Seemingly coming out of the blue — like the sudden emergence of a horrible memory buried for years — drone doom supergroup Khanate returns with To Be Cruel (released digitally on May 19th and on physical formats on June 30th via Sacred Bones Records) the group’s first album since 2009’s Clean Hands Go Foul. Shrouded in secrecy prior to its release, To Be Cruel delivers three tracks and 62 mins of harsh, cold, sparse, experimental sounds fit to ruin any good day.
The word “experimental” is a double-edged sword. For some it classifies anything veering from the typical form people are used to. Thus it renders whatever it is; be it medicine or art, undigestable to safer minds. To others the word conjures a magical playground where truly anything is possible. When foisted upon artists, such as guitarist/vocalist Ron Varod (Kayo Dot) and his solo outlet Zvi, we get the latter. Arriving in 2014 Zvi I challenged the listener to feel a piece of music on Varod’s terms. His new release II: Death Stops Us All (Halfpear Records) is no less of an emotional tug of war for the senses.
Composed of just three pieces, Zvi:II differs from its sister release in some ways.’You’ve Charmed Me, I Will Stay’ begins with a swelling guitar repeated like waves with other instrumentation flowing in. The layers of harmony vocals in the background suck in your attention. While the plucked guitars parts are calming, there is a unease that sets the table for what is to come.
‘Black Leaves’ (featuring Alan Dubin of Khanate and Gnaw on vocals) begins with more unsettling bassy notes. They soon stop and the song takes shape with Varod crooning forlornly at first. Moody strangeness pervades the track with, but never confusing you. Finally, a familiar harrowing shriek from Dubin fades in and out from the mix over and over. Jarring stabbing chords, detuning strings along with underlying keyboards flood in, giving a feeling of sonic vertigo. Ending with a mantra type singing wail, some malicious whispering, and other oddities from beyond, we glide into the final track.
We again meet Varod and his voice to some off-kilter balladry and guitar, with a motif close to the first track. What ‘Whale Bone Cage’ does is beckon you to come down from the anguish and recover. A final strum of an open chord seems to breathe out a phrase….. rest.
A release like this can only come from vision of a person without bounds as a writer. Matching Varod’s work are the talents of engineer Colin Marston (Gorguts/Kralice) and James Plotkin (Khanate) to engineer. The only shame of these releases is they are too brief, and leave you lusting for more.
When Skype cuts off three times during an interview it’s a pisser. Fortunately Barnes, guitarist and saxophonist for Cardiff brutalisers Intensive Square, remains unperturbed. Having done their own thing for a decade, and recently releasing debut album Anything That Moves (Black Bow Records) after a wait in excess of two years, these guys aren’t fazed by the mundane things in life: “Rich Lewis, our drummer, and guitarist Joe Harvatt were doing Thrash metal covers when I joined. We were just playing for fun initially, but became serious once we started writing stuff that we liked, and started to get noticed around 2011 after playing Bloodstock.”
Intensive Square’s sound has developed wholesale since those early days, a collective background in jazz adding serious groove to the savage intent: “It changed drastically when Rich and I started jamming. We were into bands like Meshuggah which, at that time, was real left-of-centre stuff. Rich has always been interested in weird rhythms, so we just experimented a little and came up with something different.” Barnes is also responsible for some wailing saxophone on the album: “I’m into freeform, Avant-garde Jazz, where there’s no fear; Ornette Coleman, for example, inspires me. I couldn’t play you a standard on sax, but I find some really evil sounds and make it work for us.”
He definitely does. The band recorded a couple of EPs in those early days, which are raw in the extreme: “We recorded in our bedrooms! We also had a set-up in Rich’s house where we were in the living room, and the stacks were in another room. We just turned everything up as loud as we could! We didn’t have a clue what we were doing production-wise but it was a wicked time: loads of complaints, Police coming round taking our gear…it was fucking wild! Most of those tracks have been battered into shape for the album, and they sound completely different now.”
It’s tempting to believe that the ‘fun’ element has to disappear with an enhanced profile, but Barnes dismisses that idea: “We’re having a wicked laugh! We’re writing at present, and seriously looking forward to playing gigs around the UK. It’s quite hard to juggle sometimes, with Rich in Conan and Joe recently joining Hark also; so we have to get the timing right. But we’re desperate to get out there, and seeing the great reviews for Anything… has only encouraged that feeling.”
The album was recorded at Foel studios in the Welsh countryside, with Conan bassist Chris Fielding in the chair, and has been issued through Conan mainman Jon Davis’ label, Black Bow. Barnes is proud of the association, and its results: “I absolutely love Conan, have done for years. I can’t believe Rich is now in the drumstool for them, and I’m thrilled to be on Jon’s label – it issued Bast’s Spectres, and that was amongst my favourite albums of last year. We wanted a professional sound, and we loved what Chris was doing. It took about another year to finalise and mix, as we ran out of allotted time and, with us all being perfectionists, we didn’t want to rush things. James Plotkin mastered it, and here we are now.”
That’s some résumé for a debut album of course, and it’s something Barnes acknowledges: “We feel really lucky. It was a big deal for us, we threw everything at it and spent as much money as we could afford. Nobody went on holiday that year! You get on each other’s nerves a bit, holed up together for over two weeks – believe me, everything smells in this band! – but the views were breath-taking and we had the best time.”
Controversy has been courted with a notably graphic album cover, some rather brutal lyrics and tracks such as ‘Vegetarians’ that aren’t big on subtlety. “We’re not shock merchants or anything; we just like to take the piss out of people who take themselves too seriously. I’ve got nothing against vegetarianism at all. It’s a noble cause: let’s face it, the way food is produced in the West is ridiculous and often unsustainable. I just can’t stand people who are smug about their personal choices and I’m going to rip the piss out of that. So there’s a lot of that within the lyrics; winding people up on purpose if you like. We do it with each other!”
Barnes’ relaxed humour, fire and belief shines throughout the whole interview. It’s this seeming insouciance, mixed with a fervent passion for their sound, which marks out Intensive Square as not just ones to watch, but as a band who will rip up the Metal template and set their own path. The album is one of this year’s highlights and live, this band will create one holy shitstorm. You know what to do…
Hex Inverter is streaming “The Mission Statement” off of their self titled debut here. The album was recorded by the band’s own Mick Mullin (Intronaut, Woe) and mastered by James Plotkin (Khanate, Palms). The record’s stunning layout and design was created by artist Brian Azer (Sun Kil Moon, Jesu). The band has upcoming tour dates with Kayo Dot and Giant Squid.
01: Led to This Place 02: Even for No One 03: The Mission Statement 04: Bruise 05: Into the Hills 06: Beneath the Weeds 07: Lamb 08: Something It’s Not
HEX INVERTER tour dates: May 20: BAR New Haven – New Haven, CT (w/ Kayo Dot) May 21: The Paper Box – Brooklyn, NY (w/ Kayo Dot) Jun 24: TBA – New Haven, CT Jun 25: Lucky 13 Saloon – Brooklyn, NY (June 24-27 w/ Giant Squid) Jun 26: Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA (June 24-27 w/ Giant Squid) Jun 27: Machines with Magnets – Pawtucket, RI
South London bass and drum duo Ghold are streaming their new album Of Ruin, out now via Ritual Productionsin its entirety here. The album was recorded at lss Studio with Dan Miller and mastered by James Plotkin (Khanate, OLD). The band have an upcoming appearance at Temples Festival, along with an upcoming North American tour supporting Arabrot.
North American Summer Tour w/ ÅRABROT: Jun 24: O’Brien’s Pub – Boston, MA Jun 26: The Depot – York, PA Jun 27: Now That’s Class – Cleveland, OH Jun 29: The Burlington – Chicago, IL Jun 30: Fubar – St Louis, MO Jul 01: Jackpot Saloon – Lawrence, KS Jul 02: Hi Dive – Denver, CO Jul 03: Kilby Court – Salt Lake, City, UT Jul 05: The Highline – Seattle, WA Jul 06: The Hindenburg – Vancouver, BC Jul 07: Rotture – Portland, OR Jul 08: Starlight Lounge – Sacramento, CA (w/ Dispirit, Lycus) Jul 09: SF Eagle – San Francisco, CA Jul 12: Lowbrow Palace – El Paso, TX Jul 14: Holy Mountain – Austin, TX (w/ Pinkish Black) Jul 15: Siberia – New Orleans, LA (w/ Pinkish Black) Jul 16: The 529 – Atlanta, GA (w/ Pinkish Black) Jul 17: Local 506 – Chapel Hill, NC (w/ Pinkish Black) Jul 18: Strange Matter – Richmond, VA (w/ Pinkish Black) Jul 19: The Studio, Webster Hall – New York, NY (w/ Pinkish Black)
Godhunter and Destroyer Of Light will be releasing a co-release titled Godhunter vs Destroyer Of Light: Endsville this summer via Battleground Records and Heavy Friends Records, and an East Coast US Tour is confirmed for both bands. The recording was handled at WaveLab Studios in Tucson by Dana Fehr (North, Juarez), while the other half was recorded at Orb Recording Studios in Austin, engineered and mixed by Matt Meli. The entire album was then mastered by James Plotkin.
Destroyer Of Light Journey To Psycho Land: May 06: Mohawk – Austin, TX May 11: The Grand – Austin, TX May 12: Kamposi – Midland, TX May 13: Sandbox- El Paso, TX May 14: Rips – Phoenix, AZ May 15: The Observatory – Santa Ana, CA May 18: Sweet Springs Saloon – Los Osos, CA May 19: San Jose Rock Shop – San Jose, CA May 20: Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco, CA May 21: Black Forest – Eugene, OR May 22: Ray’s Golden Lion – Richland, WA May 23: Victory Lounge – Seattle, WA May 24: High Water Mark – Portland, OR May 25: Crazy Horse – Boise, ID May 26: TBA – Salt Lake City, UT May 27: house show – Las Vegas, NV May 28: Triple Nickel – Colorado Springs, CO May 30: KC’s Too – Haysville, KS May 31: The Crazy Horse Saloon – Texarkana, AR
Godhunter vs. Destroyer Of Light Endsville 2015 Tour: Jul 29: Tucson, AZ Jul 30: Tempe, AZ Jul 31: El Paso, TX Aug 01: Albuquerque, NM Aug 02: Denver, CO Aug 03: Omaha, NE Aug 04: Minneapolis, MN Aug 05: Chicago, IL Aug 06: Kalamazoo, MI Aug 07: Indianapolis, IN Aug 08: Nashville, TN Aug 09: Raleigh, NC Aug 10: Charleston, WV Aug 11: Pittsburgh, PA Aug 12: Buffalo, NY Aug 13: New York, NY Aug 14: Boston, MA Aug 15: Death To False Metal Fest – New Haven, CT Aug 16: Philadelphia, PA Aug 17: Baltimore, MD Aug 18: Columbia, SC Aug 19: Atlanta, GA Aug 20: Little Rock, AR Aug 21: New Orleans, LA Aug 22: Austin, TX
Corpse Flower Records has put together a Celtic Frost covers record that will be going alongside the Morbid Tales! Book. The list of artists participating features Child Bite with Philip Anselmo, Blood Caldera (featuring Scott Kelly and Jason Roeder of Neurosis), and Coffin’s Slave (featuring Scott Carlson of Repulsion). The record is mastered by James Plotkin and fully designed by Mark Rudolph.