Dec 192014


(Combined in this post are two different reflections on the live performances by Sólstafir, Mortals, and Pallbearer in Seattle on December 10, 2014, one by BadWolf and one by me (Islander). And for a third, you should also read Gemma Alexander’s wonderful write-up at her own blog — here. Unless otherwise noted, the photos accompanying this post were taken by me on a iPhone because BadWolf forgot his fancy camera.)


A band whose time has come.

Those are the only words that suit Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir in 2014. Most musicians never achieve what I’ve witnessed this year in Sólstafir—a moment (well, series of moments) that seem like the culmination of disparate chains of events, causal and serendipitous. In short, a climax. The money shot, one that seems both cathartic and earned, not for Sólstafir’s listeners, but for the band themselves.

The band of black metal cowboys has made music for two decades in relative obscurity, at least in the United States. I first encountered the group while trawling message boards in college, ravenous for progressive metal and finding most of it lacking. Sólstafir were different. Their early tracks came via shady download sites in low bitrates, with files unable to properly display the accent marks in their song titles, but still I found myself enamored of their unique sound, a mix of atmospheric sludge and progressive black metal that strived for beauty, not abrasiveness. Since then the band became a perennial NCS favorite and inked a deal with Season of Mist records, who released their fourth album, Svartir Sandar to a wider audience. Still, conversationally, Sólstafir was a footnote in greater conversations, even though one of their songs debuted at #1 in Iceland. Continue reading »

Sep 092014

I’ve collected a bunch of new things I want to write about since the last round-up, but the old fucking day job isn’t going to let me do that at the moment. So I’m picking this one thing to write about, because I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw it.

The news is that Little Rock’s Pallbearer, Iceland’s Sólstafir, and Brooklyn’s Mortals will be touring the U.S. West Coast and certain parts of the country’s midsection together beginning on December 2. (There’s also a Vancouver date on the schedule.)

In the opinion of your humble editor, these three bands are collectively responsible for three of the year’s best albums: Foundations of Burden, Ótta, and Cursed To See the Future, respectively. The chance to see them perform together on one show is a chance not to be missed.

This is especially exciting for those of us on the West Coast because I don’t think either Sólstafir or Mortals have previously performed outside the East Coast. Continue reading »

Jul 242014


Yesterday’s round-up was a big one. So is this one — and it’s still not big enough to cover everything worth mentioning that I saw and heard yesterday. But it will have to do. Here we go…


Albez Duz are a two-man German band whose name apparently consists of two words in a Germanic language used 800 years ago, with “Albez” meaning “swan” and “Duz” meaning “noisiness”, or “rush”. It is the side project of Impurus (aka Eugen H.), the drummer of the long-running German band Dies Ater.

At the time of their 2009 self-titled debut album, which drew comparisons to the early work of Paradise Lost, Tiamat, and My Dying Bride, the band’s vocalist was Lars Kaeding. Kaeding died in 2011, and was replaced early this year by Alfonso Brito Lopez (aka “Grifonso“). With this new line-up, Albez Duz have recorded a new album, The Coming of Mictlan, which will be released by Germany’s Iron Bonehead label later this year. Its fascinating cover is above.

Yesterday Iron Bonehead began streaming a song from the new album named “Mictlan”, and it’s very impressive. Continue reading »

Jul 152014

photos by Samantha Marble


I don’t consider myself a very good interviewer, which is why I don’t do it very often. Of course, this means that my deficiencies in skill are compounded by inexperience. But I really, really like the new album by Brooklyn-based Mortals — Cursed To See the Future — and when I learned more about the fascinating backgrounds and day jobs of the three women in the band, I felt I had to put my insecurities aside and try to talk with them.

And that happened last week. It started as a Facebook chat and ended via e-mail, and I had a blast. I also learned a valuable lesson about interviewing: When the people you’re questioning are smart, funny, and really interesting, the resulting interview can be highly entertaining even when you, the interviewer, don’t know what you’re doing. You just have to keep the subjects talking.

In this case, the subjects were Caryn Havlik (drums), Elizabeth Cline (guitar), and Lesley Wolf (vocal and bass) – and I’m very grateful to them for giving me so much of their time (and for indulging all the jock questions).

Before getting to the questions and answers, I think it’s important that you listen to a Mortals song or two, just in case you don’t know what they sound like. Because when you hear the way they sound, I think it’s going to make the conversation even more interesting. So, listen to these: Continue reading »

Jul 022014

Brooklyn’s Mortals have been turning a lot of heads as advance tracks from their new album, Cursed To See the Future, have been appearing around the web over the last month. But the time has finally come to unveil the album in its full power, as we bring you a stream of the work from start to finish.

The reason heads have been turning is that Mortals are so successful at unifying disparate strands of heavy metal into highly memorable — and viscerally potent — songs. Woven into their dark tapestries you will find strands of sludge, doom, black metal, and thrash. The result is music that’s massively heavy, massively headbangable, and almost always decimating to the core.

Elizabeth Cline clearly has a genius for concocting riffs, and Cursed gives her the chance to show the range of her talents. Bassist Lesley Wolf gets plenty of opportunities to shine as well, because her nimble yet concrete-heavy rumbling is never out of ear shot — and her voice rakes with steel claws. Not to be outdone, drummer Caryn Havlik turns in a highly varied (but always spine-shaking) performance that’s a big part of why this music is so damned interesting.

Continue reading »