Starting off on a very limited run of just 500 copies, Self Spiller have evidently decided that Worms in the Keys (Varia) should not stay restricted from the world any longer and reissued the LP. The project led by Jason Walton of Agalloch, alongside fellow band member Don Anderson, is an ambitious piece comprising of 14 members from across the globe. Most of the contributors can boast some serious history, with Sigh’s Dr. Mikannibal and Mirai Kawashima, the latter also playing for US based Necrophagia part of the fold. All this comes together to form an unusual; unique; almost indescribable sound that virtually defies categorisation.
Comprising of layer upon layers of different pieces, the album takes capsules of previous work spanning 6 years from the artists, brought together by Walton and layered into an avant-garde culmination of sound. Rather than feeling fractured and disconnected however, the many different pieces of music have been arranged in a way that seems to make sense together (well, sort of). The result? A surprisingly enjoyable piece, although not altogether flowing. Numerous voice layers backed with distorted guitars break suddenly into classical piano or a jazzy saxophone sections. If you were hoping the vocals might provide some form of story to tie it all together, think again. The snippets make a disturbing and broken narrative that is virtually impossible to piece together into a fully formed entity.
Worms in the Keys is brave and bold project that has been executed with extreme skill to form what is an oddly enjoyable album that is hard to turn off. Do I remember any of the songs? Well, no. Snippets stand out but it’s often hard to grasp whole tracks even while listening to the album. It really is a piece that demands either your full attention or nothing at all. Those that do take the time to give this album a try will find a record that it has bridged avant-garde madness while remaining fun. It may not be the most memorable of pieces as a whole, but it is refreshingly engaging as it challenges everything you thought you understood about modern music.
Fresh off their Friday set at Temples Festival and ready to head into their debut performance of Natasha, US based Pig Destroyerhave really managed to capture the true breadth of their style over the two days. While they may straddle grindcore and doom, styles that so often seen as opposing, both have a chaotic element that holds them together. The music may be violently aggressive, but the band themselves are surprisingly laid back and fun as we quiz JR, Blake and Jarvis on everything from how a set comes together to whether Agoraphobic Nosebleed will ever hit the UK with a show.
You’ve already played one set at Temples festival, how has it gone?
JR – Good, very good. It was one of our best ones in a little while actually.
You’re playing a double set, how did that come about?
JR – We’ve had a couple of releases that are along the slow variety and they had a doom day going on. They asked if we wanted to take part, we figured since we were already here we’d give it a try. We’ve never done a set like this before so we thought it would be interesting.
How did you decide how to divide the sets?
Blake – With our band it’s kind of always like a timing thing. Recently we had a couple of dates scheduled in Germany and France and they fell through. Temples had somebody drop off and they offered us a second day. We’d been discussing doing it anyway so we really needed a finite goal or we’d just never do it.
JR – We need a kick in the ass at times.
Blake – We started working it out.
JR – For a long time we thought Natasha wasn’t really doable for us because there’s a lot of noise passages that aren’t necessarily musical. We didn’t know if we’d be able to tie everything together rhythmically. We managed to work it out at least to the point where we could practise it.
Do you have any challenges bringing the noise elements of your music into the live environment?
Blake – I guess that depends on how much I’ve had to drink but yeah, sometimes. It depends you know, it’s kind of… I don’t want to say a freeform thing, but its just ‘lets do it’. Depends how much time we have and what’s going on.
JR – How the PA system works as well. It’s noise so there’s a chaotic element to it, and that’s why we do it, we like the chaos to it. You don’t want to get too nitpicky about something like that.
Blake – It’s got to have a little freeform vibe to it.
Pig Destroyer has two very different styles; do have any difficulty pulling together shows? How do you decide what goes into each set list?
JR – We do have a lot of songs. We have songs that we definitely personally like to play. I think sometimes we lean on those rather than what other people want us to play. We don’t play our video songs very much or our hits but we just have songs we prefer to play ourselves. It’s usually not hard to get a regular set list together. The slow stuff, this will be a new experience for us.
Blake – Might be the last time…
JR – You never know! We’ll see how it goes.
What influence came in that caused you to split out into two such differing genres?
JR – I think it’s our personalities, it’s very representative of our personalities, both directions.
Blake – Also, really early grindcore kind of lends itself to that. If you listen to Godflesh it’s still rooted in grindcore and it’s not fast, it’s just churning.
JR – It’s two sides of the same coin, the way we look at it. We like it really fast, we like it really slow.
Blake – So does my wife! [laughs]
JR – Yeah, there you go.
You all seem to have a lot of different bands; do you find it hard to juggle your various workloads?
Blake – Not me.
Jarvis – Luckily we have management and people that can get everything in order for us so it’s a lot easier when there’s people helping out. Last week at Maryland Deathfest we had multiple sets, and getting from one venue to the next can get chaotic sometimes.
Blake – I think JR and I are the least busy in that respect. I’ve got Hatebeak but that’s not a real live project. I know that Jarvis has started jamming with a couple of other guys.
Jarvis – Yeah but that’s just fucking around. I don’t like to bite off more than I can chew, because we all have other things in our lives going on outside music.
Blake – This would be a great question for Scott if he were here.
Jarvis – He’s the ultimate mulitasker.
Blake – Doing Agoraphobic and Pig Destroyer, it’s been a lot of work lately.
Agoraphobic Nosebleed at Maryland Deathfest, by Hillarie Jason Photography
Is the UK ever going to see a live show from Agoraphobic?
Jarvis – Probably, probably. I would say we might even come back next year. You never know, right about this time.
We’d love to see a show over here now that Maryland Deathfest had one.
Blake – Well it was the first show and it was only a week ago.
JR – It was a killer set.
Jarvis – Yeah it was a lot of fun and we put a lot of work into it. We were kind of worried, same thing with tonight playing Natasha for the first time but it worked out. We’re going to keep playing, that’s for sure.
What do you want people to take from a Pig Destroyer show?
Blake – Black Eyes.
JR – Bloodshed is always good. We don’t anyone to die, but if they come close then that’s cool. [laughs]
Blake – Basically just having fun. Our music may be kind of serious but as people we’re easy going. Obviously we’re not raking in the millions here so we’re having fun and we want the crowd to interact with us and have fun. We don’t fly half way across the world for no reason.
JR – The crowds over here are great. They love grindcore. We just love playing for people that have the same interest as we do.
Blake – The same passion.
JR – That’s what it’s all about, brotherhood. We’ve been all over the world at this point and metal shows are about the same wherever you go. Even if the culture of the country is totally different, you can go to a metal show and it’s a universal language.
A change towards psychedelic rock is a solid choice for the Sunday, as those that have dragged themselves back seem to have dramatically thinned. Opening the main stage, Kent band Ohhms are a relatively new band on the scene, but quickly prove they deserve every drop of respect they have earned with their brand of progressive doom while the frontman’s hazy vocals are coupled with looking like he is having a perpetually awkward orgasm but somehow they complement each other perfectly and the unusual but endearing performance is a talking point long after the band have finished.
Venom Prison, by Rich Price Photography
First band of the Sunday second stage are Venom Prison, at 4pm owing to an hours delay after Sunn O))) nearly levelled the entire building the night before. These were another band I checked out on a whim and proved to be one of the more pleasant highlights of the weekend. Given the number of people raving about them on my FB I wasn’t alone in discovering these. Formed by ex-members of Wolf Down, Brutality Will Prevail and Desolated. They wasted absolutely no time in tearing the second stage a new one. Playing a thoroughly impressive set of hardcore and death metal, this is impressive stuff which manages to get the crowd going with seeming ease. Musically these are absolutely fantastic to hear, fast and heavy but with plenty of groove. Special mention must go to singer Larissa who has way too much stage presence for such a small stage. I’ll definitely be checking these out again next time they tour.
The King Is Blind, by Rich Price Photography
The addition of New Model Army bassist Ceri Monger has elevated Essex maulers The King Is Blind to another level. Unencumbered by an instrument, frontman Steve Tovey stalks the stage, giving punters a taste of his vicious snarl. Their bubbling cauldron of death, doom and black metal is a potent mix which is steadily gaining momentum and growing a devoted fanbase in the process.
Monarch’s female vocalist may be tiny in stature, but don’t let that cause you to underestimate her. From calm, creepy whispers and slow droning notes we are lulled into a false sense of security but that doesn’t last long before harrowing screams shatter the calm creating a dramatic yet captivating performance. Swan Song play to an energetic and appreciative crowd. The front man has a huge amount of energy and is all over the stage with the energy of ten. The rest of the band aren’t quite as energetic or are trying to stay out of the way I can’t quite decide. Unfortunately despite their considerable energies they are simply not my cup of tea. It’s obvious though that the crowd disagree with that assessment and have a good time.
Year of No Light, by Rich Price Photography
This seems to be a particular talent of the French acts on that day, with Year of No Light following on with their largely instrumental atmospheric post-metal. With two drummers and three guitarist this band carries with them a huge sound that flickers between light moments before crashing down to become crushingly heavy.
A bizarre choice for the 3rd stage considering their rising stock. Tribulation bring their Nosferatu inspired blackened occultism with a sense of true rock showmanship. Adam Zaars and Jonathan Hulten trade off licks while strutting around with the cocksure swagger of an act that knows this is their time.
Tribulation, by Rich Price Photography
For anyone surprised to see Ghold heading up the main stage above the previous two bands, you wouldn’t have been the only one as the pair are more used to hitting Brixton’s minuscule Windmill or Camden’s Black Heart than a major festival main-stage. While the duo may have looked a little swallowed up in the space, there was little doubt they could pull it off with ease and their appearance as a major billing at the festival is no less than this band deserve. Their self-described “weight & grunt power” music is realised as they pummelled the audience with their monolithic sound.
Reeking of grief and filth Vallenfyre are relentless. Gregor Macintosh is a masterful frontman and ex My Dying Bride man Hamish Glencross churns out ugly slabs of brutality like ‘Scabs’ with ease. Quips about playing a cow shed aside this is northern cynicism distilled to a foul brew all lap up. ‘Cathedrals Of Dread’ sees the audience lose their shit. ‘Desecration’ concludes a mercurial performance from these purveyors of crust addled death.
Goatwhore, by Rich Price Photography
Goatwhore are a band I’ve been wanting to see live for a very long time. They play straight up old school heavy/death metal, but there’s no denying they do it better than most. One of the bands I was most looking forward to at Temples and they really don’t disappoint.
Playing to an absolutely rammed 3rd stage, in fact it was only thanks to the excellent Temples/Motion security letting us in the back door that I could even get into the building at all. Both the band and crowd are electric, with pits, fist pumping, devil horns and crowd surfers a plenty. This is a phenomenal performance.
Canadian noiseinks Ken Mode are truly unhinged but suffer from a muddy sound mix. New stomper ‘Blessed’ is raucous and angular with Jesse Matthewson snarling about ‘handfuls of shit tossed at a proverbial wall’ in a manner which recalls a more feral take on the kind of dirty art rock 90s underground label Amphetamine Reptile specialise in. Despite battling with the mix this is a passionate and intense performance that doesn’t go unnoticed.
Pallbearer, by Rich Price Photography
Sorrowful and passionate Pallbearer impress with their enchantingly morose take on doom. Recent opus The Foundations Of Burden is unquestionably the finest release in this genre of the last five years and the band’s gut-wrenching performance more than justifies their place on the bill. ‘Devoid Of Redemption’ and ‘The Ghost I Used To Be’ are achingly beautiful slabs of epic melancholia charged with elephantine riffage and bags of soul. Putting in a truly memorable shift on the main stage, the Arkansas outfit look destined to ascend to the very pinnacle of extreme music if they can maintain such breath-taking form.
Between The Buried And Me, by Rich Price Photography
Things get technical as progressive death metal band Between the Buried and Me close up the second stage for the weekend. One of the more usual booking of the weekend, they don’t seem to slot in with any of the running themes of the festival. Not put off by this, the room is suitably packed with people forcing their way through into the room as the quintet bounce their way through the set mixing up impossibly complex riff combinations with powerful clean vocals and gutturals. While this band may not have been for everyone, there certainly aren’t many bands that can pull off this kind of sound at a festival like Temples and still keep the crowd enraptured. I can’t say I enjoy the set, but I do leave with absolute respect for the band as both musicians and performers.
Earth, by Rich Price Photography
Americana drone rockers Earth deliver expansive desert soundscapes that should make for an enthralling experience but that is promptly derailed when Dylan Carlson’s guitar malfunctions leaving the band to improvise while a replacement instrument is located. Once this technical hitch is rectified the band launch into ‘The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull’ which seduces with its psychedelic textures. Carlson himself is reminiscent of a young Charles Manson and remains an enthralling character to behold as he coaxes transcendent notes from his instrument. The spaghetti westerns of Ennio Morricone are often recalled not least in the sorrowful ‘Old Black’ which draws tonight’s performance to a close. A fantastic example of an event curated by true music lovers, Temples looks to remain a Mecca for underground music fans for many years to come.
Kicking off Temples Festival with a torrid mix of grind and punk Teef are a rude awakening. Sadly the shrieking of their vocalist is only appropriate during the more intense moments with several mediocre riffs tempering what should have ignited the blue touch paper. Oblivionized are much better. Nasty atonal riffs á la Discordance Axis, the Londoners bash through relentless cuts from their ‘Life Is A Struggle, Give Up’ platter in a fashion which forces early comers to take note or die.
The Afternoon Gentlemen, by Rich Price Photography
The second band in the second stage were Leeds based grinders The Afternoon Gentlemen. Unperturbed by waiting for the displaced Young And In The Way to conclude their set on the main stage they managed to bring their own brand of party atmosphere. The massive bouncy energy of the band transferring into an enthusiastic crowd with ease. Crowd surfers were present very early on as well as paramedics. The Yorkshiremen Pummeled the crowd with song after song playing some newer tracks from the record they have coming out later this year. Grind is one of those genre’s that has to be done right and the ‘Gents certainly do it right but their performance struggles to hold the attention of the audience with many drifting away towards the end of the set.
Enabler, by Rich Price Photography
Enabler are a revelation. Taking to the stage displaying a terrifying ferocity, they receive a huge reception from the crowd.A particularly potent mix of hardcore with a large side helping of metal. The second they started like a kick to the gut and it was immediately obvious they weren’t here to mess about, and the audience knew it.This was an impassioned performance which was quite incredible to watch. In a festival with no shortage of amazing bands Enabler proved to be a real highlight.
Deathwish signees’ Harm’s Way deliver their pulverising metallic hardcore to an appreciative small crowd. Brusing mosh fodder which won’t change the world but can certainly help work up a sweat.
Most of us rarely start a festival by being told to fuck off, but for those of us that headed over to catch an early set by blackened crusters Young and in the Way, that’s exactly how Temples 2015 kicked off. While many wouldn’t dare insult the fans, it fit perfectly into their take no prisoners sound. Those squeezing themselves into the tiny third for a dose of filth from the New Zealanders Meth Drinker were treated to a wall of slow gnarly distortion.
Trap Them, by Rich Price Photography
Trap Them’s first UK show in four years is heralded with unbridled enthusiasm and the group reciprocates every last bit of energy they receive, delivering a watertight set of no bullshit brutality. Numbers from ‘Darker Handcraft’ eventuate intensity and unhinged aggression. Seering filth encrusted riffage and brutal blasts see the main stage temperature rising to fever pitch.\\
Sacramento’s Will Haven punish the main stage with Grady Avenell cutting an intimidating figure onstage.The dissonant groove of ‘Fresno’ ignites a thunderous response with material from new EP Open The Mind To Discomfort getting a good airing alongside juicy cuts from the quintet’s stellar back catalogue. Sheer unbridled aggression tempered with the eerie melodies conjured by Jeff Irwin and Anthony Paganelli ensure this performance is nothing short of enthralling.
Will Haven, by Rich Price Photography
Ramping up the speed again, Magrundergrind whipped up the festival crowd as beer cans were replaced with people being thrown through the air. With the songs averaging just a minute apiece there was plenty of time to cram in the crowd pleasers. Eight hundred bruises and a sore neck later, we’re pretty sure that was a good time… if only we could think past all the concussion.
Nails may have been the more extreme proposition but Weedeater were no less deranged. Frontman Dixie looks truly unhinged, his cross-eyed forty-yard stare burning holes in the crowd while Travis Owens pounds his kit mercilessly with style, even showboating with his sticks without missing a beat. Resin tinged anthems like ‘Gimmie Back My Bullets’ provide more than enough material for those who the motto ‘tune low, play slow’ is a way of life.
Nails, by Rich Price Photography
It quickly became apparent that songs about “people who talk fucking shit,” is a mantra for Californian based Nails. Repeated before most tracks, it quickly turned into a bit of light comedy relief, which was welcome as the band were on devastating form that evening churning out track after track of ground-shakingly heavy grinding. Despite their popularity, Nails sound feels more at home in a grimy basement cellar, and seeing them on such a large stage just didn’t seem to translate as well as it should have. The same could not be said for Pig Destroyer. Heading out for the first of their two sets that weekend they threw the crowd into the nastiest cuts of grindcore from their collection. Members of the crowd who had any space to breath could count themselves lucky as the room dissolved into a crushed mass of bodies. The sacrifice? Flailing limbs and flying bodies: wherever you stood it was a slaughterhouse.
Converge, by Rich Price Photography
Who knew metalcore could fit in so well in this line-up. While the genre may have a bad reputation among doom fans, Converge are providing a lifeline to the genre with their powerful and energetic performance. Twisting the wires round his throat and clasping his head, front man Jacob Bannon seems endearingly honest performance backed by their abrasive, twisting backing. Converge proved that twenty-five years of performing is no excuse not to pull out a blindingly energetic set.
A rare UK outing for Bongzilla ensures the outdoor stage is packed despite impressive opposition from Boston trailblazers Converge. Dealing in the kind of lumbering riffs that revel in their atavistic primitively, they’re the idea doom act to close a darkened stage with their Neanderthal low end anthems. Undeterred by the completion, the Wisconsin act delivers a herculean performance of Sabbathian might which while somewhat myopic in is focus, remains a potent high which concludes day one in style.
Hailing from the New York grind scene can be a challenge for any band. With such a prestigious history of bands the bar is set high for any new acts pushing out of the local scene. Blurring are a band with a difference however as, behind the awkward, uncomfortable mass of noise are the brains behind one of the most influential grind bands of the last 25 years.
Brutal Truth may no longer be sullying stages around the world, but that certainly hasn’t stopped bassist Dan Lilker. Joined by ex-Kalibas guitarists Scott D’Agostino and Matt Colbert and drummer Eric Burke who not only boasts appearances in both of those bands, but also appears as a guitarist in Nuclear Assault and Lethargy, Blurring are already name dropping their way as a serious player.
The only member of this super group that cannot boast a lengthy resume is vocalist Mark Weldin, however what he lacks on the CV, he more than makes up for in performance. Harsh and unrelenting, Weldin’s vocals sound like a man stabbed repeatedly in the throat. No relief can be found in the music either, as ‘Like Wolves’ backs it ups with a dizzying, churning sound only broken by aggressive blasting. ‘Terminus and the Flame’ has menacing undertones at awkward backing chords clash against lead while sole instrumental track ‘Rape Van’, sees a slow uncomfortable drag through 2 minutes of unsettling sounds that, unlike the real van provides a deliciously slow and addictive contradiction to the rest of the album.
Blurring perform the difficult task of taking every element they could think of to repel the listener on this self-titled (Handshake Inc.) début, but rather than adding it in small bite sized chunks, the whole album is a mass of chaotic sound that seems to barely hold itself together. The result is a depraved, uncomfortable half hour of black grind that somehow keeps you clawing back for another listen time and time again.
Light the torches and raise the cries as pagan black metal band Macabre Omen return after 10 years with their follow-up to their debut studio album, 2005’s The Ancient Returns (Obscure Abhorrence). Coupled with the ominous cover, the name Macabre Omen brings up visions of cheesy melody lines splattered with lashings of awkwardly placed black metal. This is not a band that should be judged by their cover however, and while they may only be on their second album with just a handful of splits filling the gaps, the band have had a solid twenty years since conception to perfect their craft.
It’s a call to banners as ‘I See, the Sea’ opens the album with rousing calls reminiscent of ancient armies making their way into battle. Gods of War – At War (Ván Records) certainly has a touch of the epic about it, even as the melodic folk-inspired lines give way to more aggressive blasting under scream by vocalist Alexandros. While the opening track remained distinctly melodic, the album takes much darker turns, particularly on the title track where the black metal is dialled up. ‘Man of 300 Voices’ takes a different tone however; an acoustic opening to the track barely seems out of place, particularly as more traditional instruments make an appearance before moving into epic vocal lines that dominate the song.
Pagan black metal can be a hard genre to master, but Macabre Omen have managed to produce a sound that plants itself somewhere between the more Bathory and Graveland. Despite maintaining a consistent sound throughout, Gods of War – At War has successfully walked the line creating an album that has enough variety between tracks, but still maintains an identifiable sound that brings the piece together. While it may not be breaking any ground artistically, it certainly would hold its ground on soundtrack heading into battle.
Some bands around have names that describe what they are before you have even started listening to the album. Bleak and cold, Hypothermia’s depressive and atmospheric rock music embodies the slow freeze of the condition itself. The album contains a simple mix of introverted, despondent guitar lines that seem to exist outside of conventional timing as they drag their way from beginning to end, driven solely by a mid-paced drum beat.
At 8 and a half minutes long, opener ‘Invokation’ set the tone of the album, introducing the droning chords that runs through virtually the entire record. Each track adds a little extra to the sound, with ‘Svartkonst’ and ‘Regnvals’ introducing vocal and violin lines that murmur beneath the chord lines. The biggest change however comes in with closing track ‘Vy,’ the slightly uplifting harmonies sound positively joyful compared with the previous tracks and prove relief from the monotonously depressive sound.
Svartkonst (Agonia) captures the feel of early Forgotten Tomb’s acoustic tracks, however Hypothermia has crafted sound that relies far more on the subtle layering of parts than most bands. Distorted riffs, string sections and vocal flourishes hide beneath the tide of jangled guitar chords, slowly adding colour to the droning tone that purveys throughout.
With no main focal point, this album could easily be passed up as background music or dismissed as sounding empty and without focus, but this would be a mistake. For those listeners willing to give the album a chance there is a lot of to gain from the sound. Svarkonst will take you on a 35-minute journey though some of the bleakest emotional paths, with only those who can make it through to the end of the album provided with the faintest glimmer of relief.