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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.

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Cemetery Piss: spreading that vulture love tonight at Sidebar

Cemetery Piss are a raw, blackened heavy metal outfit out of Baltimore. They play tonight at 11:30 p.m, May 22, in a free show at the Sidebar  as part of the Maryland Deathfest VII festivities. Here’s the event link.

The first time I saw Cemetery Piss, I went in not knowing what to expect, as their visual appearance is fairly unassuming. No spikes or corpse paint here, but maybe a bullet belt and a couple patch vests. If anything, I expected something a bit trippy. But the name — Cemetery Piss — hinted at something more extreme.

I know Adam Savage as an easy going promoter of shows in Baltimore and their drummer Derrick Hans of The Pilgrim, which is sort of a stoner-doom rock group. But the moment the band started to play and Adam let loose with some of the the rawest, sharpest and most gut-punching vocals I’d heard since Bathory’s Quorthon, I knew this was a band I needed to pay attention to.

Drummer Derrick and bassist Rebecca Chernoff lay down a black-thrash influenced rhythm section, and guitarist Dirck Ober blazes through some fuzzy toned pscyhedelic speed metal-esque riffs that are catchy as hell. Adam ties it all together with a highly physical performance.

I sent the band some questions since I was unfamiliar with their history and pre-history. These replies have been sitting in my “to-do” list for a little while (all apologies to CP), so a couple of the answers are dated, but the facts remain. Here’s what Dirck had to say.

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

Cemetery Piss started out as a solo recording project. In around 2006 or 2007, after my band Crypt of Raix had folded, I was in a place where I’d resolved to make some music on my own. I had no set expectations or plans. I just set out to make the music I wanted, by myself, and see what happened. Before too long, I had four instrumentals recorded on a four-track. Adam Savage and I were already playing together in Vincent Black Shadow, so I enlisted him to lay down vocals. These four songs came together as the Rest in Piss demo, named after the title track, which framed what Cemetery Piss was about then. After we’d passed that thing around for a little while, we re-recorded it in a proper studio with Kevin Bernsten, and Timpaler (Tim Snodgrass) of Diabolic Force Distribution released the Rest in Piss EP on cassette. The tape gave us our first real audience, and by the time Adam and I were recording the Such the Vultures Love 7”, Rebecca Chernoff of Spoilage/Icefox had heard it and expressed interest in playing bass in a live incarnation of the band. Encouraged, we approached Derrick Hans of Oak/The Pilgrim/Deathammer about playing drums, and lucky for us he was into it.

Do you consider yourselves black metal or something else? Are there other bands you think you may sound similar to?

We’re not devout black metallers, but there’s a strong influence there. I’m trying to channel that point where thrash was breaking its own boundaries, pushing both aggression and atmosphere as the music evolved into death metal. Possessed’s Seven Churches, Morbid’s December Moon and Necrovore’s Divus de Mortuus were all in heavy rotation when I started writing for the band. Of course, Bathory’s Blood Fire Death, Mayhem through De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and Darkthrone are all influences, as well as bands like Von, Absu, Sarcofago, Blasphemy and Beherit. I also really like Funeral Mist, Ofermod and Malign. If I’m going to get to the root of what we do, though, I have to say that Riot, Saxon, Priest and Maiden are just as crucial to our sound. Our mission is to stand firmly rooted in the traditions of metal while trying to break our own boundaries to darken, brutalize, and dement the music.

What are some exciting shows you have coming up? Who would you like to tour with?

Our next show is April 16 with the legendary Satan, and we’re super excited about that. After that, we’re playing a Maryland Deathfest Sidebar show with Bastard Sapling from Richmond, with whom we also played Cemetery Piss’ first live show. (Note: Bastard Sapling moved to Friday night.) (Playing at MDF) is awesome because it gives us the chance to play for an audience from around the world who might never hear of or think to even check us out otherwise. On top of that, getting to actually play puts my annual Deathfest experience on a whole other level. We also have our singer’s birthday show coming up on June 7 with Pig Destroyer, Inter Arma from Richmond and Putrisect. As far as bands we’d like to tour with, I guess I already gave you my dream list in my last answer. It’s so hard to choose. I don’t know how this would ever be possible, but there’s this death metal band from Brazil called Divine Death that I would love to join forces with. They’ve been around since the early 90’s and they’re so sick and yet somehow relatively unknown outside of Brazil. Really, I’d like to tour with any band that carries the spirit of the music we love, especially if they’re a few steps ahead of us and can help us move forward in our own path.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years I see Cemetery Piss reaching a much larger audience. I want our records to take us traveling the world. Order of the Vulture worldwide takeover!

If you were not playing music, how would you spend your free time?

That’s a tough question. Everything I do revolves around music. I think that’s true of everyone in the band. Derrick is in several bands. Adam’s work revolves around music, too. Maybe Rebecca might spend more time on her motorcycle. I might spend more time reading, hand-binding books or traveling. We might all party a little bit more.

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

When I was a kid, my cousin Bryant played me Kill ‘Em All and then let me play his electric guitar. It was pretty much over for me then. Now I’m inspired by a need to keep my spirit free. A little chaos can loosen the grip of the regulating rank and file. Embracing mortality and shedding the idea that life should follow some peaceful order and fit some happy image means shedding the bonds of a lot of mundane worldly bullshit, too. That’s what inspires me and I pull from the furthest reaches of my imagination to express that with due conviction in our music.

If you could live anywhere in the world, at any time, where and when would it be and why?

I think the obvious choice would have to be the Bay area during the golden age of thrash. My other choice would be Belo Horizonte, the metal capital of Brazil, in the late 80’s/early 90’s so I could rage with the likes of Sarcofago, Sepultura, Mutilator, Holocausto and so many other awesome bands.

Anything else you want people to know about the band?

Right now we’re working on our first full-length album as a full band. We’ve already recorded four songs with Kevin Bernsten at Developing Nations Studio, and we’ll be back soon to finish. Beware the Order of the Vulture!

Check out some photos from Cemetery Piss’s March 20 performance with Obliteration at Metro Gallery.

Listen to Cemetery Piss on Bandcamp.

Strange tourfellows: Skeletonwitch and Ghost B.C.

Well, it’s finally happened. I finally saw Ghost (B.C.)  And I blame it all on Skeletonwitch.

Ghost and Skeletonwitch made a stop at Rams Head Live on July 29 during a five city mini tour that grew out of the fact that the bands would cross paths on their ways to other places. Skeletonwitch are wrapping up a headlining tour across North America on their way back home to Ohio. Ghost, who hail from Sweden (by way of Hell), are making a few stops on their way to Chicago to play Lollapalooza. These two sharing a stage seemed like strange bedfellows musically, and I kind of didn’t want to miss it. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to go to every show that catches my eye, but thanks to the kind gentlemen in Skeletonwitch (specifically their official band spokesman Scott Hedrick) and the gracious folks at Prosthetic Records, I was able to go to the show and get a photo pit pass.

Everyone I know who is into metal seems to have an opinion about Ghost, and I am no exception. Ghost erupted onto the scene in late 2010 with their debut EP Opus Eponymous. These musicians didn’t come from nothing and no where, however. Ghost is reportedly composed of members of the two Swedish bands: synthrockers Magna Carta Cartel and death metallers Repugnant. They hide their identities. That’s part of their schtick. I get it. I’m willing to go along with the joke. (Hey, I love Dragged Into Sunlight, and I have no problem with them downplaying their identities.)

Ghost seems to engender a lot of strong reaction from listeners. Some hate them and say they are false, posers, manufactured etc. Some love them to the point of near fanaticism, as was evidenced by the handful of Nameless Ghoul wannabes who attended Monday’s show in costume.  Me, I just fail to succumb to the hype and certainly never thought of Ghost as metal, but I gave them a listen anyway.

Admittedly, Ghost’s tunes are catchy, easy to sing along with and danceable. Papa Emeritus’ vocals are sweet and almost soothing. Overall, it’s similar to a lot of popular rock. Muse or The Postal Service come to mind except with heavier guitars and more minor chords and more Satan. I have settled on the humorous faux subgenre of Satanic yachtrock to describe them.

But I kept hearing that Ghost’s live show was really great and that I should not write them off without seeing them in person. My stance in situations like this is simple: I like what I like, and I don’t have to give everything that seems almost universally accepted “a chance” just because people think I am somehow defective for not liking what they like. I reserve the right to reject a band without seeing their live show. But here I was, getting ready to see Ghost live.

Now, let me say something about Skeletonwitch, who have spent the last 10+ years building their fan base, slogging around in stinky vans, playing little clubs for whoever would listen. A strong constituency at Rams Head Monday night was primarily there to see Skeletonwitch, which made me happy.

I have seen Skeletonwitch three times now, and each time I like them more. My favorite show was a headlining performance at The Ottobar, because I think they relate well to a smaller crowds. Their guitarists shred, their rhythm section crushes, and Chance Garnette has one of the most evil sounding voices I’ve ever heard. He provides a black metal style of vocal that slices like a razor though a sweet double layer cake of death metal and thrash.

Skeletonwitch worked the larger room well and got the crowd whipped up enough to have some respectable crowd surfing going on. Since the upper levels of Rams Head were blocked off, the 600 or so attendees were forced into the smaller floor area in front of the stage. lending a more intimate feeling to the setting. They cruised through 11 songs, something from each of their four recordings and one new song from their forthcoming album, Serpents Unleashed, that was called “Burned From Bone.” The new album drops in October.

Skeletonwitch played for only 35 minutes, which was not long enough in my opinion. This show was going to get me home early!

I don’t know what I was expecting when Ghost finally took the stage. Smoke, fire? I don’t know. The last show I shot at Rams Head was Behemoth, Watain, The Devil’s Blood and In Solitude.  I am not sure anything could have prepared me for Watain live. There’s nothing to compare it to. Nergal and Behemoth command the stage masterfully. Even TDB is compelling live and, of course, blood soaked.

But the Nameless Ghouls just quietly strolled onto the stage and waited for their leader to arrive. You can’t see their faces so you don’t know if they are happy or sad or indifferent about being there.  After some build-up, Papa Emeritus II  took the stage with little pomp, though the crowd provided enough enthusiasm to make his entrance significant.

When I look at Ghost, mostly what I see is something kind of Halloween-ish. Something like the band that would play in a live-action Scooby Doo movie and turn out to be the bad guy gardener and his tricky henchmen. To me it is costume-shop theatrics framing well executed. but not very exciting, music. For comparison, KISS uses theatrics and costumes, but I am willing to listen to KISS without having to look at them. That is not the case with Ghost, at least not for me. The show’s the thing.

You see, there is something captivating about watching a grown man in an elaborate Pope/Skeletor outfit leading the audience in a Latin sing-a-long.  And, I did find my self head-bobbing along with their now familiar songs. After my three songs for shooting in the photo pit ended, I joined friends at the bar and watched the rest of the Ghost show near the Skeletonwitch merch table. At one point during the song “Year Zero”, I ended up doing a kind of hilariously fun Pulp Fiction-esque dance routine with a high schooler. But then again, I will dance to Carpathian Forest and Arckanum, and I don’t care who is watching (and laughing at me). I wished I could have understood some of Papa E.’s stage banter, but from where I was the sound was not clear and people were talking. A few folks were inspired to crowd surf, but that seemed rather unnecessary. And the shouts of “Hail Satan” from the audience were pretty funny.  I am sure the members of Ghost are also chuckling to themselves about that, all the way to the bank.

The bottom line about the evening is that I was highly entertained by both groups for completely different reasons. Skeletonwitch always puts forth 10,000 percent and delivered a satisfying performance for the headbangers with such musical integrity that you could feel it in your gut. And Ghost delivered a satisfyingly lighthearted performance that was fun and surprisingly warm, despite the Luciferian overtones. I can’t deny that I was touched by the fact that Papa E. reached out and took a fan by the hand. I am sure that person felt extremely blessed. In summary,  I didn’t hate Ghost, but I spent my merch dollars at the Skeletonwitch table. To each, her own I suppose.

Here are some of my best shots and a couple of videos. Enjoy.

Full stream of Vreid – Welcome Farewell

Vreid, the Norwegian black and roll band that arose from the ashes of Windr in 2004, have a new record, Welcome Farewell, set for North American release March 5, 2013. Their blend of black metal, punky thrash and straightforward rock and roll combined with captivating song writing and lyrics puts them into my “what’s not to like?” category. I can put on any one of their albums and listen from start to finish without wanting to skip a song. I only hope a North American tour accompanies this release.

A recent press release about Vreid’s new recording describes the work this way:

Notorious for their well-researched, historically-inspired lyrics, the band’s third and fourth offerings, I Krig and Milorg, were both concept albums based around the liberation work in Norway during World War II. Liberation was also the keyword on VREID’s last offering, V, but placed in a broader historical/philosophic perspective. The lyrics on Welcome Farewell describe a lifecycle through a series of short stories, seen from an existential point of view and, inspired by Hváll’s own local community with its nature, architecture and historical artists such as Arne Garborg and Otto Valstad, are more personal than ever before.

The members of Vried are Hváll – Bass; Sture – Vocals/Guitar; Strom – Guitar and Steingrim – Drums.

www.vreid.no
www.facebook.com/vreidofficial?fref=ts
www.indierecordings.us

You can listen to a full stream of the new album here: 

Countdown to MDF X: (27) Morbid Saint

UPDATED WITH COMMENTS FROM THE BAND

The recently reunited Morbid Saint plays Saturday night, May 26 at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest. The group is a member of the “old guard” of death metal bands that formed in the early to mid 1980s in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. They are Milwaukee Metalfest veterans.

The group broke up in the mid 1990s and went their separate ways. But in 2010, guitarist Jay Visser and a couple of the other original members got back together.  Morbid Saint has been getting back on track and has started playing shows across the US and plans an appearance at the Keep It True festival in Germany next year. The band reports, “We do not have any shows in the States confirmed after the Maryland Death Fest, but are planning to tour next fall, no other (tours) have been confirmed at this time.” Along with Visser, the current lineup includes Pat Lind on vocals, Bob Zabel on bass, Kevin Koski on guitars, and Randy Walls on drums.

They may be a little older and and paunchier, but Morbid Saint sounds and relevant and powerful as they did back in the day. As one of the groups that helped define the sound of death metal and thrash, their older songs sound as fresh as any you might hear from bands like Autopsy or Cannibal Corpse. Their performances still burst with frenetic energy and Visser still hides behind curtains of long curly locks. The band says to expect “songs off of Spectrum of Death, and Destruction System.”

In terms of merch, Morbid Saint say they will have “shirts, hoodies, can coolers, and a few copies of our Thrashaholic 3-disc set due to be released in May.”

The members of Morbid Saint say, “We appreciate the overwhelming interest, and support we have been receiving since returning to the scene. For the fans of Spectrum of Death…….THIS SET IS FOR YOU!!!”

Enjoy three videos: one from the Milwaukee Metalfest III (1989), one from December 2011, and a studio song from their first full-length recording.

Countdown to MDF X: (35) Looking For An Answer

I will avoid the obvious puns that one could make from the name of this band, Looking For An Answer, and just tell you that they kick some major blast-beat butt.  This five-piece from Madrid, Spain includes members Iñaki (Vocals), Félix (Guitar), Makoko (Guitar), Ramón (Bass), and Moya (Drums).

The group’s most recent record, Eterno Treblinka, which you can download here for $10, has everything: death growls, thrashy drums, super cool guitar riffs and memorable, circle-pit inducing melodies.

Looking For An Answer, founded in 1999, does not monkey around with extended solos, 10-minute long tracks or sound sampling. Do you want some break-neck-speed death metal in the vein of Cannibal Corpse, only maybe a little younger, cuter and skinnier? Here it is, in Spanish. Now, shut the fuck up and mosh!

Looking For An Answer plays Saturday afternoon, May 26, at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest.

Countdown to MDF X: (37) October 31

Get your “invisible oranges” ready. Underground legends October 31 play true, uncompromising, epic heavy metal in the vein of more well known acts such as  Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, but with a decidedly thrashy flavor. They perform mid-day on Saturday, May 26 at the Maryland Deathfest.

October 31 has weathered numerous line up changes since its inception in 1995 in Northern Virginia. It’s founding member and vocalist King Fowley suffered a stroke and experienced a lengthy recovery. Still the group has perserved, simply because of their love for this traditional brand of heavy metal. They have established a reputation as a crowd pleaser based on memorable, riff-driven melodies and Fowley’s powerful vocals. Their sound remains constant in the face of many metal subgenre trends.

The current line up, as far as I could confirm, includes Jim Hunter (bass), Jason Tedder (guitar), King Fowley (vocals), Dave Castillo (drums), and Brian Williams (guitar), who is the group’s other original founder. Their most recent recording was an album called No Survivors, which was released in 2005. I have included a track from that album, as well as one from their 2000 recording, Meet Thy Maker. Enjoy!

Danish ‘Artillery’ finally landing on US shores

The Danish thrash metal pioneers, Artillery, will be coming to the US for the very first time in their three-decades-long career this summer to play just a couple of shows. One of those stops will be at the Maryland Deathfest. Via email, I interviewed one of the group’s founding members, guitarist Michael Stützer. Together with his brother, Morten, they launched this European mainstay of thrash in 1982.

Michael is probably one of the friendliest and most enthusiastic rockers you are ever going to encounter. Don’t be surprised if you see him headbanging along with everyone else in the crowd either before or after Artillery plays on Friday, May 25. From his replies that follow, it is evident he loves what he does.

Michael Stutzer

Artillery has been around for so long! What is the key to your longevity and resilience despite changes?

We love playing this kind of music. You know when you stand on the stage and feel the response from those die-hard thrashers, you are still being motivated so much so you overcome all troubles. We feel so grateful for this support through almost 30 years and are looking forward to hitting the USA for the first time ever.

What genres of music do you listen to?

We listen to a lot of music including blues and 70´s rock, but basically metal and hard rock like everything from Jethro Tull to Slayer. Bands like Black Sabbath, Exodus etc. are on my record player almost every day. I have a collection of around 3000 CDs. And none of them are downloaded.

I was surprised to learn that you had not toured the US (or anywhere in North or South America, for that matter.) Is that correct? And why not? What do you plan to do while you are in US? I see you have a show at Saint Vitus. What else is planned?

We are only playing the Maryland Deathfest and one show at Saint Vitus Bar in New York, then we are moving on to play South America with (German thrash metal band) Exumer. We tried for many years to come to the US, but it never really worked for us until now. But it´s never too late, and hopefully we will come back soon to play Texas, California and some of the other great places in the USA in the nearest future. We will stay in America between the 24th to the 28th of May, so I hope we will see a lot both in Maryland and New York.

Tell me about the metal scene in Denmark. What styles are popular now?

The most popular band in the “metal genre” at the moment is Volbeat. Bands like Mercenary, Hatesphere, King Diamond and newcomers in thrash like Impalers are also getting attention these days. Even old bands like Pretty Maids still have a lot of fans, but in my opinion the best metal act is still the defunct Mercyful Fate. As for Artillery, we are gaining more and more attention back home, which is great.

Are the Danes really the happiest people on the planet? 

I think Denmark is a very good land to live in. We really don’t have those big problems and mostly people care for each other and help where it’s needed. Denmark is a very small land with only 5 million people so it makes it easier to have a good security net. So maybe that’s why!

You are scheduled to play Barge to Hell. Have you ever played a musical cruise before? Have you ever gone on a cruise at all? What do you expect?

Yes, we played the Sweden Rock Cruise in 2009, and it was one of the highlights in our career so far. So we are looking forward to sail in the ocean between Florida and Nassau in good weather with all the other bands and the headbangers. Also the food I have heard is totally delicious. So we expect five great days away from the cold weather in Denmark!

What sort of merchandise will you have available for sale at the Maryland Deathfest?

We hope that we can have all our merchandise with us, T-shirts from all our albums, CDs, etc. You can check out our merch here or on our Facebook site.


Is there anything special that you think people ought to know about Artillery?

Yes, we really are so excited to see how the American thrashers are gonna react to our music. We will promise that we will deliver it 100%!

_______

Thank you Michael! See you at MDF X!

Countdown to MDF X: (38) Infernal Stronghold

Philadelphia’s Infernal Stronghold delivers unadulterated blackened thrash that neither apologizes for its no-holds-barred sound or blasphemous lyrical content. Founded in 2002, Infernal Stronghold somehow seems to have crawled out of the  same hellish void that spawned bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone and Bathory.

With songs like “Your Soul Stinks Like Shit” and “Crashing Trucks Into Churches,” there really is no question what you are getting into with Infernal Stronghold. Expect to hear some of the most extreme, punk influenced black metal that you will ever hear produced on American soil.

As described on their Facebook page, members of Infernal Stronghold include Gunslut: Baltic battery (that is, drums); Eddie Chainsaw: the voice. guitars; Abolish Yourself: guitars, Richie Rabid: ravishing Carpathia (that is, bass).

The most recent recordings from Infernal Stronghold were released in 2011 and include a 7″ split with Pizza Hi Five, which you can check out on Bandcamp here.

There also exists a 7″ split that Infernal Stronghold sold only at shows when they were on tour with Absu. Their last full-length recording, Godless Noise, came out in 2009. Both of the songs posted below can be found on Godless Noise.

Make sure you arrive early on Saturday, May 26 if you want to check out Infernal Stronghold at the Maryland Deathfest.

Countdown to MDF X: (39) Bloody Phoenix

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that this band Bloody Phoenix is also looking for a practice space on May 24-25 before their appearance at the Maryland Deathfest. If you can help, contact Jerry Flores at bloodyphoenix@sbcglobal.net and put BLOODY PHOENIX in the subject line.

Remember punk rock? Bloody Phoenix does. This grindcore, punk, ensemble hails from Los Angeles, California. They have been churning out screaming chunks of punk-flavored goodness since the fall of 2001. Their songs are long enough to get the mosh pit going but short enough to make sure no one gets killed.

Bloody Phoenix might be the band The Ramones would have become, had they taken the left hand path. There is no denying the punk rock roots in a song such as “Marching Into A Bottomless Well,” but the eerie vibe and death growl vocals reveal the true motivations here. Some reviewers describe this band as thrash core. That’s an interesting term. They just seem like balls-out punk rock to me. In researching this article, I really liked the 20-track album Death to Everyone from 2010.

Members include Jerry Flores (guitars), Michael Karubin (drums), Vito Tagliente (bass), and Molly Scarpine (vocals). Saira Huff from Question/RØSENKØPF/x-Detestation will be contributing guest vocals.

In an email, Flores said much of their setlist will come from Death to Everyone.

“Songs will vary… Mostly from our Death To Everyone LP as well as our split 7″ with Question and some new songs made for a 4-way split LP that will be coming out later this year. Possibly a couple of older songs sprinkled here and there,” Flores wrote.

As for the merch available from the band during the festival, Flores said to expect the usual. “Shirts, CDs, some vinyl, and possibly some pint glasses,” he said. Wait a minute… PINT GLASSES? WANT!!
So prepare for a raucous start to a long, long list of bands crushing through Saturday at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest. Get there by noon, as Bloody Phoenix takes the stage first. 

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