The second Brainsqueeze Fest put on by our friends at Tankcrimes was held last weekend in lovely Oakland. Our friend and frequent Decibel contributor Raymond Ahner was onhand for the second day to capture the festivities and document them. Check out our exclusive photo gallery below courtesy of Ray.
Ever since I saw them play twice at Roadburn 2013, I’ve been spouting a lot of praise about power trio Satan’s Satyrs, whose idiosyncratic blend of proto-metal and Nuggets-era garage rock scratches an indescribable itch for yours truly. Equal parts boogie, psychedelia, and cheeseball horror, it’s ferocious, catchy, and enormously fun. Sure, it’s all reminiscent of when The Mooney Suzuki and The Warlocks were attracting a lot of press more than a dozen years ago for their own garage rock revival shtick, but Satan’s Satyrs bring swagger, darkness, and heaviness, and combined with Clayton Burgess’s affected whiny vocals, it gives the music a little more depth, not to mention mystery.
The Virginia band’s second full-length comes out this week, and while it can easily be said it’s More Of The Same of what folks heard on Wild Beyond Belief!, Die Screaming (Bad Omen) feels a lot more confident and refined, benefiting greatly by some significantly improved production. Songs veer from straightforward rock ‘n’ roll that lean heavily on Farfisa organ and wah-wah pedals to more robust sounds, but it’s the latter style that starts to dominate late in the record, as riffs reminiscent of Motörhead, Tank, and Jaguar propel “Lucifer Lives” into a decidedly more British heavy metal direction, while the sprawling title track explores doom in such a haunting and vivid way it’s easy to see why Burgess has been recruited as Electric Wizard’s new bass player. It’s here, during this concluding 20-minute section that you start to sense this band’s potential starting to turn into something concrete, where the word “gimmick” starts to fade from view.
It’s an extraordinarily light crop of new releases this week, but here’s what else is out:
Andromeda, Shock (Southern Brigade): Mid-‘90s alternative metal with a progressive slant that sometimes dabbles in trance music, sung obnoxiously in Italian. If that’s your sort of thing, go nuts. Personally, I’m just going to slowly back away from this, and turn tail and run in the opposite direction.
Black Tar Prophet, Deafen (Domestic Genocide): This is exactly how you’d expect an instrumental industrial bass-and-drums duo to sound. Massively heavy, fuzzed-out basslines emitting thick, vibrating tones atop martial beats. Frankly, this album gets better when more of a classic doom swing is utilized, as on the groovy “Ring of Buzzards” and “Hypomania”, but that just doesn’t happen often enough.
Creinium, Project Utopia (Inverse): Pure kitchen sink metal, an ungodly mess of subgenres that is so bent on dipping its brush in every style as possible it loses focus mere minutes in. Adding to it all is that typical brickwalled sound that plagues mainstream metal, rendering it grating and unlistenable.
Ghoul, Hang 10 (Tankcrimes): A Record Store Day release, this is a fun little excursion by the Oakland joke thrashers into surf music that pulls it off well enough to make people take this band seriously instead of see it as a novelty.
Gunpowder Gray, Gunpowder Gray (Boris): This side project featuring a pair of members of Atlanta death band Disfigurement heads in a totally different direction, coming across as a mix of The Four Horsemen and Circus of Power. Which, personally, I am all for. There’s a total 1990 sleaze thing going on here.
Harakiri For The Sky, Aokigahara (Art of Propaganda): One of those situations where the music effectively mimics the melancholy melodies of Katatonia, Agalloch, and Woods of Ypres, but then the comical screaming kicks in, and there’s no way you can take this seriously anymore.
Skelethal, Deathmanicvs Revelation (Iron Bonehead): I wish I liked this latest Iron Bonehead release more, but sadly the French duo does little to distinguish itself from every other death metal band out there. If your music doesn’t leave a permanent impression on the listener, you’ve failed. It’s as simple as that.
Skinfather, None Will Mourn (Streetcleaner): This is a band that’s bound to click with Decibel readers. After all, they play a very distinct blend of robust Swedish death metal and Trap Them style crust, plus they’re protégés of perennial favorites Nails. What these kids lack in charismatic vocals is more than made up by the sheer ferocity of the music. It’s a good start.
Wrong, Pessimistic Outcomes (Xtreem): Slick black metal that thinks it can call itself “avant-garde” and get away with directionless songwriting.
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Aurvandil play sick folk-influenced black metal. You can listen to our debut of their second screed to the darkness below, and in the meantime, here’s the man himself to explain what’s going on.
What’s your writing process like? There are a lot of intricate layers going on in the music and that must be complicated to compose.
AURVANDIL is rather simple, 4/4 riff-based music with more or less subtle developments and the occasional leads. The intricacy is the alchemical reaction of all melodies and emotions falling in place, rather than the result of obscure and complex writing or technicality.
Are there any specific lyrical themes running through Thrones?
Hatred, isolation, bitterness, glory, purity, and the morbid yet peaceful contemplation of the End.
Why do you feel that black metal is the ideal form of artistic expression for you?
Black Metal is Catharsis, the unhindered reaction to modern deliquescence, covering a wide range of emotions and ideas/ideals. From misanthropic solitude to martial glory, through melancholic meditation to blasphemy, from total destruction to positive creation. From infancy to adulthood.
Do you feel that Thrones is the culmination of what you’ve done to this point or merely a stepping stone towards future achievements?
It is verily both. The end of a inward oneiric northbound journey, and the first stone indeed in building a definite sanctuary, a last stronghold.
***Get it from Eisenton records here.
After an extended layoff Justin Trosper of the late, much-mourned noisy post-hardcore heroes Unwound has returned with an excellent infectious-if-still-decidedly-off-kilter outfit of musical subversion, Survival Knife. Our Deci-antennae really started vibrating, however, when Trosper cited Enslaved and Opeth, among other extreme metallers, as influences for his new venture in a great interview over at Stereo Subversion, and, thus, the decision was made to hit the man up for a Top Five list.
He sent along instead was eight selections — a one-through-five plus three sixth place finishers.
Touché, kvlt friend.Touché.
Survival Knife’s Loose Power is out next week. Get into it.
1. Metallica — Master of Puppets
Bragging rights: I still have the cassette tape I got when this came out. I have had to argue against this record versus Ride many times over and it usually comes to a heated standstill. That being said, the two records together have deeply informed my own songwriting and guitar playing. To me, it is punk rock classical music but only “sounds” metal.
My metal tastes tend toward seventy percent melodic and thirty percent more abrasive with a Venn diagram overlap of about fifty percent Scandinavian heritage. Master of Puppets sort of fits that bill perfectly except that Metallica are only twenty-five percent Scandi.
2. Slayer — Reign in Blood
Like Metallica, I have a hard time picking a favorite with this band. It starts out so strong, the transitions between songs are perfect and it’s the perfect length. It still give me chills…the production is just really well executed. Classic albums are like this and not just a collection of songs. Metallers seems to understand this well, for better and worse.
3. Sleep — Dopesmoker
This is my number one road trip record. If you are going on tour, bring Dopesmoker, The Frogs’ It’s Only Right and Natural, and, of course, Jon Wayne Texas Funeral! And the Derek tape…
4. Opeth — Blackwater Park
Hearing this record got me into metal again after ignoring the scene for much of the 90′s. My friends complain about how the Opeth guy sings emo one second and death style the next, but the guitar playing and arrangements are so stellar that I can ignore the overall incongruous feeling of some of their music.
5. At the Gates — Slaughter of the Soul
I heard The Haunted before I knew about this and love both bands. Like a 90′s Swedish version of my fave 80′s thrash bands but more melodic sense. Records like this make me appreciate songwriting so much more than crappy indy stuff that people consider songwriter-y. It’s that attention to detail!
6. Mastodon — Leviathan
Mastodon is my favorite modernish rock-metal-whatever type band. I think this is their most consistent and more punk-sounding record, but they have really good songs on the records after this. Neurosis is still great and all, but I think Mastodon took their cue and made it more listenable.
6. Enslaved — Monumension
These guys are cool because they really seem to think outside the box. They have this great classic Celtic Frost feel to their tunes but throw in psychedelic prog and even post-punky themes and sounds into the mix. It’s dark but also seems kinda funny. This is the band I play for people who think “black metal” is one certain stupid style.
6. Entombed — Left Hand Path
It’s just a classic. So many people have tried to capture the buzzy feel of the guitar tones on this record. My favorite track from this era, though, is “Dead Shall Rise” by Terrorizer.
Honorable mentions to Candlemass Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Hellhammer Triumph of Death, and Kreator Pleasure to Kill!
Photo by Shannon Corr.
** Norwegian thrashers Nocturnal Breed have been kicking it old-school for the better part of the last 15 years. Formed by guys originally associated with the black metal scene, but are now fully entrenched in the rigors of thrash, Nocturnal Breed know exactly what they’re doing on new album, Napalm Nights, the group’s first in almost a decade. Horns up and high tops on to S. A. Destroyer (aka Kenneth Svartalv Skibrek Halvorsen) and his band of ‘Breeders!
It’s been seven years since Fields of Rot. What prompted you to get Nocturnal Breed together again?
S. A. Destroyer: It has kinda been a long slow buildup to the point we’re at now. The band never broke up or anything like that. But we needed to get that good old feeling back in the band. Too many years had gone burrowing down into personal shit and since the start of the band 18 years ago, and we needed to find back to that original path we were on. We actually spent years talking about how we should do things in the future and to re-kindle that feeling that really inspire us to do what we do. And when we lost our two former guitarists Ben Hellion and A.E Rattlehead back in the end of 2010 and the start of 2011, we understood that it was about time to get the wheels rolling again, but in a more concentrated version. So, we just started talking more and more about doing a new Nocturnal Breed album. And when V.Fineideath joined the band, the spark really lit up like a new flame. He had been a friend of the band since the early beginning, and he’s been sharing bands with T.Terror in a bunch of different death and thrash metal bands in the hillbilly area of ‘Fetsund’ since the early ’90s. So he was a natural pick for us. Also, it must be honored that he more or less carried the band on his shoulders to make this whole thing work again, and we are eternally grateful for him being this dedicated to the band. Then I.Maztor decided to join the band early in 2011, and it felt like someone just flicked on a switch, and the old feelings came creeping up the spine again. Another big driving point to keep the band going and to record a new album has been the way the whole metal scene has evolved into the toilet through the last 20 years. Facebook and its like has also contributed to a shitty vibe, I think. It’s just not hard enough to break through as a band anymore! And it is at times too easy for the old long-distance runners, in all genres, to surf the waves of past glories, without being put to question for the quality of their music, like all upcoming bands have to answer for endlessly, like being trapped under ice, before getting the approval stamp and the keys to the realm. But all in all, shielding the eyes from some ugly ‘bumps in the road’, I’m very glad the whole metal scene, as a unison, is rising out of the muck again. This decade bears much more promise than the last two did I think. And this is really inspiring us to give it a go again.
What were the members of Nocturnal Breed doing in the years between records? I’m sure you guys have day jobs.
S. A. Destroyer: Well, the other guys in the band have got day jobs; T.Terror owns a car-saloon shop, where you can get your vehicle shined and pimped and blinged up. I.Maztor is a chef and makes some killer food. And V.Fineideath is the computer tech in the band and works at a big export company. Personally, I refuse to be driven through the grinder like that. I spend my days writing and recording music as well as writing books and scripts for movies and TV series. I live in the middle of the woods, with no Internet and humans around, and I’ve got my studio and production office based here as well, in a 300 year old cabin next to my house. So, I guess I’m taking this creative shit as far as I can run with it. [Laughs] During these last seven years, all of us has spent time doing all kinds of different other music projects and bands. I spent several years finishing a bunch of albums and projects I had been keeping in the drawer for way too long. Such as Aiwass, Antikrist, Combath, Svartalv, Nåe and Cold Orbit. I also do a lot of the lyrics for the 1349 albums, and I guess I’ve been with them as a ‘shadow’ member since they got started way back then. It has been through these projects I think we in a way built up the urge to give it a go with the new album. Especially [the Conjuration [EP] has been an inspiration to do. Exploring a much more wicked music style, both lyric-wise and musically. It is a death metal project that included, apart from myself, my right-hand Breedsters T.Terror and V.Fineideath. In fact they almost had to kick my ass to get me into doing this project. I was kinda drifting into too much personal shit. T.Terrors’ consistent nagging for me to get up off my ass and to do this project helped me get my head out of my ass. And this again made me think more about getting Breed moving again. So, after recording Conjuration, The House on Nuclear Hill, and doing some gigs related to that, we really got down to renovating the Breed. In a way, The band has been cursed with bad luck ever since the very get-go of its creation, and these last years has been no exception to the rule. There has been a lot of shitty obstacles and hurdles to get through, from personal shit to more band-related stuff. So, I’m glad we came out ‘head first’ and ended up in a place feeling much more comfortable than we’ve ever felt before.
The lineup’s slightly revamped. Sounds like you’re “in for the kill” with the current members.
S. A. Destroyer: Most definitely, man! The atmosphere in the band nowadays really flipped on the ‘kill-switch’ for us. And I guess the last seven years building up for this really has made the blood-lust in us grow to the point that we’re pretty damn hungry for some new meat and to kick some ass again. As I talked about earlier, that good ol’ feeling is back, and that just takes the band to new levels, man! The fact that we got V.Fineideath on guitars really lifted the band to a new stage of aggression and ‘steadiness.’ He riffs like no one I’ve ever played with before. He’s steady in that Exodus, Slayer kinda way, you know. And this lays down a very tight and machine gun-like mortar to the new songs, that makes it so much more pleasurable laying down the rest of the music. As well as Live, he’s like a wall off tightness and precision, taking the live act to a more aggressive layer than before. Then there is Mr. I.Maztor, who was a big part of the early days of the band, and forging it into what it is today. He was our first permanent lead guitarist, and he did some wicked work on the albums No retreat… No Surrender and The Tools of The Trade, as well as a bunch of EPs, 7″‘s and all the tours and gigs in the ’90s. He took a 10-year retreat back to Alta, at the very top of Norway, in 2001 to take care of his family and re-group his forces. But still playing in bands like Slogstorm and other projects. He came in and added that very rare extra touch to the band. And we almost immediately started working on a new album when he joined us again. kinda like having our personal Randy Rhoads back from the grave. His style, that is very inspired by Adrian Smith and Andy La’Roque, amongst many others, makes up quite an impressive array of feelings and techniques that suits our sound very well, I think. And it makes it feeling like we’re back in the starting pit again, in a positive way of course. This and the fact that T.Terror and I really have found the sound and feeling we’ve been after for so many years, makes the band kick and scream like a mother fucker again.
Looking back on Fields of Rot, what did you do differently on Napalm Nights?
S. A. Destroyer: I guess a whole bunch of things, really. The months leading up to the recording was a bit chaotic in terms of how, when and where to do the actual recording and mixing. At the start of the album process we intended to record the album more or less live, and planned to build a studio in our rehearsal place, having Ravn from 1349 doing the engineering. But we never really got down to doing this because the songs weren’t finished yet and we still worked on how we wanted the sound to be and details like that. We were very sure that this time we wanted the album to be darker and more ‘cruel’ sounding than the previous ones. This is probably just a result of the before mentioned irritation over the weakling sound that overtook the last decades. We simply wanted this album to be raw like a fresh wound and heavy with the influences that made metal into metal in the heydays of the ’70s and ’80s without turning it into a cliché act. Monkey see monkey do, you know. And you add your own twist on it. On the Fields of Rot album we also had most of the songs pre-written and planned out, but the studio was very inexperienced and was only built shortly before the recording. Thus making the album recording a very prolonged adventure both for us and the engineers. It resulted in a very good album and some awesome tracks, but there was a little here and there that should’ve been dealt with. Like the drum sound, for example. It’s a bit too cardboardish’, I think. And my throat was very fucked up around the time I did the vocals, making a lot of [the songs] sounding far from what I had in mind. This time around every key really fitted the lock, so to say. Opposite of the last album and more in thread with what we used to do on the first albums, al ot of the music and sound, and the actual outcome of the tracks, was made and created while in the studio. Killer studio and our co-producer Nicolai Ryen Christiansen is very much to thank for the final outcome of this album. ‘Nico’ really got the clue and essence of what we do and what we where after. And he had tremendous patience, time and effort to put into this album, and I think it really shows in the individual songs and the totality of the final product. He really let us experiment more with sounds and recording settings than we’ve had on previous albums. As well as taking the time to let us write the music in the studio, something I’m sure all engineers find pretty damn boring at times. [Laughs] Compared to former albums, this time it just felt 100 percent right, and the lineup we have now just gave the band back that rotten ol’ feeling we shared in the vile infant days together. I guess this really shines through in the aggressiveness and intensity we ended up with on Napalm Nights. But the most important factor and difference I think, is that we really let all four individuals in the band have time to explore and record their parts to their own fashion and liking. The drums T.Terror put down on the album has a lot of the intensity similar to that of a drummer like Mickey Dee or Lombardo, and that drive was just crucial to getting the songs to plow on like they do. And this comes very much from having the time and right feeling without time pressure and shit like that. When we record we really don’t give a damn what other bands play or how we should try to fit into this whole mishmash of genres and terminologies of it all. We just do our shit as our souls spew it out. And what comes, comes. And like the way I live, out here in the boonies, I have almost no influence or clue of what is really going on out there in the metal landscape. In my mind, it’s still mid-’86, man. And the killer music is chain bombing our ears just outside the door, and the room smells fresh off patches, denim and bullet-belts. So, I guess this makes it easier to create stuff straight from one’s own core of the bone. And that was important during the recording process, to just listen to one’s self without putting down too many boundaries. Playing the songs as they, in a way, asked to be played.
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I like the fact that the music is pretty varied. Was this something you’ve learned to appreciate over time, creating music with different textures and tempos? The thrash is still there, however.
S. A. Destroyer: I’m glad you feel the thrash is still there. It is the one pillar we’ve, at all times, felt closest to. We have always been thrown into the ‘black thrash/neo-thrash’ basket, and that’s OK in some ways. But personally think those terms are a bit meaningless. It is thrash metal through to the core man, with an emphasis on metal in the same breath as thrash. At least as far as Nocturnal Breed goes. I guess the term ‘black thrash’ is more a way of telling folks what music scene this music derives from. And most of the guys from the older bands do come from the black metal scene. Same goes for me, as I did all my first steps as a recording artist through bands such as Gehenna and Satyricon, and of course this shines through every now and then in the music I make. I think on the new album, more than before, we’ve managed to really weave in there our influences through the general sound of the songs and the album as a whole. I guess, we have always been fond of mixing up all our influences into our songs, but this time we, in a way, managed to really underline where the band comes from. In difference from a lot of the other bands from our stable, we are more influenced by American thrash than European. And, in the new songs, I think you can really hear that. Take the track “Thrashiac” and I’ll be sure you can hear the influences from the very early stuff of Nuclear Assault, Exodus, Lääz Rockit or very early Metallica stuff like Kill ‘Em All. Then, if you go to tracks like “The Devil Swept the Ruins”, “Napalm Nights” or “Dragging the Priests” they’re more down the Megadeth, Testament, Metal Church street. But, man, we love to take influences from all kinda places. So, there’s traces of everything from old-school heavy metal like Ozzy’s first three albums and the classic Iron Maiden albums to the good old death metal scene of the mid- to late ’80s. And even all the way to old ’70s and even ’60s stuff. And of course there’s tracks like “The Bitch of Buchenwald”, “Speedkrieg” or the end section of the 13-minutes long “Napalm Nights” that pull much more in the Motorhead-mixed-with-Venom-on-speed kinda sound. But since we are a European band there is of course traces of stuff like old Sodom, Celtic Frost, Destruction, Deathwish or even the classic Norwegian thrash band from the ’80s, Equinox. Also, the reason why the album is varied like it is comes down to the way we mixed and mastered the tracks. We mixed each song separately, and some songs even got instruments recorded with separate sounds. And in doing this we managed to really zoom in and only focus on the feel and story of the individual tracks, and what it needed to kinda pop out and fill its shoes. And it also got mastered in the same studio, making it possible to really get all out of our possibilities sound wise. Nico’ spent tons of hours fine-tuning it. We pushed for an old-school sound and at the same time making it kick hard enough to give the people a jaw break.
Which song or songs came to you first? Is there a song that speaks to you? Maybe one you keep going back to with a smile on your face.
S. A. Destroyer: All the songs on the new album have their own little snippets here and there that take me back to a certain time or feeling. So, it’s kinda hard to pick out one in general. “Thrashiac” is the ‘oldest’ track on the album. I recorded a demo of that one 11 years ago. And as we started rehearsing it we understood this one was a ‘keeper’ for the new album. The “Speedkrieg” song was I.Maztor’s creation, and I remember the day he showed it to us at rehearsal. I guess it instantly kick-started the album process. And it was so good to hear an old-school Breed song again. A track that really makes me grin is the “Krigshisser” track. It means ‘warmonger’ and was written by T.Terror about a year prior to the album recording. But what really makes this one tumble the old memory box is the recording of it. As we brought in my old friend Nocturno Culto on the vocals for it. We had such a killer time in the studio with him and his vocals just ripped like a mutah’fucka out’a Hell, man! And the track, that is more like a bonus track, turned out quite surprising to the fans, I think, pushing that black metal influence pretty far. Songs like “The Bitch of Buchenwald”, “Cursed Beyond Recognition”, “Dragging the Priests” and “Dawn Campaign… Flamethrower Ridge” have a unique feeling to us, since these were all made completely during the recording sessions. “Cursed…” is a very personal song dealing with a personal and band curse we’ve had clamped to my feet since I ever took up my instrument back in 1987. As if dragging the dredge of all Hell’s evil with you at any given time, it gets tiring, I promise. And it effects all of the guys in the band to the point where it’s like a fifth ghost member. Tracks like “The Bitch of Buchenwald” and “Speedkrie” make me smile a bit, even though they take up some pretty serious issues. ‘Cause there’s some people out there that just can’t handle a band that tells a story from the Second World War, without starting yapping about the Nazi stuff. They aren’t smart enough to realize that we write about this kinda stuff because it’s something that people should learn from, you know. It is written from a strictly historical perspective, but I knew we’d get some spittin’ from it. And it already has. [Laughs] You know, If you gonna spend your life worrying about political correctness you might as well just go shoot yourself in the foot in the first place, man. Political correctness is made for and by people who don’t want to know and can’t handle the truth of things. And are content to being led around in blindness like mongrel dogs, brown-nosing their masters for the scraps on their table. I say, put the whole carcass upon the table, and don’t go off hiding the guts and innards just because it is too hard to swallow. I think there is a debate within the metal community that needs to be shaken to its feet. And I might just as well be the one to take the spoon from the mouth and uncork this thorn in everyone’s ass. Even though I’ll probably piss people off; it is pretty annoying for a lot of really good bands and people, how these allegations that this band or that song or album is a ‘nazi song’ or got strings attached to that whole right-winged political side of things. And especially if they derive from the black metal scene, and Norway in particular, it get easily very bad very fast… And it is about due time, I think, that artists and bands should be able to write about or to touch the subject of the matter, be it with hearts of inspiration or through the looking glass of history. Without mixing in the goddamn politics of things. One does not have to be a Nazi or right-wing sympathizer, just because you feel the urge to tell a story from the Second World War, man. Nocturnal Breed has been slapped with this stamp many times, and we’ve even had gigs canceled because of stupid shit like that. I guess it’s time to get back to the school books, people. And see the difference it makes. For me and lots of other artists this is just a way of shedding some light upon uncomfortable themes that need to be included in the mental archives. If you’re not gonna end up with a “golf-ball sized” outlook on things like David Lynch says… There is a bunch of songs on this album that are based in the Vietnam War. I aint hearin’ no complainin’ from neither sides of that war… So, why this fucking hair soreness when it comes to especially the world wars, huh? So, yeah, there’s songs that make me smile a bit now.
The solos have gotten kind of out of hand. In a good way. Where do solos fit in the overall sound spectrum in Nocturnal Breed?
S. A. Destroyer: Hell yeah. Solos got really all out of hand in a very positive way this time. We had no idea how the solos would turn out before I.Maztor came to the studio after we had laid down the ground tracks. He spent only two days and 40 beers recording them, and man it really blew our mind when we heard them. He was definitely back from the grave this time, and with some damned finely honed skills too. The range of his inspiration is so wide, it makes you go all ways and sideways at the same time. He jumps easily from the 1960s Hendrix/Doors-inspired end section of the title track “Napalm Nights” to the finger-bending early King Diamond and Iron Maiden-inspired stuff he lays down on tracks like “The Devil Swept the Ruins”, “Dawn Campaign…” and “Dragging the Priests”. We have always had good lead guitarist in the band. And ever since the start of the band I was determined to always have killer solos on all songs on all albums. So, even the demos we made in ’96 and ’97 have some killer solos on them. I guess this makes us a little different from the other bands from our corner. We just want those killer old-school heavy metal solos in there, and my man Maztor is sure as Hell one of the best at what he does.
The vocals on Napalm Nights have changed a bit. There’s a bit more rasp, different ways of presenting the vocals. Sort of like Schmier mixed with Souza mixed with Lemmy. Was that the idea?
S. A. Destroyer: Well, first off, thanks for the comparison man, they’re three of my all-time inspirations, besides many others. But the idea was just to try to use the whole range of my vocals and try to nail it onto tape this time. And as I said earlier, I’ve never fully felt that I got to put down the vocals like I’ve had in mind. And this time I really felt like they hit the target. I never try to mimic anyone, but of course when my voice turns a little Lemmyish it gives of the same feel. I like using this and mixing it with the more aggressive vocals, and the low dirty ones to kinda give the song its right feeling. And it’s cool to have a couple ‘moods’ to choose from and not just one long constant whine. Nocturno Culto really helped us out, as he laid down backing vocals and barks here and there on half of the songs on the album. This really made the ‘thrash choirs’ punch you in the face like Exodus or Accept, and it took the vocals many a’notch up.
The war theme continues on Napalm Nights. Are you specifically referencing a war, a battle, or a time in which war was conducted?
S. A. Destroyer: I study my history well before I get into the actual writing process. Many of the stories got handed down to me by my own family and grandparents and such. And I guess they just got stuck, and force themselves out through the music. In a way, it’s not like I can choose. I’m sure a lot of musicians and artists can relate to this. Some songs or titles or lyrics just pick you to tell their story or to express that specific felling or message through art. And there is no way that thought is gonna let your soul get any rest before you have gotten down to doing something about it. And that is just what happened on many of the tracks on the new album as well. All the war-related stories on the new album are true, and based on actual historical events. I find it much more rewarding and interesting doing the research and really getting into the matter of what the story and music are suppose to portray then to take the easy way out and just fill in the blanks with pointless words and sentences. Tracks like “The Devil Swept The Ruins”, “Napalm Nights” and “Dawn Campaign… Flamethrower Ridge” are based on true stories and battles that took place in the Vietnam War. From the carnage at Khe’Sanh to the death-hills of the A’Shau-Valley and the Ho-Chi-Minh trail bombings, etc. And in a way this album is a hats-off salute to the feterans of this and of all other wars through history. As previously mentioned, the tracks “SpeedKrieg” and “The Bitch of Buchenwald” have been taken from the iron-grey history pages of the Second World War. As has the cut “Krigshisser D.N.K”, but more from the perspective of the Norwegian resistance during WW2. My family is tied to this war in so many ways. And in a way, I guess they are much of the reason why I have become such a history nerd. As I grew up, I was constantly surrounded by books containing harrowing photos and epic tales from most wars on this planet. My dad comes from a long line of navy marines, and he was an elite navy seal and a deep-sea diver for most of my upbringing, and looking through his books as a kid, I got inspiration for a lifetime of creativity. Those wicked photos and stories get to you after a while, as one grows older and becomes more conscious to the world around. My grandfather was in the UK-Norwegian convoys, trying to duck the torpedoes of the U-Boats, while my grandmother was back home and helped out the resistance, she was also tortured at interrogations, as was my other grandfather who spent several years in a concentration camp. My father’s aunt, sadly, was a Hitler Jugend and got caught in Berlin in the last days of the war, and was sent to a Russian gulag in Siberia. She told me some of the most gruesome shit I’ve ever heard in my whole life. Trust me! The stories these family members told me have been very influential on my view of the world. And as they used to take me with them when I was only 8-10 years old to these invalid veterans meetings. And I’m sure you understand what an extreme impression it was to a young boy talking to people who had survived Auschwitz and other death camps, and seeing the blackness in their eyes as their stories took them back to that Hell on earth. So as you see, this war influence has always been there, deep in my bones. And I’m sure that is why I tend to write so many songs about it, too. It’s been a constant on all the albums in some way or the other.
Is there a particular war that fascinates you?
S. A. Destroyer: Oh, I’ve had my ‘crush’ on most of them wars, but the World Wars is, of course, an ever-present theme I go back to over and over again. Both WW1 and WW2 were just so insanely cruel and bursting with evil inventiveness, but so filled with tragedy and shared horror, it’s just mind-blowing to study at times. Take a story like “The Bitch of Buchenwald”. This story has been taken from history and took place at the infamously cruel concentration camp in Buchenwald, one of the first and largest camps in Germany. The prisoners here had a life expectancy of only three months. The camp was presided over by SS Officer and Commander Carl Koch, one of Himmler’s protégés, notorious for his wicked methods of torture, cruel disciplinarian ways and sadistic tendencies. His wife, Ilse Koch had risen from the working classes to the Nazi-elite in a short time, and she reveled in the power it gave her. She led a life of luxury and privilege, though surrounded by death and degradation everywhere. They lived just outside the camps perimeter fence with their children. As well as prisoners that served as servants who tended to her every sick whim. She used to tease them half-naked as they served her in bed. And in Ilse’s dining room where she entertained guests and played with her children, it was decorated with shrunken heads from the Buchenwald doctors pathology lab and lamps made of human skin. She loved dominating the inmates, mocking the dying prisoners with her sexuality, and dressing in provocative clothes, exhibiting herself to the prisoners and guards. She rapidly got to be known as “The bitch of Buchenwald” or the Commanduce. She was exhilarated and drawn into the killing as if possessed. And personally selected out prisoners and loved both taking part and watching the camp punishments. She often picked her targets from horseback and later had them sentenced to death, killed, and then flayed. If she liked the “prison number” she got them cut off and used for her lamp shades. A special camp workshop was set up to make the skin artifacts. There were lamp shades of human skin and book covers with prisoners’ tattoos, which was often given away as gifts to other high ranking Nazis. Prisoners were also forced to decorate the skin of their dead comrades for this same purpose. And she made the camp doctors collect prisoners skin, with tattoos on.
As the war came to an end. She tried simply to blended back into the population. But her contribution to the atrocities that took place in Buchenwald death-camp caught up with her. And in 1947 she was imprisoned and sentenced to life in prison. She denied everything and after 24 years incarcerated, she committed suicide in 1967, by hanging herself with the cell’s bed sheets. She never showed any remorse… Shit like this just needs to be told, you know. There are lessons in history, and it sure inspires me to write its sick story. But on this album there’s a strong link back to the Vietnam War, which I’ve been very fascinated by since I was very young. And when T.Terror came up with the title, and we’d already for years wanted to do an album inspired by that war, we just felt it was time to unleash the jungle-madness. And if you read the lyrics and get deep into the songs referring to that I’m sure you’ll be able to feel the heat and the mud and crippling conditions those boys had to go through.
Nocturnal Breed was part of the late-‘90s thrash revival. Thrash is back again. What do you make of the younger generation of thrash?
S. A. Destroyer: I think it’s bout’ fuckin’ time this scene rises and gets some recognition for what it has been laying down. As I said, I live way out in nowhere, so I don’t get the latest news and bands and such, but from what I’ve seen it’s fucking awesome that there are so many new killer thrash bands out there plowing through the fields again. The metal dry-spell through the ’90s and into the new millennia made it pretty clear that razor-edged music was slowly dying. And I personally think that most of the big old giants from the ’80s like Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax or Destruction, for that sake, and so many more, should be grateful there were bands and fans still out there, who refused to forget the amazing music and feeling from the past. And that still banged their heads to the metal drums, even though the entire metal world was fading into piles of uninspired albums, hardcore hip-hop metal, fabricated black metal, hipster dufus emos, wet Limp Biscuits everywhere and Korn’ish high school metal and grunge foaming through the financial systems and out of our TVs and radios. In fact, the whole metal community worldwide was chain-fed and drowned in this shit spewing from the asshole of record labels, wannabe artists and money whores, only seeing the dollar sign in the shit they put out there. It was like the genocide of classic old-school metal music. And it is a big inspiration as the whole scene is kicking back from the gutters, showing there’s still life in this old horse. And doing what we do and did back then, side by side with bands like Darkthrone, Aura Noir, Infernö, Overkill, Sodom, Audiopain, Gehennah, Sabbat (Japan) and so many others who carried the flame through those weakling years of metal; it seems in hindsight to be a force that stood its ground fiercely and thoroughly. And luckily for many of the older bands that desperately changed styles from album to album, trying to fit the perfect pattern of the ‘market’ of those miserable years in metal history, we kept the leather-heated and the blood-thirst alive until they could get back in the saddle again. I see now that there is a lot of younger fans into thrash and old-school music who got into this though the ‘black thrash/neo thrash’ scene, and not through those old runners. And that kinda proves the point for me. I got no beef with those older bands. And I’m glad most of them are back in the game, ripping eardrums again. But there has to be some self-reflection involved here, guys, ’cause man, the truth is, there was so many weird and shitty attempts at finding the perfect ‘metal sound’ for the ’90s. And it was just as bad, at times, even worse in the first years of the millennia. So, yes, I’m both proud and glad the thrash metal movement is really stirring up some noise again.
Any chance of Nocturnal Breed hitting the states?
S. A. Destroyer: Yes, in fact, there is. We’re currently working with ‘Signature Riff’ on laying down a headlining tour on the East Coast. We got a bunch of really loyal speed metal legion fans in LA and NY–and all over in the US–who have been waiting for far too long for us to come over to kick their asses, so it’s about due time people don’t u think? So put on them’ tight-ass denim pants, put on yer’ spiked vest and get ready to lay low the ramparts thrashiacs!
** Nocturnal Breed’s new album, Napalm Nights, is out now on CD and LP on Agonia Records. Various thrashtastic configurations are available HERE.
Gospel of the Witches is a new project of Karyn Crisis (Crisis), Davide Tiso (Ephel Duath), Ross Dolan (Immolation), Danny Walker (Intronaut). If the lineup wasn’t cool enough, the musical statement — made by Ephel Duath’s Tiso — is quite something else. Check out Crisis’s explanation of the project.
Says Crisis: “The album is a bold statement and an epic, unabashedly emotional work of devotion to the ultimate expression of the power of the fires of transformation: The Witch. Davide has a haunting ability to generate undeniably emotional landscapes with his guitar, and these songs twist and turn into darkness and then transmute into heartbreaking beauty and light. As a testament to Ancient Ways and the union of opposites, I explore the feminine power in my voice on this album and couple it with Ross’s intensely masculine vocal power to create a consistent theme of thickly layered vocal choruses. Danny will round out these 13 dark mantras with thunderous drums. Take the tendrils of my unstoppable voice into the Great Mysteries… or run for the hills.”
The group are funding the project via Kickstarter for recording, mixing, mastering, and manufacturing costs. To support the project, click HERE
Some of the rewards for fans who donate through Kickstarter include: vinyl, CD and digital versions of the album; t-shirts; and original Karyn Crisis artwork – from a “hardbound lyric book with handwritten lyrics and drawings,” to an opportunity to collaborate directly with Crisis on an original painting.
To check out in demo form, well, they have song, “Howl at the Moon”, available HERE.
One of the least brewtal beers we included in our Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers had to have been Shmaltz’s He’Brew Jewbelation Sweet 16. Well, the beer itself was pretty insane—16 hop varieties, 16 types of malt and brewed to 16% ABV—but the pastel-colored label, complete with little dancing unicorns, didn’t accurately represent the beer inside. Jewbelation is the brewery’s anniversary beer, so every year, they go one notch bigger with the hops/malt/ABV. And since 2012 was their “Sweet 16,” they packaged it accordingly. Their most recent anniversary brew (actually released in 2013, but still in tip-top shape) is, of course, all about 17, and it’s that much bigger and gnarlier. The “reborn” part of the name refers to the fact that Shmaltz now has its own brewery. For its first 16 years it contracted another brewery to make its beer. This is called being a “phantom” or “gypsy” brewer now, but back in the day, being a contract craft brewer that relied on others to make your product was looked down on by some. Oh how times have changed.
He’Brew Jewbelation Reborn 17
Clifton Park, NY
Just so you can see exactly what 17 different kinds of hops and 17 different kinds of malts look like, here’s the complete list of both. HOPS: Warrior, Columbus, Apollo, Palisade, Golding, Tettnang, Ahtanum, Cascade, Czech Saaz, Centennial, Chinook, Santiam, Simcoe, Summit, Amarillo, Citra and Crystal. Typically a combination of a few hop varieties are used in most beers, some for bittering, some for aroma. Recently single-variety brews have become popular. This is kind of the opposite of both. It’s basically a dogs breakfast of hops, and we can assure you that none particularly stand out.
On the MALTS side we have: 2-Row, Vienna, Munich, Spelt, Rye, Wheat, Einkorn, Emmer, Chocolate, Crystal Rye, Dark Crystal, Roasted Barley, Roasted Wheat, Flaked Oats, Caramunich 40, Carapilsner and Kiln Amber. Malt can add both flavor and color and because this brew is basically black there seems to be plenty of dark malts in it. We’re guessing that this combination of malts was less about flavor-building and more about just being able to claim that there are 17 different kinds in there.
Now, as much as we may chide the (probably) unnecessarily long ingredient list, the beer itself, as it turn out, is quite something. Like the anniversary it’s celebrating, however, you’ll only want this about once a year. And why not now during the Jewish Passover? It is kosher, after all. But at 17% ABV it’s also way stronger than wine.
Beers this big, in fact, are different beasts altogether. We can assure you, you won’t want more than about a 10- to 12-ounce pour of this, so plan on sharing a bottle with someone. It’s not because the beer is bad, it’s just incredibly intense. The closest thing to compare Jewbelation to would be a Russian Imperial Stout. Visually it looks like one and it has a lot of the same aromatic characteristics: dark chocolate, cherry, booze, coconut, vanilla. Based on that, you can see where this might be heading taste-wise.
This is a mouthful all right. There aren’t too many beers out there that have an alcohol sting to them, but this one certainly does in the long, lingering bitter finish. Not surprisingly, there is a hell of a lot of sweetness here. A mountain of malt must have gone into it. There are notes of chocolate, coffee, cherry, smoke, macerated raisins and burnt marshmallows (right at the finish). And, oh yeah, booze. Did we mention the booze? Yikes. It’s like someone dropped a shot of Canadian whisky in our imperial stout.
Every craft beer drinker should know what a 16% or 17% ABV brew tastes like. These aren’t easy to make well and they require a lot of effort and a shit-ton of ingredients. The results may not be to your taste, but they are something to behold. And keep this in mind if you do try one: drinking half of this 22 oz. bottle is the approximate equivalent to drinking three 5% ABV beers. Seriously, sip it slowly, enjoy its complexities, admire its strength and then wait another year for Jewbelation 18 to arrive so you can repeat the experience.
Adem Tepedelen’s new craft beer book, Decibel Presents the Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing’s Outer Limits, is now available in the Decibel online store.
There’s nothin’ creepier than 50-year-old men singing about lovin’ up a 17 year old girl. Enjoy.
Record Store Day (RSD) is tomorrow, April 19th. Record Store Day was created to celebrate and extract cash from habitual brick and mortar record store junkies (hey, Decibel are record store junkies). But the best thing about RSD is that labels, large and small, produce cool one-offs for collectors (nay, junkies) to stash, drool on, or, let’s be honest, eBay.
One such label is Baltimore-based A389 Recordings. They’ve corralled Noisem and Occultist, where they cover Repulsion’s “Slaughter Of The Innocent” and The Plasmastics’ “The Damned”, respectively. Check them out below!
Everyone understands that some punters can’t make it out to RSD, so A389 will have a limited amount of 7″s available — strictly 100 — via the label’s webstore. The 7″ features a kick-ass cover by Szymon Siech and said 7″ comes with “a huge 24×36 movie poster”, which is rad for rehearsal rooms and lonely bedrooms.
The Noisem/Occultist is available HERE at midnight on 4/19.
The Noisem/Occultist split is part of A389′s split series. So far A389 has nailed down a split with Ilsa/Vegas, which featured cover songs from the movie, Bedazzled. Weird, yes. Awesome, yes.
Finally, it’s here! I’m referring to the one weekend every year when even the brightest eyed, bushiest tailed Christian joins our cult of death for 48 hours and worships the treachery of friends, agonizing torture and public humiliation, and the brutal suffocation of a (reportedly) innocent life, just before we all pay lip service to the pagan feast day honoring the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn.
To celebrate, we here at Decibel bring you a special introduction to German doom/death collective Decembre Noir. Taking cues from their spiritual brethren in Katatonia, Swallow the Sun and other great purveyors of the style, Decembre Noir have concocted a prime example of brooding, disconsolate metal that is musically rich and emotionally fulfilling.
On May 9th, the label FDA Rekotz will release DN’s debut album, A Discouraged Believer, to the general public. Right now, you can hear the album’s closing track, “Escape to the Sun”, while you get to know the band through the brief interview we conducted with them through email. Hail Doom!
Your bio sounds intriguing. When the band was just a duo, what kinds of sounds/songs rose from that working relationship? What kinds of ideas/feelings were driving the creation?
The idea for Decembre Noir was created [at] a birthday party where I met our former drummer Daniel. We both played in other bands but we also were addicted to this style of metal [that] Decembre Noir stands for. We met one time a week and tested our opportunities very emotional [sic]. So the songs were created only by a guitar and the drums without lyrics or a voice. A lot of the songs on our album emerged there, but they changed [through] the influence of our new band members.
How did the inclusion of new members reshape the direction of Decembre Noir?
Everyone who got into the band discovered something and built it up his own way with his own way of playing. Our members changed but the hardest change was when Daniel, our drummer and founder of the band, left us. We broke away with the original thoughts of pure Doom and it seems that the band very naturally forms itself without [external] forces and creates its style in this way.
What are the DN members’ backgrounds? What kind of musical or non-musical experiences do they bring to the energy in DN?
We all arise from much faster and harder bands of Death and Black Metal. [Some of us] have already played together in different bands for many years. I [played] with Mike (bass) when I was a boy. Sometimes we are proud of this . Except for our singer Lars, each and every one of us played together with the others and not only with the instrumentation [we use in] Decembre Noir. Lars was picked by us [to give] the band his voice. Everyone has his own knowledge and imaginations which he wants to contribute into the music. But every one of us is a living human being with [unique] experiences.
How/where was the album recorded?
Lars had a contact to Alexander (Ali) Dietz form Heaven Shall Burn. Both know each other since many years. Ali owns the “Chemical Burn Studio” and brought the “Projekt Mayham” on its way in cooperation with Eike O. Freese. For me it’s a fantastic collaboration. I think we grew up during the work in the studio. At the beginning we were a loose bunch of musicians, and [we came] out as a real band. The demands of Ali were extreme high. At the beginning we didn’t know if we could meet them. But with every passing hour we felt more comfortable and had a lot of funny moments. The next album will be recorded with Ali and Eike too.
What are your feelings about the new album? Is it a relief for you to release it now? Is there a sense of finality now that it is finished, or a sense that you will continue with the work you’ve done on A Discouraged Believer?
There are a lot of feelings. For me it’s a relief ‘cause it took so many years to put the songs on a record. The changes in the band throw us back again and again. But there is no point of finishing. The songs will be performed every time and are the basis for new material – not to copy them but create continuation and a development.
Who is the Discouraged Believer? Why did that song lend its title to the whole album?
There is a common theme straight through the album and the order of the songs is not random. They tell a story, show us a way, where lot of people will find themselves. Discouraged Believer was the [perfect title to fit the topic].
How have your live shows been going?
I think our performances are developing all the time. At the beginning we had trembling legs and sweating hands. Today there is much more energy on stage. The increasing resonance makes it easier. Until now we have played in small and middle sized clubs and look forward for the festivals. But also there are recordings taken by mobiles which make us beat our heads on the desk or laugh without an end. But also that’s a way for growing up. We became a live performing band already before recording the album.
To preorder Decembre Noir’s A Discouraged Believer, head over to the FDA Rekotz online store. For more Decembre Noir info, check out the band’s Facebook page.
This bit of news may be a week or two old, but considering the connection to the Decibel family and that this album is one of the unsung, unheralded, un-everything albums of the 2000′s that you probably don’t own but should, we felt it merited some more mention. Here are a few informational snippets from the official Earsplit PR press release:
“Newly-launched, Detroit-based Corpse Flower Records is extremely pleased to release the vinyl edition of I Was Your City from now-defunct gloom-trodden hardcore assassins, Playing Enemy…Initially released on Hawthorne Street Records nearly a decade ago, the Corpse Flower edition of I Was Your City was mastered for vinyl by James Plotkin (OLD, Scorn, Khanate, Khlyst etc.) with design/layout by Demian Johnston and is limited to 300 hand-numbered copies: 250 on white vinyl and 50 on purple sunburst.”
“Playing Enemy was forged following the dissolution of Seattle hard-core merchants Kiss It Goodbye in 1998. Featuring drummer Andrew Gormley (Rorschach, Die 116), singer/guitarist Demian Johnston (Undertow, nineironspitfire) and bassist Thom Rusnak (Rorschach, Ambush), Playing Enemy released their debut, Caesarean, on Escape Artist Records in 2001. Soon after, Rusnak fled the band and was replaced by Shane Mehling, solidifying the trio. What followed were a slew of shows, including the opening slot on Converge’s Jane Doe tour and Botch’s farewell, before the release of the Ephemera EP. The band toured for the next few years, sharing the stage with bands such as Mastodon, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Isis and Coalesce while they composed material for what would end up being their second and final full-length, I Was Your City, released by Hawthorne Records in 2005. Accessory, a 70-minute companion piece, soon followed. After further touring, the band began to demo for a new full-length, but in 2006 decided to part ways. Their last EP, My Life As The Villain, was released posthumously by Hex Records in 2008. Johnston and Mehling continue to play together in Great Falls, and Gormley has formed the band Spacebag.”
Good lord! Reading through those couple of paragraphs is like a re-immersion into the coolest parts of my record collection and one of the most exciting eras of extreme music history. And makes me feel a lot older than I felt about 20 seconds ago. In looking around the interhole for any amount of follow-up info on this long-awaited vinyl release, one significant item that has been omitted pertains to how I Was Your City was not only a cantankerously grating work, but that it loosely (OK, not-so-loosely) chronicled the waning days of Johnston’s then-crumbling romantic relationship. Personally, I’ve always held …City up as the ultimate break-up record; it’s full of bare honesty and bald emotion. Various death metallers can fuck their exes with knives or what have you, but it always seemed much more real to listen to Johnston wrangling bizarre chords and twisted melodies while singing about empty houses, his calls going unanswered, sleepless transatlantic flights and his day-to-day suffering in solitude. Anyway, ordering info at the bottom after a stream and some purdy pictures.
I Was Your City is available via Corpse Flower Records: