Monthly Archives: March 2012

Countdown to MDF X: (54) Agalloch

If the Decemberists were a metal band, they might a little sound like Agalloch. In terms of musical genres, one could argue that Agalloch does not really belong at the Maryland Deathfest. The reason I say they don’t really belong there should become evident when you hear them. It really is not death metal and could only be loosely described as black metal. But what is it?

What it is, is a lush and verdant soundscape flowing from the dripping wet rainforests of the Tillamook or pouring from the mossy banks of the Columbia River. Only John Haughm’s occasional shrill  and sometimes growling vocals– icy as the Cascade Mountains–gives Agalloch away as something like black metal. Pagan rock, neofolk or ambient would also be appropriate descriptors.

This is not to say that you should skip Agalloch’s set Thursday, May 24! On the contrary! This band, founded in 1995 in Portland, Oregon rarely tours the US so you should not miss this chance to see them. Their music is complex and their live performance engaging. Other members include Don Anderson (guitar), Jason William Walton (bass) and Aesop Dekker (drums). The group is capable of bringing the black metal and they will not disappoint.

It’s hard to say what songs Agalloch might play at MDF X. Their most recent release is a compilation called “Whitedivisiongrey.” Some personal favorite songs from their 2002 album The Mantle, such as “Not Unlike Waves” or “In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion,” would be nice to hear live.  The 2010 full-length album Marrow of the Spirit is the some of the closest sounding to traditional black metal that I think Agalloch has ever done.  Here are a couple songs to consider. I think Agalloch will provide a nice break from some of the more brutal offerings on Thursday.

Iron Man puts spring schedule in motion with videos

The members of legendary doom metal band Iron Man have been getting crafty lately. Recently they spent some time recording video footage to go along with some carefully (demonically) selected conceptual video and have come up with a singular visualization for the song Grown. The song comes from their most recent self-released EP Dominance. If you read the lyrics to the song, the clips go along pretty well with the theme.

The video features founding member of Iron Man Al Morris III on guitar, Louis Strachan slapping the bass, Screaming Dee Calhoun on vocals and introduces newest member, drummer Jason Waldmann.

Iron Man has some shows coming up. One on April 14 at Cafe 611 at 611 (duh) N. Market Street in Frederick, MD. This one is with psyche-doomic rockers Admiral Browning and suspiciously named band Fat Chick Meat Haul. It starts at 9 p.m. and costs just $7. Get your taxes done and go. They made a video flyer for that one too. Check out each band in advance!

They also have a huge gig coming up on May 12 in Ottawa (that’s in Canada) at a joint called Mavericks. The show has been dubbed All That is Heavy 2. They will be sharing the stage with Blood Ceremony and a bunch of other cool doomy, sludgey, experimental bands such as Blizaro, Revelation, Monobrow, and Loviatar. I have never been to Canada, so I am looking forward to taking a little road trip to check this out. Look for more Iron Man news in the coming weeks.

Countdown to MDF X: (55) Absu

Full disclosure: I absolutely love Absu. This quirky occult three piece has been as they proclaim “Arrogantly Executing Mythological Occult Metal Since 1991.” Their music is elegantly executed, brutally badass and unrelenting. Yet every time I see a video of their drummer/vocalist Sir Proscriptor McGovern (Russ Givens) open his mouth to sing AND thrash the hell out of a drum kit, I get a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Maybe it’s the guy-liner he wears or that odd metallic looking headband. I just want to say, “awwwwwe.”

Hailing from Plano, Texas, the other members of Absu include Ezezu (Paul Williamson) – Voice, Bass Guitar and Mellotron; and Vis Crom (Matt Moore) – Electric and Acoustic Guitars.  Proscriptor, although not literally a founding member, is the only one left from the original line-up. At times Absu has been put on the shelf, most likely due to member upheaval. At one point, Proscriptor even auditioned for Slayer. But thankfully he persevered.

Absu’s music is rich with the occult, myth and legend. They employ memorable hooks and melodies alongside black metal vocals and thrashy drumming. Lyrically, unless you are a student of the occult, their music is inscrutable. The group’s most recent album, Abzu, represents the current line up, but some of my favorite songs are on their fifth recording, simply called Absu, released in 2009. That album includes a variety of member configurations.

Their energetic performances (which I have only witnessed on YouTube) should really rev up the crowd on Thursday, May 24 at the Maryland Deathfest. Originally, I only had a three-day ticket to MDF X, but the announcement that Absu replaced Desaster on this day was enough to make me go back and buy a ticket for Thursday. I cannot wait to see them live. Here are two videos because I could not pick just one.

Countdown to MDF X: (56) Dying Fetus

Dying Fetus, a technical death metal band from Upper Marlboro (in my homeland of Prince Georges County) Maryland, has steadily gained national and international acclaim since their inception in 1991.  Their guitar and drumming prowess in undeniable. Their vocals are guttural and unforgiving.

The band includes only original member John Gallagher – Guitar,Vocals; Sean Beasley – Bass,Vocals and Trey Williams – Drums. This Relapse recording artist makes a good addition to the Thursday, May 24 line up for Maryland Deathfest X. The band was featured most recently on the Metal Alliance Tour with Devil Driver, Faceless, Job for a Cowboy et al.  Then following the MDF X, they will embark on summer tour with Six Feet Under and Revocation. They will make a short stop in Frederick, MD at Cafe 611, only with Revocation and local support on June 6.

Dying Fetus is on par with a band like Suffocation, which originated from the New York Death Metal scene. Yet, Dying Fetus deserves special recognition because they are among the few bands that by sheer force of will and perseverance put the state of Maryland on the map for metal, They are also probably the only group with the technical ability, artistry, and creative skills to be thought of as Maryland’s original death metal band [in my opinion]. Perhaps because they were spawned so close to the nation’s capital, their lyrics often invoke political themes. This fact sets them apart intellectually from some others in the death metal cohort that focus on gore and violence.

Alcest brings French, blackened shoegaze to Baltimore’s Golden West Cafe

Tonight at Golden West Cafe, I will be seeing the amazing and awe inspiring band from France–Alcest. I had the pleasure of seeing this group open for Enslaved last September at Mr. Smalls in Pittsburgh.

Alcest’s sound is sparse and emotive. Their roots are in black metal but their work has transcended that into the realm of folk, shoegaze, alternative and I don’t know what all. I don’t like to classify it, though I am sure someone will want to. It is extreme music, clearly defined by black metal, but also refined by a strong sense of melody. Sometimes the vocals are clear and haunting, sometimes they are raspy and shrill. Either way, the music evokes feelings of loss, darkness, despair but with some hope and longing thrown in. Their wall of sound surrounds and cradles you in a dreamlike world that is at once comforting and disturbing.

The primary members of Alcest are Neige on guitars/bass, synths and vocals and Winterhalter on drums, however I believe they will have some touring members. All the songs are in French, so unless you are fluent don’t worry about the lyrics.

Supporting Alcest on this tour is Deafheaven a more traditional sounding black metal band from San Francisco. Expect tremelo guitar picking, blast beat drumming and shrill vocals. There is a nod to Burzum with their sound, but I like Deafheaven a little better because I find the melodies more congruent and the songs more carefully constructed. They have almost an indie rock song structure but the arresting vocals keep it clearly in the black metal genre. Listen to Deafheaven here.

The local opener for this show is Arbouretum, a band I saw first earlier this month. They’ve been around the Baltimore area for a long time and have a strong following both nationally and internationally. Arbouretum is not a metal band but more like a doomy, psychedelic trip that attracts a crowd that wishes they could see the Grateful Dead.  Having seen the Grateful Dead many times, I can attest to this attraction but say that Arbouretum is far and away a much more musically interesting band. Sure you could sway back and forth and just zone out if you wanted to, but the music is not going to let you rest for long and Dave Heumann’s voice will call you back to reality. You can hear a very new song right here. Imagine Gordon Lightfoot with some fuzzed out guitars and a pounding backbeat. In mid April, Arbouretum embarks on a five week European tour. See them now.

UPDATE: Photos from the show and afterwards.

Countdown to MDF X: (57) Rorschach

New Jersey’s Rorschach blends elements of punk, hardcore and avant garde dissonance to come up with the so-called “power violence” sound and screaming vocal energy you see here. They perform Thursday, May 24 at MDF X.  Current band members include Keith Huckins – Guitar; Andrew Gormley – Drums; Nick Forte – Guitar; Thomas Rusnak – Bass; Charles Maggio -Vocals.

The band first got together in 1989, sort of at the tail end of the hardcore punk scene, extend the genre well into the early 90s. They took a break, some members going to play in Deadguy. In 2009, they reformed and have toured sporadically since.

Following the Maryland Deathfest,  Rorschach will play at on May 26 Le Poisson Rouge in NYC. If you remember hardcore punk from back in the day, or if you are making the nouvelle version of hardcore punk now, Rorschach satisfies.

Countdown to MDF X: (58) Needful Things

Grindcore band Needful Things from the Czech Republic continues the extreme start to the Maryland Deathfest X, set to play third on Thursday, May 24. According to the band’s profile on ReverbNation, they have been grinding out tracks since 1995. This seems like an awfully long time, making them possibly one of the earliest grindcore bands I could think of. They are listed as the No. 2 most popular “alternative” band in the Czech Republic.

Needful’s music is distributed through Obscene Productions. On their MySpace they make the following humble statement: “We play only for gas money, food, drink, sleep places..Trades are welcome.”

Their latest album can be streamed live here.

The current line-up includes Otto – bass, Roman – guitar, David – guitar, Dan – drums, and Tomas – bass/vocals. Following MDF X, Needful Things apparently has a show booked on May 29 with Agents of Abhorrence, Dissent, and Chainsaw To The Face at Brooklyn’s Acheron, New York City.

Countdown to MDF X: (59) Die Pigeon Die

Die Pigeon Die will be travelling all the way from Melbourne, Victoria in Australia to play on Thursday at MDF X.  This extremely brutal band focuses on themes of gore, violence and perversion –but with some humor thrown in. Song titles include enticing gems such as “Massive Warts in Pregnancy,” Ripped from V to A,” and “Spastic Colon.” Some music can be found on YouTube. More recent stuff is on SoundCloud.

The only band members listed on their Facebook page are Leo Pigeon (bass and vocals) and Jack Pigeon (drums, guitars and “bong” vocals), however other members are shown performing in videos.  Drums by Christoph is listed on SoundCloud.

There is a sample of a song entitled “Tricked by a  Tranny” on Soundcloud, reportedly from a upcoming full-lengh CD. Many of the songs include samples from horror movies.

If you are into gore and bong water, Die Pigeon Die might be for you.

Countdown to MDF X: (60) Extermination Angel

Maryland Deathfest X is just 60 days away. To get to know each band, I will post a short blurb and video or link to a song from each band.

Extermination Angel will be the first band to take the stage on Thursday, May 24 at Sonar.

Hailing from Baltimore, this trio consists of Shawn (on Vokillz!), The Barbarian  (on Hyperborean Guitar Bass, whatever that is) and Jimzilla (on Pitiless Cannonade ie. Drums).  In addition to belting out some pretty extreme death metal vocals, Shawn has a pretty impressive head of hair. On their Facebook page, they say they are the “holy exterminator come to cleans you of life.”

Extermination Angel reports that they have a full-length recording coming out on Black Mess Recordings, which willl be available for sale at MDF. To hear more music, head over to their official page on BandCamp.

I have never seen this band live, but I think they should be a great way to brutalize the audience appropriately for the kick-off of MDFX!!!

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