A Legacy Of Brutality Part II– Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost

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For such a modest gent, Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes is one such musician who can remember the glory days of record label advances. Surely Paradise Lost wouldn’t have had access to bountiful excess, but they did indulge their rock star side. “When we started with EMI we hired Jane Seymour’s stately home to stay at while recording. We bought loads of studio equipment and had a chef and everything! It was great. That’s was the benchmark of success for us, you could get a fillet steak whenever you wanted! It was fucking ridiculous when I think about it but there was money in the industry and people bought albums! If you think its right or wrong, you get wrapped up in it because you have industry people telling you it would be a good idea. You can enter a different world easily. We did waste money on silly things and spent a fortune on booze! The bar bills were insane! It was a real cliché but we spent a lot of money on booze especially around the Host album!”

We dipped our toes in the pool of rock stardom but we never plunged in. It was like being Metallica for a day but then it was gone again. Now it’s strict budgets. I remember the first time we went to Israel and did all the tourist stuff and hung out. These days, you’re off stage and on a plane two hours later!”

Having invested Gothic Metal and created a memorable legacy, many bands have come and gone during PL’s career, splitting up and reforming on a whim. Yet Paradise Lost have endured and existed without such issues. “We need to make a living. We forfeited a life doing anything else years ago. We never had the time to have a couple of years off and reassess things. You could count the bands on one hand who could take five years out. You don’t shut down the shop just because you’re fed up.”

 

Such acclaim for Greg’s Vallenfyre project has been well deserved with a spark clearly ignited under Paradise Lost. Surely though at this stage in their career could talk of side projects been a concern to the productivity of Paradise Lost? “I didn’t know what he was doing on his time off. I didn’t know how much he’d got back into death metal. He asked me if I wanted to do the vocals but my head wasn’t in the right place at the time. I didn’t know I’d do it himself. It runs alongside PL fine. I keep missing their shows so I want to catch them.”

Considering Nick’s confession that he could have been a part of Vallenfyre, his involvement in death metal supergroup Bloodbath, were Holmes replaced Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt comes as an even greater surprise. “It was a good two or three years after that. We’d look on the early days of death metal with great fondness. The guys in Katatonia are all four years younger than me, but that was a lot when you were all teenagers. We listed to different generations of death metal. They were listening to Deicide and I was more into the early Death stuff. The tape trading days were a great time, exciting and new. Anything that has happened with PL has been a gradual change. We had written the whole album before I did the Bloodbath stuff and already decided that there would be death metal elements.”

Vallenfyre, by Hillarie Jason

Vallenfyre, by Hillarie Jason

What must it be in a band with the guys from Katatonia, a band who have cited Paradise Lost as an influence? “Half the conversation who can name the most obscure band and who has all the old demo tapes. Jonas is very into that stuff. Bloodbath are weekend warriors, we get on a plane, play a gig then go home. It’s refreshing to play with new people and worked really well for us. Everyone is friends so there’s no negative.”

How Paradise Lost have kept relevant and free of nostalgia. “I never heard the term ‘The Peaceville Three’ until recently. We started before Anathema and My Dying Bride. I think Anathema played their first gig in Liverpool with us. As a band we don’t need to name drop or fit into a scene. We are institutionalised in making music. I’ve blown my chances of being a surgeon long ago. I could write a book but that would be about what I have done with the band. You never know!”

ROSS BAKER

A Legacy Of Brutality – Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost

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Pleasant, unassuming with an endearingly laugh and a dry wit steeped in self-deprecation and sarcasm. Paradise Lost frontman Nick Holmes is the complete antithesis of a rock star asshole.

Early spirit in modern setting: “It was about catching the simplicity of how we worked in the early days. There is a temptation to overcomplicate things with technology unnecessarily. I think we have produced albums with lots of layers over the years, and we wanted to take a step back.”

It was nice to make things a bit simpler and capture the spirit of the old stuff.” Nick recalled. “There was a time when we were on EMI that it was all about writing singles, but we have always been an album band. As soon as you have to think about what is on MTV, it kills it. It’s nice to not worry about that anymore. We just worry about creating an hour of great music not what is going to get more rotation. At the same time we learnt a lot about songwriting. Not everything has to have a verse, bridge and a chorus.”

One moment on the new record which stands out as different is ‘Cry Out’ with it’s almost stoner rock feel. Nick explains how that one came about. “It’s got a more Sabbath vibe but then goes more melancholic. Greg (Mackintosh) has a truck load of those kind of riff but we don’t use them because they sound a bit too happy. It’s straight from the Tony Iommi School of metal.”

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The new Paradise Lost material is certainly in the spirit of the hallowed Draconian Times (Music For Nations) era, yet the Yorkshire act has dabbled with electronica and experimented with different styles which has received much criticism from some fans. Much in the way Metallica were for every post Black Album (Electra). Does Nick still stand by all the creative decisions PL have made? “When you start a band you emulate the music your idols play before you find our own sound. I don’t have that much hindsight with our albums because they are a reflection of where we were mentally. Everything we did made sense at the time. Everything that has happened in our own lives has had an impact on this band. It would kill me to make the same records throughout my career that would be so boring. In terms of Host (EMI) if we did it now it would definitely be as a side project. We were really into that stuff at that time so it made sense. I still think it’s one of our strongest albums sonically and has some great songs. One Second (MFN) is our best-selling album but that had a lukewarm response from some areas. Host was too much too soon for some people. We needed a change from the metal thrash mania after touring Icon (MFN) and Draconian Times for so long.”

These days artists changing their style or image can still be controversial to some but back in the nineties this was tantamount to treason! Recalling the reaction to the fan backlash he received at the time, Nick remains proud of the ‘Host’ record while being disarmingly honest when it came to the follow up. “People were outraged that I cut my hair and we wore eyeliner but I wear more eyeliner with Bloodbath than I ever did with PL! I didn’t think Host was weak but Believe In Nothing is a shrug album. We didn’t know what we were doing or where we were going. It’s just as well the internet was in its infancy around the time of ‘Host’ as that would have crashed our forum!”

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Over the course of their history, bar the drum stool little changes in line up. Nick spoke about how important it has been to retain such a stable line-up throughout their career. “We all get along. We are all mates and were friends before we started the band. We don’t hang out much outside of band time because we don’t live close to each other now. We came together from a mutual love of music when there was no one who loved extreme music. We still have a great laugh. You can’t get bored when you have thirty years of anecdotes!”

For the longevity of any relationship humour can play a part at keeping things together. This was no different for Nick and his comrades “It’s just how we are. We have similar upbringings and backgrounds. When you’re in a professional band as long as we are it keeps you young. It’s a respite from the rest of life. It takes us away from the horrible stuff. You can go to a gig, get pissed and feel better. We all look decrepit but we’re young in spirit.”

Taking of line-up changes Finnish drummer Waltteri Vayrynen will be filling in for Adrian Earlandsson on the bands UK dates next week. According to Nick, it was an easy choice. “Adrian has been very busy with At The Gates. Waltteri replaced Adrian in Vallenfyre and he’s a big PL fan so it was a great fit. He’s only twenty years old and such a great player for his age. In ten years he will be on the top of his game. People do many different bands, drummers especially. That’s how it is these days.

 

ROSS BAKER

 

Temples Festival 2015 Day 3 – Bristol, Motion

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Sunday

A change towards psychedelic rock is a solid choice for the Sunday, as those that have dragged themselves back seem to have dramatically thinned. Opening the main stage, Kent band Ohhms are a relatively new band on the scene, but quickly prove they deserve every drop of respect they have earned with their brand of progressive doom while the frontman’s hazy vocals are coupled with looking like he is having a perpetually awkward orgasm but somehow they complement each other perfectly and the unusual but endearing performance is a talking point long after the band have finished.

Venom Prison, by Rich Price Photography

Venom Prison, by Rich Price Photography

First band of the Sunday second stage are Venom Prison, at 4pm owing to an hours delay after Sunn O))) nearly levelled the entire building the night before. These were another band I checked out on a whim and proved to be one of the more pleasant highlights of the weekend. Given the number of people raving about them on my FB I wasn’t alone in discovering these. Formed by ex-members of Wolf Down, Brutality Will Prevail and Desolated. They wasted absolutely no time in tearing the second stage a new one. Playing a thoroughly impressive set of hardcore and death metal, this is impressive stuff which manages to get the crowd going with seeming ease. Musically these are absolutely fantastic to hear, fast and heavy but with plenty of groove. Special mention must go to singer Larissa who has way too much stage presence for such a small stage. I’ll definitely be checking these out again next time they tour.

The King Is Blind, by Rich Price Photography

The King Is Blind, by Rich Price Photography

The addition of New Model Army bassist Ceri Monger has elevated Essex maulers The King Is Blind to another level. Unencumbered by an instrument, frontman Steve Tovey stalks the stage, giving punters a taste of his vicious snarl. Their bubbling cauldron of death, doom and black metal is a potent mix which is steadily gaining momentum and growing a devoted fanbase in the process.

Monarch’s female vocalist may be tiny in stature, but don’t let that cause you to underestimate her. From calm, creepy whispers and slow droning notes we are lulled into a false sense of security but that doesn’t last long before harrowing screams shatter the calm creating a dramatic yet captivating performance. Swan Song play to an energetic and appreciative crowd. The front man has a huge amount of energy and is all over the stage with the energy of ten. The rest of the band aren’t quite as energetic or are trying to stay out of the way I can’t quite decide. Unfortunately despite their considerable energies they are simply not my cup of tea. It’s obvious though that the crowd disagree with that assessment and have a good time.

Year of No Light, by Rich Price Photography

Year of No Light, by Rich Price Photography

This seems to be a particular talent of the French acts on that day, with Year of No Light following on with their largely instrumental atmospheric post-metal. With two drummers and three guitarist this band carries with them a huge sound that flickers between light moments before crashing down to become crushingly heavy.

A bizarre choice for the 3rd stage considering their rising stock. Tribulation bring their Nosferatu inspired blackened occultism with a sense of true rock showmanship. Adam Zaars and Jonathan Hulten trade off licks while strutting around with the cocksure swagger of an act that knows this is their time.

Tribulation, by Rich Price Photography

Tribulation, by Rich Price Photography

For anyone surprised to see Ghold heading up the main stage above the previous two bands, you wouldn’t have been the only one as the pair are more used to hitting Brixton’s minuscule Windmill or Camden’s Black Heart than a major festival main-stage. While the duo may have looked a little swallowed up in the space, there was little doubt they could pull it off with ease and their appearance as a major billing at the festival is no less than this band deserve. Their self-described “weight & grunt power” music is realised as they pummelled the audience with their monolithic sound.

Reeking of grief and filth Vallenfyre are relentless. Gregor Macintosh is a masterful frontman and ex My Dying Bride man Hamish Glencross churns out ugly slabs of brutality like ‘Scabs’ with ease. Quips about playing a cow shed aside this is northern cynicism distilled to a foul brew all lap up. ‘Cathedrals Of Dread’ sees the audience lose their shit. ‘Desecration’ concludes a mercurial performance from these purveyors of crust addled death.

Goatwhore, by Rich Price Photography

Goatwhore, by Rich Price Photography

Goatwhore are a band I’ve been wanting to see live for a very long time. They play straight up old school heavy/death metal, but there’s no denying they do it better than most. One of the bands I was most looking forward to at Temples and they really don’t disappoint.

Playing to an absolutely rammed 3rd stage, in fact it was only thanks to the excellent Temples/Motion security letting us in the back door that I could even get into the building at all. Both the band and crowd are electric, with pits, fist pumping, devil horns and crowd surfers a plenty. This is a phenomenal performance.

Canadian noiseinks Ken Mode are truly unhinged but suffer from a muddy sound mix. New stomper ‘Blessed’ is raucous and angular with Jesse Matthewson snarling about ‘handfuls of shit tossed at a proverbial wall’ in a manner which recalls a more feral take on the kind of dirty art rock 90s underground label Amphetamine Reptile specialise in. Despite battling with the mix this is a passionate and intense performance that doesn’t go unnoticed.

Pallbearer, by Rich Price Photography

Pallbearer, by Rich Price Photography

Sorrowful and passionate Pallbearer impress with their enchantingly morose take on doom. Recent opus The Foundations Of Burden is unquestionably the finest release in this genre of the last five years and the band’s gut-wrenching performance more than justifies their place on the bill. ‘Devoid Of Redemption’ and ‘The Ghost I Used To Be’ are achingly beautiful slabs of epic melancholia charged with elephantine riffage and bags of soul. Putting in a truly memorable shift on the main stage, the Arkansas outfit look destined to ascend to the very pinnacle of extreme music if they can maintain such breath-taking form.

Between The Buried And Me, by Rich Price Photography

Between The Buried And Me, by Rich Price Photography

Things get technical as progressive death metal band Between the Buried and Me close up the second stage for the weekend. One of the more usual booking of the weekend, they don’t seem to slot in with any of the running themes of the festival. Not put off by this, the room is suitably packed with people forcing their way through into the room as the quintet bounce their way through the set mixing up impossibly complex riff combinations with powerful clean vocals and gutturals. While this band may not have been for everyone, there certainly aren’t many bands that can pull off this kind of sound at a festival like Temples and still keep the crowd enraptured. I can’t say I enjoy the set, but I do leave with absolute respect for the band as both musicians and performers.

Earth, by Rich Price Photography

Earth, by Rich Price Photography

Americana drone rockers Earth deliver expansive desert soundscapes that should make for an enthralling experience but that is promptly derailed when Dylan Carlson’s guitar malfunctions leaving the band to improvise while a replacement instrument is located. Once this technical hitch is rectified the band launch into ‘The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull’ which seduces with its psychedelic textures. Carlson himself is reminiscent of a young Charles Manson and remains an enthralling character to behold as he coaxes transcendent notes from his instrument. The spaghetti westerns of Ennio Morricone are often recalled not least in the sorrowful ‘Old Black’ which draws tonight’s performance to a close. A fantastic example of an event curated by true music lovers, Temples looks to remain a Mecca for underground music fans for many years to come.

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WORDS BY ROSS BAKER, CAITLIN SMITH, & RICH PRICE

PHOTOS BY RICH PRICE PHOTOGRAPHY

Temples Festival 2015 Day 1: Live at Bristol, Motion

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Kicking off Temples Festival with a torrid mix of grind and punk Teef are a rude awakening. Sadly the shrieking of their vocalist is only appropriate during the more intense moments with several mediocre riffs tempering what should have ignited the blue touch paper. Oblivionized are much better. Nasty atonal riffs á la Discordance Axis, the Londoners bash through relentless cuts from their ‘Life Is A Struggle, Give Up’ platter in a fashion which forces early comers to take note or die.

The Afternoon Gentlemen, by Rich Price Photography

The Afternoon Gentlemen, by Rich Price Photography

The second band in the second stage were Leeds based grinders The Afternoon Gentlemen. Unperturbed by waiting for the displaced Young And In The Way to conclude their set on the main stage they managed to bring their own brand of party atmosphere. The massive bouncy energy of the band transferring into an enthusiastic crowd with ease. Crowd surfers were present very early on as well as paramedics. The Yorkshiremen Pummeled the crowd with song after song playing some newer tracks from the record they have coming out later this year. Grind is one of those genre’s that has to be done right and the ‘Gents certainly do it right but their performance struggles to hold the attention of the audience with many drifting away towards the end of the set.

Enabler, by Rich Price Photography

Enabler, by Rich Price Photography

Enabler are a revelation. Taking to the stage displaying a terrifying ferocity, they receive a huge reception from the crowd. A particularly potent mix of hardcore with a large side helping of metal. The second they started like a kick to the gut and it was immediately obvious they weren’t here to mess about, and the audience knew it. This was an impassioned performance which was quite incredible to watch. In a festival with no shortage of amazing bands Enabler proved to be a real highlight.

Deathwish signees’ Harm’s Way deliver their pulverising metallic hardcore to an appreciative small crowd. Brusing mosh fodder which won’t change the world but can certainly help work up a sweat.

Most of us rarely start a festival by being told to fuck off, but for those of us that headed over to catch an early set by blackened crusters Young and in the Way, that’s exactly how Temples 2015 kicked off. While many wouldn’t dare insult the fans, it fit perfectly into their take no prisoners sound. Those squeezing themselves into the tiny third for a dose of filth from the New Zealanders Meth Drinker were treated to a wall of slow gnarly distortion.

Trap Them, by Rich Price Photography

Trap Them, by Rich Price Photography

Trap Them’s first UK show in four years is heralded with unbridled enthusiasm and the group reciprocates every last bit of energy they receive, delivering a watertight set of no bullshit brutality. Numbers from ‘Darker Handcraft’ eventuate intensity and unhinged aggression. Seering filth encrusted riffage and brutal blasts see the main stage temperature rising to fever pitch.\\

Sacramento’s Will Haven punish the main stage with Grady Avenell cutting an intimidating figure onstage.The dissonant groove of ‘Fresno’ ignites a thunderous response with material from new EP Open The Mind To Discomfort getting a good airing alongside juicy cuts from the quintet’s stellar back catalogue. Sheer unbridled aggression tempered with the eerie melodies conjured by Jeff Irwin and Anthony Paganelli ensure this performance is nothing short of enthralling.

Will Haven, by Rich Price Photography

Will Haven, by Rich Price Photography

Ramping up the speed again, Magrundergrind whipped up the festival crowd as beer cans were replaced with people being thrown through the air. With the songs averaging just a minute apiece there was plenty of time to cram in the crowd pleasers. Eight hundred bruises and a sore neck later, we’re pretty sure that was a good time… if only we could think past all the concussion.

Nails may have been the more extreme proposition but Weedeater were no less deranged. Frontman Dixie looks truly unhinged, his cross-eyed forty-yard stare burning holes in the crowd while Travis Owens pounds his kit mercilessly with style, even showboating with his sticks without missing a beat. Resin tinged anthems like ‘Gimmie Back My Bullets’ provide more than enough material for those who the motto ‘tune low, play slow’ is a way of life.

Nails, by Rich Price Photography

Nails, by Rich Price Photography

It quickly became apparent that songs about “people who talk fucking shit,” is a mantra for Californian based Nails. Repeated before most tracks, it quickly turned into a bit of light comedy relief, which was welcome as the band were on devastating form that evening churning out track after track of ground-shakingly heavy grinding. Despite their popularity, Nails sound feels more at home in a grimy basement cellar, and seeing them on such a large stage just didn’t seem to translate as well as it should have. The same could not be said for Pig Destroyer. Heading out for the first of their two sets that weekend they threw the crowd into the nastiest cuts of grindcore from their collection. Members of the crowd who had any space to breath could count themselves lucky as the room dissolved into a crushed mass of bodies. The sacrifice? Flailing limbs and flying bodies: wherever you stood it was a slaughterhouse.

Converge, by Rich Price Photography

Converge, by Rich Price Photography

Who knew metalcore could fit in so well in this line-up. While the genre may have a bad reputation among doom fans, Converge are providing a lifeline to the genre with their powerful and energetic performance. Twisting the wires round his throat and clasping his head, front man Jacob Bannon seems endearingly honest performance backed by their abrasive, twisting backing. Converge proved that twenty-five years of performing is no excuse not to pull out a blindingly energetic set.

A rare UK outing for Bongzilla ensures the outdoor stage is packed despite impressive opposition from Boston trailblazers Converge. Dealing in the kind of lumbering riffs that revel in their atavistic primitively, they’re the idea doom act to close a darkened stage with their Neanderthal low end anthems. Undeterred by the completion, the Wisconsin act delivers a herculean performance of Sabbathian might which while somewhat myopic in is focus, remains a potent high which concludes day one in style.

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WORDS: ROSS BAKER, CAITLIN SMITH & RICH PRICE

PHOTOS: RICH PRICE PHOTOGRAPHY

The Mystical And Emotional Part II- Steve Von Till

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In part two of Ross Baker’s chat with Steve Von Till, Steve discusses the impact he is trying to have shaping young minds, an update of a recent illness that struck the Neurosis family, and the status of the new, long-awaited album from his much respected and beloved band.

It should come as no surprise that Von Till is a teacher by trade considering his love of researching musical history. “I find myself inspired a lot by things children say. They have such inquisitive minds. It gives me hope for the future of the planet. You turn on the television and everything is so negative. It is like; “Good morning, the world is fucked!” you hear a lot about Terrorism and war and how corrupt the world is all the time. It’s important to remember that we have a choice. We can make a better world for our families.”

Speaking to Steve, you get a picture of the nature loving family man, a far cry from the rugged brute stalking the stage during Neurosis shows. While Steve may live in another state away from bandmate Scott Kelly, who resides over in Oregon, but when Scott’s wife Sarah, fell prey to a mysterious affliction which left her temporarily unable to walk or see Von Till rallied to his friend’s aid. “She has improved a lot thankfully. It’s been really hard for (The Kelly family) but we have all been there for them as much as we can. I saw Scott a couple of weeks ago and luckily she is getting the care that she needs. Scott is a warrior. He’s a great father and has not had the easiest life. I remember when I did my first solo shows. I was fucking terrified! I talked to Scott about it as he has done way more solo shows. He still gets nervous and shaky too. There is no volume to hide behind when it’s just you out there. I hope to do more solo shows this year. I am playing in London at the end of June and my wife is German so we want to do a few dates over there.”

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That brings us to the subject of Neurosis itself. “We have the skeleton of the next record. Jason and Scott came down in February and we improvised some ideas. Steve Albini will be involved again. It’s our thirtieth anniversary so it’s important to make a great record. Making Neurosis music is instinctive. We are like a conduit for this beast.”

ROSS BAKER

The Mystical And Emotional – Steve Von Till

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If you were to think of a single word to sum up the attitude of Steve Von Till, that word would be dedicated. The sun has yet to rise in his hometown of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and at 5am he is already on the telephone to Ghost Cult, for this interview before he has to wake his children up, take them to school and drive the eleven miles to the Elementary school where he works.

It is this dedication, which has seen him forge an uncompromising trail in music via the bombastic and awe-inspiring Neurosis, the rural psychedelia of Harvestman and his solo work, steeped in the rich traditions of Celtic music and American folk. Considering Von Till’s hectic schedule, it is unsurprising that there has been little time to record the follow-up to 2008’s A Grave Is A Grim Horse platter. 

Making music with Neurosis is not a cerebral event. It is us surrendering ourselves to this beast that drives us. The solo material is my strange way of trying to honour those artists that inspired me. It has to have a depth of expression I require from music otherwise it is pointless. It is a challenge to craft something quiet and concise.” Indeed in the last seven years, Steve has been all but idle with Neurosis touring more frequently than they have for some time, running the band’s label Neurot and of course having time for family life it’s easy to see why new offering A Life Unto Itself  (Neurot) took such a time to appear. “I am so bad with time. It doesn’t feel linear to me!” Von Till chuckles. “I wanted to continue to use the traditional Americana aspects like fiddle and pedal steel that informs my work, but also to use some of the textures I have crafted with Harvestman. Some of the techniques where the guitar sounds like a synthesizer. Other than ‘Chasing Ghosts’ which was written on piano and ‘Night Of The Moon’ which I wrote on electric guitar, the focus remained acoustic guitar and vocals. It’s the sound of me picking up a guitar when everyone has gone to bed and just seeing what comes out!”

steve von till press photo 2015

It’s not hard to imagine Steve sat alone, guitar in hand coaxing out riffs before taking these skeletal structures to be fleshed out in the recording studio. Clearly a labour of love, created with absolute autonomy, Steve talked about what it was like to seek outside help in the shape of dedicated engineer Randall Dunn. “We’d met each other a few times. I have a studio at home so I could do it myself, but I don’t enjoy engineering. I don’t want to be responsible for capturing a good vocal take. Randall has a much wider variety of acts he has worked with. Of course he has worked with Earth and Sunn0))) but does a lot of stuff outside of our scene. We had some great conversations and his studio is excellent. It has a lot of vibe with a big vintage console. It was great having someone to bounce ideas off and get feedback from. We did recorded everything in just two days then we got the additional musicians in and did the overdubs. He brought in Eyvind Kang, who is an amazing viola player and composer. He asked me for some key words and ideas of what I heard. I gave him a few comments of what I heard, like references to the environments places and energies, very abstract stuff, but he took that and added so much. Sometimes the Viola parts sound like animals or take a Celtic feel. He had such a great intuitive nature. This album is a collage that occupies several different stories and emotional territory. J. Kardong our pedal steel brought a lot too. Not just a typical Americana feel. They read my mind, when I drove the six-hour drive home back to Idaho they really hit me. I realised this record was a brooding retrospective on my entire life. It’s traversing the mystical, emotion and mundane all mixed together.”

A Life Unto Itself may be a slight departure sonically from his earlier solo work, the lyrical content once again references nature as a metaphor with words like ‘Blood’ ‘Earth’ and ‘Moon’ all reoccurring. Greatly inspired by his rural surroundings, Von Till recalls what made him pack up his family and wave his home of San Francisco, California goodbye. “It’s like living in a beehive! Everyone is so busy and working on their next project. After my first daughter was born I could only see the filth around me. Needles in the street and condoms in the gutter. I knew I needed out when I was stepping past homeless people every day carrying a baby and four bags of groceries! If I didn’t give myself some space I was just going to hate everything. It has always been part of my personality that needs to be connected to nature. Humanity has lost that connection. If you live in a city you have to make a huge effort to connect with it. Now I live out here I have to make the effort to get to a city to go to a museum or buy some records but how often do you do those things? Pretty rarely. My drive to work is eleven miles down a country road and when I get home I am surrounded by twelve acres of forest. We have weather too here whereas San Fran is always so hot. Here you have to get your firewood and plan for the winter. I feel more connected to nature out here when I am a part of it.”

Listening to ‘A Life Unto Itself’ you find yourself transported to rural landscapes via the influences ranging from Celtic music to Steve’s take on traditional Americana. Neurosis love of a diverse cross-section of artists from Joy Division to Amebix to Pink Floyd is well documented, but as Steve tells us, these genres held his attention from an early age also. “My dad listened to John Denver and some of the more pop orientated folk music. It hit me who one guy with a guitar could be so powerful. I loved putting speakers by my head and listening to it. Growing up a metalhead and getting into punk you’d have thought that folk music would be the last thing for me when I was 15 years old and pissed off but I went back to it later via psychedelic. I love Tibetan monks and throat singing. Anything from another culture. I am obsessed with European folk traditions, they are where bluegrass and country come from! I loved going on that voyage of discovery. It all comes in circles the way people find these sounds and make them their own. I love the way people like Townes Van Zant and Gillian Welch have distilled these old traditions into new forms.”

 

ROSS BAKER

Alcest – Lone Wolf: Live at The Deaf Institute, Manchester, UK

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A respectably full venue is greeted by support act Lone Wolf, whose name is something of an oxymoron has he has another keyboard player and drummer with him. He might look for all the world like an IT manager who has come straight from a meeting but surely his sensitive balladry will win doubters over? In a word. No.

Lone Wolf, by Rich Price Photography

Lone Wolf, by Rich Price Photography


Ponderous keyboard ostinatos and bleating falsetto vocals do little to inspire anything above tepid half claps between songs. “Mr Wolf’s” polite and apologetic banter does little to excuse the fact that the majority of this set is turgid singer/songwriter dross wallowing in mediocrity.

Alcest, by Rich Price Photography

Alcest, by Rich Price Photography

The blue stage lights usher in a sense of dreamlike reverie as Alcest launch into ‘Opale’. Neige thanks the audience for their patience for the technical problems the French men initially face, but said gremlins are soon banished in favour of blissful hymns like ‘Summer’s Glory’ and older number ‘Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde’.

Transfixed, the audience stare longingly at the quartet as the beauty and of the songs seeks to penetrate their very souls. Despite the supposed narrow mindedness of metalheads Shelter era material is well received, but not with the same appreciation and devotion that heralds the older material. ‘Écalies De Lune Part 1’ is greeted like a long lost lover, but the most fervent reaction is reserved for the triumphant salvos of  ‘Autre Temps’ and ‘Délivrance’ where a couple of audience members are so overwhelmed with emotion they actually shed tears.

Alcest, by Rich Price Photography

Alcest, by Rich Price Photography

Much like Anathema before them, new opus Shelter has seen Alcest shift their focus to more gentle atmospheric sounds while retaining much of their loyal fanbase. Not many gigs see punters in Hate Forest t-shirts cosying up to those in Mogwai tops but that’s a testament to the crossover appeal the band has garnered.

Seducing all in attendance with delicate, soaring cadences wielded to lush atmospherics, tonight’s performance is exceptional once the early technical hindrances have been banished. Another bewitching and mesmerising performance from a seminal act who continue their metamorphosis into a brighter, more ethereal act whose beauty transcends mere genre boundaries.

Alcest - Deaf Institute 2015_

WORDS: ROSS BAKER

PHOTOS: RICH PRICE PHOTOGRAPHY

Nordic Giants – A Thousand Furs: Live at The Deaf Institute, Manchester

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Youthful trio A Thousand Furs mix delicate chords, synth and pulsing alt-rock with a vocal performance soaked in sensitivity. Their charming in between banter concerning graveyards aside, they garner many an approving nod from the near full room. Reminiscent of Jeff Buckley, his wiry frame belies the angelic vocal backed with some fine fretwork. Angular, emotional rock done right. A real one to watch.

Athousandfurs, by Rich Price Phptography

Athousandfurs, by Rich Price Phptography

Athousandfurs, by Rich Price Phptography

Athousandfurs, by Rich Price Phptography

From the moment the strange visuals and haunting electronic pulses begin the audience are captivated. ‘Evolve Or Perish’ sees the two band members draped in attire reminiscent of the “hawkmen” in action hero epic Flash Gordon. Despite the elaborate costumes the feathered duo, let the music speak for itself delivering an astounding sound clash of piano, synth, violin bowed guitars in a truly exhilarating assault on the senses.

Nordic Giants, by Rich Price Phptography

Nordic Giants, by Rich Price Photography


The strange films that accompany their set were a mysterious ailment causes scuba divers to only be able to breathe e from oxygen tanks who they murder each other for. Their splendid presentation fits their opulent, yet imitate surroundings. Transfixed the audience hang on each sample, eerie monologues augmented by lush piano and tribal rhythms.


‘Rapture’ featuring the exquisite vocals of Beth Cannon lures you into a clandestine world from which you never wish to escape so mesmerising is the experience.

Nordic Giants, by Rich Price Photography

Nordic Giants, by Rich Price Photography

Much of tonight’s set is derived from debut full length A Séance Of Dark Delusions (Kscope) in its entirety before bringing out some inspired older cuts, like the bewitching ‘Together’. This is a truly electrifying experience which elevates performance art into brave new forms. Two thirds of A Thousand Furs join the ‘Giants for a spellbinding performance of ‘Dissolve’ putting the icing on the cake of a truly momentous evening.

Nordic Giants, by Rich Price Photography

Nordic Giants, by Rich Price Photography

WORDS BY ROSS BAKER

PHOTOS BY RICH PRICE PHOTOGRAPHY

Primitive and Deadly – Host and Aldrahn of The Deathtrip

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Since its controversial rise to prominence, in the early ‘90s black metal has continued to engage and challenge listeners’ preconceptions by mutating into challenging new forms. Acts like Arcturus, Borknagar and Dødheimsgard have pushed the limits of the genre by incorporating techno, opera and folk into the mix but while DHG’s Aldrahn provides the vocals on The Deathtrip’s visceral Deep Drone Master (Svart) that is where the similarity ends. Arising from the ranks of black metal legends Thorns, The Deathtrip is the brainchild of Host (A.K.A. Paul Groundwell of pioneering UK label Peaceville) who has sought to plough a more atavistic and primitive furrow.

Host explains how this elite meeting of minds, lead to one of the genre’s most invigorating debut records. “Kvohst (A.K.A. Mat McNerney, ex <code> Graven Pleasures, Hexvessel, Ex DHG) was going to do vocals for The Deathtrip, but he played some of the instrumental demo songs for Aldrahn, as they were in touch at the time. Aldrahn was really into them and ended up taking over the vocal duties instead. The Snorre [Ruch] connection came about because of Aldrahn’s involvement in Thorns. Aldrahn played Snorre some of the demo songs with his vocals and Snorre loved what he heard and has been a great supporter since. In regard to putting the band together it didn’t make a difference as they weren’t people I knew through Peaceville. The band grew simply from people hearing and liking those old raw demo tracks. It feels like only the music did the talking, and for that I am most grateful. The very origins of The Deathtrip though, go back to around 2003 when I made some songs just for myself to listen to, as I heard barely anything at the time which brought much magic to these ears compared to what came before.”

Founded on hypnotic, repetitive riffs and beats Deep Drone Master, may not be a throwback to the genre’s origin’s but Host maintains that keeping the sound primitive was key to recapturing some of that old magic. “Well I’m sure there was some Burzum and Darkthrone in the early days as far as creating and maintaining a ‘feeling’ goes.” Host agreed. “Some of it was also simply because when programming drum beats I didn’t want to take too much time on that, so I made a primitive pattern, looped it, and made the riffs over the top. As the tracks unfolded I just thought that maintaining that same pace and beat brought a good hypnotic element, so why mess it up for the sake of ‘creative diversity’? It’s about having time to digest the riff and fall into the monotony of the patterns.”

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To some Deep Drone Master may sound like a homage to the past but as Host explains the album contains some extremely uncomfortable personal moments:


“The song ‘A Foot In Each Hell’ came about because of somebody’s suicide, but the song isn’t concentrated on or about the act itself. It is more about the fabricated kingdoms we invent to fortify the self and the powers of human control and persuasion.”

Mostly they deal abouta sentimental relationship between myself and my own subconscious mind. As well as the subconsciousness of humanity.”

Vocalist Aldrahn clarified. It is the connection between myself and humanity as well as the disconnection. It would be easier to answer for each song, but still it’s emotions and thoughts on paper. Many of these thoughts and feelings are difficult to describe, as they belong to my own perception of time and space an dare thus very personal.”

“Making Me” for example, deals about the complete absence of love, the total isolation from all warmth in life and then becoming it, like wearing it as an entity. A lot of them deal about journeying through the darker aspects of the mind, facing up with all sorts of ugliness inside and then forcing through it until it’s done.”

This all-star Norse/English act also feature the drum work of sometime My Dying Bride and Thine sticksman Dan ‘Storm’ Mullins and bassist Jon T. Wesseltoft. Host clearly valued the input of friends who brought his vision to life! “Well it was great to have Jon involved as he was another person who was a big appreciator of the demo tracks from early on, which he heard from Snorre I think. Bass was non-intrusive, so was sitting underneath nicely, keeping the pulse. It was the same for the drums. The idea was to keep the beat simple and keep it running. No prog rhythms for us thanks! ha-ha!”

The icy minimalistic approach does well to convey a harrowing sense of isolation. Much speculation surrounds the question of if The Deathtrip will continue to function as a studio project or if live ceremonies are on the cards. “I see it as more of a band.” Host cautiously approached. “There will be much more music regardless. We have had some interesting offers but it depends on many things such as DHG’s schedule.”

 

The clandestine nature of its creation and the pleasantly unexpected re-appearance of DHG to the live circuit this year, it will come as a surprise that a second record from The Deathtrip may not be that far away. “Well I had made quite a lot of songs and they were going perhaps even more trance-like and simplistic, but since then, the new riffs I’ve been making have reverted back a little more towards what was being done on the earlier demo tracks, with a bit more ‘attack’. It’s certainly not just replicating the old style though. There is more depth and feeling to the formation of the riffs. Some songs will need to be re-arranged but there is easily an album’s worth of ideas to focus on.” Host exclaimed. “A new album for this year seems rather optimistic even though I’d originally hoped it might’ve been possible. Will just keep writing, and maybe start some of the recording later in the year, as it is a busy year for Aldrahn anyway.”

WORDS BY ROSS BAKER