In honor of World Mental Health Day on October 10th, Down Again, a documentary about mental health featuring Mark Hunter of Chimaira will get a worldwide release. Although not a film strictly about Mark’s time as the frontman of Chimaira, it does include music and scenes from his life in music. Hunter will share his personal story about utilizing his art to battle personal struggles and bipolar disorder in the film. Directed by Nick Cavalier – also recognized for directing Derek Hess’ award-winning Forced Perspective documentary – and will be free and available to stream at the link below. Watch the trailer and teaser clips below. Continue reading
I had been listening to up and coming North Carolina based prog metallers Valleys and to review their ambitious début full-length new album, playing Experiment One: Asylum on a loop and making my notes as I usually do before putting fingers on keys. Then tragedy struck as Valleys co-frontman of Mikey Clements was killed just a week before the release in a tragic accident. Bravely the band is moving forward, treating the release of the album and future gigs as a tribute to their fallen friend.
Genre mashing used to be out of the ordinary in music, and now as a concession to music fans’ fickle tastes and attention spans, it is the norm. Valleys call themselves progressive metal, and they are a modern prog band. But in addition to sounds inspired by bands like Coheed and Cambria, Tesseract, and Protest The Hero; they also blend in electronics, deathcore and other stuff in the mix. It works well, producing solid songs, and not being too all over the place that they lack cohesion. They also display some high-level muscianship, which is needed to pull off these type of songs in the first place.
More impressive, Experiment One: Asylum is a concept album about suffering from schizophrenia/BPD/multi-personality disorder and a personal descent as a result of it. In this time in our world when people are quick to dismiss and stigmatize mental illness, this is very topical. The album opens up with several strong songs in a row with ‘A Tension’, ‘Unraveling’ and ‘Desperate Me’. Energetic riffs, off-time meters, and stop/start tempos abound and the tracks get even better on repeated listens. ‘Take Me Home’ is the high point of the album, and will call to mind Veil of Maya and Linkin Park, mixing up the brutal gutturals with clean lines traded between Clements and Jayson Mitchell. This band can play brutal, but their ability to write the a super catchy chorus is something to make note of, possibly leading them to great heights someday. Closer ‘The Death Of Me’ is also a very impressive tune.
Hopefully Valleys are just getting started on their path and can find a away through this hardship and pain to keep going. It seems like Experiment One: Asylum is exactly the medicine they might need right now.
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Swedish progressive metallers The Great Discord are one of Metal Blade’s best signings of late. Their album Duende is out today, combining the artfulness and intelligence of classic 70s prog rock with the heaviness and skill of Meshuggah or Dream Theater. In chatting with singer Fia Kempe and drummer Aksel Holmgren, we learned that they are cognizant that even in these times of broad musical palates, their band does not fit into such a neat box, since they joined the roster at at Metal Blade.
Sofie: “We weren’t sure at first! (laughs) It all started when we had some demos and we sent them around, and among other labels, to Metal Blade. Kelli (Malella) was the first one to become intrigued with us. We started talking in an email conversation, where she wanted to learn what our aims were for this band, how we wanted to be represented, and what we wanted for the record. She got really interested in us and fought for us. And we were really surprised that when we got the mail that they wanted us to be signed there. It was a great experience! We thank Kelli so much!”
Aksel: “Metal Blade is traditionally well respected and they have done so much for metal. They are so legendary as an established name for the metal scene. And our sound, at least a big chuck of it, is metal. And it seems the label have signed more progressive bands like Between the Buried and Me and Native Construct, which gave us the hint that this label that wants to invest in this type of music. We have nothing but great things to say about them.”
Fia: “It was also a bit of a challenge for us too. We can tell straight away now… releasing a few of our teasers how polarizing a band like ours can be. If you are a true Metal Blade fan, and you are into Cannibal Corpse and Goatwhore, I can really understand how you would be at least surprised (laughs) when you hear our kind of music and how differs a lot from a Cannibal Corpse, for example. We also think its a good effect, because it gets people talking. It gets people to turn their heads, which is always a good thing in this business. We welcome all reactions, that is the discordance in life. It’s been a blast to read all the comments (laughs)!”
As much as the band is sonically impressive, one thing sets them apart is the existential themes in their lyrics throughout the album. We wanted to know what role these heady ideas played in the context behind the story of Duende.
Fia: “When we look back at it now, we think of the album as ten short stories: ten examinations of the human condition. I am a Social Psychiatrist professionally, so I have always had a great interest in psychology; and meeting people daily who are in a great amount of pain and suffering, dealing with depression; going so far as Autistic, bi-polar, or even schizophrenia. It’s always been an interesting subject for me; the psyche of the human mind. All people around the world suffer from a morbid fascination of these kinds of conditions, so we wanted to explore a little further how the music makes you feel, and then how you can get the music to match these emotions. So the music always came first and then we tried to match the lyrics to these kind of emotions and psychiatric conditions.”
“It can be things people feel every day in their lives like the sorrow, sadness, pain, power, joy; to the more extremes: the cannibal, the necrophiliac, the massive paranoid schizophrenic killer. And we know those are not the most common states of mind of people in general, but they do exist. They are there and we know it, whether we want to think about it or not. But there are all of the scary, almost unknown conditions. Even if you don’t want to admit it.”
Aksel: “This aspect is well represented on album in a more general sense too. In contrast just more general philosophical concerns of why are we here? What is the meaning in life? What do I do if I have regrets when I die? How do I deal knowing that I am a living, breathing, thinking, feeling human being. This is the theme essentially behind The Great Discord.”