PROCESS OF GUILT | HORSEBACK | ICARUS WITCH | THE AGONIST
COLORING THE GREY AREAS
WIN KATATONIA AND BARONESS CDS
PURIFIED IN BLOOD ROYAL THUNDER
KATATONIA, GOJIRA, TESTAMENT, SPINESHANK, OM AND BARONESS REVIEWED!
I S S U E # 3 J U LY / A U G U S T 2 0 1 2 FEATURES: 03. ICARUS WITCH 04. THE AGONIST 06. HORSEBACK 08. PROCESS OF GUILT 10. PURIFIED IN BLOOD 12. BARONESS
been a while since our last issue, I reckon that. Yet trust me when I say that we’ll be working hard to bring you a new issue every two months from now on. We’ve gathered a strong and talented team of writers as you can see below in the credits and it was such team that pieced together our best and most varied issue yet. In this issue, you’ll have the chance to read exclusive interviews with the mighty Baroness, who’ve just released one of the best records of 2012, and with uprising acts such as The Agonist, Process of Guilt and Royal Thunder. This issue also signals a new change, Scratch the Surface is not free anymore and from now on will be available to subscribers only. But don’t sweet because subscriptions only cost 1.5€ a year, and that’s just the price of the cheapest beer in the local pub. Enjoy number 3, and see you again in September following a wellearned vacation. THE ED
14. ROYAL THUNDER 16. REVIEWS
CONTESTS... WIN A COPY OF DEAD END KINGS
CREW... Editor: David Alexandre Contributors: Luca Niero, Pete RingMaster, Curtis Dewar, Raymond Westland, Chris Ward, John Toolan, CHRIS WRIGHT. INFO... www.scratchthesurface-webzine.com (@) email@example.com Subscriptions: 1.5€/YEAR - 6 ISSUES | IF YOU WANT TO SUBSCRIBE JUST sEND US AN EMAIL WITH THE WORD SUBSCRIBE IN THE SUBJECT FIELD AND WE’LL SEND YOU ALL THE DETAILS AND PAYMENT METHODS. If you'd like to submit a CD, record, DVD or other kind of promotional item please email us first with all the info about the band and if possible a link to listen to your work.
Scratch the Surface are giving you the chance to win a copy of Katatonia’s latest record “Dead End Kings”, which is schedule for release in late August through Peaceville Records. To get your hands on a copy, you’ll have to email firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name and the answer to the following question before August 15. Name the fist demo of Katatonia?
WIN A COPY OF YELLOW & GREEN We’re also giving away a copy of Baroness “Yellow & Green” double album, to win just email US with your full name and THE name of the two songs featured in Baroness first demo. Answers must be submitted before August 15.
Note: Giveaways are exclusive to subscribers | Winners will be notified via email and the results will be announced in the next issue. Scratch the Surface | 2
the rise of icarus witch Words: Curtis Dewar
Hardrock or AOR are not styles of music you’ll see covered in these pages that often, but Scratch the Surface pride itself on being an eclectic publication and when Curtis Dewar heard the new record from Pittsburgh’s hard rockers ICARUS WITCH, he was very impressed and thought it’d be a good idea to ask bass player Jason Myers a few questions about their new effort “Rise” and the changes in their career. I've now listened to your new album ''Rise''a few times and I have to say I was quite impressed with it. I personally think it's your best yet! How did you manage to even get the album made with all of the changes that have happened since ''Draw Down the Moon?'' To my understanding you not only got a new singer but also a new drummer, second guitarist and producer! Thank you. We also feel it the strongest material that we’ve created and if it took some trial and error with diﬀerent players to reach this level, then it was worth the 2 years between albums. Christopher’s vocal and songwriting approach is completely diﬀerent from our original singer, Matthew’s and while previous eﬀorts certainly appealed to a loyal niche of metalheads, the new direction expounds upon that and seems to be striking a chord with a much wider variety of rock music fans than our past eﬀorts. One thing I noticed between this album and your last is that the song quality has improved dramatically. You guys always had good songs, but ''Rise" seems to have taken things to a whole new level. How did you guys manage to make songs of this high of quality this time around? I attribute much of that to opening up the writing process for more variety of input from the new members. In the past there were more controls and a stricter sense of “This is or is not ‘the Witch sound’.” All of that went out the window this time and when given the freedom to write without limitations, the ideas were ﬂowing more freely. Chris has a more hook/chorus based approach to his writing, and Dave coming in as second lead guitar raised the level of writing because in the past he functioned as a producer whose main goal was to get the
best songs out of bands. His level of guitar playing is impeccable too, so what you get is a very healthy competition (for lack of a better term) because Quinn really raised his game this time around as well. Add to this the fact that our drummer Tom is actually the ﬁrst drummer in our history that we wrote, recorded and played shows with because in the past we had used session drummers. Now the band sounds more like “a band.” Everyone is invested and has something to prove. The rhythm section has never been tighter, the dual leads have never been crisper and the choruses are the anthemic type that you can sing along with the ﬁrst time you hear. Were you nervous at how the fans would react with all of the line-up changes or were you conﬁdent that the album would turn out as it did? A change of personnel-especially a singer-can be an extremely risky proposition. You never really know how people are going to react to a change at the top, but we can’t let that aﬀect what we know is the right course of action for our situation. I have always had faith in this band, from the very ﬁrst time we went into the studio until the most recent eﬀorts. I have always had a calm sense of conﬁdence that there is an additional force guiding this project through each twist and turn. I recall reading an interview from a few years ago where you mentioned that you felt that metal has gone downhill since 83 or something to that eﬀect. Do you still feel that way? And if so, what do you feel you guys bring to the metal world that other bands don't? Do you listen to any newer bands at all? Who? Haha, that’s funny. Well, I think the point I was trying to make was that “heavy metal” really hit a peak during that era before everything became so compartmentalized into subgenres and cliques. I do feel that was the best time for traditional metal but I’m not stuck in the past and am always listening for new bands that bring things up a notch. Quinn and I were hanging out at Uproar Fest last year and the lineup was stellar; Black Tide, Bullet For My Valentine, Escape The Fate, Avenged Sevenfold all high energy metal bands that combine certain classic elements with a very cutting edge approach. I’m personally a big fan of the Finnish metal like Amorphis, H.I.M. and Rasmus and Swedish melodic rock like Eclipse and H.E.A.T., so you may hear those inﬂuences creeping in to the music that I bring in, at least on a subliminal level. www.icaruswitch.com
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Montreal, Canada five-piece The Agonist are fast becoming one of the most exciting and interesting bands in modern metal music. Three years on from their surprising and critically acclaimed second album “Lullabies for the Dormant Mind”, this year the band returns with an incredible new record that tops everything they’ve done in the past and boasts an astonishing progression. Scratch the Surface scribe Raymond Westland quizzed vocalist Alissa White-Gluz in order to find out more about their third fulllength record “Prisoners”. I was pleasantly surprised by “Prisoners”, the latest album by Montreal, Canada-based The Agonist. Vocalist Alissa White-Gluz was kind enough to provide us with some insights on the album, working together with Cryptopsy guitarist Chris Donaldson and getting involved with MTV… Thank for you doing this interview for Scratch The Surface. I must say I’m quite impressed with your new album. Are you happy the way it came out? “Yeah. It’s hard to be happy with something like this because you always want to go back and ﬁx one thing or re-do one thing, but you just have to at one point be happy with how it turns out and go from that.” This time around you chose to go for a more straightforward metal approach. What triggered this? “Well, I completely disagree with that statement, and you’re the ﬁrst person who’s said that, so I don’t know how to answer that question. I think it’s not a straightforward metal approach. I kind of wish it was, but I don’t think it is at all, I think it’s quite the opposite. It’s more technical and progressive than the last album.” Can you share some insights on the themes and subjects touched on “Prisoners”?
“The lyrics for this album are, I guess, less perceptive. I kind of just wrote the lyrics and let them live as they were. I didn’t try to overdo any of them or rewrite them a million times, because at ﬁrst I was doing that. Like with ‘The Escape.’ I wrote that song like three times before it turned into what it is now. So for the rest of the songs, I was like, ‘okay, it’s going to take me ten years to write this album if I do it that way,’ so I just kind of let the lyrics come out and left them as they were. Even to the point where songs like ‘Idea Moto’ are automatic writing.”. The creative backbone of the band is formed by guitarist Danny Marino and Alissa White-Gluz. What do the other members contribute? “They write the parts for their own instruments. So, Chris, who plays bass, will write the bass parts. That’s about it.” “Prisoners” was recorded with the help of Cryptopsy guitarist Chris Donaldson. How was it like to work with him and what did he bring to the table? “Well, this is the third time we’re working with him. And he is a very, very talented musician, and also a talented sound engineer and producer, so it’s great to work with him. He knows exactly what he’s doing behind the soundboard and he also has a really good ear for producing. I don’t really know in terms of the other instruments. He plays guitar, so I’m assuming he’s a great guitar producer, but he also helps with my vocals because he knows my voice so well that if I do a take, he knows to tell me, “No, you can sound better. Do it again,” or “Yeah, that was perfect, trust me it sounds good,” which is really important because
I probably developed this range by not being intimidated to attempt weird things. I wasnt afraid to do really strange things that girls dont normally do. I just sort of went for any possible sound I could make. Alissa White Gluz on her powerful vocal range
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when you’re the one doing it, you can’t really tell how it sounds. You have to have that second set of ears to give you that outside opinion. So, it’s great to work with him, and I’d be happy to work with him again.” Part of the The Agonist attraction is your the incredible vocal range. How did you manage to develope such a range and how do you keep your vocals in shape on the road? “Thank you. I don’t do anything too special. I probably have a leg up on some people just because I don’t drink or smoke, and I’m a fairly healthy person. Like, I’m vegan and I like to work out. My instrument is a part of my body, so I have to maintain my body for my instrument to work. I probably developed this range by not being intimidated to attempt weird things. I wasn’t afraid to do really strange things that girls don’t normally do. I just sort of went for any possible sound I could make. That’s what makes it fun and that’s what makes it diverse as well.” You’re also very vocal about animal rights and other environmental issues. To what extent are your views shared by the rest of the band and would you call The Agonist a political band like Napalm Death? “They’re not necessarily shared at all. I don’t talk very much about politics with the rest of my band. I write all the lyrics, so in terms of any topic, it’s purely for me. They obviously respect my beliefs, and they probably share some of them, but I would say you could call us a political band, in the sense that all of our lyrics have that backbone, but it also all comes from one member, which is me. So, the band as a whole, yes, but if you were to approach individual members, maybe not.” You also took part in MTV’s Made, a program which helps insecure youngsters with her dreams. How do you look back on this experience? Does it really help young people improve their self-esteem? “It was a great experience, but it was actually very diﬃcult because it was really emotional. And really tough for me too, because I invested a lot of myself into it. I wasn’t about to risk doing something that important half-assed. Obviously, it was really important to Julia that this go well. And, yeah; there was a lot going on there that people didn’t see. I was there for a month and a half and the episode was only an hour long. It was deﬁnitely a good experience—a learning experience. And I still talk to Julia regularly. I think it was a good change for her and for me. I came out having learned a lot, too.” 2012 is a good year for metal so far. Which releases made quite an impression on you and why? “To be honest, I haven’t listened to music all year. So I have no idea how to answer that question. I haven’t gotten anything. I honestly can’t answer.” Time for the ﬁnal question. What is next in terms of touring, festivals and other possible musical ventures?
“We’re currently working on getting to as many diﬀerent territories as possible. We’d like to hit all the territories we hit with ‘Lullabies’ and maybe more. And so, we’re working on putting together a really good team so that The Agonist can tour all the territories that we should be touring in because we see all the requests for where people think we should tour, and we’re not ignoring them. We are working towards getting there. It just takes time, and it’s not that easy. But we do take [the requests] to heart.” www.theagonist.com
The Agonist – Prisoners (Century Media) Female fronted metal bands, I personally really loath the term. I ﬁnd it a hollow shell, because it doesn’t give any information about the style of a certain band. Both Arch Enemy and Epica have female vocalists, but both outfits are on opposite side of the metal spectrum. Montreal, Canada-based The Agonist is another metal outfit featuring a female singer, but this time around it’s a lady whose good looks are only exceeded by her vocal capabilities.. “Prisoners” is the third album by these Canadians and it’s arguably their most focused and compact eﬀort to date. Gone are the dramatics that characterised the previous album. This time it’s all about memorable tunes. The song material on “Prisoners” which can best be described as a volatile mix between Soilwork’s The Panic Broadcast and Chimaira’s Resurrection and The Infection albums. Some slight Meshuggah overtones add extra spice and texture to the album. As previously mentioned The Agonist’s greatest ace in the hole is vocalist Alissa White-Gluz. Within a heartbeat she can alternate between ferocious growls to opera-styled vocals. However, on this album she mainly limits herself to her deadly arsenal of growls and some bittersweet clean sung choruses. “You’re Coming With Me”, “The Escape” and “Anxious Darwinians” are good reference points in this matter. Another key feature is the tasteful guitar work by Danny Marino and Pascal Jobin. “Ideomotor” and “Revenge Of The Dadaists” are also particularly noteworthy. The production values of this album are expertly handled by Cryptopsy guitarist Chris Donaldson. He gave “Prisoners” its modern and in-your-face sound. “Prisoners” by The Agonist won’t re-write the playbook within their ﬁeld of metal, but it’s a very solid and enjoyable release nonetheless. The song material is memorable and energetic and Alissa and the rest of the band gave it their all. I’m sure that fans of the more modern styles of metal will be thrilled with this album. (8/10).
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HORSEBACK Words: Pete RingMaster
...Half Blood is concerned with the evolutionary necessity of impurity and mutation... One of the most striking and provocative albums to emerge this year so far is Half Blood from North Carolina band Horseback. The solo project of Jenks Miller, the band and album is a testing and rewarding experience for senses and thoughts. Scoping and transcending multiple genres Half Blood is a challenging yet mesmeric journey with every second of its consuming soundscapes an evolving evocative presence inciting emotions. Scratch The Surface had the pleasure of finding out more about the man behind the album and Horseback itself. Hi Jenks, ﬁrstly could you please tell us about the actual man, Jenks Miller. I live in the woods in central North Carolina with my family. I’ve been making records in some shape or form for over a decade. When did music ﬁrst take a hold beyond the ear? I’ve played music all my life, starting with piano lessons as a kid. I started writing and recording music after I learned to play guitar. What are the major inﬂuences which have had the biggest impact and touch on your own music? Aside from other music, I’ve been profoundly inﬂuenced by certain ﬁlmmakers, including Andrei Tarkovsky, Alejandro Jodorowsky and David Lynch. I also have a keen interest in myth, symbolism and semiotics, which has led me to the writing of CG Jung and Joseph Campell, among others. Tell us how Horseback came about as a project. Horseback began in 2006 as a therapeutic outlet for me. The ﬁrst Horse back record, Impale Golden Horn, was created with no plans to share it
publicly. Some friends ﬁnally convinced me to release the record, and the project has built momentum from there. Is there a musical history before Horseback? Yes, I’ve played in bands since high school. I also play in the folk-rock band Mount Moriah, which has been around about as long as Horseback has. You have just released the wonderful Half Blood album. Can you give some background to it? Half Blood was the ﬁrst record written and recorded speciﬁcally for Relapse. I took the opportunity to reﬂect a bit on Horseback’s other records and collaborative albums with bands like Locrian and Pyramids, to allow for a new synthesis of those various approaches to composition and audio engineering. It is a release which encompasses a varied range of metal ﬂavours, extremes, and imaginative sounds. Do you go looking for inspiration when you write or are the diverse musical soundscapes you create just an organic outcome of your personal thoughts and exploration?
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It’s usually a very organic process. My approach to composition often involves a lot of experimentation in the studio. I am personally drawn to extreme or textural sounds from metal, noise, jazz, free improv, etc, so those sounds often appear in my work. You described the album as “the band’s most ambitious record to date that represents a synthesis of the approaches we've explored in the past.” Could you expand on that and which part of the album saw the biggest change from previous work? Each Horseback record prior to Half Blood is a self-contained entity with minimal overt references to the others. Half Blood is the ﬁrst record to explicitly reference the records which came before it, and as a result it stands as a synthesis of those diﬀerent sounds and approaches. How much of songs were in place thought and sound wise before recording and how much did they evolve during the studio process? One or two central components in a song (a riﬀ, a ﬁeld recording, etc) are usually written before I record. The rest evolves during the studio process. I’ve found this approach gives me both the freedom to explore ﬂashes of inspiration and the power to shape each composition into its most fulﬁlling form. Listening to the immense creativity and craft involved the assumption is the album took a long time to be created, what was the reality? Oh yes. I worked on Half Blood for almost two years. Whilst the music is intrusive with extremes and blackened dronescapes it brings an almost meditative ambience to envelope the senses. Does the intent of your music favour one over the other predominantly in aim or is it an equal mix you try to bring? I don’t set out to favor one mood over the other. The recordings you hear are what come about when I sit down to write, which for me is a daily practice. I also practice meditation, so maybe you’re picking up on a connection there. I like music that hypnotizes me; such music is sometimes harsh and sometimes calm. The surface characteristics of the sounds involved are not nearly as important to me as their eﬀects. Please tell us about the lyrical theme upon Half Blood, which you called “a meditation on hybridity, impurity and evolution.” Half Blood is concerned with the evolutionary necessity of impurity and mutation. The lyrics expand on those themes using characters from various mythologies. It would be fair to say the vocals on the album do not make it easy to understand the lyrics fully, is this to add further ‘mystique’ to the theme or more to do with sound textures within the music? It’s more to do with the sound textures in the music. Though there are common threads connecting the lyrics of each song, the lyrics themselves are not nearly as important as the texture of the vocals. Still, I’m not averse to publishing the lyrics -- if the interest is there, maybe Relapse could post them all at some point. You also play in the band Mount Moriah as you mentioned earlier, is there an element of either project which brings something to the other? Yes, I think so. Both projects are inﬂuenced by American folk, blues and country music. Mount Moriah’s approach is more orthodox, while Horseback’s is more whimsical and aggressively experimental. Still, I learn things from each band. They deﬁnitely inﬂuence each other in subtle ways.
What comes next for Jenks Miller and Horseback? More writing and recording! And hopefully a few live shows when we can make our schedules work. Many thanks for sharing your time and words with us, any ﬁnal words for those having had and others just about to ﬁnd the joy of Half Blood? Thank you, Pete. I hope your readers ﬁnd Half Blood’s sonic world worth exploring. www.horsebacknoise.com
Horseback – Half Blood (Relapse) For all the great and easily accessible straightforward albums which appear every month sometimes one wants and needs to be stretched and asked questions of. “Half Blood” the new album from North Carolina band Horseback is one such release, a testing imaginative and evocative creation which works the senses and emotions. Horseback is the creation of guitarist, vocalist, and producer Jenks Miller and follows on from his previous acclaimed albums including “Forbidden Planet” and “The Invisible Mountain”. Miller transcends genres with his music to conjure up a storm of drone, doom, black metal, psychedelic rock, and more, his albums and individual tracks an emotive journey to challenge and invoke deep reactions. Though “Half Blood” is not an album which gives an instant easy pull it is as welcoming as it needs to be, mesmerising the ear and thoughts before leading them into its skilled and stunning heart. The album is like a ﬁre, from an initial spark it builds and grows into a consuming and emotively ﬁred experience. Released through Relapse Records “Half Blood” is in the words of Miller “a meditation on hybridity, impurity and evolution”, its breath themed by mythology, hermeticism and western mystical traditions. It oﬀers a blend of intrusive and caressing opposites in sound and light for an overall ﬂuid and meditative experience. At times the music scrapes across the senses whilst at other times it leads them through a harsh darkness into enveloping abrasive warmth, the experience never less than hypnotic. The album opens with the irresistible ‘Mithras’. The song is an immediate beckoning with its muscular bass and warm keys but proves a deeper addiction once a darkened pulse and dissident energy begins to prowl with menace behind the seventies progressive toned groove. From the opener the album only ﬁnds richer depths and satisfaction with the likes of the heated atmospheric ‘Ahriman’ with its excellent drone groove underlining waves of strong melodies and stoner tones, and the heavily resonated ‘Ajuna’ lighting up the senses. These songs all follow a ‘regular’ structure to some extent but the album truly ﬁnds its heights with the unpredictable ingenuity of ‘Inheritance (The Changeling)’ and the closing trio of tracks under the umbrella title ‘Hallucigenia’, all captivating and enthralling despite openly intrusive and startling sounds, their caustic cleansing deeply pleasing. Though “Half Blood” is not the easiest experience the concentrated eﬀort it demands brings nothing but fully rewarding and deep experiences .(8/10) Pete RingMaster
One imagines it is not a simple thing to transfer your music to a live setting even with a full band, how involved is the process? Horseback’s live shows are rock shows. We play more stripped-down and high-energy versions of the songs you hear on the record. Our live shows attempt to tap into the primal, hypnotic energy of early punk and metal bands. Is there any part or element of Half Blood which personally gives you the fullest of pleasure? There’s no single element. I appreciate the record most as a sum of its parts.
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process of guilt the failures of mankind
Inspired by the failures of mankind PROCESS OF GUILT have created the most accomplished and raging album of their career. Proud of the new effort and determined to make 2012 their biggest year yet, guitarist and vocalist Hugo Santos tells all to Scratch the Surface. Words: Luca Niero
It’s been three years since your last album “Erosion”, how does it feel to have “Fæmin” ﬁnally out? We're really glad to ﬁnally have a new album out, but it's important to state that we didn't spent the last three years making it. We only started writing what would become «Fæmin» in the beginning of 2011 and it was a hard working process, since we basically started from scratch, but that gave us the opportunity to compose a strong and concise album from start to ﬁnish. Given the experience provided by our last releases, «Fæmin» is, the album that took us less time since we entered the studio until the moment it was released. It was also our most concise experience regarding production. We only took about one or two months for all the recording, mixing and mastering, somewhere between last September and October. Nevertheless, it's always a good and positive feeling to have the record out. «Fæmin» has been out for almost a month now, how has the response been from fans and critics? So far, the feedback has been great, considering the response we are getting from fans and media. It's been stated as a kind of "departure" from our previous work and somehow we agree with this, since we really feel like we have upgraded our vision towards our own music with this release. I reckon that it's not an easy record to get into, nor are the feelings that we're trying to express through «Fæmin». But, I believe that once the listeners really get into what we're trying to convey they will see this eﬀort as a step forward for us. Can you tell me what the title means and what it represents to you? We look at «Fæmin» – or famine – through the lens of starvation, scarcity, representing the maximum state of decay of the human being. It represents also the ultimate level in which the human being can’t ensure his own subsistence, the failure of mankind as a whole, even our own personal failure. We use music to express and deal with our own feelings, anxieties, anger and concerns, what we conceive as our personal vision of what surrounds us, kind of a “personal catharsis”. With «Fæmin» we tried to express those same feelings while adopting the title's deﬁnition as the main theme running throughout the album. I see that you still have the tendency to name your songs with only one word. Can you give some details on the songs, what themes are carried out on this album? I consider that we have a sort of minimalist approach towards music, as we try to be as concise as we can, in both our lyrical and musical expression. I believe that our search for strong riﬀs also reﬂects upon the lyrics and, therefore, we choose to use only one word as a way to identify the main theme running through the song.. As for the themes carried throughout the album, we can say that basically we seek environments and atmospheres that transpire despair, depression and desolation, and as a result, our lyrics deal with our own perspectives and thoughts about that same negativity. For that, we draw inspiration from the dark side of our daily experiences, since the brutality of the day-to-day life has much to oﬀer regarding these aspects. The ﬁve themes can be described as enveloped in a cycle of feelings such as self delusion, lies, disrespect, purge and emptiness. And «Fæmin» stands for our own understanding of those subjects, channelized through music. How was writing “Fæmin” diﬀerent from “Erosion”? This new eﬀort seems a bit more raw and ﬁerce in comparison. I'm glad that you've underlined ﬁerceness, since that was one of our aims for this album. We wanted our music to evolve and to be more at pace with ourselves, and in order to accomplish that we felt an urge towards playing more dynamic and aggressive music. For this release we put a lot of eﬀort in the song's dynamics, and we just tried to play those riﬀs in the most sincere way that we could. But the main diﬀerence is that, with «Fæmin», we had the opportunity to think about every detail regarding the writing process with a diﬀerent focus and experience provided by almost everything that happened since «Erosion» was released until now. Of course, we still stand for the music on «Erosion», but I guess, in retrospect, without writing and recording that album, we couldn't have reached some of the conclusions that led us to write «Fæmin».
This time you opted to hand over the mixing duties to Andrew Schneider at Translator Audio Studios in New York and mastering to Collin Jordan at The Boiler Room in Chicago. And these guys really managed to give a more raw and claustrophobic edge to the album, what did you guys do to make the album sound the way it does? We wanted the ﬁnal sound to be as organic and dynamic as possible, and knew that Andrew Schneider could help us out achieving this, so he played a very important role on the ﬁnal result. Of course that, in order to achieve this, we changed some things in our usual tracking methods, namely the drums, that led us to work in a diﬀerent studio, MDL with André Tavares. As for the mastering duties, Collin Jordan had previously mastered «Erosion» and we were willing to work with him again. As for the rest, we just tried to improve on the technical aspects of the recordings the best we could, while trying to capture the right feeling and appropriate sound towards a more organic and punchy sound. As I mentioned earlier, we just tried to play everything in the most sincere and honest way possible. In the end, I guess we found the best equation for our sound, since we are really happy with the ﬁnal result. What are you guys working on next? Right now, we ﬁnished a few dates in Portugal presenting «Fæmin» and we're in the process of booking a European tour for late October. We already have some booked dates and, hopefully, we'll announce that soon. It's possible that we can start writing some new riﬀs, but for now we're still focused in promoting «Fæmin» as best as we can. www.processofguilt.com
Process Of Guilt - Faemin (Bleak/Division) Well, this one certainly came out of left ﬁeld! Having had a bit of an explosion this year with some killer releases from Candlemass, Saint Vitus and Paradise Lost – not to mention a host of lesser known bands all delivering the goods – the doom metal scene seems to be in a healthy state right now. But when you get a handful of new releases come along in a short space of time and one of them is from a relatively unknown band with an album that is over forty minutes long and only has ﬁve songs on it, preconceptions may get in the way a little bit. But have no such fear, as Portuguese metallers Process of Guilt have delivered what is quite simply a belter of an album in “Faemin”. Almost going beyond what the word ‘doom’ infers in metal terms, the songs on this album are crafted for maximum devastation yet have an edge that the word ‘accessible’ doesn’t do justice to. Opening track ‘Empire’ builds on a rumbling rhythm until around the six-minute mark where it ﬁnally cracks open and lets the brutality out in a cascading ﬂurry of buzzing riﬀs that bring Godﬂesh to mind, but without the industrial overtones. Musically ‘Blindfold’ has a vibe like Ugly-era Life of Agony – gloomy yet with a focused sense of melody and a slight hardcore edge – although vocally this is more in the realm of Extreme Noise Terror than Keith Caputo. As the album progresses each song throws a curveball and doesn’t quite go where you would expect for such a brutally heavy band. ‘Cleanse’ rolls along on a wave of percussion and breathy howls before succumbing to the power of the riﬀ. The eleven-minute title track closes the album on a dynamic slant with its thundering, bass-heavy riﬀ working some sort of hypnotic majesty in a way that many bands try but not many achieve. As you’ve probably guessed, this album is real joy (in the doomy sense of the word) to listen to. Not totally sticking to the doom metal rulebook, the band bring in a few outside inﬂuences to pepper their sound with just enough of a twist on the doom formula to keep it interesting throughout. So if you’re looking for your next ﬁx of melancholy but are also looking for something a little diﬀerent then maybe Process of Guilt could be just what you’re looking for. (8/10) Chris Ward
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Surprisingly, one of the most ferocious and hard-hitting releases coming from Norway this year wasn’t created by a band covered with paint, dripping with blood or praising the name of Satan. Please meet Purified In Blood, a group of friends with a shared love of metal’s aggression, punk hardcore attitude and a concern for environmental issues. Guitarist Sander Sagblad Loe and vocalist Hallgeir S. Enoksen talk about metal, veganism and global freedom. Flight of the Dying Sun, the third album from Norway's Puriﬁed in Blood, is one of the most potent and surprising records of the year. Filled with bone-crushing riﬀs, thunderous rhythms and some blistering solos, this new eﬀort touches a wide variety of styles with astounding results. In the press sheet, vocalist Hallgeir S. Enoksen deﬁnes the new eﬀort as “… the missing link between «Reaper of Souls» and «Under Black Skies»”, adding that “Flight of the Dying Sun” fuses the rawness and intensity of the ﬁrst record with the more organic and varied sound of the second album. I take it this was conscious decision of the band, to encompass all the traits of your past eﬀorts into this new work right? Sander: No, that was never the idea and I would not put to much weight on what Hallgeir said in the press sheet. We always try to look ahead and try to come up with new stuﬀ that we have never done before. So if anything we try to avoid doing what we have done in the past. I am easily bored and I think it is important to always come up with new and exciting stuﬀ to keep myself interested. We will always keep it hard, aggressive and heavy, but still add new dimensions and ﬂavours to keep pushing the boundaries of what you can and can’t do in metal. The idea is to never stagnate. Development and evolution is key. I think one the most charming factors of “Flight of the Dying Sun” is that it touches a wide variety of musical ground without ever loosing power or sounding disjointed. While songs like “Storm of Blood” and “Mot Grav” are punishing tracks set out to inﬂict maximum aural damage, others like “Escape to Solace” and the title theme sound a bit more restrained displaying a seething inspiration from 80’s punk/rock music. Was it intentional or do you all have overlapping musical tastes?
Sander: Everybody in the band listens to diﬀerent music in many diﬀerent directions. I rarely listen to metal anymore because metal bands these days sounds too one dimensional. They seem to either copy each other or rely on only one recipe on how to do things. It gets boring very quickly. However MAKING metal is a diﬀerent story. What I think is very exciting about making metal music is that you have a great deal of freedom. It’s all about having a heavy sound. Jazz, classical, ﬂamenco, blues, you can incorporate anything you want as long as you have enough gain on your guitar and heavy drums. Powerful vocals helps too. Realizing this just opened a whole new world. It’s like ﬁnding the door that leads to the outside of the box. Once you are outside the box you realize how much it sucks being INSIDE the box. You are able to create so many deep and diﬀerent feelings with your music once you open your mind and expand your horizon. As long as it doesn’t sound too crazy or too goofy. We come up with a lot of crazy shit when we rehearse but our intuition tells us if it is passable or not. It’s all about going our own way in the heavy music business. We do what WE do. Nobody is plowing the path for us. We are not part of a sub genre. We want to be a band that can bring variety, excitement and quality to the table. We want to make albums that sound as fresh in 20 years as they did the day they were released. In my mind that is the deﬁnition of a good album; an album that can withstand the test of time. Now only time will tell! This is also your ﬁrst work without Glenn Reaper, who left the band following the release of “Under Black Skies”. So what was the writing and recording process like for this album with Hallgeir S. Enoksen as sole vocalist? Sander: The writing process went pretty much the same as last time. We
PURIFIED IN BLOOD
sion brea king the chains of oppres Words: David Alexandre
“We believe that in order to be free we need to change the way we think live eat and how so many submit themselves to false leaders”
jam a couple of riﬀs and if the riﬀs are cool, if it feels good, we make a song out of them. Sounds really simple, huh? The lyrics, written by Tommy and Hallgeir, goes on top of the ﬁnished song. The recording process was a little diﬀerent though. When we recorded “Under black skies” we ﬁnished recording all the instruments in one studio and then all the vocals got done i another one. I remember every time I stopped by the studio to see how the vocals were getting along, there was always some kind of tension ﬂoating around in the air. The mood was electrifying. Hallgeir and Glenn had a hard time agreeing on stuﬀ and I believe that when you are 2 vocalists in a band with such strong personalities, some moments are bound to be heated. Recording “Flight of a dying sun” went pretty smoothly. Instead of systematically doing all the drums on all the songs, then guitar on all the songs, etc, we more or less prioritized ﬁnishing songs by songs. That’s one of the reasons why Hallgeirs voice sounds so consistent and powerful throughout the whole album, because he did not have to do all the songs in one go. It’s important to rest the voice so it sounds fresh, you know! What happened with Glenn Reaper? He guests on “Iron Hands” so I take it was an amicable split. Sander: Mr Glenn Reaper decided to quit the band after not being able to achieve happiness from it anymore. When you take your band as seriously as we do, you think about your band every day. So when thinking about your band only stresses you out and makes you unhappy it really takes a toll on you. Things went better for both him and for us when he decided quit. He is still our brother and I am sure he’ll be one of my best friends for as long as I live. You can probably understand why it felt so natural to let him contribute on the album and we are happy that he wanted to. Let's jump back a little and dig some background information on Puriﬁed in Blood. I read that you guys had been around since 2003 and were originally a straight edge hardcore inﬂuenced band, before disbanding in 2007 due to some divergences about the ideology of the band. Was it a constant struggle for the band to get past the straight edge tag and ﬁnd acceptance outside the hardcore scene? Sander: We got noticed by people outside the hardcore scene pretty early in our career, so we have practically always had fans that cared more about the music than our personal lifestyles. A lot of vegan straightedge bands have to rely on their vegan straightedge fans to have anything going for them, I know, but our music and our live shows just attracted people from all walks of life. Probably because we took our music as serious as the message, and damn man, we were serious and we still are, just in a diﬀerent way. As for the breakup I believe we all needed time to think and focus on our own minds. When you label yourself straightedge you believe that you are going to be that for the rest of your life, so when you brake out from that label it requires you to do some thinking and you have to adjust yourself to what you think is important in life. It was only a healthy breakup so that we could get some time to grow as individuals. As time passed we all realised how much the band meant to us and decided to have another go at it. And here we are. I’m aware that you’re all vegetarians, but the term vegan or straight edge doesn’t seem that relevant any more, is that right? Hallgeir: We think it is really important to eat with a conscious mind. We have been eating vegetarian/vegan since we were kids, so it’s natural to do so. It has never been a one-track mentality though. The vegan straight edge term was a uniﬁed banner we went under for a couple years, even though we never started out like that. Things changed, and not all of us felt comfortable being straightedge. Things evolve for some. That’s just the way it is. The world is so much bigger than what you call yourself. Personally, and as a group of people, we are stronger now than ever. Still, your lyrics always dealt with nature and environmental issues. Is the new record a critique of the modern society or it deals with other issues as well?
Hallgeir: We still have conscious lyrics. Removing our-selves from the chains of an oppressive society. Liberating the mind from shackles indoctrinated in our lives by the mainstream, even people around us, in the underground and mainstream music scene. By a system, which has lost almost all links to the natural world. We believe that in order to be free, we need to change the way we think, live, eat and how so many submit themselves to false leaders. In many ways, we are only slaves. With PiB, we describe the world as we see it. We do not believe in any form of oppression, whether it is religion, capitalism, or any form of political enslavement. We believe everyone should live free, even animals, in a sustainable world. Anarchy, with natural laws… Not the “free market” tyranny we live under here in the west. This being said, we do not preach to have the only truth. We are all individuals, and we should all be able to decide what is right for us. We don’t pretend to be missionaries of any sort, and we do not want to force an agenda on anyone. We started PiB because we wanted to be a band that had something to oﬀer besides the music, with lyrics about subjects we think is important. Just like old punk/hardcore bands you know. For me, the song "Mind is Fire" symbolizes something important for me right now. The prison of the mind. The mind is so powerful, and we can choose to ignore the potential of it, or we can explore it. Most of everything we are being tough today misleads us. "The self is dead. The master, is slave". www.facebook.com/puriﬁedinblood Puriﬁed In Blood - Flight Of A Dying Sun (Indie Recordings) Two years on from their much lauded second album “Under Black Skies”, Norwegians Puriﬁed In Blood are back with a new eﬀort and minus a lead singer following the departure of one of their two vocalists, Mr. Glenn Reaper. Not that this change aﬀects or hinders the impact of their hardcore-fuelled death metal attack as the band sounds ﬁercer and angrier than ever on “Flight Of A Dying Sun”, plus sole vocalist Hallgeir pulls out an incredibly monstrous performance. Whether their merging some raucous black metal with some punk fury as in “Mot Grav” or plunging into some groovy death n’ roll ala Entombed like in “Iron Hands”, Puriﬁed In Blood sound like their ready to destroy here. Approach with caution ‘cause this one is a killer record. (8/10) David Alexandre
Scratch the Surface | 11
coloringthe greyareas Baroness incredible new double-album “Yellow & Green” not only signals the finest and strongest moment of their remarkable career, it’s also heading straight towards the top of the year-end charts. It’s that good, and Scratch the Surface had the privilege to find out more about it from drummer Allen Blickle. Words: David Alexandre
After you ﬁnished the touring cycle for the ‘Blue Record’ you intentionally decide to take a year oﬀ to focus on the writing of the new album. Did all the touring you did for two consecutive years following the release of ‘Blue Record’ burn you out a bit or you just wanted to focus on writing a better and more challenging record? Yes, touring for two years will wear you out a bit, but that was not the reason to take time oﬀ. We have never focused fully on just writing and recording. We have always toured and wrote simultaneously. Taking a year oﬀ was a big deal for us at the time. It really allowed us to focus on being creative and to hone in on skills as songwriters. It was a great experience and we learned a lot. Now back to touring... Did the success of ‘Blue Record’ in particular change how you went about making this new eﬀort? Not directly. We wanted to focus more on our craft and create a record we were all into. The “Blue Record” was a good stepping stone for us, and a learning experience on how to make it better the next time around, just as “Y&G” has been a learning experience.” I believe you never taken that much time oﬀ from making music or playing live? So exactly what did you do during that year oﬀ? Well none of us live near one another so there was a ton of travelling back and forth to our studio space that we built to write this album. The year was hard work, no sugar coating it. I would work in NYC during the week, then head to Philadelphia about every weekend to write and demo material. We were working non stop until we were happy with our direction. To talk about the album, let’s start with the title ‘Yellow & Green’, what made you choose that? Well, Yellow rounds out Red and Blue. As for Green... You can make your own story up. Writing a double album must be a very demanding and challenging experience, but you pulled it oﬀ with sheer class and aplomb as one of the most striking aspects about ‘Yellow & Green’ is the way every song sounds killer and hardly can be called of ﬁller. It seems that Baroness worked on a vast raft of material, so how you ﬁltered this down to form ‘Yellow & Green’? Have you had to make a lot of diﬃcult decisions about whether or not to include this or that song? Yes. We had 30 plus songs. Some were good ideas, but wouldn't mesh with everyone in the band. We would drop songs if we all didn't feel like they would work, or if they were becoming too diﬃcult to move forward with. The most important aspect of the song writing was that it couldn't be forced. We made sure that each song had its own character and life.
Musically, ‘Yellow & Green’ seems like a continuation of the journey started with ‘Blue Record’ towards a more catchy and bluesy rock sound. You put the record on and you can tell it’s you as it bears all the hallmarks Baroness have become renowned for (perhaps with the exception of John Baizley howls), but also sees the band expanding their musical palette, injecting a healthy dose of ‘70s progressive and rock ‘n’ roll inﬂuences. What's the biggest diﬀerence between ‘Blue Record’ and ‘Yellow & Green’ to you? The song writing is diﬀerent, mostly letting the songs speak for themselves. We hold back some to let these songs breath. Less is more at some points. The vocals have progressed and become more important. On “Blue Record” we went into the studio with no real idea of how the vocals would be on 60% of the material. This is crazy I know. We didn't have any time to focus on that aspect as much as we did this time around. The ‘Green’ half seems a bit darker and more melancholic than the ‘Yellow’ one, which has more upbeat like ‘Take My Bones Way’, ‘March To The Sea’, ‘Little Things’ and ‘Sea Lungs’. Was this a conscious decision or purely natural? Not very conscious. There are some upbeat moments on “Green” to me, such as “Psalms Alive” and “The Line Between”. But there are other tunes that take a darker turn. This record was intended to have a more experimental pallet. We wanted to try things that Baroness hadn't tried before. A lot of it came out pretty laid back and more personal. But it all happened naturally and we were excited to try these sides of our musicianship. Lyrically, what was fuelling the new album? From the song titles it seems a record more focused on personal issues. Yes, a lot of the album is personal. Everyone goes through hardships in life, we are no diﬀerent. The songs felt more personal musically, so the lyrics had to match in the same fashion. It's been 5 years since you made your ﬁrst record “Red Album” and since then Baroness have been continually exploring new ideas and sounds. Every release marks a steady progression in band’s still young career, so I would like to ask you if you feel creatively free to do what you want even it means alienating some of your older fans? The moment that we refrain from being creatively free is the moment the band loses its main focus. That’s the whole point of being an artist is to have creative freedom. We will always progress and try to explore new territory. I never get the impression that you're a band seeking fame. So when ‘Blue Record’ got bigger than anyone expected, how comfortable were you with that? The “Blue Record” was a great experience for us to go through as a band. We are seeing people even now getting into our band through that album. We think it’s great. We love performing for people, and when people enjoy the music we write its even better. www.baronessmusic.com
“The most important aspect of the song writing was that it couldn't be forced. We made sure that each song had its own character and life.”
Stunningly impressive and freakishly enjoyable, that just about sums up CVI the new album from Atlanta rock band Royal Thunder. The release is a triumphant blaze of rock music brought with a scorched passion and elevated artistry, striking weaves of classic rock, southern tinged blues, and progressive mesmerism. Needing to find out more about the album and band Scratch The Surface had the pleasure of firing questions at guitarist and band founder Josh Weaver. Hi Josh thanks for sharing some time to tell us about yourselves. How did Royal Thunder ﬁrst begin? Royal thunder ﬁrst began around 2004 as an instrumental 3 piece. I formed the band along with my brother Ryan Weaver and best friend Jason Kelly just to make music without any constraints. We went into it just wanting to play good music and didn't want to be tied down by any one genre. Was there any other ﬁrm intention in the forming of the band other than to make music you loved? There was no direction we wanted to go in other than to have fun and make good music! In the six years of being a band how has it evolved from those early days? The band has really evolved through the years to become what it is today. There has been a couple of line-up changes. The main thing that has made Royal Thunder diﬀerent from the early days would deﬁantly be the experience and time we have put into it, making us better musicians and being able to write better songs. Time really has given us a better vision of what we want out of Royal Thunder. Your debut EP drew great attention your way and was a big factor in your signing with Relapse Records? Yes the EP was a big factor in us getting signed to Relapse. We played an out of town show with a band called Javalina that was friends with some people at relapse. They told Relapse to check us out. They did and the rest was history! Listening to your music I think it is fair to say one can accurately mark some of your inﬂuences but for the record could you list the major ones to have the biggest inﬂuence upon you? For me personally, Nirvana is one of the biggest inﬂuences and was the reason I even picked up the guitar. I knew I wanted to be doing what Nirvana
was doing at an early age. Other than that I grew uplistening to the Cure, the Cult and so many other great 90's bands. The 80's and 90's music is what really inﬂuenced me. It was such a great and creative time for music. You have just released your excellent debut album CVI; dare you have imagined the great and deserved response to it? It has been so great to be able to release CVI. We are really proud of how it turned out, we all worked so hard on it and it's like a dream to see all the great response we are getting from the record! How long have you worked on the album from the ﬁrst seeds of the release? As soon as the EP was done we started working on new material. The album was formed over several years and took about six months to record. Did the album emerge as you envisaged going into the studio or did it bring a further unexpected evolution? We had most of the songs written going into the studio, but the studio was such a great creative environment and the record and songs deﬁantly evolved throughout the recording process. The songs turned out way diﬀerently than we expected, but in a good way. How does the songwriting process work within the band? During the song writing process I will write the main structure of the song and everyone else will put their own parts to it, in addition to Mel putting her vocal lines and lyrics to the music. There is a full band evolvement in a songs creation? Everyone deﬁantly pits their own bass, drum and vocal parts to the songs I've written. If it was not for them the songs would not be what they are. So everyone plays a big role in the songs coming to full fruition! As a writer the hardest thing doing a review of piece is the opening paragraph, starting things oﬀ. Is that the same with songwriting? Song writing can be tough. Sometime I don't have anything and just have to pick up my guitar and just start playing till something I connect with comes out. Did everything you wrote or recorded for CVI make the ﬁnal cut? No there was a couple of songs that did not make the cut. Some were tempo issues, recording the song too fast and other issue was song just not panning out so we scrapped them! How harsh or strict are you on yourselves when it comes to what makes a song let alone a release?
ROYAL THUNDER The Southern Hurricane Words: Pete RingMaster
We work very hard on our music and put our heart and soul into it. We have never been a band to cut corners or to accept less than 110%. So if we are not happy with it, we won't use it and it will not be released. In a review I did of the album I used the metaphors of ﬁre, ﬂames etc throughout describing songs as that was the imagery many songs felt right with personally, their draw and connection mesmeric in the same way a ﬁre is. Do you write with the aim to hopefully have that kind of hold on people or is it simply organic? The songs are very organic and come from our souls. We put a lot of ourselves into the music and hold back nothing. Hopefully people will hear the music and will connect to something deep within themselves such as something like ﬁre that is so simple yet so mysterious.
“We put a lot of ourselves into the music and hold back nothing.”
Is there a particular aspect of the album or songs which gives you the biggest satisfaction on CVI? I love the whole package of CVI. It was the ﬁrst album I've ever done in my life that had no corners cut. We are very proud of it. It's great to work so hard on something like this album and for it to bedone. It's very satisfying to hear that people are really enjoying it! Once the album was completed were there ideas and sounds for future songs already inspired from the recording or will it be a blank canvas for the next songs from Royal Thunder? After completing CVI we really have a wide open canvas and plan on playing all the songs out live. New songs will come; we just have to live life to get them. Is there an easy transfer to the live setting for your songs from their recorded lives? The songs translate extremely well live! We just added another guitar player Josh Coleman alongside new drummer Lee Smith. Adding the 2nd guitar really makes us able to pull oﬀ what was done on the album. What comes next for Royal Thunder? What comes next for Royal Thunder? Playing and staying on the road as much as possible! Experience life and put that into song form. Many thanks for talking with us, would you like to leave with some words for the readers? We look forward to meeting all our fans on the road! Thanks for taking time to read this and take care! www.facebook.com/RoyalThunderMusic
Royal Thunder - CVI (Relapse) It is hard to call the debut album from Atlanta rock band Royal Thunder anything other than stunning, it really is that impressive. “CVI” is a triumphant feast of rock music which leaves one searching for true and expansive enough adjectives to place upon it. The band brought ears and attention to bear with their debut EP of 2010 but “CVI” surpasses that with a creativity and aural grandeur which is nothing short of brilliant. The quartet of vocalist/bassist Mlny Parsonz, guitarists Josh Weaver and Josh Coleman, and drummer Lee Smith, bring weaves and conjurations of classic rock, southern tinged blues, and progressive artistry into a pulsating and hypnotic blend with added veins of stoner and metal rippling throughout. Drawing inﬂuences from the likes of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Cradle, Electric Wizard and Black Tusk to name a few, the album is an unpredictable ﬁre of twists and turns to leave one persistently surprised,continually eager, and fully drenched in satisfaction, quite simply it is majestic.
Released via Relapse Records, the album and its imagination as well as each individual invention is awe inspiring but it is the vocals of Parsonz which seals the adoration, her delivery and voice an additional beacon of splendour. From the opening track ‘Parsonz Curse’, she teases and mesmerises the ear with scorched passion and elevated beauty, her irresistible varied path matched musically by the band. Every song is a highlight, the likes of the magnetic ‘Whispering World’ bursting with a siren glow and emotive force, the anthemic 'No Good' unrelenting and insatiable, and the sensational ‘Blue’, leave one breathless and inspired. The last of these three is a fully contagious piece of songwriting, from its wonderful evocative instrumental leading into the heart of the song, to the immense craft and staggering imagination which evolves as the song ventures far and wide. ‘South Of Somewhere’ is another sensational track amongst many, its seemingly chilled heart and initial remote presence a ruse for the wantonness to follow. As it draws one in with its mesmeric charms the track erupts into a fury of punk attitude and metal intensity, it is pure addiction and impossible to tear oneself away from. “CVI” is richly diverse and insistently imaginative, the album not wasting a note or sound. Royal Thunder has introduced themselves fully with a collection of songs of such pulsating quality and heated melodic magnitude, the result quite simply magniﬁcent. (9/10) Pete RingMaster
Scratch the Surface | 15
ALBUM OF THE MONTH
BARONESS - YELLOW & GREEN (Relapse) Baroness last album, the blue one, was as close to perfect as sludgemetal will ever get, so the pressure is on to see if John Baizley and co. can deliver again. Of course they can, not only this highly anticipated new record eclipses the enthralling majesty of “Blue Record”, it’s also heading straight towards the top of the year-end charts. To rise to the challenge, this time they’re doing a few things differently, their music is still richly textured and intricate, blending influences of straight-up sludge, 70’s rock and prog, yet it’s perfectly clear on the very first listening that “Yellow & Green” takes a couple of interesting turns towards a more streamlined and shall I say mainstream rock genre. The songs have more space to breathe resulting on some of most memorable pieces Baroness have ever created. Pieces such as “Takes My Bones Away”, which is surely one of the catchiest sing-along tune of this summer. Another noticeable change lies in the vocalizations Baroness frontman. Gone are the howls and growls of Baizley, instead the singer now focus on a clean and soulful performance that will surely put all the singing members of Kylesa and Mastodon to shame. I mean, this guy can truly sing. People can yammer away all they want about the differences between this new effort and previous ones and how Baroness are slowly moving towards a more commercial sound, but who cares? This is still Baroness and they’ve penned one the year’s best albums regardless of what style or genre it fits in. (9/10) David Alexandre
BURNING LOVE - ROTTEN THING TO SAY (Southern Lord) After the stunning “Songs for Burning Lovers” on Deranged Records, former Cursed vocalist Chris Colohan retakes the offensive once more with Burning Love and offer us their second full-length, “Rotten Thing To Say”, a potent blend of punk roughness, rock n roll sleaziness and hardcore aggression. While Burning Love are not as incendiary or raucous as Cursed were, these songs still pack some furious punch as their share the same fascination for a piss n’ vinegar, boisterous attitude as songs like “Tremors” and “Pigs City 1” clearly illustrate. Yet, on the overall, Burning Love are more about a catchy rock n’ roll craziness and less about musical disorder and anarchy. It’s all about the power of the riff, and these riffs are brilliantly catchy, the guitar work of both Pat Marshall and Andrus Meret on songs like “Karla”, “Superstitious Friend” and “The Body” emanates an incredible infectious energy that is impossible not to enjoy. Clocking in at slightly over 35 minutes, “Rotten Thing to Say” features a great production that heightens the songs' impact, courtesy of Converge's Kurt Ballou, and is a great, great record that will surely restore your faith in good and sleazy punk n’ roll. (8/10) David Alexandre BONG - MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI (Ritual Productions) Bong, contrary to what we might be led to believe, do not play stoner rock heavily influenced by that magical plant that goes by the name of cannabis. Instead, this four-piece from the UK plays an intriguing style of music that can be described as part spiritual,
part ritualistic and part drone. Their newest effort “Mana-YoodSushai” is a record that begs for a sit-down, lights off listening as the overall effect that its two tracks spanning 47 minutes transmit is that of a one transcendental ritual, a trancelike journey seeking spiritual enlightenment in some Tibetan monastery. It's a terrain also covered by the likes of Sunno))) and OM, I could say Bong shares with those artists the same predilection for meditative sounds and mantra-like, low-end rhythms, yet the band’s focus on sitars and a ritual chanting (sounds like a temple congregation praying in unison) makes this a more transcendental, spiritual journey. “Mana-Yood-Sushai” was release by Ritual Productions, a label whose motto is expanding minds with magick rites and in this case it rings absolutely true as Bong’s musical rites will elevate your spirit up to the clouds, with or without the use of recreational and illegal substances. (7.6/10) Luca Niero DEF-CON-ONE - WARFACE (Scarlet Records) Ex-Venom drummer Anton Lant's Def-Con-One project consists of 12 groove metal songs that wouldn't sound out of place next to Lamb of God or Pantera. As the songs are such a far stretch from Venom, I was a bit surprised when opening song "Never Look Back" blasted through the speakers. The chugging riffs and clean to shouted vocals remind more of "As the Palaces Burn" or even more aptly "Far Beyond Driven" then anything Venom has ever done. Seeing as I am not much of a fan of this style I can't say the album floored me. That bring said the band do play this style very well and will appeal to fans of thrashy groove metal. Surprisingly some
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of the songs even got me reaching for repeat, particularly the title track. While the band wont be giving Lamb of God a run for their money this is solid stuff. (5.5/10) Curtis Dewar DYING FETUS - REIGN SUPREME (Relapse) Formed in 1991, American death metal nutters Dying Fetus have carved out a bit of a reputation for themselves as purveyors of extremely intense metal, showcasing an amazing grasp of musicianship. Although the line-ups may have changed over the years - guitarist/vocalist John Gallagher being the only constant throughout – the band have never been anything less than totally on-top-of-their-game and “Reign Supreme”, their seventh album, is testament to this. Beginning with the relatively short blast of ‘Invert the Idols’, the album is pretty consistent in giving you a good kicking, with the superhuman drum prowess of Trey Williams being something to both admire and be a little bit afraid of – it would be very interesting to hear just the drum track to this album as an example of how to brutalise a drum kit, and also a good advert for the quality of the kit he uses as it sure does take some punishment. The chugging intro of ‘Subjected to a Beating’ increases the heaviness before moving into blastbeat territory for the strangely catchy chorus, but the real early highlight of the album is the rabid fury of ‘From Womb to Waste’ that thrashes along mixing blastbeats and Deicide-style solos before closing on a mid-paced groove that is as heavy as it is headbang-worthy. To be totally honest, the album whizzes by in such a flurry of rage and face-melting dynamics that when it finishes you’ll feel like you’ve been through nine rounds with the world heavyweight champ, and that’s probably the effect the band were going for. There are a couple of filler tracks that may force you to press the skip button on repeated listens, but the sheer ferocity and technical prowess of the band make it impossible not to admire what they’ve done here and will no doubt keep their legions of fans happy and probably gain them many more. (7/10) Chris Ward MARDUK - SERPENT SERMON (Century Media) When it comes down to delivering full-on ferocious black metal few do it better than Marduk. These Swedes are the one of mainstays within their specific fields and many of their albums are considered essential. “Serpent Sermon” is the name of Marduk’s latest sonic assault, so let’s see whether Steinmeyer and Co are still able to spring a surprise or two... To my great surprise “Serpent Sermon” opens with relatively slow song in the form of the title track. Marduk’s trademark craftsmanship is immediately recognisable. Well-constructed madness goes hand-in-hand with a sense of evil and darkness only very few can master. “Messianic Pestilence”, “Souls For Belial” and “Hail Mary (Piss-soaked Genuflexion)” are more traditional high-speed Marduk scorchers with all the blastbeats and anti-religious themes to die for. Vocalist Mortuus is fine and he really adds a lot of venom to his satanic musings. Personally I could care less about the typical Marduk anti religious
and satanic rhetoric, I’m in there for the music. I have to admit that Steinmeyer and Co really firing on all cylinders on “Serpent Sermon”. The most interesting tracks for me are “Damnation’s Gold” and “World Of Blades”. On these compositions the band shows a more dramatic and epic side of themselves. It’s the synergy between those longer tracks and the high-octane scorchers that give this album its charm. “Serpent Sermon” is blessed/cursed with a fine production. It’s clear enough to make all the instruments clearly audible, but it’s also dirty enough to instill that typically cold black metal feel. Marduk have delivered a high class black metal album with “Serpent Sermon”. Fans who are hoping for another “Panzerdivison Marduk” will again be disappointed. This album is as well-balanced and solid as they come. Excellent. (8.5/10) Raymond Westland GOJIRA - L’ENFANT SAUVAGE (Roadrunner) There was a time that metal from France was frowned upon, but the last couple of years there’s been a true explosion of new and talented bands, such as Dagoba, Hacride, Trepalium, Alcest and Les Discrets. Bayonne-based Gojira is often described as the flagship of the new French metal movement. Recently they signed a contract with Roadrunner, so let’s see whether “L’enfant Sauvage”, their latest offering, will be their definitive breakthrough album. L’enfant Sauvage or The Wild Child in plain English, pretty much continues the course Gojira has set on the two previous albums. The Meshuggah vs Morbid Angel-sound formula is still very much in full swing. There’s a catch though, because this time around the song material is tad less technical.This is a good thing, because it enhances the overall groove and flow of tracks like “Explosia”, “The Axe” and “The Gift Of Guild”. The song material is still as intricate as ever, but it makes the album a little more accessible and to the point. Luckily, there’s also room for some experimental moments on “L’enfant Sauvage”. The bands dabbles with postcore/rock influences on “Mouth Of Kala”, “The Fall” and the title track. This enhances the overall diversity of the album, without compromising the overall flow and cohesiveness. The band’s overall performance is as tight as it gets, with drummer Mario Duplantier’s incredible percussive battery being the main attraction. Despite the solid nature of this album I do miss some true standout songs in the vein of “The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe”, “Backbone” and “Vacuity”. The type of songs that really whips a crowd into a frenzy. Despite this minor flaw, there’s still plenty left to enjoy. L’enfant Sauvage is as solid as they come and I’m sure that Gojira will become on the mainstays of modern metal, if they aren’t already. If you like the previous two albums, than L’enfant Sauvage will certainly rock your world. Solid effort! (8/10) Raymond Westland MISERATION - TRAGEDY HAS SPOKEN (Lifeforce) Miseration had somehow managed to elude these ears until now so with the band being labelled as death metal the expectations of what would emerge from the band’s new album “Tragedy Has Spoken” was far different from what actually exited and ignited the senses. With a heavy intense core of death metal the band and album explores and draws on an ever evolving feast of ideas,
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KATATONIA - DEAD END KINGS (Peaceville) When it comes to fusing moments of fragility together with sullen heavy parts few do it better than Jonas Renkse and Co, better known as Katatonia. These Swedish formation started out as a doom/death metal band, but along the way they shed their death metal roots, much like Anathema and The Gathering. However, Katatonia has always maintained a certain metallic edge to their music, with albums like Viva Emptiness (2003), The Great Cold Distance (2006) and Night Is The New Day (2009) being some particular poignant examples/ Let’s see how the band fares on their new album, entitled Dead End Kings... When it comes to overall cohesiveness The Great Cold Distance and Night Is The New Day are tough acts to follow. The new Katatonia album starts confidently with “The Parting” and “The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here”. Both songs could easily been featured on the previous album and especially the electronic effects and progressive undertones are noticeable. Silje Wergeland (The Gathering) really manages to deliver a delicate touch the the second song. Melancholy kicks into full gear with “Hypone” and “Buildings”, two of the stronger tracks on “Dead End Kings”. Fragility has always been an important component in the overall Katatonia sound. However, things become too bitter sweet for my taste on “Leech”, “Ambitions” and “Undo You”. Keys, electronics and Jonas Renkse’s most delicate vocals are the key ingredients here. Katatonia has never been the harshest metal band around, but this is a serious dent in an otherwise fine and solid record. Luckily things improve on “Lethean” and “First Prayer”. The heavier parts are more dominant here. Dead End Kings ends with arguably the best songs on the album in the form of “Dead Letters”. The production chores of Dead End Kings are skillfully handled by Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström themselves, with some additional assistance of David Castillo (Opeth, Draconian). He’s responsible for the powerful mix of this album. The melancholic musings of Renkse and Co aren’t as convincing as on the three previous albums I’m afraid. Dead End Kings certainly has its moments of greatness, but for some reason I expected a stronger and more consistent album. Better try next time gents! (7/10) Raymond Westland sounds, and technical creativity. The result is an album of unpredictable and distinctive imagination, a release as brutal and intrusive as they come but with a breath of pure diversity and ingenuity. “Tragedy Has Spoken” is the third album from Miseration following up predecessors “Your Demons, Their Angels” (2008) and “The Mirroring Shadow” (2009). Based on the theme of major tragedies from mankind’s history and the premise of an imaginary all powerful designer behind the nature of such events the album finds the band stretching beyond the borders of its base genre. The songs bring the addition of elements never before given a home such as the Indian harp Esraj, the Persian hammered dulcimer Santur, and other ethnic folk orientated instruments and sounds. They are not just added but as the excellent opener ‘Stepping Stone Agenda’ eagerly shows, it is with inspired and imaginative manipulation. Taking this song as an example the music pulsates and writhes with an exotic yet venomous creative energy within the thunderous consumption. This makes songs and album a deep and rewarding experience, testing at first but persistently offering more and more with each intrusion. From the ever devastating and impressive diverse vocals of
Christian Alvestam (ex-Scar Symmetry), the guitars of Jani Stefanovic and Marcus Bertilsson, to the disorientating rhythms of Oscar Nilsson, the release is as mesmeric and mouth watering as it is destructive and vicious. Highlights which ignite the most ferocious fires include best track ‘Ciniphes’, ‘Hill of the Poison Tree’, and ‘On Wings of Brimstone’. The first is a rampaging infestation of disruptive melodies and bone crumbling intensity, its stuttering rhythmic jabs and thick bilious noise hypnotic. The other two are deceptively less violent though soon one is on knees beneath a storm of fury and a building crescendo of searing harmonics and merciless energy, with the latter a glorious fusion of light and dark. “Tragedy Has Spoken” is outstanding, a revelation for a belated introduction to Miseration and the best death metal release so far this year. (8.5/10) Pete RingMaster OM - ADVAITIC SONGS (Drag City) Consumed with a modest amount of herbal supplements (as Al Cisernos and Emile Amos likely intended), Om's Advaitic Songs is an expansive mindfuck of an album. I won't even bother printing the bullshit I wrote on my first go. In the clearheaded light of day, their follow-up to 2009's God is Good displays an elegance and musician's touch that the band has hinted at on previous releases, but never really hit until now. Advaitic Songs is, without doubt, the finest work we've yet seen from the experimental-drone duo, and it offers a wonderful listening experience for fans of the genre and newcomers alike. Om toyed with expanding their sound on God is Good by mixing piano and classical strings with Al Cisernos' rumbling, groovy basslines and Amos' hypnotic drumming. Advaitic Songs continues this trend wonderfully, with tambura, piano and cello swirling in and out of each of the album's five lengthy tunes. 'Addis', the album's opener, throws in a sumptuous chant from a female singer that conjures up dust storms and desert heat. As with any Om album, the focus in Advaitic Songs is on creating a spiritual experience, and songs like 'Addis' and the album's closer, 'Haqq alYaqin', beautifully form a sense of mystical energy. Cisernos' lyrics are obscure and shrouded in metaphor and Biblical language. They're difficult to wrap your head around, but his delivery is a spot-on half-whispered chant. Om has never sounded more in control of whatever it is they're trying to conjure up with their music. Advaitic Songs is barely a metal album in a lot of respects ('State of Non-Return' is the heaviest song on the album, and even then only for a moment), but there's a palpable weight to each song, so calling it heavy wouldn't be an injustice. Om's sound is likely not for every metal listener; songs are long, spacey, and embrace spirituality in a very positive (and also very broad) sense. It's my bet that if your music collection begins and ends with Darkthrone, you're not gonna dig this. But fans of Om's previous work, experimental metal fans, and armies of stoners and psychedelia lovers will think this is great. It's a deeply pleasant and tangible listening experience. It's also Om's best work to date, and it makes me genuinely anxious for the next offering from Cisneros and Amos, if only to see how they might top themselves here. (9/10) Chris Wright SCOTT KELLY, STEVE VON TILL, WINO - THE SONGS OF TOWNES VAN ZANDT (My Proud Mountain) Perhaps most celebrated for the song “Poncho and Lefty” which was famously recorded by Willie Nelson in 1983, Townes Van
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Zandt never had anything approaching significant fame in his lifetime. His tunes have, however, been covered over the years by a wide range of artists including Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, Hoyt Axton, The Tindersticks, Norah Jones, Robert Plant, Mudhoney and the Cowboy Junkies. After performing Van Zandt pieces in an assortment of collaborations over the years, Scott Kelly, Steve Von Till (Neurosis and Tribes of Neurot) and Scott “Wino” Weinrich (The Obsessed and Saint Vitus) have come up with an inspiring tribute to the great singer/songwriter, capturing the poignant fragility of the music whilst at the same time leaving their own impression on the tunes. Armed only with acoustic guitars for the main part, the covers appear faithful to the original, losing none of their distinctive courage. The lyrics of Van Zandt appear to paint a vivid private picture, and follow a striking narrative that the attentive listener will be able to draw from and relate to their own personal life. Opening with “If I Needed You” by Steve Von Till, the lyrics ache with Van Zandts characteristic vulnerability. “St. John, the Gambler” by Scott Kelly may lack the growl of Von Till’s voice, which appears to be the product of a thousand Marlborough cigarettes, but loses none of that candidness. Wino, who performs “Rake”, “Nothing” and “A Song For” has a soulful, melodic voice that is the perfect vehicle for these narratives. The longest track on the album “Tecumseh Valley”, performed by Scott Kelly, drives forwards unremittingly, as the tale unfolds, allowing the sparse instrumentation to highlight the frailty of the lines. These covers may lack some of the spring of the original versions, but none of the implication. These are gloomy stories of drunks, losers and the browbeaten. Hopefully this collection will introduce the music of Townes Van Zandt to a new generation of listeners, some who may not have considered the country music genre in the past, who will then have access to a catalogue of honest, stirring and thought provoking songs. Music categorised as “doom” may not simply be seen as loud guitars chords played at a snail’s pace tempo, it can also be used to describe music such as we have here. Tributes such as this are an important way of keeping the legacy of important and influential musical figures alive, and this particular attempt achieves that without question. (9/10) John Toolan SPINESHANK – ANGER DENIAL ACCEPTANCE (Century Media) No matter what you think of the returning Spineshank’s new album there is no dismissing the anger and venom which soaks every note and word within its walls. Guitarist Mike Sarkisyan stated "Some of us were going through divorces, others lost people very close to them and that's what basically surrounded us during the creative process." This emotional turmoil and its heightened shadows inspired an openly evident atmosphere on Anger Denial Acceptance for a release bruising and raging storm. The release sees the original line-up re-united for this their fourth and first album in nine years. Released via Century Media Records, Anger Denial Acceptance shows glimpses of the band which inspired many at the time of The Height Of Callousness. Their sound though is less defined but certainly more aggressive and the band at its angriest. To be honest the release does not bring anything new seems still seeded in the sounds of a decade ago but it is undeniably satisfying. The band goes straight for the jugular with the opening ‘After The End’, the track a fury of senses buffeting riffs and growling intensity forged with raging passion. From its initial storm the song takes a breath prowling and lurching from one mighty stomp to another like a predator before riling up the engine for another combative assault. Vocally Jonny Santos has never sounded better whilst bassist Rob
Garcia is an intimidating hypnotic presence. It is an urgent and strong start which delivers expected goods with pure intensity. Overall the album has a more rock orientated intent to its nu-metal as evidenced by second song ‘Nothing Left For Me’. This shows an evolution though it feels as much sideways as forward but the subsequent title track shows they can merge both aspects with accomplishment. Songs like the excellent melodic ‘I Want You To Know’ with great inventive enterprise from Sarkisyan lighting up the ear and the mighty incendiary device that is ‘The Endless Disconnect’ leave one eager for more. The latter song, easily the best track on the album is evidence that the band can still brew up something special with its uncompromising rampage of explosive rhythms from Tommy Decker. Anger Denial Acceptance in many ways is still travelling up the road the likes of Five Finger Death Punch trail blazed so nothing is new or particularly fresh. It is though an experience which Spineshank ensures is a pleasing riot. (7/10) Pete RingMaster TESTAMENT - DARK ROOTS OF EARTH (Nuclear Blast) When it comes to down to delivery high quality thrash metal few do it better than Testament. Albums like “Practise What You Preach”, “Souls Of Black” and “The Gathering” are mandatory staples for everyone with a preference for thrash metal from the Bay Area. The band last album, “The Formation Of Damnation” is a tough act to follow by any standard, so let’s see what Chuck Billy and his musical partners managed to accomplish on “Dark Roots Of Earth”, their latest offering.. Rest assured, because Testament has delivered the good once again on “Dark Roots Of Earth”. The melodic character of the previous album is maintained, however this time around things are little bit heavier and darker, but most of all more aggressive and energetic. This is partly due to Gene’s Hoglan’s trademark high speed drumming, but also with the dark overtones of tracks like “Rise Up”, “Native Blood”, “True American Hate” and “Last Stand For Independence”. In that way this album reminds me of bit of “Demonic”, one of the more underrated and overlooked Testament gems in my opinion. As previously mentioned melody is an important aspect of this album. This is mostly accomplished by the brilliant and tasteful guitar leads and solos by both Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick. Chuck Billy uses his clean singing voice more often, which gives this album a touch of the classic Testament material from the late eighties and early nineties. There’s also room for some more mid tempo tracks, such as “A Day In The Death” and “Man Kills Mankind”. This gives the listener a chance to catch his or her breath and it also makes the album a little more accessible. “Cold Embrace” is almost a power ballad, much in the vein of “Trail Of Tears” and “The Legacy”. This is a clear indication of the diversity and maturity which characterises “Dark Roots Of Earth”. The production values are expertly handled by Andy Sneap (Nevermore, Machine Head, Exodus). He gave “Dark Roots Of Earth” a direct, yet organic sound. This really enhances the aggressive and energetic nature of this album. Like I said before, Testament has done it again with “Dark Roots Of Earth”. It’s stuck to the brim with testosterone-filled anthems that will whip any crowd in a frenzied moshpit. This is arguably one of the best metal albums of this year. Heartily recommended! (9/10) Raymond Westland
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