Abysmal Dawn, or when I am more excited about an opening band than a headliner

Tomorrow night, Oct. 7, the infamous Deicide plays at Empire in Springfield, Virginia. The other bands in the lineup include Inquisition, Carach Angren, Septicflesh and Abysmal Dawn, along with some local death metal bands, such as Tortile. Of these, I am particularly excited to see Abysmal Dawn.

I first caught Abysmal Dawn in December 2011 when Sonar was still a club in Baltimore. They opened for German tech death band Obscura. I saw them again with Origin at The Ottobar. Technical death metal is something that I choose carefully, and Abysmal Dawn fits all my criteria. The lyrics are smart. The melodies are memorable. The rhythms are driving but also have something of a swing to them. And Abysmal Dawn’s stage performance is engaging, thanks, in part, to their front man and chief songwriter Charles Elliott, who challenges the audience with his expert guitar shreddery and intense gaze.  Abysmal Dawn has a new album coming out, “Obsolescence,” and Charles replied via email to a few quick questions about the new record and touring. Here’s the transcript.

Charles Elliott of Abysmal Dawn @Sonar Dec. 2011

Charles Elliott of Abysmal Dawn @Sonar Dec. 2011

Hi Charles, it’s been a long time since we have heard anything from you or Abysmal Dawn. I know you did a stellar job in your role on the North American Death to All tour. But musically, what else has been going on in your life since the release of “Leveling the Plane of Existence”?
Well, the making of our new album “Obsolescence” took up most of the time in my life for the past year and a half or so. Musically I haven’t been up to much else since BEREFT is on hold as well. BEREFT is my doom band with a couple of other well known musicians. We released an album in 2012 but since then we’ve been on hiatus.

The video for “In Service of Time” surfaced about a year ago. Why did that video take so long to complete?
It was self-financed but it was also done using a lot of favors. Aside from all the sets and actors you see all the green screen CGI shit took forever. We were just in over our heads. We plan on being a little more to the point this time.

How are you feeling about the upcoming tour with Deicide and others? I am particularly curious to see what Carach Angren sounds like live. What about you? Anything you are especially looking forward to with this unusual lineup?

I’m excited to hit the road again with some great bands. Nothing against Carach Angren, but I’m not really familiar with them. I’m sure we’ll have some great times together though. I’m just excited to be touring again and playing for people. That’s what I love most about being in a band and I’ve missed that.

I am excited to hear the new album. I see that former-Obscura guitarist Christian Muenzner has a guest spot on the new record, as does Bobby Koelble who performed on Death’s Symbolic. Who else is performing on the new album? And who will be going out on the road with you?
Those were the only two guests on the album. Other than that it’s just the band and they’ll be hitting the road with me as is customary for bands to do haha.

Tell me about the songwriting process this time. And where are you deriving the themes?
It’s a very personal record for me, but then again so were the last two. With each album though I feel it draws more from my life experiences. This one has maybe one song based lyrically in science fiction, the rest is social commentary and existentialism.

What challenges have you faced that have put so much time between this new album and the last?
Our drummer moved up north about 6 hours away, so that was a tough one to work around. I basically just bought a new computer, recording software and improved on my drum programming skills to make the best of things. That wasn’t fun but the songs might sound more thought out because of it. Of course, Scott added his flavor and made the songs better in the end. We sort of recorded when we had the free time and studios were free as well. With the budget we had, and how we write, it was the only was to make it happen. My mother passed away during the recording process as well and that wasn’t easy for me.

What’s next after the US tour?
Not sure yet but probably another US tour and possibly a run in Europe.

Do you have any other projects brewing?
Not really. As I said, Bereft is sort of on hold. Sacha from Intronaut is totally focused on their new album and touring and now I’m going to be promoting the new Abysmal Dawn record. Maybe we’ll do another album some day but not anytime soon.

Anything else you want people to know about you or Abysmal Dawn?
“Obsolescence” comes out on October 27. I hope your readers enjoy the album and pick up a copy. Support the music you love!

Check out a video of a track from the new Abysmal Dawn album.

Podcasting from Leyla’s before the Pentacle show

Continuing in our new mode of recording live from venues, we move to Leyla’s in Hyattsville, MD. Amazingly, Steve Harris joins us AGAIN while we prepare to see Dutch death metal masters Pentacle, along with Sathanas, Sacrificial Blood, Extermination Angel and the beer can throwing monsters Maximum Oversatan.

Our other guests are Mike Keller of Sacrifical Blood, the members of Maximum Oversatan and Extermination Angel. We had some laughs, ordered beer and pupusas and heard some inappropriate jokes. We also decided that Steve probably needs to move from Chesapeake, VA to Maryland.

There is quite a bit of background noise so keep your headphone volume down low. I didn’t take too many photos because I was enjoying the music! Pentacle and Sacrificial Blood were a highlight!

Click this link to listen.

 

Podcasting from the Sidebar seemed like a good idea

The Metallomusikum podcasting team of Derek and Mary haven’t done a podcast together in a while, but since we were both headed to the same show at the Sidebar last night we decided to get there a little early and see if we could record one on the fly among the goings on. It turned out ok, and we have special guest appearances from Steve Harris (The Day of the Beast, Pestuary) and Bobbie Dickerson (Black Rose Metal Heart Prodcutions).

Steve Harris of Pestuary

Steve Harris of Pestuary

Topics for the show include a wrap up of Grimscape, upcoming shows and Maryland Deathfest. We also discovered that pizza by the slice from Supremo’s on “The Block” is cheap and edible if you are hungry enough and that it only takes two to make a mosh pit, apparently.

Listen to the podcast here.

Check out Metallomusikum’s next two promoted shows for the summer:

Blackfinger, Beelzefuzz, Kings Destroy, Iron Man and Mountainwolf on Saturday, August 2 at The Sidebar. $12. Doors 7 p.m. First band at 7:30 p.m.

https://www.facebook.com/events/234538743403505/

The Day of the Beast, Myopic, Skyless, and Immaculate Deception on Friday, August 15 at The Sidebar. $8. Doors 8 p.m. First band at 9 p.m.

https://www.facebook.com/events/575422995904088/

Check out a few shows of Cyaegha and Pestuary from the show last night:

 

 

 

 

Pact to headline first Grimscape

There are many bands labeled as American black metal, but few in the USBM scene that present a full-fledged occult ritual the way Pact does. The Moribund Cult Records group perfectly blends traditional black metal aesthetics and symbolism with the pummeling grind and growl of death metal.

The Erie, PA group will headline Metallomusikum’s first-ever Grimscape Saturday, July 26 at The Sidebar in Baltimore along with Virginia’s Dispellment, Maryland’s black metal underground veterans Inverted Trifixion, and newcomers AntiKosmos and Hex Temple, who are both making their stage debuts. Tickets are $12 at the door or online at Missiontix.com.  Pre-sales of this show have been strong and a sell-out is possible.

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Pact

Pact’s most recent album, The Infernal Hierarchies, Penetrating the Threshold of Night, elevates the band to the next realm of aural assault with more complex songwriting, better production and even more visceral vocals than their debut full-length, The Dragon Lineage of Satan. Preview the album here.

PACT is Wretch on guitar and bass, Hag doing vocals, Dirge as session guitar and T on drums. T was kind enough to respond to a short Q & A prior to the show.

When and how did Pact get together?

We had all played in other bands together in the past then in 2008 the three of us recorded a split under the name Aiwass, followed by a full length. No live shows were ever performed and Aiwass was ended. Then in 2010 we got back together with the intent of playing black metal.

What specifically motivates you? I mean, as individuals, as a band? What is your inspiration?

We are definitely motivated by the love and creation of heavy dark metal. We enjoy writing new music and pushing ourselves to grow and become more extreme.

Your latest album came out in April. How are reviewers receiving it so far?

The Infernal Hierarchies album is doing well and has received excellent reviews all over the world.

The vocals seem a little different on The Infernal Hierarchies than what I noticed on The Dragon Lineage of Satan. What has changed? What are some things you would hope people would notice about this new record and the direction the music is going in?

Hag’s vocals really haven’t changed much; he has found the range he wanted and worked from there. It helps that we had a more solid mix and master for this new album, which allowed all instruments to shine through. We write music to please ourselves but if people enjoy it, then it is a bonus.

What do you hope people experience during your live performances?

We want people to feel the emotion that we put into our songs.

What other shows/festivals do you have planned for the coming months?

We are playing Wraith of the Goat III festival in September alongside Wormreich, Neldoreth and Kult ov Azazel.

What does the future hold for PACT?

We will continue to write and record music. We have seven songs written for a new album.

If you were not playing music, how would you spend your time?

Don’t know what we would be doing, something artistic for sure.

Anything else you want people to know about the band?

Enjoy our music. Get the new album. Embrace the left hand path of thought. Hail Darkness!!

Check out Pact, Dispellment and Inverted Trifixion below:

 

Martyrdoom Podcast 1: and there was blood

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Sargeist. Photo by Mary Spiro

I’m staying in Queens for Martyrdoom Fest in Brooklyn. Why am I staying in Queens? Because Brooklyn is too expensive. Anyway, our little gang recorded a podcast. It’s not that good but hey, we had fun.

Featured guests are:

Joker Lokison and D. Luathca of black metal band Ptahil and Jim Singleton of black metal band Dominium. We need sleep and probably alcohol.

Bands the first night included Esoterica, Sacrement ov Impurity, Forteresse, One Tail, One Head and Sargeist.  I am pretty beat so don’t really have the motivation to post much else right now.

Give a listen here.

 

Here’s our crew:

 

 

No use crying over spilled blood: impressions of Watain in Brooklyn

One thing’s for certain in this world: If it’s a Watain show, there will be blood.

The Plan

Four of us planned to attend the Watain show June 15 at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar: my Metallomusikum podcast partner Derek, his significant other, Mandi, and Hope, a woman I had met when Watain played in Baltimore last November. In the weeks leading up to the event, we discus what could possibly happen at this special one-off performance. Would there be carcasses? Would there be fire? Would there be blood? What would they do that would be so markedly different from other U.S. shows?

Two weeks before the show, I conduct a brief interview with Watain’s front man Erik Danielsson that provides some clues. He doesn’t want to give too much away, which is understandable. Still, it’s fun to speculate about what might happen. We are excited.

The Journey

Watain. Brooklyn Night Bazaar, June 15, 2014

Watain. Brooklyn Night Bazaar, June 15, 2014

The morning of the show, however, Hope texts to say she’s developed a fever and cannot go. We leave, literally abandoning “hope” for what, for all we knew, is the ushering in of the end of days. (But probably not.)

Turns out that Derek and Mandi are also sick with some kind of mucus-y plague but they are still on board. I dub the car Typhoid Mazda and vow to wash my hands at every chance. Driving to New York is no joke and not something I like to do, so Derek takes the wheel. We listen to music for the 5.5-hour journey, but they won’t let me listen to Watain. Apparently, that’s “not allowed;” just like it’s not OK to wear the t-shirt of the band you’ve come to see. Who makes up these stupid rules? I don’t like ‘em.

After an unnecessarily long service center break for snacks, numerous detours off the New Jersey Turnpike to avoid traffic jams, one raised drawbridge and about a million dollars worth of tolls, we arrive at our parking destination. We use SpotHero and park in a valeted garage because none of us have a clue about what parking near the venue will be like. Turns out the band Chvrches is playing for free in McCarren Park. This is part of the Northside Fest that the Watain show is also part of. But don’t let Chvrches’ kvlt “v” fool you kids –they play trashy hipster disco and desecrate Bauhaus songs.

Rounding the corner from the stroller-clogged park, we see the colorful walls of graffiti and broken glass strewn streets that create the pathway called Banker Street leading to the Brooklyn Night Bazaar. There’s a painted school bus with an animal skull on the dashboard. We are getting closer. There’s plenty of parking on the street here, but I don’t feel at all bad that we left Mandi’s new car with the nice parking garage attendant.

The first thing I notice when we walk up to the venue is that there are very few people waiting to get in. It’s 6:30 p.m. Doors are at 7 p.m. Where is everyone? The mood seems subdued. Was this impending doom? Hangover? Boredom? I’m not sure. I expected way more people by this point. But there are two opening acts, Kosmodemonic and T.O.M.B, and you know how people are; they skip the openers and then bum rush the people who have been there all night to try to get a spot on the rail. I hate people who do this.

Watain. Brooklyn Night Bazaar. June 15.

Watain. Brooklyn Night Bazaar. June 15.

As we approach the entrance, I see my friend Nick walking toward us. He seems particularly excited to tell us about the “sanitary” stations inside. There is no plumbing in the building, no running water. You use chemical toilets and you wash your hands at a plastic sink with foot-pump operated water faucet. Well, all-righty then, I am not looking forward to that. We kill time chatting with friends, James and Matt, Annie and many others.

The Venue

At 7 p.m., they start letting people in, and the awing over the entrance gives me the sense that I am entering a huge circus tent. The Brooklyn Night Bazaar is a former functional warehouse turned into a Friday and Saturday night hipster meet-space where pop-up vendors sell all kinds of goods from food to lingerie. There’s an arcade and even a mini-golf course inside. Once through the tented entry, we walk into a huge open room with the arcade to the right and show space to the left. Since tonight is Sunday, none of the usual vendors or clientele are here. Instead, black shirts and leather vests predominate. There are three bar stations, a burger vendor and the glow of pinball machines, where a handful of people are playing. A few picnic tables are scattered around.

At the very first picnic table sits pretty much every member of Watain minus Erik Danielsson. I can’t think of anything clever to say to them to introduce myself, so I just glance away quickly, which is wise because I have played the scenario out in my head, and it goes something like this:

I walk up to Alvaro Lillo and say to him and everyone at the table, “So hi, you guys are Watain, huh?”

Alvaro squints up at me and says nothing.

“Ehmm, that’s cool. See ya out there.” Then I back away, awkwardly smacking my forehead.

Fortunately, this scene does NOT play out in real life. We walk on past the band and survey the show space. Wow, well, this is pretty much not what I expected. The ceilings are low and the stage is tiny. For those of you familiar with Baltimore venues, I’d say the stage is about the size of the Ottobar’s but the rail funnels in toward the front instead of running straight across. The room itself is large, similar to the main room at the old Sonar but with a huge sound booth situated near the middle of the room. It’s tall enough to block your view if you get stuck behind it. I’m told the room can hold 1,000 people. By the end of the night, the room never gets more than 75% full.

We grab a burger and some waters. I buy the show specific shirt in white. Derek buys one too and puts it on. He gives his other shirt to Mandi. He’s going to need it later. People are milling about. It feels like an awkward middle school dance only with a lot more leather and spikes.

Erik Danielsson of Watain. Brooklyn Night Bazaar. June 15.

Erik Danielsson of Watain. Brooklyn Night Bazaar. June 15.

At this point I meet several people I have only been able to chat with via email or on Facebook. It’s wonderful to put real faces and expressions and voices to images that you only have in your mind. I talk to “USBM” Zimmerman of T.O.M.B. I have wanted to see this black noise project for nearly two years but kept missing them. I chat with Justin of Maine’s black metal wonder ZUD. He serves as a roadie for Watain. I have completed an interview with Justin about ZUD for this blog; you’ll see it soon. I meet Sick Rick, a feast for the eyes and ears with his decorative clothing, vampire teeth and gentlemanly drawl. I meet his lovely lady Lariyah who is sister to my friend Victoria and who, along with Rick and Vicky, are among the many devoted Watain disciples in attendance. And before the night is over I meet Will, a classic New Yorker from Queens who loves both Watain and Frank Sinatra.

The Show

At about 8:00 p.m. Kosmodemonic takes the stage. Their music is hard to pin down. It’s more rock than the blackened doom metal they self describe as. It has a psychedelic vibe at times. I am not sure what I was expecting from them. Visually, there is nothing remarkable. I enjoyed their set but am not astonished. I’d see them again and will give them another listen to see if there is anything I want to latch onto. I just don’t feel like I am sufficiently familiar with their music to properly evaluate this performance under these circumstances.

T.O.M.B. at Brooklyn Night Bazaar June 15.

T.O.M.B. at Brooklyn Night Bazaar June 15.

At around 9:00 p.m., T.O.M.B begin their 23-minute set of black noise. T.O.M.B stands for Total Occultic Mechanical Blasphemy and that is an accurate description of what they deliver. One member of T.O.M.B. sits hooded with his back to the audience playing some kind of synthesizer. Their primary “vocalist” obscures his face with a netted mask but wears no shirt. The guitarist, a lithe woman in typical black metal garb complete with bullet belt, sports a scarf of heavy rotting bones. And their other sound manipulator/keyboardist/vocalist dresses in street clothes. He is the one I referred to as “USBM” Zimmerman, earlier. The vocals in T.O.M.B. are at times as dry as a desert wind, as deep and moist as a lowing cow and as menacing as a dictator. The overall musical vibe portrays hopeless, creepy, industrial decay. I thoroughly enjoy their meditative set, which includes eerie screams of a bowed guitar (Jimmy Page style!), maniacal keyboards and the audible destruction of bones. Cutting is involved. The only distraction to their very obscure set is the idle chitchat of the audience. I want to stuff bloody socks in their mouths to shut them up. At the completion of their performance, the audience does not immediately clap. Maybe they just aren’t sure if the set is done. Maybe it went over people’s heads. Whatever. Fuck ‘em. I feel T.O.M.B.’s performance is a much better preparation for the Watain “ritual” than what Kosmodemonic brought, but that’s just me.
The audience becomes impatient for Watain to begin. At this point, I see several Watain disciples (members of the official Watain fan club) with water bottles filled with a dark liquid. I am told it is fermented blood. I smell it. Hmmm, smells just like period blood. Now, I know what we were in for… but when?

Nick, a disciple, is standing nearby me. “I will be looking for you,” he smirks. “And Derek. Where is Derek?” I motion toward the center of the room and think to myself, Oh hell no! There was no way I am going to ride all those hours home smelling like a used maxi-pad.

Kosmosdemonic at Brooklyn Night Bazaar June 15.

Kosmosdemonic at Brooklyn Night Bazaar June 15.

At 10 p.m. exactly Watain marches onto stage. And they are glorious. I have seen Watain twice previously to this. Some metal heads criticizes Watain because they seem to sound like one or another band that came before them. No matter. I like the band and will listen to a Watain album, start to finish, without wondering if they are “real” Satanists or posers or if they have “sold out” or whatever. I just enjoy them, plain and simple. I dig the riffs. They have some beautiful melodic parts. Their choruses can be catchy. And Erik Danielsson is a charismatic and earnest front man who is passionate about what he is doing. What’s not to appreciate here?

Two flaming tridents flank the stage but they are staying lit inconsistently. It’s obvious the ceilings are too low to let them blaze much higher. On stage, there is an arrangement of bones including a human shaped skull with large horns in front of the drums, but not like the altar with incense and I had seen at previous shows. There don’t seem to be any animal carcasses either, so the stench of death is minimal.

I position myself by the rail and hold on for the first three songs. But by the end of Malfeitor I have had enough of the two enormous hillbillies in plaid shirts that have somehow managed to drunkenly bully their way in front of me. Venue security is useless. I decide to pull out.

I spend the remainder of the show milling about the back of the room and near the opposite side near a bar. I can still see OK and the sound is much better back here, but I felt somewhat left out. Maybe I should have held onto my spot. But it was also unbearably hot up in the mix, so I decide to just groove to the tunes and enjoy myself alone.

The Blood

No sooner do I leave the rail than the band starts playing “Outlaw,” a song from the new album The Wild Hunt that features a tribal drums sounding segment. It is at this point that Erik picks up the horned human skull, moves to the front of the stage and swings a wide swath across the audience. A fan of blood spills out on those closest to him. Shouts and screams rise up. (Later someone reported that people got sick and puked, but I never saw it.)

The mechanical fans overhead catch the spray and create a misty cloud above the crowd. While this may seem like an extreme move to people who have never seen Watain, Erik has done this at every previous performance. It’s nothing new. I know there is more. I know the disciples are “armed”… but when would they strike?

The concert continues. Then I hear the starting riff of “All That May Bleed,” which sounds a little bit like Queen’s “Keep Yourself Alive.” And I believe, though I am not certain, that it is at the conclusion of the first chorus to this song, that Watain’s disciples, who were scattered throughout the bulk of the audience, opened those putrid filled plastic bottles and poured them out upon the crowd. If there’d been screaming when Erik spattered a few cups worth out on some heads earlier, an even greater lamentation goes up this second time around. Anyone near the bulk of the audience is covered.

Just then, I see a dozen or so people, mostly women, sprinting from the crowd toward the “sanitary” stations. Good luck with that, I think, since the water in those sink stands is limited.

Like the first time, the overhead fans catch the spray and scatter a fine red mist across the room. The rotted blood smell intensifies. Combined with the heat of the room, I can imagine some audience members must be feeling queasy. But the smell quickly dissipates. By the end of the song, I don’t really notice it anymore. In fact, I went and bought a drink at the bar during my favorite song, “Stellavore”. Om, nom, nom, star eater!

Matt, Mary, Derek and Nick. Photo by Annie.

Matt, Mary, Derek and Nick. Photo by Annie.

During what turned out to be Watain’s final song, “Holocaust Dawn,” I take a quick bathroom break. It’s a long song, and I can still hear it from the john. When I return, the spot where the performance space meet the food and drink space punches me in the face. The heat and smell are overwhelming. I stand there, on the precipice of chaos next to a pregnant woman who for some reason decided going to see Watain while pregnant was a good idea.

“I feel like throwing up,” she says.

I nod knowingly but discredit her as an accurate judge of actual disgust levels because, seriously, when doesn’t a pregnant women not feel like she could throw up?

And then suddenly, the show is over! I hope for an encore, but it never comes. They played for one hour.

The Aftermath

I stay near the entryway waiting for the rest of my party to pass by. I see more people I know, and many are pleased at the performance, ritual, concert or however you view it. My traveling companion Derek saunters up, his new white shirt, face and hair covered with blood. Mandi had wisely moved to the back to rest before Watain even got going. Annie and Nick are equally baptized, as were Matt and James. Among the Watain disciples, there is a kind of euphoria. It’s been a long day for them, many of whom had arrived early that morning to build the stage and help in other ways. They have just witnessed not only the band they love but also the fruits of their labor. I am happy for them.

But was this special? Was this the ultimate, uncensored, uncompromising Watain show I’d hope for? From my perspective, I have to say no. The space, the venue, short notice of the event, it just didn’t allow the opportunity to create the atmosphere I was expecting to see. If you have watched Watain’s DVD “Opus Diaboli,” you will have a better sense of what their full live ritual can be like, but this show and in this setting was not it.

But am I disappointed? Not at all. I like Watain. And unless something very crazy happens, I will continue to enjoy them.

If anything made this show unique, it was in the way that this particular performance engaged Watain devotees. It seemed to be an opportunity for them to rally around their favorite group and participate in a more hands-on way and in a more intimate setting than perhaps they have the opportunity to before. And that, perhaps, was what Watain intended all along.

It has been said that Watain is not for everyone. And I agree; they are not everyone’s cup of fermented blood. If you don’t get it, they are not for you. Perhaps you are not the one, and it will be very obvious that you are not the one. But if you do get it, and you do understand, then this show was for you. And just for you.

The Killing Gods reveals more comtemplative Misery Index

The fifth studio album for Baltimore’s Misery Index, The Killing Gods, pushes the band into new melodic territory while remaining true to their death metal/grindcore roots. The group also recently performed twice during Maryland Deathfest XII, once at the Ottobar pre-fest show and their main performance at the Edison Lot stage on Sunday.

Misery Index. Photo by Josh Sisk.

Misery Index. Photo by Josh Sisk.

Among one of metal’s hardest working bands, Misery Index has thrived on a steady diet of touring and recording pretty much since inception in 2001. This schedule has not stopped vocalist/bassist Jason Netherton from working on earning his PhD at the University of Western Ontario and from writing a book, Extremity Retained: Notes from the Death Metal Underground. Nor has it prevented drummer Adam Jarvis from being in every single band I know including grinders Pig Destroyer, doom metallers Asthma Castle, and his cousin John’s group, Fulgora. Guitarist/vocalist Mark Kloeppel has provided vocals for the Fulgora project and is the song writing machine for Misery Index. Their new guitarist Darin Morris is not really new at all, having played with both Mark and Adam in the Maryland death metal band Criminal Element.

Mark was kind enough to answer a few questions about the new record and just what’s up with Misery Index today. I’m addicted to the new album, favoring tracks “Conjuring the Cull” and “The Weakner.” It’s a satisfying listen from start to finish. Read on for Mark’s comments.

First off, I am loving the new album! It seems—albeit loosely – like a concept album. What were some of the challenges and triumphs in putting it together? What are you particularly proud of on this record?

We were a bit conflicted in doing a full-on concept record, as we weren’t sure the attention span of the digital age would tolerate it. Those types of listeners need quick, sometimes concise, and more individualized pieces that aren’t necessarily part of a bigger thing. That said, our fellow vinyl spinners are used to the conceptual long haul. The vinyl format sort of caters to more of an epic and literary type exhibition. In our indecision, both styles of artifacts emerged from the creative process. The first sixteen minutes is a concept piece in five parts based upon Marshall Berman’s explication of Goethe’s Faust in “All That is Solid Melts into Air.” We will talk about that later. After that, more individualized songs emerge.

Mark Kloeppel and Jason Netherton of Misery Index. Photo by Mary Spiro

Mark Kloeppel and Jason Netherton of Misery Index. Photo by Mary Spiro

Outside of the conceptual challenge we presented ourselves, production was also a major challenge. Luckily, we had a really strong mixing and mastering team in Steve Wright and Tony Eichler, respectively. In 2010, the metal crowd was more into inhuman “perfect” sounding records. That’s what our last record sounds like. We don’t particularly like that style of production, but it’s easier to churn out when you have an extremely limited timeline. With “the Killing Gods,” we really took our time with the production; not so much the tracking, but the mixing and mastering. We really wanted to stick to natural sounds; relaying the subtle nuances that indicate a human being is playing the parts, without losing the modern production value. The process was laborious, with different members having to periodically bow out of the process due to stress. In the end, though, our production team nailed it…all the way from the sound to the finely crafted aesthetics of the album art by Gary Ronaldson. It is an organic record in the purest sense, and that is what the public wants to hear. They want to hear the actual raw visceral energy that comes out of this music. That’s what you hear on “The Killing Gods.”

Tell me about the songwriting process for The Killing Gods, especially with the multi-part composition “Faust”? How did this piece come together, and why did you decide to present it like this?

Faust is broken into five sections comprising the first fifteen and a half minutes of the record. As previously stated, Faust is lyrically based upon Marshall Berman’s interpretation of Faust in his book “All That Is Solid Melts into Air.” Jason, our bass player, presented this concept, and I ran with it. Berman takes a literary approach to the consequences of modernity versus a nineteenth century Enlightenment drive for progress and the growth of capitalism. He talks about these issues through Faust, and how Faust is a sort of tragic figure in his drive to progress, as he destroys it at the same time.

The piece emerged out of a natural organic creative process over a couple years. Each riff, lead, and transition was mulled over and mulled over again to ensure proper placement and conveyance. I had this vibe in my head that emerged out of a personal darkness I felt a long long time ago. I wanted to embody that emotion and everything attached to it in music, and cast it back out into the universe. It was a cathartic process that, through a bit of strife, helped to cleanse my mind and spirit. Playing that music live now is very rewarding and therapeutic for me, as it allows me to let some of my personal demons evaporate into the air…one hallowed scream at a time.

In terms of presentation on the album, it just sounded, literally, like the right way to begin the record. It really sets a good atmosphere for the rest of the songs to reside. We were curious how we were going to pull it off, and, in the end, Rush’s 2112 format was enough justification. For those not familiar with that record, it begins with the epic 2112, and rounds out with individual songs toward the end. So, we haven’t reinvented the wheel with this or anything. We just took everything we know about good albums into consideration, and tried to do what we are supposed to do.

Let’s talk about the lyrical content. Many earlier Misery Index songs deal with government oppression or corporate corruption. I am not a student of Misery Index Lyrics (perhaps that’s a class Dr. Jason Netherton can teach) but some of the lyrics seem to deal with much more spiritual and metaphysical themes than in previous years. How do the lyrical themes of The Killing Gods line up or diverge from these previously explored themes?

Misery Index at MDF pre-fest, Ottobar. Photo by Mary Spiro

Misery Index at MDF pre-fest, Ottobar. Photo by Mary Spiro

“The Killing Gods” is an intrinsically influenced literary and metaphysical side-step for the band to explicate real world travesty through prose. “The Killing Gods” as a whole follows the means of human control from the metaphysical to the physical (in that order), with a brief sojourn mid record into our collective personal juxtaposition in these realms. The record revolves around themes of religious oppression, military oppression, hidden knowledge, and the intrinsic dark plume billowing in our minds like thick impenetrable smoke. It leaves the listener both digging deeper into their dark recesses and following those emotions as they extrinsically manifest. This record is a study of this bigger picture; utilizing literature, real world events, and tacit knowledge as a means of explication.

Musically to me this album feels more traditional death metal and less “core” but also incredibly melodic. Would you agree? Disagree?

I think I agree. However, I am a little too close to the record to make any kind of distinction or label. I hear a lot of people saying what you are saying. Really, though, this record contains ninety percent of the same elements Misery Index has always had. I liken Faust to the Dissent EP, which is also a fifteen minute five-part epic of sorts. I think the really difference is the vibe. The vibe is dark and evocative. In fact, I have to admit we had some kind’ve spooky things happen in the studio while recording this record. I was recording the vocals for “The Harrowing” and got to a particular word, and, out of nowhere, there was a delay effect on my vocals pumping right in time with the rhythm of the song. It really scared Steve, because he did not turn anything on. When he zoomed out in the view of the session there was an effect spike set to the bpm of the song that was not visible until zoomed out to the millisecond. You can still hear it on the record, as we left it there. There are many other anomalies on the record as well that we left…things that put themselves there. So, when I say evocative, I mean literally. I really do not mean to sound cheesy here. I just can’t deny real events. It appears the manifestation process can drag things with it.

Where did the inspiration from these songs (musically and lyrically) come from? Literature? Film? Life?

When a band is just starting, they take a tremendous amount of time crafting their debut music. There is a lot of trial and error and perfecting of the craft. When the act is signed, they are thrown into this whirlwind year-and-a-half to two-year album cycle. It is a double edged sword, because one really becomes seasoned quickly in that schedule. However, the records are never what they could have been. I believe the music suffers for the sake of having a product to sell. For this record, we wanted to take our experience and write a record the same way we would if we were just starting. The difference is, we have proficiency in things bands starting out don’t have. So, the benefit of time we consciously took, and that organic writing approach probably inspired the record the most.

What are your favorite songs to play live? Old and new…

Conjuring the Cull and The Weakener are really fun live. We are also gearing up to do The Harrowing from the new record. We also like Traitors, Manufacturing Greed, and The Carrion Call. They are ripping songs, get great crowd participation, and very fun to play.

How are you feeling about your Maryland Deathfest performances? Pre-fest versus Edison Lot sets? Small venue versus festival audiences? I saw both performances.

We thoroughly enjoyed both sets. We were able to get the crowd moving, which is most important, and they were poised to do so. Open Airs are a little tougher in terms of hearing each other, but we are pretty seasoned at this point. We can power through just about any situation, or any type of crowd. It helps when they are ready to go, so to speak, and, at MDF, they were.

I sort of would like to add a little more to our presentation, but it needs to be original. We are still brainstorming on that.

Misery Index is now a pretty well-traveled band. Which countries go crazy for Misery Index and which do you feel you still need to conquer? Who would you like to tour with?

Indonesia and Germany are without a doubt our primary markets. Although, we get pretty great responses most places. We really could use a breakout tour in the states that’s not death metal. I still think we haven’t been a part of the right tour over here.

I feel like a lot of times the town that a band comes from does not always appreciate them as much as other regions do, you know, like they are taken for granted in their own backyard. How would you describe your relationship with your local fans and those across the globe?

I think there is a natural ebb and flow of excitement that happens as a band progresses. When they first splash in their local scene, or when they first break out of their local scene, there tends to be a lot of excitement. When they start touring a lot, they sort of become old hat. But, after some longevity, people begin to remember and embrace you as a staple of their community. I think that is where Misery Index is now. I don’t think we have as many local fans, as we have local friends. Since the bands inception, we’ve gotten to know just about everyone in the area in some capacity. What’s strange is when that starts happening abroad. We have a long list of towns and venues across the planet that are like a home away from home now.

After you get back from this next trek to Europe, what are your plans? US touring?

We are confirming a festival in Quebec right now, and are in negotiations for many other opportunities extending through 2015. That’s all I can say at this point. I will say that we anticipate this album doing a lot of good work for us. So we are going to be particular about what we do. That is just to do justice to our legacy, the music, and ourselves.

Also, what do you want people to know about Jason’s book Extremity Retained? What sort of comments have you received about it from people at the Grimposium and at MDF? (PS, that Grimposium looked interesting, but I don’t know how I feel about putting “my music” into an academic setting for analysis. I guess it happens with everything. Anyone want to comment on that?

Jason put that together over three years, and its really just documented tour stories from the originators of this scene. It’s a really great one-of-a-kind thing. I’m really glad he did it; because of the kind of unrestricted access we have to these key players. It’s been pretty neat listening to some of his recorded interviews. I thought those should’ve been released as well. Obviously, it has been received well both in academia and our scene.

Anything else you want people to know about Misery Index at this time?

“The Killing Gods” is out now on Season of Mist records. Go get it, and check our social media sites to stay up to date. Fresh merch designs are available through Indiemerch. Also, We have a music video for “The Calling” coming out soon, and some behind the scenes studio stuff coming out through Gear Gods. Go check it out, and support your local Misery Index!

Interview: Watain returns to US for one unholy, uncompromising ritual

Erik Danielsson of Sweden’s black metal legion Watain spoke via email with my photographer friend Kassandra Carmona a few months ago during the group’s initial tour for the album “The Wild Hunt.”  Kassandra recently sent the interview to me for publication here, even though she had posted it on her own blog. Now that Watain has announced a special one-off show in Brooklyn on June 15, I thought it only fitting to update the information with some more recent comments from the man himself. Erik quickly and graciously responded. This Q&A is divided into two parts, the first part with questions from Kassandra (KC) and the second part with questions from me (MS).

E. from Watain's performance at Baltimore Soundstage, Nov. 2013.

E. from Watain’s performance at Baltimore Soundstage, Nov. 2013.

If you have never seen Watain live, the June 15 show at Brooklyn Night Bazaar promises to give attendees the full multi-sensory experience. If you HAVE seen them live in the US, which I have a couple of times, what you have witnessed has probably been a watered-down version of what they are capable of.  Certainly listening to Watain on recording is powerful in and of itself. Watching their DVD “Opus Diaboli” can help to further gain an understanding of the Watain ritual. But to fully appreciate what they are really all about, one should see them live, uncensored and uncompromised, at least once. After reading Erik’s responses to my questions about this show, I am very tempted to find my way up to NYC for the Father’s Day show. I feel like it’s really going to push some boundaries, but when has Watain not pushed some boundaries? Who knows, they might usher in the end of mankind. If the stars align, I will be there.

Tickets to the Brooklyn Night Bazaar event are $25 and can be purchased here. Expect this show to sell out. The venue is unusual so you might want to visit the Brooklyn Night Bazaar’s website to see what you are in for. I have no idea how it will be configured for this show.

KC: Well, to start out you guys have been on tour in support of your latest release “The Wild Hunt” for about 4 months now, reaching from the States to Australia. Considering that you’ve been touring partners bands like Mayhem, In Solitude and Tribulation. What has been the tour experience like this time around?

It’s been a long and hard ride so far, very rewarding though, and filled with many important moments and experiences. We always try to pick carefully what bands we play with, mainly because we have learnt from the past that if we go on the road with the wrong bands, things usually end up pretty fucking bad. We don’t like to take bullshit and we don’t like to be around wimps, as simple as that. Us and In Solitude are of course close already and meet each other often back home as well, so touring with them was basically being on the road with a bunch of friends. Which is great, makes things easier and more focused in a way. With Mayhem things work really well too, perhaps a bit more of an explosive scenario, haha…

KC: As far as the few announcements I’ve seen, you are still announcing more European tour dates, and some very close to home, do you approach the rituals at home, let’s say any “different” than the ones elsewhere?

The next thing we have coming up is a Scandinavian tour, so it’s all pretty much close to home yes. There is something I really like about performing here, the crowds are always big and passionate and wild and loud as fuck. Which is good. But I would not say we approach the shows differently, no. What happens on the stage with Watain -at least within our minds and spirits- is the same in Antofagasta as it is in Stockholm.

KC: Now that you’ve covered the US, Australia, & Europe, what other places are you planning to tour this year?

For the rest of the year we have a big European headline tour together with Degial coming up in March and April. After that the festival season starts, which is always interesting. Playing at European festivals is always a good opportunity to hammer down the Darkness of Watain into peoples souls, because so many of the crowds are just regular festival goers that are there to have a good time. Then, there, after a day of drinking and partying in the sun and becoming like useless overheated animals, they find themselves standing before a Temple of Fire and Chaos, from which venomous radiance they will not be able to shield themselves. The concerts then become a merciless incineration of mindless joy, overpowering and truly dangerous. So yea, I am very much looking forward to that. We are definitely going to try to do South America and Japan this year as well.

KC: Stepping aside the touring life, I would like go a little more in-depth into what Watain has become and the road leading to it. You began the band at very young age, what was your purpose when starting the band, and is that purpose the same? Did age play anything into what you believed your life would be in a band like Watain? Did you ever expect Watain to become what is it now?

The reason behind the formation of Watain was our burning, fanatical approach towards Black Metal and our will to be a part of that movement, to feed it with our own fires, to honor its codes and to explore it’s divine origins. Eventually it came to grow into something far greater than that, a brotherhood, a weapon with which to fight the world, and a tool of magic. I think we always knew, since day one, that this was going to be something that we were going to stick to for a long time. We were very serious about Black Metal already at such a young age (we were between 16 and 18) and we knew that this was not something you got into just as a hobby. When Hell calls your name, there is no way back… And here we are now.

KC: Any message you would like to give to the faithful Watain Disciples?
Hopefully they know by now how much we appreciate and cherish their support, without them our tours would be far less interesting actually. The Disciples thing has grown from a small idea to something quite organized and effective, which we feel very honored by! And we see it growing and hardening every tour we do. We look forward to meet you all along the road during the time to come…

MS: My understanding is that American audiences don’t typically get to see your full ritual performances. Usually there are restrictions from the venue on pyrotechnics, blood, etc. How will this performance be different from other US shows you have done in the past and, more importantly, why are you doing this show NOW in the US?

Touring the US is always a bit problematic with the kind of stage setup we use back here in Europe. The problems are both logistic and ideologic in nature. US organizers and promoters generally have a much less liberal attitude than Europeans, especially towards stuff that lay in the greyzone between what’s “legal” and what’s not. Anyway, sometimes you come across people who are willing to make stuff happen regardless, as is the case with the Brooklyn concert we now have ahead of us. With the combined efforts of a group of determined men and women, professionals as well as criminals, we have– as it looks now at least!– managed to overcome some of the obstacles we have been facing before and the Brooklyn stage should thus be illuminated by the fire of the Will and that strange and terrible Light that only Diabolical things can bestow. Why now? Why not? The snake is cunning. You will never be safe…

Obligatory blurry fan-girl pic.

Obligatory blurry fan-girl pic.

MS: What are Watain’s plans for future North American touring?
Right now only the Brooklyn show. We had a tour that was going to be in support of an old band, which we have always been great fans of, but they freaked out when they saw what we wanted to bring on the stage and called the whole thing off. It’s not the first time that happened I can tell you. We currently have some pretty interesting touring scenarios on the table for the States, but we will shed light on those when the time is right.

MS: Anything else you might want people to know right now.
We look forward to set fire to Brooklyn Night and turn it into a pandemonium of Satanic Metal ecstasy!

——

Note: I may update this post later with some additional photos, however nearly all my own photos of Watain have been lost. Technology hates me.

 

Maryland Deathfest XII recap and photo gallery #1

It is taking me forever to go through some of my photos from Maryland Deathfest XII. But I wanted to get some of them out there, because I got some really good ones.

I also wanted to mention that this was, by far, my most fun MDF. I saw 37 bands! That’s amazing!! I thought the set up worked really well and made getting around  much more efficient for me. Even if I was not actually watching a band with my eyeballs, I could hear them clearly from anywhere on the Edison Lot grounds. The sightlines were good at the outdoor space if you stood further back. Or you could perch on one of the shaded picnic tables and still hear and see OK.

As far as the indoor venues went, both the sound at SoundStage and Rams Head was pretty good and the sightlines decent for a short person like me. I was very happy that the entire Rams Head was opened up on every level. Sitting in the bleachers at the tip-top of was kind of a cop out but if your feet were killing you from all the standing it was some welcome relief.

Walking between venues was not a problem. It took about 7-10 minutes for me to walk from Edison lot to Soundstage if I walked briskly and caught the lights. Mother Nature cooperated by keeping the rain away and not letting it get too hot.

Nice changes this year were shorter lines to get in, for vendors, and for bathrooms. The wait time between bands at Edison lot was negligible. I really appreciated being able to get my four-day pass at the Ottobar pre-fest (which was awesome).

There were a few things I wished they had been done differently. Here’s a starter list of suggestions. I might think of others later.

Water should have been free. I saw several people passing out from dehydration. $2-$3 for water, depending on who you were buying it from, was too much to keep yourself hydrated. Alternatively, people should have been allowed to bring in a couple of sealed water bottles.

Misting tents would have been nice if it had been a any hotter.

Sunscreen samples would have helped. I had plenty of sunscreen on, but I am sure a sunscreen company would be happy to pass out coupons and free samples. Let’s not get skin cancer.

I wish the entrance to Edison Lot had been at the south end and not the north, but it wasn’t a huge hassle to walk all the way to the other side to enter. Still, when trucking over to the other venues, minutes sometimes counted.

The Edison Lot layout was set up like a V. It would have been nicer if it had been more of a circle so that you didn’t have to walk back up out of the vendor spaces to get to the stages. But again, you could really hear pretty well anywhere in the lot.

I would like to see one very obvious and centralized place for bands to display their merch. Several had theirs at the MDF merch tent, but others were scattered throughout the vendor area at their relative labels. As far as I could tell, there was only one table for short-term merch display. Finding merch was like a scavenger hunt. Merch was better displayed at Rams Head and Soundstage.

Rams Head and Soundstage charge way too much for drinks and food. But this was easy to rectify,  just don’t buy anything from them.

That’s it for now….more later.

Check out some of my shots below.

 

 

 

Podcast: Maryland Deathfest recap #3 from Sunday

Here’s our final installation of our Maryland Deathfest podcasts. We made it and no one died! We determined that Derek won MDF with most bands seen (47); most merch purchased, out latest, at the rail or in the pit for most bands seen and most unshowered (honorary crust award). William came in second with most bands seen and most merch purchased. He also wins the straight edge award.

From left Mary, Will, Chris, Sam and Derek.

From left Mary, Will, Chris, Sam and Derek.

Sam V wins for worst and weirdest shaped sunburn and also for loudest snoring. He was also the funniest on the podcast! Go Sam. Woodford wins for best death metal growl and most ladies talked to. I win for best white vest and most selfies taken with crowd members and I also win for most people who came up and bowed down before me (I can’t explain this).

This was by far the most fun we have had at Deathfest. Staying in a hotel within closest walking distance of the venues was the best idea. I love my friends. I would not have wanted to try this with anyone else. Hail CampMDF.

Listen here.

 

 

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