(With this post, guest writer Alain Mower begins a series of interviews with women in metal.)
As someone who has been in the metal scene for over a decade, half of that spent playing at the local level in metal bands, I’ve noticed some recurring statements, habits, and trends that need to be addressed.
Metal was built on the foundation of being an open-minded, all-embracing haven that accepts everyone from every walk of life. I’ve never been a part of a community where COMPLETE and TOTAL STRANGERS will literally push people away and pick you up from where you fell in the pit, give you a swig of mead from their horn chalice, or go out of their way to help you back out of that super-tight parallel park job, and I don’t expect many other communities with that level of blind trust and companionship exist elsewhere.
That’s why it’s extremely distressing when I overhear or stumble into conversations where people are using terms such as “Girlfriend Metal” or pointing out the ever-elusive “Metal Girl.” I’ve had many a female friend express that they feel uncomfortable attending metal shows, feel extra pressure in live performances, and – disgustingly enough – have had derogatory statements yelled at them, both as fans and as musicians. Obviously not everyone is guilty of such behavior, but it’s still a pox that we need to deal with if we want to continue to be the boundary-destroying, all-accepting community this culture was built upon. I don’t mind if we treat it or cut it off and leave it behind, but something has to be done.
(We hit the trifecta in this post — BadWolf provides an overview of the new album by <code>, an interview of the band’s guitarist/songwriter Aort, and a full stream of the album.)
Augur Nox, the new album by international outfit <code>, is a gift—as in, I was not expecting it, and 2013′s crop of albums is richer for it.
The last time <code> released an album, 2009′s excellent Resplendent Grotesque, it was up for a Spellemann award (Norway’s equivalent to a Grammy), and rightfully so: That record is a roller coaster of dark moods and powerful guitar work, one that pushed the boundaries of what I considered “normal” for a progressive black metal album at that time.
And then, nothing. <code> parted ways with vocalist Khovst, who has a particular talent for high-pitched screeches as well as super-creepy clean singing. Khvost has gone on to work with many other not-particularly-metal-but-still-super-creepy projects, such as folk outfit Hexvessel, and goth rock band Beastmilk (the new Beastmilk LP is pretty fun, as well).
As for Aort… not a peep. Apparently he spent that time searching for a vocalist who could actually compete with Khvost, as well as writing the material that would become Augur Nox. The wait seems to have paid off—the new <code> frontman, Wacian, suits the band perfectly.
What follows in this post was a very cool thing for me to do, given how much I admire Rivers of Nihil, and I hope it’s also a very cool thing for you to read. It’s an interview with one of the band’s uber-talented guitarists, Brody Uttley. This is the kind of interview I feel lucky to do — because the lameness of my questions was surmounted by the thoughtfulness of the answers. And if for some reason you haven’t yet caught on to what this band are doing, I’ll give you a chance to experience your own Eureka! moment at the end.
Islander: Thanks for making time to talk with me. We’ve been following you guys for almost two years at our site, and it’s been a blast to watch what’s happened to you, though I’m sure not as much of a blast as it’s been for you.
Brody Uttley: No problem man! Always great to talk with those who have been watching us grow since the beginning. Things have definitely been very intense lately, between recording the album, doing three tours, and trying to make time for our commitments at home.
I: I went back and re-read our first post from January 2012, and the writer wrote this: “I had the good fortune to see Rivers of Nihil open for Boston slam heavyweights Dysentery a week or so ago, and their precision is unmatched by the vast majority of their peers. It seriously sounded like I was listening to a really loud CD, and anyone who’s played in a band knows that that’s an impressive feat. Mark my words, if they keep this up, this band is going places; talent like this doesn’t go unnoticed for very long.” Does that show seem like ancient history, given what’s happened since then, or does it seem like yesterday?
B: It honestly seems like it was just yesterday, even though we have grown so much as a band and as individual musicians, it feels very recent that we were playing that show. We keep in very close contact with all of the Dysentery guys, as well as the Cognitive dudes who were also playing that show. We keep our oldest friends close, as this industry is constantly shifting and you can never really tell where your “new friends’” intentions lie…
(NCW contributor KevinP had a chat with guitarist/vocalist Randy Piro of “Miami mind-erasers” Orbweaver.)
K: Since you are new to most people (and our readers), I’m going to make you start out with the dreaded, “please give us a history of the band and how things came to be”.
R: I started Orbweaver in late 2010 after playing in a few bands (Hate Eternal and Gigan). I actually intended to take a bit of time away from music…but my imagination caught up with me. So after I had a few songs written, I started finding the right members to bring it to life.
I wrote our original drummer, Mike Pena, after seeing him play a blistering set with his band Nuclear infantry. We met and started working on what would become the 3 song demo.
Sally [Gates] then came into the band on bass first. Once we found Jason [Ledgard] she moved over to guitar. That’s when things really started to take form.
Mike left the band shortly after we recorded Strange Transmissions, and after a long process of finding the right replacement we hooked up with Scott Spasiano. Scott is the perfect drummer for the band, both creatively and personality wise.
K: Your music is by no means “traditional” in any sense of the word, even for death metal. Did you find it difficult to find other musicians who shared the same vision?
R: Absolutely! To be honest even Mike didn’t fully grasp the intent at first. Once we recorded the demo he got it… Lots of people would just give me this blank stare as I was showing them the material. But I figured this would be the case. So I did what I could to find people who came from different musical backgrounds.
In July of this year, Chimaira released their seventh studio album, Crown of Phantoms, and NCS writer TheMadIsraeli reviewed it here. Recently he got the chance to interview Chimaira’s main man Mark Hunter via Facebook chat, covering such topics as Crown’s place in the Chimaira discography, the band’s most recent line-up changes, what Hunter listens to when he’s not in Chimaira mode, action movies, and more. Here we go:
Mark Hunter: Hello! I am here and ready when you are.
TheMadIsraeli: Alright so, to be brief with this, this conversation is going to be completely unedited except for typos and I might format stuff to make more sense. I don’t like censoring shit or leaving shit out so…
MH: Sounds good to me.
TMI: So let’s get the Chimaira related shit out of the way, I’d like to make this more of a general interview about metal in general as well as other stuff. Crown of Phantoms. How do you feel about where it sits in the Chimaira discography?
MH: I am extremely proud of the album. The entire recording process was a blast and I learned a lot. I hear sonic trademarks that ensure the name “Chimaira” is represented well, and I also think the songwriting as well as musicianship is at its finest hour. I’m excited to write more as I feel we only cracked the surface.
Last Sunday I reviewed the latest EP (Basic Instinct) by a three-man Israeli band named Promiscuity. In a nutshell, I liked the shit out of it. It’s the kind of infernal rock ‘n’ roll that makes a direct connection to the spirit of early Venom, Celtic Frost, and Bathory, without just aping any of those bands. The review led to a conversation with the band’s founder, bass player, and lyricist, who calls himself Werewolf (the other two members are one hell of a vocalist/guitarist named Butcher and the formidable drummer from Sonne Adam, Steel)
I don’t do many interviews. Time is too short, given what else I try to do with this blog, and I don’t hold myself in terribly high esteem as an interviewer. But this one I couldn’t resist, not only because I’m so high on the music but also because this would be my first direct contact with a metal band from Israel, which is a musical scene I know next to nothing about.
And so, beginning early one morning (for me), Werewolf and I messaged each other back and forth on Facebook, taking unsynchronized breaks for snatches of sleep (the time zone difference is pretty significant) and to pay attention to our respective day jobs. We finished yesterday, and you’re about to read the conversation.
It’s a long, wide-ranging discussion (which includes tips about some other Israeli bands), because it turns out that my interview subject is bright, articulate, thoughtful, and funny — especially for a werewolf. And for those of you who like to listen to music while you read, I’m going to help you out.
(NCS guest writer Kevin Page interviews Tuomas Saukkonen of Wolfheart and formerly of Before the Dawn, Black Sun Aeon, Dawn of Solace, and Routasielu. Wolfheart’s new album Winterborn will be released October 11. This is Kevin’s second NCS interview of Tuomas; the first one can be found here.)
K: The last time we spoke in March 2012 was when Rise of the Phoenix came out. You seemed energized over the new direction of Before the Dawn and were ready to move forward. Now, here we are 1.5 years later, Before the Dawn, Black Sun Aeon, Dawn of Solace, and Routasielu have been stopped, and your sole project is now Wolfheart. What happened ?
T: Well I kept on moving forward . There are a few songs on the last BTD album like “Throne Of Ice” and “Eclipse” which opened the door for Wolfheart musically and I didn’t feel like to follow that path with Before the Dawn anymore. Also Before the Dawn started to feel more and more as a job during the years and I needed to regain the passion toward music even if it meant taking a few steps backwards career wise.
K: Was there a sudden realization one day that “I’m bored, I need to stop this” or was it a gradual thing?
T: A gradual thing. Already while working on Deathstar Rising I felt like this might be the last album for Before the Dawn. Then came big changes and a lot of energy came with that album. But that energy went to music and song writing instead of leading the band.
K: Was there ever a time over the years where it felt mentally draining juggling numerous bands at the same time?
T: Nope. There were times when I felt mentally drained by one band. Sometimes crazy schedules, just simply a lot of work, problems with labels etc. And during those times it was a big relief to have other projects to pour my creativity into.
People who regularly spend time at this site know that although the music we cover is usually heavy as hell and often very dark, most days the tone of the posts is pretty light-hearted. This isn’t one of those posts.
What you’re about to read is an interview with Aaron Edge, a very talented, very articulate, very experienced musician with a lot of credibility in the underground. I first learned about him through his work on the early albums of Himsa, and you’ll see the names of other bands mentioned in the interview. In addition to his musical endeavors, he’s also a graduate of The Art Institute of Philadelphia and has designed hundreds of CD/record covers, posters, and t-shirts for musical groups all over the world.
Later this fall, Southern Lord will be releasing the first album, and possibly the last, by a band named Lumbar that he formed along with Mike Scheidt (of YOB and VHÖL, among others) and Tad Doyle (of TAD and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth), both of whom contributed vocals to the instrumental music that Aaron recorded.
Aaron was also diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in March of this year. The diagnosis followed months of unexplained pain and increasing numbness in his hands and feet that nearly prevented him from completing recording of the songs that would eventually become the music of Lumbar. There is no known cure, and the treatments themselves can be severely debilitating. These experiences, and the shadows that now cloud Aaron’s future, have made Lumbar’s debut into a concept album unlike any other you’re likely to come across this year.
Last week Aaron agreed to “talk” with me through an exchange of messages on Facebook. He was very open in discussing what has happened to him, as well as the experience of writing and recording Lumbar’s album. I’ll warn you in advance that things get very heavy. As you’ll see, there are reasons to expect Lumbar’s album, First and Last Days, is going to be very fucking heavy, too.
(Our man BadWolf had a long chat with The Ocean’s main man Robin Staps just prior to the release of Pelagial this year, and we have it for you here.)
Robin Staps comes across nothing like his music. Soft-spoken, and eloquent as he is lithe, Staps appears as some sort of scholarly outdoorsman. Which is true.
However, he’s also the composer/lyricist/lead guitarist and all-around mastermind behind cerebral genre interlocutors The Ocean, and in that capacity he is anything but soft. His early records, the instrumental Fluxion through the sprawling Precambrian, compose some of the strongest post-whatever music put to disc, mixing sludge, hardcore, and progressive metal with orchestral music and jazz. His subject matter—the food chain, the literature of Dostoevsky and the gradual cooling of the prehistoric earth’s crust—is arch as all get out. You could say he innovated the high-concept album. And what albums they are. The last two, conjoined twins, Heliocentric and Anthropocentric, form a literate, scientific, and absolutely burning indictment of Christianity.
“There is no alternative to the theory of evolution.” Staps insists through frontman-as-avatar Loïc Rosetti.
Those albums may present a larger existential threat to organized religion than the entirety of black metal put together. Witchcraft destroys minds, but The Ocean changes them.
Earlier this year, Staps released his followup to the -centric albums, Pelagial, and it’s another doozy—a one-hour trip from the surface of the ocean to its floor. It begins delicate and ends crushing, and along the way dabbles in new territory. Hell, parts of “Mesopelagic: Into the Uncanny” sound almost like a down-tuned Queen, but still work in the album’s greater context.
From his music’s time signature to its instrumentation, conceptualization, packaging, and presentation, Staps pushes every aspect of his art to the extreme. He Skyped me just prior to the release of Pelagial to talk about what drives him, the way Pelagial was made, and the source of his inspiration—the ocean. Yeah, the interview took a while to get up. Sorry, Robin.
K: So you joined My Dying Bride in 2007, but were a relatively unknown name at the time. Give us some back-story before entering the fray?
L: I started playing guitar when I was ten years old. Usual story really, joined bands throughout high school, became involved within the metal scene, and eventually joined My Dying Bride. Music is in my family, so I was always going to do something along those lines.
K: Are you a native/lifelong Brit?
L: Mostly yes. I’m half Japanese and half British. Born in Tokyo, but my family moved to the UK when I was still a baby. I was brought up in Yorkshire and definitely have the accent to prove it.
K: So growing up, when did you first hear about My Dying Bride?
L: I can’t remember exactly. I remember friends’ older siblings being into them when I was a kid and I remember seeing the band in magazines like Kerrang and Terrorizer, old school MTV as well. It was eye-opening because it was the first time I had heard “doom”. I really got into them around the Songs of Darkness, Words of Light era (2004-ish) and saw them live. That changed it for me and I then explored the rest of their catalogue.
K: Were you already into death metal/extreme music by that time?
L: Not fully, but I was half-way there if that makes sense.