Archive for April, 2014

This was originately posted here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/interviews/g-q/mount-salem-sandy-williamson-interviews-vocalist-organist-emily-kopplin/

Mount Salem are not just another occult doom band with a female vocalist to add to the growing pile. Their debut record ‘Endless’ is a stunning collaboration between doom and psychedelic rock, and displays a remarkable maturity for a band so new. I got the chance to interview vocalist and organist Emily Kopplin about just how the band came to be the new guiding light in doom. On a personal note, this was a huge honour for me as I’ve found their debut record to be an early contender for my favourite record this year. It’s soulful, epic and beautifully presented.

Hey Emily, thanks for giving us time to interview you. First off, what are the band up to today?

I wish I could say we were up to something exciting, but the four of us will be working our respective jobs today. It’s Friday though so I can’t complain!

Mount Salem were formed in 2012, which dark cosmic forces brought the band together?

We have been friends for a few years, the guys build and ride vintage motorcycles and have a shop together. We’ve all been in bands over the years but never together. They were talking about getting together to jam and were interested in trying different instruments from what they used to play. Kyle (guitar) used to play drums, Cody (drums) used to play guitar, and Mark (bass) also used to play drums. Kyle was originally going to do vocals, but I was sitting in on a practice one day trying to help him write vocal melodies and they just let me do it instead.

Your new EP ‘Endless’ was originally self-released, and is being re-released by Metal Blade, how did that come about?

We originally released ‘Endless’ over a year ago with six songs. It was recorded shortly after we started playing together, before we had even played a live show, and those were the first batch of songs we had written. When Metal Blade approached us and expressed interest in rereleasing it as a full length we were stoked because that was a chance for us to go back in the studio and record two additional tracks. It was nice to have a few new songs to choose from this time around so we added ‘The Tower’. There’s an instrumental track on the album called ‘Mescaline’ that we’d always wanted to expand on and create a full song so we wrote ‘Mescaline II’. It was nice to breathe some new life into the EP and we’re happy that it’s getting more exposure than we could have done with it on our own.

As a metal band, is signing to such a legendary label a dream come true? Does it present you with additional pressure about your forthcoming music?

It’s definitely a huge honour to be welcomed onto the Metal Blade roster alongside some legendary artists. Working with them has been a great experience so far and we’re grateful for all the doors that have opened because of it. I think any pressure we’d feel about recording the next album will be more about pleasing the fans of this current album rather than trying to stack up with our peers.

I reviewed ‘Endless’ for The Sleeping Shaman, and I must tell you, it’s got to have been one of my favourite records of the past few months, who or what were your main inspirations while writing it?

That rules, thanks so much. We’ve all got different tastes in music and I think everyone’s individual influences shine through a little. Mark is typically the one more into the heavy side of things, Kyle and Cody like the bluesy psychedelic aspect, and I like the melodic and dynamic aspects of song writing. We’re all obviously influenced by 70s rock & roll though.

Do you feel that it’ll be difficult to stand out amongst the vast legions of Jex Thoth and The Devil’s Blood clones that have appeared over the past few years? I’m of the opinion that your material is strong and that your probably one of the best vocalists of that style, but what do you think?

Although there are a lot of bands popping up that are playing music in the same vein as us, we don’t really focus on setting ourselves apart. We just focus on writing music that we enjoy jamming and hope other people enjoy listening to. I think part of the reason people like what we do is because you can tell we’re not trying too hard, we write simple songs that get the point across.

What impressed me a lot about ‘Endless’ was it’s ‘less is more’ approach. You guys seem to take a more straightforward approach, and it works so well. The addition of the organ gives you that extra little bit of churchyard occultist feeling, but you use it subtly and sparingly. Was this a conscious decision or did it appear naturally?

Like I said earlier, most of those songs on the album are a display of our first efforts at songwriting together so I think that’s where that raw, basic feel comes from. I didn’t want the use of the organ to be the main focus and come through abrasively in the recordings. I like to use it as more of a complimentary accent to the songs rather than the meat and potatoes.

What are your future plans for Mount Salem? Will we be seeing a debut LP sometime soon, and possibly some more extensive touring now that you have Metal Blade behind you? I’m kind of hoping you make it to the UK sometime in the near future because I’d like to be front and centre!

We’ll definitely be recording a follow up after this Summer. We’ve been writing some killer new stuff so I can’t wait to have it recorded. We’ll be touring the US in May then hitting Europe in the Fall so keep an eye out for dates! It will be my first time overseas so that’s something I’m really looking forward to.

Thanks for the interview, have you got any final words for those who are maybe just finding out about the band?

Thank you for taking the time to read this and possibly taking even more time to listen to our music, we hope to see you out on the road!

HAIL SALEM

http://loudwire.com/best-metal-songs-of-2014/

This link takes you to Loudwire’s choices for best metal songs of 2014 so far. Whereas I’m much more of an end of year guy, its a great starting point for where metal has been great this year (and its not even May yet). I decided to do a quick rundown of them all for you, and also to refresh myself on their awesomeness, as I'[m still catching up on records from last year, let alone this year.

Mastodon – High Road: What a teaser for the new record! It’s got that killer Mastodon propulsive thrust, so essential in making them the powerhouse they are, but never sacrificing the uber melodic choral flair they’ve developed over the past few records. Essentially, its what Mastodon in 2014 HAD to sound like, and it has raised my expectations a lot for ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’

Insomnium – While We Sleep: I’ve been a big fan of this band for years, since their ‘Above a Weeping World’ record, and they score again with their triumphant mix of gloomy death/doom and melodic metalcore. Insomnium have emotion, and its a big hook for me. They weave some excellent gothic harmonies into their metal, and I look forward to getting a copy of their new record.

Septicflesh – Order of Dracul: Septicflesh are a brilliant prospect; symphonic death metal with epic orchestrations and terrifying aggression. They are heavy as fuck, and this track bodes well for the rest of ‘Titan’. Its got a lot to live up to, but if past efforts have shown us anything, its that Septicflesh can do it.

Triptykon – Boleskine House: Probably my most anticipated record of the year, ‘Melana Chasmata’ only needs to be half as dark, dense and twistedly evil as ‘Boleskine House’ and it’ll be the best record of the year.

Behemoth – Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel: I believe I’ve waxed lyrical about this album enough. Stunning

Black Label Society – My Dying Time: It’s classic BLS, heavy bluesy riffs, pinch harmonics and the finest of Wylde’s soulful Layne Staley impression

Cynic – True Hallucination Speak: Cynic may have left the death metal behind, but ‘True Hallucination Speak’ is a signal that they remain one of progressive metal’s most awe-inspiring bands.

Arch Enemy – War Eternal: Ok, the new girl may not quite match up to Angela Gossow’s terrifying roar, but its a damn close one, and ‘War Eternal’ is a fine track of razor sharp melodeath that I hope is a signifier of what the new record will be. Gossow is gone, but the metal lives on. WAR ETERNAL!!

Agalloch  – Celestial Effigy: Agalloch have become one of those bands that mature and evolve on every record, making them a joy to listen to. Their new track is another example of how epic black metal and doom can mix with breathtaking results

Steel Panther – Gloryhole: This is fucking ridiculous. It’s also brilliant.

Trap Them – Salted Crypts: Nasty, visceral hardcore, Trap Them have been essential for years, and this track is no different.

Ringworm – Hammer of the Witch: Man, this track just slays. Aggressive, vicious and damn brutal. Exactly what you need in your life!

Hark – Palendromeda: A new prospect in stoner doom, and if this track is much to go by, it should be a bright future for these Welsh lads.

The newest track from everybody’s favourite ‘lets make death metal with classic titles redone as shit weed jokes’ is a killer. A stone cold killer of a track. And in fairness, some of their song titles are pretty clever. But anyway, listen and enjoy.

http://www.slam-zine.de/php/exklusive_songpremiere_bei_slam_zero_weed_tolerance_von_cannabis_corpse,13584,35536.html

Their new record is coming out soon, and will be titled ‘From Wisdom to Baked’. Yes, a Gorguts one. Boom

My willpower and ability to continually blog on all I’ve listened to each day in April came to a miserable, grinding halt once the Easter Holidays kicked in at our pub. Tired every night, I couldn’t summon the energy to write. Which is a shame, because I was actually enjoying the series, and enjoying the thought process between choices. But it is more and more difficult to find the time to properly blog on stuff at the moment. So I’m doing one last list before the end of Easter time, then I will be back to it. This week, I have been mostly listening to:

Cannibal Corpse – Butchered at Birth

Sodom – Agent Orange

Destruction – Infernal Overkill

Judas Priest – British Steel

Tankard – A Girl Called Cerveza

Benediction – Transcend the Rubicon

Sodom – Epitome of Torture

Children of Bodom – Relentless, Reckless Forever

Boris – Pink

Blind Guardian – Imaginations from the Other Side

The Sword – Age of Winters

The Company Band – The Company Band

Manowar – Battle Hymns

The Black Dahlia Murder – Deflorate

Yakuza – Samsara

Converge – No Heroes

This is since my last blog, not including the shuffling of my iPod in the car, which I did happen upon ‘The Mountain Goat’ by Sigirya as being a slamming tune. My previous German thrash thing has become an obvious influence, but I am sliding in some classic death metal and some more avant garde stuff like Yakuza and Boris. And of course, some epic, fist in the air, heavy metal goodness. As Manowar puts it, ‘They can’t stop us, let them try, for heavy metal we shall die!’

I’ve developed a bit of a thing for German thrash in the past few days. Germany do thrash better than everyone else. That’s just fact. Brazil is a close second, but Sodom, Kreator and Destruction have been, for me, much better and more consistent than any of the Big Four. I’ve been listening to a lot of early Sodom in particular, and outside ‘Beneath the Remains’, I struggle to find any thrash records that equal the savage intensity of ‘Obsessed by Cruelty’ or ‘Agent Orange’. Kreator, other than their some of their early 2000s albums, have been writing ripping thrash tunes for the best part of 30 years. ‘Endless Pain’ is 1985’s finest thrash record, and considering how good the 80s were for that kind of thing, it’s quite an achievement.

Destruction finish the Teutonic Three, and their own ‘Sentence of Death’ EP is 30 years old this year. ‘Black Mass’ is a ripping tune, and ‘Mad Butcher’ is an all time classic. They’ve been a bit hit and miss sometimes, but generally you can’t go wrong with their early stuff. Some of their newer records are pretty good too, like 2012’s ‘Spiritual Genocide’.

The good thing about German thrash is that there are so many good bands hiding away in there that people forget about. Tankard’s debut ‘Zombie Attack’ is another brilliant record, and also ‘Who Dominates Who’ by Accuser. Germany seemed to keep the spirit of thrash alive when Megadeth were stalling creatively, Metallica decided to go off and rule the world of hard rock, and Slayer accepted they were unlikely to top ‘Reign in Blood’. German thrash is alive. It fucking rips!

That’s right, four songs of ‘what the fuck is that and how awesome was it?’ has struck my earlobes today. First, new Vader. Well, it’s Vader, and you know what you get. Sounds like ‘Tibi Et Igni’ is going to be killer. SHOCK.

Next is a band I’ve never heard of until today, and holy shit is their modus operandi simply put: ear raping death black hatred. It’s twisting, atmospheric and bloody lovely.

http://www.stereogum.com/1674636/stream-thantifaxath-sacred-white-noise-stereogum-premiere/mp3s/album-stream/

Thirdly is 1349, who haven’t released anything new since 2010’s ‘Demonoir’, which was satisfyingly eerie and blackened. New track ‘Slaves’ is the sound of razorblades on fire.

Finaly, and probably best of all, its NEW FREAKING MASTODON!! How good are Mastodon, seriously? Probably one of my favourite bands. EVER. So new stuff is the most essential listen of the year. But wait, the stream on MetalSucks.net has been removed… AW FUCK! No matter, we can assume it was awesome, and wait for a more official release…

Yet again I’m combining a couple of days listening because of lack of time. Maybe I should’ve just done one MEGA blog at the end of the month. Well, its too late now, I must persevere! Yesterday and today have been reasonably eclectic, for some strange reason:

Dragonforce – Sonic Firestorm

Grand Funk Railroad – Grand Funk

Cactus – One Way or Another

Anacrusis – Manic Impressions

Kreator – Hordes of Chaos

Blues Pills – Devil Man (EP)

Sodom – Obsessed by Cruelty

Arstidir Lifsins – Jitunheima Dolgferd

Now, I’m technically cheating here because I’m only about halfway through that last one, listening at the moment and its a magnificently crafted slice of pagan black metal. It feels vibrant and passionate, and mostly authentic. Dragonforce’s last record was a big improvement on the 40,000 notes a song bollocks that the one before was. ‘Inhuman Rampage’ continues to be their peak, but ‘Sonic Firestorm’ is a solid, anthemic power metal record where the notes-per-second is beginning to creep up. Anacrusis is a strange record; I like the songs and riffs on ‘Manic Impressions’ but I’m not so sure about it vocally. It’s solid but uninspiring.

Kreator and Sodom are both two of my favourite bands. ‘Obsessed by Cruelty’ is a nasty slice of what would become a prototype of early black metal, whilst retaining all the hallmarks of savage, raw thrash. ‘Hordes of Chaos’ is what thrash needs to sound like in the 21st century. It’s vibrant, catchy as hell and full of headbanging moments. The old guard can always show the young ‘uns how to do it properly. Blues Pills are my new favourite band of the moment, their song ‘Devil Man’ is the most soulful thing I’ve heard in years. Its brilliant.

The final two, Grand Funk Railroad and Cactus are both products of my working with the great folks at The Sleeping Shaman. I’ve started to listen to a lot more psychedelic rock and doom since I started writing for them, and both ‘Grand Funk’ and ‘One Way or Another’ are full of great, hard rock guitar and are blueprints for what would eventually become stoner rock and stoner doom. I particularly enjoyed the Cactus record, and I’m gonna look out some more soon!