Devin Townsend is a music extraordinaire who is well-known for his many different and successful projects that he has participated in over the last 25 years or so. Whether it be Strapping Young Lad or Devin Townsend Project the man has always thrown his heart into it. He is a Canadian machine that expertly and consistently generates epic-scale music in many diverse forms. Last year he released his latest solo album, Empath (InsideOut Music). He took his essence to a new level of eccentricity with a masterful embodiment of bonkers meets serene. Many cling to the wilds that is Dev for his honest presentation, whether that be in Jazz, Metal, or whatever genre he chooses to express himself with. His devotees gather in the masses at his shows for a guaranteed excellent and entertaining performance. Last December he brought his uncommon magic to England and much like his actual works, the presentation was a little unconventional. Dev is about to release his new live album, Order of Magnitude: Empath Live Volume 1 (InsideOut Music) documenting that European tour. It will be released as a limited deluxe 2CD/Blu-Ray/DVD artbook package, a limited 2CD+DVD digipak, gatefold 3LP+2CD vinyl box set, and more.
MFTJ, a band featuring Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa, Joe Satriani, Devin Townsend), and Scott Schorr (Producer of Levin Minnemann Rudess, Levin Torn White, Tony Levin’s Stick Man) have released their self-titled debut album. Described as an “instrumental prog soup flavored with art-rock, hip-hop, hard rock and psychedelia”, its an inventive and fun release with killer musicianship. It’s out now to purchase and stream from Schorr’s Lazybones Records label and features Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson) on a track. Check it out! Continue reading
Alex Winter (Bill and Ted 3, The Lost Boys) will finally premiere his long in the works Frank Zappa documentary at South By Southwest (SXSW) 2020, according to a published report by Rolling Stone. The festival takes place in Austin, Texas, between March 13th and March 22nd. Although Zappa has been the subject of many films, Winter’s movie is unique in that it covers the artist’s entire life; he had access to the Zappa family’s vault of uncirculated and rarely seen footage. The film will include commentary from Frank, his wife Gail, his one-time “stunt guitarists” Steve Vai and Mike Keneally, Mothers of Invention members Ruth Underwood, Ian Underwood and Bunk Gardner, and GTOs member Pamela Des Barres, among many others. Winter is known for his iconic roles in pop culture hits, but has also made several award-winning documentaries. He sifted through hundreds of hours of footage to make the picture. “Zappa was an extremely complicated and brilliant man who had as many detractors as he had fans,” Winter told Rolling Stone. “I hope that our audience finds him as captivating and significant an American artist as I do.” Continue reading
Instrumental metal act Huelga is the brainchild of artist/activist and jazz multi-instrumentalist Michael Fonseca of Austin, TX. Huelga is bringing the release of his debut EP next month, promising to rewrite the book on progressive metal. Huelga, mixed by Mick Kenny of Anaal Nathrahk, will be released in digital and cassette format on April 5th, 2019. Inspired by modern composers Charles Ives, Frank Zappa, and Elliot Carter, as well as the Chicano Movement and the current political tensions that have come to a boil on the Texas/Mexico border, Huelga is making an emphatic statement musically and politically. Check out the new single ‘Chinga de Perro’ right here at Ghost Cult! Continue reading
Famous for his brilliant guitar playing, composition, but also as a champion against censorship, Frank Zappa continues to fight the power from beyond the grave. Zappa is facing censorship yet again over so-called “questionable content” in the ad artwork for the upcoming “The Bizarre World Of Frank Zappa” hologram tour which will make its debut this April in the U.S. Ticketmaster would not post the ad online for the tour, instead posting a warning image about the content. Now Zappa, in hologram form as answered! Watch his response below. Continue reading
As we dash towards the holidays and the end of the year Ghost Cult is feeling good about this season of giving. So we are giving our fans a chance to get to know our partners, peers, and friends from bands in the world of music. They will chime in with some guest blogs, end of year lists, and whatever else is on their minds as we pull the plug on 2015. Today we have José Carlos Santos, who writes a lot about music, being Senior Writer for both Terrorizer and Rock-a-Rolla UK, Chief of staff for LOUD! from Portugal, shared with us his favorite 10 albums of 2015.
1. Solefald – World Metal. Kosmopolis Sud (Indie Recordings)
Pushing the envelope isn’t the half of it. The first song on this truly revolutionary record is called ‘World Music With Black Edges’, and that’s exactly what it is. It should be just about all the guideline you’ll need before embarking on this journey. Black metal, electronics, Frank Zappa and African sounds, among many, many other things, are thrown into a free-flowing, astoundingly cohesive whole. In an age where having two songs that don’t sound like each other is already considered “genre-hopping”, Solefald are one of the few bands worthy of the term avant-garde.
2. Royal Thunder – Crooked Doors (Relapse)
The best pure, true rock album in years, Crooked Doors sees Royal Thunder fulfill the potential they have always shown, and move up to the pantheon of the greats. It feels and sounds timeless – if you hand it to someone and say that it’s a lost 1978 classic, it’ll make the same sense as if you’ll tell them it’s 2024’s album of the year you just brought back from the future in your time machine. A great song is a great song, and they’re all great here.
3. My Dying Bride – Feel The Misery (Peaceville)
My Dying Bride are back to the masterpieces – 14 years after their last truly great record, The Dreadful Hours, Feel The Misery recaptures the tragic sorrow and the decadent grandeur we’ve always loved from them.
4. Revenge – Behold.Total.Rejection (Season Of Mist)
Because fuck you.
5. Dødheimsgard – A Umbra Omega (Peaceville)
The other band alongside Solefald that warrants the proper use of the avant-garde tag, Dødheimsgard have given us a mysterious, shape shifting record, full of dark nuances and details that we’ll still be discovering come the time for the 2016 lists. The best thing Vicotnik’s done since ‘Written In Waters’ – and yes, I’m including ‘666 International’ in that appraisal.
6. Tau Cross – Tau Cross (Relapse)
Amebix are no more, long live Tau Cross. Not only is this the logical successor to the astounding ‘Sonic Mass’, it’s also enriched by the extra talents of Voivod’s Michel “Away” Langevin and crusty guitarists Jon Misery and Andy Lefton, all of them lead to greatness by the might of Rob Miller, who is still one of the most unique songwriters in extreme music.
7. Sigh – Graveward (Candlelight)
Sometimes you’ll have to pause halfway through ‘Graveward’ and wonder how is this possible – roughly five million tracks are all going in a different direction, all at once, and yet everything makes perfect sense, there is order and flow in the middle of the craziness and chaos. Alongside Solefald and Dødheimsgard, you’ve got enough insanity this year to wreck your brain for years to come.
8. Therapy? – Disquiet (Amazing Record Company)
Most of you might only know Therapy?’s most popular phase, but the true essence of the band has been in their last four or five fiery, adventurous and energetic records. ‘Disquiet’ is the best of them all, a mix between instant punk-ish gratification and deep, deceptively simple songwriting that’ll allow for multiple repeat plays without a hint of exhaustion. Also, closer ‘Deathstimate’ is a serious contender for song of the year, or decade, or whatever.
9. Goatsnake – Black Age Blues (Southern Lord)
It’s been a 15 year wait, but for each year of absence there’s a kickass bluesy riff that’ll stay in your head forever. Goatsnake just picked up where they left off, literally – the first song is called ‘Another River To Cross’, a nod to ‘Flower Of Disease’s closer ‘The River’.
10. Steve Von Till – A Life Unto Itself (Neurot)
Rarely has such a subtle and generally quiet record packed such a thunderous emotional punch – the Neurosis guitarist/vocalist might present himself in the sparser, most minimalist fashion, just one man lost in the woods with an acoustic guitar, some effects and his coarse, haunting voice, but these songs will reach down into your heart and squeeze it with the force of a thousand men.
With a debut album that flew under the radar, twisted progressive extreme metal outfit Voices made the ultimate statement with their incredible, expansive, complex and warped second album, the must-hear fucked up concept of London. Guitarist Sam Loynes took time out to give Ghost Cult an open top tour…
The difference between your debut, From The Human Forest Create A Fugue Of Imaginary Rain and your second opus London (both Candlelight) is monumental, both in terms of scope and quality. How do you account for this improvement?
We were still finding our feet on the first record and came up with the songs within a couple of months through improvisation, which is how we write. Moving into London, the songs, again while relying on improvisation a lot in their construction, are far more considered.
We wrote London in a visual mode that became the narrative that runs through it, and we had this idea of trying to write a really ambitious piece. We wanted it to be big, meaty, with a lot of information for people to get into; to go full on with it. We didn’t want to do just another standard album, you know, seven songs, and it’s OK. Fuck that. This needed to be a serious, complete record that people can really get their teeth into.
Ambition was the main difference, really. We aimed for the stars with this one.
That’s a good word, because the album is ambitious, with no half measures taken, especially as it has a fully developed narrative and concept running through it. Which came first, the chocolate or the colour?
85% of what you hear on the record comes from improvisation. A great example is a song like ‘Fuck Trance’ that was composed completely in the moment. There was no preconception of riffs, or ideas, or anything like that, we just got into the rehearsal room after a long fucking day at work and fucking horrible journey down to the studio which is way out West London. We looked at each other, and we had it. I looked at Pete (Benjamin – guitars/vocals) and Dave (Gray – drums) and we had it. And the song came out.
The way the narrative came about was within that improvisation. When we were playing and creating it, we’d have these almost like visions, visions steeped in our non-musical influences at the time, things like Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair and the character Maurice Bendrix, who is an anti-hero that is obsessive and anxiety ridden over, of course, a woman. These reference points helped us visualize this new anti-hero as he moved through the streets of London being accosted by these various distorting events, and he’s reaching out trying to find this Megan figure that’s the object of his affection, even though she turns out to be less than agreeable.
It’s quite an abstract thing, but it was such a powerful mode of writing. When we got to the end of, say, ‘Hourglass’, when he was washed up by the River Thames after being poisoned, in our brains we desperately wanted to know where he’s going to go next! And the only way for is to find out is let’s fucking do the next song!
So, the narrative was spawned out of the visual style of writing (and) it was an amazing way to write. I don’t know, but it might even be a once in a lifetime only way of writing, because it was also very specific to where we all were in time and in our lives.
How auto-biographical is it?
Dave was very much at the forefront of encapsulating the specifics of what the narrative became. He then actually wrote the passages that you hear link the songs. It’s most personal to him, but the reason we chime as musicians and as people together is that we all have this disposition within us, this Maurice Bendrix syndrome – steeped within anxiety, very much onlookers, particularly living in London, and not feeling part of it, or feeling not quite right being within London.
I’d say that Dave was the one who related most to the anti-hero character and he brought him to life on paper but we all have over the top, vivid imaginations.
Did you reference other concept albums, perhaps something like Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime which tells a story?
We were very aware of wanting to live up to the effect that concept records can have and the Zappa one is the one we looked at (Editor’s Note: Sam couldn’t remember the title at the time, I think he’s referring to Freak Out). Dave was keen it was a key reference point. With the theme of detachment, did you look at something like The Wall? To be honest, our influences in terms of the concept were very detached from music. JG Ballard and extending to things like Bladerunner, even Lolita to a certain degree.
So works with those feelings of being outside, or different… that detachment again? There’s a vicarious element to them. It’s very difficult to hone in on what we’ve done here, but it’s those ideas of vicarious obsessions, anxieties and distortions, all captured in an abstract narrative.
As one of the creators of such an ambitious and successful dark work of art, how are you feeling about it now?
Creatively it was daunting, but more so now we’ve done it, because I listen to London and I think “where do we go from here”? What kind of planet are we going to have to be on to live up to, or surpass this!? So for me, I do think we’re going to have to seriously consider what direction we go in next.
I think it was Krystoffer Rygg (Ulver) who said that each album he has done is a reaction to the one preceding it… So, is the response to something as complex and dark as London is maybe something lighter, catchier, more simplistic and punkier…?
It’s funny you should say more punky and poppy, because that was the idea I had. Myself and Dave are massive fan-boys of bands like Joy Division and Bauhaus and more recently to name a contemporary band I’m into, Savages, and while we’re not all of sudden become a fucking pub rock band or whatever, let’s think a little more about song based material, rather than really sprawling epic songs.
A song like ‘Last Train Victoria Line’ is in line with that kind of idea, and to me that’s the direction I’d like to consider going towards. Songs with hooks, choruses, that are a bit like Killing Joke, and a bit like Joy Division, but also extreme and out there.
Who knows what comes out when we start writing again, but I do not have any interest in regurgitating London because we ain’t gonna better that record.
Words by STEVE TOVEY
With a career spanning three decades and a reputation as one of our world’s most loved and respected bands of a near cult status, Primus are one of our world’s leading lights in music that is, to put it lightly, unconventional and unpredictable. Even by their standards however, the proposition Primus And The Chocolate Factory (ATO Records) (the reunion of original members Claypool, Lalonde and Alexander) is a difficult one to fathom.
Both a tribute and a reimagining to the songs of 1971’s musical classic Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory; made famous by Gene Wilder’s untouchable performance as the eccentric and somewhat sinister factory owner, this really unearths and highlights the film/books’ menacing undertones. Introduction track “Hello Wonkites” encapsulates the tone with its playful, cartoon like sound but with a twisted atmosphere.
Their take on ‘Pure Imagination’ has to be the albums highlight, taking the uplifting and joyous original and turning it into the kind of madness that Frank Zappa would be proud of. Yet there are traits present that stay faithful to the film soundtrack; notably the several “Oompa” segments which maintain the original patronising appeal, only with Claypool’s fat bass sound on top of it.
By heightening the dark, ominous undercurrent of a film that many of us would have grown up with this could be mistaken for the biggest childhood ruining event since a certain Rolf Harris, but this is performed with an affection for the tale, and the detail within is a testament to this. As unhinged as it is catchy, this should strike a note with both those who grew up with the film and those who are drawn to music of the quirky and bewildering variety. Surely the sonic equivalent of sitting down to enjoy the movie with a couple of LSD pills.