop of some beautiful leads. Throw in weird atmosphere... okay, back to riffs that actually sound harsh accompanied by almost death metal vocals. Throw back into light melody/chorus. Works seamless, no problems there. Throw in guitar solo, works great where it's at - a little odd to throw one in there, but it's performed beautifully. A little short for my tastes though. Have to make way for the heavy riffs and harsh (almost death metal vocals) again. Another solo now begins (wipes forehead) clean comes back, melody changes, clean works with melody - harsh vocals come back in overtop same melody. No qualms so far, this is in many ways an epic. A short set of different riffs leads back into the black metal nature of the beginning (with no harsh vocals for at least 30 seconds) and then the harsh comes in once again, to bring in what would be an ending riff, but the song isn't over yet. It even sounds like it's about to end... but that's when the acoustic shredding begins. Oh yeah, this is fucking beautiful folks, just fucking beautiful. The heaviness comes back and that melody continues throughout with a duet chorus on the last part of the song. Melody comes back in, but there's some sort of guitar lead in the back that I can barely hear, it should have come out more in the recording (have to listen closely.)

RIITIIR (5:26) then begins, sounding like a heavy prog track. But then the band says, "Hey, did you like that heavy stuff? Well, we're going to do some soft vocals over a melody now." It doesn't continue forever and the harsh vocals do come back as we "sail the cosmic seas" with the band through a heavier blackened portion. Then we have the clean part (don't forget about that end riff which screams black metal influence) again. Harsh vocals come back over the same riffs. Riffs finally chance 75% through the song, harsh vocals overtop of clean creating an extreme vocal harmony very common in choral music. Somebody wanted to play some heavier melodies now, so that happens. Holy shit, that riff sounds like it was deathcore influenced! Then the prog black style continues with harsh vocals again (drums begin to blast) and that's all there is to it.

"Materal 7:48" comes in with some odd electronics and some drums that beat in a basic fashion. The riffs start up and the clean vocals come in overtop of a lighter harsh vocal that sounds like it's buried in the background. Black metal riffs come in - insert harsh vocals here - now we're back to the same structure. I like this lead almost halfway into the song, harsh vocal chorus is very strong. A new set of riffs come in backed by harsh vocals and it works well too. Great track at this point. Clean vocals come in, who's this nasally guy? Sounds a little nasally here. Here's your classic rock guitar solo. You can't tell me that that isn't a classic rock solo, because it is, and it works with this weird hodgepodge of metal. Further listening to this track, I'm wondering if Enslaved is really trying to be the black metal Opeth, because that's what it's starting to sound like. If that's the case, then this one might as well be their "Blackwater Park."

"Storm Of Memories 8:58" starts out with prog and electronics, which is different already from anything the band has done prior, even in the Mardraum/Monumension era. It's an atmospheric piece with a bunch of weird effects and it's probably out of place on such an album, but the band doesn't seem to care. At the three minute mark, the black metal finally comes in, fast and furious. And it really sounds like black metal this time. No really, I'm serious. They should have just cut the soundscape shit out and stopped trying to be so damned pretentious. Eventually we get the light vocal portions and these are very strong as well. This song would've been great if there was no electronic portions. I'll bet you ten bucks, that when theta song is played live, they won't even play the song with all that electronic shit in the beginning, or it'll be an intermission song where the band comes out later into it (which it's a 3 minute atmospheric portion, enough time to get some water, go piss, or get something to eat before they go back on stage) then it'll begin with the black metal portion. If you take this song and put it into mastering software, you could literally trim the electronics off of it, due to the fact that the opening riff at around 3:00 or so sounds like it's part of a completely different song. The pieces aren't in no way connected. Try it. Trust me, it's true. Again, pretentious crap. At any rate, the last portion of this song is more death metal inspired and features the gurgle rather than the scowl. The clean vocals come back into play one more time and then black metal comes back, finally. Wow. They didn't forget how to play black metal!

"Forsaken 11:14" begins with a piano that lasts for about a minute. Then death metal vocals come in over prog riffs. Then the band wants to thrash while death metal vocals continue. If you don't hear the gravel in those vocals, you're death. These guys are definitely not just experimental black metal anymore, they decided to tack on some death metal. The thrash continues, and then the gurgling begins. Wow, electronics. Didn't see that coming at all. Is that some old orchestra piece in the background? What in the hell are they even doing here? Finally marching drums and proggy keyboards join the mix and when the full band comes back, a "cosmic" sounding atmosphere comes into place, which makes the vocals sound like they're coming from space. But they might be. These guys might even record their next album in space or something, as far as they've gone here. The music slows and melancholy riffs come into play, as the song becomes depressing. Then a low croon comes into play, not unlike My Dying Bride. I am not joking here. Piano comes back into play, also not unlike My Dying Bride. This is still a very doom-laden structure. Is this how they're going to end it? There, now we've done all genres of metal? Piano and dreary riffs are still going. You're kidding me, right? This is how it fucking ends? It's kind of like saying, "Oh, well Odin's great." for like ten albums, and then deciding, "Well, you know... maybe he doesn't exist. Maybe we've all been forsaken."

Damn, what a bad note to leave us on, guys. This bit epic "pagan" sort of ritual album, and then - "Hey, this shit might be all made up. Maybe we're all just lost in fucking space!" It's like a man who's having the best day of his life, until he gets unexpectedly shot. Good way to get existential. At any rate, I have no idea what to give this disc. There's just too much material here. It's better than decent, which is a 7, but I didn't like all the songs enough for a 9. I guess I could give it a solid 8, but that's because things are done well, even if some of their ideas just don't match and come out odd. It's not unwise to say that things were thrown around in places, I'm not hearing much song structure as I am everything else. Aren't riffs supposed to flow? Well, they don't always do that here, and when you use an electronic atmosphere, you'd better have a damned good reason for it. But I don't blame the band for this, I blame the label. I can clearly hear someone on the phone saying, "Storm Of Memories" is a good black metal track, but we don't think that people want to hear you do black metal anymore." Then one of the band members says, "Well, why not? That's our roots, it's what we do best!" Then the label guy says, "Well, if you put this electronic piece that we made for this electronic death metal band in there (they weren't going to use it) then we'll let you put this black metal track in. People don't want to hear you do black metal anymore, they want you to be the extreme metal Pink Floyd."

"By the way... the new My Dying Bride is coming out soon. We'd like you to put some gothic doom elements into the band. It would make it easier to market... erm... for you to compete - with bands like Swallow The Sun and Daylight Dies."

"My Dying Who?" another member of the band replies. "I don't even don't even know what gothic metal is. I wasn't into that."

"Well, you are now. By the way, this electronic dubstep is getting really popular. We might have you put some elements of that into your next disc."

And that's what happened. That's why this disc has a nonsensical electronic piece and a doom portion that nobody wanted. I don't believe I've ever run across a fan of the band who said, "I'd like it if they did some doom metal stuff." That's like me asking Cannibal Corpse to play power metal. Ain't gonna happen. Complete creative control, my ass.

Long story short, I'm giving this disc an 8. Why? I can't think of anything else to give it. It's solid, but all over the place. Hits and misses across the board. Powerful choruses, good riffs, great melodies... but there's all that other shit thrown in that makes this one big jumble.

Highlights: Thoughts Like Hammers, Roots Of The Mountain, Materal, Storm Of Memories without the electronic intro (8 Tracks, 67:00)

8/10

Image

Therion - Le Fleurs De Mal (2012) - This isn't the Therion comeback album you were hoping for after the blandness of "Sitra Ahra." Not that the album was bad, it was just not quite as good as the albums that followed it, and only Lilith knows whethere or not they'll be able to top their 2007 masterpiece, "Gothic Kabbalah." I believe I gave Sitra Ahra good marks back then, but listening to it now doesn't necessarily make me feel quite as much as I did with Vovin, Secret Of The Runes, Lemuria/Sirius B or Gothic Kabbalah.

Now onto his album. Le Fleurs De Mal (named after a dastardly French poem that translates to "The Flowers Of Evil") is not technically a new Therion album. Rather, it's an anniversary record for the band; one that encapsulates their many years of majesty. Not surprisingly, the whole thing is in French and the tracks are all covers of traditional classics, just made much heavier. For the gist of this record, it is a certain French opera. A French "metal" opera, but it's an opera nonetheless. However, it is still Therion. It features many singers, many of whom you might remember, plenty of guitar solos and great melodies - and the same "spirit" that really makes a Therion album, a Therion album. I definitely think that fans of the band's classical era material will like the disc, but not everyone will go for the "all French" concept. Nonetheless, all of the songs are exponentially different from the other, you're not going to hear the same thing over and over and over again. The 16 tracks definitely feature guitar, but not all of them are blazing rock anthems, or rock-operas.

This really does encapsulate the spirit of the band, and while at first listen you might be dissuaded, the music will remind you of a more respected time in the band's era. As for the true follow up to Sitra Ahra, the band is planning on putting on a massive (and expensive) stage show, and it's been said that the process will take many years. So if we're all still around by then, and I'm still reviewing discs or mp3's or whatever the fuck else emerges - I'll have it for review.

But for now, enjoy this "interesting reminiscence."

(16 Tracks, 47:00)

8/10

Image

Absvrdist - Illusory (2012) - Twenty six minutes of complete and utter "fuck you" grindcore combined with black metal moments combines well enough to form a soup that I certainly wouldn't eat; let alone touch. Not that it's a bad soup, but it's a very poisonous one, the sort of thing where one would expect to see acid bubbles popping from the top of the surface. Perhaps, that's not appetizing, but it best explains this unruly mixture. The disc is 15 tracks spread among 26 minutes of total playtime, but in all that time you'll hear frantic and furious drumming, groove crunches, time signatures, and vocal styles that range through the entire gamut of extremity. There's no happy clean vocals on this one, folks - and it's a definite contender for Annal Nathrakh's "Veritas."

But not all of the time do the drums pound relentless. You will also hear several moments of atmosphere in the disc, and most certainly close to it's endpoint. It's not only a inhumane beating, but a reflection of that beating. To compare this album to any life experience, I could liken it to being whipped by burly face painted punks in the frozen woods of Norway. Then after you've received said beating; the next couple minutes of your life would be spent reflecting on just how bad it hurt. Then you woke up and realized that you hadn't ever been beaten at all, and that it was all just one hell of a nightmare that you'd rather not have again. No more junk food before bed.

In all honesty, this is grind with substance. Grind has a tendency these days to be overly brutal and pretentious in that brutality, but bands like Absvrdist, Anaal Nathrakh and a few others (forgive me, grind is not my strong suit) are certainly changing our approach on the genre and that's certainly not a bad thing.

(15 Tracks, 26:00)

9/10

Image

Steve Harris - British Lion (2012) - Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) finally decided to do a solo project apart from Iron Maiden, made up riffs that he couldn't use in Maiden. The first track is altogether different, being that it reminds me much of The Cult in the melodies, and opens up for a rock disc, not a metal one. Things don't get much heavier, but keep reading because this is a good disc regardless. Even if you don't like the poppy nature of the opener, "This Is My God 4:57" (I personally love it) I'm sure that you'll like the follow-up, "Lost Worlds 4:58" and "Karma Killer 5:29" which comes right after that. Those who want to actually hear some Maiden influence however, might wonder why the riffs in "Us Against The World 4:12" couldn't have been used in Maiden. Personally, Bruce's vocals would've complimented this song much better than the teddy bear approach of the band's frontman, Richard Taylor. His soft spoken vocals sound quite odd coming from a man of his stature, who reminds me of a UFC fighter in the band's photo shoot. Most of this album really sounds like it comes from the early 70's prog music, and it's very happy and catchy, mellow kind of stuff. However, one of the songs in here stuck out to me in particular. It's "Eyes Of The Young 5:25" which sounds to me like a theme for my next novel, a young adult fiction title entitled "Kloudian Kingdom" which I plan to throw a good sum of money into production and promotion. If a movie was made of the novel, I'd expect this song to play on the end credits.

But for the most part, I really don't think that this album is going to be everyone's cup of tea. It is very mellow as I've previously stated and hasn't gotten exactly rave reviews. I also think that Richard Taylor's vocals aren't going to appeal to people who would rather hear much heavier stuff. I'm sure that worse has been said about this album, but I will leave it at that. The disc is very mediocre with a few bells and whistles. Radio friendly stuff for sure, but not for metalheads. Especially the closer, "The Lesson 4:15." This piano driven ballad might be a little too much for most people. Me included.

This lion doesn't have much of a roar, that's for sure.

(10 Tracks, 52:00)

4/10

Image

August Burns Red - Sleddin' Hill, A Holiday Album (2012) - Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, had a very shiny no... This isn't right, is it? And why am I reviewing a holiday album from Christian metal stalwarts, August Burns Red? Well, that's because it's actually good. The guys decided to do a mostly instrumental holiday themed release, taking many traditional carols and injecting them with the heaviness of metal. Though this idea is nothing new, here it works well. I must also mention that the songs aren't all just heavy renditions, as the band uses some other ideas to mix things up. But for the most part, you could probably hear this disc playing on repeat at your local metal shop near the holidays.

(13 Tracks, 42:00)

8/10

Image

Snakeskin Angels - Witchchapel (2012) - I know about as much as you about this band. I just found them on a site and it sounded interesting, so I thought I'd check it out. But in truth, the act was worth promotion on this site. The thing might as well be a demo, (It only runs 21:00) but it sounds like The Misfits in all honesty, with Danzig-esque vocals. It was marked "black and roll" but it's about as black metal as Kiss, in all honesty. But you know what? This disc has some potential, and if you're missing some Misfits in your life; then check these guys out. But I'm not going to stop there. The playing on the disc is definitely worth listening to, the guitarist isn't afraid to mix strong leads, acoustics and eerie melodies (with definite punk influence) together with some great solos.

Though not an entirely massive disc, I recommend this one to fans of the more popular band, Ghost. While not as close to the prowess of Ghost, Snakeskin Angels certainly have their best days ahead of them... I hope.

(5 Tracks, 21:00)

8/10

Image

Menace Ruine - Alight In Ashes (2012) - To be clear, this isn't really a metal album, even though metal musicians created it. It's more or less a sort of "dark atmospheric" piece with a female vocalist who sings throughout it. Though scratchy riffs are heard throughout the album's six tracks, creating various centers of melody, the album itself seems like some sort of great ritual. But to what, I have no earthly idea. Though the first track is darker in nature, "Salamandra 5:54" reminds me of ritual music, that I'm sure might be used in any sort of Pagan gathering. If this is supposed to be the music of Satanism or something, I'm sorry to tell these guys and hurt their feelings, but the ritual impact will be the same as it matches the same exact imprint of any tribal chants that have gone on since time immemorial. There's nothing different from this and Dead Can Dance. All they're doing is putting a name to the unknown, which I suppose makes it easier for a human to grasp an infinite consciousness by using a manifested thoughtform energy and pouring their own energy into a such being with the mantric nature of such a release.

I can be one hundred percent sure in the notion that whoever bought this disc was not buying it just to listen to or to jam out to, because it's not that kind of disc. It's very soothing, very spiritual, and other than the long and irritating drone portions which are "Burnt Offerings 8:07", and most of the closer, "Cup Of Oblivion 10:46" the female vocalist really puts the magic touch on these tracks. Sometimes there's a male vocal, but not often. As I am not a fan of drone, I was bored by the drone tracks. But fortunately, there are some very nice tracks on here with odd guitar tinkerings. The darkwaver in me wishes that the musical structure of the disc was much better, and that one guitar had been more than the basis for "Disease Of Fear 12:13" Yes, there are no drums in that track.

To be honest, I have no idea who they're praising with this effort, but it's certainly some deity or another. At any rate, I hope that that particular thoughtform manifestation is happy with the release; although I could play "Salamandra" twenty times over and be happy with just that one. I don't recommend this album to anyone other than lovers of deep, ritualistic music and drone. Because that is what it is. I also felt that the album could've used more structure - there's too much drone and not enough music. To tell you the truth, the female vocalist is so good, that she doesn't even need music to back her up. These chants work just fine the way that they always have, in the night sky with nothing more than the sound of crickets and the wind to back them up.

(6 Tracks, 62:00)

4/10

Image

Oomph - Des Wahnsinns Fette Buette (2012) - I've been dying to review this fucker for a while now, and I'm glad that I finally got the chance to do so. Oomph put out a disc called "Delikatessen" back in 2006 and while I liked that disc a great deal, I haven't liked anything prior. The reason for this however is simple, and it's due to the fact that Oomph just isn't that great of a German band. I've heard further releases afterward, and still haven't cared for them. The band just seems to be getting worse and blander with every album. This disc however, does have it's share of good moments, but they're not all heavy moments. One of my personal favorite moments is actually the dance-ready "Such Mich Find Mich 3:30" or the ballad that follows it, "Bis Der Speigel Zerbicht 3:35." But what really stands out from the rest of electronic or watered down Rammstein tracks on this disc, is the traditional German acoustic "Seemannsrose 3:08." When the band does incorporate riffs into the track, the sing-along vocals mixed with the accordions really make it sound like some really awesome pirate sailing anthem. And that's the only track that I think is worth checking out on this entire album, really. If you're looking for German rock with slight metal tinges and dance beats in some of the tracks, then you might like this one. But don't forget that there are definitely some light ballads on this one (it's like the dichotomy of Foreigner's rock anthem "Jukebox Hero" compared to their shitty track, "I Want To Know What Love Is.")

You know what you're getting here, so don't expect some heavy as fuck German metal. Because Oomph isn't that kind of band. The music is quite contemporary, and I would assume they've got a fair amount of popularity in Germany. As far as I'm concerned, that should say it all.

Highlights: Such Mich Find Mich, Seemansrose (14 Tracks, 52:00)

3/10

Image

Neurotech - Decipher Vol. 2 (2012 Bandcamp Name Your Own Price) - Alright, Wulf. I've liked your material for quite sometime now, but this makes me want to drill out my eardrums. I love electronic music (no dubstep please) and electronic metal especially; but this female vocal pop approach is NOT IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, NOR FORM, what I was looking forward to. I'm glad that I could have put 0.00 dollars in the bandcamp account, because I just couldn't handle the fact that I would've spent actual money on something as horrible as this. I understand that you're trying to get out there, but from a great EP like Decipher Vol.1 and moving onto a horrible thing like this... I'm still trying to "Decipher" you. Not that all of it's horrendous, but for the most part; only saint-like patience kept me listening to the disc. I'm honestly trying to be as nice and professional as possible about this, but the words that flew from my mouth during the listening session are best not repeated here. Wulf is apparently fond of this female vocalist Tanja Ravjen, but the lack of real metal here leaves me with female fronted Europop. Thank goodness that it's only 25 minutes of music, because I'm not sure if my ears could stand anymore. It's not that I mind her vocals, it's that I would like it if they were mixed in with the electronic metal style of the project, complete with the harsh vocals.

I honestly cannot even bear myself to listen to this again to get another glimpse of the material before I review. I am left with the bad memories of the material and that is enough. Hopefully this will be a one time mistake, and I'm sure that the metal community will also be horribly disgusted. Granted, it's not that we're not open minded, it's just that we think you might have went a little too far this time.

(7 Tracks, 25:00)

1/10

Image

Kiss - Monster (2012) - I'm not going to lie. I'm very surprised, even enthralled by this new Kiss release, especially when "Sonic Boom" literally made me sick to my stomach (and I'm not making that up.) But "Monster" comes back with full force, and shows how damn good of a band that Kiss can be, after all these fucking years. This is a comeback and a half, infused with thundering riffs, monstrous leads and some incredible guitar solos. Yes, they're really on their game here, and Gene sounds great on the fucking vocals. I have no idea how that happened, (maybe through the greatness of the best mastering software that money could buy) but it fucking did. It really fucking did. Take opener, "Hell Or Hallelujah 4:07" for example. This is just the kind of anthem that hearkens back to the band's most classic era, but it has the increased heaviness that I think that today's kids will eat up and enjoy. There's definitely the same feeling that I get from ACDC anthems here, and that's certainly not a bad thing. "Freak 3:35", "The Devil is Me 3:41", and "All For The Love Of Rock And Roll 3:21" are the songs that we've been expecting to hear out of Gene and the boys for years now. It just took a couple years for them to get it out. But here's my bottom line. Kiss is really going to have to work hard to follow up this one, and I don't think it's going to fucking happen; to be honest. If this is one last hurrah from the aging members of this band, then it's a hurrah well received and much appreciated. I'm telling you folks, you can't go wrong with this one. It's one of my favorite rock albums of the year. Long live rock and roll!

Highlights: Hell or Hallelujah, Wall Of Sound, Freak, Back To The Stone Age, The Devil Is Me, Outta This World, All For The Love Of Rock And Roll
(12 Tracks, 43:00)

9/10

Image

Steve Vai - The Story Of Light (2012) - I'm not sure what Steve Vai's idea was for this album. Personally, I think it might be a misstep, but it's not brutally awful either. It's just a disc that's too fucking packed for it's own good. I don't care for the foreign female spoken vocals on "The Story Of Light 6:15" as they ruin what should be a good instrumental, and of course the guitar playing is great here. "Velorum " is the sort of thing we'd expect from Vai, with heavy guitar parts playing in and out of tune with some light keyboard/piano backing, and "John The Revelator 3:40" is probably the gospel song that you never expected to hear from the guy, complete with full gospel choir and guitars. And this odd attempt mixes two professional choirs along with heavy guitar playing in the second part of this track, "Book Of The Seven Seals 3:56" If you ever wanted to get holy and metal at the same time, then I recommend this one. Damn, this is some real gospel metal stuff if I've ever heard it. It's pretty damned epic, let me tell you. The heavier guitars take a break for a bit when "Creamsicle Sunset 3:30" comes into play, which makes you think of a sunset, for sure. It also works good in an elevator. "Gravity Storm 5:33" comes into play next, with it's metal and atmosphere mixture - just the song you wanted to hear from the man. "The Moon And I 7:18" features some vocals, but sticks to a lighter soundscape, while the guitar gets a major work-out. It literally sounds like an midnight orgasm with the woman screaming out the solo that comes from this guitar. "Weeping China Doll 6:11" is another great one that shows us that Steve Vai can play the fucking guitar. Oddly enough, there's a sound of dread closer to the end of this track, reminding me of some of Devin Townsend's stuff. "Racing The World" sounds like it might be in a Sonic The Hedgehog game, it just has that soundfont to it - maybe in an opening cutscene. "No More Amsterdam 4:15" sounds like a prog rock song from the 70's, and it has both a male and female vocal that duet. The disc ends with a track called "Sunshine Electric Raindrops 4:15" and to be honest, this also sounds like it might be in a Sonic game. Just something about it that matches the soundfont that Sonic Team used in their rock themes. Also, "Creamsicle Sunset" sounds suspiciously like the name of one the game's famous zones... perhaps Steve Vai was a fan of the old games?

So yeah, there's a bit of everything on here and I really don't know what to recommend. Each person is going to have their own highlights, but it's got a lot of material for your buck, I will say that. Hard work was spent and it's a good disc that's worth checking out for guitar aficionados.

My Highlights: Velorum, Book Of The Seven Seals, Creamsicle Sunset, Gravity Storm, The Moon And I, Weeping China Doll, Racing The World, Sunshine Electric Raindrops (12 Tracks, 58:00)

8/10