Ghost Cult recently chatted with long-time Apocalyptica drummer Mikko Sirén. The band is in the midst of a multi-year world tour that has seen the band celebrate the anniversary of their 1996 debut album Plays Metallica by Four Cellos (Universal). We chatted about the longevity of the band, performing Metallica covers and other well-known songs live, their song-writing process for originals, his personal pre-stage warm-up rituals, collaborating on the new Sabaton song ‘Fields of Verdun’ and the progress of the brand new Apocalyptica album. Check it out! Continue reading
The Tennessee Performing Arts Center rests directly in the heart of downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Known for hosting all the Broadway shows that come through Music City, this cultural center is a venue that caters to a variety of performances. Including an occasional Heavy Metal show. The Finnish act, Apocalyptica came to town last Tuesday to celebrate the anniversary of their debut album, Plays Metallica by Four Cellos (Mercury/Universal). This acclaimed group of guys, known for their unique use of the Cello, came out with their first record just over twenty years ago and have been on the road all around the world honoring its notable significance. Continue reading
If you stick close to Ghost Cult and follow our reviews, we have been extolling the virtues of indie artist and cellist extraordinaire Jo Quail and her new album Exsolve. With a tour booked opening for Myrkur and two exclusive appearances set for the acclaimed Roadburn Festival, her star is surely rising. Today we’re proud to share the premiere of her new music video, a live performance video shot in London earlier this month. Continue reading
One of the strange facts about Metal is how limited the formula can be, at times. The guitar, drums, bass and warbler model stands firm for a surprising range of genres, from Black Metal to Death, to Thrash, to the NWOBHM… So, give cellist Jo Quail a round of applause for trying something new with her new album, Exsolve (self-released). Continue reading
Slipknot is currently on a break, working on a new album for 2018, and allowing their various members time to work on other projects. In the meantime check out this amazing cover of their classic track ‘Wait And Bleed’ played on a cello by the mysterious Celloshredder. We don’t know anything else about him, but he clearly rules. Watch it below: Continue reading
So, you tell a band that the only thing you haven’t heard of theirs is their debut EP… and they tell you that they’re about to re-release it. “A Sea of Dead Snakes (Blindsight) was very Grunge influenced” states Tom McKibbin, drummer with Oxfordshire Drone quartet Undersmile, “and we’ve gone down a much more dirge-infested road since then! We’ve just had another re-pressing done, and given it a purple tint. It’s our ‘Ribena’ edition! It’ll be going out in November, as that’ll be five years since it first came out.”
The band, comprising two couples, has had a number of experiences in their relatively short existence: “We were so disliked in the beginning; we’ve cleared many gigs before now, particularly playing in Oxford!” Tom muses. “Initially you tend to get thrown onto weird, eclectic bills where you don’t belong. One was a Gay Pride gig where they cut the electricity!”
“They came to us and said ‘Stop! You’re making everyone leave!” continues rhythm guitarist / vocalist and Tom’s partner, Hel Sterne, “We couldn’t believe it. Then on came Sassy Ribbons, a drag act…”
The band’s second album, Anhedonia (Black Bow Records), has been out some months and has met with serious acclaim. Tom is enthusiastic about the reaction: “It’s been really great. The weirdest thing is that it was album of the month in Terrorizer, which you normally feel is reserved for Metallica or Slayer!”
The inclusion of cello on certain tracks has been considered a vital ingredient by many of the album’s admirers: “Taz [Corona-Brown, guitarist / vocalist] and I have always been obsessed with cello”, states Hel.
“We both have similar feelings about melodies, so it was basically something that had to happen. Our cellist Jo Quail is very talented: we told her to just do what she felt, and she did. She just went into that sombre zone which is where we like to lurk!”
There’s a wonderful blend of light and the disturbingly dark in Anhedonia, something that the band are aware of: “It was necessary in order to translate the amount of heartbreak that was intended in some of the songs”, Hel thoughtfully explains. “Some of those things, however, refer to other, nicer times. It’s so important to have contrast.”
“As long as I’ve known Hel and Taz, they’ve naturally gravitated to this close-harmony, slightly discordant edge” Tom feels. “As they’re the main songwriters, that’s what comes out in the music, and Olly [Corona-Brown, bassist] and I just try to bring it along. The Drone influence of Undersmile actually came from loads of different areas: Classical, Indian, Shoegaze, through The Melvins and Earth; but this time we wanted a more dynamic range. It’s nice to get these really clean chords – it has the same effect but with a cleaner, crisper sound. It can still be as mournful as it is with the distortion.”
“I think it can be more mournful” rejoins Hel. “Some people listen to music like that because they find it medicinal, purifying, even though it’s filthy, and I completely understand that. I listen to brainwave entrainment a lot, and I find a similar ‘cocooning’ thing in there too.”
The band is now with Black Bow Records after releasing stuff on a whole host of labels. “We recorded at Skyhammer, Jon Davis’ (Black Bow founder and Conan leader) studio,” Tom acknowledges. “Jon offered to put Anhedonia out in time for Roadburn, which was really important for us. He’s well-connected of course, people are really interested in what he’s doing, and so that was it. We did our parts over four days; then it was all mixed in sixteen hours’ straight with Chris (Fielding, producer and Conan bassist) who managed to get such a wonderful, natural guitar sound. Obviously we’d be interested in working with Jon again, but it’s just whoever is interested in working with us really. In the past it’s been as a result of friends asking us if they can put stuff out, or friends we’ve made by putting stuff out. They’re all good people.”
Undersmile played two big sets at Roadburn this year – one as themselves, the other as their more acoustic, ‘Grunge Unplugged’ alter-ego Coma Wall – and has two more big sets to come in November. Tom explains further: “We’re playing the memorial gig for Grimpen Mire’s Paul van Linden, who sadly passed away in June. We knew he’d been unwell but his death was still a massive shock. We did a mini-tour with them, Conan and Serpent Venom a couple of years ago and we all got on so well: Paul was always such a lovely guy each time we met. So we’re really honoured to be a part of that. Damnation Festival just came up quite recently. It’s something we’ve wanted to play for a while so it was a ‘no-brainer’, but once we saw the line-up it was incredible! We’re on quite early in the day, so we’ve got the rest of the day to enjoy the music and get drunk!”
So, do the couples ever take a break from each other?! “We have this year, post-Roadburn!” confirms Hel. “We’re all just so busy: there are Taz and Olly’s family commitments; we’ve just moved house; I run an acupuncture clinic and Tom is very career-focused at present; we’ve a lot of material for Coma Wall…with all that, we’re really having to ‘cherry-pick’ gigs. We did realise that we were spending so much time just working – Taz and I are best friends – and we thought ‘when do we actually make time to just go out and do ‘friend’ things?”
Finishing with another exclusive for Ghost Cult, Hel explains the band’s latest foray into the visual world: “We’ve just finished shooting a video for the Anhedonia track ‘Sky Burial’. So that’ll be two music videos this year!” she laughs.
Stardom? Probably not, but there’s certainly no doubt that the star of this incredibly hard-working, creative and crushing unit is well and truly on the rise.
WORDS BY PAUL QUINN
Over the course of her career singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe has hardly given what you would call conventional output. Drawing influence from a distinctly varied and wide range of influences, her music has had a chameleon life effect of changing its style and colours over the years, always proving impossible to pigeonhole. On the path of further mind-fuckery, latest album Abyss (Sargent House) offers perhaps the most surreal and abrasive album of her career to date.
Abyss upholds the dark, gothic tinged atmosphere and tone of previous releases but also shows a greater embrace of orthodoxly heavier genres such as doom metal, drone and noise rock. Always one for sounds of mystery and unease, at times this proves downright terrifying, for example on ‘Iron Moon’ which contrasts between pummeling, sludge like passages with her powerful wail to cleaner, folk like parts where she sings with almost fragility, as eerie effects pierce the background.
Her vocals prove a real ace on Abyss working as both a perfect accompaniment at some parts and providing a perfect contrast to the sheer heaviness of the music at others, heightening the unsettling feel. Far from becoming an entirely metal album however, her varied range of influences from folk and elsewhere still show huge prominence, from the creepy Cello on ‘Grey Days’ to electronic noise throughout, through to the spine chilling string section that draws the album to a close on the title track. Even moments of delicacy pierce through showing beauty throughout the album’s cleaner passages.
As ever Chelsea Wolfe gives us another challenging album that will prove near impossible to categorise, but with Abyss it is certainly her most conventionally heavy and perhaps darkest thus far. Showing more in common with the likes of SunnO))) than ever before, contrasting with her soft vocals and other influences and Abyss is a deep, at times unsettling album that reveals greater nuances, layers and depth with every listen. Without a doubt one of the year’s highlights.
Helen Money’s new album Arriving Angels is now out via Profound Lore, and was recorded and mixed by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio. The record features Jason Roeder (Neurosis, Sleep). Cellist/composer Alison Chesley, a.k.a. Helen Money, merges her classical training with a lifelong affinity for punk rock and a taste for heavy metal. In addition to her own material Chesley has also performed and/or directed string arrangements for artists like Anthrax (Worship Music), Russian Circles (Geneva), Broken Social Scene (Forgiveness Rock Record) and Yakuza. For her previous album, In Tune, she worked with Greg Norman (Pelican, Russian Circles, Neurosis), Sanford Parker (Pelican, Chris Connelly, Yakuza, Buried at Sea).
Tour: MONO/Helen Money Fall Tour
Nov 26: Debaser Slussen – Stockholm
Nov 27: John Dee – Oslo
Nov 29: Loppen – Copenhagen
Nov 30: Studenterhuset – Aalborg
Dec 01: Hafenklang – Hamburg
Dec 02: Vera – Groningen
Dec 03: MAZ – Brugge
Dec 04: Patronaat – Haarlem
Dec 05: DRILL Festival – Brighton
Dec 06: Leeds University Social Club – Leeds
Dec 07: Stereo – Glasgow
Dec 08: Whelans – Dublin
Dec 10: Islington Assembly Hall – London
Dec 11: Trabendo – Paris
Dec 14: Gebaeude9 – Koln
Dec 15: Jubez – Karlsruhe
Dec 16: Feierwerk – Munich
Dec 17: Podnick – Prague
Dec 18: Beatpol – Dresden
Tour: Jarboe/Helen Money
Feb 13: Cafe Oto – London
Feb 14: De Kreun – Kortnijk
Feb 15: Slow Club – Verein Für Notwendige – Freiburg
Feb 16: ARENA WIEN – Vienna
Feb 18: Muffatwerk – Munich
Feb 20: MS Stubnitz – Hamburg
Feb 22: Blitz – Oslo
Feb 22: Blitz – Oslo
Feb 24: Truckstop Alaska – Goteburg
Feb 24: Truckstop Alaska – Goteburg
Feb 25: Andreaskyrkan – Stockholm
Feb 25: Andreaskyrkan – Stockholm
Feb 26: Klubi – Tampere
Feb 27: Nabaklav Zigfrīda Annas Meierovica – Riga
Feb 28: Świętego – Gdynia
Mar 01: Fabryka – Krakow
Mar 04: KC Grad – Beograd
Mar 05: Klub Močvara Udruženje za razvoj kulture “URK” – Zagreb
Mar 06: Control Club – Bucharest
Mar 07: Teatr Club – Moscow
Mar 08: DaDa Club – St. Petersburg
Helen Money on Facebook
Helen Money on Twitter
Cellists have rarely made a dent within the heavy metal world aside of being background players for darker acts. The few who participated on those records get far less recognition than they truly deserve and create some amazing sounding music.
Then there is Allison Chesley aka Helen Money, a classically trained cellist who has drawn much attention for her work over the years in both the indie rock circles as well as the experimental rock and metal circles. She has released her third record titled Arriving Angels and continues to push the boundaries of dark, experimental music.
Chesley recently completed a show performing with Neurosis in Santa Ana, CA at the Observatory, where she performed her own set as well as with Neurosis. “It was one of the best shows I’ve played. It was kind of a perfect show. It was me, YOB; B!last, this punk band from Santa Cruz who haven’t played together in a while; and Neurosis. It was at a good venue and the crowd was great.”
She credits her introduction to Neurosis to Steve Albini, someone she calls her friend and hero. Plus he also produced her records as well. “I did some stuff with Shellac. I forgot about that. I thought about them because of Steve Albini. Steve got me in touch with Jason. Jason Roeder was my connection to these dudes. He introduced my music to both of those guys. They dug it and that’s how it happened.”
Chesley’s resume is quite extensive and impressive. Classically trained since the age of eight, she moved from her hometown of Los Angeles to Chicago to attend Northwestern University, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Cello Performance. “I started cello when I was eight. I did classical through college and then in my twenties I discovered rock music. My brother and sister were way into music and he turned me onto The Who. Then I started going out to the clubs and way into listening to rock music.”
“But I never thought I’d play cello. I liked it. Then I decided at some point I wanted to go back to grad school. I went to Northwestern and that’s where I met Jason. All the way until that time when I played with Jason I was practicing and playing Bach. I would say I have good technique is because I played classical. I’m glad I did. I’ve got a strong foundation so I could do whatever I want. I don’t really play much classical now. I mostly do my own thing but that’s where I came from.”
Her experience from that era introduced her to many people who inspired her music she is now creating in Helen Money. “I would say it is a logical progression because before I was playing in Verbow, I was playing with Jason Narducy, who is now playing (bass) with Bob Mould and Superchunk. When Jason and I got together, it was because we were big fans of The Who and we were also big fans of Bob Mould. Jason was doing some solo stuff and he was covering Bob’s material from Workbook. We got together and realized we wanted to start playing together. The two of us recorded a record and then we had some other songs, and Bob offered to produce it. That’s when Verbow started.”
“We were always around music that was dark and heavy. I feel what I’m doing now still has some that in it. Even the bands I’m playing in, even Neurosis and Sleep, they’re playing stuff that’s dark and dissonant but it’s got some structure to it. It’s not avant-garde or experimental. It goes back to song structure. Neurosis incorporated song structure and composition into this dark metal sound. I feel my music does too. I don’t think I’m avant-garde. I feel I play songs that are really dark.”
Her latest album Arriving Angels took the next logical step forward by adding drums to her dark cello sound that she is known for. Drums are not something many cello players incorporate into their music but she worked in that aspect well. “I felt like when I was writing this last record I was hearing another texture and drums just felt very logical. I feel what I do is very rhythmic and percussive in a way. I think the drums and the cello sound great together. With my boyfriend he created some drum patterns and I screwed around with them. I had these drum loops with a few songs. When it came to recording, I wanted a live drummer to play it. I was talking with Steve Albini because I knew I wanted to record with him, and he suggested Jason [Roeder]. Jason had seen me play in Petaluma, CA once back when I was promoting my first record, like in 2007. He knew my music. He was a fan. I had these loops already and particularly on ‘Radio Recorders’, it was ridiculously fast. He came up with recording with the loop that was already there. He said one of the Killing Joke records, Dave Grohl does that. Some of the stuff like on ‘Schrapnel’ I think it’s just Jason. On the other two, it was a combination of Jason and the loop me and Mike [Friedman] came up with.”
Outside of her Helen Money material, Chesley has quite the extensive resume of acts she has recorded with. Some of the people she has recorded with include Broken Social Scene, MONO, Poi Dog Pondering and Chris Connolly & The Bells.
One of her bigger credits includes Anthrax’s Worship Music (Megaforce), with whom she played cello on. “I recorded on Worship Music on two or three songs. That was when I was still living in Chicago. Charlie [Benante] the drummer got my name from the guy who was engineering the record. I went over to his house and played on a few of the tracks. It makes sense. If you’ve got a cello playing eighth notes it sounds cool with the electric bass. The cello sounds rhythmic and dark. It didn’t sound too left field for me. Russian Circles has strings and I played on that one, and MONO. It didn’t sound too unusual to me. It was an honor. I was kind of shocked. It was fun and Charlie had specific ideas. I think it turned out really good.”
She also recorded with Disturbed on their 2002 release Believe. “Yes I did. Maybe it was when I was still playing with Verbow. I can’t remember the record I came in and played on one song. It was kind of a ballad. It was through a guy who was assistant engineering that album. He asked me to come in and play.”
Lastly, with her highest of praises of Albini, the question of whether future music or a project with him would ever happen came up during the interview. While he is quite the busy person either producing or creating his own music, Chesley did entertain the idea.
“Oh I’d love to play with Steve. He’s one of my favorite guitarists. He’s got such a great sound. He’s a wonderful person too. I haven’t even thought about asking him. Even though he’s a friend he’s also a hero in a way. It hadn’t occurred to me yet. He’s pretty busy. He’s got his studio and his band.”