GOAT EXPLOSION: SIESTA INFERNAL: INTO ENDLESS CHAOS RECORDS There’s a classic and groovy dimension to Germany’s Goat Explosion that is both honorary and deft. Each song on their crushing and airy debut demo is economical like an alien warlord: shaping morphing tentacles that recall Sabbath, Pentagram, and a sort of early circular progressive rock. The band are a colorful, grim, and psychedelic statue, heavy and thoughtful throughout their entire punishing structure. Siesta Infernal is destined for the dark night: the time of ghosts, witches, and orbital dreams. The cassette comes in an odd light red color—a supreme nugget for your glowing library.
Techno and industrial beats weave glee
Arizona-based band Deep Pill’s newest endeavor, Seer. If the galactic beings from Urn 5 were heading out for a dance party at the newest underground club, they could surely expect some Deep Pill to be spun. This cassette is deeply planetary, both dimensionally sound and wildly free. It’s the kind of tape that’s destined for that special place in your house. You know, the place where your inner raver can finally shed its skin and be released into the atmosphere: burning mad, groovy, and robotically. Without a doubt, this is one of the best tapes I’ve heard all year.
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Planetary shifting death/doom is the calling card of Buenos Aires oldschool wizards, Morte. They rule the board with trick hands, twisting combos, and darkening spells, plowing through tunneling wormholes with a technical and breezy artistry. Things get slow and devastating on their debut release, Lento Descenso a la Putrefacción. A sort of trip through a world of horror-mirrors, the tape crawls through the slime with tasty speed passages scattered throughout. The band’s sound is in the ballpark of such legions as Dismember, Autopsy, and Asphyx, but has a creative and unique spell all its own. These smoky dungeon anthems will make you long for the eternal darkness, the tingling occult breeze, and the freeness of the infinite universe.
WITCHTHROAT SERPENT: SANG-DRAGON: DEADLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
DEEP PILL: SEER: ASCETIC HOUSE angular
MORTE: LENTO DESCENSO A LA PUTREFACCIÓN: LYCANTHROPIC CHANTS
By far, the coolest and most killer cassette tape of 2016 goes to France’s Witchthroat Serpent. The band’s second release, the mystical Sang-Dragon is a monster of doom and kaleidoscopic vision—a journey through the frays of acid and psychedelic holiness. Each instrument defined epically, each pulsing riff, perpetually legendary. There’s calm, tripped-out madness, headbanging righteousness, and a complete identity that’s refreshing and bold. Many bands go retro, but only the best are pure. Witchthroat Serpent are the truth, and their new cassette is so artful, it’s ridiculous. Press play, and you’re off. Next stop: the Delta Quadrant.
FQP shines a light on the joys and heartaches that lie at the intersection of the LGBTQIA+ community and the world of alternative music. While queer representation is often refracted through the prism of normative curiosities and concerns, FQP features queer voices saying whatever they want, however they want. Don’t fear the realness.
FEATURING MELO, EM, AND RO OF MALLRAT Brooklyn’s MALLRAT are “gay angels making songs about living in a racialized, gendered, traumatized body.” The emo trio—vocalist and guitarist Melo Davis, drummer Ro Samarth, and guitarist Em Boltz—possess a poetic rawness in both sound and aesthetic. From their queering of capitalization to their colloquial song titles to their stripped-down production, everything about MALLRAT feels as honest and urgent as a stinging wound. Their first full-band EP, every breath a fracture, premiered on AFROPUNK on Dec. 2, and the trio made over Brooklyn’s Silent Barn for a QTPOC-centered release show on Dec. 15. East Coasters can catch them again on March 6 at Shea Stadium with Slingshot Dakota, Ratboys, and Teenage Halloween.
ON SILENT BARN AND WHITE MUSIC SPACES Melo: All three of us got thrown into the Silent Barn collective at a time where a lot of POC in the space were in crisis mode. I knew what I was getting myself into, but I didn’t really anticipate how much it was going to affect my well-being to live in this environment where I felt like I had to constantly brace myself against a primarily white collective. I don’t regret being here though, because I feel like our band has grown up in this space: this is actually where I met Em, and this is where we practice, played most of our shows, and recorded our EP. Em: I grew up in northeast Ohio and, at the age of 15, became active in the DIY scene as a showgoer, though I didn’t realize until I went off to college how inherently white the DIY music scene was. I think that the lack of representation that people of color have in the scene has made me realize how crucial it is that we publicly showcase our music and other artistic endeavors.
Ro: These DIY institutions are built around white communities, act as the vanguard of gentrification, etc. I don’t believe any of that changes through diversification—I’m not a reformist—but nonetheless, my natvigating white spaces while working in these genres is inevitable. So, my goal is to at least mitigate the violence of that institution’s presence in the community and redistribute its resources. Hence our investment in supporting programs and people like our friend Jaz and her work with Educated Little Monsters, an arts education program for Brooklyn native youth.
ON FORMATIVE ALBUMS
Em: The musical acts that made me start playing guitar were Nirvana and Lady Gaga. The musical acts that got me interested in starting bands were Bikini Kill and Bratmobile.
ON SPACING OUT Melo: When we had our record release show in December, I was trying to come up with a decorating theme and ended up going with “Under the Sea Alien Prom.” I think about the ocean and outer space in relation to trauma a lot, maybe because they’re both places that mirror what it’s like to feel ungrounded and they are literally ungrounding. Or maybe they’re helpful spaces to hide, because they’re so wide and unknown, and they’re also scary for the same reasons.
Ro: Recently, I’ve just felt like an alien. I’ve just felt much less invested in the Western articulation of gender and sexuality through the logic of single identity labels—femme/butch, trans/cis, etc.—and the idea of “aliens” speaks to me as a figure of that disidentification, threading my gender to my brownness, family’s immigration, and my colonized separation from Indian lineages of gender deviance—e.g. hijras. I like to think of my gender less as one “thing” and more as constituted contextually by particular relationships to personal and intergenerational trauma, to my body, to specific people, to particular environments... I’m just a shape-shifting dress-adorned alien invested in nurturing femininity within and around me.
PHOTO: CYNTHIA CHANG
Em: I have fond memories of when I was 10 and the time I spent listening to JoJo’s debut album. I had a portable CD player at the time, so I would walk to the neighborhood park, and for three months, that was pretty much the only thing I would listen to. Ro: In one of my deepest fantasies from that time, I would blast the credits song to “Timon and Pumbaa,” the TV series, on sax in the band room, and everyone would line up outside the door, applauding, realizing what a “cool boy” I was. I had a similar fantasy with the finale song on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” Original Soundtrack—the first album I ever bought. Melo: My first album was Panic! At The Disco’s debut, which I feel like is pretty gay, but not as gay as JoJo or “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Around that time, I had this dream that I had replaced the guitarist in this band called Self Against City. I told my mom about that dream, and she was like, “It sounds like you want to play the guitar,” and I was like, “Yeah.”
NEW NOISE 7
and [they] eventually grew into the full record that we just released.” That album is the band’s self-titled LP, which came out last November on Anxious & Angry Records. They recorded the album over a number of months at Seward’s house, eschewing a traditional recording studio. Did this approach lend to the band’s focus? “I actually don’t know if it made us focus as much as it helped us put everything we were doing under a microscope and [be] hyper-aware of what we were adding to each song,” Murphy says. “It was 100 percent unique to all of us and we had no idea how it would end up. It was really cool to not be on a pressured timeline, but at the same time, once it started rolling and we really realized how awesome we thought it was, then we thought, ‘Oh crap! We got to finish this thing up. This is awesome, and the world needs to hear it!’”
GAINESVILLE REGS- DEADAIRES
PHOTO: JEN CRAY
I N T E R V I E W W I T H RYA N M U R P H Y A N D A N D R E W S E WA R D BY J O H N B . M O O R E
The guys in Florida’s Deadaires were bound to come together at some point and start a band. Ryan Murphy—formerly of True North— was working at a local music venue when Andrew Seward got hired. Having left Against Me! in 2013, the latter was looking around for another kindred spirit to play music with. “This band happened as a happy accident,” says The term “truth bombs” is generally pretty annoying, but maybe after the disaster that was 2016, the world needs a not-so-subtle reminder. U.K.-based metallic hardcore upstarts Hometruths take their name seriously and deliver honesty in spades on their upcoming debut EP, Open Your Eyes, due out via CI Records on March 3. Drummer Alex Mac explains, “No one is speaking out about what’s happening in the world. Bands are presented with this opportunity to speak out and use their band as a platform, yet they decide to speak about nothing. There are true atrocities happening nearly every day. There was only so much we could take before we had to take a stand and speak out. The EP is a mission statement set out to educate and enlighten people to what is going on in the world. We’re not skirting around any issues; we want
8 NEW NOISE
Now, guitarist Alan Mills has joined the group, helping to round out Deadaires’ live sound. “Jeremy and I have known each other since we were 16; Andrew and I have known each other for the better part of two decades now,’ says Murphy. “Alan has known Jeremy for a while and Andrew and I casually for a few years. We have all been part of the Gainesville [and] Florida music scene for 20-plus years or so and been connected in that way as well.”
Vocalist and guitarist Murphy agrees. He, Seward, and drummer Jeremy Rogers were juggling schedules with work and home life, and a low-key recording project seemed like a much-needed outlet. “We
wanted to have a creative outlet to work on music to help balance things and keep us sane,” Murphy says. “This all happened about a year ago, towards the end of 2015. We all work at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre and literally would have Andrew send us songs and/or record us in isolated moments when we could break away from work and go record in his kitchen nook/office. We slowly started piecing [together] what became songs,
to make it clear and plain as day what we are talking about, so our message is understood, loud and clear.”
HOMESCHOOLED IN AGGRESSSION- HOMETRUTHS
Seward, the bassist, keyboardist, and vocalist for Deadaires. “We didn’t intend to start a band, as this just started out as a recording project for the fun of it. It feels good to play again. Hell, it feels amazing.”
PHOTO: RYAN MILLER
“We feel there is something seriously wrong with how the majority of the people view the world,” he continues. “We felt that breaking key issues down to individual songs was the best way to tackle the overall problem, to achieve the greatest impact.” The resulting EP proves Hometruths to be equally musically and lyrically aggressive. Their sound balances their U.K. influences—the tech-y, riff-y bangers are glorious—with more Americanized aggression, creating a particularly educated beatdown. Imagine if Comeback Kid listened to a lot of While She Sleeps and Architects. However, it was clear from the outset that the band wanted to blaze their own
INTERVIEW WITH DRUMMER ALEX MAC BY NICHOLAS SENIOR trail. “We didn’t really have a set idea of how we wanted to sound. From the beginning, we knew we wanted to steer away from the standard song structures as much as possible and create something new and different,” Mac explains. “There was never a time when we said, ‘Right, that’s our sound. We’re sticking to that.’ We have never labeled ourselves, and we think that’s definitely
reflected on the record. We already know that our next release is going to be completely different again, and we will continue to write what we enjoy rather than what fits.”
Like the legends before them, New York City hardcore quintet ACHE rage and punish with every dripping molecule of their entire beings, leaving it all out there: bare and honest and full of eternal sacredness. The band follow in the hallowed footsteps of groups like Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Madball, Gorilla Biscuits, and Sick Of It All, hardcore visionaries who tore through the spectrum that was birthed in the underground. ACHE crush hard in pummeling waves of metallic, progressive, and old-school absolution. They’re the real deal. The band’s debut full-length, Fade Away—released Dec. 16 on Dead City Records—is a behemoth of punk and street temper, morphing with a heart in the past and an eye to the future. “The sense of community for the hardcore scene here in NYC is still incredible and very alive,” guitarist Matt Gelsomino notes. “Especially with
the lower-level younger bands. There’s a lot of support trying to help all these groups and individuals out. And with a lot of punk venues closing lately, the community is particularly vital to the scene. I grew up in D.C. with a really vibrant hardcore and punk scene, seeing shows at places like the Black Cat. Punk and hardcore is part of my DNA—as it is for the rest of the band.” Fade Away is a crash course in hardcore punk—with its quick and thrashing anthems, maddening space execution, and overall trajectory—but the album also showcases the band’s dazzling instrumental range, sneaking in odd time signatures, acoustic passages, and an often grindcore-ish aesthetic. Its dualist quality makes it mighty epic: an album you can spin over and over. It’s a record with a community feel—every piece and every musician, equal in perpetual force.
POST-HARDCORE DOWNPOUR- DROUGHTS PHOTO: JONATHAN DUNCAN
INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST WILL SEALS BY F. AMANDA TUGADE “Welcome Back” is the perfect introduction to Droughts’ long-awaited LP, Stay Behind, out Feb. 24 on Skeletal Lightning. The roughly two-minute track is a sudden rush of noise that pits Joe Klomes’ screams against the harsh sounds spewing from William Seals’
and Nick Spiese’s guitars and William Covert’s drums. “I had the chords for that for, like, a really long time—maybe, like, two years before we wrote it,” Seals says. “We toyed around with it once, and no one really remembered it. We tried to [work on it] again three weeks before we
When the name of a band’s first fulllength release is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the famous John Donne poem, “No Man Is an Island,” you know you’re not getting standard-fare heavy tunes. We Are Islands, After All—the Spinefarm Records debut from the U.K. group, wars, out Jan. 27—delivers something unexpected and weighty. The theme of the album centers on mental health, which bassist Rich Bennett explains “is an issue that has affected us all and is a topic we all feel deserves more attention.”
through our environments, our hopes, dreams, fears—this all amalgamates into this lens through which we view the world: our perspective. In many ways, this is an incredible thing, because it gives us the opportunity for totally unique creative interpretation and output, but at the same time, it renders us all intrinsically alone: islands with distinct, impenetrable shorelines.”
Vocalist Rob Vicars explains that both the band and the album are all about catharsis and how different people perceive the world. He expands on the album’s theme, adding, “We see everything through a filter made up of all our experiences, thoughts, feelings, learned behaviors, things that have become welded to our consciousness
The album’s sound plays into this dichotomy perfectly. The group marries punishing, groove-oriented modern metalcore with stadiumaspiring alt rock, like a Young GunsArchitects-Bury Tomorrow mashup. We Are Islands, After All finds wars screaming, shouting, and crooning about the state of the human condition, yet its heavy subjects are always presented in delightfully addictive packages.
NYHC: ALIVE AND WELL- ACHE
IN T E RV IE W WIT H GU ITA RIST M AT T " M AT TA K IN S" GE LSO M IN O BY C H RISTO PH E R J. H A RRI N GTO N “Writing the record was a painstaking process,” Gelsomino admits. “A lot of the bands I’ve been in, there’s usually one member doing the majority of the writing and steering the direction the group goes in. It’s not like that with
ACHE. Everybody is very picky and heavily involved in each section. A lot of bands can go to practice and bang out a song in one session. It takes us, like, three or four practices, but it’s amazing that way.”
went to the studio, and we pretty much wrote it. It was one of the last songs we wrote for the record.”
guess we’re really lucky that we wrote a record that we like for the most part.”
In fact, that opening number—which Seals describes as “aggressive” and having “a lot of tension”—not only takes on a more personal meaning for Klomes, but also hints at the Chicago band’s creative process, which took time to develop and unfold. “I guess Joe’s been more open on this record, because a lot of the record was pretty much about him coming to terms with his personal issues, and it’s also about how he came out last year,” Seals says. More than that, “it took us so long to get to the point where we were writing the songs,” he adds. “I just feel like we’re now ready to be doing what we’re doing now. I don’t know. It’s kind of crazy, because I was talking to somebody about how a lot of the songs were between two and a half to four years old, and they were like, ‘That’s insane. There’s no way that I could play a song that’s over eight months old.’ I
Seals explains that he, Spiese, and Klomes came together seven years ago to form Droughts, and went through a change in lineup before finding Covert. Only a couple splits and a demo were made along the way. “The three of us never thought this was going to happen,” Seals says. “I felt like it was going to eventually, but at some point, I felt like we were going to break up before the record came out.” “I guess that’s what makes it more special,” he says of Stay Behind. “It’s like, I feel like it makes me not feel so ridiculous—as far as thinking about the band in the middle of the night and stuff—because I realized everyone cares [about the band] as much as I do, if not more. So, it’s inspiring that everybody is excited for the record.”
BETWEEN THE HEAD AND HEART- WARS
INTERVIEW WITH ROB VICARS AND RICH BENNETT BY NICHOLAS SENIOR Bennett elaborates, “That sort of alloy of sounds—the combination that strikes at the heavy and chaotic, before rebounding back into something soaring or delicate—comes naturally to us. Maybe that’s chance, or maybe that’s because we’re writing with these sentiments and ideas lurking in our
minds; the idea of the war between the head and the heart is pretty acutely typified by those sort of sounds, I think, the vacillating of the music.”
NEW NOISE 9
Hakan—the power-pop, garage-infused punk band from Italy—released II, the searing and fun follow-up to their 2015 debut self-titled album, in December on Drunken Sailor Records and One Chord Wonder. The high-energy band initially started “without any particular goal in mind,” according to drummer Marco Facheris. “We just wanted to do something we like and do it with no rush, no expectations.” All three members— Facheris, his brother and bassist Andrea Facheris, and guitarist Andrea Carminati—all previously played together in The Snookys, so they have quite a bit of history. “We’ve known each other for more than 10 years now and always played together,” the drummer explains. He and Carminati also played in The Kaams, of which Carminati is still a member. “Hakan is the most spontaneous project we ever
Of the new album, Facheris says, “We are very happy about this record. People seemed to like the first one, and now, seem to like this one more.” As was the case with their debut album, Hakan wrote the material for II rather quickly. However, Facheris notes that the real game changer between this album and the previous one was working with Jeff Burke of Marked Men and Radioactivity fame. “He stayed in Italy for a few days after the Radioactivity European tour just to record our songs,” the drummer says, adding, “it was a very satisfying experience for us.” He continues, “We learned a lot from him and owe him so much for being so willing to work with us.” As for touring on the record, Facheris says Hakan are hoping to play
DROWNING IN NOSTALGIA- CAN'T SWIM
PHOTO: ANTHONY RUGGIERO
INTERVIEW WITH DRUMMER DANNY RICO BY NICHOLAS SENIOR It’s a good thing that Jersey-based rockers Can’t Swim have a sound anchored in the classics. 2016 was their introduction to the world with the Death Deserves a Name EP. Their personal, pensive take on melodic punk rock certainly struck
a chord, but their upcoming debut fulllength, Fail You Again, showcases the band at the opposite end of failure.
The post-punk sound of the ‘80s is alive and well thanks to this brilliant trio of 20-somethings from Montreal. Heat are putting out their new record, Overnight, on Jan. 20 via Topshelf Records. “Personally, I got into a bunch of those ‘80s, early ‘90s underground rock bands via my older sisters,” vocalist, guitarist, and keyboardist Susil Sharma says. “I’m the youngest of three by a decade, so from an early age, there was always hip music being thrown at me.”
styles and sounds and kind of realized that the three of us had this independent love of late ‘80s rock. I think the sound naturally gravitated towards that, though we didn’t really realize it until we started playing the songs live and getting feedback from our fans.”
The band realized pretty early on, through exploring sounds, that they all had similar touchstones in bands like Echo And The Bunnymen, The Cure, and The Jesus And Mary Chain. “I think when you start a band—especially a guitar sort of thing—you kind of try on a bunch of different hats and see which ones fit best,” Sharma says. “We went through a period of exploring different
10 NEW NOISE
T0-THE-POINT PUNK- HAKAN
started,” Facheris explains. “We wanted to play together again, because there is a nice understanding between us.”
Their potent mix of pop punk, ‘00s emo, and post-hardcore is still on display, but
The band had already put out an EP before signing to Topshelf, but Overnight showcases Heat more comfortable with their sound. “I think the songwriting— which I would describe as introspective pop music—has more or less remained the same, but the aesthetic has shifted quite a bit,” Sharma says. “On the EP, we were still figuring out how to play and what we wanted to sound like. The go-to there, for me, was to make it sound like the first bands I truly loved when I was young. On our new stuff, I think we’ve figured out a few new things about playing together.”
INTERVIEW WITH DRUMMER MARCO FACHERIS BY JANELLE JONES more in Italy, to do some additional international touring, and are planning a small European tour in the spring. Facheris says Hakan usually play 30 to 40 minute sets at their live shows. “Long shows bore us,” he concedes. “We think it’s better to make it fast, but make
it good.” The penchant for a fast, to-thepoint set seems to fit Hakan’s overall style.
Can’t Swim have taken those influences and written a gritty, hooky masterpiece of throwback rock nostalgia. The record feels more indebted to Brand New and grunge punk than The Story So Far, and the result is something both familiar and fresh. It’s also wonderful.
dynamic. Rico agrees, “We wanted to expand. I think everyone in the band has some pretty different influences, yet we find a common thread in bands that have a dynamic sound. While making the record, there was a constant dialogue to make sure we weren’t going too far in one direction, sort of like a checks and balances. We ended up with the heavy/ soft thing, sometimes in between, and that has come to be the identity of the band. We love it.”
Was there any worry about following up their surprisingly popular EP? Drummer Danny Rico states, “Initially, I think there was a tiny sense of pressure to sort of ‘keep up’ with the EP. [Guitarist] Chris [LoPorto] has definitely joked around, saying that those were the only five songs he’ll ever be able to write. That quickly became untrue, and I actually think his ability to effortlessly crank out amazing content is, in some part, thanks to him never having really written as much before. It just poured out of him.” Fail You Again finds Can’t Swim expanding their sonic range: the songs are heavier, catchier, and much more
Both releases so far have included cover art featuring close-ups of the same woman, and Rico shares that they plan to continue using her as a mascot and a way to put a face to each record. “As the band grows and evolves, so does the woman,” he says. “She plays a big part in the genesis of this band, so it makes plenty sense.”
A NEW TAKE ON THE FAMILIAR- HEAT
PHOTO: JOHN LONDONO
I N T E R V I E W W I T H S U S I L S H A R M A B Y J O H N B . M O O R E Amongst their many upcoming Canadian dates this spring, Heat have already booked a few days in the U.S.—in New Haven, New York, Baltimore, and Chapel Hill in March—on their way to South By Southwest. They are looking to play in the U.S. more, but for now, they’re
just excited for the release of Overnight. “We’ve had a really quiet year, prepping the album, and we’re just super stoked to release this thing and tour the hell out of it,” Sharma says.
Flesh Coffin, the upcoming sophomore record from New Jersey’s Lorna Shore—which is set for release Feb. 17 via Outerloop Records—finds the band in mid-transformation. What once was a promising group of talented musicians is now a multi-faceted beast, embracing tech-death, black, and prog metal to create an engaging and fantastically dark discussion of death. The record sees Lorna Shore fulfilling their potential and serving notice that deathcore isn’t dead just yet. “I think Lorna Shore is an everevolving organism,” guitarist Adam De Micco says. “Our vision and our sound will constantly grow over the years. I feel this is our best rendition of our vision, but I’m sure in a year or two, that will change. When it comes to our sound, we are always trying to add to it rather than abandon what
INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST ADAM DE MICCO BY NICHOLAS SENIOR
“As a guitarist, I predominantly focus on melody,” he continues. “I feel if you aren’t creating it, why bother? Although there are parts that are more aggressive or heavy, I feel that contrast was for a reason and makes the more melody-driven parts come to life.”
So, what is a “flesh coffin,” exactly? De Micco explains, “I think what we wanted to talk about was death, honestly. [Vocalist] Tom [Barber] dove right in. He didn’t back off in the least bit. It is just about the overall act of death or passing, but he feels there are many other aspects that happen before
or after. Think about it: that’s what religion is predominantly about.”
arrangements. “I’ve always had a wide range of tastes and influences,” de Brauw says. “Abstract music has always been a big interest of mine, and while there have some opportunities to expand on those influences in Pelican, most of my projects don’t lend themselves to really going deep into that mode of creativity.”
one fateful night in late 2015, de Brauw came across some unfinished pieces that he’d forgotten about. “I went about fixing them up, and it dawned on me that they might be the missing pieces I’d been looking for,” he says. “I futzed around with possible track sequences and, lo and behold, there was an album after all.”
“I’m not totally convinced that ‘ambient’ is the right label for this album,” he admits, “since it gets pretty riff-oriented at points and downright song-ish at others, though it’s definitely a lot hazier than most of my other work and with less emphasis on structure than atmosphere, so it’s definitely not off-base.”
The album’s title was inspired by Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. “Around the turn of the 20th century, Uptown was the center of [Chicago] nightlife and, resultantly, the architecture is gorgeous and ornate, reflecting the affluent lifestyle of its denizens at that time,” de Brauw explains. “It has undergone a few transformations since then, and when we were living there, it was fairly filthy and crime-ridden, […] but it’s also my favorite neighborhood—so gorgeous on the surface, but also in the resilience of the people who live there. It was a very important chapter in my life and definitely where the heart of the album took shape, so I felt like it was the right title to commemorate that time.”
SOUL OF THE CITY- TREVOR SHELLEY DE BRAUW
INTERVIEW BY MIKE GAWORECKI Over the course of 16 years, five albums, and six EPs, Chicago post-metal band Pelican have traversed a fair amount of atmospheric and ambient terrain. But with his first solo album, Uptown—due out Feb. 10 on San Francisco-based label The Flenser—the band’s founding guitarist, Trevor Shelley de Brauw, is
pushing his sound way, way further out there.
Often times, when I associate the word “joy” with music, I think of the song “Tourette’s” by Nirvana. The track is short, abrasive, and pretty unintelligible in terms of lyrical and vocal competency. The story goes that the song was written to capture the joy of playing music. In many ways, Of Nothing by Virginia’s Joy—released by Blood & Ink Records this past summer—encompasses exactly that.
all about expression,” Tucker explains. “I want to think people use this kind of music as an outlet. When you play this kind of stuff, you tend to black out from reality,” he adds, really bringing to light the joy of playing music like this.
The record is slightly over 10 minutes long, but the brevity of the passion is built right into every crushing part. “A lot of our influences come from not only hardcore, but grind and punk bands,” bassist Allen Tucker comments. “What we generally lean towards are short, to-the-point songs that get our message across.” As for the content of the music, the lyrics often focus on finding personal growth, even through the failure, anger, and hate one faces in their day-to-day life. In that regard, it is an honest approach about finding what others can relate to. “It’s
DEATH AIN'T DEAD YET- LORNA SHORE
makes our band. All of our albums are going to be a stepping-stone for this band; we just try and take where we we’re at and push that forward. We just learned how to improve on the areas we aren’t so happy with or adjust parts that have sabotaged the songs in the past, so it all comes out in a cohesive product. Musically, I wanted to make the songs flow. I felt that was the main difference between [2015 release] Psalms and Flesh Coffin: [Psalms] was all my scatterbrained ideas just thrown together into a song with no rhyme or reason.”
In a press release, The Flenser describes the songs on Uptown as “power-ambient compositions,” which is perhaps as fitting as any other descriptor for such ineffable but powerful sonic
The vocals across the record are deafening: piercing ears with visceral howls and grueling screams. The guitars are thick with distortion and the drums punch through with urgency. Combine all this, and the short record becomes memorable in bringing to the surface a way to stomp out the fire of bullshit piling up in one’s life. “Shame” is a perfect example, utilizing different rhythm patterns—albeit one mighty two-step—and unleashing nothing but pure fury. “Hope Less” leads with Tucker’s fuzzy bass paving the way for the band to fracture the infrastructures around them. The emotional outpour within Of Nothing has been heard by enough
PHOTO: BOBBY BATES
Uptown features a wide array of sounds produced by electric and acoustic guitar, organ, electric piano, trombone, and even a microcassette recorder. It took a decade to assemble the entire album. About once a year, de Brauw would come back to the many pieces he had recorded and try to build a cohesive album around them, but he could never find the right combination of compositions. Then,
2017 is already shaping up to be a big year for Lorna Shore, as they will get to play their best batch of songs to date on a massive tour with Carnifex, Despised Icon, and Fallujah.
A SHORT BURST OF PASSION- JOY
INTERVIEW WITH BASSIST ALLEN TUCKER BY SEAN GONZALEZ ears to warrant a physical release. The record was originally released in June 2016, but has gathered enough of a following to bring it to vinyl—again, courtesy of Blood & Ink—on Feb. 24. “The response from it has been really great,” Tucker says of the album’s
reception. “It’s great to see that [Blood & Ink] are not focusing on one genre, but rather bands that make genuinely cool music. It’s a really cool family to be a part of, and it feels like a family.”
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Swedish rockers Horisont may be making music that sounds like it’s from the past, but that’s not anything they’re particularly concerned about. The proggy and spacey hard rock quintet is perfectly situated in the present: evolving, widening, and staying true to a sound that’s grounded in timeless blue-collar vision. They play and live how they want. Often in hilarious and straight-up ways. The band’s newest album, About Time, is set to blast space drifters, bikers, and hipsters alike above and beyond on Feb. 3, courtesy of Century Media Records. “When I think of the term ‘retro,’ I think of furniture or clothes, not music,” singer Axel Soderberg notes, “but if someone wants to apply the term to the kind of music that we play, then great. Personally, I wouldn’t use that term, but we are highly influenced by bands playing 30 to 40 years ago. When it comes right down to it, we all have our feet on the ground and we’re not a bunch of weirdos. We like time traveling and beer.” The band’s new album picks up where 2015’s Odyssey left off: spiraling, layered, and dimensionally spirited. You can hear the hard rock of Thin Lizzy and Blue Oyster Cult, the progressive resonance of Yes and Uriah Heep, and the brazen aural assault of NWOBHM blasters like
UNEARTHLY TRANCE When the New York doom-sludge beast, Unearthly Trance, resigned to the shadows, the metal world was shocked and grieving. 2012 was missing something, but the members joined forces with guitarist Tim Bagshaw—of Ramesses and formerly of Electric Wizard—to form Serpentine Path. Adding guitarist Stephen Flam of Winter, they recorded two revered albums. But, as Bagshaw began to form With The Dead with vocalist Lee Dorian, guitarist Ryan Lipynsky says, “The three of us wanted to play Unearthly Trance songs again.” Rejoined by drummer Darren Verni and bassist Jay Newman, the monstrous trio were resurrected. Now, they spawn their sixth full-length, Stalking the Ghost, out on Relapse Records on Feb. 24. “The real spark that reignited Unearthly Trance was working on [2014’s] Ouroboros collection [on Throne Records],” Lipynsky says. “Going back, compiling all this material from outof-print vinyl, we all missed playing
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Iron Maiden scattered throughout the record’s geometric and loose cohesion. There’s a spirit to the music that is undeniably flush, ringing with a true and honest dynamic. Horisont make music that is, first and foremost, a natural part of their DNA—all reproductive, liquid, and developing continually. And they’re adamant about not changing their process and overall perception. “I’m a songwriter; I’m not trying paint some imaginary landscape for the listener,” Soderberg says. “If you want to do that, that’s fine by me, but I would rather you just listen to the music. If you go see a show by us, we’re not putting on anything different than what we usually wear, and doing that keeps the focus on the music. If you’re going to put on glitter and have a big light show and makeup, you have to be a really good band. Most bands do that because their music is boring on its own. We’re all prog lovers, but the real reason we started to put progressive elements in our music is to get it through people’s thick skulls that we never were—or never will be—a stoner [or] doom band.” In a swift and circular wave, Horisont manage to draw from the past while staying true to the present. In an amusing and almost ironic way, the band create in a completely contemporary nature while angling stylistically from decades past, all the while playing, singing, and pushing themes and sensibilities of a sci-fi and futuristic nature. Easily the best thing the band does is write really
I N T E R V I E W W I T H V O C A L I ST A X E L S O D E R B E R G BY C H R I ST O P H E R K . H A R R I N GTO N great songs. And this is something that is both timeless and interstellar. “We recorded About Time on our own, and we’ve never tried to make music for anybody but ourselves,” Soderberg defiantly states. “The main theme on the record is about time traveling, but not all the songs are connected to the same story. We have some good ol’ drinking songs and everyday shit in there too. If you look hard enough, you’ll see a real thread going through the whole album. I really want the listeners to find it for themselves. It’s a good thing there’s five guys in the band, because we always vote when there’s something that someone opposes musically, thematically, or anything else in general. I put some political themes in my lyrics, and I hope someone finds them and it helps them on a better path. Basically, bigots and so on in general can fuck off.”
together.” Lipynsky held onto all of the riffs and songs he had written before the slumber of Unearthly Trance. Newman and Verni worked hard with Lipynsky to form new belligerent tracks. All of this makes Lipynsky reflect—and quickly cherish the respite. “You need to step away and live life for a bit,” he concedes. “Then, assess where you want to go with things. We have been a band since 2000, friends longer. So, Unearthly Trance was always something that would have happened once again. I am sure that will be the case until we are old farts with grey beards.” Unearthly Trance’s dormancy reinvigorated the members. “The one thing I took away from playing and recording with Serpentine Path was the development of my lower deathlier voice, which I plan to explore more with in the future,” Lipynsky notes. Armed with a new growl, Lipynsky and the boys are proud of the new tunes. “I would call this album a distillation of all that is important about Unearthly Trance,” he says. “We were being very conscious of flow and feel of the songs. We took things to the next level by making it heavier. There is a sense of rebooting the band for the next phase to come.”
PHOTO: JIMMY HUBBARD
INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST RYAN LIPYNSKY BY HUTCH Stalking the Ghost drops like a leviathan as the cold grip of winter plods. There is also a cryptic allusion to a split with a well-known band. Unearthly Trance, reborn and hungry, will be storming stages on a short tour of Europe—with SUMA from Sweden— and at Roadburn Festival on April 20. That is the self-imposed limit for these wiser, weathered musicians. “We are taking things slow and steady,” Lipynsky explains. “We are older. We are a bit more reasonable as to what we will or won’t do.”
EMPTINESS The shadows are low and stirring on Belgium dark metal masters Emptiness’ newest record, Not for Music—released Jan. 20 on Season Of Mist. A collusion of ancient and unearthly realms collides in evocative tones, splattered jaunts, and mystical unease throughout. An excursion deeply unnerving transpires with the album’s scary and avant-garde presence—and yet, a resonance of inspiration and wonder fill the listener’s ears with a magic that’s deep and strong. There is high art in these songs: the album constantly pulling and pushing at odds with its existence, alchemy and ascension key to its movement. “What we try to do is stay unpredictable and keep the audience guessing,” notes bassist, vocalist, and cofounder Jeremy Bézier, better known as Phorgath. “Uneasiness and uncertainty must permeate the surroundings, and we love to lose ourselves into countless possibilities. Deprived of their usual codes and benchmarks, individuals feel helpless when facing the unknown or some new truth. We try to exploit this state of confusion to maximum efficiency and transport the listener into a world that wants to exclude him.” Track by track, on Not for Music, one falls into perpetual infinity, spiraling, rising,
It may have taken a little while for Jr. Juggernaut’s latest full-length to finally arrive, but just one song into the record, listeners will realize it’s clearly been worth the wait. The Los Angeles-based punk and power-pop band have turned in two impressively solid records to date, but Witch’s Hand deserves to find a bigger audience thanks to songs that manage to be equal parts comfortable—owing a lot to ‘90s alt rock influences—and decidedly original. The album was released digitally in November and on vinyl at the end of January via the band’s own Nickel Eye Records. “I wrote Witch’s Hand in 2013, and we recorded it in 2014,” vocalist and guitarist Mike Williamson says. “After [2012 release], Wake, which was a somewhat morose record— intentionally so—I wanted to write an album that was more upbeat musically: more pop than Wake, and with an overall more polished sound.”
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and transcending. The mood is strange and looming, and an ever-present sense of change engulfs the maddening work of art. There are many forms the record floats through; most importantly, these structures are unknown and unique. Emptiness is special in their grand presentation. There’s no band like them. “We wanted to do something different, but still unclassifiable,” Bézier says. “We wanted to avoid imposing darkness in a forceful way, but rather, let it develop itself naturally, to make it more profound and credible. Also, we wanted to bring out the ‘journey’ element involved as one makes his way through the entire album. So, we composed the pieces in the same order as they appear in the LP.” Emptiness are particularly adept at conjoining poetry and instrumentation. The group are embedded with the same qualities that make bands and musicians like The Cure, Blut Aus Nord, Lustmord, and Marilyn Manson so amazingly dynamic and altering. The repetition of change, you could say, is the place where language and electronics blend. Emptiness carry the light of eternal modification. “We aim for maximal interaction of words with sounds,” Bézier indicates. “Sometimes, the opposite happens, and then it is music that influences words. But the main thing is that both be made inseparable, combining to create life. The voice acts as a guiding thread for the human ear, in a poetic yet direct language often close to slang. The rest consists of feelings, energy, and, occasionally, traps.”
While both Wake and its predecessor, 2008’s Ghost Poison, were recorded in just a couple of days with little more than a plug-and-play setup, the band went into Witch’s Hand knowing they wanted to spend more time and have more focus with their playing and recording. Coming back home off of Wake’s last tour in 2012, Jr. Juggernaut basically went into hibernation, waiting to emerge again when the new record was finished. “Jr. Juggernaut is not a career for any of us,” Williamson says. “I’m a filmmaker, [bassist] Mario Framingheddu is a filmmaker, [drummer] Wal Rashidi is a college professor. So, we concentrated on our jobs and families while simultaneously working on the release of Witch’s Hand, which, frankly, took much longer than any of us in the band anticipated. But now, it’s out, and we’re ready to dust off the amps—which go to 11, by the way—and kill some eardrums again.” The record was originally set to come out on Paper + Plastick—the band’s former label—but delays prompted the them to go the DIY route. “A summer 2015 release date had been
PHOTO: DAVID FITT
I N T E R V I E W W I T H J E R E M Y “ P H O R G AT H ” B É Z I E R BY C H R I ST O P H E R J . H A R R I N GTO N Emptiness continually defy classification, rigorously existential. Not for Music sees the band at the height of their powers, engaging specs of the ultra-world into a sort of bleak wizardry. The hustle and bustle of modern art and transcendentalist poetry is the glue of the their ever-evolving presence. If you’re searching for challenging music, look no further: Emptiness are the totality of progress, a band who will never be satisfied. The goal is nonexistent for these guys, a representation of the end. They see the infinite universe as the ultimate source: perpetual inspiration.
provocation, but also a way for us to say that ‘nothingness’ is our music. How you create does not matter. Only the result counts. Say my voice is being recorded in a high-tech studio and I am wearing a glittering pink t-shirt. The guy listening to the album will still imagine he sees a creepy bloke lurking in a cave. What’s magic is the excitement in front of the unknown, the craving to know more, to follow the lead, or simply to dream. If you reach your goal, you lose the magic, the strangeness.”
“With Emptiness, the debate revolves around the way to categorize it,” Bézier admits. “Yet, not being like others is our essence. In such a vast universe and confronted to endless sources of inspiration, we should all be our own selves. The title Not for Music is a kind of
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 M I K E W I L L I A M S O N B Y J O H N B . M O O R E announced by our previous label,” Williamson recalls, “but by the time fall 2016 rolled around and it still wasn’t out, I decided we needed to move on and release it via our own label ASAP in order to make sure it wasn’t an oldies record by the time people finally heard it.” While physical copies are now available, if you live outside of California, you better grab it off the band’s site rather than wait for Jr. Juggernaut to come to town so you can get it from their merch table. “Jr.
Juggernaut is pretty firmly a West Coast entity, since we all have careers outside of the band that demand our attention. If we did play outside of the West Coast, it would have to be some sort of one-off show at a festival or something,” Williams says. “That said, we’d love to play your one-off festival date, so send us a message so we can play somewhere else!”
LITE By melding progressive and math rock styles with edgy riffs and complex rhythms, LITE are one of the most exciting acts to come out of Japan in the last decade. Their fifth full-length album, Cubic—which came out on Nov. 18 via Topshelf Records—shows one of the most underrated bands on the planet exhibiting immense growth in both talent and sound. A few tracks enter the psychedelic realm, while others are raw and organic. There is also a contagious groove that invades Cubic on all ends; both Nobuyuki Takeda and Kozo Kusumoto’s guitar skills blend spectacularly with the rhythm section of bassist Jun Izawa and drummer Akinori Yamamoto. Kusumoto contributes on synthesizer as well to add another unique dimension to an already unique musical structure.
“We listen to many kinds of music, and it is not limited to certain genres. We consider ourselves to be omnivorous when it comes to music,” Takeda says of the band’s initial inspirations. “We listen to avant-garde, progressive, math rock, and many other styles too. When we started LITE, we wanted to be a band that makes something original and new that no one has done before. I think originality comes from multiplying one element with another. We’ve been listening to a diverse
Blasting out of Minneapolis, Deathwish are set to release their second LP, Unleash Hell, on Beer City Records in spring. Their thrashy brand of the Motörcharge style—Motörhead meets Discharge—has been honed here to a vicious surge. Bassist and vocalist Biddy’s frank admissions explain the allure of dark and rebellious music, which has become a life-defining mission. Of Unleash Hell, he says, “This has better production, better written songs. [After 2015’s Out for Blood], the pressure was on.” Biddy also plays in Wartorn and grabbed a new lead guitarist, Jimmy Claypool from In Defence. That pedigree would ensure a better record. “This is more aggressive. It rage more, while being a little progressive, a little more precise,” Biddy assures. His lyrics demand the feral snarl of these heavy riffs. “This record was inspired by music I grew up on, all the stuff that alluded to Satan,” the bassist explains. “I grew up
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range of music, and by multiplying each element, we make something new that no one has made. Our music was born from our flexibility.” Japanese culture is very different than American culture, and that extends into live music. “In Japan, smaller bands pay some money to the venues in advance, and when the ticket sales exceed the expected amount, they get paid,” Takeda explains. “The audience does not drink that much like they do in the United States. Due to that, the ticket prices are around 2,000 yen, which is much more expensive than in the States where people spend their money more on drinks. People come to the venue basically just to enjoy the show in Japan, and they are quiet while concentrating on watching us play. I think, in the United States, it is easier for people to come to see the show. They come to the clubs to enjoy both the show and drinking. They get very excited while we are playing. It makes us very happy, so I enjoy playing in the United States.” LITE’s vision behind the making of Cubic was organic and minimalist. “On our previous album, [2013’s] Installation, we composed the songs by overlapping synthesizer sounds, which was a new experience for us,” Takeda mentions. “Before that, we used to compose by jamming. That was the time we shifted to compose music on a computer. In support of the album, we toured not only in Japan, but in the United States, Europe,
Catholic, and they scared the hell out of you with fire and brimstone.” Biddy was drawn to the dark elements of the religion not for shock value, but as a side effect of his defiant search for truth. “I have a mental illness, Tourette’s—I have a mild case, dealt with it my whole life,” he adds. “I don’t experience happiness, just depression and mania. As a child, I had paranoia.” He quickly connects his disability to seeking out alternative answers, adding, “The devil made sense when I was kid. The Church tells you about a great God, giving people gifts. Here I am, suffering. Why? Does God hate me? What about children with cancer? What about wars? Where is God then?” “As an agnostic, I know Satan is probably not real,” Biddy concedes. “But, if he was real, God made him that way only to have a scapegoat to blame. That’s where I identify, because I was born with mental illness, someone society can blame. In private school, I had learning disabilities, but […] according to them, I had the devil in me. They were going to beat the devil out of me. I got the shit beat out of me all the time.”
INTERVIEW WITH NOBUYUKI TAKEDA BY ROB DUGUAY and Asia where the reaction from the audience is more direct. What we learned from their reaction was that too much electronic synthesizer kills the originality of each musician in a way. That did not happen when we used to compose by jamming together. We learned that only the stringed instruments and drums can express the originality we have: the LITE style. I thought this point is very important for the new album. I used a computer for composing, but we took enough time for each member to absorb in their style. As a result, we were able make an album with minimum and tight sounds, and that’s the way LITE should be.” Since their beginnings in Tokyo’s music scene in 2003, LITE have evolved in both the business and the musical sense. “We were very young and thought the band could earn the bread and butter,” Takeda reflects, “but the music business has changed
and CDs aren’t selling anymore. I was at a loss at what to do, but I’m so blessed that there are always loyal fans waiting for a new record. Thankfully, we are expanding wider and wider overseas. The size of the band is getting bigger and bigger than we expected, and now, I strongly think the most important thing is to keep doing what we do and find a solution to pursue it. That’s something that has changed the most since the start.” LITE did a tour of the West Coast back in November, but they plan on coming back soon. “We’re coming back to the United States to tour the East Coast in March,” Takeda says. “After that, an Asian tour is scheduled in support of Cubic. We don’t have any plans for new recordings, but I came up with a new idea that I want to try. I’ll keep searching something new in 2017 too.”
INTERVIEW WITH BASSIST/VOCALIST BIDDY BY HUTCH Biddy always had music as an outlet and weapon of retaliation, and Unleash Hell is a sharper sword that Out for Blood. Unleash Hell is reflective of that sentiment’s cinematic origin: gladiators with nothing to lose attacking the system’s corrupt leaders. The fury in Deathwish’s music attacks with speed and precision and killer riffs. “Motörcharge” is often used to describe the band, but Deathwish push even those limits. “We have a more metal influence, like Disfear, Toxic Holocaust,
Inepsy, and Midnight,” Biddy notes, but he doesn’t want to fit into a genre slot. “When I play in bands, I ask bandmates, ‘What do you want do to do?’” He takes their response and pushes, “‘Let’s do that, plus three more things.’” Biddy continues, “You can see the excitement on their face to begin with what their passionate is. I’m trying to play with the most passionate people I can find.”
PAIN OF SALVATION The sort of progressive vision that Sweden’s Pain Of Salvation typically exude is one of deep vigor. They are a band who set out to delve far below the surface, to paint a widening picture, and to capture the totality of an idea. It’s different music, art that shapes a nature of its own. There’s infinite progressive rock and metal bands out there, but few who build structures as dense and determined as Pain Of Salvation. The group’s newest record, the cavernous and layered In the Passing Light of Day—released Jan. 13 via InsideOut Music and Century Media—stretches its conceptions mightily, picking spots to rage, to dream, and to burrow endlessly. A personal record with haunting overtones, the album starts at a specific physical place, moving from there, like a cloud in the nexus, to the areas beyond. “The hospital bed. That’s the area where the concept for this record starts,” guitarist, vocalist, and founder Daniel Gildenlöw notes. “If the record was a movie, it would start with a shot rolling into a hospital room with a sort of blurry effect, and
NOTHINGTON On Feb. 17—10 years to the month after releasing their first album, All In— Nothington will set loose their newest full-length, In the End. It’s not only a 10year anniversary for the band, In the End also marks their first new offering in five years. When speaking about that time between albums, guitarist and vocalist Chris Matulich says, “After [2011 release] Borrowed Time, the band spent two years touring, and then, I decided I needed time to catch up with my life at home before working on a new album. We took a break and then spent over a year crafting these songs. After some delay in the final recording and mixes, here we are finally. But I think the wait was worthwhile when I hear what we created.”
According to Matulich, it’s purely a coincidence that the release of In the End coincided with the anniversary of their first album release, but a decade holds some weight. “It is pretty crazy to think we’ve been a band for 10 years,” he admits. “It’s strange to think about the fact that I’ve spent almost a third of my life and most of my adult life playing music in
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then it would clear up and there’d be a man in the bed.” Gildenlöw recently recovered from an extremely serious streptococcal infection—i.e. flesh eating bacteria—and the new album is a starting point for the musician’s total experience with it. He spent significant time in the hospital, had multiply surgeries, and is, in many ways, lucky to be alive. “At first, the doctors went through, like, six different types of antibiotics trying to figure this thing out,” he reflects. “It’s really important to make the right diagnosis in the first 24 hours for this type of infection. I sat there thinking about how this annoying, stupid little thing—which had progressed in pain hour by hour— could actually be lethal. I thought about how I didn’t even say goodbye to my kids, and it just got deeper, and I start thinking, ‘What if…? Where do I stand? What am I proud of ?’ All these things that seemed important to me before really didn’t matter at all. What mattered became clear: my family.” In the Passing Light of Day shares Gildenlöw’s tremendous emotion. It’s an album that sits exactly at the cusp of a penetrating darkness: a place that’s often times very difficult to penetrate. Like the music and the narrative, the
this band and others before it.” Although Nothington has been different from other projects, Matulich says. “We started this from the bottom and progressed upwards,” he explains. “[Vocalist and guitarist] Jay [Northington] and I had both played in bands that never made it out of the garage, and we had also joined others that already had a notable presence in the scene. Nothington started booking our own tours in DIY basements, warehouses, and dive bars, and we still play shows in small bars and dive venues often, but we have also experienced playing some of the biggest punk festivals in the world on the other end of the spectrum. We are very proud of that progression.” The track, “Cobblestones,” was released in early November, giving everyone a taste of what to expect from In the End. True to Nothington’s style, it has the familiar melancholic breakdowns and lamenting choruses that crowds love to shout out like a battle cry: all of those memories that sometimes feel shitty, but just sound so damn beautiful when sung over punk chords. Though for Matulich, sometimes the mournful songs are the most sanguine. “The songs are a bit more complex than on previous albums,
I N T E R V I E W W I T H F O U N D E R DA N I E L G I L D E N L Ö W BY C H R I ST O P H E R J . H A R R I N GTO N overall concept is something that fills in more radically the more time you invest into it. It makes sense in such dense and complete ways that, when you think of progressive music after listening to In the Passing Light of Day, it won’t be in the same way. When the guitar solo in the seventh song, “Angles of Broken Things,” shows up and scorches every fiber in your being, you’ll be spiraling beyond in a place of perfection, in the stratosphere where guitar solos truly matter.
guitar player, you just get sort of sick of hearing your own playing,” he laughs. “But that song was just telling me to do this solo. I felt like people would feel like something was missing. It was so obvious to put it there and actually a lot of fun to do. I feel like progressive rock was initially based out of frustration. It was born from a desire to reinvent. That’s where Pain Of Salvation exists. We are driven by reinvention, to make progressive music and to change as people.”
“I’ve stayed away from guitar solos for quite a few years,” Gildenlöw says. “Eighty percent of them just feel like they’re attached to the song and really not needed in any sort of way. Also, as a
There’s a good chance In the Passing Light of Day will change you.
PHOTO: STEVEN MATVIEW/PUNKS IN VEGAS
INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST/VOCALIST CHRIS MATULICH BY REN POT TS because we took a lot of time crafting them,” he says. “Overall, I would say the album has some very sad tones and personal lyrics just like ‘Cobblestones’ does. For me as a listener, those are the kinds of songs that make me feel the most hopeful, because they remind me that we all have the same trials in life—and I hope this record does that for listeners too.” In the End arrives in February via Red Scare Industries. Fans will undoubtedly be thrilled to have a new Nothington album in all its reassuring, sublime sadness and will have learned all the lyrics just in time for the band’s spring tour dates. Nothington are gearing up for a European tour in February, followed
immediately by a West Coast tour upon returning to the States mid-March. They plan to tour the rest of the U.S. throughout the year with specific dates to come.
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Iowa City, Iowa-based doom-drone trio Aseethe have stripped their sound down to its most essential, brutal elements for Hopes of Failure, the band’s first album for Thrill Jockey Records, set for release on Feb. 24. According to founding guitarist and vocalist Brian Barr, there are several reasons why there isn’t much noise, synth, and samples to be found on Hopes of Failure. Chief among them is the departure of synth-player Kevin Erhardt-Hansen, the member of Aseethe who was dedicated full-time to the soundscapes found on 2014 EP Burdens II and 2015’s Nothing Left, Nothing Gained EP and Rat Salad single. Barr’s brother, Danny Barr, stepped in to provide bass and vocals, and founding drummer Eric Diercks now handles the samples, using sounds that he and the guitarist create together. But once they went into the studio to record Hopes of Failure, they decided to pare down their droney, crushing compositions. “We had more samples prepared going into the studio, but scrapped most of them, because they didn’t
BLACK TABLE Black Table are a New York and New Jersey-based band summoning postblack metal and sludge to produce some severe riffage. On Dec. 22, their first full-length, Obelisk, was released on stellar blue-splatter vinyl via Moment of Collapse Records. Obelisk was recorded at Backroom Studios in New Jersey. “I’ve known [studio owner] Kevin [Antreassian] for a few years now and had been dying to get in there,” bassist DJ Scully explains. “Kevin, Scot [Moriarty], and Jon [Maisto] are all total sweetie-pies as well, knowledgeable and patient. They understand that you’re working on your baby. They treat it as such. They were a huge help.” Backroom Studios—the physical structure and the staff—elicited a triumphant sound from Black Table. The depth of the thunder and sweat is palpable on Obelisk. Producer Billy Anderson grabbed the helm for Obelisk. After self-releasing the “DeepWell” single and Sentinel EP in 2012, Black Table had to present the iconic Anderson with a taut, solid album. Guitarist Ryan Fleming humbly narrates, “Billy really understands building to create mood and atmosphere. He knew how to take something that is
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seem necessary to the arrangements,” Barr says. “We went with the ‘less is more’ approach on this record.” There’s something almost meditative about the repetitive nature of the album’s riffs, which Barr says is the very crux of what Aseethe are trying to achieve. “Using repetitive riffs allows ourselves, as players, and the listener time to be drawn into the music,” he explains. “We create song structures that allow the riffs to flow together, trying to avoid abrupt changes between parts. That may be why some of the parts come across as meditative. We don’t write with the listener in mind, so we are not looking for a specific emotional response. In my opinion, evoking any emotion—positive or negative—in the listener is good.” Barr says that, in the past, some people have drawn a connection between Aseethe’s music and the rolling cornfields and prairie of Iowa—a comparison he’s okay with, even if it isn’t intentional on his part. “It does sound cool, and if the listener gets that impression from our music, great, but I don’t think there are any direct influences,” he says. “We just like to tune low, play heavy and slow.” While there is no overarching lyrical theme on Hopes of Failure, the subject
PHOTO: BRONSON KARAFF
INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST/VOCALIST BRIAN BARR BY MIKE GAWORECKI matter is decidedly heavy as well. “Our lyrics are about painting a stark picture rather than a direct theme, but are usually centered around the darker side of humanity,” Barr explains. “Hopes of Failure is probably best represented in the artwork: a figure staring at its own hand while it crumbles into oblivion. It seems that humankind will be the architects of our own extinction. We know this, and yet, do very little to try to stop it.” The album’s nearly 14-minute closing track, “Into the Sun,” is an epic, dynamic song; it probably best defines the way Aseethe have opened up new vistas by honing their sound to its most basic elements. It comes crashing in with a skull-rattling riff that gives
complex and see the song within it. We have some serious ambient layers in a few songs.” “Helm” illustrates these complicated layers. The varied sections radiate thought-provoking songwriting. “The writing process usually begins with Ryan and [vocalist and guitarist] Mers [Sumida] trading files over the internet to get a basic song structure together,” drummer Mike Kadnar explains. “Once they have a skeleton of a song, DJ and I will come in and start suggesting different arrangement and orchestration options. […] Once we have something concrete, we will start working on the songs in person at rehearsal.” However, “Helm” did not fit their paradigm. “We had a basic skeleton for months, but it never quite felt right,” Kadnar admits. “Then, one day, Mers was messing with this one guitar part that I called the ‘fight riff,’ which eventually morphed into the part that ‘Helm’ was missing. I added a blast beat with some chaotic fills to this riff, and we finally had an arrangement everyone was happy with.” As the tracks pummel, crippling emotions erupt within the listener. Sumida elaborates, “There was a time when people suffering from melancholia would be put into institutions or abandoned to the streets depending on the severity. They would be pushed
way to a decidedly Sabbath-inspired melodic section, which itself leads into a methodical, punishing series of screamed verses. It’s one of Barr’s favorite songs to play live because of the clean vocals over the song’s lowkey interlude, the calm before the storm—or what Barr calls “the intense heavy ending with all the noise.” A lyric from “Into the Sun” even inspired the album’s title: “Reach further for hopes of failure / Your body is breaking down / Build further the bridge we need.”
PHOTO: DEAN LANDRY
INTERVIEW BY HUTCH into further internal isolation. This is extremely sad to me.” Sumida notes a change in the zeitgeist. “I think people are more open to discussing depression now than they used to be,” she says. “There is more support out there as a result. People you can talk to, therapies you can try, drugs, lifestyles, etc. I think, in general, there is less mainstream stigma to it, which makes it easier for people to ask for help.” The skull on the album’s cover “was no easy task” to find, Fleming states. Finally, he looked to friend and gallery director Casey Gleghorn for inspiration. “He had some suggestions, but then, presented Eric Lacombe’s work to us,” Fleming says. “We all had a very emotional reaction to the piece he presented. The skull is being worn as a mask, which brings up concepts of ritual and myth.
Besides how the image seems to look into you, the texture and richness of the calming blues and greens in the paint are tranquil and full of depth. It’s the kind of richness and narrative that we wanted to represent this album visually.” Fleming summarizes Obelisk’s desired impact, saying, “We write long, meandering songs that are typically dark and emotional. They shift and sway between positive and negative throughout the entire album. Although we want people to enjoy listening to it as a musical whole, we hope listeners look deeper into the themes encoded within the songs. We had very clear direction with Obelisk. We hope this will take people into new places, new thinking, research and reflection.”
FAIL YOU AGAIN
PHOTO: ORION LANDAU
Like the best vicious music, the record extends its effectiveness over 10 excellent tracks. Instead of wearing thin after the early, choice cuts, The Drip take their name to heart, extending the album’s efficacy. It absolutely helps that this isn’t dollar store grind-
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or those not hip to medical terminology—it’s the hot new trend of 2017—a drip is a device for administering a fluid, typically an IV drug, into the bloodstream. It’s a slow and steady process for ensuring an even dose over time. For those without an ear to the ground in the grindcore underground, Washington’s purveyors of sonic punishment, The Drip, have steadily risen through the ranks over their 10-year career. What’s surprising, given their decade-long tenure is that The Haunting Fear of Inevitability—released via Relapse Records on Jan. 13—is their full-length debut. Despite—and probably because of—the long wait for a full album, The Drip’s sound is downright lethal in its potency.
core; it’s more modern and deathtinged, somewhere between Rotten Sound and Gatecreeper, yet all their own. All this time perfecting their formula has served the band well. Guitarist Bobby Mansfield agrees, “It’s taken a long time to get to the point where we finally found our sound. We added a bit more flavor, just so we wouldn’t stagnate. When we were first doing [grindcore], we were some of the only bands doing it, but now, a lot of bands started doing the HM-2 sound, so we had to refresh a little bit.”
That even extends to the production decisions. The band were able to take their time and make a more refined record. “We wanted it to be more polished, instead of the [last EP, 2014’s A Presentation of Gruesome Poetics], which had the whole straight-up chainsaw tone,” Mansfield explains. “We wanted to have more clarity to the riffs. We wanted to bring the energy of the live show into the studio. The last EP was all recorded live. This time, we had a lot more time to make things pop more.” Unlike a lot of their peers, The Drip aren’t trying to overwhelm the listener with speed, technicality, or harsh noise on The Haunting Fear of Inevitability. The name of their game is riffs, melodies, and the feeling that you’ll need a neck massage after listening to their records. Despite the fact that this may be one of the best death-grind debuts in recent memory, Mansfield doesn’t have any lofty goals in mind. “I can’t wait to see how the reaction to the album is. If we can
get on some bigger tours, that would be much more ideal than DIY touring,” he laughs. “Sometimes, it’s really rough out there.” So, what was the roughest moment? “In New Mexico, they forgot there was another band on the bill, so there was no one there, no money, no drink ticket,” he recalls, laughing. “Another [incident that] was weird—it was a little kid’s birthday party mixed with a metal show. The local band was the dad of the kid. That was a ‘Spinal Tap’ moment if you can believe it: little kids at a grindcore show. It was a strange atmosphere, but a cool venue, actually.” Were the kids into it? “By the time we played, all the kids were tuckered out, falling asleep,” Mansfield says. “What they call ‘the townies’ were there and drinking heavily, so that was cool.”
PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
No need to rush a good thing. Oceanside, California, pop punk band The Bombpops formed in 2007, but it’s taken almost a decade for the foursome to put out their first full-length album. So, why the wait? “It might seem like a simple answer, but there’s a lot that stopped us from putting out an LP up until this point,” says Jen Razavi, who shares vocal and guitar duties with Poli Van Dam.
They put out two EPs—…Like I Care in 2010 and Stole the TV in 2011, both on Red Scare Industries—but it wasn’t until 2012 that they became the band they are now, with bassist Neil Wayne and drummer Josh Lewis completing the rhythm section. Shortly after finally finding a bassist and drummer, Van Dam became pregnant with her son and the band took a short break. A few months after her son was born, they hit the ground running playing shows again. They started writing and recording and self-released the Can of Worms EP in early 2015.
We had several… three drummers,” she continues. “Each time felt like we were starting over. We kept playing shows between lineup changes, but we They turned to Fat Wreck were always set back.” Chords to put out their first
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LP, Fear of Missing Out, on Feb. 10. “We’ve been fans of the label for years. We’re basically a product of Southern California skate punk and grew up on Fat bands,” Razavi says. “In the past, Fat Mike had said he thought we were cool kids, but he wasn’t ready to sign our band. After we finished up recording Fear of Missing Out, we sent the songs to Mike to see what he had to say. His literal response was, ‘You guys really did it! You made a great album, and it would be my honor to put it out on Fat. Call me.’” With the record coming out, the band have planned a string of record release shows in February on the West Coast. Then,
they’ll be hitting the Midwest, East Coast, and possibly Canada later in the year. “Lots of touring,” Van Dam says. “[We’re] looking forward to hitting as many places as we can following the release.” .....
sult includes 11 tracks, with the album’s title track coming in last and serving as a reminder that he could never really part ways with Pennsylvania. While many of his songs—especially “Divine Lorraine,” “Dirty Fucker,” and “Wild Love”—are testimonies of his youth, “Helluva Home” feels like a recent diary entry and reveals itself as a reaction to California culture shock. Bury Me in Philly is meant to be a “pleasant” album, Hause says, one that feels good to put on. It is a departure from Devour, which he describes as “so heavy.” you’re heading, and what your town means to you.’”
he rooftops of three buildings can be seen on the album cover of Dave Hause’s Bury Me in Philly. Thin black wires drooping from electric poles is the only other distinct feature in the photograph before the viewer’s eyes wander off to a dusty, blue sky stained with tints of yellow. What’s more, the cover is a “wraparound photo actually, like you see more of that building on the back of the album,” Hause says. And while that detail seems so small, it echoes the way Hause sees his hometown. “The Philly that I’m from has got a lot more to do with working class politics and just that struggle to even survive,” he says. “I think that’s what I’m sort of writing about.” “The artwork was a hard-fought battle,” Hause adds. “I had a couple of ideas that were really graphic, and ultimately, my friend Ernie [Parada of Black Train Jack] steered me away from them. He was like, ‘Look man, this is a personal album about where you’re from, where
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Out Feb. 3 via Rise Records, Bury Me in Philly is the last chapter of Hause’s efforts to chronicle his past, revel in his present, and outline his future, following 2011’s Resolutions and 2013’s Devour. “To a lot of my heroes, the third record was what sort of cemented who that artist was going to be—whether you’re looking at [Bruce Springsteen’s] Born to Run or you’re looking at [Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’] Damn the Torpedoes,” Hause opines. “Third records are important, and I think I was really aware of that and sort of afraid of that.” “I had all these songs. I was happy with so much of what I was writing, but couldn’t necessarily figure out where to focus the energy for a third record,” he continues. “I think it sort of led, in some ways, to that Falcon record, [2016’s Gather Up the Chaps], being involved with that, The All Brights, and doing The Loved Ones 10-year thing. There [were] a lot of distractions, and there [were] a lot of different kinds of music that I was busy with.” Hause reflects on a recent tour with Chris Farren and Rocky Votolato, as well as a conversation with his brother about leaving Philadelphia for Santa Barbara, California, as the starting point for Bury Me in Philly. The end re-
Moreover, this album is the final testament of his life. Moving forward, he hopes to explore a different style of songwriting that focuses more on storytelling. “I’m hoping that my life’s going to be less interesting,” Hause says. “I don’t plan on moving. I’m getting married. I don’t want to get another divorce or write about a huge breakup. I don’t want to go through that. I’m hoping I can turn my perspective outward, especially with Donald Trump being our president and this crazy climate we’re going into. I feel like, for this record, it might be the last time that I write from this perspective.” These days, Hause is taking a closer look at the marriage of rock ‘n’ roll, punk, and politics, and he notes that music is “a powerful, powerful thing” that gives people “a place to communicate and come together.” “Especially in light of this election,” he continues, “I think that I’ve learned that me, my friends, and the people [who] do this work, there is a level of importance to it, to the arts, and it is a way to avoid the darkness or to sing through the darkness.” But those realizations can only come over time and from understanding oneself, one’s roots, and one’s environment. “Maybe Philly and I go through a positive depart, and we’ll reunite someday,” Hause concludes. “It’s where all my tribe is. I miss that most.”
PHOTO: MATTHIAS WILLI
hen it comes to the creative arts, there is always some degree of challenge no matter what medium one prefers. This is true of music in particular, as few other art forms involve the same massive pitfalls when trying to create something new and interesting, especially in this era where standing out creatively has never been more difficult. Fortunately, there are still artists like Zeal & Ardor who come along and obliterate the genre rules and restrictions all to hell in the name of ingenuity. Zeal & Ardor—the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and composer Manuel Gagneux—initially spawned thanks to a surprising request from 4chan users to combine black metal and early African American spirituals. That may sound A) insane, and B) completely impossible. However, Zeal & Ardor’s mind-bending de-
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but, Devil Is Fine—out via MVKA on Feb. 24—proves that the amalgamation of the antebellum American South’s ebony with the calamitous, roaring ivory of early ‘80s Scandinavia is just as awesome, weird, and awesomely weird as it sounds. With a project as ambitious as Zeal & Ardor—and an album as refined as Devil Is Fine—it’s easy to assume that it all burst out of the creative womb rarin’ to go, but that was not the case. “There was another record just called Zeal & Ardor,” Gagneux says of his previous attempt on behalf of the band. “I took it down, though, because it’s not that good; it’s pretty bad actually. The first song for that was called ‘A Spiritual,’ which is still up on YouTube.” Though the initial effort didn’t offer life-affirming gratification, as he continued to work, Gagneux was inspired by its steady
progress. “[Initially], I thought I might be onto something here, but it was like a gradual thing. It didn’t start immediately,” Gagneux admits. “It was a slow kind of burn, and gradually, I thought, ‘Yeah, this might work,’ but there was no, ‘Fuck, this is great! I’m gonna do this for the rest of my life!’ moment. That never really happened.” On an album as singular as Devil Is Fine, it’s easy to get lost in the excitement over the unique mixture of metal and slave spirituals—though the music isn’t limited to those two styles in any way—but the mishmashing of genres that don’t normally go together has been the norm for Gagneux’s musical career thus far. “I always mushed together musical elements, because I guess I’m easily bored and I try out new stuff, but most of it doesn’t work,” he says, then ruminates, “Maybe the sad truth is
that I can’t write an entire record with one style. I just kind of used it as an excuse, maybe. But there was never a conscious decision to incorporate that many genres; it just kind of happened.” Even though metal is one of the main elements of the record, Gagneux maintains that his music isn’t geared toward one specific audience. In fact, that inclusiveness is a key component of what makes his music so fascinating. “I think I didn’t really think about other people or what they might think to begin with,” he says. “I’m afraid that if I start that now, that it would be shitty. I think people notice when something is being catered to them, and it just feels like bullshit to a lot of people, so I can’t really think about that.”
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s many Replacements fans will tell you, good things come to those who wait, as it took 22 years for Tommy Stinson and Paul Westerberg to reform The Replacements for a brilliant reunion tour. It turns out Stinson fans had to wait just as long for a new Bash & Pop record. Bash & Pop were Stinson’s first post-Replacements band and one that saw him move from bass to guitar and step in front of the mic to take on lead vocals. He put out one fantastic record under that moniker, Friday Night Is Killing Me, in 1993, before disbanding on moving on to other projects—including a couple of solo records and stints as bassist for Soul Asylum and Guns N’ Roses. Nearly two-and-a-half decades later, Stinson is back with a new Bash & Pop record, Anything Could Happen, out Jan. 20 on Fat Possum Records. Why resurrect the old band? “A really simple reason actually,” Stinson says. “I wanted to do something different from the last two solo records. The last records I did on my own, I played a lot of the instruments on it and piecemealed it all together. When you spend so much time recording all these songs, you sometimes spend too much time overthinking things.”
doing things like we did in the ‘80s, where you just went into the studio and hacked out a record in a week, and you either got magic or got crap and had to go back and do it again somewhere else. I really wanted the band-vibe on it, so I did it with the same intent I did on the first Bash & Pop album.” Stinson is the only original Bash & Pop member on this new album. Brothers, drummer Steve and bassist Kevin Foley, have both passed away. When guitarist Steve Brantseg joined the original band, Stinson had already created a lot of the music. “Making that first record, I played most of the guitar, mainly because what I wanted to hear was mostly in my head and I had to pull it all out,” Stinson says. “When we recorded this one, it was more of, ‘Here’s the riff and the idea I have for this one,’ and we’d go bash it out. It all turned out really good. I’m stoked about this record; it’s one of my best attempts to make a record.”
While most of the songs on the new album were written in the past year or so, “Shortcut” has been knocking around for about 20 years. “I just didn’t have a place to put it,” Stinson admits. “I put it on this record after looking at the songs we had recorded and realized there’s a lot of loud, rock ‘n’ roll stuff going on here, and to just have one little thing at Wanting to move in a differ- the end that does something ent direction, Stinson called a little different seemed like a up some old friends and fel- good fit.” low musicians and had them come to his home studio in Bash & Pop kicked off their Hudson, New York, to work first tour on Jan. 12. Approon new music. “I just started priately enough, the band’s having weekend sessions with debut show was a homecomguys I know in the city and ing in Minneapolis at The Enother places and just started try, one of the first clubs that recording it like a band,” he hosted local band, The Resays. “I just had it in my mind placements. ..... that I wanted to get back to
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PHOTO: STEVEN COHEN
he second full-length from New York City duo Uniform, Wake in Fright—released on Jan. 20 via Sacred Bones Records—paints a harrowing portrait of the modern world. Vocalist Michael Berdan says the record is primarily about the kind of psychic transition induced by distress, stagnation, and monotony, the mental break that occurs when old modes of thought become untenable and familiar coping mechanisms no longer suffice. “We write from our own life experiences, but we also use this as a vehicle to interpret the world around us,” Berdan says. “Sometimes, the things that used to give us comfort ultimately bring us pain. Some people can recognize this and adjust, others stay in these cycles for years. I tend to identify more with the latter side of things, and I wanted to give that some voice.” Guitarist and producer Ben Greenberg, for his part, continues to mine a wide spectrum of precision chaos to forge Uniform’s sound, fusing industrial, hardcore, metal, and power electronics into quite the combustible substance. Over the course of eight songs, Greenberg basically shreds his ass off over the industrial soundscapes he meticulously pieced together from his own field recordings and samples of war sounds from action movies and Foley [sound effect] packs. “I can be a bit obsessive about these things,” he says. “It got to the point where every time I watched a movie, I’d start just listening to all the background sounds behind the dialogue and forget what was happening with the plot.”
PHOTO: GREG CRISTMAN
Greenberg says he intentionally used more samples on Wake in Fright, with two main goals in mind. “One was the classic idea that samples are evocative of their source material, no matter how much you
cut them up or manipulate them,” he says. “So, using violent sounds would give our music this sort of— not even as far as an atmosphere, more of like an underlying feeling of violence. Violence could be this inherent part of the larger equation, just like it is in real life.” The other idea, he adds, “was simply that those sounds are fundamentally percussive, they have an impact and a decay, but they aren’t drums or drum machines, so they’d be able to fill in some sonic zones that regular drum sounds—sampled or fake or synthesized or whatever—could never get to.” Greenberg’s riffs are far more overtly metal this time around, though traces of the industrial hardcore feel that dominated Uniform’s 2015 debut album, Perfect World, certainly remain. That was more or less a spontaneous thing. “The basic riffs at the core of each song just came out that way,” he says. “You can’t really do much to mess with those things; they either come out cool or you move on and wait for the next one to come along.” According to Greenberg, Wake in Fright is meant as a statement about the way things are in the world, as well as something of a palliative. “We are surrounded by war and the whole world is burning, and it doesn’t seem like there are any appropriate reactions or responses left anymore,” Greenberg says. “This music is our response to and our reflection of the overwhelming violence, chaos, hate, and destruction that confronts us and everyone else in the world every day of our lives. When we play, I don’t feel powerless anymore. I hope this record can help others transcend their anger and frustration.”
DEBUT ALBUM OUT NOW!
TREMULOUS FIRST NEW ALBUM IN 11 YEARS 03/10/17
BRAND NEW ALBUM 03/03/17
PHOTO: JOE HARVATT
ark is the brainchild of vocalist and guitarist Jimbob Isaac, who formed the band after the dissolution of his previous project, Taint, a few years back. They play heavy, sludgy metal that is influenced by both punk and prog. Their debut album, Crystalline—which came out on Season Of Mist in 2014— was a great introduction to the band, laying down the blueprint for their hard-hitting sound.
our songwriting has evolved into creating a more direct, immediate, and impactful album with a natural progression in regards to hookier vocals and song motifs,” Isaac says. “The addition of Joe on second and lead guitar has also broadened our sonic palette. He’s a fantastic player and musician, and— as a friend recently told us—it’s as though the band is now in widescreen. More breadth, scope, and space alongside more immediacy and hooks. Joe and Now, it’s two years later and myself co-mixed the record the Welsh band—also featur- with our vocal [and] guitar ening drummer Simon Bonwick, gineer Gethin Pearson, with bassist Tom Shortt, and gui- a view to present a more uptarist Joe Harvatt—unleash the front and immediate final mix. follow-up, Machinations, on Which I think we achieved.” Feb. 24, also through Season Of Mist. In addition to being a musician, Isaac is also a graphic artist of They may have undergone some renown. He designed the some changes between the two Hark covers—as well as the albums, but it’s all for the better, ones for Taint—in his distinct according to Isaac. “I feel that style, which is influenced by
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both Art Nouveau and geometry.
I woke up before it reached its destination.”
The cover for Machinations is striking and has a deeper meaning for both the band and the artist. “The guys and I were talking about childhood recurring dreams,” Isaac recalls. “Joe mentioned that his was one where all sense of orientation was distorted, with a huge distortion of how he perceived longitudinal and latitudinal space and distance. It reminded me firstly of when I freaked out one time in Barcelona many years ago, with a semi-hallucinatory experience that totally warped my sense of space and distance. It then led on to me recalling my childhood recurring dream of an impending ball of ultimate doom, which plummeted relentlessly downwards. It was as if I was watching it from afar, similar to footage of space rockets being launched.
“So, using the meteor idea and fusing it with the machine, interface, psyche analogy led to create this piece,” Isaac continues. “The overarching ideas behind this record are the illusory sense of existence, constructs of society, self, the mind, government and power, technology, and our current phase in the human condition.” .....
PHOTO: JOHNNY MILANO
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hances are, if you had asked someone at an Exodus show at Ruthie’s Inn in 1984 if thrash metal would still be around over 30 years later, the answer would have come in the form of a headbutt to the nose followed by, “Thrash rules forever!” However unorthodox this hypothetical assailant’s answer may be, what’s more unusual is how correct they’d be—excluding the ‘90s, of course. For proof of the genre’s extreme longevity, you need only listen to recent albums from bands like Exodus, Testament, and Overkill. Even more impressive than the quality coming from the genre’s legends is the quality bursting out of the underground from bands like Texan crossover barbarians Power Trip. With a sound as reminiscent of Discharge and Cro-Mags as it is of Slayer and Anthrax, Power Trip’s 2013 debut full-length, Manifest Decimation, sent shockwaves through the extreme metal world thanks to their refreshingly punishing style. Now, as the band prepare to release their sophomore effort, Nightmare Logic—out Feb. 24 on Southern Lord—it appears their axe has gotten significantly sharper. While newer bands’ sophomore albums typically pale in comparison to their predecessors, Nightmare Logic proves that Power Trip made great use of their experience recording their debut—as well as their increased musicianship—and were swinging for the fences from day one.
“This time, we came in a lot more focused. We had these three years to sit on these ideas and execute them, so things came together a bit easier, but at the same time, we had a higher standard for ourselves,” vocalist Riley Gale enthuses. “We knew that it had to unquestionably feel better than Manifest… to us or we were doing it wrong. There couldn’t be any question as to whether this album is better.”
“THERE’S GONNA BE A DAY WHEN METALLICA CAN’T PLAY ANYMORE. ARE PEOPLE GOING TO JUST STOP LISTENING TO METAL?" Though Power Trip’s growth as musicians is quite obvious on Nightmare Logic, their maturation process was boosted most exponentially in their overall confidence level. “We didn’t expect Manifest… to be as successful as it was, and that was what really started to open our eyes to view the band as something that could be a career, something that we could actually push forward,” Gale confirms. “I think that this album
shows that we actually can do something that can be commercially successful, but still raw and aggressive and what we like to do.” While the fever-pitch excitement over their debut partially aided the band’s morale going into writing Nightmare Logic, another huge aid was their stint supporting Lamb Of God, Anthrax, and Deafheaven, which opened them up to a brand new audience. “That tour is what made us really realize that, maybe we may have started off as an underground band, but we have this opportunity to be more than that, and that maybe we’re not so alone in the things that we believe,” Gale says. Despite the numerous reasons for optimism about their longevity, the most com-
pelling force driving Power Trip is simply the perpetual motion of their career so far. “We have to make our own kinda thing, and that’s why we still continue to do our own headliners and build our own fan base,” Gale proclaims. “We’re not just trying to be ‘that opening band’ anymore. I wanna be the new legacy band.” “These bands are going to start dying off; you gotta make room for the new blood,” he concludes. “There’s gonna be a day when Metallica can’t play anymore. Are people going to just stop listening to metal? Are they just gonna live in the past the whole time? No. That’s why we’re trying to build a new fan base, or build a fan base that’s very much our own.” .....
PHOTO: JOSH ANDRADE
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or diehard fans of Ukiah, California-born band, AFI—or A Fire Inside if you’re nasty—each new forthcoming album is a mystery. Though their roots are planted firmly in the Northern California punk scene, the band have always been shape-shifters. Their sound and personal styles have gradually transmuted with each new record without ever losing that instantly recognizable AFI fingerprint. In 1995, their debut full-length, Answer That and Stay Fashionable, showcased a fast-as-fuck hardcore band with a penchant for funny, flippant lyrics, and 1996 follow-up, Very Proud of Ya, refined that established sound. Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes
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from 1997 took a decidedly darker turn without sacrificing speed or intensity, while the game-changing Black Sails in the Sunset from 1999 finally bore the fruit of their earlier spooky machinations. In 2000, The Art of Drowning finally balanced the scales, revealing an AFI settled comfortably between the fast aggression of their punk contemporaries and the gloomy brooding of their ‘80s proto-goth inspirations.
PHOTO: LORI GUTMAN
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The shadowy pop sensibilities of 2003’s Sing the Sorrow produced the band’s first real mainstream success. Though AFI had long been a staple of many punks’ record collections, their fan base began to shift. The front row was no longer dominated by sweaty, screaming 20- and 30-somethings, but instead, by armies of black-clad teenagers. AFI became synonymous with “emo,” around the time emo ceased to be a genre and became a pejorative. Many old-school fans abandoned ship, missing out on the epoch that would produce some of the band’s most mature, experimental, and intriguing musical output: 2006’s Decemberunderground, which introduced the synth element that would one day come to define vocalist Davey Havok and guitarist Jade Puget’s dark wave side project, Blaqk Audio; 2009’s Crash Love, a straight up pop rock record that shrugged off the darkness to embrace massive hooks; and 2013’s outstanding Burials, a welcome return to bleak void-gazing, but as filtered through a craft that had been honed and perfected for over two decades. All of this rich history has been leading up to Jan. 20, on which AFI released their tenth studio effort, AFI (The Blood Album), via Concord Records. The choice to create a self-titled album after almost 25 years is beautifully supported by the record’s 14 tracks, the sum of which displays every strand of musical DNA that has ever characterized the band over the course of their storied career: the driving punk assault, the opaque black themes, the dreamy dark wave tones, and the shiny pop hooks. Bolstered by the introspective, impressionistic lyrics fans have come
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PHOTO: NICOLE LEMBERG
to expect from these rock ‘n’ roll changelings, AFI (The Blood Album) feels like a greatest hits record featuring all new material. According to bassist Hunter Burgan—who wonder-twins with drummer Adam Carson to form AFI’s rhythm section— the band began rehearsing for the new record in January 2016. “The songs on this album were already written before they were presented to me,” he explains. “I had Jade send me demos without bass so I could develop bass parts that tastefully augmented what he and Davey had written.” They entered the studio in June and finished tracking by July. Puget stepped into a production role for the first time, co-helming the boards with producer Matt Hyde. When asked if having Puget in the captain’s chair shook up the process, Burgan replies, “I don’t think it ‘shook up’ the experience so much as streamlined it. Jade worked very hard to develop and arrange the songs during the writing process, so it made sense to give him the freedom to take that vision to fruition.” Now that the vision has been realized, the band are pleased with the final product. While Havok has stated in interviews that Burials was darker than intended, AFI (The Blood Album) seems to strike a happy balance. “The new album is certainly not as dark as Burials, but it does reach into dark places,” Burgan confirms. “Speaking only for myself, I found it easier to express ideas in a simpler, purer way. I don’t know if there’s a sweet spot between darkness and melodic expression, but perhaps that is what we are searching for in these new songs.” Those new songs include “Aurelia” and “Feed from the Floor,” which Burgan was immediately drawn
to “because of their melodic structure and how dynamic and open they are. They reminded me of some of my favorite songs without referencing anything specific.”
before its official release. Burgan explains their reasoning, saying, “It’s exciting to play new songs for the first time and have the audience sing along—to see them react to the music, because they already know it. So, Burgan says fans will have to why not give the showgoers the ask Havok for insight into the album in advance?” album’s themes, but he can verify one thing: “I believe there Perhaps it’s that commitment is a lyrical theme that surfaces to their fans—who are affecin many of the songs: blood,” tionately known as The Dehe quips. Specifics aside, Bur- spair Faction—and the shared gan hopes their longtime fans joy of experiencing music that will “find something in these have kept AFI vital for the last songs that reminds them why 25 years. “Twenty years ago, they were drawn to us in the we didn’t know what the future first place. I also hope they find held,” Burgan—who joined as something new—that we can the band’s temp bassist in 1996 take them to new places.” and never left—recalls. “We all lived together in a dumpy house and toured in a van, playing shows for anyone who would come to check us out. We just loved playing music and were excited to share it with new people. Now, we’re just as excited to play music for new people—and fortunate enough to have been doing it for 20-plus years!” Has anything else changed since their genesis? “Also, my hair is gone,” Burgan jokes.
“I don’t know if there’s a sweet spot between darkness and melodic expression, but perhaps that is what we are searching for in these new songs.”
This quick wit and propensity for humor has led many to view Burgan as the “fun everyman” of AFI. Does he agree with this assessment? In a word: no. “But Fans are sure to be transport- if I am, it’s because of these two ed to new places by The Blood principles,” he offers. “One, I Album, including the venues try to stay grounded and be as where AFI have been deliver- objective about my career as ing characteristically high-en- I can. I try to remember that ergy live shows while on tour this is a dream job—the kind of in support of the record. “It’s job people would kill to have. always tough getting back into That’s why I’m taking self-dethe swing of things, especially fense classes… But seriously, I after two years,” Burgan says of feel very fortunate to be able their return to the stage. “I ex- to play music for a living.” And pected us to be out of shape and number two? “I like to keep out of practice, but we rode that things fun. If we’re not having old bicycle like we never fell fun, then what’s the point?” off—is that a saying?” The band ..... also chose to include a free digital download of the album with each ticket purchased—even
HUNTER BERGAN'S EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
What ever happened to his clothing label, Post War Science? “After four years of business—and probably 15 years of planning—[partner] Ted [Veralrud] and I decided to move on from PWS. Both of us loved the design and printing aspects, but grew wary of some of the business aspects. It’s OK. Nothing lasts forever. We both channel our creative energy into different endeavors now.” Any plans for a follow-up to his 2013 book, “Success!?” “Yes. My follow up to ‘Success!?,’ which is called, ‘Overnight Success!?,’ will be out in 2017.” What inspired his webcomic, “Cat with Matches”? “My comic, ‘Cat with Matches,’ was developed from an angry cat design I created for Post War Science. Cat’s disgruntled personality is inspired by a cat I had as a teenager, and probably a bit of the angst I had as a teenager too.” Does he have cats of his own and, if so, how adorable are they? “I don’t have a cat at the moment, but they sure are adorable, aren’t they?” Any new musical collaborations in the works? “I would love to work with Tegan And Sara again if the opportunity arose. Recently, I’ve been working on a new wave project with London May, Jessie Nelson, and Dennis Lyxzen called Personelle that will hopefully see the light of day before too long.” Are there other artistic outlets he’d like to try? “I just took part in an art show where I showcased some new painted ceramic pieces. Painting on ceramics is a fun challenge, because you don’t really know exactly how it’s going to look until it comes out of the kiln. I like to spend hours focusing on the tiny details of a painting, attempting to master and perfect them, and then just let it all go. Let the fates decide how it will turn out. It’s quite therapeutic.” What fills his free time these days? “I’ve been trying to get into yoga, but every time I show up, the door is locked.” Would he like to take a moment to talk about Prince? “It’s such a sad loss, I don’t even want to think about it. (But I do every day.)” Any encouraging words for the Despair Faction as we move toward a tenuous future? “In trying times, it’s important for people to come together: to not focus on our differences, but rather the ways in which we are alike.”
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istening to King Woman’s debut full-length album, Created in the Image of Suffering, is a woeful and haunting experience. The record— out Feb. 24 via Relapse Records—represents a massive evolution of King Woman’s sound. This onetime solo project of Miserable songstress Kristina Esfandiari is now a full-fledged powerhouse of a band. Together, King Woman have crafted a stellar collection of heavy yet soulful tunes, with both sonic and emotional heft behind them. Lumbering tracks like album opener “Utopia” will sway the doom metal faithful, while mesmerizing numbers like “Hierophant” will seduce anyone with a functioning set of ears. Created in the Image of Suffering expands on the promise of King Woman’s 2014 EP, Doubt, and is worlds away from Esfandiari’s original one-woman incarnation of the band. Regarding the group’s humble origins, Esfandi-
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ari states, “I was doing solo shit, and it sounds different, less dynamic.” Referencing her still-solo folk meets shoegaze project, she adds, “With Miserable, I’m just doing everything myself and I’ll incorporate a band eventually.” “King Woman is a lot more collaborative,” she explains. “I love working with the boys: they’re all so talented, and I feel so fucking lucky to be working with all of them. Me and Colin [Gallagher]—he’s the guitarist and my absolute fucking best friend. He’ll send me a guitar part, and I’ll put it into a program and chop it up and rearrange it. Peter [Arensdorf ], our bass player, is an incredible songwriter; he brought the song ‘Hierophant’ to the table. [Drummer] Joey [Raygoza], he always has these little ideas that are so genius. He always adds the final touch.” With their new album, King Woman have firmly established themselves as
a burgeoning force in the underground scene. Booming riffs mesh with Esfandiari’s hypnotic vocals, creating rich aural tapestries that transcend genres or labels. “I don’t really give a fuck about genres,” Esfandiari says. “We got kind of pigeonholed into the doom metal genre, but we didn’t really have anything in mind, we were just playing together. The guys like a lot of metal and doom, we all like punk and shit, but for the most part, I listen to a lot of rap and R&B,” she says matter-of-factly. “We just kind of write what feels good.” Despite the band’s therapeutic, playwhat-feels-good mode of operation, Created in the Image of Suffering’s title refers to the dark, tortured side of human existence. “Growing up in church, they’d always say this thing that I never understood,” Esfandiari recalls. “They’d say we’re created in the image of God, and I’d say, ‘Who the fuck is God? What is God? I don’t understand
this.’ It never clicked with me,” she shares. “When I was working on the record with the boys, it just came in my head out of nowhere: ‘created in the image of suffering.’ That made a lot more sense to me. That’s the one thing that all humans have in common: suffering. No matter where you’re from or what language you speak, it’s something we all have in common.”
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ALL PHOTOGRAPHY: ALAN SNODGRASS
Make no mistake: dark days lie ahead of us. As 2017 unfolds and we enter the frighteningly uncharted waters of the Trump administration, one can’t help but recall the socioeconomic horror show that engulfed America during the Reagan Era of the 1980s and the Bush years in the 2000s. Alas, while we “cannot save a dying world,” as Iron Reagan frontman Tony Foresta warns on the opening track of the band’s new album, Crossover Ministry—out Feb. 3 on Relapse Records—we can still thrash like there’s no tomorrow… just in case there isn’t.
rossover Ministry finds Iron Reagan hitting a career high. Three albums in, and their initial throwback homage to ‘80s, well, crossover thrash and hardcore, has become a full-blown monster of its own. The band’s playing is millisecond tight, but maintains a loose, punk energy. Songs like “Blatant Violence” pummel the senses, while tracks like “Fuck the Neighbors” tickle the soul. “We finally figured it out to where we have a good dynamic,” Foresta says. “We want to try to get the live sound of the band and have it translate into a recording, which has always been what we’ve wanted to do for both bands,” he adds, referring to both Iron Reagan and his and guitarist Phillip “Land Phil” Hall’s other rad metal outfit, Municipal Waste. “I think it’s really getting close to it.” The love and dedication the band put into Crossover Ministry becomes more apparent with every listen. Killer songs, superb production, and wildly infectious energy bursting out of every seam, Crossover Ministry proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Iron Reagan are more than just another flash in the pan supergroup or side project—the tunes they’ve assembled are just too rad for that. “Each person kinda writes stuff,”
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Foresta says of the band’s creative process. “In between tours, we take a little break, and when we’re about to leave for another tour, we’d get together a week or two ahead of time and start cramming songs and recording stuff, compiling riffs together. We were doing that for, like, a year, a little at a time before each tour,” he reveals. “We wrote a little bit at a time, and then at the very end, just crammed and fit everything in and had, like, one extra-long writing session. We tracked everything, then me and Phil had to leave for a six-week long Municipal Waste tour, so the other guys were doing their tracks while we were in Europe!” he laughs. “It got done all over the place, but we’re really happy how it came out.” Recorded by Hall and mixed by studio wizard and Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou, Crossover Ministry is easily the most ear-crush-
ing record of Iron Reagan’s career. “I think the reason it sounds so good is because Phil is getting way better at tracking now,” Foresta says proudly. “Tracking is really important, and when you’re doing it in-house, you can take as long as you want. Once we track everything, we send it to Kurt Ballou at GodCity [Studios], and he just makes everything sound better.” With Foresta’s snide howl, Hall and guitarist Mark Bronzino’s constant barrage of riffs, drummer Ryan Parrish’s punk gallop, and bassist Rob Skotis’ mosh-friendly rumbling, every member gets a chance to shine on Iron Reagan’s new album. That being said, Bronzino’s shredding is especially noteworthy. See the title track or “Grim Business” for further proof. “Mark really went out of his way,” Foresta says. “He worked on the solos really hard on this record. I think, on the last record, he knew
it was important, but didn’t know how to push himself. With this record, he went above and beyond.”
knew we’d be fucked regardless, but we wanted to spread it out a little more.”
The end result of Iron Reagan’s hard work? A slamming, 21st century crossover album that harkens back to the glory/dark days of legit anti-Reagan animosity within the underground, but updated for the modern day hellscape that is America: 2017. Foresta and co. still rage about society’s ills on their latest record, but despite their politically charged moniker, last year’s presidential election prompted the band to stay away from overt government bashing. “We didn’t really want to do anything super political for this album, because we didn’t know what the election was going to be like, and we were recording it all that summer,” Foresta shares. “There’s some political songs, but we kind of strayed away from that not knowing where we’d be. We
“We didn’t want to be like: ‘Fuck Hilary Clinton!’ and then, the album’s out, and she’s not even in office,” he laughs. “People can believe what they want to believe and do what they want to do. That’s what makes this country great: that you can speak out about how you feel about things. At least we can influence younger people to speak out or learn and form their own opinions and voice them.” It appears that the conservative tyranny of the ‘80s that birthed Iron Reagan’s namesake is set to return, so be prepared to dig in and crank “Fuck the Neighbors” at every turn, because as Foresta says, “We’re going to be a thorn in everyone’s side as far as those people go for a long time.”
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he imminent doom of a Trump presidency is reverberating through the punk and hardcore community. The vitriol is salient, pumped through speakers. The silver lining mantra appears to be, “We will get great art from this.” A punk only has to dig through their ‘80s hardcore to prove that sentiment. Solidified by its mirroring of the ‘80s and the Reagan Era, Trump’s reign should exact angry reactions. 1980s hardcore took punk’s attitude and stripped the pop aspirations. Hardcore infused politics into rock ‘n’ roll’s youth rebellion against the suburban, homogenized pipe dreams of Reagan’s trickle-down trickery and misdirection. Today’s artist will have myriad fodder if Trump maintains his campaign promises of eviscerating Americans’ civil rights. Dave Dictor has fronted M.D.C. since 1979. That acronym originally stood for Millions Of Dead Cops. By 1982, after the Multi-Death Corporations EP, they released a self-titled debut LP featuring the track, “Born To Die.” That song’s infectious chant—summoning the protest of America’s tumultuous ‘60s—was “No War, No KKK, No Fascist USA.” This rallying cry was resurrected by Green Day at their 2016 American Music Awards performance, caught fire, and is now being chanted at countless rallies. While Reagan was pushing his imperialist ideals of the rich and capitalism into foreign countries across the globe—and in his war on the poor in the U.S.—Dictor and many hardcore kids were playing abrasive, blazing punk to defy those notions. Dictor reflects on the realization of a Trump Presidency, imploring, “You have to get back up. I don’t think it will be as bad as the ‘60s with police dogs sicked on protestors, but it is only a couple steps back from that. There will be counter demonstrations to coincide with Trump’s inauguration. M.D.C. unfortunately will be in Asia. I would not have booked this had we known. We are going to Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, China. I think it’s important to reach out to punks around the world. We must try to build a community that will empower
Longstanding Pittsburgh punks, Anti-Flag, are showing their support during these times of political upheaval with their most recent release, Live Vol. 1, which was pressed on vinyl containing pieces of a burnt American flag. The band and their label, A-F Records, teamed up with Wax Mage Records to create the special pressings. Ten albums in total, they were auctioned off in pairs on eBay and an online raffle.
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a world built on egalitarian values and environmentalism, gay rights, medical rights, human rights.” What we need more than survivors of the Reagan Era confirming the parallels is advice. What worked in the ‘80s to combat the system? Dictor replies simply, “Community outreach. Connect the punks with more mainstream activists.” The truth is, Reagan gave punks a specific idol of hatred. His canonized figure One hundred percent of the proceeds from the five albums sold by Anti-Flag went to an LGBTQ advocacy center in the band’s hometown. Wax Mage sent their proceeds to various groups like Planned Parenthood, homeless centers, and the Standing Rock legal defense fund. “As far as the decision-making process goes, both labels are choosing charities that benefit marginalized groups of people in our communities,” A-F Records manager Chris Stowe says. “One of the most useful outlets for our grief, anger, and frustration at the current political climate in the U.S. has been to give direct support to
weighed as a polar opposite to punks, neatly wrapped and focused. Trump can be that. The real worry is all the legislation that could be passed to return us to those Reagan days. America, this 2.0 version, equipped with amazing technology and capability of attaining information—when not distracted by what is peddled to us—we could fight harder. And produce some angry, provocative art. Hardcore bands will never sit still. Punk should have the objectivity to not be defined as Democrat or Republican, to
think outside the box, to fight bad legislation on its merit and never fall into party lines and adherence.
people in our communities that need help the most right now.”
the small reach we have. Our hope is that someone hurt by such an out-oftouch villain like Mr. Trump will benefit from the money raised via these records and recognize that they’re not alone. There’s so many of us.”
The album’s pressing was in production before the 2016 election concluded, back when many thought that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would win the presidency. After Anti-Flag released Live Vol. 1, they had no idea President-Elect Donald Trump would attack flag burners, suggesting that anyone who burns an American flag should serve one year in jail or lose their citizenship. “As a band called Anti-Flag—with a message that is staunchly anti-war, anti-nationalism—our creativity is our currency in situations like this,” the band says. “Therefore, these auctions and raffles were created to share
So, turn the volume to 11, write belligerent riffs, march, protest, write congress, paint, graffiti, yell, dance, tweet, snapchat, do whatever the fuck it takes to make your voice heard above all this bigoted, racist, sexist, classist, ignorant clamor. We shall overcome.
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY: JACKI VITETTA
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When Tom May called up Greg Barnett in 2006 and asked if he wanted to start a band, the two had sealed their destiny, making clear that they wanted to play music for the rest of their lives. For a high school band, a declaration like the one these friends made isn’t that unusual, but not many can say they had to skip their 10-year reunion to open for Weezer. “We very quickly knew this is what we were going to do for the rest of our lives,” Barnett says. “There were no ifs, ands, or buts; we were going to do this no matter what. Even if people didn’t like it, we weren’t going to stop, and we weren’t going to let anybody tell us that we couldn’t do it.” Nearly a decade has passed since The Menzingers formed, and May and Barnett’s pact hasn’t faltered in the slightest. The vocalists and guitarists are still fronting the popular Philly-by-way-of- Scranton punk band and getting ready to release After the Party, their fifth full-length—and third via Epitaph Records—on Feb. 3. Produced by Will Yip—who has worked with Title Fight, Balance & Composure, Pianos Become The Teeth, and many others—the band’s eagerly awaited album is a stark contrast to their previous release, 2014’s Rented World. The 13-track record is rife with nuanced songwriting, anthemic harmonies, furious power chords, and larger-than-life melodies. This positivity is intentional, and during the writing process, it was unavoidable. For the first time in
the band’s history, they were fortunate enough to take an extended break from the road to write full-time. With help from Yip, they edited songs over and over again, analyzing each component and making sure they fit the themes of the record. The songs started bare-boned, just mere verses on an acoustic guitar, eventually being built up, stripped down, and built back up again until each track complemented the one before it and the one after it. “With Rented World, we felt like we were really fighting for what we wanted, and the music reflected that. With After the Party, we had what we wanted in a sense, and we went into the writing process knowing that we wanted to make a record that reflected that,” Barnett shares. “We wanted to write a record that someone could
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throw on at a party or find in a bar jukebox, a record that we could play front-to-back at a show. We wanted to write songs that people wanted to sing along to, to latch onto. That was really important to us. Being able to share our music with people around the world and make them happy in the process is mind-blowing.” Barnett and his bandmates can now celebrate their accomplishments, say with certainty that they never sacrificed their dreams, and be proud of the fact that they have seen places far beyond the small Pennsylvania town where they first got their start. Their accomplishments are palpable, and when listening to the record, it is difficult not to feel enveloped by their exuberance. Ultimately, After the Party sounds like the same declaration that May and Barnett made as teenagers when they first formed The Menzingers, only it is revealingly louder and seething with confidence. “When I look back on writing the record, it was the most fun we’ve ever had making music. It felt like we won—we won what we wanted to do,” Barnett exclaims. “We crafted this life that we wanted for our entire lives, and we didn’t have to listen to anybody else to tell us how to do it, we just went our own way. This record is an ode to the lifestyle that we made for ourselves.” The lifestyle that The Menzingers have created for themselves wasn’t established overnight, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the people who support them: their friends, their family, and their fans who have sung these songs back at them since the beginning. As much as After the Party is an acknowledgment of how far the band have come, it is also a personal
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thank you note written for the people who have pushed them along the path that brought them to where they are today. “Our band has always been more than the four of us,” Barnett acknowledges. “We have such an incredible community around us. Our friends have always been involved in this process—they inspired these songs. After the Party is everyone’s story. It is for all of them as much as it is for us.” Even though Barnett recognizes the opportunities the band have been afforded and is grateful for the unwavering support from friends and fans alike, he still finds himself having to constantly explain his decision to pursue a career in music. For some, it is difficult to understand the lifestyle he leads. Eventually, when you have been interrogated enough times, you begin to ask yourself the same questions everyone else has been wondering for years. “I’m almost 30, and I had to ask myself the ultimate question: ‘What am I doing with my life, and can I keep doing this?’ And to me, the answer is obvious. Why would we stop now, and why would we slow anything down?” Barnett says. “There definitely comes a time when you need to be more responsible in life, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop having fun. “This record is an ode to our 20s, a celebration of being able to live your life the way you want to live it. For us, we’re still breathing and the party isn’t over.” .....
hen a band are about to release their 10th album, sometimes it’s about giving themselves—or ending up with—extra time to make the final product that much more special. That’s the route some of New York’s finest death metal purveyors, Immolation, took with their upcoming release. Atonement—due out Feb. 24 via Nuclear Blast—finds the band honing in on their unique take on the style, but it’s the added time the band had on the little things that makes their 10th record their best yet. Vocalist and bassist Ross Dolan explains how Immolation ended up with more time than usual to craft their latest batch of top-notch tunes. “Honestly, this was a rough one for us, because we had so many setbacks during the course of this one,” he says. “We started this process February of 2015, so it started a while ago, and that’s not normally our style. Normally, we’re about two, three months out from the studio and start writing and it comes together. We had a lot of time with this one.” “By May, we had about three songs finished, and [guitarist] Bob [Vigna] hit a wall, had some writer’s block,” he continues, “and our drummer Steve [Shalaty] broke his ankle around September of last year. That put everything on hold; he needed surgery and had rods put into his leg, so it was a big deal, you know? It took him about six months to just go through the rehab and learn how to play. Luckily, we had a tour lined up when he came back, so he got to ease into things, and we were absolutely ready to pump out the record by the end.” Immolation do everything with an oldschool mindset; the production values clarity rather than brick-walled sound. Dolan discusses the band’s recording style, saying, “It’s always been a problem for us, to find that sweet spot. The kind of stuff we play is all over the map dynamically: it’s super fast, super slow, multiple layers of guitars and shit going on. To make everything shine in the production is real tricky. With this one, we really tried to go into [it] and make this one sound really good. Specifically, with the drums; they sound amazing. That was the main thing we wanted to address, because we all thought they sounded a bit too mechanical on [2013’s Kingdom of Conspiracy]. We do actually listen to what people tell us and try to address them with each record,” he laughs.
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For a band with a notable antipathy toward religion, Immolation’s music has a lot of soul. Atonement is no different. Dolan agrees. “The music has to have that feeling, that soul. That’s how we write. It’s not like we’re trying to break speed barriers,” he laughs. The band even took extra time on the artwork. Atonement’s front and back covers are from longtime collaborator Pär Olofsson, and they evoke the hellfire of retro death metal records. The band were also able to reach out to Zbigniew Bielak for four individual pieces in the booklet that correspond with certain tracks. “The title is [Vigna]’s idea. The concept of the song deals with the religious fundamentalism that we see around the world,” Dolan says. “The combination of Par’s and Zbigniew’s artwork—really, I think the album has an awesome look. We wanted to do more with Kingdom…, but we ran out of time. That’s always been our problem, but with this one, we figured since we had the time, we’d make it special. The cover piece is a nod to the earlier stuff we did. You’ll have to see it; I’m bad at describing shit,” he laughs. Dolan would have been a great museum curator. Dolan takes the lyrics seriously, and stresses the importance of making a statement without being too political or “preachy.” He offers an example: “‘Fostering Divide’ is about all these divisive forces in the world, ripping everybody apart and inciting this madness. It’s the classic ‘divide and conquer’ scheme, and it’s always been like that. People need to forget about all the other stuff that’s distracting them and realize that we can really make some progress if we ignored this other bullshit and came together collectively. Until people are ready to do that, it’s not going to happen. We’re too caught up in this manufactured divide.”
PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
PHOTO: KATARZYNA WILK
ince their inception in 2008, Polish prog-metal dynamos DispersE have always had more than their fair share of musical tricks up their sleeve. The release of their expansive, imaginative 2010 debut, Journey Through the Hidden Gardens, not only helped to quickly raise their profile within their genre, it also helped them garner support from extreme metal powerhouse Season Of Mist. After releasing their Season Of Mist debut, Living Mirrors, in 2013, DispersE continued their ascent career-wise, picking up a large new fan base, and their music became even more voluminous and intricate. Though the band continued to evolve their sound by leaps and bounds, they also experienced quite a bit of turnover in their lineup, with founders, keyboardist and vocalist Rafał Biernacki and guitarist Jakub Żytecki, remaining the only consistent members.
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Multiple lineup changes are enough to slow down any band, but after the departure of drummer Maciej Dzik in September 2015, DispersE’s patience and ResiliencE truly began to pay huge dividends. One month later, it was revealed that they had pulled their biggest coup yet by announcing the addition of recently-departed Monuments drummer Mike Malyan. Though there was only a short two-month turnaround between Malyan’s departure from Monuments and his addition to DispersE, the band wasted zero time getting down to business. “I started working with Jakub on DispersE songs around the time I joined,” Malyan says. “He showed me four demos that I fell in love with back then. Some of them had been in the ‘bank’ for a while, but the real process started around the time that I joined. We were really excited back then, same as we are now, but I felt that Jakub really appreciated having someone new
to bounce ideas with, and we met frequently to play with ideas that he had created. His output really increased exponentially from then on.” The official announcement of Malyan’s addition occurred in October 2015, but his decision to join was in the cards much sooner. “In the months preceding my official joining, me and Jakub had been meeting up in Poland, eating toasties, and just really enjoying writing anything that we liked,” Malyan admits. “This mindset grew into DispersE. I even remember his words to me: he told me the band could be anything I wanted to help it become, there were no boundaries. So, the album became incredibly versatile, for all of us, it really opened up our minds.” With their exceedingly talented new drummer in tow, the band had a veritable tabula rasa as they began steamrolling forward with the writing and recording of their
new album, Foreword, out Feb. 24 on Season Of Mist. “This fresh start is referenced in the album title: ‘Foreword,’ the same as in the beginning of a book, explaining the outlines of the chapters yet to come,” Malyan reveals. “Also, it sounds like ‘forward,’ which progressive music must be— forward-thinking!” Though their music is beautiful, even more of the artistry that has helped skyrocket DispersE’s career can be found in their thoughtful lyrics, which are full of their own “happy accidents.” Malyan admits, “Thematically, Rafał initially unknowingly wrote many lyrics that tied into the death of his mother. Originally, they seemed like vague references to losing someone, and he seemed to realize the connection he made afterwards when we first played the songs live.”
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hile plenty of ‘80s thrash metal staples have seen a recent resurgence in both popularity and quality of output, Germany’s Kreator have been consistently obliterating speakers with ease for the past decade—and, arguably, for the 30-plus years they’ve been a band. Upon the release of 2005’s Enemy of God, the band really found their place in the modern metal landscape while still maintaining those classic, mosh-inducing riffs that made them so special to begin with. Their newest record—the spectacular Gods of Violence, released Jan. 27 via Nuclear Blast—may not have quite the same level of sheer brutality found on albums like 1986’s Pleasure To Kill and 1990’s Coma of Souls, but it’s their most organized and ultimately fun album of the past decade. While Gods of Violence is certainly not a huge departure for Kreator, it shows the band’s unrelenting desire to perfect what’s already there and throw in a few small twists to keep things fresh. “[Gods of Violence] kind of has the same vibe as [2012 release] Phantom Antichrist, but when you look into the record, there’s a lot of songs that are totally different and more of a step that’s not away from our sound, but more detailed,” founding member, vocalist and guitarist Mille Petrozza, says. “For example, the very first song, ‘World War Now,’ has a very intense double-kick chorus. That’s something that’s new for us.” Gods of Violence is the second LP that Kreator have recorded with metal producer extraordinaire Jens Bogren at the helm. The band attribute the success of this record to Bogren’s terrific ear for arrangement. “Working with Jens is really nice, since he’s very critical,” Petrozza says. “With Jens, he starts at seven in the morning, which is not really a ‘heavy metal’ time to start a record. What re-
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ally helped also was that we were in Sweden in the summer. You’ve got to know that Sweden is really, really cold in the winter; last time, we were there in January, and it was horrible!” What further separates this album from the past few Kreator releases are its strong visual elements, including a trilogy of music videos aimed to accompany the album’s concepts about humanity’s perpetual fascination with religious warfare and destruction throughout the ages. “Talking about lyrical concepts is sometimes a little hard. Sometimes, my lyrics are very much metaphorical,” Petrozza says. “For example, in the song ‘Gods of Violence,’ I was referring to the Ancient Greek gods, who had a god for every human facet. […] In the next video, for ‘Satan Is Real,’ it’s going into the medieval times, and in the third video, it’ll be in Nazi Germany.” Gods of Violence isn’t a concept record in the traditional, storytelling sense, but it’s still a record focused on a single topic throughout its 52-minute runtime. “If there’s a concept, it’s ‘stop bitching,’” Petrozza says bluntly. “The past wasn’t better than the present, and life itself and the human mind have always done something evil. It’s part human nature to kill each other and start wars and dehumanize. […] It’s more like saying, ‘We know everything sucks, but let’s make the best out of it.’” Kreator’s trilogy of music videos have all been handled by the stellar Grupa13, who have worked with the likes of Behemoth in bringing forth some of the genre’s most terrifying and inspiring short films. “I was always a big fan of horror movies, so my whole thing with [the ‘Gods of Violence’ video] was that I wanted to give homage to artists like Mario Bava, Amando de Ossorio, […] the ‘70s, European-style horror,” Petrozza exclaims. “I
thought working with Grupa13 is the only option for me, because I’m not a fan of performance videos or the lyric videos they put out nowadays. I like the lyrics to be visualized, and I like the music to be supported by strong images. [Grupa13 are] among the best video directors for metal—and in general, I think.” To kick off the touring cycle for Gods of Violence, the band are headlining The Decibel Tour in March and April, alongside death metal heavy-hitters Obituary, Midnight, and Horrendous. “I think it’s going to be a great tour,” Petrozza says. “We’ve never done a whole tour with Obituary, and we’ve known those guys forever—since they started. I think it’s a great bill and a great opportunity to kick off the touring cycle for the record in America. This is only going to be the beginning.”
PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
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ALL PHOTOGRAPHY: DANIEL TOPETE
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he Orwells got together as high school freshman, intent on making a living as a touring band. “At our first practice, we did a cover of a Strokes song, just to see if I could sing,” frontman Mario Cuomo says. “At the next practice, we made up our first original. Every time we had 10 or 12 songs, we made a record and handed [CD-Rs] out to our homies. We’d buy a case of beer, smoke some pot, and have a listening party.” The band recorded five self-produced albums, promoting themselves on social media. “We made a video and spammed blogs and labels with hundreds of emails,” Cuomo says. “In my senior year, Autumn Tone [Records] agreed to post a video and put out [2012 debut full-length] Remember When.” The album was recorded in the band’s basement rehearsal space on an old Mac computer, a far cry from the polished sound on their new record, Terrible Human Beings, out Feb. 17 on Canvasback Music. “We took two years to write the songs this time,” Cuomo explains. “The sound is more stripped down than on [2014’s] Disgraceland. We used to get together in our practice room and yell at each other until we had something we liked. This time, I’d meet up with [gui-
tarists] Matt [O’Keefe] and Dom [Corso] and write the skeletons of the songs, then bring ‘em to the band when they were ready to go. If somebody had a better idea [for an arrangement], we’d change things up. We played some of them live on the last tour, so we had a good idea of what we wanted when we got into the studio.” The album was produced by Jim Abbiss, who also helped out with some of the tunes on Disgraceland. “We recorded most of it live, playing in one room, like we do onstage, but we also
used more drum loops and effects,” Cuomo says. “Jim suggested some ambient noise, recording random vocals and playing them backwards, crazy shit like that. We were open to new stuff, so we’d add a bridge or layer up the backing vocals.” The band’s garage pop instincts are still evident, but the new tunes on Terrible Human Beings are full of surprises. A hint of ska in “Hippie Soldier,” an ironic anti-war song, a thumping funk backbeat on the apocalyptic rocker “Creatures,” and the Latin rhythms that
float through “Double Feature,” the prog-rock epic that closes the album. Guitarist Matt O’Keefe called the music “mutilated pop.” “If we had a song that was too poppy, we’d ask ourselves, ‘How do we fuck this up to make it less friendly?’” Cuomo says. “We also wrote about things besides chicks and hookups. Even though some of the greatest songs of all time are love songs, the guys pushed me to write about other things. We wanted people to be able to pick up a record with no bubble gum fuzzy warm shit on it. There’s always some dipsy love in most pop songs. We thought it would be good for people to pick up something more real.” The lyrics are dark and cryptic, varying between odes to mindless excess and blasts of depression, anger, and disillusionment. Reading between the lines, they could be metaphors for life on the road and the business of being in a band. “We love playing music,” Cuomo concludes, “but there is frustration there. This album was finished a year ago, but we had to take a break before we could put it out, and that can get to you. Some of that dissatisfaction bled through to the music and played a part in the emotions we expressed.”
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n unavoidable part of the human experience is the fact that we are all on a oneway trip toward death. As unfortunate as it is, there are constant reminders along life’s journey that this is where we are headed. Matt Pryor recently received several of these reminders over a very short period of time. “My stepfather, my grandmother, and a family friend all passed away in about a sixmonth period,” Pryor says. “It really got me thinking about death and about living the life you have when you are alive.” Pryor channeled these ideas into Memento Mori, his fifth solo full-length, which will be released Feb. 17 via Equal Vision Records and Rory Records. They also made him think a bit about how he’d like to be remembered when he leaves this earth. “I hope people remember me as a decent person who could write decent songs,” Pryor reflects. Though best known for his work as the primary singer-songwriter for The Get Up Kids, Pryor has a vast musical catalog including his folk-tinged group, The New Amsterdams; his children’s music project, Terrible Twos; and the indie-rock supergroup, Lasorda, featuring Nate Harold of fun., Mike Strandberg of Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band, and Dustin Kinsey, also of The New Amsterdams. Pryor also contributes to the Chicago startup, Downwrite, a website that enables artists to create fan-commissioned songs and connect with fans on a personal and creative level. Pryor hosts the “Nothing To Write Home About” podcast as well, on which he interviews fellow musicians and industry friends, including the likes of Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra, Chris Conley of Saves The Day, Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years, Tim McIlrath of Rise Against, and more. Pryor recorded Momento Mori both at home and at his friend Heidi Gluck’s home studio, playing everything for the album but bass, pedal steel, and accor-
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dion. Although it was largely a solo endeavor, Pryor’s favorite moments on the record come from one of his few collaborators. “I really like that my daughter sang some of the vocal harmonies and played bass on the record,” Pryor admits. After 25 years in the music industry, Pryor has often taken time to reflect on lessons that have revealed themselves thanks to the life he’s led. “[I’ve learned] nobody owes you anything and nobody will give you anything, so you have to at least start the fire yourself,” he says. “[It is important] to present honesty above all else in your work and to surround yourself with good people to work with. Above all, don’t be afraid to try something new.” In the interest of surrounding himself with good people, Pryor will head out on tour in February and March with a friend he’s had since the ‘90s, Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio. The first leg of the tour will kick-off on Feb. 16 in St. Augustine, Florida, with a second leg to be revealed at a later date. Although he does expect to see some familiar faces along the way, Pryor isn’t certain that his solo effort will resonate with fans of his other work. “I assume that everyone first hears about me because of The Get Up Kids,” he acknowledges, “[but] whether they stick around after hearing my solo work is a hard metric to measure. These melancholy acoustic numbers aren’t for everybody who likes the band.”
PHOTO: FALLY AFANI
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n late 2014, Meat Wave frontman Chris Sutter ended a 12year relationship. In the wake of losing something that he had spent half of his life building, he started documenting the mood swings and depression that so often come with leaving behind the person you love. During this process, Sutter and his bandmates were on tour in support of their 2015 release, Delusion Moon. When they weren’t shredding onstage, they were driving from city to city, giving Sutter endless amounts of time to confront the challenges in his life. Ultimately, he addressed them in the form of stream-of-consciousness poems. As he continued to pour his soul into the pages of his journal, one theme continued to appear again and again: The Incessant. It is a phrase that encompasses Sutter’s never-ending post-breakup anxiety and a fitting title for Meat Wave’s third full-length album, available Feb. 17 via SideOneDummy Records. “The Incessant began as a feeling. I think it relates to this overwhelming-ness of life and its many facets. How everything, big and small, weighs on you,” Sutter shares. “Some people would call it anxiety.
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For me, like I said, it’s a feeling— this hyper-emotion. It’s every detail falling into place and then coming down on you. And it always accompanies a realization about yourself.” For Sutter, writing through the pain and keeping it securely hidden in his notebook came with the security that it was solely for him. The thought of exposing his sadness to his followers felt foolish, and ultimately, he decided that he didn’t like the idea of bringing his listeners down into the dark ditch that he was so desperately trying to claw his way out of. So, The Incessant, almost didn’t see the light of day. “I told [drummer] Ryan [Wizniak] and [bassist] Joe [Gac] that I wanted to scrap these songs and the concept and do something totally different,” Sutter admits. “I didn’t want to bum people out who listen to our music.” But what began as a feeling ended up as a mission: a mission to be honest with himself while also writing a record that his fans could relate to. The result is an album that is inherently personal, but also serves
as universal handbook belonging to everyone who ever felt like the world was caving in on them. The Incessant is a saving grace for so many people who haven’t been able to take the first steps to pick themselves up and confidently approach the world head on after experiencing some form of tragedy. “My hope is that the people who listen to it give it some time and understanding,” Sutter says. “The songs are based on a really tumultuous and personal period in my life, but I think the themes and topics are more universal. It seemed like I’d be doing a disservice and wouldn’t be as passionate about what I was doing if I didn’t confront myself and the truth. I feel more compassionate and empathetic. It feels nice knowing that most of that darkness is behind me and that maybe someone who feels like they are in the wrong place at the wrong time could hear this and possibly relate. I’d hope for that.” The outcome of Sutter’s honest approach is a bracing, emotional punk record that pulls listeners back
PHOTO: MATTHEW SCHWERIN
and forth in a way that flawlessly mimics the way the frontman was swayed by his constant anxiety. Although The Incessant sounds effortlessly cohesive, the threepiece had to take a leap backward from their previous approach. On their last two records, Sutter’s lyrics were an outlet for passing the blame and dispensing judgments, but this time around, Sutter looked inward. The result is a 12-track record that feels like an open door instead of a revolving one. “It’s all about the truth. On our past records—and pretty much all the music I have ever made up until this point—it was me deflecting and masking the truth in certain ways,” Sutter acknowledges. “I had this outward-looking disposition in my music as a defense mechanism. Pointing the finger at others instead of pointing it at myself. I think there was a thought that if I was going to continue making music and touring, I needed to confront and challenge myself. I’d feel like a fraud otherwise.”
or the past 13 years, Pissed Jeans have been spreading their gospel of disgust over the vagaries of modern life on top of some of the grimiest noise punk imaginable. In their time together, the band have built quite a name for themselves, being able to tour the world and record for Sub Pop Records, even if the band members themselves treat it as more of a part-time commitment that they do between family and work.
unleash their latest blast of invective, Why Love Now, on Feb. 24 through Sub Pop. Coming four years after Honeys, the new album—and fifth overall—finds them shaking things up a bit, mainly regarding its producers. For the first time in a long time, Alex Newport wasn’t used as a producer. Instead, the band—which also features guitarist Bradley Fry, bassist Randy Huth, and drummer Sean McGuinness—went with the team of Arthur Rizk and transgressive, no wave icon Lydia Lunch.
In fact, if you ask lead singer Matt Korvette, he’s not particularly sure how they’ve lasted this long. “I didn’t think it’d last this long, but I also didn’t think it wouldn’t last this long, you know? Maybe I’m just at a point where I’ve lost track of time, and nothing seems particularly lengthy,” Korvette says. “High school was only four years long for me, but it felt like four lifetimes. Meanwhile, it still pretty much feels like 2008 to me in a lot of ways.”
Going with this on-paper odd couple producer pairing worked wonders for Pissed Jeans. “We wanted to change our routine a bit, exit our comfort zone, and learn from someone who’s already done it all,” Korvette says. “Who better to make that happen than Lydia Lunch? Working with her was great; she was intimidating but also nurturing and had stories that I’m still blushing from. Lydia and Arthur got along great—two very different demeanors, but they meshed excellently. I want the two of them to do an album together someday.”
Now it has come time for the band to
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Lunch isn’t the only the guest star Pissed Jeans used on Why Love Now. Acclaimed author Lindsay Hunter contributes lyrics and vocals to cutting spoken word track “I’m a Man,” which comes about halfway through the album. The band have a history of using spoken word tracks, such as “The Jogger” on Hope for Men and “Chain Worker” on Honeys. The results on “I’m a Man” are quite shocking and fit perfectly with the band’s outlook on the world. Korvette says getting Hunter on the record was a no-brainer. “I am a huge fan of her writing,” he says. “I think it sometimes has kind of a similar vibe to Pissed Jeans, and she gave us the best lyrics on the record, I humbly admit.” The album’s other 11 tracks feature Korvette’s ire-filled yelp over the noisy racket put forth by Fry, Huth, and McGuinness. It’s classic Pissed Jeans, albeit a little more stripped down. “We weren’t thinking about writing short songs on purpose, but I think we’ve just been trying to distill the essence of Pissed Jeans further, which can some-
times mean shorter songs,” he says. “There are some longer ones on there too. I think it’s a good balance.” Once again, Korvette’s lyrics take straight aim at what he finds disconcerting about modern life. His views are put forth clearly in the lyrics, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “[These are] all things that I feel strongly about, things that affect me personally and are on my mind,” he explains. “I don’t go too deep with flowery metaphors; I think it’s fairly easy to get what I’m trying to sing about for the most part.” It’s been quite an interesting “career” for Pissed Jeans, considering their unconventional approach to being in a band. Maybe Korvette really does know the secret to their longevity. What is it? “Easy answer: spend very little time doing the band!” he admits. “And when we do get to be Pissed Jeans and work on things together and play shows, it’s all the more satisfying for how limited our chances of doing it are.”
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY: LORI GUTMAN
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“If you were never going to die, would you really value your life?” It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was vocalist Buddy Nielsen’s blissful rockbottom. In 2005, Nielsen was struggling with the death of his grandmother, but the birth of Still Searching brought his band more success than they’d ever had. Senses Fail have always been grounded in the concept of death and rebirth, and with their impending 15year anniversary tour, Nielsen’s life is a twisted vine of similarities between his past and present. In 2005, this question of value meant a lot less. “My grandma had just died, who I was super close with, and [I] had gone through a mental breakdown,” Nielsen says. “I started experiencing really bad anxiety where I couldn’t leave the house, I couldn’t eat, [I had] pretty severe depression. I developed a severe drinking problem and sexual addiction. It was pretty much the worst time in my life. It was really bad; I was really struggling. [It was] probably the darkest time in my life, I would say.” While it was the worst time for Nielsen personally, it was the most successful the band had ever been. Still Searching reached number 15 on the Billboard Top 200 chart and number two on the Independent Artists chart in 2006. The record was a commercial success, but “success doesn’t really
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which is the thing Nielson is most scared of—which is why it’s so interesting. Throughout 15 years of Senses Fail, the concept of death and rebirth is a constant, right down to their moniker. “It’s an examination of recreating yourself over and over again— which I think everybody does—and then, this looming thing over your head [is death],” Nielsen says. “What makes life so meaningful is that it doesn’t last Nielsen says he’s a differ- forever.” ent person now, but those moments are still a big Looking back on all the part of him. “Jets to Peru” tumult, Nielsen says he and “Death Bed” off of In would’ve never thought Your Absence tell a simi- he’d be in Senses Fail 15 lar story of life and death. “My wife has [multiple sclerosis], and I wrote the [songs] about the concept of her dying,” Nielsen says. “[Multiple sclerosis] isn’t a terminal disease, but I think about death a lot. Not in a way that’s necessarily depressing, but in a reality that everything you know is going to disappear, including your own consciousness. It’s about struggling with the reality of what it’s like to live where we choose to be in relationships and choose to have things and how big a part of our lives are filled with these relationships that are going to eventually end. The songs are about what I would do if she was dying, which is pretty depressing stuff for most people.” bring happiness,” the vocalist says, and the juxtaposition of the two seemed to capture the band’s aura of life and death pretty cosmically. Flash forward to 11 years later, and the band are still going strong, still making music, and about to head out on their Still Searching anniversary tour while supporting their new acoustic EP, In Your Absence, via Pure Noise Records.
Nielsen says the way he navigates his life is by only spending time doing things he’s passionate about. Death is “motivational factor” instead of impending doom. Even “Still Searching is born out of death,” he says,
years later, citing that he “wasn’t the easiest person to get along with,” especially with how strenuous constantly touring can be. Yet, through all of the hardships and victories, this is Nielsen’s livelihood, and he “doesn’t have a hard time separating Senses Fail” from his personal life, though they’re intertwined. “It’s been so many different things to me,” he says of the band. “I never thought I’d be the only member in the band still playing in it 15 years later. To me, it’s my life. It’s everything.”
PHOTO: OCTAVIO ORDUNO
irca Survive have been more of a moving force than just a band. Throughout their career, they’ve managed to weave influences of hardcore, experimental, and indie rock—just to name a few—into a unique, musically complex foundation for vocalist Anthony Green’s haunting and imploring vocals. With the 10-year anniversary release of a deluxe version of their sophomore album, On Letting Go, via Equal Vision Records and a corresponding tour that kicked off in January with mewithoutyou and Turnover, Green acknowledges that he’s bound to experience a mix of nostalgic emotions while revisiting these songs onstage. When Green and guitarist Colin Frangicetto began to form the first inklings of Circa Survive in their Pennsylvania basements in 2004, they had little idea of the scale of what was beginning. You could say they hit the ground running when, in addition to garnering a fast following that first year, their debut album, 2005’s Juturna, graced the proverbial charts. That success was followed by the even broader gains of On Letting Go two years later. Although, to Green, those numbers were less a measure of success than they were a cause for trepidation. “I don’t know, maybe I was a pessimist about it or something, but I was freaked out,” Green laughs. “Nobody really gives a shit about [record rankings], but the fact that people seemed to like it and at a time where—in my world— people were talking shit on everything. [...] People really responded to it, and it was fucking crazy.” Those doubts about the entrapments of emblematic measures of success were not Green’s first concerns. He had previously experienced a quick rise to fame in California as the vocalist for Saosin, the band he left shortly before forming Circa Survive. “I think that when I joined Saosin, I was also meeting those guys when they were young and just becoming friends and musicians,” he says. “The band got so popular so fast, in the sense that we were going to major labels and having these meetings, and I was nervous about making a bad decision
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financially and creatively. I was very skeptical of it all. I wasn’t sure if trying to be the biggest band in the world was something I wanted to take on. When you’re 20 years old, making commitments like that is terrifying. [...] There are so many shitty examples of people who made decisions based on money or being overly ambitious and not thoughtful enough about their craft. From the beginning, I just wanted to feel good about what I was doing.” Green and Frangicetto both possess this mindset, so writing together came easily. The two knew one another in high school and had grown up playing shows together. Green was a fan of Frangicetto from the jump. “Colin was, like, the dude in our little scene,” he exclaims. “He played drums in all these bands, and he was just, like, this cool dude. I remember meeting him and wanting to play music with him immediately.” Returning home from California in 2004, Green was ruminating on new influences, trying to determine what to do next musically, when the opportunity to play with Frangicetto finally came up. Their shared ethos of “craft over money” only helped to unfurl their talents as they put passion and emotion at the helm. Despite having both come from a hardcore background, they shared broader interests musically. “We always loved the same diversity of music, and we both just happened to be in hardcore bands, so we really wanted to get out by trying something more melodic and atmospheric,” Green says. “Just get weird and, you know, kind of express ourselves. Neither of us felt like we were really doing that.” As things came together and guitarist Brendan Ekstrom, bassist Nick Beard, and drummer Steve Clifford joined Circa Survive, it was obvious something special was happening. “I remember my parents going away, and [I was] sitting in the basement playing what ended up becoming, like—I think either ‘Act Appalled’ or maybe it was ‘Stop the Car’ or something—and I just looking at Colin like, ‘This is sick. If this is all that ever happens is we make sick jams like this together, this is the coolest. This is exactly what I
want; I want to be in a band that sounds like this. I will play this for anybody. I’ll be psyched to. I love this. I would do anything for this.’ That was the ‘holy shit’ moment.” When Circa Survive began touring, it was obvious that people connected to the heart imbued in their song writing. Listening to Circa Survive is like the rules of genre and cultural scenes are cast out, lost to a unity in the songs about trials, rewards, loss, and love that everyone experiences. Certainly, the relationship between the band and their fans has always been a unique one. Given the band’s early achievements and—at the time, newfound— seminal presence, one wouldn’t necessarily expect to find them crashing on fan’s floors, but for the first couple of years, that’s exactly what happened. Circa never got hotels, instead getting to know the people who loved the band on a peer level. That foundation, along with ardent musical prose, has done something to cement their fans’ adoration. This is their 13th year as a band, and Circa Survive’s fans continue to pack houses, confer on message boards, and even cite the band in music theory discussions. Green, however, balks at the suggestion that Circa Survive may have affected or shaped music in any way, stating that it’s “easy to get drunk on stuff like that.” Reiterating his earlier stance, he says, “I find it troubling to talk about that. Those types of notions and things, it does me no good. I drop it at feeling like, ‘This song is great, and I love it a n d
want to play it for everybody.’ Everything else has kind of just been an illusion.” Though he’s always been driven to create by what many would deem the “right reasons,” Green says there’s one thing he has now that he might not have started out with. “This is actually insane I get to do this all the time,” he begins. “Sometimes, it’s stressful feeling like, ‘Did I pick the right lyric? Did I express myself fully here?’ It’s a joyous agony, but I do it all with so much gratitude at the end of the day. I don’t know, that’s something I didn’t have when I started this band. I didn’t know about it, and I think I had to get rocked around by life a little bit. [...] I spent a long time taking it for granted. I think that people shouldn’t take for granted their time on this planet, and making music and spreading music is one of the most important things I think people could do in their lives. I think everybody could do it. Everybody should do it.”
PHOTO: LORI GUTMAN
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ge has way of staring bands back in the face. For Gentleman Jack Grisham, that moment came during a recent T.S.O.L. gig in Denver. “I saw this old guy who had a walker,” he recalls. “He said, ‘Man, I’m here to see you guys.’ I thought, ‘What?’ He said, ‘I saw you when you came through here in ‘81.’ He was almost 40 in ‘81, and now, he’s pushing 80. It was such a fucking trip.”
I always hated to begin with, how everything was so categorized,” Grisham says. “It’s like, stop it! Stop taking something and breaking it into all of these subcategories and subclasses.” The Trigger Complex—written and recorded in short order with the assistance of Adolescents guitarist Frank Agnew— is as much of a departure from T.S.O.L.’s “Code Blue” days as one could imagine. Still, Grisham looks at the band’s latest release as a roots record. Rather than retreating to the punk and hardcore well, the band leaned heavily on the early and prepunk influences that inspired them to start playing music in the first place. “I mean, fuck, I’m old,” Grisham laughs. “I’m 55, man, but Joe Jackson was considered kind of punk. ‘Is She Really Going Out With Him,’ compare that to Journey or some shit. There was so much that influenced early punk rock.”
T.S.O.L. have been around, and a lot has changed since they first emerged as one of the most notorious bands of SoCal punk’s first wave. The genre that was originally birthed as a volatile reaction to the safeness and sameness of pop music has long since become pop music, but for Grisham and company, punk and hardcore’s evolution into the hooks, melodies, and songcraft it used to sneer at isn’t a bad thing. It might even “I think when we first startexplain why the band are still ed playing, none of us were relevant almost 40 years later. concerned with how to write a song,” he adds. “But once T.S.O.L. have never chained you start playing music lonthemselves to any specific ger, you start thinking about genre label, and The Trigger that more. This record goes Complex—out Jan. 27 on Rise back to the kind of punk Records—shows just how far that we first listened to, the hardcore legends have like Generation X and The moved away from narrow cat- Damned and The Jam and egorization. The long-awaited Siouxsie And The Banshees follow-up to 2009’s Life, Liberty and The Stranglers. While & the Pursuit of Free Downloads it’s pop, it’s also punk due moves from pop punk to new to the attitude behind it.” wave-inspired pop rock, show- Spreading their musical wings ing how aging doesn’t have to worked to T.S.O.L.’s benefit hold a band back, so long as on the new record, but it took they find a way to do it grace- some time to get the band’s new fully. “That was something that crop of songs off the ground.
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There were a lot of ideas floating around the studio during recording, which forced Grisham into playing—as he calls it— the role of the asshole. “Today, the sound in everyone’s head is different,” he says. “For a band like us, we’ve been around for, fuck, almost 40 years, and now, everyone wants to go their own way. That’s fine when it comes to little influences and stuff, but somewhere down the line, it needs to be corralled, so it’s, ‘Hey, we’re going this way.’ It’s like, ‘I know you love country blues, but you’re gonna have to do a solo country blues record.’” The band’s musical chops and pop sense have sharpened, but other aspects of T.S.O.L.’s operation are still driven by a tried and true DIY punk rock philosophy. The lifestyle, gigging in the van from show to show, is still the band’s modus operandi. But Grisham, for one, isn’t complaining. Having come up in an era where playing punk rock was not only risky but dangerous, he’s learned a lesson in humility. Whether it be T.S.O.L.’s upcoming run of dates on this summer’s Van’s Warped Tour or playing club dates, he’s just happy to still be at it. “The one thing that we have going for us is we’ve been around for so long and dealt with so many people. We know how to appreciate it,” he says. “Maybe there’s only 10 people here tonight, but they get the same show that 10,000 would get. All we need is water and a couple of towels, and if you don’t have towels, then fuck it, just bring us water.”
PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
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PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
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verkill: sure, they were never one of the Big Four of thrash metal—except maybe to those with preferences leaning toward the underground. Sure, the piles of cash and Learjets may have eluded the New York and New Jersey-based miscreants, but vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth couldn’t really care less. Overkill have always done things in the way only bands who bleed a blue-collar sensibility can: on their own terms. For the release of their 18th album, The Grinding Wheel—out Feb. 10 via Nuclear Blast—Overkill are revitalized, energized, and ready to stand and deliver.
For one of thrash and speed metal’s founding outfits— who just bagged and tagged their 18th album in nearly 40 years—you’d think that the creation of a record would be as easy as putting on your boots. “Ah, there’s really no downside, and when you have a decent work ethic, writing the stuff [bassist] D.D. [Verni] and I do isn’t really what I’d call ‘easy,’” Ellsworth says. “Let’s call it familiar, because we— there’s something to be said for tenacity and love of your craft. We’ve definitely been blessed by always being able to secure deals, and we’ve had fans since the beginning whose kids are fans now. I’d say our principles have served us well.” Not ones to rest on laurels, then? “We’ve never had laurels!” Ellsworth laughs. “This band has always been our special thing, aside from
other interests; Overkill is where we all come together. And for the fans, this is their religion as much as it is ours. Someone’s gotta feed the fuckin’ machine, and people who are really into metal, it’s special to them. It’s a different way of looking at rock ‘n’ roll, and you either get it or you never will. I’ve just always looked at a new album like, ‘If this ended tomorrow, I’d be thankful for what I was able to do.’ I remember sitting in a shop somewhere in Eastern Europe somewhere around 10 years ago and talking about how metal had changed, and I asked D.D., I was like, ‘Are we over?’ He started laughing, ‘We’ve been over since 1991, man!’” No king’s crown remains untarnished, though. The early to mid ‘00s found the boys in a bit of a slump, shift between three labels over the course of four albums clearly a contributing factor in the scattered feel—not unfocused, just not as focused—of those years. With 2010’s Ironbound, Overkill found a solid home with Nuclear Blast, which imbued Overkill with the passion of a band reborn. “It was really natural,” the vocalist continues. “What happened was we had changed drummers. Ron [Lipnicki] had joined the band back in 2005, and he came on like a wild horse. By the time Ironbound came around, I’d had the ‘Eureka!’ moment. The beauty of a wild horse is that it’s wild, so I was like, ‘Man, do what you do!’ That’s what revitalized the band, I think, or at least a big part of it. I won’t
say we were a C or a D before about gore and shit, because he came along, but we were I wouldn’t be being true to definitely A-minus.” me, and that ain’t gonna fuckin’ happen.” The Grinding Wheel finds Overkill back in top form, So, what’s on the dockboth unleashing the rap- et for the self-proclaimed id-fire rabidity of the nearly and ever-proven Wrecking stream-of-consciousness, Crew? Ellsworth concludes, “Our Finest Hour,” and the “There’s a U.S. tour with hangman’s grin of anthem, Nile starting in Philly on “Let’s All Go to Hades.” Valentine’s Day, and AmorOn the latter, we find Ells- phis is supposed to be on for worth’s trademark nonlin- at least a few dates, so that’ll ear sense of lyricism in full be a nice mix. We’ll do Eubloom. “It’s all a journey, rope, then back for another man,” he begins. “We lost U.S. run on the West Coast Lemmy and a ton of other and Pacific Rim. I think people within the past year we’re pretty solid for touring or so, but you know some- for the next 12 to 14 months, thing? Even if we’re in the which is fine by me. Our worst place we could possi- work ethic hasn’t changed, bly be, there’s a strength in and what enables us is the making it through tragedy, fans who realize we believe in knowing whatever hap- in what we do. We still have pens, we’re together. I’ve fun getting onstage and donever had the intestinal for- ing our thing.” titude or propensity to sing
PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
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ail order subscription services are increasing in popularity for all kinds of products. That includes vinyl records, with numerous startups like VNYL and Vinyl Me, Please entering the market. These companies typically offer subscribers new records each month, capitalizing on the intersection between vinyl’s resurgent popularity and the rise of subscription box services. However, few options exist for fans of independent rock and punk; most cater to more mainstream tastes, and they come at a premium price.
your subscription up front, and get one record a month for a year. After launching in late 2016 with pop punk and emo— of the old-school variety—options, the Erbachs plan to add more genres in 2017.
It all started with a conversation between Dane and his father-in-law. “My father-in-law called me around the holidays [in 2015]. He was watching ‘Shark Tank,’ and he saw an episode where there was a sock subscription service,” Erbach says. “He knew my wife, Emily, and I ran a small record label, and that I’m really into vinyl That’s a gap newcomer Ta- and Emily puts up with it. So, ble-Turned aims to fill. he was like, ‘Hey, they should Launched by Jetsam-Flotsam have a subscription service for Records owners Dane and Em- records.’” ily Erbach, the family-operated startup is on a mission to bring Priced at $175 per year, Tapunk records to vinyl collec- ble-Turned’s initial cost isn’t tors. It works similarly to most cheap. Erbach isn’t concerned comparable services: select a about sticker shock, however. genre-based package, pay for This price point breaks down
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to approximately $14 per album, which is about the same as buying them individually. In true DIY fashion, the Erbachs package each order themselves at home. Rather than sending your money to a corporate office with a warehouse, picture a living room with kids knocking over stacks of download codes.
ensuring each month’s release isn’t entirely a mystery. The list of participating labels already includes several underground heavyweights, including Topshelf Records, No Sleep Records, and Broken World Media. The idea is that by targeting each package toward particular tastes based on genres and labels, subscribers will consisEach package is available for tently receive records they’ll a limited time before its sub- actually listen to. scription window closes; the initial pair of packages are now And that’s what Erbach hopes gone, but more genres are on will keep listeners hooked. the way. Erbach stresses that “They know it’s not just gohe doesn’t want to only include ing to be a random record,” he records he personally enjoys, says. “It’s going to be something opting to appeal equally to new they like, and it’s going to be vinyl buyers and classic re- something that will hopefully cord collectors while targeting broaden their taste that they’ve styles with both history and already curated. They won’t contemporary appeal. end up paying $24 that month for something that is not at all While the specific records in- interesting to them.” cluded aren’t revealed up front, each package is advertised with a short list of guaranteed labels,
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL WEBSTORE BY JAMES ALVAREZ
EXPLORER'S PRESS EXPLORERSPRESS.COM
Punk rock. Kitties. Community. What’s not to love about Louisville, Kentucky’s Cat Magic Punks: a clothing line that celebrates the majesty of our favorite feline friends. The brainchild of musician and artist Ryan Patterson—the man who brought us Coliseum’s rocking anthem, “Black Magic Punks,” back in 2013—Cat Magic Punks features high-quality shirts, patches, and insanely rad 20” by 20” prints all dedicated to our semi-domesticated, nine-lived companions. Best of all, as stated on the Cat Magic Punks
website, “All products are sweatshop free and made in the United States. Fifteen percent of every garment sold goes to Alley Cat Advocates.” These products aren’t just cool— they help save cats! Though the product may seem spooky, Patterson asserts, “Cat Magic Punks isn’t about the occult, it’s kind of subtly trying to be the antithesis of cheesy satanic, faux-evil clothing lines. It’s just about art, punk imagery [and] culture, cats, and giving back to the community.”
Wanderlust: it’s in our DNA. All that hunting and gathering from way back when has instilled inside of us a certain need to explore. Luckily for modern humans, we’ve got Explorer’s Press to help us look fly while do doing so. Founded in 2012 by artist and designer Brendan Megannety, this Vancouver, British Columbia-based operation specializes in accessories and soft goods for “ad-
venturers, explorers, winners, and losers” respectively. Boasting a vast array of hats, pins, patches, shirts, socks, and just about anything else you’d need to stay cool while conquering the open road or unknown wilderness, Explorer’s Press is a one-stop shop for sharp looking nomads bent on living the dream and looking damn dreamy while doing it.
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ly Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol,” out Jan. 10 on Da Capo Press. The book manages to be both comprehensive and conversational. It covers Jones’ rough childhood, his time with the Sex Pistols and their much-dissected implosion, as well as his struggles with drugs and alcohol and second act as host of “Jonesy’s Jukebox,” the wildly successful Los Angeles-based radio show. Jones and his bandmates have been the subject of enough manuscripts to fill an entire bookstore, but this is the first time he set about telling his own story in full. “I wanted to do it a long time ago, and I talked myself out of it,” Jones admits. “It just seemed like the right time about a year ago, when I started doing it. There wasn’t a lot else going on. I’ve got my radio show, and it just seemed like the right time. There was no big strategy to do it now. It all fell into place,” he notes. “For me, it seemed terrifying at first, like such a big chore to do. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” There was also little hesitation on his part to go into intimate detail about his life, opening it up to anyone who cares to read it. “I believe it was important for me to get it all out there,” he says. “It’s not news to me; it’s not like I just discovered all of this in the process of writing. I definitely thought about whether I wanted the whole world to know this personal stuff. And I just thought, ‘It’s OK. Life’s too short. Get it out there.’”
s guitarist and cofounder of the Sex Pistols, Steve Jones helped launch a genre that united the disaffected and disenfranchised. Punk rock was loud, rude, abrasive, and one of the most groundbreaking changes to modern music since Elvis Presley ripped off folks like Fats Domino and Ray Charles. However, as history gets rewritten and synthesized and bastardized over the years, many have begun using “punk rock” as shorthand for “sloppy.” “Me and Cookie, Paul Cook, [drummer and cofounder of the Pistols], were not sloppy,” Jones says emphatically. “We didn’t want to be sloppy, and I don’t know where that all came from. We wanted to get it right, and I’m glad we did. We took the time and made it right,
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and that’s why it’s the album that it is.” The album he’s referring to is Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, and since its release in 1977, the debut has become the alpha and omega of punk rock music, launching hundreds of punk rock and metal bands across the globe. It also happens to be the only studio album the Sex Pistols ever made. “Publicity and everything kind of overshadowed the music in a way,” Jones says. “It is a great album. There ain’t one boring track on it, but it was pure. It came from a pure place. When we were working on it, we had no idea what it was going to be. We just did what we did, the best we could.” Jones talks a bit about the making of that album in his memoir, “Lone-
In the book, Jones also reveals his lifelong penchant for stealing just about anything that isn’t nailed down—and a few things that were. Instruments were a big target for the Shepherd’s Bush native. He showed no mercy, even to the bands he was a fan of growing up. He took, by his own admission, a guitar from Mott The Hoople’s Ariel Bender, as well as one from a member of 10cc; a bass amp from David Bowie’s band and cymbals from Woody Woodmansey specifically; and a leather jacket from Keith Richards—though in Jones’ defense, he believes Richards may have nicked the jacket from Mick Jagger first. So, whatever became of that potential Rock & Roll Hall of Fame memorabilia? “I don’t have anything,” Jones admits. “I don’t even have the stuff I owned. I don’t have one thing.
It’s just easy come, easy go—that’s my motto. I don’t even have my original guitar. That’s gone by the wayside. I know where it is, though. Some lady in Hawaii has it.” That guitar was a white Gibson Les Paul originally owned by Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls, though surprisingly, Jones obtained it legally. What he does still own, however, is the bass guitar Sid Vicious played. Well, played may not be the most accurate term, as most of the bass parts on Never Mind the Bullocks were written and played by either original bassist Glen Matlock or Jones. He ended up buying the bass from Vicious’ mother after his overdose, admitting in the book that, for years, he kept it under his bed at home in Los Angeles. “I do have that,” he reiterates, “but it’s not under my bed, so don’t give anyone any ideas to come over to my house to nick it.” Along with the attitude that punk bands strive to play sloppy music, Jones is equally puzzled by the sentiment that true punk bands must be DIY. He rejects the idea that any connection to big labels and big paychecks is sacrilegious and deserving of the vitriolic “sellout” label. “We always were looking for a proper record deal,” Jones says matter-of-factly. “There were no independent record labels prior to us. It was just big record labels. And why would you want some shitty little label? I don’t understand it. That whole punk idea that you’ve got to do it ‘this way’— who says you’ve got to do it any way? We were just doing what we were doing. To me, we were just another rock ‘n’ roll band, but from a different generation.”
PHOTO: DAVIS FACTOR
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY BY: RICHARD MANN
film adds the element of a mystery, presenting contrasting theories regarding Spungen’s murder. Friends and peers paint Sid and Nancy’s personalities for the audience, and the documentary delves into the environments and families which created these perfect tragedies and led them to find each other. But, again, all this is fodder for Sad Vacation’s main question: did or could Sid kill Nancy? The question lingers.
irector Danny Garcia’s “Sad Vacation” is a 2016 documentary about the last days of Sid and Nancy. Just in case those names are not as immediately recognizable as George Washington and Santa Claus, Sid is Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and Nancy is Nancy Spungen, his girlfriend and manager. Sad Vacation is a visceral compilation of interviews showcasing people intimately involved with the forsaken couple. The commentators—cultivated from the vivid scenes of 1978 London and New York
While some say “no way,” a barrage of theories—murder-suicide unfulfilled, alternate killers, drug deals, Sid by mistake—surge. Sad Vacation walks its audience through a tragic and desperate tale and examines the attitudes about and forensics of Spungen’s murder. It is thorough and unapologetic. Garcia’s research and interviews do much to illuminate one of rock ‘n’ roll’s great mysteries.
City—include punk legends from The Heartbreakers, The Boys, The Adverts, The Dictators, and others, all of whom guide viewers through the murky quagmire of the pair’s heroin-soaked final days, which concluded with Spungen’s murder and Vicious’ overdose at the ages of 20 and 21, respectively. Sad Vacation is ripe with outstanding footage. The intoxicating behind the scenes photographs, balanced with new interviews, plunge into the moments of these two doomed rockers. The
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ho needs a camera when you’ve got a burning desire to interpret directly through pen and ink? The movements associated with this art form are arguably more real, more tender, and more soulheaving than anything a camera can capture. It’s about inner vision. Rendering in real time the universe around him, Los Angelesbased visual artist Chuy Hartman is in many ways an investigative journalist. His illustrations and paintings are bold, dimensional, political, and direct, piercing the horizon with an anarchist hue similar to artists like Raymond Pettibon and Otto Dix. There’s also a very lush Californian density that permeates his work, recalling fellow Californian artist Richard Diebenkorn. Hartman is a young artist who’s developing at a rapid rate. His work grows bolder and more confident with each stroke of new vision. He’s also a hardcore punk vet with an immediate musical mindset when it comes to visual dexterity. Drawing bands live at shows allows him to showcase his style, flexibility, and urgency in a masterful way. “The experience is always different when I’m drawing live,” Hartman notes. “That’s what I love about it. I go into each show with a goal to get onstage. If not, I’ll either get as close to it as I can or the next best vantage point. I learned the hard way pretty early on that I shouldn’t try to draw anywhere near a pit. It was when Bane and Turnstile played at the Echoplex [in L.A.]. I was standing just outside the pit area thinking that I had a bit of a cushion and a great spot. Then, some dude came flying in and elbowed me on the right ridge of my [eye] socket, and I started dripping blood. Shit was crazy.” Hartman’s work is natural and gritty, and there’s a sense of freedom in his lines. But his maturation, he believes, isn’t possible without an education: something that’s opened his world to a sea of possibilities.
“Right now, I’m finishing up my college education at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena,” he says. “In my case, if it hadn’t been for the scholarships, I’m not too sure I’d even be drawing or painting today. It’s easy to have a big ego when you’re one of the few in your hometown who can render or articulate an idea through an image. But it’s difficult to figure what to do with those types of skill sets. We’re always absorbing our influences around us—art school just exposed me to a lot of really amazing artists and moments in history that have really helped me push my ideas directly into my work.” Political observation is an important aspect of Hartman’s approach. The illumination of his work occurs in a very expressionistic and unswerving way. Echoing the prints of German Expressionist masters like Werner Drewes and Max Beckmann, Hartman is honest in his direction. This is an amazing dimension for such a young artist. “When I learned about German Expressionism, it just really hit me,” he admits. “Like a powerful riff or just a song with a lot of soul, you know? I find it beautiful that there are artists who can tackle taboo subjects or thoughts with their work. I feel that today’s political climate is largely broadcasted in social media rants. I’m just trying to figure out how to make my rants into images. I believe that art is— and always was—political.” The energy is pulsing wide and burning true in Chuy Hartman’s art. There’s a deep connection to his environment that is airy and triumphant. You can feel it and hear it immediately when engaging with his work. Grab yourself a Trash Talk album and check out some of Hartman’s stuff while cranking it full blast. You’ll get it.
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REISSUES ALL: PUMMEL: PORTERHOUSE RECORDS
ALL were originally designed as a vehicle for three quarters of the Descendents to vent while vocalist Milo Aukerman was off establishing himself as a scientist. Vocals were initially occupied by Dave Smalley of Dag Nasty, Down By Law, and DYS, while guitarist Stephen Egerton, bassist Karl Alvarez, and drummer Bill Stevenson pounded out songs similar to their established repertoire. Cruz Records put out six releases by ALL from 1988 to 1993, at which time the band parted ways with their second vocalist, Scott Reynolds. Their definitive singer, Chad Price—who still occupies that position—gripped the reigns that same year. In 1995, ALL found themselves on Interscope, whose roster ranged from Helmet to Tupac Shakur, and released Pummel, a big album that swept through the pop punk world. Due to changes in management at Interscope, Pummel was never re-pressed or made available outside the original release 20 years ago. Porterhouse Records fills that void with a stellar 180-gram 12” version to quell the raucous youth. Catch up on some missing history.
UNIFORM CHOICE: SCREAMING FOR CHANGE: SOUTHERN LORD
In 1986, when many hardcore bands were infusing thrash and metal into their sound or doing straight rock songs, Uniform Choice came out of the O.C. to channel the spirit of Minor Threat. Proudly waving the banner of straight edge with convincing arguments, Uniform Choice presented an honest plea with Screaming for Change. This 1986 Wishingwell Records release is dazing in its speed and seductive in its passionate sincerity. Now, Southern Lord has blessed Uniform Choice’s Screaming for Change with a deluxe treatment. The elaborate packaging includes an eight-page, 12” by 12” booklet bound into a stoughton tip-on gatefold jacket. Many never-before-published photos from personal archives of the band and their friends allow any fan to delve into UxCx’s world. RevHQ.com offers an exclusive gold vinyl version, limited to 300 copies; Southern Lord’s webstore has blue and black. Many old-school shirt designs have been resurrected as well.
NO IDEA: JAG HATAR PUNK 12”: BEER CITY
No Idea were a Swedish band in 1986. Most people never got to learn that. Beer City provides crossover fans with this skate-punk classic, a reissue of the band’s collected works: 13 ripping tunes. Unknown or little known, No Idea prove that, if given exposure, they would have conquered the world. The musicianship and precision of lightning fast riffs and drums demand attention. Jag Hatar Punk is tight and rough. Somewhere between early Corrosion Of Conformity, Agnostic Front, and Nardcore, No Idea laid groundwork for bands like D.S.-13, A.N.S., and Vitamin X. Track names like “No Straight Edge,” “No Nuke,” “Rape Your Master,” and “Teenage Suicide” paint a stark picture. The vinyl LP contains liner notes by the band as well as pictures and flyers from back in the mid ‘80s.Catch up on some missing history.
M.D.C. / RESTARTS: MOBOCRACY: BEER CITY
This 2009 split LP is technically a split and a reissue. This puppy has been out of print for years. Beer City provide a step back in time with eight tracks by each band. Drenched in hardcore anger and subversive rhetoric, each band incite fury with political venom. Oh, if only we had 2009’s problems again! M.D.C. continue their legend here with a heavier, thicker sound embracing frenzied riffs. They hold the same sardonic condemnation. The Restarts have a cleaner—but still snarky—sound. “Square One” has a skank-influenced feel that bursts into thick, crunchy surges. Their production is crisper and cleaner but still vicious. The majority of their songs are that thick ‘90s English sound pushed to a fretboard’s speed limits. The visceral rage from the end of the Bush era will feel fresh as we welcome in Trump with this re-press.
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SPLITS JAYE JAYLE / EMMA RUTH RUNDLE: THE TIME BETWEEN US: SARGENT HOUSE
Louisville’s Jaye Jayle—fronted by Evan Patterson of Young Widows—released a debut full-length this year, House Cricks and Other Excuses to Get Out. This sedating token of contemplation, playing with feedback and sparse note structure, eludes definition. The neo-folk tendencies—basking in equal parts Nick Cave and Earth’s Dylan Carlson—directly engaged audiences as Jaye Jayle confronted them while supporting Daughters, Freakwater, Sumac, and others. Refusing to slow down, Jaye Jayle offer The Time Between Us to begin their Sargent House relationship. The band continue to channel dead spirits and disquieting skeletons on vast plains of uncertainty. The shoving drums and reverb-soaked guitars wreak of leather and dust. The split with the equally haunting Emma Ruth Rundle features three songs from each artist and is available Feb. 24.
VIOLENT SOCIETY / EXTERNAL MENACE: SPLIT 12”: VIOLATED RECORDS This is exciting. External Menace began in 1979, in Scotland. With many EPs and splits under their studded belt, but only one lone LP in their catalog, these lads continue to scream and rant over punk rock ‘n’ roll—including a live album on Violent Society’s label, Violated Records, in 2015. Violent Society were from Philly, 1990, and have played off and on throughout the last 27 years. They had brilliant LPs and many splits with Brutal Truth, Suspects, The Boils, and Special Duties. Here we have the return of both bands with new material: three tracks by Violent Society, two tracks by External Menace. The leather and spikes are worn with a “no sellout,” still immensely pissed agenda. The mohawk brigade will line up for this, I’m sure. Tough, crunching guitars and fast drums fuel this GBH-style hardcore with the two bands addressing their anger issues about this mess of a world on a split 12” LP.
LO-PAN: IN TENSIONS 10” EP: AQUALAMB RECORDS
In Tensions is not just a record. While the sky blue 10” is striking, it is but one aspect of this release. LOPAN and Aqualamb Records also provide a 100-page book to accompany the band’s fifth release, which boasts five new tracks. Building from a foundation of four previous releases filled with catchy, mammoth riffs and captivating rhythms, LO-PAN succeed in surpassing their previous songwriting. The Columbus, Ohio, band strikingly illustrate their road-seasoned attitude; the years of shows have honed their guitar licks into a viper’s strike. Fans of Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Saviours, Kylesa, and Torche—and Jonah Jenkins!—should know this band already. If not, they will mark more territory with this true milestone. In Tensions is restricted to 500 sacred vinyl discs. The book features artwork by Chris Smith of Grey Aria Design alongside tour diaries, flyers, and a complete collection of lyrics from LO-PAN’s previous releases: 2007’s Sasquanaut, 2011’s Salvador, and 2014’s Colossus.
AIM HIGHER (KEVIN SECONDS): HOMEMADE 7”: RISE RECORDS
Aim Higher is the moniker under which 7 Seconds frontman Kevin Seconds released four tracks of home-recorded hardcore in December. This 7” EP, named Homemade, is available on a splatter vinyl version, limited to 500 copies. Seconds’ voice reflects the instruments, fuzzy and lo-fi, but the signature sneer is there. Seconds shows his passion, as he does with his many acoustic shows. His content is saturated with affection and urgency. The reason for a separate name is clear, as Aim Higher purposefully lacks the clean, crisp production of 7 Seconds. The flare is present, but this even more immediate in its delivery.
LESS THAN JAKE: SOUND THE ALARM: PURE NOISE RECORDS
Since 1993, Less Than Jake have provided a snotty pop punk sound for people to joyfully skank to. The band have been residents of major labels such as Sire, Warner, and Capitol, indie stalwarts like No Idea and Fat Wreck Chords, and have even self-released material. Still equipped with punchy, poignant horns, the band plan to release an EP entitled Sound the Alarm on Feb 3. Excluding live albums, it is Less Than Jake’s first release since 2013. Embracing a big sound and crisp production, these Florida chaps supply seven sunny tracks soaked in optimism. Resigning to a lamenting tone, “No Matter the Weather” still pushes away the pessimism. “Welcome to My Life” echoes the slower introspective vibe. The speed returns for other tracks, reminding the kids how they adored Less Than Jake 20 years ago.
SERIES POLYVINYL 4-TRACK SINGLES SERIES, VOL. 3
Aim Higher is the moniker under which 7 Seconds frontman Kevin Seconds released four tracks of home-recorded hardcore in December. This 7” EP, named Homemade, is available on a splatter vinyl version, limited to 500 copies. Seconds’ voice reflects the instruments, fuzzy and lo-fi, but the signature sneer is there. Seconds shows his passion, as he does with his many acoustic shows. His content is saturated with affection and urgency. The reason for a separate name is clear, as Aim Higher purposefully lacks the clean, crisp production of 7 Seconds. The flare is present, but this even more immediate in its delivery.
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drawing and I was really frustrated because I kept going outside the lines and I started yelling. Then, Howie came up to me and bought a drawing, and he told me the reason that he liked my drawings is because I didn’t stay in the lines. He said, ‘Chris, people like you and me, we can’t color inside the lines in this world. We’re different. That’s why we live differently from others.”
After a stroll on the beach, I was walking back to my car behind a bald man and his wife. We walked past a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk near my car. He had a bunch of psychedelic drawings laid out in front of him and some colored pencils. I sat on the curb to take off my shoes and empty the sand out when I heard the homeless guy scream, “Hey, Howie!” I quickly spun around to see Howie Mandell turn around and very enthusiastically reply, “Hey, Chris!” in that dreamy game show host voice he does so well. “Hey, Mrs. Mandell, how are you doing today?” Howie Mandell’s wife turned around and, with a concerned look, replied, “I’m well. Are you feeling better, Chris?” “Oh yeah, I’m feeling just fine, Mrs. Mandell. Y’all don’t worry about me, now!” With that, Howie Mandell and his wife smiled and went on their way. I, of course, was confused as to what in the fuck was going on, so I just sat there frozen with one shoe in my hand—upside down— with sand pouring out of it like an hourglass. “Ya got sand in your shoe, brother?” the bum said. “Yeah, just came from the beach.” “Maaan, I fucking hate getting sand in my shoes.” I pointed toward Howie Mandell at the end of the block. “So… you’re, like, friends with Howie Mandell or something?”
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“Ah yeah, Howie’s a good guy. It’s the funniest thing, ‘cause he would always buy my drawings. And then, one day, I was drinking in the Vons parking lot and—I dunno what got into me, but I was dehydrated, man. I felt like I was gonna fucking die under that hot sun. I was lying on my back and I opened my eyes and there he was! Howie fucking Mandell! He was yelling, ‘Don’t worry! I’m gonna get you to a hospital.’ I told him, ‘Howie Mandell, don’t take me to no hospital now, ‘cause they’re gonna arrest me once I sober up. I need real help.’ And would you believe it? Next thing I remember, I’m in Howie Mandell’s car and he’s driving me straight to a Veterans hospital in downtown L.A.” At this point in his story, I didn’t believe him, so I pulled his card. “But Chris, I saw Howie on TV saying he had OCD and can’t even shake people’s hands. And, no offense, but you look a little rough, like you’ve been on the road for a while—” He snapped back and cut me off. “Horseshit! Howie Mandell is a good man, and he saved my fucking life and took me to the VA!” It got silent. I was a little freaked out by the fierce response, but strangely, it made me believe him. So, I put my shoe back on and took a seat next to him. “Howie even bought me these new shoes right here,” he pointed to the brand new pair of Nike trainers he had on. They were easily worth a couple hundred. “That’s how he is. Howie Mandell saw that I needed help, and he helped me—because I ain’t gonna lie: I need help. You see, I like to drink, but I’m trying to quit! Yup, I started smoking weed.”
I laughed and pulled out a cartoon-sized joint. “That worked for my dad. You got a lighter?” We got to smoking. Well, I got to smoking. Chris hadn’t showered in weeks, so I smoked half the joint and then handed it over to him to smoke the rest. “So, what’s the deal, man, you’re on the road or something?” I asked. “I’m a hobo! The last of my kind! A true hobo from Chicago. I been on the road 22 years. I hop trains.” “So, living on the street is something you choose?” “Damn straight, it is! Only damn life to choose. This is real life.” “But, if you got a home in Chicago, why are you on the road?” It seemed like a naive question, but I had to ask. “I got to. I look at this hobo life sorta like ‘a cross’ that I bear. I’m here to let civilians know there are real hobos left in the world and we ain’t all scary people. That’s why I give these drawings out for free, I’m trying to spread the love and happiness.” He motioned to the drawings, and I saw that they actually weren’t drawings but psychedelic coloring book pages filled in with colored pencils. He pointed to each imperfection where a jarring line of color had violently jolted outside of the pre-drawn lines. “Sometimes, I get upset with myself because I can’t keep my hands steady. My hands get shaky and my mind gets busy, and it makes my hands jump outside the lines. I get frustrated—that’s actually how I met Howie Mandell. First time I met Howie, I was
At this point, it could have been the weed hitting me or how odd the entire situation was, but I was floored. I could see the passion in his eyes, the way he described Howie Mandell’s words about coloring outside the lines, and the revelation they were to him. Howie’s acknowledgment helped Chris justify his entire hobo existence. This was his mantra that pushed him forward. “I think about that every day, man,” Chris said as he took a drag off the joint. I got chills from the stark confidence in Chris’ voice as he described to me what he felt was a happy life—“a life worth living,” as he described it. I had my own moment of revelation when I was immediately washed over with a wave of guilt: why did I think Howie Mandell was a lame freak my entire life instead of the Game Show Prophet he actually is? I gave Chris a 20, and he promised not to spend it on booze. I pulled out my Polaroid, took his photo, and gave it to him. He wanted to send it back to his mother in Chicago—she hadn’t had an update in nine years. As I was getting into my car, he ran up with the photo and a pen. “I forgot—you have to sign it! Howie says the artist should sign their work.” I signed my name and wrote: “Keep coloring outside of the lines.” As I drove off, I could see Chris talking to himself in the middle of the street. He was pressing the photo tightly to his chest, rocking back and forth. Under his stained beard, the rashes, and the scars, I could see his big, happy eyes watching his new friend pull away.
MODERN RUIN Out Now
Featuring: Iron Reagan, The Menzingers, AFI, Power Trip, T.S.O.L., Circa Survive, Senses Fail, Overkill, Dave Hause, Meat Wave, Pissed Jeans...
Published on Feb 7, 2017
Featuring: Iron Reagan, The Menzingers, AFI, Power Trip, T.S.O.L., Circa Survive, Senses Fail, Overkill, Dave Hause, Meat Wave, Pissed Jeans...