Monday, January 31, 2011

road therapy / thine

A Town Like This
1998 / Peaceville

A more soothing than usual but engrossing road companion today - a vastly underrated album by a widely unknown band. It's usually the case, when there's a sort of musical "movement",that some bands never get the recognition they would deserve. If it happened with lots of unheralded pearls of the NWOBHM, for example, then it's not that strange that some products of the 90s Peaceville-doom front, as I like to see it, never got the universal praise of the Paradise Lost, Anathema and My Dying Brides of this world.

A Town Like This, from 1998, is the first of only two albums Thine have released and while it shares some similarities with the aformentioned (especially Alan Gaunt's vocals, which sound like Aaron Stainthorpe on his less theatrical moments, peppered with some Nick Cave-isms), it's also refreshingly unique. Sober and sombre, elegant but with unexpected atmospheric flair like on 'Miss Grey'(where even the female vocals don't sound like a tired cliché) and an intelligent use of keyboards, it's a shame it didn't reach its huge potential audience. The band released the second album 'In Therapy' four years later, in 2002, and while it took a while longer to settle in than this one, it showed progression and a will to experiment, so it's a shame they've disappeared since then. I just noticed they have an official facebook and there's talk of new rehearsals there, so maybe there'll be more chapters to the unfinished Thine saga. Here's hoping!

OM at ZDB, Lisboa / Jan 30th 2011

Getting used to luxury is a bitch, baloney sandwiches don't taste so great afterwards. Last time I had seen OM had been at doom's equivalent to the fucking Ritz, Roadburn Festival's main stage at the 013, and the sound was so crystal-clear and potent then that the bass thumped my chest and Al Cisnero's trance-inducing grooves thumped my soul. Or something metaphorically equivalent to AWESOME of that sort. Yesterday, at the crowded ZDB, it wasn't, understandably, quite the same. Stuff rattled when the frequencies went lower, Emil Amos' powerhouse drumming tends to drown out the rest a slight bit more than it should and not even the "intimate setting" chestnut suits it, because at Roadburn you feel intimate with 3.000 other people effortlessly at every gig. It's a small and old room more suited to bands less dependent on a good sound, especially on a good low end sound, even if it did get more balanced as the show went on, especially as the vocals got a bit louder.

Still, and this is where the band themselves and their inherent talent come in, it was great all the same. You can't help it, can you? Soon as that mantra verse of 'Rays Of The Sun / To The Shrinebuilder' kicks in (it was the second song last night right after 'Meditation Is The Practice Of Death' off the latest album), we're all like charmed snakes twisting our way out of the basket, who cares if the sound isn't perfect. Tiny mistake or two aside (let's call it his personal interpretation of the song), Emil really is a great drummer, and on such a percussive song he truly shines. Rob Lowe came along for the ride as well, and his various noises, percussion and creepy vocals add a much welcome layer of texture to the ritual. Because that's what it is, isn't it? If any doubts remained, Cisneros and fellow spiritual vessels dissipated them with both Cremation Ghats, the towering legend of 'At Giza' and the post-encore hypnosis of 'Bhima's Theme'.

Two important lessons from last night as well: first, all Al said to the audience was a heartfelt "thank you!" at the end, accompanied by a wave of his bass. That's all we need, okay, other bands? We know your record is for sale at the merch table, we know you've come from wherever it was that you did, and we know which album that next song is from. And you're not Jerry Seinfeld and we didn't come here for fucking stand-up comedy either. So learn something from Al. Secondly, although local musician Gabriel Ferrandini's opening freejazzy drum improv session went straight over the heads of most of the present, especially by those more inclined to mock an artist they paid to watch (make up your minds, people), it just further reinforced what I suddenly realized during Daniel Higgs' stellar performance before Neurosis last month in London - if you really need an opening act, make it a surprising and different one. The last thing I want to see before a cool black metal band is a slightly less cool black metal band I've seen tons of times already, the last thing I want to see tacked to a doom gig is a bit more of a slightly less cool doom gig. Okay?

Now go listen to all those OM albums and sway, you know you want to.

Meditation Is The Practice Of Death
Rays Of The Sun / To The Shrinebuilder
Cremation Ghat I
Cremation Ghat II
At Giza
Bhima's Theme

(videos by Luana Magalhães)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

top 10 bands from Switzerland
01. Hellhammer / Celtic Frost / Triptykon
02. The Young Gods
03. Samael
04. Mumakil
05. Knut
06. Zatokrev
07. Impure Wilhelmina
08. Rorcal
09. Coroner
10. Kehlvin

Saturday, January 29, 2011

(click on each of the pages to see the readable large version)

Published: Rock-a-Rolla #14, May 2008
Interviewee: Ryan Lipynsky
Random facts:
- Yeah, I called Ryan a rather more confusing Rion during the whole article. I can swear I looked it up on their MySpace at the time, actually to make sure of the spelling of Lipynsky, ironically enough, and the first name was written like that there. Oh well, shit happens.
- Electrocution, the new album at the time of this interview, is my favourite Unearthly Trance album.
- Why the hell haven't Unearthly Trance ever played at Roadburn?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

road therapy / drowningman

Rock And Roll Killing Machine
2000 / Revelation Records

A perfect album for a short drive, my vehicular back and forths today were enough for this short and sweet blast of adrenaline to play all the way through twice. If you're suffering from apathy or laziness, then that dosage should be a can't miss prescription. Chaotic, unhinged blasts of infuriatingly catchy hardcore'n'roll that puts to shame anything The Dillinger Escape Plan have tried after 'Calculating Infinity', for example. Oh, and some of the best song titles ever, too. 'Last Week's Minutes From The Secret Society Of Your Friends Who Actually Hate You'? 'If God Loves A Winner He's Going To Want To Fuck Me In A Minute'? Yes, please.

I'm lucky enough to know a stupid amount of wonderful, talented and nice people in this grotto that is our global musical underground, so why not take advantage of that to actually have someone cool writing on this blog, for once? So, I'll try to have a little Q&A with some kickass musician-or-related person every Thursday here for your enjoyment. First of the cool brigade is Mike, who plays in Ensorcelor, one of the new bands that have gotten me more excited (here and here) in the past months, and who had the patience to go through the 10 rounds and come out unscathed.

1. I called your vocalist Jonah a sewer mutant last time I talked about your band in public. If you were all horrid fictional creatures, what would each of you be?
Mike: Jonah is definitely a sewer mutant. Maybe a CHUD? Hal is a reptilian humanoid beast warrior with poisonous spikes... Taylor is a doom goblin. Yailen is a harpy. I am a squirrel. Martin is an ent.

2. What is exactly that thing around Jonah's microphone stand?
M: Jonah's mic stand is a log. Its sort of wrapped up with vines and twine and teeth... so I guess it depends which of these things you're actually referring to...
[in my defense, it's not entirely obvious from this photo, for example. If I had looked at this one, I would have realized it was a log and not made a fool of myself. Ahem.]

3. Besides Ensorcelor, you also have a solo project, Æsahættr, and a cool record label, Media Tree. It all seems like a lot of work, but are they actually activities that take a lot of your time? How’s your day to day management of those things?
M: It varies. Ensorcelor has been slowly getting back on its feet - after a pretty busy summer of shows and recording, etc, our drummer Greg decided to leave the band, which was an amicable parting, but a bummer all the same. Right around that time, Hal left for a European tour with his other band for about 2 months, so we've been slowly picking up again and working on new material with our new drummer, Taylor.

Media Tree stuff has been slower lately too (buy more tapes, people! [hear, hear]), but it's going to be a lot of work very soon...

Æsahættr is a pretty sporadic thing, that I tend to only have inspiration for in the winter, as cliché as that may sound. Things are progressing pretty slowly with that right now, due to unseasonably mild weather. With Æsahættr i'm sort of struggling with new recording software as well, because I swore to myself I would never record another record the way I made the last one; unfortunately, I'm a bit of a curmudgeon; realizing they weren't going to go away, I finally bought my first computer about a year ago, and the steep learning curve involved with this new way of recording has me at a bit of a standstill.  Honestly, I'm a bit antsy, as things stand at this moment, but the enormity of what I have planned for the next few months is staggering. Intimidating.

I guess despite being in a bit of a doldrums, project-wise at this moment, the reason I am able to juggle all these things is that I have no social life whatsoever, at least not outside of these projects (that is, if you can call once-weekly band practices “having a social life”). I have become a bit reclusive, it would seem...

4. Speaking of Æsahættr, I think the self-titled demo is awesome and it deserves to be more well known. Enlighten everyone about that project a bit further.
M: Æsahættr is my black metal project. In 2008 I was living in a city I hated, where I knew no one, and where I was stuck. A car had hit me while I was biking, and I spent 8 months in intense pain, going through rehabilitations and surgery, and learning how to walk again. A small solace was that I had an electric guitar (no amp) and regular access to a computer.  I wrote and tabbed all of the songs for the most part while recovering from surgery, and only started to record them upon returning to Montréal, and to what of my gear had not been stolen from storage in my absence. I made the entire recording using a boss BR-8 that I had purchased in 1998 or somewhere thereabouts (It takes zip disks; ever heard of those?). I tried to track all the guitars as “honestly” as possible,  playing every track from beginning to end without punch-ins (there are as few overdubs, though), with the amps cranked to the same volume they would have been had I been playing live. I then took this mess of zip disks to my friends Mark Lawson (yes, the same guy who works on the Arcade Fire records...) and Tyler Crawford, and they made it all make sense.

Thematically, Æsahættr is inspired by His Dark Materials by Phillp Pullman, which, if you have seen the film version of The Golden Compass, you will think is silly, but if you've read the books you may think otherwise. I had seen the movie adaptation of The Golden Compass, and as much as I was initially stoked about armoured polar bears (i'm fascinated with the Arctic), I thought the film was beyond awful; it took a lot of convincing from a good friend to get me to read the books after that. The film really gives no indication of the atheistic and gnostic themes in the books, nor does it reveal that the culmination of this story is a war against god, (“the authority”) and the church. Sure, the books are written for kids, but they also take place in the Arctic, have witches and talking polar bears who wear armour, as well as a knife that can cut through the fabric of reality and kill gods. Metal!

I have vague aspirations to cobble together some able musicians (from Ensorcelor, mostly) and perform live with Æsahættr. This will most likely mean I will have to slow the songs down a bit for the sake of finding a mortal who can actually play the drum parts... but we'll see. Many new songs have been/are being written, but will likely not be recorded for some time. I would put the ETA on a new album at 2-3 years, or maybe never. Who knows?

5. Are these your first bands, or were you in any kinda embarrassing pre-demo or high school sort of formative bands?
M: Sure, we were all in embarrassing high school bands... except Yailén; Ensorcelor is her first band! That was a long time ago though. Quickly, here's some of the stuff we've been involved with recently:

Hal: Preying hands, Snake Master (the poor man's Skeleton Witch), To The Cliffs.
Jonah: Snake Master, To The Cliffs (7 piece death/thrash party), Shelley (sword waving NWOBHM), did “Canadian vocals” on a Takaru record.
Me: Ballast (crust), Kale (crappy off minor?).
Greg: Die Brucke (Haligonian thrash attack), The Literati (punks that read)
Taylor: Womb Raider (thrashy power violence), Barn Burner (total party metal)
Martin: Vile Intent, Womb Raider, Barrier
Yailen is now doing vocals in a brand new doom band called Xothogua as well, with members of Boneblack and To The Cliffs. They have many big amps, and definitely have a more traditional doom approach.

As a side note, the reason so  many people are listed here is that i'm including both the old and new drummers; additionally, Martin has recently joined forces with us. He does a bit of everything... he's a multitasking drone wizard. We're getting a little noisier, as a result.

6. Ensorcelor’s and Æsahættr’s first (and only so far) demos were released on the proper demo format, tapes. Gorgeously packaged tapes, if I might add. You also release other band’s tapes on Media Tree. Are tapes the new vinyl?
M: No. Vinyl is my favourite way to experience recordings, by far, and it has always been  my intention to start releasing vinyl. Tapes are what I can afford to put out at this time, and the format I felt was most appropriate for the material I was putting out. It's true what you say,  it's not really a “proper” demo unless it's on cassette. For me tapes never “went away”; I have always loved them, and always will. I know there's been kind of a cassette renaissance lately, oft maligned as a “hipster fad”, which is unfortunate, and pretty off base. I think this resurgence can be attributed to peoples disenchantment and boredom with compact discs and (even more so)  mp3s. Despite serving a purpose, Mp3s are soulless and tawdry - they sound like shit. They lack so many of the enjoyable aspects of a tangible release. The warmth of analogue. Full sized artwork. Well thought out booklets and inserts.  The satisfaction of holding a 180g LP in your hands, or the surprise when you open a new record for the first time and find out it's on some crazy colour of vinyl. Tapes hissing, and vinyl popping. That shit is good, and people miss it.

Having said that, I think Mp3s and downloading serve a purpose for sure, but they shouldn't be an end in themselves. I have found a lot of great music by downloading things that looked interesting; in as many cases possible I have sought out the physical format of the release as well; on the other side of that coin, I have definitely downloaded a lot of things I'm really glad I didn't buy! A cool thing about mp3s, ,and the whole blog thing too is that it makes rare recordings available for free that would cost a lot of money to track down copies of, or which have disappeared entirely.

7. The designs for both the releases and the t-shirts of your bands are seriously amazing. Who of you is the designer?
M: Jonah's brother Zac drew the “Tentacleburg” for the Ensorcelor shirts and demos under Jonah's direction; Jonah and I collaborated on the “logo”. I put it together, and did all the layout etc. for Æsahættr and everything else beyond that. Eibon were pretty specific about what they wanted, and supplied most of the artwork. All I designed for that was the cassette shell imprint. I did make all of the cases by hand, though, which was a terrible pain in the ass.

8. Speaking of t-shirts, the only reason I don’t wear one of yours to work every day is that Canadian shipping is insane. Is there an explanation for this? And if so, who can we kill to resolve the situation?
M: Just be glad you don't live in the USA! Just to ship something across an imaginary line, the costs are pretty much on par with the European shipping rates! I feel terrible when I have to tell someone it's going to cost them $12 to ship a t-shirt and a cassette from Montreal to Albany... it's absurd!

9. Couldn’t help noticing your last name is Kirkenbrannsår, or at least that’s what it says here. So you do all this cool occult metal because you’re secretly Norwegian?
M: Yes, exactly.

10. What were your five favourite records of 2010? (Media Tree releases don’t count!)
M: 1. Since technically I haven't released it yet,  I 'm going to have to say the Pallbearer demo. I can't stop listening to it, it's so perfect and amazing. If there's any justice in the world, this band will be huge. Well, you know, underground huge...
2. Monarch - Sabbat Noir. Not sure if this is technically a 2010 release, but it rules, and Monarch rules. I love how closely their live shows resemble their recordings, despite being largely improvised, structurally. They operate unlike any band I have ever seen...
3. Ludicra – The Tenant. Ludicra are black metal royalty in their own right, and they are an incredible live band. The tenant is their strongest album yet.
4. Woe – Quietly, Undramatically. The first Woe record was great, and this one is even better; I don't care what you think.
5. Haggatha - second s/t LP why does this band seem to get completely overlooked? Really solid sludge/doom band coming out of Vancouver B.C. Their records are great, their live show is crushing, and they tour their asses off, so what the fuck? Their last LP is one of the coolest things I have ever seen, as well... get into it!

Honourable mentions:

6.    Ayr – Circling. Repetitive but solid black metal. Nice tapes.
7.    Necrite – Sic Transit Gloria Mundi. Probably the only reason this isn't higher on the list is that I haven't had time to give it the amount of attention it commands. Through-composed, atmospheric, creepy black metal; incredibly well done.
8.    Sorrows - s/t. 2nd wave Norwegian orthodoxy from the USA in 2010. hmm...
9.    Ascension – Consolamentum. Unrelenting! Evil! Brootal! Vræææææææl!
10.     Gates – Moths Have Eaten the Core. - Exceptional drone project from Canada. Heavy.  Again, not sure if this is a 2010 release, because it was recorded in 2008, but I think the CD version came out in 2010.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

top 10 Iron Maiden albums
01. Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
02. Iron Maiden
03. Live After Death (it counts, okay?)
04. Piece Of Mind
05. Somewhere In Time
06. Killers
07. The Number Of The Beast
08. Powerslave
09. The Final Frontier
10. Fear Of The Dark

you need this

...and the reason you need it is because the third and last song on this short and sweet 7" of cover songs is a gentle, acoustic version of Darkthrone's 'Transylvanian Hunger'. 'Nuff fucking said.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

road therapy / bodychoke

Cold River Songs
1998 / Purity (reissue 2009 / Relapse)

In the car today, Bodychoke's 'Cold River Songs' - harsh and aggressive martial riffs to make sure I don't fall asleep at the wheel, and enough nihilistic misery poured out by Kevin Tomkins for me to not care anyway if I do.

Boggles my mind how this album isn't mentioned way up there with people like Godflesh. Bodychoke weren't a bunch of unknowns (Kevin Tomkins and Paul Taylor were in power electronics legends Sutcliffe Jügend), previous album 'Five Prostitutes' was produced by Steve Albini and this, their 1998 swansong, is powerful, dynamic, bile-ridden noise rock at its best. Especially this 2009 Relapse remastered reissue that I have (hence that cover up there), with three extra songs that totally fit the mood and flow of the album. Wish they'd feature on that top 10 of good reunions I posted yesterday!

Here's a new (ir)regular feature from now on.
So, today's top 10, while still waiting for that Amebix album, crossing fingers for Saint Vitus and probably forgetting a ton more:

10 reunions/comebacks that were actually worth it
01. Swans (2010)
02. Celtic Frost (2001)
03. -(16)- (2007)
04. YOB (2008)
05. Killing Joke (with the original line-up, 2008)
06. Life Of Agony (2003)
07. Iron Maiden (with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith, 1999)
08. Helmet (2004)
09. Godflesh (2009, for at least three shows, but it's in the list because it means I'll fucking finally get to see them)
10. Carcass (2008)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Virus - The Agent That Shapes The Desert

Nah, this isn't a review (yet), or much less a crappy illegal rip of the album (sorry, people who just landed here from google. Stay a while, reading can be a wonderful alternative to downloading). It's just a manifestation of joy to the world that I'm spending a very pleasant Friday evening in its long-awaited company. I am indeed a bit fortunate sometimes.

Friday, January 21, 2011

road therapy?

High Anxiety
2003 / Spirfire

Every day I bring along a couple of records to my car and usually one of them ends up winning the battle depending on my mood for the ride, if it's not a longer one that demands onboard DJing. Today it was 'High Anxiety', one of my favourite driving records ever. Can't beat the rush of leaving someone in the dust after a light turns green while shouting 'I JUST WATCH YOU GO, WATCH YOU GO, WATCH YOU GO' along with Andy Cairns.

Yup, I'm a psycho.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Band of the week at Terrorizer is the gruesome Fetid Zombie, led by the great illustrator that is Mark Riddick. Vomit it up!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Yurei - Working Class Demon

I have the feeling this album went by unnoticed by a lot of people since it came out, or maybe I'm misled because that's what happened to me until now, but seriously, anyone with any sort of interest in Ved Buens Ende, Virus (for whom Bjeima, the only member of Yurei, plays bass) or simply great boundary-free extreme music should listen to it at the earliest opportunity. Whoa. Check out his MySpace here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

José's Band of the Week at Terrorizer is the mysteriously chilling Parhelion. Read here!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

That's it, I can't write anymore. Exhausted all the words and thoughts I had with the crazy 100-album lists. Goodbye.

Nah, just kidding. Here's my band of the week at Terrorizer - wonderful post-metal Brazilian act Black Sea.