INTO THE GRAVE!

Marco-Minnemann-EEPS

 

To say that Marco Minnemann is one of the greatest drummers in the world would be an understatement. Putting together an impressive body of work in progressive rock, and metal with a who’s who of bands a bands and projects such as The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani, Adrian Belew, Levin Minnemann Rudess, Necrophagist and many more, Marco ought to be even more of a household name. Perhaps owing to his humility and his German roots, Marco is a rarity in this business: proud but well grounded, appreciative for everything his talent has brought him in life. Promoting his new solo album, EEPS (Lazybones Records) Omar Cordy traded some thoughts with Marco for Ghost Cult via email.

 

How long was this project in the works?

I’m always writing music. It just belongs to my universe it seems, hahaha. So once there is enough material for an album ready I choose the songs for the right vibe and mission and then the thing will be completed. Eeps in particular was written and recorded mostly during the road in 2013 and at home January-February 2014.

 

 

As the sole creative force, what was the writing process like?

I usually write from a theme that sort of either way falls from the sky, in the form of a guitar riff, melody or groove, … Or from a vibe a purposely want to create. These things I never force, I just grab the best ideas when they show up and then build on it.

 

 

The songs I’ve heard have a very loose feel to them. Was a click track used or did you just “go for it”?

Half and half I’d say. I mainly use a click track, to keep a possible sequencer option open.

But I do like a feel that sounds ‘lively’, not to be confused with un-tightness , hahaha ;-)). I in fact like precision in playing and recording, but I leave a loose feel or also bleeding into microphones on certain tracks, as long as a groove feels right.

 

Did you use Roland V drums and or DW drums for the recording?

I used 2 different set ups: A DW cherry wood kit and a DW Jazz custom kit, both recorded in different rooms. On the track Eeps, the intro is in fact a Roland TD 20.

 

I dig the up-beatness of ‘OC/DC’, it feels like a playful 60′s era song. It just seems happy. Was that what you had in mind when you choose to make it the 1st video?

 

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The first video was done by Scott Schorr and a friend of his. He also runs the label Lazybones Recordings and helped greatly with this album here.

And thanks for your nice words on OC/DC. That song was really just a fun experiment, playing everything in one take pretty much without giving a shit and detuning all instruments. I just wanted to see if that approach works and how it would sound like. So it’s just basically ‘controlled chaos’. But I’m happy that some people got it.

 

You’re mainly known as a drummer, will we be seeing more guitar session work from you in the future?

I’ve been playing guitar on my albums for almost 20 years now. So, ‘yes’, you’ll hear more guitar from me. For example on the LMR project (Levin Minnemann Rudess).

 

Do you find playing guitar makes it easier to write for yourself or with others?

Absolutely. When I write music on the guitar I really just focus on the drums later to compliment the song. Also when writing for the Aristocrats as an example I basically write for a ‘stringed’ trio.. And writing on a guitar on bass then, definitely helps to translate into the music that the trio is going for.

 

At this point in your career do you still find time to practice or are you too busy working with others?

Well, I think that composing, recording and performing really is an ongoing process, isn’t it? But I do practice things that I’m interested in and want to be able to explore of course. Also, I really play everyday, music just belongs there in everyday life it seems. And I feel like I’m missing something if I haven’t had a certain dose of it. Like food.

 

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What other projects have you worked on recently that we should be on the look out for?

Hmmm, I’m touring with Joe Satriani right now. Then also with the Aristocrats. Recording wise there’s a new Steven Wilson album in the making. A new Aristocrats album and also Joe’s new recordings. So…, life won’t be boring it seems for a while ;-)).

 

What was your first concert you ever played?

My first concert I ever played was when I was 12 years old, my drum teacher at that time wanted me to go onstage and play a few songs. Man, and I was soooooo scared. I just sat there thinking ‘don’t fuck up… Just make it though the song… C’mon you can do it’. And then after I played a little solo spot within the song arrangement, people started to applaud. That’s when I basically ‘woke up’, and I saw all these smiling faces looking at me. And then all of sudden I didn’t want to leave the stage anymore, hahaha. It felt so rewarding that people brought the energy back in return to what I’ve worked for. So that moment pretty much defined that music is passion and a dedication for me.

 

 

 

Buy EEPS here!

Marco Minnemann on Facebook

Marco’s Website

 

 

OMAR CORDY

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Wolves in the Throne Room—a band that never cared much for black metal orthodoxy to begin with—recently took a sharp left turn off the dark path with Celestite (Artemisia), an LP of ambient synth exploration with nary a blast beat in sight. This added an extra layer of intrigue to their already storied live presence: Would they be pausing in the middle of a set for ten minutes of synth noodling, or would they leave their new-age material to the album?

Plenty of people were willing to buy a ticket to find out. The Star Theater was already 2/3 full by 8 pm for the opener, Portland’s own Druden. Wolves’ blend of Cascadian darkness and agrarian ethos brings a large and varied crowd in the Pacific Northwest: There were dudes in kilts and Paganfest tees, there were Burzum shirts, there were teen girls in battle jackets and crusty dread-headed eco-warriors. Druden held the room’s attention with straight-ahead shrieking black metal that alternated between one of the guitarist’s excellent dying-witch scream and the drummer’s deeper battle howl. With varied song structure and an ability to build some epic tension this four piece is formidable and warrant showing up early when they’re on the bill.

Nommo Ogo is an electronic collective of sorts that began in the Alaskan noise scene and has since migrated to Oakland. Wolves is bringing them along for the entire tour, perhaps as an ode to the ambient sounds of Celestite. This night Nommo Ogo was a three person unit surrounded by an assortment of synths, from which they summoned a host of teutonic burbles and industrial beats. Their compositions were somewhat meandering and suffered from the problem of many electronic sets, which is that there just isn’t much to engage with, particularly in comparison to the maelstrom of a blast-beat propelled live band. But there was a bracing moment when, without warning, the frontman broke a long instrumental trance by barking “onward!” and then repeating the phrase forcefully and violently for several minutes, giving the rest of their set a sense of urgency and unpredictability that it had previously lacked.

Wolves in The Throne Room new album cover - Copy

By the time Wolves’ five sylvan banners were unfurled, people were lined up three deep on the balcony and the floor of the Star Theater was full. The band has a reputation for playing shows in the dark, and while it wasn’t pitch black it was dim up there. Roadies with headlamps on spelunked around stage, lighting four oil lamps and prepping Nathan Weaver’s and another unnamed guitarist’s rigs and Aaron Weaver’s kit. Additional atmosphere was added by single blue lights shining up the fretboard of each guitar and a smoke machine.

After a false start caused by some technical difficulties with the second guitar, they played ‘Thuja Magus Imperium’, the opening track from Celestial Lineage (Southern Lord), to start the set. Any lingering questions about whether Wolves will still perform heavy music were answered upfront; they are playing exclusively older material and they are playing it damn well. The only trace of Celestite in the set was an ominous, erratically thudding soundscape they had cued to play over the PA in between songs. Otherwise it was a mix of songs from earlier albums including the gargantuan ‘(A Shimmering Radiance)Diadem of 12 Stars’ which they played second.

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Inevitably, Wolves’ music loses some of the mist-covered atmosphere it has in album form when it is played live as a three piece. But, in its place, there is an intense ritualistic physicality. Nathan Weaver’s scream seems both richer and sharper in person, and has an almost tangible quality to it. Aaron Weaver’s drumming becomes a sort of primal force as he locks into ridiculous tom-heavy patterns. Together they created a trance-like state that wasn’t broken until the end of closer, ‘Prayer of Transformation’ and is more than worth witnessing if you get the chance.

 

Wolves in The Throne Room on Facebook

Druden on Bandcamp 

 

 

 

 

JARED CHRTISTENSON

 

 

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Despite their relatively short existence, Death Metallers Allegaeon have proven to be a more than efficient, if not spectacular, outfit. Their brand of melodic and technical death metal is far from being an original formulation, but previous albums such as 2012’s Formshifter showed the quintet from Fort Collins, Colorado, do possess real song-writing prowess and formidability.

 

Latest effort Elements Of The Infinite (Metal Blade) follows firmly on this same path of dogged reliability bar some very subtle differences as the band marginally up the aggression factor at the expense of some of the melody. Elements… also shows a little less of that all too familiar Gothenburg sound in its DNA. These changes are minute however and will not catch established fans off guard by any stretch of the imagination, as the core of their sound is still founded on melodic flourishes and precision.

 The continued persistence to their relatively strict formula is the album’s biggest drawback as EOTI  is lacking both in spark and imagination. It is clear that these guys have musical talent by the bucket load, but proceedings here are uninspired, especially compared to the gems that are its predecessors.

 

Despite some tinkering, Elements Of The Infinite sees Allegaeon firmly sat in their niche bracket and when compared to previous outings it is clear that these guys have a lot more to give. Unfortunately their latest offering is a bog-standard melodic death metal effort, which sadly bears the weight of unlived expectations.

 

6.0/10.0

Allegaeon on Facebook

 

CHRIS TIPPELL

 

Blues Pills - Blues Pills

 

Once in a while a record comes along that knocks you sideways. Once in a while a record comes along that isn’t just about flailing around like dying fish, furiously howling at the injustice of having to tidy your bedroom once in a while. Once in a while a record comes along that reaffirms your faith in the power of exemplary musicianship allied to great songs.

 

Readers, here is one of those records.

 

Blues Pills’ self-titled debut album arrives with such self-confidence and chutzpah that you could be forgiven that they had been ploughing this particular furrow of blues rock for decades and were at the peak of their career rather than at the start. Following two EPs released on Kadavar Records (in 2012 and 2013, respectively), a move to Nuclear Blast has seen the band deliver this first full length offering. And what an offering! Blues Pills is not so much the sound of a band stepping up to the plate, it is the sound of a band knocking it out of the proverbial park.

 

Blues Pills is a brilliant and, at times, sensational record. Right from the off with the throat- grabbing, blues-soaked power of ‘High Class Woman’ through the mellow, folk inspired ‘River’ to the heritage cap-doffin cover of ‘Gypsy’ and the rich, haunting coda of ‘Little Sun’, this is a record with depth and breadth, soul and humanity. Clearly a band in love with Cream and Jimi Hendrix, there is also more than a spoonful of lovin’ here for early Fleetwood Mac both in compositional style and lyrical prowess.

 

Lead vocalist Elin Larsson has done a terrific job here, simultaneously sounding haunted, passionate and heartfelt. However, all of the band turn in stellar performances, the thumping, soul packed bass-lines of Zack Anderson , the mellifluous drumming of Cory Berry or the patchouli oil soaked guitar licking of Dorian Sorriaux all add up to a heady brew that intoxicates as much as it invigorates.

 

What truly impresses though is that Blues Pills is more than the sum of its considerable parts. The band have succeeded in creating a record that you can easily and willingly immerse yourself in, a record that understands and curates its heritage and lineage but is fresh, contemporary and massively memorable.

 

This is the record that you’ll be recommending to your friends for months to come.

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9.0/10.0

Blues Pills on Facebook

 

MAT DAVIES

 

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Flyleaf returns with their fourth full length release Between the Stars on September 16, 2014 via Loud and Proud. Produced by Don Gilmore (Korn, Lacuna Coil) Between The Stars is the first album featuring former Vedera vocalist Kristen May, who joined the band shortly after the release of their prior release, 2012’s New Horizons and the departure of original vocalist Lacey Sturm (formerly Moseby).

 

She’s an incredible singer and she clicked very well. Her personality was very important to us because we’re a touring band, made a record and put a song on the radio,” said guitarist Jared Hartmann.

 

I think one think that’s always a reoccurring theme in Flyleaf is the freedom in the music, the freedom of expressing yourself, exploring certain feelings of certain parts of your life that would otherwise hold inside and not letting go,” added guitarist Sameer Bhattacharya. “Kristen is such a free spirit. She doesn’t hold back. She is who she is. That’s really important to who Flyleaf is. Before we were Flyleaf, we were called Passerby, because no matter what platform we were given, no matter how tall our soapbox might be that’s given to us – our story’s just as important as anyone else’s. Your story’s just as important as ours. We all have a story to tell. I think Kristen brings that spirit to Flyleaf.”

 

May came into the band through an extensive search and audition process. “We compiled a list of singers. We had people who were on The Voice. We were reaching out to a lot of different people. She came up and auditioned and clicked very well,” said Hartmann.

 

As we went through the list of singers, we were also inquiring about certain singers. The singer had the same booking agent as Kristen, and that’s who we contacted to contact to audition.”

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They said ‘Kristen May was available. Her band Vedera just broke up and I highly recommend her.’ I think she was on the list real early. I think we crossed her off because we thought her band was still together. We contacted each other and she came down to Texas and had a sushi dinner. And from that meeting, it was like ‘wow! What a cool person.’ The next afternoon, we went into the rehearsal space and hit that first note, and what comes out was incredible. Her abilities are unmatched,” added Bhattacharya.

 

Once they began writing for Between the Stars, they discovered the true magic behind their new vocalist and a new era of the band officially began.

 

I felt the writing came very easily,” said Bhattacharya. “There’s this fresh feeling writing this record with Kristen. We need it. You get stuck in a rut doing the same thing over and over again. So it’s time for a new perspective in the writing process.”

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Once the writing began, Flyleaf found new creative energy working with May. Their first single ‘Set Me On Fire’ gave the public a taste of what is to come.

 

I think it’s really doing something new. It’s the first record with Kristen so everything’s real new. It’s becoming a band again,” said Hartmann.

 

I’m really getting excited about the songs on this record. There’s this growth in the music. This record transcends so many genres. Every song stands on its own. They’re all really great songs.”

 

Every record we’ve done has stood on its own,” said Bhattacharya. “We’ve never gone into a writing process with an agenda or a certain goal in mind other than writing good songs. We approached this record the same way as before.”

 

 

Flyleaf on Facebook

 

 

REI NISHIMOTO

expain-just-the-tip-album-cover1

 

Canadian quintet Expain clearly don’t like genre confines. Their debut album, Just the Tip (Self-Released), takes all your thrash expectations and throws them out the window. Consisting of Daniel Brand (vocals), Eric Morrison & Pat Peeve (guitars), Nikko Whitworth (bass) and Ryan Idris (drums), Vancouver’s Expain bill themselves as “the perfect band for those lovers of shredding guitar solos, lightening-speed kick drums, bloodcurdling vocals and pant-pissing comedy.”

 

Clearly not bashful, the description isn’t far off. The band have taken elements of pretty much every extreme metal style going and put them in a blender, and the results are pretty unpredictable. There’s lots of jazzy interludes shoe-horned in, but mostly it’s just intricate high octane riffing and furious drumming. There’s too many jumps in style to really pin down Expain, but from the off it is clear that the band are technically very good.

 

Instrumental opener ‘Bacchus’ feed into the full throttle of ‘Aggression’s Progression’, a headlong charge of melodic shredding with Brand’s rasping screams over the top. ‘Phoenix Writhing’ and ‘Don’t Worry, The Worst Is Yet to Come’ continue the thrash/death/prog chaos with gusto. The melodic interlude of ‘The King’ and jazzier moments that intersperse seemingly at random show the band can change things up, but for the most part Expain are about wedging in as many riffs and solos as possible in as few songs as they can.

 

While the “everything and the kitchen sink” approach entertains to start with, it grows tiresome before long. Relentless riffs and endless song changes often merge into one, and while Brand’s range of growls and screams are impressive, it does all become grating after a while. There’s nothing wrong with the carnage of ‘Allegiance to Pain’ or the slower ‘Manatee,’ but with so many style and speed shifts in every song there’s little to offer after a few songs.

 

The band may not be a joke outfit but they have tried to throw in a bit of humour into what they do. It’s easy to have a childish smirk at the album title and the band don’t mind poking fun at metal tropes with some of the other song titles. ‘Eating a Beating Heart’ and ‘Headbang Your Head Off’ are good examples of this, though if the lyrics are meant to be funny the humour’s lost in translation.

 

With Just the Tip, Expain have shown they’ve got a sense of humour and are a bunch of really technically skilled musicians with a lot of ideas. However they’ve not shown how to write a memorable tune. Still, an impressive debut nonetheless.

 

6.0/10.0

Expain on Facebook

 

DAN SWINHOE

 

 

therockstarenergydrink_mayhemfestival-2014

 

The annual touring metal festival known as the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Fest returned to the Southern California area and once again gave metal and hard rock fans their fill of 19 bands to rock out to. 

This year’s edition featured main stage acts Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, Asking Alexandria and Trivium and each giving the reported attendance of 26,000 people a rock show filled with props, fire and a whole lot of loud music.

 

Headliners Avenged Sevenfold brought out a bigger live experience with a full on set with Greco-Roman-esque demons and warrior themed backdrops, often reminding of a cross between Iron Maiden and the 300 movie series, with a slight Metallica-ish metallic feel mixed in.

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Their set list featured favorites from their current Hail To the King (Warner Bros) release, as well as songs from prior releases, and having the backdrops adjust to each song. Front-man M Shadows, along with the guitar team of Synyster Gates and Zack Vengeance both worked the crowd and entertained them with a classic hard rock show filled with solos and other guitar chops that got the crowd singing along to each tune.

 

Co-headliners Korn returned to the tour with their returning guitarist Brian “Head” Welch, and got the crowd on its feet from the start. The band sounded strong and on fire, nailing every note and giving fans a classic show reminiscent of the older days. Their set list featured older favorites like ‘Got The Life’ and ‘Shoots and Ladders’, as well as current numbers from recent records, and the fans were jumping along like any other Korn show.

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Considering both headliners being relatively from the area (Avenged Sevenfold from Orange County and Korn from Bakersfield via Orange County/Long Beach), both bands’ sets felt like a hometown show with fans representing their hometown heroes. They both waved the flag for rock and metal at one point in time, and showed why their popularity helped keep heavy rock and metal’s exposure public.

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Asking Alexandria and Trivium both held their own with their respective brands of melodic hard rock and metal. Asking Alexandria has slowly crept into the mainstream with their metalcore turned modern hard rock sound, and continues to attract new fans. Trivium with their modern hard rock meets thrash sound got them in front of a larger audience and representing the metallic sounds on the main stage.

 

The two label sponsored stages were Headbang For The Highway/Sumerian Records’ stage featured deathcore heroes Veil of Maya and Upon A Burning Body, metalcore stalwarts Darkest Hour and Body Count. Victory Records’ stage featured Ill Niño, Wretched, Islander, and Erimha.

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Amongst the label sponsored stages, much of the attention went to Body Count’s anticipated return, Darkest Hour and Ill Niño. Body Count’s abbrrievated set featured older favorites, but the fact that Ice T’s animated manner got the crowd into it. While it has been a while since they last performed, it didn’t seem to phase the fans.

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Darkest Hour’s neo-thrash meets metalcore sound stood out amongst the sea of deathcore and neo nu-metal sounds found amongst the stages. Their veteran status shined through and they easily won over the crowd.

 

Ill Niño’s set consisted of largely older tunes from their first two records, but that didn’t seem to bother the crowd. Putting on their heavy groove-tinged Latin metal sound, the younger crowd were jumping along and enjoyed every second of their brief set.

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Coldcock American Herbal Whiskey Stage featured Cannibal Corpse, Suicide Silence, Miss May I, Mushroomhead, Texas Hippie Coalition, and King 810. This stage easily attracted many of the acts the crowds were eager to see, despite the vast range of bands playing on it.

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The two brutal acts – Cannibal Corpse and Suicide Silence – both slayed the crowd with their sheer angst driven assault and did what they do best. The pits opened up and the crowds responded. Miss May I was easily the most melodic band but that didn’t phase the crowd from singing along with them, as well as getting the pits going at the same time. Mushroomhead brought out their animated stage show with their Faith No More meets industrial-esque sound, with updated masks and the crowd jumping along with them. While at times the public believed they fell out of favor with the music scene, apparently today proved that myth wrong.

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Mayhemfest on Facebook

 

WORDS BY REI NISHIMOTO

PHOTOS BY KALEY NELSON

 

submissions open

 

The Prog-Sphere label and website is accepting submissions from unsigned bands for their first ever Progstravaganza CD edition. They will review all submissions and then select 11 songs (up to 7 minutes in length) that will be sent for a final master. The deadline for submissions is September 10th, 2014.

 

progsphere logo

 

The roots of Progstravaganza started as a compilation series from their label in 2010, and in the past have included such notable names as Astra, Scale the Summit, The Wrong Object, Exivious, Blotted Science, Soft Machine, Fughu, Galahad, and many more. The twentieth edition will be called Landmarks and besides new bands it will feature some of the artists that were featured on the previous samplers. Prog Sphere is also starting a mini-documentary series titled The Story of Progstravaganza, where some of the artists that were featured in the past will be talking about progressive music today.

On top of that, every band is showcased with an interview on the Progstravaganza website and is also featured on ProgSphere’s Progify streaming service. Baddass!

Besides the inclusion on the sampler, Progstravaganza CD also brings features in a special printed Progstravaganza magazine, 6-month promotional campaign, interviews, reviews, lyric/photo videos, polls, commentaries… More features will be added.

progstraviganza cd

Artists interested in taking part on the first physical Progstravaganza edition can get in touch with Prog Sphere at info@prog-sphere.com, with included link of a song and short biography.  

 

 

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