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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!

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Podcast: Maryland Deathfest recap #2 from Saturday

Saturday was the big death, thrash and grind day at Maryland Deathfest. What did we think of it? What crazy stuff happened to us? You will have to listen here to the podcast to find out. This time we spend more time talking about the fest and a little less time talking about poop or moms, but not much. Also, this time Christopher was awake for the entire time but William nearly fell asleep.

Rober Bustabad of Machetazo.

Rober Bustabad of Machetazo.

Putrisect bringing old school metal back to Baltimore

Baltimore’s Putrisect brings together elements of old school death metal, hardcore and crust. They open the stage tonight, May 23, at Rams Head at Maryland Deathfest. I have only seen Putrisect on smaller stages, so it will be exciting to see them on the big Rams Head stage, I am sure they will blow everyone away!

putrisect2Combining the talents of members of several other bands, Putrisect will surprise listeners with a heaviness reminiscent of old Morbid Angel and the swift guitar riffage of classic Slayer. Their sound, however, is not a rehash of old sounds and has a freshness and energy all its own. I sent vocalist Ren Megna a few questions. Here are his replies.

Please list all the band members names/instruments.

Ren-vocals, Jackson-drums, Paul-guitar, Arturo-guitar and Matt-bass.

When and how did Putrisect get together (if you we all in other bands people would recognize, mention that)?

Putrisect was formed out of spare parts of Marrow (death metal) and Burning Axe (crust) in the summer of 2013.

I didn’t see any recordings at your merch table and I found only one song on BandCamp (I got a patch though!). What is your recording history? What are you plans to record?

We’ve recorded a four-song demo with Kevin Bernstein at Developing Nations studio. The label Cemetery Cricket is releasing a tape really soon, and a 7 inch is scheduled for after Deathfest. (Note: Chaos Awaits is now on BandCamp! Listen here.)

You are playing Maryland Deathfest on Friday night at Rams Head. That must be super crazy exciting! How did that come about and how do you feel about it?

We have all been going to or working Deathfest for years now and have always wanted to be in a band with big enough chops to make the cut. I put our early recordings in (MDF organizer) Evan Harting’s ear, and he threw us right onto it. We are all stoked on the opportunity and immensely grateful.

Where do you see yourself in five years (isn’t this the standard job interview question? Hahaha! Just say whatever you want!)

In five years, I hope to be recovering from our third European tour on the beach

If you were not playing music, how would you spend your free time?
Me personally, I would be drawing, drinking, eating, and fucking.

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

Our motivation stems from an abject hatred for humanity. We are a misanthropic bunch of drunks and that sort of fuels the furnace of evil for us. I’m always wondering how we can make our songs sound like we hate people more. I want this to be a window into our disdain. I see the world as a sort of waking nightmare … I want other people to see that, too.

If you could drive any kind vehicle, what would it be and why?

I would drive and 1984 anniversary edition 300zx, because I love feeling like a bad guy in a 1980s B movie. The other guys … well, I think Arturo would drive an El Camino cause he’s a Mexican or some shit. Matt would drive a station wagon cause he’s a principal. Paul would drive some kind of pickup truck that didn’t work, and Jackson would drive his girlfriend’s car.

Anything else you want people to know about the band?
Our name is meaningless.

Putrisect will play the Adam Savage birthday show at Metro Gallery on June 7 with Pig Destroyer, Magrudergrind, Inter Arma and Cemetery Piss. Event link here.

Check out my gallery of Putrisect below.

HATE bassist dies unexpectedly in his sleep after Stuttgart show

The Polish death metal band Hate reported on their Facebook page today that their bassist, Sławek (Sławomir) “Mortifer” Archangielskij, has died suddenly in his sleep following a show in Stuttgart. The group has canceled the remainder of their tour dates.

Sławek (Sławomir) "Mortifer" Archangielskij,
Sławek (Sławomir) “Mortifer” Archangielskij

Here is the exact statement from Hate:

SŁAWEK „MORTIFER” ARCHANGIELSKIJ IS DEAD

At night 5th/6th April near a German town of Munchberg, our friend, best comrade and longtime bass player unexpectedly passed away. After the show in Stuttgart last night he went to sleep and never woke up. We found him lifeless early in the morning and immediately called an ambulance. He was reanimated, but to no avail. Results of Sławek’s autopsy should be known soon. In this situation, we decided to cancel the remaining shows and return home. We gave detailed testimonies to the German police. We are shocked and shattered by his sudden, unexpected death. We mourn together with Slawek’s family and friends.

Adam, Konrad, Stanislaw, Daniel /HATE


I join with the group, his family and friends in mourning his sudden passing. I have seen Hate one time only and that was when they toured with Mayhem in December 2011. I took some photos of the show but only got one really good one of Mortifer as he was pretty active on the stage. Hate had just embarked on a European tour and had just released a new album Solarflesh, some of their best work yet.
May he rest in peace or rest in chaos….however you choose to think about it.
And seriously, what is the deal with these young guys dying in their sleep?

REVIEW: Embers and Revelations, plus Weapon’s Monarch speaks

Weapon

What do you get when you cross the anti-religious themes of true black metal with the death metal aesthetics of Bolt Thrower and tinge it with the cultural undertones of Bangladesh? You get Weapon. (And yes, the name is trademarked; legally there can be only one.)

The first time I heard Canada’s blackened death metal group Weapon was shortly before the June 2012 Marduk show at the former Sonar in Baltimore. A friend had told me that Weapon were the only reason to go to the show. They weren’t the only reason to be there, but they sure were damn good.

From that time, I have gotten to know the band a little more, gone back and listened to some of their earlier recordings, and have kept in touch with the group’s vocalist and chief songwriter who goes by the name Vetis Monarch.

I have been listening to their latest recording Embers and Revelations since it was released in October 2012. Initially, I had fallen in love with the mystery and dark beauty crafted by their second full length, From the Devil’s Tomb. You can read more about my first encounter with Weapon here.

Now, months later, I feel like Embers and Revelations exceeds the intensity and excellence of this previous work. I am glad I waited to write my review.

The album slithers forth with the track “The First Witness of Lucifer.” With a relentless beat and chugging riffs, it’s an appropriate processional into the unholy aural onslaught to come.

The song “Vanguard of the Morning Star” offers devotees a perfect blend of black metal and death meal. Blast beats, tremolo riffs, a blistering lead and sinister growling vocals. “Crespuscular Swamp, Unhinged Swine” slows the pace down a bit to a death metal trudge. The track crushes its enemies and takes no prisoners.

The next track “Liber Lilith” stands out, maybe because of its memorable opening riff or its fist-pumping refrain. I can’t really post the lyrics about this “feral harlot; unchaste spirit” here, but rest assured, this song will creep under your skin.

“Grotesque Carven Portal” begins with some ethereal soundscapes and them moves into what might be called the “Weapon-sound,” as this group definitely has an identifiable progression of chords and musical themes that seem to reveal themselves, however subtly, in every track. (Maybe Vetis should look into trademarking this sound as well #joking.)

This instrumental quickly transitions into the roar of the title track of the album. At just under 4 minutes, “Embers and Revelations” packs a demonic punch, but I actually wish this song were a bit longer. It features a rally cry, which is sure to get audiences revved in a live setting, but it seems to lack the songwriting complexity that most of Weapon’s other songs possess.

The final two tracks are my favorite for this Weapon outing. “Disavowing Each in Aum” provides head-banging material for sure with raging rhythms and plenty of shredding, but it also offers up that subtle intricacy that Weapon does so well. The slower, more introspective sections of this song mesmerize.

The album’s final track, “Shahenshah,” will likely go into the group’s rotation of songs used as encores. Epic riffage, building tension and satisfying resolutions, Weapon gives it all to you here. In the song, Vetis Monarch sings the lyrics “O, archon, emperor, monarch, shahenshah -The luminous jewel on the acausal crown.”

The truth is, “Shahenshah” is this recording’s crown jewel and Weapon’s signature song to date.

Weapon’s third full-length album, Embers and Revelations, firmly establishes these warriors on the landscape of satanic metal bands to watch. I missed the sound of the sitar prominently featured in previous albums, so I invite you to go back and listen to Drakonian Paradigm and From the Devil’s Tomb and witness how Vetis Monarch and company have evolved to this point.

Here is what Vetis Monarch had to say about the band, his philosophies and this record:

How would you describe your personal philosophy, and how does it inform the music and lyrics of this latest Weapon recording? You seem to be a Theistic Satanist with Hindu underpinnings; is that how you would describe it?

In the most general of descriptions, I’d say that’s fairly accurate. On one hand, I can say I can say that I’m a Satanist and leave it at that; that’s the long and short of it, because to me, there’s only ONE kind of Satanism when you cut through all the red tape and unnecessary factions. But when talking on a more complex level, I can go further with what led me to my current belief system, what were the things I rejected, what culturally-leaning occult biases I absorbed and so forth. The Hindu / Eastern aspect is certainly a big part of it.

I thought your performance here in Baltimore back in June was very dynamic with good interplay between band members. Describe the chemistry of the band’s current line up and how that enhanced writing and recording this new record.

The three core members of the band – myself, Kha Tumos (bass guitar) and The Disciple (drums and percussion) – we are closer to age and grew up on similar bands. We have been playing for quite some time together now. Also, prior to joining Weapon, both of those individuals played in War March. So they already brought chemistry to the table, and then the three of us formed our own way of doing things and developed our own chemistry. The “new” guy Rom Surtr (lead guitars) is quite a bit younger and comes from a different generation, so of course there’s a gap when it comes to certain reference points and whatnot. But he caught on to our way of doing things fast; everything from understanding our sound, to camaraderie, sense of humor, et al – he’s there. In a lot of ways, understanding the aspects that DON’T involve the music are even more important, which Rom Surtr does. If there is no chemistry off-stage, it probably won’t translate on-stage.

What sort of experience or knowledge do you hope to bring to people when they listen to Weapon (other than kick ass blackened death metal that is easy to mosh to)? For example, what thoughts or emotions do you hope to provoke and why?

I am a huge advocator of reading lyrics, so for me it’s always fantastic when someone will write to me saying that certain Weapon lyrics inspired him / her to research further into a occult, historical or religious topic. That to me is pay dirt. A girl wrote to me recently that subject matter off ‘From The Devil’s Tomb’ inspired her to take Sanskrit courses in University. I thought that was very cool.

A good set of headphones and very little lighting should generate the best Weapon listening experience, I find. In a live setting we just like to see people get violent and hurt themselves / each other. This past summer when we were on tour, someone dislocated his knee from reacting too excitedly in the crowd. We encourage things like that.

Were there any particular challenges or triumphs in recording Embers and Revelations?

Between 2010 and early 2012 I had a lot of instability in my personal life, from getting arrested to being homeless – just one chaotic event after another, some of which I can’t get into due to legal reasons. Kha Tumos (bass guitar) had a lot of personal shit going on as well. Then about a year ago, we changed lead guitar players, which was just weeks before we had to go and perform at Rites Of Darkness in Texas – all very stressful, I’m sure you can imagine. We were questioning the band’s existence at certain points. Any sense of luxury or complacency that had manifested was quickly erased by fire and fury. The hunger came back and it really helped with the songwriting process. Embers And Revelations ended up being a lot more belligerent and malicious than I originally thought it could be.

Tell me about the cover art/artist.

The artist is Benjamin Vierling, an American painter. He has been with us since Drakonian Paradigm, and he really understands how we work. A modern-day genius, in my humble opinion. We provide him with rough ideas about the art we have in mind and the lyrics, and he comes up with these stunning masterpieces.

The Wheel of Fate is something that has been used throughout all the Weapon artworks. It appears on the Drakonian Paradigm cover image, under Lucifer’s feet. It appears again on the From the Devil’s Tomb image, between the inverted hanged man and the demon. Now it appears as the foundation of this image for Embers and Revelations. The Wheel is ever revolving, ever turning, and in the process, it crumbles…

The Tiger and the Wolf pertain to my dreams. Benjamin Vierling, the master and the genius, saw them flanking the Wheel in this manner: guardians, adversaries, and heraldic totems all at once. The daemonic skull has layers of meaning, being simultaneously an invocation, a conquering and a memorial. The red eye on the brow demonstrates profound vision; seeing beyond seeing! The crown is an allusion to the ‘Shahenshah’ – the King of all Kings. The star emblazoned on the crown of disillusion also has special significance; the serpents are also classic motifs, insinuating divine gnosis through venomous initiation.

I hear some of the same musical themes in Embers as I did in From the Devil’s Tomb. Can this new album be seen as a continuation of that story?

Most certainly. Every Weapon release is part of the same ongoing story. The songs on the albums themselves stand alone, in that, we don’t make concept albums; but the discography of Weapon is one singular concept. Weapon will always champion Satanism.

My current favorite track on this recording is “Disavowing Each in Aum”. What is it about?

Aum is Om and is of supreme significance in Hinduism. This symbol is a consecrated syllable representing Brahman, the impersonal Absolute of Hinduism – omnipotent, universal, and the foundation of all discernible life.

I believe that sociopaths and psychopaths are inherently missing the link to Aum, whether they are aware of it or not. They are void of that connection that links all living creatures to cosmic laws, both macrocosmic and microcosmic. The missing link is what separates the clay-born from the fire-born. I essentially wrote this song for criminals, sociopaths, psychopaths, invalids, outcasts, degenerates and lunatics of this secular world, who are raping the very tenets of godhood, thereby becoming gods themselves.

Likewise, what is “Shahenshah” about? References I found mention a Bollywood superhero! It’s a very cool song by the way, nice guitar solo there!

“Shahenshah” is a word that derives from Avestan meaning power and command, corresponding to the Sanskrit word kshatriya (warrior). The full, Old Persian title of the Achaemenid rulers of the First Persian Empire was King of Kings. It was a title of the utmost reverence, respect, adulation and fear for a lord above all. Of course, in our paradigm that is a direct reference to Lucifer / Shiva / Loki / Set / Pan, etc. This song is an all-encompassing piece about the Lord of the Left Hand Path and His ethereal decree upon and beyond the universe.

Anything else you want to share?

That’s all for now. All pertinent Weapon information can be found at www.weaponchakra.com.

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:

Alhazred reignites Baltimore’s death metal scene

Alhazred

If you are a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, you may recognize the name Alhazred, as in Abdul Alhazred, the “Mad Arab” from the Cthulhu stories. Alhazred is also the name of a fairly new Baltimore area technical death metal group.

The first time I encountered Alhazred was at the December 7, 2011 Obscura show at Sonar. I don’t exactly remember how we connected, but somehow prior to that show, I became friends with Alhazred’s drummer James Spaeth on Facebook. I intended to see Alhazred open, but instead, I ended up having dinner with Obscura and I missed their set entirely. (This will be the subject of another blog post.)

But I picked up a rough demo from James that night and those three songs went into regular rotation on my iTunes playlist. Every time Alhazred would come up in the mix, I would stop what I was doing and check to see what band it was. The songwriting, the musicianship and the production were so great on their little demo that I always, ALWAYS thought it was a song from a more well established death metal group but I just could not place it.

Over the next eight months, I attempted to get to one of Alhazred’s live shows, but the stars never aligned. Eventually, I met all the band members around town at various shows, and they were a wonderfully nice. I sure hoped their live performance did not suck, because that would just be awkward, now wouldn’t it?

It was not until August 19, 2012 when Misery Index and Vital Remains headlined the Ottobar that I finally got to see Alhazred live. They brutalized their set from start to finish, and I mean that in a good way. James, who always seems to be smiling, looked equally happy to be laying down some pretty complex rhythms. His beats produced the perfect punchy counterpoint to bassist Josh Stein heavy bottom lines. Galloping atop this solid and relentless rhythmic foundation were the dueling vocals and balanced guitar shredding of David Morgan and Christopher Fink. Lyrically, the songs are intelligent and thought provoking, focusing on apocalyptic and social themes. The overall effect is a death metal force to be reckoned with. Their sound is incredibly tight and remarkably distinctive for a band that’s been together less than 12 months.

It is important to note, as James did recently on his Facebook, that  “(i)n less than a year Alhazred has managed to open for Abysmal Dawn, Obscura, Dying Fetus, Revocation, Landmine Marathon,Vital Remains, & Misery Index!!! And to think, next month we are playing with HAVOK & Skeletonwitch!!!”

 (photo by Rachael Foote) 

This is no small feat, and if you like bands like Obscura and Revocation, Alhazred will fit right in and still stand out.  It’s fitting then that since I have actually witnessed a performance, to write something about this emerging band. I sent David Morgan some questions. Here’s what he had to say.

Where did Alhazred get their start? 

David Morgan: Chris and I had been writing music together for a few years, and we had a difficult time finding like-minded musicians in the area to actually form a band. Last summer we finally decided to put up some fliers in local music stores in search of a drummer and a bassist and James saw one we posted at Guitar Center in Glen Burnie and gave us a call. We jammed with him and he ended up being a perfect fit for the type of music that we play. I had known Josh through a mutual friend for a few years, and I gave him a call and he worked out just as well and filled the bass position for us.

What were you doing before Alhazred? What other bands have you played in?

David Morgan: Shortly before he joined Alhazred, James played in a local power metal band called Cyberstrike and a few years ago Chris actually played drums in a post-hardcore band called More Watership Down. Chris plays many different types of music on many different instruments but he loves death metal just as much as we do. Josh and myself have played in other bands before but none that have actually made it out of the basement.

What are your musical influences?

David Morgan: We have many different influences in this band. We love all different sub-genres of extreme metal, and I think many of these influences show whether it be death metal, black metal, melodic death metal, thrash, or progressive/technical death metal. We do the best we can to blend these influences tastefully and seamlessly while trying to create a sound of our own. As far as bands that influence us, I’d say that Death, Behemoth, Carcass, and Misery Index are probably those that are the most prominent in our sound.

Who writes the music?

David Morgan: As of now Chris and I are writing most of the music and lyrics but Josh and James definitely give us their input as far as composition and share lyrical ideas with as well. We just recently moved into a rehearsal space so we have more flexibility as to when we can all get together so Josh and James will probably be taking a larger role in the writing process from now on.

Tell me about your first show, the one I was supposed to see.

David Morgan: Our first (Baltimore) show was actually a pretty big deal for us. We somehow managed to get on a bill with Obscura, Abysmal Dawn, and Enfold Darkness at Sonar last December. It was actually a pretty big deal for us and it was also the first time Josh and I ever performed on stage. Although we were all a bit nervous and stiff on stage, we played the handful of songs we had at the time very well and all in all it was a good show.

What is coming up next for you?

David Morgan: For the rest of the year we’ll be finishing writing our first full length and begin recording and playing shows in between. We’re expecting an early 2013 release, but we’ll see what happens. As for next year we’ll be trying to get the album out there and hopefully start playing out of state a little bit and start building an audience outside of Maryland. Aside from that we’re really just always trying to play shows, make friends, and have good times.

What has been the craziest thing that has happened to Alhazred so far?

David Morgan: We haven’t really had too many crazy things happen to us just yet because we’ve only all been playing together for almost a year now. Give us some time though and wait until we’re able to spend some time on the road and I’m sure we’ll have many crazy stories to share.

Who would you love to play a show with?

David Morgan: We’ve already had the opportunity to warm up the stage for many bands that we look up to such as Obscura, Abysmal Dawn, Dying Fetus, Misery Index, and we’ll be playing with Skeletonwitch at the end of September (September 29 at The Ottobar). It would definitely be amazing to play with someone like Behemoth or Carcass on one of the few shows that they play or to just play at Maryland Deathfest would be an honor. I’d say that we dream more of who we’d be able to play for than who we’d be able to play with. We would love to be able to do our fair share of touring and make friends all over the place in the US and overseas and visit places we’ve never been before. Playing some of those huge Euro-fests such as Wacken or Hellfest would be surreal.

Where can people find your music?

David Morgan: People interested in hearing us can download our four song demo for free at alhazred.bandcamp.com and if you like what you hear, keep an eye out for our debut full length which will be available in the not too distant future and come check us out live. We always keep our Facebook page updated with upcoming shows so follow us on there if you’re interested. Thanks!

Autopsy comic set to drop in time for Halloween

When you think of the pioneering death metal band Autopsy, what comes to mind? Sheer brutality? Crushing riffs? Chris Reifert’s frightening ability to sing AND blast beats so fast that no metronome could keep up? That their mosh pit will dismember you? Their performance at this year’s Maryland Deathfest was phenomenal. What else do I need to know?

Apparently when reflecting on Oakland, California’s death metal godfathers, you also should be thinking: comic books.

Vince Brusio (left) with Chris Reifert at MDF. 

I recently received an announcement from the president and publisher of E-Comix, Vince Brusio, (based in Sykesville, Md.) that come this Halloween 2012 you will be able to possess your very own copy of “Autopsy: Feast For A Funeral.” The work will be the company’s second self-contained comic book. Imagine finding this in your trick-or-treat bag.

I am not a huge reader or collector of comic books, but the news intrigued me. I had had a KISS comic book back in the day, and I suppose comics and rock do go hand in hand. The announcement went on to say that the company’s first title was “Dying Fetus: Supreme Violence.” How did I miss this? Dying Fetus has a comic book too? I felt completely out of the loop.

According to Brusio’s release, members of Autopsy learned about the comic book project at MDF: “Shown the cover and told the plot for the book at the 10th Anniversary Maryland Deathfest, Autopsy gave the green light for the project, which brings to life their brand of doom in a ferocious full-color nightmare.”

Ok, so what’s the story about?  “The comic book tells the tale of college kids who make a terrible mistake. One for which they must suffer, and pay in blood,”  Brusio’s announcement states.”  When they play with stolen property at an impromptu field party, they open a doorway that allows spirits into our material world. A rescue is planned, but none of this is made known to a rival biker gang that doesn’t appreciate their turf trampled on by strangers. Seeking vengeance, the gang approach an old abandoned house to wreak havoc on their party crashers, and learn too late that once the door to Hell is opened it can’t be closed.”

From the comic “Autopsy: Feast for a Funeral”

Wow, the only thing this plot is missing is an adorable talking Great Dane. But seriously, if the gateway to hell is going to be opened by anyone it is going to be the fault of a bunch of hapless college kids who piss off a biker gang. It’s just a matter of time.

Where does Autopsy come in? Well, they seem to have served as the inspiration. Read on.

“Autopsy have driven the hearse to bring death metal to the mases since the late 1980s,” Vince Brusio remarks. “It was a natural fit to fuse their brand of music with a grisly ghost story. So we took the cover image of Severed Survival, expanded on it, and developed a story that takes place on Halloween night. It’s pretty gory stuff. As it should be.”

Autopsy are reportedly excited to be party to this madness. The announcement quotes Reifert: “It was great to meet and chat with Vince at the Maryland Death Festival. We’re damn excited about this, and know it will be a real killer when it’s done!”

E-Comix is a new company founded just this year with the intent of merging music and comics to, as Brusio states, “create self-contained ‘done-in-one’ books that, in turn, are repurposed for lines of merchandise sold both online and in retail distribution, as well as concert venues.

I hope to lay my hands on a copy of “Autopsy: Feast for a Funeral” at some point and also wish Vince luck in fusing these two still relatively underground media. Let’s see some black metal bands represented!

INTERVIEW Weapon delivers chakra bending black metal

Today was a beautiful sunny day, a great day for black metal. Tonight I will see Marduk, 1349, Withered and Weapon at Sonar at the first stop on their Serpent Sermon World tour.

Weapon, from Edmonton, Alberta was visiting Black Mess Records in Baltimore, Md., so I thought I would stop in and find out a little more about this group, which I knew next to nothing about until last week. (Thanks to Hasan Ali for alerting me to their greatness!)

Weapon is a four-piece blackened death metal band that includes Vetis Monarch (guitar, vocals), The Disciple (drums), Kha Tumos (bass) and newest member Rom Surtr (lead guitar.  They are signed to Relapse Records and say they plan to put out a new recording with this current line up by the fall or early next year.

Since its inception in about 2003, Weapon has released a demo, two-EPs and two full-length recordings. I picked up their 2010 From The Devil’s Tomb (with the previous lead guitarist), and so far have really liked every track. My favorite song is “Sardonyx.” The music is highly infused with East Asian soundscapes,  influenced by Vetis Monarch’s Bangladeshi roots. Where else could you expect to  hear an electric sitar and tabla drums in black or death metal? Weapon delivers many surprises! 
At the bottom of this post, check out this brief interview that I did with Weapon today, and take time to check them out when they come through town. Visit their Facebook page here
After tonight, remaining tour dates include:

June 02 – Baltimore, MD – Sonar
June 03 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
June 04 – Montreal, QC – Les Foufounes Electriques
June 05 – Toronto, ON – Wreck Room
June 06 – Ottawa, ON – Maverick’s
June 07 – Columbus, OH – Alrosa Villa
June 08 – Chicago, IL – Reggie’s
June 09 – St. Paul, MN – Station 4
June 10 – Winnipeg, MB – Park Theater
June 11 – Regina, SK – The Exchange
June 12 – Calgary, AB – Distillery
June 14 – Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theater
June 15 – Seattle, WA – Studio Seven
June 16 – Portland, OR – Bossanova
June 17 – San Francisco, CA – DNA Lounge
June 18 – Fullerton, CA – Slidebar
June 19 – Hollywood, CA – House of Blues
June 20 – San Diego, CA – Ruby Room

INTERVIEW: Maryland Deathfest organizer Evan Harting

Think about all the bands you like to listen to. Now imagine bringing a few dozen of those groups together to perform for you and a few (thousand) of your friends. That, in a sense, is exactly what Ryan Taylor and Evan Harting created when they created the Maryland Deathfest in 2003.

Over the last 10 years the Maryland Deathfest has grown into the largest and most well known metal festival in the US. This year Maryland Deathfest celebrates its tenth anniversary and takes place from Thursday, May 24 to Sunday, May 27 at Sonar on 407 E. Saratoga St. in Baltimore. Sixty-one different bands will perform on three stages over those four days.  Up to 1,700 people are expected for the Thursday night show and as many as 4,000 each day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Saratoga Street between Gay St. and Holliday will be completely blocked off. The event will include vendors and food tents. It’s a pretty big deal. 
Evan explained that he Ryan take care of every detail of the festival pretty much by themselves, from booking to scheduling to ordering the MDF t-shirts and working with vendors to the fulfillment of each band’s concert contract rider. The project takes an entire year to plan and execute, Evan said, and has grown so much over the last decade that the two men don’t really have other full-time jobs.

“THIS is our main job,” Evan said.

Evan and Ryan began thinking about a festival when they were just 18 and 20-years old, respectively, and both working in the restaurant industry. It was after a trip to the now defunct Ohio Deathfest in about 2000 that the notion first occurred.”

Boxes of MDF mech ready to go. (Harting)
“That was the only festival we had been to, but I think that kind of stated the gears rolling,” Evan said. This was also around the time that the Milwaukee Metal Fest began to fall out of favor, which used to be popular in the 1990s. Apparently, Evan said, the organizer of that fest charged the bands to perform.

The team didn’t have a budget to work with, in fact, Evan said, even now they don’t have a budget set aside for the event. Instead, the money comes from ticket sales.

“We figure if we announce a lineup like this, and we get a minimum of this many people, then we will estimate that we will get this amount,” Evan explained. And so far, their formula has worked. “People appreciate the fact that we have done this for 10 years without any financial help.”

Of course, a little help from your friends does not hurt. Evan said that despite the fact that they have never organized a huge event before, they were not entirely unknown in the metal scene.

“We had both been in bands and had played out, especially Ryan,” Evan said. “The first Maryland Deathfest was initially only supposed to be a day-long fest with bands from the East coast. But as soon as we announced it, it went viral, and bands started writing to us from all other the place. It ended up being a 3-day fest the very first year,” Evan said. “I think people were just happy that someone was just giving it a shot.”

In addition to fulfilling an apparent hunger for live death metal, the team’s networking also led to a significant headlining act that first year.

“We ended up getting the reunion show of Suffocation, and that really helped things to start off. We had some other cool names on there, but having the reunion of Suffo really pushed it to the next level,” Evan said. (By the way Suffocation will play again this year on Sunday at 7:20 p.m.)

Over the years, the bands asked to play MDF have reflected the organizers’ somewhat obscure musical tastes. Essentially, they put together a lineup that does not mirror market trends but instead, demonstrates their deep knowledge of the genre and all its subgenres. The lineups at MDF over the last decade also seem to have become more diverse.

“As the festival grows, we still try to have an underground touch to it,” Evan said, “We listen to some obscure bands, so we like to keep that as part of it. And even before this current festival is over, we will already be talking about who we are going to have next year.”

Evan said that he has developed long lasting relationships with some of the groups that have played MDF. “It is really cool when we have bands come back and they aren’t even playing but they just come and hang out. We also know that we have friends all over the world; if we needed a place to stay, that would never a problem. For some of these big name bands, it has been cool to meet them on a personal level.”

Although they have been at it for 10 years, Evan said he and Ryan have no intention of calling it quits. “We will continue to do it for as long as people keep coming and without selling out and as long as we aren’t getting washed up bands.”

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