Archive for March, 2014

If you’re here, you know who Behemoth are. If you know who Behemoth are, then you understand how important a record like ‘The Satanist’ is to the greater metal world. But, that does not necessarily mean you know ‘The Satanist’.

Behemoth have now passed beyond mere genres. They were black metal, then death metal, then blackened death metal. Now they have progressed back towards black metal, leaving much of the thunderous power of death metal behind. But they haven’t become the trebley, screeching black metal ou think of when the genre is mentioned. No, Behemoth have used ‘The Satanist’ to become the embodiment of black metal’s savage spirit. Opener, ‘Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel’ is an eerie, black metal classic. It possesses all the black magic atmospherics that the band have weaved in between their death metal past, along with a few eastern flourishes (although a lot less than previous records) and haunting roars. ‘Furor Divinus’ is a blasting, careering train of hatred and vicious wrath. Nergal has lost none of his hypnotising powerful vocal prowess. His voice commands attention from his converts, spewing bile and rage.

Musically the album is a whirlwind of blastbeats and scything riffs. But it is not without its slower, more majestic moments. ‘Messe Noire’ opens with a towering riff and has a classy, almost heavy metal solo at the end. ‘Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer’ is icy malevolence through and through, bringing to mind Gorgoroth’s finer moments. This is the record where Nergal elevates himself to the level of iconic black metal vocalists like Gaahl, Ihsahn and Erik Danielsson. This is also the record where Behemoth do the impossible: remove the majority of their signature sounds (the eastern melodies, the thunderous death metal propulsion) and yet somehow become more essential than ever.

‘Amen’ is the closest we get to ‘old’ Behemoth, a tornado of death metal overlaid with some of Nergal’s most evil vocal lines. But it is also catchy as hell, like all good Behemoth tracks have been. Somehow, ‘The Satanist’ could almost be the most accessible Behemoth record, sacrificing none of their credibility as a band of savage, Satanic music. As they always have, Behemoth have walked thier own path, communicating their affinity with the Dark Lord on a personal but violent level. Nergal’s recovery from leukemia has made him, and his band, all the more powerful. Behemoth is power, all consuming, invigorating power.

An album like this is hard to quantify. Sure, you can argue that, by ditching death metal almost entirely, Behemoth run the risk of losing a section of their fan base who enjoy that kind of thing. But, by embracing the cold majesty of black metal’s finest, and combining that with their trademark intensity and almost religious (sacrilege!) fervour for their satanic saviour, Behemoth have ascended beyond the need for such things. ‘The Satanist’ is probably going to be the best metal record this year. And that is no slight to many other fine metal bands who are going to be producing some excellent records in 2014. But I fear no one will be able to top this; a stunning, malevolent force of evil sat astride a throne of extremity. The Behemoth shall not be moved

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Is it the beards? The long hair? The black band shirts? The general gnarly appearance? Excepting of course, all the lovely lady metalheads. No. The most important attribute of every metalhead, every TRUE metalhead, is forgiveness. Sounds strange but I’ll elaborate.

Metal fans are sometimes known for being elitist, snobbish fucks who don’t like anything other than metal and look forward to pissing all over bands who decide to change or if they release anything mediocre. That is true as well, especially on the internet where your opinion is so unlikely to get your head kicked in that people feel free to express their badly thought through feelings on everything and anything.

But we, in general are a very forgiving bunch when it comes to certain things. We forgive those enthusiastic crowd surfers who kick us in the head on the way over. We forgive bars whose heaviest jukebox song is Nirvana. We forgive people for not understanding why we like metal. Our forgiveness is mostly reserved for our bands though.

Remember ‘Cold Lake’? Ah yes, you don’t want to do you? But you have to. Celtic Frost’s magnificently poor fourth record that led to such a backlash that the band effectively disappeared after follow up ‘Vanity/Nemesis’ until the gargantuan ‘Monotheist’ in 2005. An album so good, so mind numbingly heavy that all was forgiven and Celtic Frost were reborn into acclaim and love. Until they broke up. But hey, that gave us Triptykon, so again we lucked out.

Celtic Frost are my favourite example of this. Their first three records, and previous work in Hellhammer, made them so influential and important that even a total failure like ‘Cold Lake’ could be banished from memory by something as toweringly essential as ‘Monotheist’. Metal is rife with such bands and moments. Deicide were essential for three, piss poor for three, then all of a sudden became scorchingly relevant again with ‘The Stench of Redemption’. Iron Maiden and Judas Priest both have gone through that ‘decent records with other singers’ phase that were both wiped from the face of the earth by ‘Brave New World’ and ‘Angel of Retribution’ respectively. Metallica have done it twice, first with the ‘Load/Reload’ and ‘St Anger’ into ‘Death Magnetic’, then again with the terrible collaboration with the late, great Lou Reid. Let’s hope the new Metallica album brings them back from the brink.

Anyway, my point is that metal as a genre is a place where you will always be allowed redemption, allowed a chance to contribute meaningfully again. Pop music would have you out singing in bingo halls or cruise ships within a year of a bad release. Hip hop would have you providing guest appearances on other rapper’s albums (if you’re lucky). Dance music well, actually, who knows? But, we have seen so many great returns in metal that we can always forgive. Forgiveness is a virtue that most metallers possess in spades, they just don’t know it. Although Dave Mustaine is starting to push it…

Four great new bands for my ears today, thanks again to the world of Facebook. First off is the news that hidden gem German death metallers Golem are getting their first two albums rereleased on F.D.A. Rekotz, and we can look forward to ‘Eternity: The Weeping Horizons’ and ‘The 2nd Moon’ with new artwork and on vinyl for the first time. I was not aware of Golem’s existence, until today, but after listening to the track ‘Heretic’, streaming here (http://www.terrorizer.com/news/streams/listen-golems-heretics-terrorizer), I’m hooked. It’s got a great early 90s death metal vibe, coming across somewhere in between ‘Heartwork’ and ‘Leprosy’. I’m looking forward to getting a hold of the CD copy.

Golem Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Alghanor

Next is Abhorrent Decimation, previewing their new EP ‘Infected Celestial Utopia’ (available from Cold Birth Records) with a new music video for the title track. I’ve not really been affected by music videos for a long time, as you find metal ones haven’t really done anything revolutionary for years. I used to love them, but they are becoming a bit of a dying art behind these new fangled lyric videos. The song however is fucking killer. It’s brutal and dissonant, with some excellent snatches of melody and its very memorable. So far so good for that EP then. Watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3T4yL8HdTI#t=118

Employed to Serve are a nasty, angry band of angular mathcore/hardcore/grindcore/other fancy labels for brilliantly violent music. They are featured as Terrorizer’s Band of the Day, and with good reason. They are this explosive cocktail of The Dillinger Escape Plan, Pig Destroyer and Botch, all with a female vocalist who can rip throats with the best of them. Watch the video for Heavy Limbs here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmaUy2kZ8wc

Finally, titanic duo of doom, Pombagira, have announced they are releasing a new record this year entitled ‘Flesh Throne Press’. It follows up from last year’s earth shaking ‘Maleficia Lamiah’. No music from it yet, but it should be good.

This interview was originally posted here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/interviews/g-q/godhunter-sandy-interviews-guitarist-jake-brazelton/

Godhunter are Arizona’s scorched answer to sludge. A dark, malevolent beast that mixes equal parts raw hardcore with slow, lurching doom riffs to create a new sound in the dank world of sludge. Their new record, ‘City of Dust’, looks like it may become a sleeper hit of 2014, and is already receiving great reviews. I got the chance to ask guitarist Jake Brazelton about their new record, playing with heroes and surviving the suffocating heat of their home state…

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions guys. You formed in 2008, and released your first EP ‘Wolves’ in 2011. How did the band come together and was that three year gap between forming and releasing material an intentional decision? 

We actually started in 2009. A few members of the original lineup were playing together in a different band in 2008, but Godhunter wasn’t born yet. It was really just an idea at that point. Our first EP, a split EP with Methra, actually came out in 2010. We followed that up with Wolves in 2011, then a couple more splits in 2012 and 2013, all leading up to City Of Dust being released in 2014. We try to have new material out pretty constantly. Like the Melvins said, people never forget about you if you keep releasing music.

Your first EP ‘Wolves’ is a much more straightforward beast than your newest record. Is ‘City of Dust’ the culmination of how you wanted your band to sound, or do you feel that you’re still evolving as a unit?

As long as this band is together, it will constantly be evolving. We have no desire to stay locked into one scene or genre. I know it may sound a bit clichéd, but we are constantly exploring new sounds, new bands, new ideas. This band thrives on making music that is new and interesting to us, and we feel that if we find the music interesting, then hopefully everyone else will as well.

Onto ‘City of Dust’, I was fortunate enough to review it for the site, and I found it a refreshing mix of sludge and hardcore. Who are your main musical influences, and where do your lyrical inspirations come from?

We pull musical influences from all over the place; Baroness, ASG, Goatsnake, Black Flag, Eyehategod and tons of other bands. The best way to keep your sound evolving and progressing as a musician is to listen to a shit-ton of different bands and keep pushing yourself to be better. Also weed. Weed is our biggest musical influence. Lyrically we pull from outrage. The complacency of the masses, the incompetence of the government, and basically everything that pisses us off gets channeled into our lyrics.

I noticed on your Facebook page that you’ve toured a lot with EyeHateGod recently. Being the hugely influential band they are in this style of music, was this a dream support slot for you? Are there any other bands out there you’d like to support?

We would have loved to do a tour with Eyehategod, but it was only one show up in Phoenix. They are one of our favorite bands though, so it was a pretty amazing experience. We do have a few bands that we’d love to play with, like Mastodon, Converge, Rwake or Baroness, just because they are also very influential on us.

Arizona strikes me as unusual as a location for a band that plays a style of metal much more associated with the swampy, humid Deep South. Does coming from Tucson present you with any unique influences for your sound? Is there a vibrant sludge and doom scene there? Are there any bands that we should keep an eye out for?

Dude it’s the fucking sun. In place of hot and humid we just have fucking hot. Having to endure 5 months of temperatures over 100 degrees makes a person pretty upset. You just have to channel that into making angry music. I wouldn’t call it a vibrant scene for sludge/doom bands but there are some rad fucking bands out here in the wild west. Bands like Lethal Dosage, North, Territory, Sex Prisoner, Sorrower, Seas Will Rise, and Cave Dweller are all fantastic bands.

How was the writing and recording process for City of Dust? Did you experience any problems?

The writing process was great. Each member of the band brought ideas to the table and we worked them out as a group. We tried to push ourselves at all points. Constantly writing new shit and re-writing other parts to fit together better. It was a constant struggle to not write 10+ minute long songs. Recording is always a bit of a struggle; everything from scheduling to gear problems. But since we recorded with Ryan Butler at Arcane Digital Recording everything came together. Butler is really good at his job and made everything way easier and less stressful.

As 2013 has just finished, the internet has filled up with endless lists of best records from 2013. What were your favourite records of last year, and what are you most looking forward to from 2014?

Each member of the band will have a different top ten list so I will just list a couple records I know we all dug. Ultraviolet-Kylesa, Soma-Windhand, MCTTG-Subrosa, Mind Control-Uncle Acid & The Deabeats. Our favorite album would have to be Blood Drive from ASG. In 2014 we are pumped for the new Truckfighters, Agalloch and Mastodon among others.

What has been the most important event musically for your band since you started?

I doubt we can pick just one event but we can pick two. One was when we got to play with Eyehategod in Phoenix and the other was when we got to play with Clutch in Tucson. Playing a show with one of your favorite bands is always a dream come true.

For me, the track ‘Shooting Down the Sun’ from your new record is a standout. It feels like a dark country ballad. As it is vastly differently from the majority of the album, was this a conscious decision? Do you have an acoustic or country influence?

We do enjoy quite a few bands of that nature. Some guys in the band really like old country like Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams, some of the guys like newer bands like Amigo The Devil or Chelsea Wolfe. We’re also pretty big fans of music like Roky Erickson and 13th Floor Elevators, so making a grandiose dark country tune just seemed to fit for us. We’re not a band that likes to be pigeonholed into one sound. If there is an influence that we enjoy, it’ll probably turn up on the album at some point.

‘Snake Oil Dealer’ was also a favourite track of mine from City of Dust. Do you guys have a favourite Godhunter track, and are there any that are better to play live than others?

Every single time we get a new song ready to go it becomes our favorite song to play. The newer the track is, the better it is to play live.

You seem to be touring a lot, how are the live crowds responding? Is the live experience of Godhunter essential to understanding the band and do you feel your music and lyrics translate well to the live stage?

 People seem to dig it so far. Getting people out of the fucking smoking section and in front of the stage is hard to accomplish but somehow we seem to do it. Most of the time anyway. So we are a live band, first and foremost. We write music and lyrics with the stage in mind, not the studio. If you can’t get it done live no one is going to care about your band. In the age of stealing everyone’s album off of the internet and cell phone videos of bands playing on youtube you have to be good live in order to entice people to show up. In order to really understand the band you should see us live. Fuck YouTube videos.

Bal Sagoth are a band that I stumbled upon just as they released what would prove to be (hopefully only thus far) their final album. ‘The Chthonic Chronicles’ was the closing chapter to a six record concept that baffles the mind. Started with ‘A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria’, Bal Sagoth took listeners across the Multiverse, through space battles and tales of ancient magic and power. It was the kind of high fantasy concept that I love now, but hadn’t quite fallen for yet in 2006. I appreciated ‘The Chthonic Chronicles’ as a record originally; a heady mix of symphonic black metal with dramatic spoken word segments. But, to truly understand the Multiverse in which it is set, you really need to listen to all six records.

I have done so, but never back to back. It’s something I have wanted to do but have never found the time. Each record has their own additions to the saga, and some concepts or narratives cross albums. Frankly, I’m amazed they didn’t disappear up their own arses with it (well, maybe they did and that’s why they haven’t released anything in so long). Influenced strongly by the tales of Robert E Howard and HP Lovecraft, the Multiverse is the alternative reality where vocalist and lyricist Byron Roberts bases his tales of demigods, disasters, ancient battles and other such things.

You can find a guide to the Bal Sagoth universe here: http://www.bal-sagoth.freeserve.co.uk/glossary.html

An interesting interview with the band on the Metal Hammer website here: http://www.metalhammer.co.uk/news/exclusive-bal-sagoth-discuss-20-years-of-epic-highs-and-lows/ speaks of how the next three Bal Sagoth records have lyrics and cover art already done, so that if the band comes back to life we can expect a new trilogy. If nothing else, you have to appreciate the care and dedication with which the band’s mythos is held together and produced. I admire that a lot. Plus the hexology of the Bal Sagoth saga is made up of strong albums musically, even if they don’t all reach the lofty heights of their seminal ‘Starfire Burning Upon the Ice Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule’. Not only is it their finest work, but it’s probably one of the most metal album names ever.

Please come back to us Bal Sagoth. In these times where such fantasy worlds are becoming more accepted in the mainstream, a band like yourselves would flourish. Imagine, digipack records with comic book style renderings of the songs etc? It’d be a sure fire winner. Well, I’d buy it for sure!

This review was originally published here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/album-reviews/m/mount-salem-endless-cd-dd-2014/

Mount Salem have what we like to call in the reviewing business ‘swagger’. That’s not the same as ‘swag’, that’s for douchebags. Swagger is a weapon in the arsenal of any good doom band; it brings the spiritual home of heavy metal, the blues, to the forefront while laying on groove and riffs a plenty. ‘Endless’ is a reissue of the band’s debut EP with a few bonus tracks, and Metal Blade have picked themselves a serious contender in the future of doom.

Endless’ has an uncanny swagger about it, from the rumbling blues of the opening ‘Good Times’ which is layered with a wonderful sense of groove. The ethereal, powerful vocals from organist Emily Kopplin compliment the song perfectly, and there’s something almost country about its mood. This is music to drift across the plains of the Mid West to. ‘The Tower’ is a brooding monolith, rising from a hazy psychedelic cloud to graze the sky above. Mount Salem sounds like ‘The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull’ era Earth and Jex Thoth had a baby.

What really makes the band stand out is the use of the organ. Many doom bands use keyboards or similar effects in their music but it can come off as forced or unnecessary. Mount Salem uses the organ subtly, weaving melodies in amongst the riffs. Sometimes you don’t need it at all, such as in the groovy intro of ‘Lucid’, and this restraint means that it has a much greater effect. When it kicks in behind a grinding riff later in the song, it works so much better.

Endless’ is an exercise in ‘less is more’. Mount Salem are a power quartet that do nothing fancy, yet tick all the right boxes when it comes to song writing and execution. For me, Kopplin is the highlight of the record; her rich voice has a timeless quality that compliments the music well. She is an impassioned preacher of doom, be it the softer style of ‘Full Moon’ or the powerful chorus of ‘Lucid’.

Full Moon’ is probably the best track on the record. It showcases Kopplin’s vocal range well, along with the different capabilities of the band. From the brooding intro to the thunderous gallop, Mount Salem can do it all, and better than most. Their mystical, occult lyrics are par for the course, but it’s executed so well that you can forgive them for doing nothing new here. ‘Mescaline’ is exactly the country style I was alluding to earlier, and in just shy of three minutes demonstrates a mournful, Western twang that permeates through the rest of the record. Its sister piece, ‘Mescaline II’ is crushing, with Kopplin’s vocals soaring over titanic riffs and psychedelic soloing.

Endless’ is a great record, a record that doesn’t rewrite any rules of the genre, but provides textbook examples of how to do it right. Cracking songs, memorable riffs and a hauntingly beautiful vocalist provide Mount Salem with all they need to succeed. Just listen to ‘Hysteria’ and tell me I’m wrong.

http://media.nuclearblast.de/shoplanding/2014/killer-be-killed/index.html

This is where you can hear the first songs from Killer Be Killed, the stunning collaboration between Max Cavalera, Troy Sanders, Greg Puciato and Dave Elitch. It. Is. Awesome. It sounds exactly as you’d expect Soulfly crossed with Mastodon crossed with Dillinger would. It’s heavy, it’s catchy, it’s going to be essential. I can’t wait!