Monday, February 28, 2011

road therapy - anthrax / voivod

Sound Of White Noise
1993 / Elektra

1995 / Mausoleum Records

Road therapy has been a bit absent as of late, not because I haven't been driving, but because I've been using that time to listen to a lot of new stuff that has come my way of late that I have to process, and it's no fun talking about how I've been driving to the new Primordial or 40 Watt Sun albums when few of you have heard them yet. Sure, for bragging value it's cool, but I'd rather talk about well-worn stuff on this section.

In between newbies, these have been the two veterans competing for car stereo time lately, and it feels right to group them together because they share a few things in common. It might be the first time in the history of metal that anyone traces a parallel between 1993 Anthrax and 1995 Voivod, so be glad you're reading the right blog for that kind of warped shit.

It's not like they sound anything remotely like each other, of course. But when carrying the two CDs home from the car, I couldn't help think how underrated and/or unappreciated these two albums are when compared to the usual classics in the discography of the two bands, and at the core of that little love is basically the same thing - the absence of the "classic" vocalist of each band. Me, I'm in love with both the albums, but for different reasons.

In Anthrax's case, my position is a bit removed from the usual, to say the least. In a nutshell, I never liked Anthrax before this album. I always found (and still do!) Belladonna's voice profoundly grating, despite my love for some thrashy wailers, never could take silly (in a bad way) shit like 'Indians' or 'Caught In A Mosh' seriously in any way, and in the early 90s I'd go on lengthy teenage tirades about the so-called Big Four and the injustice of it all, since for me it was clearly a case of Metallica/Megadeth/Slayer/fuckin' EXODUS, and not that hip-hop-friendly Anthrax crap. Then Bush came into the picture and I turn into a sucker for the next three albums, but none more than this one. Suddenly Anthrax had turned into a serious band, dealing with serious subjects, full of concise, sharp and deeply memorable songs like 'Only', 'Invisible' or '1000 Points Of Hate'. Hell, even the dark semi-ballad 'Black Lodge' is great! Then they screwed Bush over time and time again, Belladonna is back and I couldn't give two shits about Anthrax anymore, again, but oh well.

As for Voivod, it's quite different. I do prefer Snake over Eric Forrest, but that change didn't really affect my enjoyment of 'Negatron', which I rate nearly as high as those early classics. I like the dark and oppressive atmosphere, much more than on 'The Outer Limits', and as a whole it's a much more solid album than the problematic 'Angel Rat', for example. Maybe it's blasphemy, but I actually think Eric's more mechanical, dry voice is more apt for 'Negatron' than Snake's would have been, even if that might be a product of wishful thinking created by the hours of enjoyment I've taken from songs like 'Insect' or 'Nanoman'.

For road therapy effects, they both work amazingly well. Singing lines like "you got that look I wanna know, you got that look the hy pro glo" in an embarrassingly loud volume or pretending to be a robot repeating "obey insect", all while navigating downtown traffic, is huge fun.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A few of the photos I managed to snap while the all-consuming storm that was Wolves In The Throne Room's show at Roadburn 2008 descended upon me were selected for the artwork 'Live At Roadburn 2008' vinyl+DVD release, the first of the Live At Roadburn series on Roadburn Records that has since seen the likes of Neurosis, Wino, Nachtmystium, Bong, Year Of No Light and Church Of Misery.

Neil is a Scotsman. Not on a horse (well, not when I've been with him anyway), but he's a wonderful a guy as your preconception of how wonderful all Scottish people are probably tells you. Only a true saint would be able to put up with me in various states of intoxication almost for 24h a day during five days, sleeping in a freezing tent as the only means of rest from that hell, and still want to add me on Skype and meet me whenever we're in the same country and generally be a great buddy afterwards. On top of it, just like the three other dudes in the awesome End Of Level Boss, he's a top notch musician. Well, sort of, he's a drummer, but a top notch one anyway! Because I'm that cool, I've been listening to the band's new album for a while now, and it'll blow each and every one of you away when it's out, in no small part due to Neil's merciless beating of his drums of doom. He's now living the easy life in some tropical country or other (Sweden.), so I gave him something to do and shot 10 9 rounds his way. Big Jim the bearded sailor was around too, but didn't get to answer any.

1. We once watched a girl skinny-dip in Germany, while having a hungover morning coffee. That’s not a question (it's a habit of mine in these things), but I wanted to relive that moment with you, it’s a personal highlight of my sad life.
I remember it clearly sir. We were sitting coffee-in-hand onlooking an incredibly scenic lake, chatting innocently about Lawnmower Deth and Portuguese football. Suddenly, a girl decided to stand directly in front of us and remove all her clothes, without even having the decency to check if she was blocking our view! I was horrified! It's simply the height of ignorance and displays a complete disregard for nature-lovers like ourselves. I've still no idea why the coffee table started rising though.
[did you notice how it rose slightly askew to one side?]

2. When did you become a drummer and what was your motivation? I know of your unhealthy Mötley Crüe obsession, so don’t tell me you listened to Girls, Girls, Girls and decided you wanted to be Tommy Lee.
I became a drummer when I was about 11 years old. My motivation for the instrument was pretty simple really: It made me feel good! It just so happened that many of the records I adored at an early age contained exceptional drummers. How could I NOT want to play the drums after hearing Slayer's South Of Heaven!? Lombardo's drumming was so expressive, extreme, creative and free that I actually laughed in disbelief upon first listen. Predictably I'm going to talk about Tommy Lee now... I'll try to keep it short and sweet by stating two simple facts: No other drummer possesses such a combination of personality, power, groove, class and sensibility. No other drummer has visually taken rock drumming to such an extreme or entertaining level. The end. It's probably inaccurate to make comparisons between Tommy Lee and myself though, because I'm far more well endowed! ;)
[stop that, the table was higher on MY side!]

3. I’ll do the same in magazine reviews soon because I’ve heard it and it’s AWESOME (just to reiterate that in case someone was sleeping at the back there during the intro), but you’re the best person to ask – why should everyone else be wetting their panties in anticipation of the new End Of Level Boss album?
Cheers José! (i'll give you that tenner later!) I'm going to cop-out on this answer because I'm not one to blow my own trumpet (unless I removed a few ribs of course!) but what I will do is provide 4 reasons as to why the album will definitely sound different to it's 2 predecessors. A) We have a new bassist and drummer. B) We wrote the album collectively rather than individually. C) We willingly permitted the music to take us wherever it liked, and trust me... it goes to some very new places. D) The comraderie within the band has never been stronger, and fortunately this translates through the wonders of sound! Hoorah! Hopefully there won't be a dry pair of panties in the house!... even if it's only big Jim the bearded-sailor in the corner who wets himself.

4. You were snowed in during much of the recording, was there much cabin fever going on?
We actually had a great time in the studio, and it was strangely liberating to be stranded in the English countryside with no available transport. We ended up watching loads of "Flight Of The Conchords" episodes and became addicted to "Rush" DVDs. Our 4-stringed finger-wizard ended up crashing his motorbike in the snow, so that wasn't so good. Fortunately, he survived to watch big Jim the bearded-sailor wet himself.

5. There isn’t much about your previous band RAAR online, so tell us all we need to know about it. And if you’re feeling generous, a link to download everything you ever did.
Sadly, our most classic gigs happened just before most people had camera phones! RAAR were 4 black-isler's (peninsula in the highlands of Scotland) that played some amazing gigs, had some great adventures and most importantly made some incredible kick-ass music! Even the mighty Bruce Dickinson can occasionally be seen wearing the infamous RAAR t-shirt! (I have photographic evidence!) It still bewilders me to this day why it never went further than it did.
[here's that evidence:]

6. You’ve moved to Sweden recently, so in how many black metal side-projects are you involved in already by now?
I'm in an ultra brutal grind-core band called "The Mumps", an aggresive hardcore thrash band called "Under The Weather", and a Satanic black metal band called "Off to bed without coco". Seriously though, i've not joined any bands over here as i've been too busy job hunting! Sweden is great though, and it's been one hell of an exciting change in my life. I'd kill for a pint of Tennents though!

7. Question seven does not exist. It never did. Nothing to read here. Move along. You just had a free pic of Bruce Dickinson, don't moan.

8. Why does everyone like Scottish people instantly? I include myself in that group, too. What, is it the accent, is it Braveheart, is it the underdog thing with England, or are you all genuinely brilliant? All the Scots I know are, at least.
All of the above of course! Ha ha! Seriously though, I've really got no idea why Scots are so liked....we can't understand it either! This one is really not for me to answer. I'm not complaining though! If i start questioning a good thing it might go wrong!

9. Will we beat Rangers Thursday night? Predict the scoreline, and remember the Gods might be listening to you.
I think that your beloved Sporting Lisbon will win and consequently knock Rangers out of Europe. I don't think it will be a convincing win, but a win none-the-less. Possibly on away goals. The most important thing from my Hearts FC perspective is that Rangers pick up as many injuries as possible so that we can catch up with them in the title race. Come on the Jam Tarts!

10. Last question is list-question – name five bands from the past that you would have loved to drum in.
Entombed - on their "Clandestine" album.
Cynic - on their "Focus" album.
Mötley Crüe - on their "Mötley Crüe" album.
Slayer - on their "South of Heaven" album.
Black Sabbath - on their "Black Sabbath" album....just so that I could say I played drums on the first ever Heavy Metal album!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

top 10 grindcore bands that aren't Napalm Death, Terrorizer or Brutal Truth.
01. Pig Destroyer
02. Nasum
03. Rotten Sound
04. Insect Warfare
05. Agoraphobic Nosebleed
06. Cephalic Carnage
07. Kill The Client
08. Wormrot
09. Mumakil
10. Antigama

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

These were already on flickr, but what the hell. Gig of the year in Portugal last year, and one of my bands of a lifetime, -(16)-.

-(16)- at Porto Rio, June 14th 2010.

Monday, February 21, 2011

filth rations

Q: How much can you love a four-song 15 minute EP?

A: This much:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I don't really remember how I landed on The Living Doorway the first time, but blessed be whatever creepy google search that led me there all those months ago. The rest of that evening on the couch with the laptop was spent reading past entries, chuckling at the author's compellingly funny writing and nodding in furious "finally, someone else"-like agreement to the knowledgeable opinions voiced about all those weird little unknown records I thought nobody else liked. After probably way too many I'm-not-hearing-you "yes dear"s, my girl realized  how much I was enjoying the thing and jokingly asked me "so this blog guy is your new best friend now?". I had no idea who the author was at the time, but based on what he wrote and how he wrote about music, he kinda was, in a way.

TLD quickly became a daily stop in my internet meanderings, and fortunately that new-best-friend feeling didn't dissipate when I actually got in touch with this JGD fellow. Not only he's an awesome writer, he's an awesome dude (right back atcha!) AND an awesome vocalist too. He was in the vastly underrated There Were Wires, and he's now doing vocals for one of the most exciting black metal projects I've heard in recent times (seriously), the wonderfully titled The Sun Came Up Upon The Left.

Recently, he decided to ruin his blog by allowing a new guest writer in there, and as if that wasn't enough, he subjected himself to the 10 rounds. Pity the man and go leave a comment on TLD, okay?

1. So, what’s the thing with penguins?
Oh god, I don't know. They are like the only thing I can draw, I think? I'm basically completely handicapped and have been drawing them for as long as I can remember. I even stopped signing my name on letters and stuff when I was younger, and just drew penguins as a signature instead. Seriously, ask my mom--somewhere in her basement she probably has a giant shoebox full of Mother's Day cards and shit that are all signed with penguins. I actually reached the pinacle of penguin-ness when I tattooed a penguin on my brother last year, which came out super shitty and was probably the stupidest moment in recorded history. I'll send you a picture, if you want.
[Please do. I'll post it here.]

EDIT: Here it is. I dig it, I'd do one myself.

2. How did you start the blog, was there any special motivation? Have you had shutdown notices since? Can you copy/paste one for us to laugh at?
I started The Living Doorway at the suggestion of my girlfriend, who said I needed a project to work on. I guess I got super wrapped-up in all these other blogs for a while, downloading all these records and finding all this awesome shit, and she thought I should start a music blog that was actually interesting, and not just files and files of random records. I guess my particular version of "interesting" is just posting pictures of pets and penguins and shit, which is totally idiotic but people seem to like it. As far as being shut down, I've gotten a few DMCA complaints (like every MP3 blog has), but nothing super threatening so far. I will say that I was really suprised anyone bothered to complain about that Billy Squier record being posted, though. You'd think they'd be stoked that someone still cares.

3. Your interviews are awesome. Who’s the most famous person you’re chums with?
Thanks. I can't believe I'm going to answer this seriously, but I lived in Chicago for a while and was friends with Pete Wentz from Fallout Boy. I know this probably ruins all my metal cred, but I like him a lot - he's actually a super nice and funny dude. He used to play in all these thugged out hardcore bands before he turned into Jared Leto or whatever, and one time he showed me a big weird hole in his weiner from a piercing that he removed. I know that sounds like a total bummer to the average dude, but it makes me feel better to imagine how many teenage girls would have killed for that sort of opportunity. But yeah, my girlfriend told me yesterday that he's getting divorced from Ashley Simpson, so I'm super stoked for him. I mean, can you imagine actually being MARRIED to that twit?

4. Is it very obvious these interviews are a bit inspired by yours?
Maybe just this one, but I think your other interview questions are wayyy better than mine. I just think of the stupidest shit to ask off of the top of my head and then email them right away without double checking if they are decent or not. I pretty much always shake my head in disgust immediately after I hit 'send' and wonder if the interviewee will bother to reply to me. Seriously, Artery Eruption and Joe Preston from Thrones seemed super into it, but never emailed me back after I sent them their questions. Sad face.
[Joe, come on. Check your email. Your potentially best interview ever is waiting.]

5. Another favourite of mine from The Living Doorway are the girlfriend reviews. She puts all of us wannabe hacks to shame. How hard do you have to push her so she caves in and does a whole bunch more? I’d love to hear her opinion on Gnaw's ‘This Face’ album.
I think she's fucking brilliant. It's awesome hearing a completely undiluted critique of a genre by someone who isn't into it at all. She really cuts to the bone. I made her listen to the song 'Ghosted' from that Gnaw album this morning at 7:45 am. Here is her response:

"Is this the beginning of that Beastie Boys song 'Sabotage'? I gotta say, as a part-time nanny, you guys could get paid to listen to this live. Yeah...this is bedtime. Is there anything more to this or just...? Okay... ugh, I thought it was over. There has to be a better time for me to listen to this song."

That's right. She just compared Gnaw to a child throwing a pre-bedtime tantrum.
[...and with that, she beats hands down almost two years of incessant hyperbole I've thrown towards that album, trying to describe and recommend it to other people.]

6. What was your most horrific skateboard injury so far?
Okay, just remember that you ASKED for this. Unfortunately, there has been a few. The worst was the time I got lazy bailing out of a tailslide on a mini ramp and accidentally stepped back on my board as I was falling, which slammed me backwards against the transition with my leg under me. I heard this crazy "pop" and a white hot flash of pain, and just knew I was completely fucked. I basically dislocated my ankle bone out of its socket and had to have surgery the next morning, which kept me on crutches for almost 6 months. They were going to put pins in my ankle to hold shit together, but weren't able to because it was pretty much "mush" from all the sprains, fractures, and assorted trauma it had been through over the years. Apparently they also scraped out a bunch of bone fragments floating around in there, too. It sucked. I looked at the incisions while they were cleaning it a few days after the surgery, and it was utterly revolting. It looked like an exploded corpse leg - all purple, yellow, and weeping pus and blood from both sides of my ankle.

The second worst is described in full detail here.

7. Time for the truth – how much time did it really pass between these two photos from this post?
Haha. One month. November beard challenge. I had never had a beard before and thought I was due to try it out. It was pretty sick, but after I shaved it off I felt weird and naked and my girlfriend wanted me to grow it back immediately. I'm starting to get kind of fat lately, so I'm considering growing it out again so I can hide this shitty double chin.
[And that, my friends, explains my fifteen years of beard in a nutshell]

8. Billie is the cutest dog. That’s not a question, but I just really wanted to let people who haven’t seen her photos know that. Play along, it’s a cue for some funny Billie story.
Good non-question. It's a fact: Billie is the cutest, raddest dog. She's basically a total doofus black lab puppy who is just super stoked on EVERYTHING. Lately, her favorite things are otter-sliding down grassy embankements, and 'The Banana Boat Song' by Harry Belafonte. She'll stop whatever it is she is doing and just listen intently to the entire song with her head tilted idiotically to the side.

An old lady once stopped to say hi to her on the sidewalk, and that she is "the light of the world", which I wholeheartedly agree with.

9. You sang for the amazing There Were Wires (I had no idea it was you until you posted about it!) and now you’re in The Sun Came Up Upon The Left. How did you end up joining these two bands, and have you thought of taking up this vocalist thing more seriously sometime?
Well, I don't know if we'll go down in history as being "amazing" [you will in my history!], but I still think some of the material holds up! There Were Wires was basically a bunch of friends playing our version of metallic hardcore as a way of distinguishing ourselves from what was popular in New England at the time, and I immediately jumped into the vocalist position simply because I couldn't play any instruments. Same thing with TSCUUTL - my friend Don (also of TWW) had recorded a really awesome atmopsheric black metal album, and invited me to be a part of it, so I donated some lyrics, song titles, and vocals to the cause. To this day, I don't think I have particularly good vocals, but they worked pretty okay within the confines of what we were doing, so no one seemed to mind too much. Some people have a really naturally great rasp, scream, or guttural voice that sounds thick and even and awesome, but I really have to work at it to make it sound even remotely passable. Just doing the tiny bit of stuff on the last TSCUUTL was a real struggle, because I had been out of practice for so long. Maybe if I did it more often I'd feel more confident about it, but I'm no Travis Ryan from Cattle Decapitation, that's for sure.

10. Last question is the list question, so here’s two requests – because you’re the biggest Portal fan I know beside myself, your top 5 Portal songs, and just for kicks, 5 bands you think are even worse than Kvelertak and Ghost.
To be fair, I haven't even heard Ghost yet, but they look like a weird Portal/Misfits hybrid-type thing, which is pretty cool. But yeah, I can't hang with Kverlertak at all. Here we go:

Best Portal songs:
1) That one where he wears a big clock hat
2) That one where he wears a big witch hat
3) That one where he wears a big pope hat.
4) The Endmills
5) Black Houses (for you and me)

Bands worse than Kverlertak:
1) The Black Eyed Peas ( My Humps is the worst song in history, and they should seriously be assassinated for it.)
2) There Were Wires
3) The Sun Came Up Upon the Left
4) Kverlertak's inevitable bullshit offshoot rock band that tries to sound exactly like Turbonegro
5) George Thoroughgood

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

josé's band of the week: abaddon incarnate

After the pummeling of that 7" split with Phobia, no choice but to award long-standing Irish brutalizers my band of the week award. Read it here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

(click on the page to see the readable large version)

Subject: Pyramids
Published: Terrorizer #172, July 2008
Interviewee: R. Loren
Random facts:
- One of the strongest manifestations of the "your new favourite band" expression, Pyramids appeared seemingly out of nowhere in 2008 to revolutionize the way me and many others think and perceive music.
- R. Loren, as if Pyramids wasn't quite enough, is also behind two other projects that released two of the best albums of 2010 - Sailors With Wax Wings and White Moth.
- Wvndrkmmer - if may look like a random collection of letter to the unitiated, but it's a simple stroke of genius. Go read what it is and try not to get too overexcited about the idea.

Monday, February 14, 2011

top 10 songs to play when you're overcome with disgust and hatred for the entire human race.
01. Swans - 'I Crawled'
02. Gnaw - 'Vacant'
03. Godflesh - 'Like Rats'
04. Gnaw Their Tongues - 'And There Will Be More Of Your Children Dead Tomorrow'
05. Eyehategod - 'Sisterfucker (part I)'
06. Black Sun - 'A Deputation Of Spastics'
07. December Wolves - 'To Kill Without Emotion'
08. Graves At Sea - 'Black Bile'
09. Admiral Angry - 'A Fire To Burn Down The World'
10. Wicked King Wicker - 'There Is Only Pain'

Sunday, February 13, 2011

You know what, screw flickr. Remember the embarrassing link to 'my photography' I had over there to the right, which led you to photos from a grand total of three shows? Forget about it. flickr is cumbersome and I can't really be bothered to keep dumping my neverending pile of photos in there. That, and I wanted yet another pretty banner on my blog for yet another regular feature (Luana does all these, before you think I'm in any way talented).

So, I'll be posting some photos here, half-regularly. No better way to start off than with a few snaps of one of my heroes. Wino himself granted me the opportunity to do a little photoshoot with him to promote his solo acoustic album, 'Adrift', and I also got to witness the first rehearsals of his new band, Premonition. A few other photos from this session have been used in press (and I actually opened this blog with one of them), which is cool. Anyway, I believe these speak for themselves, really, as the man's personality shines through every little detail.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

road therapy / gardenian

1999 / Nuclear Blast

Do you crazily wail along with high-pitched vocalists while you drive? You should, it's huge fun. If your girl is beside you, her expression will just make it even better. I must have played that infuriatingly catchy 'Small Electric Space' song from this album four or five times in a row during this morning's ride just to hit those notes of the chorus.

This isn't the sort of thing you expect to say when talking about a Swedish death metal album. That's how crazy 'Soulburner' is. Gardenian's finest hour by a long mile (the debut was merely passable DM, the swansong follow-up 'Sindustries' only had a few crackers among all the filler) throws everything at you, Entombed grooves, dizzying Maiden leads, harsh roars and screams, a soaring Dickinsonian banshee in Eric Hawk, syrupy keys and even female vocals to help a few choruses stick to your brain an extra bit more. Sounds like a disorienting listen, but it's not. Everything flows along, and halfway through you take each crushing riff and each high vocal note as if they all belong together, which they obviously do.

After revisiting this album often for over a decade, I think I'll start calling it a "classic", see if it sticks. The band might not have had a glorious career but this one is a true keeper, especially when I want to risk the safety of my car windows' breaking point.

Friday, February 11, 2011

book comment - ryan gattis' 'kung fu high school'

Kung Fu High School
By Ryan Gattis

Yeah, a book. I never said this place was going to be just about music, this isn't called too.many.records. or some stupid shit like that. I don't write as much about literature as I should, considering the importance books have in my life, but it's probably a childhood thing. See, I've always read quickly, too quickly in fact, and when I was a kid people tended to not believe me when I said I had already read something they'd given me two days earlier. So I summarized the stories to prove I had indeed read the whole thing through until finally everyone stopped doubting. I guess since then I don't have much patience to discuss the silly amount of books I consume - it's gotten to the point I can't even sleep without downing a few chapters of one of the books I'm currently reading.

This one's special, though, so I'll get past my block to grant it a few words. I've had this book for a couple of years, always on the top of my next-read pile, but constantly being pushed back again at pick-up time. See, I read Ryan Gattis' first book, Roo Kickkick And The Big Bad Blimp, and I was fascinated. Behind that weird children's book title lied one of the most intriguing stories I've ever read, an explosively funny, quirky and surprisingly violent story that lingered in my head for years after I read the book, for all the contrasts. Mainly, the over the top oddballness of it all against the simplicity and absolute truth of the feelings involved. It was utterly captivating, and I bought Kung Fu High School as soon as I read about its existence. But at the same time, I was kinda afraid of it. That it wouldn't live up to the crazy expectations I had after that brilliant first book. Again, the title sounded juvenile to me, although I should have learned that lesson, and the short synopsis didn't quite excite me so much.

So, I picked it up with some trepidation a couple of weeks ago. After ten pages, I was already limiting myself to just a chapter a day, to make it last, because I know Ryan hasn't published any more books since then. Again, it's the contrast. The story is told and lives through the eyes of Jen, a teenager who attends a very particular school, one controlled by a drug dealer named Ridley and where brutal fighting between different groups of students (the "families") is the order of the day. The fight sequences and subsequent injuries are terrifying and not for the squeamish although exhilarating (at times it felt like reading the best bits of Eugene Robinson's 'Fight'), but incredibly enough, the constant violence is not the point.

Once again, it's Jen's whirlwind of feelings, that even she has trouble understanding and processing, that make the book a winner. Her relationship with her brother, a master fighter who also attends the school, with cousin Jimmy, an undefeated, unbeatable fighter who arrives in town after promising his mom he won't fight anymore and for whom Jen harbours a strong crush, with her disabled father she has to take care of, with the death of her mother - all this is vibrantly told through Jen's voice, all while she also describes all the details associated with the fighting, often accompanied by cool drawings of weapons, armor, procedures and objects, notebook-style, as naturally as any other kid would talk about his homework. I don't know how Gattis does it, but Jen genuinely comes across as a teenage girl, with the natural awkwardness that comes with her age but with a very moving inner strength too. That's the word, moving. How a book full of horrific exposed bone fractures and buckets of blood can be summed up as deeply moving is beyond me, but Ryan Gattis has done it again.

According to his facebook, the man is a creative writing teacher at Chapman University in California, so he's probably a busy fellow, but here's hoping a third quirky, violent and unforgettably moving book is in the works. I promise I won't leave it in the pile this time.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wondering what boogie-doom is? Hate your brother's wife and want to get rid of her with your record collection? Read on and all shall become clear.

First time I saw Malte Seidel in front of me, I was kinda scared. It was my first Black Shape Of Nexus live experience, and if you've ever subjected yourself to that particular ordeal, you know it takes some guts. Especially if you're like a foot away from the whole band. The blackened torrent of negativity that emanates from their music is nearly palpable on stage, and Malte is at the epicentre of it, collar-mic around his neck, howling as if all the demons in the world were spewing forth from his throat. A few years later from that frightening introduction, we've met regularly in a couple of countries and had awesome beertimes together, and he can scream all he wants in front of me that I still love him to bits. There you go.

1. Important things first – tell us all about your new cat Molly. I hear she’s been a bit noisy.
Malte: Molly is a little horny monster. She was in heat the whole last week. Imagine a mixture of Rob Halford and Slim Whitman standing beside your bed, screaming its lungs out the whole night. We weren't able to get any sleep.

2. What do you think would be the ultimate doom-animal to own as a pet? A whale? A grizzly?
M: A bison of course. Bisons are slow, heavy, furry and quite friendly fellows. But don't make them angry. Because then they transform into a fucking 10.000 tons freight train.

3. What’s your record of beers consumed during one single, uninterrupted beertime session? I’ll tell you mine as a comment to your answer. Seriously.
M: With the increasing number of consumed beers I am always losing the ability to count. But I'm in a league with Bukowski and Hemingway. Honestly.
[bit of a cop-out with the absence of a number, but I have reasons to believe the bold statement. Charles and Ernest have their work cut out! Still, my magical boozenumber shall remain a secret.]

4. What is the current status of The Ghost Dance Movement? Some cool guy told me a few months ago something could be recorded soon.
M: Unfortunately there are no news. I'm bugging the guys constantly to re-record and re-release Commonwealth Tracks AT LEAST. We'll see.
[Commonwealth Tracks is, tragically, their only release so far, the most perfect 4 tracks of post-metal you'll ever hear in your life, as I've tried to spread before]

4a). Are you sick of me bugging you about that band?
M: No. Keep on. You're welcome.

5. What about Black Shape Of Nexus, is 2011 the Year Of The New Album? Please?
M: Maybe we'll record the new album this year. But I don't see the release coming in 2011. A few weeks ago Michael left B·SON which was a shock. In the meantime we have a replacement. His name is Stefan. He plays bass in Ghost of Wem and also in Ralf's other band Constant Nothing. He looks like Dustin Hoffman.

6. How will it be? Boogie-Doom? Fuzzy drone? Or all that and a shitload else besides?
M: Boogie-Doom fits it very well. The new songs will contain more rock and less drone.

6a). You should provide a short description of the term Boogie-Doom, for those not in the know.
M: The term Boogie-Doom refers to the acclaimed Azerbaijan scientists Faslullah Boogie and Vaqif Doom. They were the first describing a correlation between low frequencies and thirst for beer. Both are nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics.

7. Where did you get your ultra-awesome collar-microphone, and when did you first decide to use it?
M: A few years ago I found it on eBay by chance. I bought it and started experimenting. Finally the throat-mic sounds shit - which is good. Late 2006 was the first time I used it live.

8. At Doom Shall Rise, it was the sun, at South Of Mainstream it was the rain – do you think your music angers the gods, especially those of the weather?
M: It seems that 'thinking man's metal', like Aaron Turner termed it, enrages the gods in general. Eyjafjallajökull is the best example. Regarding us: I'm expecting the worst for the future. BRING IT ON!

9. A fellow musician described you to me as “the nicest man in doom”. Does that affect your bad-ass street cred somehow?
M: Who said that? My gang and I will kill him in a drive-by-shooting.
[My lips are sealed!]

10. The last question is always a list-question. So, provide us with five albums that you would put on to scare away an unwelcome guest at your place.
Agoraphobic Nosebleed - Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope (Parents)
Ugly Duckling - Taste the Secret (Vegans and vegetarians)
Black Shape of Nexus - Self-titled (My brother's ex-wife - it works)
Black Sheep Wall - I Am God Songs (Rotten neighbours)
Ricky King - The Golden Guitar Hits (The ultimate weapon)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

road therapy / venom

Cast In Stone
1997 / SPV/Steamhammer

"Underrated" and "Venom" are two words you wouldn't imagine inhabiting even the same paragraph without invoking Satan's minions on each other's ass, but that's what 'Cast In Stone' is. Not enough people seem to realize that it is by far and away the best Venom album ever. It's not the most important, of course, not the most influential, not the one that's most etched in our collective memory, but it's the one to take to the car if you feel like listening to some pure fucking brutalicious metal on your way to, erm, the supermarket. Besides, it keeps your old-school cred intact because it's the album that took advantage of a rare window of opportunity - the first and only time since the first four albums that the original line-up of Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon managed to keep together without self-destructing for enough time to actually record something. 

And it shows. It's a long and diverse record .- from the slow-burning doomthrash menace of 'Bleeding' or 'Destroyed & Damned', to the fat groove of 'All Devils Eve' or 'You're All Gonna Die', the Voivod-ish dissonance of 'Domus Mundi' or massive closer 'Swarm' and the sheer hyperspeed brutality of absolute highlight 'Flight Of The Hydra', there's everything for everyone here. If you're into metal, you're gonna be into at least something on this album. Cronos hasn't sounded this enraged before or since, his growls and deep snarls carry a truly frightening tone of hostility, and I swear his wink is audible as he sneers "welcome ye to hell" during 'God's Forsaken'. The bonus CD with a bunch of old classics re-recorded is just the icing on the cake of a remarkable album. I hope they play lots off this when I see them headlining SWR in a couple of months.

Monday, February 7, 2011

top 10 random personal pet peeves in the music business
01. Endless, tireless, pointless "is this metal?" discussions.
02. Lumping Neurosis, Isis and Cult Of Luna (usually these three) together for stylistic comparisons, as if they have anything to do with each other.
03. Digital promos. Make up your minds, record labels. You spend your existence convincing kids downloading stuff isn't the same as owning the proper records (which I agree wholeheartedly), but then you expect reviewers to make do with a bunch of .mp3, often poorly tagged and of hideous quality.
04. Reissues with a flimsy two-page booklet and no extra material. We have internet and a printer at home, too!
05. Engrish on lyrics or, even worse, song and album titles. Enough to ruin a perfectly good song. Example. A black day dawn at horizon where winter hearts our battlefields / the ultimate frostage desire snowflurry drifts these plains. Seriously?
06. "Sludge" suddenly being used to describe everything, from Kylesa to Jesu (I kid you not) to Neurosis/Isis/Cult Of Luna. (see what I did there?)
07. Vocalists who can't shut up between songs. I briefly discussed this here already, and my opinion stands ever firmer.
08. The usual combination of small (or non-existent) overcrowded photo pit and bouncer who treats photographers as an entirely new species he has no idea what to do with apart from screwing up their work as much as he can.
09. Smoking ban at gigs.
10. Being poor (and not even getting records anymore, see #3).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

R.I.P. Gary Moore (1952-2011)

So long, Gary, and thanks for all the blues.

road therapy / knut & watch them die

2006 / Hydra Head

Watch Them Die
Watch Them Die
2003 / Century Media

Some pretty harsh shit on my recent road trips. Maybe compensation for a pretty calm week, with a few exciting interviews (Nick from Young Widows was great, and their new album is awesome! I'll talk about it soon) and a couple of nice meetings with friends. It was precisely after a calm afternoon with coffee and nerding out over the latest couple of Decibel issues that I decided to shatter the calm with Knut's 'Terraformer'. I've been a huge fan of the Swiss band for a while now, and while writing up my latest top 10 I realized I hadn't listened to them in a while. 'Terraformer' is my favourite album of theirs (and it was dirt cheap on Amazon for some reason when I bought it, five bucks or so), intricate, complex, very atmospheric and noisy as hell sometimes. Their show at SWR a couple of years ago is still etched in my memory as one of the greatest shows in that festival's long and prestigious history.

Watch Them Die are much more conventional than that, the Oakland five-piece offer straight up thrashy death metal in the vein of early The Haunted (whose new album is frankly disconcerting, more on that in a few days, probably), and their debut is just a cool record to drum along to on the steering wheel on those long boring highways. Fourth song 'The Struggle' and its percussive pace is particularly crushing. I have no idea what's up with this band nowadays, lost track of them after the second album and a quick visit to Metal Archives reveals no other new info.

Any suggestions for tomorrow's road trip?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

It's still Thursday in most timezones! So I'm keeping the half-promise I made here in the first instalment of this new interview feature. Benjamin Mabry sings and plays guitar on the outrageously wonderful Beta Radio, a band whose americana-folk debut from last year, of which I've raved about here before, has enchanted me endlessly to this day and that anyone with an interest in honest, beautiful music should listen to at the earliest opportunity (which is now, the album is streaming on their page that I've just linked to, so GO!). Ben is also an actor, and a generally wonderful person, wonderful enough to subject himself to this 10 hit torture with a smile on his face - thanks, Ben!

1. You committed the mistake of telling me you played in a pseudo-metal band when you were younger, so now you’ll have to spill all the beans on it. Details, Ben, details.
Ben: Hmmm, maybe that was a mistake! When I was in high school some friends and I started getting together on saturday afternoons, to hang out and play music. None of us liked most of the others taste in music. The stuff we listened to varied from guy to guy, i.e. Kiss, Rush, Journey to Rage Against The Machine, Simon and Garfunkel, to Jars Of Clay and even Limp Bizkit (remember we were American teenagers in the late 90s).  So after we all realized that we each hated most of the music that the other liked, the only thing we had in common was the Rap-Metal or Hip-Hop rock or what ever it was called back then. We were so bad, and we weren't even real Metal!

2. I’ve read that you met in 1998, so why did it take you and Brent 12 years to make a record?
B: Well, we've been playing together on and off since about 2000.  We were always creatively moving toward making music and sharing it, we'd write songs and play some shows, but writing and playing always got interrupted by school.  I left our hometown for college about five hours from home and Brent moved to go to school in Georgia, so we only had summers and holidays to get together. And when we would, we'd write some music, go back to school, come home after a few months and not like the old stuff we wrote, so we'd scrap it and write new stuff... I guess the real reason it took so long to record is because it took so long to find something we really liked.

3. Did he actually shoot any of those apples on the album cover, or is he just a make-believe bearded gunslingin’ William Tell?
B: No shots were fired that day, thank God.

4. Who are the seven sisters? Are any of them cute?
B: Seven Sisters is another name for the star cluster Pleiades. I found that I was writing a lot of songs with lyrics referencing the stars and heavenly bodies, all of which ended up on the album, so it seemed appropriate to reference that in the title. This is a pretty interesting article about the Seven Sisters.
[that's a 'no' for the second part of the question, then.]

5. Seriously though, some of the lyrics sound very affecting. Is it difficult for you to sing them repeatedly at shows?
B: Actually no, it's not. I definitely want the listener to have an emotional response to the content of the songs and to be affected by them and I think when you're listening to music that is written to be personal, it's easier to approach and relate to. I always keep that in mind when writing lyrics, but for me, I think I've sung them so much that now when I sing them live, I'm able to separate myself from them.

6. Everything related to Beta Radio looks great. I already asked previous victim of the 10 rounds Mike the same thing, but come on, who of you is the designer/photographer/generally talented graphic person?
B: Brent does all the graphic design, he is really great with all that.  Actually he is surely the best at design of everyone I know. Also, his wife and sister are professional photographers, so what would have probably cost us $3000 in design and photography, we get for free. 

7. The excerpts from your acting work that you have up on are awesome, especially Mustache Heat. Are we in danger of Hollywood stealing you from Beta Radio anytime soon?
B: Acting is something i've been doing even longer than music.  I mean, its something I pursue actively and enjoy, its a creative outlet just like the music is for me. So hopefully I'll be able to do both for a long time.

8: Could you call Sam Beam and William Elliott Whitmore and do a trifecta-of-folk tour around Europe? Please?
B: We'd really love that a lot.  Can you set it all up for us?
[anyone with this sort of power that's reading this - get in touch, we'll help!]

9. I’m the ultimate list-freak so there has to be a list-question in every interview - list 5 movies you could watch and 5 albums you could listen to over and over, forever.
B: Oh wow, I love these questions, and often ask the same ones myself. 
Movies would be in no order:
1.    The Royal Tenenbaums
2.    The Shawshank Redemption
3.    O Brother, Where Art Thou?
4.    Forrest Gump
5.    No Country For Old Men

And music will be harder, cause my favourites are always changing, but for now they are (again in no order):
1.    The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love
2.    Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans
3.    Simon And Garfunkel's Greatest Hits
4.    Nick Drake – Pink Moon
5.    Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise

10. Assuming you don’t get picked to play the next bad guy serial killer in Dexter or something, when will the next Beta Radio album come out? Not in 12 years, hopefully?
B: Ha, yeah we were thinking about just releasing a record every decade or so, that seems like a reasonable idea right?! So I guess you could expect the next one sometime around 2021. Actually we're writing more stuff right now and have already started recording at home, so hopefully we'll have something to show for it before the next decade!

Fuck yeah.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

José's band of the week - Trap Them

Band of the week is Trap Them, who will play at Roadburn, and I believe no further clarification or encouragement is necessary! READ NOW!