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:
We’re still recovering from a long, drunken, ripping Sunday night in Silver Spring, MD, the last (slam) dance of the third annual Decibel Magazine Tour. Regional openers Coke Bust got their moniker hilariously plastered on the Fillmore’s marquee; Noisem, Gorguts and the Black Dahlia Murder were in full take-no-prisoners mode; and Carcass blasted through over 25 years of classics in an unforgettable 90-minute finale.
The last date was certainly one to remember — 75% of the dB staff was in attendance, trying to avoid the creep trudging around in the “Fuck Muslims” shirt — but the entire endeavor was a rousing success for death metal in 2014. Approximately 17,000 people attended the 21-date tour! Thanks to all of the bands and crew whose sweat and blood made the third time the harm, and most importantly, thank YOU for unfailingly supporting the magazine and the stellar bands we cover. Stay tuned for announcements regarding our fourth annual tour later this year!
Back in 2010, Scion ran the “No Label Needed” contest in which the car company enabled a band to “receive insight and instruction on the music industry from music industry professionals while recording an EP at the Machine Shop” (you can read more about it here). Minnesota’s Iron Thrones came away winners and proceeded to put out The Wretched Sun later that year, which we covered in our November 2010 issue. So when “I Once Had The Crown” randomly showed up on our iPod the other day, we remembered not only how much we enjoyed said EP, but that the quartet unfortunately broke up in 2012. Fortunately guitarist Steve Henningsgard was kind enough to catch us up.
The Wretched Sun by Iron Thrones
Last time we talked about Iron Thrones in 2011, you guys were in the midst of writing a new record. Fast forward to 2014 and the band is no longer–what happened?
We ended up calling it a day towards the end of 2012, playing a final show and going our separate ways. As far as “what happened,” I think each of us has his own opinions. Writing stagnated, shows became less frequent. For my part, I had some things I needed to sort through, and I feel like I ended up sort of taking the band down with me. Sometimes it’s hard to articulate exactly why bands fail, or why any relationships fail, for that matter. First you start getting annoyed with each other, then you stop screwing, then you stop talking…in a relationship, I mean. Not in a band. Well, unless that’s your band’s thing, I guess. I can’t even imagine how complicated that could get. Anyway, I think in the end we decided to call it quits rather than forcing another album out, potentially releasing music that we didn’t fully believe in.
Will any of the post-Wretched Sun tunes ever surface? I don’t know how far along you guys got, but you told me that at the time that you were really pushing yourselves to expand your sound and evolve as songwriters, while keeping true to the sound you’d established–any thoughts years later on those new tunes?
We’ve thrown the idea around a few times. I’ve been listening to the jam sessions [drummer] Pete [Clarke] and I did in early 2012, and I feel like there are some great songs hiding in there. We had a couple of songs nearing completion, and a couple more that needed more work. I think we’d all agree that if we do release anything new, it won’t be half-assed. We’ll either put in the time and make another record we’re completely proud of, or we won’t do it at all.
What are you up to now? I know in 2011 you produced a record for Orwell, but are you still playing music and/or producing albums? What are the other guys up to?
[Vocalist] Adam [Clemans] took over as Wolvhammer’s vocalist a few years back and just finished tracking for their new record. He also sings in Liar In Wait, who’s finishing up writing their first (and undoubtedly, wonderfully depressing) LP, as a follow-up to the EP they released last year. [Bassist] Curt [Parker] moved to Washington and has been playing guitar and singing in Witch Ripper, which started as his beardtastic solo project. They should be entering the studio again pretty soon. Pete’s been working on new material for his band Bill Pulmonary Embolism, which started as his crazy metal solo project years ago and is now a full band filled with really talented musicians. He’s also getting married soon. As for myself, I’ve ended up back in college, so that’s taking up most of my time. Musically, I’ve been working on writing a second EP for Shaidar Logoth, which a black metal project Adam and I started a few years ago, and sooner or later a barbecue-rock band Pete and I play in (Goddamn BBQ) will end up releasing an album that we’ve been sitting on for the last couple of years. Oh yeah, Adam Tucker (a most excellent local engineer and the bassist in Bill Pulmonary Embolism) and I released two really stupid albums as SHIT!Japan last year, which we (drunkenly) recorded and he mixed in an hour or two each. In summary, we’ve all stayed pretty busy.
It’s been four years or so since the Scion contest–looking back, what are your reflections on the whole experience? Is there anything that you took away from it that you still find valuable? What’s one piece of advice you’d give to an unsigned band?
I sometimes forget just how surreal the whole experience was. Up until that point, the growth of our band was pretty organic. We’d gotten some underground attention after releasing our first album for free (which was less common then), but for the most part, no one knew who we were. That’s still true, but as a result of the Scion contest, all of a sudden we had reviews in magazines, regular posts on the bigger metal blogs, some college radio play, and ended up touring with a band on Relapse, a label who’d released several of our favorite records. It was really cool, and really strange at the same time. Fortunately, everyone we met was really cool to us, even though we were just a bunch of random dudes who won some car company’s random contest. If we had written another album, I’m sure most of them would’ve tried to help us out in some way, even though the contest was over.
I think if I had to give unsigned bands one piece of advice, it would be to decide what matters to you from the very beginning, and just focus on whatever that is. If your music is what matters to you, just focus completely on your music, and fucking forget about everything else. If your music resonates with others, they will let you know, and will ask you for it. If not, who fucking cares. Never stop playing.
What’s your fondest IT-related memory?
When we were mixing Visions of Light, there came a point when all of a sudden, our engineer told us some of the plug-ins we were using were going to expire. It turned out that there was only one afternoon that would work for me to come finish mixing, so the process was pretty hectic. At one point though, everything suddenly jelled, and I was just overcome with emotion honestly. The recording process had taken many months, and the band had gone through some pretty significant changes, so it was sort of a miracle it got finished at all. When I listen to that record now, it all comes back sometimes and I get a little choked up. I’ve heard a lot of artists say they don’t like listening to their own music, and I never really understood that. Why create music and release it if it doesn’t make you fucking lose your shit when you listen to it?
Tell us about some current bands and albums you’re digging.
I really dug the newest Cult of Luna (Vertikal) and Dillinger Escape Plan (One of Us is the Killer). Adam occasionally sends me new stuff to listen to, and I’m digging the new Monvment demo (I) and the new Odz Manouk/Tukaaria split. I haven’t been staying up to date on new music as well as I used to though, to be honest. It was important for me to get away from it for a while, and I’ve just been getting back into it in the last few months. It’s nice though; it feels like coming home.
You can check out Iron Thrones’ back catalog on Bandcamp here.
As every Flexi lover and vinyl nerd knows this Saturday is Record Store Day. There’s no one better to break down what it all means than our main man, Low Fidelity columnist and record store employee Neill Jameson. He is the brains behind the great black metal band Krieg and also survived years as a member of Twilight. They put out their final record this year.
Record Store Day, celebrated this Saturday, is supposed to be a yearly “holiday” that promotes the brick and mortar indie record store, with exclusive in-store releases. Some shops hold performances, listening parties and probably mustache and fancy hat contests. Every year since 2008 it’s grown into a nearly uncontrollable monster. This year’s RSD list looks like a fucking college science class and has somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 releases. It’s built to be the day for us, the mom and pops of the music industry, to make people aware that we exist and you just got your tax return so come spend it.
RSD was formed off the hump of Free Comic Book Day. Both “holidays” have the same goal and both have exclusive releases to draw new people into old stores. There are rules: namely one copy per person and don’t throw this shit online to sell at inflated prices to people who had to work, go to a funeral, or were just too fucking lazy to leave the house and come grab whatever tickles their fancy.
Rules are made to be broken, right? This whole shebang is getting corrupted by people who line up the night before to grab the most wanted items, only to put them on eBay two hours later for the price of a down payment on a pony. We know who they are, too: always the asshole you’ve never seen before except for the week or two before the event who asks detailed questions about what you’re getting and can you break the rules and hold it for them? It’s the “my friend won’t be able to make it, can I have two copies?” sort of thing.
This brings us to the big problem, which is quantity. I’ve been told every year by distributors that I don’t understand allocation, numbers or how not to curse in emails asking why we only got two copies when we preordered 20. How can this, the greatest tragedy affecting this nation, be allowed? I know, it’s a national shame, probably the president’s fault. If this reaction seems like farfetched tunnel vision nonsense then you’re a rational person. Congratulations, your card is in the mail.
Record stores only get a certain amount of titles regardless of how we preordered or what back alley deal we made to make sure you got that fucking Grateful Dead live DLP with a piece of Garcia’s hair. We don’t have any kind of idea what we’re getting until the box gets to us days before. This can actually turn away customers because if they waited in line, especially at stores with a massive customer base, looking around the store for other records doesn’t seem as special anymore. That’s counterproductive to the whole idea.
Of course, not everyone is a sore loser and some people just come out to see the spectacle, like watching people beat the shit out of each other to save twenty bucks on a television on Black Friday.
Last year, I was out of town for RSD so I missed the fun here but I did my duty as a music fan and observer of humanity and shopped around in Columbus, Ohio, which has a plethora of indie record stores. Stores looked like bombs had detonated. The staff would tell me about the initial rush and then how the day progressed. Some of these places had bands performing, including one small upstairs space that was ill-equipped (but they had free beer and it seemed like a good idea even while hung-over at 11 a.m.) Others were having special giveaways, raffles, even sales.
Stores like Amoeba, Vintage Vinyl, Reckless etc. all have performances but even many of the more modestly sized stores like Sit and Spin in Philly have special listening parties and giveaways. It’s a day where stores do their best to give you a reason to wander into the big and scary world and check out their wares, an act showing how much their store means to them.
RSD should be used to say thanks to our regular customers, the ones who keep our lights on all year, and not those looking to make a buck on the back of someone’s passion. RSD has had a lot of criticism leveled against it, especially once the majors started throwing releases into the mix, and a lot is justified. It has turned into a spectacle where greed is good and money is king, where a record will sell out in a few hours and go online for eight times the prices only to deflate back to ten dollars days later. It’s a shame that it takes the promise of exclusivity to bring people in, but that’s the culture of the collector and that’s where it seems records are ending up.
I don’t issue perfect scores to new albums very often. As Craig Hayes so eloquently wrote a couple weeks ago, positivity and over-praise is a plague in metal criticism, so much so that some publications so constantly hover in the 7 to 10-out-of-10 that a 6 is a negative rating. Ratings, to be honest, are so arbitrary, and I’ll actually let you in on a little secret of mine: whenever I have to issue a rating for Decibel magazine or any other outlet I write for, I always deduct one point from what I instinctively think it should be, because in the long run that’s eventually how I’ll feel about the record after the initial wave of enthusiasm has worn off.
The TEN, however, is a rating I only reserve for something I deem to be a classic, an essential album that represents the pinnacle of an artist’s career and exemplifies the very best of whatever genre it represents. I last gave a ten to Mastodon’s Blood Mountain in 2006, and I’ll readily admit now I jumped the gun there. It’s a great album, but more of an eight. There are so many albums coming out every year, so much mediocrity and so little true excellence, that I simply could not envision many metal albums at all, if any, from the last eight years that qualify as a “classic”. Lots of very good, a few truly excellent, but nothing earth-shattering, if anything a reflection of the period of stasis the genre is in right now.
That said, the worm seems to be turning. Sure, the ratio of “must buy” new albums and the rest of the lot is still miniscule, hovering around one out of every 20, but the standouts in the first half of 2014 have been exceptional. And lo and behold, this week sees the release of an album I confidently feel is a perfect ten.
After Celtic Frost’s astonishing final album Monotheist in 2006, my reaction to Eparistera Daimones, the debut album by Thomas Fischer’s new band Triptykon was more measured than a lit of critics. I was thoroughly impressed but not enraptured, the album feeling like the man was still trying to get used to his new role, even though musically Triptykon is basically an extension of the Monotheist sound. The haunting and dynamic “Shatter” from 2012, however, really hammered home what this band could be capable of, and in my mind restored hope that this band could knock the next album into the stratosphere.
Nothing has changed in Fischer’s approach on Melana Chasmata, only that the execution is sublime, powerful, and dare I say, immaculate. More than anything, this album is a perfect encapsulation of all musical strengths in Fischer’s arsenal: doom, death, thrash, and gothic, four of the many styles of extreme metal he had an enormous impact on. “Tree of Suffocating Souls” and “Breathing” are examples of Fischer at his most outwardly brutal. The expansive trio of “Auroræ”, “Demon Pact”, and “In The Sleep Of Death” form a stunning centerpiece as the music becomes less pulverizing and claustrophobic, while “Boleskine House” ranks as one of the most sublime pieces he has ever written, in which ugliness and beauty interweave in sultry fashion, his ragged singing juxtaposed with a soothing woman’s voice in Leonard Cohen-esque fashion. It’s foul, it’s beautiful, it’s colossal, it’s seductive. And it’s perfect.
Also out this week:
Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Check ‘Em Before You Wreck ‘Em (Rise Above): These English heavy rockers blew me away a couple years ago with Don’t Heat It…Fear It!, and the follow-up confidently continues the ferocious, Budgie-meets-Sir Lord Baltimore momentum of that record. This is no mere aping of circa-1973 heavy rock either; these guys know how to write engaging songs, and this album not only scratches that retro itch that only Rise Above can deliver, but there’s genuine nuance on these tracks, not to mention an enormous sense of fun on such standouts as “Do It Now”, “Shaker Your Head”, and “The Thicker the Better”.
Black Sabbath, The Complete Studio Albums (1970-1978) (Rhino): There’s essential, and there’s mandatory. If you do not own these albums, then check your metal cred at the door. However, it’s better late than never, and it’s great to see these remastered Black Box reissues repackaged into a much more affordable package. Sure, two albums are, erm, less than consistent, but the other six contain some of the greatest music ever recorded.
Gamma Ray, Empire Of The Undead (Armoury): I’ve been spouting the same complaint about Gamma Ray for years and years: Kai Hansen is one of the best songwriters power metal has ever seen – the man is responsible for Helloween’s seminal work after all – but as a singer he is poorly suited, with a voice far too thin for a style that demands power and charisma. With a Michael Kiske or Ralf Scheepers singing his material, it sounds fantastic, but since 1995 Hansen has led the way, and Gamma Ray’s music has suffered all the while. Still, they remain inexplicably popular, and at the very least this 11th album is the band’s most consistent in years. So if you don’t mind hearing Hansen struggle his way through an otherwise rampaging song like “Hellbent”, then please, by all means enjoy.
Hedvig Mollestad Trio, Enfant Terrible (Rune Grammofon): I was a big fan of this Norwegian band’s combination of Melvins-style grooves, shredding, and jazz on the 2011 debut Shoot!, and this follow-up to last year’s All of Them Witches is their best effort yet, thanks in large part to a dirtier tone and slightly more aggressive approach. While technical death metal bands elicit the “jazzy”, this is one album that truly understands that aspect of music, feeling meditative and experimental, rocking out all the while.
Impetuous Ritual, Unholy Congregation Of Hypocritical Ambivalence (Profound Lore): This project might not want to be compared to Portal, but seeing how it features current and former members of the band and plays pretty much the exact same style of death metal as Portal, they’re going to get the comparison no matter what. And no question, Impetuous Ritual is dearly missing the enigmatic quality of Portal, but musically this is still staggering stuff, the kind of suffocating, claustrophobic death metal that leaves you gasping for air. The pace on this album is relentless.
The Oath, The Oath (Rise Above): It’s easy to instinctively dismiss The Oath as just another band jumping on the retro bandwagon, but give singer Johanna Sadonis and guitarist Linnea Olsson, in relatively short time they’ve created something distinct. The music, which straddles hard rock and classic heavy metal is more lean than robust, allowing room for Sadonis to step to the forefront as a frontwoman. Compared to other women singers, whose approach is often more detached in this form of music, Sadonis’s approach is far more alluring, which works brilliantly on songs like “Night Child”, “Leaving Together”, and the outstanding “Psalm 7”. Meanwhile, Olsson proves her mettle on “Black Rainbow”, which owes a great deal to early Mercyful Fate. From the very start The Oath has had a distinct persona and sound, and this debut arrives fully formed and confident, a real bright spot for metal in early 2014.
Thantifaxath, Sacred Noise (Dark Descent): Give these Canadians credit, they can create a kind of black metal sound that nobody’s really heard before. Note patterns twist and bend reminiscent of Frank Zappa and King Crimson, and “The Bright White Nothing at the End of the Tunnel” it’s absolutely jaw-dropping. The anonymous, hooded cloak-wearing trio still has plenty of work to do, as this debut album too often relies on rote black metal sounds, leaving listeners hungry for more music as adventurous as that one track, but this is nevertheless a strong start.
Tuomas Holopainen, The Life And Times Of Scrooge (Nuclear Blast): Good for the Nightwish main man for doing a project he feels passionate about, but if he and Nuclear Blast expect people to be as interested in Scrooge McDuck as he is, they’re deluded. As for the music, it offers nothing that will appeal to Nightwish fans, only orchestral arrangements as overwrought as a Michal Kamen film score.
Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy
As fun as it is to cover everything Carcass and At the Gates are up to, occasionally it’s nice to shine a light on a truly underground band. Dallas’s Bludded Head definitely fall into that category, scooping out unpleasant sludge with a tendency towards the minimalist. Their misery comes from a real place, too – singer/guitarist Nevada Hill has been battling cancer and the ravages of chemotherapy. You can read about his struggles with both the disease and the American healthcare system here. Produced by Daron Beck of Pinkish Black, their second album, Bludded Death, comes with artwork by a seven-year-old girl that perfectly captures the primitive etchings going on in the music. You should buy the tape and support an artist in need, but in the meantime, here’s some “Rotten Demon Shit” to whet your appetite.
***Buy the cassette from Sleeping Giant Glossolalia for only six dollars here. Follow them on Facebook here and purchase their first album here.
The Golden Era of American Independent Noise Rock (GEAINR) was the early to mid 1990s and the GEAINR Golden Format (GEAINRGF) was the 7”. At the time, putting out a 7” was a potentially quick and cheap way for a band to get people interested in their music or maybe to keep appetites whetted between full-length releases. (Today, 7”s are about the least cost-effective way to release music.)
Two decades later and the format’s minuses are obvious. The sound quality ranges from okay to downright awful; things really scrape the bottom of audio fidelity when you cram 6 ½ minutes of amp-torturing mayhem onto a piece of vinyl that can barely handle 3. As far as artistic statements, a pair of sub-4 minute jams and slapped together artwork don’t do much to convey the overall idea of the band. And – by far most importantly –few have the time and patience to hover over a record player swapping out songs every few minutes as the jackets and plastic and inner sleeves pile up.
The minuses don’t really matter, though, because 7” records are cool. They feel good in the hand and their brevity gives a feeling of special-ness to the short blasts they deliver. Even the totally quiet, blown-out sound of an Amphetamine Reptile picture disc 7” (they had a whole series of them and they were nearly all really bad) makes you want to say “this sounds so raw and good” instead of the more accurate “there are at least three different types of unintentional distortion I can identify here.” A vinyl record can be a wonderfully accurate way to reproduce music with full range detail. That doesn’t happen with 7”s.
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I went through a bunch of 7”s I’ve got and came up with a mix tape of some of my favorite songs from that era. The accompanying file is my laptop-soundcard-recorded, Adobe Soundbooth “mastered” rips of the vinyl. Expect it to sound lousy because it does. The low quality rips here are either all that’s available or should be a teaser for the real thing. If you like a song and it’s available, buy it so that you can hear what it actually sounds like. In the meantime, download Vol. 1 and get ready for more snap-crackle-pop than a Chuck E Cheez ball pit full of Rice Krispies.
Helmet “Taken”: Right out of the box and the Gap-shorts-metal lads from the Lower East Side are delivering a jackrabbit punch with one of their signature taco riffs. This sounds like it was recorded in a closet which actually would have been a much better way to see Helmet then baking in a field at Lollapallooza.
Melvins “Night Goat”: There’s a few of these on this list – the shittier sounding 7” song handily trounces the more developed version you’ll find on the album. To the 1% of the metal listening public who have not heard this evil swamp crawler, get ready to hear a top ten of all time best drum beat AND top ten best bassline put to tape. I have no idea about the guitar, because I can barely make out what it’s doing. It is all so so good.
Don Caballero “Puddin’ in My Eye” – Drummer Damon Che is constantly hitting things in this song – total octopus drumming start until the thunk thunk breakdown at the end. I bet some folks think of this as “gateway metal” but the hell with that when I’m airdrumming everything in my car. Sweet chord mixin’ up at about 1:47; blink and you’ll miss it.
Table “Vaccum” – This is about the perfect 90’s noise-rock 7” song. Non-sequitor noun band name, steamroller bass line, screech-city on the guitar, profound nonsense lyrics, a few more time changes than needed, starts veering off to suckville 2/3 of the way through but boy do they save it by going back to fundamentals. Note the clam on the harmonics at about 43 sec. Charming!
Godflesh “Slateman” – This was a Sub Pop singles club entry before I had a subscription so I naturally ended up paying like $ 15 to get a used copy later (only to find out that it was a bonus song on their full-lengthCD). But as a bonus for those who only liked the molten agony of “Like Rats”: you can just leave your turntable on 33 and this would sound like the rest of Streetcleaner. Weirdly pretty, in a way, and I’m sure some folks hated that.
Evergreen “Remembering the Queen” – Only the barest hints of a song here, probably the result of a ½ hour or so at the band’s practice. But Evergreen could put that on wax and still have a winner because they had something special that you and I do not: Britt Whalford on drums. He’s barely doing ANYTHING on this song and yet I could listen to it all day long. Extra points to that sweet Louisville weed: this song has a different title on the jacket than it does on the record’s label. Stonebags. (Note: I saw them play once and Whalford had the St. Ides I painted on his bass drum head. I’m going to say that Evergreen were not a straight-edge band.)
Some Band “Some Song” – Another bit of heavy, understated drumming that carries the remaining song-wisps along. This is a B-side to a bigger hit that’s probably better but that you’ve also probably heard. A good reminder that Steve Albini was responsible for recording about 20% of my record collection as of 1994. I’m fine with that; the man knows what he’s doing.
Palace Brothers “Trudy Dies” – When this came out, Palace Brothers – Will Oldham – were a lo-fi weirdness that put out about eleven records a year that were (not surprisingly) hot and cold in considerable degrees. But the dude could nail it at times. And he’s nailing it here with the sad kiddie organ loop and the final verse. Plus, you almost have to respect how astonishingly bad the guitar solo is. I’m going to blame that one at “Louisville weed” as well. What was going on down there?
Tar “Deep Throw” – “Deep Throw” is a pretty smoking Tar song for about ¾ of the way through. The droning high power chords and weary yells of the singer were the band’s bread and butter and they did it well. But MAN OH MAN when they kick it open at around 1:30. If you listen to this whole mix a few times you’ll start to get fidgety when you know that part is coming because it is triumphant. Almost a shame that they packed it into a 2 minute song.
Jawbox “Tongues” – Similar to the Tar song, although it takes about twice the time to do something nearly identical. Jawbox probably got some grief for being not as ___ as whatever band you’d likely compare them to: Fugazi (they shared a label), Tar (they shared a 7”), Jawbreaker (they shared a Jawb*). But the final chorus here is solid as hell and was SUPER thrilling to those of us who suffered (repeatedly) through their first record.
Pitchblende “In the Flat Field” – Just for laughs I went back and listened to the original and this cover kills it in nearly every way. Pitchblende, who I think refused to tune their guitars anything close to normal out of some aesthetic principle, dropped all of the original’s gothy reverb bullshit and kept the 16th notes really dry which is where they should be. Plus its good that the vocals get demoted to secondary status here because those Bauhaus lyrics are preeeeeetty bad.
Brise Glace “In Sisters All And Felony” – I gotta be honest, I don’t remember much about this song other than the first 15 seconds, but those dueling distort drum sets RULE RULE RULE. Also good evidence that you can name your instrumental song whatever you want because it all means nothing.
Breadwinner “Knighton” – In 1991, Breadwinner guitarist Pen Rollings played without shoes, seemed to me like a bearded freak and later did one of the best rock interviews I’ve ever read. (http://www.chunklet.com/index.cfm?section=article&IssueID=2&ID=37) I was genuinely starstruck when I saw him doing merch for Superchunk, which is not where you expect to see your punk rock heroes. (Although, typing this, I realize that’s exactly where you should expect to see your punk rock heroes.) The bassist, Bobby Donne, had this great thousand yard hate-stare while playing that was honestly a little chilling. At the time I was struck at how fucked up and disjointed the music sounded, but their oddball structures have held up. Repeated listening is well-rewarded.
Part II will come soon if Andrew lets me do it.
** The Austerity Program can be found HERE (official) and HERE (Facebook). Visit those sites. Like yesterday.
After getting sick and cancelling tours and being nearly 70 years old and generally scaring the piss out of fans everywhere, Lemmy finally emerged from his West Hollywood meth lair/Nazi shrine to play the first Motörhead show since last summer’s appearance at Wacken, when severe back pain and oppressive heat forced him to walk off before they could finish their set. Which makes tonight’s gig at the sold-out Club Nokia in downtown L.A. the ultimate rematch — the rock ‘n’ roll equivalent of Muhammad Ali versus Sonny Liston or Marvin Hagler versus Sugar Ray Leonard or some other completely irrelevant boxing metaphor, given that Motörhead’s last L.A. show was at this very venue. Right? Right.
Thanks to the hyper-efficient box office staff, fresh off their day jobs at the post office or DMV, my business manager and I only have to wait for an hour to get our tickets, even with a whole nine or 10 people in front of us. After getting lost –twice — in the labyrinthine back hallways of the club’s multilevel hellscape, we finally land in a “VIP” bar area that’s totally, sadistically walled off from the stage. “It looks like a Wesley Snipes vampire movie in here,” my business manager says before shelling out for the first round of overpriced Bud Lights. “This one’s for getting me in to the show,” he says. “The next one’s for driving. The one after that is for the money I’m gonna make selling this VIP pass.”
We’ll break the rest of the night down AA-style:
1) We miss half of Graveyard’s set. The good half. We know because we hear most of it through the wall at the Wesley Snipes bar.
2) After walking onstage to Beatles-on-The Ed Sullivan Show hysterics/applause, the first thing out of Lemmy’s mouth is, “Back from the dead, eh?” He looks vaguely embalmed, but then again he’s looked that way for years now.
3) They open with an appropriate Fuck You We’re Still Here number: “I Know How To Die” from 2010’s The Wörld Is Yours. Scott Carlson from Repulsion is the only person in the place who knows the song.
4) They follow with the killer 1-2-3 power volley of “Damage Case,” “Stay Clean” and “Metropolis.” Mikkey Dee is a superhero on drums.
5) It’s probably a bad sign when the fifth song is an extended Phil Campbell guitar solo, but it’s difficult to complain when a) you got free tickets, and b) the alternative is no more Motörhead shows, like, ever. At least Phil wore his finest baggy T-shirt and brought his neon dragon guitar.
6) After leaving the photo pit, we get a text from Holy Grail vocalist James Luna: “Move it tall guy, I’m trying to see Lemmy’s junk.”
7) We find our business manager, who’s watching Decibel’s own “Gearified” columnist (and Repulsion guitarist!) Matt Olivo singing along to anyone who will listen. He’s completely shit-hammered, slinging his arm over people’s shoulders and playing air guitar at the same time. He’s totally that guy, except he’s kept his shirt on and hasn’t vomited yet. YET. But he’s also Matt Olivo, so it’s okay.
8) Whitfield Crane from Ugly Kid Joe does his best to ruin an otherwise perfectly decent rendition of “Killed by Death.” We’ll say that again: Whitfield Crane from Ugly Kid Joe. It’s possible that Lemmy’s son Paul Inder joins them on second guitar, but we’re not sure. It might just be some random blonde dude in a cowboy hat. They’re a dime a dozen on Sunset Boulevard, and they all play guitar.
9) Slash shows up to play “Ace of Spades” and “Overkill.” Both songs sound kind wobbly, but it might just be the electromagnetic field created by literally every cell phone in the place being hoisted aloft to shoot crappy YouTube videos.
10) They don’t play “Orgasmatron.” Even though we yell for it several times from the 75th row.
11) Lemmy closes with a touching version of his usual opener: “We are Motörhead and we play rock ‘n’ roll. Don’t forget us, alright?”
12) We won’t. Not ever. Because you guys rule.