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Metal Monday: Songs for a Cold Winter

The temperatures in many areas of the United States  have been in free fall since Halloween, and that really only means one thing: winter is just around the corner. So, bust out your scarves and mittens, it’s only going to get colder. There are lots of activities that people like to do in the winter to stay cozy. For example, curling up with a good book by the fire or sipping some hot chocolate under some blankets on the couch while watching a movie. Sometimes, though, you just need to get your blood pumping to get warm, so here are six winter-themed songs that are sure to fire you up:

  1. Dead Winter Inside by The Neologist
  2. Premonitions of Winter by Apathy
  3. Icewind Blast by Icewind Blast
  4. Ablaze All Shrines by December’s Cold Winter
  5. Cold Rapture by Fell On Black Days
  6. Frozen by Black Chapel

Metal Monday: Electric Wizard – Black Masses [Review]

Revivalist trends, such as the rise of the classic thrash sound, have permeated the metal scene in recent years.  The bands associated with these trends are often criticized for not being entirely authentic (and in many cases, rightfully so). Some bands, however, just understand what it is to be a band with a classic and authentic throwback sound. Electric Wizard is one of these bands. Though they’ve recorded six albums previous to Black Masses, the band only recently locked in a bona fide sound. As heavy, doomy and stonerific as ever, Black Masses has a very specific feel to it that hasn’t existed in modern music for quite some time—a guitar sound reminiscent of a thick Tony Iommi power chord circa the early 1970s, despair-ridden vocals that fit right between an Ozzy-led Black Sabbath and Diamond Head.

Acquiring the classic heavy and doom metal sound in today’s age is quite a special thing. Bands need to sound as though they’re playing live and haven’t cut and pasted the record together. The balance and reverb on all tracks need to mesh; if your vocalist sounds like he’s in a giant cathedral but your guitarists sound like they’re standing outside, then  you’re missing the mark. Though Electric Wizard perfect the classic recording sound on this record, it’s nothing like the classic heavy metal in terms of songwriting, it takes more cues from the band’s roots in 1990′s stoner metal in this regard. The difference, however, is that Electric Wizard have gotten less aggressive and more doomy with every release—Black Masses included.

Though Black Masses is a great album, it is one with niche appeal. There are no immediate hooks, catchy choruses or even memorable lines to pick out of the crowd. From the very first riff, Black Masses bludgeons your ears with an extremely forceful and heavy sound, and does so for sixty straight minutes. If you’re looking for a droning, lumbering and extremely heavy listen—it doesn’t get much better than this (certainly not in 2010). Black Masses might just be Electric Wizard’s best release to date, an unlikely feat for a stoner/doom band these days.

Black Masses can be ordered from the Rise Above Records Webstore, Newbury Comics (including online) and iTunes Store.

Metal Monday: What Makes It Metal?

In the metal community, the word “brutal” gets thrown around a whole lot these days. From the newest and most brutal breakdown from this deathcore band to the most garbled and brutal lyrics from that death metal band, the word is starting to lose its meaning. Then there’s Adult Swim’s cartoon series Metalocalypse, which really takes the idea of brutal to a hilariously extreme degree. In the first episode a large number of people at Dethklok’s concert were scalded to death by giant vats of coffee—certainly brutal, but mostly just laughable. Here are five things that really examplify essence of metal, and can truly express what brutal means in a serious way.

The Oakland Raiders – First off, before we discuss the aggressive and brutal nature of American football, let’s talk about what a Raider actually is. Dictionary.com describes a raider/raids as “a commando, ranger, or the like, specially trained to participate in military raids (a sudden assault or attack, as upon something to be seized or suppressed).” Loosely, this could describe metal musicians and their aural assault on listeners. Beyond what a raider is, the team dresses in all black and silver, as do their fans—again, much like metal musicians. It’s really a perfect match made in hell.

They're looking hungry for your brains.

Zombies – Although zombies are quite popular in mainstream cultures, no one has quite embraced the idea of zombies quite like modern thrash metal. Take the band Lich King, for example, and their album Toxic Zombie Onslaught. The idea and image of zombies are all over the metal scene, used by bands such as Iron Maiden with their mascot Eddie, Municipal Waste‘s album covers, or Death‘s song “Zombie Ritual”.  The list goes on. Metal has unofficially adopted zombies as its mascot. We all know what zombies are, but let me reiterate: it was alive, now it’s dead (sort of). Dead, decaying flesh that wants to eat your brains from your living skull.

Igor Stravisnky’s Rite of Spring – Musically, Rite of Spring was one of the most heavy, erratic, and chaotic pieces of its time and continues to be so today. What really takes this comparison over the top, however, was the situation that arose when the piece was premiered in Paris on May 29, 1913. Due to the nature of the choreography and music, the audience became agitated and as the music escalated so did the audience’s mood—eventually erupting into a full-blown riot in the seats. The riot got so out of hand that the Paris police had to arrive to settle down the audience. Further explanation is likely unnecessary, as your brain has probably already made the comparison of rioting at a concert to a mosh pit— certainly a logical step.

Now THIS is a fire made for grilling animals.

Barbecues – Step one: find a dead animal (more metal if you killed it yourself, even better if it was with your bare hands). Step two: make a fire, the bigger the better. Step three: let the animal carcass roast on that fire for a while. Step four: you eat it, and depending on the meat, you do so with your bare hands. Though grilling animals is a bit more sophisticated than it was in medieval times when vikings roamed northern Europe, the general principle still applies. Dead things, fire, and dead things on fire are all pretty cliché topics for metal at this point, and barbecues certainly fit that bill.

Slaying dragons – If you’ve heard more than three power metal songs in your entire life, there’s a fair chance you’ve heard a song involving the slaying of a dragon or other evil and mystical creature. The idea of a knight in shining armor saving a fair maiden from a dragon is noble and all, but that is not a fair fight, nor would it be very pretty. It’s a fair assumption that the dragon would breathe fire (since that’s what dragons do, breathe fire and capture maidens), and the knight probably only has a sword, armor and a horse; advantage: dragon. Either way, one of these parties is dying, and in a pretty brutal way (scorched to death by fire or mutilated with a big honkin’ sword). Power metal’s not so much for wussies now, is it?

So, the next time you and your friends are hanging out and someone says “Oh man, that was brutal” or “That’s so metal”—think for a second. Was it really that metal?

Metal Monday: Atheist Q&A

There are instances in modern music where a band breaks up, only to become more famous. How many of these bands get back together and put out an album worthy of their material of two decades prior? However many there are, Atheist joins their ranks with the release of Jupiter—an honest and authentic follow-up to 1991′s Piece of Time that will not leave long-time fans disappointed. Drummer Steve Flynn took time to answer our questions about the groups reformation, the release process of Jupiter and more.

OS: Back in 2007, Kelly said that there would absolutely be no more albums under the Atheist name.  When did that change?

SF: In fact, we all kept saying that, and we continued to say it.  We even said it when we were playing Hellfest in France, which we intended to be our last show because we had song several and we said “How much longer can we keep reuniting so to speak, and playing the same songs?” We had felt that things had sort of run their course, and the reception was amazing at that show—we said this was our last show, we left the stage and went home with all intents and purposes of that being our last show.  The demand just kept coming at us, people kept requesting shows, and asking for tours, and Season of Mist were very, very persistent in their pursuit of us.  We kept saying no, we discussed it amongst ourselves, we discussed it with our “manager” Ula Gehret, and I had around that time too, Gnostic, that I had started before the Atheist reunion stuff had kicked off so that was in the mix. Season of Mist said, “Listen, we want to do an Atheist record. We’ll make you a reasonable offer.” They were going to sign Gnostic as well, and we still were saying no.

It took us about six more months before we said we would do it.  I think there were so many people after us to keep playing and keep doing it that we said, “Okay, we’ll give it a shot.”  And we were nervous, you know, because we hadn’t written any material together (me and Kelly) since Unquestionable Presence, which was 1990.  They did the Elements album, which was a whole different lineup, so that one is sort of set apart quite differently from the other records—so we didn’t know what would come out. We agreed to go ahead and do it, and it took us quite a while to get it done because that was a year and a half ago when we signed the contract with Season of Mist and we just completed it in July. So, it took us a hell of a long time, but we eventually got there.

OS: Do you think that the result of playing the festivals and getting the chemistry back had anything to do with making Jupiter, in addition to the label pressure from Season of Mist?

SF: Oh, absolutely. Excellent question, and no doubt about it; there’s no way we could have just jumped in and said “Hey, let’s do a record together” and we hadn’t done anything. I think in that case perhaps some of the worst fears for some of the people who were nervous about us doing another record and tarnishing our legacy would have been realized had we done that because it did take some time to get back into the swing of things.  I didn’t play drums for about fourteen years. I quit the band in 1992 and went to grad school and all that, and I didn’t pick up drums until I started Gnostic. It took me a while to get back into the swing of things. When we got back together for our first rehearsal before our first reunion show it was just kind of like “Well, what’s it going to be like?” In some cases it was like we had just picked up from yesterday, and things kind of fell in place.  In some places it felt like there were huge gaps in between, so it was a little strange at first.  We were able to spend a lot of time playing together, and we realized that whatever it was that made Atheist was still there and very clearly. We knew it, we could tell, we could feel it—we didn’t know how we would write—and that took some time to figure out.  Once we did, we realized things hadn’t really changed and we kind of picked up right where we left off.

OS: Were you or Kelly more for or against Jupiter when Season of Mist approached you for the first time?

SF: I think we were all kind of in lock step. I don’t think there was any level of agreement or disagreement between us. We were both in agreement that we couldn’t do it; there would be a ridiculous amount of pressure. Too many people would just not like because it had been so long since the last record, we knew that there would be people who liked it just because it was another Atheist record, and there were a lot of people telling us not to do it in fear of tarnishing our legacy. We all sort of shared in the collective thought process there. We also, after talking with Ula Gehret, and amongst ourselves—and realizing the fan demand that was still persistent and growing—we realized at the same time that we were in the same boat the whole way.

OS: So, a couple months ago you mentioned that there might be some tour plans in the works, but nothing concrete.  You mentioned bands like Gojira, Cynic and Pestilence as potential partners in crime.  Have any of those ventures evolved or developed?

SF: They are evolving.  We’ve talked about all those bands and we’ve been in contact.  There’s lots of interest back and forth.  It’s a matter of scheduling and logistics, and working things out.  Now that the press has started about the new records, we’re starting to confirm festival dates in Europe. We just got confirmed for Hellfest in France, but that’s not until next summer. Looks like we’re going to be confirming for a run of dates in Europe in April, but we’re not sure with who yet.  We’re talking to our US booking agent setting up a US run—so that’s all definitely in the works.

I think what we’re going to do is a series of short runs, but we’re not sure when or with who yet, because like we said it’s trying to find the right partner.  We can’t devote six to eight weeks for touring like when we were nineteen, you know, we just can’t do it. I’m a senior executive type in a global fortune 500 communications consultancy called Millward Brown.  I mean, I can’t be gone for two months. I have two kids and Kelly has a child, and Chris Baker owns his own business, etc.  We just can’t be gone for two months at a time. What we are going to do for sure I can tell you, we’re going to do a series of six, seven, eight show runs.  We’ll go out to the west coast, come home, then go out to the midwest, etc.  Hit all the major markets.  We won’t be able to do an extended 250 show tour, and I’m not sure even if we could we would want to. It’s a brutal grind.  After about fifty shows, things change, and it becomes a totally different ball of wax.  We’re older now, and we really thoroughly enjoy touring and playing to the extent to which we do it.  Once you get to a certain point though, it ceases to be fun and becomes more of a job. Anyone who tells you differently is not being honest with you. We do this because we absolutely love it.  We don’t make shit for money touring; we just love hanging out and playing music.

We plan on supporting [Jupiter] extensively; it just won’t be in the traditional fashion where we’re doing 200 shows.  We’ll probably do forty to fifty shows and space them throughout the year.

OS: In terms of style and feel, Jupiter isn’t that far off from Unquestionable Presence or Piece of Time. It’s definitely an Atheist record – perhaps a bit more aggressive.  Do you think that old school diehard fans of Atheist or even new people will react well to the album immediately?

SF: I do think so, because of what you just said. I think a lot of people were concerned that it would come out sounding like something that was half-assed and just thrown together. Or it would have lost some of the energy or intensity, or would be stale in some way.  Whether or not you like it, everyone has said (almost unanimously) that it sounds like and Atheist record, and like something that would have followed in line from the first two records (Elements being a different animal).  But to that point also, it’s not for me to judge whether or not new fans will get into it.  If you weren’t a fan, you might not be now. Although, as you said it sounds more modern and the music is more aggressive than Unquestionable Presence was.  We didn’t set out to make it that way—it was a completely organic process.  What came out is what came out.

I think if you like aggressive, technical music and you like that style that Atheist has been known for, I think you’ll like it.  I’ll be surprised if it disappointed fans from back in the day or fans of the first two records. I’d be surprised if they were disappointed in the direction of this record.

OS: In terms of production, Jason Suecof helped you come up with a more a different sound, a more modern sound certainly, bringing out the low end and the fierce guitar tones. Is this something you wish you had on Piece of Time and Unquestionable Presence?

SF: It’s funny, I think a lot of it is strictly due to the technology, the ability to have a very clear and very powerful production. Back when we did Unquestionable Presence and Piece of Time, everything was analog and done on one-inch tape.  On Unquestionable Presence there’s four or five songs where I just sat down and played it, what you see is what you get.  There’s no editing, there was no Pro Tools, there was nothing. To sit and to edit you had to manually raise and lower the volume of each drum as you went through so you could hear it.  It was a very lengthy and cumbersome process.  The result was good,

Unquestionable Presence is a very clear production, but I always thought it lacked the real punch.  What we talked about was going back and recording some of the songs from those albums. We had in mind a couple here and there with today’s production quality to see how they would translate and we thought they would just absolutely rip your face off.  There’s a song “Unholy War” on Piece of Time and if we played it today with the speed and clarity of production it would just be so balls out; heavy and fast.  It would have been nice.

I’ll qualify that by saying I think a lot of bands these days overuse the technology and so much of what is done is clinical and sterile sounding.  Often times it doesn’t translate live, just because the technology and the way it’s abused I think over compensates for a lot.  We were very specific when we did Jupiter to make sure it was a sit down and click the sticks together.  There’s a song, “Faux King Christ”—that’s it, I just sat down and played it.  We didn’t track sections and we didn’t piece it together.  I just sound down and played it, just as you heard it, just as you hear it on the record.  There’s a song “Live and Live Again” —I did the same thing.  I tracked the drums in six or seven hours, the guitars took a couple hours, and we spent the rest of the time mixing.  Jason knows what he’s doing and he was able to EQ everything and tune it in, he got such a strong drum sound and a ferocious guitar sound, as you said. The studio where we did the tracking, Ledbelly Sound in Atlanta—Matt Washburn is a solid engineer and was able to help dial in the initial tones—then Jason took it from there.  It’s a modern sounding production, but it definitely has some throwback feel.

OS: Recently you put out a statement regarding Tony Choy departing the band.  Are you still on good terms?

SF: Yeah, it wasn’t handled well. There was a lot of “he said, she said”—he decided to leave about four weeks before we were supposed to be in the studio, he just didn’t really have the time.  He couldn’t come up to finish rehearsing, we wanted him to come up and track the bass parts in the studio, he wanted us to save the wave files down to him and he would track the bass parts in Miami—and we didn’t have the time for that. It had to be finished by July 31 and he just couldn’t do it … We tried to say that “Yes, Tony left the band”, but it’s not going to make any difference because we’ve already written most of the material for Jupiter, and the stuff that we’re known for Tony had nothing to do with anyway.  It’s not like anything is going to be missing—whatever you thought of Atheist before, whatever music was churned out before, is going to be churned out now regardless of his involvement.  We just wanted to make that statement, and it didn’t quite come out the right way.  It sounded like there was a huge feud, but there wasn’t. In fact, Tony and I talked just a couple weeks ago just to chat and I said we were starting to plan tours and he said to let us know, and he said to keep him in the loop because he still wanted to tour with us. We’ll probably end up touring together, schedules pending.  That’s the plan is for Tony to tour with us—we’re still on very good terms.

Jupiter‘s release date is November 8th in the US, and can be ordered from the Season of Mist web store or from iTunes after the album is released.

Metal Monday: True Norwegian Black Metal by Peter Beste [book]

Norwegian Black Metal is an often explored sub-genre and culture of music, but usually looked under intense media scrutiny. On very few occasions has the Norwegian Black Metal scene been explored from the inside out, free of media pressures. The book True Norwegian Black Metal is a photo book that spawned from the VICE Magazine 2007 documentary of the same name. Peter Beste, the photographer, helped put the VICE documentary together and while doing so became inspired to compile a book of his black metal expeditions. While the documentary is criticized for not being entirely factual, the book garners no such criticism—unlike the film, only bits of text in the entire book are quotes from famous people (both in and out of the scene)—and includes an introduction by Jon “Metalion” Kristiansen, creator of the first and most influential fanzine in black metal (Slayer Magazine).

Short and to the point, True Norwegian Black Metal starts off with black pages using minimal amounts of white text then immediately grabs the reader’s attention with an incredibly stark spread juxtaposing a black metaller breathing fire into the air with the Latin text “in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni” (translation: “we enter the circle in the night and are consumed with fire”) in medieval English typeface. The first section of photos feature characters prototypical of what many think when you say “black metal”—corpse paint, leather jackets, long hair, the works. It isn’t until after the introductions that you get a look into the real Norway and members of the black metal scene.

In terms of photo selection, there is no censorship among the photos. The reader sees all of the gory details, including more real and behind-the-scenes photos. Media depictions and dress associated with a black metal live show are all hyped and presented as the way that things are normally—True Norwegian Black Metal shows that there is more to the scene than aesthetics alone. There are sections that show the beautiful, and sometimes bleak, Norwegian countryside and sections that show the everyday life of black metallers around Norway. Quotes from the likes of E.M. Cioran, Gaahl (of Gorgoroth), Frost (of 1349/Satyricon), Fenriz (of Darkthrone), Abbath (of Immortal), H.P. Lovecraft, Albert Camus, etc. add a surprising amount of insight to the book as they speak volumes about the scene, the mindset of the people involved, how their world is perceived and why it is the way it is.

Undeniably the most moving part of the book is the introduction, an incredibly personal first-hand look at black metal written by Metalion. His writing it completely different than that of journalists and other media personalities—it’s devoid of judgment, and details how the scene all came to be. This includes the infamous Helvete record store as well as the strife between the bands Burzum and Mayhem—the suicide of vocalist Dead and the murder of guitarist Euronymous by Vark Vikernes—which shook Norway’s black metal scene to it’s core.

True Norwegian Black Metal is a must-have for anyone who has a serious fascination with music genres, those who want to learn something about black metal from a new perspective or just want to have a collection of fantastic pictures from the black metal scene in Norway. Cumulatively, this photo book gives much more insight to the real happenings involving the Norwegian black metal scene—much more than any text or spoken words could. True Norwegian Black Metal can be found any many book retailers such as Barnes and Noble, and can also be found at Newbury Comics. It can also be purchased from many retailers via Amazon. If you’d like to see the documentary, it can be found on VBS.tv.

Metal Monday: Q&A with Kylesa

Dual-drumming metal band Kylesa are gearing up to release their first record on Season of Mist. A follow-up to 2008′s Static Tensions, Spiral Shadow is pushing the boundaries of progressive, stoner, psychedelic metal even further. With two drummers, two guitarists, a bassist, and three people contributing to the vocals it’s easy to see how parts of the band could get lost in the shuffle—but that’s not the case with Kylesa. Phillip Cope (guitarist, vocalist and one of the founding members) took the time to answer some of our questions about the recording and release of the new album, as well as some other questions about the Georgia sound and playing to the band’s extremely varied musical tastes.

OS: So, Spiral Shadow is going to be your first release on Season of Mist. How was the transition from Prosthetic Records?

PC: It was about a year in transition, and we just needed to figure out what we wanted to do next. We waited about a year and we figured we should tour hard to support the record that Prosthetic put out before we left.

OS: In line with Static Tensions, Spiral Shadow is your most progressive and psychedelic album to date. Do you think it’s getting close to an ideal sound that encompasses all the influences that you have in the band?

PC: You know, no one’s ever really put it that way, but I definitely think it is.  I know we’re the happiest with this we’ve ever been for sure.

OS: Did the writing process change from previous albums?

PC: Actually, it stayed pretty much the same.

OS: You’ve said you share writing duties amongst band members. Did anyone in the band have more of an influence for Spiral Shadow than your other albums?

PC: That’s really hard to say, I don’t remember it getting to the point where anyone was getting too domineering.  I think we all kind of run our ideas across each other before we go full on with anything too weird.

OS: Do you think that coming from Savannah [GA] has had a profound effect on your influences, and in turn, the music you make?

PC: In terms of bands from Savannah, definitely not.

OS: How about growing up in the south, and the music you were exposed to as kids?

PC: I’d say the big thing was being exposed to punk rock, heavy metal and other weird stuff like that at an early age due to there being an art school in our city.  It’s a small southern town, but it did have an art school, and that brought in a lot of people from many different places and I was able to get into a lot of different stuff because of that.  But also, because it was small there weren’t a lot of scenes, all of the people who were into stuff that was a little different all sort of had to stick together. So there wasn’t really a lot of room for different cliques, if you know what I mean.  When I was in high school I was more into punk rock, and there were only like two other kids into thatthen there were like 5 or 6 other people who were into metal, you knowand everybody else were jocks and rednecks.  We kind of had to stick together, we didn’t really have a choice.  You’d argue at lunch about whether Slayer or Misfits were a better band, but… (laughs)

OS: Do you think that, with other bands from Savannah like Black Tusk and Baroness, you’re sort of giving Georgia a sound identity?

PC: You know, it’s hard to say, but it looks that way.  It sounds like you know some of our historylately people have been saying “Oh, you sound like Baroness or Mastodon” but our roots go farther back than that. I think all the bands ought to keep going their own directions.

OS: Yeah, obviously you guys are going in a bit different direction than Black Tusk, Baroness, Mastodon, etc. but there are definitely some similarities among the area.  Would you compare it to the Desert Rock scene with bands like Kyuss and Fu Manchu?

PC: I don’t know, I think it’s too early to tell.  I know this though, when Kylesa started, Baroness and Black Tusk weren’t even bands yet, and Mastodon had just started up too, and I had already been going for seven years with DamadI don’t think there was an intention of there being a scene.  It just kind of what happened.  Mastodon was going in one direction and we were going in a different direction, it wasn’t until years down the road until people even made a connection between our two bands.  But what happened in Savannah was that people were starting to get an interest in there was a scene starting to build up.  Damad kind of started it, but when Damad broke up there were like sixteen people at our last show (laughs).

OS: You alluded to it earlier, and Laura has mentioned it in an interview in which she appeared to get a bit offended–you don’t like to pigeon-hole yourselves stylistically, but do you have problems with other people applying labels to your band?

PC: You know, I don’t think Laura was actually as pissed off as that article made her sound, but she might have been, I don’t knowshe said she wasn’t (laughs).  But when you play music like we play that’s like ours, what the hell do you call it? You don’t have to accept people who call it what you don’t want them to call it, but I don’t really have a problem with people calling us somethingI realize that writers need something, you’ve got to describe us somehow.  We’ve made it kind of difficult on people because we won’t call it anything ourselves.  Some people get it, some people don’t. I don’t really get too upset by people calling us the wrong term, if that makes sense.

OS: Yeah, that makes sense. So what do you think the future for Kylesa is as a band?  Do you think you’ll get more progressive and psychedelic?

PC: I’m not sure, that’s really hard to say at this point.  We try to find a good balance between being true to ourselves and being true to our fans.  We don’t want to do anything that would alienate our fans.  You know, for all the talk they’re having about this album being different, there might be some songs that are different, but there’s plenty of stuff that continues along the lines of what we’ve done in the past.  We’ve done that with every album.  We’ve brought something from the past and brought in something new.

OS: Yeah, I’ve definitely noticed that with the new album you’ve polarized it a bit more.  You’ve got some old school heavy Kylesa sections and some more pure psychedelic sections as compared to Static Tensionswas that on purpose?

PC: Yeah, completely.  We wrote how we wrote, but you know, at the same time we don’t want to alienate the people that support us and got us here.  We have a great loyal fan base of people that have been sticking around for years, and some people that continue from Damad, and we don’t want to do anything that those people would see as a middle finger.  But we’ve said this from day one, and people who have been following us understand this, that that is part of what we dowe change, we do new things and we’ve said that from the beginning.  People aren’t going to get the same record over and over.

Spiral Shadow drops October 26th on Season of Mist. It’s a really solid albumboth for old Kylesa fans and new. You can order a copy of the new album with a DVD and/or a t-shirt from the Season of Mist webstore, or get a limited edition deluxe digipack from the Relapse Records webstore.

If you’re still on the fence about the band, check out the Spiral Shadow album trailer:

Metal Monday: Drown Out The Noise Study Playlist

It’s getting to be that time of the year when every student’s life is a blur of red-eye study sessions and caffeine binges—that’s right, midterms. Now, some people prefer to study in serene library settings, others like to study with the television on and others like to study to music. Some listen to classical, some listen to singer-songwriter; others just want to blast some metal to drown out all of their loud party-hard roommates or counteract the perpetual construction that seems to be happening outside their window. Well, I’ve got good news! Here are ten great metal songs to help you drown out the noise and get your study on.

  1. “Victory” by Dargolf Metzgore
  2. “Bringers of the Dawn” by Jack Ketch
  3. “Forged Within” by Aethere
  4. “Introducing Atrophy” by As Sick As Us
  5. “A New Design (feat. Justin Hill of SikTh)” by Hero In Error
  6. “CyberGore Generation” by Illidiance
  7. “Happiness is Deceit” by Bless The Child
  8. “Beyond Grey” by Silent Descent
  9. “Waking Lucaya” by A Catalyst for Destruction
  10. “My Name is Fire” by Speak of the Devil

Metal Monday: Voyager Q&A

Deeply rooted in the greater Boston area is a niche scene known to some as “post metal” or to others as “sludge” metal, popularized by bands such as Isis and Pelican.  In close style proximity to these bands is Voyager. With their fearless leader PJ Mion, the band has seen some adversity in recent years but continues to move forth as self-proclaimed “Astronauts.” Check out what PJ had to say regarding the band:

OS: You’ve had some lineup changes recently, losing/gaining two members. How have the newest members been fitting in thus far?

PJ: We’ve actually had two lineup changes since when we originally got started and wrote/recorded our self titled EP—new bassist and second guitarist both times.  After Ryan & Luke left around the same time back in 2008, our friends Sal and Matt jumped in to help us out, keep us playing shows etc.  Both of those guys had been playing in a great sort of progressive indie rock band called The Locomotive Espada at the time that had been put on hold since their singer was moving to LA.  They both fit in really well with the band, but unfortunately with them living in NYC and working full-time it became logistically difficult to practice and write with us up in Boston, so we ended up getting Brian [Barbaruolo, bass] and Sean [Harrington, guitar] in the fold in the spring of this year so that we could start playing shows more frequently and fast-track finishing up the writing for our new record, which has been a long time coming.

OS: Any updates on the forthcoming recording session at Planet Z for the new record?

PJ: I actually just firmed things up with Zeuss today, and it looks like we’ll begin tracking partway through the first week of October, with plans to finish things up at the end of the month and possibly into early November.  He has a lot of larger projects on his plate (like mixing the new Crowbar record, which I am quite excited to hear will be getting finished up relatively soon), and all of us are juggling different work schedules and all of that, so scheduling hasn’t been real easy, but we are all looking forward to finally getting the ball rolling on this thing, working with such a well-respected engineer, and to see what type of sounds we can get since our new material is fairly different from that of most bands that he works with.

OS: Are there any plans in the works for more extensive touring outside the Boston and NYC areas when you’re done recording?

PJ: Doing some real touring in support of the new full-length is certainly something that we are hoping to do, and the tentative plan at this point is to try to find a time that works for everyone in early 2011 to make it out to the west coast for at least 7 or 8 days (which we were trying to do this summer but couldn’t quite work it out).  Before then we have been talking about trying to set up 3 day weekends here and there so that we can make it down to Philly, Jersey, western NY, etc. which we haven’t ever done too much of.  In all honesty, while all of us are pretty much out of school and working real jobs, I’m probably the biggest limiting factor in our ability to tour—I’m a geologist for the Army Corps of Engineers and it is hard to free up long periods of time off with all of the field work that we have going on.  Sometimes life gets in the way of what you really want to do.

OS: You recently released your split with fellow sludge metal band Monolith as a vinyl-only release originally (on Science of Silence) but have since made digital copies available, what was the thought process behind this?

PJ: All facets of the split LP release were handled by the label, including the limited shirt preorder packages and the digital version.  I can’t speak for them, but I’d imagine that while they are planning to stick with vinyl-only as far as physical product goes, realistically not everyone has a record player or equal interest in the analog medium, and there are bound to be people that are willing to pay to get the songs but don’t want to spend extra for the LP (and the amazing artwork that comes with it) if they aren’t going to use it or aren’t interested in collecting.

OS: Why a limited pressing clear vinyl?

PJ: The limited pressing was the way the release was planned, and I believe that high quality, collectible limited pressings are going to be what Science of Silence is looking to do as a label for the most part.  The clear vinyl was what we wanted, since it looks awesome in conjunction with the rest of the artwork, and Marc &; Tim (who run Science of Silence) were very accommodating with letting us run with our ideas for the layout and overall package.  They are great guys to work with, definitely want to take a second to thank them and to tell everyone reading this to check out their second release which is out now—Constants’ If Tomorrow the War, which is easily one of the most epic things I’ve heard in a while.  Another great Boston-area band well worth giving a shot.

OS: Tell me about the video for your song “Avulsion.” Was this a planned thing or a fan tribute?

PJ: That video was created by a guy named Shawn Kilmer, shot fully in HD, basically just a bunch of cool scenes that he put together to go with the song.  It was unplanned, but I’ve been in contact with him a number of times over the past couple of years, and it was definitely cool to see an artist take something that we’ve made and create something on their own to compliment it.  People can check out his other stuff at his Web site.

I also want to get in a quick plug for our singer Devin’s screen printing company that he runs with his brother Tom, Portal [who did the cover art for the Monolith/Voyager split LP].  I should also send out a shout to Ben from our new label, Creator-Destructor who is a great guy and has been good with putting up with my delayed responses to things.  Lastly, thanks to Munson the Destroyer for the interest and the questions.

Check out the video for “Avulsion” below:

If you’re interested in purchasing the split that Voyager did with Monolith, you can order if from here, but you better order fast because it’s limited to 500. Otherwise, you can get it from the iTunes Music Store.

Metal Monday: Metalcore, Grindcore, Deathcore – What’s the Difference?

Metal as a community—made up of bands and their fans— is a tight-knit population, but that does not mean this happy family is without its schisms. With the somewhat recent rise of deathcore into the mainstream, many death metal and grindcore acts have drawn a line in the sand to separate themselves from this sub genre of metal. The same can be said for metalcore, which at one point in the early 2000s had a major surge within mainstream music and was ostracized by many metal sub genres. You see, if someone isn’t raised in the metal scene, then they may not be able to tell the minor differences between these sub genres. Add to this the large number of bands  spilling over and changing sides between sub genres, and you’ve got a recipe for a giant mess.

Grindcore, metalcore, deathcore—they all came from very distinct roots: death metal and hardcore (scenes ultimately born from punk). Death metal is known for its heavy and constant nature, taken to an extreme level. Lots of bands fit this bill and have had the “death metal” label slapped onto them, but the essence of death metal lies in bands like Death, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Suffocation and Decapitated. Change anything the classic death metal  formula and you’ve probably found yourself wandering into sub genre land—bands like Necrophagist are known as “technical death metal” but to the inexperienced listener are really not much different. For a good example of death metal, you can check out this video for Cannibal Corpse’s “Death Walking Terror”:

Early in the death metal days, grindcore was born—taking the heaviness of death metal bands of the time along with the avant-garde nature of post-rock, the frenetic rhythms and breakdowns of hardcore punk and an extra splash of craziness to create a totally new sub genre of music. The more famous grindcore acts include Napalm Death, Pig Destroyer, Brutal Truth and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Check out this music video for Brutal Truth’s “Sugar Daddy” to hear a good example of  grindcore:

The late 1990s witnessed the next offshoot: metalcore. Though its beginngs lie in early 90s bands like Converge and Zao, its current style was brought about by bands such as Unearth, God Forbid and Shadows Fall. Taking a lot of influence from trash, the metalcore tag may be a bit misleading, as the only real element taken from hardcore is the style of breakdown used. Most of the stylistic choices lie in heavy thrash, and the vocals often feature big melodic lines evident in heavy metal bands like Armored Saint. The most famous example of more modern metalcore is All That Remains‘ “This Calling”:

Soon after metalcore’s rise, deathcore began to brew. Take out the melodic vocals, make the sound a bit heavier and use more extreme breakdowns and you’ve transformed regular metalcore into deathcore. Bands such as The Acacia Strain, Caliban, The Red Chord, Animosity and Job For a Cowboy are known as some of the first true deathcore bands. To get a taste of an archetypal deathcore song, check out The Acacia Strain’s “Angry Mob Justice”:

Nowadays, though, bands are breaking these boundaries. Act such as The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, Cephalic Carnage, Job For a Cowboy and Brain Drill have completely shattered the mold for these genres. This has been a much needed change for the metal scene since many separate sub-genres began drawing lines in the sand because, really, many of these bands aren’t that different at their core—they’re all just looking to have a good time by making extreme music people want to move to.

Metal Monday: Chain Reaction

With the advent of so many new metal sub genres in recent years, the prospect of finding a band that can be considered “pure metal” or just “metal” is a bit rare. Luckily, Polish band Chain Reaction have found a way to straddle enough sub genres to avoid being pigeon-holed into just one. From groove to thrash to progressive, Chain Reaction boasts every metal style under their belt.

The band recorded their first LP (Vicious Cycle) in 2007, just one year after releasing their “id” promo, though Vicious Cycle wasn’t released due to their lack of a label for support. The next year and half saw the band touring almost non-stop around Poland and surrounding countries. By the time early 2009 rolled around, the band signed with a label (Kolony Records) and released Vicious Cycle that March. This past May, the band released their second full-length album Cutthroat Melodies.

The most prominent sound among Chain Reaction’s songs are groovy thrash riffs akin to bands like DevilDriver, Lamb of God or Chimaira—but that would be selling the band short of their varied sound. The only part of the band’s sound that remains somewhat constant throughout each song are the booming vocals of Barton Szarek. Somewhere between a yell and an enraged growl most of the time, Barton’s vocals really bring the styles of the band together into one strong and cohesive sound. While their music doesn’t necessarily show a massive amount of virtuosity, the songwriting is pretty good and there aren’t any weak links in the band. All in all, Chain Reaction have found a unique metal sound that will make you want to move.

Dare to disagree? Check out some tracks below:

On the off chance you’re located in Estonia, Latvia, or Germany you can catch Chain Reaction on one of their upcoming tour dates in your country!

 


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