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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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Krisiun stops twice nearby on Destruction tour

Brasil’s Krisiun, one of the hardest working bands in death metal, is on the road again, if they ever even left. (They didn’t.) Krisiun will start a tour  with the almighty German thrashers Destruction on March 14 and will be appearing at two venues within a reasonable driving distance from Baltimore: at Empire in Springfield, Virginia on March 20 and at Mojo 13 in Wilmington, Delaware on March 21.  You will see them with North Carolina’s Widow for the first part of this tour and then they will  be joined by the delightful Exmortus of California for the latter half. You can see all the dates here.

In May 2013, I sat down with Moyses Kolesne before Krisiun played a show at Baltimore’s Metro Gallery. Yes, this interview was conducted nearly a year ago. I have been holding onto it until now, for just such an occasion as this — a new tour– which was bound to happen sooner or later with these guys! Still, I don’t typically like to hold on to an interview this long. We met at The Club Charles and  tried to chat over the sound of the jukebox. Later that night, they tore through their set, which included a good mix of old and newer tracks. I remember that it was immediately after Maryland Deathfest and everyone in attendance at the show was a bit exhausted.

Krisiun formed in 1990 when brothers  Alex Camargo [Vocal/Bass],  Moyses Kolesne [Guitar] and Max Kolesne [Drums] were just teens. Since then, they have steadily  amassed rabidly devoted fans across the world. There are few bands who tour as frequently and who remain as rooted to their musical origins, to their country and to their fanbase as Krisiun.  They are also super humble and down-to-earth people, who are willing to kick back with their fans from the mosh pit, as well as go home once in a while to see their mother. Alex uses his mother’s last name, by the way.

Fangirl photo with Moyses Kolesne.

Fangirl photo with Moyses Kolesne of Krisiun.

In this interview, Moyses discusses what it is like to be in a band for more than 20 years with his brothers and about sticking with their label, Century Media, for just as long. He also talks about their devotion to extreme music and to an organic sound, he reminds me that black metal is older in Brazil than in Norway, and he remembers their big break at the Milwaukee metal fest. There is mention of possibility of a new record in the works and he talks about some of the fests they will play (or now have played) in 2013.

During the interview Moyses said something that I think perfectly sums up the work ethic and humility of Krisiun:

“The people that are are down there in the mosh pit and the ones on stage, they are the same. Both are part of the show. Without each other, they are nothing.”

More people in metal should think this way.  Moyses also offers some inspiration and insight for struggling musicians who are impatient about having to be out on the road and sleeping in vans for years before they find success. After all, he’s been doing it for 20 years so he should know what he is talking about! I hope you enjoy listening to this interview as much as I enjoyed recording it. It begins with me asking Moyses about what it’s like to be in a band with one’s  brothers. Click here to listen.

Don’t miss Krisiun and Destruction out on the road.

Black Witchery forges on with blasphemous new axeman

Under the name Black Witchery, vocalist/bassist Impurath and his horde have been offering up some of the most aggressive, brutal and primitive black metal on the American scene since 1999. This month, the group reconfigured their lineup with a new man on guitar. They continue to play one-off shows and fests across the country, including one coming up August 31 at St. Vitus in Brooklyn and the now sold out Cathedral of the Black Goat Metal Festival September 20-21) in Chicago.

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Impurath of Black Witchery. Photo by Mary Spiro

Black Witchery holds nothing back in performance, putting forth a total aural and visual onslaught of unrelenting rhythms, pounding bass and uncompromising riffs punctuated by occasional murderous solos all draped in an aura of misery and darkness. Songs are simple, but not simplistic, with highly structured, albeit repetitive, progressions.

Other black metal bands spin webs of melodic atmosphere, while Black Witchery’s atmosphere emerges as it hammers your brain into submission with an iron fist of rage. The growling vocals spew forth in synchrony with the drums, as the bass and guitar mirror one another in chugging harmony.

Black Witchery is not a band for everyone, not even every black metal fan, but listening to one of their albums or watching them live could leave you a changed person. They are among the harshest sounding bands that I enjoy.  I find something new every time I listen to one of their studio recordings, and live performances are always captivating and strangely hypnotic.

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New Black Witchery guitarist Alal’Xhaasztur playing with Hellvetron. Photo by Goddess Sioux

I was able to catch up with Impurath shortly after their recent personnel change. The group’s long-time guitarist, Tregenda, was moving on, in what I determined from talking with Impurath to be a mutual and amicable decision among members (so shut down the rumor mill). Axe duties have been passed on to multi-instrumentalist Alal’Xhaasztur from Nyogthaeblisz, Hellvetron and Nexul, hereby appropriately referred to as A.X., who will perform at the NY show this weekend.

In our email exchange, Impurath discusses these changes, the state of black metal and what’s coming up for Black Witchery.  Here is the result of our email Q & A:

Tell me about the current lineup.

Black Witchery’s current lineup is myself, Impurath – Bass and Malicious voice of SATAN, Vaz- Death hammer apocalypse, and A.X of Nyogthaeblisz/Hellvetron/Nexul, who has recently joined as blood axe domination. I would also recommend those other bands of A.X., as they are some of the best and darkest black/death chaos created on U.S. soil for many years. Also Perdition Temple and Amputator (Canada/USA) are worth a mention and are a fist in the face of the pathetic black metal scene of today. Also, Vaz is currently death hammer maniac for Blasphemy.

What are your current recording plans? Any new records in the works? And for what label?

We will release a split with REVENGE and a live and rehearsal LP/CD on Nuclear War Now! productions as the next strikes of BLACK WITCHERY.

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Vaz of Black Witchery. Photo by Mary Spiro

Why is it important for your band members to maintain some level of anonymity?

The very essence of the word Occult is the answer to that question. Anonymity is important for any band if there is any honor within them. I detest most pathetic vermin who exist on this planet and only associate myself with a few individuals with whom we have had contact for years.

Would BW want to do an extended tour? And if so, with whom would you like to play?

Blasphemy , Revenge, Antediluvian, Nyogthaeblisz, Hellvetron, Archgoat, Ride for Revenge, Drowned, Immolation, Negative Plane, Blasphemous Witchcraft, Denial of God, Sadomator, etc. Any bands for whom we share a great respect and that I would like to witness repeatedly.

I notice that the band’s sound has remained consistently raw and primitive from album to album. How do you maintain this? And why do you choose to do so?

Our aim is to make each release as extreme as possible.

Lyrically, how has the band evolved over time? What themes or topics remain important to you?

Lyrics are always based on darkness, evil and blasphemous hatred, desecration, rituals, etc.

What is your opinion of American black metal? How do you feel about the state of black metal in general worldwide?

I don’t care about it. We continue on our path and ignore the external factors.

What are some American black metal bands you respect/admire?

Nyogthaeblisz, Hellvetron, Negative Plane, Nexul, and Black Funeral to name a couple of the best ones.

Who are your favorite groups to listen to?

The ones I mentioned above and many others like Antediluvian, Impetuous Ritual, Disma, Portal, Demonomancy (Italy) , old Beherit, Black Feast (Finland), Sect Pig, Pseudogod, etc.

What do you hope that people experience when they see your live show?

Pain and horror, fear, disharmony, chaos, intimidation….

How did you become a musician?

I’m not a musician but a vessel for the voice of SATAN.

What was the first band you remember listening to that got you excited about music? About metal?

Mercyful Fate Melissa and Seven Churches Possessed, Bathory, Celtic frost , etc

What are all the instruments you can play?

Bass

Tell me about your song writing process.

Usually envisioned in mind first…

Is there anything else you think people should know about Black Witchery?

Expect no mercy on the next BLACK WITCHERY releases…

——–

Here are two previous posts written about Black Witchery for Metallomusikum.com

Countdown to MDF X: Black Witchery

Oasis de Satanas in which a black metal festival is held in a Latin disco

Abazagorath rekindling the black flame of American black metal

Although many look to Scandinavia for “trve” black metal, the Americas have always played a role in the propagation of this extreme musical subgenre.  Abazagorath, from New Jersery, have reigned as pioneers of the USBM aesthetic  since 1995. Hey, New Jersey is not frostbitten, but it certainly can be very grim.

Over the years, Abazagorath (which I believe is pronounced Ah-BAZ-ah-goh-rahth) has remained close to their satanic roots, keeping alive themes noted in their public biography:  “war, melancholy, darkness, evil, the occult and death.” They eschew the pagan or shoegaze-y approach that many so-called American black or “blackened” bands seem to be using these days,  and that’s a good thing. There is nothing more satisfying to my ears than the pure, unadulterated sound of raw, unrestrained hatred channelled into musical form. Abazagorath is visceral. Even some of the more melodic passages of their songs are hate-filled.

abaz-logoLast fall, the group put out a five song self-titled EP which you can listen to/buy on BandCamp here. Prior to that, they had three songs on a split with Blood Storm. But their last full-length album has not been since Sacraments of the Final Atrocity in 2004. Abazagorath is about to change that with a new album, The Satanic Verses, on Negativity Records out this fall. They claim this new recording “may deliver their most controversial and blasphemous release yet.”

I interviewed Warhead, drummer and vocalist for Abazagorath, via email. Below is the transcript of that Q & A.  Come see Abazagorath in Wheaton, Md. on Saturday, Aug 24 at Sergio’s Place, where they will be performing with Isenblast, Nachzehrer, Haethen and Death Shroud.  Facebook event page is here. They also have other dates this fall such as Philly, Chicago, Boston and others, so it is best to check their Facebook page for the specifics on those shows.

What is the current lineup of Abazagorath?

The demonic entities known as Abazagorath consist of Warhead (drums, vocals) Maelstrom (guitar, vocals and studio bass) Ciemnosc (guitar, synths and studio bass).

Tell me about your song writing process.

Well, the last two recordings Maelstrom demoed the music with a drum machine and sent it to me. I would then listen to it, and play to the music through headphones adding my own drum style and Warhead flavor. Ciemnosc was then taught the material and given free range to add harmonies, solos, etc. Once everyone knew what they were playing, we would then begin our live rehearsals getting the material tight and ready to record.

What is your opinion of the current state of black metal in the world and also specifically in the US? For example, who do you admire/respect among the American black metal bands?

I believe nowadays that we are over saturated with a lot of bands claiming to be black metal. I hear a lot of garbage being released from people’s home computers that just sucks. I have also seen some local bands caring more about dressing up rather than the actual music (which pisses me off). With that being said, there are some newer bands I do enjoy such as Nachzehrer, Abysmal Gates, Ptahil, One Master, Haethen, Ritual Chamber and Dethroned Emperor to name a few. When I first started Abazagorath there were only a handful of USBM bands so I respect all my old school war brothers and sisters who have been at it as long as me such as Absu, Bloodstorm, Krieg, Demoncy, Kult Ov Azazel, Famine, Inquisition, Summon,Manticore, Grand Belials Key, Teratism, Necrovore, Demonic Christ, Engorge, Black Witchery, Judas Iscariot, Krohm and Nachtmystium.

What is your opinion of the trend in what some are calling “hipster black metal” that includes bands like Liturgy or Deafheaven (who are getting a lot of attention right now)?

Here is my opinion, I don’t give a fuck. My goal is to keep Abazagorath running at full potential and keep putting out releases each one better than the next. I have no time to worry about what attention other bands are getting. The true diehards know what USBM is. (Several who are from MD\VA area and always shown Abazagorath support).

From your discography, which recording (EP or full length or whatever) are you most proud of and why?

Honestly, I am proud of every single release Abazagorath has put out over the years. I started this band because when I began playing music I wanted to create something I wanted to hear, luckily every member who has been part of this disease known as Abazagorath has agreed. So each release is a combination of each member’s feelings at that time.

You only have two full-lengths to your credit. What are your plans for another full-length recording? And what label will you be on?

True we only have two full lengths to our credit, but we have released numerous EP’S and splits throughout our entire career.10 brand new hymns have just been recorded and are being mixed as we speak. Entitled “The Satanic Verses” this may be our most controversial and blasphemous release yet due out later this year on Negativity Records. An epic concept album based on the satanic temptation of the Islamic prophet Mohammad. (Writer’s note: Warhead is specifically referring to the Salman Rushdie book by the same name.)

Where do you go for musical inspiration? For example, do you get ideas from books, movies, other styles of music etc.?

Previous releases were definitely inspired by books and movies, but I always go back to my old school roots for musical inspiration with bands like Kreator, Sodom, Venom, Death, Slayer, and Celtic Frost. But since I have no time for movies or books anymore all of my musical inspirations have come from everyday life and people with a little Sativa\ Indica help.

How important are theatrics, corpse paint, candles and atmosphere to your performance?

Although I would not mind to play with some kind of fire live if possible, you will not get any stage show from Abazagorath. What you see is what you get: no corpse paint, religious articles or bullshit chatter in between songs. Once you get blasted with our live assault of pure mayhem theatrics are not needed.

What do you want people who see/hear you to feel or experience when they see your show?

We are a Black metal band I don’t give a fuck what people feel, this band was started to play music we enjoy. Now if you enjoy it cool. Guaranteed the crowd will be left with wanting more Abazagorath and hopefully the crowd leaves with feelings of loneliness and depression.

What do you hope to accomplish with this current tour?

The goal of this upcoming tour is to promote the new album and to play some states we have not been to before; it’s time to spread this cancer known as Abazagorath away from the north east.

Over your nearly 20-year history, what have been some of your most memorable moments as a band? And why?

Unfortunately most of our memorable moments were never good things that I can remember. They usually involved lots of alcohol, a beat down with fellow war brothers Summon, car accidents, drugs, a NYC public access TV appearance, and finally jail. (Writer’s Note: Sounds like I need to do some follow-up questions here when I see them in  August!)

Who would you love to share the stage with?

VENOM of course

What’s next for Abazagorath? For the rest of the year? For next year?

Abazagorath has begun writing our next album already, and for the rest of the year our plan is to play our already confirmed dates Philly, MD, NY, CT, MA and for our first time ever Columbus OH and Chicago. For 2014 we will focus on getting another album recorded and I have already been approached by numerous promoters who want to see Abazagorath on the left coast\ mid-west. There have also been talks about an Abazagorath\ Kommandant split as well.

Is there anything else you want people to know?

The new album “The Satanic Verses” will be out later this year on Negativity records. If you are looking for show dates, news merchandise check out our Reverbnation and Facebook pages. Hails and Horns. AS DARKNESS FALLS WE ARISE.
http://www.reverbnation.com/abazagorath
http://www.facebook.com/abazagorath666

The man behind Fenriz’s Band of the Week

It could be said that there is already enough music made that you could never run out of old stuff to listen to, never mind trying to catch up with all that is new. Devotion to old school or traditional metal has become a fascination for some who dislike the “flavor-of-the-week” attitude found among some music fans. But where can you turn for guidance about what’s already there and what’s any good?

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Arjan de Vries

Most metal fans are well aware of the infamous Darkthrone and its drummer/vocalist Fenriz.  Fenriz eschews modern metal and promotes what he classifies as “good, old metal” free of performance enhancing trickery such as drum triggers or Pro Tools. He features this music on his blog, Band of the Week, which he maintains on a weekly basis on MySpace. Yes, MySpace and not even NEW MySpace. The Darkthrone profile on “classic” MySpace currently boasts 69,536 followers.

Instead of promoting Darkthrone’s work on the page, Fenriz focuses on sharing music that he likes to listen to. He states on the blog that he listens to more than 10 hours of music per day. Being chosen as a Band of the Week has become similar to earning the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Groups such as Ghost and Graveyard have been listed on BOTW and in some cases, the listing has helped bands land record deals. Washington, DC’s Ilsa has made the Fenriz list. Band of the Week is totally about promoting honest, raw, and underground music. As Fenriz states clearly on the blog, “THIS PAGE IS RUN BY MUSIC FREAKS –FOR music freaks.”

Fenriz is not on Facebook (or any other social media for that matter) and states he never will be. So what can be done to get the message of this metal guru out to the masses who no longer use MySpace? Clearly someone with that level of dedication to the “old ways” has to have a gentle liaison into the 21st century. And that person happens to be Arjan de Vries.

Arjan shares Fenriz’s passion for great old metal and also his enthusiasm for sharing that musical knowledge with other people. So Arjan established an official Facebook page for Band of the Week and essentially reblogs what Fenriz has posted on the MySpace page. He also adds other comments, posts videos, adds links to Darkthrone interviews and basically keeps the audience of more than 9,700 fans steadily engaged. I contacted Arjan through Facebook and sent him some questions about how he got involved in the Band of the Week project.

How did the blog come about, and how would you describe the overarching mission of Band of the Week?

Fenriz started Band of the Week in late 2009 after the discovery of a great new band. This gave him the idea to post a Band of the Week on the Darkthrone MySpace page, to which 56,000 people had already signed up. (A full history of Band of the Week, written by Fenriz, can be found at http://www.bandoftheweek.net/) It’s all about the good old sound. Bring the right music to the right people, and promote those bands who still play the old way with the old sound and use their typewriter just for typing. This blog should provide enough good old school metal for its followers, enough to ignore the mainstream from now on. It works for me. You name it, I haven’t heard it.

What is the story behind how you became acquainted with Fenriz and affiliated with Band of the Week?

Fenriz had already posted a lot about music on his MySpace blog so I noticed that he had good taste. When I hear something great, and I mean really great, I want everybody to hear it. This great thing was Jex Thoth so I decided to send him a YouTube video. He already knew that band and gave me some tips back, one of them was Evil Army. I had been doing an obscure old school metal playlist for some time with stuff like Brocas Helm, Fantom Warrior, Agent Steel and Trouble and some new bands such as Natur, Hessian and Ghost. I also mixed in lots of 70’s rock and proto-metal like Hard Stuff, Toad, High Tide, Bedemon, Gun, Jerusalem and Lucifer’s Friend. If I found something good, I would send it to him as a tip for Band of the Week. I began to do some more things for Band of the Week such as making a web page with all the band links on it. That way people could browse through the list of bands. A Facebook and YouTube channel followed later. It grew like that, there was no job advert that said: Help needed. Must have absolutely no knowledge of modern metal.

How do you or Fenriz decide who the Band of the Week will be? What happens if you disagree about the band?

Fenriz picks the bands. He asked me to pick a band two times now, but I usually just update the website and post on the Facebook page. I keep on promoting all the bands  from the Band of the Week list by posting videos on our Facebook profile. I do that between Band of the Week posts to keep the profile active. When I find something good, I send him a tip about it. I usually listen to older music for pleasure instead of tons of new records. I don’t get stuff in the mail so I have to come across something during a YouTube browse session or from a tip by one of the many good people in my Facebook friend list.

There seems to be something of a “cult of Fenriz”—people really seem to look up to him and value his opinions about music. Other people, I have read, seem to think his views are off the mark. What do you have to say about this?

Fenriz hates your modern metal!

Truth is that I don’t visit forums etc., so I really don’t know what people say about his opinions. The Band of the Week followers I spoke with are all fans who just like the music he promotes. Good people with good taste who still buy records…

What three recordings are you listening to right now, and what do you think of them?

Just some good old stuff. I like to listen to many songs from many different bands/artists in one music listening session so it’s not really whole albums at the time usually, but here are three I’ve been listening to lately:  Trouble-Psalm 9 (1984), Message-From Books and Dreams (1973);  Scorpion-Scorpion (1969 psychedelic rock from Detroit).

Is there anything else you think people should know about Band of the Week?

The Live Evil festival in London: they pick the bands using the Band of the Week list.

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HAPPY RECORD STORE DAY! Visit your local record store April 20, 2013 and every day.

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.

INTERVIEW: "Scruff" Lewty of Hellbastard says crust punk label doesn’t apply

The group Hellbastard are among the pioneers of what is known as crust punk. Yet, they are much more than that, blending melodic metal guitar riffs with intelligent and intelligible lyrical content. 
As I mentioned in my previous band profile of Hellbastard for the 2012 Maryland Deathfest, I am somewhat smitten with the group. Their sound takes me back to my college years when I listened to punk and dark wave and lots and lots of Killing Joke. I wanted to find out more about them so I sent lead singer Malcolm “Scruff” Lewty some questions via email. He took the time to respond just before they departed to hit the PouzzaFest, a punk festival in Montreal on May 18, 19 and 20. 
If you watch video of live performances of Hellbastard, you can tell Scruff is an energetic, in-your-face kind of person. But even in writing, Scruff is a colorful character. I have decided to run the entire email correspondence with little editing. The parts in bold are my questions. Note: in some instances my name is spelled Maery. This is normal.
Hi, Are you heading to North America soon? Here are a few questions to get started. I will assume you, Scruff, are answering unless someone else wants to provide a reply. Please confirm the current touring lineup.

Hallow there Maery. The current HELLBASTARD line up, touring or recording is Josh “Budda” Harris (Drums), Tom Mc Coombe (Guitar), Paul O’Shea (Bass) and myself (Malcolm “Scruff” Lewty) Vocals & Guitars.

What recording material will you be focusing on for your set list?
Oh, we play loads of old stuff, and some of the new stuff will be played for the first time, too. It is a mixture, we try and please ourselves first, then anyone/everyone else. We have our own soundman for these shows coming up, and we are going to try a few new things for Hellbastard, just a few things we have never done before. Hopefully it’ll all go according to plan. We will play stuff from the early demos and material from every album too!

What do you think of the term crust punk? How does it apply to Hellbastard?
I don’t think it does….certainly not in the context that it is “in” these days. I am not a fan of labels, it is easy to neatly classify something and then be done with it. We are a lot more than the average band from the aforementioned genre. Great “politics”, bland and “samey” music, isn’t that usually how it works? It has become another fashion. The POLITICS behind the terminology of “crust” are valid, now more than ever. The actual term “Crust Punk” is just the same as “Hardcore Metal” or whatever, it is a label and nothing more, nothing less. The real message and spirit lie waiting to be activated and thrust upon earth’s oppressors. The message is in the action.

Tell me about the part the band played in the UK thrash documentary “A History of a Time to Come.” How did you get involved in that?
They contacted us to be a part of it, it was put on hold for months and months and finally they came with big lights and cameras to blind us and ask us questions and film us. I seem to remember being really angry when being interviewed, we’ll see I guess. This film is going to be televised (so we are told) and that will be interesting.

You are using Twitter and Facebook (or the band is). How does that feel for an anarchist punk rocker?
You assume we are “Anarchist Punk Rockers” huh? I never ever called myself an Anarchist before, ever. Surely the only real and true anarchists are either dead or locked up. I don’t know about TWITTER (that is down to Tom really he loves all that stuff). Me? I can barely use Facebook. If it was possible I’d have us all go back to bartering again, you know – these BOOTS for that COAT kind-of-thing. I don’t think ANY of us are ‘anarchists’ at all. The rest of the band are certainly not ‘anarchists’ – although it IS the closest descriptive terminology for Hellbastard. From a personal standpoint, I don’t think many ‘anarchists’ would like what I really think. I don’t think many commies or marxists would either, nor any fascists or pseudo-nazis come to think of it. I am NOT being facetious here, so do please “excuse” my tone.

Are you doing any other shows or tours before or after MDF that you would like to mention? And if so, where and with whom? I see the festival in Canada. Anything else? What are you planning to do between the show on May 19 and the MDF show on May 26?
We are booked “exclusively” for POUZZA FEST in Montreal and MDF in USA. This was the deal, so to speak. We are not ‘allowed’ to play any other shows, though it’d be really hard not to perform an impromptu set at a basement show or ‘drinking hole’ in between the fests. I am assuming we will hang out and look for a place to call home for a short while…. we won’t be affording hotels because we are not rich enough,.so I am not sure. I guess the main thing will be to find a bed for the night for the five of us.

What special or unusual items will you have for sale at MDF? Will you have your new recording out yet to buy?
We will have the “Eco-War” CD and “The need to kill,…………….” CD and the original “RIPPER CRUST” shirts,……… badges, stickers, pins back patches etc. etc. the usual merch. WHEN SOMEONE BUYS SOMETHING FROM US IT GOES RIGHT BACK INTO THE BAND FUND TO PAY REHEARSAL FEES AND STORAGE FEES BACK HOME – AND SHIT LIKE THAT. SO COME ON DON’T BE SHY – IF YOU READING THIS AND ARE COMING TO THE SHOW, PLEASE BUY A SHIRT OR EVEN A PIN ! IT ALL HELPS ! WE ARE FRIENDLY AND WE DO NOT BITE!

Unfortunately we will NOT have the new recording out to buy. This has to be released as a split side to a 12″ on Profane Existence Records first. The other band on the split 12″ is “Dresden” from Wisconsin. After this, the “Sons of Bitches” release will be out on different labels throughout the world.

Any special greetings for your fans? Anything else we should know? Is this what you wanted to be when you grew up?
We hope you come to the show and enjoy it. We are using a few things we have never used before so it should be quiet interesting… This is the first time HB will have played CANADA and we are really looking forward to having a great show and entertaining any souls that show up……………

None of us will ever grow up, especially me. I pride myself that, in the 33 years I have been involved with music I have kept my basic mischievious childishness. That is, except when I am in a foul mood.

I wanted to teach when I was a kid, and I did that and quit. Paul our bass player wanted to be a monk – (this is true, but he got too carried away with heavy metal and subsequently landed into HB.) Tom our other guitarist wanted to be a baker, but he can’t bake to save his life! Josh, our drummer, wanted to work in the agricultural industry and promote healthy organic farming, but he got carried away at the zoo where he works,……..and stayed there.This is the best thing I ever did, at least one of the most fulfilling things anyway. Certainly better than teaching secondary English.

Thank you Maery, thank you for the interview. It is odd. We are a “known” band all around the world and yet nobody knows who we are. Mysterious is always best!

Sincerely,

Scruff. Hellbastard May 2012.
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Here is something really old from Hellbastard. Circa 1986 I think.

INTERVIEW with Tsjuder’s drummer Anti-Christian

Anti-Christian of Tsjuder

In the quest to remain “trve kvlt,” Norwegian black metal stalwarts Tsjuder have persevered since 1993. They will perform at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest on Saturday, May 26 in the main room following a string of other satanic black metal bands, making Saturday night something of a “ritual” kind of night for the festival.

Tsjuder is also one of my personal favorite groups in the traditional black metal gene. I don’t remember when or how I came across them, but I was hooked from the first moment I heard them. Part of their charm is that they are not just all blast beats and guitar distortion. Real rock and roll drumming make them stand out. I was very honored when Tsjuder’s beast of a drummer, Anti-Christian, took a few moments to respond to questions via email.

So I believe this is your first time at the Maryland Deathfest. What have you heard about this festival and what do you hope to bring to the audience there?

It´s Tsjuder first gig in USA and we´re looking forward to this. This is one of the few festivals in USA we heard of and the audience will get good old fashion Norwegian Black Metal.

What recordings will you be focusing on to create your set list? 

We are gonna serve some threats from every album.

When do you arrive in the USA and will you be playing any other shows before or after deathfest while you are here? How about other tours, outside of the festivals already listed on your Facebook page?

Nag and I will arrive on Tuesday and we are gonna check out some bars in the states around. There´s no tour or other gigs planed for USA. It would be nice with a tour over there but maybe in the future.

What other groups are you excited to see play at MDF? 

Horna and Brujeria would be cool too check out, but we nearly never get to see anything the day we play a show. I can´t see a band without a beer in my hand, and I can´t play drums with alcohol running thru my veins. Bad combo.

How have American fans reacted to the new recording, Legion Helvete, as compared to other fans around the world?

I really don´t know, but we got some decent reviews as far as I know.

How would you explain explain the origin of the name Tsjuder (pronounced shoe-der) and how you chose the name for the group?

The name Tsjuder comes from a tribe that came to the north of Norway around 1000 years ago. They butchered the Norwegian natives and they where dressed in black leather. How we got the name I don’t know but it’s hard to pronounce for the majority of the world.

What sort of Tsjuder items will be available for sale at MDF, anything unique or unusual?

If things goes like it should, Maryland will get their own T-shirt made special for you. Only 50 shirts from our own design.

What other types of music do the members of Tsjuder enjoy listening to? 
That is a really hard question. I can only speak for myself but everybody likes Motorhead.

Are there books, films or other things that inspire you? 
I´m into Tom Egeland’s writings at the moment and I meditate to Family Guy. Chelsea Cain has got some good books out.

Is there anything else that you want American fans to know or understand about Tsjuder?

It´s our first show in the USA and we are looking forward to sharing some alcohol with our new friends. Cheers. We also would like to know if there´s any good place to party for Nag and me those days we arrive before Draugluin. Let us know on our Facebook page!
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