Monthly Archives: July 2012

Taurus: the band, not the astrological sign

Stevie Floyd and Ashley Spungin. Photo by Mary Spiro

My astrological sign happens to be Taurus. It is also the astrological sign of the two members of the band Taurus: guitarist Stevie Floyd and drummer Ashley Spungin. Not that it means anything really, it just is what it is. I don’t really put much stock in astrology; it’s mostly a bunch of bull (pun intended) and should only be viewed as entertainment.

Sun signs aside, last Saturday, my husband (still getting used to saying that) and I made the annoyingly long trek to Empire (formerly Jaxx) in Springfield, Virginia to see Taurus. We were primarily there to see Agalloch, of course (more on that in another blog post), but I was curious about Taurus. I am always curious about two-piece bands. How do they make it sound like enough is going on for it to be anything?

Anyway, there are at least three bands out there called Taurus so it took a while to find the right one.  Taurus has only been together a few months, but you may know guitarist Stevie Floyd from her work in another two-piece outfit called Dark Castle. There are many elements of Dark Castle in Taurus, only now the components are shaken down, concentrated and stuffed into a smoking pipe.

Stevie Floyd of Taurus. Photo by Mary Spiro.

Prior to the show, I had a chance to chat with the Aesop Dekker the drummer for Agalloch. He remarked how much fun they’d been having touring with Taurus and that I should find their set “terrifying.” The use of the word terrifying was not far off.

I knew Taurus would be something that had to be experienced live. I had listened to their recording on Bandcamp and found it somewhat confusing. What was going on here?

Once the band took the stage, I knew that any recording of this group was going to be a weak facsimile of the living, breathing entity that is a live Taurus performance. From the moment they started, I pretty much could not take my eyes off of them, especially Stevie, whose vocals emanated from some place deep inside of her, like a restless spirit trying desperately to strip off the last bloodied membranes of its mortal coil.  Ashley’s relentless and unforgiving beats propelled the riffs unfurling from Stevie’s guitar into deadly streamers of doom that spiral down around you and encase you entirely. As they played, a strange film showing images of bleeding sliced pomegranates and exotic characters performing ritualistic actions flickered on the screen behind them.

Now all the music I had heard on the Bandcamp site made sense. The duo executed the recording note for note, beat for beat, including sampled sound clips between each passage. I made sure I picked up a copy of their hand-made EP before I left the club so that I would have something by which to refresh this sensation.

But I must emphasize: Taurus must be experienced live. Listening to the EP in isolation of the context of a performance might leave you feeling flat. Like listening to the soundtrack to a favorite Broadway musical, you will hear the notes and words but you don’t really get the full effect until you see the costumes, watch the movement of the actors and feel the drums beating against your chest.

Taurus definitely is not for everyone. But if you listen with open ears and an open mind to their experimental, doomy, sludgey riffs, you may be transported, body and soul, to another dimension without (or with, if you prefer) the use of chemical enhancements. I encourage you to watch a live Taurus performance. You may not love it; but you won’t avoid being affected by it.

With the understanding that the recording pales in comparison to the live performance, you can hear the EP Life by Taurus below.

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At last, new music from doom legends Iron Man

Good things come to those who wait and Iron Man fans have waited a year and a half for a new recording from their favorite Maryland doom band. The new EP entitled, att hålla dig över, features four crushing tunes that the band has only just started to perform live. The EP is now available for pre-order from the band’s website (www.ironmanband.com) And no, I don’t know what the title means either. Google Translate was not able to decipher it.

Calling all of this music “new” is a bit misleading here, since at least one of the songs has been brewing in the mind of guitarist Alfred Morris III for some time. I was particularly excited to see the tune, “On the Mountain,” included in this offering. The group has been including this song in their live sets, and it really leaves the crowd charged up.

Another new song “Quicksand,”  was premiered on the Canadian radio show “Crossing Boredom” on CKCU (93.1 FM). Hosts Derek and Jennifer Bradshaw interviewed Iron Man’s vocalist Dee Calhoun. Canadians are in love Iron Man. Yeah, I don’t understand that either.  But those Canucks went bathsalt crazy for the doom pioneers during their show in May at Mavericks in Ottawa. You can hear the full interview, along with a lot of other cool metal songs and the Bradshaw’s adorable Canadian accents here
Other new songs on the EP include “Crucified” and “Suffer the Children.” This recording features the band’s current line up of Morris on guitar, Louis Strachan on bass, Calhoun on vocals and Jason “Mot” Waldmann on drums. Check out a preview video for the whole EP below. 

The doom metal quartet also has a number of live gigs scheduled for the east coast, beginning this Saturday, Aug. 4 at Wilcom’s Inn in Monrovia, MD. Joining them are Against Nature and guitarist Jason Barker, who will be presenting an acoustic set.

Other upcoming Iron Man shows include:

Friday, Aug. 31: The Acheron with War Injun, Earthen Grave and Kin of Ettins. Located at 57 Waterbury Street (Brooklyn), New York, NY. 

Saturday, Sept. 1: Geno’s Rock Club where Iron Man and Revelation support the Maine’s Orge. Located at 625 Congress Street, Portland, ME.

Sunday Sept. 2: Stoner Hands of Doom, this four-day festival begins Aug. 30 but Iron Man will close the fest on Sunday night. The SHoD fest happens at  El ‘N’ Gee Club, located at 86 Golden Street, New London, CT. For a complete listing of bands click here

Podcast: Lita Ford’s no longer "Living Like a Runaway"

Lita Ford

Guitarist Lita Ford performs Tuesday, July 10 at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., in support of Def Leppard and Poison. I had the chance to talk to Lita Ford about life, music, her kids and her future. A full recording of my interview with Lita Ford can be heard here or you can click on the widget below. What follows is NOT a transcript, but more a review of her new CD, so you will have to click the link to hear the interview.

Now, when someone says, “Do you want to interview Lita Ford?” naturally, the answer is  “yes.” And when you hear the phrase The Queen of Metal, naturally, the only name that should come to mind is Lita Ford. Since the mid 1970s when she was recruited to play for the all-girl rock band The Runaways until this day, Ford has focused first and foremost on being one of the world’s best guitarists, determined to perfect her art.

Like any woman vying for respect in a male-dominated realm, Lita Ford has worked hard to establish herself as the talented and innovated guitarist and songwriter that she is, and I think for the most part, she has attained the level of credibility she deserves. It’s frustrating when true artistry is obscured by the blatant pandering to sexuality so common in the marketing of female musicians. Stevie Ray Vaughan was no GQ model, but no one cared because he could groove and shred.  Well, Lita Ford can shred and then some.
Living Like a Runaway, Ford’s most recent recording released June 19 on SVP/Steamhammer, is being heralded as THE Lita Ford comeback album. The collection certainly delivers hard driving rock and roll from start to finish and features the Lita-riffs that fans of this genre of heavy metal/hard rock have come to love.
Stripped to the essentials of guitar, bass and drums with few keyboards, Ford’s album underscores that you don’t need a rack of effects pedals or a degree in computer science to kick out the jams. The lyrical themes of Living Like a Runaway focus on heartbreak and hated, frustration and sorrow: the kind of emotional terrorism that many people experience through five decades of living. Ford is still clearly shaken about her recent divorce and obviously heartbroken about being separated from her children. The music paints a story of survival and as her pain has proved to be an inspiration. The songs possess a timeless quality, and the album should have staying power, providing many fist-pounding anthems for present day and future rock and roll fans.
Favorite tracks on the album include “Hate,” which describes the life and death of a Columbine-like killer, and “The Mask,” which demands that a Jekyll-Hyde character own-up to his true character. Ford says the album’s title track has become a crowd favorite during her current tour. Another one of my favorites, “Relentless,” with its chugging groove, seems to state Ford’s manifesto for her professional and personal life.

“I am relentless like a freight train coming to the driving rail
Relentless like a fighter in arena I don’t feel pain,
I am relentless, all you try to do is drive me insane
And you’re never gonna keep me down,
I am relentless.”
Among all the grinding riffs, the album pauses for the sweet ballad, “Mother,” in which Ford is clearly singing to her estranged children.  If you are not misty-eyed by the end of this track, you might be a robot.
In the final analysis, Living Like a Runaway is a superlative work of rock and roll. It is not a cheesy retrospective of 80’s hair metal, but tastefully crafted and thoughtfully produced. If you miss the best of what 80’s metal had to offer, you should definitely check out Lita Ford’s new album. The recording is available in CD as well as in a limited edition, stunningly beautiful cherry (bomb?) red vinyl double album.
Visit Lita Ford’s website here.

Murp proves metal is no kid’s game, well maybe a little

MURP is Aaralyn and Izzy
Murp is Izzy on drums and his sister Aaralyn on vocals. There is also their dad, Jason, who never appears on camera who plays lead guitar and the occasional guest appearance from the odd uncle, who also remains out of the camera’s view. Izzy provides a steady driving beat. He’s the strong foundation for their songs. Aaralyn, on the other hand, is some wild, untamed force of nature. Grown-ups in metal bands can sing about their disgust with humanity, or Viking adventures, or the devil or whatevever. Aaralyn is passionate about such things and unknotted hair or the power of lightening, or the death of red ants or the pain and itchiness of her poor brother’s poison ivy. 
I jokingly call Murp kindercore, in that, their sound is basically deathcore, performed by children. Murp might come off like a cute home movie or a joke. But I think there are bigger things afoot here. Like any good death metal song, it evokes some strong emotions. And other ways, Murp sounds like the preschool prototype for The Velvet Underground. No, I am not kidding. The bottomline is that if you want to experience the spectrum that is metal, you must listen to Murp.
Izzy, Aarlyn and Jason replied to some questions via email. I could be wrong, but this may be the first official Murp interview. A Metallomusikum EXCLUSIVE!!!
Why did you decide to form a band? 
Jason: Izzy and I started jamming in 2010 and Aaralyn kept peeking her head in. So I put a microphone in her hand so she could participate. She really liked it. Then one day the kids came to me and said they wanted to go on iCarley. I told them to go write a song and we’ll send it in. They were downstairs in the music room for all of 10 minutes before they came back up and told me they were ready. So I grabbed the video camera, and Izzy told me what kind of guitar sound he wanted. I hit record and out came “Don’t Brush My Hair in Knots”. We made it official when the video went semi-viral and the requests poured in. 

How do you come up with songs? 

Jason: Kinda depends on the mood of the kids, which, oddly enough, seem to coincide with the time of day. The earlier in the day the more energetic the song, the later in the day will be a mellow song…. most times. As far as the theme of the songs we are on a rotation. One week will be Izzy’s idea, then Aaralyn then me. Once a month or so we’ll do a cover, and more recently we have been doing fan dedication songs. 

Who writes the words? 
Jason: Aaralyn does them on the fly. One of us will come up with a ‘theme’ and she does the rest. Like when Izzy had a bad case of poison ivy last year, he wanted a song about how horrible it was, and boy did Aaralyn deliver.

How do you work the band around school and social life? 

Jason: Well the school part is easy, we practice and record as a band on the weekends (it only takes about an hour). Since we don’t spend a ton of time in the music room it really doesn’t interfere with our social life.
Where did the band name come from? 
Jason: Ireland 1995 Feile Festival. At our camp site was this completely inebriated guy from Belfast. He kept screaming “MURP!!!” I asked him what it meant, he told me it means really happy, to be with your mates having a good time, it’s a feeling. He made me promise to bring it back to America…….promise kept.
Do you do live performances? And if so where?
Jason: Not at the moment. If we ever did I kinda envision it as like a one or two song opener for some one. Metalfest! Call me! lol
Are you going to record and album? 

Jason: We’ve been approached, but 99% of what makes Murp endearing is seeing the kids rock out, not so much just listening. It’s performance art I guess.

Who are your guest musicians? 

Jason: Uncle Boru! The guitarist from Dark Passenger will play guitar for us sometimes. Uncle Mike plays the bass for us as well. It’s good to have different styles come in so people don’t get too burnt out on my three chord’s.
When did you first learn to play the drums, and how did you learn?
Izzy: I got my drum set for Christmas when I was six. I had two teachers, my Uncle Boru and Chris (my parents paid him but he moved to California).  Now I am just waiting to get into the third grade so I can start taking lessons again. I still take piano lessons.
Who are your favorite drummers and why? 
Izzy: Ummm, I don’t know their names except Meytal. But I do like the drummer from Nirvana and Amon Amarth (best band to listen to while I play Battlefield 3).

What are your favorite bands?

Izzy: Guns-n-Roses, Opeth, Rob Zombie (he’s from Haverhill close to where I live!!). Ummmm anything with a good beat that sounds good really. Oh and Black Sabbath!!!
 
What instruments do you play and when did you first start singing? 
Aaralyn: I play harmonica and daddy just got me a little bass guitar even though it is a little heavy for me still. I was 3 years old when I started singing.Who are your favorite singers and why?
Aaralyn: Victorious is my favorite singer and Miss Angela (Gossow) and Janice (Joplin).

What are your favorite bands?

Aaralyn: Umm rock-n-roll band’s and dancing bands and bands for banging my hair. I just kinda like all bands.
 
What is the best thing about being in Murp? 
Izzy: Um, everything. Playing drums and playing music with my family.
Aaralyn: I love singing, it’s like the best thing ever I get to do whatever song I want, and it’s great to do songs and scream sometimes.
What is the worst thing about being in Murp?
Izzy: When we don’t get it right we gotta keep doing it.
Aaralyn: Sometimes I forget the chorus, and we have to practice more. I also don’t like when the camera runs out of batteries and when I cough.

What do you want to be when you grow up? 
Izzy: An astrophysicist, and if that doesn’t work out I want to be some one who helps people learn about guns.

Aaralyn: I want to be a scientist because I want to make a lot of potions for making people smarter and to help them with math.

Is there anything else you want everyone to know about Murp?
Jason: Murp is evolution in motion. While the music may be metal or punk in nature, Aaralyn’s imagination continues to grow as she experiments with different styles of singing. Of course I hope that music will always be apart of our lives, but Murp will only be around for as long as it remains fun for the kids. In the mean time, enjoy the ride everyone! 
________
Thank you Murp! I hope you all achieve your dreams, but in the meantime, please keep cranking out the tunes!
 
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