Saturday, November 23, 2013

Markradonn - Final Dying Breath

Before even discussing Markradonn’s particular shtick, there is a fantastically bizarre kind of musical ineptitude that must be addressed since it is even more important and apparent than the band’s choice of style. Markradonn on “Final Dying Breath” appear to have absolutely no inclination of what constitutes acceptable repetition for rhythm. Far from being a technical nit-picky complaint, this problem takes a seriously dubious musical concept and makes it nearly unlistenable. Markradonn goes far beyond merely having a repetitive rhythm because the band habitually repeats rhythms that are awkward and disgustingly weak. With that out of the way, Markradonn’s premise is essentially doom/death peppered with random shredding and thoughtless instrumentation choices. What this means is that on top of a persistent and fundamental songwriting problem the band shoehorns in odd instruments, including a brass section, pompously enough to make Bal-Sagoth blush and drop their swords in shame. Along with this they add guitar solos that could very well have been written for songs for a different band. Still, the awful songwriting stands at the forefront above these unusual and poor decisions. The most dreadful part is when the band accents their own weaknesses by emphasizing garbage rhythms with brass sections to create a broken martial sound.

Metal bands don’t typically have a ton of instruments, and for good reason. Most metal musicians lack the ability to write for several different instruments, as it takes all of the challenges of songwriting and multiplies them. Although the members of Markradonn can certainly play their instruments, this doesn’t at all translate into figuring out how to meld metal with the didgeridoo, djembe, tuba, trombone, timpani, french horn, and what feels like everything else in the musical alphabet from accordion to fucking zither. Capable musicianship can mean nothing in the same way that great actors can star in awful movies, a perfectly good tool can be gravely misused. Markradonn misuse their musical assets by carelessly throwing instruments on top of the underlying metal framework. The atypical instruments often just follow the rhythm guitar in the same way that bass players typically do. However, a bass can work in that role because the two instruments compliment each other by design. A trombone is not a bass. This instrument mixing fails in every way, and the band's aberrant ideas unpleasantly clash.What is especially shocking, is how this is the product of several musicians. The compromises inherent in working with others can often have a moderating influences on both creativity and aberrant ideas. Instead, what happened here is a textbook case of groupthink. Some of the music just serves as an ornamentation for the senseless guitar shredding, failing in an attempt to add depth and richness through superficial decoration of scale exercises.

It gets worse, “Cathartic Spiritual Purgation,” the final track, sounds like a drunken Yngwie Malmsteen musically purgating his stomach contents onto a stoned Australian afro-cuban band. This is the kind of song that will make people who have “a worst songs of the year” list have an easy spot to fill and those who don’t have such a list start one just for this song. If you have ever been listening to world music and thought that it could use someone seeing how fast they could play their guitar over it, then this may be the song for you. The silver lining here is that the band closes off “Final Dying Breath” with a song that is completely devoid of their characteristic rhythm disorder/syndrome. This is almost a relief after trudging through things like the repeated 4th beat rest of the flat  lifeless vocals over the gallop rhythm in the song “Final Dying Breath,” or a similarly incessant 4th beat guitar rest in “Internal Hate Unbounded,” and numerous melodic resolutions on weak backbeats. Another rhythmic train wreck of note includes the “Frenzied Winter Sorrow” from about 2:40 until the solo where we have a series of pompous five note chunks, then mindless guitar syncopation, finished off with weak yet momentum murdering rhythms. Even after suffering through all of this, the relatively competent rhythm in the final song does nothing to keep it from being the worst track. In all, this release is so bad that it puts the listener in a bad mood due to its frustrating struggles with fundamental musical concepts. As far as what could generously be called the band’s experimental inclination, it can not salvage the music because Markradonn is musically innovative in the same way that glueing a telephone to an air conditioner with dog spit would be technologically innovative.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

CTP - 011 - I: Suffer Yourself - Inner Sanctum

Polish Funeral Doom Death metal project from Stanislav Govorukha (Ex- Illuminandi, Coram Deo) that will find an appreciative palette with fans of Evoken, Winter and Catacombs. Very well written and produced material from Suffer Yourself. Stanislav now resides in Ukraine.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Earthlord - Earthmission / Scorched Earth - Marauder... No Visibile Scars Casstte Singles

There are so many labels, myself included, doing tapes and shit these days... it's hard to find one that is putting out cool shit. When No Visible Scar's promo pack got dumped on my desk, and I opened it to find a bunch of random shit to review, I sighed, looked at the ten page list of other stuff I've been trying to review and get done and figured that I should try and at least knock out a couple of these reviews quick. Luckily, quick and Cassette-singles go hand in hand. Two of the tapes sent happened to be two song cassette singles in neat little cardboard packages. One of which, Earthlord's Earthmission single, has some serious history to it. The other, Scorched Earth's Marauders quickie is a bit more mundane. Here's both reviews together since, well, they are so short there isn't much need for a single review for both!

Tackling Scorched Earth's Marauders single from No Visible Scars is pretty basic in it's criticism. Formed by Terry McCorriston Scorched Earth's black / thrash style is prevalent on this tape. Once you get past the doomy intro, "Thy Kingdom Doomed" and ransack through the constantly beating rhythms of the title track, "Marauders," you find that there's a certain sense of dullness through the tape with someone boring and over-long melody based riffs. For me, the best part of the tape is bassist Sanford Johnson's interesting scales and free-range playing. The production - it is a tape of course - but I feel like it's missing something to make at least something pop which reinforces that dull and numb feeling of the release. Second song, "Harken to Your Allfather" is stronger and retains more interesting ideas and execution. The lead by Matt Fields also really helps add some standout moments to what was a better track.

A while back I reviewed Astrum's Tales of Witchlore and this reminds me of a better version of that. I would say that Scorched Earth are still on the right track after some good albums and such earlier in their career but the band is no longer active. Unfortunately for Scorched Earth there are more bands doing this style and better at it than they are. The Czech band Avenger comes to mind, also local band Clamfight - though they emphasize a sludgier take share some similar riff patters and styles at times. Speedwolf also come to mind though, Speedwolf are on a pile of skulls far higher than Scorched Earth in terms of overall consistency, riffing memorability, attitude and general kick-assery. I think it all goes back to how white-washed this release sounds. It's too safe for black thrash.

No Visible Scars' Earthlord single is simply a must-own for collectors of US Doom and Metal. The most notable aspect of Earthlord would be perennial service-leader Phil Swanson of Hour of 13, Vestal Claret, the awesome Briton Rites and the epic Atlantean Kodex. Add Fred Melillo of Connecticut's Legend to the mix and you've a sure-fire project that will create, at the very least, something awesome. Though the project is on indefinite hiatus, my hopes is they get together to put together another awesome release because this reminds me of a lot of stuff I'm into. It's got a decisively 90's Heavy Metal feel to it and it shares a lot in common with US Power Metal from this era. There's a spacey atmosphere to accompany the whole thing also which is a bit unique.

First track, "Gods of Antiquity," is the harder hitting of the two songs, pretty straight-forward Heavy Metal / Doom. The highlight though is B-side "He Who Is Of The Water," which is one of the more unique tracks ever. Swanson's vocals are distinctive and sound a bit like he's pretending to be a ghost - or some other creature speaking from the beyond. Bill Ladley (Upwards of Endtime fame - fame used lightly here but the band also included some other well known members) plays almost the whole song through a wah-pedal and the lead halfway through just makes you want to lay back and get burned. If this song was out there in 1980, it could have replaced Don Felder's "Taking A Ride" for the intro sequence of Heavy Metal. It's just got that out there feel. The whole vibe is that of stumbling through your own drug induced comatose and watch the world not understand why you're perfectly alright laying on the wet grass of your neighbors lawn.

Great stuff with this one.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mortalicum - The Endtime Prophecy

On the heels of 2010's Progress of Doom, Sweden's Mortalicum respond with The Endtime Prophecy, which, for the most part, carries on in the same style and feel as their doomy debut. With this second album, Mortalicum seem to have increased their consistency significantly with several standout tracks and very little let down. While the band's clear influences and sound are the same as on their debut, bands like Black Sabbath, Witchfinder General and Pentagram, what I like is the similarity to bands like Acrimony, Mountain and Nazareth. Another close comparison would be to Pagan Altar but Mortalicum don't quite have as much depth or complexity yet.  The band simply strengthens and rounds out their overall sound here, which says a lot about their direction, considering their first album was really quite good. Most bands consciously look to improve but most fail totally, not making headway on the actual problems inherent in their music. Mortalicum, however, seem to have approached The Endtime Prophecy, focusing on the things that they needed to fix or learned from their debut. Henrik Högl and Patrick Backlund still are the most notable characters here though drummer Andreas Häggström and second guitarist Mikael Engström are no slouches. The whole foursome has created an really excellent release.

Something I don't usually find much to discuss are the lyrics and there is improvement on this front from the debut which was nowhere near terrible but had some moments of frivolity. Considering - once more - the purity at which Henrik's vocals are offered, the content of his words are immensely important to the enjoyment of the album. One of the standout aspects here is how personal the lyrics are, something borrowed from the band's hard rock influence more than their metal influences. Straight from the opening track, "My Dying Soul" - one of my favorites on the album - there is a feeling that Henrik is writing an album meant to speak to others. Everyone is emphasizing with each other through a distance of unknowns. Strangers comforting strangers but you don't feel like a stranger afterwards, you feel like Mortalicum cares. It's the lamest way of describing the feeling of listening to these tracks but, it's appropriate. "I am reaching for something to hold on to but the sorrow is true," or "I have worked my fingers to the bone and my heart is heavy like a stone. Reflecting on the past I have seen a true revelation within." Going through some shit personally the past few weeks, "Ballad of a Sorrorwful Man," has hit pretty hard and seemed to be the perfect description of my emotions lately. Maybe it's one of those times when life and music join for a reason greater than simply being enjoyable music.

Mortalicum have improved on the pacing with this album greatly. We still have rather average song lengths of about four and a half minutes but The Endtime Prophecy runs like an athlete compared to Progress of Doom which ran more like an oiled hog on a treadmill. Noticeable is the alternation of the more upbeat and memorable from the more hard-hitting deeper doom tracks. Opener "My Dying Soul," the title track - which rests nicely in the three-spot  - and "Devil's Hand," completes this trilogy of sitting at the prime number spots on the album. Following the pattern though, seventh track, "Ballad of a Sorrowful Man," feels right at home after the harder "Dark Night." It's obvious nod to Sabbath's "Planet Caravan" helps prepare for the longer "Embracing Our Doom" which rounds out the real content of the release. While these are the stronger tracks, and sit better with the overall hard rock / traditional doom style that Mortalicum does so well the harder hitting tracks are much more memorable and fitting than on Progress of Doom. The alternating is fascinating to me because there are listeners out there which might like these prime-number tracks and not the even-numbered tracks.

The alternation makes the album listenable even if you don't exactly like the heavier tracks. Why you wouldn't like those tracks is beyond me though... Starting the even numbered batch is "Revelation Within," which drives cleanly through it's rounds. Högl soars on these tracks similarly to the prime tracks (collective term for tracks one, three, five and seven) but over the harder chugging riffs and heavier progressions he sounds right at home still. Fourth track, "When Hell Freezes Over" is a slower crawling mass that stomps on a pile of groovy legs that makes the shoulders hunch and the neck slowly tense. Wah-drenched guitars laid under the chorus are evident and tie the track back to the psychedelic influences of Sabbath and Acrimony, early Cathedral too. "Dark Night" also is excellent at the sixth spot. The heavier tracks all still have choruses on par with the more up beat tracks, and while it helps the consistency of the album, it also, I feel, my hinder the album from having a single real undeniably anvil-to-the-cranium-heavy, diamond encrusted granite hardened pure doom wallop.

But yeah! Really great album from these guys. If you really like your Traditional Doom, this is a band that seems to be heading in the proper direction with each release. I'm expecting some really great stuff on the next release. Mortalicum have their head - and more important their hearts - in the right spaces it seems. I feel confident that this would end up on my best of list for 2013 releases if I had to put one together. Metal on Metal has a great act here with Mortalicum and I'll be eyeing these guys down for a long time to come. There are not a lot of bands out there that are putting out albums of this consistency and quality. High marks here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Antropofago - Beyond Phobia

Spiders know when they have something in their webs because each thread is connected and movement in one part can be felt throughout. Antropofago makes for a poor spider because none of their riffs are connected and when they briefly catch an idea, nothing can be felt before it flies away. This is a symptom of two common problems with boring mediocre bands, the inability to have exciting riffs, and more importantly the inability to string riffs together. With “Beyond Phobia” Antropofago suffers from these particular weaknesses so severely that it isn’t fair to call the album mediocre - this is roundly subpar death metal. “Beyond Phobia” is a notch below releases that manage just well enough to not actively offend. Typically it is helpful to point to examples of a band’s wrongdoings - nearly any point in the album serves that purpose. While the band occasionally strings some ideas together in this forgettable album, “Beyond Phobia” is still better thought of as a collection of riffs because they never fuse together. Even in the middle of the dazzlingly fast leads there is frequently a strong sense of interruption in the melody. At times it feels like each riff is sabotaging the one before it by introducing different notes and rhythms. On the best song, we have the suspenseful and deceptively interesting intro with its gargantuan bass drum, single vocal croak, and richly swelling guitars. The thin digital music that follows couldn’t be more different.

Unfortunately, thin and digital are adjectives that apply broadly to each instrument, everything could benefit from a more organic and thicker sound. The style isn’t nearly techy enough to justify the tone regardless of whether such a justification is even possible. The bass, while fairly independent, suffers from the additional problems of being too reedy and needing more distortion. You can hear this with particular clarity on “My darkest hour” where the bass’s lackluster downsides are boringly apparent. Drums too are mechanical and far from husky, the toms even have a thicker impact than the kick. While the whole of the album is thin and artificial, the vocals are especially irritating in this respect. Most of the power behind them sounds like it is coming from studio distortion and compression rather than actual volume. The near-spoken and throaty approach would be fine, but it feels like the vocalist is using compression to masquerade as someone with a more distorted style. Also, there is a silly vocal aberration in “Nightfall thoughts,” which is either a sample or band created - a Dracula voice imitation. You can hear the voice struggling to sound low and menacing with the obligatory clean guitar line coming in for an amusement park styled spooky effect.

Moving onto specifics, “Diabolous ex machina” is a fantastically irritating song worth discussing on its own for a bit. Here the band engages in the rare exercise of having several seconds of music that fit together. This is accomplished through an almost poppy chorus, replete with rhyming where we repeatedly hear the insipid song title. The band took the phrase “deus ex machina” and replaced god with the devil. Throughout the song we also hear industrial vocals and noises that transparently act as a literal representation of the “machina” part of the phrase. Stupidity raises to a feverish level at around 2:00 minutes in, when the band cycles through what sounds like a sample pack of public domain sound effects that give way to a robot-voice reading a meme we heard ad nauseum earlier in the album. Hell, next time why not throw in a klaxon and Wilhelm scream too? The band then goes on to repeat this chorus, and due to how awful it is this also creates a sense of song structure, even though the song is garbage. Elsewhere, the riffs are so disconnected and forgettable it doesn’t matter how the songs are put together structurally. However, the rest of the album never dips down into awful territory like this song and generally hovers around subpar.

Aside from really hating one of the songs and having serious reservations about the digital thinness, the overall feel is forgettable and inter-spliced with moments of noticeably bad songwriting. “Beyond Phobia” can grab your attention from being background noise only through the band’s musical missteps. Take for example the first few moments of “Burnt alive,” where the riffs are independently forgettable but stick out because of how abrupt they are together. Moving forward to about two minutes in you can hear a second rare example how the band sounds when they write riffs that serve some kind of melodic purpose. Death metal doesn’t need to have riffs that provide a strong sense of melodic resolution, but when bands go for that approach they usually provide direction by varying intensity to create that “brutal” effect. Antropofago isn’t intense enough to achieve this because the band can’t manage to balance musical ideas. The poppier chorus in “Diabolous ex machina”and the slow final track are some of the most musically coherent and least intense moments on the album. Conversely, the comparatively techy and fast portions that make up the bulk of the album are lacking a sense of melodic flow. 

Antropofago needs to focus more on their overall mood and stop jumping around from riff to unrelated riff. Repetition can be fine if you have a good idea or even a mediocre one. Brief moments like the fast part midway through “Arachno” are the kinds of groves the band should settle on and accent with their more disjointed lines rather than having their songs focus on non-sequitur changes. The start of “My darkest hour” is another example of the band settling down on a riff, and Antropofago needs to do this more often and frankly with better riffs at that. If these songwriting issues were addressed the tonal problems would become less of an issue. Fast and technical music can focus attention away from timbre, but it would still be nice if “Beyond Phobia” had a richer palate of tones. This album’s problems, while not terrible, make it one to skip over, even for die hard death metal fans.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New Releases Available Now!

 Three new Contaminated Tones Production releases are available. First Lamentations of the Ashen's EKIMMV tape. Distinctive black metal with hints of doom and ambient. Preview on the Lamentations of the Ashen Bandcamp page. $5.00

Next up is the repress of Black Chalice's - Submission which sold out last year. Doom / Death Metal with a spacy, melancholy atmosphere. To honor it's second pressing, we imprinted the tape with gold lettering and added a bonus track titled "Wain."  $6.00


 Lastly, the newest Black Chalice release, Obsidian, in a visually distinctive neon. Similar musically to Submission. More information and samples are available on the Black Chalice Bandcamp page.$4.00.


I'm offering a package deal on the Black Chalice tapes. You can buy both tapes for $9 and save yourself a buck. You can get all three new releases for $13 and save $2. These pressings are all limited to 100 copies. Simply email me to order.

The next set of news is on the last release from this set. Contaminated Tones proudly announces that in two weeks, Polish / Ukrainian one-man Death Doom band Suffer Yourself will present Inner Sanctum. Check out the awesome release and then keep an eye on the Contaminated Tones Facebook page for the latest updates.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Lionel Pryor Interview - June, 2013

A band that I've been following the past few months, and shot some footage of back in June, Lionel Pryor combine elements of all sorts of genres into a mash up of material performed by skilled individuals. While Pryor probably won't appeal to the ultra-raw lo-fi black metal or brutal skull-carving death metal types, those interested in music beyond beyond the underground metal scene would probably enjoy their take on instrumental metal. There is enough Metal, Doom and Sabbath influence here to warrant showing on Contaminated Tones but with other influences such as King Crimson, Rush and all sorts of Jazz and Rock influences, who knows where this band really falls. I caught up with them after their June 6th show at Saint Vitus Bar and just recently finished the transcription. It's tough figuring out three people talking...

CT: How many shows have you guys played, I guess, as a band. This is kind of like a...

Zakk: We've been a band for almost two years.

Mike: Yeah we've been playing a lot of shows. We try to play, I mean, a couple times a month if not at least once a week.

Zakk: We've definitely played over fifty shows all around...

Mike: Fifty? I would say like three... two hundred prolly...

Zakk: No. I don't think two hundred. We definitely played over fifty shows, 'cuz we play in New Jersey, New York, Brooklyn, Pennsylvania.

CT: On average, how many people do you think come out to your shows. Is there a certain area that gives you more...

Zakk: Yeah, Pennsylvania.

CT: Everyone comes out in Pennsylvania?

Mike: We've gone out to Pennsylvania twice, they've been very good to us. They definitely appreciate the music more. They come out to support us. Awesome crowd up there. We want to expand more too. You know? Like we feel like this area (Brooklyn - CT) there's a lot of techno driven stuff and if you're open to like give us a shot. Yeah.. Definitely worth the listen I think. I don't know. You got to hear us play tonight so I think we're a live band overall.

Zakk: Yeah. Definitely.

CT: Definitely interesting watching you play live because I've only been able to listen to you online or MP3 or whatever.

Mike: Yeah, definitely make sure you grab a CD before you go.

CT: Yeah I will definitely grab a CD before I leave.

Mike: We have that new one we just released. It's called Azhadhak. I'm like really pumped about that CD. I think it's like... it's just that one that really puts us on the map.

CT: Tell me about the CD. You guys are an instrumental band but from what I've seen there is lyrical contents involved with it.

Mike: We've tried out singers before I mean...

Zakk: Yeah. We've tried out a bunch of singers.

Mike: ...but we're looking for to fit the mold. Everyone's usually just backing off with like "I don't know what to put over this."

Zakk: We're super picky.

Mike: We're just waiting for Mike Patton to be like, "Alright, I'm ready to sing for you dudes."

Zakk: That's who we want to sing for us: Mike Patton.

Mike: That's what it's coming down to. But I mean, we're still open for anything. We love jamming, we're definitely a jam band.

Zakk: The only reason we jamming man.. is because we smoke weed.. and then just start jamming and then we film it, and then we listen to it and we're like...

Mike: That part's cool.

Zakk: ...that part's cool yeah... and then we make our songs from there.

CT: What kind of a vocalist would you be looking for if you could have... what's your ideal vocalist? If you had to pick a vocalist from another band...

Zakk: Mike Patton.

Mike: Someone who can groove man. Like I said, we started off just jamming, and we never found that extra element that could fill our sound even more so I mean, I think that we definitely feel that we have a good sound going now and if it's not going to add something to it then we wouldn't mind chilling instrumental until we find that crowd that's like dude... this is the music I want to listen to. This is a different thing that's not coming out anywhere.

CT: So tell me, who writes the thematical content for your records considering... cause from what I've seen it's kind of out there as far as...

Zakk: Ok so, the new CD, Me and Andy brainstormed like some ideas and Mike like... all of... everything we do is collective. Like everything we do is collective but Andy had a friend, this kid Nardy who wrote a bunch of monologues and those are the ones on the new CD and we just told him the theme we wanted and he kind of just wrote toward that.

CT: Very interesting. So as a band.. So tell me, I guess, how the band formed, who met who and how have you guys known each other beforehand or?

Zakk: I've known Mike... we've known each other since we were like in kindergarten...

Mike: We've just been jamming since we were like young kids.

Zakk: Yeah we've been jamming since we were like eleven or twelve years old...

Mike: And then we met Andy and we were like dude, let's throw him in the mix.

Zakk: We were all in tons of bands like before this. Me and him were in tons of bands. I was in a band with Andy before that. Like I went to college and I was in a band like, we all do a lot of music. Mike was in cover bands and stuff making money.

Mike: We all knew each other through the music scene.

Zakk: And then we kind of started jamming when we were like it's cool.

Mike: Let's roll with this man!

Zakk: We've just been playing shows ever since.

Mike: Let's do it! It's all about fun man. Music is fun. It should be fun. When we play music, like, I'm having a great time and if the audience is having fun I feel like I'm doing my job. You know what I mean?

CT: Definitely. So you guys recorded the new album where and how did the new album come... did you guys write all the songs in studio or before hand.

Mike: There was definitely... go ahead...

Zakk: We had everything written before the studio. We recorded at Backroom Studios with Kevin Antreassian and he's the man... he was just on tour with The Deftones. He was doing guitar teching for them and like, Dillinger recorded there - Dillinger Escape Plan - and he used to be their guitar tech... so he's amazing. He's a great recording engineer. Everyone should go to him.

Mike: One hundred percent he's the man.

Zakk: Yeah, he's the man. We would go into him with the songs and he would like add little layers and stuff and there's a few things that he played on there like he'll take something I'm playing and just do like a certain harmony and like, so he's a producer as well as an engineer. Definitely wears both hats.

CT: What bands I guess... What bands have influenced you guys as musicians individually and without going for like... a thousand minutes.

Mike: I think our music has definitely has shaped... we've been jamming out for the last three years and when we started to where we are now I think we've evolved so much as a band and a lot of influences have definitely been there since the beginning. You've got Black Sabbath and...

Zakk: That's like the number one influence of everyone...

Mike: Dude... you hear that in our music.. that's like the number one... they set the tone you know? That's a good thing...

Zakk: Mike loves Kiss. That's his favorite band.

Mike: Dude. Kiss! I'll take them any day of the week. And Opeth is definitely a huge influence...

Zakk: Opeth, Porcupine Tree... I love progressive stuff, 70's prog. All that stuff.

Mike: Dude, that's it like... King Crimson dude. They just blow your mind. We really want to recreate those things you don't really hear too much anymore.

Zakk: Electric Miles Davis from the 70's...

Mike: Ahh dude... Miles! Come on! You can't get better than Miles.

Zakk: Andy, come here we're getting interviewed. Get in here. Yeah We got Andy.

Mike: This is Andy, the bass player.

CT: This is Andy, the bass player.

Andy: What's going on?

CT: How's it going?

Andy: Pretty good. Tired.

CT: Tired?

Andy: Got to go to work at six-o'clock in the morning.

CT: Me too! It's a terrible thing!

Andy: It's awful. Haha.

CT: So, I was just asking them about individual influences and stuff and as a bass player, what bassists have influenced you?

Andy: Ummm..

CT: You have four seconds... go!

Andy: I guess the first band is Mercury Program. That was the first instrumental that really influenced my bass playing. I think even still to this day I always go back to them for my bass playing. Another bass player I guess is Tool. Cause it's on the other side of the spectrum - it's a little heavier and little more intricate, a little more groovier... so I kind of have the combination of both and all three of us have been metalheads from the start even though we're all a little bit different in the sense of genre but in the end we always go back to that metal sound and I think like my bass lines his drumming his guitar playing just came together... just like that... it wasn't even like...

Zakk: Mike the we... I mean, Mike's the funny one, Andy's the weird one.. I'm the serious one.

Andy: Yeah. Yeah.. Exactly. You know...

Zakk: Categorize..

Andy: It's almost the equivalent like you can call that our musical style...

Zakk: That's what I'm saying like in terms of influences... Andy's got a lot of weird influences not just... like you world music and tons of stuff. Mike's like.. I wouldn't say you're... but you're more conventional. You like a lot of...

Andy: Kiss! That's a perfect example.

Zakk: Yeah there you go. Mike loves the hits dude. And Mike can play everything on guitar in his jukebox.

Mike: I know I know.

Zakk: And I like music all over the place like I tend to like darker shit too like black metal and all that stuff.

CT: What's in your CD players right now? What have you been listening to the last week?

Mike: Lionel Pryor. Haha.

Zakk: There's a band playing here (St. Vitus - CT) tomorrow that I might come see... Windhand.

CT: That's on the Clamfight, King's Destroy show?

Zakk: Yeah yeah. They're cool man. They're good. They sound like Electric Wizard but like... a little tighter. Electric Wizard are awesome but they're a little loose. I mean I've been listening to a lot of like, sludgy stuff lately and then, I'm always listening to King Crimson.

CT: You guys post... I mean on your facebook... you've posted King Crimson videos and shit...

Zakk: Yeah Dude. 80's Crimson is fucking awesome.

Mike: I've been listening to a lot of M.I.A Paper Planes Pandora station. It's Paper Planes' Pandora Station.

Zakk: He was rocking out to Sex and Candy on the way down. Haha.

Andy: Dude! Great tune!

CT: What other bands have you interviewed from NJ that you would recommend to people?

Andy: There's two that come to mind. The first is Torrential Downpour and Toothgrinder. Are definitely the two that are like... out of all the bands that are like we've recently played with those are the two that... and Gyre... yeah Gyre. Those guys definitely like stuck out the most.... Obviously we're a little bit different from other bands in NJ. We're instrumental and we don't really have a genre you can say and it's nice to meet bands that are out of the box, yo uknow and sound a little different and are musically inclined about it too. For instance Toothgrinder, Torrential Downpour, Gyre, Impossible Voyage... they definitely think outside the box with their music. And we've only known them for about six months, maybe.

Zakk: We've known Gyre for a long time. I've known Toothgrinder for a while because I've gone to school with one of them.

Andy: Yeah we've known Gyre for a long time but playing shows wise, you know we just recently started doing it and its been fun, you know. And you know, we want to keep on doing it. We just released a new album, came out two months ago, we released it April Fools day.

CT: Is it a joke album?

Andy: No, it's all.. we released it

Mike: It's not a bigger joke than Collateral Jamage.

CT: That has to be one of the best names I've heard in a long time. What are you doing to end out this year? Do you have any more releases or shows coming up?

Andy: We're playing two festivals at the end of June one is called The Tiny Giant Summer Bummer festival. We're part of this musical group on Facebook and, it's cool it's a collective of like three dozen bands and we all help each other pass on shows. Some people are promoters, some people are reviewers of CDs and so on and so forth and so, we had this show in the background for a couple months now and it's finally happening at the end of June. June 22nd in Asbury Lanes. And a bunch of bands from that group are playing and the following week we are playing Kitten Fest. I think it's the eigth or ninth Kitten Fest and it's basically a bunch of hippie kids rent out a giant backyard and it's facepainting and beachballs flowing around and shirtless dudes and shirtless girls...

Zakk: Last year we met some guy and he gave us acid.

Andy: So that's Kitten Fest and after that we're going take a little break and we're probably going.. you know we're writing monsters so literally, we'd write an album and they'd we'd be like 'let's write some NEW songs. So I think we're in that groove right now. We just released this new album and some of the songs we've been playing for a couple months so it's like, I think we want to do some kind of like, demo or ep... like four songs. Ideally I'd like to make it a concept but... we're just going to take some time off, write some stuff and start kicking it again maybe like early September, Octoberish area. And it's like. We're going to play it out.

It's NJ you know, so it's tough, especially since the venue Maxwell's in Hoboken closed down, and that is like the venue in Jersey to play and it's like... it's almost going to destroy the scene because in the sense of a local band, there's nothing you can build up to. You know Dingbats, I mean Maxwell's was a place where you could build up to to potentially play with a bigger band. Now since that's gone what's left? Like Starland... Stone Pony? Those places... no one gives a shit about those places anymore. I feel like people are into the smaller type of stuff. Local...

Zakk: Saint Vitus...

Andy: Yeah, Saint Vitus... and it's... basically it's like... I don't know what's going on in the future. I think we want to play some shows... shop around our album. That's another thing we want to do near the end of the summer. We're really going to sit down... look at blogs... push the album... try to the more of the internet side of things. We've got the live element, we've got the music... and again, I don't want to sound like a broken record but we're instrumental metal in New Jersey which is filled with garbage music. And it's really hard to climb to the top like that.

Mike: Andy, want a beer?

Andy: No... I really got to go home. Hahaha.

CT: Before you leave, how can people get in contact with you guys if they want to get a copy of your album or...

Mike: Can we do shout outs? Shout out to us on Facebook. You can definitely find a way to get in contact with us through the internet. Coming out to shows.

Zakk: Facebook, coming out to shows. That's the main way to get in touch with us. Definitely Facebook, we do everything on Facebook and music-wise we do everything through Bandcamp. We sell our music on Bandcamp. That's like the way to hear our music - on Bandcamp. Contact is through Facebook.

Mike: Dude we are all about people checking it out, coming out to see us not being afraid to check out something different. I hope you got something out of it because it makes my night if you did.

CT: It was a cool show. I got to watch this dude play bass. As a bassist, to watch someone play slap mixed with tapping.. that's where it's at.

Andy: Haha. Thank you.

CT: Thanks guys.

Mike: Thank you!
Andy: Thanks
Zakk: Solid dude.

Mortalicum - Progress of Doom

It's no secret that Sweden is a top tier metal country. Hell, I'm reviewing this while wearing a Candlemass Nightfall t-shirt. Appropriate for the genre here, as well as the locale. Mortalicum, based out of Sundsvall, comes from an area of Sweden with very few recognizable bands. The best known is probably Setherial, who have nothing in common with the Heavy Doom that Mortalicum cook up. 2010's Progress of Doom, from a critique standpoint is a good first debut for a band which has a serious talent for welding memorable hard rock moments onto the Doom and Stoner Doom chasis which gives the band the power that would appeal to metalheads. With Progress... Mortalicum creates the vibe of a hardworking garage band that plays local bars whom everyone wishes would just get that one huge break so they could all of a sudden play to stadiums. They really epitomize everything I find endearing in great Heavy Metal, especially when it's slightly on the Doomier side. Lyrically, Mortalicum are clean and sharp and direct. You can actually belt out right along with the vocals because Henrik Högl has great inflection and pronunciation. Musically they are extremely tight, hit all the the right notes at the right times and fill down time with riffs and fills that sound like those parts NEED to be there. They conjure up similarities to a lot of bands but none so much that they sound like a worship band.

While all the tracks here are really good, it's fifth and sixth tracks which really make Progress of Doom something that deserves to take residence in many record collections. "Power and Control,"  absolutely undresses me, makes me sweaty and uncomfortably excited first. With a simple, yet decisively killer riff that wouldn't be far off of something on Jaguar's Power Games,  the force and emotion behind the music empower a set of lyrics which are eerily similar to something I've written for a future project in the same vein. It's like these guys stole the song I wrote. That's fine because they've done a better job than something I could have done anyway. The hefty weight of a simple memorable structure, lyrics about greedy assholes that care for nothing but themselves - lyrics about people which everyone generally both hates and also has first hand experience with - and Henrik's everyman vocal quality just drives home the point that there are a lot of pissed off people that find better ways to express their frustrations than shooting up schools. This is probably the most pissed off track on the album.

Opting to keep the album on the right track, "The Voyager" follows, more in line with the jammy vibe mentioned earlier. It's got more of a modern Pentagram or Monument-era Grand Magus touch - a touch which becomes more readily apparent on the follow up album - to the movement of the track and the placement of details. Either way, "The Voyager" rocks hard and tough and nasty, even though it's a really upbeat, individualistic track. The repetition of lyrics in the track is a bit more than necessary, omitting maybe one or two of the refrains would clear up some room and breath in the song, but honestly, I've got little complaints about a song with lyrics like "From the shoulder of Orion, I have seen your wars, Fighting the endless battle, Trying to save your souls." The repetition and ease at which this song sinks into your head would make it about as good of a choice for compilations and radio play as it would be a good idea for pizza places to serve cold pizza during the summer months. The only problem with both "Power and Control," and "The Voyager," is that the tracks are so strong it leaves the final tracks vulnerable to expectations. That's exactly what happens here.

"Revolution in Vain" sounds incomplete for some reason. The foundation isn't bad. The opening riff doesn't build really at all and it leaves the song with an immediate dullness somehow. The verse riffs would fit at home on Candlemass' self titled album. Something about both "Darkness All Around" and  "Inner Peace" make me feel as if these are a demo track or a scratch track or something. Backing vocals in "Darkness All Around" sound flat and out of place. Fortunately, the final ten minute culminating track "Damnation of the Soul" is a perfect solution to the end of this album, as it flows gently, yet uneasily dark from my speakers. The talents of bassist Patrick Backlund and drummer Andreas Häggström on Progress of Doom are not to be neglected though and both really round out the band's sound notably. Backlund, in particular, has a lot of clout with the band's sound.  Mortalicum's debut sets them up well for their sophomore effort, The Endtime Prophecy which, I know, is excellent and also leaves them with a lot of opportunity in the future if they wanted to do a bit more of a down and dirty doom beast, as the guitars and vibe of this album is more in line with that.