Mephedrone (bath salts), mushrooms, a new kind of acid—and in the case of Miami face-eater Rudy Eugene at one point—weed? So far, pretty much every official explanation for the wave of bizarre crimes slowly blanketing the planet has hinged on drugs with histories that make their purported roles unlikely. No wonder people are holding on to the zombie apocalypse hypothesis, CDC be damned. At least it provides a common thread.
But (apart from the Haitian variety) zombies are still mostly fictional (kinda), whereas She’s Still Dead are very real. And the reality lurking like a half-eaten penis in our collective McGMO breakfast trough is this: the current upsweep in global gore production commenced within days of a recent development in the NOLA-based horror-punk quintet’s unlife.
“I’d like to think that us going back into the studio would have something to do with the current wave of violence.” guitarist Kevin Dredge offers during a break in tracking guitar overdubs with White Zombie alum J. Yuenger for the Keeper of the Witch EP, slated for vinyl and digital release later this year. “All the shit that’s been going on, like with the guy cutting himself and throwing his intestines at the cops? That’s straight-up, true-life horror and I totally dig it. I know a lot of people shy away from that and think it’s the vilest thing ever. But I play in a horror band so I think it’s awesome. Remember the MMA fighter who ripped his training partner’s still-beating heart out of his chest? That was right around the time the band started.”
For dudes so eager to take responsibility for so many egregiously unnatural acts (even as they battle evil Feds in their effort to become the first U.S. metal band with a gig in Cuba under their belts), the band are surprisingly chill in real life. A trio of videos (soon to be a quartet) documenting the EP’s making depicts them and Yuenger having a swell time together without wasting a single second.
“We tracked drums, bass, and most of the guitars in one day at Piety Street,” Dredge says, “a big studio that’s like $ 1,000 a day. We’re recording everything else at J.’s place. I attribute the efficiency to the fact that we’ve been practicing a lot. We also just recently played a string of shows. We went into the studio with the mindset that we had this amount of time and we had to fucking bust ass. We weren’t interested in messing around. As a result, we went in and just fucking nailed it.”
What we hear of the title track reveals a band as hell-bent on going as far beyond the neo-trad horror rock (think: “Misfits in their prime”) of last year’s Immortal, Eternal as they are on getting everything right ASAP. Dredge, guitarist Taylor Suarez and Yuenger even ended up with time left over to experiment with feedback and tape manipulation.
“The idea came from Black Flag’s “Police Story,” Dredge says. “The song starts off with really slow taped feedback that speeds up until it’s really fast. We thought: Oh cool! Since we’re recording on tape, let’s try to recreate that. Violent, chaotic feedback is a big part of our sound. We had so much time left over that we were able to spend some time recording guitar feedback. We’re going to incorporate a lot of that on the record.”
Eager as he is to emphasize the band’s ever-extending reach into the grave they only started robbing a couple years ago, Dredge also makes no bones about Yuenger’s role in the recording process. All available evidence bears him out. In every video, the producer comes off way more like a facilitator than a boss.
“We’ve all been in other bands,” Dredge says, “and we’ve all worked with other producers. The thing about J. is, we’re all friends. He’s not just some guy who points mics at you and tells you what to do. He genuinely cares about what we’re doing. Earlier today, he said, ‘it’s a real pleasure recording you guys, ’cause I don’t have to do much. All I have to do is say, okay, I’m rollin’. Let’s go.’ That’s a great thing to hear from one of your childhood guitar heroes.”
Welcome to The Lazarus Pit, a biweekly look at should-be classic metal records that don’t get nearly enough love; stuff that’s essential listening that you’ve probably never heard of; stuff that we’re too lazy to track down the band members to do a Hall Of Fame for. This week’s joint proves the superiority of crossbred strains, although you probably shouldn’t smoke anything called Roachpowder. Anyway, this is their debut, Viejo Diablo (The Music Cartel).
In the mid-to-late 90s, there was a small but enthusiastic movement in Sweden of American stoner rock revivalists. Spiritual Beggars, We, and Roachpowder faithfully re-created the sounds of Kyuss, Monster Magnet, and Down. Much like the British blues acts of the 60s, hearing this style re-created by people with no connection to the geographical or historical context of the originals is a little weird, but at least weed and boredom is a universal constant.
Half Swedish, half South American, with a sound rooted in the desert by way of New Orleans, Roachpowder formed from the residue of Skintrade, an alternative metal act whose previous album had been called, you guessed it, Roach Powder. When they realized that alternative metal basically sucked, three quarters of the band split off, grabbed guitarist George Bravo’s brother on vocals (probably because he did amazing Phil Anselmo and Dave Wyndorf impressions), and mutated into a sludgy stoner metal group. Probably not the best path to fame and fortune in 1997, but hot damn, these guys got it right.
It’s not that they’re particularly innovative. Hell, it’s not like this is a subgenre that embraces innovation. Instead, they just slam home the sludge. “Get out of My Way” could be an outtake from Nola (I’ve certainly mistaken it for one in the past), starting off a lysergic surge and a hearty “GOD DAMN.” ”Galactic Blues” launches with the sound of a 1969 Barracuda launching into space before following a somewhat wobbling path through the lava lamp quadrant. “Black Stone” takes a ride down the spine of God, “Cosmic Emperor” takes a crowbar to the dopethrone, and “New Orleans” pays homage to a town none of them have probably ever visited. “Demon Bitch” is pretty self-explanatory, and then they close with an incorrect reference to a drink from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
After this, they swapped out their bassist for a dude from Entombed (who were pursuing a similar direction at that point anyway) and put out one more release, 2001′s Atomic Church. And that seems to be it for them – Skintrade recently reunited, so looks like they’re giving that another go. If Down couldn’t even make it big, these guys sure weren’t going to, but they might have had a little more luck if they had come from the south (or New Jersey, or Southern California, or really anywhere but Sweden). As it is, they’re still wandering the cosmos, with a document of their journey left behind on earth for those adventurous enough to uncover it.
Buy it here!
Funeral doom can be a most divisive subgenre. Whole groups of well-versed metalheads will split on the merits of a type of music that eschews speed, the associated aggression, and most anything that can be considered technical musical achievement. Of course, this very division might be part of what defines it – a hallmark of the sounds that belong in our beloved extreme scene.
But funeral doom as the result of a union? This year, New York married couple Kristina and Michael Rocco formed the slothful Herodias out of the remnants of their other (perhaps less extreme) musical ventures. With Michael on light-eating guitars, drums, and various keyed instruments, and Kristina on piano and soaring soprano vocals, the duo mixes abyss and beauty in perfect proportions. Imagine stirring together Virgin Black’s requiem intentions with Funeral’s female vocals over the spacious creations of Half Makeshift, and you’re approaching the Herodias sound.
With one new record, Dance of the Seven Veils, available at various mainstream media outlets as well as through the band’s website (http://www.cultofherodias.com/), and another album in the oven and scheduled for release in September, Herodias are looking to make the world just a little bit doomier. Here are some of the Roccos’ insights regarding their process, motivations, and influences:
According to the Encyclopaedia Metallum, Herodias just formed this year. How did the project come about, and how do you have such fully formed songs so quickly?
Kristina Rocco: Michael and I were wrapping up a regional tour as an acoustic duet and we became discouraged by the lack of energy (and interest) in the local scene. One moment, we’d play in front of five hundred kids in an auditorium. Then we’d pour our hearts out to six diners who didn’t even know we were in the room. It seemed as though musicians had to compete as cover band background music for a few bucks. We were a needle in a haystack of needles.
Michael Rocco: Exactly- although we’re proud of the music we had written and performed, we were simply unhappy with the path we had chosen. From this experience, we decided that if we were to continue this music business racket after so many years of blood, sweat, tears, sacrificing small animals, etc., we’d at least do what we enjoy. We had taken piano arrangements from a previous project that never got off the ground and were surprised at how well those pieces fit with Herodias. We wrote and rehearsed for a couple of months and recorded the album in about a week. The one benefit of me being gainfully unemployed is the time I have to obsess over this project.
Are there any specific bands/albums that influenced your approach to Dance of the Seven Veils?
MR: We listen to a lot of metal and have been inspired by musicians like Testament, Overkill, Mournful Congregation, Funeral Mourning, Nortt, Sunn 0))), Moss, and so on. Classical music has also played a big role in DOTSV- anything from Roslavets to Valentin Silvestrov.
There are moments of chilling, amusical noise on the album. How do those sounds occur to you (in the writing or recording process), and how do you choose to include them?
KR: (laughing) You’ll have to ask my lunatic husband- that’s him being himself.
MR: I think of my in-laws and images immediately begin to… honestly, with Herodias, contrast is very important to me. I wanted the music to be a sincere balance of light and dark. Kristina’s vocals are beautiful and moving, so I just had to turn everything inside out. We’re also huge horror movie fans, which helped. Sometimes, there’s a musical bridge that just needs a little more.
Who writes the vocal lyrics? And, since I can’t understand what’s said, what are they about?
KR: That would be me. I am a foreign language teacher by day, so that is why the lyrics are written in Spanish and Latin. The lyrics can be very abstract, but the content reflects emotions that we’re feeling- confusion, depression, loss of love, isolation and contempt. Most songs are directly related to the occult story of Herodias and the ways in which she manipulated the people around her. Though the lyrics paint a dark picture of her and her daughter, Salome, I must admit that there is a part of her that I deeply respect. In those times, people were outcast over every human emotion they expressed. She fought for her love despite the pressure of her environment. Most of all, she makes today’s feminists look like posers.
MR: I just howl.
Do I understand correctly that you have another record due out this fall? Over time, do you expect Herodias to continue in the funeral doom vein, or do you hope to explore other avenues as well?
MR: Our second album ‘Antevorta’ will be released on 9/1/12. We’ve been making music together for many years and are grateful for every experience- even the time one guy at a bar screamed ‘PLAY SOME BILLY JOEL, YOU BITCH!’
KR: (laughing) Yes, but we’re happy to have settled into this genre and already have plans for a third album. This is truly a labor of love.
Are there other forms of art (movies, literature, etc.) that are impacting your music?
MR: Unfortunately, we’ve been watching too many UFO/conspiracy videos on Youtube lately. I think the world around us is shaping our music more than any other medium.
KR: Yeah, life is a big motivator. Most married couples stress over bills, fight about leaving the stove on (we’re well versed at this). But, we understand that what we’re doing musically is unusual and we’re fine with that.
What non-dark music are you into right now?
KR: We have eclectic tastes in music and listen to everything from Roger Waters and Tom Waits, to Concrete Blonde and Peter Gabriel.
MR: After we finished mixing DOTSV, we lit a candle and relaxed to Johnny Mathis.
Vancouver’s Titan’s Eve impressed this hack a couple years back with the streamlined and melodic mixture of thrash and traditional metal of their The Divine Equal self-released debut. I hadn’t heard much from or about the band since the album was made publicly available, probably because I wasn’t paying attention, as usual, but word has come down the promotional pipeline that the quartet is on the eve of album number two, Life Apocalypse, which is set for release on July 13th.
The band has got in touch with us, with their new single, “Destined to Die,” in the starting blocksm offering it up for your ear holes. Here’s what the band themselves have to say about the tune: ”Destined to Die” is the track we feel really introduces our album’s theme of a personal apocalypse on a broad scale. It’s about a person’s everyday struggle with life challenges and how in the end we die no matter how hard we fight to live. Death is the storm we can’t see, but our wanting to triumph over challenges despite the inevitable end is what makes us real.’ says vocalist / guitarist Brian Gamblin.
Check it out:
Also check out snippets of all the album’s songs from a video the band posted on YouTube:
Additionally, Titan’s Eve has announced they will be on tour with Anvil – the very reason I found myself walking around the Maryland Death Fest last month, apologising to various Americans on behalf of my home nation – this summer and are offering a free T-shirt with every pre-order of the album via their bandcamp, at this location.
Here are the tour dates:
Titans Eve w/ ANVIL:
July 30, 2012 – The Exchange – Regina, SK w/ ANVIL + guests
July 31, 2012 – The Odeon – Saskatoon, SK w/ ANVIL, Untimely Demise, Lavagoat, Agony Spawn, Caym
August 1, 2012 – The Scott Block – Red Deer, AB w/ ANVIL, Day One
August 2, 2012 – The Pawn Shop – Edmonton, AB w/ ANVIL + guests
August 3, 2012 – The Distillery – Calgary, AB w/ ANVIL + guests
August 4, 2012 – The Sapphire Lounge – Kelowna, BC w/ ANVIL
August 5, 2012 – The Rickshaw Theatre – Vancouver, BC w/ ANVIL, Skullhammer, Dead Asylum
Photo credit: Shimon Karmel
Scott Seward’s “Filthy 50″ list from our September 2007 issue remains one of my favorite reads in these pages, or any magazine for that matter. While the initial excitement of digging up some of those lost treasures may have passed, I still listen to some of them (Groundhogs, Captain Beyond and High Tide to name a few) on a somewhat regular basis.
Fortunately, not only has my fascination with these “albums that had one supreme goal: to blow your little mind” been rekindled, but I’ve found a seemingly endless supply to discover. And it all happened by accident. In doing some “research” for last month’s post on John Peel’s record collection, I stumbled across The Day After the Sabbath after Google was kind enough to point out that the site had given a shout out to Aardvark. And given that the site specializes in “proto-metal and heavy prog/psych obscurities of the 60s and 70s,” the nod makes perfect sense. But its proprietor, a good bloke by the name of Rich, doesn’t just put together lists. He actually tracks down the tunes and pieces together hand-picked compilations, many themed, for everyone’s listening enjoyment (he’s up to Volume 70 at the moment).
I’m only at the beginning of making my way through each of them (yes, I have completist issues), but Volume 1, which includes Bloodrock’s “Melvin Laid An Egg”, is as good of a place to start as any if you’re at all into this stuff. Fortunately, Rich—fresh off a weekend trip to Hellfest in France where he saw Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet and Uriah Heep for the first time—was kind enough to answer some questions via email for us. In fact, his answers were so detailed that we’ve decided to present the interview in two parts, the second of which will include a mini-playlist of songs hand-picked by the man himself.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself (where you’re from, where you live, the first record you remember getting, your favorite band and anything else you think we should know).
I live in North London, UK, which is where I come from originally. I also lived in New Zealand for a few years, which was a really special time. It’s an amazing, beautiful country and I made friends with a lot of bands and started a website to help promote their small but enthusiastic stoner rock scene. I can see myself ending up on that side of the world again one day!
I am not a musician, and other than being an avid music fan and completist, I wasn’t actively involved in music until my time in NZ. While there, I saw an obvious need for the kind of bands I like to be promoted and celebrated more, so I contacted bands and went to as many local gigs as I could, and produced a compilation of contemporary NZ stoner rock and associated styles, which I funded and put out on CD in 2008 by myself. It was a labour of love and a great way to be involved with a scene in a way that the bands appreciated, and was useful to them.
It’s impossible to choose an all-time “favourite” band, but a definitive one that rounds up almost all of what I dig would be Soundgarden, as they have a great mix of styles from classic rock, punk and doom, to metal. My knowledge and interests have expanded massively since then of course, but they were definitely a “gateway” when I was getting into heavier stuff in my teens.
The first record I ever expressed an interest in was Ray Parker Jr.’s title track to Ghostbusters! I liked it so much when the movie came out that my mum took me to a store to buy the 45 single when I was about seven years old. I still remember the instrumental b-side scaring the shit of me haha!
2. How did the idea come about for your blog and compilations? Did you ever think you’d be up to 70 of them? Will you ever hit the bottom of the well in terms of material?
If I could pinpoint some kind of inspiration, it could be Metallica’s cover of “Breadfan”, originally recorded by Welsh rockers Budgie. I loved the track and I was fascinated by the idea that there could be excellent, heavy bands from the ’60s and ’70s that were just as metal as the classic ones we all remember, but were completely unknown, or maybe only well known and influential up to a certain point in their time. They have since fallen by the wayside and do not get mentioned much anymore. Budgie is probably one of the “obscure” bands that are likely to be known to many of your readers, but after delving into them, a whole world of forgotten proto-metal and proto-doom bands opened up to me and it went on from there.
That was about 12 years ago, and I have been searching and compiling tracks for personal consumption ever since. I’d been avidly preaching the finds to friends, making them CDs, tapes, etc., for a quite a while, so I guess my blog or something similar was inevitable. Oddly enough, the trigger was back in 2009 when I was laid up at home for a week after a dog bite of all things from some crazy dog that went for me in a local park while I was jogging, and got me on the back of my right leg. It wasn’t bad, but I was off work for a week while I was keeping weight off it, and suffering a bit of cabin fever at home so I thought of something to distract myself.
When I started the blog, I only knew enough bands of sufficient quality to fill about four CD compilations, and at the time that’s all I thought there was. I was wrong. I got such a good response from the first few and a lot of correspondence from people more knowledgeable than myself, so it’s grown exponentially from there. Now I am aware of so many more sources and I’m finding more all the time so I think there is a lot of life left in what I am doing, and slowly but surely more material is being dug up by rock archaeologists so I never know else what will come up, it’s exciting…
Stay tuned for Part 2, including Rich’s picks, next week. In the meantime, be sure to check out The Day After The Sabbath and, while you’re at it, enjoy my personal favorite from all of the volumes I’ve digested so far…