Monthly Archives: October 2012

Graveyard’s bassist heads to rehab

Graveyard, that beautiful Swedish concoction of blues, metal and fuzzy guitar distortion, have decided to give their bandmate, bassist Rikard Edlund, the time he needs to get clean from addiction. The group just posted the statement below on their Facebook page
Rikard Edlund of Graveyard. Photo by M. Spiro
I saw Graveyard here in Baltimore back in January at Golden West Cafe. It was among the best shows I have seen this year. You can read a little about that show here
Graveyard also just released a new album, Lights Out, and as you will read, they fully intend to tour in support of their record with a temporary replacement for Edlund. I hope Rikard gets the help he needs so he can get back to making music. I love Graveyard a lot so I wish him and the band the best as they power through this tough time. What follows is the Graveyard statement on this matter.

It’s not only rock ‘n’ roll.

Sometimes in life you have to make decisions that are neither simple or easy to make. Graveyard have – after a time filled with difficulties and a search for solutions – been forced to make such a decision. Due to personal problems with addiction, it has come to the point where Rikard, to get the proper help, will have to take a break from touring with the band. Rikard is without a doubt still a member of Graveyard, but as things are at the moment it just doesn’t work and something has to be done. The other members give Rikard their full support and the time off needed to try to beat this. 

How this will affect the band – it is agreed upon by all four members that the show will go on and to do so the band will tour with a stand in bass player. This has been a far from easy decision to make and the timing isn’t the best. But Graveyard as a band has it’s mind set on being around for a long time to come. And looking at it from that perspective and Rikard’s personal health this is the only option. 

This is all the band have got to say about this somewhat personal matter and we’ll give the final words to Rikard himself:
“After living the hard life for most of my life. It has come to the point that I have to take a break from playing the music that I love.’

Play guitar for Pentagram. No, really.

Bobby Liebling with Victor Griffin. Photo M. Spiro/ 2011
Victor Griffin is moving on to other things, and Pentagram needs a guitarist. I don’t know about you, but I think for the right person this is the opportunity of a lifetime. The band just posted this statement on their Facebook page so there’s no need to rewrite it. Read on…

Agoura Hills, CA – October 25, 2012 – Legendary heavy metal pioneers and doom metal innovators PENTAGRAM are auditioning new guitar players. As previously announced, the revered guitarist Victor Griffin is performing his farewell shows during the Oct/Nov European Relentless Tour. He’ll be focusing on his solo career from this point on and the band and fans wish him all the best. Victor will forever be an important part of the “Ram Family.” 

PENTAGRAM is now searching for the perfect player who can easily play the blazing, early blues-based, hard rock, proto-metal of the late Vincent McAllister as well as the doom metal mastery of the one and only Victor Griffin. Tone, chops, appearance, tour experience & availability (US and abroad so a passport is required), song writing skills, and sobriety are all important factors. The band will be writing/recording their follow up to the acclaimed Metal Blade release, Last Rites this coming December and January.

Someone who is close to the Washington, DC area is preferred but exceptions will be made for the perfect player.

For songs and video of the band, visit: www.reverbnation.com/pentagramofficial
Please submit a short bio, a photo, and audio or video of you playing. PENTAGRAM song covers are preferred and the following songs are suggested:
“Wolf’s Blood”
“All Your Sins”
“Treat Me Right”
“When the Screams Come”
“Forever My Queen”
“20 Buck Spin”

Please send submissions to: PentagramAuditions@gmail.com 

In other news, PENTAGRAM is gearing up to tour Europe and the dates will commence with the band’s first ever UK tour. In a celebration of Victor Griffin’s time with the band, PENTAGRAM will be playing the Decibel Magazine Hall of Fame album, Relentless, in it’s entirety. After the doom pioneers first-ever UK show in London in 2011, Bobby Leibling and the boys return for four shows with Gentlemans Pistols as support, kicking off in Bristol at The Fleece.

PENTAGRAM UK Tour Dates
Tour w/ Gentlemans Pistols
10/31 Bristol, UK The Fleece
11/01 London, UK Garage
11/02 Manchester, UK Academy 3
11/04 Glasgow, UK Ivory Black End Tour
11/06 Kopenhagen, DK Loppen
11/07 Gothenburg, SE Truckstop Alaska
11/08 Oslo, NO John Dee
11/09 Stockholm, SE Slakthuset
11/10 Würzburg, DE Hammer Of Doom Festival

Doomantia benefit compilation drops today. Get it!

Earlier this month I wrote about Doomantia.com’s founder Ed Barnard and how he had fallen on financial hard times due to medical expenses. Today the 39 song Doomantia Vol. 1 compilation was released and man, I am only four songs in to listening, but it totally crushes.

Bands appearing on this compilation are from across the country and across the globe. Some of the songs featured are available elsewhere on the respective band’s previous recordings. Some though, such as Iron Man‘s acoustic version of Choices, were recorded expressly for this project.

The compilation is available only as a digital download from Bandcamp. But for $7 you get more than four hours of music. All the bands donated their time and recordings and all the proceeds go to Ed. Genres range from stoner to sludge to drone to psychedelic. But if you are a fan of Doomantia or even if you are not, the price is well worth the music featured!

Get it here

Misery Index choosing quality over quantity

Misery Index, Baltimore’s death/grindcore heroes, have been bludgeoning eardrums with their own homegrown brutality since 2001. And while I don’t imagine they will be slowing down any time soon, they also have earned the right to pick and choose when, where and with whom they to play.

Next month, Misery Index heads out on tour with Cannibal Corpse (for the second time this year) and Hour of Penance (a band some have called the Italian Behemoth). On December 1, this tour comes to Washington, DC’s Rock and Roll Hotel.

From Aug. 19, 2012 Ottobar show.

Misery Index has had an exciting 2012 with successful tours abroad in places like Brazil and across Europe and even Tel Aviv! They also had to construct a DIY tour when this summer’s inaugural Shockwave Festival tour, which was supposed to go across North America, fell apart in a matter of days. I was able to catch up with bassist Jason Netherton and guitarist Mark  Kloeppel via email.

Here’s a quick Q & A.

This was an eventful and confusing summer for you guys? What happened with the Shockwave Festival? And how did the mini tour go?

The Shockwave experience was certainly interesting to say the least. Nothing like that has ever happened to us before, but it does happen. Gojira had to pull some dates together after Randy Blythe went to jail in Czech, for example. Luckily, we know those Fear Factory guys. So, we got a call from them saying it was canned before we travelled too far out. Our guitar player, Mark Kloeppel, on the other hand, was filling in on bass on the Canadian dates for Cattle Decapitation. Their bass player couldn’t do those dates for whatever reason, and Mark had been flown out to the west coast to jam with them. They ended up flying him back home. As of right now, we have a mountain of merch we have to sell online and on tour. It was a bad situation, but it could have been a whole lot worse. Special thanks goes out to our fans that made our last East Coast run a blast. Without you, we can’t do what we do. Keep grinding!

You mentioned a live album in your email. What date range of live shows will that include?

The live album is from one show in Munich from the European tour we did in February with Cannibal Corpse and Behemoth. A friend of ours, who happens to be an engineer, recorded the set from the board and with room mics. We thought it came out great. and so did the label. So, we are releasing it. We really love that something so spontaneous came out that well. Hearing it really made us feel good about our playing ability in adverse conditions. Because, let me tell you, monitors were completely non-existent on that tour. The hired crew for that tour were great, but just weren’t experienced enough with gear they were given to use.

Will that album be released on your own label or through Season of Mist?

Yes, Season of Mist will be releasing the live album and our next full-length.

What other plans do you have for the rest of the year? How about 2013?

Misery Index will be direct support for Cannibal Corpse this November with Hour of Penance on the bill. This includes a “boat-show” up in NYC, and a stop at Rock and Roll Hotel down in DC. Later next summer, we may be included in some festivals that are yet to be announced. In the meantime, we are preparing to record the next record.

Your drummer Adam Jarvis plays in a gazillion other bands. I have seen him in Pig Destroyer, Strong Intention, Asthma Castle and now read that he is also in a band called FulgoraHow do you manage that? 

Misery Index has reserved itself to only do worthwhile events. Let me explain that further so people don’t get feelings hurt. We’ve been heavily pounding the pavement since the inception of the band. We used to play 180 shows a year, which is taxing on your body and your home-life. We simply don’t want to do that anymore. We love what we do and the music, and we just don’t want to get burnt out. We want Misery Index to last.

Misery Index being more selective about its events freed up a lot of time to pursue other interests. Adam loves drumming, and people love Adam’s drumming. He is an amazing drummer, and he only takes on projects he is genuinely interested in. To answer the question, I’d say we all just prioritize and communicate about our engagements.

What other projects are the other members of Misery Index involved in?

Asthma Castle, Strong Intention, Quills, Cast the Stone, Clenched Fist (tribute to Sepultura), Pig Destroyer, various guest vocal spots, etc. One of us is writing a book, but details about that cannot be released at this time.

I love the limited edition Baltimore T-shirt design on your merch page.  (I ordered one!) How important has Baltimore been to your existence and/or success?

Baltimore is our home-base. It’s rough-around-the-edges character has an impact on all the music that comes out of that area. There’s a genre-wide singularity about it you can’t put you’re finger on. You don’t really notice regional auditory cross-pollination in your and your peers’ music until you begin to travel a lot. Bands like us, Dying Fetus, Next Step Up, Bet the Devil, Visceral Disgorge, etc. have a distinct Baltimore style of sound. It’s slightly different from bands of the the same ilk from different places.

Aside from that, the scene there has really supported us through the years; all the people with Maryland Deathfest, Ottobar, Sidebar, Orion (Sound Studios), Wrightway Studios, etc. have had a major impact on the way the band has evolved, and has been allowed to evolve. It’s a big city with a small town vibe, and they seem to like us there. We certainly like them.

Anything else you want people to know about Misery Index?

Jason Netherton started Misery Index in 2001 with Kevin Talley and Mike Harrison. In 2005, Mark Kloeppel got Misery Index a full endorsement by ESP Guitars before actually knowing if he was in the band. Darin Morris is also a skilled sound-engineer and has played a part in some major label releases.
And according to Blake Harrison of Pig Destroyer, Adam Jarvis is afraid of ghosts!

****Well, know we all know how to scare Adam on Halloween.
_________

Here’s a track from the last Misery Index full-length recording:

This track is a little slower but one of my personal favorites:

Grindcore 101 with Pig Destroyer’s Blake Harrison

When it comes to music, my opinion is based on a binary system: either I like it or I don’t. Pig Destroyer is a band labeled as grindcore that I had heard many people mention, but I had never checked them out. I didn’t know if I liked them or not.

As far as grindcore goes, Misery Index, Napalm Death, Godflesh, Bolt Thrower, and As I Lay Dying are all bands labeled by someone as grindcore, and all bands that I have been caught listening to between long stretches of death and black metal.  And I love Dillinger Escape Plan, but I am not sure they are grindcore. They are core-something though.
In my world (that is, this made up world of blogging about music), genres and subgenres matter. I appreciate the not-so-subtle differences between melodic death metal, technical death metal and blackened death. But grindcore? I wasn’t sure. So I asked the experts. 
Blake Harrison provides “noise” (read: sound samples) and some vocals for Pig Destroyer. He’s been providing the band with appropriately disturbing sound bites since 2006. Blake schooled me on the dark ways of grindcore , discussed their new recording, Book Burner, set to drop on Oct. 22 and talked about the short story included in the liner notes called, The Atheist, written by vocalist J.R. Hayes.

I was fortunate enough to preview Book Burner in its entirety. Even though grindcore is not my go-to subgenre of metal, there are several of the 19 songs included in the standard edition that I really liked and had to play repeatedly to appreciate the full impact of. I mention a few of my favorites below.

If you buy the deluxe edition of the recording, you also get seven more tracks: all covers of songs by seminal punk bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat and Negative Approach. I love punk, so I am curious to hear those.

Here’s my email Q&A with Blake Harrison. Enjoy!


I have listened to Book Burner and several of the songs are real stand outs for me (“The Diplomat,” “Iron Drunk,” “The Bug,” and “Baltimore Strangler,” for example). But grindcore is a subgenre of music that I probably know the least about. How do you describe grindcore and what about it do you think people (some people) find so appealing? Why does it appeal to you?
B- Grindcore is subversive, it’s the extreme of the extreme, it borrows from both extreme metal and hardcore punk. It appeals to us because it’s something we grew up on, we love grind and play it because we love it.

Grindcore seems pretty challenging both thematically and structurally to write. Any writer will tell you that it is HARDER to get your point across in a short story or article. How do the typical earmarks of this subgenre (short songs, haiku like lyrics) affect how you compose the songs? How difficult is it to write lyrics for this type of music? What is written first: the music or the words?

B- The music, it’s not done intentionally, I mean when we dig into a riff and feel that when it’s time to be done, it’s time to be done. The songs aren’t short because of any reason per se, it’s just we feel we’ve said what we’ve said.

What is the message that you want people to take away from your lyrics?

B-Desolation, loneliness, isolation, despair, you know upbeat, fun themes like that.

Why was J.R.’s The Atheist included with this release?
B- JR approached us with the story as a companion piece for the record. We read it and thought it was amazing. It’s not a part of a greater whole for example there’s not really a “theme” to the record.

When I began reading The Atheist, I first thought that it was going to be a personal essay. I quickly realized it was a work of fiction, a fantasy. But what can you tell me about how much J.R. (or any of you) identify personally with the protagonist? I know that I did. I have felt and thought these things about religion many times.
B- I can’t speak for everyone in the band, but sometimes yes. Religion is a personal thing and can get to the core of many people and one of the things about this, is it strikes that chord in me. I’m sure there’s SOME part of JR that identifies with it, I mean, he wrote it, but I can’t speak personally for him. Personally, I think that religion is responsible for most of society’s ills.

Will The Atheist story continue?
B- Hahaha, who knows, we just finished the record so we don’t really have too much in the way of what we’re going to do in the future. I can say that if JR feels he wants to continue the story, he will.

What does Adam Jarvis (also drummer in Misery Index) bring to Pig Destroyer’s performances and to this recording? He is among the fastest drummers I have ever witnessed!
B- Adam is an amazing talent and a great guy. He really stepped up to the plate and brought his “A game” on this release. I think he brings a great energy to the band and makes us faster and more fierce.

All of you seem to be involved in multiple projects. How do you manage that, and how does it impact Pig Destroyer?
B- It can be a juggling act at times, but we don’t do the band full time, I mean we all have jobs, relationships, families etc. It takes some careful timing and a lot of communication to get all of this together and make sure that we have the time to do what we do.

Why has it taken nearly four years to put out this new recording since Phantom Limb and Natasha?
B- We had a lot going on, it may seem like we weren’t up to much, but we built a studio and practice space, we took some time to play some shows and support Phantom Limb, we had to work in a new drummer. I know to a lot of people it seems like we were being lazy, but we were working.

You’ve got a slot for Maryland Deathfest! While you are there, what other bands playing are you hoping to see? What do you think of the additional punk/hardcore stage scheduled for Baltimore Soundstage?
B- There’s a lot, Infest, Asthma Castle, Integrity, Loss, Necropsy, Repulsion, TOOH, Down, Ilsa, Iron Lung, Magrudergrind, Rotten Sound, Weekend Nachos. I think the addition of the other stage is great. I just hope I can get to see everyone that I want too.

I am looking forward to the Oct. 19 show at The Ottobar. What specific items will you have for sale there?

B- Hopefully our new record hahaha, new shirts, some hoodies, new cds, hats you know, normal stuff.

After the Ottobar you are headed to the UK. What is the grindcore scene like there and in Europe in general? How do people react at your shows?

B- The grind scene in Europe is hit or miss, much like the states, but we’ve gotten great reception in the UK. Most people only come out if they are fans. It’s really great, and the outpouring of support has been amazing.

What else do you want people to know or understand about your new recording or anything else at all?
B- We just hope that people like it and understand it, I mean ultimately, we do this for us, but it’s nice when people get it. I’d also like to say thanks to the fans for bearing with us, it’s been a long road, but we’re here and back again, and the fact that people still want us to be is incredible.

___________

Pig Destroyer’s Facebook page.

Buy tickets to Pig Destroyer’s Oct. 19 CD release show with Ilsa here.

Check out the title track from Pig Destroyer’s new album, Book Burner below:

Doomantia founder must be spared from actual doom

There’s a saying that most of us are just one paycheck away from being homeless. In the case of Ed Barnard, mastermind behind the doom, sludge, psychedelic, stoner, sludge metal website Doomantia, it was a $10,000 medical bill.

At last report on his webiste, Ed was indeed homeless in the state of Washington, splitting time between a tent and an occasional motel room.  Somehow he continues to post record reviews and so forth on the site, aided by his companion in doom, Sally Bethall.

The doom community is a tight knight bunch and several members have stepped forth to spearhead an effort to raise money on Ed’s and the website’s behalf.  Nine bands will gather at a small club called Lallo’s in Knoxville, Maryland to perform a benefit show. The line up includes Against Nature, War Injun, Fire Faithful, Ghutt, When the Deadbolt Breaks, Lord Fowl, Foghound, Ninety Ones and Akris. The show starts at 2 p.m. and costs $20. (Note: Ghutt is unable to appear at this show.)

Lallo’s, located at 853 Jefferson Pike, Knoxville, MD 21758, bills itself as a pizza joint, but really it is a Mexican restaurant and the food is pretty good. It is located kind of near nothing at all, but once you get there, there will be no reason to really leave because these bands are all stellar. I can personally vouch for Against Nature, War Injun, When the Deadbolt Breaks and Akris since I have seen all of them live. Your doom aesthetic will be rocked at this show.

A digital compilation is also in the works and should be available for order by the end of October. The benefit compilation is slated to include the works of 35 bands who contributed their time and effort. They include Bongripper, Order of the Owl, Demonaut, Halmos, Switchblade Jesus, OceansRainbow, War Iron, Fister, Iron Man, Screaming Mad Dee and Alex Vanderzeeuw, Wizard’s Beard, Gorgantherron, Bastard of the Skies, Wolfpussy, Sludgethrone, Undersmile, Beelzefuzz, Vulture, The Departure, Spyderbone, Blackwolfgoat, Low Gravity
Križ, At Devil Dirt, In the Company of Serpents, Hollow Leg, War Injun, Dope Flood, Compel, Heathen Bastard, and Chowder.

I have heard of many of these bands, but several are new to me. I am admittedly less schooled in this subgenre of metal than some others. Either way, both the concert and the compilation are great ways to pay back someone who has donated a great deal of personal time and energy to support the music and bands he loves. Hard times can befall any one of us at any time, so it is nice to know that people care about someone they have never met but who has impacted their lives.

Plus, according to JB Matson, drummer for Hagerstown, Maryland band War Injun, doom metallers have good reason to support Ed Barnard and Doomantia. “The average doom fan checks the Doommantia website for reviews BEFORE buying unfamiliar music,” Matson said. As for Ed, Matson added, “Without him forming one of the most powerful media voices for the genre of doom and screaming doom from the mountain tops, the genre wouldn’t have nearly the amount of exposure it has gained.”

So get out to Lallo’s on Oct. 13 for a day of doom then follow that up by getting ahold of the $7 Doomantia compilation download available soon through the Doomantia website. Pay the doom forward.

Botanist: he drums for the trees

Botanist, everything you need for a one-man, eco-terrorist performance.

I am a firm believer in having no rules in most anything, especially music. Black metal may be one of the most rigidly defined subgenres, and its fan base can be rife with elitist assholes (of which I can be one), but black metal is still the soundtrack of outsiders and miscreants. Therefore, the music of Botanist, which consists primarily of minimalistic hammered dulcimer melodies, doom-y drumming and strangled vocals, may be the most sinister black metal there is. That’s right: hammered dulcimer black metal.

I first heard about Botanist, a one man black metal outfit from San Francisco, on the NPR website. Somehow, the melodic tendrils of this brutal, eco-terrorist wrapped themselves around my mind and heart. I vowed that I would track down the musician behind these hypnotic plant worshiping hymns and unearth his secrets.
Botanist has released two recordings. The first, which Botanist sent to me, is the double album I: The Suicide Tree/II: A Rose from the Dead. There are 40 tracks on this effort released in July 2011 on tUMULt.  This recording mostly consists of short, fast black metal haikus. Instead of praising Satan, Botanist praises flora and something referred to as the Verdant Realm. Everyone has a god I guess. Vocals are reminiscent of  the amphibious croaks of Dagon. The drumming is at times militaristic. The dulcimer is frenetic, discordant and evil. You will never hear anything like this anywhere. Guaranteed. 
The newest recording is III: Doom in Bloom/Allies, which came out in May 2012. The first half of the recording includes seven songs performed by Botanist. The second half of this recording are Botanist songs covered by other artists. The overal vibe of this new recording is very different from the first. The songs are slower, doomier, more dirge like. I have read a handful of reviews on this second Botanist album and some are not very complimentary.  But you know what? I like this effort even more than the earlier recording. Something about the slow, plodding beats, the buzzing dulcimer melodies and the whispered vocals make this recording feel more intimate, more organic, and even more devastatingly terrifying than the last year’s work. Plus, the last one was 40 songs, just sayin’–that’s a lot to get through.
I also read recently that the Botanist entry on Metal Archives was booted because the music lacked guitar riffs and therefore was not metal enough. Let me say a few words about the hammered dulcimer as an instrument for black metal. You might think that hammered dulcimer would sound too happy or sweet for this style of music. That might be true if you are thinking of a jig on St. Patrick’s Day or an hymn at a bluegrass festival.
But when I hear a hammered dulcimer I think of a villain tying a poor damsel in distress to the train tracks. I think of creepy old black and white silent films. You don’t get much more black metal than that. Furthermore, the way in which the dulcimer is played here, the sound closely resembles the tremolo guitar picking common in traditional black metal. Guitars are not required. I have heard tenor saxophones, violins, pan pipes, wooden blocks and even banjos used in black metal songs. There should be no rules. 
I was able to contact the man behind Botanist. Here is a short Q&A. 
Could you perform this music live? Or would you bring live performers with you on a tour? 
If Botanist played live, I would almost certainly play drums and do the bulk of the vocals. For the rest of the parts, I would need touring musicians. I’ve broadcast this desire in interviews in the past, and will do so again here. One capable dulcimer player has come forward, but really, to make a tour happen, Botanist will have to grow far more in popularity in order to be released by the kind of label that could organize a tour in which enough revenue could be generated in order to pay the way of touring musicians. Perhaps some day.

Why do you conceal your identity? 
The central theme of Botanist is the glorification of the Plantae Kingdom, and specifically that glorification as seen through the eyes of one person. The identity or specifics of that person are entirely up to the imagination of the listener. Just like anyone else, ever, who makes records, I, Otrebor, am of course a real person living a life that isn’t entirely involved with making music, but any presentation of that life, any images depicting my appearance — basically, anything having to do with mundane reality, is not only immaterial to Botanist, but counterproductive to its aims. Botanist is not about me. It’s about Botanist. Should you meet me in person, or see me — should Botanist ever perform on stage — that relationship between listener and artist would necessarily change, which must be accepted. If you want to dig around and “figure out” who I am, please feel free. It’s not that hard to find. But what will it get you? Will you like Botanist more?

How is black metal particularly suited to the messages of your music? 

Again, Botanist primarily concerns itself thematically with the reverence of a sense of sacredness in regards to Nature. Botanist has endeavored to, in some substantial way, adhere its work to the overarching tenets of black metal. As such, the core thematics of the project were adapted, as a sort of tribute, of homage, to the genre that has made such an impact in my life, and of the particular aspects of its philosophy, world view, mystique, sound, and lore that I personally identify with.

_________

At last word, Botanist has started work on another recording and is earnestly recruiting musicians to take this show on the road. Let’s hope both become reality.

Both Botanist recordings can be heard below.

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