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Podcast 4: Autumn Screams Doom

Doom, stoner metal and sludge seem to be what the kids wanna hear these days. So this time on the podcast, we talked to Hasan and Dan about the fall fest Autumn Screams Doom, October 25 and 26 at The Ottobar. Specific details of the fest can be found on the Facebook event page here. There is even a matinee Saturday upstairs at the Ottobar, featuring a screening of the movie “Last Days Here,” which is a documentary about Bobby Liebling, vocalist for Pentagram. Details about the day event can be found here.

I have seen only seen four of the bands slated to play, so much of this music will be new to me.

Philadelphia’s Wizard Eye puts on an unforgettable performance. I’ve seen them only one other time. Who doesn’t love a band that features the theremin? They open up the show on Friday, so don’t be late.

Loss at Stella Natura. Photo by Mary Spiro.

Loss at Stella Natura. Photo by Mary Spiro.

One of the most interesting bands playing is Saturday night’s headliner, Loss. This band fascinates me because, although their lyrical themes are very dark and despondent, they also seem to project a sense of hope in their music. In general, I am not a fan of depressing music, but Loss is different. Can’t wait to see them again. It will be the third time for me this year. Read a previous interview I did with vocalist Mike Meacham prior to their show at the 2013 Maryland Deathfest.

Listen to our podcast here and then check out a few videos from some of the bands that will play. We welcome your feedback on the podcasts. We drink a lot along the way and sometimes things get a little weird. Well, mostly I just get weird.

Autumn Screams Doom promises blues inspired, doomy heaviness with a good dose of “hey brothers” and high fives all around. Simply put, it will be two days of freaky, crushing madness. Tickets are $15 for each night (so $30 for the weekend) and the Saturday Matinee is $8. Tickets can be purchased at the ASD website.

Metallomusikum Podcast 4 by Metallomusikum.Com on Mixcloud

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(the) Melvins up close and personal

I know (the) Melvins play like one million shows a year, but other than the madness that was their performance at Maryland Deathfest, I have not seen this band up close. The Ottobar was the place to be for that Friday night. I’d worked a full day and still wearing my dress from work but decide to go anyway.

The place was packed! So despite the fact that (the) Melvins play a lot of shows all over the place all the time, they also still draw the numbers. I am not sure it was a complete sell out but it was very close.

I loved seeing them in a smaller venue, despite the close quarters with so many people. I loved drummers times two. This show was part of their 30th anniversary tour. I am sure Buzz Osborne never imagined that he’d still be playing in a band he started just out of high school. But then again, maybe that is exactly what he envisioned. By the way, Buzz and I are the same age, which somehow makes me feel more alive.

Here are some photos I snapped and one of me with King Buzzo himself.

buzzo-mary2 buzzo1 melvins2

REVIEW: Early Graves’ Red Horse

Usually when I go to a show, I make a half-assed attempt to listen to the bands on the bill that I am unfamiliar with. Such was the case with the San Francisco band Early Graves when I saw them open for Skeletonwitch last month at the Ottobar in Baltimore.

Early Graves @Ottobar 2012. Photo by M. Spiro

At the time of the show, Early Graves only had two albums in their discography, We: The Guillotine and Goner. So I listened to a few tracks from those albums. I liked it alright; they kind of had a blackened thrash-core thing going on.

What I did not know before the show was that they had lost their original vocalist, Makh Daniels, in a tragic van accident while on tour in August of 2010. Daniels’ voice was deep and rough. Their new vocalist, John Strachan, has a slightly higher pitched and “thrashier” sounding voice. The vocals don’t make a completely different band but they are distinct.

What also did not know, though I could have suspected it from the songs I heard, was that Early Graves’ live performances completely destroy a venue. Everything about their performance that night–from the punchy drums to the crushing riffs and searing vocals–was a flaming ball of utter awesome aural devastation.

So it was with palpable excitement that I awaited the release of Early Graves third effort, Red Horse. I bought the digital copy from iTunes and devoured all 32.6 minutes of it twice in a row. Here is my quick and dirty impression of the album.

Hardcore and thrash are subgenres of metal that can be easily married. A bad marriage results in something barely listenable, but Early Graves merges styles with finesse. Songs like the title track “Red Horse,” with its literal galloping drum beat, possess the right amount of catchy melodic riffing framed by an appropriate structure of visceral brutality capable of branding the chords into your frontal lobe.

Other tracks like “Days Grow Cold” churn through each measure like a guitar-powered locomotive, that pauses briefly to let you reflect before rocketing off again. The track ends like an acoustic balad. Very surprising.

Another track, “Death Obsesssed” wormed its way into my psyche. I found myself playing the song repeatedly before moving on to the next track. There’s something sinister and looming in this song–maybe like death itself–and yet endlessly relentless. This song represents everything that I love about hardcore metal–raw vocals, desperate lyrics, riffs that grab you by the throat and drums that make you want to bang your head.

My favorite song on the album, “Quietus,” is also the longest track. The first two and half minutes plow forward ferociously like much of the rest of the album. Then the song spirals into this melancholic, almost doomy section. The music builds to a soaring crescendo and closes out the album on a thoughtful note.

On the whole, I found the eight tracks on Early Graves’ Red Horse to be thoroughly satisfying and packed with heavy hardcore goodness. As much as one can view hardcore as “catchy” Early Graves has figured out the formula while maintaining music that inspires a respectable mosh pit.

This album is masterful and brutally beautiful. Go check it out.

Grindcore 101 with Pig Destroyer’s Blake Harrison

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________

Pig Destroyer’s Facebook page.

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

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

New Pig Destroyer song released!

Have you ever had one of those days where everything is excrement? Pig Destroyer quite possibly wrote the soundtrack to that day. Their new album, Book Burner, will be available in the US on Oct. 22, but Relapse Records knows you PxDx fans can barely wait to sink you teeth into this meaty grindcore masterpiece.

The deluxe edition of this release will include 2-CDs, a 19-song compendium of misanthropy. And if that were not enough to set your teeth on edge, the package will also include bonus disc collection of punk covers called The Atheist.

Pig Destroyer have several shows coming up in support of Book Burner, including an appearance at the 2013 Maryland Deathfest. Those days include:

Sept. 28:      Calgary, Canada Noctis Fest
Oct. 18:       Brooklyn, NY MetalSucks/Metal Injection CMJ showcase @ Public Assembly
Oct. 19:      Baltimore, MD Ottobar (w/ Royal Thunder)  (CD Release Show)
Nov. 1:       Brighton, UK The Haunt
Nov. 2:       London, UK The Garage
Nov. 3:       Leeds, UK Damnnation Festival
Jan. 19:      Philadelphia, PA Union Transfer w/ Municipal Waste, Repulsion, Tombs
May 23 – 26:    Baltimore, MD Maryland Deathfest XI

You can pre-order Pig Destroyer’s new recording here. But until then, they have thrown you a bone. Gnaw on this lyrical video below.

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!

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