Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lvcifyre Interview

The Calling Depths, the debut album from Lvcifyre, quite surprised me. I'm not usually immediately impressed by death metal releases, often times needing several listens for my appreciation to simmer or dim. Not here. Not only does The Calling Depths pummel and crush, but it creeps along with the grace of a seasoned mortician, presenting something ugly and depressing in a softer more eloquent manner, letting reality sink in at a later date. The eight tracks on display are well honed and fine tuned monstrosities of the weird and queer. Vocalist and guitarist T. Kaos offered thoughts and history on Lvcifyre, an as yet slumbering beast that is sure to twist and turn minds quite soon.

CTP: How did Lvcifyre come together as a band?

T. Kaos: A few wonderers had been set to unite and co-operate in sonic spheres. All of us have a Death/Black Metal CV,  such as Adorior, Corpus Christii, Necrosadist, Isolated. Line up was totally change since "Dying Light ov God".

CTP: How would you describe the image and aesthetic which Lvcifyre has attempted to present to the public? What influences would you attribute these stylings to?

T. Kaos: What I see is the manifestation of unspeakable power enforced in aspects such as wrath and fyre, but everyone can see things differently, not unlike one of those unclear pictures where everybody sees something different, simply because their subconscious will create the image in the mind of the beholder. That is, I think, very strong in the image of Lvcifyre.

CTP: There is an occult tendency to your lyrics and to the imagery associated with Lvcifyre. Would you be able to delve into some of the themes and subjects which Lvcifyre conjures up in the lyrics?

T. Kaos: It is based on my research of Myths, religious systems, words of power, altered states of mind or divinity, night cults and human sacrifice, as well as dark literature such as HP Lovecraft.
The lyrics on "The Calling Depths" are describing realms beyond this one such as the astral paths.
Lots of texts are about exploring the subconscious side of our minds, which I think now is a main key for any Lvcifyre lyric.

CTP: Your recent release, The Calling Depths, is one of the finer releases of a Death / Black Metal mixture I've heard, invoking comparisons to Incantation and Antaeus as well as more modern bands such as Akercocke. What musical influences are at the heart of Lvcifyre's dark center? What inspirations do each of the individuals involved rely on that may be different or unexpected to unfamiliar followers of Lvcifyre?

T. Kaos: We were always based on classics from 80's and 90's, but a lot has changed in our perception and focus.

One could say we are trying to use Metal Music only as a tool to communicate  with our shadows and it does not feel like music only – there are higher intentions attached to it. I think very few manage to achieve that state, like Teitanblood.

As for non Metal, sonic wise is Lustmord, Endura, selected works of Coil or Current 93 - I think these are the very few alternations regarding what I like to listen. Menthor is studying music, so he is into all sorts of jazz and classical stuff. He didn’t like that at the beginning so much, but I think he has discover that a little bit with his heart now.

The very core of Lvcifyre is the calling Abyss within us, the Depths that we feel. Lvcifyre is sort of our vehicle to that place where you can forget yourself and your burden of ego. Eternal Darkness and Black Fyres of Abomination – these are the places we feel and see.

CTP: Describe the sounds and emotions which a listener could expect to experience while engaging The Calling Depths?

T. Kaos: It depends on how fucked up he is. If he is quite aware it could be intensity, anger, pleasure,wrath, lust or even a hard on.

CTP: Tell me about the recording of the album. What problems did you run into? Where there any particularly memorable events or occurances during the recording?

T. Kaos: 11 days and 11 nights of mental exhaustion. We worked very fast and hard from the early afternoon till early mornings sometimes. Just before we entered the studio the place was totally flooded, it was a catastrophic time by then in Poland, where we were recording and the guy was telling us that all snakes and frogs from local rivers and swamps came with the water. Even though that place had been redecorated, the horrible rotten smell of R'lyeh was with us all the time to spice up atmosphere a bit. All vocals were recorded in a massive basement with such a big reverb that we were forced to install acoustic panels around me to bring down the effect. At night the whole place was swarming with all sorts of insects and frogs.

Thunder blew all the fuses in the guitar amps, but we managed to fix it, also over takeing dump in the air was fuck it up the mixing console. (?)  quite often. Nothing short of unreal.

CTP: The Calling Depths has received quite a bit of buzz in the underground on blogs and across the internet. Are you in any way surprised by the reaction to the record? What has been the worst criticism and what has been the best criticism, in your opinion, of the record?

T. Kaos: Of course as an artist I would like to hear some feedback. There have been a few average reviews, none of them are bad. The most annoying thing is comparing us to plastic "Death Metal" like Behemoth. There have been lots of very good ones actually, where the editor really focuses on the music, but most of it is only comparing us to Morbid Angel, Immolation, Incantation etc. Classification above understanding, shit criteria to judge came to us.

CTP: You've recently agreed to release your upcoming second album with Dark Descent Records, a leading up and coming label who have, for the past three years, gained a large amount of respect in the underground for their focus in professionalism and quality releases. How did you get in contact with Dark Descent?

T. Kaos: I dropped Matt an email some time ago, then he was staying in London for 2 days, so we met and talked about the new stuff and he seems to be really into the band and wanted to release us. We were looking for a label for our new album. Everybody just said good stuff about him and he is the type of person who puts their heart to their releases. I believe we are in good hands.

CTP: Is the new album completed? How would you compare or contrast the new album to The Calling Depths?

T. Kaos: I can’t even compare that, it’s so different, much more obscure and dark and dominating, like another step in evolution. But of course it is hard to say, it has not been recorded yet, so I will let others judge that. The recording session is scheduled for May 2013 and we have a much more honest approach to it.

CTP: The new album, I expect will include Dictator (Dictator, Necrosadist, etc) providing additional guitars. Has his inclusion affected the writing process for the band? Additionally, on The Calling Depths, Cvltus is accredited as a session bass player. Is he now a full time member of the band?

T. Kaos: Dictator joined us some time after "The Calling Depths" were recorded. The writing process is done between me and Menthor. Cultus became a full member of Lvcifyre after we released the debut.

CTP: My favorite track off The Calling Depths has been Death's Magnetic Sleep. Tell me about this particular track, musically, lyrically and contextually.

T. Kaos: It is the oldest Lvcifyre song after the EP. I wrote that one right after we recorded our first "Dying Light ov God" and it is the first song we played together with Menthor. The song is about Death, who is waiting for all of us - the Death that we are hailing to, the same Death that came to take us all into our eternal sleep. The character is taking a step behind the curtains of Death itself into the leftovers of our consciousness.

Sulphur is the symbol of that song - it hypnotises the character that helps awaken the wrathful powers lurking in Forbidden space.

These are the Fyres that consume all life - all God.

CTP: How is the underground music scene in the UK? You've done a fair amount of shows as well. How have the live rituals been received? What has been your best and worst shows so far?

T. Kaos: I think the best show we have had was the show in Denmark with Degial and Vorum. The worst one was some shitty festival made by some idiot, I think they call itSonic Obliterations. The underground is OK, we know some bands very well, such as Grave Miasma, Adorior, Cruciamentum, Diamanthian.
Of the new blood Binah is an absolutely great band, you need to check them out.

CTP: Is the music scene in the UK different from other locations? I know that Dictator and Menthor have experience with other scenes such as in Cyprus and Portugal.

T. Kaos: Yes, it is a different style, a different approach. I emigrated from Poland around 14 years ago, and before I was playing in Hodur, Sons Of Serpent and then in UK with Adorior. It is like folk music, each  country has their own unique style and I think that culturally, each nation’s atmosphere does appear in Metal as well, like in any other type of music. Have a look at Greek Black Metal or Polish Death Metal or American, Florida Death Metal or Scandinavian Black Metal. Each of them has their own unique style that corresponds to the place, culture and atmosphere where musicians or artists in general grew.

We strongly believe that this "Fatherland addiction" is the barrier, a moral to be broken. We don’t want to sound like some great bands from different regions of world, no matter how amazing they are. We don’t want our music to be related with people, but with the Gods of Hell as they use us to manifest. N o  F a c e  o f  P a s t.

CTP: What would you say is your biggest pet peave in terms of the modern music landscape? If there was one thing you could alter without consequence, what would it be?

T. Kaos: Get rid of pretenders under skins of Devil. Generally I don’t like 90% of today's so called Metal scene. If the instruments could become very difficult to get, let’s say each individual would have to show their level of genius and the message they try to convey, then it would get rated on whether to allow him to play or not – it would reduce all that shamboo and help true great minds came to the front. It does resemble a dictatorship and no liberation for the week..., but it will never happen  so... pointless really to visualise that.

CTP: When can we expect the new Lvcifyre album out? What formats will it be released in? The Calling Depths was release as a CD and LP. Will the next album be available in the same formats?

T. Kaos: Next album I think towards the end of 2013, both formats, maybe even tape, we’ll see.

CTP: What upcoming shows is the band expecting to participate in? What can black/death maniacs out there look forward to while they wait for the follow up to the excellent The Calling Depths?

T. Kaos: We have just done one with Cruciamentum, other than that there is nothing booked yet, album first.
With the new release we will become more ugly and devastating, that’s for sure, but I prefer to wait and make you feel his claws inside of you when the time is right.

CTP: Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions! You have the last proclamation here.

T. Kaos: Thanks for the interview. To all maniacs support only honest bands. If you don’t find us to be that way, burn our release. If you do, come and join the Lvcifyre Mass.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Midnite Hellion - Enter the Unknown

Midnite Hellion are a talented band that clearly worship Iron Maiden but haven't yet found a vocalist who can pull it off. These are some catchy, memorable songs, there's no doubt that "1903" pops into my head more often than any other recent retro heavy metal bands, but it's a lot better when I imagine Bruce Dickinson singing it. The instrumentalists in the band interact well, they write very strong, cohesive, and memorable songs, but they also play a style that relies heavily on the lead vocalist. Much like Iron Maiden stood out due to their exceptional and distinctive vocalist, Midnite Hellion are confined by their lack of that type of vocalist. Don't let that put you off the band though, the music is quite interesting, strong enough that I'm looking forward to the band's future after two good four-track releases, each featuring an underwhelming vocalist.

The production on this EP is quite restrained, it sounds like it could have come out of the early 80s, it's not dull, but it doesn't place a ton of emphasis on distortion and impact - it's sort of like early Iron Maiden and it fits their style quite well. A bit more impact could complement their style, but when they're playing like it's 30 years ago, they nail the sound like it's 30 years ago. The guitar tone isn't too sharp, it has a bit of crunch and bite, not a ton. The drums sound good but not overdone nor fake/triggered, which is nice too. At first I thought the production was too thin, it's not too good to listen to on treble-heavy speakers, but it sounds good on a decent set of speakers/headphones.

The bottom line is that this is some very memorable melodic heavy metal that's better than most of the retro stuff recently. It feels more authentic, they carry the spirit and feeling of older heavy metal well, without the disruption of trying to thicken it up, make it heavier, or make it a modern take. It's enjoyable to listen to, but the way they play leaves a desire for a vocalist that has the same energy and intensity that the band does. Check this one out and look for their next release as they have already parted ways with this vocalist - third time's the charm, right?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hivelords - Grand Cromlech

Grand Cromlech, a quick fifteen minute 7" from Philly murk-dwellers Hivelords is an excellent example of a local band putting out a killer couple tracks that really captures the live feeling of their music perfectly. I was impressed by the band live... it's literally a wall of sound with one of the most versatile and interesting vocalists / frontmen I've ever seen. Kevin North utilizes multiple effects to create layers of vocal noise and combinations of melody / harsh screeches to give off the feeling of something totally unique in the field - which it is. The music is mostly slow, brooding dirges of melancholic progressions. The bass handles a lot of melodic undertones and direction but the guitars on top are often involved in counter-tempo tremelo strumming in the higher registers to create the feeling of swarming insects. Live it was awesome and while this release is far less massive sounding, it's is a great accompaniment since it provides a crystal clear - but dirty and scratchy - recreation. It's much easier to hear the band's penchant for reverb and smooth guitar tones caked with fuzz when those tones aren't bouncing off poorly sound proofed cement walls in a dive somewhere.

The first track, "Upon Arrival At The Grim Structure," epitomizes all these attributes. Second track, "Divining Goliath Astragals," is faster, a bit more upbeat but equally left-field - right on the foul-post - uncomfortable in it's hideous vocal performance and repetitive hammer-to-the-skull style as it's predecessor. I'm sure that the lyrics will appeal to anyone that likes vague, semi-lovecraftian and cult stuff. This a short awesome EP worth anyone's time if your into underground extreme metal and retain an open mind. Fans of repetitive slow black metal will probably dig this the most. I know I'll be trying to catch another show from them and I'll be looking out for their first album, The Cellar Scrolls which I'm sure is an excellent example of experimental blackened doom done exceedingly well.This is also produced by Chris Grigg, as are so many local underground black metal bands and the perfect production shows it. Chris is quickly becoming a go-to dude in the area for recording and releases such as this prove it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sapthuran - The Wanderer

This review was written by a good friend of mine and I told him I would post the review since I agree with his admiration of this release and with the strength of the release. Thanks again for the willingness to allow me to post the review. (Orion_M)

For what it's worth, Sapthuran is easily my favorite band that fits into the "USBM" category. America is so easily discredited when it comes to black metal, and oftentimes for good reason. Every band is either a hipster magnet or a bunch of 40 year olds trying too hard to recapture the "glory" of the old days (when they weren't great to begin with). So I can understand the misconception that this country is barren when it comes to good black metal acts. However, there is an exception to every rule, and that is exception in this case is Sapthuran.

Sapthuran plays raw black metal, the way it was meant to be. The sound is very old and analog sounding, no fancy studio equipment and no polished overproduction ("bare bones" is probably a fitting description). The drums sound organic and somewhat dull - the snare has little punch and is often reduced to a blast of sound in the background of the overall pattern. The bass drum is rarely audible, being that it too is buried under the crash and ring of the cymbals. The most prominent beat here is a type of full on blast - everything being played at once in rapid succession (hi hat, bass drum, and snare all at the same time). What really adds interest to the drums is when they do show variation, as it becomes all the more noticeable and in turn appreciated. Blast riffs are accompanied by distinctive accents with the cymbals, usually a loud splash or china type sound used repeatedly to emphasize the note changes. This really brings the riffs into focus and adds a memorability factor. Speaking of riffs...these are very distinctively Sapthuran riffs. Proud, grandiose, and epic. They are extremely simple, consisting mostly of power chords and their variants, yet are arranged in such a way to be very particular of melody and mood changes. Emotion is a big factor in their construction and you get the feeling that nothing is done by accident. It really is impossible to describe the exact nature of such sounds in mere words, so I would most closely compare them to the emotional riffs of bands such as Kristallnacht/Seigneur Voland and scenes like Blazebirth Hall.

The bass has a fantastic clean sound, and follows the riffs in almost every instance. Anything else would be unacceptable. I'm really glad it is so clean and fairly audible, as it adds an extra dimension to the sound that would otherwise be quite flat without it. Anyone who says bass isn't necessary to raw black metal really has no idea what they are talking about.

The vocals suit the music perfectly. High and raspy, P.T.H. sings words that paint vivid pictures. The accompanying music only adds to the atmosphere, and the scenes seem to come alive:
"In the deep rests an unknown power,
one which binds the Earth as one.
One which tells the stars where to shine
and knows where next the winds will blow.

The weave of life is in the trees,
in the snows and in the hill,
in the sea so deep and mountains high,
and in the realm where spirits dwell
and turn the cogs of fate and time."

"The Wanderer" really is raw black metal at its finest. Minimalist song structures (2-5 riffs in most cases) ensures each riff gets played out as much as it deserves. Droning chords and haunting melodies paint a picture while plodding, ignorant blasts and sparse croaks tell a story of fate and nature, taking you to a place where the constructs of man are nonexistent and the will of nature is all that matters. Highly recommended.

- Z.S

Friday, March 8, 2013

Master Fury - Circles Of Hell Release Date

Contaminated Tones is proud to finally announce the official release date of Circles Of Hell. This compendium of Trenton. New Jersey's Master Fury entire discography epitomizes what modern thrash lacks. Intimidatingly fast, massively aggressive... for 25 years, Hell Party (1988) and Circles of Hate (1989) lay hidden and now they are available for the first time on CD. This release is limited to 300 handnumbered copies and marks Contaminated Tones first pro-CD. Accompanying the disc is an 8 page booklet with an intro by Don "Digg" Rouze. 

Officially out on March, 15th 2013. Preorder now for $10 + Shipping. To order, simply email me:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pig Destroyer - Mass & Volume

Pig Destroyer pulled this EP from the archives for a noble cause, to benefit the family of a recently passed comrade at Relapse Records. Good intentions, not good music. This was written and recorded in a day of leftover studio time and it sounds like it. It wasn't released for a reason, it's not very good. Pig Destroyer's forte is blazing, riffy grindcore, and Phantom Limb proved that Scott Hull can delve into sludge riffing and some other groovy stuff. The band are one of the best at what they do, and they're fairly versatile, but this EP demonstrates what they don't do well.

The 19 minute title track is full of aimless guitar feedback, lost of noise and almost no riffing. Pig Destroyer without riffing is sort of like grindcore without the grind - well, uhm, this is it, a bunch of feedback, a few drawn out guitar chords, and some screaming that's clearly lacking something to accompany. Though the EP is advertised as doom metal, there's little doom there - perhaps "drone doom" but that should always be specified so you don't expect actual metal. It doesn't sound like much went into this one, the band probably jammed with the idea of Melvins' "Spread Eagle Beagle" then played it back and shelved it.

"Red Tar" is a decent track, it's groovy sludge, but it lacks the energy and aggression that characterizes Pig Destroyer. The riffs are slow and heavy, but not crushing like they could be. The vocals are slowed down and sound relatively tame, lacking the hostility of the band's faster material and having neither the groove of heavy sludge vocals nor the aggression of Eyehategod. It's about what I'd expect from a bonus track in another style, it's alright but nothing special, nothing I'd go out of my way to listen to again. I'd put in another CD before hearing this as a bonus track, if it came on a re-release.

This EP is for a good cause, but there's a reason it was shelved for six years and pulled out overnight.

Available for streaming HERE.

Humanity Delete - Never Ending Nightmares

We all know and respect Rogga Johansson for his undying love of death metal and for all the effort he puts into his music. The guy has been in a million bands, he's an extremely talented musician and he really puts a lot of time into everything he does. The problem is that lots of time spent and effort extruded doesn't necessarily equate to a release nothing less than incredible. Humanity Delete is another one of Rogga's sound-a like projects with only subtle, practically invisible differences that just adds to the resume of one of the most prolific modern day death metal compatriots. For all I know, Rogga is an awesome dude but unfortunately with Humanity Delete's (or Rogga, Himself and Him - he plays every instrument except for a few solos) debut, Never Ending Nightmares, there is very little to really get enamored with, even if the whole album from birth to casket is produced and performed really well.

Short, spiffy songs that sound influenced by the swath of Swedish Death metal that exists in almost every way comprise a twelve track, twenty-nine minute jaunt through stereotypes such as d-beats, short blasting sections and tremolo riffs with weird and 'evil' melodic phrases caked on top. The best example of this album is if you broke up Unleashed's more recent albums into short songs, simplified everything down and lost whatever small sense of memorability existed to begin with. The riffs here are very standard and other than the intro to "Retribution of the Polong" or "The Eight Fire Narakas" which exhibits a pummeling pre-solo bridge, songs are mostly interchangeable.  What seems to be the albums version of a single, "Necromantic Sorcery," includes a verse riff which was probably dropped from being part of a far superior "Haunted" (off Grave's Into The Grave for anyone not following me here) but aside from the Grave worship on this track, the track is rekindled by a strong solo section and the obvious amounts of fun it would be to circle pit to the track.

To break down the release into specifics isn't warranted... you know what you're getting here if you're familiar with Paganizer or most of his other projects. Production on this is done tastefully, with a great vibrant and hot sound. Guitars are crusted over chunky blocks of riffing as would expected to come out of every guitar run through an HM2 pedal. No need to discuss the bass guitar as it never does anything of note across the album. The drums are produced at a high level of clarity and you can easily hear every single component though the floor tom is mixed way too high and each wallop elicits a massive overpowering boom that masks any other sound that tries to squeak through. Rogga's vocals are awesome though on this... deep, powerful, aggressive and mucus-filled rumbles which handle the Never Ending Nightmare's East Asian ghost and paranormal superstition focused lyrics (written by Jill Girardi of Dead Beat Media - the label that released the album) well.

Overall... listeners who really thrive on all things Swedish death metal wouldn't be disappointed with Humanity Delete's Never Ending Nightmares but more selective and critical listeners might find the whole thing just a tad too generic to warrant much attention. I mean, Rogga is so good at everything he does the fact that he just can't seem to come up with something to set his music apart from all the other stuff out there these days really is a shame. He deserves some sort of reward for all his hard work but that reward can't just be earned from album after album of stereotypical death metal with two or three above average tracks on it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Von - Satanic Blood

An old demo that sucked in 1992, sucked in 2002, and continues to suck 10 years after it's most prominent re-release.

Satanic Blood puts to shame the drum sound of Death's "Scream Bloody Gore" and the goofy vocal-only tracks at the end of Havohej's "Dethrone the Son of God" - otherwise great albums with notoriously bad components that would be embarrassing for the legendary content of the releases. Von don't have any quality to redeem themselves from the poor sound quality of this demo. The sound quality of the demo is actually the best thing here, because the songs are boring as hell. The drums clunk away on slow blast beats for nearly the whole album, the exception being "Veadtuck", which is a reminder of how poor the guitar work is. There are no riffs, just repetitive droning of power chords shifting two or three times then repeating, and some occasional noodling that sounds like an amateur with poor phrasing trying to pick out a melody.

The worst part is the vocals. They sound unforgivably goofy, like a comedian trying to imitate David Vincent in a silly voice. There's no charm to them, like the awkwardly phrased but excellent vocals on Stillborn's "Necrospirituals" where the vocalist drones pleasantly like a drunken Transylvanian. Those sound a bit goofy in a good way, this sounds goofy in a bad way, a vocalist in the earlier days of death metal who hadn't figured out how to pull it off but tried anyway. So many amateurs have made charming, memorable, or at least entertaining vocal performances that were technically horrible but fun to hear. This one is bad and drenched in reverb that makes it sound even worse under a thin, trebly guitar tone.

The potent amateurism is unsurprising considering that it's from 1992, and there weren't many terrible black metal bands around yet at that time. Bestial Summoning matured and put out a classic that Von could strive to be - Von sounds like a Bestial Summoning cover band that couldn't play their way out of a wet paper bag nor find their way to the second part of the song by way of a transition. The complete lack of anything to make the music memorable - hooks in the guitars, vocals, and drums, is terminal for this demo. It's not atmospheric, the feel of it is quite crappy, but there's no hook that grabs you, something you'll find in every black metal band that didn't suck - it was quite a highlight of the French LLN scene, especially Vlad Tepes, and the Norwegians and Greeks blended melodic and rhythmic hooks and atmosphere quite well. Such pronounced attributes of songwriting were out of this band's grasp in 1992, and seem to be to this day.

Von did absolutely nothing well. Pitiful.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Orion_M - Personal Trade List

This is my personal trade list. It will grow and shrink like my... nevermind. Just let me know if you want to trade against any of it. This has nothing to do with the CTP releases or stuff in the CT Store.

Annihilator - Set The World On Fire MC
Clot - The Unholiest Resurrection CDr
Corrosion of Conformity - Deliverance CD
Empire Of The Scourged - Transcend Into Oblivion CD
Glenn Tipton - Baptizm of Fire CD
In Defence - Into The Sewer CD
Licrest - Misery CD
Murderbeast - A Call To Severed Arms CD
Nasum - Human 2.0 CD
Rimsky-Korsakov, Nicolai - The Maid of Pskov 2XCD
Skepsis - Skepsis Sampler CDr
Stravinsky, Igor - The Composer, Vol. IX CD
The Who - Who Are You MC

Forced - Accursed Share

Brooklyn's Forced lay between the realms of many genres. An obvious hardcore influence is apparent in the confident rhythms employed by all five tracks on Accursed Share, their debut release, but layered chord choices, atonality and sections of experimental guitar noodling hint at a far deeper bookshelf employed by the trio of Dave Freidrich, Mike Hegarty and Scott Brown. The fluid melodies of opening track Accursed Share, as well as the two latter tracks on the release, Devours Everything and Partitioning the Sensible are a nod to blackened touches as well as moments of tremolo blasts scattered throughout the album. Moments of technical dives and climbs may invoke briefly technical doomsters Confessed.


The overall picture here though is much closer to a band like Neurosis or Black Anvil though where Black Anvil is a bit more black, Forced are a bit more hard core and the atonal pendulaic strumming encountered throughout ties the whole thing together with a yarn of post-hardcore less the whiny choruses and trendy haircuts. This is way rougher than any of that stuff and a track like At Empire's End - my favorite on display here - provide an example of polished and crystal clear production done without sacrificing the grit and nastiness that's so necessary for the at times sludgy material to sink in and be effective. Guitars are sharp, decisive and ring with the overworked amplifier buzz of elder fuzz pedals. When Empire's End encounters the most atmospheric moment of the album - a forty second jog through hazy and eerie chords - the gnarly overdriven bass is audible. The drums are punchy and clear as well.

The whole thing is a nice tight recording and engineering job and it serves the music perfectly. I guess the most lackluster component of the band's sound are the vocals which are highly generic raspy screams encountered practically everywhere. They're well performed but have little character which makes this twenty five minute release feel a bit longer than it actually is. Composition is nothing particularly spectacular here. The songs follow a straight-forward approach. Individual songs are separated more by their tempo and pace than by their melodies. A lot off the riffs feel as if they could interchanged between each song. The variety in riff construction, as tight and emotionally performed as the riffs are, isn't that great.

Overall, for a first EP Forced are off to a good start. Perhaps some focus on song individuality and variety and working to separate the band from others in the same style would make the listening more enjoyable. The overall impression I get is that Forced would gain a lot by figuring out how to combine their rhythmic sensibilities with the layered melodic material and by doing so would set them apart from the more stereotypical path they are on right now.

Steel Raiser - Gianluca Rossi Interview

Italy's Steel Raiser have just released "Regeneration," the follow up to their 2007 debut, Race of Steel. The album is an in your face, heavy hitting combination of European Power Metal, Traditional Metal and hints of US Power Metal grit and aggression. After seeking out Gianluca Rossi after the awesome discovery of Valkija's "Avengers of Steel" a few years ago and eagerly awaiting his next output, my patience has reaped rewards. "Regeneration" is available from Pure Steel Records and I recommend picking up the new Attacker album as well while you're there. But this is about Steel Raiser, their awesome new album and I have Gianluca to thank for the interview.

Contaminated Tones: Gianluca, tell me about the beginnings of Steel Raiser. How was the band formed? 

Gianluca Rossi: It all began in 2007 when Alfonso and I decided to start this adventure together. Both had come from important experiences, with Valkija I published the first and only album in 2004, while Alfono out with the Noble Savage two years later. We need something new, different, perhaps more challenging and sprang the Steel Raiser.

CT: Officially the band is called Steel Raiser III. Why the roman numeral suffix? Why not just call the band Steel Raiser? Where did the name originate from?

GR: Indeed the official name of the band is STEEL RAISER. Alfonso had initially added to the name the Roman numeral suffix but almost immediately the boss of Pure Steel advised us to remove it. Already at the time of "Race Of Steel", STEEL RAISER, was our monicher.

CT: How did Steel Raiser come to the lineup which you are at now? I see that the band no longer has a full time keyboardist, opting for a more traditional arrangement of twin guitars, bass, drums and vocalist. Gianfranco Strano still appears to lend keyboards on the album in spots.

GR: The current lineup is starting to take shape in 2009, on our return from Swordbrother Festival in Germany. Initially the band was composed of Alfonso and me, but after the good results of "Race Of Steel" culminated with the participation to the German festival, we decided to complete the lineup. Gianfranco can be considered the sixth element in the studio, orchestral parts and keyboard are his work, as well as the first album.

CT: You released a demo in 2007. What kind of response did you get from this demo? You were able to put out a full length album shortly after the release of the demo. When you recorded the demo, did you already have songs planned for Race of Steel, your debut album?

GR: Yes, in 2007 we recorded the demo. The response was really good, also after a few days of the publication of the songs on our myspace we were contacted by Pure Steel Records. We immediately proposed a contract and the publication of the first album. At the time of signing we did not have all the pieces to complete the album, so we went into the studio and recorded the rest. Everything came out very quickly even natural. Maybe that's why "Race Of Steel" is an album direct and fiery, like a punch in the face!!

CT: Regeneration is your second album since the formation of the band. How would you compare this album to your previous release, Race of Steel? 

GR: As I said above "Race Of Steel" came quickly and left rough, fierce and fiery. "Regeneration", retains the features of the previous release but is more mature. The themes are deeper, sounds more powerful. We had more time to work and take care of every detail.

CT: Regeneration is an excellent album, inspired by both Traditional Metal and the European vein of Power Metal. Tell me about the writing process for this album. It took you five years to finally complete. The majority of songs are written by Alfonso and yourself.

GR: Thank you for your compliment. It's been five years since the release of "Race Of Steel", but not all were used for the conception of the same. "Regeneration" began to emerge around 2011 when I started to record the first riffs and write some text. The compositional process is quite simple, I write the music and Alfonso melodies and lyrics. Then we meet in the studio and complete the whole. Like you said we are inspired by Europen power metal but also the U.S. Metal.

CT: Is there any specific meaning behind Regeneration's title?

GR: Behind the album title, you can read a lot. In this dark period, where all human relationships are more complicated, the man needs to get away from certain conventions, free from the chains of hatred and just regenerate. This is a bit 'the meaning of the title of the album.

CT: Lyrically, what are the themes present on the album? Are there any particular tracks which you would like to expand on the lyrics?

GR: The texts, although we can not speak of a concept album, have a theme, such as the difficulties of living in harmony and full relations with the people we love most. Songs like "Love Is Unfair" and "Wings of the Abyss" speak precisely of this. Happiness is at hand but can be felt, you miss for trivial reasons. The album also contains songs more focused on the fantastic, like "CyberLazer" and "The Executioner", the work of Alfonso, big fan of the genre.

CT: Currently, my favorite track is Magic Circle. Tell me about that track. It's the only song with some lyrics in Italian.

GR: Yes, the brainchild of Alfonso. The Italian is not a very easy language to music, but we found it very interesting and different place these short lines in Italian. Give that little bit extra to the piece that does not mind at all. An experiment that who knows, we might repeat in the future.

CT: What two tracks on this album would you say really best represent what Steel Raiser is and what aspects of those tracks are standout to you?

GR: Surely tracks faster and more powerful as "The Executioner", "Cyberlazer" and "Magic Circle" are those who represent us more, because they bind much with the work on the first album. But the years have made us a little 'more mature and I can say that in spite of all the albums in general it is the best.

CT: Both albums have been released by Pure Steel Records. How did you arrive at a deal with Pure Steel Records and what is your impression of the label so far into your tenure with them?

GR: As said above we got to deal with Pure Steel unexpectedly and fast, a few days after the publication of some pieces that were composed of "Race Of Steel". We are very satisfied with the relationship started with them, it is a label that is growing very quickly, which supports up to their own groups spite of the many difficulties that now pours the music market. We can only be happy to work with them.

CT: The band members, I'm sure, all have different individual influences but when you pool everyone together, what bands and artists have been universally inspirational to those behind Steel Raiser?

GR: The influences of each band member are not very different, although everyone likes listening to music maybe different tastes of others, we still share a passion for classic metal. We love the fathers of metal, bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Saxon and classic sounds are easily tuned by the will to carry on our group.

CT: The Italian scene has been one of the standout areas for Heavy, Speed and Power Metal the past few years. What other bands from this ecclectic country could you recommend listeners to check out? Baphomet's Blood is one of my favorites.

GR: The Italian metal is in good shape, despite the great difficulties facing our country. Of all I would quote Alltheniko and Trinakrius, two great bands.

CT: Is Steel Raiser planning on any performances in the upcoming future? Any festival appearances planned to promote the new album? 

GR: Yes, we are evaluating the possibility of playing outside Italy and to better promote our work. Unfortunately it is not easy to organize everything, but we are using all the energy we have. I think that very soon there will be some good news about it.

CT: What is your opinion on the music industry at large compared to the underground Heavy Metal circuits? I believe that generally underground labels tend to have more invested in their product and care more about their artists than major labels. Your thoughts?

GR: I think the market is the same for labels large and small, I have not noticed a huge support from the small labels, in my experience, to the community. It offers the possibility to distribute the disk, print it, but it is we who produce it with great sacrifices. This is not to say that the independent labels do not have much trouble surviving in these times of economic crisis and do what they can to promote us.

CT: Do you think that with all the new digital file sharing possibilities and ease-of-access to free music via the internet, that there will come a time when there will be no such thing as physical releases for bands?

GR: I hope not. On the one hand the digital market facilitates the distribution and promotion of the work of a band, but do not turn off the physical release. I consider the CD or vinyl a link between the band and their fans unlike the digital release that is cold.

CT: Gianluca, thanks for taking the time to respond to my interview questions! Regeneration is an awesome album and I recommend it to anyone into Heavy Metal and Power Metal. The last words are yours.

GR: Of course, thanks for your support and the opportunity granted. We are satisfied with the work done and the feedback has been very good. This makes us want to keep going with more force our way, to promote our music, have fun and entertain our fans. Thank you again my friend.