Friday 31 December 2010


As 2010 came to an end I decided to ask a few notable musicians to point out their personal metal high-lights of the year. They were as well asked to leave a short comment on their album number one. Below is that what they offered.

ED WARBY of Hail of Bullets, Gorefest and The 11th Hour

Too bad Celtic Frost couldn't keep it together but this is the best follow-up to „Monotheist” anyone could hope for. Ultraheavy, pitchblack and simply awesome.

2. Masterplan „Time To Be King”
3. Facebreaker „Infected”
4. High On Fire „Snakes Of The Divine”
5. Dark Fortress „Ylem”  

GARY MADER of EyeHateGod, Outlaw Order and Hawg Jaw

While everybody's old favorites are out there growing up/old and putting out music that is depressing because it lacks urgency and any trace of sincerity, OFF! first put out a 7" the reaffirmed my faith in the possibility of anything new coming out having the genuine venom and vomit of great bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, The Germs, or say Wasted Youth. The first time I heard it, I swore I was listening to a "first four years" outtake... it's that real. They extend the greatness of what they started in the late 70's/early 80's here to us now via a few players that know everything about good hardcore. I just got the rest of the collection of four 7"s... Do yourself a favor and hear this pure example of great hardcore music. There is no band better than them right now. You will listen to these 18 minutes over and over.

2. Triptykon "Eparistera Daimones"
3. Black Breath "Heavy Breathing"
4. Arson Anthem "Insecurity Notoriety"
5. Floor "Below & Beyond"
 LASSE PYYKKÖ of Hooded Menace, Phlegethon and Vacant Coffin

This album oozes eerie and foggy atmosphere. The songs are well written, the vocals are great, the production is pretty much perfect, the artwork is awesome... what's not to like? In its mighty haziness this is a very refreshing doom album. Roughly said they are a bit like a mix between Candlemass and Electric Wizard so how could I not like The Wounded Kings?

2. Masakari "The Prophet Feeds"
3. Ramesses "Take the Curse"
4. Ilsa "Tutti il Colori del Buio"
5. Electric Wizard "Black Masses"

 JOHAN SEBENNE of Year Of No Light

Don't know if it's metal or not, but it's simply the best band around today! Huge sound and totally freak out performances.

2. Cough & The Wounded Kings "An Introduction to the Black Arts" split
3. Watain "Lawless Darkness"
4. Twilight "Monument to Time End"
5. Electric Wizard "Black Masses"

 MIKE HILL of Tombs

Extreme music owes a huge debt to Tom G. Warrior who brought us Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Apollyon Sun and now his latest band, Triptykon. I was looking forward to the release of this record and it delivered all I hoped for when I first listened to it.

2. Watain „Lawless Darkness”
Though I still prefer „Sworn to the Dark” this is one of the best records to come out in 2010.

3. Deathspell Omega „Paracletus”
Every record by Deathspell Omega get more and bizarre and uncomfortable sounding.

4. Unearthly Trance „V”
Though I love everyone of their records, this is probably their best record to date.

5. Planks „The Darkest of Grays”
Brutal, extreme and emotional with a slight gothic/black metal vibe. I’ve shared a van with these guys and travelled in Europe, the UK and the US with them. True road brothers.

 JAY NEWMAN of Unearthly Trance

Amazing occult beauty 60's throwback ala Jefferson Airplane psychedelia. Fav track: "Phoenix is reborn".

2. Integrity „The Blackest Curse”
Hellion's return to form! Fav track: "Simulacra".

3. Wooden Wand "Death Seat"
Toth is a master. Best recognize! Folk blues psych be-damned! Fav tracks: "Servant to blues" and "The Mountain" tied.

4. Swans "My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky"
I'm pretty sure this is a Angels of Light record, no? Whatever you call it got that Michael Gira swagger! Fav track: "Eden Prison".

5. Deathspell Omega "Paracletus"
Put more and show you! Fav track: "Epiklesis II"

Thursday 16 December 2010

COUGH - A Thousand Years in a Dopethrone

Records such as “Ritual Abuse”, which was dropped by Relapse in October 2010, are of a rare kind. They tend to grow on you, they become addictive, and they get deep under your skin and stay there. How you get rid of them I don't know, but I don't care and don't want to know. The doom underground scene across the whole world is talking about this four-piece unit from Richmond, Virginia and it's no empty chatter. Taking some serious inspiration from Electric Wizard, the band worked out an extremely depressive form of crawling and grievous doom metal, which definitely resulted in some of the best records of 2010. Vocalist and bass player Parker Chandler tells us how it really is.

What I like about the “Ritual Abuse” sound is the fact that production is not over the top, with everything down-tuned, brutal and loud to the limits. It has been done before, so why bother? Did you do this on purpose?
Parker: Raw, down-tuned, brutal and loud? Sounds like a good combination to us. Why bother fucking with a good formula? That's exactly what we wanted to accomplish.

How did you come up with using an acoustic guitar in some parts? Was it originally written that way, or did you come up with the idea later in the studio?
Parker: “Crooked Spine” song was written by David [Cisco, vocals & guitar] as an acoustic song. It was never meant to be a Cough song until we all heard it and decided we could do something different while staying grounded in doom. Putting the acoustic on the album just seemed appropriate given the roots of the song.

When you started Cough in 2005 what did you want it to be?
Parker: The loudest, heaviest band in Richmond.
“Ritual Abuse” cover art is probably the best I have seen in years. Could you say something about the artist and the work itself?
Parker: Glyn Smyth from Scrawled Design came up with it. Conceptually, it fits with our theme of being trapped in a situation where any move you make will only hurt you but you can't sit still forever. He did a great job on the cover but I think he fucking killed it on the gatefold.

Do you care much about bands from Europe such as Electric Wizard, Hooded Menace or Katatonia? Do people in the doom/sludge/stoner scene in the US pay attention to European bands or they mostly stick to what's happening in America?
Parker: European bands are pretty big over here, at least in the doom scene. Americans love the European doom bands. More of them need to come over here and fucking tour with us.

Is weed an inspiration to you? A means to get creative and write music?
Parker: It is what it is. We've written as much music sober as we have blazed or drunk. It's not necessary to our creative process, we just enjoy it.
Did you read Ozzy's autobiography „I am Ozzy” that came out in 2009?
Parker: No. We like to forget that he survived the 70's.

There are some great bands from Virginia, where you come from. For example, Municipal Waste, Deceased, or Alabama Thunderpussy. Do you hang around with them or stay all day in hiding, worshiping the horned one?
Parker: We run into various Waste dudes from time to time. They're still in touch with the local scene. Asechiah (an original guitar player of Alabama Thunderpussy) is a fucking blast to hang out with and he's in a new band called Windhand. They kill it. I've seen Deceased a couple times but never hung out with them. We mostly hang out with the less successful crowd just because they're around more.

Your first 2008 album, “Sigillum Luciferi” was produced by Sanford Parker – the guy from Minsk, Buried At Sea, and Circle Of Animals. He sounds like an outstanding musician. Is he a cool guy too? How was it to work with him?
Parker: He was really cool to work with, that's why we decided to do “Ritual Abuse” with him too. His studio setup is very relaxed, in a good location, and he takes good care of you while you're there.

Is having an album released by Relapse a sort of a breakthrough for Cough?

Parker: It was enough of a “reward” to keep going. We probably would have given up if things didn't change.

Your “An Introduction to the Black Arts” split with an English band The Wounded Kings contains only two songs within 35 minutes between you. Could that song “The Gates of Madness” be on “Ritual Abuse” as well?
Parker: There wouldn't be any room for it. I guess it could have gone on the album but we wrote it specifically for the split LP.

You have played some shows with those proper doom legends, Pentagram and Trouble. How did it go?
Parker: It was cool but our two worlds (old school and new school doom) are very different. I love Pentagram and I like Trouble but neither band was the actual line-up, so it does take away from the experience. We fucking killed that Pentagram show though.

There are plans for quite a lot of touring in Europe in April and May of 2011. Are you coming on your own or with some other bands from Relapse? Catching any of the bigger festivals?
Parker: We're flying solo. Playing Thursday at Roadburn and the last show of the European tour is the Alerta AntiFascista Fest in Germany. We'll probably be playing with locals at most of the shows so I'm interested to see who's out there.
Your lyrics are depressive and very dark. Do you need to have a fucked up life to write them, or is it just getting into the genre's mood and atmosphere?
Parker: No. I wouldn't say that we have fucked up lives but that's not to say that we don't mean what we say. It's not even about being in a certain genre. It's not like we're putting on this act and projecting these negative attitudes, it's just us. I don't want to listen to happy songs and I don't think that there is any reason for people to write happy shit. That shit is for children who haven't gotten a grasp on reality. The truth is that you will be shit on for the duration of your life, you will experience loss and you will die. Make the most of it but never forget where we all end up.

Would you rather play before Black Sabbath or Saint Vitus?
Parker: Early 70's Black Sabbath or Wino-era Saint Vitus.

If “Ritual Abuse” is included in Terrorizer Magazine's top of 2010 list, will you be excited?

Parker: It would be cool, I guess. The metal market is so saturated these days that it's probably hard for the magazines to pick out the true, no bullshit records. I also don't buy into a lot of what the magazines say because their funding depends on advertising. They can't bite the hands that feed them. I'd be more excited about ending up on some basement-dwelling, lifelong doom fan's top 10 list.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

UNEARTHLY TRANCE - The Goat, the Trident and the Unholy Spirit

First of all – what a bandname! Can you play silly radio tunes if you're called Unearthly Trance? Definitely not! This New York-based powerhouse trio delivers an ungodly and merciless doom sludge assault completed with the full-of-rage vocals of Ryan Lipynsky, who is the band's frontman and six-string axe-master. If you missed their 2008 opus „Electrocution”, go back to it right now and join the cult. Two years later, the band has put out another tough-as-nails effort through Relapse – the epic „V”. Here is what Ryan has to say about it.

Unearthly Trance has been around for 10 years already. You have recorded five albums and a ton of splits. Do you think you could have done more? Could you briefly summerize that decade?

Ryan: Could we have done more? No, I don't think so. Perhaps we could tour more but that isn't always such a wise choice for bands who want to stick around. This decade has been a steady pace since Darren Verni joined in on drums in 2001. Write, Rehearse, Record. We are a band that has been totally dedicated to our own craft. We have not swayed with the trends like so many do. We have stayed true to our foundation and have taken our listeners on what we like to think of as a journey. With „V” there is some sort of full circle feeling that has occured.
„Electrocution” had pretty clear production. With „V” you went for dirtier, less selective and very underground sound. You wanted it to be really different from „Electrocution”?
Ryan: On „Electrocution” we let pur producer Sanford Parker do everything and we sat back and tried not to interfere too much. On „V” we recorded and mixed a majority of the record under our control. I think „Electrocution” was an album focused more on the vocals and drums and this album was focused more on the power trio vibe of rehearsal and live feeling. On „Electrocution” we tried different studio techniques and Sanford is a professional. I'm proud of both albums. Some don't understand „Electrocution” but perhaps in time, people will see it in the scheme of our career as a unique piece of the whole. „V” is raw, honest, and occult. From here... the unknown. We will never do the same record twice.

You are of Ukrainian descent and live in New York. In that context, I would like to ask about „Little Odessa” film with Tim Roth and Edward Furlong. Do you have any experience of such neighbourhoods or issues?
Ryan: I have never seen this particular movie but I live close to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. I'm sure those people don't fuck around. I have lived in Brooklyn for quite a while now, but I grew up on Long Island. My only exposure to Ukrainian culture was through my grandparents and the only thing I know is my grandfather liked scotch on the rocks and my grandmother was a hell of a cook. I am half of Welsh and half of Ukrainian descent. So I grew up in a typical lower-middle class Long Island, New York existence, not in an urban ethnic neighborhood.

Brooklyn is well-known for its hardcore scene. Do you feel attached to it in any way? Do you go to hardcore gigs?
Ryan: Lately, I go to DIY hardcore shows through playing in my other band Pollution. Somehow, we fit in with what young kids are doing and are into in Brooklyn. I have an affinity for DIY music as it is the opposite to the corporate scum that rips bands and musicians off.
Unearthly Trance has that unique vibe and it must be overwhelming during live performances. What do your concerts look like?
Ryan: Our concerts are usual and an anomaly. Occasionaly we have lots of women attend, sometimes no one shows up, sometimes a whole new crowd of people that we have never seen shows up... Basically, over the past 10 years in New York playing shows we have seen a ton of people come and go and everyone seems to want to „climb the ladder” in „the scene”. Unearthly Trance stays isolated and we focus on our own thing only. We barely even have bands that we like around here. I could count them on my hand.

Do you choose shorter tracks to make it as intense as possible or do you play longer and growing ones as well?
Ryan: This is one of the coolest questions anyone asked in a while! I had to actually sit and think for a bit. Unearthly Trance is fun to play as we all embrace the attitude that our sets will always vary. In fact, I doubt we have played the same exact order of songs ever. Even on tour we change it up every night. I like playing the shorter songs and that is why I have written more over the years in recent times. They work better live. Sometimes if we open for a bigger band we only get 30-35 minutes. So sometimes we will just play 4 songs. It all depends on the vibe of the show and what sounds sounded best at the previous rehearsal. Or sometimes we just call out songs and change the set on stage! In Europe we play for longer on demand. But we like it, as we get treated well over there and we seem to have more of a devoted following overseas.

Was the album title „V” a conscious reference to the Saint Vitus record?
Ryan: No more than a reference to a pentagram or venus, or perhaps Crowley's V for Victory to combat the facists. Our „V” is the power of the hidden conquering the oppression of modernity in America. V is for Vengeance don't you know!? The rabbit hole effect is the desired result for the listener’s experience. We want you to wonder what it all means.

You use the symbol of the trident quite a lot in your artwork. What does it stand for and how do you understand it?
Ryan: The trident is of course multifaceted. Simply, we are a three piece and it can been seen as three people joined together to create a unified sonic force. The trident is also associated with Neptune. A symbol of lightning. It can be a weapon used out at sea; the sea is a metaphor the subconscious and metaphysical.

You have done a split with Minsk and recorded Roky Erickson songs. How important is his work to you? Is he an underrated artist?
Ryan: I think Roky is a very underrated artist. His voice used to be incredible. Really haunting and powerful. He wrote some awesome rock songs over the years and he has this unique take on alien/lucifer lyrics. This was a result of the drugs and the cruel shock therapy the powers-that-be subjected him to. First he was tripping and then they locked him up and he connected to demons and supernatural forces. Much respect to Roky and the 13th Floor Elevators.

What pushed you to form The Howling Wind at first?
Ryan: The Howling Wind was formed to have an outlet for the kind of material I did with the previous black metal tinged project I did called Thralldom. I like to play more overtly metallic stuff with two guitars sometimes. Being that this has only been a studio band so far. It frees me up to do things I would never do with a live band.

Would you do live shows with The Howling Wind or is it strictly a studio initiative?
Ryan: No live shows right now. We have yet to play live and I am unsure if we ever will. If we do, we will have Carl from Coffinworm help us out on bass or guitar and I think we would probably need another member as well to pull it off properly. Also, there isn't this great demand for us to play. So for now, unless some amazing offer comes through, we will keep it as underground and distant as possible. I very much like not having to go through some of the annoying things that can be brought out being a touring musician.

There are many memorable and epic riffs on your albums since your style is very guitar-oriented. What are your favourite guitar riffs of all time?
Ryan: Cool question. I will probably list things that many would consider obvious but we should never overlook the pioneers of what we call heavy metal. So, it's Black Sabbath's „Black Sabbath”, „Snowblind”, „Symptom of the Universe” and countless others. To be honest, most of my favourite riffs ever have been done by Iommi, Butler and Ward. Others for example: „Procreation of the Wicked” by Celtic Frost, „Black Diamond” by Kiss, „Under a Funeral Moon” by Darkthrone. There are too many to name!

Monday 29 November 2010

INTRONAUT - Caught Somewhere Between the Riffs

It's pretty easy to imagine why kids from Birmingham, Stockholm or Seattle might play depressive music, but coming from Santa Monica suggests Baywatch, The Beach Boys and surfing rather than a sludgy down-tuned stoned riff attack, mixed with skilled drumming and fat organic bass lines. Axe-master and Intronaut frontman Sacha Dunable proves how wrong these preconceptions can be. We talk about their new album „Valley of Smoke”, what it means to be progressive and how much they like coming to Europe to tour. California Über Alles!

Your previous 2008 album „Prehistoricisms” was simply great. What did you want to do with the new record? Top it, try something new?

Sacha: I think we had a different mindset for a new album. „Prehistoricisms” was much colder and harsher in sound and atmosphere. This time we wanted it to be more musical. With more melody and harmony. The singing developed a lot, which we didn't plan. It just came out naturally. We just thought it would be good to bring some variety to our style and sound.

What expectations do you have with „Valley of Smoke”?
Sacha: It's pretty simple. We hope poeple will find the record interesting and we have more opportunities to tour and play shows.

You have made impressive progress since 2006's „Void”. Did it take much effort?
Sacha: We obviously put lots of effort and work in our music. Lately we spent some more time on developing vocal to be able to do something more than just 45 minutes of shouting. We are now much stronger as mucisians compared to 2006. We jam a lot and we practise some cover-songs as a warm-up before the rehersals.

What songs do you usually play?
Sacha: Sometimes it's just some crazy stuff such as playing over Primus bass lines or something like that. We as well like to do some Alice In Chains and Led Zeppelin songs.

Would you agree with Intronaut being called a progressive post-metal band?

Sacha: I don't really care about what labels people give us but I can understand why they need them. It just helps some new listeners to figure out what we are about. One of the goals for Intronaut is to avoid labels and cliches so I can agree with „progressive” but only if it means trying something new.

Some bits of your music seem to be improvised. How do you write?

Sacha: Most of it is being written during rehersals and jams but I do write some riffs at home too and then present them to the rest of the band. We usually start with one part and build the track based on it. There is hardly any improvisation in both our records and live performances.

What music influeced the way Intronaut sounds?
Sacha: We are influenced by a vast variety of stuff, which are not easy to point out. At the earlier stage it was some doom, sludge and grindcore but our guitar and bass players Dave and Joe are massive jazz guys. They can talk about jazz for hours. So you can imagine it's a mix of different experiences and styles put together.

You have toured the US and Canada with Helmet lately, in October-November 2010. Is Page Hamilton really a great guitar player?
Sacha: It was just awesome to do that tour since when Helmet's „Meantime” and „Betty” came out (circa 1992-94) I was at school and I loved those records. I think Page is actually a better guitarist now then he was 20 years ago. We had a decent reception. The crowd was rather older. More people at our age. Not many teenagers at all. Just proper music fans. It was really cool to do that tour.

What part of California are you from? Is Los Angeles really as a dangerous city as portrayed in such films as „To Live and Die in LA” or „Colors”?
Sacha: I actually live in Santa Monica, which is located just at the seaside and surrounded by Los Angeles County by other three sides. Los Angeles is a huge city. It's really spread-out. There are so many different neighbourhoods and areas that it is difficult to speak of it in general. I think films you're talking about show LA in the 80's. It has changed a lot since that. Some areas that had some certain reputation are much better now.

Los Angeles is huge so definitely there are tons of bands there. Who do you hang around with and who are you friends?
Sacha: We share a rehersal room with Lightning Swords of Death. They are a black metal band. Ancestors are very good friends of ours. Their doom/sludge stuff is awesome. We tour together quite a lot.

How did you came across Century Media?
Sacha: I have known some of the guys from the US branch for years. We have been flatmates with some as well. So it's not that we have just got the call straight from Germany and signed a paper with some people that we have never seen. Working with them is just great. We are happy about the cooperation.

The year is slowly coming to an end. What records did you find interesting in 2010?
Sacha: I really loved Cloudkicker's „Beacons”. It's a one-man band from Ohio. It's got some of the same vibe that we have at Intronaut. It also reminds me a little bit of Meshuggah sound and feeling. I think Immolation's „Majesty and Decay”, Nails' „Unsilent Death” and Horseback's „The Invisible Mountain” are very good records too. I think Danny's new band Murder Construct that just signed with Relapse put out pretty quality self-titled album. It's grindcore.

What are your touring plans for 2011?
Sacha: There is a European tour somewhere there coming but it's not really planned yet. We are doing some touring in the States first. We have been to Europe once previously in 2007 and would really like to return. We were a very new band at the time. I think Europe is more artist-friendly than the US. There is more appreciation. People and promoters seem to care much more. There is more freedom. In the States we are always bugged by specific laws and restrictions in different states. For example the time show has to finish etc.

What were last three gigs that you went to?
Sacha: It was Watain. I'm not a very big fan but my girlfriend is and she got us tickets. The other one was Suffocation, The Faceless and Decrepit Birth. I have been a Suffocation fan for a long time. I would never imagine those guys actually ever heard of Intronaut. I spoke to their drummer Mike Smith and he told me he loves our music. I was both shocked and happy. The third gig was Saviours. They are a pretty young band but they play old-school heavy metal.

What did you do to Warlord Clothing people that they have about 20 Intronaut t-shirt designs?
Sacha: Hahahah! They guy behind Warlord isa friend of ours Bruce Reeves – ex-Phobia bass player. He has as well been in Destroyed in Seconds. Well, we were giving him all the designs over the years so it somehow got to that number.

Do you appreciate heavy metal solo guitar players such as Steve Vai?
Sacha: I don't really listen to that kind of music. I think Vai is quite cool but it's usually not my thing. It sounds bit corny to me. It's like elevator music. I would rather like to listen to George Benson.

Saturday 23 October 2010

VALKYRJA - Contaminate the Earth

Valkyrja is a toxic sewer of filth thrown into your eyes. It stings, it burns, it causes pain and suffering. It doesn't go away. It stays in your system. The fairly young Stockholm commando poured tons of deadly black scum on the face of Earth with their second album “Contamination”, released by Metal Blade in January 2010. A crushing wall of high-speed riffs, accompanied by a tearing rhythm section, is only fully completed with Andreas L.'s voice which tortures and haunts everything in sight. Nearly an hour-long inferno of overwhelming hymns such as “Oceans to Dust”, “Solstice in Withdrawal”, and “The Womb of Disease” brings nothing but shock and awe. The year is not over yet, but so far it is one of the strongest and bleakest records of 2010. Andreas L. was asked to comment on recent events and the future of the band.

You played your biggest tour so far in September 2010 with Marduk and Ragnarok. It was 17 dates in Poland, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, your country Sweden, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania. What were your expectations? Were they fulfilled? Could your sum up the whole thing in few sentences?
Andreas L.: Our expectations were of course to manifest the grandest violence possible. We knew a lot of hard work had to be dealt with, and with the experience in the rear-view mirror, I can say with pride we shunned no sacrifice. Since this was our first tour we were extremely fortunate to share the experience with such well-experienced individuals, both bands and Massive Music crew in mind. A torch has been lit and time to harvest will come again – to our delight, to others’ misfortune.

You had a substitute drummer for that tour? Who was the guy and was he up to the task after all?
Andreas L.: Due to J. Wallgren, our regular drummer’s hectic schedule we had the fortune to collaborate with Ragnar Sverrisson. He's from Iceland and plays with the death metal band Beneath. He showed an energy and intensity beyond this world and it would be my privilege to cross paths with him again in Valkyrja’s future. I see him as my brother in arms, no question about it!

Did you watch Marduk each night? Did they maintain the level of energy and fury during the whole tour as they produced during the opening gig in Poznan?
Andreas L.: Each band made their greatest effort each night. It is why we chose to begin the crusade in the first place. Few times before have I felt such violence linger in the air as they produced inside these arenas.
Your album “Contamination” is one of the brightest releases in 2010. How satisfied are you with it? Do you think it's an ultimate effort of Valkyrja or you can do even better in the future?
Andreas L.: Each and every album from a band should of course stand as a monument of blood, sweat and devotion – a prime example of what you truly are made of – otherwise the artists simply have the wrong mentality or actual will to sacrifice. “Contamination” is, to us, an expansion of all we previously have done, seeking further down the deeps, ascending even higher into the unknown and lighting fires in catacombs before unknown. We are satisfied with the manifestation in each aspect for it is another corner stone of our monument.
Concerning upcoming material – there are never any promises of more. If we feel we cannot evolve enough to present something that for us is overpowered with the same passion, fire and hunger and reach levels we, in the past, were unable to reach, then there will be no more – and that is the only sane way of thinking, in my humble opinion. If a third Valkyrja will surface, we’ll simply have to see what this abomination will contain. I do not dare to even take a wild guess at this point…

Metal Blade advertises you as black metal. Does it make a difference to you to be called black or death metal?
Andreas L.: You could call it jazz or rock if you felt the urge for that. It wouldn’t twist the reality of its content anyway. Genres or labels cannot alter the truth of its wretched presence. Let people be the judges when it comes to categorizations and the like, but know this – we are the executioners.

Stockholm is home to death metal. Bands like Nihilist, Entombed, Carnage or Dismember built the foundation for it. Does Stockholm still have lots of new interesting original bands coming out each year?
Andreas L.: Of course, some gems are to be found among the piles of dung spread across our feet, a statement which I guess goes for each and every country. There is no value in lifting forth specific bands, the ones who carry the fire and frenzy within the audio channel will be known in the future anyway, let it be known!

Is Swedish society rather traditional and religious or maybe like in Germany, the UK or France, the level of laicization is quickly rising too and churches are emptier every day?
Andreas L.: As far as I am concerned, Swedes are quite liberal when it comes to religion. YHVH is in generalization a comfort and a symbol of the “clean moral values that should fabricate the society”. Compared to Italy or similar countries, injected with the Holy blood in a way that differs quite radically from us, we stand quite dormant.

Being an underground extreme metal musician in Sweden, is it possible to make a living from it? Do you have regular everyday jobs?
Andreas L.: Far from it. If I had any economical profit in mind, I would have fallen to my knees in dismay a long time ago. The small amounts of money of earned economical profit are, in some way or another, invested within the band and stay in that circulation.
There are some crushing bands from Poland such as Azarath, Furia or Mgla. Do you give a fuck about any Polish metal?
Andreas L.: I recognize some Polish bands, sure. I must point out that I see no relevance in any aspect where musicians originate from geographically. Whether it be Norway, Spain, Greece or Bolivia – it has no importance as long as the performers are serious in their vision and practice. This art form doesn’t originate from any specific soil (the musical art form, to be more specific), so let the fleshly vessel shine with its light, no matter the location.

Watain or Behemoth have a lot of production behind their gigs, with all the effects, lights, stage design and pyrotechnics. If you had such means, what would your show look like?
Andreas L.: It is impossible to point out any specific scenery, since I would like to see the most blazing inferno, a horrific terror by no man ever before witnessed. Each aspect in a live performance should be rancid and malevolent for each sense, the visual part not excepted. I do not think it is possible to manifest the grandiose funeral I have in mind for a performance, so I will see what the “realistic” means will be able to provide us to at least let the audience catch a glimpse of the idea(l).

There is a fantastic film called „Valhalla Rising” with Mads Mikkelsen as a main character. Have you seen it, do you have an opinion about it?
Andreas L.: There are few recent movies I’ve truly enjoyed, to be honest. The movie you mentioned is not one I’ve seen, so I cannot make any comments about it.

What albums have you enjoyed so far in 2010?
Andreas L.: MMX has been a rewarding year actually, several releases have delighted. At this moment, I have no real interest in listing any highlights, let each individual revel in the artifacts of the year with their own interest.

Friday 8 October 2010

TRIPTYKON - On Frosty Ground

Tom G. Warrior was the main man behind the ugly monster of Hellhammer and then now-über-cult Celtic Frost. Since their way was always the painful and hard one, the band was finally laid to rest in 2008. It didn't take Tom much time to go hell and back and bring another horror being to life – Triptykon. Songs that were included on 2010's “Eparistera Daimones” album and “Shatter” EP were originally written for the next Celtic Frost album. Triptykon is an extension of all his previous work, but brought to a new level of dark disturbing riff-worshiping metal. I spoke to Tom about the band.

You are much older than the rest of Triptykon members. Did you have sort of mentor-pupil relationship at the beginning?

Tom: We treat each other equally. Our relations are healthy because there are no ego problems like we had a lot in Celtic Frost. Triptykon is free from that. The way we got to know each other came out pretty natural. Our bass player Vanja was a good friend's friend, so we were aware of each other before. V. Santura was playing guitar with Celtic Frost for the last couple of years of the band's existence. Actually, the only new guy was our drummer Norman. Maybe at the beginning there was a little bit of what you called a „mentor-pupil relationship”, but soon it didn't matter anymore. The age factor is not important since we became a band of close friends.

Norman used to play with Fear My Thoughts, a band originally connected with the hardcore/metalcore scene. Are you interested in checking out younger bands?
Tom: My life is heavy music but that doesn't mean I'm limited to metal. I'm interested in other genres and sub-genres of heavy sounds. There are so many bands around right now that it's really tough to check them all out. It's easy to miss out on something good too. Fear My Thoughts split up two years ago but Norman has another band going called Pigeon Toe. I have seen them playing live. It's got lots of groove. It's something I'm interested in not only because it's Norman's band.

Organizers of the Roadburn Festival asked you to choose bands that you respect and invite them to play live in April 2010 during the festival. Among them were Altar of Plagues, Thorr's Hammer, and Church of Misery. The thing was called „Only Death is Real”. How did it work out?
Tom: Roadburn people who are friends of mine came to me with that opportunity, which was a great honor. Once in a lifetime chance. I was asked to prepare a list of bands that are important to me and made an impact on my life. As you can imagine, the list was very long. Not all the bands could come to play of course. That wouldn't be possible. Shamefully, Jesu and Evoken were canceled because of the volcano eruption in Iceland. The truth is I couldn't see all the gigs on that day because I was also busy with interviews and my own set with Triptykon.

„Procreation (of the Wicked)” and „Dethroned Emperor” are monumental songs that are totally significant to the history of metal and probably inspired a thousand bands. Are there any stories or anecdotes regarding their creation?
Tom: The very first song I did for Celtic Frost was „Procreation”. The funny thing is I never write songs during the jam. I was always doing them at home. Creating the riff myself, recording it on the cassette first and later bringing it to rehearsal where we all worked on it. This time it was different and the song was an outcome of a jam, which was very unusual.
When we started Celtic Frost in 1984 we didn't have any material written and ready yet. I was so eager to do something that I decided to bring some older Hellhammer stuff and worked on it just to keep playing and creating. „Dethroned Emperor” was a newly developed and re-written version of the song called „Power of Satan” off the Hellhammer demo „Triumph of Death”. When you listen closely to it you can hear that riff, which I borrowed and built the new song on.

As a massive Black Sabbath fan, how did you like the Heaven & Hell album „The Devil You Know”? Have you ever met the big man, Ronnie James Dio?
Tom: Unfortunately we never met but I really hoped it would happen in the future. It's a huge loss. From what I heard he was a very wonderful human being, which in music and especially the heavy metal music business is really unusual.
To be frank, I was little disappointed with „The Devil You Know”. I was counting for more complex song-writing and lyrics. I was blown away by the song „The Devil Cried”, which they wrote and played earlier but it didn't go on that album. I need to say that Dio-era Black Sabbath and records like „Heaven and Hell” and „Mob Rules” made an absolutely great impact on my life when they came out. I prefer them over „The Devil You Know”. Tony Iommi never wrote a bad album anyway. His worst work is still hundred times better that anything I have done myself.

Where do you live in Switzerland and what is your neighborhood like?
Tom: I was born in Zürich but then my parents divorced when I still was a kid and we moved with my mother to Nürensdorf, a small city 15 kilometers from Zürich. Right now I live just outside of Zürich, in the neighborhood I would never expect myself to live. It's clean, quiet and rather full of older people. I have here all the peace and anonymity I need. That’s where I write all my music and where I wrote my books.

You often say Hellhammer and Celtic Frost used to be ridiculed a lot in the past and that there were only a couple of people that gave you support. Now people start giving you appreciation awards and saying how much your bands were always important to them. Do you think it's sincere?
Tom: Good question. You need to know that there are lots of people that still really hate me and it's not only for musical reasons. There are some envious and jealous individuals. My music was always provoking extreme reactions. That award you're talking about was a nice thing but it seems so much surreal. I don't create music for any awards, just for myself. Thinking from that point of view, I honestly don't care about awards etc.

The formation of Hellhammer in 1982 was a manifest of your hate and anger. Is it still the driving force behind the creative process almost 30 years later?
Tom: It's a different form of anger today. Hellhammer was an escape from a difficult youth I had. Now, as an adult, I don't need to escape anymore. What pushes me now is the frustration and hatred against human kind and its deeds.

Many bands admit being deeply influenced by your music. Do you hear Hellhammer or Celtic Frost in other's music?
Tom: I don't see myself as so influential and important. It's difficult to hear such things in other's music. Once, though, in a record shop in Zürich around 1998 some music was played through the speakers. In the first reaction, I was sure it's Celtic Frost, only seconds later finding out it's not but the sound was so similar. I was astonished, so I asked about it. It was Darkthrone's „Panzerfaust”. I immediately got into their stuff. Later, when I met the guys, I spoke about it to one of them, Nocturno Culto, and he confirmed they had a heavy Celtic Frost influence.

There is a video coming out to a Triptykon song called „Shatter”. Behemoth has been doing some really top-produced pictures lately. Did you like them?
Tom: The video we shot for „Shatter” will be quite different than anything else since the song is a mixture of rather delicate melody and harsh heavy metal sound. Like the one we did for „A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh” a few years back, it's going to be done with much attention.
I admire Behemoth. Their videos are fantastic. Nergal actually is a friend of mine and we share the same passion for music. We both put a great deal of effort into how we present our work visually and musically.

You took a part in Dave Grohl's project called Probot in 2003 by co-writing the song “Big Sky”. Did you work in the studio together?
Tom: We corresponded directly but actually never met in the studio. He approached me about the whole thing. Saying he was a big Celtic Frost fan. The song was done by mail. I recorded my vocal lines in Switzerland and sent the stuff over to him to US. Later on there was an occasion to do the song live during one of Foo Fighters gigs in Europe but at the end it didn't work out.

Triptykon is playing almost a month-long tour in the US in October 2010. I'm rather concerned about Europe, to be honest. So, Tom, do you have any plans? There are some hungry fans waiting for your band in Poland!
Tom: I'm not so much excited about the US either (laughing). Yes, definitely we want to do a large European tour. Most probably in spring 2011. I would really love to return to Poland since the gig with Celtic Frost in 2007 in Katowice was one of our best experiences. I'm very much counting on coming to your country again!

Friday 10 September 2010

MOURNFUL CONGREGATION - Attending Your Own Funeral

While most bands take part in speed racing, these Aussie funeral doom merchants took the advice given by Saint Vitus and Thergothon to insanely slow the fuck down and captured the essence of heaviness. Their 2009 long-player, “The June Frost”, together with Evoken's “A Caress of the Void” and Esoteric's “The Maniacal Vale”, is the top effort in the doom business from the last five years. Drummer Adrian Bickle answers the questions.

You started the band in 1993. What took you so long to actually start playing some live gigs a little more often in 2009 and 2010?

Adrian: We’ve basically always operated as a two or three piece band in terms of the studio but we knew we’d require a five member line-up if we were going to transform Mournful Congregation into a live machine and authenticate the sounds. There was an attitude amongst us that we were only going to do this if there were significant incentives to play live. It just didn’t seem worth the time and effort training up two new members and developing a live set to only play some shows in Australia. However, by about 2008 it was obvious that there was a lot of interest in us playing abroad and some solid opportunities so we recruited Ben Newsome on bass and original Mournful Congregation member Ben Petch joined us on guitar and we just took it from there.

As you say „Doom is for those whose hearts beat slower”. While most metal bands pursue speed and blastbeat records, you are one big fuck off to all that. To all the trends, all the fashion, all the competition. Is doom metal a different state of mind? I love to look at it through the lyrics of the Saint Vitus song „Born too late”, which could be sort of an anthem or a doom manifesto. What do you think of that?
Adrian: There are so many people out there who measure heaviness simply through the speed of a blast beat or how fast the riff can be played whereas our focus has always been more on the heaviness conveyed in an emotional or atmospheric capacity. You’re correct, as a collective we are completely indifferent to whatever is fashionable and in vogue so I guess, to some extent, our indifference is in itself a negation of whatever trends surround us.
As far as doom metal being a different state of mind... I think that comes down to the individual, to whatever their impression of doom is and how that manifests within them. And yes, if there was to be a doom anthem then Saint Vitus, Candlemass... these are good places to look.

You came to Europe with Mourning Beloveth and Longing For Dawn in 2009. Bands from Ireland, Canada, and you from Australia. What an extraordinary tour! What could you say about the whole thing?
Adrian: We made some lifelong friends out of that tour – the guys from Mourning Beloveth and Longing For Dawn were just such awesome people to tour with so we really couldn’t have asked for anything more. We stayed in some crazy places, met plenty of crazy people… so there wasn’t a dull moment. I think when you travel through a different country every day you end up in an almost constant state of surprise and awe at the architecture, the environment, and everything that varies from what you’ve come to know as ‘normal’ in your homeland. Nothing was disappointing though, it was a brilliant experience.

You went to Japan in July 2010. Played three shows in Nagoya, Tokyo and Osaka with Corrupted. Most bands that go there say it's crazy, fans are out of their minds, etc. Can you confirm that?
Adrian: There’s definitely a lot of fanatics in Japan – they are passionate about the music they enjoy but also the most respectful people I’ve ever encountered. And Corrupted.. damn, that was one of the heaviest things I’ve witnessed!

Your label Weird Truth is Japanese. What made you to cooperate with them?
Adrian: We’ve had a cooperation going on with Makoto & Weird Truth for about ten years now. I believe originally they contacted us about re-releasing the first couple of demos on CD and that eventually became what is now “The Dawning of Mournful Hymns” double CD. Over the years Makoto has proven to be a completely reliable and dedicated guy so we were very happy to carry on the working relationship with Weird Truth.
Your lyrics are quite poetic and metaphoric. Could you mention the most important and main themes and thoughts of them?
Adrian: Damon has written the vast majority of the lyrics for the band throughout our history and the themes include depression, transcendental meditation, the occult, suicide, loss, nature and that which encompasses the pursuit of universal knowledge and mystery.

I really love “The June Frost” layout. Who is Pat Di Palo and what does the triple cross with serpent stand for?
Adrian: The triple cross is in fact the Tree of Life (Kabbalah) and the snake draped around it is the Kundalini Serpent. The concepts behind this symbology are quite detailed but we’d certainly encourage those inclined to explore the more esoteric aspects of life. As individuals we consider there to be more to the universe and to the purpose of our being than zoning out watching television and drinking beer whilst checking Facebook on a phone. Unfortunately, in our dumbed-down and consumption obsessed societies most people have lost the inclination to explore the real mysteries or expand their thinking to embrace greater truths.
Pat Di Palo is a great friend and an extremely gifted photographer and graphic designer. His skills can also be seen on recent related releases such as the new Cauldron Black Ram and StarGazer albums.

Where did you take “The June Frost” promo photos?
Adrian: The photos were taken on a property in the hills outside of Adelaide. The road from this region carries on to the Riverland which is the area from which the band first originated.

Adelaide is a pretty huge city. Do you actually live in the city? What's the vibe like?

Adrian: Yes, we all live in Adelaide although I wouldn’t exactly class it as a huge city. There’s about a million people here but it’s only about the fifth largest city in Australia. It’s quite a nice place and I’d say the people here are generally rather friendly. The vibe is pretty relaxed, definitely more relaxed than the larger Australian cities like Melbourne and Sydney.

You seem to be really aware of all the aspects of the band. The whole sound and song structure, the lyrics, album art. It's all perfected and so carefully worked out that it's not much of a surprise that it takes you five years to complete the record. You like to take your time, don't you?
Adrian: Yes, we tend to be fairly meticulous with all the details and we’d definitely prefer to take our time with the whole process and be very satisfied with a release than rush things and end up regretting one part or another. Having said that, the five years or so between “The Monad of Creation” and “The June Frost” was also partly due to our busy schedules with music and the other things going on in our lives. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into Mournful Congregation in the last few years and we are just about to enter the studio once more – so there will only be about two years between “The June Frost” and what will follow it in 2011.

Tell me about the new material.
Adrian: We’ll be in the studio by December 2010 and should have the next album out by mid 2011. I’m confident this will be the most bleak and epic release thus far.

Do you have a working title for the next album? Will you re-record any of the older songs for it?

Adrian: We have some ideas for the next album title but nothing is certain yet. There will be no re-recordings on it, all of the material is fresh.
Let's say metal in general is underground music. But taking a closer look, Mournful Congregation is an underground of that underground. Nine out of ten of Sepultura or Dimmu Borgir fans wouldn't possibly make it through your album. How narrow is what you are doing?
Adrian: One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that there are plenty of metal fans who simply don’t get where we’re coming from but there are also plenty of people who generally have zero interest in metal that really enjoy what we do – on some levels we’re not particularly genre specific. What we do may be narrow in some ways, especially in the context of the metal scene. We don’t write music for people to mosh to, it’s not aggressive in any conventional sense, and we’re not trying to be more evil than the clowns in the next village. This isn’t music designed for simple digestion – it will never be mainstream, it will never be compromised and if that means nine out of ten Sepultura fans never understand us… well, we’re absolutely fine with that.

How does Australia affect your music? I can imagine some vast landscapes, loads of space, an impression of loneliness, alienation, melancholy. Are you inspired by the nature, Australian soil much?
Adrian: I find it difficult to imagine growing up in a place as vast and epic as Australia and not being influenced by it or drawing any form of inspiration from all that surrounds us. This environment would inspire each of us in our own way and in the end that inspiration can find a musical voice. As you mentioned though, there is a sense of isolation that prevails when you live on an island at the end of the Earth and this isolation can lead to states of melancholy and detachment. It’s natural, we’re used to it.

All of you play in other bands as well. Are they your side bands or is rather Mournful Congregation something you only do from time to time?
Adrian: No, I think I can safely say that Mournful Congregation is as important to us as any other bands we’re involved with. It’s definitely not looked upon as a side project. We’ve put much time into it and it’s becoming increasingly demanding.

What particular records made Mournful Congregation what it is? Who is responsible for the doom metal genre?
Adrian: In the beginning the members were inspired by records such as “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” by Candlemass, “Forest of Equilibrium” by Cathedral, “Stream From the Heavens” by Thergothon etc. We were influenced by these types of albums but wanted to take it all to a more extreme, darker place. As for the origins of doom metal – to me it goes back to Black Sabbath, although that’s just my opinion.

Damon played with Portal – one bloody disturbing metal commando from Brisbane. It's one of those bands that is almost unlistenable. Are those guys total necro death-obsessed freaks?

Adrian: Aha, Damon assisted the Portal demons a few years ago now. Your description of them is fairly accurate although they’re more extreme than that.

Is your drumming style influenced by any other drummer? Did you ever hear anyone drumming as slow before yourself?
Adrian: If we’re talking about my drumming in Mournful Congregation then I’d have to say no, I didn’t base any of my playing on anyone else. I just tried to develop a trademark but minimalistic approach that would complement the feel of the music. I actually find it more difficult to play this extreme doom than most other styles because you have to try and make it powerful but insanely slow and tight at the same time. Generally speaking, the drummers that influenced me most were guys like Sean Reinert of Cynic, Terry Bozzio of UK, Virgil Donati – to name a few.
There were definitely guys playing ultra slow before me – Thergothon is just one example.

You have done a cover song of Thergothon for the "Rising Of Yog-Sothoth" tribute album. Are you considering doing any other covers in the future?
Adrian: It’s not something we ever really discuss. In all these years that is the only cover we’ve ever done so unless there was a really good reason it’s difficult to imagine doing another one.

What was the set-list of your last gig?
Adrian: That was in Tokyo: “Descent of the Flames” – “Suicide Choir” – “The Epitome of Gods & Men Alike” – “A Slow March to the Burial” – “Mother-Water, The Great Sea Wept” – “Suffer the Storms”.

One of your other bands, Chalice, is no more, but there is Tzun Tzu. You seem to like Japanese history and culture. Did it start with Kurosawa movies?
Adrian: Chalice disbanded quite a while ago but several of the members still play together in Black Orchid, including Justin from Mournful Congregation. I don’t actually play in Tzun Tzu, I just did some session drums on a couple of tracks in the studio and live when they performed with Dismember. Tzun Tzu is really the brainchild of Don Taylor who’s a death metal legend here in Australia and so even though I do possess a deep respect and interest in Japanese culture that band is in fact a reflection of the interest of Don in the Asian cultures.

What albums have impressed you so far in 2010?
Adrian: Burzum “Belus”, Watain “Lawless Darkness” and StarGazer “A Great Work Of Ages”. There’s probably a bunch of others, I just can’t think of them right now!

The Australian scene isn't too well-known in Europe. Well, there is AC/DC, but I mean more underground. Could you name some significant bands in the history of Aussie metal?
Adrian: When I was growing up there were bands like Sadistik Exekution that were taking things to a pretty extreme level. Nowadays there is a lot of talent and diversity within the metal scene here – sadly, our isolated location means that only a handful of the talent here gets seen abroad. If I was going to recommend some quality bands I’d probably say Psycroptic, StarGazer, Neath, Virgin Black, Nazxul, Tzun Tzu, Black Orchid, Portal, Altars, Austere, Cauldron Black Ram. That’d be a solid start.

I cannot resist asking this one. Chopper – legendary man. A few books, a great movie and loads of myths. How much of a public person is he in Australia and do Aussies actually give a toss about him?
Adrian: Haha, yeah, Chop Chop is a real cult legend in Australia. Some people love him, some loathe him – but everyone knows who Chopper is! He has quite a solid place in Australian folklore because he managed to take humour and intelligence and cleverly reflect on a life as a career criminal.

Sunday 5 September 2010

KYLESA - Between Silence and Sound

Year of 2009 was a breakthrough for Savannah-based rockers Kylesa. They have released their self-titled debut in 2002 and later hit with another two decent full-lengths “To Walk a Middle Course” in 2005 and “Time Will Fuse Its Worth” in 2006 but only after “Static Tensions” was let out in March 2009 the band received the well deserved praise. Combining southern and sludge heritage with hardcore punk and psychedelia they created an original and recognizable swampy sound. Vocalist and guitarist Laura Pleasants explains the details.

“Static Tensions” sound compared to “Time Will Fuse Its Worth” is better, the writing is on a higher level, the whole thing seems to work as a very natural creation. How would you look at “Static Tensions” comparing it to your previous records?
Laura: I think it sums up some of what we were doing in the past while forging ahead with new ideas. I think it’s more refined than our past efforts. The song writing is better. The production is better.

Does the fact you have two drummers make the whole process of writing more of less difficult? I love the fact that you do not try to just fill the songs with the wall of blasting drums. You have the clear concept of using it. When I listened to Kylesa for the first time I didn't even realize you have two drum sets.
Laura: Well, no, because we still write songs. When we wrote “Static Tensions”, Phillip Cope and I wrote with Carl McGinley and we wrote with drum parts in mind but those said parts didn’t dictate the nature of the song. With the structure, we wanted good riffs and flow with vocals to match accordingly – we wanted to use the drums as a force and as a dynamic. I think it’s pretty apparent that there are two drum sets on “Static Tensions” – especially if you listen to the album on headphones. We didn’t have two drummers until 2006’s “Time Will Fuse Its Worth”.

Playing live you have the passion, the energy and the noise. Two drum sets give you that real driving force. Would you say drums are the crucial part of your sound?
Laura: No, I don’t think they are the most important element but maybe that’s because I play guitar. They are a very important element, especially live because of that added volume and force. There is without a doubt, an added intensity to the music with the two kits. But, they are one  part to a bigger whole. I think emotion and energy are probably the most important elements to Kylesa. It’s the way we shape the passion and energy that makes us who we are.

There is a bit of sludge, stoner, hardcore, crust and even punk in your style. Would you consider yourself as a metal band or rather an unidentified mix of many sub-genres of heavy and loud music?
Laura: We are of the latter for sure. I consider us a heavy band: heavy in sound, heavy in tone and heavy with emotion.
Phillip used to play with Damad between 1993 and 2001. Could you say what did you and others in Kylesa were up to before you get the band started and how did it all happen?
Laura: The original line up of Kylesa was the former members of Damad minus their singer, Victoria. I was going to school and playing in a few punk bands. I quit the last punk band due to musical differences and the fact that I was concentrating on my studies. I knew all the folks in Damad. I went to a lot of their shows. I became good friends with Brian Duke and Phillip and started hanging out a lot. Phillip and I started to jam around 1999 as I was looking for people to play seriously with. He broke Damad up in 2000 and asked me to start a band with him. I was into it because I liked his ideas and I wasn’t having any luck with anyone else around town. Carl, who has been our drummer since 2005, was born and raised in Savannah and is about 10 years younger than Phillip so he grew up on Damad. I was in school when I met Carl and I think he was about 14 at the time and I was maybe 19. I booked a show for his band Unpersons, who then sounded like the Germs. Of course the Unpersons grew tremendously over a few years and became my favourite Savannah band. They were leaps and bounds ahead of their time.

There are some good bands around Savannah. There are Baroness, Black Tusk and many more. Could you say some more about the city, the people that live there, the climate, the scene?
Laura: Savannah is very small. It is a port city, a college town and a tourist haven. Their used to be a decent scene there when we were starting out but it has since died down (I should also note the importance of Circle Takes The Square and the Unpersons as important bands). Black Tusk were another band to grow up listening to Damad and early Kylesa. I met James May (the drummer) when he was about 16 and we used to hang out a lot way before either of us were in bands. Baroness came a little later on around 2003. I met John at a Kylesa show. As far as the city goes, it’s a beautiful old southern town. It has the oldest historic district in the country. It’s beautiful yet there is an ugly underside. It has a very strange unique vibe and sometimes can be very oppressive. The heat in the summer is overwhelming. That’s when the crime seems to skyrocket the most. I have a love/hate relationship with Savannah.

Alex Newport of Fudge Tunnel and Nailbomb have produced “To Walk a Middle Course” album. How did you get to work with him?
Laura: We were interested in using a producer. I think Prosthetic Records had the idea to use him. It was an interesting experience. By far the best studio experience for me was when we did “Static Tensions”.

You have an outstanding cover arts. You have some stuff done by the famous Pushead. John Baizley of Baroness designed the artwork for “Static Tensions” and some of your  merch. You have done some covers for Kylesa yourself as well. I love bands that pay attention to how their albums look like. Do you?
Laura: The artistic representation of our band has always been important. I went to the art school in Savannah and Phillip grew up with this art school in his town thus, being surrounded by artists. It’s always been an important factor. I love looking at cool cover art, you know? When I was a kid, I would buy cds/records based on the cover art if I didn’t know who the band was. I love the really weird/odd ball art the best.

Is it hard to be a leader of a band and being a woman at the same time? Is it easier for a man? I think you have to prove so much more when you are a chick. People at first might think you probably are doing all those clean vocals and adding that little bit of sensitivity to a band. All this is crap but I think people like to make judgements a lot.
Laura: I want to make it clear that I am not the leader of the band. Phillip and I are equal creative partners. That said, it can be difficult being a female in a very male dominated scene. It can get old sometimes but I just do my own thing and don’t think too much about it. It’s not like I can compare it to being male in a band because I’ve never had that perspective.

You have covered Pink Floyd song “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” (originally from 1968 “A Saucerful of Secrets” album). Is music of 70s important to you? It is a big part of your inspirations?
Laura: Yeah it’s very important. I’ve been listening to music from the 70s since I was in middle school. Pink Floyd is a huge influence – especially early Floyd.

You have also covered EyeHateGod for the tribute album “For the Sick”. What does that band mean to you and the underground scene in the US?
Laura: EyeHateGod is a hugely important band for the southern sludge scene and the sludge scene in general. They are pioneers!

Whom did you play with in last 12 months?
Laura: I’ve been pretty happy overall with the bands we’ve toured with this past year. Some include: Skeletonwitch, Black Tusk, Mastodon, Intronaut, Torche, Amebix, Birushanah.

Metal press in Poland is not very much interested in other genres of metal except black, death and thrash. Yes, there is a lot of people into prog tech stuff but sludge, stoner and doom is more of a margin. I think most of the time sludge and stoner is more identified with hardcore and is naturally rejected by strict metal heads. I hate that but what can you do? Do you think it is also a case in the US?
Laura: I think early on our style of music was a bit rejected. It wasn’t punk enough for punks and it was too weird for metal heads. That has changed drastically over the past 5 years. It’s quite accepted now in the US and has strangely become popular. But like everything that gets popular, it will soon be rejected again.

Kylesa interview was done in November 2009 and published in Polish in 2010 in “Struggle Zine”. It's the first time it's published in English.

Saturday 4 September 2010

TOMBS – Black Metal Punk

„Winter Hours” is a top record in the metal game of 2009. It brought a perfect blend of metal speed, sludge heaviness and punk aggression. It strikes like a lightning, it hipnotizes. It is a stunning vehement display of energy and vigour of the riff and live shattering drums. Down-to-earth frontman guitarist/vocalist Mike Hill anwsers some important questions.

You come from Brooklyn, New York City. Lots of hardcore bands and rap artists come from that place. It's got a certain reputation of a tough place. How it is to live around those corners? Could you describe your neighbourhood and the place you have been growing up at?
Mike: I grew up outside of the city in a suburb so I don’t feel any kind of local pride or anything.  Though Brooklyn has a reputation for being a rough area, that is largely a misconception at this point due to the gentrification and influx of people with money. There are definitely some neighborhoods that have high crime rates, but I generally steer clear of those places. I have friends that grew up in Brooklyn and I observe their local pride but I can’t really claim any of it. I’ve lived in a lot of different cities in the US so I have grown farther away from those feelings.

Tombs is a pretty new band but you and the other lads have been playing in few  bands before. Could you tell me about those bands and how did you get first started with Tombs?
Mike: I played in Anodyne, Versoma and a number of even lesser known hardcore and metal bands. Our bass player Andrew Hernandez was in ASRA, Revenge, Blood Red Residual and I’m sure numeroous other bands that are slipping my mind at the moment. The drummer – Carson Daniel James is a man without a past.

You have a band, as well you run an indie label called Black Box and you produce other bands on top of that. You seem to be a bloody busy guy. Was creating your own music or recording others first? What bands did you produce so far?
Mike: I backed into producing after I had been playing in bands for a number of years. In the past I’ve worked with Isis, Premonitions of War, Lick Golden Sky and Hot Cross.  These days I focus on my own music, I’m not interested in helping anyone else realize their musical vision because I’m ultimately far too self-centered and want to control everything. Producing is no longer a goal of mine.

You have done a videoclip to an opening song from „Winter Hours” called „Gossamer”. It's a pretty simple picture with you guys playing in sort of an empty hangar but it looks great. Where did you shot it and was it fun or pain to do it?
Mike: We shot the video in a loft in Brooklyn, the kind of place that is rented out for film shoots, art and functions like that. I had never been involved with a “real video shoot” so I didn’t know what to expect but all in all it went pretty smoothly due mainly to Kevin Custer, the producer. He’s a total professional and his vibe is what made the whole thing enjoyable.

„Winter Hours” sounds really fat. It's naturally loud and heavy. I'd rather say it's loud as fuck. It should be mandatory to play it on full volume. It's got that natural, organic, dirty sound of guitar riffs. Many bands right now sound very sterile and polished. You are a total opposite. Would you agree with that?
Mike: I’m not a fan of the super clean style of production where everythiing is isolated and over-compressed. I think a lot of bands that are in the “metal” genre all sound the same due to this style of production. We’re going more for a Neurosis style of soound on our records.

It's hard to label Tombs. You have a bit of that good old hardcore spirit. There is a massive wall of sludgy riffs but also some space for intensive atmosphere. There is a bit of melody that makes me think of Helmet a little. On the other hand you throw in ultra fast parts and blastbeats and those cold bits that make it all much more interesting and brutal. Would you rather say Tombs is a hardcore or a metal band? Or maybe something else?
Mike: If pushed to pick a classification, I would say that we’re a punk band. Philosophically we share more with bands like the Minutemen, Black Flag but we have mainly metal aesthetics.

The cover art for „Winter Hours” is a surprising picture. Not very much in vein of heavy bands. Original and beautiful in my opinion. Who is an author and was it created for Tombs especially?
Mike: Thomas Hooper created the artwork for the record. It’s all original material. I gave him a copy of demo tracks that we recorded for the record and the lyrics and he just went to work creating the art.

What's your opinion on Mastodon's „Crack the Skye”?
Mike: Honestly, I am unfamiliar with Mastodon’s work. I know the band and have seen them several times, but I can’t say that I am a fan of their music.

New York is one of those few cities in the world where things happen. I mean popular culture. There is so many huge bands that come from NYC. Metal, hardcore, punk and many more subgenres. Is there a big competition? Is it relatively easier to be noticed there or is it harder to get through all those bands around?
Mike: New York is all hype and very little substance. Many people in this city have a careerist attitude about making music and favor the business aspects over the actual creative process. For example, when Interpol became popular there were a thousand bands copying them. Now that metal is kind of popular there are a lot of very hip, attractive kids adopting the fashion and playing a false, watered down simulation of metal. Metal is ugly.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of really great bands from NY. Unearthly Trance, Villains, Sick of It All, Merauder, Madball, Defeatist, Inhuman, Darkside, Disassociate etc.  These bands are all lifers that have been involved with music for a long, long time.
It was never a goal of mine to get noticed. I wanted to make powerful music that had meaning for me and any kind of popularity that may or may not have happened would be a pleasant surprise.

You have been on tour with Isis and Pelican. How long was it, how many states did you visit and what are you reflections on it? Where people's reactions to Tombs satisfactory?
Mike: Both of those tours filled up about six weeks of time and we hit pretty much the whole country except for the mid-west. It was great being on tour with smart, professional people and I miss those guys a lot now that we’ve been off the road for a bit. Again, I’m really not the guy to ask if people dug us or not because I often feel like there is an adversarial relationship between the band and the audience.

You have published your album on Relapse. It's one of those labels that almost guarantee a great record. What I mean is they seem to really put out only good stuff and most of stuff they publish kick ass big time. Bands sound top notch. The artworks are first class. I see Relapse as sort of elite of underground extreme music. How do you see that?

Mike: Relapse is a great label and everyone that works there is extremely hard-working and professional. A fairly large percentage of my record collection are Relapse bands: Neurosis, Today is the Day, Soilent Green, Pig Destroyer, Origin, Zombi, Unearthly Trance... the list goes on and on. It really is an honour to be part of the roster.

Tombs interview was done in June 2009 and published in Polish in 2010 in “Struggle Zine”. It's the first time it's published in English.

Friday 3 September 2010

COALESCE – Crash and Bang

They have allowed the world to forget them. But after almost a decade of silence they returned and it's a comeback in the genuine style of mathcore/metalcore as it ought to be in the beginning. The “Ox” album released in 2009 with Coalesce classics “Functioning on Impatience” and “0:12 Revolution in Just Listening” is the band's highlight and the strongest effort to date. Guitarist Jes Steineger answers the burning questions.

You haven't put out a single record in 10 years. In 2009 we got an album and an EP in just couple of months. Was life boring without a band so you decided to show the world you're still alive and kicking?
Jes: Actually, I’ve become accustomed to telling everyone that there are really only two reasons for Coalesce’s existence: the friendship that we have between each other in the band, and the feeling we get from playing this crash and bang music.  I don’t think we’ve ever really cared if the world thinks we’re alive and kicking. We have been lucky to meet a lot of really cool people through Coalesce, so I think that’s another reason for doing it again: travelling and meeting new people.

The “Ox” and “Ox EP” artworks are nothing but original. It looks like some weird electronic music. Did you want to have covers that stand out in punk/hardcore/metal standards? Did you want to show you're different and unique?
Jes: I never think of Coalesce in terms of whether or not it’s “unique” or “different”. I think all of us just think in terms of what we like.  I think there are a ton of people who would disagree with you and say that our art work and music is neither unique nor different.  So it’s not even an objective criterion for doing what we do. Honestly, we try to keep things as simple as possible. Do we like it? Does it fit what we feel? Can we relate to it in some way? Basic questions you ask to make sure that your art matches up with your sentiments.

Both “Ox” and “Ox EP” are terrific records. Your style is unrepeatable. There is so many bands that try to improve their technique and production but end up sounding so similar and that is so disappointing. And then you come out of blue and bring these totally new records distancing all the others by miles. How are you able to do that?
Jes: Thanks for the compliments, but we really don’t think in those terms at all.  It’s dangerous to think in terms of competition when you’re in a band.  You set yourself up for major disappointment when things are based on others. We find it better to just focus on what we like so that when we complete a record or a tour we feel complete in some way; tranquil.  That’s how I feel after a recording session or a show anyway. Honestly, for all we knew, people were going to hate the new records; and there are quite a few people who do hate the new records actually. That emphasizes my point though: better just to focus on what correlates whatever it is you create with your sentiment.

Did you complete both records during the same session and then decided to put them out as two releases instead of one 40-minutes-long album?
Jes: Our original plan was to record an EP of just Western tracks. An entire EP of interlude songs like we had on “Ox”. Then we were snowed in at the Scion Fest in Atlanta back in February 2009. While we were in the hotel room we started putting together some of the riffs that made up the more crash and bang songs on the EP. We had already booked studio time to go in and do an EP of interlude tracks, so we just recorded the new crash and bang songs instead. Voilà.

Rumour says you got 12 children between 4 of you. That is hell of a lot of kids! Who's got the biggest bunch and is it fun to run such a kindergarten?
Jes: Sean and I have four kids each. Jr. and Nellis have two kids each. It is a lot of kids. They don’t go with us on tour or road trips.

Earache released your split with Napalm Death in 1997. Did you get more recognition because of that?
Jes: I was a fan of Napalm Death at that time and I still am. Such a solid band. I wish we could tour with them actually. I never think of Coalesce as a popular band really, but I’m sure that putting out that split with Napalm Death helped us out a lot in terms of exposure.

Kansas is more or less the geographical centre of the US. What is life there like? Do you still get to meet Native Americans there?
Jes: Life there is simple. I have lived in Chicago for about four years now, so I miss Kansas a lot. I hate the city. There is a significant Native American community in Lawrence because they have a college there. I worked with various Native American scholars when I was at Kansas University. In general, people in the Midwest stick to themselves and try to live simple lives. That is my romanticization of the situation.

No doubt you're huge Led Zeppelin fans. “There is Nothing New Under the Sun” says it all. Why are Zepps so important to you? Did you kiss your future wife for the first time listening “Stairway to Heaven” or something like that?
Jes: Haha! Don’t recall ever making out with any girl to Led Zeppelin. I don’t even think any of us consider ourselves to be “huge fans”. We wanted to do a cover record and sort of interpret some older songs in a crash and bang way. The more Zeppelin songs we learned, the more it just felt right. It was also a way for me to try and maybe give Coalesce some shape for my Dad to understand what was going on. I liked the idea of finding some way to relate my generation to an older generation of music listener. If I could go back, I would probably have asked the guys to do it differently and not record all Zeppelin covers but it is what it is.

How was the Euro tour in June 2009? What were the reactions? What European countries did you find interesting, where would you like to return?
Jes: The summer 2009 tour was my favourite Coalesce tour ever.  I had such an awesome time and I think the other guys feel the same way. We got to play an entire spectrum of shows: from huge festival shows to extremely small club shows. It really was perfect to experience so much in such a short amount of time. I am seriously counting the days until I can return to Europe. I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed every country we visited. I wish there had been more time to see some medieval sites, but I was content to see what I was able to: particularly Kües in Germany. Hopefully next time we’ll get to see Poland, Denmark, the Scandinavian countries, and more of France and Italy. I really want to see Athens and Moscow as well.

Watching your live videos I have the feeling you're a pretty fucked up band. I mean you seem to lose your minds and freak out. Does the live act bring you some sort of catharsis?
Jes: Any way we go about trying to describe what we get out of a Coalesce show always sounds ridiculous. It is a very unique feeling of freedom for us. Most times I feel really tranquil after a show, so maybe catharsis is the right word. I just think Coalesce opens up a small cavern in Being for us. A place where we can do what we want for 40 minutes or so and feel a certain way that we can’t get anywhere else.

You have a flippin' awesome guitar sound? How did you work it out?
Jes: I don’t think it is worked out. Most of my stuff is broken half the time so it never sounds the same way two nights in a row. Whatever it is you consider to be awesome and original is just me being a horrible guitar player, haha. Honestly. I’m a guy who loved a few metal bands growing up but was never good enough to play metal. It was easier for me to get on in the punk scene. That’s maybe a good way to describe how Coalesce came about: a crappy punk guitarist trying to play Metallica, haha.

With two releases in a short period do you plan to keep that intense activity going?
Jes: We don’t have any plans at this point to release on any sort of schedule. Just two weeks ago we started kicking around ideas for what we think the next Coalesce project will look like.  I’d like to do at least one more record or EP or even film of some sort, but we’ll see if our schedules allow for it.

I suspect you might be a Western films lover. So John Ford or Sam Peckinpah? What are you favourite films of all times?
Jes: I’m an Eastwood guy, all the way. “Fistful of Dollars” is my favourite, but all of them are freaking awesome (the rest of the Man with No Name series of course, “High Plains Drifter”, “Hang  ‘Em High”, “Joe Kid”, even the newer stuff like “Pale Rider” and “Unforgiven”). All of the classics, man: “Once Upon a Time in the West”, “The Wild Bunch”, “The Magnificent Seven”, etc. Nellis and I were watching all of these movies when we were writing “Ox”!

What active bands are in your opinion the most inventive, original and inspiring for you?
Jes: I think The Mars Volta are the most creative band in the world right now. They are like a bottomless abyss of creativity. I love that band. I love the Black Keys as well, but for different reasons. I think Minus the Bear fits all the criteria you listed, as does Mew (whose new record is impeccable).  I think Torche is eclectic and original –  great band. There are some bands that I like because they are just so into what they’re doing: Stuntman and Chere Catastrophe from France, Taint from Wales, The Atlas Moth from Chicago.

You've played at some vege/vegan festivals/events. Do you care about the diet and animal rights yourself?
Jes: I haven’t thought about it in a long time. Coalesce is not a platform for any sort of ideology. None of us have any sort of commitment to animal rights or dietary concerns. Our friend Dan Askew is a vegan, so we always try to accommodate him when he travels with us.  Ultimately, it’s like I said earlier, Coalesce is really just about hanging out together and trying to ignite a certain feeling we get when playing our songs. When it comes to everything else: to each his or her own, as we say in America.

Coalesce interview was done in November 2009 and published in Polish in 2010 in “Struggle Zine”. It's the first time it's published in English.