Shining a light on the joys and heartaches that lie at the intersection of the LGBTQIA community and the world of alternative music…
my male lifestyle. I was always under the impression that there were only two sides of the gender scale: male or female—never both. When I first started to hear the terms “non-binary,” “gender fluid,” “genderqueer,” and “gender nonconforming,” it really brought on a lot of clarity and definition for me. That’s when I truly understood who I was and why I was. The idea that there could only be two specific genders never sat well with me, and I was so excited to learn that half the world felt the same way!
FEATURING NICOLLE MAROULIS OF HIT LIKE A GIRL AND NO MORE DYSPHORIA New Jersey singer-songwriter Nicolle Maroulis is better known as Hit Like A Girl, a moniker the non-binary artist hopes will “inspire and empower people to embrace their femininity.” The band’s debut full-length, You Make Sense, was self-released on Sept. 16 and features eight emotionally raw—but undeniably catchy—tracks about finding and losing love. Though its songs are intimately personal, Maroulis hopes they will embolden listeners to put a positive spin on their own trials and tribulations, be brave enough to embark on their own projects, and ultimately, find happiness and fulfillment. Maroulis is also the founder of a nonprofit organization called No More Dysphoria, which aids transgender and non-binary individuals in paying for
major aspects of their transitions. Visit NoMoreDysphoria.com to contribute to the cause!
I currently identify as a non-binary genderqueer person. When I was younger, I would wake up some mornings and truly feel like I was a man, and some other mornings, would wake up feeling feminine. I grew up with two brothers and even played football on my town’s junior league in the fourth grade. My parents just considered me a tomboy. Thinking about it now, it’s funny how older generations can accept the term “tomboy,” but can’t wrap their heads around “non-binary.” I remember feeling confused about my gender identity growing up. I hated wearing dresses, hated the fact that my mom tried to drown me in pink, and was jealous that my brothers got to wear blue and got footballs for their birthdays. I figured, since I truly felt like a boy, that I had to be a boy and considered myself to be transgender. […] Then, there would be certain occasions when I’d see my classmates around me wearing really cute dresses and feminine outfits to school. I noticed how all the boys swooned over them, but they only wanted to play sports with me. I started to feel ugly and, also, guilty for thinking about giving up
ON SHOWING SUPPORT
I currently use they/them pronouns. I think pronouns are a really simple yet important first step toward being a true ally. I don’t like to assume a person’s gender upon first meeting them, so everyone is they/them to me at first until I can observe other pronouns used in regard to that person. I once met someone at a show who was running around asking everyone what their preferred pronouns were, and I thought that was awesome. It’s really refreshing to me to see a lot of young people become more comfortable with their gender identity and sexuality. I love seeing gender roles and norms constantly being challenged. I meet so many people with bushy beards and mustaches rocking a vintage dress and vibrant nail polishes, and no one gives a shit because it’s OK. If I had to conclude this in any way, I’d say that gender isn’t real, and at the end of the day, we are all just people. We are not defined by what’s inside our pants, but rather what’s inside our hearts. […] If anyone feels alone or confused about their gender identity and like they have no one to confide in, I want to affirm you that you are not alone. You are valid, you are important, and you are loved. I want to take this opportunity to officially extend my ears to anyone who needs someone to talk to. I may not have all the answers, but I’m a very good listener. I
can easily be reached through my transgender nonprofit organization’s email: NoMoreDysphoria@gmail.com.
ON SCENE UNITY
The music community, for me, has always been my safe space. It’s always been my place to run away to. On a Friday or Saturday night, I’d much rather be at a basement punk show than the clubs or whatever. What’s amazing to me is how similar every other state’s music communities are compared to one another. Sure, every state has their little things that make them stand out, but at the end of the day, everyone shares the same moral compass, if you will. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, shitty people in the music scene are slowly being pushed out, making shows a more comfortable environment for anyone who wishes to be a part of it. I can play a show or attend one in a place I’ve never been to and feel just as comfortable as I would in my own backyard. […] I’m never going to stop being a part of music, playing music, or attending shows. I’m still going to be the best that I can be and include everyone who wants to come along for the ride. That’s what music is all about to me: sharing that same passion across all spectrums. We share the same common ground.
SCENE NOT HEARD SHIFTS THE FOCUS FROM THE INDIVIDUALS WHO CREATE THE BEST ALBUMS TO TAKE AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES JOBS THAT KEEP THE INDUSTRY RUNNING. GO BEYOND THE MUSIC AND MEET THE PEOPLE WHO KEEP YOUR FAVORITE BANDS IN THE PUBLIC EYE…
in the music industry? “Sure! So, I’m a publicist. My job, in a nutshell, is to create opportunities in the media—magazines (like this one!), websites, newspapers, TV, etc.—for my clients. I work with artists and record labels (and other creative types) to set up every facet of a PR campaign for a new release, event, or tour. I will connect and pitch media writers on everything from premieres to reviews to features, interviews, live coverage, and more for the artists I work with.” Not only does Marlow handle fantastic PR campaigns, she also takes care of the people she works with, whether it be the artist or the writer. Responsive, enthusiastic, and friendly are just a few of the words that describe how Marlow handles her work. She thrives on the bonds that she creates with her clients, labeling them as friends and not just professional associates—and she’s our friend right back! What advice would Marlow give to people looking to get into PR? “Work hard. Be nice. Don’t take anything personally. Love what you do.” What has been her favorite project to work on? “I honestly don’t think I could ever pick a ‘favorite,’ but some highlights would have to be—early in
ublicist Stephanie Marlow holds one of the best jobs in the music industry. A music fanatic herself, she works alongside some of the most influential and extreme artists to ever be put in the spotlight. Marlow handles publicity for Deathwish Inc., Bridge Nine Records, and The Flenser and works independently with bands from Profound Lore, Sargent House, and many more! Originally starting in the DIY culture and underground music community of Chicago, she eventually landed a job at a record label. While there, she was involved in marketing, tour promotion, advertising, and publicity.
my career, working with Between The Buried And Me [and] Taking Back Sunday. Ceremony’s Rohnert Park was a good one for me. Defeater. Touché Amoré. Doing publicity for Deafheaven’s Sunbather was incredible and probably one of my most memorable PR campaigns ever. Pallbearer is another great band that I am fortunate to work with. Have A Nice Life’s The Unnatural World is an album that still blows me away. Modern Life Is War. Cold Cave. King Woman. Self Defense Family. Sannhet. Boris. Planning For Burial. Emma Ruth Rundle. Sumac. Full Of Hell. Iron Reagan. Oathbreaker. Wear Your Wounds. Russian Circles—who are one of my favorite bands ever. Drab Majesty. Mutoid Man is so goddamn fun too. I’m also really excited about new albums from Wolves In The Throne Room, Street Sects, All Pigs Must Die, Young And In The Way, Jaye Jayle—I could go on and on and on. I really love all the artists that I am fortunate enough to work with. They are all my favorite.” Stephanie Marlow is a “music nerd” like the rest of us. There’s a care and detail in her excitement about her friends’ creative endeavors that sparks inspiration in others. She believes in the bands she pitches, and we believe people should be hearing them. Scene Not Heard and New Noise are infinitely grateful for the fantastic work that Marlow and other publicists do for their clients!
“With some encouragement and support from a close friend who also worked in music, I realized there was a void in the independent publicity realm—especially for the music I was into—and decided to try working for myself and started a PR ‘company,’ which obviously was just me at that time. I was relatively fearless, dove in headfirst and worked my ass off. I’m still here 10 years later working my ass off, so I must be doing something right.” So, what is her exact job title, who does she work for, and what does she do with-
NEW NOISE 7
PHOTO: IAN LAIDLAW
PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
THE RADIATING PAIN OF SOCIAL UNREST- SCIATIC NERVE INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST CHRIS MATULICH BY TIM ANDERL
Although Sciatic Nerve are new to the punk landscape, their ranks boast a lineup of veteran punk mainstays whose resumes include releases on Fat Wreck Chords, BYO Records, and Red Scare Industries, among many others. Comprised of Chris Matulich and Kyle Lindauer of Nothington; Luke Ray of Swingin’ Utters and Cobra Skulls; and Tony Teixeira of Western Addiction, Nothington, and Cobra Skulls, the band meld a wealth of
experience to create a reinvigorated punk style that roars with ferocity and carries its own set of messages.
Hell Ya, the debut EP from Oakland’s Club Night, released in August via Tiny Engines, is 18 minutes of pure resilience. It’s not protest music, necessarily, but it imagines post-election angst as a sort of humanoid figure, gripping its hand and forcing its gaze upward in a frenzied attempt to find some shred of ironic beauty within our impending doom. It’s a desperate, instinct-driven batch of songs that somehow leaves the listener feeling as if they just conquered an unbeatable quest. It’s a project that knows we’re completely fucked, but rages forward anyway, because it feels like the only direction worth taking. “The whole record feels like an exclamation mark,” drummer Josiah Majetich says. He admits he still doesn’t know why they titled it Hell Ya, but his explanation of the band’s writing approach is a fitting answer: “Why not all yell at once?”
Majetich says. “We kind of love that cacophony that exists within the band, and that dynamic.” He adds, “We have sort of an agreed upon thing in our writing process where if someone has an idea, we at least try it.”
Tracks like “Shear” and “Rally” are chaotic swirls of enflamed synth noise, multi-layered vocal passages that erupt like grab bags of fireworks, thunderous drums, and conversely staccato guitar arpeggios that keep everything loosely strung together. There’s an anatomical essence to Club Night, a bevy of individual parts working toward a common goal. “We’ve all played different kinds of music and listen to different kinds of music,”
Matulich says this is the characteristic of punk that first captured his interest. “I was completely drawn in by the energy that punk music had to offer,” he recalls. “It was also angry and political in a time when we were all just learning that the world was a shitty place run
by greedy, morally corrupt people. The social commentary I found in the music is something that also drew me in and still resonates with me today. Some people don’t think music with a message is important, but I think some of the best music ever has been created out of passion for protest and social unrest.” Their self-titled debut LP, which hit the streets via Anxious & Angry Records on Oct. 13, waves
this passionate, socially conscious banner wildly and proudly. “When I’m waking up and seeing the news headlines on my phone every morning, I just can’t believe what’s going on in our world,” Matulich says. “I see Trump’s name on the headlines each day, then my stomach turns, and I’m already starting my day off wanting to leave it all behind. There’s been a lot of frustration lately, and I think you can probably hear that on the album in songs like ‘Buy a Horse’ and ‘I Give Up.’” Despite the band’s considerable combined pedigree, Matulich is hesitant to call Sciatic Nerve a supergroup. “I don’t really know if it is a blessing or a curse,” he admits. “I think it’s really silly to say we are a ‘supergroup,’ because none of us are famous musicians. It’s not like we are the Traveling Wilburys. That was a supergroup. [But] it is nice that the press is acknowledging our past projects and accomplishments in music, I guess.” “This band sounds a lot different than any of the other bands any of us have been associated with, but at the same time, the years of experience we have writing songs does shine through on this record,” Matulich concludes. “The songs are simple for the most part, but they are well done, and I think people will be stoked to hear what we’ve come up with. You don’t learn to collaborate with people and write good music overnight, and I think that’s the point of letting people know we’ve been creating music and touring in bands for so long.”
After initially assembling in spring 2016 to, as Majetich puts it, “play and see what happens,” the quintet’s career took a turn as unexpected as those in their music. “It came together really fast,” he says. “Literally a week or two after our second show, we had already had a record offer with Tiny Engines.” That experience of ending up with something completely different from how it started is exactly what happens on Hell Ya’s best track, the eight-minute closer, “Work.” After an unassuming buildup, the second half is a glorious pandemonium of hooky synth shrieks, a chugging rhythm, and a foray of warbled “Ooo-ooo”s. Majetich says the song really reflects the “what if we did this?” mentality the band employ, but the bottom line for Club Night is that there’s never just one thing they’re trying to do. “There’s no single emotion we’re trying to convey,” he says. “We seek to create space for people to find their own importance within it.”
INTERVIEW WITH DRUMMER JOSIAH MAJETICH BY ELI ENIS
Known only as The Hammer, Malleus’ guitarist reminisces about the origin of the mysterious Boston trio, recalling, “At that time, everyone we knew in the Boston punk scene was obsessed with Discharge and really raw D -beat. So, all these uninspiring Dis-clone bands started popping up everywhere, which only fueled our discontent with the current state of punk. I was absolutely obsessed with the  Satanic Rites tape [ by Hellhammer], and Discharge as well, and decided that instead of just doing another boring D -beat band, I’d take my obsessions in a different direction.”
The Hammer’s reluctance to spew retreads of worn paths has resulted in a classic release. Malleus’ sound embraces Discharge’s legacy of low-tuned sonic exuberance with crushing riffs that summon Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, and Bathory. The production is thorough, elevating each component while keeping the music raw and crusty. The Hammer reports, “ We recorded with Chris Corry of Magic Circle at his practice space, and we had our friend Ryan [Abbott at Side Two Studio] do the final mixing and mastering. The whole thing took two days to record.”
That obsession spawned Storm of Witchcraft. “ We spent a few years writing, really poring over every little detail of the songs and trying to make the best possible demo we could,” The Hammer says. Malleus self-released the tape in 2016, but Blood Harvest resurrected these seven ornery tracks and committed the vile violation to cassette, CD, digital, and, of course, vinyl on Oct. 27.
The Hammer advises that when looking to forefathers, one must be sure to inject their own fluid into the mix—and do it well. “Just keep the focus of the band very specific rather than drawing from all these various subgenres and convoluting the sound and direction of the group,” he says. “Nowadays, it’s so easy for anyone with a computer to record their own demo and everyone
DON’T LET THE BASTARDS GRIND YOU DOWN- FOX FACE
WHAT EVIL SPIRIT HAVE YOU FAMILIARITY WITH- MALLEUS
I N T E R V I E W W I T H G U I TA R I S T T H E H A M M E R B Y H U T C H needs instant gratification, so instead of taking their time to create something worthwhile, they rush into making a demo and posting it on the internet. Then, they complain when it gets passed over and people move on to the next shitty demo. A lot of time and effort went into making Storm of Witchcraft what it is.”
Besides the redundant riffs of D -beat clones, The Hammer also complains of uninspired metal lyrics in vapid party anthems, stating, “I would hope that Storm of Witchcraft—and anything else Malleus does—evokes more emotion or provokes deeper thought than just wanting to party or get fucked up.”
about menstruation [and] womanhood via the Little Red Riding Hood story, and the world didn’t end; it opened my eyes to feeling empowered through my own words and not being scared of what someone might think of it. I’m aware of myself and my style, and I know I’m more inspired when things are shitty, which, given what’s going on these days, should lend itself pretty easily to my writing process.”
Fox Face are a ripping band from Milwaukee who combine the social awareness of the riot grrrls with the snarling, stripped-down attack of garage punk. They basically answer the question: What would Kathleen Hanna fronting The Sonics sound like? On their debut full-length, Spoil + Destroy— out Nov. 3 on Dirtnap Records—they
make quite a righteous racket.
message, but naturally, we ended up making a record that reflects what we’re experiencing,” DeGroot says. “Right now, there’s a lot going on in the world, and I think that’s showing up in the final product. I’m not someone who writes a lot of love songs, or songs about cats or boys or whatever, so I feel the direction we headed was pretty natural given how much I personally have been feeling the current political climate. That said, when it came time to name the album, we thought about what kind of statement we wanted to make. We discuss it more concisely in our liner notes, but we called it Spoil + Destroy to point out the way women have been systematically disregarded and to convey the general anxiety we feel when things go sour in our lives.”
The band—lead vocalist and guitarist Lindsay DeGroot, guitarist Lydia Washechek, bassist Mary Joy Hickey, and drummer Chris “Chopper” Capelle— have made an album that confronts our troubled times. “There was not a conscious effort to have any one
When writing lyrics, DeGroot goes with what she knows best. “I write what I know; I write my own experiences,” she says. “I feel that’s all anyone can do. I used to be scared to be too vulgar or too real, to say what I really meant. I wrote ‘[( You’re Gonna)] Wish You Were Dead’
Ash Costello of New Years Day and Matt Montgomery, aka Piggy D., joined forces as The Haxans to release their debut album, Party Monsters, via Another Century this October—appropriately, on Friday the 13th.
know man, the universe is pretty deep,” he laughs. “It does a lot of shit we don’t know yet.”
MYSTERIOUS, SPOOKY, ALTOGETHER OOKY- THE HAXANS
INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST/GUITARIST LINDSAY DEGROOT BY THOMAS PIZZOLA
Montgomery has a long history with everything horror, dating back to his childhood in the not-so-spooky city of Houston. “It’s funny,” he begins, “I’m pulling out a box from storage that I just moved from Houston, Texas, with monster action figures that I had in 1980. I think it’s just woven into my DNA. I don’t know that it’s anything I do intentionally anymore. Like, I don’t sit down and say, ‘I’m gonna write a spooky record,’ I just wrote a record. In particular, with Ashley, with The Haxans, I don’t know that we sat down and surrounded ourselves with bats and candles and all [that], I think it just is what it is at this point.” The multitalented musician believes in the supernatural, because “I’ve seen a couple of things that I can’t explain,” he says. “I don’t
Some of those things we “don’t know yet” go down in what Montgomery calls the creepiest venue at which he’s ever performed: The Rave / Eagles Club in Milwaukee. “If you ask 10 musicians from America, they’ll all say the same place,” he says. “It’s an old Masonic Temple, and it’s just a weird kind of bad energy. Milwaukee in general is a little—I don’t know, but this tips the scales. You’d think between ‘Happy Days’ and Jeffrey Dahmer you’d find a balance. There’s a weird swimming pool in the basement of this place, and everybody likes to go down there and get spooked. [You] throw rocks and they don’t hit the bottom. It’s weird.” The band’s love affair with horror most obviously seeps into Party Monsters’ album art, which comes directly from Montgomery’s childhood closet. “The cover of our album is a collection of plastic Halloween
In addition, Fox Face turn in a dirge-y, garage punk version of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”—which they totally own. “It’s a great song,” DeGroot says. “I love pop music. There are a lot of elements of pop songs I like that I use all the time in my songwriting. Britney Spears isn’t a hero of mine or anything, but it’s a catchy-ass song. My favorite cover songs are ones that aren’t carbon copies of the original. I mean, what’s the point of doing it the same? People should just listen to the original if that’s what they want to hear, you know?”
INTERVIEW WITH MATT MONTGOMERY BY GABI CHEPURNY masks that I’ve saved since probably 1976, some of which I bought at a dollar store 20 years ago, and they’ve just been shuffled around from box to box to box,” he explains. “So, if you look at the album cover, it’s literally all Halloween masks that are sitting in my closet right now that I’ve saved because
they make me happy. They’re just shitty pieces of vacuum form plastic that are all colorful and bright and cheerful, and they represent complete death and decay and suffering and torture, and they’re made for children, and they’re 25 cents. I just find that fascinating.”
Squeezing into a particular mold or preconceived box isn’t the strong suit of Atlanta’s Blis., who released their debut full-length, No One Loves You, via Sargent House on Oct. 6. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we’ve never felt a lot of love from Atlanta,” vocalist and guitarist Aaron Gossett admits. “I don’t exactly fit the parameters of the average person playing our style of music in this city. I’ve always felt [like an outcast] from our local scene due to things that are out of my control, if you know what I mean. That’s Georgia for you.” Blis.’ debut is a painfully confessional ground zero where Gossett explores his struggles in depth. Gossett grew up Black in the South with a father who was either absent or abusive. He then fell in love with a white woman whose wealthy, religious family didn’t approve of their relationship. No One Loves You recounts Gossett’s experiences with gravity and newfound clarity. “The album began as just a few songs that I had been working on for a long time, even before Blis.’ existence, and they all thematically fit the major changes in my life at the time,”
he recalls. “I didn’t try to be vague in the lyrical delivery on the album, and there is definitely a message there. Anyone that chooses to listen to it will notice that immediately.” The LP follows two years of arduous work for the quartet, who recorded at a rented cabin in Hiawassee, Georgia. “We loaded all of our gear to the studio up a quarter-mile-long gravel driveway, because we couldn’t get our trailer up it. That was a really defeating moment for the band,” Gossett laughs. “Not to mention, the empty trailer almost fell on top of us while we were trying to re-hitch it. Not necessarily the best way to start things off. A good friend of ours and the current guitarist of the band Microwave, [Travis Hill], engineered the entire record. That all happened in November of 2016, and we didn’t end up finishing until February of 2017.” In addition to completing the record, Gossett fell into a new role that eventually became as intuitive as songwriting. “Becoming a father was really hard for me at first due to circum-
REINVENTION AND POSITIVE THINKING- RACQUET CLUB
PHOTO: AARON FARLEY
THE DREAMING OF DREAMS BY UNTWISTED SOULS- BLIS. PHOTO: ELENA DE SOTO
INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST/GUITARIST AARON GOSSETT BY TIM ANDERL stances that are, once again, out of my control,” he shares. “These days, it feels like second nature to me to be a father. […] Maybe, as soon as he’s old enough, Atticus can come see us play one day.” Aside from the hope that his son will someday experience his music firsthand, Gossett’s goals for Blis. are simple. “Honestly, I just want to be remembered,” he states. “A lot
of people will ask for money or fame or some dream tour that may or may not ever happen. I just hope we make a positive impact on music during our time as a band and those influences are able to show from generations well after our band is done.”
a reshuffling of the deck, this band isn’t [our previous bands]. We were all in agreement that this band should stand apart from our previous work.”
previous projects, but stands on its own as something singularly impressive. It is also the most optimistic and romantic record Sheehan has ever delivered. “I have to work at being optimistic. It’s a choice,” he says. “Art is a place to be my best self. That self is optimistic and pays attention to the small details and the magic in life. I guess that can be considered hopelessly romantic.”
The newly formed quartet features members of bands with crisscrossing backstories, discographies, miles, and years to their credit. “It’s a funny thing: even when I think we are making a radical departure from our past bands, the songs still have echoes of our past,” Shehan says. “I suppose that’s because we aren’t trying to reinvent ourselves. My hope is that we have become better at our craft, which is making rock music. We aren’t switching genres, we are just trying to refine our aesthetic.”
INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST/GUITARIST BLAIR SHEHAN BY TIM ANDERL The pursuit of any passion project or artistic pursuit for any substantial amount of time is bound to result in changes in priorities, skill level, confidence, and craftsmanship. Sometimes, the journey takes a turn down a new yet familiar path. There’s perhaps no better example of these phenomena than in Racquet Club’s debut self-titled album, released Sept. 29 on Rise Records.
“[Racquet Club] was a conscious decision to start something entirely new,” vocalist and guitarist Blair Shehan recalls. “Sergie [Loobkoff ] and I had reconnected, both musically and on a personal level, when Knapsack reunited. We started writing together, and once we had enough songs, I reached out to Bob [Penn] from The Jealous Sound to play with us. Bands are the sum of their parts, and while this was
With easily the most biting hardcore debut since the Mesozoic Era, Baltimore’s Sharptooth won’t be held back by your walls. Their adaptation of metallic hardcore takes on many attributes of the style: it’s melodic, thrash-y, chaotic, and refreshingly furious and honest. Clever Girl—released Oct. 27 via Pure Noise Records—sounds like a band who’ve been lying in wait for approximately 65 million years, and the results are incredible. Vocalist Lauren Kashan’s ravenous—and dexterous—vocals are as tense and attention-grabbing as a certain famous scene featuring velociraptors in a kitchen.
a departure from what’s long been the norm in hardcore and metalcore. Regardless, I think the ideas and concepts that I write about are things that anyone could get behind, regardless of their gender identity, race, religion, or sexuality.”
Sharptooth’s appeal stems from their melding of top-tier heavy music with Kashan’s weighty, unfiltered lyrics. Her unique perspective gives Clever Girl more power. “Our message is a pretty universal message of equality, personal self-expression, standing up for what you believe in, and fighting for positive change in the world,” she expands, “but through the lens of my own personal experiences as a queer polyamorous Jewish woman. All of those qualifiers color the way I see and experience the world, so just by that nature, our lyrics are going to be little bit of
10 NEW NOISE
It’s no coincidence that Sharptooth formed in Baltimore alongside protests of police brutality. “The band became our way to voice our feelings about all the turmoil in our city and to voice our solidarity with people who were actively being oppressed,” Kashan explains. “Going to protests and rallies in the city really drove home to me how important it would be in these coming years to help amplify the voices of other marginalized people. Then, with the election of Donald Trump, that need just became even more glaringly apparent. This band became our own personal form of protest every single time we played a show. It became our way of hosting a rally every time we got onstage.” The other side of Kashan and Sharptooth is their many dinosaur references, a nod to tearing down archaic notions that tear us down, as well as a lighter sense of appreciation. “Actually, dinosaurs have
“Speaking for myself, in past bands, I’m sure I had some hope or desire for what those bands might provide me in terms of popularity or success,” he reflects. “With this band, it was really about just seeing what we were capable of creating. We kept it together when it wanted to fall apart and made the best record we could. The record is done, and it’s all gravy from here.”
“In the past, I was creating chaos in my life and then reacting to it,” he admits. “I’ve made some big changes in my life in practical ways and in the way I view things. It’s a given that life is gonna get difficult and feel unfair at times. The only thing I can control is how I react to it. Tony Bennett had a quote I really liked: ‘Life teaches you how to live it if you live long enough.’ I believe that’s true. Being negative or pessimistic is a dead-end street. So, yeah—I definitely believe in keeping things posi.”
Produced by Alex Newport, Racquet Club is postured to appeal to fans of the members’
POLITICAL DISSENT WITH SERIOUS BITE- SHARPTOOTH
INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST LAUREN KASHAN BY NICHOLAS SENIOR always been a substantial part of my life,” she shares. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a paleontologist, but realized that working with living scaly creatures was way cooler, so I’m actually a herpetologist by profession—that’s a reptile and amphibian biologist. Any chance I have to blend those aspects of my life is a good time
to me. Also, what person our age didn’t love ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Land Before Time’ as a kid? It’s relatable, and it’s a way to bring a bit of levity to the band. Lyrically, we talk about some seriously dark and difficult issues, but we’re all a bunch of extremely goofy weirdos 99 percent of the time.”
AMENRA “We are trying to do the undoable,” Amenra vocalist Colin Van Eeckhout says.
PHOTO: ARNE CARDINALS
ral fort we can hide in whenever the world’s pains become too present.”
The Belgian band have so far released five albums in their Mass series, and, according to Van Eeckhout, the emphasis used to be on writing songs that would translate well to a live setting: two guitar lines, one vocal line, and no extra layers that the band couldn’t replicate onstage. That all changes with Mass VI, due out on Oct. 20 via Neurot Recordings, the label founded by Neurosis, a band to whom Amenra certainly bear a sludgy, doom-laden post-metal resemblance. “VI is where we let it all go and thought bigger than ourselves and dared to experiment with guitar and vocals,” Van Eeckhout says.
It’s not all darkness and pain, however. Drummer Bjorn Lebon welcomed a newborn son to the world while making Mass VI, and that duality shoots right to the core of what Amenra are all about: not just darkness, but the light that makes the dark possible; not just death, but life as its necessary antecedent. “Amenra albums are written and made out of pure necessity—that’s why it takes ages for us to finish one,” Van Eeckhout shares. “It’s tough to see loved ones suffer. It’s tough to have questions of that caliber without answers. That’s where we go looking for those answers: in our music, in our writing.”
greatly as a musician and guitar player. His hunger and drive to prove himself as a songwriter was inspiring and gave us the push we needed.”
During the songwriting process for Mass VI, members of the band lost parents and were forced to overcome as cancer and other illnesses plagued their families. Van Eeckhout himself faced his firstborn son having a tumor removed from his head. That adversity only made the band tighter as a unit, and their closeness comes through in the music, which the vocalist describes as “our own artistic refuge” and “an au-
Amenra also grew as a band in the process of making the album, with bassist Levy Seynaeve contributing to the songwriting of a Mass album for the first time. “It definitely brought new wind to the music without compromise,” Van Eeckhout says. “We have built an identity throughout almost two decades now that became inherent to our being as musicians. Levy joined us at a young age and evolved
Just as they did with Mass V, Amenra once again called upon the legendary Billy Anderson—the producer behind perhaps the definitive Neurosis album, Through Silver in Blood—to produce Mass VI, but even that repetition contributed to their growth as a band. “Billy was able to internalize a certain ferociousness in the heavy parts and an unmatched vulnerability and sadness in the calm parts,” Van
QUEEN MOO Queen Moo’s 2015 self-titled debut sounds like it was composed atop a dinghy that was dragged out to sea by a formidable riptide, then recorded shortly after washing up on shore, the band still wracked by seasickness. It is a wobbly, seemingly nausea-induced bucket of songs that lurch, rattle, and tumble over themselves in a remarkably Captain Jack Sparrow-esque manner: charmingly precarious and ultimately terrific. Despite lyrical indications of instability— like “My head’s been cloudy for three long years / I’ve been too fucked up to think” on the standout “Don’t Think I Do”—the arrangements are elaborate, and the band held their liquor while sweeping through licks that most couldn’t nail sober.
However, unlike the increasingly selfdestructive Sparrow, Queen Moo cooled it on the booze for their second voyage, Mean Well, which launched in late August via the port of Topshelf Records, setting sail at the helm of a sturdier vessel in the form of crisper production and with two new crew members aboard. The Connecticut outfit—skippered by prolific DIY-sters, guitarist and vocalist
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INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST COLIN VAN EECKHOUT BY MIKE GAWORECKI Eeckhout shares. “He did a great job on our 2012 album and did an even better job on Mass VI. We all grew.” The album was recorded in the forests of the Belgian Ardennes, a setting that Van Eeckhout says almost certainly helped shape the record. “It always adds to the whole when you’re all snowed in together in some remote forest studio,” he notes. “It kind of makes it feel like a pilgrimage. You’re really in it together, you know? No outside interference. We really need that to fully succeed.”
PHOTO: KELSEY AYRES
Jason Rule and bassist and vocalist Kevin O’Donnell—still sound like they forgot their anchor on Mean Well, but it’s a choice that allows the band to venture into territory that other landlocked acts have deemed too risky. That’s what makes Queen Moo so thrilling. Their songs don’t rely on preplanned coordinates, instead taking the shape of the churning waves below and leading listeners to unexpected destinations.
“Our M.O. is kind of to just stand out,” Rule says. “That’s what we always want to do.” “It’s often driven by ‘What would a band we really don’t like do here?’ and ‘Let’s not do that,’” O’Donnell adds, describing their approach to writing. Seafaring wordplay aside, the band really don’t sound like anyone else in their corner of the musical globe. Topshelf has been host to many of the noted “emo revival” releases of the 2010s, but “emo”—or even a tag as ambiguous as “indie rock”—would be a lazy, inaccurate description of Queen Moo’s peculiar timbre. Rule’s
INTERVIEW WITH JASON RULE AND KEVIN O'DONNELL BY ELI ENIS abstract vocals have more of a Sinatra vibrato than anything out of the last half-century, and not a single moment on the largely through-composed Mean Well sounds like its suckling from the teat of ‘90s nostalgia. In fact, the band say that people often label them as jazz. “We love jazz, and most of our collective listening is jazz music, but we’re not trying to make jazz music,” O’Donnell says. “We almost always describe ourselves as rock ‘n’ roll. With no modifiers or footnotes with that.”
It’s a badge they wear proudly on Mean Well. From the explosive intro track, “What It Comes To,” to the jagged rhythms in “Gone” to the unplanned horns in “Goals”—the band say their friend unexpectedly showed up at the studio with a trumpet—to the facemelting solo closing out the record on “Ariel,” Queen Moo truly embody the boundless spirit of rock ‘n’ roll. “It’s really just the only way we know how to do things,” Rule says.
OMOTAI Houston’s Omotai were poised to kick off a tour on Sept. 29 and drop their third album—an audacious double-LP—on Oct. 6. Then, Hurricane Harvey arrived in late August to wreak havoc their city. Despite the unpredictable devastation, Omotai forged ahead with their plans, completing a 10-day jaunt around the western U.S. and releasing A Ruined Oak, their third album in five years, via Tofu Carnage Records. “We’re holding up fine, but there’s definitely a lot of anger simmering,” guitarist and vocalist Sam Waters shares about the band’s post-Harvey status. “I watched my parents lose everything— not because of the hurricane itself, but because of decades of poor city planning and restrictions on rebuilding that essentially preclude their recovery. Houston has always been this cautionary tale in poor administration, but Harvey drove it home in ways that shocked a lot of people.” It may seem less important considering the bigger picture, but it was rather bad timing for an impending album and tour. “It’s important in that it demonstrates what Houstonians can expect moving forward, both environmentally and governmentally,” Waters says. “But yeah, we’ve been looking forward to the album and the tour for a while now. We wanted to go big and wrote a ton of material for [A Ruined] Oak, put more
thought into how the record would play as a fully realized whole, and pushed ourselves quite hard, particularly on the vocal front. It definitely wasn’t easy—I had a pretty heinous car crash in 2015 that left me with some serious injuries—but my friends [drummer] Danny [Mee] and [guitarist] Jaime [Ross] had joined the band since the last album, and they were hugely influential on the effort, and [bassist and vocalist] Melissa [Lonchambon] and I were really able to lock in with them. They helped make the band stronger than it had been, and it was a really positive experience despite the pitfalls.” With the addition of two new members, the band’s writing has surged on A Ruined Oak, along with deep production from Chris Ryan of Dead City Sound. Fusing an eclectic bunch of influences, the main grit and rumble remain—everything is just done better and with more conviction. Dual female and male vocals scream over a groove-motivated cluster of gritty riffs. As much as this record gut-punches, the technical perseverance elevates their sound—especially the intricate guitar work, piercing leads, and precise yet loose drumming. Omotai bring a caustic execution of original ideas and fortitude. “I think it’s definitely our most fully realized effort to date, and it represents where we want to be as a band,” Waters
PHOTO: ANGELA LEE
INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST/VOCALIST SAM WATERS BY HUTCH shares. “We’ve always aimed to be pummeling, but we also try to write songs that are sophisticated and challenging. There are so, so, so many ways to be totally boring and sound like every other band out there. That’s not to say I play in the most original band, but if you don’t at least try to speak in your own voice, why stand up to be heard? I think this record is our voice, more so than previous albums.” Of the album’s themes, Waters says, “Personally, I’m drawn to the idea of perpetual unknowables, answers that just can’t be had. I think an important part of growing as a human is the process of letting go of the desire to have all the answers. Having curiosity and imagination is great—it’s crucial and should be encouraged—but I think the desire for
hard answers can also make people susceptible to manipulation, whether by religion or political maneuvering or whatever else. So, we were kind of hoping to explore that a bit within the context of a historical mystery that probably doesn’t have a hard answer forthcoming.” So, a double-LP, huh? How does the vinyl and packaging look? “Dude. It’s insane,” Waters exclaims. “Sean Mehl has this crazy gift for design and layout, and he perfected the original idea in a way that we weren’t expecting. Just laying eyes on it for the first time was really fulfilling. Everything from the image and texture of the sleeve down to the color of the vinyl—it was like unwrapping a jewel.”
MONSTER TREASURE Just a year after offering their fuzzed out, distortion-heavy, self-titled punk rock debut to the world, Stockton, California’s Monster Treasure—who take their name from the song “Big Baby” by the band Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet— are back for another go ‘round. On their aptly titled II, the trio channel that same fun mix of Dinosaur Jr. versus My Bloody Valentine-esque rockers. The album was released on Oct. 6 via London-based label Leisure & District on CD, digital formats, and rainbow splatter vinyl. “I feel like writing the songs wasn’t easier, but I think we felt more confident about it,” guitarist and vocalist Briana Granados says. “[Bassist and vocalist] Rachel [Orimo]’s songwriting has always blown me away; the songs she wrote on this record are amazing, and I truly feel we’ve grown a lot as musicians since we started. RJ [Mar]’s drumming is insane. We’re super proud of this record.”
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Just as they did on their first full-length effort, the band recorded with Ben Hirschfield at Nu-Tone Studios, a longtime friend of the band. “We are pretty comfortable with him and the studio, so we were at ease in respect to the environment, but we had some songs that weren’t fully developed yet, and tying up the loose ends on those tracks was definitely the biggest challenge,” Granados says. “The first time we went into an actual studio was for the first LP, and I remember being really damn nervous about I N T E R V I E W W I T H G U I TA R I S T / V O C A L I S T the whole thing! Now, I find myself being a little depressed when recording is over.” breakup, but things went way south, and it was beyond my control. I quietly dealt One of the standout tracks on an album with a lot of undeserved spite and pasthat features many is the stellar “fuck sive aggression from this person, and it you” anthem, “No Hope,” a song many can got to the point where all three of us had to disconnect socially from him and his likely related to. friend groups. I hadn’t really experienced “That song is about an ex-boyfriend,” a vengeful ex before, and it was really conGranados says. “I thought this person and fusing and painful. A lot of my songs are I would remain longtime friends after our about navigating my feelings about it.”
BRIANA GRANADOS BY JOHN B. MOORE Monster Treasure just packed in a U.K. tour with London’s SLOWCOACHES— Granados reports being “so excited to finally get to see them rip multiple nights in a row!”—and are now setting their sights on booking some U.S. tour dates in support of II.
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KING KHAN King Khan has been astounding people with his uncontained psychedelic soul and incendiary stage presence since he created King Khan And The Shrines in 1999. His outrageous costumes, musical pyrotechnics, and verbal gymnastics have made him a legendary figure. Khan’s genre-shifting abilities have also been put on display with the demented garage rock of The Spaceshits, the freewheeling post-punk of King Khan & BBQ Show—his duo with Mark Sultan—and numerous projects with members of The Moorat Fingers, Demon’s Claws, and GZA of Wu-Tang Clan.
When he decided to make his first solo album, Khan came to Oakland and enlisted the help of producer and musician Greg Ashley. Ashley reformed The Gris Gris—one of Khan’s favorite Oakland bands—and in one week, they banged out Murderburgers. The record was released on Khan’s own Khannibalism label, with the help of the Ernest Jenning Record Co., on Oct. 13. “The album was recorded entirely on analog tape,” Khan says from his Berlin home. “Greg Ashley was the mastermind behind Creamery [Analog Recording] Studio in Oakland, which sadly no longer exists. I love analog tape, but I am no purist. I like digital
PHOTO: TALLY TUPELO
as well, [and] using both can make life so much easier. It’s all about the microphones! LeWilson Microphones are my favorite.” “I’ve known [The Gris Gris] for years. Their two albums would be tucked under my arm on that desert island, for sure,” he continues. “I love Greg in all his incarnations, and we had talked about recording together for years. I managed to get the original Gris Gris lineup, which included Garrett Goddard on skins. It was wonderful, even though Oscar [Michel] had his heart smashed by some ex-lover and was literally crying while playing bass for some of the songs. If you listen closely, you can hear his soft Mexican sobbing on some of the tracks.” The band create a huge sound with a retro, late ‘50s, early ‘60s feel in evidence throughout. “Greg showed me that abundant amounts of boxed wine cannot hinder a Texan music producer,” Khan quips. “The big sound comes from our combined weight, which is probably about 500 pounds. The album wasn’t really recorded, we just poured a bunch of DMT on some magnetic tape and set it on cruise control.” As is his wont, Khan’s songwriting on
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Murderburgers combines upbeat, infuriatingly catchy melodies with lyrics full of anguish and uncertainty. “My inspiration comes from a sensitivity to desperation that’s been in me since I was an infant, be it my own desperation or that of the world,” he explains. “These times are so fucked up, but what is needed most is music that heals wounds and brings people together to celebrate both harmony and dissent. We need music that isn’t made to be fodder for the masses. Like Sun Ra says, you gotta make the music that comes from inside your body, that resonates with the music of the spheres. I look around and see so many kids these days that are lost in a daze of useless
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information. I wish rock ‘n’ roll could save them, as it did me.” And just what is a “murder burger”? Khan divulges, “The concept of murder burgers came about partly from one of my favorite songs by David Peel & Death and a dream I had about opening a burger chain in the most dangerous cities in America. My feeble attempt at becoming the next Ronald McDonald. The cover art shows an oil refinery on LSD churning out death and destruction—you know, murder burgers. What is the true price of what we consume? Is it murder? Get it?”
CALIGULA'S HORSE Australia is home to some of the finest rock and metal in the world. However, the genre in which they seem to really go above and beyond is progressive rock. Bands such as Karnivool, The Butterfly Effect, and COG have all paved the way for younger bands to emerge, giving new life to a genre that, at times, seems oversaturated. Caligula’s Horse are no strangers to this oversaturation, but bassist Dave Couper feels that the band have really hit their stride with their latest record, In Contact, released Sept. 15 via InsideOut Music.
“I definitely feel like the songwriting team of [vocalist] Jim [Grey] and [guitarist] Sam [Vallen] and our ability to expand our horizons has really come around this record,” Couper says. “‘Will’s Song (Let the Colours Run)’ is the fastest song we’ve written by a mile, and there’s an element of cohesion that’s there that wasn’t necessarily there before. It’s been an interesting eight months, that’s for sure.”
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The album itself can be described as “interesting” as well, combining all the work from the band’s previous records and allowing that creativity to develop hit after hit, with no misses. In Contact’s themes are also quite different from anything they’ve done before. As Couper points out, “This one’s a bit darker across the spectrum, but you can hear that when you compare it to [2015’s] Bloom. It’s not entirely devoid of happy moments, but overall, it’s definitely darker. There were more pop elements on Bloom than there are here, [and there are] longer songs and deeper thematic elements.” The album also closes with a 15-minute track, “Graves,” which is the band’s longest by a mile. Couper is quick to point out that it could have been even longer. “It was the first thing we worked on, and the track was originally planned to be around the 25-minute mark,” he notes, “though it didn’t necessarily end up that way in the end.” The band’s musicianship and the ease with which they create music
INTERVIEW WITH DAVE COUPER BY SPENCER SNITIL is evident throughout the record, as it paves a wonderful journey through the minds of five highly talented individuals with a lot to say—and many different tongues to say it in. Caligula’s Horse are excited to tour the United States soon, as Couper says, “Next year, the hope will be for us to visit the States. It’s well overdue, and it’s getting a bit silly that we haven’t touched any part of the U.S. We’re doing Europe next year, but America is
next in the pecking order as far as new territory is concerned.” Make no mistake, Caligula’s Horse haven’t reinvented the prog rock wheel, but they have taken a new approach to it, crafting a version that’s smooth, precise, and durable. In Contact is great proof that prog isn’t dead, and that it’s bursting with life Down Under.
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ustralia’s Ne Obliviscaris have been one of the most impressive and fearless innovators within the progressive metal community for the past several years. Whether it’s their fearless approach to songwriting, the heavy inclusion of clean vocalist Tim Charles’ incredible violin performances, or their constant experimentation with multiple genres, the band have always been seemingly determined to leave their mark on the modern metal landscape. On Oct. 27, Ne Obliviscaris returned with their third album in five years—the Season Of Mist release, Urn—and despite a few changes within the group, they seem as confident and cohesive as they have ever been before.
more intense, whilst also creating a mix that was more organic and allowed the melodies and more beautiful moments to shine through.” Ne Obliviscaris have worked with heavy metal production powerhouses like Fascination Street Studios’ Jens Bogren on previous releases, but Urn is their first release working full-time with a professional producer. The band enlisted Mark Lewis at the illustrious Audio Hammer Studios, who has worked with tons of household names in the underground metal community ranging from Cannibal Corpse to The Black Dahlia Murder.
“Honestly, with this album, we really pushed ourselves in every area,” Charles says. “Everyone was really focused on trying to ensure that the hundreds of shows we had played and all the hard work we had put into honing our craft would come out on this record by way of even better performances and the best songs we could possibly write.
“Getting the chance to spend such a large amount of time with Mark Lewis, getting every little detail of the mix exactly the way we wanted it to be really resulted in an album much more reflective of our artistic vision than what we have had on our previous two albums, without a doubt,” Charles says. “We were constantly sending mixes back home to the rest of the guys, as it was very important that everyone had significant input in how every-
For me personally, there was also a strong focus on developing and varying my clean vocals more in particular.”
thing came out, as we are definitely a band where we need everyone to contribute for it to truly become a Ne Obliviscaris album.”
Urn is certainly a challenging and rewarding record like their previous releases, but it’s not without its own surprises. One of the most noticeable changes for fans of the band will be the album’s decidedly different production style, which features a more compressed and brutal sound.
On top of releasing another incredible piece of progressive metal, Ne Obliviscaris are touring North America with the technical death metal wizards in Allegaeon through early November—a pairing that is sure to draw in fans from varying audiences.
“As much as we loved [2012’s] Portal of I and [2014’s] Citadel, we felt that the production and mixing style didn’t quite capture how heavy and extreme the band’s music is at times, especially when compared to how we come across live,” Charles says. “We have often had people remark that they were surprised at how intense our live shows are, and we wanted to try to get that energy across more in the way we created Urn. [We had to] make the heavier stuff bigger and
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“Our fans in North America have blown us away from the first time we landed on your fair shores in early 2016, and we are really excited to be launching our album in the USA,” Charles says. “We’ll definitely be including several songs from the new album in our upcoming tour, and anything we can’t fit in this time we’ll try to add in next time we come through North America, as we definitely would love to give everyone the chance to hear every one of these songs live.” PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
hirty years after emerging from Brazil and putting their stamp on the world with Sepultura, Max and Iggor Cavalera are still at it. The brothers return to their thrash and metal roots on Psychosis, an insane reaction to a world gone mad and their fourth Cavalera Conspiracy album, due out Nov. 17 via Napalm Records. “We live in a crazy time right now, and I think music has always been there for those times,” vocalist and guitarist Max Cavalera asserts. “I had done a real, kind of, political record like [Sepultura’s 1993 LP], Chaos A.D., with stuff like ‘Refuse/Resist’ and ‘Territory,’ and I think both of them have this kind of political feeling.” With songs like “Terror Tactics,” “Hellfire,” “Spectral War,” and the title track, Psychosis is right up that alley according to Cavalera. “It’s all really heavy music with really powerful words, and that’s what we’re here for,” he says.
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The brothers shook things up and enlisted producer Arthur Rizk to record the new album. Cavalera says working with someone new helped remind him of a younger version of himself. “He’s a big fan, man,” he shares. “He kind of reminded me of who I am, ‘cause sometimes, you can kind of forget that, you know? He reminded me I’m the guy from Brazil that had this metal fire and wanted to deliver that fire to the world.” Cavalera certainly has a lot of creative irons in the fire these days. He and Iggor have been doing their Return To Roots tour, revisiting Sepultura’s Roots live in its entirety after 20 years, and Soulfly have been performing the Nailbomb—Cavalera and Alex Newport’s mid ‘90s project—album Point Blank on a month-long U.S. tour ending Nov. 8. “Point Blank came out in ‘95, and it’s a great record,” Cavalera says. “It’s powerful stuff. It’s perfect for right now. It’s so relevant.”
Admitting that “everything influences everything,” Cavalera says the Return To Roots tour begat not only the Nailbomb outing, but also Psychosis. “The Return To Roots tour influenced the new Cavalera [Conspiracy] record, which is a real back-to-thrash metal mix, which was pretty much formulated—I think [the 1991 Sepultura release], Arise, was the peak of it,” he admits. “We kind of went back to that formula and the influences of what we hear right now, stuff like Full Of Hell, NAILS, and Genocide Pact.” “I’m very proud of the record, and I hope people like it,” he adds. “It’s kind of like the metal storm is still with us, and I can’t wait for the whole world to hear it and [to] tour with it—but we got to do the Nailbomb tour first,” Cavalera laughs. Ultimately, he says the connection with fans through metal is still the most important thing. “When I meet a lot of the fans, the best thing I get is when they tell me that my music has helped them with their lives—or even saved their life,” he shares. “For me, that’s better than a Gold Record or a Grammy. Music is a great thing. It has saved me. Metal—I can totally say metal has saved my life.”
After losing a decade or so with Iggor after his acrimonious exit from Sepultura and reuniting with his brother in Cavalera Conspiracy in 2007, it’s that same bond— between two brothers in metal— that fuels the Cavaleras’ fire 30 years later. “I’m so glad we found music and found metal,” Cavalera says fondly. “Blood is thicker than water, man. My brother, we went through a phase where we didn’t speak for 10 years, but I always knew in my heart it was gonna be OK, that somehow, we were gonna make up and figure it out—and we did it. We started Cavalera Conspiracy, and now, our relationship is better than ever.” “We have that kind of connection again,” he concludes. “We love going on tour now. It wasn’t that fun, especially at the end of the Sepultura days; there was a lot of pressure and negativity, and that’s not around anymore. We just do it for the pure fun and magic of making metal together. It’s awesome. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”
PHOTO: ARNE CARDINALS
ritish group Enter Shikari have always been big, brash, and bold. Their electronic hardcore sound has morphed and matured over the years, yet vocalist Rou Reynolds’ politically sharp lyrics have remained the band’s trademark. Their idea that all people and subgenres should come together in unity for a better world has translated to some of the best, most insightful punk of the past decade. However, sometimes one needs to look inward and realize the worlds around him and inside him both need fixing. Such is the case for the band’s astounding post-punk opus, The Spark, released on Sept. 22 via [PIAS] Recordings. That classic Shikari swagger and love of the odd is still there in spades, but aggressive metallic club bangers like “Rabble Rouser” are the exception, not the norm this time around. This change occurred as Reynolds’ life seemingly crumbled. He realized he needed to stop the panic attacks and self-destructive behavior and focus on a little self-discovery. “Everything that I went through in these past few years— which is probably the roughest period in my life—I think it emboldened me in terms of lyrics,” Reynolds explains. “I’ve always written lyrics that are very wider, bigger perspective, trying to be philosophical and provide relevant social commentary. That’s something that I love doing, and I’m very passionate about. The main thing about Shikari’s content is that it needs to be passionate; that’s the only rule we really have. So, there’s also a part of me that was a bit timid to speak too much about the
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personal, so it was almost like an excuse to write about the world.” “I think I didn’t want to open myself too much, or I didn’t think I had much to give,” he continues. “I’ve had a fairly comfortable life, so it wasn’t until the events of the past few years that I felt the need to connect more and to open up about the mental health issues I’ve been through. I think that’s the best way to create a conversation and to make people see parallels with their lives and to try to break down that pedestal that someone in the limelight has to be this strong, unmovable figure who’s emotionless—not that I’m particularly famous,” he laughs. How did that translate to the musical aspect of The Spark? Reynolds expands, “The music that I was writing, even though the album was addressing dark and serious subjects, is quite upbeat and melodic—quite happy, really. That was me subconsciously thinking that in a year’s time, the songs will be made and we’ll be playing these songs live. I had an underlying hope that I would be in a happier place, that I would be singing these upbeat songs and have gone through everything and would actually be able to enjoy the positive sound of the music. That’s definitely what’s happened.” An emboldened sense of self is the perfect pairing for Enter Shikari’s most musically assured effort yet. “For us, [the record] feels like the second coming of post-punk,” Reynolds shares. “Those early ‘80s bands—everything from Joy Division, The Sound, Depeche Mode—
all that kind of stuff was a huge influence on this album, because I feel like with all we’re going through, perhaps this is my post-punk era. I’m very fed up with heavy music. I think it’s become very lackluster and banal, and it’s not going anywhere. There’s still some incredibly exciting bands, but in general, I find myself not being very inspired by punk rock or metal now.” The ease of the new musical direction was surprising for Reynolds, but he found it quite challenging to put words to the songs. “There was a real vision and focus I’ve never had before, but the lyrics were really difficult,” he expounds. “It wasn’t until I paired up the personal with the social, global, [and] political that I sort of started to see a route of putting it all together. The Spark isn’t just the sort of flicker of hope for a new direction. It’s also on the political circuit; we’ve seen that here so much with [Leader of the Labour Party] Jeremy Corbyn. He’s awoken a whole swath of people who were completely apathetic to politics. Things are sort of hopeful, but it’s hard to cling on to that youthful energy when we’ve got this whole Brexit thing going on. That married the personal and the political: the idea of coming out of an era of such apathy and division and spiteful tribalism.” The thematic hallmark of Enter Shikari’s career is still at the center of The Spark: that music can be a wonderful source of unity. “I think, really, today, it’s the only thing left that brings people together on a wide scale,” Reynolds says. “The important thing is that it brings people together indiscriminately.”
PHOTO: ARNE CARDINALS
“When you’re in a band as long as we’ve been a band [and] you’re on your sixth studio album, the mindset goes a little bit too much in the way of: ‘What do we think the kids want to hear? What do we think our fans want to hear?’ And for me, I couldn’t really give a shit about that. There was too much that was going on with me and too much that I was dealing with to care about all of that.”
Relocating from Montréal to Los Angeles, lost relationships, and coping with his mother being ill were only a few of the factors that took a heavy toll on Barnett leading up to the core writing process of True View. “[I] came to this turning point where I realized I was pushing so much of my past down,” he says, “and everything, all at once, came up right in the middle of this shitstorm. It created the ‘perfect storm’ for me. And I kind of fell into this deep depression, which is something These are the words of Jes- I’ve never really had happen se Barnett, lead vocalist of before.” the melodic hardcore band Stick To Your Guns, a Cali- Barnett began seeking outward fornia-based group known help, turning to friends, loved for preaching social and ones, and a therapist, but most political activism through importantly, to his mother. His their lyrics and stage pres- conversations with her evenence. But this time around, tually inspired much of True with over a decade of expe- View. The album’s opening rience, the band’s frontman track, “3 Feet From Peace,” even chose to take a step back samples a voicemail of positivifrom social commentary and ty and encouragement that Barsearch inside himself. Thus, nett’s mother left him during True View—released on Oct. this difficult time. “This is such 13 through Pure Noise Re- a personal record for me,” he cords—was born. says. “I’ve really never written
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a record like that before. […] I had to say a lot of things to certain people.” Typically, Barnett writes songs to send messages to the masses, but several tracks on True View, like “Delinelle” and “56”—which is code for the initials S.G.—are messages directed solely to individuals in his life. “So much of this band is about direction, whether it be a political direction or a social direction or anything like that,” Barnett continues. “I think that this was more of a personal direction for me, focusing on where I wanted to go and where I wanted to end up. But before I could do that, I had to realize the path that I was on, and I didn’t really like the path that I was on at all.” The album chronicles Barnett’s path to overcoming hardships and is broken into parts, with different songs representing different stages of his journey to control his depression: track two, “The Sun, The Moon, The Truth: Penance of Self”; track
seven, “The Inner Authority: Realization of Self”; and the 13th and final track, “The Reach for Me: Forgiveness of Self.” “The Sun, The Moon, The Truth: The Penance of Self” coincidentally dropped as True View’s first single. “I think that was more of a sonic thing, where I think people had become used to us releasing really melodic songs,” Barnett explains, “so, we were like, ‘Let’s release a heavy one first. That’ll be good.’” Barnett goes on to say that Stick To Your Guns aimed for a Hatebreed-meets-Rise Against vibe as the musical outline for the album. “We love aggressive, straightforward, heavy music, but we love melodic music as well,” he says. “So, that’s always kind of the avenue we try to go down.” Though the road to True View has been bumpy, the journey seems well worth the effort, as Barnett concludes, “I think, on this record, this is the best we’ve done so far.”
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PHOTO: NICK ZIMMER
Tim Barry doesn’t consider himself a musician. That might sound strange for someone possessing his pedigree, from fronting Avail in the ‘90s to becoming a folk punk staple in the 2000s. Whether that admission is accurate or a byproduct of grounded humility, his distaste for pretension and excess is immediately apparent. In fact, each time he records a new full-length, he discards his rough drafts and doesn’t listen to it again until its release. Listeners experience it for the first time the same way he does. His latest record, High On 95—released Sept. 8 on Chunksaah Records—was no exception. This process may seem extreme, and one would be forgiven for wondering if he’d ever miss having those tracks around—though the answer appears to be no. There’s a method to this madness, and it may even be essential to capturing Barry’s songs in their purest form. It stops him from obsessing over details that don’t matter, from turning in performances too sterile to feel real, and maybe even from burning out on music altogether.
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“Last night, I listened to the record for the first time, because it came out the day before, and I was really excited,” Barry says. “I listened to it twice and had some beers while I cleaned the house. I’d forgotten what song was coming next. The little things that bothered me during mix weren’t there anymore.” Barry’s approach to recording pushes back on the pursuit of perfection that permeates modern culture, but the results speak for themselves. High On 95 is an honest and strippeddown affair that cuts to the core of the human experience. The same understated chord progressions and earnest storytelling that have endeared Barry to fans since early records like 2005’s Circle of Life and 2006’s Rivana Junction are present in full, distilling feelings of loss and isolation into folk punk jams that shine a light on dark times. Indeed, consistency appears key to Barry’s longevity. So, when it came time to record High On 95, his longtime companion Lance Koehler—who he met by chance in his Richmond, Virginia, neighborhood—was just the person for
the job. He has recorded all of Barry’s releases, dating back to his original demos in 2004, and knows exactly how to quickly capture the songs just the way they should sound.
Even if Barry doesn’t see himself as a musician in the traditional sense, one surprising collaborator does: the executive director of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, who phoned Barry about partic“If I had to sit there for eight ipating in their “RVA Live!” hours and play the same showcase, a call he received chords and the same song while in the dressing room at a over and over, I just wouldn’t show in New Jersey with The do music anymore,” Barry Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Falsays of the recording process. lon. Daunted, Barry hung up “There’s nothing interesting and said he wasn’t going to do about that. I’d say I played no it. Then, Fallon gave him the song more than two or three push to follow through. times, ever.” “[Fallon] said, ‘Well, if you go While Barry may downplay onstage tonight and talk shit his own skills, he is quick about challenging yourself to credit the skills of the and putting yourself in posiplayers he surrounds him- tions that scare you and beself with, including his sis- coming empowered by it, I’m ter, violinist Caitlin Hunt. going to call you on it,’” Barry Barry acts as a conductor laughs. of sorts in the studio, humming melodies for the band Barry, a man of integrity, reto translate on their respec- turned the director’s call. tive instruments. It’s an informal yet complex process that can’t be described, but reflects his preferred method of keeping things as loose and organic as possible.
t happens like clockwork: whenever there is political dissent and unrest in the U.S., aggressive grind bands produce some of their strongest material. This pattern holds true with the most recent release from Massachusetts-based All Pigs Must Die. Technically considered a supergroup, the band features members of The Hope Conspiracy, Converge, Trap Them, and Bloodhorse. Their first record since 2013, Hostage Animal—released Oct. 27 via Southern Lord—takes things in an even faster and darker direction. “Hostage Animal is largely a state of mind—an internal conflict fueled by one’s own fears, paranoia, perceptions, truths, and so on,” the band explain. “It’s a confusion and uncertainty to which you are prisoner within your own thought process. It pushes you further toward a purely reactionary, almost feral state of being. This record was a long time in the making, and while, originally, this was a concept stemming from
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the individual, it is now, unfortunately, applicable on a much wider scale.” “Visually, the Rat King seemed to be the best fit for representing the title,” they continue, speaking of Hostage Animal’s cover art. “Bound at a common point and trying to frantically escape in all directions, the Rat King, in a sense, becomes a single entity, but its inability to behave as such seals its fate.” With their name and the unbridled aggression of their music, All Pigs Must Die represent a challenge to the status quo, a common theme in grind and hardcore. The band took their name from a song by the neofolk group, Death In June, who have been accused of harboring fascist sympathies based on themes in their art and music, as well as the controversial political stances held by Douglas Pearce, the creative force behind the group. However, All Pigs Must Die remain determined to find a meaning all their own in the title, free from politics and backstory.
“We took the name from a Death In June song because the phrase, ‘All pigs must die,’ resonated with us, not because of anything to do with Death In June,” they say. “We took it to mean a stance against greed, corruption, abuse of power, etc. Seven years later, we still stand behind what the name means to us. We have no investment in or knowledge of any agendas Death In June may or may not have. The Venn diagram between us and Death In June starts and ends with those four words.” The sound on Hostage Animal appears to be partially informed by the current environment and partially by a recent addition to the band. “Adding a second guitarist a couple years ago has had a major impact on our sound,” the band explain, referring to Brian Izzi of Trap Them. “We’ve been able to expand sonically in many ways we couldn’t before, and on the flip side, tried to keep the songwriting more efficient and direct. Essentially, we’re able to cover more ground while taking fewer steps now.
We’re still drawing inspiration from the type of music, film, and authors that we have in the past, but running all that through a different process with the new lineup.” The new album is a force to be reckoned with, both sonically and in terms of musical prowess. Lucky for All Pigs Must Die fans, there’s no end in sight. “We want to continue writing, recording, and playing out as much as possible. That’s always the goal,” they add. “Doing that gets increasingly difficult as time goes on due to families, other bands, and general life commitments, but this band is important to all of us, and we do all we can to carve out time for it.” Pick up Hostage Animal and be prepared to get confronted with the bleak reality of the human condition.
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PHOTO: ELENA DE SOTO
acktrack guitarist Ricky Singh is outside Richmond, Virginia’s Canal Club, anticipating a latebooked show “to break up the drive.” When most would be exhausted, Backtrack find the motivation to continue. They finished the Life & Death Tour in Tampa the prior night, Oct. 1, after starting the tour on Sept. 8 with Vein from Boston, Twitching Tongues from Los Angeles, No Warning from Toronto, and the U.K.’s Higher Power—whose debut LP, Soul Structure, was put out by Singh’s Flatspot Records in May. Singh drips with pride and excitement regarding Backtrack’s intense new fulllength, Bad to My World. Hardcore fans have recently been sated with the title track until the album arrives on Nov. 17 via Bridge Nine Records. That single— the music and its presentation—was the product of Singh challenging himself to be unique. Last go ‘round, the band put out a 7” with a track from 2014’s Lost in Life and a B-side. This time, Singh put two tracks on a flexi to stoke fans—and where do flexis come from? Magazines. So, Singh made one.
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“It’s a 36-page magazine with a flexi inside. Full-sized, full-color magazine that you would buy in the store,” he says, noting that “everybody came together and made it happen. It’s one of my favorite things creatively that I have done. It is out of the box and visually pleasing. It shows a little bit more into the world of the members of Backtrack, the visual aspect of what we are into and the vibe of the band. And it shows some lightheartedness. A lot of the time, hardcore bands take themselves seriously. As people, we’re not macho dudes trying to flaunt how tough we are. It important to be realistic about who we are as people. I think that shines through in there.” Bad to My World’s energy and drive epitomizes Backtrack’s surging drive to create. Tracks like “Crooks Die Slow,” “One With You,” and especially the invigorating “Cold-Blooded” ensure Backtrack’s prominence. Blistering riffs and fast drum rhythms complemented by audacious breakdowns are the formula. The writing process began immediately after Lost in Life. Singh notes, “I was constantly writing for the last four years. I came up with over 30
demos. We were able to take the best of what we write and we would want to put our name on.” Terror drummer and Piece By Piece vocalist Nick Jett produced Backtrack’s two prior LPs and filled in on drums for Backtrack during their European tour with Madball. Singh reports “turning a little room in the back [of the bus] into a studio” and writing with Jett for Bad to My World. “[He] produced all of our albums and this one,” Singh says, “[but] he took a backseat on the engineering this time.” Enter Dean Baltulonis, who took on the duties for engineering and mixing. His resume is staggering, and his production on No Warning’s 2002 Bridge Nine release, Ill Blood, brings things full circle. Singh explains, “The vibe of the record—the way I wrote most of the songs—was being a 14 [or] 15-yearold kid getting into hardcore music and what drew me to it, what made me intrigued by it.” Singh refers back to “very early 2000s Carry On, Mental, Righteous Jams, and No Warning,” but clarifies, “I didn’t want to emulate that, just the feeling I had when I first listened to
those records. It is a Bridge Nine release and feels as though it could have been released alongside those records and held its own. I hope this record becomes that gateway for a 15-year-old today.” After 10 years, Backtrack have left their own formidable imprint. “All of our 20s were spent in Backtrack,” Singh marvels. “And a lot of that was spent on the road, touring. We just wanted to play shows and write music that was cool.” Regardless of their undefined goals, their motivation led them to tour Japan, Australia, and Europe and to drop three records. “All those things fell into place organically,” Singh adds. “We are grateful for the opportunities the band has given us, creatively and culturally. We have been able to experience all of these incredible things all around the world that I don’t think most people will be able to experience unfortunately—or care to experience, because they don’t care enough about the world. We’re very thankful for hardcore music.”
PHOTO: ESTER SEGARRA
ome things never change: imminent death, the awesomeness of reading a printed book by fireside, and the absolute power of legendary punk rockers, Antisect, a band formed and sculpted over three decades ago in the punk rock wasteland of ‘80s England. The group took a 24-year hiatus in the middle of their career, reformed in 2011, and have brought the goddamned truth back to the masses with their latest release, The Rising of the Lights, released Oct. 13 via Rise Above Records. “It’s been a fucking experience, put it that way,” founding guitarist and vocalist Pete Lyons notes. “It has been great fun, and it’s been fucking tortuous at times—and more than one occasion where it felt like it wouldn’t be completed at all.” But The Rising of the Lights is here, and it’s just in time. If anybody’s feeling like it’s nineteen-fucking-eighty-four out there, they’re not alone. This is some bleak shit. With a climate-denying, illiterate,
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lying sack of toupee in charge of the free world, how the fuck do we keep it all together? “On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much to be positive about, does there?” Lyons offers. “I think that despite how fucked up things can look, the undercurrent of those who aren’t prepared to accept things as they are is strong and is getting stronger as time goes on. Social change is not something easily gauged on a day-to-day basis, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. There are plenty of us out there trying to make a difference. I guess the pertinent point might be: do we actually have enough time left to turn things around for the better? I do genuinely think that.” One of the most influential punk rock, hardcore, and metal bands who ever riffed, Antisect sound leaner, meaner, and more tasteful than ever, a group whose spirit is inherently woven throughout each lyric, headbanger, and varying jaunt. The Rising of the Lights feels very much like 1985’s monstrous
EP, Out From the Void, but there’s even more now: more style, more substance, more direction. It’s a thoughtful and immediate work of art, something that works internally and externally, getting into your fucking bones. “It’s the culmination of the last 30odd years of what life’s experiences have taught us and is our attempt to make sense of it,” Lyons confirms. “We all know the world can be a pretty fucked up place, and the times we live in now are perhaps more fucked up than most. The ability that we have to screw things up beyond repair has never been more evident, and taking into account the rate at which technology advances, it’s only going to get more acute as time goes on. There is another side of things, though. A counterculture, the resistance, whatever you want to call it, and the title relates to that: the gradual awakening of people from all walks of life who are not prepared to accept things for what they presently are and are motivated enough to
take steps to attempt to bring about social change.” Lyons’ words throughout the new record are uniquely powerful. There are not many musicians who can pull off depth and technicality quite like him. The ability to position a real message alongside a fucking ripping punk rock sound is a thing of beauty and truth. Antisect stand beyond even their amazing music: a band whose soul is a thing of eternity. “A lot of my views were formed at a relatively young age,” Lyons explains, “and although there’s been a fair length of time since I first started to take a proper look at the world and began to develop my take on things, I don’t really think much has changed in terms of what I think is right and wrong. My leanings exist outside of the conventional boxes that we’re offered, and as time goes on, I think I feel more ensconced in that view than ever.”
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arius Koski is not an easy guy to pin down musically. Whether it’s the classic punk rock he plays in Swingin’ Utters and The Re-Volts; the Celtic folk rock of his side project, Filthy Thieving Bastards; or the Americana vibe of his first solo effort, 2015’s Sisu, Koski is anything but predictable. So, it shouldn’t surprise fans that on his new solo album, he’s drawing from a variety of influences to create a sound unlike his earlier work. “Actually, one of the only conscious decisions I make going into any recording or writing process, when I’m writing or preparing for a record, is that it’s different in some way from the last one—whether that’s with my solo stuff or any of the band stuff,” Koski says. “The Utters definitely pride ourselves on that, and that was what we were about from day one. I listen to and am influenced by a pretty vast array of music and have been my whole life.” Those influences can be heard all over What Was Once Is By and Gone, out via Fat Wreck Chords on Nov. 3. Koski’s various touchstones even go back to classical music, a genre he played exclusively until he was 18. “I think you can be eclectic and still release cohesive albums, still have ‘a sound,’” he says. “That being said, I don’t think that you can really pin any genre or sound on me—or at least it’s a little challenging. It keeps it more interesting for me and the listener. I think Filthy Thieving Bastards are kind of like that as well. I’ve been pigeonholed for so long as a ‘punk’ musician, it’s really a breath of fresh air.” Despite being a member of several full bands for several decades, Koski didn’t feel much anxiety when moving into solo territory with his first album and What Was Once Is By and Gone. “It was more of a relief than anything,” he says, “and really exciting, because it’s been such a long time coming. I think I basically just procrastinated for a few decades. Nobody was pounding on my door begging
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me for solo material to release on their label, and I didn’t particularly want to release the stuff myself.” As a result, several of the songs on these first two records are older. Additionally, most of the material Koski writes isn’t punk rock, so he has an enormous catalog of riffs, melodies, and fully written songs that have been languishing—some for the last 25 years or so. “Some of the older ones are just crap, and obviously, not every new idea is a gem either, but I write a lot, so there’s a lot to choose from,” he says. “I have to edit myself pretty harshly and just work on what I deem worthy to work on. Like I said, there’s a lot of crap in there.” Along with a slew of lyrically beautiful songs, there are some great instrumentals on the new record, like “A Little Buzz” and “Soap Opera.” “They’re just other bits that are among those riffs and songs that’ve been languishing forever. Those particular ones are relatively new. I’ve got a bunch of instrumental stuff, and that’s even more likely to languish in obscurity than all the other songs,” Koski explains. “I just liked these particular ones the way they were and didn’t feel like they needed to go anywhere else or say anything else. I think the idea is that they’re just a little moment in time, and they’re sort of dispersed in the middle of all of these completed, fully realized songs.” Though What Was Once Is By and Gone has nearly come and gone, Koski is not thinking about the next record yet. For now, he’ll be on the road with the Utters until November, opening the shows with a solo set. “I’ll be playing with a small band, so I’m looking forward to that,” he says. “Ultimately, this solo thing needs to be a band at some point. Whenever I can afford it or can find willing participants, I’m taking a band on the road. I just think there are too many songs of mine that have full instrumentation and are much better realized that way live. I think they stand up on their own with just a voice and guitar as well, but a band would be ideal.” PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
PHOTOS: EDEN KITTIVER
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unk has always been used as a weapon against political corruption. America finds itself full of real life horrors on an almost daily basis. With a racist, neo-fascist president and hate groups popping up more frequently to swarm the streets, it’s no wonder why Anti-Flag have titled their 10th studio record—out via Spinefarm Records on Nov. 3—American Fall. Bassist and vocalist Chris #2—formally Chris Barker, or Chris Dos if you prefer— says that what makes American Fall unique compared to Anti-Flag’s previous work is “our current cultural state,” as well as “the normalization of bigotry via the White House, the status quo corporate rule of politicians, and our challenge to them with these songs.” When asked what political work gets him geared up and motivated, the bassist shares, “Obviously, punk rock like The Clash, Dead Kennedys, and Bad Religion.” Music also led him toward other arenas that helped develop his political thinking, influencing his lifestyle and decisions. “[The music] transferred into Howard Zinn and [Noam] Chomsky, then to the show where I saw and interacted with members of PETA, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and now, Sea Shepherd [Conservation Society],” he recalls. “That extrapolated into all factions of life: the things I eat, the way I spend my money, and the hope to create a lasting piece of art that shows our community was on the right side of history.”
and seeing how his family and others around him were treated also affected Chris #2’s political outlook. He cites “the way our local cops treated [my brother] and our community—spoiler alert: they were fucking pigs. My family being immigrants—my mother came on a boat from Italy when she was 13, and they worked at the steel mills in Pittsburgh or the airport service industry. Those mill jobs were shipped overseas in
history: one based on em- respect for wisdom and pathy over apathy, on opti- guidance. Chris #2 sees it mism over cynicism.” as his responsibility to find what binds us together, not He stresses this idea of em- push an agenda. “We can pathy, asserting that punk only and should only be relies on it. “Punk rock isn’t true to ourselves,” he says. a musical style or genre in “I learned a long time ago my opinion,” he explains. to not speak for another “It’s far more aesthetic or or to give a mantra that all ethic, so there is no ‘punk should follow, but to look rock’ without empathy. for the good in each situaThat’s just music. And as tion and try to empathize far as I’m concerned, our and speak with people. phones, laptops, and juke- That is our only responsiboxes are filled with songs bility: to share empathy.”
[search] of cheap labor, and that remind you that the that greatly politicized me at deck is stacked against a young age.” you. We’re only interested in pushing empathy over Given the fear and terror apathy, optimism over cyntaking hold in the U.S., Chris icism. That is what punk #2 strives to spread positiv- rock means to me and what ity and create work that will separates it from other be remembered. “The goal mediums when delivering is always to use a record as messages.” a document,” he states, “to hope that it proves, when When people feel like evpeople look back on 2017, erything is stacked against that there was a community them, they tend to look to Growing up in Pittsburgh that was on the right side of those who they admire and
“I’ll just say, in every aspect of the band, we are trying to leave things better than we found them,” he concludes. “From the [organizations] we champion to the benefit shows we play to any time we can be activists in our daily lives—the band and the songs and the art are not disconnected from who we are as people. They’re one and the same.”
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anadian hardcore legends, No Warning, continue to keep things interesting for fans in the scene, from breaking up in 2005 only to reunite in 2013 to releasing singles then swearing they won’t tour to eventually touring again shortly after that statement.
Cook says Torture Culture relates to the experiences we are currently living through and can be thematically described as “dwelling in the gutter while furiously clawing toward the light.” He states that this can be seen as “a constant wave of darkness flying at our faces through these devices we hold, constantly attacking one another out of anxiety and confuAfter a 13-year break between sion due to things evolving and albums, No Warning released erupting around us so quickly.” their fourth full-length, Torture Culture, on Oct. 13 via This will create chaos, he says, Bad Actors Inc. and Last Gang leaving people not knowing Records. The album brings a any feeling other than fear, mosaic feel to the heavy music which will lead to the exercisinfluence of the ‘80s and the ing of the survival instincts ‘90s hardcore and street met- deeply rooted in their souls. al genre. The band teased fans “It’s that optimism that evwith two songs and received erything is somehow gonna be nothing less than an incredi- OK, that lovte and light is acbly welcoming response from tually achievable and all this friends, fans, and fellow bands. darkness around us isn’t actually there,” Cook continues. “We felt we owed it to our- “We’ve just created it in our selves to create an album,” vo- minds, and we have the power calist Ben Cook says. “We’ve to switch it all off and collecalways made records for our- tively change everything.” selves, and if people dig it, then that’s a beautiful thing.” No Warning just finished up
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the Life & Death Tour, which started on Sept. 8 in California and ended Oct. 1 in Florida. The lineup included Terror, Backtrack, Twitching Tongues, Higher Power, and Vein. Cook lost his voice early in the tour, making performing live a bit of a struggle on their first few dates. By resting his voice all day, he saves enough energy to give it his all during their shows. “Starting a tour in California in its desert climate—as the soft and sensitive Canadian that I am—always leaves me dried out,” Cook teases. “I use a vocal steamer, warm up, and drink hella water. I can’t hit the blunt for a couple weeks, and I avoid caffeine. So, basically, it’s miserable, but it’s worth it when you hit the stage and rock it out.”
“We are convinced it’s the ghost of a New York hardcore singer who passed away,” he admits. “Every time we say his name out loud, something bad happens to us. Our record drops Friday the 13th, and this wasn’t even intentional. We are cursed.”
Just as ghosts have no rules— and offer no warning—No Warning enjoy flouting the rules of the music scene. There aren’t many bands who can shift through varying genres and ideas while still creating a unified and unique sound. No Warning make the cut as one of the few who have established their name in this manner. “Even though there’s so much shit to sift through musically these days, it’s a really cool time to be releasing It’s no surprise Torture Cul- music,” Cook says. “There’s no ture was released on Friday the rules—and since we’ve never 13th. The band have a special really played by any to begin haunting that follows them. with, it’s a cool time to rock out Not only have they stayed in a No Warning LP.” numerous haunted hotels, but Cook says he believes a ghost actually stalks them on tour.
PHOTO: MAGGIE FRIEDMAN
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hat does it take to be truly scary? To capture that rush of adrenaline and horror that sends chills down one’s spine? In an era when anyone can instantly stream an unlimited collection of violent, over the top horror movies and songs, it takes more than just a fresh spin on things to really terrify an audience—it takes an intriguing perspective. “From a metal standpoint, I think it’s [important] to have a good villain,” Trevor Strnad, vocalist of The Black Dahlia Murder, shares of his approach to writing lyrics. “I think of it as looking over Jason [ Voorhees]’s shoulder as he enters the woods and chases someone.” It’s this vision that has guided The Black Dahlia Murder to not only remain one of death metal’s biggest bands, but also one of the genre’s sincerest purveyors of horror.
He adds that the connection clicked within him when dissecting the lyrics to death metal, and says that’s where his rush for the music began. “I loved the horror of it, I loved the shock of it,” he recalls. “For me, death metal started with lots of gore bands, like, Cannibal Corpse was my ultimate favorite at the time. It was like, ‘The bloodier and gorier, the better.’” Strnad’s love for horror movies has made its way into many of The Black Dahlia Murder’s songs, providing inspiration for new ideas or inspiring the vocalist to pay direct tribute to a particular film’s story. “‘Beyond
Strnad has just completed work on the band’s eighth album, Nightbringers, released via Metal Blade Records on Oct. 6. The vocalist’s love for horror has been a part of his life since childhood, and it eventually led him to discover his love for metal. “Horror definitely led me to metal. As a kid, I saw parallels in the artwork [on album covers],”
“I try to ramp up the psychology in things. For us, it’s a lot of necrophilia stuff, a lost love or blurred line between life and death…”
Strnad says. “Once I got the idea that ‘Whoa, look, there’s this macabre music out there’—you know, I was already into horror from around first and second grade, a little bit too early probably. I was drawing people getting their heads cut off and stuff as a kid and disturbing my teachers. Death metal was a definite natural evolution for me I think.”
the Darkness’ comes to mind right away,” he shares. “Our song, ‘Deathmask Divine’ [from 2007’s Nocturnal], is very much influenced by that. In the movie, the main character embalms his lover in the house, basically with taxidermy tools, and it’s very brutal. […] Also, I guess ‘Inside,’ ‘cause we have a song on the new record that’s from the per-
spective of a woman character who is trying to get a baby out of another woman.” What is the one film that really hit home his love for the genre? “I have to say ‘Dawn of the Dead,’ the original, that’s probably my favorite horror movie of all time,” he says. “I’ve been watching that since I was a kid, and that definitely had an effect on me.”
“For me particularly, it’s more that I’m telling the same stories I’ve been told; it’s all kinda classic death metal themes, but I think kind of with a poetic twist,” he continues. “I try to ramp up the psychology in things. For us, it’s a lot of necrophilia stuff, a lost love or blurred line between life and death, and a misunderstanding of that line by this crazed character.” This perspective allows Strnad to embody various characters through his writing, and create a visceral experience of chills and eeriness. “That really stems from this particular album by Grave that I really liked as a kid called Hating Life,” he reveals. “And there were other necrophiliac songs, but none of them really had that romantic kinda tip to it, and that definitely made it more disturbing and made it seem more real.”
Since the band’s debut LP, Unhallowed, was released back in 2003, technology has not only changed how much music fans have access to, it has impacted the way they see the world. With the click of a button, everyone can now watch videos of real-life horrors. “I think the world has turned quite a bit from 20 years ago when I got into death metal. Now, the internet is so prominent, and I believe it has kinda desensitized the world to violence,” Strnad shares. “It’s a Nightbringers brings with it definite challenge to make a new force of Strnad’s viopeople’s skin crawl.” lent and creepy storytelling, each word finding a way to Along with this challenge crawl under one’s skin. It’s comes the hundreds of oth- a record that breathes evil er death metal bands who and rips away with ferocious are now active—and the im- and sinister appeal. “I defimediate availability of their nitely wanted it to be more work. With so much in the horrific than ever,” Strnad world desensitizing people says of the new record. and all these bands trying to outdo one another with their His drive and passion to cregory lyricism, what does it ate art that terrifies and intake to sincerely stand out trigues is felt all throughout in death metal? Strnad says Nightbringers, crowning itthat there are a couple an- self one of the band’s strongles one can take and that gest achievements, 16 years both have the ability to creep into their career. “I wanted people out. “To one extreme, to honor a previous legayou can just really pile on the cy [with The Black Dahlia gore and misogyny, and in Murder],” Strnad says,” and brutal death metal especial- put out a record where every ly, there’s tons of misogynis- song was monstrous.” tic stuff,” he says. “There’s definitely that route where you can just pile that on until someone goes, ‘OK, that’s shocking.’”
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I n t e r v i e w w i t h v o c a l i s t B l o t h a r a n d g u i t a r i s t P u s t u l u s M a x i m u s B y N a t a s h a V a n D u s e r “It was the first record I’ve done for GWAR for many, many years,” says Michael Bishop, better known as Blothar, the current lead vocalist of the sci-fi-themed comedic metal group, GWAR. “It was really exactly like I thought it would be. It was totally easy. It was no sweat. You walk in, you lay down something brilliant, probably the first time. That’s all that GWAR has always done. That’s what I’ve always done.” Formed in Richmond, Virginia, in the early ‘80s, GWAR began to take over the metal scene with their outlandish statements, humorously gruesome stage shows, and absurd, over-the-top alien rocker costumes, playing the part of a barbarian space race known as the Scumdogs who seek to destroy humanity. But in 2014, tragedy struck when founding member and frontman Dave Brockie—known preeminently as the late great Oderus Urungus—was found dead in his home at the age of 50. In response to the loss of Urungus, Bishop— who had played bass under the moniker of Beefcake The Mighty throughout the late ‘80s and ‘90s—rejoined the band as their new frontman: the antler-wearing Blothar, a being who awakened from a long sleep due to Urungus’ loss of immortality. On Oct. 20, through Metal Blade Records, GWAR finally released their first full-length record since Brockie’s passing, The Blood of Gods. “This is not a bonehead metal record, and it’s not an exclusively rock ‘n’ roll record,” says Brent Purgason, who portrays lead guitarist Pustulus Maximus. “It’s very eclectic. It’s old-school GWAR, and, at the same time, it feels brand new—familiar stranger, I guess. […] We actually tried on this one, which is something that we barely ever do.” “‘Familiar stranger.’ It’s a great quote,” Blothar is quick to add. “It’s like jerking off with your left hand. No, Pustulus is right. This is a record that we worked hard on. […] This is a mature GWAR. We worked hard on the songs; the songs are funny, and there’s also some depth there. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll record, and it doesn’t sound typical at all, in any way, shape, or form. So, I think people are going to like it. It’s not what people are going to expect.” While the album’s title references a direct line from the opening song, “War on GWAR,” it is also a tribute to Urungus. “My favorite is definitely the song we wrote in tribute to Oderus,” Blothar says of the track, “Phantom Limb.” “It’s about missing the man, missing the murder, missing the mayhem of having that guy around.”
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“I’d have to say the same thing—except the song that I sang on is probably the best of the whole record, without question,” Pustulus playfully adds. “But ‘Phantom Limb’ is a great tune. It’s one of the ballads that we’ve written.” The Blood of Gods touches on a variety of topics including politics in Trump’s America, the overall destruction of the environment, the passing of Urungus, and, of course, the continued war between GWAR and humanity. “This is the first record that we’ve done with me singing,” Blothar explains. “Of course, it’s the only record we’ve done with me singing, but I think the inspiration for most of the album was a massive war on GWAR that’s been on for—it’s really been ongoing for centuries, but it’s heated up here on Earth the past decade or so, and the fake news media was not reporting it. The album chronicles the story of GWAR as far as inhumanity and as far as committing atrocities and just general destruction and an appetite for death. We had to eventually realize humanity wanted to destroy itself and GWAR.” One of the more politically-charged tracks is the not-so-subtly titled “El Presidente.” It concerns the presidency of America’s orange overlord, Donald Trump, a figure Pustulus admits is one of the only common enemies that GWAR and humanity share. “What you need in politics is you need a good liar, and you need somebody that is cunning,” he says. “He’s just too blatantly obvious. And that’s the kind of politician that we would be. I kind of feel that he’s taking our style.” “We truly admire his brazen audacity, for sure,” Blothar adds. Over the past year, GWAR’s stage performances have included the rather bloody, but whimsical murder of an effigy of the 45th President of the United States. “We’ve killed him again and again,” Blothar says, “but he won’t die!” “You know why he won’t die?” Pustulus remarks. “It’s because he’s got a better health care plan than what he’s pitching to everybody else!” Over the years, GWAR have upheld one of the strongest and best-known stage shows of all time. Alongside their outlandish alien costumes, they carry out hilarious, semi-satirical murders of celebrities and politicians, generally resulting in the front row getting sprayed with a heaping helping of fake blood. “We just try to get onstage and do a rock ‘n’ roll show,” Pustulus says. “Then, these people—just looters and polluters—they just show up onstage and try to cramp
our style, and we just have to deal with them accordingly so we can get to our set. So, it’s just kind of one of those things that just happens.” This year, GWAR spent all summer on the Vans Warped Tour jamming out their record’s first single—a chanty metal tune called “Fuck This Place”—eagerly coating fans in the blood of the fallen while giving them a taste of the band’s new sound. The Blood of Gods is one of the most unique GWAR albums to date. From a new vocalist to a more diverse sound, the album not only pays tribute to the passing of Urungus, but also to the actual passing of the torch from one alien god to the next. “There is a moment where we were coerced into doing a commercial rock ‘n’ roll tune, [“I’ll Be Your Monster”], and I’m sure that it’s going to be the next big thing,” Blothar says. “I think people need to listen to [the record]. It marks a turn in this story with
GWAR’s relationship to mankind, and I don’t want to give too much away about it, but there is a narrative to the album. It’s got a strong narrative, probably more of a narrative than GWAR’s more recent albums.” Kicking off in their hometown of Richmond on the same day as the record’s release, GWAR hit the road for a North American headlining tour throughout the fall and early winter in support of The Blood of Gods. “It’s literature,” Blothar summarizes. “People will be listening to this record in college classrooms the world over.”
PHOTO: JACKI VITETTA
PHOTO: RALPH BARKLAM
ludge is music born of hatred, venom, and a void to fill. No one knows that void better than Iron Monkey.
Morrow tribute CD on Maniac Beast Records, you will hear the faster Iron Monkey style there. I wanted to make our hardcore influences more evident while keeping it distinctly After a short and tumultuous Iron Monkey. I wasn’t going to career in the late ‘90s—pro- write ‘Our Problem II,’ I wantducing only two records and a ed it to be fresh, relevant, and split with Church Of Misery— violent.” the group’s vocalist, Johnny Morrow, tragically passed While Rushby and his bandaway from a kidney condition mates didn’t initially plan to in 2002. Now, after a nearly revive Iron Monkey after their 20-year lag since their last re- apparent demise two decades cord, the group have channeled ago, the band clearly hadn’t their sadness, fear, aggression, finished what they started. and anger into a new album, “Initially, I just happened to be 9-13, released Oct. 20 via Re- jamming at my place, and some lapse Records. Iron Monkey riffs came out,” Rushby says. “I discussed with “This new record, I think, is [bassist and former guitarist] a crystallization of the Iron Steve [Watson] putting the Monkey sound and our best band back together, initially album to date,” founding gui- as a source of amusement, but tarist and now vocalist Jim then, it took on a life of its own. Rushby explains. “I am literal- It also became evident that ly picking up where I left off 20 there was unfinished business years ago. If you listen to the to attend to; I had started writtwo songs from the Johnny P. ing album number three 20
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years ago, and I am just com- honed his songwriting ability, pleting that project, although putting skill and talent behind this is all fresh material.” the raw emotion the band have always produced. He also sees What resulted was 9-13, an stepping into Morrow’s shoes angry, furious assault, bleak- as a challenge, but one he can er and faster than classic Iron handle. “I think I might have Monkey, but with the polish actually learned to write songs and refinement that comes rather than just gluing riffs tofrom years of reflection and gether. They feel good to play experience. Rather than focus and do not bore me,” he says. “I on the why and how behind the think my vocals came out OK pain, Rushby wants listeners considering I had to live up to to let go and get lost in the ag- J.P.’s legendary vociferations. I gression. “The new Iron Mon- didn’t want to imitate his style; key record is 100 percent pure, that would have been foolish, nihilistic hatred and animalis- but I think my style is savage tic aggression, but it shouldn’t enough for the music. Well, be over-intellectualized,” he it’s me or nothing, so get used explains. “Just fucking feel to it.” it—don’t think. The older Iron Monkey vibe was one of filth, Rushby promises that 9-13 misery, and self-destruction, will be the first of many new whereas this new album is just releases—five records at least, about mindless destruction he thinks. It’s been a long time and hatred of anything without coming, and Iron Monkey are reason.” finally ready to let loose. On a less esoteric note, Rushby also feels that he has finally
espite their extreme cult status, England’s Electric Wizard haven’t had an easy go of it. From multiple lineup changes at inopportune times to a constantly nagging record label lawsuit while they were experiencing cataclysmic metal success, they have suffered numerous frustrations and setbacks. Their long-awaited ninth studio album, Wizard Bloody Wizard—out Nov. 10 via Spinefarm Records—might be the first record the band have released somewhat at peace. Recorded using vintage tape machines, and written to capture the essence of sex, drugs, and violence, the band’s latest offering brings them back to the roots of early metal and heavy blues. Rather than taking things to the extreme with brutality and anger, this album sounds triumphant. “The new lineup was a big inspiration,” says vocalist and guitarist Jus Oborn, speaking of the
addition of Clayton Burgess on bass and Simon Poole on drums for this recording. “We did a lot of gigging over the last few years, and we ended up with a pretty awesome rhythm section, so that opened up a lot of possibilities.” Wizard Bloody Wizard really does get back to basics. While 2014’s Time to Die was a pure shot of nihilism and hate, this record allows in a few rays of light. Oborn’s vocals are as snotty as ever, and the guitar tone is still as distorted and dark as it was on their doomier records. But the riffs are simple and bluesy, bringing to mind Blue Cheer, Cream, and, of course, Black Sabbath. “I guess the last album was really dark—a really heavy album,” Oborn continues. “It was hard work to make, kind of puts you in a really negative vortex listening to it, and that was the intention of the album. But after that, it was like, ‘Fucking hell, maybe we’ve gone as far as we can with a cer-
tain sound and it’s time to strip down and start again.’” In addition to their new record, Electric Wizard have plans that fans—accustomed to the constantly tenuous nature of the group’s future—will celebrate. “We are putting a tour together at the moment, and we are definitely going to do a U.S. tour in the new year,” Oborn insists. “We’re also going to do Japan, because it’s been a few years, and we are going to South America, because we haven’t been there.” Not only do they have plans to record new music, it is already in progress. “We are already recording an EP,” Oborn reveals. “There’s not much we can say at the moment, but I think it’s going to be better than this one. We’d like to tighten the screw a bit more.”
Christ, hopefully. That would be good,” he laughs. “Always fingers crossed, but someone could have a baby or some shit.” Don’t mistake any of this for Electric Wizard giving up their beloved horror-infused aesthetic and primal sound. It’s the same old Wizard on Wizard Bloody Wizard, just a more refined, stripped-down, classic version with a slightly more optimistic tone. “This record is pretty similar lyrically to past albums,” Oborn admits. “It’s meant to be a little more on the dark side rather than the end of the world or some homicidal, suicidal shit. This one is a bit more about evil. It’s hard to say—the whole album is kind of like a conceptual idea around exorcism; the end of the album is almost like rays of the sun rising.”
Does he hope that Electric Wizard will continue for some time with their current lineup? “Jesus
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PHOTO: JEHN W.A.
he gore metal masters in Exhumed are back with an exciting and resoundingly different approach on their new album, Death Revenge, released Oct. 13 on Relapse Records. For this, their sixth fulllength slab of cadaver-friendly metal, Exhumed have crafted a highly musical and sophisticated death metal concept album, inspired by the grisly Burke and Hare murders of the 19th century. “I was struck by how many elements that we already lean on were contained in the story,” vocalist and guitarist Matt Harvey says, addressing the origins behind Exhumed’s slamming new album. “There was anatomical dissection, grave robbery, murder, and extreme drunkenness, which ticked a lot of boxes for me. I thought that if we were going to do a concept record, we weren’t going to find anything better suited for us to write about, so we should go for it.” This bizarre true life story of Scottish murderers who infiltrated the burgeoning grave robbery and anatomical research scene of Edinburgh in the 1820s seems like something ripped out of a horror movie—in other words, a natural fit for Harvey and his horror-obsessed psyche. “I went back and wrote songs about ‘Hellraiser’ and ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Beyond’ and stuff for Gruesome,” Harvey says, referencing his Death-inspired side project, “and it reminded me of what the original generation of death metal bands sang about: horror movies, gore, and Satanism. That was really it. No outer space, no politics,
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no personal feelings, no psychological stuff. Just horror and the occult. I felt like the genre has kind of outsmarted itself a bit—my records included—in an effort to not stagnate and also to prove that it’s a ‘valid’ art form, not just for pimply misanthropes who love the horror and gore stuff. So, I enjoyed coming back and doing something that really spoke to the roots of this style of music, but in a way that wasn’t so obvious.” “The concept definitely led to the extensive use of ‘film score’ type sections, which we hadn’t done before,” he continues. “We tend to center our writing process for each record around very broad, simple approaches. [2011’s] All Guts, No Glory was ‘aggressive,’ [2013’s] Necrocracy was about ‘groove,’ and my only real motivator when I started the writing process this time was that I wanted to do something ‘darker’ than our previous two records.” Make no mistake, Death Revenge is as dark and gruesome as, well, Harvey’s other band’s namesake. That being said, the new record stands apart as the most sonically dazzling release of Exhumed career. The film score-esque sections run the gamut from classically arranged interludes to shred-tastic guitar leads and surprisingly intoxicat-
ing melodies—the type of stuff grave robbers might whistle while they work. The opening track, “Death Revenge Overture,” is just that, a sweeping piano and string intro that simultaneously oozes sophistication and unnerving dread. A genius segue to “Defenders of the Grave,” a heavy blast of death metal that gives way to some of the swankiest and catchiest guitar work Exhumed have unleashed. On Death Revenge, Exhumed tone down the bludgeoning wall of noise they’ve long since mastered and go for a more precise and surgical approach. “A lot of my friends who have listened to the album have told me that it has more Death influence than previous albums,” Harvey reveals. “I came back to a lot of simpler, tremolo picked type riffs and single-note kind of stuff. Exhumed had, for a long time, been very intentionally focused on playing chords predominantly—I mean, that’s how Repulsion did it, so that’s what we did. So, just changing the way the themes and riffs were executed sticks out a bit compared to our other records. The riffs themselves are still the same kind of stuff we’ve always done, but they’re not focused on the thickness that was there before; they’re a bit more incisive and distinct, like what [Death founder] Chuck [Schuldiner] was always going for.”
Death’s musical influence, coupled with the album’s cadaver-slanging real life death influence, results in Death Revenge being sonically pleasing while retaining a legit creepy-as-hell atmosphere throughout. Look no further than “The Anatomy Act of 1832” for proof. An instrumental that goes from eerie orchestral graveyard tune to heavy metal rager of the highest order with twisted melodies will haunt your brain for days. “I wanted to make sure that all the themes were based on riffs in the songs themselves so that the score sections would retain the same vibe as the rest of the record and not feel shoehorned in there unnecessarily,” Harvey says. “I composed the outlines of the pieces and then worked with my buddy Matt Widener [of Cretin, Liberteer, The County Medical Examiners, and formerly of Exhumed] on the arrangements.” The result is a gorgeously crafted ode to the original gore mongers of the 19th century and a huge step forward in Exhumed’s long, blood and vomit stained career. “I think we’ve covered the blood-splattered power tools and kitchen implements pretty thoroughly, so it was good to branch out a little!” Harvey laughs.
PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
ults are both fascinating and terrifying, as seen in classics both old and new, like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Invitation.” In times of turmoil, enigmatic figures spring up to offer new ways to cope with the horror around us. What starts as a different spin on self-reflection and community togetherness becomes idol worship, and eventually, things take a turn. Cult leaders must hook their flock to keep them onboard when things go dark. Often, the leaders are also shitty artists—see: Charles Manson—but that’s certainly not the case for the I The Mighty. For California’s preeminent progressive rock group, things took a surprisingly light turn, as their third record—Where the Mind Wants To Go / Where You Let It Go, released Oct. 20 via Equal Vision Records—finds them turning away from post-hardcore and toward a pensive and anthemic progressive pop style. Exquisite, insightful lyrics couple with new musical directions, coming together to form an album that’s as bold as it is beautiful. The opening gut-punch of a song, “Degenerates,” is sure to make even the most hardened listener verklempt. I The Mighty have thus far hooked listeners with vocalist and guitarist Brent Walsh’s suave storytelling and sneakily shrewd insights backed by wonderfully intricate and punchy
music. The new album’s sonic shift was not intentional, but a very loyal fan base helped ease the band’s nerves. “Originally, we had planned to do something where we explored our progressive side as well as our pop side,” Walsh explains. “We started with the skeletons of about 20 songs and slowly cut them down as it became clearer which ones had the strongest songwriting and which ones would fit most cohesively together. As the record ended up taking on this vibe, the more heavy [and] progressive songs just didn’t seem to fit or flow as nicely, so we put them in our back pocket. Who knows if they’ll ever see the light of day, but we’re very proud of how it all came together and definitely feel we have some of our strongest songwriting on this new record.” “I think our change in sound is something that happens organically,” he continues. “We all grow as musicians with every album cycle and change our personal musical tastes. However, there’s definitely the overarching idea that we never want to make the same album twice. We have so much respect for bands like Thrice that aren’t afraid to reinvent themselves while still staying true to who they are at their core. What makes it a little easier is that we have the most supportive and sort of cult-y fan base. We have the confidence that they will not only follow us through
our ebbs and flows of artistic expression, but that they appreciate the eccentricity as well.” Walsh states that over half of the album resembles an out-of-order concept record following a narrator through a relationship that, like a cult, doesn’t end well—though this story is less bloody. “Much of this storyline is taken directly from personal life experience, and if you look closely at the back of the album artwork, you’ll see a little Easter egg that ties these songs together,” he shares. “The rest of the album explores a number of different topics, from anarchy to drug use to the story of six teenagers becoming possessed and meeting their demise in a haunted mansion.” A haunted mansion? “I’ve always been a fan of Stephen King,” Walsh admits. “I just got back from seeing ‘IT,’ and I thought they did a really great job modernizing it from the original. I’m not a big fan of gore, but I love a good suspense or sci-fi thriller. A couple notable ones that come to mind are ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ or ‘The Village.’” “Our band has a shared interest in the paranormal or the unknown. We’re always asking people we stay with
around the country or Europe if they have any ghost stories they’d like to share,” Walsh adds, but have I The Mighty ever witnessed any real life supernatural activity? “While none of us has ever seen anything personally on tour or in the studio, we have plenty of friends who have, and we always love hearing their firsthand accounts,” he says. “One of my favorite tour memories is when we were out with A Skylit Drive and PVRIS. We played at a venue that claimed to be haunted, and after the show, most of us and PVRIS got a tour of the whole facility with some of the employees, and they all shared their unique stories, [and we shared] our own with each other. Nights like that make for great bonding experiences with the people you’re on the road with.” So, does this dark fascination have a place in I The Mighty’s musical cult? “Darkness is a fun element of yourself and your self-expression to explore,” Walsh says. “Happiness can feel very simple and straightforward, but the negative parts of yourself always carry so much depth. This can be fun to explore through music, but just as much through art. The point is, after all, for the two to coincide.”
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“Some strange songs. As is the hardworking band’s M.O., Dee and his brother, It’s loud, isn’t it?” That’s Adicts guitarist and songwriter Pete Dee, aka Pete Davidson, talking about the long-running punk band’s latest release—and 12-song follow-up to 2012’s All the Young Droogs—entitled And It Was So! The band’s first record with Nuclear Blast—set for release on Nov. 17—is heavy, powerful, and just plain rocking. From the slightly foreboding opener, “Picture the Scene,” to the straight-up hardcore punk of “Fucked Up World” to the gloriously seductive “Love Sick Baby” and “Déjà Vu” to the epic “Gimme Something To Do,” it’s something to behold. “It’s our best album,” the guitarist asserts. “It’s fun.” That’s saying a lot for a band who’ve been around 42 years and put out such seminal albums as their 1981 debut, Songs of Praise, 1982’s Sound of Music, and 1985’s Smart Alex. The Adicts have been playing five songs from the release live, and Dee says they’ve been going over quite well. One in particular— the melodic, anthemic “Talking Shit”—has people singing along upon first listen.
drummer, and fellow songwriter, Michael “Kid Dee” Davidson, are already working on material for the next record, but first, The Adicts will be touring a lot. In honor of the Halloween season, when talk of their extensive touring comes up, so do some supernatural experiences the band have encountered along the way. “When you travel around, you see a lot of things,” the guitarist says. “Some things you wish you’d never seen, and some things you see and you say, ‘That was great.’” One strange occurrence happened in the ‘80s after a show the band played in London. “We actually saw a UFO, and this is not bullshit, this is absolutely true,” Dee says adamantly. “We nearly crashed our vehicle, because we were watching it. Then, all the sudden, this weird thing in the sky went crazy and moved around.” He continues, “The driver drove off the road, and […] the vehicle was nearly tipping over, everybody’s freaking out: ‘What the fuck was that?!’ Then, it appeared again on the horizon.” “Some of the comments were amazing,” Dee adds. “[Vocalist Keith] ‘Monkey’ [Warren]’s comment was, ‘I’m never gonna see my mom again!’” The guitarist describes the UFO as “an orb of some kind, different colors, and then it just dissipated.” When the band finally got home, they were weirded out and wondered if they should report the strange sighting, but decided not to. According to Dee, they concluded, “‘Everybody will think we’re mad.’” The next day, there were 78 sightings reported in The Times. “And we saw this,” Dee proclaims. “It was a very strange thing.”
Of the album’s memorable title, Dee explains, “And It Was So!— it’s a statement, it’s done. The first album we did was Songs of Praise, the second was Sound of Music. There’s kind of a religious connotation to them.” He continues, “People can make what they want out of it; there’s no rules.” As for the song bearing the album’s name, Dee elaborates, “The song is about all the kids in the world getting off, partying off. ‘And it was so.’ Nothing’s gonna stop the kids from rocking,” he laughs. “We’re a positive band. We wanna bring people together. There’s a song on this album for everyone in the world. We’re very pleased. Hopefully, it’ll sell more Alien invaders or not, in grand than two copies.” scheme of things, Dee says, “It’s
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PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
PHOTO: ALEX MORGAN
t has been 27 years since Cannibal Corpse released their debut record, Eaten Back To Life. Now, with 2017 nearing an end, the legendary death metal act are celebrating the release of their 14th studio album, Red Before Black, on Nov. 3 via Metal Blade Records. Throughout all the work, tours, and controversies, the band continue to carry the torch of brutal and devastating metal without showing any signs of slowing down. “We love what we do, and there’s no reason to stop,” bassist Alex Webster shares. “We’ve never taken any long breaks—maybe just a month or two after a tour cycle.” Red Before Black continues the tradition of Cannibal Corpse’s iconic savage instrumentation and violent lyricism. Since their early days, the band have stuck to what they love, always itching to honor the pure heaviness of horror. Webster says that finding inspiration for the writing process clicks with a natural drive that taps into various inspirations. “We just write songs,” he says. “I’m not sure where the inspiration comes from. It could be a combination of a lot of things: what’s happening in our lives, what’s going on around us, what music we’re listening to at the time, [or] what movies we’ve seen recently.”
Webster also says that the band strive to cover many kinds of horror. While many of their ideas are centered around fantasy, they aim to touch on realistic horrors as well. “I guess we sort of settled into a style kind of early on, and a lot of it is fantasy horror, meaning there are supernatural and surreal things happening that aren’t possible in the real world,” he shares. “That said, I do think we’ve covered realistic horror extensively too, mainly with our serial killer-type songs.”
“Horror should scare you. That’s why they call it horror, right?”
Webster’s love for horror movies has provided an immense foundation that helped shape the Cannibal Corpse discography into the beast it is today. “My favorites are still the movies that I liked when I was young, like ‘Phantasm,’ ‘The Shining,’ ‘The Exorcist,’ and ‘Burnt Offerings.’ I think I like supernatural horror the best,” he says. “Horror should
scare you. That’s why they call it horror, right? So, I guess that’s why the movies I listed above had the most lasting impact on me. I saw them at a time when I was young enough to find the supernatural genuinely frightening.” It’s this visceral feeling that fuels Webster’s interest in horror, and achieving it is partt of his goal when creating music for Cannibal Corpse. To him, the idea of fear is essential to a horror work. “There are a lot of well-made horror movies out there today, and plenty of them are disturbing and grotesque, but none of them quite do it for me like that first handful I mentioned,” he admits. “A truly great horror movie can inspire fear without relying solely on gore and graphic violence.” He also believes that horror fiction has retained the ability to hit an uncomfortable nerve in some folks. “The initial shock of death metal might be hard, even impossible, to recreate nowadays,” he concedes, “but I think the fact that many of us are still dealing with censorship problems in various places shows that, at least for some people, the shock is still there.” The genre of death metal has exploded over the years, with many new bands having been inspired by Cannibal Corpse. Many of them continue to honor
the genre’s horrific qualities and crawl under people’s skin, and some have even grown the art form with new levels of technicality. Webster sees a great many bands coming out of death metal who are demonstrating strong talent and helping to keep the genre alive and exciting. “As far as the music goes, I think there’s been plenty of growth and improvements made in our genre in the past three decades,” he says. “The growth and the introduction of new bands has been steady too, and I think that’s very positive. There have been almost continual waves of new talent in the death metal scene throughout its entire existence, and that still seems to be happening. It’s a strong underground form of music that’s here to stay.” For Webster, death metal and horror are more than passions: they’re a lifestyle that has granted him extraordinary opportunities. In playing and creating with Cannibal Corpse, he strives to continue moving forward and pumping out brutal horror for as long as he can. “I’m also hoping that the best Cannibal Corpse album is still yet to come,” he states, “because, really, if you’re not trying to make your latest album the best one, then why bother?”
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BELL WITCH Ghost stories are perhaps one of the most ancient kinds of tales that have been passed down throughout generations. The idea of ghosts presents a plethora of philosophical intrigue to spark one’s mind, for there are many interpretations of what ghosts are and why they exist. “I’m skeptical on the idea of ghosts being floating spirits of the dead,” Bell Witch bassist and vocalist Dylan Desmond says. “I tend to imagine that they’re more a figment of our imagination, be it in a dreamlike waking state or in a nightmare. It’s possible they could be the id’s response [to or] expression of stress or trauma.” This interest in ghosts is the main inspiration behind the work of Seattle’s Bell Witch, so much so that the band took their name from one of folklore’s greatest hauntings. Desmond shares, “All of our songs, in one way or another, have been intended as ghost stories from the perspective of a ghost trapped somewhere between life and death. The Bell Witch haunting seemed like a perfect name, as that was, in essence, what was purported to have happened in the Bell Witch hauntings.” Not only is October the time of witches,
ghouls, and ghosts, it is also when the world was gifted Bell Witch’s third LP, Mirror Reaper, via Profound Lore Records. The album is an ethereal experience that consists of just one 83-minute song. But Mirror Reaper is much more than just a long song: it’s an analysis of life and death. The title is indicative of the Hermetic axiom “As Above, So Below,” with two sides forming one whole. “The musical goal of the band is to explore areas of minimalism with an emotional heaviness,” Desmond states. “Early on, the idea was to convey the feeling of being helpless or trapped. As the band has aged, the same idea of emotions is important, but more resolving patterns have emerged to connect the others.” “We definitely adhere to a dark and bleak aesthetic, but I wouldn’t describe it in the same category as black metal,” Shreibman adds. “We strive to convey our stories through a mood in our music. If the story and music align, the message is delivered correctly in my opinion.” Mirror Reaper also honors the memory of the band’s former drummer and friend Adrian Guerra, who unfortunately passed away during the writing process of the song. “Jesse and I began
MOONSPELL Portugal’s Moonspell tell the story of the year 1755 with their newest album of the same name, out Nov. 3 via Napalm Records. The band’s hometown of Lisbon suffered a massive earthquake during that time, wrecking the country’s capital and, a couple hundred years later, fueling the content of this collection of dark metal anthems. The talents of vocalist Fernando Ribeiro, guitarists and keyboardists Ricardo Amorim and Pedro Paixão, bassist Aires
Pereira, and drummer Miguel Gaspar blend perfectly to create Moonspell’s uniquely gothic sonic mastery. It’s no surprise, then, that the band have a soft spot for all things horror. Ribeiro says that a dark aesthetic, closely related to the moon, plays a large role in the creation of the band’s music. “I believe that [what] we call dark—if you’re not too trendy about it—are the places we don’t explore and the subjects that make us chill when we’re finishing up a lyric,” he shares, “and those are my raw matter, the lunar side of things and people.” Ribeiro explains that he carries that same dark appeal throughout their work, especially on 1755, incorporating it into the bands album art. “I always try to hire artists that embrace that lunar side as well, but do it with their own sense and autonomy,” he says. “It’s very important that the art helps to tell the story on the album, and we always try for that.” The band have had their fair share of supernatural experiences while on the road, presumably energies from beyond just wanting to make their presence known. The most memorable for Ribeiro occurred when another band member suffered the death of a close family member. “All this life is stranger than fiction, and there’s always stuff falling over, ghost notes, scares,” he says. “Music is funda-
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I N T E R V I E W W I T H DY L A N D E S M O N D A N D J E S S E S H R E I B M A N BY M I C H A E L P E M E N T E L writing the song in the winter of 2015,” Desmond shares. “Adrian had recently left the band, and Jesse had already completed three tours. He was pretty well-integrated into the band’s sound by that point, so writing new material had a very normal feeling to it. When Adrian passed in May of 2016, we both took a sort of step back from the song. I think we were both trying to process what had happened and experiencing grief from his loss. When we began to practice again, it was with a lot more focus and drive. We decided the new record had to be much more than the previous material or else it wouldn’t live up to the
standard of emotional void and loss that we were both feeling.” Mirror Reaper is an extraordinary examination of life and death, touching upon mortality and reflection through mystical instrumentation. For Desmond and Shreibman, ghost stories will always be at the core of their work, inspiring them to create and explore. “Regardless, [ghosts’] existence across culture, civilization, and time is fascinating,” Desmond states. “In this regard, there is something very human about ghosts that we all have inside ourselves.”
PHOTOS: KELSEY AYRES
INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST FERNANDO RIBEIRO BY GABY CHEPURNY mentally energy. The event that struck me the most was when our guitar player Ricardo’s dad died. We were on the road, and we played that night in France. All of our gear was crazy, our geysers shot alone, heavy and spiritual almost, like [it was] playing tricks on us.” While supernatural beings may follow a band to multiple stops on the road or in the studio, sometimes the venue itself crawls with creepy energies that are just as hard—if not harder—to escape. Ribeiro describes his most unnerving times spent at different venues across the world, recalling, “There are a few in the U.S., like a downstairs [venue in] Poughkeepsie, [New York] or the small underground club in Atlanta. Creepy in the way that it
could a serial killer lair. But the scariest was a backstage in Romania, a guy’s bedroom decorated with empty packs of happy meals from McDonald’s.” Spooky happenings in real life don’t scare the vocalist away from all things frightening, as he holds many horror classics near to his heart. “[My] favorite horror book must be ‘The Exorcist’ by William Peter Blatty,” he shares. “Even though the film is stupendous and one of my favorites, the book allows you more to enter the exorcist’s mind, the conflict, and has a lot of in-between the lines about religion, demonology, and the Church. It’s more complete.”
NECRO DEATHMORT U.K. electronic duo Necro Deathmort are a lot like The Thing from, well, “The Thing.” Throughout their impressive catalog, their sound has successfully morphed and shapeshifted in whatever direction Matthew Rozeik and AJ Cookson so choose. Their latest sonic personification, Overland—released Oct. 6 via Profound Lore Records—finds them embracing a slightly more organic and bright sound. It’s cinematic, harrowing, and certainly still traces its roots to drone and noise, yet Necro Deathmort’s Profound Lore debut is easily their most traditional and haunting release yet. Most impressively, they’ve created an electronic masterpiece in 2017 that can namedrop John Carpenter without sounding like an ‘80s rip-off. The duo’s ability to be many things throughout their career—and on this one record—while still maintaining a unique voice is impressive. So, how did they go about creating Overland? “With Overland, we wanted to make a record that was more lively and vibrant than the previous album, [2016’s The Capsule], which was quite bleak, stripped-down, and cold for the most part,” Rozeik explains. “I think we knew early on that we’d be using different instruments for this record, and we wrote songs that had something approaching a traditional structure in places. It was obvious to us that this album
would be more dynamic and varied, so we started writing wind [and] brass arrangements and using real percussion and instruments to give the music a more human feel. Each record is intended to explore a particular sound, which may explain why we can appear a bit erratic with our output at times.” “We have so many things we want to do with this band,” he continues. “It would be nearly impossible to make the same record twice. I think when we started, we would have never guessed that we’d be making some of the music that we’ve made, but we’re still very excited to be trying new things out and expanding our remit further with each release.” Addressing the neon elephant in the room, Rozeik explains why the band want to forge their own electronic path. “We both adore electronic music from the ‘60s to the present, and it’s definitely been the most profound influence in our musical lives,” he allows, “but we have no intention of making retro-sounding music. It’s been done, and there is already plenty of killer electronic music from the ‘60s to ‘80s that’s ‘of its time.’ In fact, we consciously tried to make this album sound a little less overtly ‘synthy’ and a bit more sonically ambiguous, which is why we used some real instruments this time.”
PRIMITIVE MAN Tomes upon tomes have been written on how to properly define “horror,” especially as a literary genre. One associates the word with emotions like fear, panic, disgust, and despair, and even the mere mention of the term conjures a sordid assortment of images. Things that cause people to feel afraid: monsters, clowns, zombies—which are certainly hot properties of late. Yet, authentic horror need not be otherworldly creatures summoned from the bowels of our imagination. It need not even be in the form of human beings. It might be something simpler. Like a wasted life, a life condemned to mere subsistence. One in which the biological necessities are met, but the social, relational, and psychological necessities are hewn off. A slow, plodding, metaphysical march into futility. Bills paid. Lists checked. Dreams eviscerated.
This is the kind of life described in the lyrics of “Commerce” from Primitive Man’s new album Caustic, released Oct. 6 via Relapse Records: “Cold / Shackled to / The bottom / Of the bottle / Of the socio-economic slavery […] Remember / None of your workdays mattered […] Your essence is dead but slavery is forever.” “‘Commerce’ I like because it’s the first time I’ve done a guitar solo,” vocalist and guitarist Ethan Lee McCarthy
PHOTO: ELEANOR SHORT
INTERVIEW WITH MATTHEW ROZEIK BY NICHOLAS SENIOR “I think our influences creep into our music in a fairly subtle way,” he elaborates. “We both listen to a lot of new wave stuff like XTC, Stranglers, Ippu-Do, Talking Heads, etc., so I think that could have influenced the faster tempos and melodic content in some lateral way.” The use of real instruments gives Overland a real human element in a style that is purposefully synthesized. Rozeik mentions that the duo wanted to embrace a more organic theme as well. “There’s no defined narrative for this record; we just wanted it to be varied and unpredictable, but have a cohesive aesthetic throughout,” he says. “It’s not a conceptual record, but the mood we wanted to convey was of being on
the ground, so the sounds are more ‘real’ and earthy.” The aforementioned “The Thing ” comparison holds, but don’t call Necro Deathmort a horror band. “We’re much more influenced by sci-fi films and art than anything ‘horror,’” Rozeik asserts. “Even scary films like ‘Alien’ or ‘The Thing ’ are still fundamentally more sci-fi films than what I’d consider to be horror. There’s a sweet spot for sci-fi films between 1968 and 1974, much like there is with rock music. The films were always really imaginative, atmospheric, and often had amazing colors, architecture, and imagery, as well as usually having a killer electronic soundtrack.”
PHOTO: ALVINO SALCEDO
remarks, “and I just think it’s one of our best-written songs.” McCarthy’s lyrics are but the sour icing atop a moldering cake. Caustic is a tale of the overwhelming horror of modern life. No slashers. No monsters. No witches or goblins. Rather, these songs present a kind of horror that is subtle, quiet, and docile. Perhaps even inviting. Not a fate like death, in which all struggles are resolved, all business attended, and all scores settled. What makes the songs on Caustic so terrifying is that they contemplate an endless insipid existence, an eternal, sulking journey devoid of destination or purpose. At an exasperating 75 minutes, Caustic is Primitive Man’s longest release. In keeping with its title, the album dissolves the listener’s spirit into a putrid, hopeless ichor. Of the record’s title, McCarthy says, “It seemed to fit the tone and the overall vibe, and I talk a lot about things eroding on the record.” Erosion is common theme throughout the album, relating specifically to interpersonal relationships on the track “Victim.” Caustic’s opening track, “My Will,” mentions a feeling of “disgust” that “will stay as golden as the sun.” “My will,” McCarthy howls, “is a cancer on your fucking life.” Said cancer is “undying” and “incur-
I N T E R V I E W W I T H V O C A L I ST / G U I TA R I ST E T H A N L E E M C C A R T H Y BY G R A N T S K E LTO N able.” Thematically, such vivid lyrical imagery provides a further example of the perpetual sense of life being eaten away—slowly. Cell by cell. Over years, maybe even decades. In addition to Caustic, fans should also take notice of Fear / A Life of Turmoil, a two-song—but 46-minute—ambient harsh noise album Primitive Man released back in April. Astute listeners will note that this is not the first time the band experimented with such sounds. They previously released noise tracks such as “A Marriage With Nothingness” and “Decline.” “All that noise stuff that’s ever been on any Primitive Mans records, I’ve done all of it,” McCarthy ex-
plains. “But we’ve actually started to do some stuff together at rehearsal so that we can do shows together whenever the opportunity arises.” For fans craving more real life horror— especially true-crime aficionados—McCarthy recommends “Panzram: A Journal of Murder” by Thomas E. Gaddis and James O. Long, the autobiography serial killer Carl Panzram. “He is the scariest one I’ve ever read about,” McCarthy says, “because there is no one more evil than this guy.”
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NEAUX In 2016, Neaux emerged into the scene, bringing former VersaEmerge vocalist Sierra Kay back to the microphone with guitarist Nick Fit—formerly of Trash Talk—at her side. The band returned with their sophomore release, Chain Up the Sun, on Oct. 13 via The Native Sound, giving new life to their dreamy, atmospheric sound.
After spending years entangled in a more polished music scene, Kay found herself at her limit. When VersaEmerge quietly dissipated, Kay questioned her future in music. Despite this, Neaux offered the perfect creative outlet to let her ideas flow naturally. The band came together after Kay and Fit reconnected over social media. Fit—who Kay met years before on tour—began sending her a series of demos with enough personality to pique her interest. “I didn’t really want to make music anymore,” she recalls, “but I still wanted to make shitty music.” Neaux dance along the lines between noisy garage rock and dreamy pop, layering different textures and tones. Their 2016 debut, Fell Off the Deep End, swishes together Fit’s snarling guitars with washed out drums, laying the malleable groundwork for their sound. Amidst the chaos, Kay’s powerful vocals effortlessly punch holes through the walls of noise, sprinkling warmth over the ensemble.
The band sidestep the woes of being placed in genre bubbles by simply focusing on playing music they love. “I’m not a really good genre person,” Kay laughs. “I like to fuck it all up. It’s all just self-gratification in a way.” Neaux’s new single, “Stuck Like A…,” recounts Kay’s experience with being young and crazy and unintentionally hurting those close to you in the process. “It’s kind of like a guilt trip song,” she explains. “Every time I perform it, I actually feel a lot better, because it’s like stating my sins.” “Stuck Like A…” takes the chaotic sound Neaux built and repurposes it into something brighter and more dynamic. Compared to past output, Kay’s writing comes together more naturally and honestly here. “I don’t have to try, and that’s new for me,” she says. “Whatever comes out, comes out.” This sonic middle-ground Neaux tread has introduced Kay to an entirely new world. While she once spent the summer gallivanting across the country on the Vans Warped Tour—“Everything was so perfect and pretend,” she recalls—Neaux have spread their wings within the DIY community. From booking tours to filming and editing music videos, Kay and Fit have worked together to make Neaux shine in this light.
PHOTO: JORDYN BESCHEL
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Despite the mixed emotions Kay had about VersaEmerge, she still looks back on it fondly. A specific tour memory shook her up enough to inspire a song. After spending a night prancing noisily through a cemetery, Kay returned home only to feel like something sinister had followed. “It was like this darkness hanging out in the corner. I remember being in my room and feeling so insane that I screamed and ran out of my room,” she recalls. “I was so fucked up about it, and it was real to me. It took my safe space and made it unsafe.” After refusing to sleep in her room the whole month she was home, Kay crafted the song “Up There”
SPIRIT ADRIFT Sprit Adrift vocalist, guitarist, and founder Nate Garrett is a man on a mission—but where that mission leads is up to you. Listen to his soaring riffs and glacial melodies, and you’re likely to drift through worlds both personal and intense. It’s the effect of great songwriting. Garret brings a special voice to Spirit Adrift, one that comes from the inner-heart. It’s a gift he shares with one of his musical idols: a legendary rocker gone way too soon. “My two biggest inspirations that aren’t my grandfather and my father are Tom Petty and Waylon Jennings,” he says. “I always write the music to my songs first. Sometimes, a melody or lyric will appear before I’m finished, sometimes after. Tom Petty said he would find a vocal melody, which would almost inherently contain the right lyric. As I get older, I find that’s often the case.” The songs on Spirit Adrift’s newest record, Curse of Conception—released Oct. 6 via 20 Buck Spin—trickle into your mind like Petty’s “Breakdown” and “Refugee,” and a circular and warm humanness leaps directly into your heart. The songcraft and lyrical direction are paramount. The songs remain fluttering in your mind, and there’s a real sense of narrative purpose—but man, it fucking rocks too. The album is pure old-school classic heavy metal with riffs so large,
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you’re left spinning into the great wide open. It’s also smart, not afraid to flex its modern and technical prowess. “I can’t listen to Black Sabbath or Judas Priest and not feel inspired or downright happy,” Garrett explains. “Those bands personify everything glorious, heavy, exciting, and uplifting about heavy metal to me. Then, a band like Inter Arma comes along and puts out Paradise Gallows just last year, which is one of the most inspiring pieces of art I’ve ever experienced. So, it doesn’t matter to me when something was made, it only matters how honest and kickass it is.” Garrett is used to being the sole member of Spirit Adrift. It’s why the band sound so connected and centered, with such an immense singularity. Curse of Conception is the first record to feature other members, and the ensuing effort is wide and diverse. While the songs are still pure Garrett, there’s an extra depth to them this time around. “The writing process was essentially the same for Curse of Conception as it was for previous releases,” Garrett notes. “I wrote and demoed all the songs at home. Only, this time, it helped to have three really talented guys to talk ideas and make improvements with.” Sprit Adrift’s eternal special measure is their connection to the humanness and
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off VersaEmerge’s 2010 album, Fixed At Zero. Neaux have established a darker, more experimental sound that challenges them to work creatively and organically. Though Kay and Fit were brought up on different spectrums of the music scene, their experiences meld together into something uniquely their own. “It’s just fun, you know?” Kay smiles. “For me personally, I hated music for the past few years, because I got really burned out on it. And now, I have fun doing it again.”
PHOTO: ALVIN SALCEDO
INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST/GUITARIST NATE GARRETT BY CHRISTOPHER J. HARRINGTON worldliness of existence. You can feel it, breathe it, and walk with it throughout the new record. There are concepts almost visible through the dusty glass, but Curse of Conception is purely individualistic, and thus, universal. “Any of the profound or meaningful messages in the album came from my own experiences with pain, the search for purpose, and that kind of thing,” Garrett explains. “My moral center—or spirituality, if you want to call it that—is based heavily on things I’ve experienced in some sort of altered state. I love the idea of the interconnectivity of all life and matter.” Hence, Spirit Adrift? “I actually named the band while I was working on the first song on the debut EP, [Behind – Beyond].
I had just been discharged from detox after about 15 years of self-abuse, so the name definitely describes how I was feeling at the time.” And in celebration of Halloween, Garrett is more than happy to list his classic picks. “My go-to Halloween albums are Black Sabbath’s self-titled album and October Rust by Type O Negative. The Evil One by Roky Erickson And The Aliens is another good one. That has some of the most soulful guitar playing and singing I’ve ever heard.”
THEN COMES SILENCE In stark contrast to their neon-flecked sonic neighbors, post-punk and dark wave are often presented in black and white: a metaphor for the melding of bright rock hooks with grim lyrics. Swedish post-punk masters Then Comes Silence implement this contrast beautifully with their label debut, Blood, released via Nuclear Blast on Oct. 20. Much like the ‘80s-loving feminist-Western-vampire-noir black-and-white fever dream, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”—a beautiful film—Blood taps into the essence of humanity: violence, hatred, evil, and even hope. For their latest sonic horror opus, Then Comes Silence carve into the heart of a different source of evil: man.
Vocalist and bassist Alex Svenson has always written about death. Perhaps this is why he lives by two cemeteries—though he’s afraid of ghosts, so he stays clear at night. “It’s a very relaxing spot to walk when I need to clear my head,” he shares. “It’s really beautiful in the fall. There’s an empty chapel in the graveyard, and I’ve always wanted to ask if I can build a studio in there, because it’s always empty. There’s no one there, but it would be really cool to make music there.”
Svenson’s focus on death has historically been more literal, but for Blood, he felt inspired to craft the end of a different, more metaphorical life. “You know, I always bring the element of death when I write,” he confirms. “All four of our albums are—let’s say, soaked in death,” he laughs. “This album is the one with a touch of a political theme. It’s also about the patriarchy.” Fear not, Blood is not drenched in repetitive talking points. Then Comes Silence are experts in writing electronic rock that is musically compelling and dangerously melodic, and Svenson’s lyrics are wonderfully layered and ambiguous. The most overt feminist anthem is “Mercury,” and he mentions why the song is particularly important. “I believe we’re heading for a perfect change, that the world is heading for a big change,” he says. “The future is female. The future is probably vegetarian. And the future is probably without gasoline. Do you see what I mean? I would call myself a feminist, so that song is the most political song I ever did, but I don’t think you can hear that in the lyrics.” Whether you want to call it feminist or just disdainful of the lower, baser in-
RADIATOR HOSPITAL Despite having a pile of EPs and a couple of full-lengths and splits on their merch table, Philadelphia’s Radiator Hospital took their time releasing their latest LP—three years to be exact. The wait was a deliberate decision. “The last two LPs we made, we had the recording time scheduled before we had learned all the songs—which I liked, because I knew what the deadline was to get the tunes done, but in hindsight, it left everyone rushing to learn a part for the songs,” vocalist and guitarist Sam Cook-Parrott says. “And both of those records, we all hear [them] now and know how much better we play everything live and wish that we had taken our time to get good. So, we did that this time.” The result, Radiator Hospital Play the Songs You Like—released Oct. 19 via Salinas Records—is their most cohesive and strongest album yet. There may not be a straightforward theme to the songs that make up this latest LP, but there is a thread linking many of the tracks. “The overriding thing sort of lingering throughout all of it, at least to me, is about the nature of songs and how they weave their way into our lives over time,” Cook-Parrott says. “I’ve been writing songs my whole life, and
INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST/BASSIST ALEX SVENSON BY NICHOLAS SENIOR stincts of man, it’s a theme that horror often picks up on: mankind, on its own, is usually not going to do good when it’s so enticing to be bad. Svenson agrees, “Mankind certainly can cause a lot of pain. One of my favorite films ever is ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ because I think that movie has got an element of every bad sign of mankind: betrayal, murder, violence, you can name a lot of them. That movie is one of my favorites because it calls out the darkness of man.” So, what led him to write in this vein? “I think it’s very much how the world is shaping right now. I don’t want to be pointing at America, but you have a
new president,” he pauses to laugh, “and we’ve experienced a lot of bad here in Europe as well. I think before we can reach this change that I was talking about earlier, the old structure, the old system is accelerating right now before it just blows up. I’m quite optimistic, but we’ll have to endure this period.” It’s a good thing Then Comes Silence— like the best post-punk before them— recognize the importance of writing apocalyptic tunes that light up the dancefloor while the world crumbles— though, this time, maybe the world that’s crumbling deserves it.
PHOTO: DAN EDELMAN
at this point, it means something totally different to me than it did even making our last record, so trying to figure out what it means ended up seeping into the tunes.” As a fan of horror movies, scary books, and Halloween, the timing of the release is also perfect for Cook-Parrott. “I dig all that shit,” he says. “Halloween is a favorite time of year, and I’m glad our record is coming out around then and will hopefully feel like a Halloween time record for people.” Cook-Parrott may not have much personal experience with the supernatural—“The only time I feel like I personally truly felt a paranormal presence was one time at [drummer] Jeff [Bolt] and [guitarist and vocalist] Cynthia [Schemmer]’s old house where we used to practice,” he reports—but the spooky season does evoke fond memories for him. “All the different cover bands I have seen around Halloween flow together in a drunken haze,” he admits, “but the best one I ever saw was a KISS cover band, complete with Philly-specific Paul Stanley banter by the lead singer, Perry Shall of Hound.” For Play the Songs You Like’s production, the band turned to another
I N T E R V I E W W I T H V O C A L I S T / G U I TA R I S T S A M C O O K- PA R R O T T B Y J O H N B . M O O R E Philly local, Jeff Zeigler. “I had played on a record he made about a year before, so I knew about what it would be like,” Cook-Parrott says. “He’s great, and we are really stoked with the record we turned out together.” The Philly scene has been home to many amazing artists over the years, and after decades of hosting some great bands—from punk to funk to indie rock—the city is finally having its moment on a national stage. “There’s been incredible bands coming out of Philly for decades,” Cook-Parrott says. “There’s all sorts of factors I think add up to why Philly has a lot of great bands,
but I think the main reason is: it’s a nobullshit place where people are people before they are musicians. Great music breeds more great music.” Based on Play the Songs You Like, Radiator Hospital should also be expecting a much bigger stage any moment now. Until then, they plan to focus on what they’ve been doing. “[We’re] gonna tour a bunch playing the songs you like,” Cook-Parrott says. “Gonna try to get another record done before three years goes by, but no promises.”
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Cadabra Records INTERVIEW WITH FOUNDER JONATHAN DENNISON
ou’ll probably be remembered as the greatest thing since sliced bread if you whip out Bram Stoker’s classic, “Dracula,” on vinyl this Halloween. With its shuffling pace, netherworld spirituality, and haunting soundtrack, the crowd will surely be stunned. People will be all, “Holy shit, where in the fuck did you get this?!” “Cadabra Records, bro,” you will reply. “That’s where.” But the party may be stunted, as the record is so mesmerizing that all ghoulish activities—like Pin the Tail on the Trump Zombie—would immediately halt. And when side-A ended, somebody would get up and scream furiously, “Turn it over! For God’s sake, flip it now!” “One is not likely to multi-task while playing an audio record,” Cadabra founder Jonathan Dennison notes, “and this is most notable. Listening to a record should be at a time of peace in your day, a time to get away from real world distractions. Digital audio is commonly played while working on your computer, driving, and exercising; it’s not the same. Also, most people who purchase vinyl records really care and have a passion for music, so their listening habits will also be different.”
tioned Halloween party where you became a legend. “They played ‘Dracula’ on vinyl, man. And then I went out and bought the book, because I’ve actually never read it—and shit, now I’m like reading books again.” For Dracula, Dennison teamed up with the multimedia company Bleak December, founded by Canadian actor and filmmaker Anthony D.P. Mann. “Anthony had originally written me about doing vinyl for another project and mentioned he was in the middle of putting together Dracula,” Dennison explains. “When I finally heard it, I was astounded by his attention to detail and how fast-paced and entertaining it was. Anthony has his own brand of production. Tony Todd as Dracula absolutely killed it.”
Indeed. Todd’s inspired invention of the count is something to experience. Drooling with ancient and celestial juices, his version of Dracula cuts right to the bone: a piercing and nail-scorching impression.
Hence, Cadabra Records: a label dedicated to spoken word horror classics and really fucking awesome artwork. The whole concept and package is one giant, fantastic nightmare, a collector’s dream, and a beautiful way to bring back the lost art of oratory enlightenment. Just think of the aforemen-
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Cadabra is unique. With the cultish fever for vinyl at its peak, Dennison has created a label to inspire both the old and new heads. The label has picked out some absolute classics to produce—like H.P. Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model,” Roland Topor’s “No Ordinary Fairy,” and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles”—and has worked with some amazing musicians and composers. The totality
of the label reaches an infinite region with its refined taste, and one can really feel the love for composition and collaboration on each mesmerizing production. New York City noise and industrial behemoths, Theologian, have scored a few soundtracks, as has Fabio Frizzi, a frequent collaborator with late horror film legend Lucio Fulci.
I’ve been a fan of the spoken arts for a long time,” he continues, “and I realized there wasn’t a whole lot out there in the realm of the horror [or] weird genre. I loved what some of the soundtrack labels were doing with their reissues and thought I could give the same attention to detail for my records, in my own way. I also thought to fuse a soundscape [and] score to complement the spoken narrative. Things are moving along great; the audience and the talent we work with is growing at a rapid pace.” If you’re not bumping Dracula, but still want to party hard All Hallows’ Evestyle, what then shall you rage? “I’d say a must for any Halloween partly is ‘Monster Mash,’” Dennison says. “Also, any John Zacherle record. Going into the ‘80s, any John Carpenter record will do. If you want to really creep it out, you want to get into Goblin’s Suspiria or any of Frizzi’s Fulci scores.”
“Theologian is actually now wrapping up Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu, which has been a huge undertaking,” Dennison notes. “We also have a new record coming up of Lovecraft’s The Picture in the House, which is scored by maestro Frizzi.”
INTERVIEW WITH FOUNDER/GUITARIST DEVON E. LEVINS
Speaking of awesomely devilish Halloween music, Morricone Youth founder and guitarist Devon E. Levins joined the party to offer some of his own choice cuts—get it? Cuts. Like slashes. The legendary NYC musician started Morricone Youth as a dedication to crafting music for the moving image. “Well, some of the scariest music of all time—the first thing that comes to mind was composed by Jerry Goldsmith for ‘The Omen,’ ‘[Damien:] Omen II,’ and even ‘Omen III: [The Final Conflict],’” he notes. “Fabio Frizzi’s—this guy is everyone’s hero—City of the Living Dead is always chilling. Goblin’s Suspiria—double-shout—remains creepy even after millions of listens, as does Ennio Morricone’s Exorcist II: The Heretic, not only for the obvious ‘Magic and Ecstasy’ track, but the ‘la-la’ sung lullaby, ‘Regan’s Theme.’ Also, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and Morricone’s The Bird With the Crystal Plumage are all examples of wistful music used counterintuitively for horror films.” Levins knows what he’s talking about. The guy has been creating amazing reinterpretations of classic soundtracks for some time now. Morricone Youth have recorded original LPs for the films “Magnum Force,” “Mad Max,” “The Adventures of Prince Achmed,” and “Night of the Living Dead”—get this for your Halloween party—as well as a collection of originals entitled Silenzio Violento. On Sept. 8, the band released Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, based on F.W. Murnau’s classic 1927 silent film, via Country Club Records. The record’s a wild and beautifully played escape, with nods to timeless compositions and inspired levitation. The variance is ridiculous divine, and you just sort of sit and back and breathe sky and creation while listening to it.
REAL GONE MUSIC, WAXWORK, AND BEYOND! Now, you’re crazy for some Halloween vinyl, right? You’re scrambling—you’ve got a party to host for God’s sake! “Where the fuck do I go for this shit?” Along with the aforementioned labels, here’s some more tasty—get it? Like Halloween candy—treats for you from some wickedly cool labels. Real Gone Music, out of Ohio, is a reissue label dedicated to music that is real gone. They have some eerie October releases coming out, like Cujo, Zacherle’s Monster Gallery, 45 Grave’s lone 1983 release, Sleep in Safety, and Return of the Living Dead. Waxwork Records is the real deal Halloween spot. They have so much freaktastic vinyl, you’ll be howling
at the moon like a werewolf in heat. Records you can purchase from their online store include Don’t Look Now, Rosemary’s Baby, Creepshow 2, White Zombie’s Soul-Crusher, The Howling, and Salem’s Lot. That’s just a taste. They’ve got a shit-ton more. So, you’ve got it this Halloween. You’ll be prepared with all the vinyl you need to make this year’s monster bash the one everyone will remember. “Fuck man, we didn’t even watch any TV,” they’ll say. “We partied, listened to Night of the Living Dead on vinyl, read a little ‘Frankenstein’ by candlelight—shit, I feel like a new person. That was some Halloween!”
Levins’ band are adept at variation, something vinyl records were created for. It’s almost like those who are inspired by vinyl must build a collection that is so diverse, so massively at odds with itself, that it’s immeasurably perfect. “I truly believe it is the most meaningful format created to date,” Levins says. “It forces you to focus on and reckon with the music and the artwork in a way other mediums don’t require. You have to hold it in your hand. You have to look at it. You have to get up out of your chair and put it on, and then, 15 to 20 minutes later, you have to get back up to flip it over to the other side. If you have the right stereo setup, the sound can’t be beat.” “I have been a record collector for over 35 years and never really went through spells where I stopped purchasing records,” he shares. “I’m glad to see the popularity of vinyl has returned. We initially discussed doing an imaginary film genre-jumping vinyl series—e.g. a spaghetti western, a giallo, a spy film, etc.—in 2006 as a follow-up to Silenzio Violento. At the time, I recall some band members looking at me cross-eyed, questioning who would actually be interested in this.”
Converge have been a band for close to 30 years now. In 2001, they drastically reshaped the worlds of metal, punk, and hardcore with the release of their iconic Jane Doe album. For the past 16 years, Converge have continued to make consistently jaw-dropping new music, tour harder than imaginable, and exert their influence throughout the underground music realm with a litany of associated acts and projects. At this point in their career, Converge are less a band than a musical force of nature. They exist in a league all their own. Their new album, The Dusk in Us—out Nov. 3 on Epitaph Records—is the band’s first full-length since 2012’s All We Love We Leave Behind and finds them challenging themselves like never before: exploring new themes, new sonic terrain, and totally making up for that grueling five-year wait between records. “The four of us have had a ton of forward movement in those five years, both
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personally and as musicians and artists in this community. It’s probably been the busiest time we’ve ever had as a band,” vocalist Jacob Bannon says, addressing the misconstrued notions of their inactivity. Since Converge last blessed fans’ speakers with new material back in 2012, the band have crafted a gargantuan 17-hour home video box set, Thousands
of Miles Between Us, in 2015, remixed their stellar 2004 album, You Fail Me, and executed the breathtaking Jane Live and Blood Moon performances in 2016. In early 2017, Bannon released his 300-page “Dunedevil” art book and dropped the debut album from his solo project, Wear Your Wounds. He also just so happens to run Deathwish Inc., a tastemaker label in the worlds of hardcore and metal. Guitarist Kurt Ballou’s GodCity Studio has become the mecca of extreme music production, recording the raddest albums from the heaviest bands on the planet. Bassist Nate Newton has recorded and toured with Doomriders and Old Man Gloom, while drummer Ben Koller has been killing it with All Pigs Must Die and is slowly but surely taking over the world with Mutoid Man.
tive and relevant within it, and it’s not just the band. It’s Kurt with his engineering and his studio and providing that service. It’s me working in the art world and the visual world for other bands and labels. Myself running Deathwish with a great group of people. There’s just so much.”
“You know, sometimes it’s interesting, I’m not a very retrospective person where I reflect on my activity,” he continues. “I like making stuff and moving to the next thing. Sometimes, it blows my mind seeing how much our work has had a hand in helping other artists realize their vision, releasing their music, recording their music, making art for them, etc.” With so much commotion in their universe, it’s sort of a miracle that the Converge team managed to reconvene to record new maIn the immortal words of Derek terial at all. “I think the most Zoolander, Converge have been challenging thing for us isn’t really, really, really, ridiculous- finding motivation,” Bannon ly busy. “We look at this band explains, “but finding time in as—obviously, it’s a traditional that busy schedule to all be able band. We write songs, make to get in a room together and records, go on tour,” Bannon work on stuff. Because all those shares, “but we’ve been active things I mentioned all require in this music community for time and effort, and there’s almost 30 years now, and we only so many hours in a day.” still feel that we’re pretty acThankfully, the stars aligned and the Fates gifted us yet another killer Converge album. The Dusk in Us is a dark, beautiful record. It’s easily the most pristine sounding Converge album to date, certifying Ballou’s status as the supreme studio
wizard of our times. The frenzied, math-y, extreme moments are flat-out exhilarating, while the somber, introspective sections are haunting beyond belief. Lyrically, Bannon explores everything from the wonders of parenthood to the ills of modern society. His trademark animalistic howl has never sounded more tortured, while his softer spoken word vocals add a new dimension to the already eclectic Converge sound.
"Sometimes, it blows my mind seeing how much our work has had a hand in helping other artists realize their vision, releasing their music, recording their music, making art for them..."
heavier band; sometimes, you have an idea you want to make something more abrasive, more aggressive, more noisy, more melodious within the body of songs. You just have something that interests you, and you want to push things forward. We want to make something that excites us in some way.” Speaking of exciting, album opener “A Single Tear” is the latest in a long line of Converge rippers and starts The Dusk in Us off in grand fashion. Reminiscent of All We Love We Leave Behind’s “Aimless Arrow” and You Fail Me’s “Last Light” before it, “A Single Tear” is a dazzlingly emotional rollercoaster of a song. Bannon sings about the transformative moment when he became a father, and Newton and Ballou chant “a single tear” behind a thunderous, sky-shattering breakdown. Songs like “Eye of the Quarrel,” “I Can Tell You About Pain,” and the oh-so-lethal “Cannibals” are some of the most BPM-blazing tunes the band have ever produced. “Reptil-
ian” and “Under Duress” feature some of the heaviest riffs in Converge’s sonic arsenal as well, up there with “Heaven in Her Arms” from Jane Doe, “Heartless” from You Fail Me, and “Axe To Fall”—from the 2009 album of the same name— in terms of bang-your-headthrough-the-steering-wheel capabilities.
bums is going to be a hassle. It’s like a homerun competition in which every hit goes out of the park. Fans would be wise to simply sit back and enjoy The Dusk in Us for what it is: a bold and marvelous return from the underground’s favorite sons, which serves as one of the musical highpoints of 2017 and of the band’s career thus far.
Perhaps the most stunning tracks on The Dusk in Us are the album’s title track and “Thousands of Miles Between Us,” two of the slowest burning yet deepest cutting songs in the band’s catalog. “Those songs are, for me, two great examples of really deep places on the record,” Bannon says proudly. “Those also have to be my favorite places—or my favorite emotional places on the record. Things got incredibly vulnerable, and I’m just really proud we were able to capture those things.”
“It has a lot of different approaches,” Bannon says of the record’s unique sound. “It’s an eclectic album. All of our albums have been, in some way. There’s been dynamics in essentially every record going back to the late ‘90s. Even the mid ‘90s records when we were really trying to find our place. The record is kind of all over the place, but we’ve kind of always done that. There’s always been noise rock elements, there’s been more traditional hardcore elements, there’s always been technical metal elements, and there’s always been those dark, more somber moments. I just think that now, we’re just better at doing them.”
Trying to determine The Dusk in Us’ place amongst the pantheon of mighty Converge al-
“We’ve never really been a fan of the ‘good cop, bad cop’ style, vocal approach,” Bannon says. “That’s something that’s been popularized by some of the more commercial-oriented heavy bands. So, that’s not something that we do, but sometimes, some songs require different tones, different intensities. Sometimes, it’s not just melodious singing or screaming and yelling; there’s a spectrum in there that can also be explored a little bit. You just want to always challenge yourself and push what you’re doing to a new place and a new level. Sometimes, you want to be a
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RIP GRANT HEART 1961-2017
or Ken Shipley, the process of putting together a Hüsker Dü box set began with trying to make a believer out of the late Grant Hart. “I was told that the best way to get a Hüsker Dü box going was to convince Grant first,” says Shipley, cofounder of the Chicago-based reissue label, Numero Group. “That took a herculean amount of effort.” Seven years later, that effort has been validated in the form of Savage Young Dü, a sprawling four-LP or three-CD box set covering the first four years of the legendary Minneapolis trio’s career. Due out Nov. 10 and comprised of 69 songs—47 of which are previously unreleased—and a 108-page book of unreleased photos, fliers, quotes, and essays, the set brings fresh perspective to the work of a band whose history many thought had been written after their 1988 split. But the final product will regrettably never reach the man whose approval first spurred the project into action. Hart, the band’s drummer and co-songwriter, died of cancer on Sept. 13 at the age of 56. “I met Grant when he was 17, so we’ve had a long history,” Hüsker bassist Greg Nor-
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ton says. “He wasn’t always the easiest friend to have, but I’ll miss him dearly. Man, that guy could write some tunes.” “I’m super bummed that we didn’t even get a finished copy to him,” Shipley laments. “We had one finished copy, and we were too busy shooting the photos. If I had known that was going to be it, I would have at least driven it up to him so he could have seen it.” To truly appreciate Savage Young Dü is to understand just how improbable such a project was. The band’s catalog, while still in print, has largely been left untended, a result of both fractious relations between band members and legal issues with former label, SST Records. It’s also never been their wont to look back on things. “We weren’t a band to linger in the past,” Norton says. “The way we recorded our records was a testament to that. We were always touring the record we were about to record as opposed to the record that we just released.” Efforts to document the band’s earliest recordings go as far back as 2000. Terry Katzman—who started Reflex Records with the Hüskers and handled sound for their live shows un-
til 1985—had an extensive collection of tapes that he suggested the band consider mastering and releasing. “At the time, we really didn’t know what to do, and it was hard to get the three of us together to talk about it,” Norton says. “And from what I’ve been told, [vocalist and guitarist] Bob [Mould] didn’t really think the timing was right for it.” Years later, Numero Group reenergized discussion about a new release. In addition to the band’s early 7”s, an alternate version of their 1982 debut, Land Speed Record, and the self-released Everything Falls Apart from 1983, Savage Young Dü includes songs from Katzman’s remastered tapes, bootlegs, and lost demos. “It was a great period,” Norton recalls of the era captured on the set. “Everyone was throwing stuff out there. Bob—songs were just pouring out of him. In a sense, it was us teaching ourselves how to write songs.” The band first tested the waters with Numero Group by letting the label reissue the 1981 7”, Statues, for Record Store Day in 2013. From there, the label zeroed in on about 100 songs be-
fore narrowing everything down to the final 69, which were transferred and remastered at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio in Chicago. “The band had a pretty killer tape archive hiding out in an old storage space,” Shipley says. “Every time we opened up a box, we found something new.” Shipley notes that while coordinating all three members was challenging at times, the band showed a commitment to seeing the project through. “Having all three of them together at one point in time with a common goal, that hadn’t happened since 1987,” he says. “I think Grant being sick helped it a little bit, because everybody pulled together and rallied around it.” “I think the Bob and Grant battle has been well-documented in the press over the past several decades,” Norton says. “Now, we can get away from that and put the focus back on the music, which is where it should have been all along. We can concentrate on that legacy and that alone.” Savage Young Dü could be the start of an ongoing relationship between the band and Numero Group. By Shipley’s estimation, there are still about 200 tapes worth of material to comb through. Norton, meanwhile, hopes to launch a new website, where streams of old Hüsker Dü shows could be made available. “The thing that I think is really important [to acknowledge] is that bands that are sort of locked away from people end up getting forgotten,” Shipley says. “It’ll be exciting over the next four, five, 10 years as we continue to try to bring about a new story about this group. We just hope their music finds some fresh ears.”
PHOTO: JIMMY FONTAINE
hen The Front Bottoms began in 2007, frontman Brian Sella and drummer Mathew Uychich would take an hour or two to write and record an entire song using GarageBand, then immediately throw it up on their Myspace page. It was that impulsive, almost careless approach to songwriting that gave the New Jersey duo’s early body of work a hyper-stream-of-conscious sensibility. Their lyrics were ultra-vulnerable, often vindictive and uncomfortably personal. Their arrangements were minimalist at best, usually working with just a few chords and a dangerously sticky hook. And their swagger was unadulterated punk rock, showing little desire for slick production and not a shred of regret for their awkwardly forthright ramblings. Then, the band blew up. Their 2011 self-titled release pulled them out of the basements, 2013’s Talon of the Hawk yanked them out of the dive bars, and 2015’s Back On Top positioned them as either medium-capacity room headliners or direct support for the likes of blink-182 and Brand New. Obviously, as any band ages, their fans age too—and
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many age out of said band. However, within the broad category of punk music, when a band’s sound also becomes sleeker and more accessible in conjunction with a rapidly expanding fanbase, other implications arise. “You say I’m changing / Sorry, I didn’t know I had to stay the same,” is a classic line from “Be Nice To Me”—a song Sella penned almost a decade ago for 2008’s I Hate My Friends and an unintentionally perfect retort to the eventual skepticism about the band’s authenticity. What’s even funnier is that Sella says he still writes songs in his room using GarageBand. Fresh off the Oct. 13 release of The Front Bottom’s sixth record, Going Grey—their second with Fueled By Ramen, after Back On Top—the uniquely affable frontman says he’s continuing to make the music he wants to make. “As you get older, you always want to develop in whatever the art was that you’re making,” he says. “In terms of The Front Bottoms, I wanted it to get bigger and put some guitar solos in there and see how far we could push it and still feel good about it.”
“It’s hard to even feel like it’s a different sound,” he continues, “because I don’t really put much thought into the idea of ‘Oh, OK, I’m gonna change my sound.’ I’m just kind of there making songs in my bedroom and stuff. When a song comes together, it just comes together.” Although many of the tracks on Back On Top and Going Grey feature glistening synths, poppier production, and less candid lyrics than much of their early material, Sella says he’s still writing with the same haphazard mentality he always has. “I kind of discovered on the writing of this album that I don’t have much of a formula,” he says. “It can kind of just come and go randomly and naturally, and I have to just kind of embrace that for it to work.” “It’s scary to sort of admit that, because that means that it could go away,” he adds. “It is scary to be like, ‘I have no idea where this comes from or why this song sounds the way that it sounds.’” Regardless of Going Grey’s sheen, it’s not like The Front Bottoms have completely uprooted themselves from where they
began. Their songs have always been uber-melodic, and this record is arguably one of their catchiest. Sella’s lyrics have always been self-reflective. A line like “When you realize the crew you roll with / Is actually what makes you anxious” from the third track, “Bae,” could’ve fit anywhere on their self-titled—though, to be fair, nothing on this record is as dark as a track like “Father” or as specific as a cut like “Awkward Conversations” from 2014’s Rose. “I think maybe, when I did darker stuff, I was a very emotional person,” Sella says, “and I still am, but because I’ve gotten older and matured a lot, I’ve been able to kind of manage it. It’s just a different type of release.” Perhaps the takeaway for OG fans is this: whether you like the product or not, The Front Bottoms are still just doing what they do. “I like to think about our work as a catalog,” Sella says. “I wanna be an artist that has a huge fucking catalog of music and merchandise and art and be able to always make new, creative, random-ass shit.”
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rolific Norwegian death metal group Enslaved just released their latest full-length album, E, on Oct. 13 via Nuclear Blast. The band describe the album as a “masterpiece which sets the musical mind-twisters free from genre boundaries and offers a unprecedented mix of prog, extreme metal, and shoegaze on eight tracks with a playtime of more than an hour.” Bassist Grutle Kjellson says the album is unlike any of the previous 13 records Enslaved have released since forming in 1991. “I think our fans are used to expecting something unexpected. If they are expecting an exact replica of the other albums, they will be disappointed,” Kjellson says. “It’s a different energy on this album, and it is far more atmospheric. It has a really nice flow to it; it’s seamless.” While they are labeled as a metal band, Kjellson mentions that Enslaved are influenced by all
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different genres such as rock and electronic music, especially earlier sounds from the 1970s. “We take inspirations from all types of music,” he confirms. “We don’t have any limits to what we listen to. There are really only two types of music: there is good music and there is shitty music.” E introduces the band’s most recent keyboardist and clean vocalist, Håkon Vinje, who joined in early 2017. While Vinje is younger than the rest of the members, Kjellson says his playing style is primarily from the prog rock scene of the 1950s and sounds more old-school than the others’ in the band. “It just goes to show how much age doesn’t matter at all as long as the energy is there,” Kjellson adds. Appropriately, the 25-year-old joined Enslaved shortly after they celebrated their 25th anniversary, which marked the retirement of previous keyboard-
ist Herbrand Larsen. Thinking back through the last 25 years of touring and recording, Kjellson reflects on one of his favorite moments: when he held their first EP release in his hands. “It was a huge accomplishment for us. I was 19 years old, and I still cherish that moment really strongly,” he admits. “It still makes me proud when I think of it.” The band continue to base their lyrics on Norse mythology, an element that has stayed the same throughout their career while their musical sound has developed. The subject matter is something Enslaved’s members have always found interesting, stating that it contains so much bold life wisdom, magic, and mystery, yet it’s so close to human nature. Kjellson says Norse mythology, unlike more systematic religions, is based on a person’s relationship with their surroundings. “It was such an easy topic for us to get inspired by at such a young age,
and it has just stuck with us,” he adds. “Norse mythology is far more universal than other religions.” Although Norse mythology has remained a key element of the band’s lyrics, Kjellson reaffirms that Enslaved hate sticking to a formula when it comes to their sound. He describes that static approach to music as strange, stating that listening to and making music is supposed to be about exploring and stepping out of one’s comfort zone. “Everything comes more natural nowadays: everyone has more ideas to try out, and you’re not so limited musically or lyrically when you compare yourself to 25 years ago,” Kjellson shares. “It’s like we’re totally out of any frame now. We can do whatever we want.”
new albums from topshelf records: Wild Ones Mirror Touch
CD / LP / CS / digital - October 6
Self-produced and recorded, Portland, OR’s Wild Ones walk the line of DIY oddity and polished pop sheen via a mash of R&B synths, muted guitar, and somber vocal melodies. For Fans of: Chair Lift, Purity Ring, Jay Som, Tennis, Empress Of, Alvvays.
“Wonderfully detailed, with that charm they manage to conjure so effortlessly and resplendently... a well-timed reminder of how the quiet power of pop music can hold its own against just about anything.” -GoldFlakePaint “A catchy indie gem with a deeper meaning” -NYLON
CD / LP / CS / digital - September 22
Drawing as much inﬂuence from post-rock and punk as the emo world they’re often written in to, Prawn’s newest effort sees them carve out a dark but wildly immediate collection of songs that sits as their most formidable work to-date. For Fans of: The Appleseed Cast, Explosions In the Sky, mewithoutYou, Jimmy Eat World, PUP, Into It. Over It. “Prawn is a sterling example of emo's possibility, even as it continues to outgrow the genre's parameters.” -NPR
Queen Moo Mean Well
CD / LP / CS / digital - out now
Featuring the original rhythm section of Sorority Noise, Queen Moo is an American Rock & Roll band. The group presents vivid harmony reﬁned through a rigorous and personal creative process. Mean Well is a portrait of the group and the individuals. For Fans of: Pile, Wolf Parade, Franz Ferdinand, The Pixies. “More than the party atmosphere, the personal lyrics, the bare honesty, and the hectic shows—is a high standard of musicianship.” -Noisey
also available: Gingerlys
People Like You
CD / LP / CS / digital
CD / LP / CS / digital
additional new titles available from: Us and Us Only, Ratboys, tricot & No Vacation.
tour dates, merch & info: topshelfrecords.com
PHOTO: JEN CRAY
“For me, it has always been easiest to write about something that is actually going on in my life, because at the time, that is what I know the most about,” Alicia Bognanno, vocalist and guitarist for Nashville’s Bully, comments about the process for writing their sophomore LP, Losing. For their first album for Sub Pop Records, released Oct. 20, the group returned to crafting a soundscape that is honest, organic, and dire. The 12 tracks that make up Losing were created in the same fashion as those on their first record, 2015’s Feels Like. “Whatever is on my mind or bugging me or in the back of my head ends up coming out on paper,” Bognanno says. Bognanno’s personal lyrics allow Bully to be approached with multiple emotions, centering in on what the album is at its core: human. “I want to make sure there is a clear idea of what I am talking about in my head, for myself,” she states, “just so that when I have to sing it every night, it is still relevant and
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has some sort of meaning behind it.” Losing kicks off with an energetic spark on “Feel the Same,” finding the singer in a state of indifference, not being able to feel something change. Almost ironically, the vivacious opener allows listeners to channel Bognanno’s apathy, rallying to sing along and find ways to make their own days brighter. The song is also a beautiful indication of what will be heard on the 11 tracks that follow it: gnashing, riff-driven guitars, howling vocals, and driven, steady drums. While tackling the mundane aspects of trying to feel better, Bognanno approaches issues that affect the music community as a whole with the song “Seeing It.” The vocalist expands, “It is based off of—in the past couple years, and really, forever—there’s been a lot of sexual assault issues, particularly with bands in the community. It’s kind of reflecting on how you feel when you know someone is accused of that and there is a separation from that person, and maybe
you didn’t know them at all.” The song’s grim atmosphere is led by Bognanno’s piercing, heartbroken screams, backed by discordant guitar lines that swirl to a crashing end. Bully are such an infectious listen thanks to their ability to craft songs from feelings, including many of Bognanno’s vocal melodies, especially the howls throughout the refrain of the sludgy “Not the Way.” “Those screams are a little unnecessary,” she laughs, “but the screams are always feeling-based. I don’t know they are going to happen until the whole band gets together and we start practicing them live.” That approach to playing their songs lends the record a bit of a primal tone. Bully’s willingness to let feelings become a focus of inspiration is powerful and necessary in today’s social climate. “Hate and Control” ends Losing with a feeling of empowering triumph. “That song is pretty much a direct response to when Trump
was elected as president,” Bognanno shares. “It didn’t feel great, but I think that song is gonna be the next way to release all that negative energy every time we play it live.” Within an album full of honest lyrics and addictive music that begs to be screamed along with, there’s no better rallying cry than the four minutes of this song. “I probably felt a little discouraged and discombobulated and, in the end, pretty powerful, because those lyrics aren’t saying I feel defeated,” Bognanno continues. “It’s more: ‘Fuck you, I matter. No matter what rights you want to take away, it won’t make me feel different about myself or my gender.’” At the end of the day, Losing isn’t an album about losing. It’s Bully’s anthemic call of resistance. Each song harnesses powers that allow people to really feel, whether it be themselves, their emotions, or their connections with others.
TIM BARRY & ROGER HARVEY West Coast December 2017 12.7.17 @ THE CASBAH - San Diego, CA 12.9.17 @ THE ECHO - Los Angeles, CA 12.10.17 @ BOTTOM OF THE HILL - San Francisco, CA
Tim Barry - “High On 95” Roger Harvey - “Two Coyotes” OUT NOW on CHUNKSAAH RECORDS
VISIT THE CHUNKSAAH MAIL ORDER STORE:
“We were very exhausted and scared and confused,” Nick Casasanto says, “and sometimes, you just have to stop and realize that you’re breathing.” Casasanto is the guitarist for Knuckle Puck, one of pop punk’s biggest breakout bands following their last album, 2015’s Copacetic. But the path to writing the follow-up, Shapeshifter, released Oct. 13 on Rise Records, pushed the band to their limits—as artists, but more importantly, as people.
Even through the arduous recording process, the album provided a personal catharsis for Casasanto and the rest of the band, present both in the aggression of songs like “Everyone Lies To Me” and the defining line from the pre-chorus of “Double Helix”: “Can I rewrite my code? / Retain the good and purge the bad?” According to Casasanto, this line is the closest thing to a thesis statement about his own experience during the creation of Shapeshifter.
Casasanto points no fingers, but laments that when the band first started recording the songs that would eventually become Shapeshifter, the attitude in the studio lacked the creative nature to which they had previously grown accustomed. “We’ve always had a really casual and laidback approach to making music and collaborating with people to make our music,” he says. “It just didn’t really seem that way this time around.”
Frustrated by the “dialing back” of social progress and struggling to understand the part his own roots may have played in the backslide, Casasanto spent a lot of time in self-reflection, which bled onto the record. “I felt like I was holding myself together,” he says, “like I was leaking and trying desperately to hold in the water, you know what I mean?”
Whether it was the pressure to follow up an acclaimed record or just the growing pains of being young and successful, Knuckle Puck retreated from the studio to tour with Mayday Parade and sit on the songs—as they existed then—for a little while longer. Eventually, the band made the painstaking decision to reenter the studio and remake the album into something sharper and more emotional. “We definitely didn’t scrap the record, but we did end up redoing a lot of the instruments and a lot of the takes,” Casasanto explains. The end result is an album that showcases Knuckle Puck at their best: introspective and relatable without losing their edge. Shapeshifter is a mature look at relationships, the definition of home, and the process of growing into your own skin. “It’s the idea of identity and the close parallel between that and the process of making the record,” Casasanto says. “It was kind of a struggle for us to figure out exactly what we wanted and needed. This [process of ] how, you know, you’re raised one way, and as you kind of grow up and you learn, it gets more difficult to separate what you were from what you want to be. […] And if you’re searching for inspiration, after a while, you may not find it in the same place you found it before.”
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“[Eventually you] just kind of cut the dead weight and let go of your ego, in a sense, question who you are and hold those around you to a higher standard, and just always want to be better,” he continues. “When you reach adulthood, it’s time for you to start making your own choices and forming your own opinions. When you realize that, it becomes easier to just kind of let go and let yourself drain out and fill yourself back up with what you believe.” With this refined attitude, Knuckle Puck were able to create an album capturing the soul-searching that has dominated 2017. As for the years to come, Casasanto has a mission. “To put it simply, I want to do exactly what we are doing now, but I want to be better,” he says. The lessons learned from this album will continue to develop as Knuckle Puck hit the road in support of Shapeshifter from October to late January, reinvigorated and ready to instill the hope fans will uncover in the new songs. “You just need to be who you are and who you want to be—very curiously and very proudly,” Casasanto says. “No one has themself completely figured out by age 18 or 21—or even 30, for that matter. There’s always something more to learn and explore about yourself.” PHOTO: MAGGIE FRIEDMAN
f you were wondering what was going on in Gojira’s music video for “Silvera” last year—with people swirling into the skies of Manhattan and the band crushing it on a rooftop in Brooklyn—you weren’t alone. Did Gojira fly from their native France just to make this most epically rocking video? Well, some of them did. Turns out the band’s vocalist and guitarist Joe Duplantier moved to New York and built a recording studio in Bushwick, in which the group then created 2016’s Magma. Now, Silver Cord Studio is open for business. “Since day one, we’ve always had our own recording setup to write and produce our albums independently,” Duplantier explains. “It was a natural move for me to build Silver Cord when I moved to New York. The studio was built around the vision of Magma. It was an exciting and nerve-racking time not knowing what the final result would be. But in the end, the live room is exactly what I envisioned, and we are all so stoked with the result.” Silver Cord Studio is a lush place. With an organic topography, lights placed around like a dream, and outfitted with both analog and digital technology, the space feel like a home, both practical and visionary. It’s a spot where creation can happen naturally and ideas can bounce soft and meaningful. “I think the approach totally accommodates the new era of recording modern metal albums,” Duplantier says. “We can capture the warmth of the wooden live room using analog preamps and
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equalization and also utilize the flexibility of everything Pro Tools has to offer, in terms of plugins and bundles. There is a very cool vibe in this studio. Surprisingly, it feels a bit like going back in time to the ‘70s, which was completely unintentional, but I love it.” Duplantier had some help with his vision—namely, some friends and a special little book, “Building a Recording Studio” by Jeff Cooper. “It was my bible at the time,” he notes. The finished space is cozy and dreamlike, with certain visionary devices that are completely unique. Silver Cord Studio feels like a ship, something both present and transitory. It has a hard, architectural feel to it, but a warm sensibility as well. It’s pretty much a perfect artistic experience. “I usually follow my gut instinct on projects in general,” Duplantier muses. “I had a clear vision of a very simple layout and saw it through to the end. The key for me was to be on top of every detail. Bass traps, reflective surfaces, and basically every aspect of the acoustic design. I followed my intuition a lot when it came to proportions and dimensions, and as a musician, I felt a strong connection to how I thought it should be, given the space we had to work with.” New York City is filled to the brim with recording studios of every kind. From Colin Marston’s—of Krallice and Gorguts—Menegroth: The Thousand Caves over in Queens to Jimi Hendrix’ visionary—and still running—Electric Lady Studios in Manhattan, the city
offers a swath of options. Similarly, Silver Cord Studio was built by musicians, with cost effectiveness in mind. “What Silver Cord offers more than anything is great vibes and great pricing,” Duplantier remarks. “So far, the artists that have recorded with us are thrilled to find a place that fills the gap between pricey high-end studios in the city and low-budget DIY bedroom studios.” Magma was a behemoth of a record, Gojira’s most direct yet. It was powered by a certain freshness and a daringly wide approach. As the first record recorded at Silver Cord Studios, it set the bar
pretty high. But that’s Gojira’s game: they are never afraid to keep building and keep pushing. Potential is always in flux; the great ones corral the force, harness it, and create anew. “We have a bunch of leftover material from Magma that we’re planning on using on the next album,” Duplantier says, “plus a few riffs that we’ve been jamming on tour at soundcheck. I honestly can’t wait to get back into writing [and] studio mode and to just be hanging out in our new killer headquarters. I love the place.”
flames Of Genesis
Tele.s.TheriOn Luzifers Abschied I CD
A Bridge to Further Realms I CD
paUl Chain - The imprOVisOr Master of All Times I 2CD
A.D.A.M. I CD I LP
paUl Chain ViOleT TheaTre Detaching from Satan I CD REMASTERED
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m i n O T a U r O r e C O r d s . C O m / U s a
NEW NOISE BOOK NOOK PRESENTS... chemistry found throughout “For the Sake of Heaviness”: not only is it an awesome read, it’s also a unique insight into the mind of someone who started with nothing other than a drive to give back. Slagel begins by sharing the music he first discovered, such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, UFO, and Judas Priest. The book’s pacing moves at a comfortable rate, as Slagel’s voice leads from his time of discovering bands to finally getting a car to drive to shows. He then goes into the process of creating a metal fanzine and helping to distribute records, noting how these opportunities enabled him to branch out and begin networking for the label. Part of the excitement within “For the Sake of Heaviness” is that the reader feels like they are right there with Slagel: you’re there for every signing that takes place, and you can feel his joy—and practically see his smile—in each page. There’s also a hefty amount of detail about the DIY process behind how Metal Blade came to be, as Slagel goes into each financial matter he came up against. Slagel’s recounting of the early days of Metal Blade goes behind the scenes of early releases from a
INTERVIEW WITH COAUTHOR BRIAN SLAGEL BY MICHAEL PEMENTEL
the tale of how the label came to be in his new book, “For the Sake of Heaviness: The History of Metal Blade Records,” released Aug. 29 through BMG Books.
Over these three and a half decades, there has been one man at the center of it all. One guy who isn’t just a casual listener, but a fan who lives for metal: Metal Blade Records founder and CEO Brian Slagel. With the help of fellow author, Mark Eglinton, Slagel tells
Upon discovering metal, Slagel was immediately drawn to the music. “There is something about the music that just feels right to me,” he states. “I thought it was so cool when I first heard all those bands. I think the imagery and the aggressiveness in the music appeals to me.” Over time, his interest grew, and Slagel’s passion for the music drove him to devote his life to metal. “I was just a huge fan of the genre and wanted to do whatever I could to help,” he shares. “I could not play any instruments, so that led me to trying other things to get involved in helping the scene.” This sentiment sets up the terrific
he Metal Blade Records name evokes a sense of passion, pride, and respect. For 35 years, the label has been at the forefront of metal, helming releases for some of the most memorable bands of our time. Through the ups and downs the music industry—and especially heavy metal—has faced, Metal Blade has continuously demonstrated their determination in an ever-changing world, as well as provided love and support to the bands they care for.
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variety of bands, including one of the label’s biggest releases: Slayer’s Show No Mercy from 1983. “[The record] was just so good,” Slagel says. “Those guys were so young and so talented. They were making music beyond what so many other bands were doing at the time. It was unreal being in the studio with them and seeing it firsthand.” Specific artists appear throughout the book to provide interviews, adding other perspectives on the label’s history and Slagel’s personality. There’s also plenty of insight from various people who helped on the business end, including label president Mike Faley. “For the Sake of Heaviness” isn’t just a fascinating read on a kickass record label, it’s also an inspiring story of what one devoted fan can accomplish. It shows how one guy who loved metal gave his all to an art form that brought joy into his life. Slagel isn’t just responsible for the birth of Metal Blade Records, he’s responsible for helping bring to light so many bands we’ve come to love. Given the label’s rich history over the last 35 years, Slagel shares that he is most proud of “being able to be part of the metal community and helping to turn so many people on to good metal.” As for his goals moving forward? “I hope we continue to do what we have done all along,” he says, “work with and promote great artists to the world.”
PHOTOS: ALAN SNODGRASS
NW: Hey Zach, it’s Nick. What’s up? ZQ: Hi Nick! Not much, I just got a Wii U and “Yoshi’s Woolly World,” and I’ve never felt more personally addressed by a video game in my life, so I’ve been sleeping very little and crying a little too. How are you? NW: I’m pretty good! Direct Hit! leaves for Australia on Monday, and I’ve never been there before, so I’m excited about that. You still excited about this split we’re doing together? That’s assuming you have been excited about it, right? ZQ: Hell yeah. I get excited whenever we get to do stuff together. There aren’t too many bands I actually like, and I like you guys a lot. NW: Yeah dude! I don’t think we would’ve put this record together if we didn’t like each other. The “split record” as a concept gets a bad rap as a manufactured product from some people, so we’re already kinda working uphill anyway. Like, there have been a lot of bands who’ve made them with cast-off garbage material just to make a quick $40 or something. Is ours gonna be any different? ZQ: Totally know what you’re talking about. I guess it’s typically more of a marketing tool than an actual piece, but ours is definitely different. Having experienced the writing process for the PEARS side firsthand, and corresponding with you guys as y’all worked yours out, I think we approached this as a singular piece. I actually think it’s super interesting the way we sort of met in the middle in terms of writing. Like, we took it as seriously as we would’ve taken our own individual band’s records, but on top of that, we also knew we were writing material to coexist with the other band’s, so I think this led to more pop on PEARS’ part and more hardcore on the part of Direct Hit!—but it’s subtle, I don’t think there’s any pandering. Lyrically, I feel like you get stylistically more and more eloquent and less brash as time goes on, for example, though it’s still decidedly you, Nick. Am I imagining this shift? NW: Nah, I don’t think so. I think we’ve just gotten a lot more practice writing songs. All the tunes on Domesplitter, for example, I just wrote for fun or ‘cause I was bored, so there wasn’t a lot of reviewing or reworking. Now, six or seven years later, there’s a much better sense of what makes for a compelling story when you’re reading a booklet or insert that still works in the context of a catchy arrangement. I feel like that’s what you’re hearing.
ZQ: That must be what I’m hearing. I forget that not every band is just three years old. I kinda cut my teeth on stuff before PEARS that will never see the light of day. I’m pretty appreciative that my growth has, thus far, largely been private. If we stay together long enough, I’m sure I’ll experience it myself, but spoil it for me: what has it been like to grow up as a writer in front of an audience? Pros/ cons? NW: I mean, we didn’t have an audience for a long time, so I don’t feel like the bulk of our growth has come in public. And that was because I wasn’t a very good writer when we started. It took [drummer] Danny [Walkowiak] to make Direct Hit! sound like a not-shitty band in 2009. And it took [guitarist] Devon [Kay] to make us a good band in 2011, and [bassist] Steve [Maury] to make us a great band in 2013. That’s my own opinion—if you think we suck at all stages, that’s fine too. Regardless, I don’t really feel like I’ve ever had to face a lot of harsh judgment of my writing as Direct Hit has continued to exist. We had friends who dug our band when Domesplitter came out and a handful of people on the internet, but we didn’t really feel like there were people watching us until Brainless God came out, and at that point, I feel like we’d shed a lot of our most embarrassing qualities. I would say that I got a lot better at cutting bullshit and recognizing who and what was a waste of my time over that period, though. So, if there’s a pro to growth as just a member of a functioning group, that’s one of them. But it’s also been stressful admitting to myself that I give a shit about playing in a good band and that I have a point of view that I want people to hear. That’s been almost embarrassing. You know, why should people give a shit about my ideas? That’s the con, for me, of having any audience at all, that it causes some anxiety to ask for someone’s attention. You have to justify it somehow. Anyway, I guess I’ll ask the same of you. It’s not like you guys jumped straight out of nothing onto Fat— there was Little Bags and The Lollies, right? Probably more I’m not hip to. But like you said, PEARS exploded in a way few bands have in our clique. Do you feel like that’s put pressure on you at all? Has that been helpful or harmful as a creative person? ZQ: Oh, dude, I have definitely felt the pressure. It was mega-fast, and Green Star was the first thing I’d ever worked
on in my life that I knew more than my friends would listen to. That’s fucked up. I had to fight that notion all the while writing for it. I’d trusted my gut before, and I’ll continue to trust my gut. I will say, I have a really hard time reconciling why I market music. I know that I make music for me, and I know that I like connecting with people via the music I help make—it feels like the most honest iteration of myself, even if it leans heavily on abstraction, thus giving me the kind of social boner a party absolutely can’t—but why market music? If I wanted to, I could make music purely for pleasure and never have to go to Germany again. Did you find any recurring themes on this record, however personal or disguised? NW: I definitely feel like the general environment after the election had a lot to do with our side, at least, since that’s when we started working on these tunes in earnest. We try to not be a political band, but I definitely found myself writing much, much angrier, more anxious material about people I know and the state of the world. I made a point in the past to say “we” a lot in our songs. On this record, I speak a lot more about “you.” “You Got What You Asked For” I think is obviously one of our more negative songs, written to expressly call out apathetic people. “Open Your Mind” is about the anxiety behind privacy and feeling like you’re constantly being watched. These are topics I don’t think I would have touched on before our government began openly enabling racism and classism and nationalism in the general public. So, if there’s a theme, that’s it. It’s definitely the most “personal” batch of material I’ve worked on. How about you guys? What’d you try to write about this time around?
ZQ: Frankly, a lot of the material on this record is about being in a touring band. It’s basically the only thing I’ve done in the last couple years, really, and I think when it comes to the songwriting machine and experience, you get out what you put in. There’s also a song on the record about the transformation of New Orleans over the last decade or so. I think that a lot of people are talking about white privilege and gentrification now, which is great, but a lot of hip white radicals who move to low-income neighborhoods full of people of color and longstanding culture engage the neighborhoods with a sort of covert colonialism, then speak up about gentrification and such as if they didn’t pave the way for the yuppies. Let’s face it Nick, what’s worse than a poser? NW: You’re talking to poser number one, duder. ZQ: Are you still bummed that [PEARS drummer] Jarret [Nathan] wouldn’t wear a diaper for the back-sleeve photo? NW: Yeah, a li’l bit. I mean, the record’s called Human Movement. If you read into that, it can easily be construed to be about shitting. We still photoshopped a diaper onto him in that photo anyway. Are you bummed we weren’t allowed to call it A Journey Through Diaperspace as we originally envisioned it? ZQ: The damn thing should’ve been called that. Fat Wreck Chords is creatively oppressive—or much smarter than us.
PHOTOS: CJ HARVEY
give them a cool place to show their work.”
“Oh man, my desk is usually a mess— well, more of a controlled chaos,” artist Eric Kenney—better known as HEAVY SLIME—admits. “The empty coffee cups and beer cans build up so much, it’s comical. Other than that, it’s piles of drawings, pens, and reference books. I usually let the mess get to a certain level, and then, I’ll clean it up. Whenever I see photos of other artists’ perfectly clean desks that just have a pencil and a computer, I just assume they never do any work,” he laughs.
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A Philly native, Kenney is known for his graphic, modern, lo-fi lowbrow art style, which he sells as prints and on t-shirts and offers up to a diverse array of musicians such as Oh Sees and Run The Jewels. He’s accomplished, but an artist is nothing without challenges. “I get coffee every morning from this shop called Ultimo,” Kenney explains. “It’s one of my favorites; the coffee’s great, and it’s strong as hell. Actually, sometimes, it’s an issue, ‘cause I’ll slurp one down and then not be able to draw because my hands are too shaky. You gotta pay to play, though, right?” Kenney is surrounded by an incredible art scene in Philadelphia and gives back to the communi-
ty through his own gallery, Pink Slime. “I think I’m more involved in the scene now that my friend Ralph Stollenwerk and I opened up a gallery last October,” he says. “Living and working here for a while, I was beginning to notice that there were all these great artists around, but not a lot of places to actually show work. I felt like there were these two kinds of galleries: the super DIY one-night party kind of deals and, then, the really highend galleries that are just trying to make money. There wasn’t anything in-between the two, so that’s what we’ve tried to accomplish. It’s called Pink Slime Gallery, and so far, we’ve been able to bring in some of our favorite artists from Philly and around the country and
Of all those artists, is there anyone currently working who just blows Kenney’s mind? “There’re so many people out there killing it, but I just get jazzed on people who work hard and believe in what they do,” he says. “I have a good group of really creative friends, and that definitely keeps me going.” So, what kind of music does Kenney listen to while creating his works of art? “Honestly, I’ve just been all about podcasts lately,” he shares. “I feel like I got kind of burned out listening to music while I work. It’s nice to listen to people talk and learn stuff while you’re working.” Which ones does he recommend? “Long-form interview stuff is awesome,” he says. “My friend Dan got me into just listening to wild conspiracy theories on YouTube too. I listened to the ‘Flat Earth’ doc-
umentary a couple weeks ago— don’t think I’m a believer, but it’s great stuff to listen and shake your head to!” What about other forms of inspiration? Does Kenney partake of the dank to get in the drawing mood? “Nah, I’ve never really been a weed guy,” he reveals. “I prefer to have some beers while I’m sketching— but usually, if I’m drinking and drawing, I always just start drawing the beer logo and creating some fake advertisement for it. I love that shit. Beer advertising interests the hell out of me. I’ll draw something for a beer and think, ‘Why couldn’t this be an ad for it?’ Why does every beer ad have to be about sports culture? What about the other huge percentage of people who don’t care about sports and just like to have a couple sodas and get loose?” Kenney may be a professional artist now, but what kind of stuff was he into drawing as a baby slime? “I was pretty into comics when I was a kid and liked trying to draw the characters from them,” he recalls. “I would make a lot of comics of my own and create characters. I remember when I was young, my grandma had a copy of Marvel’s Doomsday issue, the one where Superman dies. I would read that thing every time I went over. There’s this really awesome double-page spread at the end
where Lois is crying her eyes out, holding Superman, who’s all bloody and dead. I thought that was the most badass image I’d ever seen!” Now that he’s HEAVY SLIME, “bloody and dead” is an ongoing theme in Kenney’s work—and the man is no stranger to skulls. “They’re always smiling!” he says of the classic icon’s appeal. “I’m into simple, bold images that can be used to convey a lot of different ideas. Skulls are great for that.” Since the announcement of his candidacy, Trump has been a good source of inspiration for artists. How has Kenney been artistically handling the ever-expanding shit-show that is this administration? “I’ve been having this discussion a lot lately,” he admits. “I’ve never really been a political guy, especially when it comes to art, but this shit going on now is just too hard to ignore. It’s like, if you’re an artist, you have to address it in some way. It feels like the only way I can really fight back against Trump is to make art against him. That ‘[Fuck your] bullshit wall’ design I made was so stupid, but what else can you do when his ideas are so equally stupid?”
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SPLITS MADBALL / WISDOM IN CHAINS: FAMILY BIZ: FAST BREAK! RECORDS
Two of the hardest working bands in hardcore released a tantalizing split 7” on Sept. 25 just to let you know they are still coming hard. Honest. Sincere. Committed. Consistent. Madball and Wisdom In Chains hold it down with a track each until Madball’s full-length comes out in 2018. “For the Cause” continues Madball’s legacy of heavy, metallic New York hardcore. The flipside is blessed by the Pennsylvania hardcore champs, Wisdom In Chains, and Mad Joe shares the mic with Freddy Madball on “Someday.” Mad Joe’s gift to the hardcore community has always been his raw, personal lyrics, contemplating what a man’s legacy will be while a solid melodic guitar line rides over rough, beastly rhythms. –Hutch
EPs FREEDOM: NEVER HAD A CHOICE: TRIPLE B RECORDS
Freedom are here again, repping that new era of Detroit hardcore. They mix demo-era Cold As Life and Negative Approach with The Abused, SSD, Agnostic Front, and Necros to kick up dirt. They fit right in with the NWOBHC and others like Boston Strangler, Fury, Pure Disgust, and Red Death. Thrash riffs and divebombs sneak into their “short, fast, loud” hardcore. Freedom are tough as nails with lyrics that are antisystem, anti-cops, anti-society. After two prized EPs and a great 2015 LP, USA Hardcore, Freedom returned to Triple B records on Sept. 15 with Never Had A Choice. This five-track EP is bare-bones hardcore punk made for “enthusiastic” dancing. –Hutch
TOMBSTALKER: CHAOTIC DEVOTION: BORIS RECORDS
If you have never associated Lexington, Kentucky, with black metal, you will now. After the amazing 2015 Black Crusades LP, we get a tease of Tombstalker’s maddening precision with two tracks on Chaotic Devotion. Tight production on precise songwriting finds this trio combining d-beat punk, first-wave black metal, and Swedish death metal to nasty perfection. Staggering solos rage while the drumming is surely the grindcore-level backbone. Released on Sept. 19 on black vinyl via Atlanta’s Boris Records, home of Hellgoat, Sadistic Ritual, and Cloak. –Hutch
LIVE ALTER BRIDGE: LIVE AT THE O2 ARENA + RARITIES: NAPALM RECORDS
Live at the O2 Arena is the perfect reminder of the power of good old-fashioned hard rock. Alter Bridge’s big riffs and bigger melodies are married perfectly on this live album from a 2016 set at London’s famed O2 Arena. The band’s 19-song set highlights their impressive catalog, with stirring renditions of “Ties That Bind” and “Metalingus” showcasing the group’s metallic chops. Though it is vocalist and guitarist Myles Kennedy’s solo acoustic version of “Watch Over You” that’s the real stunner; it’s beautiful and haunting and transports the listener to the packed arena. The third disc features a set of previously unreleased rarities, a bow atop the whole impressive package. The three-CD earbook dropped Sept. 8. –Nicholas Senior
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NEUROSIS: THE WORD AS LAW: NEUROT RECORDINGS
For the younger fans: this is a different Neurosis. This is a young quartet digesting crust punk values, DIY Bay Area ideals, and a growing itch to eviscerate musical boundaries. Their first album with Steve Von Till, The Word as Law is still a raw, calculating punk album: visceral emotions roiling. The original album was released in 1990 on Lookout! Records, while the reissue arrived on Aug. 25 via the band’s own Neurot Recordings. The Word as Law shows Neurosis channeling New York hardcore, D.C. punk, Voivod, and Amebix, and the reissue features all eight tracks—remastered by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering—and modernized artwork by Josh Graham. –Hutch
UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS: VOL. 1: RISE ABOVE RECORDS
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats’ debut record—originally released on Friday, Feb. 13, 2010, the same day as Black Sabbath’s debut LP 40 years earlier—got the reissue treatment courtesy of Rise Above on Friday, Oct. 13. Uncle Acid main man Kevin R Starrs said it was finally time to give this album its proper due. “We only made 30 or so copies on CDR back in 2010, so it’s never been released properly, and the fans have been asking for it every year since,” he says. The reissue boasts enhanced sound, though Starrs decided to keep some of its quirks, as he is quite proud of his first foray under the Uncle Acid moniker. “I think it’s great and holds up very well,” he says. “It’s got some of my favorite tracks on it, so I’ve always had a soft spot for it.” –Thomas Pizzola
COLLECTIONS THE JAM: THE JAM / 1977: UNIVERSAL MUSIC / POLYDOR RECORDS
To put out one seminal album in a year is an outstanding feat for anyone—but two? In the same year? That’s an accomplishment only the greats can lay claim to: Led Zeppelin, Ramones, The Damned… Add to that illustrious list the pioneering Mod punk band, The Jam. The Jam / 1977—a massive five-disc box set released Oct. 20—marks the 40th anniversary of The Jam’s first two albums, In the City and This Is the Modern World. Included in the extensive set are remastered versions of the two albums, a vast array of demos, live tracks, 1977-era John Peel Sessions, and a DVD. The release also includes a whopping 144-page book replete with liner notes, photos, and more. –Janelle Jones
LYDIA LOVELESS: BOY CRAZY AND SINGLE(S): BLOODSHOT RECORDS
Columbus, Ohio’s Lydia Loveless delivered the follow-up to her critically acclaimed 2016 fulllength, Real, in the form of Boy Crazy and Single(s) on Oct. 13. The collection—which compiles the five-song Boy Crazy EP from 2013, six non-album singles, rarities, and covers of Prince, Elvis Costello, and Kesha—showcases her aptitude for delivering lovelorn, barn-burning, rock-infused alt-country that recalls everyone from Patsy Cline to Chrissie Hynde to Miley Cyrus. The collection is available on CD, digital, and LP formats, and the first vinyl pressing comes on transparent Beer Yellow colored wax. –Tim Anderl
U-MEN: U-MEN: SUB POP RECORDS
The U-Men played twisted and dark garage punk. Over the course of their existence from 1983 to 1989, they were one of the bright lights of the burgeoning Seattle scene. They definitely weren’t grunge, but their approach to music made them one of the best bands in the Seattle underground at the time. On Nov. 3, Sub Pop reissues all the band’s recorded output as a three-LP box set in a cardboard slip case with printed inner sleeves and a 16-page booklet. In addition, there will be a two-CD digipack with custom dust sleeves, also featuring a 16-page booklet. And, of course, there is a digital option too. It’s time to revisit one of the unsung bands of Seattle music history. –Thomas Pizzola
THE BODY & FULL OF HELL: ASCENDING A MOUNTAIN OF HEAVY LIGHT: THRILL JOCKEY RECORDS
The Body and Full Of Hell reunite after their first collabo, the spring 2016 cluster bomb of noise and disdain, One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache. The combo’s arsenal employs synths, computers, noise, screams, feedback, static, reverb, filters, pedals, and sometimes, guitars and drums. The Body’s chameleon adaptions reveal layers of their talent, while Full Of Hell defy labels, but land in the vicinity of black metal meets grindcore. The Result on Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light, out Nov. 17, transcends expectations. Traditional references like “Godflesh meets Dälek mixed with Fantômas” do not even graze this. It’s haunting. Heavy. Disruptive. Uncomfortable. And fucking brilliant. –Hutch
NEW NOISE 79
ACID WITCH: STONED: HELLS HEADBANGERS 2010 Nothing says “running for my life from a fucked up, one-eyed, creamyskinned murderer on a dark Halloween night” better than Acid Witch’s classic, Stoned. It’s a flashy fourth-dimensional All Hallows’ Eve treat with penetratingly dreary black ‘n’ roll, doom, creepy church organs, and NWOBHM waves shimmering throughout. Slasher Dave and Shagrat forge a swirling and direct assault on all things proper with this perpetual horror soundtrack bomb: thrashing, mashing, and torturing everything in its place. The cassette version is certainly one of the coolest analog nuggets out there and the perfect tape to pop in while building the night’s “Event Horizon”-themed haunted house—or ship.
PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION: PURPLE RAIN: WARNER BROS. Halloween is all scary and gloomy with axe murderers, chainsaw freaks, and pinheaded Cenobites, but it’s also about new beginnings and unbridled joy. Enter the most joyous, colorful—and very much Halloween-ish—cassette tape of all time: Purple Rain. Prince And The Revolution’s masterpiece is one of the most dazzling, conceptual, and flat-out earth-shattering musical conceptions known to man. The dimensions boomerang from elastic funk to power love, lush hair metal, and deep soul, then back again, and then out toward the Ultraworld. While you’re heading to the thrift stores and liquor outlets preparing for this year’s big bash, there’s no better cassette to psych you up. “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Computer Blue,” “When Doves Cry,” “I Would Die 4 U”—is there a better album ever forged? I think not. Feel the purple this Halloween.
ANTEINFERNO: VT-XIV || HOSPITALITY OS OUR PRIMARY CONCERN: VRASUBATLAT This is for a distant future Halloween, when the Earth is encased in metal robotics and the forests are barren. Mankind has destroyed everything. He and she and they are forever digital, trapped and wandering the pink horizons of waste and fumes—nothing but sickness and little rectangles of refuse where one can dream of escape and hope. Anteinferno are D.F. and P.L., and the duo’s new cassette is bleak and bound by eternal misery. The noise is scratchy and reverberating in tone, with few spaces for a breath. The tape is defined by art, and in art, we can feel the drive to shape environment, and through this, we can arrive at philosophy: a movement that includes every insurmountable human atrocity. VT-XIV || Hospitality Is Our Primary Concern says, “Look there, there’s a crack in the wall, let me escape this prison.”
KYLE DIXON & MICHAEL STEIN: "STRANGER THINGS" ORIGINAL MUSIC VOLUME ONE: LAKESHORE RECORDS This was destined for cassette tape. Inspired by the likes of John Carpenter, Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Goblin, and more, composers Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon of the arty electronic band, S U R V I V E, forged a true standalone classic: a work of art that moves and dances like a wisp in the air, alluring and tight, able to persuade and dissipate at full measure. “Photos in the Woods” is perhaps the coolest electronic song I’ve ever heard, and there are sections here that stretch out like plastic duplicates, inversed and twirled. While the classic influences are obvious, there are also subtler hints of Aphex Twin, Gas—aka Mat Jarvis—The Orb, Otto Luening, and John Cage. This is a massive work, a perfect piece for the in-between— and Upside Down—moments of a wild Halloween.
Featuring: Converge, The Black Dahlia Murder, Hüsker Dü, Anti-Flag, No Warning, Bully, Exhumed, Radiator Hospital, PEARS, Direct Hit!, All P...
Published on Nov 30, 2017
Featuring: Converge, The Black Dahlia Murder, Hüsker Dü, Anti-Flag, No Warning, Bully, Exhumed, Radiator Hospital, PEARS, Direct Hit!, All P...