It’s hard to believe we’ve already reached the end of another year packed tighter than Joey de Maio’s loincloth with incredible genre-pushing, eardrum-violating, neckache-inducing metal.
So we can begin to tell the story of a year which saw us give more top marks than any other year so far (and more 2’s and 3’s out of 10, too!), a year that left us inundated with so many great releases, we sought the opinions of our esteemed and respected writing team and we offer forth their albums of the year.
The countdown to the Official Ghost Cult Magazine Album of the Year for 2014 has commenced. Please consume and enjoy the results of our 2014 Writers’ Poll. We hope it will introduce you to some of the incredible works of art you may have missed that we have had the immense pleasure of listening to and writing about this year.
In our first installment we bring you albums 50 through to 41.
50. HARK – Crystalline (Season of Mist)
Genre-bending aggression with doses of Doom, Prog, Psychedelia and Hardcore. Heavy as a very heavy thing.
49. THE HAUNTED – Exit Wounds (Century Media)
“The album is filled with urgency and manages to be relentlessly heavy without compromising on those insanely catchy riffs. The Haunted have come back stronger than ever… easily the band’s best effort a decade” DAN SWINHOE 9/10 Full review here
48. THE WOUNDED KINGS – Consolamentum (Candlelight)
“Favouring lengthy yet subtly evolving guitar workouts that never lapse into repetitive dirge territory,The Wounded Kings go about working their dark, smoky magic with grim elegance… Simply put, The Wounded Kings are the quintessential English doom band “ JAMES CONWAY 8.5/10 Full review here
47. SCHAMMASCH – Contradiction (Prosthetic)
“The quality of this album is obvious right from the beginning. Schammasch have created a record both challenging and endlessly refreshing, a truly remarkable sonic journey from beginning to end.” CAITLIN SMITH 9/10 Full review here
46. AUTOPSY – Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves (Peaceville)
“Tourniquets… continues in gnarly, raw and near sludgy death metal vein, but maintains their run of high quality and in fact tops anything that has come from their return.” CHRIS TIPPELL 8/10 Full review here
45. KROKODIL – Nachash (Spinefarm)
“With a heavy dose of Mastodon in its veins, Krokodil are a groove juggernaut that pummels all in its path with its three guitarists of fury” DAN O’BRIEN 9/10 Full review here
44. INTER ARMA – The Cavern (Relapse)
“The sheer gravity and fulminating power of much of the music here is oppressive yet it carries the weight easily, this blend of raw animal force, aching melody and immeasurable creativity marks out this fantastic band” PAUL QUINN 10/10 Full review here
43. DEVIL YOU KNOW – The Beauty of Destruction (Nuclear Blast)
“(with) all the promise of a powerhouse, and it delivers on all fronts. The songs are well-crafted, nicely developed and excellently executed.” LYNN JORDAN 9.5/10 APRIL ALBUM OF THE MONTH Full review here
42.BLUES PILLS – Blues Pills (Nuclear Blast)
“…a record that understands and curates its heritage and lineage but is fresh, contemporary and massively memorable. This is the record that you’ll be recommending to your friends for months to come” MAT DAVIES 9/10 Full review here
Corrosion of Conformity have a great new album out, entitled IX (Candlelight). Still a trio, I had the pleasure of interviewing the very cool Mike Dean about this latest killer release, which is chock-full of southern-fried grooves, a touch of punk and the tasty riffage COC is known for. After exchanging pleasantries, we got right down to business…
I loved the last record (Corrosion of Conformity, Candlelight, 2012), but I’m digging this one (IX)a lot more. How do you feel this release compares?
“I like it a little more myself. I think one the things that differentiate this one from the self-titled – which I’m proud of – is the fact that we dusted off that trio lineup and put in it in effect around the same time as the record so we hadn’t really…owned our identity as three-piece in this era. It took a lot of going out and playing in front of a lot of people to sort of develop that. So the whole ‘identity’ factor, was one, and the other factor was our experience with the self-titled. At that time, we got on a plane, we flew to California, we made a record at a far away studio, and we didn’t actually have all of our equipment, so we just looked around for what we could find, and we utilized that, and it was kinda challenging, but the short version of it is we didn’t really get a sound that reflected what typifies what we do together. So when we made this record we took the approach of capturing that.”
So then there was a bit of…not finding your feet, so to speak, because obviously you guys have been playing together forever, but getting that comfort level back, plus not having your own equipment, being away from home…
“Yeah, it just made us hungry to sort of, say, yeah, let’s get Woody Weatherman’s entire battle-rig, his entire guitar set up, and let’s find a place to put some microphones in front of it so it’s like being there, and in terms of the drums, let’s document Reed Mullin and his 30-something-year-old drumkit he’s had since before he could legally drive and really capture that, and it interacting with the room and the acoustic space.”
What is your favorite track on the record?
“I have to say…it’s kind of a toss-up…today, I’m gonna have to say…’Brand New Sleep’. It wasn’t supposed to be on the record. You know, you write 14 or 15 in order to get 10, so I think those guys didn’t think we were recording it for the record, and they were just having fun, and didn’t even know we were getting a take, it was a real casual run through. So they were a little surprised when I put a vocal on it and it ended up as the lead-off track on the album.”
There is definitely an almost funky vibe in some spots on this one. Was there anything in particular that lent to the groove, or was it just getting even more reacquainted writing and playing as trio again?
“Well, ya know, we’ve got big ears, we listen to a lot of different stuff. Rhythmically, Reed Mullin has a lot of tricks that he does. The inspiration for some of the funkier parts would be ZZ Top, stuff like that. Even the jazzier elements like what Bill Ward would bring to the table. There are a number of moments that are in reverence to Black Sabbath, it’s all over certain songs, like ‘Elphyn’…we just listen to a lot of music, and I think it’s kinda fun to do that in heavier music, because it’s not often used to good effect, in that there may be a kind of stiff, Hip-Hop, type of mechanized mall-Metal version. so it’s fun to do that in a more organic, heavy fashion.”
Obviously you guys can go through styles very easily, you’ve pretty much covered it all. When you say Sabbath, the eleventh track (‘The Nectar Reprised’)…that is SOOO Sabbath! The first track of it was it’s own thing, but the reprise you went all out with the Sabbath
“Yeah, there is a particular lick, it’s not anything verbatim, but I know what your mean!”
Can you give us any info on the upcoming video for ‘On Your Way’? Did you choose this song, or the the label decide to use it?
“We had a little talk, and we told them four songs that we were okay with making a video for and that happened to be one of them. Ya know, they do whatever scientific process of deciding what they’re going to invest their dollars in, and it happened to be ‘On Your Way’ which is fine because that was one of the tracks we were okay with. I don’t quite know what the process is.”
Well, at least you had some say in it…I know some labels are like, “here is the single for the video, go here and film it”…
“Yeah, and moreso in the past, when there was just more money at stake in general with music, but now it’s a smaller part of the economy, and it’s more a kind of informal thing.”
Which leads me to the next question, you guys have been around long enough to remember when a video was the big thing to do…how do you feel about even doing a video now having seen the video golden age come and go?
“Well..I don’t know if we saw the Golden Age…you saw the age where there was gold in a video because there was a big time expensive TV airtime (for them) and a lot of eyes on it so I guess that was the Golden Age. I don’t think it was the Golden Age of artistic content I mean, some of the music would be good, but we all know that the video essentially was at that time a TV commercial for a song, and now an Internet commercial for a song, and the people that directed them, you know we were lucky to get something that was non-formulaic or interesting into it. We’re hoping this one turns out a little difference. Yeah, I think it’s a good thing to shoot for, uh, a lot of times I wish I had an idea sooner of whether or not there was going to be a video so we could prepare for it and really do something special with all that kind of rush. But right now, the director is doing some raw footage down in Louisiana and told him I wasn’t worried about it, but I am a little worried about it. (laughs)”
So…it’s kind of a surprise; you did your footage and not you have no idea what he’s doing right now?
“Well, we kinda have an idea because we all came up with the concept together, but in speaking conceptually and writing a little description in an email and talking about it is a whole lot different than actually putting it together and putting in context. So, uh, yeah, I’m just preparing my, “Okay, well, we could change this type of uh…” tactful, helpful voice, steering it in the direction it was originally intended. It’s all just conceptual words on paper, but as far someone actually get all of that footage, combine it and get a look…but I trust the guy, I like his stuff. I like his work. He was able to work with Pepper Keenan, who can be super – when it comes to aesthetic things – he can be super controlling or at least super involved, and he was able to come out on the other side of that successfully, so that’s a good thing.”
Because of outside projects, I heard the recording for IX was a bit disjointed. What was the time frame between when you guys started working on songs and when you finally all hit the studio for real?
“The whole thing – songwriting, making the demo and doing some basic tracks, doing some overdubs, and finally finishing some vocals, and mixing and getting it to mastering, took about a year, but it really only took about 9 weeks of work. There were a couple of COC tours in there, and Reed Mullin was off working on the Teenage Time Killers.”
…And you were doing the Vista Chino tour, correct?
“Yeah, I did a couple of Vista Chino tours, a little recording and this and that…”
Was it hard to get into the groove so to speak, or were you and Reed able to just jump right into it?
“Nah, it was kind of welcome, it wasn’t long enough to where we had forgotten anything by any means, or it was unfamiliar. But after the time away, it was a welcome thing. You know, sometimes you can really get stuck on a piece of music, and you’re focusing on individual grains of sand instead of stepping back and looking at the beautiful beach. I think it actually helped the process. There was kinda of a point at the end there where we felt like we were up against the gun, and we really needed to adhere to some deadlines, and that can go good or bad, but I think it kind of helped us to just get the job done. The one thing I really don’t like in a lot of contemporary music is the fact that people will mess with it endlessly, and they will strive to make it perfect, whether it is the good ol’ fashioned, honest method of, “do it again, do it again”, or the contemporary, “I have a computer, I can do anything” in either case, to me, a lot of those performances that are achieved like that, you kind of smell a rat, even if they’re good musicians, it lacks the immediacy and the cohesiveness of some competent people that got almost perfect but not quite perfect. It needs the human element for me to enjoy it. Which doesn’t mean it has to be sloppy, or anything like that…”
COC’s records are never over-produced, never overly processed; they have that great live swing to them. Is that always the goal, or that’s just how it works out between you guys and (producer) John Custer?
“Well, I think originally when those guys started working with Custer while I was out of the band, it kind of went from, “what will these poor dudes are gonna do without me, man?” until a record called Blind (Relativity) come out, it’s just super musical and super kick-ass…I think that one, there was an emphasis of taking that idea of perfection almost as far as you can take it before you smell a rat or before you suck the life out of something but stopping way short of it. From what I told, now that I’m one of the engineers, and I know the guys in the back, it was a pretty exhausting process. At that point, those guys and Custer working together, they were really trying to make a statement and really make a tight, tight, tight, record. And it worked. From then on, all of us, and Custer in particular, he’s going for the performance. He has the ear for the performance, having a little something special about it, less on the technicality. There is a bare minimum of technicality, and he’s helping us with quality control and all that, but I find that his suggestions are…they’re fewer and farther between, but they’re just more…dead on. Everybody’s taste on that kind of thing has been pretty much in sync, there’s no telling how far we’ll take that aspect the next time just to see how it feels…it’s kind of what the material dictates to.”
Well, it is definitely refreshing to hear that “live” quality when everything is so overproduced and all of the souls is sucked out of it.
“Yeah, especially in the world of Metal when everything it gets, super-mechanized and all the drums are triggered. You, know you don’t even hear a drum set, you don’t hear a drum kit, it’s not like a unified thing, with a common ambiance, it’s more of a collection of drums that are all carved up to be individually controllable. That can be impressive in small doses, and it’s impressive that technology has made it a possibility.”
Certain bands do call for it, I mean, I can’t see a band like Fear Factory doing what you guys do. Certain bands call for that sort of thing. The downside is that you couldn’t hear the bass player, so it’s nice that a lot of newer recordings are getting off of that, and bringing back live sounds and bringing the bass back up. Which I’m sure you appreciate!
“Yeah, yeah, I do mixes for people and I have been accused of burying the bass a little bit, particularly if it’s my own, sometimes you have to step back and listen to the whole picture.”
I’m a fan of all of C.O.C.’s incarnations, but I’ve noticed that as a trio you never do any Pepper (Keenan) songs live. Is that a respect thing, or is it that you want to be true to the current lineup? What about singing ‘Damned for All Time‘, I think you would sound awesome on that!
“That would be challenging, man, that’s a serious Karl (Agell) groove! That’s Karl in full, almost Ian Gillan-eque mode. I guess, basically a lot of those songs, Pepper songs, Karl songs, it’s just…I don’t know if I would wanna hear someone else sing those. You kinds what…it is kind of a respect thing. I mean, respect for the original creator and singer, even more respect for the audience you don’t wanna try to…you know, sometimes these bands are like an ongoing circus they bring in members, then they kick ’em out, and live they try to grind out the hits, or whatever, but it’s not quite the same, you know, someone else besides Ian Gillan singing ‘Highway Star’”
Some people are happy being hoodwinked like that, and are upset that you don’t, but I think a slight majority appreciate it.
“One of the reasons we started off doing an original band is ‘cos we were hardcore punk, then we started putting in new influences, crossover, you know, whatever you wanna call it, the fact it, we couldn’t be in a cover band because we would mess up somebody’s song that was familiar to people, and they would call, “bullshit, you played it wrong!”, but when you create your own music there is no wrong, because it’s your own. So that’s how we started out, and years and years later now you have the pull of playing someone else’s material, that I was familiar with as a listener and give it the attention that it’s due, it’s real outside of my comfort zone, and kind of a challenge but it was a cool thing to do, and I enjoyed jamming with that.”
Women in heavy music is a polarizing topic, steeped in sexism and fraught with concepts of ability, power and entitlement. For female musicians who love their music hard, not much has changed since the 70’s when certain brave women cranked their amps to 11 and dared to rock a stage. There may be more female musicians in bands nowadays, but it takes more than numbers to establish true progress. There have been articles, books and blogs written about it, so does Not Just Tits in a Corset by writer/photographer Jill Hughes Kirtland break any new ground?
Well, not really. However, what Kirtland has done was put together a comprehensive book celebrating the past and present women of Metal, and letting them tell their stories as opposed to the author voicing her views with trite comments from the musicians thrown in. It is a good read, and it was great that she not only mentioned and interviewed famous Metal women such as Cristina Scabbia and Angela Gossow, but that she dug a little deeper, featuring unsung heroines such as Addie Lee of Fanny, Betsy Bitch of Bitch, and Linda McDonald of Phantom Blue/Iron Maidens. It is structured in a linear way, from The Runaways and Fanny in the 70’s, through the 80’s with the California scenes and to the Hard Rock/Metal Queens of today. Throughout, the song sadly remains the same then as now – incredible highs of success, camaraderie, male support and total control of the music and image, to the lows of sexism, disrespect, and dismissive attitudes. Kirtland never loses sight of keeping things positive overall, focusing on how these women have persevered and remained true to their calling. It had to be a tough balance for Kirtland in trying to create a layout and flow that was eye-catching and easy to read, but still had journalistic integrity. There are times when artists are mentioned in a cursory manner, but that is tempered by powerful statements from several women who have been in the trenches. The Table of Contents’ many exclamation points screams “tabloid” and initially raises some doubts about how serious this book could be taken, but then her heart-felt preface dials it back to why the screaming is necessary – to be heard and to be taken seriously – by those who refuse to pay attention and acknowledge woman’s presence in this scene as musicians, writers, managers, label-owners, promoters, photographers, etc. I also commend Kirtland for not only focusing on the female Metal singers, but also reminding readers that many women are actually instrumentalists in the band, interviewing such as hard-hitting drummers as Justine Ethier (Blackguard) and Roxy Patrucci (Vixen). There are certain notable hard rockin’ women that are not mentioned at all (no Heart? No Skin from Skunk Anansie? No Ice Age?), but that just shows how many women were and are out there in Hard Rock/Metal doing their thing!
The mighty Doro Pesch does the preface and is further featured in the book. This is totally fitting, and I feel that if there was one woman who embodies the enduring spirit of Metal, it is her. There are many great pictures of the artists, making the book better for your coffee table than on a shelf. Not Just Tits in a Corset may not leave the reader feeling any better (or different) about how women in Metal are viewed and treated, but it will leave a sense of pride, positivity and empowerment while turning one on to artists they may not have heard of before. A satisfying blend of history, commentary, pictures and styles, this is a book that is a must-read for every Metalhead worth her – and his – salt.
Ghost B.C. has positioned themselves as one of the most interesting – and polarizing – bands in music today. Not at all black metal, but with all of its satanic trappings; candy-coated pop without any the sweetness; gimmicky but presented with a conviction that is admirable. You either love them or hate them, but you know who they are. I have loved the band since the first time I heard ‘Year Zero’. Deny it all you want, but the moment you heard the choral bellows of “Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub! Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer!” You were caught off-guard and they had your attention. I would dare say that those who do not like them have to grudgingly admit this band takes their music as seriously as their image. But can they deliver all of this dichotomy, pomposity and schtick live?
The answer is a resounding YES. Ghost has created a sound that appeals to a broad range of rock fans. The have the melodic sensibility to corral rock/hard rock fans, the horror/punk edge that appeals to the punk rockers, and the lyrical/visual melancholy dripping with keyboards that woos the Goth crowd. Even with that mix, their music still has enough crunch and groove to appeal to many metalheads, especially those who appreciate singing as opposed to the screamers that dominate the genre. The crowd is as undefinable as the music they have come to experience, but one word that could be used is dedication. While the crowd was very respectful of the rockabilly-tinged crooning of Seattle-based opener King Dude, it was clear from the t-shirts, face paint and chatter who the throng was there for.
From the background music, to the lighting, to the incense, to the cathedral-like backdrop complete with stained glass windows, Ghost knows how to set a mood. Much credit has to be given to the attention to detail that makes you feel as if you are part of a satanic church service as much as a show, and that it’s more than just throwing on some face paint and a costume. This band is so 100% committed to their image and its presentation, even a non-fan can respect it.
The Nameless Ghouls filed onstage to the gloom of ‘Masked Ball’, and launched into ‘Infestissumam’. His Unholiness Papa Emeritus II strolled onstage and up to the microphone for ‘Per Aspera ad Inferi’ complete with his Pope-esque robe (with inverted crosses), the mitre (tall pointed pope hat), and the staff bearing the huge Ghost logo on its top. He is striking figure, and all of his movements, gestures, and speech patterns during his between-song commentary shows this man has done his Papal homework. Stoic, never headbanging, never so much as a sway or dance, he really bears himself as the role requires. The front line of Ghouls are quite animated, and interact with each other and the audience more than some reviews would lead you to believe. The band’s musicianship was tight and quite exceptional, able to nail the genre-skipping their songs demand with ease. The fans were screaming along to every word, swaying and dancing, and there was even a pit now and then. The last song performed was ‘Monstrance Clock’, and ended with the band leaving the stage to the crowd’s chanting of the lyric, “Come together, together as a one! Come together for Lucifer’s son!” I have not seen this kind of intense reverence for a band since I saw Neurosis last summer. These folks are INTO IT. And it was a damn good time.
For all of its darkness, it was fun, amazing concert experience. Even if you are not their biggest fan, do not pass up the opportunity to see Ghost live – it will be worth every penny of that ticket.
There are some great tour packages these days, but the tradeoff is that each band may get a little less stage time than they (or their fans) may be used to. An example of this is the Golden Gods Tour headlined by Black Label Society. The opening bands, in order, are Butcher Babies, Devil You Know and Down. However, it is a quality bill, and I highly recommend that you catch this tour when it rolls your way.
Skipping the bigger city of Atlanta and stopping in Birmingham, AL at the venue Iron City Birmingham, the show started early with one of the “love them or hate them” bands, Butcher Babies. I happen to like them, and they are showing that they aren’t some kind of fluke as they continue to tour off of their summer 2013 release Goliath (Century Media). The band wasted no time getting down to business for their 30 minute set. Of course, the lead-singing ladies Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd command the stage and everyone’s attention with the strong voices, looks, and constant motion, but their band should not be overlooked. Solid and keeping it tight, they were a great musical support while the ladies did their thing. Butcher Babies has grown in notoriety, and I am sure there were many there who were curious or waiting to hate. But I have a feeling that by the time their set was over, Butcher Babies had themselves some new fans.
In our last issue, I had reviewed the Devil You Know’s debut album, The Beauty of Destruction (Nuclear Blast), and rated it very highly. But of course, I couldn’t wait to see them perform the material live, and they did not disappoint. Warmly welcoming Howard Jones and his return to the stage, the crowd was ready to absorb the new music. I was curious as to how the band would be received since the material is still so new and there are no ‘classics’ to fall back on, but the crowd was into it, and the band was flawless. Musicians Francesco Artusato (lead guitar), Roy Lev-Ari (guitar), Ryan Wombacher (bass) and John Sankey (drums) are technicians, but the taste they display when they could easily over do it really showed their skill. Another short set, they crammed in ‘A New Beginning’, the single ‘Seven Years Alone’ and the closer ‘Shut It Down’. They were polished, but did radiate enough raw energy to keep the crowd more than *ahem* engaged. Howard’s stage banter was humorous as always and he sounded fantastic, and it was great to see and hear him in such fine form and getting back into the grind of touring.
I absolutely love Down and have had the pleasure of seeing them on several occasions. However, this is first time I’ve seen them with second guitarist Bobby Landgraf and bassist Pat Bruders, who are just great and seem like they were always there. I did miss seeing Kirk Windstein at first, but the solidity of the new members made me forget about that quickly. They opened with ‘Eyes of the South’ and played new favorites ‘We Knew Him Well’ and ‘Witch Tripper’ off of Down IV Part 2 and Down IV Part 1 – The Purple EP (Down Records/Independent Label Group) respectively. They made the most of their 40-minute set, and Phil Anselmo was gracious and self-deprecating. He apologized for the band, saying that they really didn’t get to practice much, but it certainly didn’t show. Jimmy Bower kept it tight, and Pepper Keenan was just on fire. I am loving where Phil’s voice is right now as it has really rounded out, and sounded warm and full. They closed with the mighty “Bury Me in Smoke” before they left the stage. While myself and many others in the audience wished they had more time, they made good song choices such as ‘Lifer’, ‘Stone the Crow’ and ‘Losing All’.
While the crowd showed respect to Devil You Know and for Down, there were very many there to see Black Label Society. Once Down was done, the crowd clearly became more anxious and rambunctious, getting ready for Zakk Wylde and crew. I have not seen BLS in a very long time, so I was overdue to catch them live. The huge BLS banner dropped and the band kicked in with ‘My Dying Time’, the killer track from BLS’ latest release, Catacombs of the Black Vatican (E1 Music), then dove right into ‘Godspeed Hellbound’. BLS had the audience in the palm of their hand from the get-go. With his band Dario Lorina (rhythm guitar), John DeServio (bass) and Jeff Fabb (drums) backing him, Zakk clearly has the foundation from which his guitar can soar, and the crowd ate it up. Other songs performed included ‘In This River’, ‘Suicide Messiah’, and they ended the night with ‘Still Born’. It was a great set, and what you go to a rock show for.
This is definitely a tour worth catching, and dates have been selling out. So if you are considering going, don’t wait too long to get a ticket. Reasonably priced with a dynamic and diverse lineup, this is one tour that will give you a great bang for your hard-earned buck.
Týr has toured heavily for their latest release, Valkyrja (Metal Blade) a grandiose record that nicely showcases their brand of Viking/Folk Metal. Complimenting the strong performances and evolved sound is a different lyrical take on their usual subject matter, showing how powerful and influential the women were over the men. At their Atlanta, GA stop on the Halo of Blood tour, bassist Gunnar H. Thomsen and guitarist Terji Skibenæs were kind enough to grant Ghost Cult an interview before their set, chatting with senior editor Lynn Jordan.
It’s been one month into the tour; how is it going so far?
Gunnar H. Thomsen: Very good!
Terji Skibenæs: Everything smoothly, so far, yeah.
What has been your favorite place so far?
TS: It’s always L.A. for me
Hopefully you’ll like Atlanta.
TS: We like Atlanta too. We’ve been here many times before.
GC: Good! We love our Metal down here.
As the opener, is it difficult putting together a set list?
GHT: It’s not that tough, the tough thing is we have to leave so many things out.
What song did you have to leave out that you really wanted to squeeze in?
GHT: Many (laughs). We know there are a lot of songs that people want to hear, especially the songs with a lot of the choir stuff in it.
That is hard to duplicate live.
TS: But we get a good response for being the first band.
Have there been a lot of people yelling for songs during your set?
TS: Yeah, they’re screaming about it every day, wanting a longer set, but we can’t, of course.
So how is the new material going over?
GHT: It’s going down very well with the audience. Really really well.
So there isn’t a lot of, “Yay, that’s okay now play an old song”?
TS: No, we only play two old songs, the rest is from the new album.
I love the new record, so I don’t have a problem with that.
GHT: We haven’t had any negative response for playing the new stuff. Only thing, is, again, is they wish it were longer.
Since you’ve been getting such a positive response, will you be back in the States any time soon?’
TS/GHT: Oh, yes!
As part of a festival or on your own?
GHT: We are going to do a few festivals.
TS: In Europe, not in the U.S. Are there any festivals here?
(laughs) Europe has the best festivals. What is the biggest festival your going to play?
TS: The next big one is probably Copenhell in Denmark.
Cool, so that’s like a homecoming show.
The new songs have a very triumphant and upbeat quality to them. What do you attribute that to? Did you let the storyline set the mood or did you already have that kind of energy going into the writing process?
GHT: It’s really always whatever we come up with.
TS: Yeah, Someone will come up with a riff, then when we’re done, Heri writes the lyrics.
Do you think this record is a a culmination of the sound you’ve been seeking over the last couple of records?
GHT: Yeah, definitely, definitely.
TS: The style we heading in now, yeah.
GHT: It has turned into something that we all really like. It’s more interesting for the audience.
How did the concept for the new record come about?
TS: Well, we’re always writing about Viking men…
GHT: So, we thought a little bit of sex.
TS: A bit more of that!
How did the track “The Lay of Our Love” with Liv Christine come about? Did you have her in mind?
GHT: Heri met her at a festival…
TS: …And he was invited to sing a song with them at the festival.
GHT: She wanted to do the same thing with us, do a song on the record. We already had the song, so it was an obvious choice.
That’s great considering the concept of the record.
You guys did a high production CGI video. What was the experience like, and would you do it again?
GHT: I LOVED it.
TS: I love it. I will never do outdoor again. I hate that. We all do.
GHT: It was really easy.
TS: A lot of people doing everything, makeup….(laughs)
Do you have an idea for the next video or what song it will be?
GHT: Fire! Fire! More Metal!
TS: Yes, so people won’t think we’ve gone soft with this latest video.
Any new songs?
GHT: Pretty soon we’re going to start working on the new record.
TS: We have to start getting new material. But it always takes time.
GHT: It won’t get recorded until next year.
Do you find it more challenging doing covers of popular songs like ‘Where Eagles Dare’ or ‘Cemetery Gates’ rather than something more obscure?
GHT: No, for us, this was something that we decided a long time ago that we were gonna do. The record companies always want a bonus track, so we decided to take a favorite song from each person in the band. So we each picked one…that’s the way it came along, so it’s not really challenging, it was pretty straightforward.
TS: Yeah, we just record it.
GHT: We just focus on doing our best, and not try to imitate it too much, I guess.
When you guys are not touring or making music, what are your hobbies or interests?
GHT: Diving, I worked as a plumber.
TS: I’m a tattoo artist. That’s pretty much all I do.
How do you book folks with your schedule? Do you go to people or do they come to you? Do you have a shop?
TS: People write me, email…they to come to me, to Faroe Islands. From Denmark, Finland…
GHT: Sometimes he will have it on tour.
TS: Yeah, but it doesn’t work when you’re the first band, you don’t have the space, and it has to be clean.
Is there a music scene on the Faroe Islands, and are there any bands we should check out?
TS: There’s a cool Metal band call Hanferd.
Since Gunnar you’re in Denmark, how did you guys rehearse for the tour.
GHT: We don’t rehearse. We just practice at home. And we send files when we’re making the songs, we just record them on Protools, or whatever and write down the tablature and send an email to the next guy.
So what about preparing for a tour?
TS: We rehearsed a few days before in order to get it together, that’s all. (GHT) lives in Denmark, so he doesn’t come.
GHT: I do my best (laughs). It’s something we have to do, but it’s not easy. I didn’t realize it was that far from the Islands to the mainland.
Formed by Francesco Artusato (All Shall Perish , Francesco Artusato Project) a beast of a guitarist, fleet-footed drummer John Sankey (Devolved, Divine Heresy) and vocalist Howard Jones (Killswitch Engage, Blood Has Been Shed), Devil You Know had all the promise of a powerhouse, and with its release Beauty of Destruction (Nuclear Blast) it delivers on all fronts. The songs are well-crafted, nicely developed and excellently executed. This actually sounds more like Divine Heresy than Killswitch Engage as it has a lot of gnat-ass tight Dino Cazares-inspired stutter riffs and relentless drumming.
‘A New Beginning’ kicks right in with pure a All Shall Perish ggression and a wall of guitars. ‘My Own’ makes a grand entrance with an almost Pantera-like drive, and goes into staccato rhythms with a tasty guitar lick on top and a catchy chorus. Here, Jones sounds most like the Howard we know (no pun intended) with some metalcore vocal stylings in places. ‘Embracing the Torture’ features some very nice drum work by Sankey and shows off Jones’ range as he goes from growls to melodic chorus hook. ‘For the Dead and Broken’ dials it back a bit, and may be the most commercial sounding song on the release. Bringing in melodic vocals with effects, tamer guitars, and a sing-along chorus, it is reminiscent of In This Moment or Fall Out Boy (if they went Metal). ‘Seven Years Alone’ is very well-arranged song. The multi-layered vocals shine, but Artusato gets to flex his guitar chops quite a bit as well. This is also more on the commercial side of metal but it still hits hard. ‘It’s Over’ is more of a straight-ahead tune that has a Sevendust-like bent; pounding yet soulful. ‘A Mind Insane’ lives up to its title, a mix of tempos and mood with all members showing their strengths and then ending quietly, as if the subject broke free…or got his medication. ‘Crawl from the Dark’ has a sweet, almost dreamy groove in the verses while easily siding into a heavy bridge and chorus, and ending with a blistering solo by Artusato. ‘The Killer’ is a stuttering, creeping thing, with an almost subversive layer of acoustic guitars and a sneaky guitar riff slithering through the chorus. ‘I Am The Nothing’ is a song that features little hooks throughout with just enough keyboards/programming to add interest and color, and Jones really keeping the mood of the vocals in line with the subject matter. ‘Shut It Down’ is a show-closer, with a vocal line that begs to be shouted along with and an outro that will get folks mixing it up in the pit. Closer ‘As Bright as the Darkness’ is dark and cool with flanged-out guitars and vocals layered with echo. It reminded me a bit of ‘Aerials’ by System of a Down in flow and mood, and Jones channels a little bit of Pete Steele as well vocally which is cool as hell.
The production by Logan Mader (Gojira, Divine Heresy, Soulfly) and the mix job by Chris “Zeuss” Harris provides a crisp, big, in-your-face sonic experience. Jones is in excellent vocal form, and while you can recognize the voice, there is definitely a growth and depth that is great to hear. He has clearly found a new “home” in Devil You Know, and in this reviewer’s humble opinion, this release is superior to KsE’s last as good as that was. Good for him…and us.
My love of Lamb of God comes with one gripe – the production jobs on their first two records. I spent a lot of time adjusting equalizer settings trying to round out the tinny guitar tones from Mark Morton and Willie Adler, find John Campbell‘s bass while not upping the ante with Chris Adler‘s thumping kick drums, and accepting the fact that Randy Blythe‘s vocals were tucked a little too far back into the mix. I was excited in 2003 when As the Palaces Burn (Razor & Tie/Prosthetic) came out as the production was handled by Devin Townsend, who I greatly admire as a writer, musician and producer. Unfortunately, yet again, the production was a disappointment. It sounded as though it was recorded under a blanket, with the drums too far upfront, the guitars sounding more colicky baby than crunching, vocals struggling to get on top, and the bass – yet again – getting the Jason Newsted circa …And Justice for All treatment. Bummer.
Thankfully, LoG has released a reissue of As the Palaces Burn (Prosthetic/Razor & Tie) in November, 2013, and it is definitely an improvement. The tracks were remixed and remastered, resulting in a big, crisp overall sound. The blanket has come off, so it sounds punchier and louder with a more balanced mix. It does not appear that the band members’ individual sounds have been tampered with very much. However, the shrillness on the top end has been dialed back with a tad more mids, and volume-wise they appear to have been kicked up in the mix. Blythe’s vocal placement in the mix is more forward as well. It is still a bit tucked, but definitely more upfront. The biggest change is in the rhythm section. Bassist Campbell is easier to pick out than in the original recording, but he is still blotted out by the suns that are Chris Adler’s kick drums. I have always felt that the key to a great LoG production job was to find a tone and a frequency Campbell could exist in that would not clash with Adler’s bass drums, and they have seemed to have worked that out on later recordings. For this reissue, though, it is as good as its going to get for Campbell sonically. Helping him be more of a presence is the scaling back of the drums in general, which are placed much better in the mix and sound tighter overall. I would say my only gripe with the remix is Adler’s snare sound, as it seems to be the one thing that was not improved with everything else. To this listener, it begs to be louder and with more snap, but at least the record sounds more like a band than a drum clinic with sidemen. I have to note that I was fortunate enough to go to a Chris Adler drum clinic a few years back, and he admitted that during the band’s early recording days a combination of insecurity and ego got in the way and perhaps the production may have suffered. As a fan who sees Chris as the leader of LoG, hearing him say that made sense of some of the mixing decisions made, and may well have impacted Devin Townsend’s production job on the original ATPB recording.
Besides the remixing and the remastering there are three unreleased demo versions of ‘Ruin’, ‘As the Palaces Burn’ and ‘Blood Junkie’. Other than sounding like, well, demos, they really aren’t bringing much to the party, and none of them vary from the originals as far as arrangement. Maybe the band felt they had to put other things on the release to make it special, but I would have been fine without them.
If you are a LoG fan that loves seeing their older releases get the remix and remaster treatment then you will enjoy this very much. It was great to listen to that album from front to back with a more sonically powerful mix and master, but with just enough polish to present the songs – and the band – as the top notch metal machine they are.
That word alone conjures up many strong opinions depending upon who is in it and what we believe they are in it for. But there is one thing most fans can agree on. Known musicians from different groups who decide to embark on a project together should represent the best of what those individuals bring to their “home” bands. This ideally combines into a mind-bending experience in which we get to hear what those same bands may force those musicians to shelve, rein in, or repress.
Needless to say most of these blended projects are either too trendy, too lackluster, ego-fueled, or seem to be songs not good enough to make the cut in the musicians’ main groups. Sometimes the combination of people just doesn’t work, or the overall sound is so far from some of the members’ usual sound that they may as well not be involved.
I am very pleased to say that Corrections House nails it. Not only should most folks know at least two of the members once heard, the lesser known members bring enough to the party to make this release even more exciting and intriguing. The Corrections House lineup is Neurosis‘ Scott Kelly, Eyehategod‘s Mike IX Williams, über producer/Minsk/Buried at Sea‘s Sanford Parker, and Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont. These are four people you might see drinking together at some European festival, but never attempting to blend their unique sounds together without it sounding like a train wreck. However, this works, and it works brilliantly.
Corrections House had released the Hoax The System/Grin With a Purpose EP/single earlier, but that really just hinted at what was to come. Curiously, neither of those songs are on this full-length, Last City Zero (Neurot), which is just a sonic immersion. There is nothing one-dimensional about this group or their music. It is engrossing, never allowing you to get comfortable with a tempo, a style or an approach. The songs are great and each one is its own bird without losing overall cohesiveness. This is achieved without Kelly, Williams or Lamont straying too far from what marks them musically, but giving them a type of musical space where they can do their thing and then some without forcing it. Kelly‘s screams still cut to the bone, but his guitar playing remains utilitarian, showing a tasteful restraint when he could have easily made too much of being the only guitarist. Williams voice is unmistakable, but here he shows more of his poetic side. Lamont‘s saxophone seems to appear exactly where it should, even though this is the last instrument you would expect here. What ties this all together is the keyboard/electronics work of Parker, whose sonic landscaping appears to be the basis from which of a lot this well seems to spring. Each member is flexing his maturity and confidence in what he does, and it sounds so natural that it’s almost unfair such artfully crafted, yet deliberately unsettling music is their first release together.
Standouts include the opener ‘Serve or Survive’, with starts out with a very Neurosis feel at first, but twists into something different; ‘Party Leg and Three Fingers’ has a very cool swerve to it; ‘Dirt Poor and Mentally Ill’ has an almost dance-y Ministry bent, with Williams citing poetry in the middle break. Williams‘ poetry is the focus of the title track, which features a beautiful, minimalist guitar melody as a backdrop.
Like their main bands, there is no relegating this music to the background. It is so insidious, stark and sure of itself that it righteously demands your full attention. Corrections House has much more depth than labels such as “Doom” or “Experimental” could ever justify. This review is prejudiced by the fact that I was lucky enough to catch them live during a stop in Atlanta, where the experience was that much more intense and suspenseful. Not only are these men masters of their own individual sounds, they have managed to create something together that is bigger than themselves. And that is a “Supergroup” that gets it right.
TesseracT recently toured the US along with Scale The Summit and openers Anciients, and I was fortunate enough to catch them during their stop in Atlanta, at the very packed venue Drunken Unicorn.
Anciients opened the night with their fantastic blend of Mastodon-meets-Opeth brand of metal. Intense and engaging, they played a monstrous set of music that would convert just about any metal fan. If you love the aforementioned bands, and dig the sonic landscaping of Tombs and Neurosis, Anciients is definitely worth checking out. They are touring hardcore off their release Heart of Oak (Season of Mist), and their string of high-profile gigs is beginning to pay rewards.
Scale The Summit has gained notoriety as young prog metal upstarts, and it is deserved. Boasting young musicians with an average of 22, this group of technicians impress with their energy and passion for their organic blend of music they call “Adventure metal”. Completely instrumental, they managed to keep the audience hanging on every note, cheering on the band’s clean, musical execution. True to prog form, the songs are epic in length, but are very well-arranged so your ear never tires. One can hear the Dream Theater influence, and certainly Between theBuried and Me, the band that connected three of the four members from their inception. To this listener’s ears they reminded me of BTBAM (who I like) but with a huge dose of Animals As Leaders too. The music never gets too dark; it seems as though their youthfulness has not yet experienced the negativity in life that can filter into an artist’s songs. There is a brightness, an exuberance to their sound that is uplifting without being cheesy, and stops just short of overindulgence. All the members, guitarists Chris Letchworth, Travis Levrier, and drummer Pat Skeffington are great musicians, but special mention is in order for newest member Mark Michell. Not only is he a joy to watch, but he is front and center, a place usually not reserved for a bassist.
Due to the length of their songs, they played only 8 in their set, inclusive of “Glacial Planet”, “Whales” and “The Olive Tree”. Occasionally, Guitarist Chris Letchford would address the crowd, but this was an otherwise vocal-free, exciting musical trip. I commend Scale the Summit for bringing their brand of thoughtful enthusiasm to a genre that can be stuffy and overwrought. Well done!
The crowd was very respectful and appreciative of all of the acts, but they saved their biggest roar for TesseracT. It was quite a switch from a purely instrumental band to a band led by the soaring, bombastic vocals of recent addition Ashe O’Hara. O’Hara is a strong front man and is good foil for the intensity of his band mates and their driving djent/prog metal sound. TesseracT played a nice selection of songs from their 3 full-lengths that had the audience singing along from the front of the stage to the back of the venue, pacing the set list so there was very little room to come up for air. There was much fist-throwing, head-bobbing and body-rocking, so even if you aren’t a fan of the band you couldn’t help but be moved by the love shown to them by the crowd. I will admit to not being familiar with this band at all before tonight, but I left much impressed by their performance. It was a great lineup for lovers of metal with a proggy bent, and each band brought their own unique taste of it.