Concert ticket give away: Skinny Puppy @ The Pageant

SkinnyPuppy_photo2That’s right, just when you thought we were done with our ticket contests for the year we pull one last trick out of our sleeves. We have two pair of tickets to give away for the upcoming Skinny Puppy show at The Pageant. This will be an easy contest yet again as we all work our regular jobs so doing anything fancy might fall flat. All you have to do to enter the contest is Like, Share, Comment on this post and you could be one of the lucky winners for a pair of tickets! The show takes place Monday, December 8th which means the winners will be announced on Thursday, December 4th. So enter quickly and as many times as you want, we will see you at the show!

An Interview with Simon Koch: The Winter Wolves Benefit

Wolves are one of the most metal animals in the world. So, it makes sense that Simon Koch of St. Louis metal band Enflesh (currently on hiatus) would put together a metal benefit in order to support the Endangered Wolf Center. The sole purpose of the concert is to create awareness and give money to the EWC, so that they can further their research and build up their facilities for a better environment. Our very own Angel Kramer, was privileged enough to have a brief conversation with Simon. The goals are to help spread the word about the benefit, get people more involved in supporting the Wolf Center, and bring the metal community together for a great cause. Maybe one day, we will get these endangered creatures the most up to date shelters and further our research in order to save the species. Perhaps one day, our children and grandchildren will know the wolves solely as the majestic creature they are and not as an endangered animal.

_MG_2913

Damnation: How did this music festival come about?

Simon: Ever since I can remember, I have been absolutely obsessed with carnivores: specifically big cats, bears, and wolves. I made up my mind a long time ago, that I would have a career that would allow me to work with and protect these majestic beasts. Until my career goals are, in fact, achieved, I try my best to stay active in the field of conservation from where I am now. 

D: I consider myself a wolf advocate, but others might not be aware of the issues. So why wolves?

S: Wolves are the guardians of an ecosystem. They maintain and keep everything in balance, from over population of deer to healthy vegetation and rivers. Where there’s a wolf, there’s a way.

D: Tell me about the first festival for anyone who wasn’t there or didn’t hear about it. What can we expect from the Winter Wolves Benefit?

S: When I first moved to St. Louis, becoming apart of The Endangered Wolf Center was my first order of business. I got in contact with Lauren Toivonen, the EWC volunteer coordinator who coincidentally was into metal as well. After a few times of volunteering, I proposed the idea of having a benefit show to help spread awareness of the EWC’s efforts. Metal and wolves go hand in hand (particularly Black M10403871_10152016380505916_1130752859084955001_oetal), and since Lauren was into Metal too, it was a no brainer. I was already part of the STL metal scene, so finding bands to play was easy since I knew everyone. I could not book the first Metal Wolves benefit at one of the “go to” venues in town (like Fubar), because they already had the date booked with other bands. So, the first “fest” ended up being at Cicero’s Pizza on Delmar. The turn out actually wasn’t bad for the first show. Perhaps it would have been better if it was in fact at Fubar (which is basically THE metal venue of STL), but we pulled it off none the less and made a decent amount of money for the EWC. Speaking strictly for myself, and not the EWC, the lovely people at Cicero‘s took too big a cut from the profits (to rent the room). I’m still pissed about it. That’s why I’m psyched to have it at Fubar. ALL of the donations will go to the center thanks to Robert O. Fancher; that’s just the kind of guy he is.

Winter Wolves is going to be bigger and better than the first. It will take place on January 17th at Fubar and will include 12 bands playing through out the evening and night on two stages. We have a number of locals coming out including: Bastard, Animated Dead, Stormcaller, Xaemora, Quaere Verum, Hemorrhaging Elysium, and Decay Crawler. We also have traveling bands coming, that I am particularly grateful for including: Emaciation (from Cape Girardeau,MO), Savagery (from Chicago), Dawn Patrol (from Memphis)1901790_572845926195554_3420063255637491728_n and the big bands of the night A Hill to Die Upon (from Chicago) and Cycle of Ruin (from Southeast Missouri). From Cycle of Ruin is the one and only Brant Hutchcraft whose vocals will send you in a spiraling vortex to the gates of hell! I probably appreciate having him and Lord Kirby Ray (of Emaciation) on board the most. They played the last show. Both of them are killer guys in killer bands who are personal friends of mine, and who sincerely support the center’s efforts and the metal community.

D: What do the donations and funds go towards?

S: Donations can go to a number of necessities including: food for the canids, providing enrichment for the canids, supporting the educational efforts, and so much more! To quote the EWC: “Our vision is a world where wolves and other wild canid species coexist with humans and thrive in their native habitats, recognized and valued for their vital roles as leading members of a healthy ecosystem.

Our mission is to preserve and protect Mexican wolves, red wolves and other wild canid species, with purpose and passion, through carefully managed breeding, reintroduction and inspiring education programs. ” The Endangered Wolf Center‘s residents consist solely of endangered canids (members of the dog family) and it is the only facility in North America that specializes in endangered or threatened canids:

1) The Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) – the most endangered canid in the world and most endangered mammal in North America
2) The red wolf (Canis rufus) – the second most endangered wolf in the world
3) The African painted dog (Lycaon pictus)
4) The maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus)
5) The swift fox (Vulpes velox)

D: Are there plans to make this a regular part of the local metal scene?

S: I would definitely love to make this an annual or even bi-annual event. I’ll just have to see how things play out. I’m always looking for more bands to join in.

D: What can you tell those not in the know about the Endangered Wolf Center?

S: 1. It was founded by Mutual of Omaha’s Marlin Perkins! (who worked at the STL Zoo).
2. Has achieved a number of prestigious awards including -AZA Certified Facility

-Founding member of the Mexican Wolf Captive Management Committee (since 1994 known as the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan)
-Founding member of the Red Wolf Propagation Group/SSP
-Member of the Maned Wolf SSP since 1995
-Member of the Swift Fox Population Management Plan since 1998 (an SSP since 2005)
-Member of the African Painted Dog SSP since 2004.
-Recipient of two consecutive rounds of the highly coveted Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Grants.
-Completion of the IMLS Museum Assessment Program Institutional Assessment (MAP I)
-USDA certified.
3. All of the Mexican and Red wolves alive today can be traced back to the EWC in one way or another!_MG_3095

D: What is your ultimate goal for it? 

S: My ultimate is, first and foremost, to support the EWC and promote their work the best I can. I want these canids to survive in this world for as long as possible. By coming to this show, one would be directly contributing to the survival of a species.

It would definitely be cool to have a bigger band on board to headline an event sometime, but that is easier said than done. Let’s face it, a national act would want a ridiculous amount of money to play. That’s money we need for the center, but I’m not ruling it out. I could see a select few bands doing it, Skeletonwitch for instance. Who knows? Maybe “Metal Wolves” could become an actual festival one day. It’s an inspiring thought. Big things have small beginnings.

D: Are you looking for more bands? How can potential bands get involved?

S: Facebook is meant for two things: memes and organizing shows. If anyone would be interested in becoming apart of future events, they could simply message me.

D: How can others get involved?

S: Visit these sites, then like, share, join, and donate. Anything you can do will help this cause. That would really be the best way to get involved, since there isn’t much help needed just yet. By volunteering at the EWC and donating, you are doing more than enough. If anything comes up, it will be posted on the event page

1.) http://www.endangeredwolfcenter.org/ Adopt, Donate, Volunteer
2.) https://www.facebook.com/EndangeredWolfCenter Like, Share
3.) https://www.facebook.com/events/790149124362848/ Join, Share, enjoy some metal!

D: Thanks again for taking the time to sit and answer questions for us. We look forward to another awesome wolf benefit! 

S: No problem. Glad to have someone help spread the word!

For all you out there that are interested in helping out, follow the links posted above! Until then keep calm and donate to the EWC! See you at Winter Wolves Benefit!!

Band Interview – Exhumed

By Matt Albers

There are many different types and styles of extreme metal. And there are countless bands that can be categorized and marginalized into all different subgenres within extreme metal based on their sound. Each one of those bands and their corresponding subgenres conjure up their own unique identities as well.IMG_6886

While deathgrind is well known through several different bands, San Jose, CA’s Exhumed helped define the concept of “gore metal” in the early to mid-1990s. After a brief hiatus from 2005 to 2010, the quartet returned with two critically-acclaimed albums; 2011′s ALL GUTS, NO GLORY and 2013′s NECROCRACY.

When Exhumed rolled into town on November 2, 2014 on tour with Carcass, Obituary, and Noisem to play at Pop’s - their first show in the St. Louis-area in three years – I was excited to sit down and chat with them. Fortunately, they were happy to oblige as I picked the brains of guitarist/vocalist/founder Matt Harvey and drummer Michael Hamilton for nearly forty minutes!IMG_6882

Accompanied by plenty of quips and ensuing chuckles, we discussed anything and everything from the importance of horror and gore themes in extreme metal, to the history and current state of the subgenre in the social media age. I also asked these seasoned veterans their perspective on issues that face the St. Louis music community today, including the recent increase of band robberies at area venues.

It’s safe to say that Exhumed is a band highly regarded among the subgenre or following of “gore metal.” What is it about gore as a theme that has always been a driving force one way or another with your writing, and where did the influence come from? Horror movies or literature, real-life news stories, or something else?

Matt Harvey (guitar, vocals): Originally when I started getting into death metal in like… ’88-’89 I guess, there wasn’t really that many bands out there – accessible to a 14-year-old anyway. The main ones like Death, Obituary, Carcass, Morbid Angel, Possessed… All of them dealt with either Satanism or, like horror movie-type gore, or whatever. And one of the things that attracted me to the genre was that I was already into horror movies as a kid and it was kind of like the audio equivalent, you know? And I guess the take that I’ve always had on it is if you’re a death metal guy, then you should sing about death [laughs]. You know what I mean?

Like peanut butter and jelly.

Yeah, it’s just kind of built in to what the genre is to me. I mean, lots of death metal bands sing about all kinds of different stuff, but I just, kind of… I don’t know, it’s kind of a very departmentalized, simplistic sort of view; still about the same as when I was like, 15 or whenever

Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Yeah! And I am sort of a purist, or whatever. Once we did the first album, Gore Metal, it kind of made it so you can’t just all of a sudden look credible two albums later, writing songs about the atmosphere, or relationships, or whatever else people write about in rock bands.

Michael Hamilton (drums): Just because the form of music is extreme anyways, so what’s more shocking than talking about gore or death? [To] Keep it in line with what the music is sonically reflecting.

Absolutely. It’s like, you wouldn’t write a tender piano ballad and use our lyrics over it [laughs]. You know, you wouldn’t use our music and write about holding hands in the park on a Sunday afternoon with your best gal, you know?

Well, never say never, I’ve heard some ballads of like, Meshuggah. And I know Tori Amos has a cover of “Reigning Blood.”

Right, which is pretty interesting. I think it’s like from a menstruation perspective [laughs].

Yeah! That works! It all depends on your perspective [laughs}

Absolutely!IMG_6926

You’ve said that you use the gore theme in your writing as a metaphor to express or paint a picture of things like politics without, “becoming a preachy, pretentious douchebag.” Why not simply write a literal interpretation of a theme to your music, or is that something that you would ever even consider doing?

Well, I think again, in keeping everything in Exhumed with the gore metal idiom – or whatever you want to call it, not to sound like a pretentions douchebag [laughs] – then that way it keeps us from going too far one way or the other. I love a lot of really political grind bands, but I don’t enjoy going to a show and being lectured about veganism or whatever; I just came to go to a rock and roll show. I want it to have like a pure entertainment factor, to where somebody who just wants to read about a bunch of cool, gory words and shocking imagery, [then] that’s great. And then, if they want to think about how it applies to whatever the subject matter is, then they can get something else out of it as well. But, it still has that surface-level enjoyment. We’re not trying to outsmart anybody; if you wanted to dig deeper and spend more time, then there [are] more layers as well. Ultimately, it should be just cool enough to be like, “Oh, this is gross. That’s cool.” Like, the shock value’s still there, and if you want something else, you can continue with it.

Get out what you put in, almost?

Exactly.

Do you use the metaphorical approach to represent anything else like relationships, social interactions, or just strict personal feelings, stories, or encounters?

We do have some songs about relationships, actually. But the whole last album was centered around American politics; had songs about consumerism, junk food TV culture, relationships… You know, just different stuff. It’s all sort of, like I said, just below the surface. That way you can take it or leave it. Also, you don’t have to get into the point of view where [you're like], “Yeah, I like the band, but I don’t agree with ‘blank,’” or whatever. It’s not ramming my opinion down someone’s throat.

…He [Matt] writes all the lyrics. So when it comes to lyrical content, I don’t really have any say [laughs].

So nobody has like, bounced off and said, “No. I don’t agree with that, so let’s not write about it”? Nobody’s left the band or stormed out?

No.

Not because of lyrics, anyway [laughs].

When and why is a gore metal song written just for the sake of being a gore metal song, with no lyrical interpretation attached, or is that even something you do or want to do anymore? Do you have a line drawn that separates the writing concepts?

There was a couple of songs on the last record that don’t have anything to do with political stuff at all. Like, “Sickened” was just about getting the bubonic plague [laughs]. I was watching a show with my dad on the History channel, and it was all about it and I thought, “Huh, that’s kind of cool.” Like, ridden with disease by autopsy or chronic disease by pestilence or whatever. That one [song] is just really straightforward. Or, the other song on the album, “Carrion Call,” that’s really more about just going to a rock and roll show, via gore. It’s kind of like, put on your leather jacket and get ready to go out and party and get whiplash. You know, like a typical metal song, but it’s done with all of the gory stuff [laughs].

So, it sounds like the metaphor can really be a lot broader, especially to someone outside of the metal community would expect.

Yeah! I mean, it can definitely apply to the vast majority of things. I don’t know what else I’d really be writing about.

Just having a bad day [laughs].

Absolutely! I think like, 40% of the Cannibal Corpse lyrics are about having a really bad day and getting really pissed off. And then it ends with dismemberment [laughs].

What similarities or differences in crowds or fans have you noticed throughout the cities, countries, or even continents that you’ve played?

I think the fans of our style of music are kind of tight-niched, but they also tie in with… Not necessarily “hardcore,” but I guess like crust punk.IMG_6950

We have a nice, like, subsection [of fans] because we’ve gone out and toured with like Toxic Holocaust and Municipal Waste, [bands] that have a heavy thrash influence. So some kids are more into thrash and some kids are more into death metal, some kids are more into the punk side of grind.

But the one thing I will say… We were in Europe for three months last year. A lot of our best crowds were in sort of out-of-the-way places, where a lot bands don’t go; like Bulgaria and shit like that where just nobody fuckin’ plays there. It’s a cool challenge to keep finding new places to play that we haven’t been before because bands don’t really play.

We’re pretty fortunate, too, because like what he [Matt] was saying we can tie into thrash; like we’ve gone [out on the road] with Toxic Holocaust, and we’ve gone [out] with Suffocation. So we have a diverse kind of sound [so] that we can we can appeal to all the diverse styles of metal that’s out there, and still kind of fit within a very varied tour package like that. I don’t think we notice a change in the crowd because we’re kind of lucky where we a have that diversity in our sound, we can appeal to all those different types of fans.

It’s almost like, if you like it [music] fast, you’ll probably be cool with it [laughs]. That’s the one thing, we tend to play mostly fast.

Is there any particular geographic location or type of crowd that you prefer? Big or small audiences/venues?

I kind of like small-ish. Not like tiny, to where you can’t put your gear on stage. But to me there’s nothing worse than like, if you were to go to a town and have 250 people come to our show – that’s a respectable turnout – but if we’re playing in a venue that’s a thousand capacity, that sucks. All the vibe just goes. If the room is full, then that’s the way I like it, whether it’s a tiny room or it’s a big ol’ gigantic room. Each show has a different vibe and we do slightly different things. Like, if we have a larger stage then there’s a lot more running around and that kind of stuff, and our mascot can do more different goofy shit; spraying blood on people. But if it’s a really tight stage, then it’s kind of just all about being right in with the kids.

I personally like a smaller show, where there’s not a small stage – I like to have enough room on the stage to do our thing. But to be an intimate, almost a large rehearsal where you have people in your face, getting into it and on stage. I think you connect with the band a lot more than just being at a big venue and you’re just standing back with your arms crossed, watching from like 40 feet the whole show. You don’t really feel like you’re a part of the show, and I like the smaller shows because it feels like you’re actually making that connection with your fans and they’re having a good time, and they get on stage with you and go ape shit.

[Gestures to the Pop's main stage barricade] I’m not a fan of this barrier stuff.

Yeah the barrier is kind of weird.

You mentioned a mascot… Forgive my ignorance, what IS your mascot.

His name’s Dr. Filthy. He’s just kind of something that’s grown out of the last three years of being on tour. Back in the day, we used to do all of this stuff ourselves; we’d get covered in like, pig blood and bring out brains and smear them on people, spit out worms and shit [laughs – CLARIFICATION: by and shit he meant and stuff, not actual fecal matter]. Since the band has become active again since, whenever it was, 2010 or whatever, we’ve sort of consolidated that into somebody else doing it. So it’s a little bit of a very, very low budget sort of Iron Maiden.

[Lauhgs] Or GWAR.

Well, it’s really more like Iron Maiden because Eddie does all of the weird shit while the guys just play.

Oh right, while GWAR kind of does everything.

Right. So depending on how much space we have on stage and all that kind of stuff determines how elaborate we can be. Tonight would be like, medium. It just sort of adds an entertainment value to the show. So I’ll have people [come up to me] be like, “I just came to the show with my boyfriend or my girlfriend and I don’t even like this style of music – like, I like Metallica, or whatever – but that was pretty fun to watch” [laughs].

It kind of ties into B-grade horror film characters into our live show.

So he’s like, YOUR franchise killer? Like your Jason Voorhees, or your Michael Myers, or your Pinhead, or your Freddy Kruger…

[Laughs] Exactly.

You mentioned that you like it when people jump on stage with you while you’re playing live. Does that always happen?

As long as it doesn’t affect the show, I’m down with it. When I was a kid going to shows, if a band like Napalm Death would be like, “Get up here, this is your stage, too,” it makes you feel like you’re part of the show; you’re not some paying customer sitting there watching a metal show [laughs]. That’s what the scene is, it’s people connecting with the band, and you’re having fun and sharing a show along with them.

It shouldn’t be a spectator sport. It’s more of like a group team-building exercise [laughs].

If you want to stay in the pit and do the mosh pit thing, that’s cool. If you want to get up on stage and hopefully the pit’s going good enough that you can stage dive and you won’t hit the floor [laughs]. I mean as long as you obey the “five second rule,” then you can like, get on stage, be like, “…Yeah!” And then get off.

So you mean like, don’t take the microphone, don’t have a Lamb Of God experience.

No. Get into the show, to be part of it and just take your part of being in the show a little further instead of just standing there watching it from the floor.

It’s like anything; it’s as fun as you decide to make it yourself. Some people decide to make it as fun as possible. A place like this [Pop's] with barricades and stuff, then probably not… It totally varies, some places are totally fuckin’ cool. Like The Metro, for example, the bouncers are awesome; if the band is cool with it, then they’re cool with it. Like, if a guy is on stage for too long, then they’ll be like, “Come on buddy, get out of here.” But they don’t beat anybody up. It’s all about different policies and different insurance things. And I get it; I wouldn’t want to be sued by some kid that gets hurt if I own the fuckin’ venue either. So we’re realists, too.

We’re kind of self-governed too, we take care of each other. We don’t want to see people get hurt.

Absolutely.

As of late, St. Louis has received a reputation among touring bands – regardless of genre – as a place only to stop for a show if you want your van broken into and/or your equipment, gear, or belongings stolen. Has this ever happened to you, and if so when and where?

Not yet, knock on wood [knocks on table].

Our van, just so all you people know out there, we have the viper protection system.

[Laughs]

Is that when you fill your van full of vipers? “Vindow Vipers??”

[Laughs] No. We have an alarm system on our van. So we’re pretty fortunate where if something did happen, our alarm would go off and hopefully that would deter them from taking yet. But yeah, we’ve heard about that happening in this area; like van, equipment… personal belongings, money, everything gone. Which is kind of crazy. That’s a career-ender for some bands.

Our van’s a piece of shit, thought; it’s a 2001 GMC Savannah.

So it’s a rolling deterrent for crime anyway?

Exactly.

…I think it’s a karma thing; we try to do the right thing when we’re on the road. We’re pretty good boys. And I don’t think it’s just a karma thing, it just depends on the neighborhood.

Part of it’s just being smart. I mean, we have someone out at the van a lot of the time. It’s not that often that our van is just sitting there unattended. Certain places that we play, we bring in everything. All your clothes, you just fuckin’ bring that in; everything comes into the building and goes out. So if they do take it, all they get is basically the van itself.

What is your advice for all involved in a situation where a band would get robbed, including bands and venues? Should the blame be placed on the band, the venue, the fans, or the city and should it just be avoided altogether after enough negative experiences?

You can’t judge a city by one asshole. For example, I wouldn’t not go play in Russia because I don’t like Vladimir Putin. You can’t judge a whole scene by that. It just becomes a lose-lose; a band stops coming to a place, and the scene gets worse and worse and worse. And the worse it is, the more dangerous it becomes. Because, honestly, being in plain sight around a lot of people and a lot of activity is your best deterrent against crime. If you’re in a well-lit area and there’s a lot of witnesses around, then there’s not as much incentive to break into vans. You can’t stop doing something just because of some prick out there.

I think some responsibility lies within the venue. Because if they want bands continuing to come to their venue to play, they’ve got to make sure it’s pretty safe. At least hire somebody to stand back and watch the vehicles, or maybe install a surveillance camera system or something. It’s not going to hurt the music industry in this town because people keep stealing out of the vans, or breaking in, or taking the whole van for that matter.

Last time we came here, we noticed that St. Louis itself is kind of like, not very populated anymore, like a lot of businesses left the area, so I’m sure that has a lot to do with it. I’m sure you’ve got people that are watching the local flyers going, “Oh, well this band’s coming this week, this week, this week, this week…” and they know that’s a spot where people are going to show up with gear, they can just stake it out and just take it. So it’s a responsibility on the venue and a little bit on local law enforcement, too. If the owner of the venue talks with law enforcement and says, “Hey, we’re having this problem,” maybe they’ll patrol it and it won’t be such an issue. And bands will return.

Absolutely man, I agree 100%.

I found it interesting that you were critical of the death metal scene and style back when you were just beginning to record and release music. What about what was going on at that time did you want to separate yourself from and why? What’s your critique of what you’ve noticed in today’s metal culture, community, scene, and environment (both in the extreme subgenre and as a whole)?

The thing that bothered me when I was a kid starting to record demos and stuff, but mostly as a fan is that it kind of got like a factory, churning out the same sort of thing. The same kind of production. I mean, Scott Burns is a fantastic producer, but when you throw every band into the same studio and then you put the same cover art, like Dan Seagrave – I mean, great artist; like, super talented guy. However, when every album starts looking like this, you get into this really cookie-cuttery kind of thing. The originators – your Morbid Angels, your Obituarys, Death, Carcass, and Napalm Death, of course – never fell into that trap, because they had their own thing from the beginning. But then, it just sort of… seemed like it got really generic, really fast.

Thrash metal seemed like it had a good six, seven years, maybe, between like ’83 and ’89 where most bands were pretty good. Then there were some stupid ones… some generic ones. But death metal… maybe [because] I was just more involved in it, so I saw more of it. I saw it kind of get reduced really quickly into a formula. And then [around] ’94, BOOM! The labels just pretty much turned their backs on it once the Pantera, Machine Head style started selling. Roadrunner [Records] was like, “Whatever.” Doesn’t matter if you’re Immolation, who’s like a great band, or you’re just “band X” that they just signed… So that was kind of discouraging, just to see the commodification happen so quickly. It seemed very cynical, and a lot of the bands that maybe got signed weren’t of the same quality as, like your Obituarys and your Napalm Deaths. And it was sort of rushed as just, “This is what’s hip now, give me THAT.”

Roadrunner just dumped all their death metal, they dumped EVERYBODY. As soon as they got their Biohazard, Machine Head, Slipknot, they just kept going at that point.

That’s the weird thing; like movies, death metal is so nostalgia-based. The leaders of all of these subgenres aren’t all that different than they were twenty-five years ago. At the top of the death metal pyramid, there’s still Morbid Angel, Carcass, Cannibal Corpse… like, it’s the same. Thrash metal’s still got The Big Four, and Exodus and Testament, or whatever… So, on one hand, it’s cool because I’m older and I’ve been following all of these bands since the first time and it’s cool to see them doing well and being healthy. And on the other hand, it’s a sign that it’s an art form that… I don’t want to say [that] the well has run dry, because that sounds really negative. But, to a large extent, the parameters have been set, and it’s kind of difficult to see that there’s going to be that many game-changing things.

It’s also [the fact] that those are the tried and true names. They’ve been around for twenty-five plus years, they’re changing their sound slowly with every album, but… When you hear Obituary, you know that’s their sound; it’s like a staple. [When] we were talking about radio stations, they have that playlist of a hundred classic rock songs that you hear on every major radio station 365 days a year. The reason why? Because it’s tried and true.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I guess.

Absolutely.

Exactly. In a way, I think it’s awesome because I get to see all my favorite bands from everybody from like Raven, Diamond Head, Tygers Of Pan Tang, to Carcass, Napalm Death, whoever. Almost everybody is still somehow playing, which is insane [laughs]. So, I mean it definitely has its good points and its bad points. Maybe from a creative standpoint, there’s not as much mind-blowing sounds coming out every month. But, you do get your pick of pretty much everything now, which is pretty cool. I mean, for a kid… A fifteen year old or whatever, he’s got a huge backlog of great music to get into, AND he can go see most of those bands play live, which is pretty fuckin’ awesome.

We are now fully immersed in the era of social media, and it affects every aspect of everyone’s life, especially in entertainment. How do you utilize social media in your professional life and what are your thoughts on the different platforms and the environment?

I let Relapse [Records] do most of the Internet stuff.

It’s a good tool for promoting bands; promoting ourselves, promoting our shows, promoting anything that we’re doing. Let them [our fans] know what we’re doing minute-by-minute, if we want to keep them informed on that level of what we’re doing… We don’t take it to THAT level, but I mean it’s definitely a tool that we can use. It helped us on a tour when we weren’t able to get into Canada. Well, this tour is going to be in Canada for a week and a half, what do we do? We’re screwed, what do we do now? So we get on Facebook and noted that, “Hey, we’re looking for shows.” And the next day, we were playing; we were able to book a whole week and kind of mirror the tour from the east coast back to the west coast to meet back up with them in Washington. So, I mean, it has its pros and cons. You know, sometimes TOO much information is available on Facebook. The times where you’ll be notified of a show that you had forgot about or something, and you’re like, “Oh shit, it’s tonight!” It’s got it’s good points and bad points.

The think about social media… it’s the same thing that’s been happening in the scene forever, it’s just a different way of conveying it. Instead of word of mouth, or a fan-zine, or a phone call or whatever, now it’s all done via Internet. Instead of your buddy calling up, “Dude! Fuckin’ show tomorrow, are you going?” “Oh I forgot man, fuck!” Now you’re just like, “Look, there it is on my computer.” So it’s certainly nothing to complain about. I think it’s mostly positive, just a different way of getting the same kind of connections. We’re a band, if people like us, they should know where we are, this is how they know where we are. Great. You know?

Would you ever consider involving Exhumed in a crowdfunding campaign of some kind?

That’s a tough one, it just depends. I don’t know that we are business-capable enough to handle everybody’s money… I wouldn’t feel comfortable, I would feel like I’m just going to blow it with someone else’s money and that they were going to feel ripped off. I wouldn’t want to create a situation where anybody felt that that happened because of us.

On the other hand, I would never say never. Again, it’s just a different thing. The record industry is totally different; it’s not like labels have $60,000 to throw at recording budgets anymore because it just doesn’t sell that many records. But yet still, people want to hear the music, so… I like the D.I.Y. of it – it’s not really D.I.Y., it’s really cutting out the middle man aspect of it. But for me personally, I wouldn’t even feel comfortable with it because I want to spend my time writing music, playing music, writing lyrics, coming up with concepts… that kind of stuff. The more of my time I can devote to that and the less time I can spend thinking about Twitter, or how to manage “X” amount of money that we got from “X” amount of people… at what level of donation do you get a tote bag and what level do you get an executive producer credit or whatever; that to me… I don’t know man, that’s not why we started a rock band.

I see the pros and cons of it. I mean, if I was [in] a band that’s really not financially liable to record on a budget that they want to, to put the album out that they want to put out. But I mean, I also see it as like… most bands, when we were starting, we just played tons of shows for like a year while we were rehearsing our material, and then those shows would help fund our recording. So it’s kind of like expediting that process to get that money up-front because your fans want to hear it. But on the same token, it is a lot of responsibility on a band’s part to follow-through with taking care of the people that fund it. I think that’s a loophole that a lot of bands will get caught in; they just take advantage of their fans and create bad blood.

And even if they don’t, there could still be that perception. People were bitching about Obituary getting the Relapse distribution deal. “Why did we pay for the album if you’re going to sign with Relapse?” Well, they didn’t SIGN with Relapse… I don’t know the particulars, but I know they have a manufacturing distribution deal, which is different. So they’re not scamming anybody, but at the same time it’s almost like, how involved is everyone else in what’s going on? I would rather be in a fuckin’ bubble and just write my stupid riffs and not have to think about being responsible for anybody. I just want to know that record label “A” is going to give me amount of money “X” to make this record, and that’s it.

Maybe part of being that broke musician creates a little fuel and anger to write that album that you otherwise wouldn’t ever write if you were like, “Oh, we got all [of] this money now? We can just take our time!”

[Laughs] It is interesting how business-savvy everybody is, from the youngest local band on up compared to the early ’90s. It’s a totally different landscape. When I started playing death metal, one of the things I liked about it was [that] I had absolutely no expectation of any kind of financial success whatsoever. Because my whole childhood I was told, “Well, you COULD get better grades if you tried harder. If you applied yourself doing THIS-” I said, “You know what, I’m going to apply myself on THIS, because there’s no expectation of success EVER!” And I don’t have to listen to anybody bitch, “Oh, how come your band did this?” And it’s like, “…Have you HEARD my fuckin’ band?” [laughter]

…Yeah, I mean that’s shifted as time has gone on, but I’m just saying that… I appreciate the fact that it’s something that I don’t take into consideration at all. I don’t want to be thinking about getting more and more people involved in the process of the band. It should just be the four or five of us and, not to sound selfish, but at the same time it’s just too much sharing. It’s like, a magician inviting you backstage to show you how he sews the bottom of the hat where the rabbit is. You know what I mean? I think it’s just a better experience when you don’t know. I hate going on the Internet and finding about a band’s set list before they go on  stage. I don’t necessarily see every band’s recording process. And it’s cool, that’s just totally my choice and it’s no disrespect on anybody else who wants to do it that way, it’s totally fine. But for me, I prefer it to be separated.

There’s also that connection you have, you desire to see the band more when there’s less information available. Because I know when I was a kid, you got a booklet and you open it up and you’re like, “What? There’s no fuckin’ band picture? Well, damn it, I’ve got to go to the show and see what these guys look like.”

“Who ARE these people?” [laughs]

It creates kind of like a nice mystery about the band. The information age, there’s just so much available out there. You can see like, what David Vincent is having for breakfast on his Instagram.

And we’re not mysterious people at all! [Laughs] We’re pretty normal dudes that have a couple beers, watch football. It’s not like we’re trying to create some weird, creepy cult. I just think that you don’t need all that stuff. If a kid wants to find out something, he can just go to the gig and see me at the bar and be like, “Hey! What kind of guitar did you use, and blah, blah, blah.” Whatever question I would’ve had for bands that I’m into.

I know that takes us so far from the question, but I mean when you’re growing up, that’s how you learn about bands and that’s how you learn how to play. Because when I heard a blast beat by Pete Sandoval, I was like, “Holy shit, how does he play that?” I had to go to the show. I had to go watch him, and I’d sit by the stage and just get my position at the stage and get a good view of him and watch him through the whole show.

I remember watching Autopsy and I was definitely checking on how to figure out the riffs correctly, I’d be like, “Oh SHIT, that’s on the third fret? Damn it!” [lauhgs] So, I mean, to me [there's] much easier ways to be involved in the band that don’t involve money and stuff. I don’t know; like I said, I just like to stay as separate from the business part as I possibly can.

It’s been a year and a half since Necrocracy, what can we expect next from Exhumed?

We got some new material, but the next thing we have [is] a vinyl reissue coming out. And then we have another sort of, I don’t know, back catalogue-related release? It hasn’t been announced so I don’t want to… I have a bad habit of just talking about stuff and like, “Oh shit.” Like that Napalm/Municipal tour, I totally fucked up the press release for that by just being an idiot [laughter]. So we do have a couple new things coming that aren’t a new album, then we’ll start working on new material next year, because we’re on tour until right before Christmas. We have a bunch of new songs and some ideas [we're] kicking around, pretty soon it’ll be time to get into the rehearsal room and see if they’re worth a shit [laughs].

Stay busy, keep writing music, keep touring, formula doesn’t change.

[In a sarcastic, bored tone] More of the same, I get it. [Laughter from both Matt and Mike]

That’s just rock and roll, man [laughs].

Even after twenty years there anything that you haven’t done as a band or as an individual musician that you want to do in the future, short-term or long-term?

For me, there’s just some places we haven’t played yet. We’ve ALMOST been to South America three times. Still haven’t been to Asia, to Russia, [I] would like to go back to Australia, New Zealand. I don’t know, sometimes I think it would be funny to do a concept album, maybe a music video? [Laughs] An ACTUAL music video?

Yeah, a professionally-done video?

Yeah, that would be amazing?

So you guys are just getting STARTED, basically? [Laughs]

But I feel pretty lucky, it’s not like we’re the biggest band on earth but we’re certainly able to do a lot more than many bands. If tomorrow my hand stopped moving and that was it, I’d be like, “Well, cool. We did a lot of shit, that was pretty awesome.” There’s always more, just because we’re human beings; something more, something new… Keeps life interesting. That’s why a fish crawled on fuckin’ land and learned to walk around gazillions of years ago.

Don’t you mean six THOUSAND years ago?? [Laughs]

I didn’t think we were in the Bible belt yet! [Laughs] But yeah, there’s always new stuff. Outer space gigs. [Laughter]

Yeah, I mean as long as the band just continues to grow and we just keep challenging ourselves on the musician side of things and just continue to do bigger things, that’s all we really hope for. And have fun in the process, because that’s what we’re here for. Meet our fans and meet cool people.

That’s it.

Be sure to catch Exhumed on tour in early 2015 on the “Through Space And Grind Tour” with Napalm Death, Voivod, Iron Reagan, Black Crown Initiate, and more!

Album Review: Dynazty – Renatus

Band: Dynazty
Album: Renatus (2014)
Band Origin: Stockholm, Sweden
Record Label: Spinefarm Records
Written By: Sean Cantor
renatus

I am going to assume if you are reading this you are well aware that there is something in the water in Sweden that makes them inherently more metal than those of us in the United States. I am also going to assume visions of Left Hand Path, Like an Ever Flowing Stream and Slaughter of the Soul are all dancing in your head right now. Maybe it was Kurt Cobain that led us astray from our true metal destiny, I am not sure, what I can say is not everyone followed. Sweden has been quietly soaking in the sexually transmitted sleaze rock/glam metal waters of the Sunset Strip for thirty years and has fermented into a thing called the New Wave of Swedish Sleaze Metal (NWOSSM if you really want to impress the cool kids at the local record shop). What happens when one of these Shotgun Messiah obsessed, flammable haired Swedish bands decide to embrace their inner Symphony X? Dynazty’s Renatus happens.

Renatus is the Latin word for rebirth and that is exactly what Dynazty did on this album. This conscious decision to leave the pure sleaze behind has produced the bands most powerful album to date. Guitarist Love Magnusson (feel free to take a moment to reflect on how much better his name is than yours) has cited the band’s influence on this album to the heavier side of the progressive and power metal scene. The technical and rhythmic riffing on the album is clearly a Michael Romeo influenced style but takes a bit more of a direct approach with each riff feeling very purposeful. Don’t mistake this straight forward riffing for a lack of showmanship, the leads on the album are tastefully shreddy and impressive. The drums on the Renatus are really what sets it apart from your typical power/prog record and keeps it grounded in a more traditional heavy metal/hard rock style. Drummer George Egg seemingly knows exactly when to pick up the double bass to accentuate a riff unlike many metal bands, sorry Dragonforce. The vocalist Nils Molin has an absolute killer delivery and doesn’t rely solely on hitting shrieking high notes to grab the listener’s attention. Just listening to the first two minutes of ‘Salvation’ show that this guy belongs in the elite group of metal vocalists. With what seems to be a trend on the album, the vocals are delivered with purpose and not at any point leave anything to be desired.

Photo found on fanart.tv website
Photo found on fanart.tv website

More importantly than the individual performances on Renatus is the songwriting itself. Each song is full of vocal hooks, memorable riffs and melodic solos. ‘Starlight’ might be the most catchy/singable metal song I’ve heard all year. If you are not singing along and playing air guitar with ‘Starlight‘ by the middle of the track then I genuinely feel for you and those you love because you are incapable of happiness. ‘The Northern End’ is a mid-tempo driving track that captures that sense of empowerment and community that is a foundation of what real metal is: “You are now in the company of brothers, where we are holding one another, to the light is where we go”. ‘Salvation’ is a seven and a half-minute long track that opens reminiscent of Whitesnake’s ‘Sailing Ships’ and somehow turns into a an anthemic power metal journey. These are just examples of the quality of the songwriting on this album, there isn’t an easily skipable song on all of Renatus.

Dynazty has delivered easily one of the strongest albums of the year with Renatus. The band seems to have finally found what it is they are supposed to do and I can imagine will only grow into a greater band for it. The band will be performing Renatus in its entirety at the sold out Progpower Festival in Atlanta and I for one will be unashamedly front and center with all my air instruments.

RIYL: H.e.a.t, Gotthard, Nocturnal Rites, Symphony X

Track Listing:

  1. Cross The Line
  2. Starlight
  3. Dawn Of Your Creation
  4. The Northern End
  5. Incarnation
  6. Run Amok
  7. Unholy Deterrent
  8. Sunrise In Hell
  9. Salvation
  10. A Divine Comedy

Remembering Wayne Static: Why his music meant so much to some of us…

As our mind evolves and our musical influences expand, there’s always an artist or 2 along the way that transcends the path you’ve chosen. Like many others that were in junior high and trying to find their own identity during the nu-metal era, I credit bands like Static-X, Linkin Park, Korn, System of a Down, Slipknot and Mudvayne for directing me toward the obscure lifestyle of heavier, aggressive music. If it weren’t for the trend toward the metal community, I wouldn’t have met some of the awesome people that I still have the privilege to call my good friends.

The first time I saw Stati08-01-2004_StaticXc-X was with SOiL at one St. Louis’ most storied (and soon-after defunct) music venues called Mississippi Nights located on Laclede’s Landing. It was one of the only shows I had the privilege to attend at the venue, and I had a front-row spot on the barricade for the madness along with some good friends.The tour was in support of Shadow Zone, but they played a good variety of material off of Wisconsin Death Trip and Machine as well as the new album.

Whenimg039 Static-X came back through St. Louis in August of 2005 along with American Head Charge and Asesino, it was an even more memorable show. This time they played to a massive, intense audience at Pop’s. During Asesino’s set, someone got seriously injured in the pit and instead of stopping the show the band continued on as security staff and emergency personnel assessed the situation. More importantly, it was one of the first times I hung out with a girl named Samantha that I still call one of my best friends.

The last time I saw Static-X was at Ozzfest 2007, marking the end of an era for the traveling metal circus that entertained the masses with both new and legendary metal bands alike for over a decade. It was the first time Static-X had been on the Fest since the 1999 and ’00 versions of the tour. They were slotted halfway through the main stage and set a frantic pace that led to a punishing set from Lamb of God before the Madman himself closed out the show with a nostalgic solo performance for the ages.

The metal elitists on Facebook and the web forums will try to prove their dominance over the internet by discrediting Wayne Static and his music’s influences on the current generation of metal. That’s fine, they have the right to do so. But every time I see someone post a distasteful comment such as “good riddance” or something along those lines, I’d like to know what bands got them into metal. For me, well, you already know the answer. The music and the memories he made over the past 15 years will forever live on in those that share this same sentiment.

After all is said and done, Static-X dug themselves a special place in my heart and in my ears. I still listen to their older material occasionally – especially this past week or so. Every time I do, I reminisce of the good times I had with good friends while watching them perform on stage. The unique industrial grooviness of Wisconsin Death Trip and Machine makes them two of my favorite albums of all time. They are albums I can listen to for the first time in years and still sing every word to. If it weren’t for them and the other aforementioned bands, who knows what I’d be listening to these days!

Rest In Peace Wayne… The Trance is the Motion! \nn/

Album Review: Haken – Restoration

Restorations_by_HakenBeing in a Progressive band of any sorts, you must have your shit together. You can’t be half-assed and create a band that will stand the test of time. Just look at bands like Between The Buried And Me, Porcupine Tree, Opeth and well Haken. Granted Haken is a bit newer to the scene than the others, but you get the idea, you can’t just lump a group of talentless ‘musicians’ together and tell them to successfully write a 20+ minute song it just doesn’t work that way. . . They’d get bored about five minutes into it. Now take 6 truly talented individuals that are dedicated to what they do and what have you got?? Well in this case Haken and they just did what most bands dare not try. . at least not so early in their career.

Comprised of just three songs London-based Progressive Rock/Metal act Haken have re-imagined songs from their 2008 demo “Enter the 5th Dimension” into a new masterpiece that is simply titled “Restoration.” Rightfully so, the band didn’t just want to re-record the songs since half the band weren’t on the original recordings. Therefore they did the next best thing and re-work them into their own new versions of the songs and holy crap what a job they did.

Opening track, ‘Darkest Light‘ really kicks things off the right way with a funky intro that will surely get you in the mood for what is in store the rest of the album. While the EP is just three songs, it certainly isn’t lacking in substance. Vocalist Ross Jennings and crew have not wasted time as a band this being their 5th release upon inception of the band seven years ago, three of which are full length. ‘Darkest Light‘ is re-imagined from the opening track of “Enter the 5th DimensionBlind, cutting the song about in half, as the band claims to have “trimmed the fat” of the song. . basically taking out any unnecessary noodling if you will :). The song clocks in at just under 7 minutes and is a rollercoaster of a song and if there is one thing I learned from this EP, other than the glory that is Haken, it’s that Raymond Hearne is one hell of a fucking drummer. (Ok that was known before, their entire discography is captivating).

Earthlings‘ is a beautiful song kicking off with the clean guitars of Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths that carries you through time in the most peaceful way possible from a band like this. The track lasts just shy of the 8 minute mark but is a great Segway for what is to come from the remainder of the album. Clocking in at about 19 and a half minutes ‘Crystallised‘ closes out the EP taking you on a journey, similar to that of the Lord of the Rings books. . no there aren’t wizards or dragons or hobbits really for that matter. Just 19 minutes of fascinating Progressive music, paying attention to every detail that goes into the song and the best thing about it is, IT WORKS!! Not only does it have its ups and downs in momentum, but never in the 19 minutes do you feel like changing the song. Sure you might get lost in the midst, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing especially during the three minute jam session at the image00112:30 mark. Oh, by the way Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Adrenaline Mob, Etc.) has a very special guest appearance on this song. . the Gong to close out the song! Pete Rinaldi (Headspace) also acts as a guest on the song as well showing off his guitar skills.

One thing I have always enjoyed since discovering this band is the harmony they bring into the mix and the layering of vocals from all the members. Each bringing their unique voice to add that certain something to the middle of the song that would have otherwise been, meh. I had first heard this on the track ‘Cockroach King‘ off of their 2013 Full Length “Mountain” which might not be the first to have utilized this, and I sure hope it’s not the last we hear of this, but ‘Cockroach King‘ was the first song that made me realize the power this band has. Overall “Restoration” is a solid addition to the collection for any prog head. It was released through InsideOut records October 27th and although its only a digital release, I strongly suggest paying for it where you can find it be it iTunes or the bands bandcamp page.

1. “Darkest Light” 6:44
2. “Earthlings” 7:52
3. Crystallised” (featuring Pete Rinaldi and Mike Portnoy) 19:23
Total length:
33:59

Rating: 5/5

R.I.Y.L. – Dream Theater, Opeth, Porcupine Tree

Album Review: At The Gates – At War With Reality

635433662675279031AtTheGatesAtWarWithRealityToo many times have bands taken a 10+ year hiatus in between albums and very seldom is that album successful. At The Gates of Gothenburg, Sweden have been one of the most influential bands in the Swedish Death Metal scene as a part of that Gothenburg sound or as many of you know it as Melodic Death Metal. Since their disbanding in 1996, members of ATG have been in many bands that we have grown to love from The Haunted to Cradle of Filth and Disfear amongst many others. Up until recently many had thought that their only hope for some At The Gates was to catch them on their Reunion tours in 2007, which if you were lucky enough to catch one of those performances they were a night to remember! Up until recently catching them live was as good as it was going to get, then early in 2014 a youtube video arose showing screen shots of distorted lines (possible instrument tracks) followed by the year “2014.” This could have meant a number of things, but what everyone was hoping for and eventually got was new At The Gates material. We would soon find out that they were going to put out a new album entitled “At War With Reality” sometime later in the year.

Now with the way that some of the Gothenburg bands have gone with their music, *cough* In Flames *cough* some might have been skeptical as to what ATG could possibly sound like with almost Twenty years between albums, that ended terribly for Guns ‘n’ Roses and without having heard a blip since January about the new album anticipation grew fierce. Upon hearing our first clip of the record a few weeks ago, things were looking up album track “At War With Reality” was given to us as a lyric video and it Slaughtered our Souls!

We were lucky enough to get our hands on a copy of the album a week or so ago, and without saying too much. . . Aww, to hell with it this could very easily be one of the best Metal albums of 2014. To put it another way, Twenty years don’t mean shit to Tomas Lindberg, the Bjorler brothers and crew, if anything they have taken the time to do what they wanted to do and got it out of their system only to come back and write some truly amazing stuff on At War With Reality.

635433662644390977At War With Reality” is a concept album on the literary genre of Magic Realism. It kicks off with the hispanic spoken word/Instrumental track ‘El Altar del Dios Desconocido‘ meaning the Altar of the Unknown God which leads right into the first single ‘Death and the Labyrinth.’ ‘Death and the Labyrinth‘ kicks it off with a fast paced death metal track filled with blast beats, machine gun double bass, and guitar riffs that remind you that At The Gates is here to kick ass and take names.

Throughout the album, there is no reason to stop banging your head from start to finish its like ATG never took a break. The title track of the album would have surely fit in with the rest of the “Slaughter of the Soul” album had it been written 20 years ago. While its tough to pick a favorite song off this album, a few songs that stick out are ‘Heroes and Tombs‘, ‘Eater of Gods‘, ‘The Book of Sand (The Abomination)‘ and of course ‘At War With Reality‘ and ‘Death and the Labyrinth.’

One thing that really sticks out on this album is the fact that there are quite a few songs that actually build up to the heaviness. Rather than just coming out and ripping you a new one they take their time to get there, much appreciated though, it gives the neck time to rest before the next assault!

At War With Reality, is packed with everything you wanted, yearned for, missed from At The Gates from ripping guitar solos to crunching guitars and pummeling drums, lets not forget Tomas‘s signature vocals either which by the way sound better than ever on this album. The only complaint, and this comes along with any album that is long overdue is that there isn’t enough. The album sits just shy of 50 minutes, granted they worked their asses off it just seems like after all that time they would’ve done a double album. Ok enough greed for now, in all seriousness this album fills that need of some good old fashioned Swedish Death Metal, lets just hope that it carries on to make another album in a couple years :)

Track Listing:

1. “El Altar del Dios Desconocido” (Instrumental) 1:06
2. “Death and the Labyrinth” 2:33
3. “At War with Reality” 3:09
4. “The Circular Ruins” 4:28
5. “Heroes and Tombs” 3:59
6. “The Conspiracy of the Blind” 3:19
7. “Order from Chaos” 3:26
8. “The Book of Sand (The Abomination)” 4:28
9. “The Head of the Hydra” 3:38
10. “City of Mirrors”  (Instrumental) 2:06
11. “Eater of Gods” 3:51
12. “Upon Pillars of Dust” 2:39
13. “The Night Eternal” 5:37
Total length:
44:17

 

Rating: 5/5

You can get this album from your local record store (Best Buy, F.Y.E.) iTunes, Century Media store, etc. this album is out now!

R.I.Y.L. – In Flames, Entombed, Dark Tranquillity, The Haunted

 

 

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