Friday, December 28, 2012

Weapons to Hunt - Blessed In Sin

Weapons to Hunt play mid to fast paced death thrash with a streak of swe-death and some, but not a lot of melody. The riffing is somewhat like the old Florida death/thrash style, but the feel is more like Swedish death metal, though not as crushing as the Sunlight sound, a bit more streamlined for thrash. The vocals are pretty smooth for growls, not ferocious nor emotive, they're solid and fit the music well, but they're not really distinct. It's a style with plenty that is familiar to any death metal, comfortable but not exceptional.

The riffing is solid, and it sounds best when they juxtapose it with something a bit slower or more melodic. The band is at their strongest not with, but all around these sections, since it contrasts and makes the faster sections seem faster and more aggressive. Sometimes they thrash away for a long time, getting monotonous - more than a few similar riffs in a row and their effect is diminished. There's nothing extremely fast, but there's not much that's slow either, a lot of it blends together into death metal that's a bit faster than mid paced, a bit slower than high speed thrash, and works its way into where what it is doing is predictable, it's going to be somewhat aggressive and fast, but it isn't highlighted by the arrangements nor the rest of the music. WTH could display their strengths better if they framed their riffs a bit better with subtle or overt dynamic changes.

The drumming is good, it stands out at the right points due to separating riffs and moving the music with fills when it's not blasting. Still, it does get stuck in the same monotony that plagues and otherwise strong performance by the whole band. They've got one speed that they're comfortable at and they cruise at that a bit too much. Any breaks around that tend to offer a strong point where they found something else that'll fit well, though it gets a bit rough at times, it is welcome.

Weapons to Hunt don't reinvent anything nor are they the best at what they do, they're one of many Swedish bands in a sea of good bands, but if you're a fan of the death end of death/thrash, you'll probably enjoy this. You know what you're getting.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Carcariass - Killing Process

Circa 2006

For some reason my mind forgot to remember how I first heard about this awesome French tech-death band's third album. Then I remembered what drew me to it. The opening of first track Watery Grave, I must say, must have impressed me when I first heard this album as much as it impresses me to this day. Not only does it really sound as if you are being submerged in a vat of acid, but shows the prowess of the band as a whole. I must have played the beginning over and over just to be sure that I was not dreaming of something that awesome. Raphael Couturier's bass playing is excellent throughout the whole album but there is more to this fantastically performed album than this seventeen second introduction.

Aside from bass duties, Mr. Couturier also doubles as the vocalist also. However, this time his abilities, though not horrible, present one of the few setbacks about this album. Only two thirds of the album's songs include vocals and the albums best track, in my opinion, Lost In Agony, is unscarred by what seems to be forced death metal vocals. Musicianship is where these three metaller's shine. The vocals at times seem out of place, had they had more edge and anger to them its possible that they would go over extremelly well however for the moment, detract from the music. With thier sound, as melodic as it is, clean or semi-clean vocals may have worked better than a full death metal attempt.

The guitars on this album are incrediblly played. Pascal Lanquentin nails every note with a vengeance. His leads are incredible especially in songs like Lost In Agony, Burn In Peace, and Mortal Climb. Rhythmically he is also impeccable, landing riffs like a veteran pilot landing a plane on a fiery runway. Though his playing is pristine, a more powerfull guitar sound would have numerous benefits. Unless your playing this album in the ninety decibel range, you may notice a lack of power. If they overdubbed the guitars in the recording, I cant fathom how weak the guitar sound was in the beginning.

Drumming is provided by Betrand Simonim. Quick, accurate and varied, the drumming is also precise like the rest of the musicianship however, like the guitars does suffer slightly from a lack of brutality.

The songwriting on this album is, I can honestly say, far superior to many bands at a higher level of stardom and noteriety. Hooks adorn this album like bodies in a morgue, and in a way that doesnt give the stench of trying to sound more mainstream-oriented. The fifth song, a short instrumental, possibly serving as a break, is unnecessary. The rest of the songs are well composed. Though Carcariass seem to favor the mid tempo, there isnt a lack of faster material to sink your teeth into.Watery Grave, Killing Process, and Burn In Peace are standout tracks though the final track, Lost In Agony reveals the genius these guys are capable of. Mortal Climb, Winds Of Death and Under Concrete are strong songs also however at times seem out of place. All in all however, from start to finish, this is a fantastic album that sadly, im sure, has gone overlook by many prog-death, tech-death fans.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Master Fury Delay

There is a slight delay right now due to the holidays and some family things going on which are delaying the Master Fury CD release so as of now, it will be the first release of 2013.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Shadows In The Crypt - Fanatical And Ready To Die


My initial encounter with Shadows In The Crypt was in Philadelphia while checking out my good friends in Haethen perform through some of their newer material and to check out the fascinating Hivelords' live show. Shadows In The Crypt was on third or second or something. I watch the first two songs, felt underwhelmed and bored and went back to the bar. Later in the evening, I was passed their "Fanatical and Ready To Die" demo. Though quite bleh live, this demo is actually fairly decent and would inspire me to see the band live again should they play locally. It's no secret that the band is black metal by their logo though their moniker hints at melodic death metal, in my opinion, and the artwork on the release fits neither. It's actually one of the very few gripes I have with Shadows...

This would, by my standards be considered a demo. It is a CDr with handwritten titles and presented in a plastic sleeve. Far too many bands I see live I ask if they have anything physical to give me and usually about eighty percent say they have nothing. Kudos to the band for putting out a physical release of some sort. Initial listens reveal capable guitar playing, especially with the leads on any of the four tracks which are executed very well. Though the drums are programmed, they are programmed competently and sound like a real drummer in the patterns. I notice in spots that the programming tries to be quite true to a real drummer. Vocals are typical and generic and are probably the weakest part of Shadows..., at least on this release but that could be due to the biggest problem here.

The mix on the tracks is not consistent. The levels on opening track, and title track, "Fanatical (Ready To Die)" are way louder than the output on other tracks. The difference is apparent as soon as second track The Great Apocalyptic Storm begins at a significantly lower volume . The consistency in this regard sounds haphazard. Other noticeable problems appear on this track such the hotness of the rhythm guitars during the solo which leads to audible clipping and the vocal panning which was most likely overlooked. On both the opening title track and the punctual second track, the vocals are set entirely to the right speaker. This is thankfully correctly in third track, "Lamb Betroth To The Harlot," though the overall volume here is lower yet again compared to the second track and at the 3:56 mark is a bad edit and the song has a full four seconds of silence at the end which hurts the energy built up by that song going into final track, "The Abyss Open Wide." and the third track - the longest at six minutes - may actually be lower yet! In the future, Shadows needs to correct these things to reach their full potential. Vocals panned to one side renders the focus on them negligible and secondary.

The songs themselves though are not bad. Opener, "Fanatical...," does hint at some more modern metal influences such as in the palm muted chugging under verses and the solo section. Vocals, though emotionally presented on all of the tracks are monotone though moments of clean vocals and lower, deeper bellows dot the nineteen minute demo. The guitars are natural sounding on the album though they push the peak decibel levels too far in "Fanatical...," and I would much rather have had the same production as on third track, "Lamb Betroth To The Harlot," which is smoother, clearer and sounds less - in a bad way - distorted. This track is also my favorite on this release. It incorporates several different styles of vocals including raspy and snippy black metal vocals, some lower register grunted moments and demonically narrated moments. There are some atmospherics at work on this track too during the bridge to the central instrumental section where keys lay a slight melodic fog. The second half of the song, which follows, contains strong solos and leads and memorable rhythmic variations. "The Abyss Open Wide," once again makes use of the several vocal styles at use on the release and follows in the footsteps of "Lamb...." but an out of place melodic death metal riff and generic solo rhythm prevent the final few minutes of this track from being particularly rewarding.

Perhaps my main point in regards to Shadows In The Crypt is that, just because a band doesn't impress you live, doesn't mean that they won't provide something more interesting in a different format. I'm going to give them another chance live because this isn't a terribly bad demo and, I think, it's better than a lot of other more mediocre releases I've heard from local projects. I don't know how well the band will fare against far superior international acts and I expect that there won't be too much interest in this outside the local scene until Shadows in the Crypt can create something more effective and a little less generic which, based on this demo, I think they have the ability to do. There's a lot of positives here but still some work needed in other places.

12/26/2012 Edit: According to the band this demo was intended to be a way for people to check out the album should they not want to actually purchase merch. There is a professional release of this with lightscribed discs and proper packaging for those that purchase the release. What I reviewed is simply that which was handed to me at a show.

Okketaehm - Stones review #6

Another excellent review for Okketaehm's Stones. This one once again by Goul's Crypt.

"I was on my way out the door one early winter morning in freezing Denmark. I got in the car to go to work on the hitherto coldest and snowiest morning this year, and like so many times before I was going over my CDs to find a couple to bring on the trip. I was going to go with some Entombed and Darkthrone, feeling like listening to some old school stuff, but then I found Okketaehm's promo "Stones" from Contaminated Tones Productions and thought I might aswell give a listen on the way to work. Though the total play-time of Stones is a mere 18 minutes of grey, wintry, space-like ambience and raw black metal the demo never left the car's CD player even though the trip is almost 40 minutes each way.

It was early, the climate was frosty and the road to work was long. Having only ingested some toast and a cup of luke-warm coffee I wasn't much in the mood for anything as I began my journey through the soundscapes of Okketaehm. The music that met me through the speakers was well befitting of the desolate roads. Stones consists of various parts of icy black metal, dark ambience and something that borderlines white noise mixed into one long track of 18 minutes, and all these parts in conjunction with masterful production lead my mind to things like the vast emptiness of space, void-like depression and mist-veiled frostscapes. Characteristics I normally attribue to bands like Darkspace, Ash Borer and Paysage d'Hiver. I admit I at this point wasn't much focused on my driving.

Let's not kid ourselves, ofcourse Okketaehm isn't perfect or innovating, but it sure as hell did make my drive to- and from work a lot more enjoyable. Okketaehm provides incredibly accurate atmospheres, and while you at times wonder wether the music is still on or someone is just vacuumcleaning in a nearby room it simply adds to the enormous impact the half-melodic black metal pieces of Stones presents."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hamnskifte - Födzlepijnan


Working early morning shifts the past few days has been ideal to invest time in Sweden-based Hamnskifte's Födzlepijnan. It's been particularly cold here the past several mornings and so this instrumental album has echoed those chill mornings with it's tranquil pace and crisp production. Of note to me outside the music available is the really excellent artwork of a tribunal in secret courtyards and hidden cloisters. Originally recorded in 2010, the album is a welcome retreat from all the more traditional variants I've been pouring over the past few weeks. All six songs are folky representations of slow moving and subtle arrangements. I would label the arrangements strictly as repetitive but, while often times this is looked at negatively, this is an album which calls for that method of composition, even if it isn't executed perfectly. Thrash shouldn't be repetitive, neither should Death Metal and, in many cases, Black Metal but when we are looking at none of those, and aside from one or two glimmers of distorted guitar, possibly not even really Heavy Metal in any way, it's important to look at what the music wants to be and is intended to stir within the cauldron of the psyche.

The album is primarily structured around melancholic chord progressions, strummed gently and accompanied with folky instruments including organs, bodhran drum, bells and according to the promotional flyer for the release, "self-invented percussion instruments." This works well for Hamnskifte and the pacing on the release, which is slow undoubtedly, is well done. Songs range from four minutes up to a Skepticismic twelve minutes long. The breakup of the tracks is done nicely as well. Both the opening track following the intro and the second track afterwards are shorter songs with the former, "Ther Skall Wara Grat Och Tandagnisslan," droning through a melody that is reminiscent of anything Katatonia has done recently while the second song is more folky with more of an emphasis on guitars and less droning hum. The album starts of nicely with these tracks and after the immediate thirteen minutes of slow patient music, a kick me up is needed.

"Foglarna Warda Fanga Medh Snaror," the third track and second longest on Födzlepijnan, is really the only track where distorted guitars are noticeable and yet, they play little part in pushing this track above the shoulders of the others on the album. The distorted guitars fascinate me for the period they exist on the album. They sound clear and natural though I can hear the guitarist strumming them which makes me believe they were recorded very quietly. It's a strange combination of sounds. On the one hand the guitars sound very natural and on the other hand, there are indications that they've been doctored due to the low recording volume. In "Foglarna..." the guitars disappear after three minutes of repetition in progressions and the last five minutes are purely ambient resonance which provides as much of that well needed kick as half a plate of tasteless food with tap water. I desperately clung to hope for a stronger final two tracks.

"Dageligh Beredelse Emoot Dodenl," and "Uthi Thet Ytterste Morckret" are better than the previous tracks by an amount equal to half of the difference in quality between poor Chinese food and poor Italian food. Dageligh rides too hard on a simple progression interspersed with a bridge riff of no contrast though the repetitive nature of the song highlights what the band should focus on more often: the subtle addition of instruments to the arrangements. While "Dageligh..." is preoccupied with allowing new instruments to attempt to push the song forward, final track "Uthi..." - a twelve minute long monster - is keen to allow the hidden details of the song reveal themselves slowly during it's span. I almost feel as if the main guitar track drops in volume slightly to allow the listener a window into the undulating and swampy sounding background drone of what sounds like a Shruti Box. The drums here are prevalent and it lends the song a very folky and tribal undertone.

Hamnskifte's Födzlepijnanis a slow moving mass for sure with all the songs being slow, patient and soothing. I enjoyed the trance-summoning power of the structure (or non-structure) and for early morning drives in the freezing cold it was a nice break from all the other more generic material that I sift through but in the end, as an album this is most likely very much too repetitive for folk-oriented listeners and not heavy enough for those into Drone and really sub-tempo music. It falls into a place somewhere between - an instrumental album of folky yet slow and droning music that could be happily survived in a video game where your character is walking through a middle eastern marketplace or on a desert highway. In a metalhead's collection this may not fair as well as in the collection of a Brian Eno fan. Ultimately, the tone and vibe is beautiful and relaxing even if the overall songs do have some drawbacks.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gates Of Eternal Torment Review #1

The first review of the Gates of Eternal Torment tape is in! I think it emphasizes what this demo is all about:

From Destructive Music

It’s time for a cold dark slab of Depressive Black Metal from the ever blossoming or should that be deeply withering US Black Metal scene! GATES OF ETERNAL TORMENT are new on the scene and is the one man project and brainchild of Firthornn, and this debut demo release entitled ‘Imprisoned Beneath The Ice Of This Cold Black Void’ has a really old school doom and gloom feel to it, in both it’s bleak artwork and the grim face of it’s lengthy title!

What you get with ‘Imprisoned Beneath The Ice Of This Cold Black Void’ is a classic piece of Black Metal savagery muffled by it’s shoddy production values, so the end result is a distorted cacophony of distressed desperate vocals, catchy blast beats and drumming sequences and a truly bleak perspective on just about everything. Within the four tracks on offer, and the soul crushing lyrical statement that comes with this release is a blistering cry of anguish, reaching outwards seeking solace from the gloom of this world, and on a more musical level exploring the self made cave of sound that is feels the Gates of Eternal Torment is playing from!

Those of you who like streamlined modern sounding Black Metal will hate this. This is a release for the more old school Black Metal fan, those who can dig through the dirt and grime, see past the poor production into the very blackened heart of the music. It’s underground potential is enormous, that’s for certain but generally this is an emotionally crippling bout of Black Metal brutality!

Black Chalice Sold Out

The last copy of Black Chalice's Submission has been purchased. The release is now sold out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Drudkh - Anti-Urban

Circa 2007

Drudkh is undeniably one of the most accomplished and consistent black metal band in the scene today. With five albums already released, Roman Saenko has clearly proven his ability to craft truly emotional black metal to a degree unmatched save for few current bands. This 10" EP proves his ability even further. Roman has written two songs for a medium which doesn't normally suit the epic scope of past Drudkh masterpieces such as "False Dawn" or "When The Flame Turns To Ashes." Even though the songs are limited in time, somehow they elude this seemingly inescapable restriction. "Fallen Into Oblivion" seems to last for hours, a constant wavering spiral into depressive depths.

The production is as crisp as one could expect from Roman; all his work is accompanied by an incredibly deep and dense tone. The guitars are unconquerable, standing tall and thick, like a bastion of immense size that would make the ancients in Jericho envious. Layer upon layer of subtle details are built up to give the music an absolutely magical quality. The drums are also well produced and crisp and offer little to complain about.

For some the repetitive nature of Drudkh's music may be a distinct low point. In the case of repetition, on this EP, the characteristic repetition is heightened to substantial levels. "Fallen Into Oblivion" is nothing but repetitive yet never loses momentum. What could be a major turn off to many instead works; the song never releases its hold. Once within the song, one truly feels as if falling forever, never grasping, nor expecting an end to the fall. "Ashes" also exists by this repetitive formula yet with vocals and a more nuanced and toyed with melody, is more involved. Very subdued vocals are added to tease the listener into focusing not ON the music but INTO the music.

Lastly, the packaging is beautiful and depicts the remnants of the Ukranian city Kharkiv during World War 2. Clearly this is centered around Roman's open nationalism and native feelings. The orange record is a nice feature and has, as one person mentioned, "an earthly hue for an earthly album." Ultimately, as a final product this is a beautiful work of art.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Narrow House - A Key to Panngrieb


When it comes to slow, doomy music very few bands outright sound like Skepticism but Narrow House is one band that is obviously influenced and enamored by that full-on wall of synthesized weight expelled at the speed of flowing mud which still manage to take a somewhat left-field inspiration and tweak it to be still unique.  Though slightly more guitar driven than the past several Skepticism releases, A Key To Panngrieb is still a load of mass crawling through the murk towards an unsuspecting child.  Ukraine's Narrow House prove that no one is able to escape the influence which Funeral Doom, Drone and other Doom offshoots have had on the metal sound scape in the past decade. More and more bands are opting for this style and, consequently, more and more bands make it harder to stand out and impress.

Opening track "Poslednee Pristanishe" is a looming figure over a helpless animal. Like the other four tracks on Narrow House's debut, it is slow and persistent. There is no way you could jog to any of these tracks - unless you have incredibly long strides - even if the length of them would be perfect for a long period away from civilization. It's in "Poldsednee..." which we are introduced to the patience of the band. The album opens with a long three minute introductory segment and then climbs through an undulating series of melodies. The rhythms remain very singular and simple across the whole album but that doesn't prevent other tracks from not standing out or being tedious. "Psevdoratunok" contains some dynamic volume shifts coupled with prominent drumming and vocals over a slick flowing guitar that still is texturally frictional while in "Steklianniu Bog," the third track, cello is prominent in summoning howling vistas and atmospherics and is accompanied with an excellent final four minutes of sound scape imagery and piano layers.

One of the definitive aspects of the band that really intrigues me is the arrangement of the tracks. In many ways it is very traditional in it's structure in terms of Funeral Doom and in other ways the band have tried some different things. The guitar playing of Oleg Merethir is mixed below Petro Arhe's drums and Atya's Keyboards. They itch often and you never forget they are there under what is really the music's more prominent instruments. Vocals are most prominent, as is expected but the bass is also very audible and where you really encounter the twist is with cellist Alexander. With the addition of another low-register string instrument the arrangement of the other instruments becomes important. A bowed cello would be masked by loudly mixed guitars and is emphasized here because there is room between the instruments to place another component. When you hear the cello play many of the melodic parts of the music such as in  "Steklianniy Bog," there is a ghostly hum emanating from beneath the common instruments. It's a different look and they score here because of it. In many places I am listening solely to hear what the cello is doing or will do.

Narrow House do a great job at building up to great moments in the compositions and the thirteen minute long Steklianniy Bog is, once again, a highlight in this regard where nine minutes after the initial dirge chimes, bellowing and windy scenes are coaxed from layers of keyboards and cello to, at least for me, send shivers down the spine. This strong standard of songwriting is also evidenced in second track, "Psevdoriatunok," with it's sense of vacancy in comparison to the rest of the album. It clears a hurdle that most albums never do in this style - remaining interesting past the first track. While the cello certainly helps, the six minute track breaks up an album which has already been running for over fourteen minutes and allows the listener to 'reboot' for the following two tracks.

The final track is a cover of Esoteric's "Beneath This Face," which is well done but at the same time emphasizes the deficiencies of what Narrow House have done on other parts of the album such as the lack of faster parts and more typical riff based moments to create intensity. Even so, they do a great job with this track and without knowing that this was a cover, the song ends the album on a massive high note. It being a cover though is a bit of a let-down though as I would much rather have heard another of their own original songs round out the final parts of the album. To end the album with a cover like this seems like it's a cop out. They picked an awesome track to end the release but it wasn't their own track.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Beyond - Enter Transcendence

Though Enter Transcendence is a measly seven minutes in rotational length, the two tracks here exemplify what Beyond did on their awesome first demo, "Relentless Abomination Vortex," and profit with some stronger recording and production standards to really release a truly punishing sampling of old school occult Death Metal influenced by a mix of bands such as Incantation and Grave. Beyond continues to do everything right, even on this 7" from the artwork to the dying moments of the music. Once again Beyond capitalize on excellent artwork, this time courtesy of Arnus Profanus, depicting the removal of a decomposing man's soul at the hands of a cabal of cloaked figures. The inside of the gate fold provides lyrics and a collage of live shots which, though invoke memories of older cut and paste collages isn't quite as nasty. There is a wonderful "thank you" list as well while the back is simple with the band's logo and the track-listing. Iron Bonehead have done a great job with their production of the release and the effort there is echoed in the music as well.

"Hidden Temple Of Obscurity" is immediate and urgent, an ascending chromatic riff launches the song off into chaotic syncopation. The guitars are the main focus on Enter Transcendence. They are mixed as loud as the vocals and this pushes the drums back further than would be ideal but you can still engage each instrument. Like on their demo, the bass is distinguishable and fills in the bottom end perfectly. Vocally, the performance is excellent even if the lyrical content is mundane. "Hidden Temple..." summons forth the images of a demonic ceremony while "Treacherous Revelation," engages in a less common subject for death metal - secret places in the desert which house "experiments on lifeforms from beyond this world." For me, "Treacherous Revelation" is the better song here. It's more driven and at times sounds warlike. After a good two full minutes of blasting, Beyond devolve into a riff that should have appeared on Left Hand Path or Into The Grave but never did.

What Beyond have done here is build on the strengths of the demo and improved where they needed to improve. The songwriting here is far better. Both songs are enjoyable and vicious. There are no awkward transitions in either of the songs and they flow nicely. The longer tracks on "Relentless Abomination..." dragged slightly but on Enter Transcendence there is no dragging unless it's dead bodies from classified government and military installations in the Nevada desert. For death metal fans, I don't see how this wouldn't be enjoyable. The only drawback here is the lack of another fifteen or twenty minutes of in your face madness. This is like sipping on fine wine at a tasting but leaving the vineyard without a bottle to enjoy later on. Let's hope these guys get a full length out soon.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Necrosadist - Abstract Satan

Though I enjoyed Necrosadist's previous EP, The Alpha Nihil, I have to be fair and say that I was somewhat unsure whether Menthor and Dictator would be able to craft an album full of material that was at once interesting and never tedious - both characteristics which reared their head on the EP. I headed into this hoping that Necrosadist would hone their songs to better combine the traditional black metal riffing with the textural experimentation in a more consistent and fluid combination. Once again Daemon Worship Productions is behind this release and predictably the release is branded to appeal to the underground fan... Another black metal release, more sleek packaging and the standard parameters have been fulfilled.

So is "Abstract Satan," interesting and nonconforming to stereotypes? A two minute introduction leads to the title track which is, unfortunately not that interesting and the first hint we hear of some of that textural exploration of the EP is in third track "Rising From The Earth," which decides to phase in and out like a dusty record about four minutes through the six minute track. It is like a woman with a baggy sweater smiling at you. Maybe there is something nice underneath later on in the evening... I predicted fourth track "Golems of Flesh" would be a more typical black metal track - it pretty much is. It's one of the shortest tracks on the album at a meager four minutes and even manages to squeeze in thirty seconds of blast-beat potshots.

The album has some stronger tracks though like "Obsidian Sphere," which musically is atypical for black metal but not for Dictator since at times it hearkens back to some of the material he did with his eponymous project. It lashes out and phases away into some Mediterranean / Egyptian melody three-quarters through and though this particular theme is not reminiscent, the reversion to melody is something which Dictator did on Dysangelist. Even amidst four ten minute tracks, there was a heavy emphasis on the melodies and phrasings. We see that at times in this track as well as in "From The Virulent Entrails of the Virus Christ," which not only has one of those drawn out 'Yeaaahhhhh' head bobs that accompanies all novel song titles, but it may be the most memorable track on the album. From the moments when the bass shines through the murk to the Trey Azagthoth solo that sounds like dolphins communicating with their dead ancestors to the weird fabrics stitched together for the second half of the song, it is more of what I was hoping from Necrosadist on this release than the previous tracks

The overall tone of the album is quite strong for a "raw" black metal band. It's not really that harsh. The guitars are smoothed out like some watered down plaster of Paris. It sounds more like an early 90's death metal album than a black metal album. If it weren't for the vocals and the myriad dying banshee noises, porpoise mating calls and reptilian squish-squashing the album could sound like Incantation being played by those species. But in the end, when I consider the whole album, I can't help but feel that the whole thing is quite average in the end. There are so many bands doing this; the murky black metal swamped in reverb and blackness with occult imagery and "experimental" leanings. It just so happens that most of these bands do not create a full album worth of interesting and captivating material. Plenty of worthy parts, sure, but nothing complete. There are plenty out there that will love this but for me, it's been there done before and it doesn't hold up to other projects in the same garage.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Psychobliss - Dreams of Dystopia


Originally while looking for things to review, I came across Psychobliss' posting requests online for reviews so I mozied on over to their bandcamp page. I decided not to review the project on my own. I figured I wouldn't have many nice things to say about a project that has a name worthy of a forgotten mid 90's local project whose CD resided for many years in a used record store bin. Two days later, I get an email from Dan Stollings - who is credited with all the instrumentals - asking to review their album. Oh well... I had hoped for something resembling Virgin Black and got something sounding as if it was created solely to fulfill a girlfriend's whim. I'm not saying that both Dan and Kyla Pavelski aren't together on this project. I'm just saying like a lot of the music sounds like the dumped aside 'riffs' and melodies of something else. The whole thing needs some work really - both the mix, songwriting and the appearance.

I'll tackle the mix first since so many of the issues on the album could be fixed with equalization and a different focus. The largest drawback here is that all of Dreams of Dystopia sounds extremely light. The loudest instrument other than Kyla's vocals is clean guitar. The distorted guitar is so set in the background of the music that it's even difficult for me to really consider the album having much in common with other heavy metal or even avant-garde albums that have similar styling. A perfect example would be opening track, "The Coldest Years." Even at the end of the track where Dan employs a lead guitar, opted for is a clean guitar with some echo and reverb instead of a distorted guitar which would have added some strength to the album. Throughout the track the buzzing guitar sounds like static in the background, hidden behind misty clean guitars. Even when the distorted guitar is highlighted, it is particularly subdued and used the way in which a DJ would use scratching between two measures of repetition. Across the album this is basically mimicked across the entire five tracks. I don't understand why the guitars would be mixed so low... Louder crunchier guitars would have made this release sound much more confident. Programmed drums do nothing to make the release feel more natural and less forced.

Though I don't have too many qualms with the songwriting there are a few points to be made. The combination of the vocals and the melodies are so tightly linked that there is a serious predictability factor here. I know where the phrases are going before they get there. It's the difference between riding a train across untraveled wilderness and commuting to work every morning. It's watching a bad movie multiple times because someone else likes it. This creates a very syncopated album which works in opposition to the fluidity which works in Psychobliss' favor. The strongest possibility for Psychobliss exists in this fluidity and ephemeral vibe. On a better note, there are some well placed melodies and harmonies on the album such as in Drifting Away which, for me, is the best song on the EP. It's not saying much though as the others such as "Finally Dead" and the lamentable "Don't Leave" are wretched in almost every way.

The biggest thing holding Psychobliss back is the irony of what they believe their music to be and what it really is. "Psychobliss, a new revelation of Dark metal, hails from the desert capitol of Phoenix, Arizona." There really isn't anything new about what Psychobliss are doing. Female vocals over semi-melodic music with distorted guitars - barely there distorted guitars. Lyrically, this could be pretty much anything. What it definitely isn't is what Psychobliss state they want it to be or intend it to be. On "Finally Dead," Psychobliss state "This is a depressive black metal song..." and while the lyrics are barely passable as Depressive in any sense, the music is in no way Depressive Black Metal in the sense that most people understand it to be what with the metal-core breakdown mid-song. In fact the most DSBM attribute about this particular song is that Kyla uses some screamed vocals in the track. Psychobliss' sound more like recent Katatonia with thin and whiny female vocals than the genre they claim to be.

Psychobliss can do a few things to change for the better. The biggest thing they need to change though would be their mixing. I understand the desire to have a different sound then others but I feel that they would have that uniqueness even if they just made the overall sound heavier and more guitar driven. Or, they could have more chance dumping the distortion altogether. Also, perhaps the band simply doesn't know how to describe themselves. They aren't really a dark band so labeling themselves as Dark Metal doesn't work and claiming that their songs are depressive black metal is about as out of the loop as calling Metallica avante-garde. This is a case where it would almost be better for the band to not label themselves as anything and let people just listen and judge. Also, I know this may sound harsh but the lyrics and presentation of the vocals really needs some work as well. Amateurish would be a valid critique here. Dan Stollings probably shouldn't sing or should take vocal lessons if he wants to do anything other than the whispered vocals. His voice sounds small and self-conscious, thin and nasally. Kyla needs less work but she needs to find a way to project more power and strength. Her vocals are also often times thin and weak.

- Orion

A tale of two high school lovers with a goth rock project, never having created music before, but having heard some of it, so they're sure they know what they're doing. It's a lot like someone who has seen someone drive a car and thinks they could do it, or a person who watched a documentary on scheming roulette and thinks they too could pull it off. Back down to Earth, this sounds like the equivalent of someone who spent an hour watching a documentary and thought they could pull it off, presenting their first attempt without refinement or even preferable equipment.

I have never heard anything this lackluster. I suppose the intent could be that the droning, emotionless nature of this music is the point of "depressive" music, but it doesn't explain the disjointed songwriting and brutally boring performances. One moment it sounds like a garage band covering Madder Mortem's softer moments, the next the drum machine plays a blast beat and the music turns as black as a sheet of paper in dim candlelight. It takes until halfway through the second track to understand that this isn't going anywhere and this music has nothing to offer but a shadow of mediocrity, a term that makes as little sense as this album.

The emotion that these five songs conjure best is sympathy. These sullen lovebirds croon their hearts out and sound pathetic. I do have a measurable amount of pity hearing the forlorn songs, thinking it couldn't get any more boring, then hearing their attempts at black metal vocals while MIDI drums click and I suspect there is a guitar somewhere in the mix, but not where I can hear it. Sympathy might be had for that if this was produced using Cakewalk in 1997, but in the final days of 2012, I connect with this music as little as I would have ten years ago as a high schooler. Knowing that the creators of this music were born in the 1980s, I hope they're either inexperienced enough to learn from their mistakes, or they're already fast-tracked on the way to giving up. This is even more pathetic than the "douchebag playing guitar" (singer-songwriter) genre spearheaded by John Mayer and Plain White Tees.

Do they really want to share this with the world? It might be cute (not a good adjective for "black metal") if they kept it to themselves, but it's almost as embarrassing as the black metal Nazi fashion show exhibited by certain "private" releases. It's as bad as the band's name, though it could be worse if they were juggalos, which the name might also fit. "It could be worse" also takes away the only achievement left to credit the release with - I've heard worse, so this isn't the bottom of the barrel, it's just pathetic. There's no sense of musicality, no memorable songwriting, and not a single part that I could identify as being redeemable. Rather than a train wreck, they're sitting in the assembly yard, enthralled with putting the screw and nut together, blissfully unaware that they're supposed to hold other parts together.

 - Steve

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Forefather - Ours Is The Kingdom

 Circa 2006

When I first started writing this review I found that I had a hard time thinking of something to say. Whether that's because I'm running out of ideas, I'm not sure however is it possible that it also says something about this album? Is it possible that Forefather's Ours Is The Kingdom just lacks something to talk about? Personally, I don't think that it does. Wudagast and the album's title track are awesome songs. The great melodies in songs like The Golden Dragon make this such an awesome sing along album. I guess that I am just running out of things to talk about.

The production on this album is pretty good. Athelstan and Wulfstan's guitar playing is really good. The tone is a bit trebly, however not the kind of trebly that gives you an earache or anything. It doesn't sound like a TV on that one channel that doesn't come through. Its more like the sound of over used amplifiers and home built distortion pedals. The bass would usually be a bit clangy for my taste however on this particular album, it works well. The drums are something that I'm unsure of. Either they are programmed or the drummer is like a fucking metronome. Vocals are pretty good, the clean and harmonized vocals are fantastic the other vocals - being along the lines of a black metal sort yet not quite as harsh - are done well but detract in some places. The overall recording is also very well done and professional.

The song writing is awesome. These are songs that you can listen to over and over and enjoy them every time. Especially closer Wudagast and fourth track The Golden Dragon. They are all strong compositions with varied melodies. Some riffs are pure classic. The harmonized riff at the end of Smashed By Fate is a call to be heard by all warriors. The instrumental The Sea Kings is... interesting yet brings forth memories of voyages across dark fjords and battles with pirates and the Kraken and cuts the album in half as the center track.

Overall, a strong album with a lot of great stuff and not a whole lot of filler. Album highlights are definitely Wudagast, To The Mountains They Fled (a relentless headbanging number to be proud of with one of the best instrumental sections I've ever heard), and title track, Ours Is The Kingdom. Whether or not this band is already at their prime only time can tell however firing up or burning up, this album is a solid slab of metal that can be enjoyed by just about anyone who is into heavy metal.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Aeternus - ...And So The Night Became


There are classic albums and then there are masterpieces. Albums which grow grand with age and more glorious and supreme even against an ever increasing catalog of excellent choices. Somewhere out there amongst all the music I've ever listened to in the past eighteen years an incredibly small number of albums have become mainstays in my listening, beacons of perfection to the dross and mediocrity, examples of pristine inspiration and execution. For almost all bands, after years and years of striving, they never create anything resembling even an average-quality album. Some bands, with the right combination of artistry might assemble a work which surpasses most, becomes an inspiration... an example of the fineness of a genre, something more than average. And then out of the depths of obscurity arises a crafted heirloom more than the musicians involved and the context surrounding it. Within black metal a lot of albums claim these titles and more... many of which are classics less for their music and more for that context. I can't speak for them but one black metal album has outlived, surpassed and decimated all others in all areas.

Re-release Cover.
Where Beyond The Wandering Moon literally wandered around for parts of the album,  finding the trail and hidden grottoes deep amidst the dark flora across several excellent tracks such as Vind, Sentinels of Darkness and Sworn Revenge, ...And So The Night Became became a connected soul within that cimmerian world. With lunar guidance and celestial fates beaming down, Ares, Morrigan and Vrolok ceased to be individual members of a band, blending and morphing into a single mindset and lone essence. If the overtones here are of the essential elements which Black Metal requires, and those odors are plentiful, robust and pure, it's the more subtle fragrances which emanate. They've drawn me in since the beginning with this album. Fundamentally for me, there is this overwhelming sense of grandeur and royalty here. Aeternus, through music have created the architecture of regality. It is evidenced in tracks like "Warrior of the Crescent Moon" and "Ild Dans." In the fearlessness of "As I March" and "Blodsverging."

There are parts of the songs present here, which simply defy simple round-about descriptions. The five minute intro of "There's No Wine Like The Blood's Crimson," is a marvel. It builds into this epic exploratory emotion within, and when the main riff to the track kicks in, you can begin to create a world around you. It's the tentativeness of riding up to the dark gates of Satan's castle. It's the hesitation of being in an unwelcoming environment without any chance of return. You are thrown headlong into a Gothic nightmare, the kind Bram Stoker wrote about in the final pages of Lair of the White Worm. You can imagine somehow being surrounded by ancient walls and blood-soaked parapets, drenched in the rain of an endless storm. The echo of downpours - the ceaseless double bass - and the crash of thunder - massive fills on the toms. You've opened the door, expecting some respite from the madness and yet, you step through the threshold into "As I March." The field is coated in dew. The enemy is in sight and you are rushing them with spears and swords leveled at their faces. There is an uncanny slowness to the whole thing, a respect on the parts of all involved in the skirmish. You are not there for any Lord or King. It is the battle you crave. You call your liege the ground you were born from, you claim your allegiance to the blood you endeavor to spill.

Aeternus craft imagery with ease. The lyrics encapsulate the primitive and the refined elements of both opposites, dredging the soul to rediscover emotions long since forgotten by mankind - a more simple way of thought and yet, a more complex way of understanding the world. They proclaim only the desire to return to the mud and the grave, to be once again one with Her; blood to the rivers and flesh to the mountains. The arrangement and exquisite acoustic playing on tracks like Warrior Of The Crescent Moon, When The Crow's Shadows Fall and closer Fyrndeheimen hearkens to the early Empyrium albums but where Empyrium reveled in bringing the Pastoral to the forefront, Aeternus here drag forward a yearning for that aforementioned simpler life and yet the hopelessness that we can never return to such glorious times. We live in a world of ephemeral respect and momentary delights and we have ourselves to blame. The album shows us what could have been, where society could have gone. Less cryptically, the album shows us where Black Metal can go. It can retain all the aggression, all the hate and passion and yet be sentimental and reach into us and grab the emotions we all feel.

And yet, where Aeternus have excelled on this album truly is in the scale of the songs. There are no black or white tracks here. No one track serves it's own purpose. "As I March" opens into the reverence of "Warrior of the Crescent Moon," with it's softly mixed synths careening across layers of exquisite melody and rumbling verses. The vocals are pained and frantic. And though in many places the tracks are linear, with little repetition of parts, this creates the feeling falling forward forever through the mountains and glens and into dark caves and torch-lit cairns populated by robed priests with sheepskin cloaks and intricately carved horned helms drawing the star's light into them and glowing with ages of ritual use. "...And So The Night Became," then romps through the mid-paced "Blodsverging," the album's weakest track if it could be considered so. It still highlights vocals and melody which are such strengths of this album.

"When The Crow's Shadows Fall" begins with ancient melodies and a bittersweet lead before taking flight into one of the album's fastest and most intense tracks. It's song the grandness of death, the honor once afforded fallen warriors, the finality of courage. I've listened to this album many times and still get chills when I sit on the floor, with the lyrics in front of me and absorb every drum beat and every wail. It is the best way to appreciate this one - head down, mind open and pores soaking in each snap of the snare and every swirling keyboard passage. This is especially true on the final two tracks of the album. "Ild Dans" is to this album what "Sunwheel" may be considered to Drudkh's Autum Aurora or "Heathen Tribes" on To The Nameless Dead - and I sense a slight melodic similarity in that regard early in the song. It's an uptempo dance, a bright dawn, a sweet scent during hard times, dark nights or sweeping across a rotting battlefield. So much of the album is a dichotomy such as this, harshness paired with melody and aggressiveness paired with something gentle.

One of the most spine tingling moment is the end of Ild Dans where gates open, doors unlock and keys are turned to present an epic vista of Valhalla before the ears. Clean vocals, mixed with harsh vocals over acoustic guitars mixed with the heavier distorted tone. It's the wonder of ...And So The Night Became that these moments appear and fall much like the life of a hero, often ended too short and before respect can be shown to their actions. You must relive these moments again and again to feel satisfied and even then, you need to return to them soon afterwards to feel them again. And much like this short section the title track is a marvel. It takes everything proposed musically and puts it in context into a single soundtrack. The song is a true album climax. Two minutes in you are walking up to meet your greatest foe and the battle has commenced. You fight for your king and fellow countrymen. Aeternus have wrapped their wings around you, like a black angel, and are lifting you into the sky as you relive your life in the form of a medley of images. You are dying in service to your honor and as you are laid to rest in the Longship and the waves crash around you, you watch yourself burn.

And as ashes we return. ...And So The Night Became is a grand story. We are born, we fight, we triumph and we fail. "With horned wings and cold minds, The dwelling and feeding, it is complete. Now we rise."

Bound By Entrails - The Stars Bode You Farewell


Bound By Entrails' third full length album, "The Stars Bode You Farewell," has received the kind of praise across the internet that made me excited to check out the album but also somewhat pessimistic that this would be all hype, especially considering my temperate opinions on their previous album, "The Oath To Forbear and the Burden Of Inheritance." I do appreciate the shorter title for this album though. Unfortunately the album starts with carnival music and I immediately am turned off by the lackadaisical feel and happy-go-lucky attitude of the introductory piece. But oddly enough, there are hints of that same feeling tossed throughout the album and so, in hindsight, perhaps that Big-Top innocence and weirdness is welcome here as "Stars..." is really a cornucopia of sounds and textures much like the circus is a cornucopia of hairy women and clown cars driving up elephants' trunks and whatnot.

So when the opening song, Threshold Of Fear, enters a whimsical keyboard solo and the cymbals clatter into harp movements, I'm taken back to the sideshows and the fire-eating the first track invokes. The overall feeling is of more recent Arcturus in many places, Borknagar's acoustic album "Origins," during the clean vocals and even the last two Opeth albums at times when Bound By Entrails mixes the harsh vocals with some of the semi-heavy moments in songs like Swansong. I think the closest description would be that of Ihsahn's recent album After. Both projects include all kinds of instrumentation and vocal styles. The guitar tone even sounds similar at times when Chris Hansson or Cory Llewellen or Brett Wehmeyer slides away into a riff and you get that classic 'zipper' effect. I almost rarely make an attempt to wonder what bands REALLY influence people so there is no digging deeper here. Especially when you're talking about something as avant-garde as Bound By Entrails aims to be. The eclecticism is meaningless to me.

In many ways this isn't the type of album I enjoy and though I can't see myself listening to it over and over, I do see why it's received so much praise and remarks such as "It was quite difficult to review, as comparisons to other bands didn't do the band justice, and perhaps it took a very long time to fully realize that I was hearing a virtually unheard of masterpiece..." or the indelible mark in a history of exaggerations such as listening to this album is as glorious as hitting the lottery as a little kid. Let's be blunt, this is not the Golden Ticket. That album has yet to be written and this is not it for me especially with some awkward transitions such as two minutes into Search for Sunken R'lyeh when a grand sweeping lead unravels into post-power metal. There are plenty of times when drummer Tyler Platt sounds like Animal from the Muppets just banging on cymbals and stuff when he could be doing something more counter-intuitive and dynamic. The vocals and drums are often paired together and syncopated similarly as well. The harsh vocals of Brett can also be monotone at times but they are evocative and the clean vocals at times can sound stretched.

This album is a great example of restraint. Though all the musicians are excellent and shine across the album in many different ways and areas and in combinations as various as the leaves on a tree, none of them seem preoccupied with showing off or being the center of attention. The band is very much on the same page with what their goals are. There are moments when everyone goes off into excellent leads and the showmanship for me is more prevalent in this restraint. It doesn't sound 'wanky.' Thanks guys. Also, since I haven't mentioned the poor guy, Mark Eppilhimer's bass playing is an excellent showing. Though he plays behind all the other stuff, when I listen in good headphones, there are a lot of awesome subtle things going on with his bass lines which I, as a bassist, find fun to listen to. In many places he moves songs.

So some highlights for me. I find myself drawn to the less extreme tracks as that's what the band does better in my opinion. "Sawnsong", "Apprehension" and "Bemoaning The Lamented," that last which also exhibits some of the center-ring acrobatics that the album exudes at times. They grow and move and are wonderful to listen to. I also really like the first of the longer tracks, "With Vernal Impunity,"for some reason. It has this great Chopin style piano piece three-quarters of the way through and a chaotic ending with all sorts of different instruments getting time to do leads. Final  song, the fifteen minute "Ghosts of Our Former Selves," is rather long but it's made up of large segments of variations and so it doesn't seem too monotonous and boring or too adventurous and numbing. The lyrics are all well written, probably mean something to someone and probably could mean something to many others - I'm just not going to try deciphering all the ins and outs. I do like the lyrics to "Apprehension," even if at times it seems like something a gothic kid might write as a poem before leaving for college.

So where does this leave me as a comparison to the first album. Well, I think that Bound By Entrails sounds much more consistent on this album. I think they are finding a style for themselves, creating a far more unique and mature album compared to their last album which in many times sounded like forced aggressiveness. There is far less of that here so when they really 'go all out' it's hits more. The album does sound better in terms of production though it still could maybe use some mastering work or slight mixing to kick out some of the low end frequencies cause some instruments to lose their space in the mix. No cover track on this album either which seems to mean that they felt they had enough material here to fill a full album's worth of time. The previous album was forty five minutes long including the Emperor cover and a six minute live track. This album is a full sixty-four minutes of originals. Perhaps that's a bit too much... It's tough to listen through a full album that has a lot of highlights and low-lights and still feel like you want to go back and listen again.

Often times I'm reminded this whole album could be the soundtrack to some weird Cirque Du Soleil show revolving around some little kid losing a hat in the jaws of Glaaki and climbing inside only to find he is in a wonderland of misty forests and ceremonial Pagan Riverdance advertisements. After listening to this album at least ten times I'm still looking for that damn hat. It's really that icing on the cake that album is missing perhaps. There are so many excellent things going on, so many glorious textural experiments successfully navigated and heaping loads of unique and artful arrangement without that one standout aspect. Nothing ascends above the others. There's a boy in this circus who bought a hundred balloons and feels himself floating but he can't tell which balloon he likes the most and he keeps getting further away from finding his goddamn hat.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

News - 11/27/2012

Check out the new review of Diseased Oblivion's "Portals of Past and Present" from Goul's Crypt blogspot and the new review of Okketaehm's "Stones," from Orthodox Black Metal. Thanks to both sites and reviewers for their reviews and opinions!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Odem - Rape Your God And Pray For Reprieve

Odem. This is the last of the slough of Daemon Worship promos I've received and, perhaps because of this, I'm just slightly burnt out on this whole exaggerated black metal style. Honestly, it's almost a parody at this point. I can't see how anyone could listen to nothing but this style of black metal all the time. The only reason I've maintained my sanity through the whole ordeal of these eight or nine releases has been time in between to cleanse my ears with copious amounts of Manilla Road and Fates Warning, heaping piles of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost and gorging myself on holiday dinners. I had done a rough listening of this album, taking some notes such as "band has preoccupation with sharp objects" and "carnivalesque melody in the right side guitars." There were some things worth picking out on "Rape Your God And Pray For Reprieve," this Russian band's first full length.

As evidenced on all the other DWP releases I've reviewed, the musicianship is phenomenal and the production is classily polished yet aggressive. Compare it to any of the previous releases I've reviewed from this throbbing label: Israthoum, Dodsengel, Bestia Arcana or Necrosadist... Production-wise they are all on par with the recent 1349 releases, the last Absu releases - at least back to Tara - or Watain's Sworn to the Dark. I don't know how this happens when bands from far reaches of the world all have similarly produced albums. Slightly different guitar tones, sure, but the high level of engineering and sound design for these releases is extraordinary. If there is one thing about all the DWP releases it has to be that the label is very much focused on presenting releases that are beyond the bedroom black metal sound. I can respect a label that has set boundaries in terms of production for it's releases. So here, the guitars sound a little bit more reptilian. The vocals are more subdued than some of the other releases - especially the Israthoum release - which works because they are not nearly as unique as other bands on the roster. The drums are well played, interesting and varied. Bass is robust though difficult to pick out at times.

It's black metal. Get it?

I hear a lot of influences in the album. Immortal is prevalent on several tracks such as Nails as the Weapon of Hatred and Tortured By Razors. I hear death metal influences from Incantation on tracks as well and perhaps this coupled with the black metal reminds me of Adversarial, particularly on fifth track Immersion. Emperor shows through often as does early Absu. Odem are not afraid to experiment at times such as with momentary lapses of tradition in the guitar leads department, meandering atonal layers and trysts into different textures such as three-quarters through Tortured By Razors. You pair all this together and highlight Antaeus with a cover of Blood War III and you have a pretty solid album musically though I can't say any particular song stands out to me, it's not an offensive listen.

Lyrically, something I did notice, as mentioned earlier was an obsession with sharp objects - nails, spikes, hammers, scalpels, cutting, piercing... the list goes on. Other times the lyrics are combinations of words and thoughts that make no sense and  made me laugh outright several times. I think my favorite combination of nonsensical lyrics were off the seventh track, simply titled "VII." It's not everyday that you see black metal bands playing with barbie dolls so when vocalist KH remembers his childhood and compares it to his present day interest in industrial chemicals and machinery it's only understandable his lyrics would sound like a sadomasochists user manual for building a replica dollhouse. "...dense ordinariness personification… Oxides of humanism in a phallic perfection… Candles made of infants’ fat… 'these dolls have no eyes!' says a cripple-child…writhing in sardonic repugnant miasmas..."

Overall, enjoyable and intense though at times a bit lackadaisical compositionally. The elements work nicely together though transitions are often times off the cuff and spontaneous necessities instead of being placed with care and conviction. It's alright though... Odem have made a solid debut with quality in many areas. I expect that with experience and maturity we could see this duo make their Motherland proud.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Whiplash Interview - 11/21/2012

The always humble, always energetic and extremely popular Tony Portaro was kind enough to grant me twenty minutes after their set list to answer some questions. After I let the poor guy stop sweating and breaking down their equipment he offered his take on all kinds of stuff, from their recent South American tour, to a new album being in the works, all sorts of New Jersey Metal stuff and, of course, a few laughs. Outside, the whole thing started off with Ron Paci of Sardonica. It was awesome to hear Ron and Tony reminisce about old times and watch Tony get lots of hugs from friends and fans.
Ron Paci (Sardonica): Holy crap man...

Tony Portaro (Whiplash): That was fun.

Ron Paci (Sardonica): So good to see you guys. Once in a lifetime show right there bro.

Tony Portaro: Thanks.

Ron Paci (Sardonica): That was beautiful.

CT: Is this the first time you saw them?

Ron Paci (Sardonica): No! No! I've known them since I was fucking sixteen!

CT: Awesome.

Ron Paci (Sardonica): I've seen Tony play all his life... We both played in a studio called Iron City right across the street from the Capitol Theater in Passaic when we were young. Whiplash had the fucking room here, we had the room here. Remember?

Tony Portaro: Yeah.

Ron Paci (Sardonica): That was fucking unbelievable.

Tony Portaro: A lot of people came through that studio. Yeah... even when they uhh... Gary Holt from Exodus popped in at a rehearsal.

Ron Paci (Sardonica): Exodus! Yeah he was the... bro remember!? Gary Holt from Exodus came over... He wanted to buy my guitar. I had that Randy Rhodes Jackson... it was like O311... yep Gary Holt... there were a lot of people.

CT: Anyway... everyone pretty much knows the history of Whiplash from New Jersey so... quick history for people that don't.

Tony Portaro: Ok. Well we got back together in 1984. It was Tony Scaglione and I, who met through the local radio station WSOU. That's William Paterson College (Actually Seton Hall - CTP) radio station and we were in two separate bands... he was in Jackhammer and I was in Whip... ahh... I was in Toxin... We were introduced by Gene Cory (sp?), the Metal Maniac DJ at the time. I went to Tony's rehearsal with his band Jackhammer and they didn't have anyone singing so I decided to grab the microphone even though I never sang before and... uh... two weeks later they gave me a call and said "look we want you to sing in our band." So I said, "Alright, I'll do both bands." So that... lasted a little while and then I decided - Tony and I both decided - to form a new band and just clean house and Tony and I ended up getting Tony Bono on bass so it's the three Tonys. And then we recorded the first album, Power and Pain, before we even did one live show and our first live show was in '85 in San Franscisco at Ruthies Inn where Metallica used to hang out all the time and they were there and Exodus was there in the crowd. We headlined and Possessed played with us and Death Angel and they - Possessed - let us use their whole backline so it was really cool. It was great to be a part of the scene in San Franscisco Bay Area when it just started.

CT: You're part of the Bay Area thrash scene without actually being from the Bay Area 'cause you're all from Jersey... (Tony says goodbye to some friends)... Everybody knows you because... Jersey guy right?

Tony Portaro: Yeah... I actually grew up in this town, Clifton, went to highschool here and then moved out for a... tchh... probably ten years or more and just recently ended up moving back so... it's great to be back in the scene with Dingo's and Dingbatz and, you know, it's probably the best sound system in North Jersey. You know? We love the place. We live here. We're here like twice a week so...

CT: It's a really powerfull sound. Like for a club, it hits you in the chest. It's good.

Tony Portaro: And the soundman, I mean, he knows that room inside out and not only that room he's just really good all around and we brought him to South America with us for this last tour last week.

CT: How many shows did you do in South America? Because you've played a couple... a bunch of shows this year down there.

Tony Portaro: We did five on this trip. We did two in La Paz and Cochibamba Bolivia then we flew down south to Buenos Aires , Argentina and back north to... ah... Arequipa and Lima, Peru. Five shows. Nine flights in ten days. So it's a lot of travelling.

CT: Flights are probably long too because there's a lot of space between everything.

Tony Portaro: A lot of them were. Definitely... Once in a while we got an hour and a half flight when we were in the same country but... but it is like an eight hour car ride or bus ride. You know? If you try to do that it would just be...

CT: Unbelievable...

Tony Portaro: Yeah... It'd be rough.

CT: So comparing, after having played down there five times in this past year and then you come back into... stateside... show wise... is there... there's an unbelievable difference between the amount of fans...

Tony Portaro: There is. Yeah. You know, you go down there and your music is like on mainstream radio. You know? So... it's much more popular and it just seems like there's a lot more respect and... they just love the music and appreciate... respect is probably not the word... it's more like appreciation. They just really appreciate the Heavy Metal and Thrash stuff and everyone comes out to the show and they just go bezerk. Like in Chile I didnt... we left the stage and - at the end of the show - and we're walking - the crowd had emptied out - and we were walking through the venue and I look down and I'm like "what is that?" I'm asking the promoter and we look down and there's clumps of hair all over the place and - all over! - and they just, in the moshpit, rip each other's hair out, they go so crazy... I've got pictures of it on my cell phone.

CT: That's nuts!

Tony Portaro: It's incredible.

CT: So... you're on stage tonight... you played a slightly shorter set from what I've seen you play recently - you seemed to cut stuff out - you basically played a lot more older heavier stuff. Usually you play some clean guitar stuff and some things like that so... how do you decide what songs you're going to play?

Tony Portaro: Well this time... Dingbatz is always good to us. You know? And they let us pick the bands that we want to open for us so it's all up to us and we had taken the next to last slot because that's really like a prime slot but we got a lot of our friends bands on like Sardonica... Mindswitch... Pyramada... not just because they're friends. They're talented bands too you know? We wouldn't just pick anybody off the street or anyone that was just our friend. These are talented musicians and uh... that was a big part of it but... you know we don't want to... eat up all the time and take it away from these guys too. You know? And being that Pyramada was on last we wanted to squeeze our shit... set short so the place wasn't empty and they only got twenty minutes left to play before the place closes. You know we're pretty cool like that. We're not going to dick you around and play an hour and a half set and leave you with nothing at the end. And the guys in Sardonica will tell you. I promised the gig about a year ago...

Ron Paci (Sardonica): Yeaaaah, we talked about it a year ago

Tony Portaro: ...when I couldn't get you on... we had a full bill last year and Sal asked me to get on and we couldn't do it but I said I promise you the next time we play at DIngbatz I'll put you on the bill and I didn't forget it and...

Ron Paci (Sardonica): He kept his promise man.

Tony Portaro: Yep.

Ron Paci (Sardonica): Had an awesome night. 'Been great.

Tony Portaro: Was cool.

CT: I saw you were wearing an Old Bridge Metal Milita t-shirt on stage... I'm from Old Bridge...

Tony Portaro: Ahh nice!

CT: looking back because you've been in the scene forever. What's your connection with Old Bridge Metal Militia if it's more of a direct personal thing or is it just an homage to being from New Jersey? I know a lot of people are... support Old Bridge Metal Militia just be... not so much because of the history of the group but more because they are a New Jersey based metal group.

Tony Portaro: Well you know... like... going back to the question you asked before when I said how popular metal was outside the United States... our strongest markets are in Europe and South America, but here in the states, you know, it's... we really appreciate the people that are keeping metal alive and Old Bridge Metal Militia has been doing that since the early 80's so... It's an honor for me to wear their brand on my chest and... I walked out the house today saying... my girlfriend was like "what shirt are you going to wear tonight on stage?" and I said I'm going to wear my Old Bridge Metal Militia shirt! You know, so she's like "Cool!" haha... So I know Frank White was here and he's from Old Bridge too, he's been taking... photographer that's in the scene since those days too - early 80's... and uh... and uh... that was really cool to see him too and we actually arranged a photoshoot for Sunday with him so that's gonna be pretty cool... but he did take a lot of pictures he told me of me on stage with my Old Bridge shirt so hopefully... and one of the guys was here tonight so that was pretty cool so he's gonna go back and tell Chris (Chris Homeny, current man behind OBMM - CT) and it should be pretty cool.

CT: Quickly, because you have a pretty decent cataloge of releases, I would say your most popular releases are the first two... Power and Pain and... looking back at those two releases... when you look back at them now... do you think those releases have left a, you know, somewhat of a legacy across your stuff after that you kind of feel you have to live up to them or... I know you're the kind of guy that you just do what you want (last year Whiplash played several totally clean songs when they opened for Morbid Saint - CT)...

Tony Portaro: You're right... I did for many years just keep doing what I wanted to do but those were the two most popular albums and... uh... I'm trying to give the people what they want to hear now. That's why we're back to a three peice and I'm back to singing again, you know. They really wanted me to sing so that's why I'm doing it...

Female Friend: Good night guys - I'm so sorry (to me for interrupting - CT) - Tony you were awesome...

CT: No problem!

Tony Portaro: Thank you.

Female Friend: I always leave with a memory from your show. First it was the fractured nose and black eye... tonight I have a noggin.

Tony Portaro: Oh no! Haha.

Female Friend: Yeah it was a beer bottle tonight.

Tony Portaro: Oh man...

CT: You put out an album in 2009 (Unborn Again) - a newer album - look at that compared to your older stuff... what about writing and making that. Did you put some stuff on that that you thought was more towards trying to... throwback to the older stuff that people really liked without... you're not compromising anything... it's your style.

Tony Portaro: Yeah. We did try to get back to it. I don't know if we reached as far as I really wanted to. You know. Hopefully as we move forward... we have the new music we're working on now that is a collection of songs that's going to be called Old School American Way. And I hope it gets even closer back to the Power and Pain and Ticket to Mayhem style but uh... and its... we're recording like, we started yesterday doing drum tracks and we're going back in again Friday and Saturday so I hope it pans out like that but if... and you've seen the show today, we did a lot of those older songs because the fans want to see them and because we kept the set down to like forty-five minutes or an hour we left out the mellower... picking stuff because we wanted to give a nice swift punch to the face kind of feel, you know. And when you have a short set like that we really didn't want to break it up although we could have used a couple of those songs to catch our breath cause when you do those fast ones one after the other it takes so much out of you.

CT: You went to Berklee...

Tony Portaro: Yeah...

CT: ...College of Music. Not a lot of thrash metal guitarists from that time had any real proper training I guess you could say. Did you feel that... Do you think that had an impact on the way that you wrote your stuff? Or uh... I mean, your riffs are kind of atypical on those albums compared to a lot of stuff at the time.

Tony Portaro: Yeah... That's a great question and you're definitely right. I'm a firm believe that everyone should really know theory. You know. And I noticed that a lot of people that don't know theory, everytime they write a song it sounds just like one of the other songs they wrote and that all their songs end up sounding the same but if you know theory and you can read music then you can see the music and then when you're writing you can see... like... "Oh, what if I try this instead," and you can imagine the notes on the paper and the graph and just try stuff that most people probably wouldn't even think of. But when you can see the music and you know theory it just gives you so much of an advantage to do a wider range of stuff. I'm really a strong believer that everyone should know what they're doing. You know.

CT: Do you have any plans to say, transcribe your entire... your stuff... like put out a tablature book or a music book?

Tony Portaro: I don't think I have the time to do it but... uh... it would be nice but I do occasionally record some tutorials on like... and show people how to play some of the stuff because alot of people play Power Thrashing Death the wrong way so that inspired me to start doing tutorials and teach them out to do it right. Cause some bands have recorded that song... on albums! Doing covers of it...

CT: It's all wrong?

Tony Portaro: Yeah. Haha. Not playing it right.

CT: Would you ever give guitar lessons?

Tony Portaro: I used to... years ago... but again, I don't think I have the time to do it now.

CT: So. Talk about some of the lyrical stuff on the albums. A lot of... you know you got some pretty typical like bludgeoning, you know, thrash numbers and stuff but then there's also some hidden stuff in there anecdotally with some of the songs like Killing on Monroe Street...

Tony Portaro: Well that song... I was on the way to rehearsal studio in Passaic and... back in the early days... and I seen this black dude running down the road and then all of a sudden this mob of people are chasing him... like twenty or thirty people are chasing after the guy. So uh... and it was on Monroe Street in Passaic so that's where I came up when I came up with the title "Killing on Monroe Steet," and we ended up writing that song. Yeah I have some old titles in the early days like Spit On Your Grave and stuff like that but then it twisted around to Respect the Dead so... we took like every angle and worked with it.

CT: What's your favorite song to sing... Lyrically?

Tony Portaro: To sing... ahh...

CT: The most fun to scream into the microphone.

Tony Portaro: Well I don't know if I really have one that I like to sing the most but umm... to sing and play... a real challenging song is "This," from the Thrashback album. And uh... because it's so challenging it's so much fun, you know, when you nail it live and I love the lead in that song too so... and I think it went over great tonight too... we pulled it off without a doubt. So...

Leather Jacket Dude: Hey! Great show man!

Leather Jacket's Friend: Great show, Tony.

Tony Portaro: Thanks a lot!

Leather Jacket Dude: Are you related to a Matt Luongo?

Tony Portaro: ...Yeah...

Leather Jacket Dude: You are!?

Leather Jacket's Friend: I used to drink beer with him in high school once in a while.

Tony Portaro: Ohhh. Haha. Cool... Alright.

CT: So... ah... You said you're going back into the studio. So... uh... What's the future I guess? What are you planning on doing next with Whiplash? Is there gonna be... I guess there's gonna be another album... Do you have any idea when? What's the timetable for that?

Tony Portaro: Yeah... Old School American Way. We're recording... we have about nine new songs but right now we're only gonna put five or maybe six on it and we're re-recording like five of the songs from the first two albums with the new lineup that I have. So umm... that's going to add up to about ten songs there and we include a couple live tracks from tonight cause we recorded multitrack... so

CT: Oh cool.

Tony Portaro: It's possible that if we see something or hear something that we really like from tonight we might throw that as a bonus track or something on there.

CT: One... I guess that last question... off topic... completely... what's the strangest comment you've ever gotten... about your facial hair.

Tony Portaro: Hahaha. Ohhhh... That's a tough one. Haha I'm not sure... I didn't know where you were going with that. One of my favorite comments though aside from the hair is Frank Blackfire... from Sodom... he always loved my guitar sound and the way I played and in his German accent he would always say, "So clean yet so heavy," which I thought was so cool, you know. Because I don't play with very much distortion... I like that attack... you know... so I use like an overdrive... but I don't know on the facial hair! I guess it's only been like the last two or three years that I really grew a bear this long so I probably didn't get too many comments up until now.

CT: Well I guess that's pretty much it. I'll let you go back inside because I know you got a lot of friends here and stuff and I'll let you get back to them but, thanks for taking the time.

Tony Portaro: Thanks! Thanks a lot

CT: Looking forward to seeing you again.

Tony Portaro: Some really good questions too. I appreciate that.

CT: I try and make things interesting. I don't want to, you know, get these redundant questions, you know.

Tony Portaro: That's cool.

CT: I know that's boring for you guys.

Tony Portaro: No, that's awesome. I really appreciate it. Thanks for supporting Metal!