SEEN AND HEARD: ELEMENTAL NIGHTMARES I (WILDERNESSKING, OAK PANTHEON, KESS’KHTAK, LIBER NECRIS); DECAPITATED; WINTERSUN AND NUCLEAR BLAST
To pick up where my last post left off, the aircraft that I boarded yesterday in Seattle did in fact land in Denver, where I and my personal security detail spent the evening drinking beer, eating pizza, and air-guitaring at the Black Sky Brewery in preparation for the sonic holocaust that will begin today (otherwise know as the Denver Black Sky fest).
Because time is short (or more accurately, the time not spent drinking, eating, jawing, and sleeping), this little round-up will be less fulsome than I would like — but still worthwhile, I hope.
ELEMENTAL NIGHTMARES — I
We’ve been writing about the Elemental Nightmares project since early days, and it is now a reality. Today Elemental Nightmares released the first of seven 10″ vinyl splits for digital download; the physical copies will start shipping on August 7 or 8.
The first split includes songs by Wildernessking (South Africa), Oak Pantheon (Minnesota), Kess’khtak (Switzerland) Liber Necris (UK), and it features that stunning artwork you see at the top of this post (all of the individual pieces of art for the seven splits, when placed next to each other, will eventually flow together to form one large piece of art). The work was created by Düsseldorf artist Alexander Leybovich (whose web site is here).
Details about purchase options can be found via the links below. And a stream of all the songs from this first split follows the links. I have some thoughts and a little background to share about the music, but that will have to wait ’til tomorrow. Enjoy the sounds…
Yesterday Nuclear Blast America began accepting pre-orders (HERE) for Decapitated’s new album, Blood Mantra. It’s available on CD, in digipack format, and in red or green vinyl, and there are a bunch of bundle options.
Also, the album has leaked and a bunch of the songs are now up on YouTube. I probably shouldn’t have even mentioned that, because things like that screw up promotional plans that lots of people undoubtedly have worked hard to develop and roll out in an orderly way. This horse will probably be put back in the barn, but it’s out running around right now.
WINTERSUN vs. NUCLEAR BLAST
A couple of days ago Wintersun’s Jari Mäenpää posted a long rant on his Facebook page that expressed a rambling list of grievances and frustrations about his inability to complete the Time II album, most of which were directed at Wintersun’s label, Nuclear Blast. And yesterday Nuclear Blast posted a decidedly more temperate response (probably much more temperate than how they actually feel about Mäenpää going public with this dispute).
I go back and forth about this kerfuffle. Sometimes I think Mäenpää’s diatribe is just whiny, petulant, and egotistical — just a list of excuses for Wintersun’s inability to put out its music as other bands are able to do, despite confronting the same problems he writes about. At other times I’m sympathetic to what he’s complaining about. What do you think?
Here are the two statements for those who care to wade through them:
Jari Mäenpää: (posted July 31, 2014)
Reality Update About Crowd Funding, TIME II And Future Albums
I´m very happy to see that we have so much dedicated fans that would be willing to pledge and be a part of funding a studio for Wintersun, so I could make the next Wintersun album without it taking another 10 years again.
I´ve been thinking about this Kickstarter/Pledge crowd funding thing for a while and I´m very confident now that there is enough of you guys that would help us raise the money for the Wintersun studio! This would give me the freedom to make music efficiently and nonstop. It would eliminate lot of the problems I´ve struggled with all my life and still continue to struggle everyday. For example right now I need a studio to reamp guitars for TIME II. And not just any studio, my own studio where I can craft my sounds exactly like I want them. 3rd party studios have never worked for me and I´ve never gotten satisfactory results for the insane prices they charge.
I live in a small shitty apartment building and I have neighbors. It is very very hard to work like this. I can´t record vocals, I can´t practise my singing, I can´t record guitars, I can´t record guitars even with modelling amps, because the electricity is so bad in this shitty building so I get lots of interference, I even play and practise the electric guitar acoustically without an amp 99% of the time in my home, I can´t record drums or basically any acoustic instruments, I don´t have the room or cool space for a big computer farm which is a must for the orchestrations for the next album (the place is too small and hot even for the one computer I have), I can´t mix properly, ´cause the room is so bad and there´s always ambient noise in and outside the building. That´s why I usually turn my sleeping rhythm around and mix at nights, but that causes problems in my everyday life. I can´t do pretty much anything properly in this situation. Building a professional studio for Wintersun would erase all this and give us the freedom to make music nonstop. It would upgrade our album sound significantly and most importantly speed up the album making process significantly. This would even raise our live game. With proper preproduction, able to tweak our live sounds and setup properly we would sound pretty incredible live. We would also be able to rehearse more and that would allow us to be able to play live more often and come to places where we normally have not been able to come. The studio would allow us to have more time for everything.
But the problem is this. I have a record deal with Nuclear Blast. If I would do a Kickstarter with a downloadable album for example, they would come with lawyers and take % share (more than half) away from the money that is your money meant for the Wintersun studio and the album production. Would you even want to pledge if Wintersun didn´t get 100% of the money you´ve pledged for the album production? Then our management would take their % share away. Then there´s taxes of course. The Finnish government would take something like 40% away. This would leave me nothing. I would be totally screwed. I´ve been trying to have a discussion with Nuclear Blast about crowd funding, but they are totally freaking out. They see the crowd funding as a threat to their business and they would rather see Wintersun dead, than me doing a crowd funding. I think this would not hurt them at all, only benefit them, but they cannot see the big picture of Wintersun doing well. They actually told me point blank that I should just stop making music and they will never release Wintersun from the contract. It´s really like this, because they can´t or won´t loan me enough money to build a studio and fund an album, they don´t want other people (the fans) to fund it either… unless they get a crazy big cut of the funding (for doing absolutely nothing).
This is the way a record deal works: The label gives an advance to make an album. This is a loan and they will recoup every penny back from the record sales. The reason why TIME I&II has taken so long to make (and still is taking long to finish TIME II), is because I haven´t gotten enough advances (money) to make these complex albums. Not even close. So I´ve been struggling all these years and sacrificed everything to make these albums. I have never really made any money from Wintersun. All my money has gone to album production, but you can guess who have made tons of money from Wintersun. The point is that I need my own studio to make the future albums, but Nuclear Blast won´t be able to loan enough money to make that happen and then they won´t allow me to do a crow funding campaign either that would make it happen. And even if Nuclear Blast would be able to loan me the money for the studio, our management would take their share of that money and I would get only part of the money, but I would still have to pay back 100% to Nuclear Blast from the record sales. So I would actually lose big chunk of the album production money straight away, which makes no sense at all. And then there´s the taxes. So there´s no point of taking these “loans” either.
This all is stressing me out very badly and it´s slowing my workflow. I´ve got enough technical problems to deal with making these albums. I just want the freedom to make music, but I guess it is what it is. Honestly, I feel like I´ve signed a deal with the devil and I´m just a slave in the system.
I´ve got probably 5 long albums worth of new insanely good material! And there´s no filler material at all! The music is much more refined, much more advanced in arrangement/composition/productionwise. It´s diverse and beautiful, heavy, chaotic and exploring different styles&themes and some new dimensions I feel no band has explored before… The stuff is simply on another level, in a different universe than the debut album and the TIME albums combined. I wrote the TIME albums around 2006 and before, that was a lifetime ago. Think of the stuff I´ve written ever since to this day! And I just keep on writing, I feel like I´m on fire. The music is just flowing out of me. I´m so excited about all this new music and I can´t wait to start recording and sharing it with you… BUT I can´t without a studio, that´s the problem…
p.s. Should have stayed working in the post office!
Nuclear Blast Response (posted August 1, 2014):
We are aware of Jari Mäenpää’s recent statement on his current situation and business experiences with Nuclear Blast regarding the most anticipated Wintersun album “TIME II”. We highly appreciate the massive response that this statement caused as it once again proves how much the Metal community cares about their fellow metalheads, especially the musicians that go through many hardships to give us what we all enjoy the most: A good blast of METAL.
We have always been Metal fans at heart and continue to strive for the same goal we have since the formation of Nuclear Blast 27 years ago: to support our artists the best way possible and to get the music everybody deserves out to our fans worldwide.
With this being said, the business side of music can often be rough and especially with a project as extensive as the TIME series, compromises have to be made to make an album both beautiful and feasible for all parties involved – the musicians, the fans and the label. This process includes many details that should not be discussed in public as debates sometimes get heated and misunderstandings occur, but we take great pride in the relationship with our artists until this day.
Be assured that we all love Wintersun as much as you do. Nobody at Nuclear Blast wants to see them gone and we are working together with Jari and his management to find the optimal solution for his concerns.
I’ve only heard the song off the new Decapitated that premiered on Dan Carter’s BBC show, but I already know based off of that that Blood Mantra will slay.
This Elemental Nightmares split thing is great. Really solid stuff; I like the Kess’khtak song best, so I guess I’ll have to look into them a bit more.
The Decapitated song I managed to find on YouTube also kicks serious ass. Another album to await with eager anticipation… Looking forward to the reviews that will undoubtedly hit NCS in due time.
i heard the new Decapitated song on the BBC’s Rock Show, it’s fucking awesome
In case anyone was interested in a more in-depth discussion of the Wintersun vs. Nuclear Blast thing, and crowd-sourcing as a whole, I’d urge you to check out the following:
Blood Music Facebook post:
Henri Sorvali’s (Moonsorrow/Finntroll) blog post:
TED Talk: “The Art of Asking”
(albeit not about metal music specifically, but still very interesting)
Music Business Facts podcast with Tim Charles (Ne Obliviscaris):
MetalSucks article by former Cormorant guitarist/vocalist about record company contracts:
If anyone else has relevant links, feel free to add to the list!
To my ears it sounds like Jari is very good at coming up with excuse. I believe that last time, he blamed Time I being so late on using old computers that couldn’t handle the 3085 orchestral arrangements etc.and now it’s his livingconditions and crappy label that prevents him from achieving his vision. I don’t really buy any of those excuses, seeing as I know of multiple artists who create great works on shoestring budgets. A professional laptop with additional gear shouldn’t run you more than say 2500-3000 Euros now a days, combine that with some good software for an additonal 1000-1500 Euro and you’re good to go. If the ambience in your apartment is so bad, maybe look around and see if you can find a rehersal-space to share with other bands (also known as the old school-way), or see if a friend owns a house with an empty cupboard that you can scream in.
Or get Axl Rose to loan you some of the unused material from _Chinese Democracy_. I’m sure he has some orchestral arrangements and keyboard flourishes lying around somewhere.
Wow, the Nuclear Blast website is easily one of the clumsiest, shoddiest e-stores I’ve visited in years. You have to create an account to register? Then the second step says my order is too far out and I have to add time? Are you kidding? These guys are idiots, it’s like they are begging people to illegally download the album instead of pre-ordering it. Yes, I’m still going to order it, but I’ll find somewhere else to buy it eventually.