Ghost Cult had the distinct pleasure of chatting with the one and only Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth recently. In a wide-ranging chat with our Chief Editor Keefy, Mikael discussed the new album, In Cauda Venenum, due out September 27th via Moderbolaget Records / Nuclear Blast Entertainment. We discussed his creating both English and Swedish language versions of the album, using an orchestra and choir, concept records, progressive rock artists he likes such as Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Peter Gabriel, working at Park Studios, philosophical lyrics, and why he treated this album like it was the final Opeth album. Continue reading
Power Trip has released one of the undeniably great albums of 2017 thus far with Nightmare Logic, out now on Southern Lord Records. While on tour with Iron Reagan, Ghost Cult’s Keith Chachkes caught up with front man Riley Gale at Webster Hall in New York City to discuss politics, radical philosophy, metal and more. With inspiring music and a chaotic live show, Power Trip are one of the most impressive bands on the scene today. Continue reading
The Truth of Revolution, Brother: An Exploration of Punk Philosophy (Situation Press) is an interesting look at many of the common philosophies within the rebellious genre and it also acts as a biography for some of its key figures. Through a series of interviews authors Lisa Sofianos, Robin Ryde and Charlie Waterhorse, have crafted an insightful and at times dense examination of the personal beliefs that fuel the music, particularly in anarcho-punk.
Culled from over 20 different interviews with subjects including the likes of former Dead Kennedy’s vocalist Jello Biafra, producer Steve Albini and firebrand Gavin McInnes, The Truth of Revolution, Brother feels like a great documentary that hasn’t been shot yet. Punk isn’t just music, for the faithful it’s an unshakable bond that informs all of their daily decisions. It was an artistic liberation because it wasn’t the usual prog and arena rock that permeated the 1970s. If you had something to say now you can now express yourself even if you can’t play your instrument very well or have a record label to back you up. All the weirdos were allowed.
“Punk changed the whole world for me,” says Albini. “Punk changed all of my friends. Everything that I do with my life. This studio. All of this that I am doing for a living. Everyone I know. Every significant friend I’ve ever had. Every significant life experience that I have had, I owe that to the Ramones.”
However, it is also quick to point out that while punk was the undiscriminating genre when it came to musical prerequisites, age or sex; it is also very much steeped in hierarchy as you are allowed to come in and participate only if you wear the right boots and black shirts. The prevailing Do-It-Yourself ethos acts as the backbone that allows punk to stand, but also means that there is less focus on quality control as anyone can come in and take a swing at it. Doing it yourself can sometimes lead to doing it badly.
But for me what was most interesting about this tome is that so many of the interviewed always pointed to anarcho-punk trailblazers Crass as one of their main inspirations and the reason for adopting the punk lifestyle. The consensus is that they were the first punk band to adopt the DIY mantra, foster pro-environmentalist habits and call for everyone to drop competiveness out of their nature in order to improve the community.
“What is so deeply emotional for me about Crass, in particular, is that when I was sent to the correctional boarding school I was completely alone” says Jon Gnarr. “And I was so afraid that I carried a knife. I felt so alone, and there was nobody to tell me right from wrong, there weren’t even teachers at that place, so at a very difficult time in my life, Crass was there for me.” Feeling dissatisfied with his government’s handling of the 2008 Icelandic financial crisis, Gnarr would use some of that punk influence and form the satirical Best Party. In a shocking upset Gnarr ran and was elected mayor of Reykjavík in 2010.
So many other of the interview subjects continuously cite the short lived anarchist bent Essex unit, that it starts to feel like that you are getting an oral history of the band. Adding to that feel are insightful chapters directly from former Crass members Steve Ignorant, Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher.
Something worth noting is that with so many citing the same artists and similar philosophies as vital the book can begin to feel a tad repetitive towards the middle, but all things considered it shines a bright light on the inner machinations of one of rock’s most extreme wings. Now if we could only get that complete Crass biography.
Muse, whose Drones (Warner Bros) album came out today, have released a video for the track ‘Mercy’. You can watch the video below:
Front man Michael Bellamy commented on the concept of Drones, which figures heavily in the ‘Mercy’ video treatment:
“To me, ‘Drones’ are metaphorical psychopaths which enable psychopathic behavior with no recourse. The world is run by Drones utilizing Drones to turn us all into Drones. Drones explores the journey of a human, from their abandonment and loss of hope, to their indoctrination by the system to be a human drone, to their eventual defection from their oppressors.”
Swedish progressive metallers The Great Discord are one of Metal Blade’s best signings of late. Their album Duende is out today, combining the artfulness and intelligence of classic 70s prog rock with the heaviness and skill of Meshuggah or Dream Theater. In chatting with singer Fia Kempe and drummer Aksel Holmgren, we learned that they are cognizant that even in these times of broad musical palates, their band does not fit into such a neat box, since they joined the roster at at Metal Blade.
Sofie: “We weren’t sure at first! (laughs) It all started when we had some demos and we sent them around, and among other labels, to Metal Blade. Kelli (Malella) was the first one to become intrigued with us. We started talking in an email conversation, where she wanted to learn what our aims were for this band, how we wanted to be represented, and what we wanted for the record. She got really interested in us and fought for us. And we were really surprised that when we got the mail that they wanted us to be signed there. It was a great experience! We thank Kelli so much!”
Aksel: “Metal Blade is traditionally well respected and they have done so much for metal. They are so legendary as an established name for the metal scene. And our sound, at least a big chuck of it, is metal. And it seems the label have signed more progressive bands like Between the Buried and Me and Native Construct, which gave us the hint that this label that wants to invest in this type of music. We have nothing but great things to say about them.”
Fia: “It was also a bit of a challenge for us too. We can tell straight away now… releasing a few of our teasers how polarizing a band like ours can be. If you are a true Metal Blade fan, and you are into Cannibal Corpse and Goatwhore, I can really understand how you would be at least surprised (laughs) when you hear our kind of music and how differs a lot from a Cannibal Corpse, for example. We also think its a good effect, because it gets people talking. It gets people to turn their heads, which is always a good thing in this business. We welcome all reactions, that is the discordance in life. It’s been a blast to read all the comments (laughs)!”
As much as the band is sonically impressive, one thing sets them apart is the existential themes in their lyrics throughout the album. We wanted to know what role these heady ideas played in the context behind the story of Duende.
Fia: “When we look back at it now, we think of the album as ten short stories: ten examinations of the human condition. I am a Social Psychiatrist professionally, so I have always had a great interest in psychology; and meeting people daily who are in a great amount of pain and suffering, dealing with depression; going so far as Autistic, bi-polar, or even schizophrenia. It’s always been an interesting subject for me; the psyche of the human mind. All people around the world suffer from a morbid fascination of these kinds of conditions, so we wanted to explore a little further how the music makes you feel, and then how you can get the music to match these emotions. So the music always came first and then we tried to match the lyrics to these kind of emotions and psychiatric conditions.”
“It can be things people feel every day in their lives like the sorrow, sadness, pain, power, joy; to the more extremes: the cannibal, the necrophiliac, the massive paranoid schizophrenic killer. And we know those are not the most common states of mind of people in general, but they do exist. They are there and we know it, whether we want to think about it or not. But there are all of the scary, almost unknown conditions. Even if you don’t want to admit it.”
Aksel: “This aspect is well represented on album in a more general sense too. In contrast just more general philosophical concerns of why are we here? What is the meaning in life? What do I do if I have regrets when I die? How do I deal knowing that I am a living, breathing, thinking, feeling human being. This is the theme essentially behind The Great Discord.”
“We live a very intense life. Not just with the band, but keeping together families and things like that.” The deep, dulcet tones of Fernando Ribeiro are unmistakable, coated in this thick Portuguese accent, it is little wonder the forty year-old front man of Moonspell still attracts much attention from swooning nubiles. These days the Goth Metal lothario has a young son to raise which is perhaps a factor on the more mature direction Moonspell have adopted on new opus Extinct (Napalm Records). “We like to delve into the unknown. It is important to be creative when we feel inspired to do so. We had six months of touring left for Alpha Noir and Omega White, but we needed to write when we felt the need to express ourselves, to feed that hunger!”
One thing that immediately noticeable about Extinct is the concept is rooted in reality both on a global and personal scale. As Ribeiro explained, the concept came together relatively quickly. “We did not want to split our direction as we did on the preceding albums. The concept came out very early. I was thinking of extinction on a global scale which affects animals but also how human beings place a higher value on their own existence and will often sacrifice other species and the planet to serve our own selfish needs. Sonically, we have been influenced more by electronic music and used more clean vocals. It is a very desolate album.”
Extinct is indeed a dark affair, not least for the shocking image of a mutilated amputee which adorns the cover which is the work of Septicflesh bassist and frontman Spiros Antoniou a.k.a. Seth Siro Anton. “He worked on ‘Night Eternal’ for us.” Ribeiro mused on this comrade’s work. “We feel an affinity with Septic Flesh and look forward to touring with them this year. His work recalls that of Francis Bacon or Joel- Peter Witkin to me. ‘Extinct’ is an album about imperfections. That figure on the cover looks raped and mutilated but it is about the fear of what could happen and the damage that has been done. Amputee’s feel their limbs long after they have had them removed so it seemed to fit with the concept we had.”
In addition to its gruesome cover art, Extinct also has some of the most personal lyrics Fernando has ever penned. “Gothic metal has always been very fictional but we have gone through many changes in our lives. ‘The Future Is Dark’ is one song which exemplifies this. Jens and Pedro opened the studio up specially one night for me to do the vocals. It had been a difficult night at home for me and I wanted to get the lyrics on the track straight away.”
The track in question see’s Ribeiro addressing his son with the brooding chorus refrain ‘Without you there is no tomorrow’ it’s a touching moment. “Jens told me it was one of the best personal songs he ever recorded. He is a workaholic who never gave anyone a day off but he was a real team player and supportive of everything we did.”
Adding further depth to the seductive melodies on ‘Breathe (Until We Are No More)’ and ‘Medusalem’ is the use of a Turkish orchestra. “It was a big challenge to get them involved because they do not speak English nor I Turkish so we had to have a mediator in between! Portuguese music has always been influenced by the Arabic scales so we wanted to incorporate that. We didn’t go for these big Wagnerian arrangements most Metal bands use we wanted something more seductive.”
Another highlight is album closer ‘La Baphomette’, a track which sounds positively vaudevillian with its swing feel and elegant piano. “Our bass player Aires wrote this piece with the brass section but Pedro helped with the arrangement. When I listened to the melody I thought of Burlesque and Tom Waits – I love French poets like (Charles) Baudelaire. I was at the French quarter in New Orleans on our last tour and I wrote the lyrics about a burlesque dancer who evokes cosmic chaos. It is a very romantic song and a great way to end the album.”
WORDS BY ROSS BAKER
Goatwhore conjures a musical sound to mind the minute read their name or say it aloud. You know what it stands for, before the words roll off of your tongue. Few modern bands have the grit and the greatness to remain consistently heavy in the face of rising popularity. They are in many ways the Motörhead of their musical generation: without compromise and weakness…. a band that can do no wrong for fans across all of metals fiefdoms and cliques. Certainly there are no Goatwhore haters, only people unaware of them, yet. Maintaining the balance of their message and the quality of their songcraft is the likely secret to their success, beyond some sacred pact with dark forces. Every album is different from the last, yet they never went soft or sold out like some others have. On Constricting Rage of the Merciless (Metal Blade), their sixth album in their 16-year career, Goatwhore rolls up their spiked-sleeves and smashes you in the mouth once again. And you will love it!
Where 2012’s Blood for the Master was a little more nuanced and throwback focused, Constricting Rage of the Merciless kicks you with jackbooted foot and maintains the savagery all the way through. The new album has more than a pointed step towards their blackened death metal history, but also carries with it the continued evolution of the sound of recent releases. Opening track ‘Poisonous Existence in Reawakening’ will crush your ear holes with extreme prejudice. Unrelenting blastbeats, deathly sick riffs and the masterful vocals of Rev. L. Ben Falgoust III will make you smile, unless you are dead. In typical fashion for this act, most of the tracks are tight, average under four-minutes each, and have zero B.S. about them. The majestically brutal ‘Unraveling Paradise’ has no less than four different riffs in the song, all of them amazing. Sammy Duet doesn’t rely as much on thrashy pedaling this time around, coming up with some inventive licks and whirling motifs, all that would shame some of the best tech death bands by the way.
As was the case on the last album, drummer Zack Simmons demolishes expectations and his kit on every song, inspiring much headbanging and fist-banging. If you have seen the band live, you know Zack is a machine who plays equally well on wax. Tracks such as ‘Baring Teeth for Revolt’ and ‘Reanimated Sacrifice’ are a drum fanatics wet dream. ‘Reanimated…’ as on several tracks herein, sees Rev. Ben switch up his style and make use of different parts of his register vocally. Impressive stuff. Also chipping in with a great chopping riff and a slick, short solo is Duet once again, who continues to enthrall listeners year after year.
The bleak and harsh ‘Heaven’s Crumbling Walls of Pity’ flexes the bands black metal muscles again, with a little extra something grim on top. It’s almost like a proggy black metal song you might expect from Ihsahn’s solo work. The ending stanzas are full of cool chords and grooving beats. ‘Cold Earth In Dying Flesh’ is another in a litany of standout, mid-album cuts. It has an eerie intro to set the mood. Not unlike a horror movie soundtrack theme, this slow to simmer beast machine of a song is a great change of pace. Falgoust again just bellows with some of the best vocals he’s ever done. It’s also the longest track on the album; not an epic in length, but with high quality grooves more associated with their other swampy NOLA brethren. When it finally launches into breakneck death thrash territory mid-song, it takes the track to another level without losing the story.
‘FBS’ was first played live on the Behemoth tour this spring and is a typical, circle-pit inducing song if there is one on this album. Full of rawness, with two more sweet solos from Sammy. It’s almost punk without being punk, or punk without too much crust. ‘Nocturnal Conjuration of the Accursed’ continues the trend of heady lyrics, and heavy on the evil sounds that is the bands trademark. There is even a little classic metal fun of galloping riffs and thematic soloing. ‘Schadenfreude’ is another gruesome masterpiece. Black metal, death metal and thrash all come together, but in a sensible way you could almost call it American Blackened Thrash. As a style, this would be a worthy counterpart to the Death `n Roll of Scandinavian bands, but much, much more brutal. ‘Schadenfreude’ is also a lyrical masterpiece, with the title defined as enjoying the suffering of others, in this case those whom most deserve it. The album closes with the fitting ‘Externalize this Hidden Savagery’ and sums up the entire album’s intent quite well before its final notes ring out.
Goatwhore has made an album nearly worthy of the best work of their career, even though it’s on the short side at under 40 minutes. I doubt you will find a more righteously hostile, fun, and well made album from another heavy band in 2014.
KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES